A Short Break Away

As you may have gathered from my previous blog, Gary and I decided we wanted to take a break away and discover the newest in the family of Center Parcs. Situated in Woburn, it’s a short drive from where we live, but being familiar with Center Parcs we knew it would still feel like we were on holiday.

As I write this, it feels as though I’m going to be writing a very negative review of this place. Don’t get me wrong, we had a wonderful time. It was relaxing and beautiful and lovely to be in nature and away together. However, knowing what we know about Center Parcs in general, we won’t be coming back to this particular venue, unless we visit the Aqua Sana.

On checking into the Parc we were both given rubber wrist bands. These were our room keys, access to lockers in the spa and Subtropical Swimming Paradise. It also allowed you to make payments in certain shops and the pool snack bar. Really handy. Mine was a little large with no way to make it smaller, so I just let Gary wear his and left mine in our room. Staying in the hotel meant we didn’t have to worry about self catering. We’ve stayed in the hotel at one other location and really liked it. This hotel, being new, was plush.

You can see from the photo it’s very basic. The hotel rooms in the Woburn hotel are all air conditioned which was a big plus for us. This means windows hadn’t been left open to air the room out and no bugs had gotten in. You can see behind the double bed is a mirror and lit up area, which is the ‘dressing room’ area with sink and vanity shelf. And then to the right of the bed (left in our room) is a large walk in shower. I really don’t like showers but very much enjoyed using this one. You might be able to see the glass door of the shower, so you can gather there’s not much privacy if you want to share a room with someone who hasn’t seen you in your ‘natural beauty’ before. Something to think about! Don’t panic, there is a toilet with a door as you walk into the room.

One thing that bugs me about hotels in general is that they don’t seem to put enough plug sockets in. In this room there was a USB charging socket on ONE side of the bed (why they don’t put them on both sides, I have no idea.) There was one double plug socket by the balcony doors, where you could plug in the kettle tray. It’s about 2.5 metres from the wardrobe mirror which made blow drying and straightening my hair a little tricky. Incidentally, the kettle wouldn’t fit under the tap in the sink so I had to fill up a cup and pour it in. (And our water glasses were never changed the whole time we were there, which I found a little gross.)

Maid service was daily and towels were changed every other day, or if you leave towels on the floor they’ll replace them. The balcony was lovely to sit on and watch the lake and crazy-golf players.

Everything is very close together in this Center Parcs, which is great if you don’t like to walk or have a toddler. But I do like to walk, and I like to investigate places. There’s no investigating to be had at this location. There aren’t any places to walk to and sit and relax and people watch. This was problem number one for me. I love to people watch. The lake was tiny. You could hire boats and pedalows but you’d be done within 5 minutes.

We found, on the map, an area called ‘Nature Area’. I eagerly got my camera and headed off to walk and find it. Within 15 minutes we found a scummy pond with a bench by it, and two chavvy girls having a cheeky smoke. Yes, I know it’s a new location, but knowing what I know about the other Center Parcs, I was a little disappointed.

There are no golfing or country club type areas. There’s no rustic pub in the midst of the trees. It’s all in one place and just felt a little more down market than the others. Yep, I’m a snob, but I like things how I like them when I’ve paid my money.

Don’t worry, I thought, we can spend our spare time in the pool! I was wrong. We headed into the Swimming Paradise, walked past the baby pool, saw the lazy river and ended up by the baby pool. Hang on a minute, we thought – if that’s the baby pool, that means the first pool we walked past was the main pool…… eek! The tiniest pool you’ve ever seen, with a massive depth of 1.5 metres. I could stand at the ‘deep’ end without my chin going into the water….. The pool wasn’t full with people but you couldn’t swim in it, or do anything much at all. One of the things I love about the other Subtropical Swimming Paradise locations is that you can lie on your back and see the sky and clouds, but this one was just a concrete box with a roof. Blah!

Yes, guys and gals – that’s the WHOLE pool (note people standing at the far end)

We waited for the waves and then headed to the outside bit. Outside was river rapids but not many places to frolick in the outside water, before the tide swept you all the way around and then back inside….. great. This pool does have some inflatible flume rides, but they’re not my cup of tea. And there’s only so many times you can do that before you’ve ‘done’ it.

We found ourselves wishing we were back in the Aqua Sana pool, but resolved to spend the day of our return home in our gym pool instead!

The restaurants were okay, but it always bothered me that they replaced most of their ‘home grown’ restaurants with chains like Cafe Rouge and Strada which are the kind of places we actively avoid when home. Various issues like slow service and hairs in our food (and other people’s) were experienced but I was impressed by some of the restaurants choices for lactose intolerant diners. The Sports Bar even had a seperate menu, though I was able to eat from the usual menu most of the time with the help of my handy lactase tablets. There was a good choice of ‘healthy’ options, however one thing the place was screaming for was a juice and smoothie bar.

Our visit was relaxing and enjoyable. We were forced to do a lot of sitting around and wandering, which was nice. It’s reignited my like of swimming, and since I pay for a gym membership with a lovely inside and outdoor pool area, I’m glad I’ll be making good use of it in the months going forward. We still spent our time doing activities (playing pool, mini golf, gaming in the arcades) and chilling out, but overall Gary and I both felt a little disappointed. Mainly because we know how good a Center Parcs can be, and this just wasn’t. I really look forward to coming to a Center Parcs with my book club girls, partners and kids – but it might have to be to a different location if we want to get our money’s worth.

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