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Last Minute Centreparcs Advice - Elveden Forest

31 replies

Tartegnin · 03/07/2004 12:34

We're off on Saturday for our first Centreparcs holiday - and boy do we need it! We're spending the weekend in Cambridge first - any ideas where best to stock up on some goodies and essentials before we get there (we're thinking a big M&S might do us)? Also, any other advice on what to bring or not to bring would be helpful. For example, will we need some mosquito plug ins or is that not an issue?

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boudicca · 03/07/2004 12:40

my advice would be to get any activities that you want to do booked as soon as you can,my sister managed to pre-book over the phone once,if you can't do that then get to the book in desk( which I think was by the pool)as soon as you can get parked!

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tiamaria · 03/07/2004 12:43

Tartegnin - It's been about 3 years since I last went to Center Parcs. I don't know the Cambridge area so I can't help you there. As for things to bring; we try to take a fairly full cool bag of fridge essentials (milk, yogurts, butter, eggs, etc) together with other basics such as cereals, pasta, fruit and veg. We normally go to CP at Easter, October and other winter months, so I don't know about mosquito plug ins. I enjoyed our stay at Elveden one Easter. It was a late booking but as we'd been to Longleat several times we knew what to expect. We always take our own bikes (and bike locks!), too. HTH.

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boudicca · 03/07/2004 12:46

Hope you enjoy yourselves.I've had a few visits there before the fire,always came away wishing I could stay longer.You might need to watch out for the swans!they often decide to visit and if the sliding door is left open they come in!We had one in for the whole afternoon once,we didn't like to shoo it out as it kept hissing at us so we gave up in the end and let it watch the TV!!after an hour or so it just left,not so much as a 'thank you',I guess it didn't think much of our choice of progs!

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tiamaria · 03/07/2004 12:48

boudicca - You're right, I forgot that bit! If you want to have a massage, pedicure, reflexology or anything, you have to book in advance if poss and if not as soon as you get there! Make a daily calendar with times and names on like a family calendar as you need to think of who needs to be where in order to take kids to and from their activities. That'll help you to work out when you're able to do your own stuff.

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mummytosteven · 03/07/2004 13:09

IIRC Cambridge has a bit M&S in the city centre. Not sure about any other supermarkets. Cambridge also has quite a good range of shops and a big shopping centre. If books are what you would class as essentials, there is a big Borders off the main square .Cambridge also has a nice weekend market, plus a Monsoon sale shop.

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mummytosteven · 03/07/2004 13:09

Oops meant a big M & S. must preview before I post {slapped wrist!)

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sis · 03/07/2004 14:08

The shop on site is pretty good so you don't really need to take anything with you. They leave a washing up sponge and a sachet of washing up liquid (for the first day only) and they also provide a few teabags, instant coffee, sugar and long life milk to help you through the first few hours.

On the bikes, we hired them and two of the three were stolen and apparently a lot of private bikes do tend to get stolen so be wary. You may want to take your own bike locks if you have any as they don't hire them out and you have to buy them for about £1.50 each.

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boudicca · 03/07/2004 14:22

I don't seem to remember them providing T-towls,might be wrong tho,and if you need one of the baby 'buggy'bikes you need to be at the head of the queue!

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boudicca · 03/07/2004 14:25

Also there's a big Sainsburys in Thetford for stocking up at.

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sis · 03/07/2004 20:02

They provided one teatowel when we went earlier this month - we were in a comfort villa (ie the most basic type).

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babster · 03/07/2004 20:42

We didn't get any washing up liquid or sponge provided either. There's a newish Asda in Cambridge which is handy for clothes and food shopping - M&S isn't so convenient as there are 2 stores in town so menswear/womenswear are in different places.

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juniper68 · 03/07/2004 20:52

I loved it at Elveden when we went 7 years ago. 2 kids later we now go to the more local Oasis at Penrith. What I liked about Elveden though is it's easy to bike there, not too hilly and lots of nice areas to walk in.

I don't remember there being mosquitos?? The supermarket isn't too expensive but I'd ditto booking restaurants/treatments etc in advance. I usually just take washing up liquid extra tea towel, towels, swing bin liners etc..

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sis · 03/07/2004 23:28

That's strange Babster as we've been about four times now and each time I forget that they provide a washing up sponge and take one with me!

Tartegnin, if you are going with children who are light sleepers, you may want to take some blackout material for the windows although at least now, at Elveden, the curtains are lined (they didn't use to be!) and definately take a bathmat as they do not provide one.

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foxinsocks · 03/07/2004 23:48

don't remember mosquitos (and I went last year so I'm sure I would have remembered!). Bathmat a very good idea sis - I always forget that!

I always forget boots and the dungaree waterproofs (mine always head off into the forests). I would definitely get some nice ready meals from M&S for a few nights. The shop is well stocked but I hate cooking every night on holiday (like I have to do at home) and the shop can be quite expensive, so its nice to have some decent ready meals to fall back on. I always take extra swimming costumes in case the ones from yesterday haven't dried out fully (because sometimes we swim late in the day).

