Another Festive Threesome - More Suffolk

Well, a little more maybe and to be really precise a little bit of Essex and Cambridgeshire too! Yes, we’ve moved sites and our second week sees us at Roseberry Tourist Park in the village of Willingham a few miles north of Cambridge.  It’s a lovely site, nice and open which means that TV and mobile reception is good. It also means that we kop the full force of the winds currently howling across the fens. Poor old Patsy is currently getting buffeted in a way we’ve not seen since our first outing in her - to Wiltshire - in February.

This is the ‘friends & family’ leg of the trip and has become a festive tradition - well, we done it last year anyway. Christmas Day and a fair percentage of the rest - will be spent with Trev’s Mum, AKA HRH but if time allows we hope to catch up with some old - and some not so old - friends too. Regulars & friends will know that Cambridge was our place of birth and home town for many years.

We enjoyed the rest of our time in Suffolk, though we perhaps haven’t thrown ourselves into the sightseeing as enthusiastically as usual. No, it’s not the weather - that’s been pretty good to us, but  a cough, starting the day before we come away, has slowly got worse and finally beat me Sunday afternoon when I went to a walk-in clinic to get it checked out. An overreaction maybe but thanks to (largely dormant) Asthma I’m always extra cautious with any ailment affecting the lungs. Thankfully, the lungs were clear and it’s just a virus. A relief but it does mean I’ve just got to let it run it’s course.  There’s lots of it about though clearly. One bit of advice the GP gave was to ensure I drank plenty of fluids. I said I was already doing that - but didn’t elaborate further….hic…

Right, enough of that and back to the matter in hand. With the last blog completed somewhere around lunchtime, Tuesday afternoon saw us first in Lavenham, another picture postcard Suffolk village - that is if you could take all the cars away, although it’s hardly unique in that respect. That usual gripe aside it is very pretty - and Lavenham’s crooked medieval cottages with exposed timbers have been seen in a number of films and TV programmes too. The last episode of ‘ Lovejoy’ with Ian McShane was film here, as was scenes from a couple of the Harry Potter films - amongst others.

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One of the disadvantages of sightseeing in winter is the light - or lack of it. The sun was already going into hiding when we descended upon Hadleigh for a quick look around. A quick pint - purely for medicinal purposes - was the sum total of our contribution to Hadleigh’s economy before we headed back to base via Long Melford for our regular pre-dinner libation.

Wednesday, and after another late start we headed south and over the border into Essex and the town of Halstead. We’d been though it enough times when visiting Trev’s late sister and brother-in-law in Haverhill and wanted a change from the monotony and/or traffic of the M11. A pleasant enough place but the number of empty shops suggested it had been hit pretty hard by the downturn.  Keen X-Factor watchers - but probably very few others - will know that 2010 winner Matt Cardle is a resident.DSC_000101 (19)

Heading back we stopped at Clare for a stretch and a chippy and paused again  further along the A1092 at Cavendish. Another pretty Suffolk village, Cavendish was where Sue Ryder - having established the Sue Ryder Foundation -  opened her first care home - initially for concentration camp survivors. Her legacy is immense, although sadly she was less than enlightened when it came to homosexuality. As a life peer in the House of Lords she wanted to make it illegal for us lot to have care or custody of a child under eighteen.  Charming.  She is buried in Cavendish with her husband - one Leonard Cheshire, also well known for his charitable work.

We met up with the farm and site owner Odell in the evening for an enjoyable chinwag in the nearby Swan.

An even later start Thursday saw us back in Bury St Edmunds. The original plan had been to go to the cinema late afternoon then get a meal out somewhere but it wouldn't have been fair to inflict my continuing coughing fits on the other customers, so we gave it a miss and had another stroll around town instead procuring some more cheap Christmas lights for Patsy who is now looking very festive indeed.

PA230023Friday saw us heading East again and first to Woodbridge. We were here just over two years ago - on the same day we went to Southwold as mentioned in the previous blog. Then I took what is still one of my favourite pictures - the sun trying to force it’s way through over the quayside:

It was a lot brighter this time as you can see!

