Is this title too soon? I don't think so. Technically life is getting back to normal, however it's not normal, is it? What has your experience been like this week? Did you go out on the 4th July? Have you braved the local pub or restaurant?
So for us, life has returned to a new normal. Both boys are at nursery for part of the week and for the first time in nearly 4 months we finally went somewhere this week which wasn't a walk in a deserted field or forest or a solo trip for me to the supermarket for the food run.
This week, we went to the Sea Life Centre in Manchester. The tickets were released a couple of weeks ago online and as we had annual passes, we paid a pound each per ticket to pre-book our time slot. If you aren't members, it's the same online system where you have to pre-book your time slot and pay for your tickets in advance. So this means they are able to limit the number of people in at any one time. This is so we are able to practice social distancing- even if it's gone down to 1 metre plus. As a family, we are still keen to keep our distance, as far as we can, sticking to 2 metre plus where we can.
I was very impressed with our visit to Sea Life Centre Manchester which is situated in the Trafford Centre. Upon arrival at our designated time, there was someone on the door at a respectful distance wearing a mask and he explained how the visit would all work. Even though we had been before, he explained the changes made to make the visit safe. he explained the play area was closed as well as the touch station (where you could feel a star fish). Both were changes I was expecting. Other than that, we were told to keep our distance from others and there was clear signage all around reminding us of this as well as plenty of hand sanitizer stations should we wish to use them. Coincidentally we had brought our own as we knew there was no way the boys wouldn't touch anything. As you can see from the photos, they did touch almost everything. But we made sure to wash their hands prior to entering and straight away when we left.
They had clear signage as we went round and markings on the floor
As I had pre-booked the tickets, when we went through to the front desk, there were tall protective screens all around the desk and the person behind was also wearing a face mask. One thing I would recommend is getting your e-ticket displayed on your phone prior to being asked for it as I faffed around quite alot when I was asked to show ours. They actually just need the booking number of the tickets so perhaps save that to your phone to save time. She was able to find my booking using my membership number in the end (oops!). Once we were checked in, she took all of our temperatures with an infra red device. She didn't actually need to touch us, she held up the device to our foreheads for a couple of seconds whilst it registered and then bleeped when done. The boys found this quite strange but thankfully they didn't resist when we held them up so she could reach them. It goes without saying if you do have a temperature or any Covid symptoms then please don't visit!
As we wandered through, the turtle beach interactive room which is usually the first port of call was not showing. Instead we walked straight through to the first display. I think this is because usually the turtle beach show is where alot of people gather, so clearly they couldn't host this anymore. As a side note, all the doors were actually open, so you never had to touch a door which I thought was immensely helpful.
The boys loved looking at all the fish displays. We did have to try and slow them down because they were so eager to see everything. We encountered our first family as we went past the first display. But we managed to keep the boys back and get them to properly look at something else in order to give that family time to move on. They also saw us coming and shimmed their children along. Whenever we did approach another family, and there really weren't very many, both groups negotiated the space in order to keep our distance. Often we had the place to ourselves and Baby was quite happy with the empty space as kept running off meaning we had to chase after him and direct him in the direction we were actually going! On the whole he was good and he stayed near us. He is still learning though. What was quite funny though was Toddler at times would say "It's OK mummy, I'll go and get him!" (and obviously I would then be following him!) but it just showed me how grown up he is getting.
In all, we spent a good 40-45 minutes walking around the displays. Baby did get confused when he saw the play area which was cordoned off and he got upset because he wanted to play. Toddler, on the other hand, accepted very easily when we said we couldn't play on it. He just enjoyed being somewhere different for once, and somewhere incredibly interesting! We spent a lot of time at most of the displays pointing out the different fish and sea creatures. Whilst we were watching the fish swim in one particular large tank (near the end) a guy came along and told us he was about to feed the fish! He said that this would usually be announced but they couldn't do that as there would be a gathering of too many people. But as we happened to be there, we were able to watch the fish dart about for their food! The boys were fascinated watching them eating these little food pellets the guy was chucking in for them.
Toddler watching them feed the fish
As we reached the gift shop at the end, I did something I don't usually do (because we visit so often). I bought the boys a little toy treat. They could choose from the Lanka Kade fish, turtle or octopus wooden toys. I thought it would be a nice memento of the day and also help Sealife Centre. They must have been struggling whilst they were closed because of Covid-19. This was why I didn't mind paying a pound per ticket (even though we have passes) because all the funds go to such a good cause. The work they do with sea life is so important. I will be renewing my annual pass when the time comes and I honestly recommend it to any families. Even with all the changes, it is still a brilliant place to visit.
I just look forward to the day when they can open properly and we don't have to worry about things like face masks and hand sanitizer. But that goes with everything at the moment.
We had a quick walk around Barton Square after our visit
When we left Sealife Centre, we were in the new section of the Trafford Centre with the newly opened Primark. And the queue outside of that shop just amazed me. I still can't understand why people were queuing at 3pm on a Monday for Primark. Do people really need cheap t-shirts at the moment? Is it because they want to feel some kind of normality and clothes shopping offers that?
The guidance on display at the Trafford Centre
To be perfectly honest, for me, I just don't think it would be the same. This is the reason why I won't be going to any pubs until everything is a bit more normal. That, and the fact we have no babysitters at the moment. The children just wouldn't social distance if we took them to a restaurant. As much as I would love to go and I do appreciate the hard times financially restaurants and pubs must have gone through. The play areas in most restaurants, I believe, aren't open anyway. So the experience for me would just be more stressful than it's worth.
Maybe I am wrong in my thinking. Have you experienced different? But I still think even though lock down has eased, we still need to be as careful as we can. Covid-19 hasn't gone away, it is still there. So until we know for sure what is what, I think it's better to err on the side of caution and keep ourselves safe.
And for our next adventure? I'm not sure yet. Any plans we do have will require much more research than in the past. I will always be asking what safety measures are in place for wherever we go. Gone as the days where we can just jump in the car and go. Trips out require much more thought these days. This makes me sad that we can't be as spontaneous as we used to be, but at the same time I am immensely happy we are able to move around more than in lock down.
But Safety is still key.