Bagnalls abroad

I was doing so well with updating this website and then May befell this corner of the internet.  Regular readers may be wondering what has happened, ‘has he got bored?’; ‘has he run out of gas?’ or ‘has nothing happened?’.  Quite the contrary my dear readers, we have been away, on holiday, vacating (if that is a word).  The football seasons have finished, live programming is slowing (not quite gone away but definitely reducing) and so we decided to take advantage of this hiatus in my busy work life and head off for the sun as a family. 

We only booked the holiday last month (Friday the 13th for any of you friggatriskaidekaphobics among you) and were due to fly out on Lucinda’s birthday from Gatwick airport.  We upgraded to more sociable flight times (0730 instead of 0430) but still decided to book a hotel near Gatwick just to avoid unnecessary fuss on the morning, it is hard enough to get yourself packed a ready that early in a morning without the additional hassle of attempting to get two sleepy youngsters ready too!  So with suitcase packed and Lucinda’s presents and cards packed we headed to Gatwick on the Thursday night bound for Tenerife the next morning.

In the build up to our holiday the weather in the UK had been atrocious: the wettest April since records began, night frosts in May (Snow in Scotland and in parts of the Midlands!) and generally cold, dark, damp days.  So, with the magic of the internet at our fingertips, we searched for long range weather forecasts for Tenerife.  Tenerife, (for those of you that don’t know is the largest of the Canary islands – more geography later) and the Canary islands as a whole, were experiencing a heatwave at the beginning of May with temperatures of around 40°C (104°F in old money) but the long range forecasts that we could find were predicting thunderstorms and rain for the majority of our holiday.  ‘Just our luck’ we thought and we became a little despondent.  We have a knack of taking the rain with us on holiday (Barbados, Italy, Kent), which is good in some ways as we are both fair skinned and easily burn but wet and windy weather is not conducive to a happy holiday, especially with two little ones (then again neither would 40°C temperatures either).

This was also going to be Amélie’s first flight (and only Éowyn’s third!) beating her sister by exactly a week for the bragging rights of who was first to fly (although both flew as foetuses) by virtue of being 598 days old as opposed to Éowyn’s 605.  So it was with a little trepidation that we headed off to the airport at Oh my god it is early o’clock.  Just what you want on your birthday.  We checked in and went through security and on to the plane pretty painlessly (without any of the trips to the toilet that accompanied Éowyn’s first flight!).  It was a full flight with very little leg room on our chartered 737, however with Éowyn now requiring a seat of her own it was nice that we had a row of three seats to ourselves.  Both girls were excellent on the plane especially considering it is a long flight (4 hours 20 minutes on the way there) without any onboard entertainment (thank Steve Jobs for the iPad!).  With a certain amount of counterintuitiveness (is that a word?) we actually think that a longer haul flight maybe easy purely down to the fact that the children can be entertained for hours with a film or cartoons on a small seat mounted screen.  Hopefully we will test this theory soon.

An hour coach journey greeted us on arrival in Tenerife, as did 22°C and overcast skies.  It is Lucinda and my first experience with a package holiday (usually we book everything separately and hope for the best) and it does take the worry out of many things.  You literally arrive at the airport and follow the signs, however it does mean that a big group of you all arrive at the hotel at the same time and so at the end of an exhausting trip it takes another 40 minutes or so before you get to the front of the check-in queue and finally get the keycard to your apartment, all the time while attempting to keep two children in view (extremely difficult when they run in opposite directions – imagine herding cats).  The other benefit of a package holiday is that you have a rep who can help sort out issues and we called upon our rep almost immediately.  Check-in was relatively painless until we tried to confirm that there was a cot (for Amélie in the room).  There was no cot and there were no cots available until tomorrow.  Not what you want to hear after 12 hours of journeying.  Thankfully that problem was handed over to the rep and by 1800 we had a cot in our room in plenty of time for Amélie’s bedtime.

Before we even arrived in Tenerife there were two things that I wanted to do while we were there: a) visit Loro Parque and b) visit Mount Teide.  We only had a week so two big trips were all that we thought we could reasonably manage and still have time to relax.  So the next morning we booked the trips via the reps and again decided to embrace this package lark rather than hire a car (and car seats) and head off under our own steam as we would usually do. 

We also checked out the kids club and the crèche, so that Mum and Dad could have a little me time too!  Unfortunately I think this was one of the few disappointments on the holiday.  Éowyn loved the idea of going to Kids club (or holiday school as she called it) but had a bad experience on her first day when one of the boys screwed up her drawing (which was bad enough) but that was compounded by one of the adults in charge dismissing the importance of that to Éowyn by merely giving her another piece of paper and throwing her screwed up drawing in the bin. We only managed to convince her to go once more (I had to stay with her for 25 minutes before she felt settled) and although she seemed to enjoy it, she didn’t want to go again. 

