Yes, another year and another trip to Legoland. This time it was for Eva’s birthday, not Roo’s, but in every other way you’d think it’d be the same as the other years. Still, I think I have one or two new things to tell you about.
One thing that was definitely not new was our brunch stop at the Windsor Lad. It’s become a vital part of the Legoland prep and we were quite distraught when we got there and it seemed like cooked brunch might be off the menu as the gas wasn’t working. But not to worry – we started off with the breakfast bar and half a crumpet down, the hot food was ready to go. So we successfully loaded up on meat and carbs before we ventured into the park. Except Eva. Obviously.
We still haven’t cracked the drive from the pub to Legoland itself. We defied Google Maps and followed the brown signs but it felt like we were going on a giant diversion and Nathan and I both had a creeping sense of deja vu – didn’t we start doubting the brown signs last year? And the answer was yes, the brown signs do seem to take you on a delibrately convoluted route in order to avoid traffic going through the middle of Windsor. Fair enough if there was a Duchess in labour at the time who might need the roads clear but they can’t use that excuse every year.
Still, we were parked and at the turnstiles by about half ten. I’d bought tickets online – half by using Clubcard Boost, half by using a Kelloggs code – so we could walk right in without queuing for tickets. All was going to plan until we got to the lockers. The last minute panic where we’d raided Eva’s purse for £1 coins was all in vain as this year the lockers only took £2 coins. This seemed unreasonably steep and, from a practical angle, impossible as we didn’t have any £2 coins on us. So we took the hit and decided to carry a bulky rucksack full of swimwear and a bag of snacks round with us all day. Spoiler alert – the swimwear didn’t get used. The snacks did.
Eva was in charge of setting the itinerary as it was her birthday and she wanted to start in the same place as last year – the Star Wars dome. It hasn’t changed much, but there are some new Lego Movie 2 related displays in the shop, including the set for Apocalypseburg. We played with the Lego building boards for a bit and Roo tried to leave a LM2 spoiler but I swiftly removed a vital bit of it so that he couldn’t. I know the movie’s been out for months now but still, it’s not sporting.
As we walked past the Viking River Ride, we noticed it was only a 10 minute queue, which seemed pretty reasonable. It was totally against my better judgement to go on “You might get wet” ride so early in the day but I was outvoted by the family and actually, they were right. We stayed mainly dry for the whole ride.
Next was a visit to the Knights’ Kingdom. Both kids said that they were brave enough to go on the Dragon rollercoaster but I somehow doubted they were so, so suggested we started on the Dragon’s Apprentice and take it from there. It was our first long queue but happily there was a duplo bench halfway through and it was the same time as my choir’s radio program was on HSpark radio. So I listened to that and the kids played duplo and the time passed quickly enough. And no, they were not brave enough to go on the Dragon. The Apprentice was definitely terrifying enough for the pair of them – Reuben staggered off recalibrating his “Top 3 Most Terrifying Rides Ever” list.
After all that queuing, it was time to for a stretch out in the pirate playground and then we split into two groups – I took Roo to the Ninjago courtyard and Nathan took Eva shopping in Heartyake City. Now, I slightly misunderstood what the Ninjago ride was because it was classified as a purple – same as The Dragon – so I thought it was a terrifying rollercoaster that Roo wouldn’t enjoy. Friends from church yesterday told me that it was a walkthrough ninja-training ride that Roo would have loved but shhhh…our secret. We did everything in the courtyard but it was a touch lame – spinners that were just playground equipment that didn’t really spin, a reflex tester and a little climbing wall. Time to move on to the Kingdom of the Pharoahs.
And here we found something we’d never done before – Laser Raiders. Again, I had little idea what it was but it didn’t look too extreme so we joined a very dark queue inside the temple. There were screens showing the Lego Laser Raiders TV show, which Roo was enjoying, and an option for kids to sit in their own zone in front of the big screen while parents queued. Roo and I took this option and it worked reasonably well except that I panicked when I was in a part of the queue out of the view of the kids’ zone. I thought he might panic too and run away or something but of course I was wrong and he was still sitting in front of the screen when I came back round the corner. I forget he’s not a toddler any more. Still, it’s not a method I would risk with a younger child because the kids are, essentially, unsupervised for 20 minutes or so and they have to be mature enough to understand the passing of time and that you will re-emerge to pick them up when you get to the front of the queue. Object permanence is an important factor here.
The actual ride was good fun. You sit in a vintage car, shooting at mummies and snakes as you wind through the Indiana-Jones style temple. I beat Roo’s score as well, so was feeling well pleased with myself. But he found the PS4s in the room at the end of the ride and was building Lego worlds while despairing of my poor gaming skills…so I think it’s a draw.
