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Back in December, I'd decided it was time to check if what I was paying for elec/gas was about right compared to others. Being on the moneysavingexpert.com email list, I opted to check out his website for advice before doing anything.
It said to use a utilities comparison site, so armed with my usage over a 12 month period, and what I'd paid over the time, I chose to use the Simply Switch link - which happened to offer a type of moneyback service!
So, I loaded up the website, which was really simply laid out, and easy to use. I entered the amounts of energy I'd used in the last year, told them how I paid, who I was currently with and clicked the button.
It's pretty quick to load up the page that tells you who's the cheapest, which is good. There isn't that many energy companies I guess (compared with insurance for example) so that helps. Anyway, just like any other comparison site, you get a list of companies, prices and tariff type (like Green, Economy 7 etc) so you can chose exactly what you want
As I have what they call DualFuel (ie get both gas and elec from same company) and like to pay by Direct Debit, I am eligble for the maximum discount from everyone. Also, opting for an online account (so no paper bills, and no letters in the post) gives another discount.
This website has taken my monthly payment from £66 to just £29! It pays to switch people!
And speaking of paying to switch, I had an email from Simply Switch after I actioned the switching of my energy supplier, giving me a link to use after the switch had gone through to claim my voucher cashback. £35 in either Amazon or John Lewis vouchers. Result!
One thing, you have to leave it over 28days from your new energy account being activated before you can claim your voucher.
I would recommend using this comparison site to check your not paying too much for your energy, and for switching. It was straight forward and easy to do. HOWEVER, I believe to get the voucher cashback you need to access the site via moneysavingexpert.com
Flama's is a relatively new South American restaurant found in the Hampton Vale area of Peterborough. Having browsed the menu outside on a trip to the pub round the corner, we decided we'd like to give it a try.
So when Mr M said he was taking me out for dinner this weekend, Flama's was the destination.
Walking into the restaurant, I was stuck by the warm atmosphere, the friendliness of the staff, who gave us the choice of where to sit (we had booked, but it was lovely to pick) so we opted for a table near the passé and away from the door.
There was a big screen above the bar, where the barman was busy mixing cocktails, which showed flames, adding to the warmth.
Sitting down, the chairs were nice and comfortable. The table was laid out nicely, with the cutlery laid at an angle to match the napkin that sat between. The menu's were a nice surprise, wooden covered, which we felt added a bit of sophistication to such a vital and simple thing. The cocktail menu is extensive, so you're sure to find something you'd like to sample. Virgin cocktails as well alcoholic ones. Wine, bottled beer and soft drinks round the drinks menu off nicely. The variety certainly was good.
The food menu is something else. A good choice of starters, mains and sides made it difficult to pick just one each. Of course you can have tapas if the mood takes you.
We both opted (after some deliberation) for shellfish starters. Mr M had the Gambas de tequila-tabasco - king prawns (and they were huge!) marinated in coriander and garlic, fired with gold tequila and finished with Tabasco. Garnished with avocado cream sauce and sweet potato. It was delicious (yes I had a nibble). The prawns were cooked to perfection, the sweet potato puree went well with the other flavours, and there was just a hint of heat in the back of your throat. Not over powering, it was just right. With just three prawns to the dish, it was also just the right size for a starter.
I had Venera del Mar - three sea scallops, pan seared with Tex-Mex seasoning, served over a bed of guacamole, topped with crisp tortillas and garnished with aceite and balsamic glaze. The scallops were just cooked, as they should be. The guacamole was delicious, surprising really because I don't normally like the green stuff. The salsa bits that came with it really set the scallops off nicely.
Oh and a quick mention to the presentation. Yum! It looked gorgeous, and you wanted to eat it. That goes for every plate that was set in front of us.
For mains, Mr M went for Pollo Brazileno - chicken breast supreme, jerked in Brazilian spices, serves with sweet potatoes and seasonal green veg, topped with cholulo sauce. It vanished pretty quick, so it must've been good. No morsel for me this time, so that says everything! He did say it didn't have the heat he was expecting, but that the vegetable accompaniments were perfect match for the chicken. It did look good, I have to say. He did mention that a few more veg would've been welcomed.
