Saturday, 26 July 2014

Basingstoke Half Marathon Training Run #4

I need to make a confession. Yesterday at my grandparents' I had a snack-size packet of smarties - I know I said no treats before my birthday but... OK so I have no excuses. They were delicious and I ate them slowly. However, the rest of this week has been 100% clean, although I may have a treat tomorrow on my bff's birthday. I certainly won't be having treat days anymore, I can tell you...
On to the good stuff... On Wednesday evening, Maxx and I decided to go for a run. Our route, which I thought was about 4.2 miles, goes through the village next to ours, past the Civil War ruins and through another village on the way back home. It's picturesque and quiet, passing pretty rows of cottages, a church and a couple of pubs.
We ran the entire way round without a walking rest. Maxx mapped the route when we got home and found it was actually 5 miles! We completed it in 44 minutes, so I'm astounded at our pace - at times, I did run very slowly to catch my breath, so we must have been steaming along the rest of the way! 
My motivation was just right; I was exhausted by the last mile and a half, but I kept telling myself how close we were and how proud I would feel running the entire way. This was a timely boost from Bad News Monday and puts us on track for our training plan ("plan" is used loosely - we're aiming to run 8 miles comfortably by the end of August and 11 miles by the end of September). 

In case you'd forgotten, Maxx and I are fundraising for Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare, aka Hersham Hounds, where my family have adopted 3 of our 5 magnificent goosehounds (to clarify, we don't have 5, but of the 5 we've owned - 3 being deceased - 3 of them have come from WGW). Please sponsor us - WGW is a wonderful charity with over 80 hounds in their capable care:

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Body Fat Update: prepare for misery

Let's cut straight to it. I've put on 3% body fat, from 19.64% in April to 22.75% in July. I don't think I need to express how upset and frustrated I am with myself.

As a blogger who blee-blah-bloos on about fitness and riding and weight training and running etc, I feel like a huge hypocrite for clearly not practicing what I preach. By the same token, I'm human, I've been feeding my gluttonous mouthhole too many treats, and I now need to be honest about this gain.

You do lose muscle when doing excessive amounts of cardio - however, when training for the half marathon in 2012, I was running 2-3 times a week and only weightlifting once a week. I distinctly remember this caused a 3% drop in body fat. There's no way I'm running enough (yet) to be burning up my muscle, so the only thing left to consider is my diet.

I very recently cut down the amount of treats I have on treat day, as this was causing multiple IBS reactions and, quite frankly, the day was becoming a giant binge. I am strict with what I consider a treat, so I wouldn't have a chocolate biscuit and say I ate 100% clean that day (I also wouldn't eat only one biscuit, so bad example), but I've gradually been having less and less clean days

The reason I'm writing this post is because I want people to see the truth - I am slim, fit, healthy, but I also don't achieve my goals all the time. My motivation isn't always 100%. I follow fitness models and athletes for inspiration, but sometimes this is a bad thing as I'm aspiring to look a certain way when these people are sponsored and paid to look like that. It's their career, not just their hobby. I love running and weightlifting, but Ernest will always be my priority. I want people to read my blog and know that, even though I'm a fitness fan, I do know what it's like to think: "F the diet, I want f'ing ice cream and cake and chocolate and cheese and I don't want to work it off after!!!!"

That said, I have a goal I want to achieve. My next BF check is at the beginning of September, so my bestest bf Becky has set me up with a challenge - I have to get to 21% and she has to lose 7lbs. The figure 21% was agreed by Maxx, who wanted it to be sensible and attainable. 

Here's my proactive plan to get my BF back down:
  • No treat days until my birthday, then no treat days unless special occasions. I have a clean eating cookbook now so can cook clean treats if I crave sweet things.
  • Stop squishing my squishy bits because a) it makes Maxx sad and b) it makes me feel bad about myself. I struggle with my body anyway, but this just makes it worse.
  • Prioritise - I can't weightlift, see Ernest, work, work in the evenings, train for a half marathon, and fit in enough sleep. I'm pushing myself to breaking point but, at nearly 24, I need to learn to rest properly. Running needs to come before weightlifting, and I need to get serious about my training. I'm not doing 13.1 miles because it's easy, after all.
Special thanks to Becky and Maxx and The Smiling Assassin for being kind when I was super upset yesterday.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Basingstoke Half Marathon Training Run #3

Last weekend was exhausting but rewarding (to clarify, I’m not talking about Longleat weekend, but 12th and 13th). On Saturday I had my first dressage lesson in years with a top instructor – that’s not to downplay the work my friend has invested in helping Ernest and I – and on Sunday Maxx and I went for a 4.2 mile run.

