Destination: Center Parcs

Date: Autumn 1994

The Center Parc in Elveden is a picture of health and happiness. How come me and fellow traveller in life, Giles (pic) ended up in such a situation ? - the girlies wanted a 'healthy weekend'!

Center Parcs are best described as 'Butlins for the middle classes'. Cars have to be kept in a giant car park, except when loading and unloading at your 'chalet'. This is the time that you start to think that you're the odd one out here - everyone else drives a Volvo.

The brochure has pictures of well spaced chalets surrounded by trees and woodland. The trees and woodland are OK, but the chalet spacing is a little more in the 'Grimethorpe Villas' league.

If planning a rave in your chalet, remember that Malcolm and Cressida next door will not hesitate to go running to the camp police if little Tarquin is not asleep by 6.30 pm.

All the chalets have hot water and heating.

Except our boiler was more tempremental than that old gas geyser your grannie had in the bathroom. There is a cosy fireplace, but you have to buy special eco-friendly logs from the shop - at a price.

The site is large, and you really have to rent a bicycle to get around if you don't provide your own. A penny-farthing with a canopy just like in 'The Prisoner' would not look out of place either - if you have one, bring it with you.

Remember the kid at school who was always being run-over in the holidays ? Remember playing football in the street and the same kid tearing down the hill, heading for the fray, with feet on the handlebars yelling "No Brakes ! No Brakes !!" ?? Well, he is now a center parc bicycle repair man. I was lucky enough to get a rattling boneshaker, but one of the girls had a bike with a buckled front wheel and Concorde style stopping distance - take care !

Most sporting activities (apart from swimming) have to be booked and paid for in advance.

Everyone books their sports as soon as they arrive. The only sensible activity of the whole weekend that had not been fully booked was Snooker. This did, of course, suit myself and Giles quite nicely !

There is a lovely heated swimming pool under a glass dome.

If you want to go swimming and it starts raining, get there quick. Everyone heads for the pool, and a queue soon develops to get in the changing rooms. Giles and I gave up waiting, and headed for the BAR that overlooks the pool. The girlies got in after we'd had five rounds (that's about an hour).

There is a well stocked shop for life's little essentials, bars and restaurants, although most people bring their own (health) food.

The place is geared to keeping you on the site. At the time of visting there was no real ale available, and we had to walk an hour to the boozer in the village. Getting a curry entailed a drive to Thetford !

All said and done, Center Parcs should appeal to the families of Middle England who certainly don't want to end up on a cheap package tour which I might be on. I hope they've sorted out the boilers and the bicycles by now, and it should be worth going for some of the woodland scenery alone !

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