Cornwall – Newquay

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Gunnel at Cranstock Beach

This last weekend, we went to Cornwall for the weekend.   It was a cheap getaway that we booked just a couple of weeks ago.  I had seen an offer in the Daily Mail to collect the tokens and get away for just £20pp.  I dont often do offers like this but as a family of five and copious amounts of travel draining the purse, I thought this would be a great deal for us…and it was.

We booked into a camping resort – Parkdean, Newquay.  Again, never staying in a ‘holiday camp’ type of resort before this was a new experience but pleasantly surprised.   The unit we booked accommodated up to 6 people.  It was sparkling clean and had everything we could possibly need for the short stay…2 bathrooms, fully equipped kitchen, living room, diner, tv etc.  We are at the beginning of the season so I wonder how well the units would hold up through the summer but for us, it was perfect.   We opted to bring our own sheets, although, they do offer these as an extra charge.   With the newspaper deal, we paid under £50 for a 3 night stay!  WOW!  This is a brilliant deal and highly recommend anyone looking out for the deals when they are done again.  We paid an additional £40 for entertainment passes.  Not critical for us but we did use them and they did check the passes so with such a good deal, happy to spend the little extra.

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Lounging around at the Camp site

Our first full day there was Saturday.  Having been weather watching all week, we knew that the weather wasn’t going to be great so we opted to do some driving/ touring around the area.

First stop was Newquay.  Don’t get me wrong, Newquay has some of the most beautiful beaches and best surfing spots in the UK but on a grey day we were less than enamored.  The town center/ promenade area was also disappointing.  Maybe we just didn’t hit the right spots?  Not sure…but with one way road systems, rain and no ease of parking we moved out of Newquay and headed South along the coast.

Our first pull over site was a National Trust location Crantock Beach.  We have an annual membership for NT so as it turned out, we were going to be fortunate to use it a number of times this weekend away.

We headed up and over the dunes onto a pretty sandy beach.  As I said, one of many in this lovely area.

We took a stroll along the beach watching the tide come in.   We opted to take a different path back to the car park.  There are many paths off the car park so by chance we opted to take an opposite path up and over into another cove.  This was beautiful!  Its clear where the water flows here and leads out to the ‘Gunnel’.

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Dogs playing on Crantock Beach

If you go, take a walk over to the wooden bridge and cross over to a series of steps up.  166 in all.   Perched at the top, there is a delightful cafe with fantastic views.  Naturally, we took some tea and cake – what we do best 🙂

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View of the Gunnel at the top of the steps/ cafe

After refreshments we set out North again to find another adventure.   Next stop was Holywell Beach (National Trust).

We asked the car park attendant for his must do at the beach and he told us to head to the far end and explore the cave…so that’s what we did!

For the walk back to the car park, we ventured through the dunes….all very picturesque!

Two beaches down, we opted for a little change in scenery – we headed into Truro for a look around.  I wont spend much time here on it as we only hit the shopping/ center.  From what we saw, it would be worth a return visit one day to explore more.  Shopping was pretty standard but the kids enjoyed a change in activity.   We grabbed a bite of dinner at Sams Bistro.  I would recommend the restaurant – the food was good and reasonably priced.

Final stop was back at Parkdean in Newquay – our camping resort.  In true holiday camp fashion, the resort offered plenty of evening entertainment.   So Bingo and quiz night it was before we headed off to bed!

 

York

A brief post about a flying visit to York a few days ago.  I wont really do it justice as the trip was quick and I know there is so much more to see and do here.

My Sister in law and I took a train from Manchester into York.  A quick trip, just 1.5 hours and the views (cross Penines) can be lovely at times.  Its so nice to take a train.   With so much driving in the car this year, taking a break and being a passenger was welcome.

I have a good childhood friend that lives in York so the intention was to catch up and send time with her.  Sadly, we haven’t been able to get to York as a family as we’ve been so busy and its been just a bit too far for the weekend.   So being in Manchester for a week, allowed a day trip to make this happen.

Naturally, no trip to York is complete without a trip to York Minster.  My friend was fortunate enough to be married in the Minster and I was bridesmaid.   It was a great day and memorable being such an impressive venue.

