You’re not sure if the children have got mud or chocolate on their faces – and frankly you don’t care
Daddy has cycled the tagalong bike through every possible puddle in Longleat and covered the smallest child in yet more mud.
The adults all have rapids related injuries from the swimming pool – where the kids are all totally fine! Centerparcs elbow is a well known ailment in our house – and tends to have just recovered before the next visit!!
‘Essentials’ from the Parcmarket on the last night are bread, milk and prosecco
You’ve had to stand on the top of the hot tub to get a decent phone signal to take a work call
You’ve hit your steps target on your Fitbit every day from marching from the outdoor activity center to the Jardin de Sports because your activity planning didn’t take geography into account
The number of parents growling through gritted teeth at their children ‘we’ve paid a lot of money to be here, you should be enjoying it’ has hit triple figures
You’ve got back ache from pushing a small child’s bike up (and down) hills because they’re only confident on the flat (of which Longleat doesn’t have much!)
The sauna has been used every day without fail – but only to dry towels and swimming stuff.
You’ve bumped into a friend from school that you haven’t seen in 25 years – but you’re both necking booze at lunchtime
The story about Mummy crying on the Tree Top Trek has been recounted to many staff and random strangers #thankskids
You’ve decided to try and ignore the fact that the pool is human soup and satisfy yourself that the chlorine levels must be fine as they’re making everyone’s hair a bit lighter too!
The house has had to be re-mortgaged so that the children can paint random pieces of pottery that will end up being stored in the loft within 6 months
You’ve realised by the end of the day that the changing rooms at the pool need a health warning – so you plan to go earlier in the day to avoid the strange things people leave in the cubicles…
You’re shocked at the number of people who don’t wear cycling helmets and don’t insist their children do – having witnessed first hand the accidents that can happen even at slow speed when coming off a bike I want to shout at them all (but have refrained!) but for us – no helmet = no bike
You’ve decided that donuts are a perfectly acceptable breakfast and pancakes a perfectly acceptable lunch (apologies to the parents of the children we brought with us!)
The highlight of the week was to be the full body massage you had booked for the last afternoon – but it drops off the Centerparcs app the night before – so you almost weep with relief when the lovely lady at guest services tell you that it’s still booked #phew (and it was WONDERFUL – thank you Molly!)
You’re sending your nephew home with trainers entombed in mud from where he rolled his quad bike – and potentially half of his wardrobe is in a similar state #sorrysister
You’ve made loads of brilliant memories that will be talked about for years – and you’ve already booked to come back again for New Year and are bringing some overseas Centerparcs virgins with you!!
Thank you again Centerparcs Longleat for a fab stay. Last time we stayed in this lodge we went home pregnant with our 4th child – hoping we don’t have QUITE such a lasting memory this time!!!
It’s the 13 year old that has chosen Drama GCSE as one of her options – but I reckon I could give her a good run for her money………
Whilst we were enduring enjoying Centerparcs last week, I received a missed call one afternoon. The phone reception at Longleat was pretty patchy – and I didn’t have enough reception to listen to the message. I tried to call L back, but it went straight to her voicemail.
Now I’ve known L since she was born – she and my sister are really good friends, and her elder sister R is one of my best friends. However, we don’t often catch up – and to get a phonecall from her is a little out of the ordinary.
When I couldn’t get her – I texted her to say that the phone reception was rubbish, so to text or Facebook if it was urgent.
But of course then my mind is in overdrive! I convince myself that something shocking has happened.
I texted R to see if she might know what the matter was (worried that it might be her or her family that the call is about) and no answer. Which clearly makes it worse (turns out she was at book club – but why let facts get in the way of a good panic!?!)
I then call my parents, as both families have been friends forever, but they don’t have a clue either. (Although today my Dad rushed up to L at church to find out what it was – I definitely get my drama queen-ness from him rather than Mum!!)
In the meantime I get a text back from L saying not to worry and she would catch up with me this weekend – which she did this evening.
Turns out she wondered if we still had our bouncy castle and if they could borrow it. Crisis definitely over!
