The weekend before last (as the school term was drawing to a close) I arranged a family weekend away. It felt like a good opportunity to skedaddle before the M5 resembled an airport car park and the A303 became a clusterf**k of Caravans – that’s the official collective term for caravans by the way. Only joking – no need to write in! Tourists welcome – one and all.
We decided to go to Bath and Longleat Safari Park so we booked a night in a Bavelbodge. I tried to book a cottagey B&B complete with arsy middle-aged & prissy proprietor, chintzy decor/eiderdowns circa 1974, ineffectual lace curtains and comp-plimentary tea making facilities but it’s not easy to find one with a family room and when I did (within a 30 mile radius of our destination) it was fully booked of course. Bavelbodge it was then! I’ve no beef with a Bavelbodge, you get what you pay for and it’s not their fault that we had to go to sleep at 9pm with our snoring/farting/bedrustling tweenagers albeit in a large (where’s the carpet?) 4 person bed cram.
Day 1. Bath or Barth Spar (if you prefer).
Ted and I had had a couple of romantic weekends in Bath pre-children so my hazy and indulgent recollection of this beautiful city was of leisurely sightseeing, cosy independant eateries, and lie ins…..dot dot dot. Anyway here is my wishlist of events versus the cold hard reality. Guess which list won? (after a deciding arm wrestle).
Parking wishlist: Find the Park and Ride carpark and enjoy fun bus trip into Bath or glide into the city locating parking close to the centre for easy walk with *end of term tired* tweenagers.
Parking cold hard reality: “Oh shi* (the consonant ‘t’ was replaced of course with a p? n?) was that the turn off for the park and ride?”. A stomping argument ensued as Ted put a map app on my phone to find a car park in town. I couldn’t use the (swears) app (could I) and it kept dropping out. Cue shouting, gesticulating and sweatiness as we enjoyed a slow scenic tour of Bath in a very hot car trying to find parking (no need for the open top bus tour as we limped past ‘Pulteney Bridge’ and crept around ‘The Crescent’ completely accidentally). Finally we ended up in a multi story (at the very top) having only scraped the car three times on tight corners and twice on the pillar!
Sightseeing wishlist. Saunter around The Roman Baths, soak up the history and ancient atmosphere.
Sightseeing cold hard reality: We *enjoyed* the three Js. Being jostled, jockeyed and queue jumped left right and centre. Bath was busy – full to the Sally Gunnells with tourists and nowhere more so than at the star attraction – The Roman Baths. Every other person was taking a photo everywhere we went. We couldn’t help but ‘bomb’ international tourist’s holiday snaps – I did try to do a different face in each one for variety! I’m currently appearing all over Facebook in Japan – gurning. Anyway, we filtered around the monument, collecting elbow stab wounds as we went. Toby seemed to be taking the lead on pertinent questions – “what’s that floater?” he was rather perturbed by a large lump of something that kept bobbing up and below the surface of one of the baths. When explained it was just algae (type stuff) he was most disappointed that it wasn’t something more sinister (namely a dead animal or a poo – of course.)
Unidentified and slightly unsavoury looking floater. Also available for children’s parties. Is it just me or does it have a face?
The gift shop wishlist: Just walk through it (not hesitating at the tat fridge magnets) to the door and the light beyond……..
The gift shop cold hard reality: Lottie and I had reached the door (and ergo the light) unscathed and no fridge magnets had been purchased. I turned back and it was then that I witnessed Ted say to Toby, “If you’re not careful you’ll knock something off.” Within three seconds of this comment – Toby (who had giftshop wide-eyed mania) turned (nay- twirled around) and managed to knock off a nicknack – well actually more of a miniature Roman Amphora*souvenir. So Ted did the obvious thing – pretended to be Dutch and backed away from the shards of china quicksmart. No he didn’t! He went into auto British polite mode and duly trotted up to the shop assistant to blabbally (probably not a word) ‘fess up’. She was convinced enough by his contriteness to waiver the £9.95 recommended retail price! – lucky because as I’m sure you’ll know – gift shops don’t like a knocked off nicknack! Lottie and I were long gone and found two hours later trying on dresses in Zara (I wish!- we just waited outside cringing and pretending not to be related).
Eating out wishlist: Find an independent eating idyll, cosy, not too busy with a cool city vista and tweenager friendly food options ………
Eating out cold hard reality: So after an exhaustive (whingey/whiny) trawl around central Bath trying to find somewhere quaint to eat, we settled on a child friendly Italian chain complete with children’s menu, colouring-in and activity sheet. A fist pump there for our independent restaurantal success. We had to sit outside because all the tables inside were taken. The family next to us promptly left (nothing personal I’m sure!!) leaving their table sky high in debris and left food. This was the point that a large seagull decided to swoop down. It slapped Ted and I on the back of our heads with it’s flappy wings and landed heavily next to us. The gull wobbled with the agility of a balance beam gymnast on the side of a bowl while it tucked into the leftover pasta flapping it’s wings theatrically. Great! – dinner and a show. Being honorary Devonians, we’ve dealt with many wayward seagulls over the years but Lisa – our friendly waitress came out shrieking and shooed it off with a tea towel. She was happy to regale us with backstory about the galavanting gull. Apparently his name was Basil, he was ‘known’ to the restaurant for pasta pestering and could only be kept under control by Colin the hawk and his handler (name was seemingly unimportant) who were both employed to keep the centre of Bath bird-vermin free. Apparently Colin was on a tea break then! We’d be ready for him if he swooped again. Bring it Basil!!!
