Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Day 27 - Alton Towers theme park - May 27th

Most of you will know that I am a Disney/Universal Studios theme park junkie, but I had never been to Alton Towers, just 80 minutes away from Nottingham.  This has long been the UK’s best theme park and I had few pre-conceptions, as I hadn’t Googled it or been on line at all, so as we arrived at 10:10am (just Stewart and I) and the park had only been open since 10am, I was staggered at the number of cars already parked and the solid stream of visitors.  Somehow, Stewart had wrangled free tickets through a newspaper promotion, saving us about £40 each and once inside, we consulted the rather crowded and confusing park map.



I just wasn’t prepared for the sheer size of the place, expecting a compact theme park tucked away in the grounds of what was a stately home.  The theme park aspect is scattered over many acres of the site, with beautiful gardens, a lake, buildings and what in NZ would be called ‘bush’ or in the UK, ‘woods’.

Stewart led us straight to a ride called “Oblivion”. Quite simply, a fairly short roller coaster ride that climbs to the highest point, then the carrier teeters on the edge of a sheer (totally vertical...) drop through a dark circular, steaming hole in the concrete - and indeed, into oblivion. A matter of a couple of seconds later, the ride was over and Stewart examined me closely to see if he was any nearer getting his inheritance.  No such luck, so from then on the rides we went on were gentler, but the queues were horrendous. A bright Sunday, a large catchment area and a well run and interesting park with plenty to do, so no wonder it is so popular.  There were several rides we didn’t even queue for, so there are plenty of reasons for a return visit.
We entered “Hex”, a sort of semi haunted house attraction and enjoyed that and also enjoyed the Willie Wonka chocolate factory – doing research for Noah of course...

Stewart has a side of pasta with his salad

Lunch time, we opted for the “all you can eat pizza/pasta and salad plus drink” establishment, and this was at a very respectable price, especially when compared with much of the other fare on offer.  Well, two large plates of excellent pasta and pizza later and I was suitably full, but Stewart managed a third... Pity the cold drink machine couldn’t keep up with the demand though, as there is nothing attractive about coca cola that is not ice cold.
Stewart tried to win a car by scoring a hole in one, but in 30 shots, managed to ring the tiny island green with about 20 shots, hit a duck squatting on the green and skewed a few well away. It was the ball/clubs/wind etc that prevented him driving home in a new Fiat.

Meanwhile I had opted to test out “Storybook Land” and the squirrel nutkin ride - to see if it would be OK for Noah of course...  Judging by the view from up there, there, the tractors would be a good option for the future too.

For several rides, the queues were just too long but we headed across the park, down one side of a steep gulley or valley and up the other side, to another scary coaster (Air) but this time I opted out – well, someone has to take photographs...  Starting the ride by hanging face down as the cart climbs is not my idea of fun – especially when the pasta was so good, if you get my drift.  Stewart enjoyed it though, and we then headed for the park exit at about 5pm, but the rush wasn’t as bad as we expected.  The parking fee of £6 would have netted them a handsome profit for the day.  Would I go again?  Too true, but next time, not on a sunny Sunday at the beginning of the schools’ mid-term break. The legs and hips were very tired not so much from the time standing (and queuing) , but also the walk through the valley was steep.
An easy run home again and Stewart shot off to rescue Noah who had spent the day with granny whilst Manu waded through a load of exam marking. 

Paula had been out with Dave and Sue and brought me a much appreciated present.  Those of you who have waded through this waffle earlier will remember that at Dubai, my much loved and very useful, tiny, Swiss army knife was confiscated.  Paula found one.  Great!

So good to have some father/son time – for just about the first time ever as adults.  Sad really, but that is the price we pay for scattered families.  Now we are distant from Noah too, but Teté in Brazil (Stewart’s mother in law), has both daughters and her grand-children in the UK!

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