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Regency Hotel Dublin
The Regency Hotel is located about 3km North of Dublin. It's about half way between Dublin city centre and the airport. I found it to be an excellent base to explore Dublin and it currently has some great deals.
I stayed in the Regency for a weekend just before Christmas 2009. We got the deal for 120 euro for the weekend. The price didn't include breakfast but it did include complementary access to the leisure facilities.
The hotel itself was pretty nice. I wasn't expecting much for the price and was delighted with what we got. The hotel does show it age in certain areas but overall I was more than happy. The room is built to American standards and was therefore a bit bigger than other hotels I have stayed at in Dublin. The hotel itself was a breeze to find. I drove from the North and it was literally drive to the end of the motorway. Exit motorway and the hotel is on the right.
We ate a meal in the hotel on the first night. It was just pub grub and found it to be pretty decent. I had a burger and chips for 10 euro which was pretty reasonable. Can't remember the price of pints but don't remember them being overly expensive.
There was free entertainment in the bar too which was decent enough.
The leisure facilities were very good. They look almost brand new and include a gym, salon, pool, sauna and Jacuzzi. You need to buy or bring your own shower cap to use the pool.
Overall I would recommend this hotel if your on a budget and don't fancy spending all your money on a room. It was a doddle to get into Dublin on the bus as every bus that passed the hotel goes into Dublin. Surprisingly one of the cheap things in Dublin is a taxi and we were able to get taxi back at end of night no problem. My only gripes with the hotel were that they charged for car parking. Seemed very ryanair-ish of them. I believe it was 10 euro. Also the rooms could be interlinked by a door leading into each bathroom. This meant we could hear everything in the room and particularly the bathroom next door. The people next to us were up for an early flight, took three hours to get ready and at times sounded like they were getting ready in our room. Similar to a hotel experience in that way as there is always some idiot waking everyone else.
Other than that I would go back. They now even do rooms for 49 euro so for a visit to Dublin it worth considering.
Optrex Actimist Eye Spray
Last week my eyes were giving me gip and I happened to mention it to my mum who produced a bottle of Optrex Actimist eye spray. She give the bottle to me and I have been using the product for over a week.
What is Optrex Actimist eye spray?
Well as you might imagine it's an eye spray that is designed to relieve the effects of dry eyes. I vaguely remember seeing it advertised somewhere but it had never crossed my mind that I might be suffering from dry eyes. I thought I had a touch eye strain from looking at the computer all day.
The spray comes in a pretty small bottle. It is applied to closed eye i.e. you spray it onto your eyelids and wait 15-20 seconds before opening them again. I have opened them a bit sooner and it stung a slight bit so always follow the instructions. Each bottle contains on average 100 applications.
When I went to but a replacement bottle for my mum I was shocked to see that this product cost £11.99 for the tiny bottle in Superdrug. It may be slightly cheaper elsewhere but it's nearly always around this mark.
I have to say that until I saw the price of the stuff I was thoroughly impressed by this stuff. On the first day that I was suffering the relief that the first spray gave was amazing. It felt like it woke my eyes up. The spray when applied feels cool and refreshing and leaves your eyes feeling like that for hours afterwards. I have been using it for a week now and personally I can really feel the difference. If I feel my eyes getting tired in work, I apply this stuff and feel loads better.
I would highly recommend this product except for the price. I am not sure the price justifies purchasing this and I can help wonder would eye drops for under £3 do a similar job. I think I will give the eye drops a go when this bottle runs out. If however the eye drops don't do the same job then this would be well worth it.
The AA breakdown Cover
I have been a member of AA for the past five years and throughout that time I have paid for their roadside assistance breakdown cover. Firstly I would say that the breakdown cover itself is actually pretty decent however I have become disillusioned with the AA and as a result I have decided not to renew my breakdown cover.
What is the AA?
The AA is the Automobile Association. They are involved in all aspects of motoring from roads, petrol, cars, bikes etc. In the UK and possibly Europe they offer a breakdown service for members at a premium.
How much does it cost?
For new member breakdown cover starts at £28 per year for roadside assistance. Optional extras such as home start etc can be added to your policy for additional cost.