The morning after the night before at Bavelbodge. Because our chosen Bavelbodge wasn’t very large and didn’t have a restaurant we had to (well to be fair no one forced us but) have breakfast next door in another chain this time of the roadside eatery variety, let’s just call it Little Chafe for arguments sake! Naively, I thought that it might be a happy and fun experience for the children – pancakes and hot chocolate all the way. We ordered them a breakfast that involved one half pancakes and the other half ‘fry up’ (everyone’s a winner!). Wrong, the food was pallid, insufficient and wait for it…the eggs were slobbery! (no one likes a slobbery egg, no one) – so I ended up relinquishing my only slightly better looking breakfast to them. When my tea (finally) arrived (I’d selected Earl Grey – for breakfast? -don’t judge me) I was informed that it didn’t come with milk. This was the end of the conversation. The waitress was so formidably arsy and so surprised was I at said arsyness that I didn’t even challenge this milk disallowance…….. Little Chafe *rather an abrasive occurrence*.
Day 2. Longleat Safari Park.
The drive onto Longleat Estate was impressive as the great House came into view and stood proudly amongst the capacious grounds. Toby and Lottie both assumed that as soon as we drove down the ‘sweeping’ drive that we would start to see exotic animals. Small voices of alarm wafted through from the back seats, “Buffalo?! oh no they’re just cows!” and “Llamas?! but they look a lot like sheep.” Ted and I kept shtum (yes we were too busy shaking with silent laughter) until we had to fess up that we hadn’t got to the enclosures yet.
Our first stop was the African Village, where we could ‘walk through’ some smaller animal enclosures and have a final toilet stop before the Safari Drive or more importantly where I could get a #latte. Lottie was taking the lead today on pertinent questions with, “how come the Lemurs get such a good adventure playground?” thou shalt not covet a Lemur’s adventure playground! Onto the giraffe and Zebra ‘field’ which was like a jurassic park moment, suddenly we were just feet away from several giant and majestic giraffes with a herd of zebra beyond. Lottie rather spoilt my quiet moment of reverence with her widely audible “I’ve never seen so much poo!”referring to the dung heap in the corner of epic proportions.
Giraffe Selfie (or Giralffie)
We went back to the car and set off on Safari (not before checking the car windows and central locking system were in full working order). There were many highlights to this tour, particularly braving the Rhesus Macaque Monkey enclosure and watching the Honda CRV in front being stripped back to it’s basic bodywork. All the time wondering how much depreciation was occurring on to our own car……..dot dot dot.
The Lions were awe-inspiring, they looked so magnificent as they lounged about gnawing on beef steak or perhaps people whose electric windows didn’t work, but mostly lazing with their backs to us. Take a photo of my arse! Beyond majestic!
But when one female got up and lumbered over, knowing that there was just a fairly thin piece of car metal between us was undoubtedly life affirming!
We carried on (still following the Honda CRV which was by now rattling and larger car parts were falling off.) I feared for their safety as we passed through the Tigers enclosure and then the Wolf Wood. We weren’t lucky enough to see the Cheetahs because as anyone who has watched a safari documentary will know, they are shy and evasive but it’s ok we didn’t feel cheetahed because over lunch we were treated to a ‘Sparrow Show’ in full technicolour (mostly browns actually). Spencer Sparrow (as we named him/her) flapped about on our table flauntingly and was happy to be snapped in any position for a few crumbs of burger bun or panini.
Spencer Sparrow: will do anything for your lunch!
More next week.
As you were.
I’m going to bang on about Mumsnet Blogging Awards again – much like the Rhesus Macaque Monkeys you can bypass this next bit by taking the slip road. Still with me? ok, if I’ve given you cause to howl(er monkey) or laugh like a hyena with my bloggingness – I would love nominations for the category ‘Best Comic Writer’. My URL is https://turningupindevon.com Thank you!
PS. This isn’t a review – obvs I love Bath with it’s impressive Roman Baths and anything that went ‘down’ including the miniature amphora souvenir was our bad. Longleat Safari Park is bloomin’ marvellous – this comprehensive and investigative reportage was brought to you by *Turning Up In Devon Destinations* (a new travel division – situated on the top floor next to the complaints department, probably not really….).
*Amphora – a Roman wine vessel.
Note to myself: The one about going away to Bath and Longleat Safari Park.