As many of you will know, last week I took a blogging break so I could spend some quality time with my two boys at Center Parcs. We absolutely loved it, and I'm about to tell you why, but before I do I should mention that this is NOT a sponsored post. I tell you this now because after I am done you will be thinking, "How much is she getting paid to say all this stuff?".
Well the truth is that if Mr Center Parcs was to offer me a free holiday to review I would bite his hand off and probably take most of his arm with it. But alas we forked out for this one from our own pocket, and I would happily do it again. Here is why:
We stayed at the Elveden Forest Center Parcs and its set in woodland in the middle of Suffolk. The lodge we stayed in was by the edge of the lake and most mornings we were greeted by squirrels, ducklings or deer. The photo at the top of this post is of the sunset taken from the patio door.
We hired two bikes and a trailer, as well as bringing Goblin's balance bike. He alternated between riding in the trailer and riding his balance bike - which involved weaving across the road into oncoming cyclists while Hublet and I screamed at him ineffectually. We loved the trailer so much that when we got home we instantly ordered one from Amazon.
On one of the days we hired a pedal bike with stabalisers. Goblin was reasonably useless at pedalling. Despite being able to pedal his trike with no problems, the disconnect between the pedals and he wheels - by virtue of a chain - and the fact he was able to pedal backwards and free wheel, seemed to completely throw him. Instead of pedalling normally he spent his time taking the pedals to half way, pushing down to the bottom, then cycling backwards to bring the pedal back up to half way before pushing down again. This made the bike move, but at an excruciatingly slow pace. Great as an activity but completely impractical as a mode of transport. It was however much easier on the nerves than watching him hurtling into rocks on his balance bike - Goblin thought the funniest thing in the world was to 'cycle' head first at the giant boulders that were placed in the middle of the footpaths to stop cars driving up them.
Eleveden Center Parcs has a number of age appropriate playgrounds which Goblin loved. I have heard people complain that Center Parcs can be expensive because of all the activities, but for toddlers there are a lot of things that you can do for free, and just exploring took up a lot of our days. Not to mention digging on the fake beach, and in the 'garden' behind our lodge.
We did do some activities though.
Goblin tried rollerskating. Toddlers, who have just learnt to walk are pretty hilarious beings when placed on rollerskates - you know the scene where Bambi gets stuck on the ice - it was like that for 45 minutes with about 15 Bambis.
We played crazy golf (also known as adventure golf or mini golf) as a family and both Hublet and Goblin beat me - beaten by a 2 year old *hangs head in shame*. In my defence Goblin may have cheated a little bit.
One day when we managed to convince Goblin to stay in the creche (he was not keen) Hublet and I managed to do an adult activity - Off road Segway. Segways are awesome and completely idiot proof - well apparently not completely idiot proof as George W Bush managed to fall off one - so lets say average idiot proof. I loved my Segway and burned around the course at top speed (about 15 miles per hour)! If it wasn't illegal to ride a Segway both on the pavement and on the road in the UK I would buy one tomorrow. I should write to the Government demanding that they stop trying to solve the big issues and deal with something trivial that will make me happy like making Segway road-use legal.
The main awesome attraction of Center Parcs is the pool which is free to use every day. There was one slight problem. Goblin hated it! It is built in a giant dome and is very noisy and echoey and Goblin sometimes has issues with auditory sensitivity. The first time we went in he started kicking off about the noise while we were still in the changing room. By the time we were in the pool area he was in full melt down and was clinging to me like a limpet crying to go home. I was seriously disheartened thinking that the main free activity at Center Parcs was something we would not be able to take advantage of. But then we discovered that there was an outdoor area at the pool. As soon as we swam out of the dome Goblin's demeanour changed, he disengaged himself from his death grip on me and swam off into the middle of the pool. And stayed swimming and splashing for 2 and a half hours.
After our big swims we ate in one of the many child friendly restaurants. Nearly all the restaurants at Center Parcs have bottle warming stations, high chairs, colouring for at the table entertainment and soft play areas in the restaurant so you can eat while watching your toddler mayheming from a distance.
Our favourite was the pancake house - responsible for a significant proportion of my incredible weight gain on this holiday despite all the exercise. It had a soft play area, and an activity table full of mega blocks. It had a book case full of children's books to read, and it had the ubiquitous colouring pages and crayons.
Center Parcs has onsite baby sitting, a creche, messy play activities for toddlers, special toddler playgrounds, toddler specific activities, and even toddler sized shopping trolleys at the mini supermarket. It was a perfect holiday for our family and we will certainly be going back.
If you have been I'd love to hear what you enjoyed most.