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I visited Lake Garda with family last summer and although we were based in Sirmione (previously reviewed), we took several day trips to the other towns round the edge of the lake.
All the towns are linked together via good transport links, principally either a reliable and cheap bus service or the various boats that cross the lake, calling at each town, much like a conventional bus service. The bus service is the cheapest and quickest option and we opted for this most often, but staying at Lake Garda would not really be complete without at least one trip on the lake so we decided to travel to Gardone by boat. These boats that take passengers round the lake are a relatively expensive mode of transport but it was worth every penny/cent! The boat was fairly large so you had plenty of space with seating downstairs completely enclosed or upstairs on the top deck with a roof to protect from the sun. The upstairs was by far the most popular option and there was plenty of space to be able to choose your seat and walk around to look out over the lake in different directions. The crossing was a mix of travelling round near the lake shores giving an opportunity to see the fantastic scenery and crossing the lake, giving a small idea of the scale of it. Unfortunately the North of the lake was shrouded in fog, but we were reliably informed that on a clear day if you look up as you cross the centre of the lake you can see right up to the mountains.
a word of advice- even in the middle of summer there can be a chilly breeze in the middle of the lake so a light jacket/wrap would be advisable.
All the towns round the lake have their own quay where the boat will pull up to let you on and off and this is generally very central, often leading straight to the main square, so very convenient.
On arriving at Gardone I was struck at how beautiful it was. It name of Gardone Riviera is easy to understand- the lake side is dominated with several expensive hotels and private villas and this certainly has an air of being one of the more exensive towns on the lake. That said, the food we found- at a small sandwich bar was very reasonably priced and the service impecable- when my sister objected to every sandwich flavour on the menu they were more than happy to make one for her with the filling she requested.
Gardone is split into two parts know by the locals as Lower and Upper.
The lower town is fairly small and pleasant to wander round. The square the boat arrives at and another just nearby are the focal areas and surrounding them are a selection of small shops and cafes. It is also possible to walk along a short section of the shore line giving outstanding views across the lake. Cheeay as it might sound, Gardone really did seem to sparkle under the Italian sun.
The principle reason for our visit to Gardone was to visit the botanical garden (Heller Garden). This garden is situated in the Upper part of Gardone, an area which leaves behind the riviera feel of the lower part and becomes somewhat more rural with winding roads. Again in this upper part there were cafe's and a small selection of shops including one particularly nice bakery.
The Heller Garden is owned and designed by an artist and this is very evident. Even for those who are not fans of Gardens, this one has something for everyone. The Garden itself isn't huge but the amount of interest in the space gives several hours of pleasure. As well as planting it up beautifully, the garden design is based round different sections with their own themes such as a bamboo area and a rocky area. In between all the plants there are pieces of the artists work and other statues and ornaments he has brought together. Every corner you turn round holds a new surprise waiting to be discovered. In fact there is so much to see you will find yourself wandering round several times to make sure you didn't miss anything. Running through the garden are a series of streams and pools, some with fountains in. Attractive bridges cross them at points and through out the garden there are many seating areas- all of course in keeping with the rest of the garden for you to sit, reflect and take in your surroundings.
The owner clearly has a sense of humor as well which will be evident for any visitor. Although I don't want to give away the surprises do make sure you don't miss walking over the bridge in the bamboo area....!
For any photographer, professional or amateur, there are photographic opportunities galore.
Entry to the garden is a modest fee although once you have left there is no re-entry so don't be in any hurry to leave, .
It is possible to walk up to the upper town from the lower town but for those who don't feel like the walk there is a road train that goes from the square the boat arrives at and goes round, stopping at various points including the Heller Garden.
Overall I would throughly recommend Gardone as a day trip for anyone staying on or around Lake Garda. Although there isn't a huge amount to do apart from the botanical garden, and a few other attractions, the town is lovely to walk round, and sitting looking out over the lake is a lovely way to spend an hour or so(with an Italian ice-cream of course). Taking the boat across took several hours and I feel that this was a good day to have chosen to spend that length of time traveling.
I visited Pompeii several summers ago when I was traveling round some of the main cities in Italy. We stayed in Naples- the main place nearby.
Pompeii is a Roman city that was covered with lava during an eruption of the nearby Mt Vesuvius along with several other towns. Its destruction in this manner has led to it being incredibly well preserved-the volcanic ash and lava quite literally covered everything in its path in a very limited space of time. The Roman people had no time to escape so were covered by lava where they stood. As such it is acts as a snap shot of a moment in Roman life and gives fascinating insight into the everyday lives of the Roman people.
Pompeii is world famous and one of the best perserved Roman towns discovered to date. As such it is a major tourist attraction and it should be expected that especially during the summer season it will be busy. That said it is also relatively large and the majority of people seem to go round in guided groups. The only queue I came across was to go in the brothel!
The guided tours I have mentioned are a popular way to see Pompeii and this would be my recommendation. There are tours available in a range of languages. My family booked a tour in advance and we were in a group of about 10 people- just a nice size to be able to keep together as a group and be able to see everything as your guide is explaining. Although it is perfectly possible to look round Pompeii on your own, our guide was extremely knowledgeable and pointed out and explained the purpose of many things that might otherwise have been missed. The tour was well paced- taking a couple of hours and giving time to see everything, regularly stopping at particular places of note.
As a result of the remarkable way in which the town was preserved, many items are still in their original places. There are some particularly fine mosaics on the floors of some of the houses and seeing them in their original home rather than laid out in a museum gave them a context. Although many buildings are still standing- so you are quite literally walking the streets through a Roman town, you cannot enter most. There is one exception to this though which is the brothel. This is the best preserved building in Pompeii, complete with erotic Roman paintings on the walls. As I mentioned earlier this was the only queue and that was as a result of having to walk single file through the building. The images and nature of the building meant that some parents may not feel comfortable taking young children in there and our guide was quick to point out to the young family in our group a route which by passed the brothel without missing any of the tour.
Some items have necessarily been moved from where they were found and a selection can be seen in a shed like construction on the site. Of particular note here are the casts of several of the bodies that were found during the excavation. Other items are in the Naples museum- well worth an afternoon visit.
