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CR1980

CR1980
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Member since: 29.01.2011

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      01.02.2012 14:42
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      A pleasant airport that is the gateway to a wonderful Island!

      Aeroporta de Madeira - Madeira Airport is the gateway to the tropical island of Madeira. It is a small airport with around 16 gates. It is an International Airport, and provides access to Maderia Island from a range of airports, for example from the neighbouring island of Porto Santo, to Heathrow and Stockholm. The majority of flights are to other parts of Portugal (Lisbon and Porto) and provide an important link for this island. As a UK holidaymaker, you would typically access Madeira with ThomsonFly or Air Portugal. I have only ever flown in from Glasgow, and these flights are only on a Monday and are with Thomson.

      *Arrivals*
      As your plane moves towards landing at Madeira Airport you will enjoy a close view of the island. The airport is at the East side of the Island, next to the town of Santa Cruz. The runway is well known for being tricky, as it is short and in-between the sea and the mountains, leaving little room for error. If you are nervous, you might not want to look out at this point! I've never had a bad landing here and the short runway means it is a short time before you are off the plane and onto the tarmac. You will typically arrive to nice sunshine, even if it is raining.

      Typically, your plane will be met by a series of buses which take you to the terminal building. These buses are usually packed full but you are only on for a few minutes so it isn't terrible. You get dropped off at a set of main doors where you proceeed through passport control. There are two options here - physical passport control, and electronic, which you can use if your passport has a biometric chip. This is quicker as most people use the manual one, and involves slipping your passport into a slot - it scans your photo, you step onto a pair of 'footsteps' on the floor and it checks that you look like your photo! Then a door opens and you are finished.

      *Baggage Reclaim*
      You head downstairs on moving staircases to the baggage reclaim area. This area is large and airy. There are seven baggage carousels and screens advise you where your flights luggage will be. There are plenty of trolleys available, toilets and assistance for those passengers who require it. At this stage, you can also pick up leaflets which give you discounts at some of the museums on the island - worth doing if you plan to visit.

      As per most airports, it can take a while before luggage comes out! The luggage comes down a belt onto the belt that circles around. Depending on where your luggage is in the queue, you could be fast or slow at this stage. Once you have collected your luggage, you walk through an automatic door out to the main arrivals area. The first thing you will see is people waiting for you - Thomas Cook and Thomson reps have stands set up and you can go straight to them to be sent on to your accommodation. Other firms and people will be holding up name and clipboards. There are also banks and a few shops in this area where you can pick up drinks or gifts. Car hire companies are also here, so you can collect a pre-booked car, or arrange one as you arrive.

      *Onward travel*
      If you are travelling with a holiday company, the rep will direct you to a car park across from arrivals which you reach via a zebra crossing. You will typically be allocated a minibus number and will be taken to your accommodation on these. The same is true if you are meeting a cruise ship. Sometimes the minibus will just be dropping at one hotel, in which case the journey is around 20-30minutes, but it will be longer if there are more drop-offs.

      If you are travelling independently, there is a taxi rank outside the main doors - there is a standing charge of around 4 euro, and it is worthwhile getting an estimate when you commence your journey. There is an aeroporto bus available which takes you into Funchal, a journey of around 30 minutes, for 5 euros one way, or 7.50 return. This stops in many places around town and if you know where your hotel is, it should be easy to locate the bus stop you need.

      *Departures*
      Unfortunately, your holiday will have to come to and end, and you will find yourself back at the airport. There is a departures area with a wide road outside where the many buses, taxies and coaches drop you off. There are apparantly 40 check in desks, but my personal experience is that they mainly use 1-15, resulting in long winding queues and a bit of confusion! We always seem to be at the back of a queue, no matter what time we arrive. There are screens as your come in the doors, which direct you to the check-in desk you need. Each airline has their own rules as regards checked and hand luggage, so check that, but in Madeira, they are strict at check-in if you are 'over' the desired luggage weight. There are drinks machines, a few food shops and toilets in this area.

      Once you have left your luggage, and got your boarding card, you make your way over to a security area (to the right of the building). Your boarding card is checked and then you go upstairs to join the queue for security. This is standard, with around four lanes.

      *Shopping*
      There are a small number of shops in the airport, ranging from the large 'duty-free' to smaller shops selling traditional goods such as Madeira wine, cakes and lace. There are a few different places to get a snack and reading materials, with plenty of sitting areas. The shops are often busy but you get served quickly. There are arrangements in place with some of the airlines, that you can 'pre-book' madeira wine or flowers and they are delivered to the plane for you and don't count as part of your allowance. It's worth checking with a rep if this interests you.

      *Passport control*
      Before getting access to the departure gates, you have to go back through a passport check. Again, you can either do this manually or electronically. Once you are through this section, there are very limited shopping opportunities - one shop, one bar, and some drinks and food machines. There are two sets of toilets here also.

      *Boarding*
      Flights are boarded quite early at Madeira Airport. Our 2pm flight, for example, started boarding at 1pm which doesn't give you a lot of time to browse at the airport. I personally, wouldn't bank on having time to shop at the airport and try to buy my souvenirs beforehand. You join a queue at your gate, which moves slowly as you go straight on to a bus at the other side. The buses fill up quickly, so you can be waiting for another one for a few minutes. You are taken back to your plane and allowed to board. We have never (touch wood) had any flight delay at Madeira Airport) so it all seems to work like clockwork.

      Overall, it is a nice airport where things seem to work smoothly. The queuing to check in element is horrid anywhere, but I've been to far worse airports and it is kept cool and clean. If you want to visit the lovely Island of Madeira, and don't go by sea, you will find yourself here, and I think you will find it pleasant.

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        25.08.2011 18:20
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        A great shower product for the rose lover with deep pockets!

        *About Ren*

        Ren Skincare is a high-end beauty company selling a range of skin, body and men's products. The products are available throughout the world. The company is committed to ethical principles, is against animal testing, does not use parabens and other chemical nasties and donates to environmental charities. They state on their website that some of their products are vegan friendly and that they endeavour to make 'clean' products using naturally sourced ingredients. They offer to recycle packaging for free if you sent it back to them.

        *The product*

        The Moroccan Rose Otto Body Wash comes in a tall plastic bottle as per the picture above. It looks very clean and slimline. The product has a lovely pale orange colour and you can see bubbles in it up close. The backage has a clean simple Ren label around the top which tells you more about the product and the company. The plastic lid is removed to show a pump mechanism which allows the right amount of wash to come out. One pump is enough to wash your whole body, and so in the couple of weeks it has been in use, there is hardly a dent in the amount of product left in the bottle.

        This shower gel comes in at an eye-watering £17 for a 200ml bottle and can be bought directly from Ren Skincare (www.renskincare.com) or from high street stores such as John Lewis, Selfridges and Space NK. It has won many awards, including the InStyle Best Shower Gel nine years running. Despite the high inital outlay, a little goes a long long way so it is probably a worthwhile investment if you can afford it.

        The rose fragrance of this product is sublime and from Moroccan Rose Otto Oil. Rose is one of my favourite fragrances and this smells just perfect to me. It is a natural smell that hits the air when you activate the pump, stays with you as you wash with it, and then lingers on the skin afterwards. Sometimes rose fragrances can be a little plasticky or fake but this one feels genuine. Sometimes I take the lid off when I'm in the bathroom just to enjoy the lovely scent. The liquid itself is soft and melts onto your skin although it does not give off a lot of lather. It has a softening property too and I have noticed a change in the condition of the skin on my arms in particular which can sometimes be quite dry. The product claims to be dermatologist tested and approved and I certainly have no complaints in this area. It does not use any sulfates to create foam and can also be used as a bath product although I have personally not used it in this way.

        It is claimed that Moroccan Rose Otto Oil is relaxing and destressing and I would certainly agree with this. It is a nice relaxing fragrance rather than a zingy wake up one! Other products in the range include a Body Oil (£34) and a Body Polish (£32). If I won the lottery I might give these a go to provide myself with a lovely Rose themed pampering session.

