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The sun was beaming down, and it was only 8am, the leather seats in my car where burning my bum and the sun was shining in my eyes as I drove down the M1 and also onto the M25 (Sunglasses were a must on that day), yet my spirits were high… It was our first ever, proper family holiday! My hubby booked the holiday as a treat for us, as we had been through a difficult few months and well actually few years, and knew we needed some time away as a family and he chose Center Parcs in Woburn forest as he had read brilliant reviews about the place. We were soon to find out if the reviews were wrong or right.

We arrived around 10.25am, a whole five minutes quicker than the Satnav had predicted. We drove down a small traffic coned lane which led us to a small wooden hut like building which reminded me of the McDonalds drive through, a lovely woman named Zoe greeted us, handed us a map of the parc and gave us two bands to wear like watches around our wrists… These would become our life line at the parc, they acted as house key, payment device for much needed coffee in the swimming area and also for us to get lockers at the pool.

As our lodge wasn’t ready till 2pm we decided to check out the swimming facilities first, the ‘Tropical Swimming Paradise’ area soon became our daily routine and we went there almost every day of our holiday. The changing rooms were super clean, nothing like the local pools which tend to look a little grimy once people have been swimming, but this place was like a palace. A man on a machine was going around every so often cleaning away the soggy watered floor, the changing rooms were immaculate, and the family ones were so family friendly, they were a lot bigger than normal family cubicles, and even my hubby with his dodgy leg had room to change with us. After we showered we entered the pool area, which like the name suggests was very much a tropical paradise! A wave of tropical warmth hit us, the sun shone down through the huge almost green house like building. Everywhere we looked were huge trees, ferns and greenery which had been planted, it even trailed up the walls up wooden trellises giving the whole area a jungle like feel to it. In the pool building there were actually 6 areas you could go to: First up a toddler friendly area with small slides, fake beach looking sand tiles, a small watery seated area for the kids to splash in and toilets (Obviously the toilets were not in the pool as such but through a door near it). Then there was an area for bigger kids with what looked like a ship wrecked pirate ship with bigger and much wetter slides, a huge bucket that tipped every few minutes and that shocked unsuspecting parents that happened to be standing underneath it and cemented in place water guns which the kids tried to fight their parents with. Next was a wave pool which every half an hour gave a jungle call and the waves began to splash for a few minutes. My husbands favourite part was the relaxing hooped area where you jumped inside huge rubber rings and let a fake current sway you down a fake river. My favourite part was the outside pool which included a rapids ride, it literally had the force of a real rapid river and flowed you off downstream until it ended in a pool at the end. The last part which none of us went on because it was HUGE was the waterslide area for bigger kids and adults. The slide for this started at least four stories up and the slide actually left the building in a hoop on the outside before splashing back down to Earth… I sooooo wasn’t brave enough for that. Inside the Tropical Paradise is also a much needed and appreciate ‘Starbucks’ coffee shop, which is where you can use your wristband to buy coffee and food from. I have to admit, we did become ‘Starbucks’ addicts over the course of this holiday.

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After swimming for hours and turning into prunes we headed out for lunch and to our lodge. The place we went for our first food outing was ‘Café Rouge’ which although the food was delicious, the staff were less desirable… But this became the only place on the whole holiday where the staff were not up to scratch. We were, I admit greeted by a happy fellow who sat us down and made the kids laugh but from then on the food date went sour. It took three attempts and asking three different members of rather grumpy staff to get an apple juice for my youngest, by the time it came she was so thirsty it was gone in seconds, the same also happened for ketchup for my eldest who wanted it with her burger and wouldn’t eat without it. Then came the first food bill and Wowsers did my jaw drop! Hence, we did not go back to that one…

