Armed with a pamphlet full of objects to spot, we wandered into the Forbidden Corner with instructions to go in and find our way back out. Got it. We’ll have a blast solving the mystery, just like the gang in Scooby Doo, right? Of course. However, I felt my throat closing up a bit as we headed out the door and had to remind myself–the bad guys never actually catch up with Shaggy & Scooby, and no matter how creepy it gets, it’s always just some guy in a suit.
Part garden, part maze, part “underworld”, the grounds are a labyrinth of courtyards, tunnels, doors, statues and places where you get squirted with water if you aren’t careful. The object is to find your way back to the beginning and, of course, enjoy the sights and winding paths along the way. It has been voted the top family day out in the UK, and I wholeheartedly agree. You find yourself wondering how and where and why a lot, and that’s always the sign of a good adventure.
For us, family outings are always a bit of a gamble. Our utmost desire is to create family memories we will all cherish for a lifetime…offspring frolicking about, thoroughly entertained and engaged…parents lighthearted, relaxed and beaming with joy. Unfortunately, it rarely works out that way.
We may have honed our skills at packing snacks, sunscreen and optional clothing sufficient to maintain blood sugar and core body temperature levels, but mastering the physical side can only take you so far. I long for the ability to prepare like a master, then sit back and cheerfully glide where the currents of interest and ability take us, but I only seem to grasp what it is we will all enjoy and be able to manage without a nap just as we pass through another set of developmental milestones. It could be that our expectations are a little high (no, really?), but it is also true that the path to family bonding bliss is full of inevitable pitfalls. From weather to hormones, pesky co-adventurers to incessant, inconvenient bathroom breaks, there always seems to be something uncontrollable poised to steal our joy.
But not this time. This outing was just the right mixture of togetherness and adventure, definitely a day we will all remember. I would venture to say it was a combination of the uniquely amazing location and our ever-improving knack for negotiating the rough patches. However, there is definitely another factor at work here. Even with just a few family outings under our belt here in England, we get the sense that there is just something more relaxed and leisurely about the pace of public events. Maybe it’s the 5 weeks of vacation that everyone gets, or maybe it is the lack of improperly supervised children, but whatever it is, the odds on decent days out have definitely gone up.