        *Summary*

        Overall, I would recomment this shower gel. It's not something I would have the money to buy myself but it does seem to be lasting a long while and it is clearly good quality. If you like rose fragrances it is ideal.

        Thank you for reading my review which may appear on other sites.

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        • Meltdown - Ben Elton / Fiction Book / 21 Readings / 21 Ratings
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          17.08.2011 12:41
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          A good topical read

          I've read many of Ben Elton's books and although there have been a couple I didn't like, I think overall he manages to capture interesting situations and to bring insights into them through the characters he creates. This book is no exception. It was lent to me by a friend of my mum's and I read it by the pool on holiday. It was an ideal relaxing pool read as it had a good balance of reality and humour.

          The title 'Meltdown' and the picture of the dynamite strapped to a piggybank on the cover gives away the subject of the book. Yes, it's about that global financial crisis that hit us a few years back (that we are still trying to recover from). The book focuses on a group of six friends who went to University together and how they coped (or didn't) with the recession. Each of the six friends is in a different position: the city trader, the MP, the entrepreneur, the banker, the architect and the waster.

          The story is told through Jimmy and his wife Monica who live the good life in Notting Hill with a big house, waiting staff and all the money in the world. Until the crisis hits that is. At that point, each of the friends is impacted in a different way and the friendships aren't as solid as they had hoped. Jimmy's parents are the voices of reason during the book - his dad an old fashioned bank manager who is appalled at the profit driven way the banks are being run, and worried about his long serving staff.

          The characters are in many ways caricatures - the stuff MP who chastises the bankers but makes sure he gets every penny in expenses; the banker who dates younger women and has all the money in the world; the city trader who bets his home on the next big investment opportunity. They are entertaining characters and it's interesting to see the recession through different eyes, but I don't think realism is what Ben Elton is going for here!

          Overall, it is an entertaining read. The financial crisis touched all of us in one way or another and this book shows how intertwined lives can be and how a little financial wobble can set it all tumbling around your feet. During the book I switched from liking a particular character to feeling furious with their stupidity, so it is certainly engaging. At a little under 500 pages long, it is a good summer read with just enough humour and just enough reality to entertain.

          Thank you for reading my review, which may appear on other sites.

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            17.08.2011 11:51
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            Decent as a free book, am glad I didn't buy it

            I'm a great fan of crime books. I enjoy the 'edge of your seat' nature of some of the contributions of authors like David Baldacci, John Grisham and others. I am quite fussy in what I like in a book, and judging from the other reviews of this particular one, I am sticking my neck out by saying I didn't like it.

            The book was free from o2 rewards so it didn't cost anything. I hadn't read anything by Harlan Coben although I had heard of him and was aware that his books were popular. Hence the reason for selecting this book from the few on offer. It is a paperback of 387 pages long. The version I have varies from the one pictured above and has a pink toned cover with a picture of some stairs on the front.

            The story takes us into the world of Grace Lawson. She is married to Jack and has two children Emma and Max. The tale starts as she collects a pack of photographs from the developer. In amongst the photographs is a photograph that she doesn't recognise, of five people, one of which is her husband. She confronts her husband that evening and he disappears out into the night and doesn't return. She contacts the police, who don't believe her story and are quite sceptical about the circumstances of her husbands disappearance.

            We learn Grace's back story. She was in the crowd at a concert and was crushed in the crowd when a gunshot rung out, injuring her leg badly, so she walks with a limp. Many people died in the crush, and we learn that despite the years later, she still has a link to some of the parents of those who died. At the same time, we are introduced to 'the bad guy' who uses violent techniques to incapacitate his victims. This particular character lends a creepy quality to the book, and you wonder what he is going to do next.

            The story plays out, and more and more characters are introduced, some are red herrings in the eventual explanation, while others are more central to the story. The police start to take notice of Grace's plight, but largely she is left to try to find her husband alone, while keeping herself and her children safe. I won't give away anything else as I don't want to spoil the story but I personally didn't enjoy the book. I felt there were too many twists and incidental events that didn't fit with the overall story. It does all come together in the end, but I was left with a feeling of disapointment for how it all played out.

            Normally when I get into a book I finish it really quickly, particularly when I am caught up in the story. It took me a week or so to read this book which is unusual as I normally like to plough through a good crime story. I don't think I would go out of my way to read another book by this author.

            Thanks for reading my review which may appear on other sites.

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            13.08.2011 16:13
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            A decent all-in-one printer for home use

            I previously had an Epson all-in-one printer that cost me around £100 and lasted me about seven years. I really hated it becuase it used to jam all the time, so I was fairly relieved when it finally gave up the ghost, and I had a good excuse to replace it.

            I am always keen to get value for money, so I did a lot of online research prior to purchase. I decided I did not want another Epson, but I did like the convenience of being able to photocopy and scan at home, so I did want another all-in-one. I didn't have a lot of money to spend so I decided to go for the HP F4580 which I got for around £35 from Tesco Direct in October 2010. Replacement cartridges are around £10 each. It appears that Tesco have now discontinued this particular model.

            This is a wireless, all-in-one printer, which means that you can print to it from anywhere in your house (once the computer has been initally linked to it), you can scan documents and make photocopies. According to the specifications it weighs 4.5kg, and is 16cm high by 44cm wide.

            As with all these things, it comes in a large box, well padded with lots of extra wires and bits inside. I collected mine from Tesco, and was shocked at the size of the box they gave me as they had put it inside another box! As is often the case with these items, there is a detailed instruction booklet as well as a quick start guide to get you going. One colour and one black ink cartridge were supplied, along with a usb wire, power cord and a set-up cd-rom.

            Inital set-up was fairly easy. The guides had detailed pictures of the different elements of the printer to allow you to safely remove the packaging and tape that kept the sections safe in transit. It was easy to put in the new ink cartridges although you had to press pretty hard to get them in. The CD was easy to use and took you through set up. The USB cord had to be used alongside the CD but once it was set up on a printer, you could print wirelessly without it.

            The first thing that struck me was that it was a lot lighter than my previous printer, I guess technology moves on quickly. Being black, it looks very sleek and smart. It easily fits on top of a chest of drawers, and the printout tray retracts for a tidy look when you are not using it. The controls are all placed on the top of the unit at the left hand side, and include the 'on' switch, selection of black or colour photocopying, scanning, and a stop button.

            The scanner unit sits on the top and is accessed by lifting the lid. This part of the printer is well made and well padded to protect the scanner when it is not in use. When scanning, you have to use the USB cable as you need to save your scans into the computer. It scans quickly and saves automatically into a folder created on your computer called 'My scans' - scanned files are automatically saved as the date they were created. My only gripe about this element is that if you are scanning something a bit more bulky (say a book page) then the lid doesn't sit comfortably on top of it. Photocopying works the same way - except no need to attach your computer to the printer.

            I no longer have a desktop pc in my home so I find it really useful that I don't have to go and hook up to the printer every time I want to print. As long as it is switched on, I am able to send documents to it. I've never had any trouble with the wireless signal in my home and it works well. You can set up as many computers as you like to the printer. Each computer then has a HP centre from which you can print test pages, check the ink levels, troubleshoot and change settings. Now and again it prompts you for an update which it does in the background.

            One of the few downsides of this printer is the level of noise it makes. When you switch it on there is a lot of noise as the print cartridges make their way into place in preparation for use. When the printing starts it is quite noisy too. The paper sits in a tray at the base of the printer and comes out just above this. If you are printing more than one page it is useful to pull out the catcher otherwise it spills over onto the floor which is annoying if you are printing a longer document and need to keep your pages in order!