To put it in the bravest terms possible, I still ache. Yesterday in particular I felt like I’d gone 5 rounds with Mike Tyson (thankfully I’ve still got 100% of both ears).

Saturday was hot and humid; I felt like I was sweating out of my eyeballs (that’s not the same as crying). Ernest was absolutely dripping; I had to hose him from his ears to his hooves. We both worked hard and were rewarded for our efforts, but my gosh did my legs ache the next day! 

So, after the hammering my legs took on Saturday, we decided to go for a longer run on Sunday to start building up our distance. I’d ridden this route before and knew it was relatively flat and picturesque. Sunday afternoon was beautiful, if not steaming, and as we ran buzzards and red kites circled low overhead (they were probably waiting for one of us to drop! By one of us, I mean me). 

Here’s the breakdown of our run:

Run: 19 minutes

Walk: 5 minutes

Run: 10 minutes

Walk: 90 seconds


Maxx: 7 minutes

Me: 5 minutes, 1 minute walk, 1 minute run.

If I’d known I was so close to the end I would have pushed through, but by the end I was exhausted.

The whole 4.2 miles took us 42 ½ minutes – 35 minutes of running in total (for me). We must have been going at a good pace, maybe around 9 minutes/mile. I’m pleased with our run, as it was incredibly hot, but would like to try running for longer, with shorter breaks, next time. 

The inside of my right foot has been painful since Sunday, but I’m not sure why – perhaps it was the longer distance, or the fact I had to run on gravelly terrain to let a car pass... I’m hoping it won’t hinder my next run.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Culture: Longleat Part II (collaboration with BeckyBoops)

Safari Part II: Camelgate (written by Pip)
Camels do not know road safety. Or have any spacial awareness. After feeding the deer, we were about to leave this area of the safari when straight ahead were two camels, one of whom’s head was in a car.

“Haha, look,” I said. “Those camels are really close to that car! His head is in it!”

Silly me. As they approached, I noticed a certain look of intent on their faces, so shut the window just in case. We all assumed they would walk past. Two minutes later, we’re surrounded. All we can see is camel. I was frantically beeping my horn while the others laughed (mainly Becky); I don’t want to say I was panicking, but I could not move the vehicle. One of them tried to move his/her leg and kicked the car! Then there was the suspicious sound of a camel taking something off my aerial -  I think you know where I’m going with this. Andy stuck his hand out of the window and took a photo – no more aerial bumblebee. As I drove off, once they’d effectively mugged me (I felt mugged), I’m pretty sure I ran over a camel hoof. Becky reassured me that they tread on each other’s hooves all the time, so my car would do no harm. Thanks Becky.

BeckyYou are most welcome ;) This was literally the FUNNIEST thing. I dont think any of us have been so close to a camel in our whole lives. Let alone three of them...It was unnerving, but I still couldn't stop laughing.

Big Cats (written by BeckyBoops)
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! (actually, no bears) 

I was really looking forward to the big cats section. Although, to be frank, I didn't think we were going to see much. I was most certainly wrong about that! 

Firstly we came to the tiger enclosure. We were slowly creeping through and we spotted a tiger in the underbrush to our right. As we swung past slowly around a corner, there was another tiger on the side of the road. It decided it was going to have a wander, directly in front of us. We were all quite excited and crazily snapped away as the tiger approached us. I was in awe, the tiger headed straight towards us and walked around the left side of the car. I could have touched it if I had been stupid enough to open my window. Believe me, a big part of me wanted to! The tiger then headed around the back of the car, and peered in at us. Amazing is the only way I can describe this, just amazing. So unbelievably close! 

Next up we had the lions. We were all straining around to spot them, and I managed to see one half hidden in the tall grass to our right. As we followed the track around, we saw more of them, including some super cute cubs! We came around to the exit gate, and noticed a lioness stalking towards the keeper's 4x4. The 4x4 sped up, and the lioness made chase - trying to grab onto the car as it went. I don’t think I've ever seen a lion so active before - usually they're asleep when I've seen them at zoos! I can tell you now, they are fast. And magnificent. And maybe a little bit scary. 

