Written by Louise. Wednesday, May 6th, 2015
Earlier this year I found out I have an intolerance to dairy. It was so confusing at first and I thought going away anywhere would be a huge fuss and too much trouble. I finally plucked up the courage two months into being dairy free, to book a weekend away to Center Parcs.
I had never been to Center Parcs before and I was so excited to be going away for a weekend break to Center Parcs Longleat. We had a lovely villa, with quite a big kitchen and two fridges. There was eight of us in total, but one person was vegan so we kept the dairy free and vegan food in a separate fridge to the rest of our friends.
Research, planning and preparation
I made a trip to my local supermarket in Sheffield to get some necessities for the six hour car journey to Longleat. I spent £15 in total on dairy free products such as Rebel Kitchen chocolate mylk, Violife, BFree Wraps, Newburn Bakehouse, pom bear crisps, etc.
I also had some ilumi ready meals in the cupboard, so I packed them in my bag as they were perfect to take with me to Center Parcs. I baked some delicious dairy free brownies for the car journey down, as I knew my friends would also be snacking on dairy-containing cakes.
The week before I researched which supermarkets were a short drive away. I wanted to make sure I also had some food for the six hour journey back home on the Monday. We did take a quick trip to ASDA on the Saturday morning, where I bought some more necessities.
I didn’t know this until we arrived, but one of the girls had bought pizza bases, cheese, and sauce etc. so that we could all have a pizza night. Luckily, I’d packed a dairy free pizza base, vegan cheese and more so I could join in with them all. It was great.
I also knew I would need a quick breakfast each morning because the weekend was going to be packed with activities. I’d brought Newburn Bakehouse lemon and poppy seed muffins with me, which were perfect to just grab and go.
The on-site shop was brilliant. I hadn’t really expected there to be anything specifically free-from, I just thought there would be products that are naturally dairy free. There was a specific free-from section with bread, baking mixes, biscuits, cereal and more. I also noticed Amy’s Kitchen products in the frozen section. My vegan friend and I decided to have something together to save money, we opted for a pasta sauce which was vegan, pasta and some garlic bread which was suitable for both of us!
Eating out at a restaurant
On the Saturday night we went to an on-site restaurant called Huck’s American Bar and Grill. I was a little nervous about ordering because I didn’t want to annoy anyone in my group. I was pleased there was a vegan in our group though, I knew she’d ask for the vegan menu. This gave me the opportunity to mention my dairy intolerance. The waitress was friendly and tried her best to help, she said they didn’t have a dairy free menu but they did have separate gluten free and lactose free menus. This confused me because even though I know the difference between lactose free and dairy free, I didn’t know if I was able to eat anything from the lactose free menu.
I then had the idea of comparing the lactose free menu to the vegan menu, as vegans don’t eat dairy. I noticed the chips were on both of the menus, so I knew I’d be able to have those. There was chicken on the lactose free menu, which said it had nothing else on it but to be safe I asked for no dressings on the salad. I really enjoyed my meal, even though I was cautious at first. The vegan in my group went for vegetable fajitas which looked amazing.
On the Sunday morning we all went to the on-site restaurant, The Pancake House. I’d heard good things about how they cater for vegans and other dietary requirements. I prefer savoury, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I opted for the Breakfast Pancake. When I mentioned that I’m dairy intolerant, the waitress said I could have my pancake made using soya milk. I also asked for no sausage, as sometimes they contain milk. I was extremely full afterwards, but it was worth it.
I don’t think I realised how much planning, research and preparation goes into going away since living dairy free. I’d like to think I was quite organised, I did well with avoiding dairy for the majority of the weekend. On the Saturday evening I did feel unwell, but I’ve now come to the conclusion it may have been due to cross-contamination.
The weekend was so tiring, but at the same time I really enjoyed it. I’d definitely love to go back to Center Parcs again. It’s brilliant how far the free-from industry has come and how well establishments now cater for us.