I opted for the roadside assistance.
I had this service for the past five years and over that time I have called out the AA three times. It's a great reassurance to have someone to call when you break down. The first two times I broke down the AA where with me within 2 hours which wasn't really all that bad. Both times they managed to get my car going again with little delay. I found the driver to be friendly and helpful.
The third time the AA didn't come within two hours and I managed to get the car going again myself so cancelled the call.
Normally I would be recommending such a decent product however as I said at the beginning I have become disillusioned with the AA. I had opted for an automatic renewal membership for the AA. When my last bill came in they were looking for £56 for roadside assistance however when I checked online they quote the same level of cover for a new member as being £28 plus a new member could get £21 cash back through quidco.
I hadn't used the service in the last year and therefore couldn't understand why the fee had gone up so much. I tried to contact AA be phone but as all there operators where busy "answering emergency calls" I was unable to get through. I sent an email over 2 weeks ago and have failed to get a reply.
So far I have had no explanation regarding the difference in price between my renewal price and the price for a new member so I have decided to cancel my membership. I know many other people who have done the same and have switched to the RAC and I intend to the do the same.
Im not sure whether or not I can do it but i plan now to just switch breakdown cover each year to ensure that i get the lowest price possible which they seem to be only offering to new members.
Slieve Donard Hike
Slieve Donard is located in the Moune Mountains. It's the highest mountain in Northern Ireland with its summit at 850m. There are a few different approaches than can be taken to climb the summit. We choose the route from Bloody Bridge car park to Hares Gap and then followed the Mourne Wall to the summit. The path is well worn and was easy enough to follow with a basic map.
I decided to do this hike on a Friday in September. The day was pretty overcast but the visibility was still good with some light showers. What I liked about it was that it seemed liked we had the whole mountain to ourselves. We didn't meet anyone until we were at the summit and they had climbed a different route.
We choose the route from the car park at Bloody Bridge which is about 3 miles past Newcastle Co Down. There are also toilet facilities at the car park. The hike itself took about 7 hours in total but probably could have been done at a quicker pace. A round trip from Bloody Bridge to the summit of Donard is about 10k. The climb from the car park to Hares Gap wasn't too bad but the climb from Hares Gap to the summit was very steep. Not so bad going up but slightly dangerous on the way back so not to be attempted for anyone with any ankle injuries or the like.
The scenery on this walk is stunning. I have done this hike a few times and on good days it can be very popular with fellow hikers. The path overall is very rocky and good boots/shoes are a must. Overall I would recommend this hike for someone who wants a more challenging hike.
Cavehill Country Park
Cavehill Country Park is located on the outskirts of Belfast City Centre. It's approximately 4 miles from the city centre and is open all year round. It tends to be open during daylight hours
The park is home to Belfast Castle, an adventure playground for children and boarders Belfast Zoo.
The great thing about the park is that admission is free. There is some car parking available close to the castle however at peak times it can seems quite busy although I have never had a problem finding a space.
In my opinion this is one of Belfast's hidden gems. I don't believe that they promote the park well enough. It's only a short bus ride from the city centre and offers a variety of walk and activities for people of all abilities. Personally I enjoy the cave hill trail which starts near the castle car park. It has one pretty steep section and leads all the way to Mc Arthurs Fort past the famous caves which give cave hill its name. The view from the top of Napoleons peak (which is named after the famous French Emperor because it resembles the shape of his nose) is stunning. On a clear day the whole of Belfast, Scotland and the Mourne Mountains are easily visible.
I have taken plenty of visitors to this park from all over the world and they have all been highly impressed by the views.
The full cave hill trail could be done in about 2h30 mins but a more leisurely pace makes it even more enjoyable. Distance wise I believe it to be about 4-6k and rise to about 400m.
Overall an excellent park and well worth visiting if you're in town.
Kilkeel Leisure Centre
It's taken quite a while for this product suggestion to come through. So long that I almost forget my visit to Kilkeel Leisure Centre however I will attempt to give my opinion of my visit which was last September.
Where is Kilkeel
Kilkeel is a small fishing town/village in county Down. Its located about 10 miles from Newry.