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York Minster

This trip we were disappointed with the Minster.  Now they charge £10/ adult to enter (kids are free).   The charge seems high and is the only Minster/ Cathedral we have visited int he UK so far that makes a charge.  Additionally, on entering, the Minster was filled with workmen and scaffolding setting up for some theater productions.  I am sure now, these are no longer happening but then the charge still applied despite the disruptions.   Having been to the Minster many ties before, the level of scaffolding and high charge, we opted not to go further.   Interestingly enough, a large group ahead of us was also put off by the charge and opted not to pay.   I wonder if the entrance fee sometimes works against the minster vs relying on donations?

We opted for a couple of quick snaps outside and moved on!

Lunch was looming so we checked out Tripadvisor for some good eats.  Going for Fish and Chips, we went to Drakes in the center of town.  Not bad food but perhaps there are better choices in town?  It was fine though and caters for tourists wanting the classic British dish.

We spent a lot of time walking around the streets of York.  Architecture and history is fascinating.  The shambles I think is the most photographed street in England and we also stopped into York’s most haunted pub.

While we didn’t do it, there is a cat trail of York.  Its is a self guided trail and info can be found online and certain shops.  We did a few and enjoyed seeing the cats as we walked through the day.


The day was cooler than we had had all week so we opted to stop for hot drinks to warm up.  A must do is the York Cocoa House.  Hot chocolates are amazing and for the grown ups, they can make them much less sweet so a little more sophisticated.   Each drink comes with a complimentary chocolate of the month (ours was Ginger) and the cake selection was fabulous too.  If you lived locally or had a longer stay, they offer chocolate making classes and more.

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York Cocoa House

Shopping in York is really good.  Huge range of stores from high end, to novelty and then also great antique stores.   We enjoyed browsing through some more of the unusual shops..

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Soap Store

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Fun novelty gift store

We wrapped up our day with a walk around the city walls.  The walls afford some pretty views and again, steeped in history for the city which dates back to 71 AD when the Romans arrived.

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Walking city walls and view of the Minster

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Clifford Tower

If you are visiting the North of England, York is a must do and if we had time, we would be back!

Manchester – Didsbury

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Poplars of Didsbury

I’ve written a little about Didsbury in a post prior (Community Re-defined) but this post is just a little more about the area and a recent trip ‘home’.

I’ve been lucky to have had a week ‘off’ and stay in Manchester with my brother and sister in law.  Just me, no kids, and days to relax, explore and fine dining!

The week was filled with sunshine which is always a bonus.

One day, we explored the Trans Penine Trail, as it runs through Didsbury (and beyond). For all the years I lived in Didsbury, I had no idea about this pathway.   I knew of one short section…a small stretch that we always need to run along for school cross country (any Parrs Wood Alum will remember this), but I never thought about where the path led to in either direction.

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We accessed the path off Barlow Moor Road.  At the end of Darley Avenue you will find an access path to the trail along the river.  We headed left towards Didsbury (beyond will take you all the way to Stockport too).

You can walk either side of the river, with several crossing points along the way.   The path is a lovely alternative to getting around.  Walking, running and biking.   Wildlife is aplenty with birds and butterflies and it was so peaceful.

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We ended our river walk at Fletcher Moss Park.  Another haunt from my childhood.  Again, if you are visiting Didsbury/ South Manchester, these parks are a must.  They are beautiful and and lovely serene spot central in a bustling area.

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There is a lot to explore here, including some older buildings and churches steeped in history for the local area.

The river walk and exploring Didsbury can take up a day.  With Didsbury a booming ‘village’, there are also plenty of options for coffee or something a little stronger 🙂

On a different day, we strolled around another beautiful park – Marie Louise Gardens.  Situated in West Didsbury with an entrance on Palatine Road.  It was given to the citizens of Manchester in 1903 by Josephine Silkenstadt, in memory of her daughter, Marie Louise, who died young.   As a child/ young adult, I spent hours in these gardens.  Again, another hidden haven in the area.  The squirrels have a reputation of being friendly and you can feed them directly if you would like!   Its a favorite place of mine and I have fond memories of my dad here.  He grew up locally to the area and I am sure, as a child, he visited the park often too.

If you have time to dine and drink in the area, the Rose Garden on Burton Road is a must.   My brother is a regular there and I had the pleasure of lunch one day.  The food was amazing and possibly one of the best restaurant meals I have had.