            The printer is sold on the basis that it's good for both home and business use. I use it solely for personal use and the odd bit of uni work and it's fairly economical, but I think regular business users would be better off with something that used a bit less ink. I'm on my third black, and second colour cartridge since October so not a very high user but if I do a lot of printing at once, I notice a real dent in my ink levels.

            The print quality is very good and I have had no problems with alignment or colour bleed. I have never printed photographs with it so I cannot comment on that.

            Overall, I am happy with this printer. Fingers crossed, there have not yet been any 'printer jams' like I used to get every time I used my Epson. Apart from the noise, I have no complaints about this printer, and I would happily recommend it.

            Thanks for taking the time to read my review which may appear on other sites.

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              07.08.2011 20:51
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              A good holiday base in Magalluf

              At the end of July, a friend and I spent a week in the Sol Guadalupe Hotel in Magalluf. To give some context to the review, this is around the 6th or 7th time we have stayed at this hotel so overall I like it although I do have some comments about the food and room cleaning that I will get on to!

              *Magalluf*

              You will probably have heard of Magalluf, and probably because it is known as a British holiday destination where there is lots of wild partying and bad behaviour. This is of course the case and those wanting a wild time are well catered for. However, it is also a fairly decent holiday destination due to the pretty much guaranteed nice weather and the range of facilities like aqua parks, boat trips, beautiful beaches and easy access to other parts of the island of Majorca. The Hotel Guadalupe is situated in a fairly quiet (by comparison) part of town which is around ten minutes walk from the beach, and about fifteen minutes walk from the main strip where all the clubs are. In the local area there are a wide range of pubs, shops and eateries including all the usual KFC/McDonald/Pizza Hut type places which are usually very busy. There are also several supermarkets (mainly Spar) where you can stock up on drinks, snacks and any toiletries you forgot to pack.

              *Sol Guadalupe*

              The Hotel is part of the Sol group of hotels of which there are many in Magalluf and across Majorca. The Sol hotels are probably best described as fairly typical 3 star, family type hotels. For those wanting a more high-end hotel experience, the same group have the Melia brand of hotels which are much more expensive and flash. In Magalluf, Sol own several hotels and aparthotels, which are generally well located and have similar decor and layout. This hotel is the highest rated among customers as it seems to stand out in terms of quality. As I said above it is fairly well situated within easy walking distance of the beach and nightlife, but far enough away that you aren't living right in the thick of it.

              The hotel reception and public areas have had some investment in recent years and it all looks fairly modern. When you arrive at the hotel, typically your coach from the airport (or taxi) will drop you off at the end of a short driveway into the hotel. It's a short walk to the entrance which is sliding glass doors. Reception is to your left and is brightly lit and staffed 24 hours per day. Behind reception there is a luggage room and a shower room for customer use (perhaps on your last day if you have left your room at 12 noon and don't fly home until evening). The luggage room is secure and has plenty of storage space. There is also a scale (1 euro to use) where you can weigh your luggage to check you comply with the airline on the way home!

              Check in is fairly swift. They take a photocopy of your passports on arrival, give you a room card per person (which unlocks the door and activates the electricity) and information about excursions that the hotel can arrange on your behalf. The hotel has 9 floors and four lifts so its usually easy enough to get your luggage up to your room (which you do yourself). Also at reception there is an internet cafe, public phones, a bar, plentiful seating and a stage area where entertainment is provided in the evenings. The restaurant and access to the pool are also in this area and there are public toilets, and a games room. There is a public laundry available somewhere but I cannot comment on it because I didn't use it.

              *The rooms*

              Hotel rooms look out either on the pool area, or outwards to apartments across the way. It costs extra for a pool view (what a con!) so we almost always end up with an outwards view. The Sol Y Vera apartments opposite are a bit crazy - the pool lies empty all day and at night they are all out on their balconies drinking, shouting abuse at people in our hotel and generally being rowdy. Each room in the hotel has a balcony which is kitted out with a white plastic table and chairs. We use the chairs to dry our beach towels and swimwear and don't tend to sit out due to both the noise and the view!

              The rooms have either a double bed or twin beds, and if there are three of you, they will just put an extra bed into a twin room. There is a double wardrobe in the room with a mirrored sliding door. In here is the safe (20 euros per week, collect the key at reception), extra blankets and pillows, and wooden coathangers. Unfortunately they are those typical hotel coathangers that are secured to the rail and only the hangy bit comes down - I find this immensely annoying but it seems to be all but universal these days. There are around 14 hangers in total which may or may not be enough depending how much hanging things you pack. There are also two long shelves where you can put t-shirts etc. Beside each bed is a bedside cabinet which has a drawer and an alcove section. One of these has the room telephone on (it's good value to phone from the room at around 2 euro for 5 minutes). There is a long dressing table with a mirror above it. For some reason, the hotel have chosen this to put the flatscreen television on which takes up a fair amout of space. The TV has a few English channels including sky news and bbc world if you want to keep up with the news, although you can also buy newspapers at reception.

              The final thing is a fridge but again this costs extra (20 euros per week). We invest in this because it means we can stock up on drinks (soft and alcohol) from the local shops to save us paying hotel bar prices. To give this context, you can buy a can of coke or similar for between 35 and 90 cents in spar, and yet it is 1 euro 85 for a soft drink at the hotel. Over the week, you can imagine this might stack up, so although we buy hotel drinks with dinner, during the day we take down drinks from our fridge to drink by the pool. Likewise, you can buy a bottle of spirits reasonably cheaply and enjoy a wee nightcap in the comfort of your room.

              The bathrooms are kitted out with toilet, sink, bidet and a shower which is over the bath. There is a shower screen to protect the floor, and a hairdryer provided. Some complementary bits like shower gel and a shower cap are also provided. The water temperature has the tendency to fluctuate depending on whether others on your floor are showering at the same time but this can be controlled via the mixer tap.

              The maids come to the room every day to make the beds, clean up and change the towels. I was a bit disappointed this year with the service as they quite often didn't come til gone 4pm, they didn't seem to be sweeping up very thoroughly and they didn't change the beds all week. I felt our floor was a bit grubby all week so I thought this could have been done more thoroughly. On one occasion they didn't leave us any towels so we had to contact reception to chase this up.

              *The pool*

              The pool area has three pools: an indoor pool where activities take place (water polo, keep fit), a children's pool with small slides, and a large pool. They are absolutely freezing to get into but quite nice once you are in. The main pool has a jacuzzi in the middle which is nice to sit in. The daytime activities all centre around this area and you are approached throughout the day to see whether you want to join in with games. The pool has two lifeguards on duty who keep a sharp eye on procedings and make sure everyone is safe.

              The majority of the area is covered in sunbeds but there is also seating areas under cover, and an area where lunch is served which is also under cover. The pool officially opens at 8.30am but this tends to be when everyone runs out, puts beach towels all over the sunbeds and then runs back indoors to appear again later. We had to do this too because otherwise there was no chance of a sunbed. Officially this is not allowed but the staff don't seem to care. The area closes after 6pm and the pool is roped off for safety. There is a pool bar which is opened all day and sells hot and cold drinks, ice creams and snacky bits like crisps.

              *The food*

              We tend to go half board so we get breakfast (8 - 10.30am) and dinner (6.30pm - 10pm) included. The restaurant is large and buffet style. There are different sections offering different types of food. At breakfast there are hot and cold drinks available from machines, croissants, donuts, cheeses, fresh fruits, yoghurts and the usual hot fry-up type options. There is plenty to choose from and you can eat as much as you like. At dinner, you have to buy drinks from the waiting staff. There is often a long queue for dinner (particularly post 8pm). This again is split into sections with a salad area with cold meats, a fresh bread section, dessert section, fresh fruits, roast meats, main meals and fast food type stuff. I find the choice at dinner to be quite limited as every night there is pizza, burgers, chips etc which gets quite boring. They serve a lot of veal and pork which I don't think they cook very well, and generally speaking the choices are too samey. The fresh breads and cheeses are very good and often I had salad type dinners and fruit. You can buy lunch by the pool but I didn't use this service so can't comment.

