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chrisbriers567

chrisbriers567
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    • Bosch TWK8633GB / Kettle / 38 Readings / 38 Ratings
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      30.10.2013 20:04
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      It has the potential to be five stars but Bosch have to iron out some of the annoying design flaws.

      There is no doubt that this Bosch kettle has its advantages, it's robust, modern, quick, easy to use and reliable, but I have failed to fall in love with it. It has several major problems which I would not expect of such a modern and expensive product. It makes me think that a cheap kettle boils water just as well as this rather difficult to live with more extravagant Bosch version.


      Flawed Design

      ******************

      The kettle is far from perfect and I feel that the desire of Bosch to get noticed hasn't really helped either. For a reason which I cannot understand a decision has been made to place the area where it is possible to see into the kettle to view the water level exactly behind the place where the handle is. This defeats the object in every sense. I get the feeling that practicality has been somewhat sacrificed in favour of getting noticed in the shops but the designers need to remember that an unsatisfied customer doesn't return. Bosch are not the only manufacturer who this problem seems to affect but I really struggle to see why they cannot place the area where you check the water level somewhere other than behind the handle.


      That Beep!

      ************

      By far the worst problem that the kettle has is the ridiculous beep noise that it makes as soon as you set it to boil water and when it has completed boiling the water. It may sound like a good idea because it is easy to judge when it has finished but in reality it has become just a nuisance to my family. The loud beep is fine when everyone is awake but it is far from ideal if you want some quiet. My house has very thick walls but the beep can be heard both upstairs and in almost all of the other rooms. There is no way to turn down the noise either which makes me once again think that the kettle lacks thought to the design.


      Noise Pollution

      *****************

      To continue with the theme of noise the kettle is ridiculously noisy. Prior to buying it I used a much cheaper plain kettle with none of the design features that the Bosch has and it made half as much noise as the Bosch. I can only assume that noise has been disregarded in favour of a speedy boiling time. If future versions of the kettle can reduce the noise it has the potential to be market am excellent product but without doubt it needs some further development in this area. The kettle makes a deep rumbling noise as it boils up the water, similar to that of a jet engine powering an aeroplane down the runway, although when standing next to the kettle you can just about get away without wearing ear muffs!


      Chunky Monkey

      ******************

      Size is not something that I would usually bring up when it comes to kettles but the Bosch TWK takes up a considerable amount of unit space. The fact that the base is the is actually a rectangle means that it perhaps seems to be larger than it actually is hence why most kettles adopt the circle shape. The base is not unsightly and fits very neatly into the corner of my kitchen though.


      Does It Burn A Hole In The Wallet?

      ***************************************

      You will have no problems finding a place to buy the kettle, it is stocked by all of the usual suspects both online and also on the high street. As usual there is little between the main high street competitors with Argos, Currys and John Lewis all charging £59-99 but it was the online retailer Amazon who are marginally the cheapest with a price of £56-69. However, if you need the kettle quickly they may charge a hefty delivery charge which can result in little price difference between shopping online and in the shops. Avoid House Of Fraser and very.co.uk as they both charge ten pounds more than Currys, Argos and John Lewis with a price of £69-00. The pick of the big supermarkets is ASDA who are only a penny more expensive than its high street rivals charging the round figure of £60-00.


      The Redeeming Features

      *****************************

      The most obvious attribute of the kettle has to be how speedy it is at boiling water. This is without doubt why I award the kettle three stars, at the end of the day the job of a kettle is to boil water and it does do this effectively. Not only does it boil the water quickly it also has three buttons with lights on the base part of the kettle, these show how far toward boiling point the kettle has got to. The lights are not something that I would go out of my way to praise but they do make it stand out from some of the many other kettles. Furthermore they have a dual function because you can choose how hot you want the water to be. There are four options in total (70°C, 80°C, 90°C and 100°C) and it is a great idea for people who do not like drinks to be piping hot like I like them.


      I think that we have all had that situation where different people get home at different times, and they all want a cup of tea. This can sometimes mean that the kettle is boiled three of even four time in a ten minute interval, this uses more energy and is often unnecessary. Well Bosch have a solution that is simple and easy to use. The 'keep warm' setting means that if you want to put the kettle on and dash out for a short while, when you get back the water will not have lost all of its heat. It does this by using sensors to see when the water goes below a particular temperature and then doing a mini boil instead of boiling the water up completely once again. I must admit I love little clever ideas that remove small problems from my life and this is a top innovation. Although not a vast amount of energy is saved, in these time of price hikes, every little helps.


      When it comes to cleaning the product also scores very well, the lack of large amounts of see through material means that smearing is not anything like the problem that it used to be when I have cleaned kettles in the past. Furthermore the black exterior means that you don't have to worry about visitors noticing any lime scale build up. The sturdy build of the kettle means that I never feel afraid to give it a full going over, I have never had any bits fall off it and it is just as strong as the day that I purchased it.


      Verdict

      ********

      I went for a solid three stars because without a doubt there are some design flaws, especially the beeping noise. Bosch could have discovered the faults if they had done a little more customer research, it is clear that during the design phase nobody actually tried living with the kettle for a long time. As the kettle is not cheap I believe that it is only reasonable to expect that many of the design issues will have already been ironed out. However, if you can get over some of the design issues it cannot be matched for boiling speed and there are also several added touches that make me think that the product could have been five star very easily.

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      • More +
        25.08.2013 15:04
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        This really is a market leading current account and the reward means I see reasons to go elsewhere.

        The Halifax bank current account that is supposed to be the most rewarding experience on the market, from the people who 'give you extra'! Most current accounts these days tend to be very similar especially those that have no monthly charge. It is no secret that Halifax have been widely criticised for customer service in the past and a recent customer satisfaction survey by MoneySavingExpert.com suggested that only 36% of customers rated the service of Halifax as 'great' while a considerable 14% rated the service as 'poor'. Without a doubt Halifax has had to up its game in recent time and become a much more efficient and inviting bank.

        Access To The Account
        ********************
        This is another area where it is difficult to fault Halifax as every avenue is open in order to control your money. Nationwide have recently attempted to limit customers use of branches by not permitting branch access on their FlexAccount but there is nothing like this at Halifax. Every Halifax branch is now open on a Saturday which gives working people more opportunity to bank. As is normal these days there is also access to the account through 24 hour internet banking and telephone banking. Mobile banking is ideal for people who would like a quick overview of their account or would like to make a payment and want to use a smartphone or tablet to do this. The service is convenient and is very rarely out of action due to maintenance, a problem that seems to hinder the mobile services of a number of other banks. However customers of Lloyds TSB will note that the mobile and internet banking pages of Halifax are exactly the same as those of Lloyds TSB, the reason being that Lloyds TSB actually owns HBOS (Halifax Bank of Scotland) meaning that for cost efficiency the services are almost identical except with different logos.

        Customer Service - The Facts And Figures
        ***********************************
        As I mentioned in my introduction Halifax has scored badly in some banking surveys with regard to customer service and when compared to Britain's best bank, First Direct (according to MoneySavingExpert.com) there seems to be a real gulf in class. The results below demonstrate just how great the contrast is:

        Halifax First Direct
        Customer service rated as 'great' 36% 82%
        Customer service rated as 'ok' 39% 5%
        Customer service rated as 'poor' 14% 1%

        Fortunately for Halifax that is not the end of the matter, surveys have been done where only people who hold the Reward current account have been questioned. The results of these surveys are slightly more promising for the bank although they still lag well behind other major banking services providers. Santander is another bank who beat Halifax in the customer service surveys for their comparative 123 current account:

        Halifax Reward Santander 123
        Customer service rated as 'great' 59% 76%
        Customer service rated as 'ok' 34% 19%
        Customer service rated as 'poor' 7% 5%

        This suggests that whilst the Halifax Reward current account does not have staggering customer service ratings it does create a better impression amongst customers than some of the other Halifax banking products. It seems that the bank is using this flagship account to attract attention away from its poor performance in customer service.