2pm arrived and we headed off to our lodge (We paid a little extra to be able to go to it at 2pm and not 3pm which was a great idea as the small roads became unmovable at 3pm but people soon moved for me and my car… Haha, don’t worry it’s not a posh car or anything, in fact it’s far from it, but my breaks were hot and screaming that day, so most people ducked for cover as I came along, all of them wondering what machine beast was attacking them). Plus, they only allow you to use your car when unloading on your first day and on leaving day, for the rest of the week your car is a no, no. Anyway, back to the lodge, ours was number 776, and was beautiful. The outside was a proper wooden cabin which my husband has always said he wanted to live in, ‘A cabin in the woods’. But the outside to me was nothing compared to the inside, which was spacious, modern and decorated to my high standards (Plus it was bigger than our house!) The girls immediately went to explore their bedroom which came with its own en-suit, I went to explore ours and jumped on the huge bed which was super comfy. The kitchen came equipped with everything you could need, plates, cups, wine glasses, kettle, sink… DISHWASHER… OMG YES!!! No washing up for me on this holiday. We were so pleased with the lodge and decided to spend the rest of the day there and ordered in pizza and wine and whilst we ate we were greeted with nature at our backdoor, we had two ducks, a squirrel and a Hedgehog.

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So, I’ve told you all about the swimming which became a daily thing but alongside swimming there were many, many more activities and adventures to do and take the kids on but it’s not all about the kids, they had grown up activities too. The one activity I found the best for ‘us’ adults was the SPA. My lovely hubby went and booked me in for a back, shoulder and neck massage for half an hour which at £49 I found to be quite reasonable (As I went for a Thai massage once and it cost around £99, so this was a bargain). So, let me tell you all about the Spa, which was called ‘Aqua Sana’. The rest of Center Parcs is one huge outdoor adventure centre but in here it was like a different place altogether. You walk in and are greeted with a warmed dressing gown which you must change into bar your undies (I got to keep those on) the changing room was warm and clean and there were hundreds of lockers to keep personal stuff safe and although they have a no phones rule I managed to take mine in (My daughter is Epileptic and I wanted make sure I could be contacted in an emergency by my hubby) and they were more than happy to accommodate that for me, plus I got some wicked pics. After changing you leave the changing room and come out to a huge spiral staircase full of light and bamboo looking sticks decorating the walls then head up to the treatment waiting room. This room was calm and beautiful, with comfy seats, dimmed colourful lighting and orchid flowers along with gentle relaxing music that played in the background. I was soon called in by my beauty therapist ‘Kat’, who took me to a treatment room which smelt amazing with all the essential oils out for me to test before she began the treatment. The massage I had was brilliant, she knew exactly where my body held tension which is all around my neck where I lean over to write all the time and she proper worked all of it out (So much so even my hubby commented on how my posture was a little straighter than normal). After my much appreciated massage she took me to a ‘Candlelit relaxation room’, which was peaceful and calm and full of… You guessed it… Candles. This room was lovely and when it came time to leave I was a little disappointed, I wanted to stay there for ages and chillax, I should have taken a book! So that was my little treat and I adored it, but what was my husbands treat? Going on the lake on a pedal boat… He loves water and wanted to go across their small lake, and wow did he make me work, I pedalled for ages (He did too but I know I worked harder than him haha).

So, I have told you all about swimming, the lodge, what is good for us adults but what did my kids do and enjoy the most? My youngest’s favourite activity was pony riding which lucky for us was right outside our lodge and then they went for a walk around the parc. The girls and guy who looked after the ponies were extremely friendly and chatted to us as we walked alongside them and told us all about their ponies. My eldest’s favourite activity was the mini Land Rovers, she felt so grown up driving her own car and she bombed it around the track and picked up driving fairly quickly… she also thought that she could then drive us home, but I said how different Motorway driving is to a small dirt track, but I appreciated her offer.

Some of the other activities we took part in were: Pottery Painting, Face Painting, Build-A-Bear, Bowling, Shopping, visiting the outdoor and also indoor playparks and eating! And speaking of eating, our favourite restaurant was Hucks, an American diner. The food and the service there was amazing and the portions were American sized too, and you definitely got what you paid for. There were loads of other activities that we couldn’t do yet due to the kids being too small or they didn’t want to do such as: Tree climbing, Zip wire, Rock Climbing, Adventure golf, Archery, Crossbows, Laser guns and so on… But when we go again, those I think will be next on our list.

My conclusion for Center Parcs Woburn Forest… AMAZING!!! The whole holiday was awesome and when it came to be coming home we were all a little depressed and even now, two weeks later we wish we were still there. I will say that Center Parcs is expensive but it does make some fantastic memories, memories that you cannot get unless you bite the bullet and go for it. So, if your thinking of doing it, I would say… Book it now!