I'm back from my first ever visit to Center Parcs. I'm always honest on my blog (and on yours, when I comment) so I'll start by saying that I really wasn't expecting much from the place. I imagined an overpriced Travelodge in Nottingham with a sports centre attached.
I loved every minute. Of course, the weather helped - we were treated to beautiful spring sunshine every single day.
We hired bikes as soon as we got there (£25 for the week - take your own if you have them!) and I loved the simplicity of travelling everywhere by bicycle. (Although I did discover that my cycling skills are not quite so sharp in the dark after a few glasses of wine and a huge plate of nachos in the pub-style Sports Cafe...)
We played badminton every morning and followed it up with a Starbucks coffee on the terrace with the sun on our [red/sweaty] faces, listening to the birds sing and watching the grey squirrels go about their business.
We were on holiday with my parents, my sis, her husband and my adorable little niece and we all shared a lodge. It was newly decorated (I think, actually, it was newly built) and a really good size. There were four bedrooms each with its own flat-screen TV, wooden balcony with furniture and a decent en-suite with double sinks, jacuzzi baths and monsoon showers. Our particular lodge also had an open fire, a mains-fired barbecue on the terrace and our very own outdoor sauna! We had a games room, too, with a pool table and PS3 which came in handy for the evenings if you fancied staying in*.
I loved being Auntie Nicki for the week. Particular highlights (that all Mums probably take for granted) included snuggly cuddles at 6am each morning, hiccuping giggles at the silly jokes I made and her absolute, unwavering concentration on our little game with the Sylvanian Families toy that I took as a mid-week surprise for her. Cute as a button.
|Part of the wall in our lodge painted with blackboard paint - a bowl of coloured chalks was provided.|
We also played a fair bit of table tennis. The husband was chuffed (and surprised) to discover that I'm a bit of a demon with a ping pong bat. I did beat him at a game on our honeymoon but he considered that a fluke. Drew is amazingly good at table tennis so I didn't beat him but I put up a bloody good fight and felt a bit like the cool girl in the K-Swiss ad. Ha!
Of course, Center Parcs is well-known for its swimming facilities. I did give the rapids and one of the slides a go but, to be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed. The wave machine was tame and the slides were short and, dare I say it, a bit boring. However, we paid for a cabana for the afternoon which gave us our very own wooden little hut with sunloungers, magazines, TV, fresh towels and cold drinks. It was lovely to have somewhere to escape; to dry off, relax with a coffee and a waffle and watch Baby Jake... Also, my Mum's experience of the rapids will stay with me for the rest of my life. She was hilarious. Very embarrassing but hilarious too. She disappeared for ages - my Dad had to go back to fetch her and the lifeguard had to yell across the pool to her (he called her 'my love' which tickled me; he was about 19!). I stood by him laughing my head off, almost to the point of wheezing, when she blinkingly emerged from the final - quite fierce - waterfall, very panicky with puffed out cheeks and her hair pasted down to her forehead looking exactly like a hairy swimming cap. Makes me laugh just thinking about it - sorry Mum.
We girls spent Wednesday afternoon at a willow weaving class**. It was ace. In an hour and a half we each made a willow teepee for the garden.
We did manage to whack each other a few times with unruly bits of damp willow (it is soaked in cold water for a few hours before the class to make it malleable) and my Mum was embarrassing yet again when she accidentally whipped the oldest lady in the class (who let out a surprised yelp) but all in all it was a very civilised activity and I can definitely recommend it. In fact, I'm up for doing more of it. I'd like to make hearts and wreaths next.
Izzie had a fantastic time. The place really is great for kids and families (I know, that's the point).
She took part in tots bowling and tots tennis whilst we were there and then went on a pedalo with her dad on the lake. There are parks a-plenty and a little man-made beach which was quite popular. (It was packed out and this was March. I imagine it's horrendously busy in the summer.)
So, a fab time had by all and I'm hoping it will become an annual event. I've come home looking and feeling much healthier and fresher - I feel as though I've blown the cobwebs away ready for spring.
Have a great week!
*These lodges are quite expensive in the school holidays but because we stayed off-peak and shared the cost between three couples we managed to get amazing value for money.
**You do have to pay for activities when there so it's worth bearing this in mind before you go - the willow weaving class was £16. I thought this was pretty good value for money but I do think that to properly experience Center Parcs you should really pack in the activities, which obviously mounts up. Definitely take your own bikes when you go - it's super-safe to cycle around as no cars are allowed in the park except on the two changeover days. Next time I will be trying the watersports - the double kayaks look like fun - and I'll take my tennis racquet too.