I picked the Flama's Carne Asada - sirloin steak with Flama's dry-rub carne asada seasoning, garnished with pico de gallo and lime wedges, served with roasted new potatoes. The steak was huge! There was plenty of roastie spuds, and the salad leaves (I'm guessing the pico de gallo) was dressed nicely. The steak was perfectly cooked - just as I'd asked for, which I think shows the level of the chef as so many overcook or undercook a medium steak! The only thing I would find fault with on my main, was the salad could've been a bit bigger. The potatoes were just the right number, but the steak was so big that you wanted something to eat with it after the spuds ran out. Maybe some veg on the side, but you live and learn eh. It left room for pudding anyway!
Mr M went for the special dessert - lime and tequila crème brulee. I went for the chocolate fondant. Mr M said that his was delicious, soft just set custard underneath the hard top of the sugar, but mentioned that about three-quarters of the way through he hoped he was nearly done. It was a large ramekin, served with a wonderful strawberry compot on the side, which was perfect (yep, got to taste the syrup).
My chocolate dish looked great. Big swirls of chocolate sauce underneath the chocolate cake with red berries sitting on top. Have to say, yummy though the cake was, it was a little too set in the middle. Not to take anything away from the taste, it was perfectly chocolate and rich. Just right to round off the meal that came before it.
So three courses for the two of us came to £48. Not the cheapest meal, but it was worth it. I think £25 per person for a three course meal as wonderful as the one we enjoyed is expected. We were happy (well, Mr M was) to pay.
The bottle of wine Mr M supped was £12.95, which is very reasonable for restaurant prices, and my cocktails were £4.50 each - and were seriously drinkable.
We will be returning again and again to this restaurant. I think that's the highest acclaim we can give the place.
If you have read the others, you have to finish the journey with Breaking Dawn.
Eclipse ended with Edward and Bella's engagement. Ahh.
Breaking Dawn carries straight on, with the preparations and the wedding itself. Oh oops! Should I have mentioned the fact that Bella does become Mrs Cullen?? Oh well.
I'm going to try not to throw many spoilers in, but please forgive me for the few which are necessary.
The book is split into three sections. The first and third are told by Bella. The second is told by Jacob. Interesting that, told via a werewolf.
Anyway, Bella and Edward get wed. They go off on honeymoon. Something happens. They come home. Bella's life is in danger.....again.
She ends up getting what she wanted. But then someone else is in danger....
I honestly think this book could easily have been split into two, but I'm glad they didn't as it works so well, tho it's like a tomb in size!
The wedding and honeymoon sections are well written, without flowering romantic overtones to smother you with. The sex scenes (yes Bella finally gets some) are written without detail, as these are aimed at children lest we forget. Good to see some 'coming of age' aspects for Bella tho. The honeymoon twist is jaw-droppingly astounding! Really didn't see that one coming.
The section from Jacob tells us the story that follows. Interesting as Bella isn't really able to narrate at this point, and giving it to Edward would cut out the outside world. Jacob, gives us the story in it's entirity, including what happens outside the Cullens house. Of course we get Jacobs emotions about what occurs as well as the facts. Clever.
The third part of the book is back with Bella. An interesting insight to the 'change' and the aftermath. And the fight that comes at the end of course. We also meet a lot more vampires, some with other talents as well.
The whole thing is really well put together. I enjoyed the way it was split into three, and the twists in each section are genius. I found I was twigging each one at the same time as Bella did, which was good. I hate getting there and wondering how much longer before the character does!
The introduction of certain other characters was great, and although the end does wrap things up nicely with a bow, you could easily see a way for a future installment.
A great way to end the Twilight saga. A must read for fans everywhere!
So, to the third book of the Twilight Saga.
Bella is still human. Edward is still a vampire, and we've learnt that Jacob is a werewolf. Oh yeah, and he's in love with Bella.
When a string of murders in nearby Seattle become a flood, two and two are added together to equal a revenge-fuelled vampire!
Add to the tension of a coming battle, Edwards insistance of college, we have a reminder that this is a teen story.
As previously stated (on my other reviews) this book draws you right back into the middle of Forks, surrounds you with mythical people and very human desires.
The good aspects for me, where the stories of the vampires becoming vampires. The different ways Meyer dreamt up for the 'change' is refreshing!
I kind of liked the sex debate that runs in the back ground, but it didn't ring quite so true as the feelings did. I understand that Meyer is trying to tell kids to wait until their older, but Edwards refusal until Bella had been changed really removed the teenage desire from it for me.
The big fight was pretty predictable. You knew it was coming, you knew who was behind it, and you knew how it would end. There is a twist, which was nice, but still, we know the main three aren't about to snuff it in book three, dont we!
