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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Theme parks are all very well, but for sheer white-knuckle, edge-of-your-seat excitement, you can’t beat an open-top bus tour of the Blackpool Illuminations...

Edge of Your Seat
That’s Amelie having another nightmare about rollercoasters. I think the white knuckles were due to frostbite.

We’d always intended to visit the illuminations at some point this week, but we discovered on Wednesday that there’s an open-top bus tour of the lights which leaves the holiday camp every weekday evening at 7:30pm. Friday was our last chance to do it, so despite being soaked to the bone at Blackpool Zoo, we decided to throw caution to the biting north wind, stick our coats on the radiator for an hour, and head straight back out for the magical mystery tour.

According to the leaflet, the route would “take in the scenic parts of suburban Blackpool”, which was surprising, as all we’d seen up to that point were run-down council estates and shops called ‘Booze Booze Booze’. The most scenic part was the landscaping outside the Salvation Army hostel. But we left the caravan park with high hopes...

Blackpool or Bussed
... and were soon speeding through the classier parts of town towards Fleetwood. By the time we hit the seafront at the uppermost tip of Blackpool, I felt like we were on an episode of 71 Degrees North.

Amelie and I were wearing two coats each, Lisa had her hood up, but after five minutes in the Lancashire sea air, we were in danger of losing more fingers than Ranulph Fiennes. I haven’t been so cold since I worked in the walk-in fridge at the pharmacy stores.

Not that it wasn’t worth it. Amelie spent the first half hour with a smile on her face, saying “Look! Look! Look!” every fifteen seconds, and acting as an impromptu tour guide by pointing out everything we passed.

Bright Lights, Big City
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before we were being passed ourselves. By pedestrians. It transpires that on a Friday night in September, the world and his wife are in Blackpool. The seafront was gridlocked with cars, coaches and people wearing flashing bunny ears. Within minutes of arriving at the illuminations, we were going nowhere fast. It should have been a case of lights, camera, action, but instead we were frozen stiff in a traffic jam.

When I first suggested taking the tour, Lisa asked me how long it would take. Bearing in mind that we’re only two miles from the seafront, and the bus wasn’t due to make any stops, I estimated it at no more than an hour.

It turned out to be three. By 10pm we were still crawling along the Golden Mile at less than walking pace in what felt like sub-zero temperatures. The only thing hitting 40mph was the wind. We braved it all for an hour and a half, before the sight of a heated tram finally broke our spirit...

Between the Lines
... and we headed downstairs while we could still feel our legs.

Amelie promptly fell asleep, and we spent the rest of the tour at the back end of a night-bus on the frozen road to nowhere...

Back End of a Bus
The only light at the end of the tunnel was the end of the illuminations.


Phil's Mum said...

I suppose you HAD to experience Blackpool.  You might never go back there again!  Where did you get all those coats from?

Phil said...

Lisa and I both packed a jacket and a coat, so I wore both of mine, Amelie wore one of Lisa's, and Lisa wore me down until I felt guilty for not giving her mine.

Phil's Mum said...

Well, now Amelie knows what its like to sleep rough!

Dave said...

Well, if you wanted to see the Northern Lights, I suppose Blackpool is cheaper than Greenland - although just as cold.