A Lifestyle, Travel and Food Blog by Jessica – a Swedish fisherman’s daughter ended up living outside London, England with her husband, three kids and dog. 🇸🇪🇬🇧 Jessica is passionate about writing, food, baking, food, (ahem), travel, the arts, education and Film & TV. Jess most recently completed work on "Drive to Survive" for Netflix. When Jess is not baking, she works as an actress, teacher, voice-over artist and translator.
I’ve said it before – Center Parcs is a Parents Paradise. Everything is set up with little ones in mind. I mean, everything.
I ain’t going to lie though – it’s expensive. One week at Center Parcs easily equals a week’s holiday in the sun somewhere abroad. Coming to, and in some degree, staying at Center Parcs is expensive.
But I guess this is where you’ll have to ponder the pros and cons and decide what’s important for you.
We stayed for a week during the Easter Holidays. We had to queue to check in this time but it was generally smooth and straightforward. It was tricky to find a parking space as it was absolutely rammed but we got there in the end.
The park itself is lovely and the perfect size. Big enough to not feel on top of other people, but you can easily get everywhere on foot.
We stayed in an Executive Dog friendly lodge in the Oak area, close to the Aqua Sana.
We loved our lodge. It was clean and fresh and it had all the amenities you could think of. Bring extra washing up liquid and dishwasher tablets though! They don’t give you enough initially. Also, if you’re staying a week, and is a coffee lover like us, then I suggest you bring some spare coffee pods for the Nespresso machine.
Our lodge was adapted for dogs but you’d never really know – it was really super clean and didn’t smell of dog at all.
We had a two bed lodge this time and it felt very spacious. Each room had an ensuite; one with a shower and one with a jacuzzi bath. The two older kids shared a room and loved it!
There’s an outside area with table and chairs and a BBQ.
The kitchen area was great. Really clean and it had pretty much everything you need for cooking for the family. There is a wine cooler which is a bonus. The freezer is TINY, like a freezer compartment – keep that in mind if you’re bringing food from home.
Not that you need to bring lots of food. I would say bring food for the first night (unless you’re planning to eat out every night) and then top up from the local Parc Market if necessary. It’s a great little shop and has a great variety of products.
What To Do
Honestly, Centre Parcs Woburn has so much to offer. There are loads of outside activities. Boating on the lake, riding your bike everywhere (though it’s quite hilly!), feeding the ducks in the lake, crazy golf, go for a play in the numerous play areas or just go for a walk – you are spoilt for choice!
We brought our bikes and it really worked well for us. Yes, it’s hilly, but our older kids really enjoyed the experience. We learned our lesson from last year and had bought a bike trailer for Maggie and Alife to chill in. (You can find some really nice second hand ones on eBay)
You can pay to do activities too. Jackson, Kiri and Brooks headed to the Falconry Centre for an hour with the big birds. It was an amazing experience; the bird handler really took the time to explain and show how to handle the birds.
We did Aqua jetting again as well as Archery, Climbing, Pottery, Ballet Class, Teddy Bear Making, Maggie and I met the gorgeous Owls.
But the main focus was the Subtropical Swimming Paradise. The kids, and grown-ups loved it here.
There are different zones or splash areas depending on your age and something to suit everyone. The big boys loved the Rapids in particular and the wave pool.
Maggie and Alfie loved the smaller splash area and grew more and more confident in the water each day.
I’ve said it before – there isn’t an actual pool for swimming which is a real shame.
We learned our lesson from last year and so we hired a Cabana to stay in. It’s pricey, but definitely worth it for a welcomed break in the day – particularly if you have a baby or toddler. (Or just need a nap in the middle of the day!) There’s a fan, cold drinks (you get a mini fridge), comfy chairs and a TV. It’s like your very own little beach hut.
In terms of food and drink there’s a Starbucks and Monty’s serving pizza, hot dogs and burger. Not gourmet food but absolutely fine and kids were very happy.