Would I recommend this book? If you enjoyed Twilight, survived New Moon without Edward, then yes you will enjoy this book. Not as good as Twilight in my opinion, but much better than New Moon.
Bring on Breaking Dawn!
Mr M treated himself to the Boots Mens Luxury Fragrance Selection box at the same time as he treated me to the ladies version (yes I did hand him my boots card to nab the points as well!!)
For the £22 for his set, he got: Giorgio Armani Code 7ml, Diesel Only The Brave 7ml, Emporio Armani Diamonds For Men 4ml and Diesel Fuel For Life 7ml.
**Code by Giorgio Armani**
"The ultimate code of seduction - timelessly sensual with fine leathers and rare woods"
A short stubby bottle, dark blue in colour with a black plastic top. The non-spray bottle gives us a woody, exotic scent with a lemon soap twang. It's clean, fresh and light. A bit like CKOne Mr M says, but a bit more woody. Have to say, it smells better after it's been on the skin for a few minutes - I think it needs to warm up a bit to get the best from it.
**Only the Brave by Diesel**
"Do you have what it takes? Dynamic and contemporary with masculine oriental woods"
The bottle is visually disappointing, I have to say. The full size version is like a fist made from glass. The miniature is a simple oblong of glass, with Diesel raised on two sides, and a silver top which conceals the spray.
But the smell makes up for the looks. It's probably my favourite of the mens scents.
It's light and heady. An oriental base with fruity wooden notes. It's very manly and sexy. An active mans scent I think
**Diamonds for Men by Emporio Armani**
"Hard to resist - a woody gourmand fragrance with a lingering sensuality"
The smallest bottle in the box, and probably the simplest bottle too. Very angular with a silver lid, it looks like an aftershave bottle in the traditional sense. Another non-spray, so go easy when releasing the lid. Smell-wise, it's musky, fresh with a rose undertone. Don't like this as much as the female version, but it's still very wearable, masculine and attractive.
**Fuel for Life by Diesel**
"Are you alive? A sexy and energizing mix of woods and musk"
The bottle is the same as the female version. An oval shape glass bottle with a gold lid, which covers the spray. Once you take the top off, the scent hits you full on. It is very strong, so beware, you don't need much. It's completely different to the others. It's young, strong and musky. Sweet but masculine. A fruity scent for a strong, fruity guy.
The four bottles come in a very easy to wrap box, always handy when it comes to Christmas. It is a little on the expensive side, but we all like variety in our smells don't we? So £22 for a present that will push all the right buttons might be just the thing
Just remember to spend the collected Boots Advantage points on yourself!
The Lime Tree Pantry goods are not sold in shops. I'll say that first off. I first saw them on QVC, and then found them at a craft fair that I was wasting some time at. This is where I first tried them.
So. You can buy from them direct online, at craft fairs (or Christmas ones) around the country, or via QVC. I guess that does kind of make them a "posh" commodity. I mean, you won't find them mass produced in Asda or similar.
Actually, you won't find them mass produced at all, because all the things they make are done by hand.
Yes I said BY HAND. They make the fillings themselves. They have highly trained people making pastry (and rolling it out) by hand, using no animal fats so the pastry is suitable for veggies. They use only the best cuts of meat available for the savoury pies (they do make fish and veggie savoury pies too). The fruit in the dessert pies are fresh, whole fruits. This they tell us on the side of the box, on the website, and quote it on the shopping channels.
So, a traditional pie, made the traditional way. Is it good?
Right, blurb over, let's talk about the Apple and Raspberry Pie I've just devoured (with help!)
The pastry is crumbly and tasty. I wouldn't say it was sweet, it didn't detract from the taste of the filling, which was good.
The filling itself was chock-full of fruit. You could tell from the texture there was apple in there, but the look and taste was dominated by the raspberries. This wasn't a bad thing at all. The raspberries gave the pie an amazing colour filling, giving a bitter twist to the sweetness of the apple. The crumbly texture of the pastry as well, gave the whole thing a very pleasing experience. Maybe not the same level as my Nan's pies from my childhood but it was a very nice way to finish a Sunday Roast.
Of course, you could serve them with anything you like. Custard, cream or ice cream. I went with ice-cream to prevent the filling from burning my mouth, but the choice is yours.
