Some little while ago, I blogged about never imagining I'd go and see David Cassidy. Well this weekend, I also did something I never imagined in my prechild life I'd ever find myself doing.
Going away anywhere with six of us is a) usually hideously expensive and b) bloody hard work as no one in the hotel trade seems to imagine that a husband and wife going away with their children might rather have a bedroom to themselves while their children sleep safely next door and can be reached via an interconnecting door. Furthermore, when we book self catering accommodation we always have to read the small print because when it says sleeps 6, you can bet your bottom dollar, Spouse and I will be confined to an uncomfortable sofa bed while the sprogs are squeezed into two tiny box like rooms. Last summer, the apartment we stayed in laughingly claimed to sleep 7. Maybe 7 dwarves...
We also had a thoroughly miserable experience at a Campanile (never EVER book a Campanile) , where we were given two bedrooms, but not next door to one another, as requested. They actually DID have interconnecting doors, but to reach the children, we'd have had to go via a strangers' room in the middle. I ended up having a very heated conversation in French as to why they imagined that one room booked with Mrs Williams and one booked with Mr (thank you Expedia.com for making my life sooo convenient) would be likely to be two different families. As they refused to budge, I ended up in one room with the two big ones, and Spouse in the other with the little ones. (The rooms were also motel like, so you walked straight outside. Hmm. They clearly haven't worried too much about the Madeline McCann case in France then...)
Anyway. I was so bad tempered after that experience, I almost felt like saying we won't ever go anywhere again till the children are grown up and have their own holidays, and Spouse and I can happily go globetrotting on our own. However, that is patently both stupid and mad, so when Spouse suggested going away for the weekend at half term, I agreed, this would be a good idea.
Thanks to someone he worked with who busy the Super Soaraway Sun, Spouse discovered that if we collected enough tokens, we could go away for three nights for the princely sum of £90. Which is how I ended up spending my Valentine's weekend, here... Spouse and I don't usually make too much of Valentine's anyway, but this year is possibly the least romantic venue we've spent it in...
I have to say Pontin's is probably everything I ever imagined it would be: deeply tacky, very cheap, an overabundance of fast food (although the restaurant did at least aspire to producing something that looked vaguely edible. I couldn't rid myself of the urge to wonder what Gordon Ramsay would make of their kitchen, however.), and dire entertainment. So it suited the kids perfectly.
There were also plenty of activities for the kids to do, so no 1 had a go at quad biking and no 3 and I did archery. I've never done archery before, and I was getting the hang of it by the end. I even got a few bullseyes (ok, ok, the target was really close, but Maid Marian, eat you heart out!) . There was also a swimming pool, which looked much nicer from the outside then it actually was. I regularly moan about the disgusting state of the changing rooms at our local pool where I swim several times a week, but this pool had to be the dirtiest I've ever been in. I came away feeling that if I had a shower I'd be dirtier then when I went in. There was SAND in the bottom of the pool. When I queried this as an attendant leant into to test the water (full of chlorine, I think from necessity, otherwise Pontin's would have to close for having spread Legionnaire's Disease), she blithely informed me it was a problem with the filters. Yeah, right.
Our apartment left alot to be desired - as yup, we had the sofa bed (though it still offered more space then the place we went to last year) - but I can cope with discomfort for one weekend. It was also very very cold and very very damp, so we had to go to bed with all our clothes on, which I haven't done since my student days. But, hey it was cheap, it was good to get away, and we didn't have to spend all weekend there.
So we also went sightseeing to the Cheddar Gorge, Glastonbury Tor and Wooky Hole.
Spouse and I had done the first two on our own, six years ago, when thanks to kind family members we'd managed our first weekend away sans enfants. It was the first time I'd been to Glastonbury, and I found myself hooting with laughter - I've never been anywhere so New Ageish in my life. This time we found three shops run by witches. You can even go on a witchy course. I nearly came away with a book of spells, but Spouse wouldn't let me.
We didn't manage to visit the Abbey as the children had definitely lost interest by then (apparently Arthur and Guinevere are buried there, you can even see their tombstones - yeah, right), but we did climb the Tor, which is fabulous and offers wonderful views of the Somerset levels. On a misty day, approaching by foot, you can quite understand why the legends about Avalon started up, though I prefer my Arthurian mythology to be Cornish/Welsh myself. I see Tintagel as far more likely to be Arthur's hunting ground, somehow.
We had rather tired of the fare offered by Pontin's restaurant by Sunday evening, so I suggested we went for something to eat in nearby Weston Supermare. Which turned out to be a really bad idea. We drove round the whole town, getting hopelessly lost, and then just after we'd stopped at a traffic lights, Spouse spotted he'd overshot a car park. Looking back and seeing nothing behind him, he reversed, so he could turn right into the car park. There was an almighty bang, and a horrible scraping sound. Wtf??? Turned out we'd hit a Lotus Selise which had parked up behind us, and we couldn't see it in our wing mirrors as it was so low and narrow. Fortunately the chap involved was very reasonable (I once had a prang with someone and her teenage son was vilely abusive), but we had ripped a hole in his front bonnet.
We decided that someone was trying to tell us something, so we gave up on Weston Supermare and headed backto Pontins, for more undesirable food, and crap entertainment. However, the latter did mean the kids ran off to play and we were able to have a much needed beer in peace.
We left on Monday in blazing sunshine - blimey, I'd forgotten how nice that is - and spent a great day at Wookey Hole,visiting the magnificent caves there, seeing paper being made at the paper mill and having our fortunes told by the Victorian penny machines they've got in a mock up Penny Arcade (mine apparently tells me I'm just about to meet the love of my life... oh dear.). We also saw an amazing circus act completely done by children. They were much much better then the crap circus we saw at the children's school a couple of years back, which I blogged about here. Although the mum in me couldn't help wincing as the tiniest of the two girls climbed up those swirling scarfy things and hung themselves upside down, WITHOUT a safety net...
All in all we had a great time away, even if it wasn't exactly our first choice of destination. Not sure I could cope with Pontin's for a week, but for a weekend, it wasn't too bad at all...