        My personal opinions regarding the customer service at Halifax have been largely positive, on the couple of occasions when I have used the call centres they have always seemed efficient and have been informative and knowledgeable about financial issues as they should be. Branch waiting times seem always less than in Lloyds TSB but naturally there is no general rule with regard to this.

        Switching To Halifax Could Make You £100
        *************************************
        Sounds fantastic to me but be prepared to jump through hoops in order to comply with all of the terms and conditions. The concept of offering a tempting bribe is nothing new to the financial services industry, indeed First Direct have now gone one step further by offering £125 to new customers and a further £100 if they are not satisfied with the service. The offer has a very specific target audience, in particular new customers who hold current accounts with banks outside of the HBOS group. Below I have produced a mini checklist to see if it is possible to get the £100 reward.

        - You must be prepared to use the Halifax switching service to close your current account with another bank and transfer direct debits ect.
        - You must not be a Bank of Scotland current account customer.
        - You must not have received a Halifax switching offer since January 2012.
        - You must not work for any part of the Lloyds Banking group.
        - If you already hold a Halifax current account you must be prepared to make it your main current account and close down your previous main current account held with a different bank.

        Use of the switching service is free but this is really not as much of a selling point as Halifax make out, most banks offer a switching service that is free and it is rare to hear of problems with these services so the Halifax service really is not anything special.

        £5 A Month - Every Little Helps
        ***************************
        A further selling point to the current account is that unlike many basic current accounts Halifax actually give you a reward for keeping the account open and using it. At face value five pounds a month is not especially great but when you add the initial bonus for opening the account it begins to look like a much more appealing prospect. If you qualify for the opening reward of £100 that means that in the first year it is possible to earn a maximum of £160, which is market leading and worth going through the hassle of changing bank for. However as with all things in life it comes with a number of terms and conditions:

        - Remain in credit throughout the month.
        - Pay in a minimum of £750 in every month. This does not have to be cash paid in over the counter, it can be a transfer from another bank.
        - Have at least two direct debits going out of the account, not a problem for most home owners.

        One important thing that I discovered is that although you have to pay in £750 a month this can be done in one lump some and only needs to stay in the account overnight. This means that you can keep a very low balance in the account and as long as you transfer £750 into the account and then take it out again the next day you will still get the reward. When I asked a Halifax employee if this works he simply smiled at me and nodded, most probably thinking I had way too much time on my hands to think of that! It does work by the way.

        The Personalised Debit Cards
        ************************
        I must admit that I am not really all that fond of having pictures on the front of debit cards but I appreciate that some people may like it. Halifax offer the service for free initially but if you want to then change the image again it costs five pounds. Stick with images of pets rather than partners or family because at least with pets it is difficult to fall out with them and thus cause any awkward moments. There are a series of image guidelines which unfortunately mean that you cannot turn you debit card into the front cover of a lads magazine, although it would be hilarious to see peoples faces when you go to pay for anything if you were allowed to do it.

        Overdrafts
        *********
        Most people shiver at the thought of them but I guess that I have to cover the rate that the Reward current account offers. As with almost all bank accounts overdrafts are very expensive to use regardless of whether they are planned or unplanned. With the Reward current account and planned overdrafts a tier system is employed in order to charge different amounts depending on how overdrawn you go:

        Amount charged by Halifax per day overdrawn
        Up to £1999 £1
        £2000 - £2999 £2
        Above £3000 £3

        These charges are bad enough but it is when you look at the rates for unplanned overdrafts that you realize just how costly it can be because regardless of the amount overdrawn there is a standard charge of £5 per day. That means that having an unplanned overdraft of just £1 for 20 days will cost a staggering £100. There are numerous better options in terms of current accounts if you suspect you may go overdrawn.

        How Easy Is It To Live With Halifax On A Day To Day Level?
        ***************************************************
        I must say that when I first set up the account I was sceptical about what my experience would be like with Halifax. The ease of locating branches means that it is very easy to find cash machines and pay money in over the counter. I was delighted to discover that Halifax had not sacrificed any of the typical current account features such as a cheque book, even nowadays I still use one regularly. The times it takes to get through to a real person at a call centre is not as good as Santander who are excellent in that field, but Halifax do have very competent people on the end of the telephone who speak clear English and explain things very well. Internet banking is efficient without being spectacular and direct debits appear on the account quickly which is always reassuring.

        The Verdict
        **********
        The Reward current account successfully attracted my attention and there are many positives to what Halifax offers, the £5 per month is an added bonus and the £100 when you join can mean substantial first year returns. However the account will only remain an attractive proposition as long as Halifax continue to dish out the five pound notes. In terms of customer service Halifax has in my experience been just as good as any other bank that I have used although the statistics suggest that many people would have a different opinion to me, but if anything can tempt previously unsatisfied customers back it is the Reward current account.


        Website sources:
        **************

        - Money Saving Expert: best and worst bank survey.
        http://www.moneysavingexpert.com /news/banking/2013/08/ revealed-the-best-and-worst-banks-for-customer-service
        - Halifax Bank: Reward current account.
        http://www.halifax.co.uk/bankaccounts /current-accounts/reward-current-account/
        - Halifax Bank: Getting started with the Reward current account guide. http://www.halifax.co.uk/bankaccounts /pdf/reward-current-account-guide.pdf
        - Telly Ads: Advert for the Reward current account.
        http://www.tellyads.com/show_movie.php?filename=TA8374

        NB. I do not work in financial services and am therefore not a financial advisor. Any opinions that I have used in this review are based on my own experiences and what I believe to be the best and worst features of the Halifax Reward current account.

        This review may also be published on Ciao under the username chrisbriers567. Thanks for reading!

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        • More +
          29.06.2013 22:33
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          Navigator will without doubt find a way into anyone's heart. It did mine!

          One of the babies of the Royal Caribbean fleet (hardly at a weight of around 142,000 tonnes but small in comparison to the newer Royal Caribbean ships). Navigator has become entrenched as one of the most loved ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet and to be honest it is not difficult to see why.

          The Owner
          *************
          The American owner, Royal Caribbean, are giants in the field of large scale cruising, they have been pioneers of bigger and bigger ships with extravagant new features previously unseen at sea. Oasis of the Seas is even split up into districts (similar to New York) and has a full size carousel at its heart. Do not thing that just because the name features 'royal' that your vacation is going to be quiet and subdued, it won't be, what you can expect is bundles of fun usually surrounded by crew with a tireless desire to please.

          Destinations
          **************
          Navigator has consistently followed the same route for at least the last three years during the summer season, demonstrating the ever increasing popularity of the eastern Mediterranean as a cruise destination. The summer itinerary departs from Civitavecchia which is the port for Rome and includes full day stops in Messina, a port for excursions to Mt Etna and Sicily, Athens, Kusadasi, which is the port for the ancient ruins of the city of Ephesus but it is also a lovely port town itself and Chania which is a charming coastal town on the Greek island of Crete. My one must see place on the whole cruise would have to be the Parthenon in Athens, it is a truly magical experience even in over 30 degrees of heat. Prices during the summer start at around five hundred pounds per person for an inside cabin although this does change depending on when you book.

          During the winter Navigator covers the western Caribbean with cruises departing from the American port of Galveston in Texas, to be brutally honest this is not ideal for European guests as it is difficult to get to from the UK. Navigator's itinerary is interesting, it includes a relaxing three days at sea as well as full days in Cozumel in Mexico, Belize City in Belize and Roatán in Honduras. It can be done from the UK but be prepared for an organisational nightmare. In my opinion there are some far better cruises to the Caribbean which depart Fort Lauderdale or Miami, both of which have international airports. Prices start at around five hundred pounds.

          Accommodation And Staterooms
          **************************************
          There is a vast array of options with regard to accommodation, these range from expansive suites complete with full balconies through to inside cabins for those on a lower budget. I have found that whilst many of the staterooms lack the finer touches of the five star cruise lines such as Celebrity Cruises and Silversea this is more than made up for by cleanliness and the personalities of the stateroom attendants who always seem to have a smile on their faces despite unsurprisingly having to deal with some very uncompromising passengers. All of the predictable features are present such as the towel animals which appear magically on the beds every evening.

