Ah, the glory of the Golden Mile.
Well, it is not very golden any more in any sense of the word, and many of the hotel fronts are boarded up or look as though they should be (perhaps to stop them falling down), but there is still something special about Blackpool.
We were up in the first working class seaside resort (a serious and important claim to fame, and the reason it is a historically important place) for the half marathon. Thankfully for me, there was nothing of the debacle that apparently happened in Sheffield that day, and the race went off without any major hiccups, despite perhaps the usually inane mutterings of the local amateur commentator how seemed to be more interested in sending up the rival local road running teams then giving anyone useful information. Oh, and it was the first time I’ve heard the announcement ‘To anyone in the emergency services… Get the ambulance off the start line!’ hollered thirty seconds before the actual start.
I remember going to Blackpool as a small child and lying in the back of a car looking up at the illuminations, and I went there to a Babylon 5 Convention in a hot long weekend in 1997, but otherwise I had not fully explored the place, but, three day tram passes in hand, we fixed that this weekend, and came up with four reasons to come back again sometime.
- Nostalgic rides: OK, the Pleasure Beach has some impressive looking rides, and the massive indoor splash park opposite the hotel we were in looked fun (swimming costumes going next time) but I loved the old rides on the piers. There is something special about dodgems, Ferris wheels and the Waltzers for me that say teenage years (or possibly makes me think ‘sleep all day, party all night’ and it was cool to be a vampire before Twilight, thank you very much). The lovely Wife and I have not the greatest love of rides, but a few of them had to be done, and best of all, there are no queues. And the bloke still walks on the boards as you go round to give them an extra spin to do further damage to your neck muscles.
- The Comedy Carpet. Right up near the tower there is the five years in the making expanse of words on the promenade comprising pretty much any comedy catchphrase – or indeed comedy sketch – you can think of. It’s a wonderful way of wasting some time wandering around looking down and laughing hysterically. Especially if you are too early for your dinner reservation and did not fancy the pubs (incidentally we had a very good and friendly Chinese at Mandarin, recommended (www.michaelwansmandarin.co.uk )) The carpet is truly a classic piece of art (like the wonderful Eric Morecambe statue further up the coast) and deserves to be a reason to pop in its own right.
- From one of the newest attractions to one of the oldest – the Tower Ballroom. Forget about the rest of the tat and do what we did and have afternoon tea in a glorious setting. The architecture is stunning, but add the live Wurlitzer and the reasonably large number of people dancing (including poor teenage girls dancing their steps with an imaginary partner, teenage boys, take note, learn to dance) there is a unique surreal feel to the place that is quite endearing. Or maybe I was just low on sugar after 13.1 miles. Either way, a very special place. And worth staying for the Last Waltz at 4pm, of course.
- Most importantly, the kids love it. In the hotel we were staying, for Friday and Saturday it was Hen night city (and as far as we could tell, the same was true of the rest of town). On Sunday evening, it had turned into a Kindergarten as we tried to avoid the numerous over excited pre-teens in their PJs and pink onesies. Clearly for this lot, the fact that things are a bit dog-eared holds no problems; there are still plenty of things to do and they will no doubt finish up having been thrown around in every conceivable direction, fed candy floss, ice cream and fish and chips until they feel sick and will go home with Blackpool rock and clutching the dodgy rip off ‘Despicable Me’ minion that seems to be the ‘in’ amusement arcade prize this year (that Daddy probably spent a fortune in goes to win one for them) and thinking it was the best holiday. Ever.
And why on earth not… Now, where is my Bingo card?