Baby & Me · Reviews, Advice & Experiences

Lets go outside!

Last week our family visited Longleat Center Parcs for the first time. It seemed like the perfect holiday for the three of us. Somewhere we could relax, have fun and spend quality time together.

We booked a mid-week break (Monday – Friday) which worked perfectly for us and felt like just the right amount of time. The weekend before gave us time to pack and buy any food/drink supplies; ready to fill the car on Monday morning. 

Monday

Lucky for us Longleat is about a ninety minute drive from where we live so we needn’t worry about a long journey. We packed the boot full and hid away our cool bag of food to keep it as fresh as possible. It’s surprising just how much a family of three needs for four nights away. We set off late morning and arrived just after midday. It doesn’t matter how old you are, that Center Parcs sign still fills me with excitement.

IMG_7881There was a queue to check in so it was a bit of a rush to get out and settled in time for Lola’s lunch. We headed straight for the plaza (which is absolutely sweltering!) we could have tried to find a bench somewhere or perched on the edge of a table in Starbucks but sod it! We’re on our holidays! We went into Las Iguanas and treated ourselves to a couple of cocktails and a massive plate of nachos. This is the life. The plaza is beautiful inside and very well laid out but wow does it get busy quickly.

We could only enter our lodge from 3pm so we still had an hour or so to kill. We mooched around the plaza and ventured further down the road to the village square. Here there’s a few more restaurants and a massive outdoor play area. After 3pm we unloaded the car and settled into our home for the next four nights. The lodge is huge and very stylish, it has everything you could need including a cot and high chair.

We were pretty tired from the drive and all the fresh air so we stayed in and cooked pizzas (Boring I know!) There’s something about Center Parcs that tires you out, but in a good way.

Tuesday

After a good nights sleep we were awake as usual by 7am (Lola slept with no problems – thank god!) On a Tuesday and Saturday the swim team run a toddler/baby session in the pool at 9:30am for free. So today we had the chance to enter the pool 30 minutes before everyone else – amazing!

We stayed in the Pine area so the plaza was only a ten minute walk for us. The changing rooms were fine although a bit of a maze trying to find lockers (you’ll understand if you’ve been). Unfortunately Longleat are currently refurbishing the kids pool but Lola much prefers being in with us as she’s not standing up just yet to be able play around on her own.

IMG_7915Considering this was an under 3’s only session: the place was heaving! The busiest we experienced during our whole stay, so if I’m honest it’s not worth it: I was expecting a quiet and more relaxing atmosphere. Nope! You should expect every family with a child under three to be there so prepare for noise and a lot of splashing. Subsequently when we left at 10:30am the buggy park looked ridiculously overfilled and the whole thing was a little bit stressful.

So whilst we dripped dried our way out of the plaza (Lola excluded: she snuggled up in the pram and fell asleep immediately) Dan was in desperate need of a coffee and me; well I opened a fresh packet of Chewits (Because that’s the way I roll and if you’re wondering Fruit salad flavour). We strolled through the village square and down the boardwalk to Jardin Des Sports (Its a sports centre). Meandering down the boardwalk is a skill, there can be a lot of bicycle traffic but luckily our pram is quite nippy around corners. The walk is lovely and soon you can see the lake peeking through the trees along with bright sunshine (We were so lucky with the weather).

We sauntered down to the beach/fake sand next to the lake which looked glorious in the sun. If we were going to attempt a water sport, today is perfect. I say water sport: I mean sit in a pedalo whilst Dan does all the work. The prices weren’t too bad and Lola was able to do more than I expected at nine months. We agreed on the pedalo for after lunch. I had already packed our own lunches and blanket so we headed off in search of the perfect picnic spot.

After a session of strawberry squishing and just pure mess we headed back to the boathouse to get Pedalo-ing – if that’s even a thing. Lola was given a mandatory life-jacket that she simply hated wearing but looked rather cute in. Beauty is pain I suppose. We were off!

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Sailing the seas…or small lake. Lola got over the life-jacket saga and just looked out in silence. We think she enjoyed it, we hope. Daddy moved us up towards some ducks and this entertained Lola for a while but if I’m honest she had a look of either not fussed or perplexed as to what on earth we were doing and why she had to wear this bloody awful jacket. Still we enjoyed the view and tranquil setting.

Back on dry land and jacket off we ventured back up the boardwalk (Not as fun going back I’ll admit). We needed a quick refuel so we headed to the ParcMarket for a few cheeky ciders and a KrispyKreme to share. We retired back to our lodge for home cooked burgers. Yum.

Wednesday

Up and at em! Center Parcs is the easiest place to wake up in. I never knew how waking up to birds chirping and a gorgeous tree-filled view could make you feel so calm and peaceful. We were up and prepared for the day after breakfast. Organisation is key when you have a baby. 

Planning swimming around food and naps could be tricky so we thought it best to stick to an early morning swim to start the day. I say early morning, but the pool doesn’t open until 10am, little late in my opinion. We arrived a few minutes before 10am and there was a small queue outside. All sorted with the locker key already irritating my wrist we were in: the pool wasn’t actually that busy. We headed to the outdoor area and we were the only ones out there. Well that’s a lie, there was a duck doing a few lengths out there, which was quite comical.