          Balconies are well segregated from the neighbours but it is once again the small touches which are not quite top level, for instance the sun beds are rather uncomfortable and in my opinion the balconies have too much furniture on them. The size of the table on many of the balconies at suite level actually means that to get out of the doors from the room you have to squeeze through a narrow gap, not great when you have just had a three course meal. That said despite the small issues I love nothing more than to sit on the balcony at night reading a book and listening to the sound of the sea and waves in the warm Mediterranean air. Cruise lines such as Cunard have found a simple yet sophisticated way around the problem by using very chic wooden sun beds with super comfortable cushions tied to them, these are an absolute treat to lie on and would be better in my view.

          The 'interior staterooms' as Royal Caribbean call them are cosy and all have enough room for a double bed. They also have a small but functional bathroom along with plenty of wardrobe space for the evening suits or dresses. These cabins are ideal for those sort of people who typically like to be outside and surrounded by people constantly rather that those who prefer to retreat to the quiet surroundings of a balcony.

          Solo Travellers
          *****************
          One area where the cruise industry has traditionally fallen down is with the solo traveller market and Navigator does little to overcome this barrier. Newer ships are tending to have a small number of cabins for single travellers but this does not seem to be something which Royal Caribbean has embraced and consequently those intending to travel on their own will need to pay for double occupancy. On several cruise ships staff pay the utmost attention to single travellers especially at meal times in order to make them feel comfortable but on the odd occasion that I have seen solo travellers they seem to be treated the same as those in large groups. This is a matter of personal preference but to me it would be nice if the staff could spare the time to initiate some form of conversation, little things like that can really enhance a holiday a lot and make it feel as though you are not staying in a chain hotel but rather a more personal environment, no doubt many will disagree with me on this issue though.

          Prices Onboard Expenses
          ******************************
          Many cruise lines have become notorious for charging relatively cheap fares to go on the cruise but then making the onboard prices for things such as drinks very expensive. For me the biggest scam that I found on Royal Caribbean and Navigator is the drinks packages and especially the soft drinks package. Normally when you ask for a Coca-cola or any other soft drink you get a full can but when you use the drinks package to get a drink it does not come from a can but instead a different source, showing that it is from a cheaper un-branded kind of soft drink. These kinds of things can be found in many hotels not just on cruises but I personally found it really annoying, the staff make no attempt to cover it up either. Other costs onboard are reasonable and in line with the competition, I am told that spa treatments are actually cheaper than on some of the British cruise lines such as P&O Cruises and Cunard.

          Seasoned cruisers always seem to moan about the cost of the organised tours that depart from the ship while it is in port. Navigators tours are always of good quality and I found the staff on the shore excursions desk to be extremely helpful in planning tours, almost all tours have some late availability which is superb if you forget to book the tours before you go. Most of the staff will be able to give you insider tips on what you want to see in different places and also how to avoid the queues which is great so do not be afraid to ask around if you have never been to the places before. I typically avoid commenting on value for money because what one person believes to be good value is often expensive to someone else but let me put it like this, you will not find better organised more reasonably priced shore excursions with any other cruise company.

          Facilities
          **********
          Modern cruise ships have many standard amenities such as several swimming pools and plenty of space for sun loungers and Navigator is no exception. There are some facilities on Navigator that can only be found on a select few Royal Caribbean ships such as the rock wall on the sports deck, this can be mis-leading because the temptation is to think that you can try your hand at rock climbing at any point during the day but in reality on port days it rarely can be accessed for more than two hours during the entire day, on sea days this does increase to around four hours but considering the number of guests on the ship this can lead to considerable queues. Certainly do not expect to be able to learn how to rock climb in your own time, spectators seem to annoyingly delight in you falling off and the sight of people waiting to attempt the wall can make you cautious of taking up space for too long.

          Having been on Navigator Of The Seas twice I found that the golf simulator was a great facility on the first cruise but unfortunately it was out of commission the second time around. It had become a storage room for the staff on the sports deck and for me this was disappointing but I was told that it should by now be up and running again. It is far from the most modern of simulators but it does have an adequate selection of courses and can be especially entertaining during choppy seas!

          Ice-skating rinks are more and more popular on cruise ships these days but Navigator was one of the first to include the facility. Typical seven night cruises usually offer two or three different performances with two shows per night. To a certain extent the entertainment plan has been cleverly scheduled because the ice-skating shows do not clash with theatre shows, very often they will alternate instead. However this means that if an ice-skating show happens to be cancelled due to choppy seas there is no space for it to be put on again on another night. Cruises also offer the opportunity to try you hand at ice skating when it is 30 degrees outside! The instructors are fully qualified and very easy to get on with, this activity is ideal for families and it does to cost any extra money.

          Another feature of the ship that is common to almost all large cruise lines is a large and hence always busy spa, my advice would be to use it one one of the port days if at all possible as it will be much more of a heaven of calm than it is on sea days. The spa is well equipped but not all that modern although it does offer all of the new treatments and some classes on things such as natural remedies, if that floats you boat (sorry but I had to put that in).

          Children are very well looked after by what Royal Caribbean call their 'Adventure Ocean Youth Programme', the activities include something for everyone although there is no obligation for the children to attend, they can drop in and out of it when they want to. A full babysitting service allows parents to get some quality time together if they would like to although there is a cost for the service which is paid for by the hour.

          Evening Entertainment
          **************************
          Royal Caribbean say that they have 'Broadway-style shows' but to me this is an exaggeration, the shows are good but not world class like they are on the real Broadway. Many shows feature part-time singers who also hold other positions on the ships which is not the international style of entertainment that the cruise line markets. Whilst Royal Caribbean is American in many ways the theatre acts seem often to try to reach out to too many different cultural backgrounds, indeed 1950s American groups are regularly followed the night after by Spanish Flamenco dancers which leads to a lack of cohesion and flow in the entertainment schedule.

          Meals
          *******
          The main restaurant is set over three different decks and each layer of the restaurant has its own individual name which come from three famous ballets these being Swan Lake, Coppelia and The Nutcracker. Which level you are allocated to depends on what type of dining you want, the first possibility is assigned time dining when you can choose to start your meal at either 6:00pm or 8:30pm. I personally prefer to avoid this option as tables for two are extremely difficult to get and although sharing with other people sounds great in practice it can be an uncomfortable experience if you discover you have little in common with the others on your table.

          My recommendation is the Royal Caribbean My Time Dining which means that you can begin your meal at any time between 6:00pm and 9:30, this is ideal for families who do not want to stress about being at the restaurant at a set time. I also discovered that the My Time Dining part of the restaurant has more tables for two than the other pars of the restaurant so couples and small groups of friends might also like to consider this option.

          Royal Caribbean has never been world renowned for the quality of its food and Navigator Of The Seas is no exception to this generalisation. The food is perfectly adequate but does not match up to that on P&O Cruises or Princess Cruises. The two best restaurants on the ship are Chopps Grill, a steakhouse which has a rather more relaxed atmosphere than the main dining room and Portofino which is and Italian restaurant serving apparently high end cuisine. Both restaurants are good but will not world class.

          Johnny Rockets is a distinctly American 1950s style diner on the upper decks of the ship. Some will say that it is a bit too corny or stereotypical but for me it is one of those places that you have to do at least once. There is a cover charge of about $5 per person and the restaurant is open most of the time that you would want to eat, although you cannot get breakfast there. Johnny Rockets is seen as a casual alternative to the main restaurants because there is no dress code even on the formal nights. Do be aware that everything comes with fries and they are immediately filled up once you finish the last lot and what's more if the view out over the great ocean is not enough the waiters also dance to the music from some of the notorious 50's hits.

          Too American
          ****************
          Most of the guests on Navigator originate from the United States and this can lead to people thinking that they will be constantly surrounded by people with a different accent. In reality it really does depend on where you cruise departs from, summer cruises from Rome have the greatest number of guest nationalities with the most common being Americans closely followed by Italians and Spanish. British passports are not rare especially during the school holiday time. Winter cruises welcome a large majority of American guests because they depart from The US but a small proportion of European guests are present. You can expect to hear a wide variety of languages but the main language of the ship is English but many announcements are also in Italian. In my opinion the fact that Royal Caribbean only have announcements in two languages is far better than rival cruise line MSC who operate in a staggeringly annoying seven languages, even short announcements can go on forever.

