Posted by: glenswatman | July 13, 2014

20140701-10 Theme parks are (not) us

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TUESDAY 1 JULY 2014 – Steve has a lunchtime dental appointment and drops me on the main road in Taverham so I can walk to Drayton where he picks me up. It’s a lovely day but Steve’s happy sitting in watching the World Cup football so at 5.30pm I head to the swimming pool. I do 20 minutes swimming then sit by the pool chatting until 8.30pm when it finally gets a bit chilly.

WEDNESDAY 2 JULY – We’re up early to pick up Steve’s friend Ritchie on the Lowestoft road where he has dropped off a car. We bring him home for breakfast then head to my Doctor’s appointment. The results of my blood tests are really good showing everything back to normal and best of all a negative result for celiac disease. I am having a CT scan in 2 weeks time to confirm that the only problem now is the adhesions. Ritchie’s next car pick up is in Dereham so we drop him off then continue into town for a good walk around. We’ve just enough time to go home for lunch before our afternoon appointments with the dental hygienist. At £45 a time for about 15 minutes of work it seems a bit of a rip off so won’t be coughing up for that next time. Bump up my swimming to 25 mins with the intention of increasing it by 5 minutes each time to get up to my usual hour.

THURSDAY 3 JULY – Royal Sandringham Estate is very attractive (£13 home and gardens). Strolling round the gardens we come across graves for the Queen’s corgis. The house is slightly disappointing as you only see about 4 downstairs rooms but do learn about how the royals use them. Apparently the Queen loves doing jigsaw puzzles and Prince Charles will be here in 3 weeks time. The old stables have been turned into a really good museum with a fabulous car sections showing all the royal vehicles and also the miniature ones that were given to the royal children to use as toys. We take the longer walk back around the lake which is really beautiful. The church is outside the grounds and belongs to the local village but they are happy to “allow” the royal family to use it and this is where they go for the annual Christmas service. It’s very small but has a superb altar area with highly polished screen. Exploring the coast we are amazed by just how many static caravan parks there are at Snettisham. South Heachem is much the same except there is a small track behind the beach off which people appear to have their own appealing plots with static caravans facing directly onto the beach. North Heachem again abounds with static caravan parks but also has a lovely village behind. We suspect the East coast has so many static caravan parks due to erosion problems meaning few people want to build on this prime land knowing it could be temporary. In Hunstanton we wander around the streets then stop for fish and chips in Fishers restaurant taking the window table with views out to the ocean. Kite surfing seems to be popular here whilst people wanting to go into the sea to swim have a very long walk to get out to deep enough water. Walking along the promenade we spot a couple of amphibious ducks about to take people out on a seal spotting tour. We’d plan to stay until sunset but it’s 4.30pm and we’re not sure what we would do for another 4 hours or more so head home instead.

SATURDAY 5 JULY – The Tour de France is travelling through Yorkshire today and we enjoy watching it on TV and recognise many places. Yorkshire really does it proud with massive crowds everywhere cheering on the cyclists. In the evening it is a kind of “Merryhill’s got talent” night. Entertainment comprises of some funny acts (including 3 of the women doing an itsy bitsy teeny weenie bikini song and sketch) and karaoke. There’s loads of food as everyone was asked to take a plate or two along. We leave at 11.30pm as some of the karaoke could be better! Steve’s happy to see Holland win in the quarter final of the World Cup netting us at least £15 return in the club sweep.

SUNDAY 6 JULY – We are off on holiday and begin at Chessington World of Adventure to make the most of our Merlin annual passes. It’s 11.30am when we arrive and shortly after we are in the “Mystic East” area on the log flume “Dragons Falls” ride. Peeking Heights is an aptly named big wheel that gives us fleeting glimpses of the distant London skyline. First big ride is “Rameses Revenge” not only a giant swing that tips takes you all the way round upside down and facing downwards but it also stops over a water fountain that sprays water into your face. In Steve’s case he was on a seat where he got a proper soaking all over. We get our safari fix on the Zufari ride where the back left hand seat of the truck gives me a wetting. Luckily it’s a pleasantly warm day and we have clothes that dry easily. We wander round and hop on any ride without much of a queue. The park incorporates Sea Life and Chessington Zoo which have some unusual species of animals but we are saddened by how small an area they are confined to. Hocus Pocus Hall is too claustrophobic for Steve but I enjoy wandering along corridors wearing 3D glass that make things appear to jump out at you. Adjoining the park is Safari Hotel with Zafari Bar & Grill restaurant overlooking the safari park. The restaurant is so quiet that they agree to honour our 2 for 1 Tastecard even though it is Sunday then take it a stage further by saying we can have the dessert that is normally only on the evening menu. So 2 bowls of marshmallow, choux bun, chocolate and vanilla ice cream drizzled with real chocolate sauce it is. We enjoy the setting as we can see giraffe, zebra and ostrich on the other side of the water hole. Back in the park the queues for the brave adventurers rides are long and we can’t be bothered waiting so leave at 3.30pm. Less than 10 miles away is the De Vere Hotel of Hartsfield Manor which looks really posh. We’re in the 2 storey modern annexe and room 40 on the ground floor has a lovely patio door overlooking gardens. A real bargain considering I booked our De Vere rooms on a £25 flash sale.