About the leisure centre
The leisure centre is located close to the sea front and the area outside offers some great sea views. The leisure centre appears to be relatively new or else refurbished to a good standard. The facilities include a gym, a 25m pool, a training pool, steam room, sauna room and spa pool. There is also squash courts, a committee room and a café area.
I decided to go one Saturday afternoon for a swim. The staff were friendly and pointed us in the right direction. I think a swim cosy in the region of £2.40. The pool was relatively busy but not too bad and they had a couple of lanes blocked off for swimming lengths. It was the first pool that I have been to that included communal changing areas. You basically just pick a booth and get changed in it then take your stuff with you over to the lockers. It wasn't too bad and I believe that a lot of leisure centres are moving to this set up.
During our visit there were a few swimming lessons and for some reason the parents are allowed into the pool area. In fact there were quite a few standing right beside the pool watching us swim. It didn't bother me too much but I just thought its seemed a bit strange with them being so close to the pool area in normal outdoor clothes i.e mucky shoes and the like which could have easily contaminated the pool. In my opinion they shouldn't be allowed in wet areas unless they are swimming themselves.
All in all its not a bad leisure centre and I would recommend it if your in the area.a
Call of duty: Modern Warfare 2
Having been a big fan of the first outing or modern warfare I was keen to get my hands on a copy of this game. I actually cashed in some doo yoo points to get this game the first week it came out. I got it from Amazon for £32 and was happy enough with that price. I would expect you could find better deals for it nowadays though.
What is the fuss all about?
This is a video game which is part of the call of duty franchise. In actual terms this should probably be called call of duty six as it's the sixth one. I am an x box fan and as such I bought mine for the x box. This game is set in the modern era in that all of the weapons that you encounter are those that are in use by various armies around the globe. The game itself is based five years after the first modern warfare outing and in the game you get to play a host of characters. This allows the game to have a real time feel as you switch between different characters in different countries and locations.
What is online like?
If you're a fan of online gameplay you will probably know by now that the first modern warfare game was one of the most popular games online ever. I am pleased to say that they second outing is just as good. The makers have made some alterations but they have been so minimal so as not to take away from the game and in my opinion they have actually improved it.
I really enjoyed playing this game and would highly recommend it to any fan of first person shooters. The graphics are amazing and the story behind the game is really good. I have got over 70 hours play out of this game and loved every minute of it. Definitely one for the collection!
Northern Ireland International Airshow
The Northern Ireland International Airshow has now been running for about 7-8 years and is held annually at the end of the summer in Portrush believe that last year the event was on the first weekend of September. I have always been a fan of aircraft and spent many happy years in the air cadets and this year decided to check to the Airshow for myself.
Where is Portrush
Portrush is located at the top of Northern Ireland. It's a small sea side resort which is passed it's hey day. It may be known to motor cycle enthusiasts as the home of the North West 200 road race. Roughly speaking it's about 1 hour 40 to 2 hours away from Belfast via car. Public transport includes trains ands buses to the town. The train service is sporadic at best and I heard on the radio that it was overwhelmed for this event.
What is the air show?
The Airshow itself is a free event. Given this fact it was reasonable to expect it to be busy. We left early and managed to get parked in a decent spot. I think it may have been one of the last available spaces in the free car park as the majority of spaces was taken up by caravanettes which had set up camp there. Portrush can be a cold and blustery spot and on the day I went it felt more like mid winter than the end of the summer. The wind was extremely strong and I wouldn't have been surprised if they had of called the event off.
Fortunatley it went ahead. It was opened by the spectualr red arrows which are always impressive. There were a few helicopter displays from sea kings, a huey, wing walkers and some other small planes. The biggest draw of the afternoon was the new airbus a380.
You cant blame the organisers for the weather which put a real downer on the whole day. Portrush in my opinion is not the best place for this event and based on my last experience I will not be in a rush back. My dad had been before and he knew that the town itself was not the best place to see the displays. Due to the display rules the planes didn't really fly over Portrush. Instead they had to stay I would guess about 1k away from the shoreline and only flew over the edges of the bay. This is where we sat and without doubt we had the best views. The people in the town would have needed hawk eyes to see some of the displays.
