Review: MyProtein

Eagle-eyed readers will notice this isn’t the first time I’ve reviewed MyProtein but I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to talk about them again for a number of reasons.

The site, which sells a wealth of fitness products from green powders to supplements, energy bars and even headphones, has launched a Women’s Fitness page.

I was really impressed when I saw the amount on offer on the page, there are training plans, articles, recipes and clothing as well as product suggestions for women.

MyProtein kindly allowed me to pick some products to celebrate the launch of the new page.

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First up, my addiction to Tupperware is taking over our kitchen but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to add two KlickBoxes to my collection.

KlickBoxes are made by Buchsteiner, the German company which kick-started my obsession 12 years ago when I first saw them in my exchange student’s school bag.

I love the clasp, the colour, the way you can put in little partitions to fit a different lunch in every day, the amount of space.

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The KlickBoxes are £2.99 each for a large, which is a great price in my opinion. If you’re looking for a handbag-friendly option I’d go for the small as the large are true to their name!

I bet you can’t guess the next product I chose…

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I know, I know – I’m so predictable! But seriously, who wouldn’t choose a 1kg tub of gloriously creamy and delicious almond butter?

For nut butter addicts like me a 1kg tub is a great investment, as long as you don’t look at it like a challenge, which is what I’ve heard people doing *cough*.

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This almond butter isn’t salted but obviously you can add your own if required.

The final product I chose was my favourite coconut oil, which I’m sure you don’t need me to wax lyrical about – I think we can all agree it’s amazing stuff!

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This coconut oil comes in a satisfyingly big tub, all 460g of it. They also do a larger 920g version, which is pretty awesome! Unless you see it as a challenge ;)

Of course, MyProtein has lots more to offer, here are a few things I particularly love about the site:

  • The selection of jerky, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and protein meals (if you’re into making protein-everything from soups to porridge to hot chocolate this is for you!)
  • The detailed information for each product: you’ll find nutritional information, product overviews, suggested uses, ingredients and videos
  • Reviews, especially on all the supplements – though it does make me want to buy them all and become superhuman, like Anna said.
  • The clothing for women – lots of Under Armour, leggings, tanks, hoodies and tech-t-shirts

* Any fellow tupperware hoarders?

* Do you buy fitness gear online or in shops? 

I’m a real mix, once I’ve bought something from a shop and like it (e.g. my trainers) I’m more likely to buy it online. I always like seeing sizing first hand though!

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Hamburg and Lübeck

Hello there! It’s nice to be writing to you back in the comfort of my balance ball chair home in Blighty after a lovely trip abroad.

What isn’t so nice is the – quite frankly – horrific, nasty and all other bad adjectives you can think of stomach bug I picked up at Gatwick airport.

For some reason their swanky new loos have doors that slide open, meaning you have to clasp onto the small lock with your hands (something I always avoid in airports).

The wash basins and hand gel were situated inside the cubicle, which felt like a luxury at the time but seem really stupid planning now all I can stomach is a few crisps.

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Kettle Chips aren’t something I’m usually fussed over but they’re the only thing that I’ve been able to eat without issues since Friday. Yes, since Friday *weeps*.

Anyway, I thought I’d share what Dad and I did in Hamburg during our quick trip there last week.

We left late on Tuesday night and stayed in the Ibis near Gatwick for our 8am flight. We managed to grab some Thai Green Curry before a few hours of sleep.

Our flight left an hour late so we arrived in Hamburg at around 12pm local time and headed straight to our hotel, the Prizeotel, which opened in July!

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I can’t recommend this hotel enough – cheap, comfortable, great location, fab lighting options (always important when reading late at night) and super helpful staff.

And “erotic” sculptures for sale at the reception desk, I’ve spared you a picture!

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After a few minutes of organising my room, I skipped outside to show Dad around the city my sister and I have visited many times since our first school exchanges years ago.

Sadly for my “knowing my way around” boasts the part I first took Dad, the Hafen City, has since undergone huge redevelopment and we took a rather long detour.

