Over the last weekend we travelled up to the lake district for a family holiday at the Oasis / Center Parcs resort in Whinfell forest, near Penrith. The location was fantastic – set deep into the forrest, it really did feel like we were miles away from anywhere. This did mean that it was difficult to get a mobile phone signal, though, which made it a bit tricky for folk to meet up after doing separate activities.
Arriving on Friday I was impressed by the reasonably swift check-in process (I think we beat the rush by about half an hour), and the villa we had been booked into was ace. It really was a lovely, log-cabin-esque place to stay for the weekend, with the only downer being the lack of access for my stepfather Steven, who cant walk very far. The girl who took the booking in the call centre obviously had no idea about the location, other than a layout map, so although it was reasonably close to the facilities, it was probably the worst villa available for disabled access. Fortunately that was sorted out with a courtesy electric buggy thing after my mum made a couple of fiesty phone calls. The initial oversight did seem to be the vibe for the whole villiage, though, with disabled access at the pool complex being either non-existant or ill thought out.
After all the unpacking and some food had been sorted out, we ventured to the swimming pool to get a taster of what was available. Disappointingly quite a lot of the pool area was shut down, due to lack of lifeguards, so it got a bit dull after a short while, with only a wave machine and a couple of tame slides on offer. There was also a pair of flumes, but the tubes were pitch black inside, and I don’t mind admitting to being the big fraidy cat – these things were not pleasant at all… I felt like a frickin’ turd being flushed! You couldn’t see a thing, and being swept from side to side as you plunged into the darkness was more horrible than fun.
On Saturday we went out in search of fun and adventure, which came in the shape of badminton and outdoor tennis. After being a bit too vigorous playing the badminton, I was a little less enthusiastic for the hour of tennis. And by the time that was over I was exhausted. Still, in an effort to get my money’s worth I made it to the pool a couple of hours later, only to discover that part of it was closed off again for some reason. Turned out you had to go before 5pm in order to make use of the outdoor flume, which was a bit of a bummer, but I was so shagged out by this point that I didn’t care.
By the time everyone was back in the villa on Saturday evening, we were all pooped and ready for some tasty take-away food. With buttons on the phone to put you through to the restaurant of your choice, we decided on chineese food, put together an order and called up. Turned out that not only was there an extended wait, but you had to go pick it up yourself into the bargain.
Weary but hungry, we decided to scratch the idea of a take-away and set off back to the pool complex for the Rock Legends Cafe – a grill style place that looked promising. Sadly it was really busy, and it took us quite a while before we could get a table. The service and food were spot on once we got there, though – my double burger and fries with a side order of jalapeno peppers went down very well indeed, even if I didn’t have room for all the fries. They even had French’s mustard on the table… that and the jalapeno’s ensured that my whole head felt like it was on fire after the meal, but it was damn tasty all the same.
When I woke up on Sunday morning I was already feeling stiff and sore from all the exertion of the day before, but once my mum had fed us a good breakfast, Fliss, Andy and I headed off to the golf driving range. Fliss was quite decent at it as ever, while I wasn’t as crap as I have been, and even hit one straight down the middle for a couple of hundred yards with the driver. Andy was his usual uncoordinated self, but seemed to enjoy himself all the same. I did have a comedy moment when I switched back to the seven iron from the driver, and took about eight attempts to hit the ball, but fatigue was setting in by that point, so I give myself a free pass. ;o)
Afterwards we had been meaning to meet up with Iain and Ian to go and play paintball, but after going to check out the times it turned out that they were fully booked. Andy was disappointed, but to be honest I wasn’t too bothered – I knew I had an hour of tennis booked with Iain later on that day, and we still had to go swimming before five o’clock to try out the elusive outdoor flume.
Meeting up with Iain and Ian at the sports complex, I decided to have a well earned rest and watched some football with them, while Fliss took Andy off to the arcade to entertain him.
The few hours rest did me good, and I had managed to pick up my enthusiasm for another trip to the pool. The outdoor flume ended up being another let down, though – the water was freezing and you spent most of the time pushing yourself along to keep going… compared to the Sherwood Forest resort, this pool was dire.
Later in the evening, by the time Iain and I had made it to the tennis court, I was feeling totally wrecked. I’ll conceed that I’m pretty unfit, and other than skateboarding and a session or two a week down in the weights room, I don’t really do enough to keep myself in shape. So the weekend was taking its toll by this point, and I’ll never know what kept me going for the 70 minutes we played. After the first game, which I lost after about four deuces, I thought I was going to barf, and when we’d switched ends I just had to stand there and recover before I could serve.
It turned out that not only am I incredibly unfit in a cardiovascular sense, I’m now shit at tennis into the bargain. I played a couple of decent shots, I suppose, but the rest of the time I was just hitting it long or finding the net. It got quite frustrating for me, as other than the final game I don’t think Iain outright won any – I just threw them all away, and only got three first serves in over the course of the set. Pretty terrible play for someone who used to have an awesome serve. Anyhow, it was good to have that kind of run-around on a tennis court again, as it’s been some time since I played to that level, and it’s bound to have helped my fitness along.
Once the tennis was out of the way, we met up with the rest of the family for a meal at the lakeside restaurant, and took part on the pub quiz as we did so. It was quite a good way to end the day, actually, and although the food was so-so, we only missed out on a share of the runner up prize by a point or two.
Monday morning brought absolute chaos trying to get the car back from the car park to the villa to pack up our stuff. In their wisdom they’d closed all the gates on the roads leading to the complex, and we had a good half an hour run-around trying to find a way back in. In the end this left a sour taste in my mouth, and coupled with poor swimming facilities and the relatively expensive cost of doing anything in the complex, I doubt I’ll be going back to a Center Parcs resort.
It was good fun to spend a weekend with the family, but if I do it again it’ll need to be abroad, or at least some place where customer service actually means something.