Well, at least a minor one… There actually could be truth in ‘Oooh Heaven is a place on Earth’ – and it might be Dorset. Pretty much all of it, apart perhaps from Poole. I’ll get to that later.
A quick round-up:
Favourite place to eat: Tricky. I loved The Olive Branch in Wimborne Minster, because it had a lovely garden and clever platters for sharing.
The Royal Oak in Cerne Abbas serves really excellent pub food in a village already gorging on good places to eat. And they don’t do children’s food, as such but prefer to do a smaller appetites menu. This makes me love them.
FishyFishy Brasserie on the quay in Poole looked amazing, Unfortunately we didn’t get to eat there because MCD invoked his right to eat lobster on his birthday so we went instead to Corkers which was deserted, with curiously old-style patterned swirly carpets and creaking waiters and lobster Thermidor, naturally.
West Beach in Bournemouth again is worth a stop – particularly for their takeout fish and chips, or indeed tempura prawns, to eat on the beach. Again I didn’t get to actually eat here because we couldn’t bloody find it the first time around and MCD Jr was gagging for lunch. And when I did find it, on a return solo trip, I wasn’t actually very hungry, but I am assured it’s good.
Where we stayed: Grange holiday cottages are beautiful.
This is Petersham, a one-bed cottage which suited us perfectly. I’ve never done a holiday cottage before and didn’t know what to take. Tip for the future: you don’t need washing up liquid, but do take ketchup, bin bags and check, if you have a small person, where you can bathe them. This had a wet room which was rather fabulous for us, but somewhat trying for MCD Jr, who had to be bathed in the sink each night and soon got tired of it.
Favourite village: without a doubt, Cerne Abbas. I expected it to be weirdly, horribly touristy but it was delightful, mostly because of the plethora of fabulous pubs, a sweet tea-rooms, a General Stores that was actually a proper, honest-to-goodness place where you could buy useful things, such as local meat, cheese, veg – in short, like nothing in London. Also because of the notices around the village informing everyone of an upcoming funeral of a local resident (I am assuming this was because she was much-loved, but this might not have been the case; still, the devotion to population was touching). And the giant on the hill with the big willy was quite far enough away not to impact really upon it. It’s not like it was looming priapically over the village or anything. Obviously seeing it all in early April means we missed the hordes, so it may become a hell-hole come late summer, but still – fabulous.
Least favourite place: Poole. Ok – not everywhere can be amazing but, considering its position so close to Sandbanks etc, it was strangely down-trodden, dated even. Apart from the quay – well, a bit of it – it just wasn’t very attractive. The shops were tired and clearly struggling slightly; we worked hard to find a decent place to eat (see above); it all felt as if no-one cared very much. And – this may be a very unfair comparison – we had just come from a buzzing Bournemouth, which although it can be seaside hell, still felt as if people wanted to be there. All very strange and I stand to be corrected.
Weirdest tourist attraction: The combination of the only exhibition outside China to be showing the Terracotta Army and The Teddy Bear Museum. MCD Jr loved the latter; MCD Sr loved the former – everyone was a winner.
This is actually as close to the Cerne Abbas giant as we got. But this was a good thing: if it is a fertility aid, I don’t want to be near it for some time.
A house named after my sister. Or maybe it’s the name of the resident. Either way, I rather like the idea of naming my house like this. ‘Come to Stanley’ I might roar, exuding bonhomie in my Dorset idyll.