Days out with my intolerant child are always a bit of a challenge – food wise. You can never be sure if there will be anything he can eat, so always end up packing several lunch boxes and trying to encourage him to eat the healthy contents, despite being surrounded by other kids eating sweeties and ice creams. So when we were invited on the MAD Blog Awards Finalists Family Fun Day at Legoland, I knew I would have to be even more organised than normal.
As we had to be there before 9am, we decided to stay at a nearby hotel the night before. The M25 and I are not friends and we felt it was the only way to guarantee we would be there on time. We stayed at a Marriott Hotel, got an amazing rate thanks to a bit of online searching and felt positive they would be able to cater well for Zac, as my recent experience at a Crowne Plaza (same group) was very positive – gluten free bread and soya milk on the breakfast menu. I still packed some of his own breakfast cereal and a variety of other snacks but at least I didn’t have to consider packing two days worth of food.
We had a good meal in the hotel restaurant in the evening. They were very helpful and couldn’t do more for us. So that got the weekend off to a very pleasing start. On Sunday morning the kids leapt out of bed and gobbled down their breakfast and kept reminding me to pack their swimsuits.
The kids had been so excited about the trip ever since I gave them the happy news. They have seen so many ads for it on TV and have been talking non stop about the ‘submarine’ and Duplo splash bit. Where there is water, there is my Sophia. She is like a fish, so even more stuff to pack – swimming gear and towels. Tom and I were quite tempted to hire one of the kids pushchairs at one point, to put all the stuff in! Of course, the weather was typically June, started off warm and sunny, then rained, so we all had multiple layers of clothing too.
Thanks to the organisers we were very privileged to enter the resort through the fabulous hotel and were given passes which meant we could come back in and out if we wanted to or needed to. We took full advantage of that at lunchtime when the heavens opened and all the food places were heaving. On our first circuit of the park I could see that the options for Zac would be limited, so was rather pleased with myself for having packed so many ice packs to keep all his sandwiches and yoghurts fresh.
When we headed back into the hotel we saw that there was a buffet restaurant with a cost per head or a bar area with a lunch snack menu. Seeing the big comfy chairs and wine lists on tables drew me over. We wouldn’t have got our money’s worth from the buffet anyway… So I ordered the food while Tom had a well earned rest on a big comfy chair which was in full view of the central children’s play area. Sophia and Zac had a great time clambering around while waiting for their food. As usual we ordered chips for Zac – to go with the rest of his healthy packed lunch. The rest of us had a great meal and felt very pleased with our choice as we looked out of the windows at all the poor people outside in the rain.
While I was ordering my wine (I mean the food) I looked in the fridges behind the bar and noticed a carton of soya milk! A rare sight. So perhaps the Legoland hotel might have been able to cater quite well for us after all. Sophia is of course now begging to go back again – every Sunday. I have told her we will go again – one day, and if all goes well, and we can save up enough – we might also stay in the hotel. I am very curious to see how ‘easy’ it would be from our point of view.
I can see why big places like Legoland have disclaimers on everything saying that food cannot be guaranteed safe from cross contamination and those with life threatening allergies, are the ones who are not likely to risk it, but from my visit to the Allergy Show the week before, it does make me wonder how long it will be before there is a provision for allergy safe eating areas.
The Allergy Show was so much bigger this year, than last – in terms of size, attendance, exhibitors, new foods being launched and general awareness. I know that there are some good people out there doing work within the catering industry educating them on how to provide for what is a growing number of people. http://www.lizallanconsulting.co.uk/ Liz and her families have allergies and intolerances and she is using her knowledge and business contacts to drive this.
I am sure she will be successful, having seen the ‘big names’ get behind the free from food market at the Allergy Show, I think it is only a matter of time before we see a gluten free, dairy free pizza/pasta restaurant or ice cream shop at one of these venues. They would make a fortune. Us poor(quite literally) ‘free from families’ are used to paying three times the price for our food, and when water is £2.50 a bottle at somewhere like Legoland, you know a family day out is going to cause you to burn through cash anyway, but when it brings a smile to the face of your little one, you know it is worth it.
As you will see from the photos, Zac did find some food he could eat – popcorn. He was totally thrilled with the bucket it came in, which is now inhabited by some toy soldiers. His souvenir from a happy day. So thanks to the MAD blog awards, we have now experienced Legoland, got soaked to the skin, went on the submarine three times and somehow managed to get to the Duplo splash part just as the rain stopped and the sun came out. We have also experienced what it is like to be a VIP. Thanks to the little gold wrist bands we got to jump all the queues, hence getting on the submarine three times – and now I am not sure how we will ever go back to being normal again!