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Located on the A14 east of Ipswich, the Marriott provides reasonably homely accommodation in a location which is very convenient for visitors to BT's Adastral Park (formerly known as Martlesham). The comfortable rooms, while not massive, are an acceptable size and are well well furnished. Four pay movie channels offer a rotating selection of films (different each day, with some repetition over the course of a week), while four radio channels, and a basic Sky selection is included too. The hotel restaurant offers a respectable choice of tasty options, all available from room service, which is just as well, as the hotel's out-of-town limit the alternatives available without driving. A buffet breakdast is offered, including a good selection (no room-service breakfast is available though) The staff are friendly and accomodating, car parking has never been a problem for me, and the hotel has always felt like somewhere worth coming back to after a day on-site. Overall the hotel offers a solid package which won't disappoint.
Located close to the centre of Ipswich and Ipswich railway station, the 100 room Novotel provides basic and somewhat spartan (no wardrobe, just a shelf and a rail?) accommodation. The good size rooms have the feel of upmarket French student dorms - minimalist without much style. Each room has a comfortable sofa, and feels reasonably spacious, if a little cold. In-room entertainment includes 4 radio stations, Sky Sports as well as 2 movies (the same two all week) and Playstation games. Food is unexciting from a fairly limited menu- unless you're in a hurry, you're better off heading into Ipswich centre (only a few minutes walk, to vastly superior restaurants such as Venezia). Car parking is very limited, so expect to have to hand your keys in at reception to allow them to juggle visitors' cars. Overall there's nothing out-and-out wrong with the hotel, but pretty much everything is lacklustre, with a lack of attention to detail and customer care shown by the staff. For the money, in this area, you can do better, so unless the proximity to the station or Ipswich centre is an overriding concern, try to find somewhere else.
Located just outside Swindon in the village of Purton, The Pear Tree at Purton is a small hotel located in a converted rectory. Originally opened just over 10 years ago by a couple with impressive hotel industry credentials, the hotel has grown from initially being a restaurant to the current 18 rooms. The emphasis is firmly and squarely on lokking after the customer - not "customer service" or any other industry hype, but actually genuinely looking after the customer. After 3 solid months of staying in various hotels in and around Swindon, I can honestly say it's the only hotel where all of the staff were genuinely friendly, and genuinely pleased to help, all of the time. The small size of the hotel, and the uniquely helpful attitude of the staff set it apart from the rest, as do several other touches. Each room has it's own character, and is named after a person associated with the Pear Tree over it's history. The ethos of being different continues when you get to the room; a decanter of sherry, a bowl of fruit, a bottle of mineral water, biscuits and mints are all included in the room price, and there's no feeling that the hotel are trying to screw every last penny out of you. Yes, the hotel is not "cheap", but the price is the same as every other business hotel in the area, and the quality is far in excess of the others, in every regard. They even provide a copy of the Radio Times in each room, so you can plan your viewing (no pay-TV, but several satellite channels, including 2 movie channels - again, no extra charge). A review of the Pear Tree at Purton would not be complete without mentioning the restaurant. The food is simply superb, and far better even that "name" London Restaurants like the Conran Coast. A fixed price (notice a theme here?) menu offers a wide choice of contemporary British cuisine. Good food, solid, sensible food, but wildly imaginative too. In short, a hotel where you really can relax, where the staff genuinely care about *you* personally, and where the quality of everything is absolutely first rate. Am I raving about the place? Yes, but as I'm a fussy so-and-so, I'm confident you'll rave after a stay there. And no, I'm not on paybacks for this review!
I find the confusion, misunderstanding and spin surrounding the issue of Britain's membership of the EMU amazing. It's one of those issues where sanity is an optional extra... An example: those who oppose the Euro are frequently decried as Europhobic, racist or xenophobic. Why? To object to a fiscal policy, or to to object that a particular a group of politicians represent insufficiently well is not xenophobic, even if that policy is currently subscribed to by "foreign" countries, or the place of work of those politicians is abroad. Those in favour would also play down the political consequences of making membership of the Euro work financially. To control an increasing number of economically and geographically disparate economies can mean only one thing: the ceding of power to a centralised control. Ask yourself "for why?". For the good of the system, for the overall, averaged out good of the entire membership, but most of all for those Eurocrats who have staked their futures on the Euro. Those who oppose British membership have also been notably silent on this point: Britain will suffer for the sake of other member countries, and when her citizens complain to their elected leaders, where will they be? In Brussels, oblivious. The ability of the EU to positively influence British life has not been demonstrated thus far. Are we to trust them with far more power, to our own detriment, for a flawed political ideal?
A stunning sequel to the original MI, MI-2 hits harder, faster and sharper from the word go. Tom Cruise turns in an even better performance than in the original, performing many of the stunts himself - and what stunts! Low brow entertainment? - yes, but it never pretends to be anything else, the plot has more than enough depth for a thriller this fast paced. Sad to say, James Bond has been well and truly knocked from top spot as fun (if slightly formulaic) family thrillers. MI-2 is executed flawlessly; John Woo has taken the franchise on, and given it far more life than the original ever hinted at
Miles and miles of galloping slaughter, culminating in a ballet of death. A long and somewhat turgid film, as some have already noted: Braveheart with muskets. The recent success of Chicken Run does nothing to help this film, as all I could hear was Rocky the Rooster urging his men on... The film succeeds in expressing the senselessness of war, the mindlessness of the strategies employed and the suffering of the innocent. Since it fails to offer any human storylines (or at least any which are explored in any depth), the result, however is very unsatisfying, unless shallow Hollywood sentimentality appeals. There are plenty of other films which deal with suffering, and many other do so in a way which is much more emotionally rewarding (example Last of the Mohicans) Missing on all marks, this is only one for fans of Mel Gibson who want to see him in *anything*
Standard issue for many general business users, the Nokia 6110 is a competent phone which carries all of Nokia's trademark values, but is nonetheless nothing special. Rugged, slightly more compact than their low-end consumer 5110/ 5146 and lighter too, the 6110 offers all the obvious features in a menu system which is generally easy to navigate. The Navikey found in the 5110/ 5146 does, however, make for faster access to commonly used features. Talk time remains resonable even after much abuse of the battery. For users with chunky fingers, the unnecessarily small buttons will prove a problem, it's all too easy to press the wrong key or 2 at once. The travel is too short too. Overall, a safe choice, but nothing inspiring either
The Nokia 5146 is one of the older phone's in Nokia's current lineup, but remains nonetheless a strong contender. Like all Nokia phones, it's solidy built, and will happily withstand a lot of knocks and abuse. Battery life is excellent, either talking or in standby. Audio quality is also good. It's bulkier than some of the newer phones, but still perfectly manageable if you carry it or wear it on your belt - certainly the weight is not a problem. If, like me, you have fairly chunky fingers, you may find this is the smallest Nokia you can get away with - I regularly use a 6110 for work, and struggle to dial accurately on its small buttons. If you value features, understated style, and a good robust phone, the 5146 is well worth a look, beating most other manugacturers low-end offerings into a pulp (literally!)