There were two lion prides, and another enclosure which looked to have only very young cubs inside with an adult female. The cubs were very cute and playful - we could just catch a glimpse of some of them playing at the back of their enclosure.

Once we had passed the Lions, we entered into cheetah country. Unfortunately, we did not see many cheetahs. We saw one, who was sitting on top of a wooden shack surrounded by tall grass. We tried to get some pics, however the chain link fence was completely in the way...this was a little bit of an anti-climax, but I'm glad we did actually see one! 

Unluckily, the same non-activity held true for the wolves as well. We did see them, they was all grouped together having a snooze near the fence of their enclosure. All we could see was some cream, white and grey lumps of fur half hidden by grass. I felt a bit bad for Andrew at this point as wolves are one of - if not his absolute - favourite animals. We had been so lucky with all of the others until this point! 

The safari drew to a close, and we headed back to park up and have a nose around the huge manor house.

Pip: Your eyesight is better than Hawkeye's - as soon as we entered the enclosures you said "over there" or "in there". It was impressive just how fast you spotted the wildcats (and wolves). I'm really glad you didn't put your hand out the window... Cleaning up deer food is fine, but I'm not so good with mangled limbs. Going through these enclosures was thrilling, and I think we all thought the tiger was going to climb on the car at one point!

Longleat House (written by Pip)
Your first glimpse of Longleat House is after driving along a two-mile, tree-lined drive. Once you come out of the trees, there it is, nestled among beautifully landscaped gardens.

Longleat House is not dissimilar to other grand old English houses in that it is enormous, ornately furnished and boasts a lengthy history of richer-than-whichever-deity-you-choose-to-worship owners. However, on entering the hall (bigger than most people’s houses), there is a somewhat more personal feel – the Marquis of Bath does actually live in the upper floors, which probably has something to do with it, but there are traces of him throughout the (many) rooms. Photos of him enjoying the safari, with his face painted, or with his children, are scattered, so that while you admire his ancestral home, he is very much there too.

Perhaps my favourite thing is that, among the beautifully executed portraits of his forebears, are portraits and photos of him in garish and colourful jumpers! Something I’ve never noticed before were the authentic portraits of Henry VIII, Charles I, Charles II and his wife Isabella. To a history fan, that was pretty cool!

We found out from one extremely knowledgeable guide that there are over 40,000 books in the House – which are cleaned, every year. Having a library was a sign of wealth centuries ago.

I know some people feel that big old houses are a bit boring and the same, but I really feel Longleat House is much more personal. You can wander around in an hour or linger in the fabulously over-the-top dining rooms, smoking room and bedrooms – just don’t miss it out.

Becky I can't fathom how huge the place is. I mean, my whole house could fit into the entrance hall. Insane! It was really interesting to look around at the mixture of old and new - granted the old overpowered the new, but who could overlook the modern portraits - some of which were done in a very different style to the old, traditional paintings! I was desperate to see the library, unfortunately it was not to be. I had to be content with the huge volume of books lining the walls in the rooms that were open to the public. I really enjoyed this trip, it was a lot of fun.

I hope you enjoyed our first collaboration post! You know what they say - bffs who blog together, stay together.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Culture: Longleat Part I (collaboration with BeckyBoops)

Last weekend, my bff Becky, her boyfriend Andy, Maxx and I went to Longleat. I've been before, but the other 3 hadn't, so I was super excited to take them - Longleat is a massive stately home, but it also has many other fun things, including a safari.
Our all-inclusive tickets were £26.77, saving us 15% as we booked two days in advance online. It was worth every penny.

Adventure Park (written by BeckyBoops)
Aside from the main draw of Longleat Safari, there is an Adventure Park located just behind Longleat House. The park is the main hub of the attraction, with food vendors, a maze, and several animal attractions. There were attractions for the old and the young alike, and some specifically for the young - which we avoided. Like the plague. Though we did have to drag the boys away from it... We collectively decided to spend a bit of time in the adventure park before heading onto greener pastures. After consulting the site map we had a plan of action, and set off into the Jungle Kingdom.