As can be expected from a Roman town, you are outside for the duration of the tour and there is little shade. a bottle of water should be treated as an essential to take with you as once inside the town there is no where to purchase any. I would also suggest the morning as the best time to visit-before the sun has reached its strongest.
Our tour also included lunch and this was provided in a restaurant just outside the site. The lunch was a basic mozzarella pizza but well made and tasty and I recall my dad commenting on the value for money the whole tour had been. Outside the site there are also kiosks selling ice cream and drinks and a small cafe as well as a souvenir shop.
I would recommend Pompeii as a must see place and worth making a visit to Naples to see. While there do be sure to take a trip to Mt Vesuvius. It is possible to walk up it and look down into the crater. This was also a popular attraction and the walk was not overly steep.
Although Pompeii is the most well known of the towns that was destroyed by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius, it is not the only one and I would like to give a short mention to another that we visited- Herculaneum. Also near to Naples, this town is more recently discovered but well excavated and open to tourists. Being less well known it is a lot quieter than Pompeii and we only knew about it after an archeologist friend recommended we visited it. It too is incredibly well preserved- even better so in some cases than Pompeii and the lower volume of tourists mean that more buildings are open for visitors to enter. Getting to it is more challenging- we took a local train and then walked from the station and you will be going round on your own with the help of a map with numbered buildings corresponding to numbers round the site. Having been to Pompeii though many building were similar and much was recognisable.
Both towns are defiantly well worth a visit although I would suggest going to Pompeii first to be able to fully appreciate Herculaneum.
Siena like many of the other popular tourist destinations in Italy has changed little since it was first built. The narrow streets and buildings are the originals with no traffic having access to within the city walls. Stepping through them is like stepping back in time, At the centre of Siena is a crescent shaped 'square' unusual with its deep dip down to the centre. The main town building is also found here and from the centre the town radiates out through winding streets to reach the walls.
I spent 3 days in Siena whilst on a tour round Italy. It is not a huge town so perhaps a week would be rather too long but the three days I spent gave me time to see everything I wanted to and have a good chance to explore the town. Like many old towns, the layout is such that an afternoon can easily be spent wandering round the streets, seemingly lost but never far from somewhere you recognise.
There are many places to stay both in and around Siena. I stayed in a small bed and breakfast built into the city walls and would recommend staying within the old town to experience the full atmosphere. It might be wise though to travel light as having no traffic in the town means there is only one way to get all your luggage to your hotel and the narrow streets and at times steps descending towards the centre make you wish you hadn't packed that extra pair of shoes!
As with anywhere in Italy there are no shortage of eating places most serving traditional Italian cuisine- pasta, pizza etc. Those around the edge of the square are pricier than the others and add a large service charge to the bill. You do pay for a wonderful setting for your meal though and although both inside and outside tables are offered very few people choose to sit inside on an Italian summer evening. Venturing further into the streets can throw up some lovely gems although often the setting is surrounded by other buildings. For lunch or a light snack, there are numerous shops and cafes selling sandwiches and other take away food and of course ice-cream in available in abundance.
One of the highlights of my stay in Siena occured before and during my first evening meal there. As we were walking from our hotel towards the main square we heard some drumming coming from a side street and on investigating we came across a church coming out of which was a procession dressed in medieval costume, carrying banners and drumming. Talking to local people it seemed that these displays of medeival pagentry through the streets were a regular occurence happening on celebration days such as the saint day of a church. The procession wound its way through the streets with the drumming echoing round the town.
Whilst we sat having dinner in the main square, the procession re-appeared and marched round the square with spectacular flag waving and drumming all culminating in the group singing their song-copies of the words were also given out to those watching the display- a lovely memento. This pagentry comletely brought the medeival town to life and was an unexpected but very enjoyable surprise.
The town is divided into sections-similar to the boroughs in London although on a much smaller scale! Each section has its own symbol of an animal/bird/insect and there symbols can be seen on buildings and street corners. It is fun for both adults and children to spend an afternoon wandering round trying to find all the different symbols(I think there are 17!) Each section also has its own dedicated saints church- where the pagentry began with a commemoration service, each unique and well worth a visit.
There is a surprisingly large amount to do in Siena despite its small size. As would be expected most is historical. The churches already mentioned are all well worth a visit, works of art by many Italian masters can be seen in them. Relics also seem to be in good supply here-one church had on display entire preserved bodies! Of special mention are the Cathedral with an impressive display of illuminated manuscripts and the church of St Catherine complete with her preserved head on display. Climbing the Mangia Tower offers fantastic views not just over the town, but situated as it is on top of three hills, views over the surrounding countryside are breathtaking.
The streets are filled with shops offering souvenirs to take home. There are many items with the different sections symbols on and for anyone staying with in the city the symbol of the section you stayed in makes a lovely memento. A shop I particularly likes was a candle making one. Workshop and shop rolled into with regular demonstrations, the candles created with intricate and fascinating. 5 minutes saw a solid piece of hot wax transform into a waterfall design and the prices were completely affordable.
Siena does have the advantage of being less popular as a tourist destination than other places such as Rome and Venice and as such a quite holiday is quite possible here. The streets are busy but not uncomfortably so and queues to attractions and monuments are often short. Most do charge something, but a ticket that combines entry to all the main churches including the cathedral is available. The narrow streets provide shade even when the sun is at its strongest and we found all the locals to be friendly and happy to help pointing us in the right direction and suggesting places to visit.
A review of Siena would not be complete without some mention of the world famous Il Palio- two spectacular horse races that take place in July and August through the narrow streets and finishing in the main square. This race has existed for centuries and anyone lucky enough to witness it will really be seeing Siena as the medieval town it is. A word of warning though from the owner of our hotel- Accommodation for the weeks in which the races take place gets booked up sometimes several years in advance and the crowds are enormous. He also added though that it is an experience you will never forget and is on my list of things to see some day.
Overall Siena is a wonderful medeival town with something to see round every corner. Often overlooked as a destination it is less busy than the other more well known towns and this gives you a chance to see the local people going about their life and using the town as a home. Italian food will always be a highlight of any holiday to the country but for Siena the medeival pagentry that still takes place must, for me, be rated as the best part of my visit.
