A first timers review of Center Parcs 

If you live in the UK, you’d have to be living under a rock to have not heard of Center Parcs. Located within forests across the UK, CP is a one stop holiday suitable for all generations. The only catch is relying on the UK weather. After much dillydallying about where to go on holiday this summer (read: leaving things to the last minute), we booked a mid-week stay at CP Elveden Forest.

On a sunny Monday in August, we loaded our two cars with bikes, suitcases and half our kitchen before heading up the M11 to Elveden Forest. Having never been to any of the other Center Parcs in the country – Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, Whinfell Forest in Cumbria, Longleat Forest in Wiltshire and Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire – we had nothing to judge it by. Some described it as a nicer version of Butlins. My cousin Latika and I bravely (yes, bravely!) took our boys to Butlins last summer and I can tell you, comparing Butlins to CP is like comparing £100 an ounce caviar to the stuff you get at Yo Sushi! From the moment we drove into CP, I was completely bowled over by the giant trees that seemed to touch the sky.

Once all the Monday check ins were complete, cars were relegated to the car park for the duration of our 4 day stay and what we were left with was open safe green space. Our lodge (which had its own sauna at the back) had 3 bedrooms, all ensuite, and an open plan kitchen, dining and living room. With multiple restaurants, a beautiful lake, an indoor tropical pool and sports centre (incase it rains), tree climbing, ziplining, laser combat, off road biking, wall climbing, a pottery barn and lots more, CP quite literally has something for everyone and enough activities to exhaust even the most energetic 5 year old! S who had only learnt to ride a bike without stabilisers 2 weeks prior mastered his riding skills as he quite literally flew around CP at every opportunity. I loved the village feel of the place – we took two bikes and hired 3 there, riding everywhere we wanted to go and locking up the bikes in the many cycle parks dotted around CP.

We had beautiful sunny weather for 3 out of 4 days and on the one day it rained, while all the adults chose to stay indoors, S was still adamant he wanted to ride his bike in the rain. As long as there’s fun to be had, nothing stops my 5 year old, even a bit of the typically wet British weather. We spent a lot of time at the Tropical Pool – I lost count of the number of times we went on the rapids which S absolutely loved! We went tree trekking, ziplining across the lake, wall climbing and boating. And while the grown-ups played laser combat, S was entertained in an Alice the Wonderland themed drop-off camp. Win:Win!

If I had to nit-pick, I’d suggest baskets on the bikes – trying to ride to the pool while balancing a bag slung on my shoulder was no easy task. Towels in the pool area would also be a nice touch.
Top tip – You can actually order take out from one of the many local restaurants. Although the food was good, we found very limited vegetarian options (my dad is a vegetarian). At Forresters Inn (one of the nicer bars/restaurants), there was only one vegetarian main option and at Bella Italia, a vegan pizza didn’t include vegan cheese, it was just a pizza without any cheese!! One night we took the car out to a local Indian restaurant and another night we ordered take out and went to pick it up (although they do deliver as well).
Fret not, if you run out of milk there is a supermarket on site (and a Starbucks!) There’s also a gift store and a couple of clothing stores in The Sports Centre. I ventured in to have a look at some sweaters because in very uncharacteristic fashion, I relied on the BBC weather app and didn’t take a jacket or any sweaters for that matter. We live in the UK, always take a jacket and sweater!!

By the end of the 4 days, S had to be cajoled into the car to go home. With a slightly sore bottom from all the bike riding, a bruise on my leg from the wall climbing and adrenaline running through me from the ziplining, I went home thinking I’d definitely go back!

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A quick guide to Istanbul 

Earlier this year we were trying to plan a holiday to the States but somehow it didn’t happen. Instead we each picked a location we really wanted to see. I chose Rome and my mum chose Istanbul. I’d been last year but it was mainly for work so I was looking forward to a lot more touristy/family things this year.

Istanbul doesn’t disappoint. There is so much culture, lots of sites to see and surprisingly, quite a bit for children.

Public transport is super easy, you can get one Istanbulkart and everyone can use it (you don’t need individual cards because you only tap in once). While there are lots of taxi’s, they a) don’t always stop for you b) refuse to take you if your location doesn’t suit them c) insist on a high fare, rather than use the meter, especially if they know you’re desperate.

Things to see:

The blue mosque 

The Aya Sofia 


The stunning tulip display outside the Aya Sofia


The spice market

There’s also Topkapi Palace (but we didn’t make it there), Taksim Square (I didn’t see the big deal), the Grand Bazaar of course and don’t forget a cruise over the Bosphorus river.