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We walked for hours around the city, exploring the streets, harbour and all the glorious water.

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Dad only wears Harley-Davidson t-shirts, which he picks up everytime he’s somewhere new, so was chuffed when we found a Harley shop in the centre of Hamburg.

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I was chuffed to find a new friend – a festive Playmobil man!

We stopped at World Coffee for a pick-us-up before heading to meet my lovely exchange partner Kat at the town hall.

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Dinner was a turkey burger at Boston Burger Bar before we hopped on the subway and headed to Hamburg’s posh district for a walk picking our future dream homes.

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After lots of hugs we said goodbye to Kat and headed back to the hotel for a much needed sleep!

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The following morning, I was super excited to find organic herbal tea for free – I chose an alpine herb blend.

We headed to the main station and caught the first train to Lubeck, a medieval city about 40 minutes away.

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Another of Dad’s passions is geocaching (remember Harry-Dog’s quest?) so we tracked one down to a medieval wall.

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The Niederegger Cafe is a non-negotiable part of any visit to Lubeck. Founded in 1806, the cafe is quaint and full of gorgeous cakes and treats.

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Dad had a buttercream cake while I had a coffee..

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… oh and a piece of cake!

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My first proper piece of cake in oh-so-long and it tasted fabulous. I did suffer for it but it was worth the once-in-a-lifetime of showing my Dad one of my favourite places.

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Fuelled with cake, we explored all around Lubeck, taking in cobbled streets, architecture, Christmas markets and reflections of the city in water.

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We completed another Geocache, which may or may not have involved a little breaking and entering (the key had fallen off its hook).

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As it became dark, we grabbed the train back and went to dinner at ALEX, right on the water.

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My pulled pork salad was alright but the service was awful! I speak relatively good German and so explained to my waiter that I had a severe cheese and milk allergy.

“Oh, sorry to hear that,” he replied. I explained that, yes, it was sad, but actually could be fatal, and he half-heartedly promised to take off bread and salad dressing from my plate.

Of course, when the plate arrived both were on there. I ordered a plate of chips as I was still hungry and, again explaining my allergy, asked for no sauce.

You can imagine my delight when 20 minutes after we’d finished, a tiny pot of chips arrived completely covered in cheese.

Instead of apologising, the waiter insisted I’d asked for “ranch” fries, had to pay for them and should “just eat them”. We managed not to pay for them but I was so cross!

Our final day was rainy and we headed to the Miniatur Wonderland, which made Dad very happy as he’d always wanted to see the model airport.

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It really was incredible, with miniature versions of the airport, the largest model railway in the world, miniature Switzerland and Las Vegas – all experiencing day and night.

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It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in Hamburg, the level of detail is amazing and watching miniature planes land and take off is weirdly mesmerizing.

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A super quick lunch was in order (I went to a salad bar for an egg, tuna and sweetcorn salad while Dad had a curry) before we headed back to the airport.

Our flight was delayed by 30 mins and we spent another 30 mins circling above Gatwick thanks to the delay but it really wasn’t too bad considering.

* How do you deal with difficult waiters?

* Do you like model versions of cities/railways etc? 

* Any tips for killing a stomach bug?

I’m even struggling with water at the moment :(

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Review: Mediterranean Paleo Cooking

For years, my family and I have been convinced that all my allergies would disappear if I lived in the Mediterranean.

My grandmother insisted that we have a Spanish princess in our family tree, who I inherited my olive skin tone, dark eyes and hair from.

I thrive on sunshine, could definitely fit a siesta into my day and adore Mediterranean foods, from olives and tagine to dates, honey, garlic and stuffed peppers.

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Our belief was reinforced when we went to Majorca in 1999 and every single one of my allergies and asthma, eczema and chronic sinusitis disappeared.

This grain, gluten, and dairy intolerant girl wolfed down spaghetti bolognese with cheese on top, with ice cream for dessert, and felt amazing.

From that point, I decided I’d spend at least a good chunk of every summer in the Med, soak in the sunshine and enjoy being ailment free.

