English seaside resorts in winter are peculiar places with business owners face the choice of either shutting up shop or plodding through until Easter.
Closing from November to March leaves the esplanade looking like a post apocalyptic film set whilst staying open must be pretty tedious apart from the odd day when winter sunshine combines with a weekend.
We've had a few winter days out on the Isle of Wight recently, including a trip to Sandown which coincided with Storm Imogen.
My thinking was that Sandown Pier would provide a bit of shelter and entertainment for a toddler. My parents always hated anywhere with a neon sign so it was my first visit in many many years.
The Pier stays open all year round - well, that's not exactly true. The indoor area with the arcades, soft play, mini golf, cafe and 'sports bar' stays open but the open air end of The Pier is shut.
The result is that you miss out on the real breezy open airness of the end of a pier but you do at least get a decent view whilst you pour 2p coins into a machine with a bottomless appetite.
I would classify Sandown Pier under the cheap and cheerful category of Isle of Wight attractions. That may sound a little snide but it is probably what you want if you take four children to the seaside and don't want to leave with an overdraft.
Whilst parts of it look a little dated, the prices had a very 90s feel to them too. The 10 pin bowling alley was £2 per person. OK, so the lane doesn't seem to be completely full length and the man with the keys had to come and help us when our scores weren't showing but £2 is about a third of what some bowling alleys charge (or should that be 'bowling allies'?).
"It did that earlier as well," the key man said as he tinkered with the coin slot and tried to get our scores to appear, reassuring me that we weren't the first bowlers of the day (unless he starts every day with a quick frame against the lad who runs the minigolf).
The Magic Island soft play area was only a couple of pounds and our five hot drinks in the fairly bog standard cafe came to a grand total of eight pounds something.
Yes, they could turn it into a trendy cafe with cake served on slates and bread with Italian names, but that would certainly bump the price up.
Who knows, perhaps Sandown will see a lot more investment if Premier Inn's plans for the Esplanade work out. If that does happens I'll certainly welcome it, and I'll try not to complain when my bargain game of 10 pin bowling has doubled in price.
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