My family has visited Center Parcs Sherwood Forest since the early 1990s. Back then the accommodation was nowhere near as plush as it is now and I can remember the beds being simply covered in sheets and blankets and you had to make your own bed. We didn’t care, as long as we got to spend every waking hour in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise we were happy. We visited nearly every year until about 6 years ago when all of us kids had grown up and left home. Now Little Baker (LB) is on the scene we decided her first holiday had to be Center Parcs as it was somewhere we knew well and is renowned for its baby-friendly facilities. So on an unusually mild October afternoon, eight of us descended on Center Parcs to relive and reignite our family holidays. Naturally it involved champagne, cake and lots of food.
We stayed in two adjoining 4-person woodland lodges close to the centre. All the villas come with travel cots so I’m glad we didn’t have to lug ours along. Our car was already full with her things and just one bag for us squeezed in to the corner. It’s amazing how many things one little person needs. This villa location worked well as it’s the only time we’ve not brought bikes with us so facilities were only a short walk away.
Center Parcs has evolved over the years. Initially it was very much sport orientated, now it has more of a leisure pursuit slant. It’s always worked well for us, especially when teenagers, as we could all do our own thing. Mum usually avoiding all sporting activity with avid people watching and the rest of the family being our competitive selves. Over the years I think we must have tried nearly all the sports Center Parcs has on offer but we always fall back on three for a good bit of inter-sibling rivalry – Squash, crazy golf and ten pin bowling. I’m sure 3 months postpartum I shouldn’t be playing squash but hey I had a reputation to upkeep and no-one has to tell my GP.
Going to Center Parcs with a 3-month-old is different. You have to plan your day more and accept some of your favourite activities of the past are put on hold for a bit. The spa there is very good and usually a haunt of mine but with a baby who’d most likely need feeding during the 3-hour chill out session it wasn’t to be this time.
Many people gawp at the prices of food & activities at Center Parcs. Yes you are paying a premium and I think you just have to accept that, budget for it and enjoy your holiday. Holidays are not for moaning and penny pinching. We did spot that the food prices have stayed pretty constant since our last visit 6 or so years ago. Many of the eating outlets are now run by well-known brands. There’s Cafe Rouge along with Strada alongside Center Parc’s own named eateries. It’s also unsurprising to know there is a Starbucks or St. Arbucks as we like call it due to it being in the building that was originally the Center Parcs church. All the meals we ate out were good especially the club sandwich at Foresters Inn which proved to be worth the initial gasp of “how much?”. A holiday tradition of ours is to drink hot chocolate and it must come with all the trimming available. In fact I think I prefer eating the toppings on hot chocolate more than the drink itself.
Even 20 years or so since our first visit the Subtropical Swimming Paradise is our favourite. Gone are the days when we used to get to the pool for when it opened at 10am and only leave once kicked out at 10pm. We are starting baby swimming lessons soon so I decided it would be the perfect time to introduce her to the pool. At Center Parcs they have family changing booths with changing table and nappy bins which made our three pool visits far easier. Little Baker, possibly the youngest swimmer in the pool, took like a duck to water and felt so chilled bobbing along by the waterfall in her rubber ring that she fell asleep.
I think LB is going to be an active outdoors girl. She was fascinated by the trees and certainly slept well after days out in the fresh air. Now she’s back home she’s wondering where Grandpa, Nain, aunties & uncles have gone along with her daily dip in the pool. We may be heading back sooner than we think…