Now I’m trying to be informative for this Blog. I’ve been away for the week having fun, getting wet and wild and being naughty. Panting hard, a little out of breath sometimes whilst indulging myself in things I don’t normally do……but isn’t that what some holidays are all about? I know you’re getting excited just imagining where I’ve been…….
I’ve been on and off for the last twenty years and love it just as much as the first time; for us it’s always a winter holiday. For those who have never been……let me give you an imaginary tour of what goes on.
You can either go Friday to Monday or like the Frantony family, Monday to Friday. Since it opened, we drive to the Longleat Centre Parcs as its only a 1.5 hour drive from where we live.
As you turn into the entrance off the main road, you’re immediately on a lane driving through the forest where you collect the keys to the villa (which you can’t go in until 3pm) from the log cabin reception.
So what to do until 3pm? LOTS!
Park the car/van/ Land Rover Defender in the car park just past reception then taking the bag of swimwear (that you packed in a separate bag), take the 5 minute walk to the main swimming dome.
As you enter through the glass doors, the first operation is to take your scarf, hat and gloves off at lightning speed as its very warm inside.
In the Dome you have Restaurants, Coffee shops, mini super market, Bars, gift shops and a bowling alley, lush green plants, waterfalls and fish ponds full of gold fish and large Koi Karp and if you want to take a closer look, there are some stepping stones and a wooden bridge. By the way, if you open the swimming bag and there’s nothing in there, don’t think you have to swim nude, as there’s also a swim shop at the entrance to the Subtropical Swimming Paradise.
There’s plenty of changing rooms with a door either side; one for in, the other out and in to the shower area. Please remember to close and lock both doors as I walked in to a cubical once and saw what resembled something that would be suitable for parking your push bike in.
Once inside the centre of the swimming dome (constant temperature of 29.5C) where the swimming pool is situated, you see that the walkways are all in crazy paving with stone walls and more lush green plants everywhere. It’s free to enter and everything to do inside is free too!
As you follow the lovely crazy paving pathway up an incline you have a small bar area where they sell hot food and drinks (Amstel beer on tap) a rope bridge with timber flooring and more crazy paving, and then the junction where the fun begins. Before I go any further, don’t think this is just for kids, there’s a mix of all ages, shapes and sizes and I mean all ages, shapes and sizes! You’re never too old to smile and have fun, I know because I tried being an adult and being serious…….its way over-rated…..I won’t do that again!
To the one side there are two white slides, one is straight, the other has a bump in it. Both are very short, but don’t be fooled as you’ll reach the bottom before any F1 car.
You’ll splash in to the water at a terrific speed in what looks like a cave….. “Ooooooooohhhhhhhhh” I hear you say! That’s right, a cave, that’s what I said! Then you have two green tube slides, if you’re hard, the lower and shorter one is for you, but if you’re double hard, then the higher and longer one is for you. Feel free to cry in either one as you’ll be disguised by the lashings of water hitting your face, again you’ll come out in what looks like a cave.
Once you walk back around to the junction of fun, in whatever exciting thrill you seek next, you’ll have the entrance to the outside pool. As I’ve said, we go to Centre Parcs in the winter and it really doesn’t matter what the weather is like. You’ll see steps that will take you in to another pool with a plastic curtain, and as you swim through….well, it’s all outside. The water is warm with steam rising up, rocks and plants and trees cover the edges of the pool. Standing outside the pool there are more life guards that you can shake a stick at, which is always good to know.
Halfway around the outside they also have a plunge pool (its icy cold) only once I’ve experienced jumping in…..NEVER AGAIN!! I had to double check my birth certificate to see if I was a man or a woman. Also outside you have the ‘Rapids’, very long rapids that cascade with fast running water into bends, dips and slides. Again all amongst rocks, plants and trees and if you make it to the end it will take you back inside the dome ready for you to repeat it a 1000 times…….and you will. But I do have a few tips for you on the rapids. I always leave my wedding ring at home, WHY? Well, it came off my finger many years ago in the rapids and I thought it was gone forever. The lifeguard took down my name and villa number telling me he’d check the filters at the end of the night, and miraculously he found it!! Again a very big thank you!!
As for other tips ……. For the men entering the outside pool down the steps and through the plastic curtain, if there is a small child in front of you, it is imperative that all hands are covering your privates, because you are more than likely to be kicked in them.
Once reaching the start of the rapids, you climb over a smooth concrete lip from the nice warm pool into the rapids. At first its a little cold and you’ll be slightly bashed about by the force of the waterfall coming out of the rocks. Don’t worry…. you will be laughing, then with no control whatsoever your journey begins. The first rapid slide will be in full view of a decking watch point for passersby, I cannot stress this enough….make sure all your naughty but nice bits are not on show. Men, you must make sure the string on your shorts, are tight. Ladies….keep the bikinis for the beach in some exotic country, always were a swim suit if you can…..! I kid you not; it’s as if the rapids have hands.