I bought this face wash as part of a 2 for £6 offer boots had on their tea tree and witch hazel range. I chose the foaming face wash as it seems to me that they tend to last longer and give more washes than the creamy face washes-therefore better value for money. The range contains two natural ingredients well known for their skin healing properties and having them both conbined in the one product makes for a very good range of skin care.
The packaging is fairly basic but perfectly good- a clear bottle with the range name and product marked. The top of the bottle has a pump which dispenses the foam into your hand. This is covered with a lid to keep it clean. The actual product in the bottle is a light green, quite watery liquid but when dispensed it comes out as a thick and creamy white foam. I particularly like the texture of this foam. compared to many others I have tried this one is much thicker and acts very much like a cream wash-it doesn't vanish the moment you apply it to your face. Another positive in the packing is that the tube which takes the liquid to the pump reaches right down to the very bottom on the bottle so unlike many cleansers it appears you will not end up wasting a lot of product because you can't get it out of the packing.
~~Use and results~~
The foam feels very cleansing and fresh and has a strong but clean smell. I generally use 2/3 pumps of it to wash my face throughly. It is not drying on my skin and although I do use a moisturiser as well on occasions when I haven't my face has not felt dry all day. I was very pleased with the results, my skin is not only clearer but also looks healthier as a result of the tea tree and witch hazel used in the cleanser.
~~Price and recommendation~~
even without the offer this product costs under £4. I think this is a very fair price for such a good product. Although it is basic it does what is says and does it well without adverse effects such as very dry skin. I have also noticed my skin to be less oily. I would recommend this product to anyone with blemished skin and anyone who wants to brighten their complexion without breaking the bank.
I will be buying this product regularly in future and throughly recommend it to others.
I rarely use body shop products purely because they are expensive, but as an indulgence I love them and always look out for bargains in the sale.
This body butter I actually received free with a magasine (this months issue of Marie Claire). The tub I have is a 50ml one which usually retails at £5. There was a choice of 3 flavours and I chose the Shea Butter as it is specifically for very dry skin.
~~Packaging and product~~
The product comes in a round pot, quite short so it is much less likely to get knocked off a shelf. There is a screw top lid which although easy to open also seals properly so keeps the product fresh. The product inside is a creamy colour and when the lid is opened a lovely smell of shea butter greets you. They have definately used the genuine product in this. The texture is quite thick, unsurprisingly like butter. Its also nice to see that the pot is well filled-there isn't a lot of extra packing on this product.
Even when the product is finished, wash out the tub and use it to store anything from jewellry to bath salts.
one thing I did miss with this product though was instructions on how to use. Although I suppose it is fairly obvious it would have been nice to have the body shop recommendation of the best way to use this product.
~~Use and results~~
My first impression on touch the product was that is was thick and this made it quite difficult to rub into my skin. It also took some time to be completely absorbed leaving my skin looking quite greasy while it did so. These are problems are both only due to the nature of the product being much thicker that a moisturiser and the results are certainly worth it. My skin felt instantly moiturised and didn't dry out all day. Although the product does have a scent it wasn't one that lingered around you strongly all day.
The information on the tub says you can keep the product for up to 12 months once opened-mine certainly wont last that long! Although you don't need to use a huge amount each time I love using so probably use it more often than necessary. considering much there is still left though I do think it will last me long enough to make it worth paying the £5 shop price for 50ml (they also do larger sized tubs)
I am extremely pleased with the results of this Body Butter, it is defiantly the best free sample I have received for a long time.
The ethical values of the body shop really do stand out for me. This product not only isn't tested on animals but also uses Community Trade shea butter. It is things like this support of local farmers and trades that makes their products worth the price they charge.
For products that are both ethical and fantastic quality the body shop is the place to go and I just wish I could afford to purchase from there more regularly.
I was given a free sample of this shower smoothie to try and since then I have bought it on several occasions. I find it to be a bit different from other shower gels/creams and like to use it as a change sometimes.
The smoothie comes in a clear tube with the radox logo and a description of the product on it accompanied by images of fruit/petals. The clear tube enables you to see the product in the tube and it is a pink/peach colour liquid with bits in it which turned out to be fruit seeds.
On opening the lid the smell is full bodied, full of fruit and smells like a real smoothie. This combined with the texture which is also very smoothie like justifies their comment telling you not to eat it. It genuinely looks and smells good enough to want to.
~~Using the smoothie~~
The liquid itself is a similar thickness to other shower gels. Easily dispensed into your hand but quite runny as you lather it over your body. The fruit seeds in the smoothie help with exfoliation and while the smell the bathroom is filled with is divine, the lather created is not as impressive. Although it does leave you feeling clean and smelling nice I do like a shower gel that created a really good lather and this one unfortunately was not enough for me. My skin was left feeling the benefits of the fruit extracts and when I used it in the bath it was very relaxing and enjoyable to soak in.
~~Availability and price~~
The product is available at most beauty stores I have looked in. It usually costs just under £3 for 200ml. While I do think the product is worth paying this much for this price is also significantly higher than other shower gels available including other ones by Radox and it is for this reason that I do not use it on a regular basis.
Thoroughly recommended as a treat for all the senses and makes for a wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable bath.
I have to admit that the first thing that attracted me to this product was the price. I needed a new powder/foundation and at £3.99 is superdrug this was one of the cheaper options. That combined with the fact that it is made by Rimmel who in my experience make good products encouraged me to buy it and give it a go.
The product is called clear complexion and claims to clarify skin by containing Pureskin complex to minimise breakouts. It also claims to control shine and matify skin. It contains natural minerals which in past experience tend to clog pores less so that was a good point.
The pressed powder comes in a shallow blue tub with a clear lid over so you can see the product before you pick it up. This would be helpful if you were trying to pick the right shade for your skin tone but unfortunatly-as far as I have found- this product is only made in one shade-Transparent. Even though it has this name, the powder is not transparent on a darker skin and is in fact quite pale. I have mid/fair skin and can get away with using this but I only use a thin layer where necessary.
The powder goes on easily with a brush-although it is necessary to purchase this separately as the powder does not come with one. It does take some effort to blend into your skin but once in place it gives a good even skin tone. One thing I noticed was that it felt much lighter on my skin than other powders and didn't feel like it was reaching right into my pores. Although I haven't noticed that the condition of my skin has improved considerably since using this product, I have found that places where I used to have breakouts caused by makeup I no longer have problems with-it certainly does seem to be doing something towards keeping my skin clear.
