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I have stayed at the Hall Garth 4 times now and have never had a bad experience. Stayed in several other hotels over the years but this is definately the best one ever. It is a real country hotel with all the facilities but not too far out in the middle of nowhere if you get what I mean. There is a golf course attached which is great but we prefer to just lounge about, have a good rest. The rooms are spacious and well equipped. Some rooms are located over the courtyard in the stables but these are just as good as the main house apart from you have to walk over for breakfast in the mornings.
The pool, jacuzzi and sauna are brilliant for relaxing in the afternoons. In the evening there is a bar across the courtyard for a few drinks and pub meals if you want to keep the costs down. This is also cheaper than drinking all night in the hotel bar. The hotel restaurant is spacious and warm. Food is Al a carte, excellent everytime, the meals are definately the highlight of a weekend stay here. If you are doing this option then be sure to ask for dinner/bed and breakfast pricing because it works out cheaper than adding the restaurant meal on later. They serve very tasty, resonably priced wine too. Coffee afterwards in the lounge is a must.
We have been here for new years eve once and it was a brilliant night.
I would recommend to telephone at the last minute and ask if they have any DBB deals on as you can often get a really good deal especially if you ring the same day.
The Magimix Robot cafe is a good quality machine that makes great expresso coffee. The main asset is the milk frothing system for very tastey late and cappacino. Beans are loaded in the top, has a lower level marker. The water tray is a little on the small side so if you drink alot of coffee or this is for a large number of people then you will be filling it several times a day. There are several warning lights which flash to tell you when something needs filling or emptying, this is sometimes anoying because you dont know exactly which so you have to check all options.
There are around 6 of us using our machine continually and daily and we have only had one problem since we got it 18 months ago, the frother broke and it had to be sent off to be fixed. This was a set fee of approx £90, the machine itself costs around £270-£300. We never clean or descale it, I know thats bad but it just shows it doesnt need any maintainance!!
The Toshiba Satellite U300-114 is a top of the range laptop computer. The usual high quality that can be expected from a Toshiba product applies here. Bought this to replace my old Toshiba Satellite pro that packed in after about four and a half years. The upgrade is amazing, Intel Centrino core duo, 2 GB RAM and 160 GB hard drive. Also has a DVD writer, very handy for backing up photos ect. My only complaint is Windows Vista, its the bowels of the earth and worse, of course that is not Toshiba's fault. My advice - try to get one with Windows XP on it! I really went for this laptop because of its compactness and it is very lightweight compared to my old one. The mouse buttons are smoother and easier to operate, they seemed to be very labour intensive on older Satellite models. Neat screen size, 3 USB ports. Very easy to insert more RAM, just unscrew the flap on the base of the laptop and push in. Highly recommended, you get the usual Toshiba support system, which to be fair I've never required.
Shaun White snow boarding on Wii is an exciting game tht can be played with either the wrist controler or for much more excitment use the Wi balance board that comes with Wii fit. The balance board and game automatically sinc together so its real easy to get set up. You can select variuos characters to be within the game and there are a number of different courses and events such as downhill and slalom. Its quite tricky at first but easy to learn the actual boarding. To go faster you simply lean forward on the board, to slow down you lean back.
My son was part of a group of youngsters that trialed this game before it was released, each had to answer a set of questions daily for two weeks of playing via a blog on which they could intersct with each other to ask questions and make comments. Having read this regularly I can say that most comments were very positive. Graphics and sound are good. You can perform amazing tricks and race against your friends in parallel screen mode. Most youngsters were in agreement that the game was much more effective when using the balance board.
A friend who regularly goes snowboarding for real has played this game and he says it is very life like, the movements you have to perform are very like those in real snow boarding.
Panasonic TH-42PX80B, 42 inch HD ready, plasma screen TV. 100Hz double scan reduces large area flicker, excellent for fast moving pictures. Has 2 scart and 3 HD HDMI input sockets. Also a RGB PC connection port and SD card slot for viewing photos. Game Mode auto-adjusts image quality suitable to games and includes anti-image retention. Viera Link is compatible with Onkyo and Yamaha home theater systems.
Easy set up, just follow on screen instructions. Instruction manual easy to follow.
Smart black surround, excellent picture and sound quality. I was worried the screen size might be a little too large but am really pleased I opted for this now, it seems quite small now!! Forget an upscalling DVD player too, picture is teriffic from my bog standard Philips DVD recorder. Also you can play HD DVD's via a computer directly to the TV for super quality.