We headed inside, and instantly noticed Meerkats running around - they were very cute and were nipping around peoples feet who were on the path inside the enclosure. The otters were adorable, I'm pretty sure Pip almost cried. We moved around the area, and there were loads of creatures to ooh and ahhh over.

Some of the more unusual animals were extraordinarily cute - in particular the Binturong (third pic along in the strip below) when they were snuggled up having a snooze!

After drinking our fill of the cuteness, we headed through to the Monkey Temple. Unfortunately, there were not many monkeys around that we could see! We passed through into the bird area-desperately trying to avoid being pooped on-and emerged into the area which houses rabbits, guinea pigs, and other smaller animals. The rabbits were gorgeous, but shy - so we weren't able to get a decent pic of those guys unfortunately. 

We eventually found ourselves inside a room which houses a creature that many people have a big fear of. The dreaded tarantula. She was out and people were able to hold her - under the supervision of the keeper. In this area there was also lizards, tortoise and the inside part of the guinea pigs enclosure - there were loads of those little things! 

P.S. Pip is terrified of spiders. She faced her fear and held the tarantula! A big thank you to the keeper for being so calm and understanding.

After the Tarantulas, we headed into the butterfly enclosure. They were beautiful! Loads of different kinds, including one absolutely HUGE one. 

After extracting ourselves from the warm butterfly room, we rushed over to the penguins and sting rays. The penguins were playful and seemed happy to wander around people's feet who were on the path through the enclosure. The sting rays also seemed to relish the attention of the crowd, and proved it by sticking to the surface and popping their noses out of the water!

After we had our fill with these guys, we headed back to the car to embark on the big game safari!
Pip:  I was rather enamored with the otters. One was squeaking at us - it was like he was saying: “Pip, snuggle me”. I definitely did cry a little bit after holding the tarantula. I have never been so scared in my life, but it was a strangely rewarding experience. She was very soft! And yes, the keeper was absolutely great - he knew how to handle the situation by offering to put her half on his hand, half on mine, then put one leg on my hand, then another, then her body, so it wasn't such a shock. And he didn't make me feel silly for being so petrified.

The Beginning (written by Pip)
The entrance to the safari has a car park, so you can get out and admire the giraffes and zebras close-up. At the moment, there are a couple of young giraffes, who were giddy and liked to suddenly burst into trot – probably one of the cutest sights in the world. There was one particularly lazy zebra, whose friend was trying to rouse him from his nap, and just as we were starting to worry the resting zebra lifting his head for about two seconds!

Once we were back in the car, we had a peaceful drive past an Oryx and three rhinoceroses. One rhino was so close, we could hear him nibbling away at the grass! However, that was where our uneventful safari ended…

BeckyIt was amazing to see all of these animals up close - especially the rhino! I could have reached out and touched it if I had wanted to...I also loved seeing the awkward gait of the young giraffes trotting, very adorable!

Feeding the Deer (written by BeckyBoops)
There were loads of deer around, and as we drove up we could see them gathered around the cars ahead of us. At this point we noticed a hut from which you can buy deer food to feed to them - naturally we HAD to do this and bought 2 cups of deer nuts. 

We. Were. Mobbed.

The deer completely surrounded the car, and were so impatient to see if we had food that they would stick their heads in and snuffle about for it - it was all we could do to keep up with the greedy mouths inside the car! It was fun, slobbery, and messy! I think Pip will be finding the deer nuts in her car for the rest of the year now...
"License and registration please ma'am."
Pip:  I would like to say I've cleaned up the car since then... But I haven't. I loved this part of the safari - those deer were not shy! There were heads reaching into the back, heads snuffling me and Becky, and more and more just kept appearing! I could have happily stayed there all day.

Part II coming tomorrow...

Monday, 7 July 2014

Travel Post: Berlin, Germany

Berlin was relaxing, moving, emotional, educational and fun. It definitely deserves it's reputation as a cool city - one third of it's space is 'green', it's incredibly pedestrian and cyclist friendly, and everywhere you look are tattooed, pierced, shaved-headed groups of people (not just teens, either!). We've never seen so few cars in a city!

We stayed at the Ramada Hotel in Alexanderplatz - the staff were really helpful and lovely, the hotel breakfast was incredible (yoghurt, toast, cereal, pancakes, eggs, bacon, cold meats, cheese, fresh fruit...) and the gym was ideal for a basic workout. The room itself was spacious, with a copy of Berliner magazine, a comfy chair, desk and little hanging wardrobe, and the bathroom had a waterfall shower! 