I do have problems, especially on nights out, with oily skin and this powder did go some way towards helping to keep me shine free.
I was pleased though that even with a bit of oil the powder stayed even and didn't clump up on my face as I have had happen before!
At £3.99 in superdrug(and other places as well I believe) this is a fairly cheap product. It does make a lot of claims with the clear complexion and shine free and I think it goes a good way towards keeping them for the price being paid.
For anyone on a budget, this is a good powder as long as it matches your skin tone. Don't expect miracles on the promises it describes but do expect your monies worth. If price is less of an issue other makes provide a better skin match and keep your skin matt for longer.
A good budget buy
I bought this deodorant because it was on offer in boots last time I needed a new one and I do like to save money on toiletries where ever possible. Garnier as a brand have a good reputation for me making good basic products but as with many of their more innovative features the 48hr protection leaves me unconvinced.
This is a roll on deodorant very much like any other in how it works- a rolling ball at the top enables you to roll the liquid deodorant onto your underarm. The product shape however is very different, instead of the usual conical shape, it is more of a thin hour glass widening at the top to accomodate the ball. I find this unique shae to be an advantage. If your hands are wet from when you do to ut on your deodorant, unlike the customary shape which if slippery is difficult to hold, this shape allows for very easy grip-definately an improvement on other deodorants.
The label and cap are bright blue and green. An attractive and fresh looking shade making the product look inviting.
A problem I have experienced with many deodorants is that the ball often gets stuck or dries out quickly. I am pleased to say I have never experienced either problem with this product (although I have not had it for long so will update this review if either does start to occur.)
The deodorant has a mild but very fresh smell. The liquid is not too thick and pleasantly cooling as you apply it. Although a creamy texture and white colour, it drys quickly and I have not experienced any problems at all with white marks. Once dry(only takes a few seconds) this deodorant has kept me dry for the day and I have felt fresh. I have also noticed that it doesn't dry out the skin on my underarms and as it says on the label this deodorant contains no alcohol-something I look out for in a deodorant.
~~48 hr claim~~
As much as it is an innovative idea I would like to think there are few people who would try using just one application for 48hrs and I certainly would not-although I gave it a go for the purposes of writing this review fairly. Used for my normal length of time-about 12 hrs this deodorant is my favourite of the many different ones I have used. Even if I then go out for the evening/night it lasts fine and keeps me fresh and dry. This is for a maximum of 16hrs though.
My experience of testing the deodorant for 48hrs wasn't a complete disaster. The deodorant kept me almost dry and relatively odour free. Having said that though- I tested it out over a few days when I was not leaving the house and did nothing more strenuous than climbing a flight of stairs a few times every day. By the second day I certainly didn't feel very fresh. I think if I had been conducting my normal routines- walking everywhere, dance class and practice this deodorant would definately not have held up and for doing anything more than sitting round the house I would not advise anyone to try using it for 48hrs.
Overall, ignoring the 48hr claim this is a great deodorant and one I will buy in future. The price is round about the same as other deodorants although it is sometimes on offer. Despite it being my new favourite, in my rating I cannot ignore the fact that it makes the 48hr claim which it does not hold up to and for that reason I have taken off one star.
H and M seems to me to be one of the most wide spread fashion stores on the high street. It has shops across Europe, America and China and is constantly expanding into new areas. Its emphasis is on cheap fashionable clothes with a range of different lines and a huge range of clothes in anyone store. Surprisingly, it has also recently started selling clothes online and this I feel is a very welcome addition to its services.
All the H and M's I am familiar with have a similar layout with stands of clothes filling the shop floor with just enough space to walk between them. The different labels and ranges of clothes are all put in sections giving the store some feeling of organisation. I find though that the different sections are not clearly marked and have on a couple of occasions found myself browsing in the maternity section-the time my mother was with me made for a slightly interesting conversation! The clothes do seem rather jammed in and the rails are packed making it quite a challenge to actually look through them.
I think the point that annoys me the most is that clothes displayed on the walls and shelves above the racks are very rarely anywhere near their counterparts in the shop. This means that if you see an item you like you end up having to search the whole shop to find it (this also works as a cunning sales tactic as in your hunt you will find yourself picking up armfuls of other clothes to try on as well!)
This does all so far sound rather negative but I do have to remind myself of the price I am paying for the clothes. H and M is on the whole budget fashion so filled shops(both people and clothes) are to be expected and for a shop of its type it is certainly one of the better ones.
The fitting rooms are always manned by a member of staff who always comes across as helpful. Although they are busy and there is often a queue the number of fitting rooms means you don't usually have to wait for long and the assistants do a good job of keeping it moving.
Cheap and fashion conscious is the name of the day with most of their ranges of clothes. From stylish dresses to basic t-shirts to work clothes you will undoubtedly be able to find something suitable. What pleases me most about their clothes is that despite the low cost, especially for some of their basics, the last well and seem to be of pretty good quality. A couple of basic strappy tops I bought several years ago are still perfectly wearable and have kept their shape despite many washes.
As well as their general range featuring a good mix of wardrobe staples, work wear and catwalk inspired items they have several other lines. Is nice to see a high street shop in this bracket creating a range of clothes for the more curvy woman-Big is Beautiful cater for those up to a size 30 and the designs are on trend and flattering to a fuller figure. Their L.O.G.G. range is my personal favourite. These clothes are more preppy in style-checked shirts, polo/rugby shirts, etc. my favourite item I have ever bought from H and M is a green cable knit jumper which a label loving friend of mine mistook for Ralph Lauren!
The biggest disappointment for me is their bras which when I last checked only went up to a D cup as they have a lovely range of lingerie a fantastic prices.
The accessories are also worth checking out for a great range at prices that mean you afford different accessories for every outfit.
With the addition of being able to buy the items online this website is lovely. Easy to navigate and there are a lot of products available.
My favourite feature is the dressing room where you can put together an outfit on the model to see how the pieces work together before you buy them- fun and useful!