              *Entertainment*

              There is nightly entertainment in the hotel that starts early for the younger kids and goes on til late. This is held in the downstairs stage area near the bar. There is bar service to your seats. There were various shows put in like High School Musical and what I saw of it, looked like pretty decent fun. It certainly had a good following and most seats were filled every night.

              *Checkout*

              Checkout of the hotel is at 12 noon and is as swift as check-in. They check that you have no money owing on your room and that is you. Reception are happy to help you book taxis etc, and any coaches to the airport pick you back up where you were dropped off.

              *Overall*

              This hotel is fairly decent and has many good facilities and plus points. The best thing is that you are left alone to just do your own thing, you can join in as much or as little as you want to. The main areas are kept immaculate and are very nice to sit in and the rooms are good. The room service and food could be better but its reasonable enough for a week in the sun. The hotel is done by Thomas Cook, Easyjet and other holiday companies and you can book directly on the sol website.

              I'm not sure I will be returning again next year as I think I could be doing with a change but if you want a decent base to explore Magalluf and the surrounding area, you won't go far wrong here.

              Thank you for reading my review which may appear on other review sites.

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                18.07.2011 20:56
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                Good value, good service and good food!

                Di Maggios is an Italian restaurant chain based in and around Glasgow with two branches in the City Centre, one in Shawlands, one in the West End, one in Airdrie, one in East Kilbride and one in Hamilton. They have been around since 1985 and have the tagline "our family serving your family". As you might expect, they are popular with families and are what I would describe as cheap and cheerful.

                * The restaurants*

                All restaurants have the same decor and menu. The restaurants are decorated with dark wood, carpeted and have lots of pictures on the walls of baseball figures and film stars. The seating areas are split between booths and traditional tables. The booths have comfortable material covered bench seating, and the tables have wooden chairs. They are usually tables set up for 2, 4 and 6, and with advanced booking, they can set out tables for larger groups. I prefer booth seating personally because you have a bit more privacy, and somewhere to keep your bag next to you without putting it on the floor. These seat four people but they aren't precious about keeping them for parties of four and I've often been in one when there have been two of us.

                Each restaurant has a bar area and a kitchen area which you have a clear view of. As you come in the door of the restaurant there is usually someone waiting to show you to a table. At the weekend it is best to book as it can be very busy. They don't mind you waiting, but they will warn you how long you might wait for a table. The menus are stacked up at the door so you are often given one to read while you wait. There are also tubs of crayons and colouring paper for younger visitors. They have high chairs available and are very good at accommodating groups with prams and so on.

                You pass by the same area on the way out and staff are always sure to say goodbye to you. There is a tub of drumstick lollies at the door that you are welcome to take on your way out. The restaurants also have a business card prize draw which you can enter to win a free dinner for two. I've never won this and I think its really a way for them to get your contact details!

                The one gripe I have is the toilet in the Glasgow branch. It is really small with only three cubicles in the ladies. The cubicles themselves are very small and you have to shuffle in and out around the door. Sometimes they are in need of a clean and the doors don't always lock so I wish they would get this sorted out. There are baby changing facilities in the ladies toilet.

                * The food*

                The restaurant is Italian, and so you find mainly typically Italian dishes on the menu - lasagne, tagliatelle, canelloni, pizzas, bruschetta and other usual suspects. They also sell other dishes such as burgers, steak sandwiches and chicken dishes. They sell a wide range of starters, mains, sides, desserts and drinks.

                The starters are each around £4-8, and my personal favourites include Deep Fried Mozarella Cubes, Stuffed Mushrooms, and Goat's cheese salad. The starters are usually served with a side salad and some sort of dip or sauce. They are of a reasonable size (e.g. 6/7 Mozarella cubes served with a side salad and a tub of tomato dip).

                Main courses vary more in price, but most are around £8-12. There are a range of pizzas available to suit all tastes, including some good vegetarian options. They do a speciality house calzone which is very tasty, and you have the option to change any toppings that you need to. The pasta range is fairly typical as I said above, with dishes sorted by pasta type. They have plenty of vegetarian options again, and their lasagne is their best selling product for very good reason. They also do burgers and sandwiches which come with all the trimmings including salad, coleslaw and chips. Chicken, seafood and meat dishes are also available but I can't comment on these as I tend to stick to pizza and pasta when I visit.

                Side dishes are all around £2-4. These include chips, garlic bread, potato wedges and salad. They can be served instead of a starter, or with your main course and are usually a good size. The potato wedges are my personal favourite and you get more than enough for two people to share.

                Desserts are pretty legendary here too. They mainly come in at the £4-5 mark and include cheesecake, chocolate fudge cake, apple pie and ice cream. When I was taken here as a child, my favourite was always the banana split but now I'm an adult and almost always on a diet, I usually decline dessert. I also find I don't need it if I have a starter and a main course.

                The restaurants sell a wide range of drinks. They are licenced and so you can get wine by the glass or bottle, beers, liqueurs and liqueur coffees. They sell soft drinks by the bottle but you get the usual mark up. You can get a reasonably cheap tea or coffee (under £2) to round off your meal.

                *The service*

                As I said above, as soon as you walk in the door there is pretty much always someone there to welcome you. They are prompt at showing you to a table, and if there isn't one available, they are honest about how long you might be waiting. I tend to book in advance and they always have my table ready so I don't have to wait around.

                They typically take your drinks order as you take your seat, and these usually appear fast. They are pretty good at balancing out being attentive and leaving you alone enough to enjoy your meal. You are always offered black pepper/parmesan with your dishes and they almost always check that everything is ok when they come to take your plates away. They are usually good at noticing when your drinks are running low, but its easy enough to find someone when you want anything.

                The branches in Glasgow employ mainly Polish staff who in the main have a good command of English but can lead to the odd confusing exchange. There are always plenty of staff milling around and although you might have one person covering your table, there are always others in the vicinity.

                It never feels like you have to wait long for your food to be delivered and the bill always seems to come quickly too. There is nothing worse than having to wait all day for a bill at the end of your meal! I've never had call to complain about the service.

                *Booking and offers*

                Di Maggios is always on the 5pm website so you can book deals in advance. Typically you can book a two course meal for £10 in daytime, and £12 in the evenings. These menus have exclusions but there is enough of a choice of things you can have. In addition, the vouchercloud website/application often has a 20% off offer if you book in advance. So with a little forward planning you don't need to pay full price.

                The restaurant takes advantage of events to offer specials. They offer a graduation menu during graduation time which includes three courses for a set price. At Christmas time they offer special lunch and dinner menus too. The good thing is that you can always access the normal menu if you want to.

                In addition, a couple of the branches do home delivery and collection but I've never used this service as I'm not in the area for it. The food will be the same but I can't comment on the speed and quality of delivery.

                *Overall*

                The restaurants are not overly swish, but the food is good quality and value for money. It's a casual laid back restaurant that is a good pit stop if you are out shopping, or good to book in advance to take advantage of offers. There are plenty of Italian restaurants around the Glasgow area but this one has always been popular and its easy to see why. I'd recommend it if you like laid back, good quality Italian food.

                Thanks for reading my review which may appear elsewhere.

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                • lovelula.com / Online Shop / 19 Readings / 19 Ratings
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                  16.07.2011 18:37
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                  The place to go if you are a natural beauty!

                  Love Lula: The organic apothecary is an independent beauty website that ONLY sells natural and organic products. I came across Love Lula through the Beauty Bible which offers a 5% discount for the site and sometimes a free gift if you click through from their site. I've been a Beauty Bible product tester for a while and having read about the site I decided to have a look round. When I decided to look for a new skincare regime, I decided instead to look for new natural alternatives for my health and beauty products and so used this site.