Turkish food is amazing. Not so great for vegetarians but a delight for meat eaters.


We did however get a little tired of Turkish food after 3 days so we ventured to Taksim Square and went to Kitchenette which was amazing…I’d definitely recommend visiting it (they also have a branch at Atuturk airport).


My friend Louise lives with her partner in Istanbul and on the Saturday night she convinced us to give Turkish food another go at the famous Develi restaurant. It did not disappoint!


If you’re visiting with kids then head over to Istanbul Mall and check out mini Legoland and Jurassic World (more on this coming soon but here’s a sneak peek).


By day five we were all exhausted and ready to go home.


This cheeky monkey on the other hand was already planning his next vacation while devouring the Turkish Delight samples at the airport.

 

Blessed & Happy

Some of you may have noticed I’ve been a little quiet on the blog for the last 6 weeks. S and I just got back from the most amazing summer holiday. My cousins were getting married back to back and so the whole family decided to make a holiday of it. We flew to India and spent time in Mumbai, Pune and Goa. We then flew across to the Far East and spent time in Manila, Cebu and Hong Kong.

S got to bond with my four nieces and he had the girls wrapped around his little finger. This trip brought me to many realisations but the two most important are just how happy I am and how blessed I am to have the family and friends that I do. And secondly, how happy S is. The only thing a parent wants is to see a beaming smile on their child’s face and that’s all I see on him.

So now we’re back home and back to routine with a summer full of memories to cherish.

What are your summer plans?

Happy Easter

I hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend. We were blessed with great weather here in London last week. The sun was shining, the skies were clear. On Friday, S and I headed down to Surrey to spend an afternoon with a friend and her gorgeous little girl. The kids are only a few months apart and it was so cute to see them playing together, holding hands and of course catching up with my friend R. I spent a lot of time with my awesome cousins this week too. With busy lives and upcoming weddings, we don’t get a chance to catch up as often as I’d like but when we do, it’s always such a laugh!

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I went to a boarding school in Dublin from the age of 14-18 and so was introduced to “Lent”. I’ve never really had the will power to give up anything, or over indulged in anything that I feel the need to give it up but this year I decided to give up carbonated drinks. Initially I thought I’d give up alcohol but then met R and another friend for lunch two days after Shrove Tuesday and was easily convinced why I shouldn’t give up wine and in fact join her and give up carbonated drinks. Maybe it’s a mummy thing! I thought it’d be hard when I was out to dinner and wanted a diet coke but instead I just replaced it with hot water or green tea and it’s felt good.

I’ve had a busy few weeks catching up with things. As of last week, I am a certified life coach…woo hoo! I am currently working towards an NPL (neuro-linguistic programming) and hopefully CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) qualifications. Wish me luck! Essentially these are modules I’ve always wanted to study but somehow never had the chance. I hope to complete them before the end of the year and maybe even add a couple more therapies to my portfolio.

How was your Easter weekend and did you give up anything for Lent?

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“A portrait of my son, once a week, every week, in 2014.”

S is on the far left. I love this picture because it shows the bond between S and my nephews. They love and dote on him even though they’re only slightly older. This is the three of them walking through the garden over the weekend.

We are FAMILY

This is my 100th post! When WordPress reminded me that my last post was my 99th, I was a little taken aback. Sure, many bloggers have written thousands of posts and they post everyday but reaching the 100th mark for me is a milestone 🙂 I wanted to do something special for reaching a century and today happens to be my paternal grandfathers 24 year death anniversary, so what’s a better way than to talk about my family?!

Dada, this post is dedicated to you.

I was 6 when my grandfather passed away but I still remember him vividly. He was blind for 10 years before he passed and so he never actually “saw” me or any of my cousins but he knew who we were. He’d sit in the corner of the kitchen/living area on a big high back chair and he’d often call out my name as I walked into the kitchen. I don’t know how he knew but he did. Since his passing, my grandmother has been the glue that holds our family together. She has 7 children, 18 grandchildren, 6 great-grandchildren and 2 more on the way (and of course daughter-in-laws, son-in-laws, great daughter-in laws and great-son-in-laws).  Personally I think the great-grandchildren are blessed to still have their great-grandmother around. I had my great-grandmother in my life until just before I turned 18.

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Like all families we bicker, but for the most part we’re a pretty close knit bunch. We have an active family chat on Whatsapp and the London cousins often have a cousins bonding evening out. We share a love (and passion) for food, tea and laughing.