Great clothes at affordable prices. A one stop shop for a great outfit. The staff are helpful and courteous. Although cheap they don't skimp of quality so you will be wearing your purchases for some time to come. Whatever your size or style there is something for everyone. Just be prepared to need to spend some time in there to go through all the clothes and find what you are looking for and probably buy a lot more than you intended!
I spent a week in Sirmione last summer with my parents and sisters and having been to most of the main towns in Northern Italy I can say that this was one of my favourites. As seems to be typical with most Italian towns history is the order of the day with the town little changed and very few more modern structures. Every town round Lake Garda has something different to offer but as a choice of which one to base your holiday in Sirmione comes top in my recommendation.
The town of Sirmione is located at the end of a long peninsula stretching out into the Lake. It is reached by a causeway that runs the length of the peninsula. This location provides some stunning views of the lake but is relatively isolated position makes it fairly quiet and peaceful in the evenings. During the day a good ferry service and bus service can take you to the other towns round the lake or to the station in a near by town from where you can get trains to many locations such as Venice and Verona for day trips (Italian rail fairs also seem to be reasonable and the train service has always been incredibly reliable). Being in the North of Italy fairly close to the mountains an on a huge lake Sirmione and the other towns surrounding Lake Garda do not get quite as hot as the rest of Italy and especially in the evening it is very pleasant weather to sit outside for an evening meal.
A quaint, historical town full of winding streets and beautiful views out over the lake with substantial Roman ruins and the tip of the Peninsula Sirmione has a huge amount to offer visitors despite is relatively small size. The causeway down to the town is full of modern buildings and hotels and as I was travelling down it for the first time in the taxi from the airport my initial reaction was 'We have come to a cheap tourist place with no character at all'. We then came to the Medeival castle and gate which marks the entrance to the town itself and you could sense the family sigh of relief, this looked lovely! The castle(in the image) certainly makes for a grand entrance and dominates the town. Once through the gate you are transported from the tourist vibe of the causeway to Italian charm. The town is almost without cars as the police at the gate only let in a few locals and taxis dropping guests at their hotels. This makes for a very clean and safe town. Its also very practical as the streets are narrow and winding and too many cars would create some spectacular traffic jams (anyone for a 200 metre reverse round a narrow street watched by hundreds of tourists?) There are clearly a lot of people who come for day trips to the town and the atmosphere is lively and not overly crowded. We certainly arn't talking about tourists on the same level as Venice. The main part of the town occuipes the half of the area beyond the castle with all the buildings being traditional or at least in a fitting style, open squares surrounded by cafes and restaurants, a small beach on one side and lakeside views never more than 3 minutes walk away. The town is small enough to wander around and explore in an afternoon with time to visit some of the small shops selling all manner of items.
~~What to do~~
Whilst the transport links mean you are by no means limited to the delights of Sirmione for the duration of your holiday-and I would definatly recommend visiting the other towns round the lake, There is a lot to do in the small town.
The town is known for its thermal springs and there is a lake side spa providing a range of treatments. Whilst wandering round the town there are several very old and beautiful churches to wander into and sit a while taking in the history you are surrounded by. (one is by the entrance and there is another that forms part of a convent). The castle is well worth a visit- but do check its opening times. The main historical attraction of Sirmione is the Grotto of Catullus at the far end of the peninsular overlooking the expanse of the lake. It is one of the finest examples in Northern Italy. Along with the Roman Ruins of the villa of Catullus it is easy to spend a day walking to and from the sites and walking round them. There is a small cafe at the villa but I would suggest getting a snack to take with you from the main town and finding a beautiful quiet spot overlooking the lake for a picnic to remember. For those who do not feel like walking there and back there is a small and cheap road train that will take you from the town to the ruins.
The nearest airport is Verona and it is about a 30min taxi ride to Sirmione. With luggage I would recommend this as the best option to arrive as a taxi can take you right into your hotel whereas the public buses drop at the entrance leaving you to navigate your way round with cases, through crowds! Once you have seen the sights of Sirmione, there are several ferries and buses that run a regular service linking the lake towns. The ferries are a more expensive and slower option but travelling on the lake is a attractive way to send your morning anyway and well worth at least one trip. It is even possible to make a day of it and take the high speed ferry all the way up to the far end of the lake. The buses leave from just outside the castle gate and take you to many places-Local towns, Verona, the rail station. My one negative point about the transport links is that they all stop relatively early- the last bus arrives back around 8pm, meaning you have to spend every evening in Sirmione-not a problem as you can never tire of walking round and discovering new things and there are no shortage of fantastic restaurants to dine in. It is possible to stay out later but a taxi will be necessary and if you know you will be needing one I suggest booking one in advance and agreeing the price when you book it- we booked all our taxis through our travel agent.
Wow!! There is certainly no shortage of places to eat in this small town. All the squares are full of tables from the places surrounding them and every street has several restaurants. Although other cuisines are to be found, as you would expect from Italy most places with a tantalising range of pasta, pizza and grilled food. A speciality of the towns surrounding the lake though is fresh fish from the lake. Perch, Pike and many, many other varieties are all served and highly recommended. Italy in general is a fairly pricey place to eat and although my dad paid for all meals so I can't give rough price ranges there did seem to be a variety, from some reasonable set menus to a Michelin starred place and with so many places to choose from wander round until you find a place to suit you. There are many lighter options as well, pizza slices and sandwiches are readily available as were small stalls selling very fresh, prepared fruit and of course plenty of ice-cream!
~~Where to stay~~
For the location there seemed to be two main options- within the walls of the town or on the causeway approaching the town. If you want character and a beautiful setting then inside the town is defiantly the option to go for. There are a range of hotels from a very large 5 star place to many smaller family run places.
The hotel we stayed in was the 3 star Hotel Marino. The rooms were comfortable and had a balcony with a view of the lake. Breakfast was a good selection served in a room at the top of the hotel and the staff were exceptionally friendly. My parents commented on the good value the thought it was. From the look of them the hotels outside the town walls were are range but mainly more budget style ones. If you want a lake view you often have to request it and pay a bit extra- but well worth it especially if you manage to wake up in time for a sun rise!
A beautiful an unique place to base a holiday with transport enabling you to get to other places. Cost seemed average for an Italian holiday and it is possible to choose options to suit your budget. Full of history and beautiful views a wonderful place for a cultural holiday.