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After Woodbridge, Ipswich was next. A gentle meander around the shops was planned but we arrived rather later than intended and by the time we’d negotiated a very busy ring road and found a parking space time was marching on. Not only that but a caffeine fix was long overdue and I was wilting from the contestant hacking coughing, so having picked up what we needed we headed back to the car and off towards the A12.

Our final stop of the day was Colchester- not for sightseeing or shopping but to meet up with my cousin Andy and his wife Janet who’d invited us over for a meal. It was good to catch up again, having not seen them since Twittercamp in October. We’ve not seen much of each other over the years - apart from the inevitable family funerals - but we’re now in regular contact thanks in no small part to our love of caravanning and have met up more times in the last couple of years than in the last twenty. Not only that but Janet is a damn fine cook and the meal was excellent. Andy’s generosity with the scotch after dinner ensured that my cough subsided for a little while - fortunately Trev was driving! It was a very enjoyably evening.

So, our time in Suffolk at Brighthouse Farm was at an end. Saturday morning saw us haul Patsy 50 or so miles along the delightful A14 to Cambridgeshire where we’ll be for a week. So, have a good Christmas and look out for another blog in a week or so. Cheers!

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Another Festive Threesome - Suffolk

Yep, here we go again - it’s the school holidays and we’re away in the caravan. I’m enhancing my green credentials too by recycling and reusing the title from last years’ blog. Either that or I’m suffering form another dose of CBA - I’ll let you decide!

Rosie, our red tug was packed to the gills as we headed over to the storage unit Friday morning, stopping off - as has become customary - for some McCholesterol and coffee.

The generosity of the parents of the kids on our school buses has ensured both  a boozy and gluttonous Christmas and once again shown how much they appreciate what we do. I’m never adverse to having my er, ego stroked…..

It had more or less stopped raining - and the winds had dropped considerably too as we arrived at the storage unit. Patsy was looking cold and not a little dirty  as we’d managed to conjure up enough reasons since her last outing not to go over and wash her.

With pre-flight checks (i.e. tyre pressures) completed we headed off - joining the A24 before cutting across to the M23 and thence on to the M25. Various online sources suggested turning off on the A12 then up through Chelmsford but we’ve been on that road before sans Patsy and it’s a pain in the arse thanks to about 300 roundabouts on the way. Our route - via the M11, A11 and A14, whilst longer was considerably easier and probably used no more fuel.

The site itself  - Brighthouse Farm - sits just outside the village of Lawshall about 7 miles south of Bury St Edmunds. Narrow muddy roads - the sort seemingly so favoured by caravan sites - ensured Patsy truly was a mess by the time we arrived. Thankfully a hosepipe was on hand and we gave her a quick once over before pitching up.

The site itself - a pretty grassed area bordered by trees and with views out over the Suffolk countryside to the village was simply too wet to be used so we ended up on the edge of  a yard on some reasonably hard standing. Not ideal but we still get fantastic views and to date have been blessed with some gorgeous sunrises.


The light was starting to fade by the time all the usual setting up formalities had been completed. The caravan clock was indicating that it was getting very close to grog & grub o’clock so we fired up Rosie and headed back to the village only to find that the pub was shut and didn’t open for another half-an hour. A glance at the clock in the car revealed the simple truth that Patsy’s clock was still set on B.S.T. Numpties!

A short traverse along the A134 brought with it relief in the shape of the Hare Inn before returning to the Swan discovering that the kitchen didn’t open for another half an hour. Still, our meals of choice - burgers - when they arrived were well worth the wait.

Saturday morning was cold, crisp and bright and rather later than intended we coaxed a chilly Rosie in to life, defrosted the windows and headed in to Bury St Edmunds for our first look around, although first on the agenda was breakfast. It was Saturday morning of course and with less than a fortnight to the big day it was predictably fairly busy. We waited for a table in the Debenhams cafe - hardly surprising of course - but waited even longer in the queue for the various artery clogging components that make up a full English to be replenished.  Again, it was worth the wait though. Just as well.

Feeling vaguely human again and somewhat more enthused we headed downstairs and through the gentleman's department to see if there was anything that caught our er, fancy. Plenty in fact although virtually everything I looked at was labelled ‘slim-fit’. Unfortunately, since the only thing thing slim about me these days is my wallet we left empty-handed.

