So, it's time to give you all an insight into our wonderful holiday at Center Parcs last weekend. I think it's safe to say that we wish we were still there in the woods. There's even lots of snow there this week, if the weather reports are correct and being snuggled up in a lovely log cabin by the fire would be bliss.
I usually arrange my travel around Nye's naps and recently he has been taking his longest naps in the morning of around two hours between 9-11am. So we did our best to pack the car up the night before and I jumped in the car with Nye, got some petrol on the way and drove the just under 2 hour drive to Elveden Forest in Suffolk. Neil has a job interview that day and left at 5am to catch the train and would join us later arriving at Thetford Station in the evening.
It was that morning that I remembered that our Sat Nav was broken so off I ventured with my rather temperamental phone. Naturally my phone ran out of batteries but luckily for us, the directions there are easy. It basically goes like this:
- Get out of London and on to the M11
- Head on to the A11
- Look out for brown signs for Center Parcs.
However, letting my phone die had added consequences, I had my booking reference on my phone and of course didn't bring any of my paperwork. I had visions of turning up there and being told to bugger off. This was actually not the case and the lovely lady at the entrance kiosk asked for our details and found our cabin no problem. Fabulous! Nye and I then drove in to the car park, parked and headed in to the 'village'. Still without phone, and with no use of the cabin until 3pm.
After relaxing on some of the sofa's in the village area for a while I gradually gained the courage to ask guest services if there was anywhere I could charge my phone. To my surpise they offered to charge my phone in the office, I cannot tell you how grateful I was as I was waiting to hear how Neil had got on at his job interview. While I left my phone to charge Nye and I grabbed a burger at Dexters Kitchen before returning to the sports area to watch some guests having fun playing Badminton. Nye seemed to think Badminton was some kind of magic and spent ages captivated by the shuttlecock being hit back and forth.
Before we knew it it was 2.45 so we walked leisurely down to the cabin ready for the 3.00 check in. After quite a long, but enjoyable walk we arrived at a lovely warm and beautifully designed 2 bed cabin. Nye was by this point ready for his nap. At first i thought they had forgotten to give us a cot for him but I eventually found a fold up cot in the back of the utility cupboard. As a single person it wasn't easy to occupy a 1 year old and get the cot out of the back of the cupboard, (behind a hoover, mop bucket and down a thin corridor) but once out it was really easy to put together (simply pull out and screw the base in place.)
I was also incredibly grateful for the grocery pack of essentials that you can order before you arrive. It meant that we were free to relax as soon as we arrived and didn't have to immediately traipse around the shop looking for milk and bread like I would be at home. It is meant to be a HOLIDAY after all!
For the rest of the afternoon Nye and I relaxed in the comfort of our cabin which was incredibly toasty, certainly warmer than our home. We waited to hear from Neil as I needed to pick him up from the station just before 8pm. Thetford station is only about a 10 minute drive away and once you get to the main road there are directions. However, getting back to the park at this time meant that it was busy and we had to wait a little while to get back through check in but I was warned about this when I came through in the morning. We then drove to the cabin, dropped of our bags, unpacked, got Nye into bed and then Neil had to drive the car back to the car park and walk back to the cabin. Before he left we ordered from the DiningIn menu which was great because I was able to order Chinese and Neil could order Indian and it was all ordered from one place. And, despite us being skeptical about how good it would be, it was actually really delicious. Neil spent the next day saying "I can't believe how good the food last night was."
The next morning we had arranged to have breakfast in the Lakeview Restaurant. We booked rather late abd our cabin was quite a way from many of the facilities. On the positive side we had beautiful woodland views but it did mean that we had to make time for getting to places which isn't easy with a baby in tow. Needless to say we were usually a little late for our booking, but this was never a problem.
The sunrise that Saturday morning across the lake was beautiful and gave such a sense of stillness that I haven't felt for such a long time. It was worth treasuring.
The resturant itself is at the on site Lakeview Hotel. it is a revolving dining room that serves fantastic food. I chose eggs benedict, a tropical fruit plate for Aneurin and Neil had a fry up. As the idiot I am, I actually asked for a table "near the window", to which the waitress kindly reminded me I would be there in a minute as the restaurant was REVOLVING. Oh the shame! She assured me I wasn't the first (and hopefully not the last).