It did make me think, though, how being permanently connectable can actually cause issues – years ago the message would have waited until I got home and been dealt with then without over dramatisation in the middle of a forest!
Similar happened a few weeks ago, my 11 year old son had to get the train home after a school football match and it was much later than he normally would – so his sister and friends were long gone. Plus he couldn’t get to our local station at that time, and had to get off at one a few miles away – so it wasn’t his normal route. To compound stress levels, his mobile phone had run out of power. I sat at the station waiting to see him come off ridiculously stressed as to what might have happened to him, and how I couldn’t get in touch with him if he didn’t get off the train – but he did, and all was well. It made me think that my parents had to parent without mobile phones and seemed to cope just fine!
I love my phone – and would be lost without it – but sometimes, they do make me even more of a drama queen than normal………………
Yesterday there was a Tree Top Trek – today there wasn’t – thank goodness!
There was A LOT of walking (but that’s good for the Fitbit challenge I’m in – where my little sister is in marathon training and so the usual winner!) and also quite a lot of time spent in the ‘Subtropical Swimming Paradise’.
To be honest I would question all of the words used in that description.
I fear ‘Human Soup’ is a better description. At one point this afternoon the rapids were shut because someone had VOMMITED in the pool (I am seriously hoping it was a baby and not some adult who’d been on the Jagerbombs at lunchtime?!) But – they were shut for about an hour (I am assuming to give time for the sick to dissipate?!? I am hoping there are protocols / chlorine levels to ensure this is dealt with safely?!?)
I am pleased to report I saw no evidence of vom floating about – but plasters / hair / unidentified floating solid things were all witnessed!
The kids adore the rapids – and despite being 42 and a size 18, I threw myself down them too (thankfully not landing on too many people in the process!) I did, however, manage to flash most of Centerparcs after my boobs escaped after a particularly vigorous descent.
You will be pleased to hear there are no photos of today’s escapades!!
I also fear a rotator cuff injury and a mid back muscle issue – and all this despite the fact I only take responsibility for myself – with the older siblings (and spare one!) doing a sterling job with the little ones.
I also thought the pool water would be kill or cure for my horrific eczema – and at the moment it seems to be cure #winning
So no doubt there will be more Subtropical Swimming Paradise – Storm Doris Flailing Nightmare – tomorrow! #livingthedream
Firstly – those three words are more difficult to say than you would expect – try it!
Secondly – I am never, ever, ever doing such a thing ever again!!
This week we’re spending half term at Centerparcs – ‘just’ us 6, with an extra one (whilst his Mum is busy kicking cancer’s butt!)
All of the kids wanted to do the aforementioned Tree Top Trek – but as 2 of the kids are under 8, that meant two over 18s were required. So I didn’t really have a choice…….
2 years ago for February half term we went to Bluestone in Wales, and I ended up a sobbing wreck and having to be helped off (and given gin afterwards) a similar rope course, so I should have expected the worst – but I really thought I would try. Friends are going through much bigger stuff than me being scared of heights – this would be fine……….
The boys did it first – breezing it, whizzing round, and as they did it so quickly, then being allowed to do it backwards just for LOLs.
Then it was time for Daddy and all the girls (I am including myself in that – although at 42 I realise it’s a stretch!!)
The order to try the course was – Daddy, 6 year old, 13 year old, 5 year old – with me bringing up the rear. The first thing was a zip wire. The first 4 went off fine. I dithered. I had a pep talk off the instructors. I had a pep talk off a random Welsh lady walking past. I dithered some more. Then FINALLY I stepped off the platform. I screamed – and I did not land it as brilliantly as the children had……
I then was stuck like a beached whale for quite some time – but eventually managed to haul myself up on to the platform.
I’d only signed up for this ‘fun’ because of the requirement for all under 8s to have an adult with them – I’m just not sure I was the adult that was in mind when setting this requirement! Thankfully the 13 year old did a sterling job with her littlest sister.
