Christmas is without question my absolute favourite time of year. There is just something so magical about it. And I don't think this magic ever disappears, regardless of your age. Several childhood Christmases for me were spent at Center Parcs, so when my parents decided that for Christmas 2014 they would be going to Sherwood Forest Center Parcd in Nottinghamshire, my excitement level rocketed from one thousand to one million in seconds.
If you're a child, Center Parcs at Christmas is just wonderful. Everything is festively decorated, Santa has a grotto all set up so that you can visit him, and there is excitement in the air. It's electric, and you just can't help but buzz with delight that the man dressed all in red will soon be paying you a visit.
So, alongside my sheer delight at the thought of visiting Sherwood Forest again, there was also some apprehension. Were things going to feel the same? Was I going to get just as excited as I would if I were a child? And would I be able to infected the Boy with all my child-like excitement on Christmas Eve?
So it was with baited breath that the Boy & I arrived at Sherwood Forest in December. The minute I indicated and the car turned into the park entrance, all my fears were immediately quashed. The Center Parcs sign was covered in a beautiful blanket of fresh, white (all be it pretend) snow. It was just the prettiest sight to behold, and instantly put us in to an even more jolly mood. The snowy reception continued as we pulled up to the little hut to check ourselves in. A flurry of snowflakes danced in the sky and coated the cars waiting in the queue, with Santa Claus making an appearance to greet guests coming in to the park and bid farewell to those leaving. Any impatience someone would have felt waiting in the long line of cars to check in and start their holiday would instantly have disappeared at that sight.
As is tradition in the Ginger household, the holiday was scattered with events, activities and days out. Mini adventures. We are not a family who does "sitting inside relaxing" very well. If there is somewhere to visit, we will go. If there are friends to see, we will meet up. And if there is a family bowling tournament to be had, we shall play! Boyfriend knows how active we are as a family for doing things, and it was really lovely to take him to all the places surrounding the Center Parc that we had visited previously. Rufford Abbey and the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre were a big hit. The Boy and I wandered for what seemed like hours through the paths leading up to the Major Oak, using his little reference book to identify mushroom and fungi, and then taking it in turns to pose next to Robin Hood's famous hangout.
As I had no doubt they would be, all the staff at Center Parcs were all absolutely lovely and incredibly helpful. We all felt so welcome wherever we went, and any questions that we had were answered and solved with immediacy and due care. In no way did we ever feel like anything was an imposition. The Boy and I ensured we scheduled a date night during the week, which we spent at Huck's (an American-esque restaurant in the Parc center) and me, with eyes bigger than my belly, asked for a "doggy bag" to take some food back to our little cottage. Not. A. Problem. You really do get the impression that staff would bend over backwards to make sure that all guests are happy and smiling, and that was a very comforting thought indeed.
The most magical moment of the week had to be on Boxing Day. For several of the days we had been away, I had got the most horrendous dry cough and had been dosed up on medicine to try and make me feel better. Aside from the occasional day out and trip to the Parc center, I hadn't really ventured outside. Not even to the pool. (Which, consequently, the Boy & Papa Ginger absolutely loved.) On Boxing Day, there was a firework display over the lake near the Pancake House. It had been bitterly cold all day, so bundled up in ever imaginable layer, the Boy and I ventured out.
The display was beautiful, and mid-way through, the snow came fluttering down. It was such a beautiful and romantic moment and I don't think I will ever forget it.
The other asoect that I was really impressed about was the very early morning "Woodland Awakening" (I believe it was called that) walk that Boyfriend and I went on. Led through Sherwood Pines by our guide, we were taught lots about the local wildlife, plants and trees. The knowledge of our guide was amazing, and it's really annoying that I can't remember his name (if you are reading this Sherwood Forest Center Parcs he led the walk on Christmas Eve morning. He was absolutely excellent.) Even though it was the very early morning, we were all engaged and ready to learn about the immediate surroundings, listening to birds singing high up in the trees, and looking out for plants...watching, sniffing and listening.
Center Parcs was just as magical as I remembered - especially in the snow. It really was a fantastic place to spend Christmas. The modernisations of the cottages (at least the one we all stayed in) really added to the cosiness of the place and the family-friendly approach that Center Parcs so wonderfully achieve. Would I spend the festive period here again? Most definitely! Would I recommend it to friends, whether with families or not? Absolutely. My only wish is that there was one literally just down the road from us, because I think I'd be there all the time and never get bored of gazing out at the trees.