We had a message from Team Dadeva at this point, saying that they were in the Bricksville playground and that Eva had bought a pug in a unicorn onesie. That, sadly, was true. Its label said “Pugsley” but when we met up with them again, Nathan had already re-christened it “Pug Ugly”. And it really is, whatever Eva might say to the contrary.
While we’d been separated, Eva and Nathan had also tackled my nemesis from last year. No, I’m not getting confused with Alton Towers. Different nemesis. I’m talking about the Fairytale Brook, Legoland’s Most Extreme Ride and the cause of my knee injury last year which crippled me for at least a month. Nathan said it was nice and soothing but really, what does he know?
We split up again after the playground and this time, I took Eva to the driving school that Roo had done last year while Roo and Nathan went to the brand new ride, the Haunted House Monster Party. They said it was awesome, with a room that does a 360 degree spin and some creepy monsters.
Driving School was….as you’d expect. The girl got stuck a lot and had to be pushed free by the staff. She and I later got stuck on the Coastguard ride too (boats that you pilot around a small course) because someone – let’s call him Reuben – bumped the back of our boat and wedged us in sideways. I wasn’t best pleased with him but at least we didn’t sink, which I thought was likely when I climbed in and realised the imbalance between mine and Eva’s relative weights. A bit of shifting over sorted us out and it was smooth sailing until the back barge. There was no really good way to get ourselves free either, so I just kinda had to bump us free while spectators shouted encouragement from the bank. Like I said, not best pleased with Child#1.
It was at that point that I realised we were all getting towards overtired. Plus it said 5PM on the clock, which was probably a good sign that we should start wrapping things up. We’ve ended on the submarine ride every time we’ve been there and the screens said it only had a 5-minute queue, so that seemed like a good place to finish up. 5 minutes was wildly optimistic but still, we were on the hill train back up to the exit well before 6. Then an extended browse around the Big Shop so that Eva could spend yet more of her birthday money and then it was definitely time to leave.
The journey home was….tricky. I did think, as I was preparing to chain myself to the gates of a supermarket car park in Ealing, “this’ll be good blogging material one day” but it’s been two days and it still feels a bit soon. I’m pretty sure Nathan isn’t ready to laugh about it yet.
It was all to do with dinner. The Harvester hack worked a charm, as always. The kids had a sandwich around midday but Nathan and I had some crisps and biscuits and didn’t need another meal until around park closing time at 6. But we weren’t likely to make it home without hanger, so we planned to stop for food en route. The first year, we’d gone back to the Harvester for dinner but the kids had been grubby and tired and there’s always a risk of disrupting someone’s diamond wedding anniversary meal in a Harvester. So last year we stopped at the Burger King in Heston services instead. No-one goes for a diamond wedding anniversary meal in Burger King in Heston services unless they’re some kind of loon. Or motorway obsessive. Hence us planning to do the same again this year.
But don’t ask how – we missed the car park at the services. We were following someone who went wrong, there was no way to turn round, nowhere to stop without causing a hazard and before we knew it, we were back on the M4. The kids were mercifully silent as we replanned but replanning was tricky with my phone being dead and Nathan’s being used to navigate. I did locate a McDonalds in Ealing Broadway that seemed to be not too far off the M4 and not too far to get back on the North Circular either and it was still open, which was the main criteria. Parking was kinda a secondary concern, as we were a bit busy taking the world’s sharpest left turn off a slip road and then weaving our way through Brentford and Ealing towards the dot on the map.
Parking quickly became a primary concern as we got closer and then past that dot. I saw a sign for Morrisons car park, which said it was open till 10 on a Monday. Result! We drove up the ramp and round a perilously tight bend which had a large Morrisons lorry sticking out into it but at least we were parked. Signs said it was £1.50 for an hour. Fine, I still had those pound coins that I didn’t use in the locker earlier. But the machines weren’t working. Result? Then neither were the lifts. Suspicions grew. We had to walk down the car ramp, edging along the tiny bit of pavement. Then I saw another sign which said that the gates to the car park would close an hour after the store did but the store was open till 10, right? Right?
Oh yes, bank holiday. We rushed round the corner and confirmed that yes, the store was closed but no indication as to whether it had been an hour or anywhere close to it yet. So I made a plan. We wouldn’t sit and eat in McDonalds – just grab food and run. By now, a raging migraine-in-waiting had put me off the idea of food altogether and Nathan was too stressed to eat so we ordered the kids’ meals and one portion of fries to share and then the kids and I went and positioned ourselves back in front of those gates. If anyone came to lock them, I would throw myself at their mercy and beg them to wait until Nathan had arrived back, Happy Meals in hand. Luckily, it didn’t come to that and he was back swiftly so he could walk back up the ramp, drive the car back down and we could throw kids and kids’ meals into the back before jumping in and getting the hell out of Ealing. I won’t mention the other diversion on the way home as Nathan definitely isn’t ready to laugh about that bit but we did eventually get back, get fed and get the kids to bed. Phew!