          Dress Code
          **************
          On a typical seven day cruise there will be two formal nights. I must be honest at this point and say that the thought of being strangled by a shirt collar that is too tight and feeling torturously uncomfortable all evening is not really my thing. There certainly are ways around the formal nights but you may feel a little odd, I found that it was just easier to comply with the dress code for a couple of nights rather than cause myself extra hassle by trying to get round them. The fact that most people are dressed in formal wear made me feel far less conspicuous. Dress for women on formal nights is usually a long dress. The other nights typically have a more casual theme and whilst you do see men in suits, a tie and open neck shirt with sleeves is the norm. During the day almost anything goes but remember that none of the places you visit on Navigator Of The Seas will be cold, so my advice is stock up on the shorts.

          My Verdict
          *************
          Navigator Of The Seas does have its faults but I have awarded it five stars simply because of the amount of fun that I had. Holidays are all about enjoyment and for me the little things are unimportant as long as you have memories that last for a lifetime. Navigator has not only given me great memories but it has also become entrenched in my heart. With the fun loving Royal Caribbean attitude it would be difficult for this not to happen.

          Thanks for reading. :)

          This review may also appear on Ciao under the username chrisbriers567.

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          • More +
            23.05.2013 14:41
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            A beautiful town of the Portuguese coast.

            How to get to Cascais
            ******************
            Almost all international visitors to Cascais fly into Lisbon Portela airport, I found the airport to be bust but clean, efficient and on the whole well-managed. Departures and arrivals were easy to find and all of the information boards were in both English and Portuguese. From the UK various airlines provide daily flights to Lisbon, from London these are British Airways and EasyJet who also operate summer services from Bristol and Liverpool as well. I found that the Portuguese flag carrier TAP Air Portugal also were very competitive on price so it may be worth considering them if you don't mind departing from either Heathrow or Gatwick.

            Unfortunately there is no direct link between Lisbon airport and Cascais. The airport does have a taxi rank although taxi drivers in Lisbon are known for being a bit, how can I put it, ropey at the best of times. Reports of over-charging are rife and there are no set airport fares. The best option is to get the airport bus into central Lisbon and get off at the final stop which is conveniently Cais Do Sodré train station. From the station there are signs directing you to the train which terminates in Cascais. It may sound complicated be the whole journey should take around an hour and a half and cost just about Euro7 which makes it far better value than a taxi.

            Cascais Itself
            ***********
            Cascais is not only beaches, it has also played an important role in the history of Portugal, it was a favourite resort for the Portuguese royal family and has maintained its up market image generally. The downside of the resort town is that the beaches are small and can become quite crowded and noisy. There are opportunities to get away from the noise but you will need to travel to the larger and more secluded beaches of Estoril.

            Nightlife is certainly not a mainstay of the town, indeed there is in reality very little of it and what there is seems limited to the hotels. There are several restaurants in which it is possible to eat outside but you will not find clubs and bars, these seem strictly limited to central Lisbon. If you want something a little different then visit the enormous Estoril casino which is the largest of its king in Europe, it offers every possible way to loose your money that you could think of!

            The harbour at Cascais has many yachts and is a nice setting for a walk on a summer day but boat trips are not possible unless you are willing to spend a small fortune to hire a yacht privately. If you want to go on the water head to Lisbon where there are numerous trips on the river which are good value and can be family activities or romantic trips at sunset.

            Hotels
            *****
            It is possible to rent villas in the area but for the majority of people myself included the best option is undoubtedly a hotel. There are options for all budgets and naturally everyone has a different budget but I have chosen what I believe to be the three best hotels within the respective price ranges below:

            TOP OF THE RANGE
            - Hotel Cascais Miragem: This is possibly one of the best hotels I have ever stayed at and fully deserving of its five star rating. The hotel has everything that you could possibly wish for and the swimming pool has stunning views out over the Atlantic ocean, but all of this luxury comes at a pice, starting from £1,300 bed and breakfast for a week during the high season to be precise. However if you fancy splashing out on a suite you will ned to shell out at least £3,500.

            MIDDLE OF THE RANGE
            - Hotel Baia: If location is your top priority this three star establishment is the perfect choice. All of the rooms are clean and come with good air conditioning systems and act as a great base for spending more time outside the room than inside. The food is very expensive for what it is and in my opinion the hotel uses its position to charge premium prices for food. Rooms in the high season for a week cost around £1000.

            BUDGET
            - Guincho Wind Factory Guest House: In my experience this guest house provides exceptional value for couples and families. The location isn't exactly central but the guest house comes with several perks such as free wi-fi as well as clean and sizeable rooms. Prices start at just £450 for a full week and just over £700 for a family of four.

            Getting Around Cascais And Beyond
            *****************************
            In my experience Portuguese public transport is superior to that of its Spanish counterpart, and Cascais is no exception. I used both buses and trains to move about and found both to be reliable and a pleasant and generally an uncrowded experience. Do not rent a car unless you plan on travelling the entire length of Portugal as it is really pointless, indeed the town of Cascais itself is very easy to walk and you get a far better experience of local life doing it this way.

            In terms of going to other places, the train station, which is well signposted, is at the end of a local line which leads to Lisbon Cais Do Sodré station from where a connection to all of the main cities in Portugal is possible. The station at Cascais is well set out and there are plenty of ticket machines which can be operated in both Portuguese and English. Two stops down the line from Cascais station is the stop for Estoril and trains run frequently during the day time with one train in both directions roughly every half an hour. Prices are very cheap at around Euro3 to get into central Lisbon for an adult for a journey that lasts under an hour.

            Buses are also cheap and operated by a company called Scott (website address detailed below the review), they have an extensive network which can be confusing but with sufficient planning it is not difficult see how it all works. The bus station is near to Cascais train station. Buses are typically clean and efficient and I found that the majority of drivers that I spoke to could speak at least some basic English although a few basic words of Portuguese may occasionally come in handy. Services to Sintra and Lisbon run hourly and both take in the region of thirty to forty minutes. Buses are an excellent choice and don't feel intimidated by using the local public transport, it is easy reliable and on the whole welcoming.

            On the other hand I would urge people not to use taxis either in Cacais or Lisbon. There have been frequent reports to the tourist police of taxi drivers not using the metres and instead trying to over-charge people. This is common all over the world but Cascais and Lisbon seem especially prone to it, instead choose public transport unless it is absolutely necessary to use a taxi.

            Activities
            ********
            In terms of sports the predominant activity is golf. The region around Lisbon has some of the best of the best golf courses in Portugal and there are no shortage of them. My personal recommendation would be the golf course at the Lisbon Sports Club which apparently features some of the most beautiful and scenic golf holes in all of Portugal. Playing the course is not cheap with prices starting at Euro60 and going up to nearly Euro100 if you choose to play at peak time at the weekend. That said the course is well maintained and you can reduce the price by playing if the afternoon if you can cope with the heat.

            For families I would highlight the many riding school situated around Cascais and Estoril as many of them can provide a fun-filled day out for a group of people for a reasonable price. If you are an experienced rider there is nothing nicer than strolling around the many quiet lanes of the region in gorgeous summer sunshine. For those without experience group lessons and also private ones are possible. I found that there were many riding schools and have detailed down a couple of highly recommended ones at the bottom of this review.

            Cascais is ideally situated just a few miles from Portugal's capital city, Lisbon, and in my opinion it is very east to fill several days of a holiday with day trips. One tour company that I would recommend would be the Around Lisbon company (website details at the bottom of this review), they offer a wide variety of tours such the authentic city tours visiting sites such as the Belem Tower, Jeronimos monastery and the Monument To The Discoveries as well as different more unorthodox tours. I found the 'Atlantic Frontier' trip to be fantastic as I saw Belenga Island which for me felt like real off the beaten track tourism as it wasn't filled with hundreds of tourists. The island is home to an old fort as well as as well as a traditional lighthouse which you can climb up to. A word of practical advice would be that the sea can get quite rough and I found the return journey particularly bad in the evening, think carefully before booking the tour if you are prone to sea-sickness. In my experience on a calm day the snorkelling opportunities have the potential to be some of the best in the world as the water is so clear, so it is certainly worth bringing some equipment if you have any.