A large market was in full swing - funnily enough in the market square -  with some great looking fruit and veg as well as the more usual Christmas fayre. After a meander around we happened upon the Abbey Gardens - an oasis of calm  a short walk away from the centre.


We overheard an American couple discussing - rather more loudly than was necessary - how it came to be that their little one did not have a coat on. It was clear from the wife’s tome where she thought the blame lay but it was less clear where the coat had been left - back in the car or back in America. Hmm.


After procuring some Xmas lights for Patsy we returned to the car and back for a night in in front of the telly.DSC_0009

Sunday morning - just - saw us in the market town of Sudbury for a rather aimless but relaxed wander around the shops. Sudbury’s claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of some little known painter called Gainsborough - a statue of whom can be found in the market square outside the church.

There was also a caravan dealers on an industrial estate just outside of town which was our next destination have drawn up a short list of things required for her ladyship. A little knowledge can be  a dangerous thing of course and what Google didn’t tell us was that they were closed for three weeks over the Christmas period - something we only discovered when arrived at the securely chained and bolted gates.

What then followed was a cross country rally over to Stowmarket to another dealers  where we found what we wanted - more or less.

Late afternoon saw us in Long Melford for some much needed liquid refreshment - sorry, research - and a promise to return during the day to have a better look at what is an extremely pretty village.

Monday morning and we ere back on the coast, visiting for the second time in two years - Southwold. Nicknamed apparently - Kensington-on-Sea these days it’s prosperity is clear from the types of shops scattered around the town although it appears to remain remarkably down to earth and friendly.

In the middle of all this is the Adnam’s brewery. A visit to the brewery shop left my wallet considerably lighter and the car notably heavier….



Further down the coast towards Felixstowe is Aldeburgh, another charming little coastal town. Fishing huts line the shingle beach offering freshly caught fish.


Composer Benjamin Britten lived and worked here and his legacy is commemorated by an impressive metal sculpture on the beach.


The plan was to eat in on our return from the coast but with vital ingredients forgotten on our shopping list we adjourned back to the Hare Inn for yet another burger.

So, there we are - up to date again. If you haven’t had a Christmas card from us it’s nothing personal. There SHOULD be another blog before the big day, but just in case, let us wish you all a very Happy Christmas. Best wishes to those in our favourite watering hole when home - The Rottingdean Club - and in particular to a Mr Turner. There you go Paul, that’s a pint you owe me!

Take care, and all the best until next time.

Another Twittercamp

Better late than never? Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that after you’ve read it - as this is my  blog of the second Twittercamp of 2014 held at the Caravan Clubs’ Warwick site a couple of weeks ago. For the uninitiated this is where a bunch of Twittering caravanners  - or maybe caravanning twits - I’m not sure - meet up and talk remarkably little about Twitter or caravanning.

We we first to arrive as per usual, taking advantage of the schools extended half-term break to travel up on the Wednesday. The straightforward journey up the A24, around the M25 and up the M40 was trouble free and we were on site around 12:30pm with our tug Rosie acquitting herself well and returning nearly 31mpg. She’s learning. More MPG equals more beer vouchers - or leather coats. More of that later.

The site sits on the inside of Warwick racecourse so you have to cross the track to get to it. Large plastic traction boards help ingress and egress but a missing one ensured one of Patsy’s wheels got submerged in mud and wood chippings.

We picked a pitch near the entrance, because it was close to the facilities and also because we’re basically nosey and could see all the comings and going. More importantly, we’d be able to pounce on our friends when they arrived.

First up - and the only other arrivals of the day were my cousin Andy and his wife Janet who arrived mid afternoon having travelled up from Colchester. It’s at least partially my fault that they got in to caravanning but I’m so glad they did as we now have something in common and spend much more time together than we ever did before.

Some research was needed - clearly - but we played safe (and cheap) and hit the local Wetherspoons for grub, planning to check out some of the local hostelries later on. The beer was so good though - and even cheaper thanks to my last sheet of CAMRA vouchers that we emerged in to the mild damp night a little later than planned. A couple of other establishments were the recipients of our custom on the way back. I should point out that the town is in easy walking distance of the site. Very convenient but I’m not sure my liver or wallet would agree.