                  *Website navigation*

                  The site has a definate girly feel to it, it is mainly white with shades of pink and grey. The front page is easy to navigate with easy links to special offers, seasonal goodies and a bar across the top where you can quickly navigate to product categories such as Hair, Body, Fragrance and Brands. At the top right hand corner of each page you can check the contents of your shopping basket, create an account or write a wish list.

                  If you know what brand and product you are looking for you can either use the search box or the drop down brand box which lists brands alphabetically. If you are looking for a particular product but not sure which brand, you can easily look up exactly what you are looking for from the drop down menus e.g. sensitive shampoo or sunscreen and the site will generate a list of suitable products. The 'list' will have pictures of the products so that you can see it. One click will take you straight to a page of details, including more information about the product, the brand, the ingredients, and any customer reviews. You can order from the list page, or the individual product page.

                  My one gripe is that you need to have a rough idea of what you are looking for, there isn't an option to browse more generally except from through offers or categories. I always worry I'm missing out on little gems!

                  *The products*

                  The site only sells brands which fit with its natural outlook to products - no animal testing, no parabens, no sls. You will find better known high street brands like Neal's Yard and Burts Bees as well as lesser known companies like Spiezia and Faith in Nature. They don't stock entire lines but they generally stock a range of face, body and hair products within each brand. If a brand is out of stock this will be clear. I can usually find what I am looking for and prices are on a par with the high street shops. They sell a lot of trial sizes and gift sets which are good for trying things out.

                  At Christmas time the site has a good range of gift packs from brands as well as their own special Love Lula gifts which included make up bags and lovely rose scented candles.

                  *The Lovelula points system*

                  The site operates a loyalty scheme where you get points for each purchase you make. You can redeem points on items across the site. You need to have enough points to purchase the item so you can't pay part points/part cash. You will notice a points value next to each item price so you can save up for your favourite product.

                  *Payment*

                  The website accepts payment via PayPal as well as online card transactions for which they have a secure server.

                  *Delivery*

                  The site offers free delivery when you spend over £50 as standard, but often has offers for when you spend £30. It costs £3 for standard delivery and you can pay more for next day or weekend delivery if you are in a rush. Delivery is very fast, I have ordered on a Sunday evening before and received the item on the Tuesday morning. Items are very well packaged in cardboard with plenty of padding to ensure your products arrive safely.

                  On one occasion, one of my products burst in transit. I phoned to ask about it and they were really pleasant and resent the package the same day which I thought was excellent customer service.

                  *Free samples*

                  With every order on LL, you can choose three free samples with your order. Typically they have a list of hair, skin and body products that you can choose from. More often than not it is a sachet which I save up for holidays. It's a nice little touch and allows you to try other bits from the site that you might not otherwise get the chance to try out.

                  *Customer contact*

                  After your first order, you receive emails now and again with offers or updates on new products. Often this email will have exclusive codes for money off. In addition, you get two postal booklets per year - one summer, one winter and these hightlight seasonal products, e.g. summer skincare, Christmas gifts. I really like flicking through these as its nicer than reading through the web and I find products in categories I wouldn't think to look at.

                  The site has an option called Ask Lula where you can email in and ask for product advice. I've never used this so can't comment. There is also a blog where you can keep up with product news and other bites. The site has a facebook page where you can be alerted or deals and news.

                  *Other touches*

                  With each delivery you get a little card with an angel and a little phrase on it. These are a really sweet additional touch.

                  Thank you for reading my review which may also appear on other sites.

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                  • More +
                    01.07.2011 12:19
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                    Lasts well, conditions well enough but the smell really puts me off.

                    I am typically an Aveda haircare girl, but my friend gave me a bottle of Soap and Glory Glad Hair Day conditioner when she bought the wrong type by mistake. I hadn't previously tried any Soap and Glory products so I was intrigued to see what it was like. I'd previously seen the big displays in Boots but due to somewhat of a *backlog* of beauty products I am in a no-buying phase at the moment.

                    Soap and Glory has been around since 2006 and is known for its fun and funky packaging. It is made in the UK and I'm sure I read somewhere has the same creator as the Bliss range (which is much more expensive).

                    *pricing*
                    If you were buying it in Boots today (July 2011), it would cost you £5.22 for 250mls or £2.50 for 50ml. The larger bottle is currently on a 3 for 2 offer. I am reviewing the 'normal' hair version but it is also available in a 'thick and full' version.

                    *packaging*
                    The product comes in a large tube (as in the above picture) in a pink colour with lots of yellow and white boxes with lots of information. I personally find that the packaging looks a bit 'busy' and I'm not sure I would be easily able to buy the right thing for me if I was browsing in Boots due to the information overload. The information on the bottle includes ingredients, how to use, warning not to get it in your eyes, and lots of one-line statements like 'fruity fresh fragrance' and 'no buildup formula'. I would prefer a clearer statement of the key information, e.g. hair type, how to use, and for additional info to be less 'in your face'.

                    *the product*
                    The key ingredients mentioned are 'raspberry fruit vinegar, shea butter, panthenol, phytantriol and glycerin' which it claims will perform the multiple tasks of detangling, glossing, smoothing and strengthening. The full ingredient list is on the back of the package but I won't detail that here. The first thing that struck me when I opened the product was the fragrance. It is a very strong, sweet, almost sickly fragrance from which you can smell the raspberries. The colour of the product is white and it is of a good consistency (not too thin, not too heavy).

                    *usage*
                    The advice given is to remove excess water after washing and then rub a 'small measure' onto your roots and through your hair. It suggests that you massage it in for around a minute and then rub it through your ends. Afterwards you should rinse thoroughly and style as usual.

                    You don't need a huge amount, maybe a ten pence sized blob for my shoulder length hair. At that rate it lasts a good long while. I've been using it 3/4 times per week for around 7 weeks and there is still about a quarter of the bottle left. I'd imagine it might do me three months which isn't a bad investment (especially when it was free to me).

                    *does it work*
                    My hair has blonde highlights and so can get dry at the ends. This conditioner is basically OK. It hasn't worked wonders on my hair, but neither has it left it dried out. I can easily get a comb through it after washing and it blow dries well without adding any other products. I wouldn't rush out to buy it again and I definately prefer my Aveda products.

                    *the fragrance*
                    I earlier mentioned the smell when you open the bottle. It is a sickly sweet smell of raspberries and as time has gone on I have come to hate it! My biggest problem with this product is that the fragrance lingers for far too long. You can obviously smell it strongly when you first apply it, and then when you are drying it. However, to my annoyance, I can smell it every time I move my head, not just on the day I wash it, but the next day too. As my hair is shoulder length and I wear it down, this means I get a waft of it just about every time I move my head. This is really horrible when you don't like a fragrance!

                    *overall*
                    It's reasonably priced, particularly if you get a deal with other products, it lasts well and smoothes your hair. On the downside, it smells far too strong and sweet and lingers too much on your hair. If you can handle the sweet smell, go for it, if not, I would keep on looking!

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                    • More +
                      17.06.2011 11:40
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                      The best type of holiday!

                      I have been on the Thomson Spirit cruise ship three times in total, and on the Celebration once. If I had the money I would go every year because it is the best type of holiday.

                      This review is specific to my first cruise in 2007 but I've tried to make some more general comment on how things work as ships/itineraries will differ.

                      We usually book our cruises through the Thomson Cruise website, if you go through Quidco, there is usually some cashback available and if you are lucky there might be discount codes online. If you book your cruise far enough in advance (6months-1year before departure), you often get a free all inclusive upgrade. This means that your drinks on board are all free and is a great money saver. This is unfortunately not available on cruises leaving the UK due to licencing laws. A typical one week cruise in the Med on Thomson Spirit from Glasgow costs around £1500 for two people for a cabin with porthole.

                      You get your tickets around two weeks before travel as part of an information booklet which gives you examples of excursions and tells you a bit about life on board. You can opt for requesting a particular cabin, or champagne on arrival as well as other things. You get luggage labels also. Your itinerary will be detailed in your tickets with descriptions of things you can do at each port. It's lovely to wake up in a different port each day!

