Having lost out on so many planned trips due to Covid as soon as we saw an opportunity to escape Norfolk after being held Covid captive for 144 days we made a break for it.
We spent a night in Cambridge at the Hilton before heading to Doncaster for 48 hours.
The hotel was fabulous and felt very safe and well organised and we were upgraded to a family suite with interconnecting rooms after a room mix up. The kids were treated to some complimentary chocolates because who doesn’t need sugar fuelled children on holiday.
Cambridge was beginning to come back to life with a full market place of lovely culinary treats and the punting posh boys hassling you for a ripped off river trip. Not enough tourists and bikes to feel claustrophobic but enough for it not to feel like a ghost town. The colleges remained closed with no dates available for reopening but shops were beginning to open and there were a selection of eateries available. We got chips from Gardenia’s to stop the whining and then had some additional food later at the Smokeworks. It seems restaurants can opt in or out of contract tracing with some requesting names and numbers and some not.
Clearly we needed to make the most of room service to try it out so sticky toffee pudding all round eaten with plastic cutlery. We enquired about this and apparently this is a Covid thing to ensure minimal contact with cutlery and easily disposed of trays by staff. I hadn’t realised the impact of additional plastic because of this. Had it occurred to me I would have brought cutlery and steel cups that I normally reserve for trips abroad.
There were also an abundance of wipes in packets everywhere in addition to hand gel which the children covet and collect driving me potty. We had a sausage roll for breakfast at Fitzbillies followed by a random assortment of food in the market including waffles, smoothies and Thai curries ( and more sweets for the journey) before heading North.
Last summer Best Western ran a very generous creative kids competition where children could design a dream hotel for a chance to win a hotel stay . The boys won 2 nights at the Mount Pleasant with tickets to the Yorkshire wildlife park. A huge thank you to this company for not only a lovely completion but for reorganising our stay several times because of our work commitments and Covid and being so kind and accommodating to us at short notice.
A fabulous and again well organised hotel with a lovely large family room and great bathroom. Remind me later that I hate sharing a room with the kids due to constant bickering, Roblox commentary and sleeptalking twins. However I managed to get some peace to read my book by borrowing Craig’s ear plugs.
Breakfast was amazing. With table service and kind and helpful staff and everything from pancakes and maple syrup to fry ups with all the trimmings. No room turndown though. Covid strikes again.
We managed to drag the kids around two walks before we ran out of nagging energy. A short 3 km around Kings Wood where there was a lovely little playground and a longer hike in Sprotbrough where we got lost as usual and had to scramble up a rock face to reach the Conisbrough viaduct . Worth it for the views. We then had a teen tantrum when Craig lied about a short cut through a nature reserve. This area was surprisingly busy for a Sunday morning before 9 am with limited parking but enough space for the 2 metre rule.
We stocked up on provisions in Bawtry. Some treats from a deli for us and some lemonade and biscuits from the corner shop for the kids. And an incredible lunch at the Townhouse which brought the realisation that gone forever is the chance for the kids to order from the children’s menu and our bills are going to double from this moment forth.
Before leaving we went to the Safari park. You need to book a time slot for social distancing purposes. We were booked at 9 am and initially the park seemed quiet and calm and we had a great wander checking out the wildlife. By 10.30 it was very busy and lots of prams and kids. I’m not sure how it would be possible to limit the crowds without enforcing a time slot and I’m not sure how that would work. The toilet queues were long and not ideal if you have desperate toddlers who just can’t wait. If you were Covid anxious it may be best avoided but we had an enjoyable visit.
Our next stop was Liverpool for a stay in a boat! This stay was won by Craig on Facebook and again cancelled and kindly rearranged by the hosts Peter and Jenn. Starting a new business and then having to deal with the fallout of lockdown has had an effect on so many small businesses and it’s great to see life coming back to the UK.
A beautiful boat with modern decor and all the home comforts. Kids more than happy and extra excitable as always with caravan, boats and unique stays. Liverpool was the quietest of the places we have visited. We booked a table at Pizza Express. Sorely missed and not a pizza all year! I panicked as we got lost and I was concerned we would miss our socially distanced slot. Sadly we were the only table booked and only joined by one other during our meal.
The only Pizza express out of 7 in Liverpool open to in house dining. A great meal but an odd experience. We were treated like royalty!
As we planned our activities for the next day we came to realise that most attractions including museums, galleries, tours and the cathedral were still closed. Beginning to open from the day we left! But we expected as much and enjoyed a wander instead and a trip in the Ferry across the Mersey.
The best place for information was https://www.visitliverpool.com/blog/read/2020/07/where-is-open-in-liverpool-now-b434 as it gave a breakdown of opening times and what was Covid ready.
We booked our ferry crossing tickets at the office at the Pier and for under £14 For the five of us even the boat refusing teen almost enjoyed herself. Don’t forget your face masks folks! We have learnt that most websites do not have up to date opening times or information about whether they are open at all but this can be in your favour when you eat at somewhere unexpected. We had brunch at the Lock and Key. An eclectic little gem where you can only have groups of four. Ideal so we had to sit separately from the kids. Result. Lack of peeps makes city exploring a less tiresome experience as the pavements are more easily negotiated and far from the maddening crowds.
Our final supper was had at Lunya in the Albert Docks. Probably the busiest place we dined at but lovely food.
Our last stop was Newcastle. The kids had not seen their Grandparents since Christmas so it was lovely for them to spend some family time while Craig and I made a child free escape to the Quayside at Malmaison.
Newcastle had the worst social distancing of everywhere we visited and the most bizarre pavement arrow systems which seemed conflicting in all directions. It was sad to see so many shops and restaurants shut but we managed a couple of lovely meals. One at Pizza Punks and one at Aveika. Both doing good business but you have to wonder if they have enough customers to make any profit at all, nevermind pay the staff. Aveika would only accept photo ID for their contact tracing.
So overall an interesting trip around the UK. A little eerie in places and I have to say I felt sad to see so many businesses struggling. The quieter cities made exploring more fun but be prepared to change plans and not trust website info on available activities.
We need to get out there and keep the economy plodding along but at the same time keep Covid safe.