Then I fell in love this man:

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A very pale-skinned, auburn-haired guy who frazzles within seconds of seeing sunshine and does the opposite of thriving in hot weather.

We’ve had one ‘hot’ holiday together.. and in was in Denmark. A quick scan of our holiday photos shows I wore a lot of cardigans and jumpers.

Luckily, I’ve found one aspect of the Med we can both enjoy. James may be a big fan of pasta and cheese but Mediterranean Paleo Cooking satisfies both of our culinary needs.

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The book contains more than 150 gluten-free recipes, helpfully split into sections such as breakfast, appetisers, soups, pizza and pasta (!) and desserts.

It begins with a great introduction into Mediterranean food and what we can learn from how people who live there eat and live.

I love how the book is written around Caitlin and Nabil‘s life together, exploring his home culture and the foods lovingly prepared for them by his welcoming family.

Nothing is left for the reader to wonder about in terms of equipment, ingredients and food swaps and there are plenty of adaptation to suit many dietary requirement throughout.

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There are meal plans for those following an autoimmune protocol and a wider paleo diet, showing how the recipes work together over 30 days.

Photography is beautiful in this book, everything looks rich, fresh and you want to dig straight in!

Something I’m always looking for in a paleo cookbook is recipes that aren’t animal-product focused – I often think that’s where the most innovative dishes can be found.

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Of course, the desserts section is meat-free but there are lots of meat-free dishes to keep someone like me occupied.

I’m talking aubergine casserole, savoury sweet potato cakes, pastas and pizza, soups (these contain chicken stock but could be swapped), pitta breads, salads and falafel.

I made three recipes from the book and found them easy, delicious and with no ridiculously expensive or hard to find ingredients – instant wins in my book!

First up, the sesame candies were incredible. I’ve made them twice now and can’t recommend them enough for a sweet, satisfying snack.

The savoury chicken kebabs are delicious, easy-to-make and taste amazing. We’ve made them multiple times, adding courgette to the mix for extra veggies.

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Coconut macaroons were really scrumptious but would have worked much better if I’d followed the recipe instead of guessing quantities.

However, I used the chocolate sauce to coat the macaroon that crumbled off and wow – seriously good.

I really love this book (can you tell?!) and especially appreciate the level of though that’s gone into dietary swaps – it’s so nice to find recipes easily adaptable for many needs.

If you’re into fresh, flavourful dishes that are easy, require no fancy equipment (apart from pasta/pizza recipes which is why I haven’t made them yet) and taste fantastic, I highly recommend this book.

* What’s your favourite cuisine? 

* Do you tend to eat the same meals each week or experiment?

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Out with a bang and heading abroad

Isn’t everything starting to feel festive? We’ve been tag teaming hot water bottles, wrapping presents, listening to Christmas songs and cinnamon-ing everything.

I’m feeling extra excited today because I’m off to German for three days of Christmas markets, wrapping up warm and exploring my second ‘home city’, Hamburg.

My Dad is treating me to the trip while James stays home and looks after Meeko the hamster, who is so ridiculously fluffy and lazy at the moment.

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He’s been snuggling in his bed rather than cuddling with us, hence the lack of a picture of his fluff – I wish I could show you because he’s pretty much doubled in size!

The weekend was pretty work-filled and full-on, I was so busy I didn’t do anything but work from early morning to late evening both days.

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On Saturday I enjoyed a lovely brunch of banana pancakes, raspberries, bacon, almond butter and maple syrup – I’m still totally obsessed by this.

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Dinner, like many recently, was boosted by the festive addition of sprouts. I’ve been buying them on the stalk and can’t get enough of them steamed, roasted and stir fried.

The sprouts went perfectly with a pork bolognese stuffed with carrots, peppers, onions and all the garlic. I’m in cold killing mode so there’s a minimum veggie quota to get through!

Sunday was busy but I was lucky to have a kit carrier all day. Yup, James cheerily lugged my camera and tripod across grass, hills and road as I filmed around Clifton.