                      A typical cruise will involve a full day at sea. This day usually starts out with an emergency drill where you all have to make your way to your muster station with your lifejacket on. The captail comes round to inspect and all in all its a good laugh. On our first cruise the Med was rather choppy on our sea day so we were getting thrown around during the drill! Unfortunately some people were seasick and the lifts were put off. It makes for great amusement trying to walk around when you are getting moved about with the waves! Luckily, we felt alright although a bit nervous when an engineer came to our cabin at 1am on the bad weather night to lock our porthole! Luckily, the weather during the days was lovely. It can get very windy on deck though.

                      *Travel to and boarding the Ship*

                      Unfortunately, the flight times to Palma from Glasgow are pretty early (6.25am, which doesn't sound too bad until you factor in check in time and travel to airport). You get a Thomsonfly flight included in the cost of your holiday and you have the choice whether to include an inflight meal. Having collected your luggage, you will be greeted at arrivals by a member of Thomson staff with a Thomson Cruises clipboard. Usually they pass you on to someone who will give you some literature about joiining the ship before directing you to the coach. You usually take your own luggage to the coach but it is looked after by Thomson after that. The coach trip to the port in Palma is fairly quick and you usually are accompanied and given information while you travel.

                      When you arrive at the port you are asked to remain on the coach until someone comes on to explain the boarding protocol. Usually this involves collecting an envelope with your name on it as you get off the bus, taking the stickers out and sticking them to your luggage (which the staff have removed from the bus and lined up reading for boarding). Once you have done this, the next time you see your luggage is hwen they deliver it to your cabin. The ships staff scan the luggage during this process. It's then time fo you to make your way onto the ship which involves a little bit of queueing, a few photographs, and a passport check. At this stage they scan your image onto a credit card sized card which will be your charge card on the ship. You register a credit card at this stage for any excursions that you might want to charge to your cabin.

                      They like to take your photograph a lot on a Thomson ship and so you will get the first of your many photo opportunities before you board this ship. You will then be asked to use the hand sanitiser before boarding the ship. A member of staff then shows you to your cabin which has two keys for your use.

                      *The Cabin*

                      As I said, our cabin was a deck one outside cabin. It was fairly roomy and could have slept four. There was plenty of wardrobe and drawer space (with hairdryer), a good sized dressing table with a mirror, a TV and a full length mirror on the back of the cabin door. The bathroom was compact with shower, toilet and sink area. There was a decent amount of storage space in the bathroom in the form of a cabinet. It was very clean and stays this way as you have a dedicated maid who visits twice per day. The evening service involved turning back the beds, putting a chocolate on the pillows, and making the bath towels into shapes (sandcastles and dogs!). Towels were changed as often as you wanted. My only gripe about the cabin was that the only plug socket in the room was right on the level with the dressing table and so I couldn't get my phone charger in when fitted to my European adaptor. Luckily, reception staff were happy to charge your phone for you and you signed it in and out with them as you needed to. The TV in the room had questionable picture, but had news channels, a couple of film channels, a 'view from the front of the boat' channel and a channel which showed the trip DVD.

                      *Food and drink on board*

                      There were several bars on board:
                      Horizons - relaxed, coffee-style bar on deck nine with views out over the front of the ship.
                      Raffles - piano bar with casino table and fruit machines at one end
                      Explorers lounge - quiet lounge with live music
                      Broadway Show Lounge - where the shows were in the evening
                      High Sprits - the smokers bar where there was daily bingo and quizzes
                      The Lido Bar - outdoor bar at the back of the ship

                      Drinks are also served out on deck when you are lying out in the sun. As I mentioned, we had All Inclusive package which entitled us to pretty much unlimited drink throughout the trip. A few items were excluded such as Baileys, Jack Daniels, Liqueur Coffees and bottled water. Everything was well known brands and soft drinks were served as cans. There was a decent cocktail menu and a good range of coffees and lovely hot chocolate. Glasses of wine were included, but not a full bottle so the drink servers at dinner just topped you up as you went. When you ordered something, you showed your swipe card and then signed a slip. Everything came in an itemised bill at the end of the week (price £0 showed for items which were included). We bought bottled water on the boat to take with us out on excursions, 60p for a standard bottle. There was an ice bucket in the cabin which the maid filled if you had juice in your room.

                      There were three restaurants on board: Compass Rose which had waiter service, the Lido, which was a self service buffet, and Sirocco's which was an a la carte with a service charge payable (Around £18). There is sanitizer at the entrance to each restaurant which a member of staff reminds you to use. We didn't feel the need to use Sirocco's as the food otherwise was so good. The Compass Rose was our most frequented restaurant on board. The food was absolutely great. There was a choice of six courses at dinner and similar at lunch, including a sandwich of the day. You could have one or all of the courses if you liked. The service was really friendly and you were made to feel very welcome. Iced water was served with lunch and dinner and you could order a drink served to your table. The breakfast was very comprehensive with a range of breads, pastries, juices, cereals and hot dishes. Would thoroughly recommend the Spanish omelette!

                      The Lido restaurant is opened pretty much 24hrs. Breakfast consisted of the usual breads, pastries, juices and hot dishes and my favourite - hot pancakes and waffles with maple syrup. Lunch was varied, you could always get a burger or chips, pizza, baked potato in the outside section and a range of hot and cold foods inside. The most exciting part of this restaurant for me was afternoon tea where there were nice filled sandwiches and croissants and hot fruit scones with jam and cream. A lovely treat. This restaurant was open until the early hours, serving chips, hot dogs and even cheese on toast to those heading back from the bars. On the second night (at the end of the day at sea) there was the Captain's Dinner and Cocktail Party. This is the only dressy occasion onboard. You get introduced to the Captain individually and your photograph taken with him. Once everyone is seated in the Broadway Show Lounge, he introduces his crew and welcomes you onboard. Following this, you go through to the Compass Rose for your dinner.

                      Later in the week there is a Buffet Magnifique where the Compass Rose is decked out with an array of artistic cooking and baking. Pineapples designed into penguins, ice carvings, chocolate handbags and so on form this amazing display. Everyone gets a chance to go in and take pictures and then to go back in and dig in. It was such a shame to break it all to eat it, but it was delicious - especially the chocolate cakes and pastries. You would not go hungry or thirsty on this ship. The service was excellent, the food lovely - no complaints whatsoever (apart from putting on 5lbs!)

                      *Entertainment*

                      Late each evening, a copy of Cruise News was delivered to the cabin which gave details about the port we would be visiting the next day and what would be going on onboard in the way of entertainment and events. You could put an announcement in the Cruise News for a small fee. There was loads going on throughout the day and evening. There was a cinema on board, a casino, a gym, two pools, a sports area, a library and an internet café. During the day there was live music and quizzes on the Lido Deck. There were three shops on board - perfume, jewellery and a general shop selling clothes, chocolate, handbags and Thomson branded things. They were only open when the ship was at sea.

                      My favourite part of the entertainment was the shows in the Broadway Show Lounge at night. Headed up by cruise director Richard Sykes and his great team there were remakes of Singin' in the Rain and a Queen musical. One night there was a show which took in a variety of West End shows, from Cabaret to Wicked. There was a guest act of two comedians (a man and his son) who were incredibly funny. All shows were on twice so that no one missed out although it becomes hard to get a seat with a good view if you aren't in there early. There was bingo every night in high spirits, followed by games and each night ended with a Disco. This was the only bar on deck that allowed smoking so I didn't spend a great deal of time in it. It seemed to always be busy.

                      Horizons and Raffles Bar also had live music in the evenings - more chilled out than the other bars.