The pies (sweet or savoury) are cooked before you buy them. All you do is reheat. 12-17 mins for fruit or between 25 and 45 mins for savoury depending on the size. The fruit pies come in at 7 ¾" diameter, and is perfect for six portions. If you're piggies, then it'll serve less. If you're stingy, it'll serve more!
The pie I had cost £4.50 from a Christmas Fair. I've bought savoury at a previous fair, and the price varies depending on filling and size.
NOTE: All the pies have the same pastry. I've found that though it's great for the fruit pies, it's not what I want for a meat pie - it just crumbles and tastes dry next to the savoury filling.
The pies are all suitable for home freezing, and can be done so for 12 months, otherwise keep refrigerated.
Check them out at www.limetreepantry.com
Pesto is traditionally basil leaves, pine nuts and parmesan cheese, all mushed together with a drizzle of olive oil to create that green Italian sauce.
So what's in a Pesto Rosso?
If I said tomatoes, would you be surprised?? No, thought not. Kind of a give away, the colour huh.
But what else goes into red pesto differ from brand to brand, which is why the taste differs so much.
In the Bertollio version, it is made from the same ingredients as the traditional green pesto, but with tomatoes added. Not 'sun-dried' but normal tomatoes. And a mixture of Italian cheeses, not just parmesan. Pecarino Romano cheese and Grand Padano cheese to be precise. They also add a hint of cashew nuts, garlic and chilli.
Surprising I have to say. I can't taste the nuts or the chilli, which is a very good thing! I like neither particularly. But I do like this pesto, ten times better than the Sacla brand and the normal pesto.
What do you do with it?
Well, the obvious use would be to stir it into cooked pasta for a fast and tasty sauce. The other suggestion on the jar is to spread it on toasted ciabatta and top with cheese, then toast again. And that's almost what I use this pesto for. Pizza
I'm a frustrating foodie. I like to know what I'm eating. So it's no surprise that I'm prone to making my own pizza. Well, I can make it the thickness I like, and top it as I like, but the issue of the tomato sauce was always a hiccup until I tried this pesto. A thin layer of this pesto between the base and the topping really makes the pizza perfect.
A word of warning though, before you dash to the shops. I've struggled to find it recently. My local Tesco and Waitrose don't seem to stock Bertolli, and Sainsbury's (where I bought it originally) had an empty gap in the pesto shelf.
So, if you find a good stockist, buy a couple of jars and email me the details so I can buy up the rest! Thanks
I adored the first in the Twilight series, so when I had a recent day off (with no Mr M to occupy my time) and no endless chores list to tackle, I settled down to start number two - New Moon
In the first, Bella mets and falls in love with the vampire Edward. Edward falls in love with Bella. What could possibly go wrong?
I have to say, I was quite disappointed with the first twist to the story (oooh do I say or do I not say the Cullens leave Forks? oh, oops!) as the first story is centred on their love for each other overcoming obstacles. So we read about Bella's heartache, and her climb towards normality. It is very well described, the all consuming pain and dispair of teenage heartbreak. Hats off to Stephanie Meyer for that.
The second twist is interesting, concerning the coming of age of Jacob Black. Still not sure I buy it, but then this is a story about vampires, so I guess anything goes. The story does tackle the new Jacob with the same class and 'reality-check' as it did with Edwards Vampire-ness. After a few pages, I forgot my hesitancy and was drawn in. It does make for an interesting layer to the Twlight-saga and introduces us to yet more residents of the reservation.
Am really trying not to mention much specifically, so as not to spoil it for those that have yet to read it, or perhaps are intending to see the film that's out soon.
I enjoyed reading this installment, though I'd say maybe not as much as the first. It was still really well written, fast paced and kept you wanting to read to the end, but I found it easier to leave the book than I did the first. Mind you, I did read it cover to cover in a single day (I did mention I had a day off, and I do read quickly)
Got number's three and four on the coffee table ready to go...... no rest for the wicked...
I had resisted the Twilight series for a while. The films were hailed as brilliant. The books sounded good, but I was sure they'd be more for teenagers and decided I was too old.
But when my friend (who has a fourteen year old daughter) said that she had the set of books, and how much she enjoyed reading them, I agreed to borrow them from her.
I can't praise the book enough. It was great, and left me wanting to grab the next one quick.
