Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Travel Feature: Legoland Windsor

Only an hour and a half drive away from Greenwich (on a good day) Legoland Windsor is a promised land for funfair lovers. However, for someone who goes all queasy at the mere introduction of rides and funfairs in the same sentence and has since the age of ten boycotted them, I assured myself I was only there for the Lego and the ice-cream. However, being there as an adult, and a mother of a very enthusiastic phobia-free child proved to be an insightful journey of self-re-discovery.

We had bought our tickets online, and this served us well on two counts: you get to just walk in avoiding all box office queues, and you get to come back a second time FOR FREE. Mind you the ticket isn't cheap. We did pay close to eighty pounds for two adults and one child which includes going on as many rides as you want and as many times as you can. But it does not include the food and beverages which you pay for. Another option is to pack your own lunch as there are great well-equipped picnic spots.

The first impression you get as you walk through the iron gates is a stunning lasting one. You are met with the most amazing view of Windsor Castle perched regally at the top of the facing mountain and one of the most gorgeous landscapes I've witnessed. We were lucky it was a bright sunny day, and the horizon just seemed to go on forever. With a pound inserted in a tiny slot, you get to see it up close and personal. I scanned the sight underneath me of the park awaiting us and spotted the dreaded roller coaster. A small shiver, a gulp, and braving a smile, I decided to make the most of the day.

Peeling myself away from the scenery wasn't an easy task but unavoidable with a four-year-old wildly jumping up and down wanting to see it all and do it all. Mr. ChiChi junior had just found one of many large scale Lego dinosaurs. Made of thousands of pieces of Lego, this model proved a simple one as compared to those found in the section of the park appropriately dubbed MINI LAND; A city made entirely of Lego. The extensive work put into that city is tremendous. The laborious work of creating it all from blocks of all sizes and pieces leaves one gaping. I wanted to fast forward the entire day, skip the dreaded rides and just sit on a floor somewhere and get building. I was there for the Lego anyway wasn't I? Yeah, right.

We took the Train Hill down to our first destination, KNIGHT'S KINGDOM, where we embarked on the SPINNING SPIDER, a new attraction at the park in which you sit in barrels that go round and round as fast as you want them to with a huge Lego spider perched on top of you. Dizzy and checking I still had all my limbs attached in place, I was allowed to catch my breath after it as ChiChi Junior unfizzled by the ride had found the RAT TRAP, a place for young kids to explore on their own, a play area with slides and tunnels. A safe place for the kids, a resting place for the adults, and a smoking area for those who need it.

Then it was time for the PIRATE FALLS. This has always been the second dreaded ride on my dread list right after roller coasters. Thankfully we didn't get to try the JUNGLE COASTER which seemed like where the real thrill was (according to Mr. ChiChi) as Junior was too young for it (There must be an angel out there). The ride started out very easy until it started its climb on a steep incline. By this time Junior was somewhat anxiously asking what came next and I had to explain lightheartedly that we were about to slide down the slope on the other end assuring him it would be fun. Always with my brave smile plastered on. I couldn't believe I was actually going to do this.

He must have been reassured by my tone of voice as well as his father's as he was now excitedly willing the boat to get to the top quickly. Once there, my heart jumping out of my mouth, I just closed my eyes as our boat wildly slid downward to the awaiting water. We hit it with a splash, totally soaked. The drop to my utter amazement was not too bad and was quickly, even abruptly over, to my disappointment. Could it be that I actually enjoyed it? Things were beginning to take on a new light.

I had survived it and by the wild laughter and clapping of ChiChi Junior I suppose he did too. I breathed a sigh of relief that it was first over and that I had not failed as role model. Had I opted not to try it with him, I would have planted the first seeds of acquired fear that we accumulate along the years initially from the reactions of others (usually our mothers). For the time being, my darling was fine and I had contributed to his happiness. An overwhelming feeling of joy swept over me, which the rush from the ride just enhanced. The day was going splendidly.

All worked up now, it was one thing after another stopping only briefly for lunch and snacks. The DRAGON'S APPRENTICE, a mini version of the more advanced ride THE DRAGON, the FERRIS WHEEL, ice-cream break, DRIVING SCHOOL (where kids get a mock licence), hot dog break, LEGO CITY which are mainly dark lit rooms made up entirely of Lego-made characters, from Lego rabbits (in the Magic Theatre), to Lego Mummies (in the Orient Expedition) ending with Lego parrots and alligators (in the Explorer's Institute) among others. Some of the characters combine Lego design and robotic engineering (i.e: they move and talk). Could be a bit overwhelming for young ones. We also caught the City Harbour Adventurers' Show "the Secret of Scorpion Palace", a show that should not be missed. Splashing of the audience is involved. And like so the day proceeded.

There was so much to do and so little time and there will still be a lot more things to try next visit, but by the end of this day we were over tired, over fed, and overjoyed. It had been a successful day out. I, personally, had managed to conquer some of my phobias and have a good time at it too. With what remained of our cotton candy, and two fresh boxes of new Lego, we were ready to head back home. Junior was happily dozing off as the gates of Legoland faded behind us.

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