I hated every single obstacle. There was much swearing – inwardly and outwardly (sorry Centerparcs) and shaking of legs. It was HORRIBLE. Of course this just caused more hilarity for everyone else! The 12 year old was videoing it and threatening to put it on YouTube – and there was quite a gathering of passers by to witness the spectacle.
At the same time I was trying to be encouraging to the children – particularly to the 5 year old who had only scraped the height requirement by a slightly bouffant ponytail! At the climbing wall I said “Mummy is so proud of you, you’re doing brilliantly’ to which the response was ‘Well, you’re doing rubbish Mummy”…….
I dithered ridiculously over the climbing wall – absolutely petrified – and announced that my large breasts would inhibit my passing across the void.
I think my face pretty much sums up how I felt about the whole thing!!
But eventually – I just went for it – and I DID IT! I loathed it. I feel no sense of achievement – just a massive headache with the stress. In fact – I couldn’t even face gin afterwards, that’s how bad it was, I just had a pint of WATER!!!!
I fear for the rest of the week I will pointed at around Longleat as ‘that crazy woman from the Tree Top Trek’!!
We’d done Centerparcs on a number of occasions – in fact child number 4 was conceived at Longleat – and we wondered if we’d go full circle and she’d be born there too when we returned for the husband’s 40th with friends and family 36 weeks later. The husband very helpfully pointed out that the animal keepers at the next door safari park would have lots of experience of delivering babies whilst I was looking for the nearest hospital just in case. We looked at Centerparcs for February 2015 half term and the prices were extortionate – so we thought we’d try other options.
One friend has raved about Bluestone in Pembrokeshire, Wales for years – but I have to confess to thinking she might not be completely independent as she’s Welsh!! However, a number of other friends have visited in the last 12 months and have all said how great it is (and are all English!) – so we thought we’d give it a go as it was less than half the price of Centerparcs for this particular week.
We booked 2 lodges next to each other and headed off with my sister and her family, my parents, us 6 and our wonderful nanny.
Interesting (not actually that interesting really) fact for people travelling to South Wales from Birmingham – the husband went M5 / M4 – I went M5 / M50 / M4 – and after both stopping at services once, we bumped into each other (not literally – that would have taken some explaining to the insurance company) at Cardiff Gate on the M4.
We had paid extra for early check in at 1pm rather than the standard 4pm. Unfortunately housekeeping didn’t have one of our lodges on the early list. So we all camped out in one and had lunch there whilst the other lodge was prepared. I called guest services – and they said they would refund the extra cost I’d paid. Within 2 hours I’d had a handwritten note apologising, confirming the refund and delivering 2 bottles of wine – now that’s what I call customer service!!
The lodges are great! They don’t have the add on luxuries of some of the swish ones at Centerparcs (no games room or hot tub or sauna) but are really well appointed and have all the kitchen utensils etc you could need (although the frying pans aren’t non stick – so that made pancake day ‘fun’!!) My guess is they fall somewhere between the luxury end and standard end of Centerparcs (not that I’ve ever stayed in anything but swanky at Longleat or Sherwood Forest!!)
The views from our lodge were amazing. There was a real feeling of space between lodges – you definitely didn’t feel on top of each other.
We’d also paid for a Welcome Hamper to be delivered – and a cake for our son whose birthday was during our stay. Apart from being delivered to the wrong lodge (our own fault for having 2 I guess!) it was great.
The activities were brilliant. Some of the party did Sky Wires, more of us did Woodland Warriors and then Catapault. The staff were friendly and fun.
My particular favourite was Woodland Warriors – basically laser quest through the woods.
In fact I loved it so much I am no longer going to be an accountant, I’m going to be an assassin!!! (And as a friend on Facebook pointed out – probably most assassins are self employed – so at least I’d be able to do my own tax return…….)
We also ‘enjoyed’ the Adventure Centre on one of our wet days – when it was very busy. There is a softplay for the littlies, and then an adventure playground type wooden structure that you’d expect outside. There are some arcade games, mini golf, a bouncy castle – and then The Big Four – The Swing, The Drop, The Wall and The Skytrail. My eldest daughter and her 14 year old cousin did all 4 and loved them – the only complaint would be the seeming lack of instructors meant they had to wait quite a long time (literally 30 minutes even though they were first in the queue) to go on them. But it was a wet day, and the middle of the day – so peak busy time I guess.
