Isaac is back at school today (Toby doesn’t start until next week) so yesterday the boys and I had one final day out together to bring the summer holidays to a close. Given that both boys’ favourite TV programme is Top Gear and that Toby is developing his literacy skills largely by learning to read and write car names – seriously, this is the boy who wrote out ‘Bugatti’ shortly after learning to write his own name – our obvious destination of choice was the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu. As the photo below shows, they were quite pleased by this.
The boys had been to Beaulieu once previously, at which point their obsession with Top Gear was only in its formative stages. While they enjoyed the World of Top Gear video experience and the collection of cars previously used in the show’s madcap challenges, they hadn’t watched enough of the show to understand exactly what they were seeing in context and why Daddy was giggling so much at the sight of a battered old Toyota Hilux pick-up truck. (If you don’t understand yourself, see the video clips at the bottom of this post.) This time, though, they had done their homework. Having spent months watching repeats on DVD, BBC Three, Dave and the wonder of the modern world that is YouTube, both Isaac and Toby were able to name most of the cars in the exhibition and recount exactly who had done what to which car, whether it was a cut-and-shut Fiat Panda stretch limo or the Hammerhead Eagle i-Thrust electric car. In fact, their detailed knowledge put me to shame. They enjoyed it so much we ended up going back later in the day to do it all again.
Of course, that’s not all that Beaulieu has to offer. The main museum itself is a treasure trove of motoring history. So while I gawped appreciatively at Donald Campbell’s world land speed record-setting Bluebird and their collection of F1 racers, the boys only had eyes for the Bugatti Veyron (because it had been on Top Gear), the Peel P50 (because it had been on Top Gear too) and any Peugeot, Renault or Citroen (because Toby is currently obsessed with (a) all French cars and (b) the Fiat 500 Abarth).
And there was plenty of other stuff to keep the boys happy, from riding on the monorail and a pre-WWI London open-top bus to driving their own mini motorised cars. (Isaac is a stickler for doing things properly, while Toby’s prime directive is to crash into people. Obviously.)
Oh, and ice cream. Can’t go anywhere without buying ice cream. Unusually for two boys for whom patience is not a word with which they are commonly associated, we had no problem filling our day and I had to drag them reluctantly away at the end to go home. (Via the gift shop, of course. There’s no escaping the gift shop.) I imagine we’ll be back again soon enough next summer. Anyhow, before I go: the Toyota Hilux. When you get to see stuff this cool, what’s not to like? That’s the beauty of Beaulieu: it’s suitable for kids of all ages.