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My filming was to mark 150 years of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, one of my favourite parts of the city and we were blessed with incredible light for filming.

After I finished shooting (including a sneak peek of the new visitor centre which is just beautiful), we headed home to edit and wrap up warm before heading out.

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To celebrate 150 years, Bristol’s biggest firework display took off – a 12-minute spectacular to music, with shoots coming above and below the iconic bridge.

We were lucky to watch it on a private veranda at a nearby hotel and I felt so proud to be part of this amazing city.

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Walking home was a bit of a bun fight but we did it with a bit of elbowing and I cracked straight into editing my footage for the best parts of the display while James cooked.

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Leftovers made a hot and tasty end to the weekend, we didn’t start eating until around 10pm but those fireworks made it worth it.

* Do you like sprouts? How do you cook them?

* Are you proud of where you live?

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Eats and Thoughts

Happy Friday to you! Hope you have a rather wonderful weekend, I’m working but crossing my fingers there will still be some fun had.

And hopefully some running! I’ve been glued to my balance ball chair for pretty much all of today and have completed a grand total of zero workouts this week so it’s needed.

This week has been a really busy one work-wise, it started off with a funeral on Monday and to be honest didn’t get any cheerier from that point.

There are few words to describe the double tragedy that happened in Bristol this week, it has been a bit too close to home and utterly heartbreaking.

Reporters are all human, with families, I think people tend to forget that, especially when we’re covering incidents like this. All our thoughts are with her family and friends.

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We can’t help getting emotionally involved and desperately hoping for the best, trying to come up with some way that there will be some good news. Sadly that didn’t happen here.

If you’re local to Bristol, there will be a collection and minute’s silence on Sunday, or you can donate to local postnatal depression charity, Mothers for Mothers.

Moving away from work is tricky because it’s pretty much been all I’ve done this week! We did walk Rufus on Wednesday evening, which was so lovely.

I also managed to hit the library to borrow all the puppy books they have (Operation Puppy 2015 is firmly underway!) and bumped into this art installation.

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Made out of a million pencils,  German artist Kerstin Schultz’s work is pretty amazing – though I’m not sure this chair is overly comfy to sit on!

Eats

I had the best lunch of my entire life on Thursday and I completely neglected to photograph it – very bad blogger!

My artistic talents are zero so you’ll have to picture the deliciousness of two perfectly poached eggs, smoked salmon and beautifully sautéed spinach from BTP.

Otherwise, I’ve been really craving warm, veg-packed dishes as I sit shivering in my thermal underwear in our very cold flat.

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Courgetti with leftover turkey bolognese with basil leaves on top

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All the herbal tea – mainly to warm my cold hands!

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Grilled cod with avocado, salad, tenderstem broccoli and baby leek

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Grilled cod with avocado, salad, sweet potato and red onion

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Avocado with chipolatas, red onion, sprouts and sweet potato

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Banana pancakes, raspberries, almond butter and maple syrup

* Do you have any big plans for 2015?

* How have you been keeping warm?

I’m rocking numerous thermals, a haramaki, and lots of hot drinks and hot water bottles.

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Miles and miles of smiles

**The winner of my Rawr chocolate giveaway is the lovely Besma at Curiously Conscious. Congrats Besma, email me your details to claim your prize!**

Hello there and happy second day of advent! What advent calendar do you have this year? James and I have a Divine one and a Montezumas, which has huge chocs inside!

We put our tiny Christmas tree up last night and everything is beginning to look lovely and festive.IMG_7646To be honest, I haven’t felt like getting too much into the Christmas spirit this year as it’s my first in 15 years without Harry-Dog.

I’m dreading gaps in our traditional Christmas day – watching Harry-Dog open his (and often our!) presents, taking him for a frosty walk with all the family, his little snow boots.

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In my experience, grief – for humans or dogs – can sometimes come as a swift kick to the stomach or the patter of four paws into the bedroom on a Sunday morning.

More on the latter later!

Anyway, this post may have started on a sad note but I promise it is all smiles from now on as I recap the great weekend that just passed.

