Back in 2012, when I was guesting as a blogger for the Caravan Club having won the loan of an X Trail for a week and 7 night's free sites, we stumbled upon the Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet just outside Chester quite by accident on our return to South Wales from Yorkshire.
We have an outlet like this back home but in all honesty it's about 1/3 of the size with less selection. Add to this all the other retail outlets in one place and it fits the bill very well indeed.
Since 2012 we've been back every year. We don't drag the caravan all the way up just for one night stay, instead opting for a stop in the very conveniently located Travelodge.
The hotel was booked in their Black Friday sale, so we had 25% off the room rate as a head start.
Thursday 8th December
An early start today, Herself has a treatment session booked in WWG Hospital for 8.45am, so in the damp darkness I throw our overnight bag into Vera and make tracks to Carmarthen. On parking up I note that Dick Turpin is doing his rounds in the car park so have no option than to stump up the £1 parking fee.
Herself trots off towards the UV cubicles whilst I settle down in COSTA with a pot of tea. I also had a pastry for breakfast and did an excellent job of covering my tracks by returning the plate to the counter as soon as I'd finished it.
Herself returns and I'm waiting for the thanks for also getting her a takeout americano when she chirps up "Did you enjoy the pastry?" I look all innocent and put on my best "hurt feelings" face for show.
I say "How ........" but am cut short. Herself says "We've been married nearly 25 years, I know you better than you think."
There followed an awkward silence before she added "Well that, and you've got icing sugar all over your goatie!!"
With the rain easing and the clouds starting to part we hit the mid Wales A roads and by the time we've skirted Llandod the sun is burning the grass.
We're just south of Newtown and Herself suggests stopping off for some bacon rolls. After some very severe arm twisting I agree and in no time we're chomping down on some pig in rolls whilst observing the strange comings and goings in the public toilets opposite.
There appear to be many lone male travellers, all desperate for a pee, but all scared to go into the toilets alone, instead waiting for another to arrive, give each other the nod then go in 30 seconds apart, only to come out 10 mins later, again 30 seconds apart!
By noon we are parking up at the mahoosive M&S flagship store in Elsmere Port. Within 90 mins we have shopped for the olds and had a drink in the filthy cafe there. With it still being too early to check in we pop over to Asda in EP to pick up some refreshments for the room this evening and some pastries for breakfast in the morning.
With still more time to spare we park up outside Sports Direct and do some junk shopping before checking into the Travelodge at just gone 3pm.
Travelodges are great at what they do, but my only complaint is that they do not provide anywhere comfy to sit in the room. This means that you always end up lying down on the bed, which inevitably leads to falling asleep.
A few hours flew by before I'm woken by my own snoring, and from the wet patch on my pillow you'd be forgiven for thinking that I'd been subjected to a waterboarding session in my sleep off Bear Grylls!
After a quick scrub up with some Dettol and a wire brush some decent clothes are thrown on and we head off out for dinner. We always eat at Coal up here, and it didn't disappoint. We had a superb evening out.
Some time later we waddle the few yards back to the hotel and crash for the night.
Friday 9 December
After a great night's kip (me only as Herself was disturbed by the bottle bins being filled below at 3.30am) we're up and showered and checking out by 8.45am ready to hit the shops.
First off we call into the visitor's centre and present our Travelodge room card, in return we are given a privilege card that entitles us to 10% off all purchases.
I'm dragged around shop after shop after shop, each one adding to the pile of bags I was humping. At one point I remarked that there were Sherpa's working the lower slopes of Mt Everest carrying less than me !
Aside from the rather painful experience of parting with so much money very quickly, the morning was quite easy, but the closer we got to lunchtime the harder it got, with more and more shoppers arriving. By the time we're nearly finished I tell Herself that if one more person bumps in to me they're going to cop an unfortunate one!
My wallet breaths a sigh of relief at 1pm when Herself announces that we are finished and I waste no time in hurling the bags into Vera's boot and point her nose south.
The traffic is heavy but some aggressive driving ensures that progress is rapid. With a few miles under my belt I start to relax and the pain of open wallet surgery starts to subside.
My relief is shortlived though, as we approach Welshpool and Herself directs me to the car park of The Old Station which has been converted into a retail outlet!
I'm crying inside as we traipse around and Herself seems to have forgotten the £000's that we've just spent op north as she fills the basket like we're just starting out!
Usually the spin back down through Mid Wales is quite enjoyable what with it being a bit scenic, but by the time we're hitting Newtown it's dark and wet. Driving conditions are poor and the next 3 hrs present me with a throbbing headache by the time we're pulling up outside Travels in our Caravan Towers in the early evening.
A very hectic couple of days. Would we do it again? You bet.