                      *Ports and Excursions*

                      There is a destinations service onboard where you can book organised excursions or get information about the ports of call. A leaflet on each port and an excursions brochure is in your cabin on arrival. On the second day (day at sea), there are Port Showcases, where the staff go through the excursions on offer. Excursions are quite pricey for what you get - around £80 for a full day, although the longer days that include lunch can be nearer £100. We did a few excursions but found that others made their own way for much less and enjoyed it so it is a learning point for next time. All the places we stopped were lovely, we didn't go to Barcelona as we had been there before but went to other places. Rome and Pisa are terribly tourist oriented and people are trying to sell you things constantly.

                      All ports had a means of transport nearby which you could use to travel independently. At Villefranche and Alghero, tender boats were used to get to shore. You had a full day in each place (7am to 7pm generally, Alghero was the shortest at 9am to 5pm) so you could do a half day trip and spend the afternoon on the boat or whatever. The excursions can be tiring with all the walking (especially Rome, not for the faint hearted) and you need to be ready to go around 8am, so they can mean an early start. It is nice to wander yourself so that you aren't marching to someone else's tune although the local guides used were very informative.

                      *Other things*

                      When you join the ship you have to register a card to your cabin or leave a deposit as it is a cashless ship. Everything is then charged to your cabin (including excursions) and billed at the end of the week. They put an account under your door on the second last night and then a final bill on the last night. Your registered card is billed automatically both times and comes on your statement 'Thomson Spirit, London'.

                      There is a leaving party at the back of the boat when it sails from Palma at 11pm on the first night. The entertainment team count down to leaving and then there is lots of singing and dancing well into the night. It is a dead exciting feeling to know that it is all starting and I wouldn't miss this part of it.
                      There is a photography service on board who will catch you at every opportunity and a DVD of the week is made and sold at the end. The photo's are displayed each evening but are £12 each which is quite pricey. I am not sure of the cost of the DVD because I wasn't that interested in buying it. (Although I did wonder who was filming us in Pisa!)

                      Smoking is only allowed in particular areas on deck. I personally wish they would ban it completely because the smoke does travel. There was a letter in the welcome pack about how they had to take this step to come in line with law and customer feedback.

                      You have to have your suitcase outside your cabin for 1am on the final night for sorting by the staff when putting it ashore for you on arrival. This is a bit of a nuisance as you still need jammies, toiletries etc but you can put these things back in your case at the airport when queuing to check in. When you get off the boat, you locate your case (from rows and rows of them) and take it to the coach for travel back to the airport. Each flight back has a different coloured tag for identification and you get a security seal for your zips.

                      *Conclusion*

                      I realise this is a bit of an essay, am sure I could write a book on how great the cruises can be. I've always had an amazing time and I would recommend a cruise holiday to anyone. I am looking into booking another one already (although need to do a bit of saving first).

                      Nothing is too much trouble for the staff on board. They are really helpful and cheery despite working really long hours and although it says tips are included, we tipped some of the people who served us regularly as they really made the trip even better.

                      If you haven't tried it, try it - I am 30 and didn't feel particularly out of place with the older crowd. Met some really nice people and had an amazing time. Seven days just isn't long enough - it's so sad when you have to leave the boat! ..

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                      • Waitrose / Highstreet Shopping / 18 Readings / 15 Ratings
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                        21.05.2011 16:49
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                        Well stocked with a wide range of foods but may cost a bit more than your usually weekly shop

                        We people in the west of Scotland have always been somewhat deprived when it comes to access to a Waitrose. Edinburgh have had one for ages but we have only just been lucky enough to have one opened nearby. Having already done my weekly shop, I decided to take an amble round to see what it had to offer and pick up a few extras on the way. Bear in mind it's my first visit to a Waitrose store so my review is based on first impressions rather than long-term experience.

                        My first impression is that it looks like a nice shop to visit, big windows, neatly laid out car park and very clean looking. As you walk in the door there are a bank of handheld scanners available for you to do your own shopping on the way round. There is a member of staff nearby helping customers who want to use this.

                        As you go in the door there are a few stands of newspapers and magazines before you reach the fruit and vegetable section. A sandwich/lunch fridge is also near the door for a quick lunchtime snack. The customer service desk is on the right hand side and beyond that the checkouts, and at the far end, a coffee shop.

                        The first thing that hit me in the fruit and vegetable section was the range available. For example, as well as butternut squash, there were at least three other types of squash available. Along the back wall of the store, fresh fish, butcher, deli and bakery counters were well staffed and brimming with delicious goodies.

                        There were plenty of offers on throughout the store, with a range of multibuys and price reductions. Recipe cards were situated within the sections with fridges stocking all the relevant items. One fridge had all the necessary bits for the current Delia advert for fish with potatoes and asparagus. This would be very useful if you were coming in looking for that specifically.

                        The main difference between Waitrose and other stores is that it stocks a bigger range of brands within each product. For example, my local asda only stocks two or three dorset cereal items but the Waitrose had the whole range. They have their own branded range which is on a par pricewise with other supermarkets items on most things. They sell a lot of premium branded items too, which are more expensive in any store.

                        In this particular store, there was a good long aisle of beauty products including some of the ranges typically found in John Lewis, e.g. Cath Kidston, Neal's Yard. They also stock a small range of socks, scarves, and accessories. There is also a small section of homewares, cards, gifts and stationery.

                        There must be around ten checkouts in the store but the queues were short. The checkout operator was very pleasant and bags are provided for free (unusual these days). The store donates regular money to local charities and you are given a token at checkout to vote for which one of three local charities should get the £1000 donation each month. I've never experienced this before and thought it was a great idea.

                        I cannot comment on the cafe as I did not visit but it was very busy and there was a lovely coffee smell wafting around that end of the store.

                        My final point would be that the parking spaces, although positioned diagonally are quite 'neat'. Although I was in a hatchback, it wasn't easy getting out of the space with other larger cars around me overhanging their bays. It may be difficult to navigate at the busy Christmas time.

                        Overall, I was impressed by the store. I think it is a bit out of my budget for the weekly shop, but I think I would use it again for a top-up shop as there were good deals and tasty items aplenty.

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                        • bunches.co.uk / Online Shop / 17 Readings / 17 Ratings
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                          02.04.2011 16:03
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                          Great quality flowers but not always when you want them!

                          I have o2 to thank for pointing me in the direction of bunches.co.uk

                          Basically, I won a 20% discount code for the site though o2 top up surprises. As my mum and dad's anniversary was coming up, my dad used to it order flowers for my mum (with my help as he is not tech savvy).

                          The website is colourful and well laid out. As well as flowers, they sell balloons, chocolates, teddies and other gifty bits and pieces. You can search their offerings by price, occassion and type, as well as by categories such as 'classic', 'luxury' and 'plants'. There is a freephone number at the top of the site which you can phone if you would rather complete your transaction over the phone.

                          The cheapest flowers start at £9.99 and are carnations. A lot of the cheaper flower bunches (sub £15) have carnations in but as the price goes up you get more of a choice of blooms. The front page of the site highlights their best selling items which you can click on to see in more detail. The pictures on the site are very realistic to what gets delivered to you. This is not my experience on some other high street sites (i.e. Next).

                          They seem to have an ongoing offer of a free box of chocolates with every order. This amounts to a very small box of milk chocolate buttons which are reasonably good quality. Free delivery is included with every order but you have the option to pay £5.50 for special delivery. I thought this was excessive, so didn't bother.

                          According to my Nectar toolbar, you can collect Nectar points on bunches transactions, but they also have their own ''posy points' scheme where you can collect points towards discounts from future purchases.

                          Basically you select your item(s), select the date you would like them delivered, select any additional bits (balloons etc) and then go through a standard checkout procedure where you specify your details and the details of the flower recipient. You can do this without registering (you won't get posy points!) or you can register your full details if you are planning to use them again.

