A weekend after a week at Center Parcs

I chilled.

I probably chilled too much because now I ache.

But I felt allowed to chill because I now know that I’m not as unfit as I’d suspected.

Unhealthy, maybe. Unfit, no.

I went to the Longleat Center Parcs with my father when I was like 9 and loved it. I remember the water rapids at the swimming pool and loving those, and I remember lots of cycling through the woods to get to and from the rapids. I loved the rapids. It’s the rapids I wanted to do.

What with it being my birthday and all, and Kayte and I needing a holiday, we thought ‘why not’ — water rapids! — so we remortgaged and got us a lodge from Monday. We pre-booked our activities otherwise we wouldn’t have done any, and then we hit the road.

Kayte arrived before me, which was nice, and after a little confusion between our lefts and rights, we finally met up in a car park like old times. I transferred my luggage into her car and she drove us to our lodge.

Very pleasant — clean — it smelt very nice. Within 5-minutes the place was covered in pine needles or fir needles, one or the other, but that’s the hazard of living in a forest.

Once Kayte had returned her car to the carpark, we got our bikes, cycled about 300-meters, parked up, and went swimming.

I will admit that I’d bigged this up to myself so much that it was a disappointment. Once I’d realised this, once I’d lowered that expectation, the water rapids — around and around and around — loved them!

After swimming, we grabbed a bite to eat at Bella Italia and discussed Killing Eve. We then got lost on our way back to our lodge because the map they supply is bullshit. It doesn’t help that you can’t cycle everywhere, you’re sort of restricted.

It turns out, to get to our lodge from the pool, it’s a long sort-of-flat bit followed by a steep zig-zag down, then a slightly less steep zig-zag down, around the lake, along steep zig-zag up, and then finally a sort-of-flat bit until we saw the door.

To get back, it was the same route but in reverse. It was 1 down and 2 ups, and somewhere near 12-minutes of hell on earth.

I liked the sort-of-flats, I LOVED the downs, and I only stopped on the ups when I crashed.

On Tuesday, we awoke to this:

Aquaparc. Basically, a bouncy castle on the water. It’s got things to climb over. We got given life-vests. I will admit, the best part was floating like an otter. I wouldn’t mind doing something like this again but on something more challenging than age 6+.

Those Nutella dips with biscuit sticks were reasonably priced in the Parc Market, which turned out to be a Co-op. The bakery’s chocolate brownies at £2.20 each were a £2 brownie but forgivable because they were really good. Everything else, it’s Co-op food, shit. We should’ve done what we intended to do and gone to Waitrose where at least things are edible.

We popped to the pool, went around and around the rapids, and ended up eating at Las Iguanas. By nature, we tend to avoid the place and should’ve stayed away. After a little cycle, Kayte fancied some crazy golf and she thrashed me because I can’t golf for shit. We then cycled back to the lodge and watched Deep State.

Wednesday, this:

I had a quad bike when I lived on the farm, I drove it daily. This brought back so many memories — hauling feed, chasing down sheep, that quad bike smell…

We were the only people and had an instructor each. Kayte had Mr Docile while the lady I had threw herself into corners, bounded up hills, vanished behind thickets. Great time.

Afterwards, we went around and around the rapids, and then cycled back to our lodge. I saw a badger, making it my second seen alive, and they really do look like doorstops.

Thursday, all the ducks in a row:

I found this absolute amazement! Ducks in a row! Until I realised:

I’m an idiot.

Kayte and I did good at badminton. I got a shuttle cock in the eye.

We had lunch at Pancake House, ever been? They serve your savoury and sweet pancakes, waffles, omelettes, together. Fortunately, Kayte noticed and got their weird serving technique tweaked.

Around and around we went around those rapids. I went around many more times than Kayte because I’m addicted to going around and around water rapids. I might have a problem.

To finish our last day we had dinner at Bella Italia, and finally remembered to use our 20% discount voucher. There was a bit of confusion — I was expecting the receipt to say ‘20%’ but it called the discount ‘bounceback’ and that meant little to me.

Friday, out by 10am:

I got up early, around 5:50, had a bit of breakfast, noticed there was life outside at this time in the morning, and was cycling to the car by 6:30. I found the car under a pile of needles, dug it out, and drove it to the lodge. I packed all our luggage, had a cuppa, returned the car to the car park, and was back by 7:50.

I don’t think Kayte enjoyed the cycling as much as I did, and she probably enjoyed less watching me zoom off, but I loved it. Even the hills, in a perverse sort of way, I liked. I found our last cycle from the lodge to the cycle return place emotional.

Within 7-minutes of opening, we were driving through the gates of Longleat Safari. It’s a hell of a long way to the car park through fields and the front lawn of the great house.

I didn’t want to drive my car through the safari because it makes funny noises and I didn’t want to scare the animals.

Kayte didn’t want to drive her car through the safari because the monkeys are naughty and like to damage things.

Because we wanted to see the monkeys, we hopped on the safari bus because who care if that gets damaged? It quickly became clear that we should’ve stayed off. I quite enjoyed myself but the screaming kid got grating.

We also saw pelicans, Anne the elephant’s backside, lions, wolves, a squirrel, and some camels.

My highlight was this sleepy sod:

A koala!

So you see, after that week I was allowed to chill.

Tomos James

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