Oops, what's it about? Isabella Swan decides to go to Forks to live with her father, freeing her mother to follow her husband round the country. The mysterious Cullen family's children intrigued Bella from the first time she laid eyes on them, but the less than friendly reaction from Edward in Biology throws Bella. Why does he seem to hate her on sight? Why does she get such a physical reaction when she sees him?
The story is a little slow to start, but once Edward is introduced to us, the story gets gripping. Obviously, we all know what he is from the start (we've heard the hype) but you want Bella to find out, and to learn her reaction, and the reactions of her friends as she becomes close to Edward.
The back of the book says it's "deeply seductive and irresistibly compelling, Twilight is an extraordinary love story that will stay with you long after you have turned the final page" and I can't argue with that. 434 pages flew by in a daze, and I was almost late back to work once because it was difficult to put down.
That's the only downside of this book - make sure you're not expected anywhere soon if you pick this book up because you wont make it!
Bring on New Moon!
Mr M waxed lyrical about this book, and practically forced me into a chair to read it.
Religious themes are generally not my kind of thing, as I'm yet to find one that makes any sense to me. But his persistence paid off. I picked the book up, and began reading.
When Jackie Hampton hears a noise in the night while alone in the Italian villa as it's being refurbished, she gets up to investigate and winds up dead. Mark Hampton calls his friend Chris Bronson for moral support for the journey from London to Rome, and all that comes after.
But when Chris, being an active police detective, reads the report into Jackie's 'accident', things start to spiral out of all control. A stone reading "here lie the liars" is found in the living room. But what does it mean? And why did Jackie die for two intruders to read it?
A pursuit from London to Italy ensues, and clues are found that lead him back to the beginnings of Christianity.
Although this starts with a chapter in Roman times, this book is very definitely modern in time, pace and style. It is fast and fascinating. The questions it poses are right to the heart of faith, and although the artefacts are fiction, the historical events and characters are real. It's an interesting mixture, and it gives it a feeling of possibility. Could it really happen?
But what is more likely, is that some movie person somewhere will discover this novel and turn it into a film. The way it's written makes it very easy to watch the film roll in your head as your eyes scan the text in the book.
It could be lumped onto the same shelf as The Da Vinci Code, with the similarities of Christian belief and potential secrets that would change our modern world forever. I'm not sure if that would do this book a disservice or if it would be the right thing. I think you will have to read it and make up your own mind.
And that's why I like it. It's not often I'll say that Mr M was right (don't want him getting a big head) but on this occasion he was spot on
Mr M kindly bought me Boots Ladies Luxury Fragrance Selection as a treat last week. I'd been a very good girl, so he splashed out on the set of four mini perfumes.
He also splashed out on the men's version (see separate review) for himself
So what did he get for his £22? A 5ml bottle of Cacharel's Amor Amor, a 3ml bottle of Giorgio Armani's Code, a 4ml bottle of Emporio Armani's Diamonds and a 7ml bottle of Diesel's Fuel For Life.
**Amor Amor by Cacharel**
"Fall in love - a dazzling fruity floral love potion" the box says.
A tiny red bottle, with a coil like neck leading to the spray head on top. A miniature version of the normal version, as far as I can see.
It's a gorgeous scent. Fresh, warm and fruity. There is a hint of flower, but to me it's more fruity than floral. I'd say it's definitely a date perfume. It's sexy, young and light-hearted - well that's how I felt when I wore it!
**Code by Giorgio Armani**
"The secret code of women - a timeless expression of elegance with feminine orange blossom"
A bottle about two and half inch high, dark blue with a black flower print, and a black lid. These miniature's really are faithful to the full sized designs, it's quite endearing. Pull the top off carefully, or it will go everywhere, as this is not a spray.
The smell is spicy yet light. It's classically sexy (if you understand what I mean) with a heavier tone than the Amor Amor. Perfect for a dinner date, more grown-up than the Amor Amor.
**Diamonds by Emporio Armani**
"Can you resist? - an irresistible gourmand fragrance, sparkling and audacious"
Is this without doubt my favourite from the selection. An inch and half high bottle, like a squished ball in shape, the glass has been faceted like a gemstone. A small silver top pulls off to unleash the fragrance (another non-spray so do be careful).
Fresh, light, happy and tangy. Floral with a hint of orange, making it a pretty sweet fragrance. It's yummy! It makes me think of that first summers day, and how the warmth and sunshine makes you feel. Happy and free. Sunny if you like. I'd happily wear this everyday - there's no occasion this isn't suited to.
