Saturday, 13 August 2016

Staycationing

I was always of the opinion that a staycation was when you actually stayed at home, but made it more fun by doing day trips to the kind of places you'd go on holiday.  Recently the term seems to be used to mean staying in the UK rather than going abroad - which surely is just a regular vacation?

Our recent summer holiday was a cross between the two, so we can count it as a semi-staycation at least.  My parents kindly hosted us for several days, which almost counts as staying at home, but with an exciting new array of day trips to do.  And the added bonus of two extra adults to wrangle small boys!
Yes, they are lovely really.

The first day out was to The Lookout, a science centre set amongst miles of trees.  We had been to the vast playground before - on a much colder day - but this time we went inside as well.  Unusually, we have no photographs; probably because we were having too much fun.  There are activities ranging from water play to logic puzzles to spinning wheels to shadow boxes.  Some were challenging for adults too; I spent ages trying to arrange six curved pieces into three interlocking circles, and finally had to admit defeat.  Meanwhile, Theo was diving into the ball pit several dozen times, and Toby had appointed himself foreman on the play building site, overseeing some construction using hundreds of giant foam Lego blocks.

My parents were busy on the second day, so we took ourselves off to the famous riverside town of Henley-on-Thames.  Graham and I were somewhat frustrated that the boys wanted to spend all the time on the playground.  They complained bitterly when we dragged them around the town, and got comprehensively soaked when we let them near a fountain for two minutes.  Looking back, nothing that bad really; at the time it induced a strong feeling of, "Why are we even bothering?"

Henley's very pretty, though
 So we went to the beach at West Wittering.  Which is absolutely guaranteed to keep two boys happy for as many hours as they can shovel sand.  Mom and I enjoyed a nice stroll along the shore while the men of the family dug tunnels, and we ate sandy sandwiches and splashed in the waves and felt like we really were on holiday.



But the big event was the trip to London.  We set off bright and early on the train, and emerged from the Underground into glorious sunshine at Tower Hill.  Our first destination was Tower Bridge, which gives you a grand view along the Thames - and straight down into it as well!  The upper walkways have sections of glass floor, which give you a view 40 metres down to the buses and boats directly underneath your quivering toes.  Walking on it is a very weird sensation, as if you are trying to balance on a narrow beam that isn't really there.  At first everyone tiptoes gingerly across, like it might give way at any minute; by the end my boys, at least, were jumping up and down on the glass ("Don't do that!!!") 

On Tower Bridge with Dad

Venturing onto the glass floor

View up the Thames

Graham photographing Mom photographing Toby
 They were ready for lunch by the time we reached the engine room, and uninterested in historic steam engines, no matter how fascinating the workings might be.  So we adjourned to the river bank for a picnic.



Fortified with cheese sandwiches and flapjack, we pressed on to our second stop, which was the Monument to the Great Fire of London.  This tower was set up so that, if toppled over, its tip would reach to the exact baker's shop in Pudding Lane where the fire started.  Which seems simultaneously satisfyingly neat and extremely pointless.  The point, for us, was the 311 steps to get to the top - and we can proudly report that both boys climbed and descended every single one!  The view is well worth seeing, even though there are now much higher and more modern vantage points to compete with.

It's a long way up

And a long way down!

Yes, we really climbed up inside that!


Finally, Toby's visit to London would have been sadly incomplete if he hadn't got to see Big Ben.  We stepped out of Westminster Tube station into a crush of tourists waving cameras, but once we'd shoved our way through with the pushchair, we found a clearer spot from which to admire the gilded clock tower.  That was definitely the highlight for Toby; Graham's attention was distracted by an insanely expensive hypercar nosing its way through the traffic.


Ooh, shiny!

Meanwhile my parents were reminiscing about meeting nearby, years before I was born, and Theo was as nearly asleep as he could be while still trying to see everything around him.  It was time to get back on the train.

Stowe House and gardens

We fitted in one last stop on our drive back to Derby, at the beautiful Stowe Gardens, about which I have blogged before.  Then we headed home, and back to a proper staycation (or as you might call it, the rest of the summer holidays).



Because really, when wearing three hats counts as entertainment, why do you need to go anywhere?

2 comments:

John Evens said...

Ah, cheese sandwiches and flapjack.

Martha said...

Yep, some things don't change much over 20 years!