Friday

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I can’t imagine a better start to Friday than a run with Laureen, Julie and Olivia. Our running crew has officially been named Hill Killers, in homage to our vertiginous routes!

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Dinner was pretty delicious – we made the Savoury Chicken Kebabs from Mediterranean Paleo Cooking, with the addition of courgette and sweet potato fries.

 Saturday

I’d looked forward to Saturday all week as it was the start of our doggy sleepover! We picked up Rufus from his home at 9am and then the walking began.

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We took him all round Ashton Court until all three of us were almost too tired to move, then headed home for a late brunch.

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A certain someone slept for seemingly a few minutes then was ready to play again. After more games, both he and I settled to snooze for a few hours. I was exhausted!

At 4pm we took Rufus with us for a few chores at the library/shops etc then went to Brandon Hill for another long walk.

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There was the most gorgeous sunset over the city and I felt so lucky to have seen the best of Bristol’s parks in one day – from dew in Ashton Court to dusk there.

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Dinner was gluten-free sausages stuffed with onion, gluten-free mustard and ketchup with salad, avocado and sweet potato fries. Very much needed!

We took Rufus for his final walk at around 10.30pm before crashing an hour later. He tried to sneak onto our bed twice but we caught him out each time!

Sunday

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The patter of paws and happy yawns woke us up on Sunday morning and we threw on some clothes to take Rufus out for an early walk.

He drew lines across the wet grass as we played chase then patiently waited with James while I picked up pancake supplies.

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I was a little distracted while making pancakes so they weren’t my best work but still tasted delicious. We made Rufus his beloved boiled egg for breakfast. So cute!

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My Mum arrived just after 12pm and we went for a long walk in Ashton Court again, where it was beautifully warm and sunny.

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Mum tried to take a picture of us with Rufus but he had other ideas! We walked for miles and miles across the park then went to the White Lion terrace for lunch.

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Crisps to start and a huge jacket potato with tuna mayo and salad for each of us – we were all super hungry!

We did a little shopping just before the shops shut then Mum and I took Rufus to the Albion pub (he loves sitting in cafes and pubs) for tea while James watched football.

Rufus was very excited to go home to his owners at 6pm and we had a very quite evening filled with chocolate, reading and snoozing.

It was a rather full on weekend but I was just so happy to have the canine company and spend so much time outside.

The weekend made me realise how much I miss Harry-Dog and am desperate for a dog of our own, sadly our circumstances don’t allow for it at the moment but hopefully soon.

* What advent calendar do you have?

* Where do you like to walk?

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Review: Center Parcs for couples

“Dad, you know when you used to take us to Center Parcs? Did you actually enjoy it, as an adult?”

“Er.. do you want me to be honest? No, not really. It’s more a place for young children and everything was so expensive.”

Imagine my awkward pause after the above conversation before informing Dad that we would soon be heading off to Center Parcs as a couple hoping for a quiet getaway.

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I’m going to be as honest as my Dad and admit James and I were viewing our upcoming trip to Longleat Forest with a little trepidation.

We’d been desperate for a holiday and the price of Center Parcs (under £300 for a lodge that slept six for Mon-Fri) and location (less than an hour away) seemed perfect.

Check-in started at 3pm so in a bid to avoid the queues, we did a big shop at a nearby Waitrose and drove in at around 5pm.

There was a short queue to enter the park and we then navigated the roads up to our lodge, number 588, before parking close and unpacking.

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It was beautifully clean and spacious, with a well equipped kitchen, televisions in the lounge and bedrooms and two bathrooms (one with a bath/shower).

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There were complimentary toiletries and the bathrooms were fine, not too small with great water pressure and temperature.

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Everything was well thought out, with a towel rack for heating wet swimsuits and towels, which were plentiful around the lodge.

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In terms of the bedrooms, there was one double bed and two rooms with twin beds, all made up and clean.

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I was pleasantly surprised to find products in the kitchen, including dishwasher tablets, a cleaning cloth and tea towel.