After breakfast we briefly left the park to meet up with my mum at the lovely Elveden Estate Tea Room and browsed some of the shops before returning to a choc-a-block car park. We then had a less than joyous 15 minutes of trying to find a space. There aren't any lines in the car park and this meant that some people had parked rather inconsiderately leaving massive gaps either side of their cars. After our 3rd drive round we managed to find a spot and then headed back in to the village.
Later that afternoon after Nye had napped we arrived at the bowling alley for our 30 minute slot. It's not like a normal alley where you pay per 'game' but you can play as many games as you liked within your time slot on your lane. We should probably admit that Neil and I are so bad at bowling that Nye actually beat us in our first game! We carried on to the second game where we had improved moderately but Nye was a little tired of the neon lights and noises so we left for some fresh air a little before our time was up.
The next activity we decided to try was cycling, so off we went to collect the bikes that we had reserved for us. It wasn't easy to work out the logisitics of picking up two bikes, one with a child trailer whilst pushing a sleeping baby in a pushchair but we made it to the bike park in one piece and once we collected the bikes we left the pushchair in the buggy park.
The picture above is of Nye sitting all cosy in his bike trailer. It's the first time Neil and I have ever been on a bike ride together (with or without Aneurin) and it was fantastically special to have Nye with us to enjoy the ride. I will never forget the look of his face in this photo or how much fun it was cycling together. We can't wait to go back and do it again, we will never forget our first time riding bikes in the forest as a family.
That night we had booked a table at Bella Italia for the three of us and we can't fault the service or food served. Nye had a full 3 course meal including including a frozen fruit lolly which he has never tried before (but loved.) It was so funny to watch his face as he felt the freezing cold, turned it away then wanted it back because it tasted so good. Priceless! We usually only have enough time for only two courses but he was so distracted by the environment and crayons that we managed to get in a full 3 courses without screams of boredom.
Then we returned a sleepy little boy home with some supplies from the shop, including a log for the fire and some marshmallows. Before we could say goodnight we decided to light the fire as we knew Nye would love watching it so we all shared toasted marshmallows in the living room. One massive marshmallow was quite enough for us so when Nye settled down for the night Neil and I had time to cuddle up on the sofa.
|Balinese Spa - Aqua Sana Elveden Forest|
The next day was the day I had been looking forward to the most as it was time for our spa break. It was a mixed blessing because although I was looking forward to some time just Neil and I, it meant leaving Nye in the nursery for the first time ever. In the end Nye didn't even notice that I left as he was having far too much fun playing with the workers who were fantastic. However, it all took a bit of a turn for the worse when we packed up the car and went to drive to the car park. Neil managed to drive into a wooden bollard which was obscured by the front of the car just as we pulled away from the cabin. So, our trip to the spa was cut a little short while Neil arranged for our car to be collected by our breakdown provider. Now we are home it's easier to reflect on what happened, but at the time we didn't know quite what to do. In the end we arranged to be collected and driven home after we returned from the spa. Neil wasn't sure he would be able to relax with all this hanging over us but the spa was so relaxing Neil didn't want to leave to pick Nye up.
|Outdoor Pool - Aqua Sana Elveden Forest|
There were so many different facilities to use, so many different steam rooms and relaxation areas to try. I personally loved the outdoor pool, the jasmine salt steam room and the water beds! I've been to quite a few spa's in my time and this was by FAR the best. And that was even before my treatment which was perfect despite the treatment area itself being very busy. I even overheard an unfortunate story in the waiting area about someones neighbours cat being trapped in their car and them wanting to smash the window... They were not impressed and I had to try my hardest to pretend I wasn't eavesdropping.
And as my treatment came to a close and I returned my bike on my way to meet Neil and Nye we walked to our car ready to be collected by the recovery truck who brought us and our car home to London. All in all we had a wonderful time. I was particularly impressed by how accessible the entire park was, no crazy steps or muddy bogs. There was barely a family there without a push chair which just shows you how popular Center Parcs is with families.
I must say, one of the things I was looking forward to most was going swimming and trying out the new Tropical Cyclone water ride but because of our packed schedule, and Nye's naps times, we didn't even get round to going in the water! So, I think that's a good enough excuse to go back soon, if the spa, bikes and log fire weren't enough. Thank you to Center Parcs for arranging everything for us, we will be back.