Only a couple of months ago, a friend asked us if we fancied a little trip to Centerparcs over the New Year, as it was something they were seriously considering themselves.
Normally being the one to just jump and seize any opportunity for fun or trips away I can lay my hands on, I didn’t.
This time was different.
This time, I was the one who was dragging my heels, being indecisive and thinking things through, for once attempting to be the sensible one by considering bank balances etc, and it was my darling husband who just said
‘Why not, let’s just book it’!
Or words to that effect!
I was a little taken a back if I’m honest with you!
I mean, firstly it was relatively last minute and normally he like to mull things over a little, or at least for a few days.
Secondly, I think it was one of the most expensive weeks you could possibly book at Centerparcs, so quite a considerable decision I thought.
Thirdly, we’ve already booked a rather pricy summer holiday, (where this year we’re now and from here on in, trapped and tied by school holidays)
Plus we are in the first stages of our house renovations and have just received the kitchen and building quotes, where I nearly fell off my chair!
But, after the year we’d had, my husband especially, I think he was of the mindset, ‘life is short, so make the most of it’, which, I can totally understand.
After all – this is the attitude his wonderful mum had, so I think he’s following in her footsteps!
Plus, after all the grief and stress of 2015, I expect he needed a good break and something to look forward to over what I expected would be rather difficult Christmas time.
So we did. We booked it!
And the great thing though about booking a last minute (ish) holiday, is that you really don’t have to wait too long before the big day arrives! Hurrah!
And with all the excitement of the run up to Christmas and then of course Christmas and Boxing Day sandwiched in between, we really couldn’t have asked for a better time.
It was much, much easier to alleviate the children’s impatient excitement and expectations!
So, on the Wednesday following Christmas Day, off we trundled in our two cars up to Elveden Forest, with some very eager kids in the back, asking
‘Are we there yet’
about five minutes into the journey and for the remainder at regular intervals!
This was going to be our second visit to Elveden as we first went back in July 2014.
The good thing about returning to somewhere we’d been before, was that we knew what to expect. Though this time of course, we had that added enthusiasm and anticipation as we knew that the park would be decorated up in pretty twinkly festive lights, and that New Years Eve was going to be a special one.
Due to booking late, we didn’t get the chance to share a lodge as we had last time, so had two smaller lodges located next to one another. This still worked well, but was tricky when we both have young children who wanted to go to bed. It would always mean that one of would have to return home to our lodge with the kids, whilst the other was able to stay and chat over a few more drinks. Invariably me!
I can’t say we were very lucky with the weather, as it rained torrentially at times, but we didn’t let it get the better of us either and carried on regardless. I remember New Year’s Eve itself where it was pouring down outside, as inside we got ourselves a little dressed up to go out for a special evening. But even then, so as to stay as dry as possible, I turned a bin bag into a rather fetching skirt which kept my legs bone dry as I cycled over to the center. Genius right?
We didn’t really book many activities on this trip, as it was hard to book things when we didn’t quite know what the weather was going to be like. After all, if it was really raining cats and dogs, I’m sure our children would have something to say about it, even if we were trying to make the most.
The only ones we did book were The First Mile of 2016, Geocaching, Golf Simulator and Ten Pin Bowling. Other than that, we spent most of the time in the swimming pool, which is of course, one of the big attractions.
I am even proud to announce that this year, I actually braved it and attempted the Cyclone along with my friend! We tried to look all cool, calm and relaxed as we queued our way to the top of the stairs, in amongst kids (most taller than me!) who’d obviously been on the ride all day long.
But, when it was our turn to step into the giant ring, I expect the game was given away slightly as they heard the screams and expletives echoing back at them from deep inside the water tunnel!
Yes. I know. I’m not proud!
Hmmmmm! That was an experience. And I’m glad I’d not eaten beforehand!
But seriously, we did enjoy it really, so then, gluttons for punishment, did a couple of rounds on the rapids too! Kids at heart you see!
A little more on the activities:
I wasn’t actually there to experience this myself, as my friend and I were in charge of babysitting back in our lodges, whilst the boys went off and had some free time for an hour! They both play golf, and it sounds like they had a good time.
This is something which has been on my list of things I want to do, for a few years now. And ok, this was a bit more of a child friendly version, but the premise I think was pretty much the same.
