Friday, 27 June 2014

Over there, between the Land and the Sky

swimming with a difference waterslide and friends schlitterbahnFinally left the builders to it late morning and set off on our unexpected long weekend to Torquay. As tradition dictates, we steamed along the motorway at 90mph until the Divisional Police HQ in Ferndown, Dorset, when we came to a grinding halt and parked on the road for a while.
Dorset CC has improved the Canford Bottom roundabout to such an extent that no traffic moves at all. Aeons later, we reached Megacity 'Dorchester' which is in a Wi-Fi blackspot all of its own, being stuck in the 17th century. I used the exercise park once the rain had stopped and we turned down the chance to eat at Judge Jeffreys' (built 1685) and Ye Olde Tea Shoppe (built 1635) and had a Wetherspoons.
While waiting for our food, I bought some loom-bands, and bath fizzers in a charity shop because you just have to.
tlh leisure resorts toorak derwent carlton victoria hotels torquayDorchester to Torquay was slow. Tractors abound, beware of motorbikes, area prone to fog and roadworks meant a grumpy Jof. The tablet found a GPS signal near Exeter and we located the DERWENT Hotel and orbited it a couple of times looking for the car park.
toorak victoria derwent carlton hotels tlh torquayIt is hilarious inside with a maze of corridors and hidden staircases at uneven intervals and we tried to get Jof lost by using all of them. It has sun terraces and pools both inside and out and its own swingpark and a spa and gym and all sorts.
We came back in, turned down the wrong corridor and we were in another hotel! (and another time zone, not to mention another decade.) This one (the VICTORIA) has an arcade with pool tables, bowl-o-rama, video games, vast indoor bowls room, a second soft play area and a 5th bar.
We were quite lost and left the building onto a different street. Torquay seafront was surprisingly empty but we were further along from the old town which Bud and Jof visited several years before I was born and confused people in the local pub by playing pool badly.
jubilee gardens royal terraces torquayThe road our hotel is on is entirely populated by hotels, and it is soon obvious that the whole town of Torquay is entirely populated by hotels with a generous filling of pubs and clubs, a smattering of bucket and spade shops all selling the same blow-up dolphin and a light dusting of theatres.
Walking past the understated yet accomplished marina, we spied a Ferris wheel and absolutely had to have a go, Jof was unsure and asked to hold my hand when I said we should all go in separate gondolas. It was very tall and we went round 3 times and stopped at the top and it rocks the little plexiglass pods deliberately and Jof was not at all sure but the view was worth it. The middle of the old town has several of those wonderful Victorian buildings like the Pavilion (closed) and the Bank Chambers (Costa) and they've got a new footbridge and lots of fish and chip shops.
torquay inner marina and town centre bank chambers We were running low on time so I had a Oreo ice cream and we adjourned for supper. The hotel is a large and complex complex of 4 linked hotels and in the dining room (still 1973) you get your own table for the duration of your stay so you don't get lost. Our arrival lowered the average age of the clientele by 50 years: everyone seems to be extremely retired and from Birmingham.
Our buxom yet butch serving wench gave me chicken morsels. We returned to the room via several staircases I'd not met before and got ready for the promised swimming. The indoor pool has a baby section, adults lengths, hot tub, slopes and squirters, and a sauna and steam room. I tried out most areas but the steamies were too hot for me.
victoria derwent toorak carlton hotels belgrave road torquayI swallowed too much pool water as usual and made it to the toilet to vomit. We were the last ones there and got ejected at 9pm. From there we found our bedroom from the floor above and hit the entertainment suite. 2 old blokes with guitar and Hammond organ played all the easy-listening hits of the 50s - 80s to a geriatric audience who played dominoes determinedly or, for the more exuberant grannies, whist.
We decamped to the pool hall where I was the only kid in the soft play area until Bud came in to join me. I jumped on him. He threw me off. I said F***ing hell. He said this is not your word. Jof took over and her trousers fell down in the ball pit.
Meanwhile upstairs the entertainment section were doing their thing in the 'Starlight Lounge'. The dodgy duo had retired hurt after getting no grannies whatsoever (zero)(0)(nilch) to perform any hip-crunching dance moves and had been replaced by some Step-Club-5-alikes who were local singer/dancers who performed many hits from Wham, Spice Girls, ABBA and similar.
dance group performance hotel entertainment torquay toorak carlton Beth from the restaurant was resident DJ and Rebecca the lifeguard was MC! But eventually the spraytanned ladies with their sturdy legs and lukewarm pants finished their set and I was tired and hit the sack. I chose the upper bunk bed for the first night. It has its own duvet, easily-reachable night light and little retaining fence, so it doesn't matter how drunk I am.
After I went to bed, I can report that in a surprise move, the 2 dull blokes from earlier ('Hi-Life') made a re-appearance and played Imagination, Clapton and Elton John in an ebullient and incandescent display - almost identical to their earlier performance - which persuaded about a dozen septuagenarians to zimmer their way onto the dance floor. Once they had sung their final Status Quo number, the automated DiscoBot took over and everybody hobbled off to bed.

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