Monsoon comes into more high-end category of high street shops. More expensive than many other places but then more pleasant stores, friendly, helpful staff, and a good range of good quality, well designed clothes suitable for all occasions and, with the addition of their fusion range, all age groups.
Monsoon has gone from a few small shops to having a store in almost every town/city in the country and Accessorize, its accessories counter part, can be found on high streets, stations and airports as well as many countries abroad. Each store is well laid out starting with the appealing shop windows. Each season a selection of key outfits from the range are chosen and well displayed in the windows with the back drop of one of their promotional images making a lively and eye catching window display. I also love that these displays don't try to show range of the season but tend to have a theme in each window so the outfits all complement each other instead of seeming to fight for space as seems to happen with so many shop windows. This seasons 50s inspired designs make a particularly appealing display.
On entering the shop, the clothes are laid out well with rails against each wall and some stands in the middle of the shop floor. The arrangement is fantastic-not all in straight lines creating a more interesting layout and one you want to explore further and also well spaced so you can walk between racks of clothes without problems- many other high street shops could do with taking a lesson from this!
Each of the key trends is assigned a rail or stand of its own with the tops and bottoms being arranged in such a way that you can walk up in just pick up an outfit that goes together without walking half way round the shop to try and find a top to match a skirt!
Although many stores are quite small, they often feel larger than they are and you never feel crowded on top of other shoppers (with the exception of the sales)
The staff in every monsoon shop I have been in have always been some of the most pleasant and helpful on the high street. You are greeted with a warm smile as you enter and staff are always on hand to help if you need another size. I have also found the monsoon staff to be excellent at recommending outfits for any occasion- a bonus if you don't have time to try on everything in the shop or arn't really sure what you are looking for!
I have also found that for once on the high street the fitting rooms are rarely left unattended and the assistants do not just show you in and out with a helpful 'do le me know if you need another size' but also engage in conversation-not just to tell you the clothes look wonderful in an effort to sell them though. On a couple of occasions I have tried something on and didn't feel it was quite right and the assistant helpfully recommended an alternative item that suited much better instead of convincing me about the first item- a really lovely experience that made me feel they cared about what they were selling.
Monsoon do a huge range of clothes although most are more suited for more formal occasions. The quality of their clothes is without fail always fantastic with much of the embroidery and beading done by hand. The fabrics used are also of good quality-all their evening dresses that I own are 100% silk. You can see the thought that has gone into each item- Evening dresses that need it are boned all the way round and right down the bodice, thinner fabrics come with a cami or slip underneath as part of the item.
This range contains everyday and moderatly formal dresses, skirts, tops and trousers in a range of fabrics and styles. Many of their skirts are A-line and a good length for the average woman. I do however think it is a shame that they no longer seem to do their petite range! All these clothes are in the typical monsoon style and they tend to have several different main ranges for each season.
They also have in this range many more formal dresses ranging from cocktail dresses to full length black tie glamour. I really love their dresses and have several of them. They certainly last well many of the designs are classics that never go out of fashion.
This range are more expensive and often more exclusive evening dresses and evening wear. often slightly more unique designs and a great choice if you are looking for a show stopper
The fusion range was introduced a few years ago and has become a firm favourite of mine. The range is aimed at younger people( although many of the items look great on someone a bit older). The inspiration for the pieces is taken straight off the catwalks giving an on trend, stylish line of clothes with the style and quality you can expect from monsoon-usually at very reasonable prices.
Monsoon also do lovely children's wear for both boys and girls from baby upwards.
*service and cost*
The service you receive in monsoon is excellent from all staff. all the clothes are wrapped in tissue to protect them when you buy them. Although Monsoon clothes are at the expensive end of the high street shops for the quality you get they are well worth it. The clothes last a long time and they don't start to look shabby after a few wears! For an occasion where you are willing to spend a bit more on your outfit such as a wedding or evening dinner they have a great range with something to suit all figures.
*most evening dresses are between £100-£200
* most of their clothes go from a size 8- and size 20 with some styles going up to a 22 and some of the fusion lines go down to a size 6
* their shoes are well worth a look as well!
I saw these when browsing the simple range in Boots and decided to give them a try to see if they were better than the regular facial wipes which as a cleansing product had left me disappointed. As with all simple products they are perfume and colour free and contain skin loving nutrients and vitamins.
*product and appearance*
These wipes come in the same sort of plastic packet as all the simple facial wipes making them instantly recognisable as a product from the Simple brand. The colour of this packet is a bright green in comparison to the pale green of the regular wipes making it stand out more on the shelf-this is certainly what first attracted my attention. On the packet it claims that the wipes have a textured surface to exfoliate your skin as well as removing make up and other impurities. The packet has the same peel opening as other simple facial wipes and once opened it does not always reseal properly leading to the product drying out. For some reason though I found that once opened the packet could be resealed much better and generally I did not have too much of a problem with the wipes drying out-although I still stored them upside down so that wouldn't be an issue.
The wipes themselves have a textured side as well as a smoother side. The idea is that you use the slightly rough, textured side to exfoliate and clean your skin throughly and then follow with the softer side. The wipes are well soaked in the cleansing fluid and are a good size-about the same as a regular paper napkin so big enough to use on both face and neck.
*use and results*
The ex-foliating side of the wipe does feel rough on your skin but I is meant to and this suggested to me that it was to some extent at least cleaning my pores and removing dead skin and more stubborn dirt. I was glad that the wipes also had a smoother side to calm my skin after exfoliating it.
I use wipes such as these to remove make up and whilst they did do a good job of that particularly removing foundation from my pores I found that the exfoliating side was too rough to use on the skin round my eyes so had to use another product to remove eye makeup.
As an exfoliating product they did a suprisingly good job and I was pleased with the results. my skin not only felt refreshed but also looked clearer. They did however leave my skin feeling quite tight so I followed immediatly with a liberal amount of moisturiser.
*will I use them again?*
As a regular part of my skin care routine no! This is not because they are not a good product, but because I do not feel they fit into my routine. As a make up remover they are too rough round my eyes so I will continue to use a softer wipe and my personal preference is for a cream wash cleanser as I think using a product with warm water opens the pores better and a wash is better and clearing skin.
