We took our second ever family holiday a couple of weeks ago. Neither my husband nor I are brave enough to take our little girl abroad yet, so for now, we’re limiting ourselves to the UK and this time it was Perthshire in Scotland. We’d chosen the area because Little B is currently in the midst of an elephant obsession. In fact, she has been captivated by elephants since she saw her first collection of dead stuffed animals in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh a few months ago.
We’d shortlisted all the zoos within a 4 hour radius of our house, and plumped for Blairdrummond Safari Park. It wasn’t too far away. It was open. It had an elephant. It met all our key requirements.
The entire holiday would be based around this elephant. Little B would see the elephant and be off her chops with excitement. Throw in a couple of farm visits and one or two quiet, relaxing days and that would be our holiday sorted. And it was. Well, apart from a just a few glitches, obviously….
1. The cottage and the farm
Our cottage was slap bang in the middle of farmer territory (and on a farm, no less). We knew this would be the case, but what we hadn’t registered was that it was September (frigging September) and that this was an arable farm. Cue tractors rattling past our cottage at 15 minute intervals. All day and all evening. And then there was the harvesting of the field, 20 metres from our cottage. At night. Thankfully we weren’t woken by this, because we never really got to sleep in the first place. (See below)
2. The travel cot
Yes, thank you Mothercare, for your wonderfully designed travel cots, illustrated with bright jungle animals. Toddlers love bright jungle animals. Thank you for encouraging our daughter to repeatedly remove her sheet and mattress from the travel cot in order to view these animals. Thank you for making these animals look so wonderful that she felt compelled to repeat this action on average 6 times per night during our holiday, before finally going to sleep, only to wake up uncomfortable in the early hours because at 2am her parents had had neither the energy nor the will to replace the mattress and sheet for the 6th time.
3. The binge drinking
I should have seen this coming. On day 2 of the holiday, Little B was indicating a reluctance to take any nap whatsoever. By the evening she was a bit worse for wear, so quite soon after dinner we bathed her and she had her milk. But she had too much milk. She realised this before we did, and just before we put her to bed, she projectile vomited all over herself, me, the carpet, and finally, the bath. At least last time’s holiday vomit was contained within the cot. I don’t think I need to explain the chaos that ensued, suffice to say that the washing machine was switched on. Again. And yes, I cried. Again.
4. My near death experience
Despite having travelled to our cottage looking like we’d just designed and entered a ‘How much crap can you fit in an Audi A3?’ competition, we still managed to forget a few essentials which necessitated a quick shopping trip to Perth. While there, we decided to have lunch at the M&S cafe which was on the first floor of the store. We waited patiently for the lift, and as the doors opened to reveal what felt like 200 people, our 22 month old shouted (in the clearest and loudest voice I have ever heard her use), ‘EVERYBODY OUT!’. The people in the lift laughed. I almost died.
5. The elephant
Ah, the elephant. This was to be the highlight of our holiday. We arrived at the Safari Park (later than planned and having forgotten spare nappies obviously) and worked out our route so that the elephant would be one of the last things we would see. Imagine how excited Little B would be when, after seeing a whole host of mediocre animals, she would be presented with what in her eyes was the veritable King of the Jungle.
We wound our way through the goats, ponies, pigs, sheep and alpacas, before moving onto the penguins and sea lions. Then, after lunch, we made our way to the bigger animals: the giraffes, lions and tigers. We passed a huge play area, the likes of which I have never seen before (and I’ve seen a lot of play areas), and Little B stopped to play in the sandpit with the buckets and spades. It was a beautiful sunny day, she was happy building sandcastles, and we were looking forward to showing her a real-life, non-stuffed, breathing elephant.
After 20 minutes or so, it was time. I can’t express how excited I was at this point. We headed off to see the elephant. We walked up the path to the viewing area in anticipation, talking in excited tones to Little B about what she would see when we eventually got there. As we neared the end of the path, there it was. The elephant. Trunk, tusks, the whole shebang. And this time, it was even alive. As I pointed towards the elephant, I admit, I may have let out a slight squeal.
Little B looked at the elephant for a few seconds, and as a smile slowly developed on her face, she turned to me, and in the lovely voice she uses when she’s really happy and amazed by something, she said three words that will stay with me forever:
‘Play sand pit?’
Play. Sand. Pit.
I did not cry. Not until we got back to the cottage anyway.
Harvesting, projectile vomiting and sleeplessness aside, we did have a lovely time on holiday and have now reached the point where we can look back and laugh. The Safari Park was a great day out, even if the elephant wasn’t the success I’d hoped for and Little B fell asleep before the start of the Safari Drive.
We managed some other day trips and had a great time at Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre which has the most beautiful view from any play area I’ve ever seen. We also enjoyed a morning at the Beatrix Potter exhibition at Birnam Arts Centre, where Little B had a fun time making cups of tea in their Beatrix Potter-themed play room.
I’m learning to accept that holidays with a toddler are never going to be the most relaxing, but they’re a rare chance for the three of us to spend uninterrupted time together and for that, I’ll take the stress and sleeplessness. But I’d rather not have the vomit next time, if that could please be arranged.