IMG_7956With today’s pool session over, we headed back to the lodge to change for the day and grab Lola’s lunch bag. By 11:30am she was snoozing in the pram, perfect time to sneak in a pancake or two. Not going to happen! There was a 45 minute wait at the Pancake house and they don’t take bookings, walk-ins only, madness! With that dream over we sulked our way down to Jardin des sports. We were stuck now with having to pay for a lunch that we weren’t really craving. 

The Sports Cafe is nice and theres a ridiculous amount of TV screens available. Having said that after daydreaming about pancakes whilst going round the rapids all morning I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. Plus Sports cafe is so over-priced!!! 

We spent the afternoon in the adventure playground which Lola loved. You could tell she was really enjoying herself this holiday and she’s not even old enough to do most things. This playground is built on the side of the sports centre and works its way up alongside the boardwalk. There’s even a zip wire which I may or may not have tried out. 

We had a very chilled evening watching dvds and cooked a curry in the lodge. (Definitely glad we stocked up on meals to eat-in, saved a lot of money eating in for dinner and breakfast). We had a few visitors at the patio that evening which was fun, Lola loves watching wildlife. The lodges are so comfy and homely, I thought I’d miss not being out for the evening but we actually loved being indoors and in bed before 10pm, who am I kidding 9pm. 

Thursday

Our last proper day and we were going to make the most of it. Up and at the pool again for 10am, even quieter. Lola loves the lazy river, we must have gone around at least thirty times. We’re going to miss morning swims, it really is a great way to start the day. Also on a personal level my skin and hair felt amazing, not sure if it was the chlorine, fresh air or both but something was working.

After changing and restocking our lunch bags at the lodge, we embarked on our quest. Today we were eating pancakes, no matter what waiting time fell before us, this was going to happen….and so it did. Twenty minutes and we were in. I’m sorry to say I’ve built this up massively! Yes I’m a fool. The place was cute and offered so many mouth-watering options but was I satisfied – No! Did I feel sick – Yes! Was it really expensive for what it was – Yes! Was I even full – I’m not sure…

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I went for the for the Cookie Monster stack. It was delicious but a third of the way through it was too rich and a little dry. £1.50 extra for one scoop of ice cream!!! no thanks. Dan had a similar problem with his New Yorker pancake. Too sweet, we definitely should have shared one instead or maybe tried a savoury option but who’s honestly going to order a spinach and cheese omelette with a menu like they have. 

We needed to walk off the chocolate and syrup immediately. Jardin des sports never seemed that busy in the afternoons, plenty of free badminton/tennis courts. Lola loved watching people play snooker and pool. We’ve realised this holiday that Lola is extremely observant, she doesn’t miss a thing. Waiters/waitresses – she can’t get enough, children – she bursts into laughter and can’t stop smiling, people with glasses – well she’s practically your new best friend. Lola is fascinated with people, basically anyone except us.

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We fed Lola in the Starbucks cafe which was going really well until she started poo-ing…so loud! I mean louder than ever, Our little one may be gorgeous but boy does she stink!

IMG_7938After Shit-gate we wandered back up to our lodge to relax before actually going out for dinner. We’d decided to treat ourselves on our last night to Bella Italia. Of course having a baby means an evening out actually starts with a table booked for 5:30pm. This was a date night with a twist, who ever said three’s a crowd? Well they’d be right. But Who doesn’t love eating pizza with one hand and feeding a tuna pasta bake in the other whilst making yummy noises. Those knife and fork days are well and truly gone, I’m all about finger food and things that can be eaten cold #parentlife 

IMG_7910Because we’re the coolest parents in the world, we decided against a restaurant dessert and opted to stroll down to the plaza Parcmarket for a brownie and cheese cake from the bakery instead. Check us out! After the dessert drama, it was time to bed down for our last night and slowly start to pack (Of course Dan didn’t, boys only pack with seconds to spare). A few bags sorted and the kitchen cleaned it was lights out.

Friday

Typically today we needed to be up early so Lola decided to sleep in. I woke to car noise so jumped into my casual mum gear and walked/ran to the car park. (The earlier you collect your car the easier everything is). Back to the lodge by 8ish, most spaces were taken and some people were leaving already. Check out time is 10am which is so early to be packed and loaded into the car. The next two hours were complete team work. Combatting packing with breakfast, showering with cleaning, emptying the fridge and loading up the car correctly. There’s a lot to do in a short space of time to be honest. 

We had decided to just leave straight away. Of course you’re welcome to vacate the lodge and park up again to use pool and everything but the hassle and effort for us just didn’t make logical sense. Perhaps when she’s older we could stick around for one last swim and leave after lunch but for now it made sense to drop off the keys and exit the site.

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We said goodbye to villa 216 and buckled up for the journey home. This trip was amazing and we can’t recommend Center Parcs enough, especially for families with young children or a baby like us. It was sad to leave but we’ll definitely be back soon.

Thank you for reading the longest blog post ever

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