Ed has a couple of weeks holiday but we decided not to go abroad this year. Instead we're going to explore the local tourist attractions, and save our money. We might put it towards buying some land, if we ever form a coherent plan for doing that, or we might go away at Christmas.
Yesterday we went to Chester Zoo. It's a great zoo. It's huge - over 100 acres. And it has a vast range of animals. It's also really well-planned and laid out. And it's family-friendly; it seems that every time the kids are getting tired you come across a play area, or a grassy lawn, or a picnic area.
The highlight for me was watching a small snake eat a whole (dead) rat by dislocating its own jaws. They only feed about once a week or even less, so we were lucky to get to see that. The orangutans were good, too. I love orangs very much. The low point was Eleanor and Sam becoming hysterical in the bat cave. The bats are kept in a large free-flying cave which visitors walk through whilst bats fly over and around them. It was amazing. You don't get to see them close-up as you would if they were in little tanks, but we had plenty of opportunity to peer at creatures in little tanks and this was a different experience. We persuaded the younger ones to give it a go, and patiently encouraged them. They seemed to enjoy it and I was proud of them for bravely doing something they were initially reluctant about. But at the end there was an airlock-type thing between the cave and the exit proper and a small bat had become trapped. It was panicking, and Ellie and Sam panicked too, screaming the place down so that keepers came running over to find out what the fuss was about. It took a while to calm the kids down but a life-sized model of a rhino that peed impressively (although an addition of some steam would have added to the verisimilitude) once a minute was a sufficient distraction.
The drawback is it costs an arm and a leg to get in. We only went because we'd got a couple of "child goes free with a paying adult" vouchers, and a half price child's ticket, so we got in for £30 instead of the prohibitive £60 it would have cost otherwise. Once inside there were many other attempts to part us from our money, and we made it very clear to the kids that we had brought a packed lunch and plenty of drinks, and would be buying no ice-creams, balloons, hats, car stickers or soft toys. They accepted this pretty well. We did go on the zoo monorail when we found a queue shorter than 45 minutes. I was disappointed though that there was no way to bring home any zoo manure, as you can at some other zoos. I'd have got a kick out of putting elephant dung on the vegetables, and it would have been a better souvenir than any of the other tat on offer.