I was warned before we went that Germany doesn't have the best choice of food for vegetarians, but thankfully I didn't find this the case. Near our hotel was Dolores cafe, which does the most delicious vegan, vegetarian and meat burritos, and in the Alexanderplatz station was a Backwerk shop, which has a delicious selection of pastries, fresh bread and sandwiches. We also went to Cafe V in Kreuzberg. So, no problem on the food front. 

I've really struggled to decide which are my top 5 places to visit, as everything we saw was worth seeing. However, for the sake of making this a blog post and not a sermon on the merits of Berlin, here they are...

The Topography of Terror

This sounds like a miserable place to visit, and while the information boards are harrowing and saddening – they detail the rise of Hitler through to the end of the Nazi regime, including the punishment of SS officers and high-up Nazi officials – the place itself is clean, spacious and modern. The Topography of Terror is a memorial site, which people are asked to remember when visiting, so it is peaceful and gives the opportunity to reflect. It doesn’t seem right to say I ‘enjoyed’ going here, but it’s in my top 5 because the experience was poignant - the boards ran along the length of the site, parallel to a length of the Berlin Wall, almost like a double reminder of the effects of dictatorship. As well as describing the devastating history, there are also tales of hope, of people who fought against the Nazis.
Checkpoint Charlie is right next to the Topography. We visited the Black Box museum, which cost just 5 euros each, and saw an alarming video on exactly how the Berlin Wall defences worked. I don't know a lot about the Cold War, but this museum broke it down into easily understandable events.

checkpoint charlie
The Topography of Terror

The German History Museum
The museum itself is a wonderfully pink building, with several temporary and permanent exhibitions, but we went specifically to see one about WWI which was advertised in Berliner magazine. I was curious to see how the war would be represented, and was impressed with how neutral the exhibition was - neither the Allies or Germany were blamed. It was completely absorbing, with thorough descriptions of specific battles, propaganda displays, and artefacts. After this, we went to see the permanent exhibition on Germany under the Nazis - I was quite upset by some of the photographs, particularly of Auschwitz victims. Again, I admired how the museum didn't shy away from this ugly part of its history.
Berlin Cathedral is in front of the museum. The cathedral's museum has some impressive and detailed models of its development from the 19th century until now. As well as being able to climb to the top and look out over Berlin, you can also visit the crypt. We were offered a discounted entry of 4 euros because we couldn't visit the main area of the cathedral, however the service finished while we were there so we got to go in after all.

history museum berlin
German History Museum

Schloss Sanssouci
'Sans souci' translates to 'without worry' in French, appropriate given this was Frederick the Great's summer residence. Situated in picturesque Potsdam, 30 minutes on the train from Alexanderplatz, this royal palace was obviously extravagant, but was much smaller and therefore seemed somewhat homelier. The intricate ceiling designs and floral furniture were truly breathtaking, but the palace was small enough that you didn't become desensitised to the surrounding splendour. Situated a few hundred metres from the palace was a windmill, so we explored that too - I've never been in a windmill before!
There are hourly tours at Sanssouci - you will be told the next entry time when buying your tickets.

sanssouci potsdam
Schloss Sanssouci

Schloss Charlottenburg
Unsurprisingly, this was named after Queen Charlotte! We underestimated how long it would take us to walk from the Reichstag to here, but we finally arrived one rain shower and two hours later. On the way, we saw the victory column which Hitler wanted to place at the entrance to Germania, the city he was planning to build, so the walk itself was pretty if not exhausting. Anyway, the palace was beautiful - the silver table decorations and china plates were priceless, but my favourite part was walking through the gardens and relaxing by the lake. Several ducks and little birds came over to enquire if we had any food, and a heron flew over the water while we were looking out - it was a perfect end to the palace visit. I also enjoyed seeing the mausoleum; it was bigger than I thought it would be!