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Tartegnin · 04/07/2004 10:43

This is what I LOVE about Mumsnet - in 24 hours I have loads of useful information from you all. Thanks so much - it's really helpful. My husband and I both work, and we're exhausted - that's why I'm probably investing a lot more hope on this holiday than usual. We really want time to relax with our DD (almost 5 years old). My in-laws are coming, too, and since we live abroad, we're also counting on lots of "quality time" with them. We've booked loads (maybe too much!) in advance thanks to advice on this board. Now, I'm making my shopping list based on your good advice. Good to know about the M&S in Cambridge and ready-meals sound perfect. And yes, Mummytoseven, we definitely consider books an essential and are really looking forward to a good snoop around the book shop - thanks for the Borders tip. Considering what a success this thread has been, think I'll push my luck and start a new one to solicit good holiday book recommendations!

THANKS AGAIN ALL MUMSNETTERS FOR THE GREAT INFO!

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dis · 05/07/2004 16:19

Mummytosteven - where's the Monsoon sale shop in Cambridge? Like the sound of that

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Galaxy · 10/07/2004 00:30

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boudicca · 10/07/2004 00:39

As far as I can recall you can indeed continue to use the Parc facilities after you have vacated your chalet.

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boudicca · 10/07/2004 00:41

you have to park the car back in the car park too

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Galaxy · 10/07/2004 00:47

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Tartegnin · 15/07/2004 12:44

First, a big thanks to all the mumsnetters on all the great advice you offered. We're now back from Centerparcs (Elveden) so a not-so-brief summary, in case it's helpful (especially, maybe to Galaxy leaving soon!)

Background: we went for one week (Monday-Monday) staying in a three bedroom executive villa - four adults (me, DH, DD (aged almost 5) and DH's parents).

Overall: Great holiday - even with so-so weather. I would DEFINITELY go again.

Villa: We were in No. 953, a newer built villa near the country club/spa. It was very comfy - three nice sized bedrooms (two double and one with 2 twin beds), each bedroom with its own small television, wardrobe and bathroom including tub - one with jacuzzi. Decent sized living room with two couches, coffee tables, tv and telephone, and a small fireplace. Good sized kitchen well equipped with full oven/stove, microwave, dishwasher and enough plates/bowls/flatware/pots/utensils to suit basic cooking/eating. A dining area (living room, kitchen and dining area all open-plan) with a table and six chairs. A small patio with a plastic table and six chairs, and a small outdoor sauna. We had daily maid service, and towels were changed three times in the week, and sheets twice. What we really loved about the villa was that it felt really seculded, even though we were in a row with a whole set of others - it's really well planned. I would stay in this newer area again - it's quite quiet and the cleaning lady said these are about the nicest villas (she strongly advised against the "comfort villas". It was also nice to be near the spa, but it's a pretty long way to the central square and facilities, which made us reluctant to go back and forth too often.

Activities/childcare: there was more to do in a week than we could possibly have taken advantage of. I think this was the reason that none of the facilities felt over crowded, despite the huge number of villas (which seemed pretty well booked). People were spread out all over. We tried a bunch of spa activities - the general spa is great: a series of steam/heat/meditation rooms and a heated outdoor pool with water jets, and I would highly recommend one of the three hour sessions (they were running a special of 16 pounds per person if you had a child booked in one of the children's programs for that time) - but especially in the evening (6-9 pm) when it was a lot quieter. I was less impressed by the treatments, which are quite expensive and should be top-class but were instead kind of mediocre. I had an ok massage, Hopi ear candles (don't bother!), manicure and pedicure. My husband had a massage (better than mine) and a facial which, by his description, was pretty lame. By the way, the manicure/pedicures are in the central village part, not at the spa, and so less "luxe" feeling. I would use the spa again, but probably pass on treatments. We did pre-book some treatments, and it was pretty diffcult to add others while on site - they book really quickly, especially on weekends - so if you want something despite cost/quality factor, try to book it ahead. I also took advantage of a jazz dance class, which was lots of fun and not too difficult. My husband and father in law did the birds of prey - fun and interesting. Our daughter did a few Time Out sessions in the Cricket club - they are 2-3 hours long and have a general theme which drives the crafts and other projects. She liked them, and the facility and staff were quite nice. I felt very confident about leaving her there. She also did a couple of "parent accompanied" activities: Teddy Bear's picnic, Canopy Play and Animal all-sorts, each of which was ok, but pretty short. We also took her twice to the free children's entertainment in the afternoon, which was an interesting puppet show of Cinderella one day, and a balloon animal guy the other. She really enjoyed the main playground, which was a nice facility for little ones, but not too comfy for adults (they need to add some more/better seating!) The much-advertised water facility was nice but smaller than I imagined. Still, we had to tear our daughter away every day - she loved it, and it was not as crowded as I had feared. The lockers and changing rooms are quite well planned, including a series of family changing rooms with extra space so you can all go in together. We went to a film in the small theater one rainy day - a decent selection for all ages/tastes, but seemed the same every day, so if you are a big film goer, it might be too limited.

