Friday, 5 April 2013

Two Days in the West Midlands: a review of Cadbury World and Stratford-upon-Avon

Let me guess - you read the title of this blog post and had to click through straight away because, let's face it, it's on-the-edge-of-your-seat-exciting!  We just got back from two days in the West Midlands and while the kids are still playing nicely (I know! Amazing, right?) I am taking the opportunity to upload some pics and get down my thoughts about our break. We have decided not to take a long holiday this year*. Instead we have scheduled a few days here and there to fit in around work. The plan was to go to Cadbury World and spend the night and the following day in Stratford-upon-Avon before moseying home down the M5 late on Friday afternoon.

Let's start with a review of Cadbury World. In short: don't bother. Seriously, next time I feel like spending £70+ (£48.something for the family ticket plus petrol, plus lunch on the way) I'm going to save myself the hassle and just set fire to a couple of twenties or something. What an overpriced pile of pants Cadbury World is; crowded, boring, and slightly stressful for someone who suffers from claustrophobia when in crowds (you're herded through various theatres in groups of 50 or so, and with groups going in every ten minutes it's kind of a rushed funnel to get in and out). I'm not saying we didn't learn a little about chocolate making, but no way did we get fifty smackers' worth of entertainment from it. Seriously, just let your kids loose in the chockie aisle of the supermarket with a tenner and you'll all have a better time. It's pretty rare I'll slate something so heartily but this is in no way a good value family outing. In fact, I think it's a pretty healthy rip-off. The only thing I was impressed with (apart from the 3 bars of free chocolate we were given each) was the friendliness and professionalism of the staff. Oh, and the eyebrow ad at the end. The kids liked the bubble catching game at the end, and the chocolate, and that was it.

We stayed at the Premier Inn Waterways in Stratford-upon-Avon. I definitely recommend it. It's pretty new, very clean, and in a great location on the canal. It takes about 10 minutes to walk into the town and parking costs £1 overnight so you can leave your car there and do the rest on foot. The staff are lovely and the family room was a pretty generous size. That's not to say we got a great night's sleep but I don't think their guarantee extends to sharing the room with a child who talks almost as much in their sleep as they do when they are awake. The room was only £35 and I thought it was great value. We ate at Pizza Express and had a walk around town and down along the river by the RSC before heading back to the hotel.

Premier Inn brekkies are not the best value, and after wasting so much money on Cadbury World the day before I was keen not to chuck anymore away. We decided to head into the local Wetherspoon pub (The Golden Bee on Sheep Street where we were stuffed on about £12) before having a look around. I haven't been to Stratford-upon-Avon for over ten years, but given that it takes its fame from something that hasn't changed in over five centuries, I wasn't expecting to have missed much. It's a nice market down with the usual range of shops (White Company, Costa, Laura Ashley) and if I had been without the boys I would have enjoyed a mooch.

The kids were cold and not fussed about visiting Shakespeare's House so we bypassed that and headed a few miles out of town to the Stratford Armouries Museum. This is a great private collection of guns, armour, weapons and heaps of military memorabilia. The staff (volunteers) were so friendly and knowledgeable. We were lucky to be there on a day when the resident armourer was there, so we were able to get a close up look and hold at (decommissioned) guns and learned a lot. It was £20 for the four of us and we got more than double the entertainment that Cadbury World gave us - go figure! There is also a good indoor/outdoor playbarn (Henry's Castle), cafe and restaurant. It was too chilly to play outside and we had to head back, but it's certainly a place we'll go back to when next in the area.

I was really disappointed that Cadbury World didn't live up to my expectations. I don't know exactly what I expected, but certainly that it would be a lot more fun than it was. It seems to try and cater for everyone but, for our family, ended up pleasing no one. It's one off my Family Things to do in 2013 list, anyway.

If you've been to Cadbury World, what did you think? Are we in the minority with not liking it? It certainly seems so, given the number of visitors they get!

*unless summer is dire then I reserve the right to book a holiday somewhere warm in October if we can find one without having to mortgage our souls