We (okay me and my friend Sarah) fell in love with Leon’s and we had a take away pretty much every day. Loved everything about it. The food is right up our street. We didn’t dine out this stay because, you know, three kids. We used the Parc Market more and cooked at home every night.
The Star performer overall again was Aqua Sana Spa. WORTH. EVERY. DAMN. PENNY. You leave the place feeling really refreshed and rejuvenated. Bliss.
There are these comfy sofas on the sunlit roof terrace overlooking Center Parcs and initially we thought “maybe a bit boring” but no. We snuggled in lapping up the rays and woke up 40 minutes later. I had a lovely manicure too – what a treat!
Wonderful staff, wonderful Spa area – just perfect.
I felt so relaxed. Like I’ve not felt that relaxed in a long time – so happy and content. Of course there were some hiccups, but in general it was all pretty awesome.
We’ll be back.
For us, not having to take the kids anywhere abroad on an airplane was a big bonus.
It’s only a 40 minute drive from our house. Anything that saves travel time is a blessing in this house
We could bring Buddy the dog
There are LOADS of child and toddler activities. All three of our kids would be catered for.
It’s safe and fairly contained. We could let the kids out and play and they were free (within reason obvs) to run around on their own.
We travelled with friends who stayed in the lodge opposite us. This made such a difference as kids and adults alike always had mates to hang out with and we could all split up at times to do different activities.
The Tropical Swimming was a HUGE hit with our kids. We went here every day. It’s also free. (Yay)
No cars are allowed in the village so the kids got to practice their bike riding skills in a safe environment. Having our bikes also meant we all got some exercise every day riding up those steep hills!
The lodges were immaculately cleaned every day.
Staff are generally incredibly lovely and accommodating.
The Aqua Sana Spa is outstanding. You’ll leave floating on clouds.
There are loads of restaurants and take away places to choose from – or make food at home!
The Supermarket onsite is great and has pretty much everything you need. You can also leave the site and head to Tesco’s down the road.
The wine cooler.
It IS expensive. And everything on site is expensive. Captive market and all that. It’s just what it is.
Staff are very young. I felt like the place was run by teenagers. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just a bit odd. Some lacked experiences generally.
It’s very steep and hilly – not ideal for little ones on bikes
They really need to invest in a proper pool area for swimming
The freezer and fridge are tiny, especially if you’re a large family of five. Bring a lot of cupboard ingredients and top up during the week
They were really slow at service – prepare to wait in queue for your food.
Do you have two kids but still have that niggling feeling in your stomach that you’re not quite done?
Do you miss those little butterflies turning into little kicks as your baby grows inside you?
Oh and the baby smell?
Yeah. I hear you. I know because I felt it too. My husband and I talked about it a lot. I told him early on that I’d like a big family.
I’m one of a three and for me it’s the natural set up. With three you’re never lonely; you always have someone who’ll play with you. You can and will learn from your older and younger siblings. Our household was sometimes (often!) crazy and hectic but ultimately very happy. Brooks had a more traditional upbringing (whatever that means?) with one sibling but he was open to the idea of us having a big family.
“So what’s it like having three?”
People ask me this all the time. Well, it’s hard to give a straight answer but here are some of my musings…
1. You’ll be Busy
Yes. You’ll be busy. Always. From now on, just assume you’ll be busy.
(Of course, at the moment it’s also full on as baby Alfie needs our undivided attention with nappy changes and napping and feeding but our other two are a bit more independent. But still, there is Ballet, football practice, guitar lessons, piano lessons, play dates, tennis, TaeKwon-do, Baby Sign class, jabs, Parent evenings, Carol concerts, Nativities, drama performances, dance recitals…. The list is endless.)
If you didn’t know who your friends were before three kids, you definitely will after. You’ll need help with dropping and picking up from school, moral support, pep talks, wine outings and cake sharing… it takes a village and all that!