Bikes: we left renting bikes until pretty late, which was a mistake, because getting around by bike made it a lot easier to navigate the large territory. Since it's pretty flat, this was easy, even if you're not a great cyclist. We rented regular adult bikes, and on the back of mine was an extra children's bike attached (like a full bike, but minus the front wheel, if you can imagine - kind of like a tandem bike, but she had her own pedals/gears, and it bends in the middle for going around corners). That worked really well, and you can rent helmets and buy locks if you don't have your own. There still seemed to be plenty available to rent, even though we did it late, but I think if you wanted to rent one of the buggies to attach to the back (brilliant for smaller children) or a three-wheeler (great for older adults), I think it would have been a problem. Anyway, I wish we had gotten bikes straight away. I don't know what the lines would have been like on day 1, but it was really easy to return on the last day, without any huge lines at all.

Food/shops: restaurants were the one area I think Centerparcs let us down. Other than La Sapiniere, which is a "French" restaurant with a decent menu and good wine list, and the Indian restaurant, which was attractive and quite tasty, the other restaurants had poor service, not great decor, mediocre food and high prices for what you get. We tried most of them and would definitely not go again - I think in hindsight we should have done a bit more self-catering, as it was more pleasant to sit at the villa - especially when the weather let you sit outside. The on-site supermarket was impressive - not very large but very well stocked, and with some prepared foods (like grilled chickens) to take out as well, and a decent bakery section. There's also a large Sainsbury's not far away, and we also brought in a bunch of M&S goodies for cocktail time. I would try to steer clear from most of the restaurants, but book Indian and La Sapiniere to break it up a bit. There is also a fast food type place called Platform 5 which is at least predictably "bad" (hot dogs, chips, jacket potatos) and self serve, so it's quick. The coffee place was also pretty good to get a decent espresso to stay or to go (take it to go and sit by the lake - so much nicer!) Other shops were quite good, including a swim supply store with a bit of everything you might need, and a very nice sweets shop strategically placed in the middle of everything so you can't take your kids anywhere without passing it! There are a decent selection of toilettries/books/magazines and medicines in the grocery store. The big disappoint to us was the toy store, which has an emphasis on tv character "I need one of those" toys rather than things to play with or do something with. Otherwise, we found the general selection of shops quite good and the prices pretty fair.

Other: we used the laundry facility once to do a load of laundry - it's pretty small (four machines, I think) but I only saw one other person there the day I did our load. The load capacity is very large, so what I thought would be two loads was fine for one, and ditto for the drier - you need pound coins to operate - two for the wash and one for the drier, and supposedly, the soap is already in the machine, but this isn't very clear so I added some I brought just in case! They also do service washes for 6 or 9 pounds (depending if you want ironing) to deliver back to your villa, which I would have done had I known. Still, the wash cycle is short - just 30 minutes, as is the drier. A note about the television programs in our villa: there are regular channels and a few Sky channels (movie, news and a CeeBeebies). Despite the literature all saying that there are no DVD/video players, the shops all sell DVDs and videos, so I am guessing a lot of people must bring their own and hook them up!

That's about all I can think of, but am happy to answer any questions to return the favor others have done me!

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Tartegnin · 15/07/2004 12:47

One more comment, for Galaxy: we stayed in Cambridge for two nights before going, too, which was so lovely. We stayed at the Regent Hotel, which has just reopened and was a perfect combo of stylish and child-friendly, just in case you're looking for a place to stay, still. We ate dinner one night at Brown's which was also very child friendly and a good menu! The M&S food store in town is perfect for stocking up on goodies, and, at least when we were there, was offering free cooler bags for certain purchases - very convenient! We also stopped at a large Waitrose on the city outskirts, but had I known how well the Centerparcs supermarket was stocked, I probably wouldn't have bothered.

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Tartegnin · 15/07/2004 12:50

and yet one more note: don't know where the "winky face" came from in my long post - I didn't put it there on purpose and it's no comment on the comfort villas, other than to pass on what the cleaning lady, who's seen them all, told me!

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bundle · 15/07/2004 12:50

didn't you find it expensive? for what it is, I mean

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Tartegnin · 15/07/2004 20:21

It really depends what you're comparing to. We spent twice as much on our holiday at Forte Village in Sardinia last year, but only one bedroom and even though breakfast and dinner were included, we spend more during the day on expensive extras. Although at Elveden the accommodations weren't luxurious, we had three private en suite bedrooms plus the living room and the kitchen. I found the basic cost of the accommodations pretty reasonable. Some of the extras were on the expensive side (especially at the spa), but with some planning and not to much "sacrifice" you could control the extra costs. For example, bring you own bikes, self caater, use the "free' facilities like the pool and the entertainment and enjoy the attractive woods, and use some of the reasonably priced activities. Anyway, on balance, for five people, I thought the total came out pretty reasonably.

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