Monday, September 14, 2015

An American Family in Europe: Day 9, Doctor Who and Swansea's LC

(Previously: Day 8, Bath)

The little boy next door, the son of the owner of the apartment we were renting outside Bath, was tearful as we departed. He and our son had had one nice play session on the trampoline, but quickly made bonds have to be broken when you're traveling.

Our first destination this day was the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff. My daughter is a serious Whovian, having immersed herself in this quirky and fun British TV show. True, all humankind is nearly destroyed each week, but "Doctor Who" does it in a entertaining way.

We managed to make our way to Cardiff despite inconsistent help from Mapfactor Navigator, the GPS program we were relying on. Cardiff proved to be MUCH bigger than I figured, but eventually we found our ways toward the waterfront where the attraction was located.

Considering that he Doctor Who Experience is very popular -- very likely the No. 1 attraction in Cardiff -- it strangely has no parking nearby. I don't mean that it has no reasonably priced parking -- there is just no parking. Fortunately, I had learned that ahead of time and we found space in a large parking garage a half-mile away.

The Doctor Who Experience was one of our first items to find a firm place on our itinerary, but the night before I had been reviewing our plans online and started to get alarmed: The attraction "highly recommended" that visitors make advance reservations.  Otherwise, the website hinted, you might have to wait to get in, or might not get in at all.

We didn't have reservations (I had looked into it online, but wasn't sure exactly when we would arrive and I was put off by the fact that you are redirected to an outside booking agency), and now I was worried that we had come all this way and might not get in.

Fortunately, I was worried about nothing. There was no problem getting in. I was, however, so addled that I turned down a man's offer of some free tickets -- I thought he was trying to sell them to us, but my wife later explained that he was just trying to give them to us. Instead of free, we paid $80 for admission (to be clear, the free tickets would have required us to wait about 45 minutes for the selected admission time).

At entrance, we were admitted with others into a multi-room immersive Doctor Who "adventure." It's slighly silly, but mostly fun. (Note: for little kids, it could be quite scary.)

After that, we were turned loose into a two-floors exhbit area showing off all sort of props from the shows -- Daleks and Cybermen and many costumes. The one thing they could add would be more "behind the scenes" sort of displays showing how they shot particular scenes. While the Doctor Who Experience was enjoyable, it was not as good as the Harry Potter studio Tour that we would visit four days later. We were in and out in an hour and 15 minutes, including the gift shop.
We're not the kind of folks that plan our traveling around eating. Rather, when we get hungry, we find a place to eat. It doesn't always work out -- sometimes our lunch is a bag of chips from a vending machine -- but this time it did. We found a cafe immediately behind the Doctor Who Experience that offered a great view onto Cardiff Bay. We were lucky to have nice weather.

After lunch, we drove a hour west to Swansea, and checked in at our second Premier Inn of our trip. Our actual destination was just across the street: The LC.

What is The LC, you say? It's the Leisure Centre of Swansea, of course, the home of a nice indoor water slide complex.

We spent just over two hours at the LC water slides and I'd say it was one of the most genuinely fun parts of the trip. It's not a huge complex -- it has three waterslides, a wave pool, small "lazy river" and a warm tub (I can't say it was hot). They also have some little-kid pools. Parents who don't want to get wet can sit in a glassed-off cafe and watch. For an extra fee, the LC has a learn-to-surf pool (we didn't use).

On the day we went, it wasn't particularly crowded, so our line waits were short or non-existent.

One of the LC slides, the "Master Blaster," is a roller-coaster style ride. Rather than simply relying on gravity to take you the whole way down, this slide includes water jets that push you and your innertube up and over a series of "hills." It's a nice twist.

I also liked that they had timers on the other two water slides, so you could test how fast you go.

The LC water slides have a single locker room for both sexes. There are lockers in the middle of the room and booths along the perimeter for changing. It seemed unusual, but I can see that it makes sense: A mom coming to the pool with a group of little boys and girls can keep them all together.

Another nice feature in the locker room was the "Family Drying Room." Put a 1-pound coin into the slot, step into this three-sided alcove -- it looked something our of "Star Wars" -- and you and a few others will get dried by heat lamps and blow dryers from all sides.

Dinner that night was at T.G.I. Fridays and featured our slowest service of the trip so far. The food was fine, though. We went to walk around that night -- the Swansea city center appears to be a nicely walkable place -- but it had abruptly turned quite cold, so we didn't stay out long.

Next: Day 10, the waterfalls of Wales

The full trip, by day: 

Days 1 and 2, Los Angeles to Paris

Day 3, Paris

Day 4, the Palace of Versailles

Day 5, the Eiffel Tower

Day 6, Goodbye France, hello England

Day 7, Windsor Castle & Stonehenge

Day 8, Bath

Day 9, Doctor Who and Swansea's LC

Day 10, the waterfalls of Wales

Day 11, Blists Hill and Ironbridge

Day 12, Warwick Castle

Day 13, Oxford and Harry Potter Studio Tour

Day 14, this is London

Day 15, British Museum and British Library

Day 16, the Tube goes on strike

Day 17, Greenwich, the Thames and Westminster Abbey

Day 18, the Tower of London

Day 19, heading home  


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