Once upon a time a nine year old girl received a Centre Parcs brochure in her stocking from Santa Claus, every year she waited (VERY) patiently for the day to arrive she would get to step inside that big glass dome (which I admit I thought encased the whole place!!) … 27 years later she got her long awaited Xmas pressie – nothing like building anticipation – and last weekend I finally went.
For the last 4 years we have come together as a family (my parents, siblings & their children!) for the first weekend in December to celebrate Xmas, though after my dad passed away in July and having made it clear how important it was to continue our annual tradition, this festive break was more special and precious then ever, especially with it being Bodhi’s first Christmas too!
With 7 adults, 5 children and a little cub we booked 3 lodges all next to each other, 2 x 3 bed and 1 studio and planned that the Saturday night (our faux Xmas day!) would be spent at the one in the middle.
Deciding to see if I could add a little more Xmas sparkle I contacted Centre Parcs to see if it was possible to get an Xmas tree in this lodge … this request was not just met, but they went beyond any expectations and we arrived on the Friday to be greeted by the most wonderful, kind and thoughtful festive scene, as they did not just put up a tree, but surrounding it were chocolate coins, Xmas puddings, mince pies, a giant fluffy reindeer for Bodhi and a heartfelt Xmas card from the lovely ladies that had arranged it … and a tag on the Christmas tree that simply read “Happy Christmas, love Grandad”.
That right there was the start of one of the best and most memorable weekends I’ve had.
I could break it down into many reasons and describe the village (more of a town), its many many restaurants, incredible immersive vast nature that surrounds you, the facilities of the lodges and how beautiful the sunlight is streaming through the trees in the morning, but this blog post would be epic; so just a “quick” summary of our first holiday to Centre Parcs in Sherwood Forest then…. hmmm
A bit of a virgin to family friendly holidays, I have not much to judge Centre Parcs against, but they seemed to offer something for everyone, not just families, but couples and groups of friends, you can choose from a vast list of activities, indoor, outdoor and on the lake, or you can choose a more relaxing break, booking in to the spa, scenic walks, or sipping a glass of wine at one of the bars. Our party had a perfect combination of both. There truly is so much to mention, but these were our highlights .. based on a test audience from 9 months to erm well Nana’s age!
The Subtropical Paradise – wow, just wow, they are not kidding “Paradise” My nieces & nephews (and their parents!) were in their element here and would have spent every minute there if allowed, sadly little cub had a chest infection (grrr horrible winter germ season!!) so we didn’t partake, but, seeing the excitement on the faces of everyone when they told me about the waves, slides, rapids, plunge pools and waterfalls I cannot wait to take him back next year and maybe mummy can go weeee down the slides too! As Nana sat smiling whilst she watched her Grandchildren play she exclaimed she felt like she could be abroad … and she wasn’t wrong, especially when leaving the tropical dome we were greeted by the December chill outside.
The restaurants – there are so many to choose from and they do cater for everyone, even a fussy sudo veggie eater like me! The staff are incredibly helpful, being very understanding when a baby melt down occured or when they got hit by a flying carrot … and they seem to smile all the time regardless, I kept trying to catch a moment when they weren’t, but failed! As we were catering at our lodges most of the time, we only ate at Cafe Rouge on the Sunday evening and the spa restaurant for lunch … which were both really good experiences … however I am also assured that the pancake house received top marks too by my nieces and nephews who insisted on going a few times to make sure!
Coffee – I know a strange highlight, but non the less imperative in ensuring a good holiday for us parents who are functioning on very little sleep and apparently this is a recognised need by CP as there are multiple Starbucks on site … and at 9.30am every morning we found ourselves in one of them with a big coffee having lovely relaxed chats with the family … a note also is that although full of children and babies they seem to have some magical level of music that is perfect in that you can have conversations but seems to drown out the shouting, screaming or crying of others peoples children, which if you are honest no one wants when you are trying to have a moment whilst yours is in a happy place … bonus!
The spa – oh god the spa!!!! With plenty of babysitters on hand me and Mark managed to sneak in a couple of hours in the spa together (unfortunately there were no treatments available as they were booked up … note; book early!). But to be honest I was more than happy to just enjoy the spa at my leisure, it really is beautiful, tranquil, relaxing, smells amazing and is just glorious … after dipping in and out of a volcanic sauna, rainforest aroma infused tropical shower and some sole therapy I happily snuggled up, wrapped in a big fluffy blanket watching a crackling fire and just blissed out in a Scandinavian snug! We also had a light lunch here (and a little glass of bubbles!!) which was so fresh and tasty and there was HUMMUS … oh someone pinch me I was literally in heaven. I managed just over 2 hours before the pull to get back to the little cub crept in and so glowing I floated slowly back to the lodge taking in the beauty of the surrounding Forrest – Mark however did not emerge for another hour and later sheepishly informed me that he had fallen asleep in the meditation room and woke up snoring, not so relaxing for the others in there, but he was refreshed.
The winter wonderland – cue goosebumps, happy tears, big beaming smiles, lots of “oooh ahhhs” and “wows”
On the Sunday evening before the choir and fireworks on the beach (I know … amazing!!) we took a walk about 5pm after it got dark through the winter wonderland; an incredible beautiful display of sparking lights, reindeer, Christmas scenes & characters and the most enchanting trees all lit up, whilst it snowed and Christmas music played (think literally walking in the air!) … it was like someone had created my childhood dream of Christmas and made it just for me inside a snowglobe, it was all very magical! I don’t want to say too much about it, as it really is something to be experienced – but take my word for it, a mug of mulled wine whilst standing under the gigantic Christmas tree listening to Christmas carols and seeing the people you love happy and enjoying themselves will bring the spirit of Christmas alive for anyone.
By the end of the 3 days and although fulled ready for Christmas, none of us were ready to leave and could have happily stayed on for the week, although after 2 nights on the sofa (due to our co sleeping starfish baby!) I think Mark would have upgraded to get a 2 bed.
So 27 years of waiting for this holiday … was it worth it? Absolutely … although I certainly won’t be waiting that long to go again and intend on booking a much needed mummy spa beak in the new year and as a family we have already started planning our festive holiday to the winter wonderland in 2018.
Thanks for reading. Annie xx
ps. A special thank you to Lisa Shaw & Kathleen from Center Parcs for all they did making our arrival magical and for putting a smile on my mums face.
A stay at the Sherwood Forest Center Parcs (03448 267751; ) costs from £399 for a “Winter wonderland” four-night midweek break in a three-bedroom Woodland Lodge. The price includes unlimited entry to the Subtropical Swimming Paradise. Visitors can bring their own bikes or hire them there, including child seats and trailers. There are several restaurants and a supermarket on site and all lodges are equipped for self catering.