The event was free but I was hounded a few times about giving money to the organisers for next year and this was before the show had even started. The price of other things around the town also seemed to be inflated for the day. I paid 9 quid for a breakfast and wouldn't have minded but it wasn't even that nice. Burgers on their own were being sold for £5 which seemed like another downside and amusement rides also seemed expensive so anyone with kids would have been out a fortune.
As for the planes and displays they were not all that great. Aside from the red arrows the only attraction worth seeing was the air bus and even then it only really flew past twice and was away again. Personally I like to see fast jets and these where well and truly underrepresented. Instead they rolled out a load of prop planes and too many helicopters.
Overall the rip off prices and the lack of decent display aircraft means I will not be returning to the air show in its current format any time soon.
The Wire series 2
I thoroughly enjoyed the first series of the wire so much so I couldn't wait to get my hands on the second series so that I could watch it while it was still fresh in my head. The second series is also set in Baltimore, Maryland and follows not only the characters that we have already come to know but also a whole host of new characters. It was almost like adding a whole a new dimension to the story that I was already familiar with without loosing the main focus of the overall programme.
What is it about?
At the start of the second series all of the main characters are split up. The cops have all returned to their former units with the troublesome McNulty being put on the boat squad (the one place he didn't want to go). The drug dealers on the whole are back behind bars except for the notorious Stringer Bell.
Basically the target of the wires next investigation is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The main target is the dock workers and later the Greek . The leader of the dock workers a Frank Sabotca has arranged to have a new stained glass window erected in the chapel. The district police commander also wants to have one erected and when he can't convince Sabotca to change his mind he then moves on to get the wire team back in place to get some dirt on Sabotca and the dock union.
I was completely hooked to the second series and thoroughly enjoyed it. There is a great sense of realism in the show and it makes every episode great to watch. IN the episode I was particularly impressed by the police boss I think it was Valckeck. He came across as a real nasty piece of work and played his role brilliantly.
I could go on talking about this show all day but safe to say it makes an excellent watch and I would highly recommend it.
Asda ginger nuts
Asda as a shop has always been a bit of a novelty for me in that there is one close to my house. The nearest one is about 10 miles away and as a result I generally don't tend to shop there very often. However with a change of office I now find myself only meters away from one and to a certain extent the novelty has worn off. I find the shops to feel slightly cluttered, always busy even when they are not and I am convinced that their isles must be slightly thinner than other supermarkets as they feel very tight at times. That being said I shop here for the odd bits and pieces and one of the products I tried on a recent visit was Asda ginger nuts.
What are Asda ginger nuts?
Basically they are Asda own version of the classis ginger nut biscuit. They, like all Asda value range, come in a pretty plain white package that has some green writing on it. I am not sure of the correct price of these but I am almost certain that they were 35 pence but I have seen other reviews note that they are 36p.
I tried these upon returning from the shops. I was delighted to find that unlike other own brands of the same biscuit I was able to smell the distinct smell of ginger when I open the packet. I took a bite and I was pleasantly surprised. The biscuit itself is round and light brown in colour. It's slightly drier and more crumbly than other versions of ginger nut however that would not put me off.
I also tried a biscuit by dunking it into a cup of tea and have to say on a blind taste test in this category it would be very hard to tell the difference between this biscuit and the leading brand.
So if you're looking for a cheaper alternative of dunking in your tea I would happily recommend this product.
Kellogg's Corn Flakes
In my continuing attempt to eat healthier breakfasts I am trying out a whole host of breakfast cereals. Some I have never tried before whereas other such as Kellogg's corn flakes I have grown up with. Over the past week or so I have been having the occasional bowl of corn flakes and on the whole I have been pretty pleased with the product.
Who are Kellogg's?
Kellogg's are the world's biggest manufacturer of cereal products. In 2008 they recorded sales of $13 billion dollars. They are based in the USA. Other brands produced by the company include pop tarts, rice krispies, all bran and special K.
Where to buy?
