7.00am: Morning! 😊
The latest weather forecast suggests that it’s not going to be as bad as we thought, but we still need our weekly dose of ‘retail therapy’! So, we’re NOT packing the sun cream, instead, we’re heading for Swindon Designer Outlet. Last time we were here was back in March 2012 during Ann’s birthday break/Easter week when we were staying at the National Trust’s property on the Coleshill Estate.
It was only a short drive to the land of bargain-shops, and after topping up with electrons, courtesy of InstaVolt* in Swindon, for the journey home tomorrow, we were ready to splash some cash.
*InstaVolt was a new experience for us, and from our charging session today, they are the simplest, most straightforward Chargers to use. 👍👍👍👍👍
Ten minutes later, we were parked at the Outlet, and warming up our plastic! 😉
Opened in 1997, this particular Outlet has been built on the site of Swindon’s Great Western Railway Works. It’s easy to get to, and is located off junction 16 of the M4. As you might expect, there’s plenty of parking and quite a few places to eat (although given the current coronavirus, many had restricted eating arrangements).
11.05am: Everyone likes a bargain, but our experiences with ‘Outlets’ is that they can be a bit ‘hit or miss’. Sometimes there’s plenty to tempt the shopper, whilst at other times there’s hardly any bargains at all. Happily, today, it was the latter for us! 😁 M&S did well from our patronage with prices so low they even surprised seasoned-shoppers like us! 😍
Given the Outlet’s heritage, it’s great that they’ve respected the past and blended the old with the new. They also have a regular rotation of ‘chuff-chuffs’ in the entrance on long-term display. If you like your steam locomotives, there are more details HERE on past and present exhibits.
12.45pm: All that bargain-hunting sharpened our appetite, and just before 1, we looked for somewhere to eat. Not everywhere was open (or didn’t look like they were!) so we chose Wagamama, who seemed to be doing a reasonable trade…
There’s a lot of talk at the moment about how restaurants are suffering from the impact of lockdown – happily Waga’s business doesn’t appear to be one of them (looking at how full they were and the growing queue outside). Somewhat paradoxically, if you know Waga’s format you’ll also know that their standard seating arrangements doesn’t really lend itself to these socially-distanced times – they’re just too communal!
Ingeniously however, they’d installed table-mounted moveable partitions to create a degree of separation between neighbouring tables. They could be adjusted to accommodate different group sizes and from our time there, it seemed to be a good solution to every restaurant’s nightmare.
The place was really buzzing and our food and service was excellent – in fact, apart from the partitions, it all seemed very ‘old’ normal’. They were doing a healthy trade, and the staff seemed to be enjoying themselves. No waiting around to pay the bill either, instead, we paid by mobile during our Dessert! 👍👍
1.45pm: This hadn’t been the day for lots of serious walking (we only covered just over a mile) so we drove back to the Hotel to gloat over our bargains – and to begin the process of packing. We’re home tomorrow by about lunchtime.
Push the button to see all the photos (and none of my waffle) from this week’s adventure
The week that was…
We’ve done a lot and covered quite a few miles (200+) since we arrived last Sunday. Given that we only really decided to take this break because we couldn’t get our money back on the booking (and our event at nearby Marlborough College was cancelled) we came with a degree of hesitation, but determined to make the most it.
Accommodation: Our home for the week was, in the end, just about ‘OK’ (just!). Given that the hospitality industry is fighting hard to regain the ground it’s lost during these unprecedented times, our particular Hotel seemed to have ‘missed the memo’. At breakfast (our main point of contact) it was if they were just ‘going through the motions’. There was no conversation, just a ‘pursuit of process’ – bordering on the unfriendly, with just one member of the staff being an exception, who tried her best. You’d expect me to say this, but ‘a good bit of basic training wouldn’t have gone amiss’. It’s the little things that matter, but they didn’t get the big stuff right either! OK, F&B is only part of the operation and elsewhere, Housekeeping were on the ball and the (occasional) staff on Reception were obliging and efficient. Even making allowances for these difficult times and that we were in ‘holiday-mode’, and we’re NOT official hotel inspectors, it was all a bit lack-lustre. Overall, taking it everything into account, it left us with a very poor impression of the Hotel and the brand. 😮
Are Friends Electric?: Bringing an EV for a full week’s holiday was always going to require some detailed planning. That was no trouble at all for us, and we knew exactly where to go to ‘fill up’ before we left home. And although things didn’t always go to plan, we were never ‘out of charge’ nor anywhere near it. However, the wisdom of ‘always having a Plan B’ was never truer!
The Surroundings: The ‘bigger picture’ for the holiday is happily much more positive! We don’t know Wiltshire that well at all, and after just a few days we grew to love the surrounding area. The spectacular views and the varying architecture (both old and new) left a lasting impression on us both. We’re both pretty sure that we’ll be back to explore the area in more detail in later years…
…but we won’t be staying at the same Hotel! 😁