They are however a brilliant product if you are going on a short break and do not want to have to take a lot of skin care products with you. Just these and some moisturiser will be fine to look after your skin for a few days so I will be using them on weekend breaks.
*Price and availability*
These wipes are a bit more expensive than the regular simple facial wipes at £3-£4 a pack. they are available from most stores such as boots and superdrug although they can be picked up on offers quite often.
these are a very good product although I find them a little expensive for the number of wipes you get. Although I will not be using them regularly this is purely because I prefer other types of skin care and as a product I would highly recommend them as an innovative facial wipe that can do the job of a wash cleanser. For someone who is short of time these would be a very good option.
I usually like to have some facial cleansing wipes handy for removing makeup and over the summer carry some in my bag to freshen up during the day-no one likes going round looking sweaty! As usual with facial products I was initially attracted to the simple ones as they are designed for sensitive skin with no added perfume or colour.
*appearance and product*
The wipes come in a ale green packet which instantly gives the impression of a fresh product- a well thought up packaging design. They come in packets of 25 wipes and the label on the top of the packet peels back to reveal the wipes. The wipes pull out one at a time although I do sometimes find that the one underneath gets slightly pulled out too so it has to be put back in. My one criticism with this packaging design is that once the opening has been peeled back it does not stick back down very well-particularly as you get towards the end of the packet and it has been peeled open many times. This results in the wipes drying out if you arn't careful and they end up being wasted. To combat this problem I now store the wipes on my shelf with the peel opening face down so the weight of the wipes keeps it closed.
Each wipe is a good size-about the same as an average paper napkin and is plain white- so you can see exactly how much dirt you have got off your face! They are well moistened with the cleansing fluid-its nice to see that simple have not been stingy and all the wipes have the same amount on them. The wipe itself is made of a soft material that feels gentle on your skin.
*use and effectiveness*
The product easily wipes over your skin and is defiantly big enough to use for face and neck. The wipes feel very refreshing on your skin- particularly good when used for freshening up in the summer. My primary use for these wipes is for removing makeup. They do this very well and even waterproof mascara is removed by them albeit with a bit of time and effort-just shows to me that i'm using a good mascara! I usually find that one wipe is plenty to remove a normal days make-up and even the huge amount I wear for dance competitions is removed with two wipes. They leave your skin looking clean and as a facial wipe and make-up remover they are a fantastic product.
*use as a cleanser*
While they are great for removing impurities on the surface of your skin, these wipes do not remove dirt from within the pores of your face and for that reason I do not rate them highly as a facial cleanser. I will use them to remove makeup but always follow with a cleansing wash as I find this is far more effective at throughly cleaning your skin. I also find that these wipes tend to leave my skin feeling quite dry and I do not like to use them more than a few times in a day without applying moisturiser.
*Cost and availiability*
These wipes usually cost around £3 for a pack and are availiable in almost all beauty stores such as boots and superdrug. While this is reasonable it is worth keeping an eye out for them in superdrug where they often have large baskets of them reduced to just £2 a pack.
A good refreshing wipe to freshen up after exercise/during the summer and good at removing makeup but I would not suggest using them in place of your normal cleanser and they can leave your skin feeling quite dry and tight.
Since first going into a Hollister shop about a year ago I have been a big fan of their clothes. They fit well are are good quality and considering this they are reasonably priced for this type of clothes.
Hollister is the sister brand of Abercrombie and Fitch and as such sells the beach inspired type of clothes typical for this store- Shirts, short floaty skirts, camis, tank tops, jeans and a lot of knit wear all with the Hollister logo on it somewhere. One of the best points about this store though is that despite being part of this sort of brand it doesn't have prices to match and although not cheap is certainly no where near the Abercrombie prices.
All the stores I have been into have been very similar in design and layout. The front of the store is very eye catching against all the other shop front in a shopping mall. It is designed to look like a beach hut and instead of having the entrance in the middle, you step into a porch with a chair, chandelier and various plants and other accessories and on either side there is an entrance. Ladies clothes on the right and mens on the left. One thing I am less keen on is what happens as you enter the store: You are greated by a Hollister staff member giving you the following line-'heya, whats up?' although I do like to be acknowledged by staff I find it a bit strange being asked this and sometimes wonder if I should stop for a chat and poor out all my problems to them! Once in the store you are immediately greated by the Hollister scent that is sprayed all over the shop and on every item of clothing. I love the smell but for someone who isn't keen on it the shop quickly gets over powering.
The layout is arranged in a series of rooms filled wih rails and tables covered in neat piles of merchandise all layed out according to style and colour. There are also chairs and tables with magasines on giving a homely touch and giving somewhere for your shopping partner to wait while you queue for the fitting rooms. Trying to read the magasines will be a waste of time though unless you want to strain your eyes as the lighting in the shop is dreadful. It certainly adds to the atmosphere and if it was a set for a play or just an attraction it would work well, but as a shop the lack of light is a big problem. Even in the fitting rooms the lighting levels do not improve. My biggest problem with this is that you cannot clearly see what colour the clothes are. I recently bought a top believing it to be a deep magenta and when I got it home it turned out to be bright pink!
The centre of the store is a larger space with a cash desk with several tills and various other products such as body spray for sale.
As I have already said the clothes are the beach inspired designs typical of the Abercrombie and Fitch brand and you will find the store full of people dressed head to toe in their clothes.
The quality is fantastic with natural threads being used. Their jeans and most of their clothes and 100% cotton which seems to be so rare for a reasonably prices high street shop these days. The fit is fantastic for me. I am very slim so often have problems finding clothes that fit me well but Hollister fit perfectly. My comment here would be that their clothes do only go up to a Large and they also come up quite small.
All clothes are also sprayed with the signature perfume making them smell lovely first time you wear them.
Apart from the greeting as you walk in I find all the staff helpful and very pleasant-not just in manner but also to look at! Hollister staff are always ridiculously good looking and I have to say that this can sometimes be a little intimidating especially in the fitting rooms when you come out to show a friend something and have several perfect looking staff watching you as well. It does though fit with the brand and the helpfulness of any staff member whenever I have asked for any help has certainly made up for anything else
The range of clothes in each store is great and most items come in several colours and designs. This is though where I have another small complaint- On one occasion I saw a top on one of the dummies in the shop and on asking a shop assistant where in the shop I could find it she informed me that they didn't have any left and didn't know what clothes would be coming in the next delivery so couldn't tell me when they would get more in. On several occasions I have seen something one day and when I have gone back a few days later with the intention of buying it I have been unable to find it anywhere. If you see something you want buy it while its there!