**Fuel for Life by Diesel**
"Are you alive? - a sexy and energizing mix of flowers and woods"
Oval shaped bottle with a gold lid, pulled off to reveal the spray top. The name is raised on the side of the bottle. Spicy and woody in scent, it has a hint of citrus fruit and floral undertones (ooh get me!!). I'd wear this for a daytime date, or maybe dancing.
The price maybe too high for the sizes you get, but it's great for a gift, or if you fancy some new perfume but can't decide which. It's good because you can try them out on your own skin (always changes from person to person due to the chemical reaction with your skin) without forgetting which wrist is which, or getting home from the shop and discovering that the scent has warmed up and you now like it!
If you have a difficult female to buy for this Christmas, this selection box won't be a dud gift, and will probably earn you serious brownie points. And of course, you'll earn yourself Advantage Card points at the same time!
I was lent this book by a friend, who had yet to read it. The back cover sounded interesting, so I picked it up and sat down.
Kit has been living in Australia for ten years when he's called back to Devon due to his fathers death. His mother had died years previously, and Kit being an only child, he had to return to sort out his fathers estate.
The estate in question, is a few hundred acres of part organic farmland and part nature reserve.
As Kit faces his childhood home, he is forced to decide whether to sell the estate or try to live there. Thoughts of his girlfriend and life in the sun of Oz makes the decision seem easy, but what happens along the way?
I have to say, I was entertained yet disappointed with this book. Some things just weren't as good as they could be. People aren't always described very well, though the characters of the people are. The area of the reserve is described brilliantly, but the sex scenes are definitely flowery. And how Kit decides to be with the person the book leaves him with is definitely sketchy. And a little baffling, to be honest.
It's nothing earth shattering, or Oscar film making. It's an easy to read story, but it won't ruin your day if you don't pick it up. Not to take anything away from the story, it's great for a winters day when it's raining outside, the housework is done and the dog is asleep by the fire/radiator.
I know this is quite a short review for a book, but really that's all the book gave me. It's an average read, so nothing to gush over but nothing to really complain about either
How often do you go away and forget something?
Yes I did it on the recent hop to Paris. I got as far as St Pancreas and realised my favourite Dior lippy was sat on the microwave back home.
After a walk around the stunning new St Pancreas station, I was dismayed to discover they didn't have a Boots! Then I remembered that The Body Shop (which they did have) do make up as well as all the other body bits.
For around £7 I wasn't expecting much. If all it did was colour me in for the Paris evenings, then I'd be happy. So after a browse and try of a couple of colours on the back of my hand, I opted for no 12, which is a brownish colour with a rose tinge. I like darker colours, pink do nothing for my complexion, and this was as close to my colouring as they had.
So I bought it. And promptly forgot about the Body Shop points card in my purse. Damn!
Anyway, a call of nature was answered shortly afterwards, so I took the opportunity to try it out. The colour was good. Coverage was as it should be, the colour a good balance across the lip. It felt soft and smooth (nothing worse for a lippy than to be sticky) and the smell was delicious! I've never had a lippy smell so edible before.
It also had staying power, wearing itself away over time rather than run to the corners of the mouth and all over the cup rim.
Overall, for £7 I was delighted. Ok, it's not taken the top job from my Dior tube, but for a daytime lippy, it's a good option.
I persuaded Mr M to visit Egypt in 2008.
After a brief trawl through the internet, we opted to travel with Thomson as we had enjoyed a trip to Lake Garda with them the previous year, and the price was resonable.
We stayed in the Sheraton Luxor Resort on a bed & breakfast basis for 7 days. Interestingly, we also had to visit Crete that year, and the B&B trip to Egypt was CHEAPER than the self catering trip to Crete!
Let me say here, we lucked out. The hotel was fab, the staff were helpful and friendly. We couldn't have asked for more.
It's classed as a resort because it has 'grounds'. In the grounds of the hotel are a good number of shops and an Italian Restaurant which is said to be the best in Luxor.
Now, the shops were perhaps a little more expensive than others, but one huge benefit was no hassle. You could go in and browse without the pressure to buy. You could walk by and look in the window without the pressure to enter. For us, the benefits outweighed the extra pence.
The room was a good size. We were housed in the main hotel building (they have 'bungalows' in the grounds as well) and had a balcony. The balcony was a little odd I have to say. There was nothing wrong with it, you could sit quite comfortably, and hang your damp swimsuits up. But you could hop over the edge and walk on the roof of the bar below! Great for taking pics of the Nile, but just seemed odd.