For drinks, Burton Road is overflowing with bars!  We enjoy Folk – offering indoor and outddor seating and its always busy so atmosphere is guaranteed!

 

 

Community re-defined

Lapwing Lane Parade.  Blockbuster (left) was Liptons in the 70’s.  Post office used to be in the large brick building (unseen).  Inmans is no longer around but stayed for some time.  I woudl say this image is from the early ’00

Where I grew up has, in recent years, become one of the trendiest places to live in the Greater Manchester area.  It never used to be like that..not when I was a kid.  Its been funny to watch from afar how it has transformed and changed to a place that’s almost unrecognisable.

Burton Road, Didsbury, Manchester:

An old image of Burton road – before my time!

This place is West Didsbury, Manchester.  I grew up on Lapwing Lane and then just off Burton Road.  This is ‘home’.  This was a community that really was a community and the environment and infrastructure around us supported that.  Burton Road was home to everything you could need and want – butcher, green grocer, newsagents, launderette, bakery ….the list goes on.  Life happened on Burton Road.  Memories of hauling the laundry to the Launderette.  Memories of running away from home with my brother (for an hour!) to the bakery and sitting at the back spending the £1 that I had.   Even queuing for bread in the late 1970’s outside the bakery when the strikes and black outs were prevalent.

Duwes – the old bakery.  Now home to a trendy clothes store Steranko

Burton Road around early 90’s

Lapwing Lane is also transformed…once home to more shops and services relevant to the era…cobblers, hairdressers, newsagents, book shops, supermarkets…

Community was where we lived.  No need to go much further.  Everyone knew each other.  Kids were free to walk to friends – Clyde Road and Burton Road being my main haunts.   Even back then, we played on the old disused railway line with easy access from both Lapwing Lane and Burton Road.

This area is now radically transformed.  A completely different kind of community.  It really began mid/ late 90’s.  Local businesses, had begun to close. I guess due to the large supermarkets popping up locations a few miles away.  Car ownership also allowing for travel to purchase the necessities.   Some businesses had transformed before I left and still remain today.  My mums hairdressers, became a restaurant (The Lime Tree) which still remains.  Luckily for them managing to stay relevant through the burst of trend that came their way.  But for the most part, a lot of what we knew as defining community has gone.    Supermarkets are now Indian restaurants (the Great Kathmandu used to be Liptons in the 1970s).  The cobblers became an extension to a pub (The Railway), butchers are long gone.  Green grocers are gone. Newsagents – gone. Bakerys, haberdashery shops, shoe shops, laundrette and more….gone.   Yet this area is buzzing.  Community re-defined is now bars, restaurants, expensive boutique shops, trendy cupcake tea rooms and the like.  A few classic shops still remain but not many.

#Didsbury #Manchester  George Charles' second shop, on the corner of Nell Lane and Burton Road, c.1910 (GB124.DPA/1802/2)  George Charles' second shop, on the corner of Nell Lane and Burton Road. Telephone number: Didsbury 1108. Donor's father right; woman on left unknown; donor in centre aged 3 or 4. c.1910. The business moved to Lapwing Lane in the 1920s.  more: https://www.flickr.com/photos/manchesterarchiveplus/5211483864/in/set-72157628510542887:

Corner of Burton Road/ Nell Lane.  Before my time but this was always a corner shop.  Even through my youth and young adulthood. Until now – another bar…

Community anchors such as a hospital is also transformed.  Withington Hospital has now been razed to the ground and more sought after housing replaces the wards and Main corridor that all locals would have known.  The hospital was formerly on the site of an old Work House from Victorian times.  The structure still remains and have also been converted into flats.  I wonder how many of the new trendier residents know how close the graves lie for the children that perished there….the old community knew this and respected this….

The old Withington Hospital 

Withington Workhouse.  Now converted to flats.

What has returned is the use of the old railway lines.  No longer a railway but a tram line.  This was talked about when I was a child.  Always the hope that a tram would use the old tracks (trams originally functioned along Palatine road/ west Didsbury junction many years ago). Forty years on and sure enough they pulled it off.  West Didsbury has a wealth of public transportation options but this is by far the best.  Clean, fast, efficient.   But funnily, when I ride the tram, I experience something different.  I can still see where the paths were and breaks in the fence were to get onto the dis-used tracks.  I can still identify the parts of the old platform that us, the local kids had rope swings from trees that took us from one side to the other.  I remember searching for tadpoles and frogs on the flooded tracks and not far from the tracks once stood an old Willow Tree where the Willow Tree gang was formed.   Childhood memories of a community long gone.

