And the family went south

WE’VE been hanging around with celebrities recently. Y’know, sportsmen, singers, politicians, actors, French aristocrats from the 1700s and the like.
And yes, they were just as dumb and wooden as you’d expect. Well, dumb and wax to be precise.
Having last visited on school trips in the 1980s, Bloke and I took our offspring to Madame Tussauds.
Things have changed a lot in recent years. Apart from the queue of tourists down Marylebone Road. I’d book in advance, but more about that later.
When you’ve handed over your buggy and manhandled your squirming toddler into a control hold,  you visit the A-List Party, where the likes of Brad and Angelina, Posh and Becks, Johnny Depp and R-Pattz are hanging around being mobbed by gangs of  schoolchildren and Japanese tourists. 
It’s a surreal sight. Lots of waiting while people in front of you pose for pictures. Lots of trying to explain to your own children that we’re not taking pictures of them with every single figure in the place.
Baby Bonnie wasn’t happy. “No like Big Dolls,” she whimpered, while her brothers were stroking wax cheeks and trying to stick their fingers up wax noses. She clung to her daddy like a limpet and only released her grip when she saw the opportunity to have a quick dance on a floor with flashing disco lights. This allowed for Daddy to be photographed with Helen Mirren, who looks like she’s ignoring a stalker.
We wandered through each room, from cinema stars to sportsmen. Billy was delighted with the very accurate Steven Gerrard, but not so convinced by Becks or Johnny Wilkinson. Quite a lot of your visit is spent saying: “oh that one’s quite good,” or “it doesn’t look anything like them,” with a lot of “isn’t he/she short?”
Bonnie perked up when she saw Tinkerbell and Shrek, while Bloke got to stand by his heroes John Wayne and Christina Aguillera.
Curiously, the photos Bloke took of me and Jose Mourinho, me and Robert Downey Jnr, and me and Justin Timberlake came out all blurred.
Jed, our eldest, was only prepared to let his cool demeanour down when he saw Jimmy Hendrix, while our middle sons embraced the whole experience, chatting with Britney, being disrespectful to George Bush and Hitler, and moaning very loudly at being too young to go through the Chamber of Horrors. Which, I must explain, is nothing like the one you’d have seen if you went several years ago. Now it’s an interactive walk-through thing called Scream with actors dressed up trying desperately to scare you.
It’s not for the under 12s, so the only one who could go through was Bloke, while I sat waiting (and waiting) with the disappointed and bored kids. Bloke said we didn’t miss much, saying the old static exhibits of serial killers behind bars had been far more memorable.
We all got into sawn-in-half black cabs for the rather cringeworthy Spirit of London ride (think Disney’s It’s a Small World ride done with Churchill and Babs Windsor).
If you were expecting the old Planetarium to be included, forget it, it’s gone. Now there is a brand new 4D-specs cinema show, featuring a (very lazy) plot with all the Marvel comic book characters. You have to pay extra unless you include it in your ticket price. It’s not quite as slick as the ones at Disney, but you do get the effects of things flying at you, with air and water sprays in your seats to add to the illusion. The boys loved it, while Bonnie shot out of her seat onto Daddy’s lap and refused to wear the far-too-big-for-kids glasses.
We were done is less than two hours, and successfully distracted the offspring from the many sweet/icecream/novelties stalls on the way round.
Now, back to the tickets. It costs A LOT to take a family to Madame Tussauds.
It is certainly worth searching online for the various combination offers, two-for-ones and late-arrival discounts. To go in half-term as we did would have cost £110 pre-booking online with a family ticket and an extra child, or £123 on the door. (£28 for adults, £24 for kids, £99 for a family of 2+2). That’s an awful lot of money for a day-out when you’ve paid train fares too. The whole shebang is now owned by Merlin, who run just about every major attraction from Alton Towers and the London Dungeons, to Legoland and Warwick Castle, which is why it’s worth shopping about for family deals. You can half the price by going at 5pm, but it does seem you need to get around fairly sharpish as things start to close at 6pm.
You can find out more and book tickets by visiting http://www.madametussauds.com. I couldn’t for the life of me find a telephone booking number.

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