Saturday, 11 July 2009

Our first proper holiday.

On paper this was a simple affair, a week at a caravan park on the Sussex coast with Family D, my mother-in-law and our 3 year old niece. In reality it was a slightly more terrifying prospect – would the girls get along? Would we all get along? Would the caravan be okay? Would it rain all week? Would the park be full of screaming kids terrorising the place and peeing in the “spacious outdoor pool”?, would we have to sit through hours of “enforced fun” and cheesy cabaret performances? Would everything fit in the car? You get the picture…
So yes, whilst I was really looking forward to a week away it was with a certain amount of trepidation.

It didn’t start well, the generously proportioned boot of our Swedish estate car was full in no time, Baby D’s buggy had to be stowed in the back footwell and we had to leave behind a couple of the less essential items. The drive to Winchelsea was pretty good. Despite being a Sunday we didn’t encounter too many “Sunday drivers” and made good progress, arriving just in time to check into our “Silver level” 3-bedroom caravan. I didn’t know what to expect (the last time I did a caravan holiday I was our niece’s age!) but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised, the bedrooms were small but comfortable, the lounge area was huge, the kitchen and bathroom were well equipped, it even had a real toilet with proper plumbing – luxury! Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think we’d be peeing in a bucket but like I said, I really didn’t know what to expect!

With the sleeping arrangements we decided to put Baby D and our niece in separate rooms. From past experience when they’re in together they tend to keep each other awake chatting as toddlers do. Coupled with the fact that they both have different afternoon nap requirements this seemed to be the best solution.

We unpacked a few things and had a look around the park which was also well equipped, a club house and bar, large outdoor pool, launderette, plenty of recycling & rubbish bins, etc... In all, some good first impressions. Baby D was delighted to discover that the park is full of ducks (or “quackies” as she calls them) and spent a lot of time chasing them around! We then took the short walk to Winchelsea’s pebble beach which was ideal for the little ones, almost deserted, perfect for paddling, and we finally finished the day with fish and chips and a beer at the club house.

Day 2 turned out to be a bit of a milestone – Baby D’s first time swimming. We’ve always been meaning to take her but for some reason it just never quite happened. After kitting her out in a shiny new pair of water wings it was time to take the plunge. The pool itself had two sections, one of them about a foot deep for the smaller kids so this was the ideal place for Baby D to start and she loved it! Any worries we had quickly went out the window as she started splashing around and smiling. She dunked her head under the water a few times which didn’t bother her and after a while she even started kicking her legs – great!
I thought I’d take a few pictures of this momentous occasion and then got told off by the lifeguard. Apparently it’s “company policy” that photos/videos aren’t taken in the pool area. It’s a pretty sad world we live in these days – when did it become socially unacceptable for a man to take pictures of his own wife and daughter in the swimming pool? I got the feeling that he was just towing the company line as he gave me the chance to take a few pics before coming over, I can just about see their point of view but it still feels pretty harsh…

Day 3 started with a morning trip to the pool again and then a drive to Camber Sands, a huge sandy beach spoilt only by the amount of litter piled up against overflowing refuse bins, lovely… Anyway, trash aside it was a lot of fun, bought new buckets and spades for niece and Baby D, made sandcastles, destroyed sandcastles, paddled, Baby D started eating the sand (uuurrrgh!!! Why?!?!?), had dinner at a nearby cafĂ© and drove back to the caravan park with half a ton of sand in my shoes…

Day 4 was Drusillas Park Zoo, a bit further afield but well worth the trip. They had a great balance of animals and educational bits and pieces. On entry, all the kids are given a book where they can tick off each animal they’ve seen and there’s plenty of information, interactive bits and games dotted around the enclosures. There’s a Thomas the Tank Engine ride, adventure playgrounds for the older ones and even a toddler play area. I think the size of the place is ideal, we spent most of the day there and that’s just enough time to have a good leisurely walk around and not feel like you’ve missed anything, even with a decent break for lunch. We’ll certainly go back again.

By this point in the holiday the weather was getting stupidly hot – 32 degrees! So the rest of the week mainly consisted of trips to the pool in the morning, lunchtime naps for the kids, Wimbledon on TV for the grown ups, late afternoon walks to the beach once the temperature had died down a little, and the occasional barbecue from yours truly. The evening entertainment in the club house was good fun, the park mascot “Loopy Rabbit” would come out and entertain the kids and afterwards the cabaret & karaoke would start for the grown ups. The quality of the cabaret? Well, what they lacked in vocal ability they more than made up for in enthusiasm! All good fun after a couple of cold beers.

So, wrap this post up and get to the point I hear you cry. Well, after some initial concerns the whole thing worked very well. Baby D and our niece got on brilliantly together, both needed to be reminded to SHARE every now and again but there was certainly no tantrums or tears. Would we do it again? Yes, it wasn’t particularly relaxing for us adults (I guess the days of relaxing holidays are long gone!) but the kids had a great time, the caravan was ideal, the park facilities were great, the location was perfect and it’s a very affordable choice of holiday. I’m not about to rush out and put a deposit on a Bunkmaster 3000 (or whatever the latest model of hi-tech caravan is) but I’ve certainly dropped a lot of the preconceptions I had about caravan park holidays.

Now, I’m off to find Baby D some swimming lessons…

Oh, and if Nanny C is reading this – A very big thank you from all of us!!!

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