Withington/ West Didsbury Station as it closed.  By the time i was a kid, the platforms were covered with overgrowth

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New Trams on the old track system

So visiting has become nostalgic of an era gone by.   Especially as the area is swarming with transplants and probably not many original residents remain.  They will have no memories of what it used to be.  My brother still lives here which is great allowing me to stay connected to home and the area.

Folk – uber trendy hangout and bar.  Was once the old Deli

Its funny to be out and about and remember the past.  Its still odd to be trying on clothes in the space I hid when I ran away from home.  Its odd to be ordering a drink where the old deli meat counter used to be.  Its sad to see the demise of so many traditional shops allowing way for yet another bar and/ or restaurant.   My old primary school exists (Cavendish Road) which is lovely to see but even now, the parents of the kids are ex pop stars or B list celebs…..how times have changed.   Due to this, its near impossible to buy a house here.  Rarely do they come onto the market and when they do, the prices are astronomical.  The house I grew up in from age 12 has appreciated in value by 2300% since my mum bought back in the 80’s.

With that said, I’ve moved on.  I’m not sure I’d want to live here now.  Its a great place but I prefer to remember the area as it was. My childhood community, of which at times, it does glimmer through.

 

 

Manchester – Chinese New Year, Imperial War Museum

So this last weekend, we made the journey up to Manchester…my hometown.

A last minute decision based on the fact we wanted to see a Chinese New year celebration and knowing we couldn’t easily get to London the following weekend for theirs, we would ‘go home’ and see it there.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see anywhere near as much of the celebration as I had hoped.  One thing led to another leading us to get to town later than planned and then leaving early.  The weather certainly didn’t help us either!

What we did see was fun.  We managed to get a decent vantage spot for the parade (albeit short) in Chinatown.  The kids enjoyed throwing firecrackers at everyone’s feet.   As we expected, the celebrations were busy…very busy and unfortunately, did detract from the experience a little (another reason for leaving early).  Crowd control was not great and a couple of times, we had some in our party literally knocked off their feet.  If you don’t like crowds, don’t think about trying to see this in the future!

Just a few photos to share of the parade.  I think if we had been in another vantage point, we would have seen much more of a ‘show’ but the parade is all we got to see.  I understand, there was a lot going on that could be great to see another time.

 

The day before, we spent the afternoon exploring the Imperial War Museum North.  A last minute choice for visiting but it proved to be a great decision.  As the weather was so wet, we knew we wanted to be indoors and as we were already close to the area, we dived in.

The museum is situated in a previously run down side of Manchester/ Salford, along the banks of the River Irwell.  This area has recently undergone a transformation and revitalization, most notably with the construction of the new Media City.  We had a great view of Media City from the museum.  The kids were excited to see the Blue Peter sign and studios together with the back of the Coronation Street set.  They thought this was all so cool.  We hope to go back on a sunny day and walk around, maybe even grab a tour.  It was so wet, we just didn’t want to explore outside too much this time.

Inside the museum (free entry), there is a lot to see.  So many different exhibits charting history of war over the last 100+ years.  At the moment, there is a great Horrible Histories exhibit geared towards the kids.  Perfect!  We took a guided tour first (recommend) and then went back and did all the activities.  The kids remained engaged with the activity books and they seemed to enjoy it.  Again – another opportunity to dress up.  This time as a war evacuee.

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WWII Evacuee

 

We strolled through the other exhibits.  My husband did see a 360° film show which he reported was great.  Sadly, we didn’t have time to wait and catch the next one.  They do about 4 a day.

All in all, we spent around 2-3 hours in the museum.  We also stopped in at the cafe and the gift shop.   We would highly recommend it as an afternoon out in Manchester….especially a rainy day!

To balance out a museum visit, we promised the kids a quick stop in at the Trafford Center.  A gigantuous shopping mall in Manchester/ Trafford Park.  Not far from where we were so a good choice before we headed home for dinner.  Seems like we had the same idea as the rest of Manchester, hoping to stay dry that day!  It was packed!  We finally found a parking space after 10 minutes of looking. Ran in through the wind and rain and then battled crowds for an hour.  The kids loved it there and would have stayed longer.  I was glad to leave but can see the appeal, especially if you were ever fortunate to make it there on a quieter day.  Worth a visit for some great shopping though including a Hamleys toy store which obviously the kids enjoy!