I love this shop but I do find its one people either love or hate. Some people seem to view the style of clothes and people who wear them in a negative way. I personally just see good quality, well made and well fitting clothes in lovely styles and colours and find that the shops make a very refreshing change from the rest of the high street. If you can cope with the huge amounts of perfume in the air go in for a wander round and you never know what you will find. (There are usually some clearance shelves in the very back room in the ladies section and some good bargains can be found here. I got a pair of 100% cotton jeans for £11.20)
I've been to ballet classes at least once a week from the age of 3 so dancing has always been a big hobby and as a child I was also sent to tap and jazz classes. Ballroom though wasn't very widely done and as it wasn't available a my dance school I wasn't sent to lessons.
Then Strictly Come Dancing lept onto the television screen and ballroom and Latin dancing was suddenly everywhere. The sparkle and glamour of it immediately appealed to me and I begged my parents to let me start but the answer was no-I already did too much and had to concentrate on my school work.
I decided as I started looking at Universities and realised that many offered beginners dance lessons that I could finally start learning this style of dance and finding a University with a Ballroom and Latin dance society became a priority(although my parents still don't know this is want swayed my final choice!) I arrived and immediately emailed the society asking to join and from the first steps I have loved every minute.
Two left feet?
When I tell people I dance the reply I often get is 'Oh I wish I could do that, but I have two left feet'. Well here is a style of dance anyone can learn and most importantly enjoy. a basic waltz or foxtrot isn't so different from walking-you just need to learn where to step forward and back and what direction to go in. Add some music and a partner and there you have it- a basic waltz. The other major feature of Ballroom dancing is its accessibility to all ages and body shapes. You don't need to be young, bean pole like and able to get your legs round your ears. You just need to have enthusiasm, willingness to try something new and if your unsure a friend to take with you!
What to wear?
Anything you feel comfortable in and can move in. You do not need any special clothes to be able to learn this style of dance. Shoe wise-men usually wear non-trainer type shoes and ladies a shoe with a small heel will make dancing a bit easier(especially if you come to buy specific ballroom/latin shoes later as these have a heel) but if you are more comfortable without a heel-not a problem at all!
Where to learn?
There are Ballroom schools all over the country and a quick search on Google will find some near you. Some are focused on competing and others on social dancing (see below for details) but a quick look at the schools websites will help you find one that is right for you. Almost all schools have beginners classes, taught as a group at a pace to suit even the slowest learner. Unless specified in the class description, you don't need to take a partner(although ladies if you can drag a man along the classes always need more!). Throughout the class you will often find yourself swapping partners so everyone gets a chance to dance with someone. Classes such as these are social events as much as learning experiences and you will find yourself welcomed. For people who have danced before more advanced classes will be available and giving the teacher a call can help you to find a suitable class for your standard or you could even have some private lessons...
Ballroom schools also offer private lessons usually costing £30-£50 for an hour although this can vary greatly depending on the teacher. A private lesson is fantastic for the more serious dancer to learn technique and progress faster. For anyone wishing to compete seriously private lessons are almost a necessity. Private lessons can be for an individual or for a couple.
Many Ballroom schools also offer private lessons specifically to teach a couple to dance for their wedding dance and enquiring at a dance school will tell you any offers or discounts on booking several private lessons for this purpose.
*Social and competitive dancing-the differences*
- It is for fun and this is what you will learn in many group lessons particularly at the beginner stage.
-for those who just want to learn for fun this is the sort of dancing for them. You will learn the same steps and competitive dancers and the same dances but in a more relaxed environment.
-many dance schools host dance evenings where you can you along and enjoy dancing with others.
-This is a no pressure way to learn ballroom with the emphasis on having fun and learning at a pace that suits you.
-This is where it gets serious and expensive!
-there are competitions happening all over the country from small local ones to big national events.
-you can compete at different levels from competing at beginner level to professional standard.
-If you compete you will most likely have a regular dance partner who you will attend private lessons with(one place where the cost starts building)
-competing at the lower levels (at the bigger comps this is up to intermediate level) you wear non-competitive dress-i.e. no ballroom/latin competition dresses(ones with decoration/rhinestones/sequins/tassels etc.)for ladies and no tail suits/latin shirts for the men.
-at the more advanced levels competitive dress is a must. Unless you are fortunate enough to have a star dress maker in you family ballroom dresses are very expensive with hand made dresses heavily stones with thousands of swarovski crystals costing well over £1000! (it is possible to get dresses from companies in hong kong for as little as £200 although when compared to the more expensive dresses there is no comparison.) A guys tail suit can cost several hundred pounds.
-At a competition many couples dance in each round so it is important that you look your best and this means not just expensive and very elaborate outfits but a full fake tan(the more tangerine like the better!) highly styled and sprayed solid hair and as much glitter and make-up as you can manage on your face(fake eyelashes being a must)
The universities have their own seperate competition circuit called the varsity circuit. over the year Universities with Ballroom/Latin teams will host friendly competitions culminating in the Southern/Northern Nationals(SUDA/NUDA) and the National Inter Varsity Dance Competition(IVDC) held at the Blackpool Winter gardens every year. These competitions feature rounds for all levels of dancer and university is a fantastic place to start learning to dance. These competitions are more relaxed and friendly than the open ones and although dress restrictions do apply for the individual rounds for beginner and Novice the team match at he end of the day allows everyone to wear a competition dress and the university teams all have a supply in the team colour so you can dance in a dress without paying a fortune for it!
*It is worth noting though if you do want to take up ballroom at university that not every Uni has a Ballroom/Latin society and team*
Overall Ballroom dancing is a fabulous way to learn a new skill to show off at the next wedding/party you go to(I have even been known to break into a Jive in a packed club!), meet new people and socialise, keep fit and active, is suitable for all ages and people and if you choose to compete the dresses, hair and makeup are fabulous.