Thursday, 3 September 2015

Annual Alton Towers visit

I love theme parks. I love roller-coasters. I generally just enjoy being scared. Weird I may be, but it's the way I am! Each year we take a trip to Alton Towers. It's my favourite theme park, with its creepy demeanor and beautiful grounds. I know it hasn't had the best time of it recently, with the terrible accident on the Smiler. But I genuinely feel that they dealt with it in the best way they could. Had they been slower to shoulder responsibility or to admit liability, I don't think I would have returned. However I admired their reactions to the incident.

So, with the sun shining, the radio on, and the morning rush hour traffic out of the way, we embarked on our journey. Anyone making their way to Staffordshire from the south any time soon, be warned, you will come across no less than 26 miles of M1 road works (not a soul in sight yesterday, but I digress), so it may be an idea to take an alternative route.

On arrival, it became quickly apparent we had chosen a particularly fantastic date to go. With some schools already back in session, many more due back this week, and most parents in hyper-drive, buying new uniforms and P.E. kits, it was strangely quiet, almost eerily so. There were no queues to be seen, so what would usually be the rush to get a spot waiting for your favourite ride, instead found us taking a leisurely stroll around the park, grabbing a bite to eat, then pootling over to the nearest ride. This found us at Duel, a laser quest for the undead. I'm usually a dab-hand with a laser gun, but mine wasn't working, so I lost out on a few precious shots and therefore lost the battle. That's my excuse for losing and I'm sticking to it!

Then we made our way to Air, one of my favourites. Again no queue to be seen, so we effectively walked straight on to it. The same can be said of Nemesis, Hex, Rita and Thirteen. It made for a really nice experience. There was no pushing or shoving, no dreary wait for 2 hours for a 30 second ride. Just people having a relaxed meander around the park.

We stopped off to try the offerings of the new Nitrogenie ice-cream stand. Ice-cream made, while you wait using nitrogen to freeze the ingredients as they are needed. We both opted for the Oreo vanilla cream flavour, which was delicious. I'm now planning on throwing a packet of Oreos into my ice-cream maker and hoping for similar results!

In the past it has taken us 2 hours to hit 2 rides, meaning that we've often had to miss out on something due to lack of time. This time around, we had been on every ride we wanted to get on in under 3 hours. The Smiler being closed does go some way to explain this. Taking advantage of the free time we had, we took a stroll around the gardens. I try and do this every year, simply because the grounds are so pretty, but it is sometimes difficult to with the time constraints. If you find yourself in the park and with enough time to spare, I really recommend having a look around. There's an incredible array of flowers and plant life, not to mention all the wildlife flitting about. We caught the grounds at a great point in the year, everything is still very much in bloom, but the hint of autumnal colour is just starting to creep in.

We decided to make our way to the front of the park and have a try at the crazy golf course, something I've never done in previous visits. Not badly priced, you can play 9 holes for £4 a person or 18 for £6 a person. We opted for the 9 hole game, my golfing tolerance only stretches so far, even if it is of the crazy variety! Once you have your clubs, balls and mark sheet, you have a decision to make - east or west. To the east you have the simpler course, to the west the more complex. Naturally we went west. Each hole is based on a ride in the theme park, getting more complicated and ridiculous as you move on. Starting at a (in retrospect) relatively simple Nemesis based hole, you are quickly moved on into the realm of loops, bridges, swirly metal bridge thingamys, giant teacups, hollow oak trees and trick shots. 9 holes took roughly 35 minutes to complete, and involved a lot of hysterical laughter and retrieving of golf balls. Well worth a visit if you find yourself tired of rides!

Finally feeling that we had exhausted all that was on offer, we started the trip back. That hasn't stopped me checking out this years' Scarefest offerings ( 3 mazes and 2 other installations will be taking place from 17th Oct - 2 Nov for this years' Halloween celebrations and I must admit, I am quite tempted...    

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