I often hear people say “You can’t pick your family but you can pick your friends.” I’m pretty lucky I got a great pick of both.

So Dada today I want to say we’re all thinking of you, we miss you and when many of us are together tonight, I’m sure you’ll smile down on us as you see the united family you created.

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Love Always,

Your children xx

Diwali, festival of lights

Diwali is celebrated once a year in India and marks the start of the Indian New Year. There are many reasons people celebrate Diwali, you can read some of them here.

For a funnier 21st century take on Diwali, this is how a teenager today might describe it:

“So luk, this dude Ram had,
like a big kingdom,
& people liked him
but like his step mom or sumthin,
was kinda weird and she forcd her hubby
to send this Ram to sum jungle or sumthin..
Coz he was goin for 14yrs,
So his wife n bro got along..(U knw just 2 chill)
Bt dude forest was real scary shit..
Was full of devils  n things like dat,
bt dis dude killed thm wid arrows..
Bt den sum bad gangsta- Ravan
pickd up his babe sita..
Dis Dude Ram n his bro got real mad…huh….
So dey got an army of monkeys..
dnt ask hw…
Attackd Ravan
got d babe n returnd home..
People thot atleast dey deserv sumthn
Dey had no bars or clubs or smoke stuff to party…
So they lit lamps..
N this is how it all started..”

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I’d like to wish everyone a safe and prosperous Diwali. May the year ahead be better than the last and filled with love, laughter, gratitude, good health and memories to cherish.

Story of Mum

I recently came across a site called Story of Mum which I love. They have all sorts of ways for moms to get involved and provide you with lots of creative ideas and channels to share your story.

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But one I loved the most was this one. Write one sentence describing what has made you happy each day for a week, then share them here. So here it goes:

Monday 7th October

Seeing S happily settling into his first morning at nursery with no tears.

Tuesday 8th October

An amazing business proposal came my way

Wednesday 9th October

Listening to Sam, my brother, imitating his clearing agent. If you ever need a laugh…

Thursday 10th October

Watching s laugh hysterically in the car, while I make funny faces

Friday 11th October

Hanging out with friends I haven’t spent time with in years, catching up on old memories

Saturday 12th October

Taking a quick walk through Ikoyi Club – a family club I practically grew up in – so many happy memories and having dinner with my family.

Sunday 13th October

My darling  boy – everyday he does something funny, silly and cute. Almost everyday he also tests my patience but seeing him grow and watching him learn new things everyday makes me so very happy.

What makes you happy?

Our Peppa Pig World Adventure

Last Wednesday I took S to Peppa Pig World with my 2 cousins and their kids. To be honest he’s a little young for it and he doesn’t know who Peppa Pig is but I figured it’d be a nice day out for him and he’d enjoy being with the other kids.

PPW is located within Paulton’s Park in Southampton (about 100-120 minutes from London). We aimed to leave around 8:45am but after stopping off for coffee then turning around because 2 of us forgot our prams (I know, I know I can hear you ask how did we forget one of the most essential things?!) we finally left the NW3/NW8 area at around 9:30am. It was a nice drive out of London and all the way down the M3. We were at PPW at about midday (after my 2 cousins dropped their stuff off at their hotel).

As soon as we walked in, it started raining 😦 Luckily we were all equipped with raincoats, umbrellas and rain covers (you can never trust the British weather!) and thankfully it stopped 15 minutes later and stayed dry for the rest of the day.

I quite liked PPW and S enjoyed himself as well. The only issue we had was the long queues for the rides but seeing as kids are still on summer holidays we couldn’t really ask for better. The kids played in the playground, went on the train ride, tea cup ride, hot air balloon ride, indoor play area and the older children went on the roller coaster and spinning boat ride. I used to love rollercoasters (Thorpe Park and Alton Towers) but this time the tea cup ride left me spinning. Think it’s a sign I’m getting old!! haha

We left at about 4:30pm and headed back to the hotel where all the kids went swimming. We had an early dinner and S and I headed back to London leaving my cousins and the kids with another day at PPW.

I’d suggest taking your own lunch as the selection of food there was very limited. They had two carts that sold mini pizzas, pastries and hotdogs and a small selection of sandwiches inside. Perhaps there are more eateries in Paulton’s Park but in PPW that is all they had.

In my opinion PPW is great for kids 2+ years but I’m still glad we went. It was a fun day out and I’ll be sure to take him again next year. Maybe by then he’ll know who Peppa Pig is 🙂

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Family Fever