So all in all, we had a busy 2 days in Manchester.  In addition to all of the above, we visited family and also had some fun family meals…..At the end of the day, that’s what being home is all about 🙂

Bath

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Roman Statue

 

The City of Bath is fast becoming one of our favorite cites in the UK.   We don’t live too far so we headed in for a day trip last weekend, to spend some time at some of the more ‘cultural’ attractions, although still touristy.

First stop was the Roman Baths.  Right next door to the Abbey and in a really pretty part of the city.  The Roman Baths are a must do for any visitor to the city.  The City’s long rich history is fascinating and its hard to believe the life that existed in Aquae Sulis 2000 years ago.  Just walking along the cobbles around the baths, the ancient Romans also tread all that time ago.

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Bath Abbey

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Bath Abbey

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Bath Abbey with Roman Statue

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Aquae Sulis

The Baths are affordable for a family experience (£44 family of 5 ticket).  We spent 2+ hours at the site so good value for money.  They have audio tours and are able to offer an adult and childrens version.  I am a big fan of audio tours that offer kids versions.  This is the 2nd time we have used them and I have found that they keep my two 10 year olds independently engaged through the museum.  They enjoy the quizzes and sometimes get a little competitive 🙂  The biggest plus is though,they are listening and learning.  It was a great follow up to a recent trip we made to Pompeii, Italy (blog post to follow!).  Similar time frame for the history and the kids could identify similarities and differences between the 2 sites.

At the museum there are also role players which are fun to chat too.  At first the kids were shy but we got them talking about their life etc.

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Aquae Sulis

After the museum, we grabbed a tasty Cornish pastie at one of the plentiful pastie shops, got side tracked by a man with a lot of pigeons and then headed towards our next stop of the Fashion Museum.

Also the way, we stopped by the Circus.  This row of houses as been on my must see list for years.  Photos I had seen had always been beautiful…and in person, its just as impressive.

The Fashion Museum is located right behind the Circus so that was our next stop.   We thought this would be a good balance for the day – history and something more relate-able to 3 young girls – fashion!

I wont write too much here about the museum as it is currently going through a set change so there really wasn’t that much to see.  Disappointing BUT what we did see, we really enjoyed.  Not often do you have a museum where in the first 10 mins of entering do kids say ‘can we come back again?’.  We were onto a winner here!  Despite the display changes happening, we still had fun in the 1800’s dress up area and got to try some of our own fashion design.  For now, as it is free, its worth stopping in to get out of the cold during the next month or so!  We’ll be heading back there again something in March when the museum fully opens again.

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1800s Dress up Fashion Museum

Once finished in the Museum we promised the kids a look around the shops.  Bath has a great selection of shops suiting a wide variety of tastes and wallets.   We spent a nice couple of hours browsing and spending some pocket money.

The last time we had visited Bath, we found it difficult to get able at a Restaurant for dinner. To avoid the same disappointment I had booked a table at Giraffe for dinner.  Close to the shops and a good menu for family dining, it rounded out or day quite nicely!.

 

Glastonbury Tor

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View of 15th century tower atop the Tor

We are fortunate to live close by to many historical sites in the UK.  One of which is Glastonbury and the Tor.   So one grey afternoon, we headed out to walk up to the landmark we frequently drive by as we are headed to the motor way.

Many of you will be familiar with Glastonbury as being the home of one of the worlds largest music festivals each year.  This is in the the same area so given the Pagan links of this site, it does attract a fair few of the new age festival goers year round!

Glastonbury Tor is a National Trust property but it is open to all.  There is no NT parking so a membership doesn’t support you in that respect either.  Parking can be found in town or close by at a local slipper factory.

According to National Trust, Glastonbury Tor is a ‘prominent hill overlooking the Isle of Avalon, Glastonbury and Somerset’.  It is an ancient and spiritual site where Pagan beliefs are still very much celebrated.  The Tor dates back 5000 years and is steeped in history.  The Tower is remains from a structure (St Michaels) erected in the 15th century.

