We have been fans of Elveden Centerparcs for many years now, taking our first holiday there when Amelie was just a year or so old. We’ve been back there in groups of friends and alone, including once as a week long, main summer holiday many times since. It never fails to be a good week for us; while we love holidays that mean getting out and about, when we need a holiday where it is all just easy and familiar, Centerparcs ticks all our boxes. Lots of fresh air, plenty of exercise and an easy way to spend family time together in reasonable comfort and no great expense. While we home educated, it often produced the perfect term time holiday with a great blance of cost and quietness that meant we could really enjoy the pool for hours at a time without spending anything extra – and a term time break there is very good value in my opinion.
We were so excited to win the Tots100 Centerparcs Ambassador competition, meaning we were one of the families who got to sample a 5 day break there with lots of extras thrown in (every activity, barring my facial and Fran’s manicure mentioned below was part of our review package). We chose to take my sister and her 4 nutlets along with us, plus The Big Nut daddy himself – we’ve spent very little time with them in the last three years due to Kit’s age proximity to Freddie’s should-be age and it was wonderful to get to know him and have good times with them all.
My first top tip for a midweek stay at CP is to be there as early as you can on a Monday – 10ish has always seemed to work pretty well. Have your essentials for swimming in a single bag, have anything valuable well hidden and then head off to the pool. You can do a good 2-3 hour swim and laze, get out and pop over to a cafe or the Parc Marc for food and by that time, you are ready to amble back to the car and take it down to your villa at 3pm.
This time we had been gifted a starter pack of food from the Parc Marc – you can book this to be delivered to your villa (it also had milk, spread, sausages and bacon) – as you can imagine, the hungry gannets descended!
My sister went off for a free pedicure the next day (she loved it and is going to guest blog about it) and I took my four girls canoe-ing plus Rowan (niece) – another niece sampled the Time Out Club Wizards club. She’s often very nervous of new things but had a wonderful time, which speaks highly of how well they take care of the kids.
Canoeing was entertaining….
My four took to it (I think being very sporty helps), Rowan required a toe back and a trip in the rescue boat – but Nicola the watersports coach was so patient at helping her overcome her worries and getting the hang of the technique.
The watersports is really well organised and equipped, the getting organised and handing kit back is slick too. I was surprised by how easy and safe it all felt and the staff were very reassuring when I was worrying. Even when Rowan drifted away they had their eye on her and the lake is not deep so even fairly young kids will float safely or be able to get a foot down.
Part of the week was a meal at a restaurant of our choice; with Rowan having been recently diagnosed coeliac, this was a huge consideration and Bella Italia completely rocked it – they were so good. They have gluten free bases and understand about not cooking alongside or with wheat, they had a gluten free menu for pudding and main course and were right on top of ice creams and drinks and all sort. Our waiter was brilliant – totally brilliant – can’t recommend them highly enough.
Apparently I distressed the table next to us by breastfeeding Bene but the restaurant didn’t bat an eyelid.
You absolutely have to try the sharing ice cream puddings – I have to say despite the 13 of us demolishing 7 large starters, 8 pizzas and 3 other puddings, we still needed 2 of them!
We have photos to be developed of this but I wanted a quick word about the pool. Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time in the baby area – I hate it. The water is toddler height so the adults get cold, the sand gets everywhere and it is round the back so you feel isolated from your family. I was REALLY PLEASED it was closed for refurbishment this time. Instead, the remodeling to accommodate the
terrifying brilliant Tropical Cyclone ride meant that the old open air salt pool had been replaced with a walk in sloped, waist high, alt water lagoon in gentle light. It was warm, with spa jets, right near the main pool, filled with free pool toys (well done CP, a huge innovation and worthy of mention) and generally perfect. Bene and I had a beautiful time there and because it was lovely, all the family congregated to warm up, have a change of scene, learn to swim, chat and generally be happy. It was the pool highlight of the week for me and I didn’t miss the baby area a bit (though I’d be interested to see what CP do with it when it reopens).
As for the Cyclone… Oh. My.God.
I plucked up courage one evening and screamed like I have never screamed before – exhilarating (I’m not really a ride person) terrifying, fast, stomach losing… just WOW. I shrieked “no no no no no no no no no no no no nnoooooooooo!” from the moment I got to the point where I realised what was about to happen. The girls laughed a lot!
I did go on again though.
That gets us to Tuesday – more tomorrow.