Armed with a set of clues and co-ordinates, we walked our way through the drizzle, around the park looking for the 9 waypoints. The girls all had to take turns holding the large clipboard (complete with calculator = very important!) and the GPS handset, so as not to cause arguments. We all absolutely loved it. Even though the weather was a little dreary, we really didn’t care as our competitive sides had emerged and we were far more intent on finding the next clue as quickly as we could!
It was quite funny too, as you could obviously spot other fellow geocachers, as they too were looking around on the floor and holding clipboards too.
And then, when we did find one of the waypoints – which were fake stones, so really easy for the kids to pick up and feel part of it – we would quickly pretend to be tying our shoelaces or rifling through a rucksack whenever any potential competitors walked in our direction!
I think in the end we came third, which wasn’t bad at all considering we were the last to start! I would most definitely do this again, though we have already started discussing tactics for next time round!
The First Mile of 2016
This was something we booked as we thought it would be a really different way of seeing in the New Year.
And it was.
Being on holiday with small children, we knew we wouldn’t be able to drink to excess as has happened in earlier years due to probably being rudely awoken the next day with small children jumping ton the bed and demanding our attention. But also, we didn’t really want to drink much either. This New Year was about family for us rather than getting inebriated, and getting up, getting outside and enjoying ourselves in the fresh air. So the walk was just perfect.
It was only a mile, as the title gives away, and although others took it very seriously indeed, complete with head to toe running gear, we ambled along, trying as best as we could to keep up with the walking crowd at the back. After all, this was as fast as Ella’s little legs could take us.
For a bit of added fun, it was optional fancy dress too. Which the kids loved
Ten Pin Bowling
This was the first time we’ve ever been ten pin bowling with our girls. I must admit I had thought it might not have worked as they are too small, the balls are dangerous if dropped on feet, the kids would get bored etc, but I really needn’t have worried! They had an absolute blast! They all had the bumpers up and used the ramp to help them steer the ball down towards the pins, and as it happened, Holly was the overall winner!
Ella often sulked in the corner when it wasn’t her turn, but only because she loved it so much she wanted to do it more!!
We booked for an hour’s slot, and at the time I remember discussing whether the children would be bored, but if anything, this wasn’t really long enough. We didn’t have enough time to finish, so just had to stop when the next group turned up, which I must say was odd when other lanes were completely free.
So, now to New Years Eve itself.
What a fabulous night!
Again with us booking last minute, we weren’t spoilt for choice as far as restaurants go, as many were already full, but luckily there was a perfect slot still available at Cafe Rouge, so this is where we were going to spend the evening. To be honest, I really fancied the italian instead, but on hindsight, I’m so glad it was too full as it made us eat here instead.
As I mentioned earlier, we all got ready and dressed up a little more than usual, though we did still all wear jeans and boots. Others there though had really gone to town. It really was ‘anything goes’!
We parked up our bikes and made our way through the heavy rain into the main plaza.
Once through the doors we were greeted by doormen checking off our names and issuing wristbands. I must say, it was all very well organised.
Once checked in we walked though into a very Britishly (that’s not a word – but I like it!) themed extravaganza!
We posed willingly for a group photo underneath a London Underground archway before going through to be met by stilt walkers and performers, staff all dressed up in recognisabily british get-up and ice sculptures, there was even half a life sized red London bus! The kids eyes were truly out on stalks! They were so thrilled at the spectacle in front of them!
In Café Rouge, all the tables had been decorated up with helium balloons, crowns and tiara’s, table decorations, crackers, party poppers etc – it was wonderful! And everyone in there was completely and utterly in the true festive spirit. There was dancing in amongst the tables even though there was a fully organized disco complete with DJ just out in the main plaza. Which I must say is where I spent a good portion of the evening, as the children just wanted to dance!
The food was amazing! Really amazing! I did wonder if it would be a little ‘mass produced’ if you know what I mean, but again I really couldn’t have been more wrong. To us, it also felt a bit more of a celebratory style of meal rather than a plate of pasta, as it was certainly something we don’t usually whip up ourselves at home.
(Though in saying that – I did have the most delicious pasta dish in Bella Italia that week too – but I can’t remember the name of it! Others most definitely had food envy!)
Once we’d scraped our plates clean after the third course, and interspersed with dancing, we could hear the sound of bagpipes coming towards the plaza.
This was our cue to start getting the children all dressed up warm and cozy, ready to be escorted out of the plaza and down to the beachfront, which is where, at the stroke of midnight, the most spectacular display of fireworks lit up the night sky above the glistening water.
It really was such a special moment.
And all in all – a fabulous New Year break away.