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The lounge area was comfortable and the kitchen/diner/lounge was open plan so we could chat while one cooked dinner as the other relaxed.

You can guess who did what ;)

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Our lodge was connected to others but it was mostly quiet and peaceful and we had our own patio and BBQ area.

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After dropping the car off at the car park, we picked up our bikes (£25/each for the stay) and cycled the 20 minutes back to our lodge.

In hindsight, our lodge was one of the furthest away and although it was fun and convenient to hire the bikes, it was an expense we could have spared.

We were a 10 minute cycle ride or 25 minute walk to the Plaza, the hub of shops, restaurants, Starbucks and Subtropical Swimming Paradise.

The Parc Market was affordable, with a wide variety of foods (even a gluten-free section), bakery and olive bar, as well as books, magazines and papers.

There was a toy shop, sweet shop, gift shop, clothes shop and swim store with towels to rent if you didn’t want to bring your own for swimming.

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The Subtropical Swimming Paradise was awesome, beautifully heated inside and out with an adult area of the main pool, hot tub, plunge pool and separate area for young children.

As we went outside half term, we were hoping there wouldn’t be too many kids around but alas, there were loads of pre-school toddlers, babies and also post-school teenagers.

Honestly, we were expecting it but it was our major gripe of the holiday. Lots of parents didn’t want to play by the rules, especially in the pool area.

If the baby areas were getting busy, some would simply push their baby/toddler into the adult swimming area (in armbands) and play where we were swimming laps.

Teenagers were also a pain – they’d wallow at the bottom of slides (causing injury to anyone who came down crashing into them) and get steamy in the pool after dark.

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There was also quite selfish behaviour by people of cycle trails and James cut his knee after being forced off a bridge (!) by one group of cyclists that wouldn’t move over.

We kept ourselves entertained by booking one cheap activity a day, doing lots of swimming, reading at our quiet lodge, and relaxing.

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We were impressed by Center Parc’s seasonal activities, which included lots of free activities around the prettily decorated forest.

The firework display over the beach was stunning, lasted for 10 minutes and set to music, with Christmas tunes belting out before and after.

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The Village Square (home to other restaurants, workshops and places to see reindeer and ponies) was decked out with trees, fake snow and fairy lights.

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It definitely put us in a festive mood and the level of effort they went to was really appreciated – not too in your face but pretty and immersing.

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In terms of paid-for activities, we spread out the Treasure Trail over two days (cycling and walking), it was good fun despite a few instructions being inaccurate!

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We hit Pottery Studio to paint our own Christmas tree decorations, it worked out as quite expensive but was worth it.

Our decorations came out well and we were able to spend lots of time choosing what we wanted to paint and painting with a large variety of colours and implements.

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The only downside to the pottery painting was one family with two children: one who ran round the shop smashing things and the other who screamed the whole time.

Thankfully their behaviour was too much for their parents after an hour and they were taken out of the studio – leaving us and other painters in blissful silence.

Our final activity was the pub quiz, which was brilliant. Difficult questions, good atmosphere and a hilarious quizmaster plus well priced drinks and snacks.

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We came to Center Parcs to relax, get away from the grind of work and the city and we achieved all of those things.

I read fiction for the first time in months, we sat down to eat at the table instead of multitasking food with the evening news and slept as we wanted.

It was such a treat to be in the forest, breathing in clear air. Feeling our eyes water as we shot down hills on our bikes, swimming until our legs felt like jelly.

I can’t ignore the behaviour of some guests (though the majority were great) but I think it’s hard to avoid when you choose such a holiday.

Center Parcs makes it easy to spend a lot of money by eating out and booking expensive spa treatments/activities but it’s also easy to keep to a tight budget if you don’t.

Would I recommend it as a romantic couple’s getaway? Perhaps not overly romantic but it was good fun and we had a great time together.

I’d happily go back, James is a bit more on the fence but I think that could change once his knee heals!

* Have you been on a great holiday recently?

* Are you tolerant of naughty children?! 

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