3. Money Money Money
Makes the world go round right? Yep. There’s a financial impact. You need one more of everything. More food. More clothes. One more room in your hotel on holiday. You’ll need a bigger car. We got a seven seater in order to get the brood around.
We also needed more room in the house. We recently made our attic into two rooms and bathroom and it’s been a lifesaver.
4. I got this.
The main difference I notice in myself is my confidence. I know what I’m doing and people generally leave me to it. Yes, I still get the unsolicited help but it just doesn’t bother me in the same way. It’s hard one to explain, but i feel like a super mum.
5. Pass the coffee
You’ll be tired. Oh so tired. I didn’t realise I could be this tired. But it’s okay, you KNOW it’s just a stage and the kids will grow up and you’ll have other wonderful oddities to battle. Remember, you’ve got this.
6. A messy kitchen is a sign of happiness
Yeah. This one. Just resign yourself to the fact that your house will never be tidy until they’re at least twenty. One part of your house will be squeaky clean and then the children arrive and it’s back to square one. But as they grow they’ll learn to tidy up more. Swings and roundabouts.
7. Washing you say?
Invest in a good Washing Machine, a good Tumble dryer and a large dining/kitchen table that could hold a lot of clothing/washing and a lot of sorting clothes baskets. That’s all I’m going to say on this one.
8. All the love
You’ll feel at the end of your tether, everything’s gone wrong and then suddenly you’ll have three little ones snuggled up in bed with you and all is good in this world.
So yeah. Not an easy decision. After much deliberation my husband and I decided that we would try for number three.
Whilst we feel tired, (oh so tired), skint, stressed and confused at times it’s by far the best decision we ever made. We have all the love and are complete, happy and fulfilled.
I’m obsessed with cake tins. I must have about a dozen already.
I’m prepared for any kind of Cake Tin emergency. You name your party and I bet I have a tin to match.
Some tins are perhaps more obvious than other.
Like my super cute gingerbread man tin and the equally adorable snowman tin. I also have Halloween covered with my Skull and Pumpkin tins.
I also have a Swedish Dala Häst tin, a Crayfish tin, a Darth Vader tin and a Spider man tin.
I also have more “traditional” shaped Socker Kaka cake tins.
Us Swedes do love a Socker kaka. And who can blame us, they’re delicious and easy to make. And goes so well with coffee.
A triple threat type of cake.
A traditional Socker Kaka was one of the first cakes I learned to make.
Speaking of tins, I recently acquired this beauty. How gorgeous?! It’s from the American company Nordic Ware.
But it’s no use having lots of tins if you’re not going to use it so today I tried making a Swedish classic sponge Cake, a Tiger Kaka.
I added some home made hazelnut butter too. We don’t buy the ready made kind… (I’m sure you’ve all seen the super cute banner advert. If not, here you go)
Anyway, adding the hazelnut butter made it even more scrumptious.
Here’s the recipe:
Jessica’s Tiger kaka
4 dl flour
2 1/2 dl caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
Dash of vanilla extract
50 g margarine
1 dl milk or single cream
2 tbsp cacao
2 tbsp hazelnut butter
Heat your oven to 160°C (fan assisted)
Butter your cake tin and add the bread crumbs.
Whisk your butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add your eggs, one at a time.
Mix the dry ingredients, add the milk and gently fold into your butter and sugar mixture.
Put a 1/3 of your batter into a bowl. Mix in the cacao.
Add vanilla to the other batter mix.
Put the vanilla batter into your tin. Add the hazelnut butter into little chunks. And finally, pour over your cacao mixture. Using a fork, gently mix the two different batters and nut butter together. It doesn’t have to be precise.
Put your cake in the bottom part of the oven for about 45-60 minutes.
Check with a cake stick, if the batter comes off the stick then it’s done!
Let the cake cool for 5 minutes inside the tin.
Take the cake out of the tin and let it cool on a rack.
Once cooled you can dust some icing on top or just leave it as it is.