The walk is fairly short but steep! We were fine but some may find it a little more strenuous than others.   Despite the weather not being great, it was pretty busy.  I can only imagine that in warmer months, this place is quite crowded.  The walk is mostly on a pathway so easy to navigate.  Its best to stick to the pathway towards the top to avoid eroding the steep sides of the Tor.   Part way up there is a bench for anyone needing to take a break.  Of course, my crew sat as soon as they could!   Dogs are welcome but as sheep are frequently grazing around the Tor, its best to keep them on lead.

The walk up to the top of the Tor are spectacular and are worth the climb.  There are 360 views of the surrounding areas and into Wales.

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St Michaels Tower – the top!

 

The trip to the top and back didn’t take long.  Maybe 45 minutes.  I could imagine on a nice warm day, bringing a little picnic and sitting atop and breathing in the view.  But as I said, probably with a lot of others doing the same thing.   That said this is a great stop off if you are passing, or even destination and spend the rest of the day in the surrounding area.

When we were done, we chose not to go to Glastonbury town but to Street.  A stark contrast to the history we just explored but a welcome change for the kids 🙂

Street is just 2 miles from Glastonbury and home of the Clarks Outlet Village.  It was my first time here and I was pleasantly surprised.  A good selection of shops for all ages and nicely laid out.  Good options for a cup of coffee and more if desired.

So if you’re looking a day out in the Southwest to please everyone, this combo works well.

Now, if only we could get the sheep off the road to get home!

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Supermarkets…

One of the big highlights of being back in the UK is the competitive nature of the supermarkets and the vast choice and quality of food!

Our first visit to a supermarket was Tescos.  A giant of a supermarket chain and reportedly the 3rd largest retailer in the world (profits at 2.2BNpds), approximately 27% of the UK market share for supermarkets.  Not only a giant in corporate size but by location too.  You can only imagine how children’s eyes lit up as we entered through the sliding doors.

While we cant really complain with the choice and availability of good food in the US, there is just something different about the supermarket experience in the UK.  Perhaps its the efforts in the retail environment, or the breadth of choice across all the departments or quality of the food?

 

Who knows but we went wild….

 

By the end of the trip – which was only for school uniforms (yes supermarkets in the UK sell clothes too!), the trolley was brimming with sweet treats and nostalgic items from my childhood – Ribena, fruit malt loaf and Cadbury fudge bars to name a few!

A down side to the supermarket extravaganzas on offer is the over sell of sweet items.   Since being in the UK, Jamie Oliver  has launched his sugar/ obesity campaign.  The US has always had a bad rap of being a nation of donut lovers and obesity with the UK even jumping on the bandwagon.  Whereas, in reality, and as an outsider looking back into the UK, I would argue the UK has a greater problem.

Supermarket experience highlights this greatly.  US supermarkets (that I am used to), are clearly laid out with a place for everything.  Bakery, deli, cookies, dairy etc.

UK supermarkets, while there is a place for everything, in EVERY place, you can also buy something sweet!  EVERY aisle has some sort of sweet offer…just in case you missed it in the aisle you were last in.

Our first visit to the shops, this was fun.  5 months in, this seems wrong.  Massive discipline is needed to get through a store to not load the trolley with sweets and junk…..and they are all so good!

Another disturbing sight in the supermarkets is the labeling of the aisles….Children’s drinks and Children’s cereals are the worst.  Targeted foods and drinks specifically for children.  Sugar laden and not a sign of goodness in sight.  Talk about making it difficult for a parent to make the healthier choice when the kids only want to shop from their sections! While Jamie Oliver may have a sugar fight on his hands, I am not convinced, taxing soft drinks is  the only way to go…start at the ground level and change supermarkets/culture in selling!

While the UK has a very sweet tooth, the prevalence of chocolate everywhere could be curbed.  As a child, chocolate was a treat.  My kids came home from school and made the statement that every child has some form of chocolate in the their lunchbox every day!  How times have changed.  The raisins just weren’t going to cut it here.

As noted, we are 5 months in.  I have become more savvy in my weekly shopping.  Knowing not to fall into the sweet trap at every turn and preferably not taking the kids with me.

While i wont miss the sugar when we leave, I will certainly miss the outstanding quality and choices of all else.

If we were excited after our first trip to Tesco’s, you can only imagine how we were when we first ventured into Waitrose…..