MONDAY 7 JULY – No idea why kids aren’t all at school but Thorpe Park is full of them. We start on “Rush” which is a massive stomach churning fast swing. We queue for “Colossus”, quite a good roller coaster that relieves Steve of the reading glasses that were in his shirt pocket. For “Saw” we have to wait about 40 minutes. This is a different type of roller coaster with the normal twists and turns plus and area that takes you up vertically then drops you forward head first and all in a 2 x 4 person car. Steve now admits he has a problem. Essentially he is too tall for rides where a solid harness comes over your shoulders and this means it causes pain pressing on his broken collar bone. With that in mind we head to Storm Surge water ride. After waiting well over half an hour they inform us the ride has broken. This coincides with a heavy downpour giving us both a good soaking as we head back through the barriers to shelter. We’ve just about had enough, and 3 hours is long enough for us to realise this really isn’t our scene any more so we leave. We stop for a nice pub lunch with delicious home made soup. Wokefield Park is a huge leisure park with the De Vere Hotel mansion in the middle. Again we are in the modern executive wing next door. Having started to settle in I go to the bathroom and notice excrement on the outside of the toilet pan. I’d already noticed a very dirty radiator by the bedside so this is too much. The Manager is taken aback by my photos and offers us another room – a lovely suite with balcony overlooking the golf course. On closer inspection this has a grubby toilet seat, radiator, switches, windows and patio chair. I request the Manager come to see it and she asks if we would rather try another room or have a cleaner come in which is what we opt for. Whilst this is happening she suggests we go and have some drinks on the house but I explain we don’t really drink and a free breakfast would be better, she agrees. The main Mansion house is beautiful with a nice spa centre that we may use later. In the new block Steve goes for a short swim whilst I head into the gym. Unfortunately my knee is still sore from the dancing last Friday and upper body exercises pull on my scar so I don’t stay long.

TUESDAY 8 JULY – After stocking up on breakfast we head out. It’s a short drive to the National Trust Vyne House. Approaching through the gardens we see the house in a lovely setting with lots of deck chairs on a lawn overlooking the lake. The remains of what was a vast mansion has some quirky features and also tells the story of a strange gold ring found nearby that may well have inspired Tolkien to write Lord of the Rings. Back at the Hotel we enjoy the spa alternating between the hot tub, sauna, Turkish bath and rain shower.

WEDNESDAY 9 JULY Steve checks at the dining room and we are down to have another complimentary breakfast due to the room problems. Today we visit Legoland near Windsor, a park aimed more at younger children. It’s a mixture of displays of characters made of lego, shows, rides and model village and we really like it. The Hotel is amazing and has fancy toilet doors – sat in the cubicle I wonder whether I might s..t a brick! We do lots of gentle rides, a couple of water ones and and a 4D film show. The safari style zoo animals are very realistic and the underwater submarine read is a good mix of lego characters under the water and real fish. This has been the best of the theme parks for us but conclude that our favourites are probably Epcot or studio style ones and water parks in hot countries. Just outside Ascot we arrive at Sunningdale again the predictable park with Mansion house but the modern hotel blocks quite a distance away. The park makes for a nice walk and there we bump into a load of trainee Police Officers and are warned not to worry when we hear a lot of gunshot as it is all a practice mission and we won’t be harmed.

THURSDAY 10 JULY – Arriving at Windsor Castle we enter just after it opens and ahead of the queue of tour groups. It’s very impressive and the audio guide leads us round to the entrance and past Queen Mary’s amazing dolls house complete with working electricity and plumbing. The state rooms are magnificent and following the fire the restored St Georges Hall is amazing. The last part of the tour is St George’s chapel where numerous famous royals are buried and there’s a small chapel for Princess Margaret and The Queen Mother. The whole town is lovely and caries the theme including a specially painted phone box. We’re figuring out lunch when we pass Wagamama with a man offering free samples. Our mini bowls of Asian noodles do nicely. Clivedon mansion is now a National Trust Hotels with rooms from about £500 a night. However it’s free to explore the magnificent gardens. It’s a vast area with sections enclosing statues hidden in the trees, formal areas and an wonderful belvedere looking out over formal gardens. The house itself has a fantastic clock tower and sarcophagi and other large foreign urns in the garden. Leaving along the M25 I spot some smoke a short way ahead and suddenly we grind to a halt. A car just in front of us has caught fire and pulled over onto the side. The smoke soon turns to flames. Road safety officers appear and make sure all the lanes of traffic are stopped. Of course this causes a problem for the Police and Fire Engine to get through although I can’t understand why they didn’t approach from the other direction via the exit ½ mile ahead. After about half an hour it is all sorted out and we continue to our next stop Ponsbourne House near Hatfield. This time we are banished to “Room 101” in the main mansion.


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