My 10 year old decided he wanted to do the Sky Trail again – but no one else would do it with him – so despite being scared of heights, I volunteered – there were loads of little kids doing it, surely it couldn’t be that frightening?!? WHAT AN ERROR OF JUDGEMENT!!! It was PETRIFYING.
My arms are now black and blue with bruises from clinging to a cargo net for dear life. I stood crying on one platform (although my husband thinks this was a ruse to get a hunky instructor to come and rescue me!) and then it took me about 10 minutes to psyche myself up for the final zipwire (which was about 20 feet – and nothing compared to what the others had done on the Skywires the previous day!).
Given the weight limit on the course, the only member of our party who could have rescued me at the zipwire was our 3 year old – so I had to suck it up and be brave – but I will NEVER do it again!! (I should point out at this point that the kids loved it, and don’t have a bruise on them – it’s just not the right thing for an overweight, height-phobic, 40 year old to do!!)
The pool area is a little dated – and could do with a good paint to get rid of some of the rust (but this is obviously a problem with chlorinated water – even the water park at the 5 star hotel we went to in Dubai at New Year had rust issues!!) I was also surprised that the general public were also allowed in as well as Bluestone guests. The pool itself is not huge – and there is a bit of a void for children from about 3 years up to 110cm tall (when they can go on the rapids / slides) – so I can imagine some youngsters getting a bit bored. Sometimes when it was very busy we had problems finding a changing room / locker / queuing for slides. The fact that lots of lockers were out of order didn’t help. My only photo of the pool area is of our youngest having a strop in there – in fact it was suggested by a Facebook friend that we could have an A-Z of places that she’s stropped – so here are a few just from this trip!!
The shop is quite small and certain things aren’t easy to buy (dishwasher tablets being an example, you can only get them in packs of 3) but there is an amazing array of beer and wine – so the husband was happy!! It’s not cheap (£46.25 for a bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne – good job we brought a crate with us!!)
We also stumbled upon (literally – there had been prosecco involved!) a vending machine selling mlik / butter etc – how ingenious! (From a distance we thought it sold wine – not that we needed any more anyway!!)
You can hire golf carts here to get around the park. They seat 4 adults and 2 kids – so couldn’t fit all of our party – but were very useful for running around the little people and OAPs. (Mum will take exception to this as she walked everywhere!) The only negative is the lack of charging points – there was only one in front of our group of about 12 lodges – and people would ‘bagsy’ them overnight meaning no one else could charge – so on one occasion we had to take it down to a charging point in the village itself to be juiced up.
We used the takeaway service on the first night and it was excellent – the pizzas were HUGE (we saved the leftovers and they fed us all for lunch the next day!) On the Wednesday evening we went to Smokey Joe’s Shindig down at Camp Smokey! This was great fun – and involved dancing on the tables, and eating fab BBQ food. We all really enjoyed it – and the brown team were the best (** this is the face paint, we weren’t all just minging **)
The only other venue we ate at on site was when my sister and I and our husbands went to the fine dining option ‘Carreg Las’. I had been told by someone it has the air of a business convention building – and it does. No real atmosphere at all – and quite purple, so we were expecting Lenny Henry to pop up at any time!! But what it lacked in atmosphere it made up for in customer service and great food and wine.
Bluestone also benefits from the nearby beautiful countryside and coastline. We took advantage of a sunny afternoon to head of to Tenby beach, half an hour away.
I am not a massive fan of the beach in summertime (sand gets everywhere) but even I quite like it when fully welly-booted up!
Although my 13 year old nephew did strip down to his pants…………
So in summary, we had a fantastic few days away. I would say that Bluestone is the much cheaper, more laidback, less frantic, more relaxed, Welsh cousin of Centerparcs. It’s definitely on our list to revisit.
Note – this is not a sponsored post, we paid for our trip and everything we did whilst we were there – I just like to overshare!!