Day 5 – June 28
Tuesday, after Legoland, was supposed to be a rest day. In our planning, we knew we’d have been going strong for several days, sleeping in four different places in 5 nights, and so we figured that we’d take it easy before heading off to Peppa Pig world on Wednesday.
Except on Monday night, after our impromptu McDonald’s trip, Rasa made good use of the tourism pamphlets she had picked up as well as the hotel’s free wifi and suggested that on Tuesday maybe we should go to the Oceanarium in Bournemouth. “It looks like fun,” she said as she showed me the brochure. Now, we’d been planning on heading down that way on Thursday anyway, to meet up with some people and take a little boat cruise, but this would be an additional trip. Afterall, it wasn’t that far (only about 45 minutes) and it looked rather pretty.
Besides, we had the inside line on a good place to park (which we had been given for Thursday’s meet-up) so why not try it out?
I mean, hey, why not? I was game if everyone else was. Monki seemed to think it was a good idea, so let’s do it! I prebooked the tickets online, which, even though a number of places were saying was mandatory, it turned out really wasn’t anywhere. I get why they do that, but it’s a bit frustrating. Just charge less for online booking and let us make up our own minds.
As Tuesday began, we started off with breakfast at the hotel. As I mentioned in yesterday’s report, we had prebought breakfast for me and Rasa (just wasn’t worth paying for Monki since she didn’t really eat much) and we went down. I gotta say, hotel breakfasts tend to leave something to be desired, when compared to the price. But we ate and decided we’d have to do something different for the following days.
Then we hit the road.
Here on Day 5, I was getting a bit more used to driving, but it was still a bit stressful. That said, the ride was pretty and the parking lot we had been led to was inexpensive and close by where we needed to be.
The Oceanarium itself was right on the beachfront and easy to find. Even though there were other distractions, we figured we’d see what we came to see first, before exploring anything else (like the Observation Wheel which Monki immediately wanted to go on!).
Having prebooked made getting in easy enough. I showed them the tickets on the phone and they exchanged that for paper tickets, which, we were informed, were actually good for all day, come and go as we pleased. That was unexpected and a great little perk. This particular aquarium is designed on two levels with a specific walk-through pattern designed for the guests and broken into geographic zones. Nothing terribly unique, but still rather nice. Our path led us past a turtle in the Amazon section (river, not company) and we happened to hit the exhibit at feeding time, so we got to watch as the keeper did target feeding. There were also penguins (we went to the scheduled feeding/keeper talk) and an acrylic tunnel under a tank with sharks, rays, eels and a giant sea turtle.
Monki wanted to go to the Kids Play Zone and I was a bit resistant. My thought was we have play areas at home, why pay for the privilege here? But Rasa assured me this wasn’t that, it was the touch pool area. She had seen pictures of it on the brochure. I relented.
Except when we got to that area, it was, in fact, a play area, with nary a starfish or anemone in site (there was a couple of jellyfish exhibits but you couldn’t play with them). Later, I did ask about this and was told they hadn’t printed new brochures in a while, but they had, in fact, taken out the touch pools a while ago to get in line with new zoological guidelines that it wasn’t healthy for the animals. I could respect that, certainly, but I also thought they should update their marketing.
Ah well. As it was, Rasa and Monki had a great time playing with a large stingray who kept rubbing up against the glass they were standing behind. Eventually, we all got hungry and, knowing we could always come back if we wanted to, left and discovered a café across the way for a decent lunch. By this point, Monki really wanted to ride the Observation Wheel so I agreed to go with her while Rasa stayed safely on the ground.
We had fun. It went around 3 times and we got a good view of the whole pier and ocean area to one side and a nice looking park and hotels along the other. We did have one brief moment, when we were stopped at the apex of the ride (about 50 feet up) to let more folks on, that Monki panicked a little, worried we’d be stuck up there forever. Once we started to move again, though, she was fine and really enjoyed herself.
Once we were back on the ground, Rasa had discovered a train which would take us about a kilometer down the beach (and back if we wanted to). The thought was we take it down and walk along the sand to return. Sure, that sounded fine.
I went to pay for our travels and the guy looked at me and then looked at Monki. “How old is she?” he asked.
“Five,” I said.
“Four,” he responded. “She’s four.”
“Yes,” I said. “She’s four.”
“Two adults then. Under-fives are free.”
I thanked him and we paid our money and went down the beach.
It was a cold, windy day (at least for us), but that didn’t stop a bunch of people from hanging out on the sand and near the water. We started our walk back, with Rasa and Monki taking off their shoes and letting the sand run through their toes. I refrained since my allergies had been acting up and I had a runny nose anyway. Figured it would be better to remain shod. Monki also took advantage of the opportunity to bring home authentic English Channel souvenirs of beach rocks and shells for our fish, Goldie and Muddles.
I also discovered a very cool thing they did in the height of summer, when there were lots of people on the beach. All you had to do was take your kid to the life guard station on your stretch of beach and they would put a Tyvek wristband on them (like you get to show you’re of age for drinking at a concert) with that area of beach and your phone number, so if your kid got separated from you while playing or whatever, they could track you down easily enough. Obviously, we didn’t need one that day, but I thought it was a great idea and should be implemented everywhere!
Back at the center of the beachfront area, we used our return option to pop back into the Oceanarium for a few minutes (why not?) and on the way out Monki picked up a stuffed penguin wearing an Oceanarium hoodie. She named the penguin “kisses.” Interestingly, the last time she was in England, she also got a stuffed penguin. Maybe that’s her thing now?
Upon our return to the hotel, we noticed a red carpet being rolled out. This hotel, due to its history and elegance, was a prime spot for social occasions (my friend Sean, a magician who specializes in weddings, told me he had performed there a number of times). Tonight, was the prom for a local high school so they were preparing.
We went back to our room and tried to figure out dinner. We really didn’t want to hit the truck stop again, but we also needed to find someplace not expensive and that Monki would eat. Rasa found a few places which looked yummy and I got on the text with said friend Sean, who lives in the area, and over the course of several back and forths he was brilliant and led us in the direction of West Quay, the big mall in Southampton. Seriously, I told him he was going to get a special shout out and here it is!
Back into the car we went. As we left the hotel property, we passed by all the adorable kids in their prom finery and headed the 20 minutes into town to the mall. We did find the one place Rasa had wanted to try, but the thing she wanted, waffles, were only served for breakfast so that was out. In the end, Monki had her McDonald’s and I had a Chipotle knock-off called Tortilla (I love me some Mexican food) and then Rasa suggested finding a grocery store to get supplies for our adventure to Peppa Pig World the next day. I introduced her to the all-encompassing world of Marks & Spencer. In addition to clothes and whatever else, they also have a full-on grocery store and so we went shopping. We got supplies like cereal and milk and sandwich fixins. Rasa spent a good deal of time just enjoying all the differences in the products on offer.
We headed back and got to bed early. A big day was coming up!