Saturday, 24 August 2013

This ain't a holiday... it's a bootcamp

No, not Fall Out Boy's new song, but a very apt blog post title.  Up until yesterday I haven't blogged for about a month, and during this time I've been trying to get my head together and we've all been away on holiday.  A rather long holiday.  Sixteen days to be precise.  As it drew closer and closer, I started dreading it, but I was having to keep quiet about that because, let's face it - how ungrateful does that seem?  Dreading a holiday?   Truth was, it flew.  We probably did less this time around than we'd usually do in a week, but it was nice just relaxing and not trying to cram as much into one day as possible.    The bootcamp part?   Well, Mr G and I wore our pedometers for the whole time we were away, from morning until night.  And those 16 days we walked... 174 kilometres.  That's 108 miles in real money.   The poor children didn't know what had hit them.

So, like that frightful bore who invites you round for a meal and drinks before foisting their holiday slides on you, only - unfortunately, you don't get a meal, and you'd be safer taking a bone from a Rottweiler than touching my wine, let's dive straight in.  The sooner this is over and blogged with, we can get back to my ritual humiliation and tendency to make everyone feel better when they hold up their own family against my benchmark of lunacy :-)  

August 1st and 2nd - Drayton Manor Theme Park, staying at Drayton Manor Hotel.
My youngest, Adam, has an obsession with Theme Parks.  He knows their names, what rides they have, where they are, and is committed to visiting as many as possible.  We'd done Camelot, Greenwood, Alton Towers and Woodlands, and he was very enthusiastic about visiting Drayton Manor.  We thought it would make sense, seeing as we were halfway to Devon once there, to tack this visit on to the start of our holiday.  Break the journey, so to speak.  

Drayton Manor Hotel

We arrived just as the park opened on the Thursday morning, and we had to go to the Hotel to pick up our park tickets.  The Duty Manager asked for our name and said 'So, that's six of you staying, three adults, three children, two rooms, adjoining, and park tickets for 3 of you.'   That was me, up since about 5 am straight into 'You had BETTER be kidding me!' mode.  Thankfully, I'd taken both lots of booking confirmation bumph from Thomas Cook, the one I'd got when I made the reservation, and the one I'd had posted to me.  In all fairness, the Manager sorted this out in about five minutes and provided a safe, locked room to keep the one bag of valuables we had with us that we couldn't leave in the car.  We could check in from 3pm but we decided we'd check in when the park closed.    

We had a wonderful day in the Park, we'd been told by so many people that it wasn't a patch on Alton Towers, but you know - it depends what you're looking for, doesn't it?   In my humble opinion, Drayton Manor knocks spots off Alton Towers - but - I'm a 37 year old ride-hating coward.   I didn't like the queue lengths in Alton Towers, and I didn't like the way that the park was so spread out, all we seemed to be doing was walking, and I am one of these useless people who cannot ever make sense of those maps they give you.   Drayton Manor, on the other hand, was much smaller, the rides were close to each other, there seemed to be more for my younger children to do, Caitlin is off on the big rides now with Daniel, Adam and Ryan are still too young - and a tad scared, but they're too old for the 'baby' rides.   If you're a thrill junkie, I can see how Alton Towers would appeal more, but there was still enough to keep Daniel and Caitlin occupied, and for us as a family, Drayton Manor wins hands down.  I was quite proud of myself that even I bit the bullet and went on some rides myself.  I even went on Ben 10, twice!   I went on the Stormforce 10 and we were soaked to our underwear.  Waiting in the queue for the human dryer?  It broke down just as it was our turn.  Story of our life that...    

The hotel was absolutely spotless.  When we got to our rooms we weren't disappointed.  Our room had a double bed, with a pull out double sofa bed, and the adjoining room for the boys had three single beds.  There was a fridge and a phone - and everyone had the stark warning not to touch either of them!   Kettle with plenty of coffees, tea, milk and biscuits.  A safe for our valuables, and a lovely bathroom stocked with toiletries. 

The boys room

Our room

We're a family of six on a budget, so I checked out the meals that the hotel provided, or in all honesty the prices of the meals - and I knew weeks before that we wouldn't be eating there.  I checked Trip Advisor for takeaways in the area, and found reviews for The Dugout Fish Bar a mile down the road in Tamworth.  Once we'd unpacked, it was getting on for 8pm, so we popped there in the car.  They were queueing out of the door, and it took us about 30 minutes to be served.  But that wasn't poor service, there were lots of staff on, and they were all at it, serving, cooking - it was just busy.  We couldn't believe the range of choice in the chippy, you name it, they did it.  Steve went for the Doner Kebab, I had a Chicken Kebab which was lovely, and the kids had sausage and chips.  It was really reasonably priced too, and huge portions.  As we were leaving, the queue was the same, snaking around the shop and out of the door, and I asked the girl at the end of the queue if it was always this busy, and she said yes, because it was the nicest chippy in the area.  She wasn't wrong.

Mr G's Full English...

Adam opted for the fresh fruit salad.  After his Full English...

We'd taken the breakfast option with the room, and I have to say I was glad we did.  There was a fantastic array of food to choose from, the Full English had bacon, eggs, sausages, beans, hash browns, mushrooms, tomatoes and black pudding.  There were cereals, toast and bread, croissants, pastries, fresh fruit salad, fresh fruit, yogurts, and fruit juices.  

Apart from all the various rides, Drayton Manor is home to Thomas Land, which I can imagine is magical for little toddler fans.  I tried and tried to get a picture of him when he pulled into station but kept missing him.  Here's the green one for you.

The green one...
The fat one...

Drayton Manor also has Dino Trail which really impressed Adam who is dinosaur mad, and they also have a zoo with a fair few animals, I was quite impressed.   We loved the meerkat house, it was so hot there that they were all inside; they're cute.  I'll give them that.  But oh my, they stink.  Absolutely stink.

Dino Hunters...

Smelly little buggers!

It was great to have two days there - not as urgently needed as when we went to Alton Towers for two days, but it was nice to make sure that we'd definitely been on everything we'd wanted to at least once, and then finish off and pick our favourites for the next day.   We couldn't fault anything about the trip, the weather, the park, the hotel, the food, the room, the staff - all brilliant.   We'd definitely go again - financially we might not be able to stay in the hotel every time, this was a treat, but we noticed that they had a campsite :-)  I can make a mean fry up on our camping stove, and we'll have the Dugout for our tea.  Sorted!


  1. what a great family time together; those little smelly buggers do look quite cute though? *smile* x

    1. Hi Cindy, long time :-)

      Oh we had an amazing time, this was just day 1 and 2, I am going to be boring everyone silly. They are so cute, I've only every seen them in an outdoor situation before, but it was just so unbelievably hot that day, especially for the UK, that they were in their 'house'. You have never smelled anything like it in your life. I am not joking. I was retching... x


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