Plasma screens give best quality for SD picture, if you want HD then plasma or LCD displays are good, however plasma is then still better for 42 inch+. I got this quality TV for £520, bargin and worth every penny.
The Pact, another terrific novel by Jodi Picoult. It is a modern day Romeo and Juliet, with a twist and much else thrown in. The jist of the story is that a young girl (Emily) is found dead, the question is was it a suicide pact gone wrong, as claimed by her boyfriend (Chris) or something more sinister. The story is fast moving and utterly griping from the start. The emotions and experiences of the two families involved is brought to life by Picoult in a most remarkable manner. It is about how you can everyday just travel along in life thinking everything is ok, how parents think they know their children and one day suddenly they realised they dont know them at all. All of a sudden their normal, wonderful life is not what it appeared.
Trust me you wont be able to put it down, I cried lots, superb!!
Having read 5 of Picoult's other novels - My Sisters Keeper, Keeping Faith, Nineteen Minutes, The Pact, Second Glance - I have to say that this is one of my favourites. I see it has mixed reviews, people who have read The Pact and My Sisters Keeper have a certain expectation and appear to be slightly disapointed by this one. However I feel having a teenage daughter myself and indeed teenage boys I could relate to alot of the chararcters and found myself really questioning certain issues. It is centered around a questionable rape incident and maybe that is off putting to some and I was a little dubious as I first read the storyline but I found Picoult handled the whole issue very well. I think it is the different relationships between the parents and their children that makes this book what it is and it helps I think to be able to relate to that on some level. It is somewhat of a take on Dantes 'Inferno', the different circles travelled by a father on his way to inner most hell.
This is certainly one of Picoult's novels I would recommend and I am contemplating reading it again. Quite frankly I couldn't put it down, couldn't wait to hear what was going to happen. As ever you are left with several questions to ponder over.
Yes Second Glance is most definately a ghost story. In that aspect there was much that I enjoyed, but some bits too that were a bit obvious to put in a ghost novel. I enjoyed the storyline a great deal but Picoult does over-complicate in parts that I found not ideal for this type of novel. It is this aspect that works very well in her other books but Second Glance is not of the usual line and some of the deep, thought provoking events thrown in may not work. If you have read any of Picoult's books then definately give this one a read, it could surprise or disapoint depending on what you like about her books. All in all I think its a terrific story line, great idea for a novel but probably a little over complicated by Picoult's usual way of writing.
Saying that if she writes another I'll be the first to buy it!!.
Maybe they will develop with her experience of this type of work. Certainly I found that in terms of her previous novels this one moves slightly away from the medical/courtroom type drama I am used to. The scientific aspect is very good and Picoult is again deeply researched, I think I would have prefered it to go more towards the eugenics issues and that would tie in with modern day ethics regarding stem cell research, which is a hot topic at present and would have made a greater thought provoking novel, the ghost story side then would be a separate book altogether.
Having read the Kite runner this next book was an absolute must, and I wasn't disapointed. A Thousand Splendid Suns is a deeply moving tale on many levels. The story is centered around two women, Mariam and Laila, whose friendship develops into a deep love such as that between a mother and daughter. It deals the issue of arranged marriages and highlights the difficulties and traumas of girls/women growing up in Afganistan. The backdrop to this tale is life in Afganistan and quite frankly I learned an awfull lot. The author has clear experience of the issues involved and has done his research. I found it difficult to put down and was quite literally reduced to tears in places. I was willing the women on with their fight, hoping for their success. This is a truely premium novel and well deserved of the long placement as the number 1 rated book.
The Pirate's Daughter is a charming story and yet sad. It tells the story of Errol Flinn's Daughter, May, however the first half of the book really centres around her mother, Ida, and how she came to know and love Erol. I hasten to add though this is not a love story but a tale of love, and family and knowing/realising who you are. Encompasing this is a whole new insite into the country of Jamaica, its history and the effects on its people of issues such as the black/white divide and appartite. You really get a feel of the beauty of this country even if you have never visited. I found myself being drawn right into the place and the storyline, the entire adventure and rhythum of it all is brilliant. I loved the whole desert island bit, which is where Errols house is, it was so charming, very 'Swallows and Amazons'.
If you have read and enjoyed 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' then you will love this similar type of novel. Definately one of my all time favourites.