It’s fair to say, we were a little sluggish Thursday morning. Andy & Janet had the right idea and feasted on bacon rolls whilst we forced down cereals and toast. Mind you - they were off to the Caravan Show at the NEC and would need all the help they could get. We took the opportunity to stroll in to town, me sporting my new coat. Black leather (obviously) and extremely long and moreover and absolute steal off eBay. I’m sure that’s what the guy though who sold it too. No pictures exist yet  as I’m no good at selfies and having been before during our visits to the Cotswolds in February 2013 we didn’t bother to bring the ‘big’ camera.

We were back at the site in time to welcome Sam & Andy (aka Hubster) to their second Twitercamp and had a good chinwag and catch up whilst enjoying a cuppa and the fruits of Sam’s labours in the kitchen.

Next up was ‘Boss’ aka David with Gary and famous tweeting Caravan Elvis the Elddis, travelling up from Dorset where they had been holidaying. This was Boss’s third twittercamp but Gary’s first although we hope not the last. We got caught up with a few beers later on before hooking up with my cousin for a meal at the Vine - scoped out earlier in the day. The food was good and we were just finishing up as Sam & Andy joined us for a drink - and then another in the Old Fourpenny Shop Hotel on the way back to the site.

Friday was to be our day at the caravan show. David, Sam & Andy joined us in Rosie for the half hour trip up the road to the NEC. It was mercifully quiet compared to our past weekend visits and we even picked up a couple of bits and bobs. We didn’t really look at many caravans, save for Coachman to see what they were doing and Hobby to see why the pik- sorry, travellers like them so much.

The principle reason - for our visit anyway - was Twitter beer o’clock. It was nice to at last put faces to Tranquil Camper and David Bird and we hope to get a chance to meet up for longer soon. Andrew - owner of ‘The Shiny One’ also joined us and would be coming to the site in Warwick on Saturday once his commitments at the show had finished.

Back at the site Alison had arrived with Sid Smiley and so too had Amanda & Allison with their ‘van Gertie. The herd were gathered, we convened by Gertie and fuelled by  a beer or two and more cake, this time from Amanda as well, commenced the quiz put together by Sam & Hubster. Myself and Trev somehow came joint first with David & Garry and fluked the tiebreaker to secure the trophy.

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With it not being warm enough to gather for a BBQ, we met again for the evening meal back at the Vine Inn, this time with Alison's son and his partner joining us along with a friend who was staying at the temporary site at the NEC. Whilst the company was good the food got a mixed reception sadly - some enjoyed it but others didn’t. We adjourned back to the Old Fourpenny Shop Hotel for a de-brief only to find that the ale of choice was on it’s last legs. A swap to the IPA brought some relief, but regardless it was great for us all to be together.IMAG3106

The Saturday was by necessity pretty relaxed. Alison joined me and Trev for breakfast in town and we got the chance for our first good catch up of the weekend. Later on Andrew arrived with ‘The Shiny One’ and Patsy’s pitch was this time the host for more beer and cake.

Six of us dined at the local chippy later on whilst others done their own thing but we all met up again later on in the Four Penny. A place that always seems fairy busy until we arrive when it empties out. How odd! To be fair the fair (sorry!) was in town though but no-one seemed enthused about going so we stayed put. Andrew & David joined us in Patsy for a nightcap later on.

IMAG3113No sooner than had everyone arrived than it was time to start saying goodbye. On the Sunday, Sam & Hubster were the first to leave for their drive back to Dorset. It was great to catch up again and also to get the chance to enjoy Sam’s baking. My cousin was next, heading back to Colchester, then David & Gary for their run north to Leeds.

We met with Amanda & Allison for lunch than had a relaxing afternoon in the ‘van before saying goodbye to Andrew and his gorgeous dog Dougal in the evening. A quiet night in front of the telly and Downton Abbey beckoned, at least until we discovered that we couldn’t get ITV! No amount of repositioning of the aerial would work. Oh well, hardly the end of the world!