            With regard to Lisbon itself most of the sites you will want to see are around the shore of the river Tagus, the historical sites of the Monument To The Discoveries and Belem Tower both offer great photo opportunities with the river running parallel to them. There is also a cable car that runs near to the river. The Lisboa Card is a decent idea if you plan on spending several days sightseeing in the city although you do need to cover a lot of attractions in order to make it financially worthwhile, the 24 hour pass costs Euro18,50 while the 72 hour option costs Euro39. Most of the major attractions are either discounted or free when you show the card.

            My DO's and DON'TS when visiting Cascais:
            ***********************************
            * DO expect fairly high prices in restaurants, although Cascais isn't in the city it is home to a large contingent of city people as well as tourists all year meaning it isn't a heaven for the budget traveller.
            * DO expect a taste of real Portugal and not just the touristy bits, I found Cascais to be home to number of good restaurants serving Portuguese cuisine to a combination of locals and tourists. This makes for a good atmosphere.
            * DO leave Cascais and consider day trips to Lisbon, the beautiful yet small mountain village of Sintra and the resort town of Estoril.
            * DO go and see Lisbon by night, it is a beautiful city to see in the evening with all of its lights and the spectacular suspension bridge. A river cruise in the evening is a really romantic idea.
            * DON'T expect massive long beaches, the main beach in central Cascais is small and can get crowded.
            * DON'T just spend all week on the beach despite how tempting it might be, Cascais has a very interesting history and you have Lisbon on the door-step as well.
            * DON'T expect a holiday with only a little bit of walking along flat paths. Cascais and especially Sintra are hilly and this can become tiring in the summer heat very quickly.
            * DON'T think that because it is situated on the Atlantic coast and not the Mediterranean that it will not be hot, temperatures in the summer are frequently in the low thirties although the Atlantic breeze can be nice at times.

            My Verdict
            *********
            I have awarded Cascais four stars because it is a superb and classy resort with excellent links to Portugal's capital city, Lisbon. However I took one star off because I don't think that the place itself has enough activities to keep someone occupied for a whole week without visiting other places in the region. Without doubt Cascais is a family friendly destination that is not apart from the beaches over-crowded and has a little bit for people of all ages. The town could do with more accommodation options for budget travellers although those that are there are a good standard for the prices that they charge. Think of Cascais when planning this years summer holiday.

            Contacts And Links
            ****************
            http://www.miguelalveshorses.com/en/Home.aspx - Miguel Alves Riding School.

            http://www.ridingestoril.com/ - Nuno Velloso Riding School.

            http://www.golisbon.com/Lisboa-Card/ - Lisboa Card.

            http://www.aroundlisbon.pt/index.html - Around Lisbon Tours.

            http://www.scotturb.com/ - Scott Buses Poertugal (website in English)

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            • More +
              19.01.2013 12:53
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              A magazine that covers everything you could want to know about the world of commercial aviation

              Here are several things that people have said to me when I uttered the words 'I am reading Airliner World':

              'Wow that sounds dull, you need to get out more' I couldn't agree more, with the latter part of the sentence but fortunately I don't agree with the first bit! I can absolutely see why people have this impression, they see the title and assume that it is targeted at massively over-enthusiastic people who spend their lives plane spotting. However, believe it or believe it not, Airliner World is as much for enthusiasts as it is for normal people with only minimal knowledge of the industry. I particularly love the fact that the language is consistently simple and the topics are maintained at quite a general level, meaning that it has a superb balance of historical based articles as well as industry news. It is so easy to judge a book by its cover these days but I thoroughly believe this magazine has a wide appeal.

              'Isn't there only a limited amount that can be written about aircraft and airlines' Well I am delighted to be able to report that the editors and article writers at Airliner World seem to be able to find interesting topics to read every month, for instance the December issue featured articles such as the development of 'Easyjet - the carrier that Stelios built' and also a superb three page spread all about the end of the Scilly helicopter service. However this is not a gossip type magazine, you are highly unlikely to find word searches or raunchy pictures (the closest you will get to stripping is a few aircraft having new paint jobs!!). If you like a visually appealing magazine that covers a very wide range of content from within the industry then this may be the magazine for you.

              'I can't imagine many people are interested in Airliner World' The figures are surprising. The readership is 32,000 people globally and at a time of economic recession and a lot of tightening budgets in aviation, the magazine has developed a solid base of support, indeed it is now the magazine of choice for pilots, cabin crew and enthusiasts in over 100 different countries. If you do the maths the financial figures really do speak for themselves (nb. These are only estimates and I have worked them out in order to give people some idea of the circulation of the magazine, I am not claiming them to be perfectly accurate.):

              Each issue costs £4-50 in the shops in the UK or Euro5-40 or $7-20.
              Subscriptions are £41-00 for one year or £74-00 for two years.

              Say: 20% of sales are £4-50 (20% of 32,000 is 6,400)
              Say: 60% of sales are 1 year subscriptions so £3-40 per issue (60% of 32,000 is 19,200)
              Say: 20% of sales are 2 year subscriptions so £3-10 per issue (20% of 32,000 is 6,400)
              Meaning therefore (6,400 x 4-50) + (19,200 x 3-40) + (6,400 x 3-10) = £113,920

              The Cost Of Airliner World
              *********************

              When bought off the shelves the magazine is certainly not at the cheap end of the market, it will set you back £4-50 for the monthly edition. I agree that this is a lot of money for a magazine but it can also be deceptive, for instance the magazine 'The Week' costs £2-90 per issue, so assuming that there are four publications in one month that means a total monthly cost of £11-60 which is two and a half times the cost of Airliner World over the month as a whole. With regard to subscriptions you have the choice of a one year or a two year subscription, I would personally always opt for the one year subscription because the difference in cost per issue is only about 30p compared with the two-year subscription. The two-year subscription is aimed at aviation industry staff such as pilots and cabin crew who will be working in the industry for their careers. The only benefits that a subscription brings is that you will get your issue before they are put on general sale which is good but not all that necessary in my opinion. I would love to see more offers associated with subscriptions because I think that this has the potential to encourage more people to take the plunge, perhaps something like the opportunity to claim cheaper tickets to the Farnborough Air-show would be fantastic.

              Availability
              *********

              Due to the fact that unsurprisingly Airliner World is not a mainstream magazine it can be quite difficult to obtain on the high-street. I have found that whilst my local news agent does stock the magazine occasionally, it does often need to be ordered. One of the main reasons that I opted to become a subscriber was that I had trouble getting the latest copy, moreover the newsagent was only able to get it if I told them that I wanted it before the new edition was published. Subscriptions mean that you usually receive you edition the same day that the magazine goes on general sale which is the second Wednesday of every month. It is also possible to order single copies of Airliner World online for the same price that they cost in the shops, this is done through the publishing companies website. Typing either 'Airliner World' or 'Key Publishing' into Google will produce the website from which it is possible to order. When ordered through this method there is no postage and packaging charge which is good considering the magazine is already quite expensive and orders are processed and sent out fairly quickly, it is almost always quicker that one working week. Magazines are sent using Royal Mail second class post.

              A Brief History Of Airliner World
              **************************

              Founded in 1999, the format of the magazine has not changed an awful lot. The editors at Key Publishing Ltd (the publishers of Airliner World) tapped into a niche market for a magazine with unique appeal to anyone interested in aviation and consequently the magazine is now in its fourteenth year of publication. The look and especially the front page is virtually exactly the same as it was on the first issue that was sold, the red lettering of Airliner World has not evolved at all. The issue that followed the New York bombings was naturally somber and paid tribute to all of the crew and passengers who had died in the attacks. Airliner World has been a prominent feature in the aviation industry and has been there through the times of difficult economic recession and also the 9/11 attacks which shocked the world as never before, that said I have no doubt that the magazine will continue to develop own prosper.

