Thursday, 5 December 2013

Blowing our loads at Cheshire Oaks

We had promised Nanna Creaky (NCr) that if she could keep herself out of hospital we would take her on a shopping trip for a few days in the run up to Christmas. With her having kept her side of the bargain we were all set to go.

Sunday 1 December

On one of those cold damp December type mornings we were loaded up, up the hill to collect Nanna Coupons (NC), back down the hill to stop off for Grandpa Grumbles (GG) and Nanna Creaky, before setting off on our way to Chester for a few days. There had been some debate before hand about the route, as GG likes to do motorways if he is going anywhere.

The direct route up through mid Wales is 148 miles while the rather round about way of getting there via the motorway network is a full 100 miles longer.  In the end common sense prevailed and we took the shorter, and much more scenic route through the open Welsh Countryside.

We’re just over 1 hour into the journey when NCr rings, claiming her back is in bits and she needs to stop.  We’re only just a third of the way!!!!

We pull into Builth Wells and stop in a pub for some drinks and sandwiches and she seems fine.  I’m convinced she was just bored and wanted a chat (and a coffee).

Caffeine levels topped up we hit the road northwards before we were forced to stop for another coffee some 35 miles from our destination, where the locals are still enjoying their Sunday Lunch.  With the light fading we arrived in Chester but managed to locate our apartment with ease. Chester Apartments

Although at ground floor level it is far from accessible.  Steps up to the front door have risers of at least 300mm which require some getting up. NCr has an arm thrust under each arm pit and is lifted, while NC (who has got very little legs) climbs them in a fashion akin to something like you see a toddler climbing onto a couch.

Inside the sets of fire doors require forearms like Popeye to open and there’s a further set of steps to accommodate a change in level in the open plan living area.

My heart sinks as I take a look at the steps down into the basement area where Herself’s and my bedroom is located.  The flight is only 450mm wide with the handrail protruding 100mm into that.  Going up and down that is going to take some effort.

Settled in we set off for Chester Racecourse which promises a Winter Wonderland complete with food fair to browse.  We roll up and hand over our £2.50 to park (pricey I know) and head off for the illuminated extravaganza.

We got no further than the goons guarding the entrance.  On top of the £2.50 to park they now want a further £5 per person just to go in and walk around.  We refuse as we can see most of the stalls packing up for the night anyway and trudge back to the car.  NC is now seething and I have to physically drag her away from abusing the old git on the gate who took our parking fee earlier.

From there we make tracks to the local Toby Carvery, where we are told it’s ½ hour wait and are given this plastic thing that were are told will vibrate when there is a table free.

We’re in the holding pen as everyone sits gazing at their own plastic things, seemingly checking them every two seconds in case they have turned themselves off. When it’s your turn you are left in no doubt.  The thing shakes like a pneumatic drill and lights up like a Christmas tree!  The family next to us hold theirs high, grinning as those of us less fortunate look on as they skip towards the dining area.

The meal was lovely and service was superb.  I am now a fan of Toby Carvery.

Monday 2 December

We’re all up, breakfasted and out of the door by 10am.  It’s cold and damp, but not raining.

One destination today, and that is the Cheshire Oaks shopping outlet.  It’s massive.  No really, it is massive.  Is you want a brand they have a shop here.  We spend a full day traipsing the shops.  Well they all did.  I don’t do shopping so was limited to standing outside shops waiting for them to emerge, gathering up all the bags (making occasional trips back to the car to unload) and moving onto the next shop to repeat, and repeat and repeat.

We break briefly half way round for an overpriced coffee served by overly attentive staff in the overly ponsy establishment that is Café Rouge.

All shopped out, and at least £1k poorer (between us) we seek sanctuary in the local Hungry Horse (yes things were that bad) for some food and drinks before moving on.

At around 5.30pm we are parking up in Chester city centre to take a look around the Christmas Market that they hold in the Town Hall Square.  We’d seen it last night from the car but it was closed up.  Quite frankly there was more atmosphere last night, as tonight we appear to be the only customers.  It takes us less than ½ hour to walk around, but the bloke who is selling scented oils thinks all his birthdays have come at once.

By 6.30pm everyone is knackered so it’s back to the apartment to settle in for the night.

Tuesday 3 December

We did very well this morning.  We were up, dressed, breakfasted and out of the apartment by 9am.

Back up to Cheshire Oaks we trudged, but NCr had a spring in her step (well, more air in her tyres) as we were heading to the mahoosive M&S superstore there.  The olds were suitably impressed –herself and I less so.

After ensuring they were OK and could get up to little mischief, we left them to it and popped over to Superdry so that herself could blow some serious dosh on Ronnie and Roids.

We collected the olds from M&S and started to make tracks back down south.

After an hour on the road it was time for a break.  The old station at Welshpool has been converted into a retail outlet and as we pull up GG has a go at me because NCr is spending far too much money.  An hour flies by and it’s 1pm (dinner time).  Herself doesn’t fancy the onsite restaurant, though I quite fancy the minted lamb they have on the menu.

Herself also declared that she’d like to get some miles under our belt before stopping for food.  I’m thinking, firstly, it’s dinner time now, and secondly, we’re driving through mid Wales where there are miles and miles of sheep (and eff all else), so the prospects of finding somewhere else –that serves food- on the way are grim.

Never the less we hit the road south.  Grumbling stomachs are now louder than the car stereo and  herself starts to look out for open pubs.  40 bastarding miles we drove, stopping briefly outside many closed pubs and restaurants before we happened across The Drovers Rest in Llanwrtyd Wells.

They had stopped serving lunch by the time we poured through the door at 3.30pm. but their Michelin star rated chef who has an MBE after his name and photos of him in his gear cooking for the queen all over the place was only happy to accommodate us.

Maybe it was our tale of driving all the way from Welshpool trying to find somewhere to eat and sad faces that swung it?  What a welcome, and ham sandwiches and chips have never tasted so good.

Back home by 5.30pm and the gifts are stashed away, herself has the washing on and the dogs are pouting and ignoring us.

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