It seemed like a very long time since we were in Ethiopia back in January so by the time July rolled around, we were both quite desperate to get away. Admittedly, Tiger doesn't really quite 'get' what a holiday is, but she wanted to go on one, whatever it was! The pandemic had continued throughout the world, with the UK reporting 41,748 cases on 14th July but only 49 deaths. Since our return in January, the UK had banned international travel for leisure purposes so we were grounded! On 7th May, the announcement came that from 17th May UK citizens were allowed to travel to a very select list of 'green list' countries, meaning that you could safely go to 12 countries including Portugal, Israel, Gibraltar and Iceland. I tried really hard to convince myself I wanted to go to Portugal with the hoards of Brits, but found it quite hard to convince myself really - I have been to Lisbon twice before and to Faro but it really wasn't top of the list. Then on 8th June, Portugal was moved to the 'amber list' meaning that returning holiday makers would have to do at least 2 PCR tests on their return and quarantine for 10 days, with the option to break the quarantine at 5 days upon the negative result of a 3rd test as part of the test to release scheme we had used upon returning from Ethiopia. Ok then. Iceland would have been a very attractive option actually, but I had already visited twice and it is terribly expensive. So..... finally, the plan was hatched for a UK road trip from Witley to Inverness!
Our first stop on 14th July after work, was supposed to be Southampton, but I had to do an extra day of work and it ended up getting ditched in favour of Portsmouth where we had a night out with Uncle Gary and our friend Louise. We had a sitter booked online with the amazing Sitters website, who turned out to be my friend's (Kate aka Loretta Lebonke) Mum! What a small world!
For perhaps the only time in our trip we had a luxury hotel courtesy of Uncle Gary, staying in the Portchester Suite at the Portsmouth Marriott Hotel. With Tiger safely in the capable hands of Kate's Mum (and sleeping in her travelcot in the bathroom!) we headed off for drinks at The Sir Alec Rose Pub, followed by cocktails at the Blue Maguerita bar and admiring the sunset in Port Solent which is a simply gorgeous marina. I'd recommend Port Solent for a lovely night out to anyone, and fabulous company with Gary and Louise!
The 7am Tiger alarm clock went off bright and early, but was distracted for a short while with French Peppa Pig on the ipad whilst I slowly woke up. We headed off for breakfast in the Macdonald's around the corner as the Marriott's offering was £18 per head. In contrast we paid £15.50 for three of us! Gary had to head off to work for the day and we set off for the 65 mile journey (about 1h45) to Longleat Safari Park. We had booked one adult ticket for £34.95 but Tiger was free being only 2 (the child ticket for ages 3-16 is £26.20) and had a timeslot of 12-2pm for the drive through safari.
I had hoped that we might be able to take the 'safari bus' but apparently they didn't have enough drivers to run it so instead we did the safari in my car. So before going through we parked up in the main car park, did a nappy change and moved Tiger into the front seat as recommended by the Reception staff so she could have a good view. It's a huge site, but we really loved the safari where we saw giraffe, monkeys, deer, wolves, lions, cheetahs, and rhinos. We actually missed the elephant and zebras in the 'African Village' but accidentally driving past it! The monkeys were particularly awesome as they hitched a ride on the cars driving through. Tiger did have a bit of a scream at the deer (literally) as you pay £1 for deer food then the deer stick their heads into your car windows to eat it, she told me "Mummy that is too scary!". Otherwise, we saw sleeping tigers from afar and lots of lions all snoozing in the sunshine.
After the safari, we spent time in the main square seeing koalas and wombats, going on the Longleat train and the playground. Longleat House remains closed due to the pandemic but we saw it from the outside and it was stunning!
We drove onwards to our hotel, Premier Inn Frome just 5 minutes away which had cost £40.50 for an accessible room. We actually used our own travelcot here in the spacious bathroom (although I think if I'd have had a little more patience they would have found one for us) and the lowered bath was great for Tiger. The car park was free and there was a Beefeater restaurant next door where we had our dinner, £23 for 2 glasses of Malbec, a chicken burger, and a kids meal of pasta, veggies and ice cream. It was a long (and hot!) day at Longleat but fabulous - a great place to take kids!