              Visuals
              ******

              I find it very disappointing when the cover of a magazine is glossy and looks superb but the pictures inside prove to be anything but. However, the fact that the market for images of all sorts of different aircraft to be professionally published is relatively small has meant that Airliner World are able to select the very best images from hundreds of photographers worldwide. The images used are high quality and fit around both the text and the backgrounds very well. One aspect of the visuals that I really love is that each issue of the magazine comes with a different poster that can be easily removed from the magazine. These are superb for putting up on the wall perhaps if you have children who are interested in aircraft and after a twelve month subscription you will have a vast collection, trust me I know!! Overall, the images used are typically of a high quality and there are plenty of them, what more could I ask for!

              Back Issues
              **********

              There are several methods that it is possible to use in order to obtain older copies of the magazine. Key Publishing have made a section on the Airliner World website that is devoted to the previous issues of the magazine, this is a great source through which to buy from if you have missed the odd issue perhaps due to a holiday. However they only seem to stock the old magazines back by about one year and occasionally it becomes impossible to get magazines that are only four or five months old, although it is a decent resource, I have found that it is not worth relying on.

              The other option is to have a look around on general websites such as eBay and magazine forums. With this method it is often a case of being persistent and waiting for the issues that you want to be put up for sale. With the magazine not being that old the first issues are not that difficult to obtain and very often they are priced quite reasonably. The best and most cost efficient way to buy old issues is to buy in bulk, very often collectors will sell entire collections at once and this will generally work out cheaper than buying old issues one by one.

              Too Much Advertising?
              ******************

              Advertising has become an integral part of the publishing world, it is just something that readers have to get used to. Whilst Airliner World is not short on advertisements, they are not splattered in the middle of articles which is good. You tend to find that after an article of four or five pages there will be another page that has adverts on it. More of often than not they are general aviation adverts such as flight deck DVD's. Most issues of the magazine feature a double page spread encouraging readers to subscribe to the magazine and details are included to enable you to do this by phone, online or post. As with most magazines the greatest number of adverts are at the end, these can typically be anything from small exerts from companies that I have never heard of right through to big, glossy back pages encouraging you to become a pilot as a career.

              The Digital Age
              ************

              The digital age of tablet computers and smartphones has undoubtably changed the world of magazines and newspapers forever. As with many other magazines it is now possible to access Airliner World in a digital format through an app that can be downloaded for nothing from the App Store. Once the app has been downloaded you can view a preview of each monthly issue of the magazine, these are eight pages long and give you a free taster of the content in the magazine. I think that it is priced reasonably at £3-99 per issue, digital subscriptions can also be bought and that works out cheaper than buying the magazine issue by issue. I cannot fault anything in particular about the digital version, I am just not a fan of spending hours and hours longer that normal looking at a screen, hence I buy the printed copy.

              Conclusion
              *********

              I would like to hope that my review has subverted some of the stereotypes that people may have about buying a magazine just about aviation. Airliner World is not cheap for a magazine but it does provide its readers with easily readable content and some superb visuals. Key Publishing have worked hard to move with the times but in doing so they have not destroyed the unique and high-quality product that they produce. I would encourage people to give the magazine a try, and kids will love looking at the pictures and perhaps putting the posters up on bedroom walls!!

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              • East Midlands Airport / Airport / 108 Readings / 104 Ratings
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                26.12.2012 13:41
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                I love to fly from East Midlands, the best regional airport that I have found.

                East Midlands Airport arguably stands in the realms of one one of the best regional airports in Europe and possibly the world. I must say that I think that one of the best things about the airport is its manageable size and easy navigability for everyone. The airport is the gateway to many fantastic European destinations through numerous budget air carriers such as Ryanair and Flybe, although the small scale image of the airport can prove to be deceptive, indeed East Midlands is soon to be the new home of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner which will fly to Mexico and other medium to long hall destinations for Thomson. However this review will focus on all aspects of the airport and not just the destinations that it serves, I am particularly interested in aspects such as the community work that the airport does and also the business and effects upon both the local and national economy that East Midlands Airport has. It is with a view to this that I have decided to put the community section of my review first because in my experience few people have any experience of this aspect of the airport.

                Community:

                The community fund at the airport was originally established in 2002 and has since gone from strength to strength, the money from the fund goes almost always to support local initiatives in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire. Examples of the diverse range of funds that the money has supported would be local choir groups as well as funding local primary school play equipment, I really like how centred the programme is on the East Midlands and although it can never compensate people for the noise disruption that people in the local area experience, it undoubtably goes some way to breaking down barriers and gives the airport as positive image as possible.

                Young people seem to occupy a great deal of the effort of the community relations staff at East Midlands Airport, they run both work experience placement schemes and holiday activities for much younger children. The airport has its very own educational centre which it utilises for all sorts of activities such as scout groups and summer activity groups. The airport naturally enforces a very strict security policy but they have made viewing the aircraft as accessible as possible, this is done through something called the Airport Trail which is a walk of about eight miles in all around the perimeter fence of the airfield, areas covered include the aero park (which has many replicas of old aircraft, it is very interactive for younger children and entry is very cheap), the woods between the terminal and the main road which includes the very pleasant setting of Swan Rivers Pond and also the art on the trail area, which has multiple pieces of community art on display.

                The work experience programme at East Midlands is one of the best programmes of its type on offer with any employer in the East Midlands in my personal opinion. It is largely undertaken by young people who live within reasonable commuting distance of the airport who are studying for either GCSE's or A-levels, although no money is paid to the students they gain invaluable experience in a working environment in which professionalism and customer service are integral. There are two independent work experience schemes, the first is called STEM and is based around science and engineering, this scheme gives participants the chance to experience departments such as Air Traffic Control, Airfield Operations and the airports own internal fire service. The second programme is based around gaining hands on experience dealing with customer relations, this covers aspects such as Airline Crew Operations and Flight check-in. Both schemes are undeniably successful and now operate between the months of April and October every year. Due to the nature of what is on offer and the fact that because of safety regulations the airport is only able to take one student for each course every month demand is high, meaning that gaining a place can require an aspect of good fortune and an ability to write a very convincing application form.

                Location:

                East Midlands Airport is situated at the very heart of the East Midlands and is easily accessible to both the people and businesses of Leicester, Derby and Nottingham. The airport has been subject to a dispute over what it should be called with all of the above mentioned cities claiming it as their own airport. On a geographical level it would seem as though Derby has the best claim as the airport is actually in Derbyshire although I think that the whole debate is a little pointless to be honest. London is about an hour away on the train as well as Sheffield which is also about an hour to the north.

                Regional And National Travel Connections:

                East Midlands Airport is reasonably well connected to the local area with frequent bus links to the cities of Leicester, Derby and Nottingham as well as the towns of Loughborough, Long Eaton, Coalville, Castle Donington and Beeston. Bus links to the major cities are frequent and operate throughout the day and night and those to local town are at least hourly throughout the day, I have typically found the services to be reliable and friendly. With regard to national travel a National Express service has recently been introduced to the airport, there are now frequent departures to both of the large London airports (Heathrow and Gatwick) throughout the day and night. I do believe that it is good for the airport to have better national connections but I am not convinced by a connection to the airports in London, I struggle to see both the demand and the attraction to most of the passengers who come through East Midlands Airport for a service like this. I will be interested to see if this service continues to be financially viable in the long-term future. East Midlands Parkway is the nearest train station to the airport and can only be reached by taxi, the station does have high speed services to London as well as multiple destinations to the north such as Sheffield and York. Taxis are easily available from outside arrivals and I believe fares are reasonable at about £6 per person, fares cost exactly the same regardless of when travel to the station is required.