And that brings me to the downside of our room. Being on the first floor of the accomodation meant that we could hear the music from the bar, even though the patio doors were firmly shut. The music didn't last much beyond midnight, and wasn't every night, but it was very noticable.
The bar itself was very nicely decorated, though the furniture was more conservatory than hotel. The staff were friendly and could suggest a cocktail for you. And of course, you got complimentory nibbles! There were big TV screens dotted around which always seemed to be playing different types of sport. A couple of nights we were there, they had a 'belly dancer' entertainment in the bar. Now maybe it was just us, but she was less belly dancer and more gyrating pelvic dancer. It was more hips than belly. Maybe it's just our perception that is wrong. After the first viewing, we made sure to sit away from the dance area!
The main pool is full attended. An attendant will lay out towels for you when you arrive and select your sunbed. He will position a sun-brella for you, and even check back with you later on to see if its still in the right place. The pool isn't huge, but it's an adequate size for cooling off. I think if you wanted to swim for exercise, then early morning or late afternoon would be the time to go. There is another pool in the bungalows area, but we didn't go there.
To the food. The breakfast was buffet style, and was constantly updated and monitored to make sure the quality and quantity was good. Served in the Karnack Restaurant (the other side of the lobby to the bar) you had the choice of sitting inside or outside.
The Karnack Restaurant also serves buffet food in the evenings. We sampled this twice, and was delighted both times. The first occasion, we were delighted to find it was chinese night! The second was Egyptian, and it was delicious. The staff will find you a table, bring you drinks and basically be near by should you need anything. They were not 'in-your-face' at all. At the end, you have the option of putting the cost onto your room bill, or paying cash. Either was fine.
The Italian was pretty good. The staff were so friendly and funny. The food was good, tho I don't think I would compare it to Italy. If you compare the dishes to an Italian in the UK, it would come up equal in my opinion.
Also in the hotel building is an Indian Restaurant. Yummy is the best word to describe this place. It's not huge, and not cramped. The food is the best Indian I've had, and we were rolling around in laughter with the staff. At the end of the first meal (we went twice!) Mr M said to the waiter "She'll have the bill" and the waiter kindly put it in a beautiful box and brought it to me. I guess you had to be there, but to try to explain, they always defer to the man (or so we found) so this just struck us hilarious.
The staff on the reception desk were always professional without being aloof. Helpful and approachable.
In all the places we've stayed over the years, we both agree that this hotel is the top of the list. It was simply great
N.B The Sheraton Luxor Resort was due to close for refurbishment in the summer of 2008
I didn't know what to expect from the eurostar when we went to Paris recently. Would it be just like a normal train? A bit more like a plane on wheels? So a little apprehensive, we boarded at St Pancras Station in London.
Upon arrival at the station, we had to locate the automatic ticket machine so that our tickets could be produced. Surprisingly, they weren't located in the 'today tickets' area of the eurostar section, but the next one along, where you can book future trips.
Anyhow, once we got our tickets from the helpful machine, we had a wander around St Pancras, then made our way to the check-in area.
Through security checks and passport control, it was a reminder that you were leaving the country. There wasn't much in the departure lounge, the mandatory WHSmiths and another shop or two. After we were called to board, we went up the "escalator". I put this in inverted commas because it was more a moving floor that went up hill.
Up on the platform, each carriage was marked by number - but on the floor. Interesting. On board, it quickly became obvious that there is a serious lack of sufficient luggage storage. Whether that is because people were using larger suitcases than the designers had anticipated, or whether the travellers were stashing smaller cases in the area instead of the overhead racks, I'm not too sure.
The seats, tho all numbered, don't appear to go in order. We were sat in 81 and 82 for one leg, which were found in front of 65 and 66! The seats themselves are wider than normal train seats, comfy with a lap tray in front, and head rests that come forward at the sides to encase your sleeping head. Clever. Above there are two racks. One is perfect size for your jackets, the other for smaller cases (like carry on luggage sized)
In all, the journey was comfortable. Even a trip to the cafe carriage didn't break the bank, although surprisingly a hot chocolate (highly recommended) did cost more than a coffee and kitkat combined!
The travel was comfortable. Not much rocking, not much noise, comfortable seats and resonable prices for refreshments. In all, I'd recommend using the eurostar to reach the continent.