charlottenburg potsdam
Schloss Charlottenburg

Schloss Cecilienhof
Styled like a Tudor house, this was the last palace built by the Hohenzollern family, who ruled Prussia and Germany until Kaiser Wilhelm's abdication in 1918. It is most famously known for being the location of the Potsdam conference in 1945, where Stalin, Churchill and Truman decided Germany's fate after WWII. It was really special to be in the room where hugely significant political decisions had been made 70 years earlier. There is a peaceful and scenic 2 kilometre walk through Neuer Garten to reach the house, which I'd recommend, as it has woods on one side and a lake on the other.
On the road by Cecilienhof is a bus stop which takes you back into Potsdam in about 15 minutes. 

potsdam conference
Schloss Cecilienhof

Useful tips:
You will need to buy a photography permit - 3 euros per time - at most of the historic buildings and houses.
Most places, including cafes, charge 50 cents to use the toilet, so carry change in case you get desperate.
Specify that you want tap water, or you'll end up paying over 3 euros for a small carafe!
The transport is always on time, easy to use and inexpensive.
You will need to book well in advance to visit the Reichstag. We couldn't visit it because there were no free slots until the week after we'd left.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Basingstoke Half Marathon Training Run #2

Before I begin, my travel post on Berlin will be up tomorrow evening, I promise!

Maxx and I have been tired this week, getting back into the 'home' routine, so we decided to run this evening when we didn't feel we were squeezing it in between other arrangements. We both did a treadmill run on holiday, but thought we'd just do a 20-minute loop tonight and do longer distances during the week. 

I felt really relaxed starting out, which is quite rare for me as I usually need a good mile to warm up. We ran across the field (my favourite part), over the road and towards the pull up bar in a surprisingly fast pace.

When we reached the turning point for home, we agreed to keep going as we were both now in a fast jog. It seemed silly to cut our run short when we were both feeling energised. I felt a bit like Ernest when I take him into a big field, just before he knows I'll let him gallop - anticipating that burst of speed, with the energy bubbling up to the surface. 

I'm genuinely surprised about how good I felt as we ran up the short incline and began our final mile. There was one point when I thought I'd need to stop, as I had a pain in my neck which had given me a headache, but I pushed forward, splitting up the remaining distance into smaller milestones.

Upon rounding the corner towards home, we really let go and ran. I felt elated, hammering along the road like an athlete! There's something gloriously freeing about running full speed along.

We took 30 minutes to run 5K, which equates to a 10-minute mile. It's not my fastest time for a 5K, but given we haven't been regularly training yet I'm happy with this time.

By the end of the month I'd like to be running 5 miles at 9 minute/mile pace.

Please sponsor us - Maxx and I are fundraising for Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

June Round Up

I feel a little bit freaked out that time is going so quickly... I haven't got too many exciting updates to tell you about this month, but generally things seem to be peachy!

I've been at my 'new' job for 2 months on the 5th. I still enjoy it, and now have a pleasurable routine every lunch time - I go to the coffee shop, ignore the fact it's a coffee shop and order a cup of tea, buy some Propercorn 'Sweet and Salty' popcorn (BEST FOOD EVER - I eat a bag every single week day), sit outside and read Anna Karenina.

No new news. Still short, still no dye.

Oui. Non. Fromage. Champignon. Baguette.

SJ Competitions
Ah, now here I have an excellent update - Ernest is all back to normal! Now I'm back from holiday I'm going to book some dressage and showjumping lessons. We did a sneaky crosspole in our dressage saddle the other day...

As I mentioned here, Maxx and I will be running the Basingstoke Half Marathon on October 5th for Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare. I did a treadmill training run on holiday but will be back pounding the pavements later this week. Thank you so much for everyone who has sponsored us already - we've reached 41% of our fundraising target already! If you haven't, please sponsor us: WGW is a brilliant cause and we appreciate any donation you can afford to give.

Body Fat
I'm not too faffed about this. I'm a year behind my goal of 18%, but that's OK. I was thinking just yesterday that over 80% of my body is muscle or bone or the other stringy bits which hold me together, so I don't think I need to worry too much. Plus I'm training for a half marathon again, which drastically reduced my BF last time,

New Country
I am definitely suffering from post-holiday blues. How can a week go so fast? On a positive note, Maxx and I had the best time in Berlin and I'm looking forward to telling you all about it later this week. Maxx has since mentioned that he'd like to visit Luxembourg, whereas next on my 'hit list' is Ireland. We're saving for a house now, so we may not go away somewhere new for a little while. We'll see...