Cornflakes are probably the most widely available breakfast cereal in the UK and are available in a wide variety of places such as garages, supermarkets, corner shops and even in the café of my local leisure centre. In Tesco at the minute they are currently on offer where you can get 2 boxes of 500g for £3.00.
A typical serving has 171kcal, 2.5g of fat, 1.5g of saturated fat, 9g of sugar and 0.7g of sodium.
I can't remember a time growing up when there wasn't a box of corn flakes in my house. Thinking back over the years corn flakes seems to have been everywhere. They seem to be a staple cereal offering in nearly everyone's house that I have ever stayed at, they are always on offer in hotels, on ships, at restaurants at cafes. If a place only has one type of cereal you can rest assured that its corn flakes. That being said as a younger chap I didn't really like it. It was always the cereal of last resort when nothing else was left and maybe that has overshadowed my opinion of it.
That being said I decided to give corn flakes a second chance. I usually have them in the morning with cold milk. I don't bother adding any sugar to them. Overall I think that they are just ok. I don't think they merit the high esteem that they seem to be held in. I am glad a have a couple of cereals to mix it up a bit otherwise I am sure that I could very quickly get bored of eating these as they can be a bit bland. They are probably good to have in the cupboard for times when caught short as these will always be the last to be eaten.
In the run up to Christmas its nice to get in the mood and in my opinion there is no better way than to relax with a nice Christmassy DVD. There are loads of great Christmas movies out there such as home alone and a few stinkers. However Polar Express I am glad to say is one of the better ones.
About Polar Express
The Polar Express is based on a children's book by the same name. It was written in 1958 and has now been adapted into a movie which was originally released in 2004. Tom Hanks is the main actor of the movie. In fact he plays five distinct roles including that of the conductor and Santa himself.
The movie is set on Christmas Eve and follows a young boy who wants to believe in the true story of Christmas. It soon becomes clear that although he wants to believe he is finding it increasingly difficult to do so. Around this stage a magic train arrives and the boy is invited onboard to join a group of children on their way to North Pole to meet Santa.
I don't want to give away too much of the story but needless to say there is a whole load of adventure for to kids along the way
I watched this movie on DVD last Christmas and I have to say at 29 I really enjoyed it. The story was great and the animation was superb as were the voice over's by the cast. It really is a feel good movie and following it I had to reach for jingle bell just to reinforce the fact that I could still hear it ring and thus be a true believer in Christmas. I was delighted to find that I could still hear it lol.
I would definitely recommend this movie as its fun, entertaining, has a great story and will be enjoyed by young and old alike.
I went to see the film last week at the cinema fallowing all the hype that had been made of it in the media. Generally speaking I enjoy the big budget end of the world type movies such as Independence Day and I went to cinema hoping for something similar.
About the movie
The movie is science fiction based loosely on an apocalyptic prediction first noticed in the Mayan calendar. The movie features John Cusack, Danny Glover, and Woody Harrelson and is directed by Robert Emmerich. Cusack plays a struggling writes who it turns out has already had a book published relating to how to survive in a catastrophe.
This movie is all about the special effects and they were brilliant throughout. Some of the scenes are very intense and realistic and in terms of special effects the movie is great.
However having watched the full 2 hours 30 mins I came away with the feeling that movie wasn't all that great. The acting by some was ok. Cusack did well as did Harrelson but some of the other actors seem a bit crap. The story moves so fast there is little time to build up any of the characters so it's maybe not their fault.
So of the dialogue in the movie was also pretty poor. I knew what to expect in the movie but in one science we see Cusack's daughter try to run back into the house to retrieve her hats when the whole of California appears to be falling away beneath their feet.(not a cat or a dog but her hat????) Personally I was and still am fearful for the hats and can only help some other passer by might have saved them so they can be tearfully reunited in the sequel.
I guess what I am trying to say is that no amount of special effects can hide the fact that this movie was on the whole a pretty poor story.
Over the years I have went through a number of phases of eating breakfast cereal. In my late teens and early twenties I found it really hard to eat any breaskfast whatsoever. Nowadays I realise the importance of having a breakfast and If I had to choose I would rather do without a lunch than a breakfast. My current phase in the world of breakfast cereals is to be healthier and one of the cereals I am eating at the minute is shredded wheat.
