This afternoon I experienced a little bit of deja-vu. Sitting on a bus on Kensington High Street, wrangling some giant balloon creations….weren’t we doing this last week? Why, yes we were but the run up was very different. Last week, we were considering yoghurt makers. This week, it’s holidays. We were scoping out the Family Travel Show at the Olympia Conference Centre.
Travel is all about discovery and adventure. And the first thing we discovered were the Green Park station toilets. We didn’t actually use them but I was pleased to find out where they were, after many failed attempts. As you come through the ticket barriers there’s a corridor directly opposite you that leads there but it’s hard to spot with all the people exiting left and right in front of you. Press on through the crowd and you’ll find the sign. You’re welcome.
If your ambitions stretch slightly further than a Piccadilly pee, then you’ll find lots of inspiration at the Family Travel Show. The first stall we came to was hosted by Carnival Holidays, who run fab, child-friendly cruises in the Med, the Caribbean and around America. They had a whole heap of inflatables for the kids to play with, including some palm trees and they took some Polaroids of us to take away:
They have a bit of a Dr Seuss theme to their ships and so had a guy dressed as the Cat in the Hat to entertain the children. Pity Reuben shouted “You’re not the Cat in the Hat” at him, repeatedly. Once again, Cat, I apologise.
The next people we chatted to – after leaving our things in the free cloakroom – were from the whimsical world of Efteling, a fairy tale theme park in the Netherlands. It was described as “more Hans Christian Anderson than Disney” but I was assured it wasn’t the ultra-dark side of HCA. More the talking trees, flying pots and pans side. Two stalls, two holidays I wanted to go on. Oh dear, am I a chronically easy sell?
Probably yes, because I fell in love with the next holiday option too – Martinhal Resorts in the Algarve. We went to the presentation in the theatre later on and learnt about all the things you could do there – the beaches, the kids’ clubs, the watersports – and gosh darn, I wanted to go. The villas looked amazing and they even offer a babysitting service so you can go out child-free in the evening. Tempting, huh?
Talking of child-free time, there was a complementary creche at the show, courtesy of Esprit Ski so we dumped the kids there for 2 hours and went off to explore on our own. First up was that Martinhal and then we wandered around and talked to some more companies, including luxury family travel operator Tots Too and the intriguing sightseeing/volunteering facilitators Hands Ups Holidays. And also Dogs Trust, who sympathised with me about the death of my sponsordog Spike a decade ago. I was touched but to be honest, I got over it at the time. I didn’t sign up to sponsor another one though.
What I did sign up to was buying some fudge. Yum Yum Tree Fudge were giving out free samples and while I can’t tell you what tree fudge is, I can tell you it was indeed Yum Yum. We deliberated for a long time before choosing a bag of peaches and cream. It was amazing.
Just time for another talk before picking the kids up out of their club. This was all about the beautiful country of Sri Lanka. I learnt a lot and it certainly looks like an amazing destination but, given that we’ve yet to leave Britain with both kids, it seems a tad ambitious for us. It’s still devloping as a tourist destination so I’m not sure it would have the chicken nuggets and CBeebies that my children seem to require. One day, maybe…
We picked the kids up and told them we’d spotted a balloon modeller back at the Martinhall stand. They obviously hadn’t had enough of balloon modelling last week as they stood in quiet awe and watched a speedy Mexican fashioning cars, superheroes and flowers out of balloons.
So fast his hands are a blur! I’m not even exaggerating! When it came to Roo’s turn, he requested a magni-pack to go on his back. I had no idea what that was, but the guy seemed to interpret pretty well, and produced not only a backpack with magnets on but also a sword and a shield. Reuben was very happy. Here, he’s striking a hero pose:
Eva requested something she’d seen on someone else – a fishing backpack with dangling fish in front of her face. While she was getting that made, Roo and I went off to do the reactions test at the Super Skills Experience stand. He made it onto the Top Gear-style leaderboard, on the basis that everyone made it onto the leaderboard. I think he was joint bottom with a girl called Sophie…co-ordination really doesn’t run in our family. We also tried out the slackline at the Family Adventure Holiday stall and he did try it across with only the two adults supporting his entire body weight and keeping him balanced. See that lack of co-ordination thing again.
A favourite spot over the day had been the National Geographic Explorer’s Corner. They had a dressing up box there, where Eva had unearthed a full Ariel costume, and an underwater tent to play in:
She later added a few more flower garlands, a swim ring and an inflatable fish to that outfit, as well as her fishing rod balloon. Then ran off giggling. Roo, meanwhile, was enjoying the photo frame and his new balloon-arsenal:
Roo passed up the chance to get his face painted for free, but Eva was convinced by the promise of something flowery:
I *think* this was courtesy of Wanderlust Magazine but I might be wrong. Either way, check out how very adorable she was once it was finished:
It was time to take this whole circus home. I panicked a little as I couldn’t find our cloakroom tickets but when we got back to the cloakroom, the lady had them at the desk for us. Apparently I’d dropped them a few moments after she’d given them to us and a cleaner had handed them back in. Doh!
We had all our stuff back and, with all the brochures and freebies we’d got during the day (pens! bags! sweeties!), it was an awful lot of stuff. Both kids insisted on wearing their balloon creations all the way home:
Easier than it sounds when that involves a bus, two tubes and a train. And they were big creations. I’m happy to say we got back with them mostly intact though, just in time to finish this post the same way as yesterday’s post – with a sunset at Walthamstow Central. Awww…
Disclaimer: I received free tickets to the Family Travel Show for review purposes. All opinions remain honest and my own.