                          You choose the date when you would like the flowers delivered, but the terms and conditions state that because Royal Mail are the delivery company, this is not guaranteed. They send items out two days ahead of the date you state so there is every chance they will come the day before you wanted them. As we ordered ours for a Monday, they came on the Friday! It wasn't a huge issue, but not great if you are ordering for a very special occassion.

                          The flowers arrive in a white box, well sealed and well padded so the flowers aren't damaged in transit. The box is tall and the flowers are standing up inside with cardboard around them. The chocolates, message note and a voucher for money off your next order is tucked inside.

                          The motivation for writing the review was the longevity of the flowers. Arriving on the 4th March, they looked lovely. On the 2nd April, when they had finally past their best, we had to put them out to the recycling. So basically, you get a months worth of lovely flowers for your money: this is one of the longest lasting bouquets we had ever experienced.

                          So overall, if you don't mind them arriving a bit early, you get a very high quality of flowers!

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                          • More +
                            14.03.2011 16:33
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                            Good to have when you are planning and executing case study research

                            Ask most social researchers about case studies and they will send you towards an author called Yin. He has written many books about the workings and pitfalls of case studies, but this one is the most comprehensive and useful from my point of view. It demonstrates that a case study isn't just a 'method' as some people describe it, and is in fact a research tool which, when used well can help create good research.

                            Printed by Sage, the book is just over 200 pages long. It forms part of an Applied Social Research Methods series which covers all manner of social research techniques.

                            As it is a fourth edition, it starts off with a preface which comprehensively details the changes and updates to the book over time, and gives advice on what sections to head for if you are seeking particular help. It has a friendly tone, and treats the reader in a familial way.

                            The book is made up of six chapters which cover six parts of the case study process: plan, design, prepare, collect, analyse and share. There is a diagramm early on in the book which has directional arrows between these six parts, demonstrating that the case study process is not always a linear one, and that some parts feed into others dependent on the research being undertaken.

                            Chapter 1 - Plan
                            Covers the defintions of case study research, when to use them and how they compare with other ways of doing research.

                            Chapter 2 - Design
                            Covers approaches to designing case studies, including quality criteria.

                            Chapter 3 - Prepare
                            Covers the work to be done before data is collected, including the skills required, protocols and selecting cases.

                            Chapter 4 - Collect
                            Covers the different types of evidence that make up a case study and the principles of data collection.

                            Chapter 5 - Analyse
                            Covers strategies for analysis and quality techniques in analysis.

                            Chapter 6 - Share
                            Covers how to write case study reports, and case study composition.

                            At the end of the book, there are references, author index, subject index and further information about the author.

                            Throughout the book, the author uses different means of displaying information. The majority of the book is text, but this is supplemented by:

                            'Tip' boxes which sit alongside relevant text, giving short hints on how to operationalise the ideas on the page, and give you questions to consider of your own research. For example: how do I know if I should use the case study method?

                            'Case study boxes' which take up half a page or more and describe examples of published case studies which highlight the points made on the page. For example: Two famous descriptive case studies.

                            'Figures' which put the information on the page in a tabular format for ease of understanding. For example: basic designs for case studies.

                            'Exercises' which give you a chance to try out what you have read. For example: defining the boundaries of a case study.

                            'Expanded case study materials' which tell you where to find more information on the case study examples in the book.

                            I was recommended this book a few years back when undertaking case study research. I liked its plain English, clear examples and user friendliness. Now that I am back doing postgrad research it has become a staple book in my collection and I like to dip in and out of it to ensure I am on the right tracks.

                            Some of the examples in the book are a little too short to be useful in my opinion, but there are so many that you will always find what you need.

                            I would recommend this to anyone wanting to know more about case studies, and particularly if you plan to design and execute them yourself.

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                          • yougov.com / Internet Site / 29 Readings / 28 Ratings
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                            13.03.2011 21:05
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                            You will get your £50 eventually, honest!

                            YouGov is a survey website which captures information on public opinion. Quite often the topics are politics and current affairs, but other times you get asked opinions of brands (known as brandindex) and things like use of holiday companies. Surveys are paid at 25, 50, 75 and 100 points. There are also prize draw surveys. You need 5000 points for a payout and when you reach that magic amount of points, a £50 wings its way to you pretty quickly.

                            I joined YouGov having been made aware of some statistics they had generated and gone snooping on their site. I noticed you could sign up to participate and did so. There are bonus points available for recommending new members and I've encouraged friends and family to sign up with varying levels of success.

                            I've been a member of YouGov since 2006 and in that time I've had 2 x £50 cheques and am very near my third. I have friends who have had frustratingly slow process and have never had a payout, and others who have made progress faster than me. I tend to get at least one survey per week and unlike other sites, you are rarely screened out.

                            You have to give them profile information about you, your work, what newspaper you read, your political views and I think this information is used to decide what surveys you will get. This would explain the variance in the numbers that some of us get. I have noticed, for example, that since becoming a f/t student after being in f/t paid work I get fewer invites than previously. They obviously have quotas for participation.

                            You generally get emails from them inviting you to a survey with a decent (average two weeks) deadline to participate. Initially emails had the amount of points available in it, but now I find that you have to click the survey link to be taken to a page that tells you the reward. Every so often there are surveys called Brand Index which I dislike because they get you to click through page after page of brands, selecting ones you like and don't like, would like to work for and would be ashamed to work for.

                            A relatively new development at YouGov has been the TellYouGov project. It is a website (and now app) where you can comment on any number of things by voting either positive or negative and then writing a short bit of feedback on it. Basically it tracks public opinion on hot topics so Nick Clegg, David Cameron and the Royal Family are regularly at the top of the leaderboard of comments with a host of weird and wonderful opinions of them. There is a chance to win £50 per day in a draw that all participants are entered into.

                            Overall, I like YouGov. It is slow to reach payout but I find the surveys interesting and it's well worth it when a £50 cheque drops through the door. It's worth a go to see how it works for you and you've nothing to lose.

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                              13.03.2011 19:47
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                              A nice all in one product but not for everyone

                              I was a long time fan of Liz Earle's cleanse and polish but after the ingredient change and the sell-out to Avon, I decided that I would hunt out a new holy grail cleanser. I have done a bit of testing for the Beauty Bible and so I looked up my 'Green beauty bible' for a recommendation.

                              The Neal's Yard Wild Rose Beauty Balm scored very highly with the beauty bible testers as a cleanser and all-in-one balm. I'd always wanted to try the brand and I like the rose fragrance, so I decided to give it a go. It's quite expensive at £34.50 but seeing as it lasts for ages it seemed a reasonable purchase.

                              I ordered it from the Love Lula organic website so I can't comment here on the Neal's Yard website or shop service although it is also available from both. Any time I have visited the Neal's Yard shop I have found the staff to be helpful and happy to order in out of stock items, let you test things and give you any advice you need.

                              The product comes in the trademark blue glass jar with screw lid and purple labelling. It comes in a cardboard box with an instruction leaflet and a beige coloured muslin cloth. The leaflet explains the multiple uses of the product, namely as a cleanser, as an exfoliant and as a skin treatment.

                              As I had bought the product as a cleanser this was my primary use of it initially. I found it to be quite greasy and heavy on my skin. It is claimed it can be rinsed off, but I found this difficult without the muslin cloth. I liked the fragrance but I wasn't overwhelmed with its performance as a cleanser or exfoliator.

                              It comes in to its own as a balm, however. I started putting it on my skin as a night treatment, melting it in my hands and spreading it over my facial skin and lips. The next morning I awoke with plump healthy skin. It is also very good for rubbing into nails and any other dry patches of skin.

                              As it didn't meet my cleansing needs, I am unlikely to buy it again. It is a good overall balm, but there are many similar balm products on the market, many of them much cheaper. The beautiful natural rose fragrance is a bonus as it is a nice smell to have on your skin.

                              At the moment, it is in my 'use this up' pile rather than my holy grail. Unfortunately it has not performed as well as other Neal's Yard products I have tried.

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