Amélie was the same.  The crèche was not free and we had decided to pre-book 3 sessions when we booked the holiday as it was cheaper to do so.  However, when we arrived there just because you had booked didn’t mean that there was a space available for you.  Spaces at the crèche were limited to only 6 (which is good) but these got booked up very quickly and the time slots didn’t seem to marry with the hours we had booked and were thus owed.  We had booked 3 two hour sessions but the timeslots available were either one hour or 90 minutes and trying to juggle when Amélie could actually go with the hours we were owned got very complicated.  Nevertheless we managed to book the correct number of slots for the hours we were owed and all seemed hunky-dory.  However Amélie had other ideas and did not want to go to the crèche.  This is not like her at all. Éowyn is often shy and takes a while to accept new surroundings, Amélie just charges straight in there and settles herself in without a care.  Not this time.  Maybe because we were in a strange place and then she was being left in a strange place but there were tears everytime we left her, which was not pleasant.

Éowyn did however make one friend by the pool and girl of about the same age as herself called Brooke.  She constantly looked out for her and was so excited whenever she saw her whether that was by the pool or in the restaurant, but unfortunately they didn’t get to play with each other everyday because of trips that we had both booked.

We booked two trips while we were in Tenerife and the first was on the Monday and at 0740 we headed out on a coach to Loro Parque.  Loro in Spanish means parrot and that is how Loro Parque was initially conceived as a reserve for parrots but it now has a diverse number of animals (and plants – the orchids particularly interested Lucinda) and is probably the biggest attraction in the whole of the Canary Islands.  The zoo still has the most diverse collection of parrots in the world (not the most as a Mr. Antonio de Dios of Birds International in the Phillippines has the largest collection of parrots in the world – over 10,000) but also has chimpanzees, gorillas, tigers, jaguars, sea lions, dolphins (the largest dolphin show pool in Europe) and is only the second place in Europe to have orcas (killer whales to you and me).  It has the longest shark tunnel in Europe and the world’s largest indoor penguin exhibition.  Loro Parque has set up a foundation and most of its profits go back into conservation projects.  Have I sold it to you yet? 

The zoo is wonderfully laid out but the main attractions are the shows.  We only managed to see the sea lion, dolphin and orca shows (we missed the parrot show) but thoroughly enjoyed them all and the only disappointment of the whole day was the fact that the penguin exhibit is being expanded and so was closed.  There was a small enclosure with some Humboldt penguins in but that was it.  Damn you Loro Parque we will now have to come back and visit you again!  There are plenty of photos on the Flickr page if you are interested.

Our other organised day out was to visit Mount Teide.  The Canary Islands are volcanic in origin and lie off the west coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean.  Tenerife is the biggest of the islands and is dominated by the volcano Mount Teide, the highest point in all of Spain (in fact it is the World’s third largest volcano after Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on Hawaii’s Big island).  The area around Mount Teide has been given national park status and is a World Heritage Site.  Teide is currently dormant (which is good) and last erupted in 1909 however the area around the volcano is bleak and mostly barren giving it an appearance similar to many of the planets that Captain Kirk visited and either ended up fighting or falling in love with an alien that dwelt there.  The only strange being that we saw was a man dressed up like one of the original inhabitants of Tenerife, the Guanches.

The trip was entitled ‘A Jeep Safari’ and so in convoy we headed with other tourists around the national park stopping at various sites to get a close up look of the terrain.  This included walking through a lava tube and through the pine forest that surrounds the caldera.  Unfortunately we didn’t go to the summit of Mount Teide (in fact we didn’t ascend the final 5,000 feet!).  The road ends at 7,730 feet and from there the quickest way to up the volcano is via cable car, however unless you arrive particularly early the queues for the ride can be four hours long!  But even the cable car itself doesn’t go to the top the final 660 feet requires special permission the park office in Santa Cruz and it is limited to a maximum of 150 per day.  There is a 6 hour hike that would have avoided the queues for the cable car but we decided to be content with the view from the road.

Before we returned to the hotel we stopped for lunch at the camel park where there was a camel ride included as part of the trip.  Health and safety hasn’t really arrived in Tenerife and the Bagnalls sat precariously either side of a seesaw-like bench strapped between the camel’s humps with only a small strap to stop you falling the 8 feet or so to the gravel below.  Lucinda sat with Amélie on her lap and I sat with Éowyn on mine both holding onto the camel with one hand and our wards with the other.  It seemed a very long 20 minutes!

Our only other excursions were the half kilometre trip down to the beach.  Down being the operative word as the hotel was up quite a steep slope from the beach, which was an effort on the way down and an even greater effort on the way back up.  Being a volcanic island the sand is black volcanic sand and heats up extremely well, it is highly recommended to wear flip flops or sandals and it is rather hot under foot.

The hotel was excellent and being all inclusive took away the worry of a) finding somwhere to eat b) finding something for the kids to eat.  This is only the third time Lucinda and I have been all-inclusive and we have to say that this was by far the best for choice and quality of food (and wine and beer).  So much so we have both put on half a stone (7lbs/ 3 kgs) in the week we were away – ah well, back on the diet!  The weather, too, was kind without so much as a hint of rain.  The hottest it peaked was 33°C but was mainly in the mid to late 20’s which is perfect for us and apart from being overcast on the first couple of days it was blue skies all the way.

So, as you can probably tell, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and our only regret was that we didn’t book 10 days!  But this is turning into an epic (I think it is the longest entry I have made thus far) so I will stop there and for those of you that haven’t fallen asleep I have included a few of the 1,000 or so photos that we took, there are many more on the flickr site.

Peace and Love