Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Center Parcs - Day ? (I forget)

It's Tuesday morning, and, for my sins, it's raining. We've had rain on and off this holiday, but were fortunate yesterday in that it was only overcast. Yes fortunate to have coldish overcast weather instead of rain - you can see I've been in England too long.

We got fresh towels delivered yesterday - hurrah! Without even asking. I'm not sure how often that happens withing a week's stay, but I was overjoyed. The two cleaning ladies that arrived to do the maid service (they exist!) were rather nice and did a good job of cleaning up in the kitchen, packing the dish washer, and giving the bathroom a once-over. They even did a bit of vacuuming. I think over the weekend we were stuck with one cleaner on her own, the very glamorous 17-year-old (or so she looked) Tammy. Tammy told me she only does the kitchen and the bathroom, and the look in her eyes made it clear that I had better not ask for anything beyond that.

Yesterday we ventured down to the lake, and saw all sorts of outdoor activities, like zip slides and tree climbing things designed for zealous active sorts who have a taste for danger. The children's activity playground, for children aged four and over, looked genuinely fun. Roberto and I even had a go at the seated zip slide. Imagine a woman with a large backside, sun glasses, and impractical MBT's screaming loudly - and that would be me.

I've had some comments and a couple of emails about why we chose this place, I mean, considering how much I'm complaining. I didn't want to put Julia onto a plane again (getting to and through airports alone being an enormous schlep), and wanted somewhere not too far from home in terms of travel, for a week away.

In retrospect we probably should have gone abroad to avoid this miserable weather. Plus, as it turns out, this place isn't really suited to babies. I say that and yet I see plenty of people walking around with their prams looking perfectly happy. Rather, let me rephrase: if you are coming here to take advantage of the biking (it is the preferred means of travel to get around this place, which is rather large), it's not really ideal if you have a young baby.

The villa, although suffering from a case of bad taste interior decorating, is perfectly comfortable - nice bedding, soft (but thin) towels, and clean(ish). Plus, provided you don't get Tammy, the maid service is fine, though don't expect hotel-like standards.

Restaurants here have been a mixed bag:
Strada: Perfectly nice and in keeping with their goodish Italian chain reputation
The Pancake House: Fine provided you don't order a waffle. It is beyond me why a place that makes pancakes (and rather good ones), would use microwaved waffles. Or at least, that is what mine tasted like, and one that had been microwaved far too long. I had to send it back because it was inedible - think old boot left out in the rain, for 20 years.
Eat in delivery: We've had the Indian and Chinese food and both were very good. The menus were small and consisting only of popular dishes tailored to Western palettes (think sweet and sour and korma's) but those were done to a good spec.
The Sports Cafe: Horrible. We had breakfast there yesterday and they had these potatoes (round sliced and fried) which tasted as though they had been made at some much earlier point, then refrigerated, and then heated up again before serving. The bacon, beautiful Wiltshire bacon (which is famous and from this area), was overcooked to such an extent that you could make a handbag out of it. And the mushrooms and tomato were bland. The egg was good, and would have been even better were it to have come with toast, which it didn't - that was extra. What's worse is that they clearly had good ingredients and managed to destroy them, which is one of the worst possible sins in food preparation.

Service here is pretty good. The workforce appears to be populated by very young people, and they are enthusiastic, patient, and efficient. There are a broad range of activities in and around this place (archery, horse riding, laser combat etc) and in good weather I imagine one gets to fully appreciate the size of the forest with everyone spread out over multiple events. But, if it's pissing down with rain, then everyone gravitates to the indoor communal points, like that bastion of serenity, the Subtropical Swimming Paradise, and you get the aforementioned overcrowded chaos.

I think for future holidays I'd definitely choose a place with better weather, and in terms of opting for a child-friendly hotel/resort (because let's face it, we have to), I'd go for somewhere smaller and less inclined to fill to its capacity. I'd also quite like to have the benefit of self-catering accommodation (strangely beneficial with small children), but with the virtue of hotel services (room service, cleaning, fresh daily towels etc) should I so choose.

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