Somebody needs to explain to me how travel worked before the internet. Actually I'm well old enough to recall, but I've blocked those memories for my own protection.
Thanks to a brief perusal of TravelPod I came across Sim's Cozy Guesthouse in Chengdu. I wasn't planning to decide on places to stay this far in advance, but I'll make an exception in this case. Instead of staying in a standard big faceless hotel (we'll be seeing enough of those in Beijing and Shanghai I suspect - and to be honest we'll probably be damn glad of the familiarity of those places when we're awash in a sea of culture shock and jet lag) we'll be staying in an altogether friendlier setting. The pictures of the family room look great, and the price (€20 per night for that family room) is superb. These guys have a travel agency as well, and were able to give me advice (and prices) about how to travel to see the Panda breeding zoo near Chengdu, as well as the giant Buddha of Leshan. They'll also be able to set us on our way to the Yangtze river (we'll probably get the hydrofoil to Yichang and the train onwards to Shanghai).
I've already swapped a few emails with these guys and they seem friendly and on the ball. I'm feeling very much vindicated in the decision to go that little bit further West.