We got up very late this morning after a great sleep. It had been raining overnight and there was still light rain this morning. Just to keep the kids occupied before we got breakfast, I put the telly on. The tv has 13 channels available, BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4, Channel 5, Center Parcs information, Jetix SKY Kids, CBeebies/BBC3, Sky One, Sky News, ITV2, E4 & TMF. Picture quality on some was poor and there was nothing on the Sky One channel.
We went to the Pancake House for lunch and all had sweet pancakes – hmmm, well we are on holiday. I think we timed it about right, we got there just about 12 noon and it soon started filling up. After about 15 minutes it was raining, so we were glad to be inside. The service was great, as were the pancakes. Between us we had Dutch Apple, Banoffee and Chocolate Heaven. It had stopped raining by the time we left, so that was a plus as well.
As the weather looked to be holding, we rode up to the Nature Centre and although it was drizzling by the time we got there, it wasn’t enough to worry about. We could have sat at the Nature Centre watching the birds on the feeders, but pushed on to the hide at the end of the path (only about 5 minutes away). As we approached the hide, there were signs indicating it was a quiet zone and as we entered the hide we could see why, the feeders were covered in an assortment of birds even though it was now raining. The first that caught my eye was the greater spotted woodpecker right in front of me. We spend the next 35 minutes watching and photographing an assortment of birds including the greater spotted woodpecker, chaffinch, blue tit, jay, blackbirds and moorhen. Unfortunately, there is a Wild Flower Identification guided tour that visitors can join. The tour stopped in the quiet zone right outside the hide, where the guide proceeded to explain about some plant or other, I was trying not to listen, jokes brought plenty of laughs and after they had been there for over 5 minutes we decided to leave the hide, there had been nothing to see except a squirrel since they arrived anyway. We went back to the Nature Centre and watched the feeders there for a while, while the kids examined things under microscopes. After a while we headed back to the villa.
It was raining quite heavily when we headed into the village for 5pm to eat at Huckleberry’s tonight and well all got wet trouser legs and shorts riding there. However when we got there, we we told they didn’t have any tables before 8:30pm and when I asked if this was going to be the case every night was told probably. I should book a table to get one when I wanted. When the fact that there was a Â£1 reservation fee was pointed out, it was agreed that yes, this was the case but that you get it back off the bill. Jo pointed out that the booking system didn’t make that obvious. We used the booking system in Huckleberry’s to make a reservation for tomorrow night. The system is a nightmare if you’re a touch typist like Jo, the system doesn’t use tab to move between fields, so you have to keep using the trackball to move from field to field and press the ‘click’ button. The ‘click’ button is wonderfully positioned, just where the right shift key should have been. Originally we were planning to book for each evening, but realised after having selected 2 adults and 2 children for 3 consecutive nights that it only retained the last date selected. We then had to put in our credit card details to make the booking, I pity anyone not computer literate, we are and we found it frustrating. While we were making our booking, there must have been about 4 or 5 families asking after tables and leaving disappointed. I know the plan your break guide says the tables fill up quickly, but they should make it clear to visitors that there are unlikely to be tables available for evening meals unless you reserve in advance. At Elveden we ate at Hucks most evenings and only had to wait for a table once in 3 visits to Center Parcs, and that was when we arrived after 7pm. We never had to wait if we were there when they opened.
We went over to Strada, the Italian restaurant, where there was a table available. We had a very enjoyable meal, with Jo and I treating ourselves to Gamberonio, butterflied king prawns for starters. Jo had Spigola al forno, seabass stuffed with thyme and fennel, grilled lemon and roasted cubetti potatoes and I had Pollo Romana, panfried chicken breast wrapped in sage and prosciutto served with roasted cubetti potatoes and green beans, with a butter and white wine sauce for our main course. We finished off with pancotto for me and the kids, Jo had Fondonate al Cacaou, sticky chocolate pudding. Our waitress, Julia, was really good, on hand when needed, but not overly so; a credit to the restaurant. We would certainly visit again. It had stopped raining when we left, so that was an improvement. We popped into ParcMarket for some essentials before heading back to the villa. As we had been wet going to Strada, we decided to put the heating on in the villa, unfortunately it wasn’t working; the controller was stuck on 14′C and pressing the over-ride buttons were having no effect.