The first few days of a family trip are all about adjustment. Throw in a new country to get used to, and your transition time exponentially increases. While ours are hearty and resilient travelers, inevitably, there are the breakdowns, the quibbling, the tantrums, and the I-can’t-stand-to-be-stuck-in-this-car-one-more-minute—so I’ll smack my little sister to alleviate my stress moments.
This is where you have to start carefully weighing what you want to do as a tourist with children —versus what the children will be able to put up with, before throwing up in your car, or throwing a screaming fit in the middle of an austere English historical museum. In plain English: for once, it’s the parents trying to figure out what they can get away with.
We started out cautiously. After the success of Windsor castle (despite our youngest falling asleep from jet lag next to her lunch), we gave them a day of rest and then decided to gamble a bit. We drove thirty minutes down the road to a palace – Bleinem Palace, to be exact. This is a palace frequented in by none other than Winston Churchill. And here is where many may ponder, “What the hell are you thinking, bringing the kids there?! They’ll hate it.”
Ordinarily, I would be hard-pressed to disagree. But thanks to online research, we found some handy and integral information before we even considered setting off. Someone at Bleinem must have understood children in a way that only tired travelling parents can: they built a series of kid-friendly areas that not only kept our restless ones (both under eigh) occupied, but they were no less than enthusiastically enthralled.
First of all – there is a train. And unlike America where they’d probably ask you to pay extra for a ride in addition to the money spent on museum passes – it was free! (It makes that whole tea tax seem less unfair now, doesn’t it?) Second, not only is there a maze the family can traverse through, but in the same area that can be watched by a parent lounging on a picnic blanket, there is also a life-size chess board, a mini-labrynth puzzle maze, and a kids’ play structure. Mind you, if it hadn’t been so drizzly in weeks previous, it would have been considerably less muddy. But from a kids perspective, I would hazard to say that all that mud was a bonus.
They also have adjacent adventure area with climbing walls, as well as an outdoor café, and a butterfly atrium. Somewhere on the grounds there was a palace with a boring tour that covered ladies and gentlemen of old and wars lost and won—but who cares what the parents were doing. Auntie took the kids to the fun part, and they soon forgot who had dragged whom to the Palace in the middle of “when-are-we-gonna-get-there”.