Shredded Wheat is one of the most common cereals on offer in the UK. Its widely available and sold in garages, corner shops and supermarkets. Its occasionally included in offers and the last time I bought a box it was included in a buy one get one free in Tesco. It cost me £2.48 for a 30 biscuit box and of course I got another box of the same size for free. I usually eat two shredded wheat's for biscuits and this offer gave me enough cereal for 30 days so I was pretty happy with the price.
With milk and an average serving of shredded wheat (2 biscuits) you can expect to receive 217kcal, 1.4g of saturated fat, 6.3 g of sugar and 0.2g of sodium.
I have enjoyed trying these over the past month but I feel that they can be a bit hard to swallow. I tend to have to drown them in milk so that they go down a bit easier but even then I sometimes feel that I can feel them stuck in my throat for the next thirty minutes or so as I drive to work.
Taste wise they can be a bit bland compared to some of the other offerings on the market but they are quite healthy and that can only be a good thing. Two biscuits seems more than an ample serving and I really like that the fact that the biscuits are individually wrapped in to two biscuit servings.
Overall I would be happy to recommend this product however I wouldn't want to eat them everyday and a bit of variety when eating these will go a long way as it would be easy enough to quickly sicken yourself from eating these. I suppose if you had time and could bothered with a bit of extra effort you could probably add fruit and yoghurts to spice the breakfast up but unfortunately I never seem to have the will to do that come morning time. So in summary they are nice but just not everyday. I have also heard that the wheat is very good for cleaning out ones insides.
George Foreman Grill
In an effort to eat more healthily I decided to invest in a George Forman grilling machine a few years back. I had already had a small one as a student but it was difficult to clean and which in turn made it seem like a real chore to use. However when they released the new version with its detachable and machine washable heat plates, I decided to give it a go.
Who is George Foreman?
George Foreman is a former heavyweight boxing champion. He is actually the oldest man to have ever won the world championship when he did so at the age of 45. Other strings to his bow include an Olympic gold medal and his successes as an entrepreneur.
He most famous product is the George Foreman range of grills. They are in his own words lean, mean, grilling machines. The grill itself is an indoor grilling machine with heat plates on the top and bottom. The food i.e. chicken is place in the middle of the two heat plates providing a more even cooking environment. As well as this the heat plates are angled slightly so that any excess fat or grease runs away from the food making it healthier.
I have been delighted with my George Foreman over the past two years. Back then I bought it for about £60 but it can now be bought for around £40. The size is just right for a small family and you could easily fit about four chicken breasts on at once.
I have been regularly amazed at the amount of what I would describe as 'gunk' that comes of the different types of food. Bacon and sausages seem to be the worst offenders. The fat and excess moisture almost flows off them in to the handy trough located just under the grill. My machine came with two troughs and two turning forks. The product also contained a cook book with some instructions.
Using the machine is a breeze. It's so simple even my four year old nice can master it under supervision. You simply turn the power on; select the chosen temperature and the amount of minutes that you want the food cooked at that temperature. The machine will beep when it reaches the desired temperature and again when the time is up.
The removable plates are great in that this product is now so easy to clean. They can simply be popped straight into the dishwasher. I however find that they are a bit big for the dishwasher and rather than full it up with just these I tend to wash them under the tap. But the fact that you can take the plates off the grill to place them in the sink makes this an easy enough task.
Overall the product has paid for itself. The food cooked in it tastes really nice and the fact that you can see the gunk come of it as it cooks let you know that you're getting a healthier meal. I would highly recommend this product to anyone who wants a healthier lifestyle and it would make an excellent Christmas present for the house.
A small bit of trivia that I just learnt and thought I would share
George Foreman has made an absolute fortune from endorsing these and he even jokes that he is more famous for the grills that his boxing. At the height he was making royalties of $4.5million a month and conservative estimates his income from the grills at around $240 million. The trivia is that the contract to endorse the grill was offered to none other than Hulk Hogan. There are two schools on this subject. One says he turned the investment opportunity to focus on a Hogan Blender the other school says he simply just missed the phone call. If that's the case its one expensive phone call to have missed.