                Airlines And Destinations:

                On this topic East Midlands has an interesting profile, moreover the airport is actually busier during the night with cargo flights that it is during the day with passenger flights, this makes for a great number of destinations but unfortunately many are only cargo destinations. In 2011 East Midlands Airport came in 12th in the list of the busiest airports in the UK for passenger traffic but it was 2nd in the UK for cargo traffic. The airport is typically at its busiest during the summer holiday period when the most seasonal routes are in operation. On the other hand the vast majority of long haul departures from the airport are in the winter when it is common to see flights leaving to Barbados and Orlando.

                The biggest operational airline at East Midlands is that symbol of outstanding customer service, Ryanair!! The budget Irish carrier covers destinations throughout Europe, popular holiday destinations include Gran Canaria, Malaga, Barcelona and Corfu. Ryanair also target the city breaks market with ideal short haul places such as Dublin, Berlin and Krakow in Poland. Ryanair are supported by jet2.com, Thomas Cook, Thomson and Flybe and recent arrivals Monarch. A full list of the destinations can be found on the East Midlands Airport website as well as an interactive map which is excellent for looking for exotic future holiday destinations. Two striking absences from the airlines operating at East Midlands are Easyjet who pulled out of the airport in 2010 after a long association with East Midlands. The emergence of a strong customer base for Ryanair seems to have pushed out the vibrant orange of Easyjet. BMI Baby were a sad victim of the recent economic crisis and ceased all operations in 2012, leaving a void now filled with the credible services on Monarch and Flybe who continue to add routes to an already growing portfolio. If I could make one criticism of the selection of airlines operating out of East Midlands it would be that the airport lacks a real quality airline, such as a British Airways or other similar national carriers. This is a problem that Birmingham Airport has managed to solve very well, they do have budget airlines but have also secured regular services with very reputable names such as Emirates, Aer Lingus and Lufthansa.

                Terminal And Facilities:

                With East Midlands airport being far from the largest airport in the UK, the terminal at is less than elaborate. Ryanair has its own section at the end of the regular terminal area and has enough desks to easily cope with the daily onslaught. The main segment of the terminal is used by all of the other airlines using the airport and is not usually too crowded. With regard to refreshments the vast majority of outlets are in the airside part of the airport meaning that the only thing on offer to those dropping people off is an abundance of chocolate bars in the vending machines. After you get through security the facilities are pretty good for a regional airport, there is everything that you would typically expect such as a medium size Boots store which is ideal for sandwiches at a reasonable price. The duty free offerings are a decent without being special, it is possible to get all of the perfume ranges and gifts for family and friends. I would like to see a greater emphasis on travel essentials as these are often not easy to find, on a commercial level the airport is obviously much more interested in the larger value items and thus has not made it easy to find those things that make a flight more tolerable (such as flight pillows or ear plugs). The arrivals area is conveniently located across the road from the short stay car park which is ideal and arrival boards are clearly visible in all parts of the terminal. Even during the busy summer period it is not difficult to keep track of the progress of an inbound flight.

                The facilities outside of the airport are typical of many airports of its type, large car parks dominate the landscape (few people seem to realise that the airport actually makes the most money out of car parking than any other department). I have found that the cheapest way to book car parking is through the airports own website and the prices are on a par with those of other airport especially on longer trips abroad. The shuttle buses to the car parks are frequent and the journey is between 5 and 10 minutes, it is also very hard to get lost in the car parks because they are not that large and daunting and are very clearly signposted, staff were frequently on hand to help in my experience, I have also found the situation to be similar during the winter months despite the decline in passenger numbers.

                East Midlands Airport And The Economy:

                The airport is actually owned by Manchester Airports Group along with Manchester, Humberside and Bournemouth airports. It is in no doubt that the airports reliance on budget carriers has meant that it has been greatly affected by the economic downturn but economically it has showed considerable resilience. The loss of BMI Baby in the summer of 2012 created a major problem for airport management who worked hard to encourage the new airlines Monarch and Flybe into the airport as well as prompting jet2.com to increase their services from the airport. Publicly the airport came through the BMI failure with an element of ease although redundancies have taken place among back room staff and budgets have been squeezed. Between April 2011 and April 2012 the airports earnings before tax plummeted by 6.1% to 13.8 million pounds. However, despite the fluctuating passenger revenue the cargo industry has remained stable, the figures for 2011 were on a par with those for recent years and I believe that as sad as it is to say, the future of the airport will be in the transportation of freight.

                The Verdict:

                East Midlands Airport is undoubtably a popular airport in the local region that has grown considerably over the last few decades. Nevertheless the fact remains that the airport is arguably too over reliant on budget carriers making it very subject to times of economic turbulence, something that has been illustrated by the events that have happened with the demise of BMI Baby. East Midlands is not a one trick pony, indeed the cargo operations have stabilised the airport and their development meant that airport management can plan for a long and healthy future. The community work of the airports staff means that it has a good name in the community and shows that it is not a business that does not have customer service at it heart. I love to travel from the airport and find it easy to navigate and manage for a wide variety of people, a very user friendly airport.

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                • More +
                  30.10.2012 23:22
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                  A good, cosy , country retreat in a fantastic little Cotswold village.

                  The Broadway Hotel is located in what the hotel describes the as the 'jewel of the Cotswolds', the village of Broadway. The hotel has an interesting history and is packed with old world charm. The restaurant is much more modern and serves hearty traditional English cuisine. The Broadway Hotel is part of a larger chain of hotels called the 'Cotswold Inns And Hotels' group which owns seven hotels covering the most popular tourist hotspots in Worcestershire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. I am paying particular attention to the Broadway Hotel and I believe it is an ideal time to tell everyone about my stay because I think it should be considered as a great hotel for an autumn or winter break in the lead up to Christmas.

                  Rooms
                  ******
                  The Broadway Hotel is located near to Cheltenham Racecourse and therefore the hotel has allocated names of Cheltenham Gold Cup winning horses to each room, such as Mr Mulligan, Kauto Star and rather amusingly L'escargot. This is a nice touch and shows how in tune the hotel is with the attractions in the local area, it goes a long way in proving that although the hotel is part of a group it is far from an impersonal Travelodge. The hotel is over four hundred years old and therefore the rooms are on the small side in comparison to many much more modern hotels.

                  My room was on the top floor of the hotel and it was a standard double room, this is the lowest grade of room but is very adequate, there are three different levels of bedroom and the other two are the superior double rooms and also the junior suites. The Broadway hotel has thirteen standard double rooms, three superior double rooms and three junior suites. Having looked at the superior double rooms I was not convinced that they were any better than the standard rooms, the only difference was that they had slightly more space, all of the facilities were exactly the same. The junior suites are more elaborate because they have a king size bed as well as a seating area and a better view out over the village green. One room that is certainly worthy of a mention is the Abbots room which is arguably the best room in the hotel, it has the least obscured view out over the village green and is filled with character features that have remained since the sixteenth century.

                  My room was booked as a late weekend break and therefore I had to settle for what the hotel had left at that stage. When I entered the room I was generally pleased with what I saw, the room was very clean and the bed was made properly rather than just thrown together. A luggage mat was provided in the bedroom for the purpose of unpacking. My only suggestion is that there needs to be more space to hang clothes in, there were at least ten different draws all around but only one small cupboard, this was not a problem for me but for women who perhaps prefer to wear long dresses that they don't want to be creased I can imaging it potentially creating problems. With regard to the bathroom I had enough towels and these had been placed on a heated towel rail. The bathroom was compact without feeling cramped and the shower was excellent, the strength of the spray could easily be changed. I had no problems with getting hot water out of the taps which was good and can sometimes be a problem on older hotels that have prehistoric plumbing systems. The only design flaw was that the radiator was covered by the curtains at night meaning that it was useless to have on overnight.

                  With regard to the facilities in the rooms it had all of the usual assets such as a flat screen Samsung television, hair dryer, radio alarm clock, tea and coffee making facilities and a telephone. One luxury touch is that all bedrooms come with Molton Brown toiletries, these are large bottles of hair wash (shampoo), hand wash, bath and shower gel and also hand lotion. These are quite expensive and are very nice to use. When it comes to bedrooms the proof of the pudding is in the nights sleep and I can report that the bed was very comfortable and the sheets were thick which was good on a cool night. The rooms are quiet although I suspect that the dividers between them are not all that thick because I could hear the noise from the television of the room next-door at times.