IMAG3118Monday saw the last of the departures with Alison heading off first back to Kent. Thank you Ali for all the ale you brought - it was well appreciated, as always!IMAG3128

Last to leave with their ‘van Gertie was Amanda & Allison. They missed out on the spring Twittercamp in Rutland so it was especially great to see them again.

And that, sadly was it. No sooner had our second Twittercamp of the year started and it was over. Thanks to everyone that came and made it another great weekend. In no particular order: Andy, Janet, Sam, Andy, Gary, David, Alison, Amanda, Allison, Andrew. And Dougal. Adam & Jamie couldn’t get booked on the site but it was great to see you both again. Thanks everyone and we’re already looking forward to the next one. Keep Tweeting!

Product Review: Merlin 2 in 1 Mini Vacuum Cleaner

Recently the kind folk at Arnica sent us one of their mini vacuum cleaners for testing, hoping to tap in to the caravan market, so let’s have a look.IMAG3053

First, there’s the main body of the unit with attached cable. Extension tube and handle for upright use, floor brush, fabric brush and crevice tool. Each attachment is a simple push fit in to the main body of the unit.

Cable length is a fairly generous 6 metres which should be plenty for most caravans and the body contains both a cloth and HEPA filter. Power is rated at 1000w so it doesn’t breach new EEC regulations. Yeah, I know. All the appalling things happening in the world and they’re worried about hoovers. Anyway. As you can see it’s finished in black plastic except for the body of the collection chamber, which is purple. Orange green and blue are also available. At around 2 Kilos it’s not too heavy either.

Unexpectedly it’s not made in China, like seemingly everything else but Turkey and looks pretty well put together, although of course, time will tell.

At the risk of stating the obvious, a vacuum cleaners’ prime function is to er, suck. So how good was it? Well, in an entirely unscientific experiment it managed to lift - and hold - one of our copper bottomed saucepans without any bother but the real test would be in actually cleaning. Our caravan was some 20 miles away in storage, with no access to mains electric - and we’d left her pretty clean anyway. The flat was remarkably tidy too - something to do with us being absent for the last few weeks, so that left the car. Half heartedly hoovered out just once on our recent travels it was an ideal subject to test the Merlin on. Grass, dried mud, gravel and other detritus would prove a stern test. So, with photo’s taken we headed outside.

IMAG3075Well, the Merlin acquitted itself pretty well. Using it without any attachments first it picked up most of the loose dirt struggling only with some of the larger  lumps of accumulated gravel and stone There was not enough room to effectively use the carpet attachment so I tried the fabric brush next and this proved quite effective in shifting some of the more ground in dirt. The crevice tool was handy for those gaps between the seats and centre console and was long enough for all but the hardest to reach corners.

Overall, I would say it’s a useful bit of kit. We already have a similar type of in the caravan but this works better, is lighter and the motor is a little quieter too. The lack of a rotating brush in the floor attachment means it’s not going to be as effective as a normal upright unit at home -  but will serve you well as a stand in.  I would recommend that the dust chamber is emptied regularly and the filters cleaned to maintain performance. There are better products on the market - but at a price. At around fifty quid you don’t need a mortgage to  buy this and if you’re in the market for a product of this type I believe you wont go far wrong with a Merlin. The test model will be replacing our current device on board as it certainly performs better.

The Merlin is available from and comes with a two year guarantee.


A Celtic Carry On – Part 12

After nearly seven fantastic weeks our time in Ireland is at an end. As I type we are somewhere between Belfast and Liverpool. It’s an eight hour crossing and we’ve splashed out on a cabin. We’ll see how good Stena Lines’ free Wi-Fi is when I come to send this.

Well, what a great time we’ve had in Downpatrick staying with our friend who is over from Brighton visiting family. Patsy has had a rest too as we’ve been staying in the house. She’s had a wash and a partial polish outside and a spring, well late summer clean inside too.

Right, let’s do the usual and get up to date in this, the last blog on our Ireland tour.

As I said in the last blog, it was raining when we crossed the border into Northern Ireland but it soon eased – until later on anyway. It was a straightforward run, passing through Newry, then Rathrilland where the plethora of Union and Northern Ireland flags left us in no doubt where their loyalties lay.

