Sunday, 12 September 2010

Hurrah for holidays!

We are back, we have got over the jet lag, unpacked, sorted out all our foreign currency and life is back to normal(ish).  Well, we did spend the weekend at a gorgeous wedding in the Welsh Borders.

We swam, we played and we drank good beer - a pretty good recipe for a fun holiday and it really was! It started off a little shakily with a visit to the Lands End Pub . We are always told that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything. So I guess I should compliment them on their dexterity with the deep fat fryer, their imagination to call deep fried sloppy potato a fish cake and ambition when it comes to prices. So after a glorious, if interesting,  cycle to the pub (with two adults, a toddler and an enthusiastic border collie on a lead you can imagine that it was not straight forward) the destination did not quite live up to the journey. The bill became the running joke for the rest of the week proving that everything else must be, by comparison, great value.

The next day we hit Bracknell. Yes, I know, you often think of Bracknell as a metropolis on a par with London, Paris, New York and we were that lucky!  They are pretty child focused. First, virtual cutlass in hand we attacked the Pirate Ship at the Coral Reef  (shit website, but not unexpected from a council). Surprisingly despite being thoroughly dunked when we went a little too fast down the anaconda slide she decided that the gentle currents were scary as we swooped gently around an island carried by the 'tides'. When we had turned all 'pruney' (technical term) we decided to head across the road to the Bracknell Lookout Discovery Centre .

The Bracknell Lookout is FAB. Loads of woodland walks, some archaeological remains (if that floats your boat) and a great playground. All for free. If you want to go into the Science Discovery centre there is a charge, but it was well worth it. It is compact but full of hands on science fun. The Pickle was far to young to appreciate any learning but just had a good play with water and the ball pool. The day we were there they had free face painting too.

(The Pickle has her own sense of style and who am I to interfere?)

The next day we did something that we would only ever do if we were new to an area and went into town. The Pickle loves making and loves her teddies so we took her along the Build a Bear Workshop. If you know me you will appreciate that this is normally the last thing that I would do, as it is so commercial, but you have to hand it to the clever marketeers, they know what they are doing and the Pickle LOVED it. She chose the biggest Hello Kitty, begged her Daddy for a matching chair and was generally spoilt rotten. The only thing that made us giggle, in a dark kind of a way, was that at least it was not deep fried like our last ruinous waste of money at the Land's End. So with daughter happy, we set off to please the Big Daddy. He is simple soul and a range of beers and Ethiopian food from Tutu's Kitchen at RISC was all that was needed.

We have discovered so many places to go for free - from the garden centres on the A4 for their free play areas to the long walks in the country parks and even visiting the field of llamas on Beggar's Hill Road. The Wyevale on the A4 gets our vote for their mini soft play area in an airy cafe - despite normally being regulars at the Sheeplands centre across the road. We had the best walks, play and picnic at Dinton Pastures and even found time to visit the fun but delightfully ramshackle Monkey Mates soft play centre for a birthday party (you could not do that if you had gone away!). So much fun, and none of it deep fried.

We had to have a big splash highlight and where better for that then Lego Land. Armed with supermarket loyalty points and discount vouchers we approached early and with trepidation (we are the last family in our area to be initiated it would seem). The dawn raid approach seemed to pay off. We hurtled around, got soaked, splashed and generally flung about before it got too crowded to be fun. I really did hear someone on a mobile phone giving directions saying 'We are here by the big lego thing'. DOH!

Just as we realised that we were never going to tick off every activity on Sarita's holiday list we escaped to the Welsh boarders for one of the most beautiful weddings ever. Between staying at home and discovering the amazing town of Bishop's Castle in Shropshire my wanderlust has been abated for another year.

Even though I live in Berkshire there are so many hidden gems, or clever approaches to popular attractions, that local knowledge unlocked. A few weeks of chatting to people in shop and at the nursery gave us some worthwhile tips - I think I have now passed them on to you too. P.S. Writing about the Land's End was not a recommendation! xx

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