Don’t feel that you have to do the British thing and apologise to every person you bump in to along the way; always remember you are on very fast rapids, no-one is in control, its so much fun though. Once you have had enough fun and you want to relax, there’s also a hot pool, again surrounded by
rocks, plants and trees with the floor covered in crazy paving…….very nice! At night, if you sit opposite the plastic curtain that separates the inside from the outside. You’ll be staring through the steam coming off the hot water at the silhouettes of people as they enter or don’t enter the hot pool, it’s like ‘Stars in their eyes’…..”Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be….”
The main pool has a wave machine that comes on once or twice an hour. To announce it coming on, you’ll hear a Tarzan sound, but it’s always a disappointment for me, as I keep looking around for Jane…..but she’s never there.
When your body is telling you it’s time to get out of the pool and have a shower (shampoo supplied) and dry off, we like to use what we call the human hair dryer, (£1) it’s worth it.
Then it’s time to go the Villa; cars are only allowed on the day of arrival and the day you leave which is really nice. The villas are all nestled within the forestry with narrow winding block pavier leading you to the front door. Single storey with flat roofs and made out of a mix of render, timber and glass, our villa was 3 bedrooms with 2 wc’s, lounge area with large corner sofa, T.V and dvd player with paper log burner in the corner with large glass sliding doors facing the forest without hardly seeing another villa. Small but perfect kitchen with dishwasher, microwave and good size dining table, all open planned. It has a bath with shower (they also supply bath towels). Outside you have a place to park your push bikes, a patio area with table and chairs and a BBQ. In the evening you can sit down with a glass of wine and relax, and read a good book……. Farrago: TenTall Tales maybe…..?
I’ve never measured the forestry, but all you need to know is that it’s big, there’s even a Pancake House and a nice restaurant in the middle of everything. In between our villa were the ‘Cascades’ that you walked amongst the red woods and small water falls (all lit up at night), which took you to a large lake with boats and pedaloes to hire and above you have tree top climbing and a zip wire that takes you over the lake. An Aqua Sana (a place to seriously pamper oneself) with lots of different rooms and many treatments to be had. Then theres the ‘Jardin des Sports’. Here there’s a sports bar, clothes shop (sports/outdoors wear), a Newsagents, a sports bar with restaurant, an Indian restaurant, climbing wall for the kids, table tennis, badminton, squash, keep fit classes, snooker, pool, roller skating, tennis, crazy golf (indoor and out) and more.
If you don’t want to walk or cycle anywhere then there’s always the land train that runs every 20 minutes from each stop that’s nearest to your villa, wrap up warm though…it can be cold.
For us going to Centre Parcs in the winter, we love it no matter what the weather, it really doesn’t make any difference, so many places to go and things to do, and the villa is very spacious to relax and cook with friends and family.
Centre Parcs is nothing like the holidays I remember as a child, in the pouring down rain being stuck in a caravan with nothing to do. I would look out the caravan window watching the puddle form at the bottom of the caravan steps wondering how big and deep it’s going to get, whilst thinking I’d rather be back in school struggling with a calculation of algebra that I simply can’t do, with a pen that intermittently works as the teacher who I don’t like is shouting at me over the noise of my stomach rumbling, because somebody nicked my dinner money and ate my secret stash of sandwiches, and all before P.E, knowing full well I’ve forgotten my kit….again. But as well as staring at the puddle growing minute by minute at the bottom of the caravan step, I was soon feeling thankful we were not camping! I always felt sorry for the person passing the caravan window in their rain coat and wellies, walking to the communal sink whilst carrying a bowl full of dirty dishes to wash.
Anyway…….what to take and wear to Centre Parcs in the winter? Well…. not a lot. A super lovely warm hat with gloves, walking boots and trainers and leave your jeans at home and take 2 pairs of cargo trousers. Even if you’re eating out in one of the restaurants……it’s in the forestry. Dare I say it……you don’t really need to take shampoo as it’s supplied. We like to walk everywhere so we have head torches as it’s only dimly lit at night. It’s the only time I’m not scared walking the forestry at night and feel safe (call me a girls blouse if you like).
So that’s Centre Parcs through the eyes of Dave Frantony and I’ll be back every year, but the most important thing is that my 8yr old son laughed nonstop every day and didn’t want to go home…..and that’s all that matters! So book and go, I dare you, a 3 bedroom villa in winter can be as little as £329 (total cost for 6 people for 4 nights!)
As usual on the Easy Blend, I’m listening to great music; today it’s A Silent Film – Danny, Dakota and the wishing well
You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)
Until the next Easy Blend blog………..
Stay warm and fuzzy……..