Lawrence and his family always make us welcome and this time was no different, proving that Northern Irish hospitality is every bit as good as down south – and I’ve got the waistline to prove it. Charlene, Lawrence's’ sister cooked for us most nights and always ensured we waddled back to the house stuffed to the gills.

Rosie, our bright red tug has had a rest too – Lawrence offered to do the driving and we let him. After dinner on the first night – and after the returning rain had cleared – we headed out for a run, pausing first at the Quoile Pondage, which fans of Game of Thrones  may recognise.

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Further on was Strangford, sitting on the southern end of the Lough of the same name.  We watched the ferry, coming from Portoferry on the opposite bank fight the incoming current as it glided across.

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Delamont country park is but a few miles away and after breakfast on the Saturday we took Buster – Lawrence’s dog – for a walk to stretch both his legs and ours.  At various points along the walk are instruments of torture masquerading as exercise equipment and we had a very brief go  on most of them.  A look out point – after a considerable climb – affords truly fantastic views of Strangford Lough below and The Mourne Mountains behind. The fact that it was a beautiful sunny morning helped! It is a lovely park, and the Camping & Caravan Club have a site here too.


The afternoon saw us at the Air Show, further south and on the coast at Newcastle. I’d never been to an air show before so it was all the more fun for me, and what fun too. It seemed an age for the first plane to arrive but things soon got going.

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Highlights for me were the dear old Vulcan, first lumbering up the coast. smoke trailing then performing some truly stunning manoeuvres that belied it’s bulk, and the roar of the Oympus engines as it climbed skyward was something else.

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Following the Vulcan was the Typhoon, newer, smaller and a lot more nimble – and a LOT noisier. The sound was just incredible as the pilot lit the afterburners and sent the plane almost vertical. It was also the most difficult to photograph as it was so damn fast!

The stars of the show were without doubt the Red Arrows. I’ve seen ‘em countless times on the telly of course when they looked impressive enough but in the flesh they really are something.

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It was a great  - and unplanned – afternoon. The rain threatened but the mountains held it at bay and the many people who turned out were certainly rewarded.

Monday saw us at the Titanic Experience in Belfast adjacent to the Harland & Wolf shipyard, where the Titanic was built. Of course much of the story of the Titanic has already been told but you also learn  a lot of Belfast’s history and it’s rise as a big Industrial powerhouse of Britain. There are some very clever audio visual displays and even Titanic aficionados may well learn something new. We thoroughly enjoyed it – not particularly cheap – when you consider they knock you up for parking too, but a must if you visit Belfast.


The afternoon saw us drive – well, Lawrence drive and us relax – around the coast, stopping for a late lunch in Bangor, then catching the ferry back across to Strangford and home.

Tuesday was  blog day, so while I swore at the laptop Trev caught up with some washing and Ironing. later on we walked in to Downpatrick for a mooch around a bit of shopping.

Wednesday saw us on the road again, heading through Belfast and along the Antrim Coast. Some may recall we traversed this route a couple of years ago on our British Isles Tour. It was cold, wet and windy then and we’d hoped to repeat the experience but in better weather.  Sadly not, and having stopped for lunch we headed inland and home where of course, predictably it brightened up!

Thursday saw us lavish some attention on Patsy. Having been washed all over, I polished as much as the roof as I could reach – which wasn’t a lot, even with my gangly arms. Trev took care of the inside and by close of play Her Ladyship was looking spick and span again.

Our last full day in Ireland was pretty relaxed – with nothing more strenuous than an excellent pub lunch with Lawrence and his family.

And so, this morning came and it was time to say goodbye. It has been a fantastic trip – in fact I consider it our best ever. I’ve gone on and on about the scenery – and it has been fantastic – but we’ve seen a lot of Britain and there’s many many pretty parts there too. Of course the roads are generally much quieter here, the sites are excellent and in the vast majority of places you’re treated as a person and not just a tourist or cash cow. There’s one thing however that makes Ireland such a great place to visit – and that’s the people. We’ve met some truly great characters who’ve made us feel so welcome both down south and in the North, that we’re really sad to be leaving. I’m afraid there’s a price to pay for your great hospitality though – we WILL be back, have no doubt!