My mates thought I was nuts for hooking up with a Turkish barman on holiday – and then I married him – The Sun06/28/2019
WHEN Nicki Richardson fell for a Turkish barman on holiday, all her mates said she was nuts and warned he'd probably have a different woman every week.
The 48-year-old, from Rothwell, Northamptonshire, met barman Levent Aktolga, 46, in August 2007 – when he served her a pina colada in beachfront restaurant Bella Gusto, in Oludeniz, Turkey.
Nicki was on holiday with her son Alex, then five, friend Sharon Sudlow and Sharon's family when the dark-haired stranger caught her eye.
“I’d had a tough year,” Nicki, told Fabulous Digital. “My relationship with Alex’s dad Paul had fizzled out, and although we were still sharing a house, it was purely platonic.
“As I watched the barman fixed my drink, I felt butterflies in my tummy for the first time in ages.
“When we walked back to our table, I turned back to look at Levent and said to Sharon ‘I’m going to marry that man'.”
Instantly charmed, Nicki spent the rest of the evening chatting with Levent – discovering he'd made all the furniture in the bar.
She said: “I’d heard all the tales about randy Turkish barman, spinning stories to get English women into bed, but Levent wasn’t like that.
“He was totally the opposite in fact, a real gent. There was nothing sleazy about him at all.”
I’d heard all the tales about randy Turkish barman, spinning stories to get English women into bed, but Levent wasn’t like that
The following night, the group returned to the same bar for dinner.
Nicki said: “By 9pm Alex and Sharon’s little boy James were shattered, so the staff made up a nest for them on a camp bed next to our table.
“When Sharon and her family headed back to our hotel, I stayed on for an extra drink with Levent.”
At the end of the night, Levent offered to carry the still-sleeping Alex back to Nicki’s hotel, so she didn't have to wake him. But the barman still didn't try to make a move.
The next day, Nicki admitted she was falling for Levent – but Sharon warned her it was just a fling and said she could get hurt.
“I knew she was right, but I didn’t care,” Nicki said. “The night before we were due to leave, as Levent and I posed for a photo, I planted a smacker on his lips.
"Someone had to make the first move. Bless him, he looked a bit shocked, but laughed along.”
Before flying home, Nicki wrote Levent a letter and asked one of his colleagues to pass it on.
She wrote: “I really like you, I think we’ve got a real connection and you’re so good with Alex. I’d love it if we could stay in touch.”
My friend and family all thought I was nuts. They told me he was taking advantage, that he’d have a different woman every week
Hours later, when Nicki touched down back at Luton Airport, she was in tears. Levent was more than 2,000 miles away.
But she heard from Levent the very next day, when he emailed: “Hi Nicki, I miss you…”
After that, the pair spoke on Yahoo Messenger every night when Levent finished his shift at the bar.
Just two months later, in October 2007, Nicki made plans to head back to Turkey during Alex’s half term, telling Paul she was going to hook up with some friends they’d met.
And she had an extra surprise for Levent – having shed two stone on the Cambridge Weight Plan.
“Walking back into the Bella Gusto, Levent’s reaction was priceless,” Nicki said. “His jaw literally dropped to the ground. He told me I looked incredible.”
During that week, Levent and Nicki took their relationship further. He joined them for days by the pool and the couple would spend hours on the hotel balcony in the evening.
They also had sex for the first time, with Nicki describing it as “fireworks”.
She said: “Knowing I had to be honest with Paul, I walked down to the beach one day and called him.
“I explained we both knew our relationship had been over for a while, and I’d met someone new in Turkey. He understood, but said he never wanted to meet Levent.”
I saw 50 and 60-year-old women hooking up with 20-year-old Turkish barmen and then wondering why it all went wrong – Nicki was different
Nicki returned home to England, feeling gutted once again, but her mates were worried about her.
“At home, my friends and family all thought I was nuts,” she said.
“They told me he was taking advantage, that he’d probably have a different woman every week.
“Sharon was supportive, she’d seen the connection between Levent and I firsthand, but she still worried I might get hurt.
“My parents, Janet, 74, and John, 82, just couldn’t understand it at all.
“Dad asked me why I was wasting my time running around after a Turkish fella like some silly schoolgirl. I tried to explain that it was love at first sight – we’d just clicked.”
Undeterred, Nicki started visiting Levent whenever she could, booking flights to Turkey every six weeks.
She said: “One night in March 2008, I was sitting at the end of the bar waiting for him to finish work, when I spotted two English women eyeing him up.
“Later, I bumped into them in the ladies loos and one of them asked if I knew the barman, because she was going to ask him out.
“‘I wouldn’t do that,’ I told them. ‘He’s my boyfriend.’ They paid their bill and left pretty sharpish.
“I knew Levent could have his pick of the randy British tourists looking for some fun in the sun, but I trusted him.”
In July 2008, the couple were sitting on the beach when Levent told Nicki he’d like to spend the rest of his life with her.
They began making plans to bring him to England. At the end of the holiday season, he started the application process for a fiancé visa.
It would allow him to live with Nicki for six months in the UK, but he wouldn’t be allowed to work. At the end of that time, they would have to get married or he’d be sent home.
Nicki said: “The authorities were so strict, we had to provide two bulging lever arch files stuffed with photos, plane tickets and even print-outs of our Yahoo conversations to prove our relationship was real.”
Levent told Fabulous Digital:
“There’s this cliché that British women go to Turkey and have holiday romances with local men.
“I saw 50 and 60-year-old women hooking up with 20-year-old Turkish barmen and then wondering why it all went wrong.
“I was never like that though, I got sick of women just wanting a bit of fun, sex on the beach or whatever.
“Nicki was different, she was so intelligent, she was actually interested in my life and wanted to talk and get to know me.
“People assumed I wanted to get to England, but actually I’ve never claimed any kind of benefit and always worked hard to set up my own business.
“Applying for a visa was really difficult and the interviews were very humiliating, they asked so many personal questions.
“There’s no way I’d have gone through it if I didn’t really love her.”
Two weeks after arriving in England, they were sitting at the kitchen table when Levent told Nicki he wanted to get married.
The couple booked a slot at High Wycombe Registry Office and Nicki bought a £70 dress on eBay, setting the date for April 11, 2009.
Alex was a page boy at the wedding – while Sharon was among the small group of guests.
Nicki said: “After the service, my dad came over and pulled Levent into a gruff hug, telling him ‘I’m sorry I misjudged you’.”
After the wedding, Levent got a job in furniture restoration and in time set up his own successful business, L A Woodcraft.
Nicki said: “At first Paul kept his distance, sitting in the car outside when he came to pick Alex up.
“But after a trampoline session overran one day the two men finally got talking and discovered they had lots in common.
“Before I knew it, they were best buddies – tinkering around with cars together in the garage.
“We even took Paul on holiday to Turkey with us in 2010.
“I set him up with Sharon and they’re now engaged. We’re all still good friends and regularly hang out together.”
Nicki and Levent celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary earlier this year, proving their doubters wrong.
She said: “It just goes to show that some relationship rules are meant to be broken.”
Earlier this summer, we revealed how Gambia has become a sex paradise for British grans that makes Magaluf look tame.
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