Girls’ weekends are difficult to plan. It’s a fact. Even with the technology that we have and returning to your phone with 134 unread Whatsapp notifications from the girl gang group, finding a time when everyone is free is bloody hard!
But through some utter miracle, myself and my five best girl mates (still friends from school – how have we done that!?) managed it. A weekend at Center Parcs Eleveden for the perfect mixture of fun and complete chill out.
I’ve always had brilliant things to say about Center Parcs. Ever since I was a child I’ve loved the cosiness of the village and excitement of activities, but most importantly having some much needed time away from hectic life. What’s even more brilliant about Center Parcs is their recent dedication for all things gluten free and free from.
In fact at the end of last year, they were awarded Silver in the Restaurant category of the FreeFrom Eating Out Awards 2016. It soon was very obvious why.
Last year I visited their Woburn Park and was blown away by the separate menus, staff understanding, and choice of food in the Parcmarket. It’s wonderful to have a choice of food when dining out, but when you’re staying somewhere as isolated as Center Parcs, this is a necessity, and these guys really do understand that.
On arrival from London with a small suitcase in tow, I was first to arrive at our lodge, taking a short train ride from the city. The trip couldn’t have come at a more perfect time, as I’d had an extremely busy few weeks at work, and in true Loriley style, bolted round the villa jumping, dancing and to let out some steam. Filled with excitement, and feeling like Kate Winslet in The Holiday, my eyes widened as I saw a personal sauna (!!!), pool table, en suite rooms and fluffy white beds. I text the girls, sending an all important video (they were stuck in traffic, so I felt it may help cheer them up!) and settled down with a quick bubble bath and GF beer to begin the weekend in style.
Coming from London with a small case, I didn’t plan any food or bring ANYTHING, but truth is I didn’t need to. The team kindly gifted us some gluten free goodies, inc beer, bread, sausages, biscuits and lots of other household necessities, all available from the Parcmarket on site. So for the first night, after an evening of travel, we decided a night in of pool, prosecco, pizza and matching PJs was in order!
Impressively, the takeaway menu had lots of great GF options, including GF pizza bases, which could be ordered via a quick call from the villa phone.
The next day, we were lucky enough to spot two gorgeous muntjac deer who came super close to nibble on some grapes. We ended up popping by a few more times. We named the Bambi and Bambi’s girlfriend. Pretty damn cute.
Not too hungover, we headed for a spot of yoga at the leisure centre. The class was calming and unwinding, with simple moves suitable for complete beginners. You guys may know I’m a huge yoga fan, so it was nice to do a class that was a little bit different and fitted in with the all important theme of relaxing for the weekend.
A little hungry for some brunch, a quick cycle brought us to the Pancake House which is fully equipped with a separate gluten free menu. The general census was that maple syrup and bacon was a must, and we all tucked in to fuel ourselves for an afternoon of rapids, and pretending to be kids again. The GF pancakes looked just as great as all the others brought out, and seemed just as fluffy as I remembered. I was also super impressed to see the addition of the little ‘gluten free’ flag to help avoid any cross contamination.
The rapids and slides were just as impressive as we all remembered as kids, with the addition of the Cyclone which caused some big laughs and ridiculously hideous photos. Sadly the weather was a little torrential so we had to miss our Tree Top Climbing activity, but were more than happy to spend some extra time in the pool.
By then, we’d built up an appetite again, and my God did we need it. Our reservation at Huck’s American Diner was a perfect spot for over-indulging. Again with a seperate GF menu, we went for a mixture of starters to tuck into which I could eat, including spicy chicken wings and nachos. For mains I opted for steak and chips, but it was a very difficult decision with the likes of fajitas (all gluten free!) on offer.
Our meal was so good, we sadly couldn’t squeeze in a dessert, but equally there were great GF options to be had. I’d recommend the chocolate torte which I managed to squeeze in on my last visit. Staff were extremely understanding, and had no problem at all checking with the chef should we have any questions about gluten free.
On our final full day, we woke up a little later and got started on a group fry up; thanks to the lovely ingredients from the Parcmarket. A little cycle to help our brekkie go down, we then spent the most relaxing day at the parc spa. This is honestly one, if not, the best, spa I’ve been to. Many people I’ve spoken to have also had brilliant things to say about the variety of elements to it. On arrival I was treated to a pedicure by the girls (thanks girls!) and went for a rich festive colour, followed by a back massage.
We then spent the day wandering from sauna to sauna, all which are themed in air types and aromas. Waterbeds and swings provide great places to chill out and read, and the spa cafe also has lots of gluten free options should you get hungry. Thinking light after a weekend of indulging, to suit my environment, I went for a salmon salad and sparkling elderflower water.
Time definitely flies when you’re having fun, as hours later, my best friend and I were still in our robes, toes and fingers getting more wrinkly by the minute. We’d chilled out completely, had some lovely food and even attended a skincare seminar to learn some more about some of the products.
Cycling back in the rain, we all curled up by the fire with a film, and thought another takeaway would go down pretty well. This time I went for a curry, and was thrilled to see that even the onion bahjis were gluten free – so filled my boots! Perfect for our final night before heading back to reality.
I cannot thank Center Parcs enough for inviting us back. It was brilliant to experience another of the resorts, both of now which have lived up to expectations. It was great to explore another resort, and Elveden proved perfect for Wildlife.
I love how Center Parcs is a place that’s so simple to get to and provided everything we were looking for in a girls’ weekend away. Their dedication to gluten free is super impressive, and I look forward to seeing what more they have in store for future.