                  The Teddy Bears
                  **************
                  You're probably wondering if I have gone a bit nuts but I can assure you that this is no joke. Each room in the hotel comes complete with its own teddy bear and they are absolutely gorgeous, they make the hotel a bit unique in my view. This quirky touch seems to get mixed reactions on review sites such as Trip Advisor but I think it gives a real homely touch. There are apparently three different bears, one of which sits in each room and they are called Edward, Toffee and Floss. If you do happen to visit the hotel make sure you remember me to them! As you can see I am a bit of a softy on the inside!

                  Restaurant
                  *********
                  In this part of the review you would expect me to start with the dinner as it is generally the high point of any hotel stay but in this case I am going to concentrate on the breakfast. The Broadway hotel breakfast is a winner of the Visit England breakfast award and it is not hard to see why. Upon entering the restaurant you are greeted immediately and almost always taken to the same table that you had for dinner, orders are then taken for what toast you would like as well as tees and coffee, this is all normal for hotels but when you visit the buffet it becomes well above the average breakfast. The choice is extensive with all the usual cereals as well as other specifically local products such as the local mixed berry compote, the hotel claim that where possible all of the ingredients are always fresh are sourced in the Cotswold region, when you taste the quality of the berries it is very hard to question that! The staff also take orders for grilled items and the full English breakfast which is priced at £13-00 (mouth-watering in more than one sense). Portion sizes are considerable but the presentation is top of the range, the restaurant staff pay great attention to detail such as asking if they can get any more orange juice amongst other things.

                  The evening meal at the Broadway cannot be faulted either, it is certainly substantial. The meal consists of the traditional three courses and is served at a nice speed, it doesn't feel as though you are being rushed through. In my opinion it is a very good idea to book ahead even though you do not strictly need to as it is always busy, this is especially the case at around eight in the evening which is when most people want to start their meals. Tattersalls Brasserie, the name of the restaurant, is open from 7pm to 9:30 every day. With regard to the menu it is quite wide ranging although the focus is defiantly on meat and in particular steak with no less that five different types on offer, all costing about £20 and all are accompanied by two homemade onion rings, watercress, eight vine tomatoes and a large pile of delicious chips. I think that when drinks are added it going to be hard to escape with a bill of less than £45, which is no cheap to say the least but I can guarantee you will not be disappointed with how much food you get and also the quality of it.

                  Hotel Facilities
                  ************
                  This is certainly not the strong point of the hotel although I have decided to regulate my criticism due to the fact that the hotel is much older than my of it's competitors therefore it is less likely to have the most modern amenities. Two common facilities in other hotels are swimming pools and spas, the Broadway has neither. The focal point for the hotel is the restaurant which dominates the view as you enter through the front door. There is also a large bar area that has all of the original beams in the building on display. I love the fire which is a proper log burner that is in the far corner, it is great to go and sit near on a cold and frosty morning. There is also another much smaller and equally cosy lounge area that has a large range of different newspapers. My only criticism is that the hotel does not employ a night porter and therefore the fires are put out during the middle of the evening, this means many of the lounges can get quite cool especially late at night. The Broadway hotel has a car park that can only be used by guests, hence there are always spaces even at peak time when the rest of the village is buzzing.

                  Children
                  *******
                  The Broadway hotel does not have a strict policy on children although I think that they would agree that it is perhaps not the most child friendly hotel out there. When I stayed, there were several families with children aged 8 and older but no toddlers. Some of the corridors within the hotel can be quite narrow so it is not ideal for push chairs and furthermore with the rooms not being all that large I can imaging it being a problem to store pushchairs and cots in one room. The restaurant does not provide a specific child's menu so it may be a good idea to eat out of the hotel if you have children under the age of eight, this would be my view on it.

                  Location
                  *******
                  The location speaks for itself in many ways, the Cotswolds. Attractions in the vicinity include the touristy village of Bourton-on-the-water which is the home to the motor museum that houses the famous children's car, Brum. There is not an awful lot else in the village but there are many waterfront cafes as well as some nice pottery shops. Stratford-upon-Avon is about sixteen miles from Broadway and I don't think that place needs any real introduction! The three closest cities of any real note are Gloucester, Worcester and Cheltenham. The Cheltenham race course is famous for holding the Cheltenham Gold Cup but there are events all through the year, this could make for a fantastic family day out during the summer. Worcester has a beautiful cathedral in the centre of the city as well as some delightful little shops which are worth a walk around. Gloucester also has its own cathedral although personally I prefer the one in Worcester, I have no idea why but I do! It is worth noting that you do need to drive to get to all of the main attractions as public transport in the area is not all that frequent and the nearest railway station from the hotel is over five miles away.

                  Cost And Value For Money
                  **********************
                  The cost of a stay at the Broadway hotel ranges from £80 per person per night for a standard room during the week through to a maximum of £120 per person per night during the weekend for a junior suite. Whether you consider this to be value for money very much depends on you perspective but I thought the rates were quite reasonable. The hotel does not try to pretend to be more than it is and considering that it is set in a prime location in the Cotswolds it is not too damaging to the wallet. The hotel is ideal for a two or three day winter break due to how comfortable and cosy it is, it is always worth a try to see if you get it cheaper especially during the off peak season time.

                  The Finer Details
                  **************
                  When I was thinking about what to write in my Dooyoo review I was questioning what it was that means the hotel is not in the four star rating category and other than the lack of facilities I have deduced that it could do with brushing up on the finer details. To put this into context when I arrived in the room I noticed it was quite cool, there was only one radiator so I assumed a spare heater would be stored in the room but this was not the case. However I later found out that the room next-door had a powerful portable heater. I asked reception if they had a spare heater and I was promptly supplied with one, upon plugging it in I realised that not only was the back of the heater covered in layers of dust but also it was only producing more cold air. I again asked for it to be replaced and this time I was given a pre-historic infrared heater, this seemed to take years to warm the room up but I really didn't have the energy for another call to reception! I just think that if you are going to provide a modern heater in one room it seems obvious to do exactly the same in another room, maybe I'm expecting too much.

                  Conclusion
                  *********
                  I have decided to award three Dooyoo stars to the hotel, the restaurant is easily worthy of five stars but it is sadly bought down by some of the smaller aspects to my stay which could have been more polished. The village of Broadway is delightful and packed with charm and character. I would recommend the hotel for a short break of perhaps two or three days especially during the winter because it is charming and cosy. I was very close to awarding four stars but I'm not sure I can really justify it.

                  This review may also be published on Ciao under the username chrisbriers567.

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                  • Hornby Virgin Pendolino / Toy Train / 81 Readings / 75 Ratings
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                    24.10.2012 23:25
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                    It comes with my recommendation but only if bought for the correct person

                    I thought that because it's now getting close to Christmas and no doubt many of you will be wondering what to buy the kids or indeed the husband of the house, it might be a good idea to tell you about the most used Christmas present I have ever received. The world of model railways can be very daunting especially to someone with no experience and the initial cost can considerable, add on the range of products that is unnecessarily big and it is not hard to see why many young people and not becoming involved in the hobby and are instead opting for video games. The Pendolino set is certainly going to take a large chunk out of you wallet but I think that it has the potential to provide hours of fun.

                    Stand-Out Features
                    ***************
                    The Hornby marketing detail suggests that the train is 'exciting and dynamic' and I congratulate Hornby on the fact that it certainly does fulfil these criteria. With regard to being 'exciting' there are multiple stand-out features:

                    The most publicised and least noticeable of which is the slight tilt that the train has while going around bends in the track. I found that in order for it to be clear that the train is really tilting I had to go down to track level and look at it while it was coming towards me, the tilt very noticeable at this height but not if you stand over the train. My only slight issue with the tilting mechanism is that I have scenery such as trees and hills on my layout so getting down to track level is not always possible without poking my eye out, therefore the feature is somewhat lost on me.

                    The train set is also DCC (Digital Command Control) fitted and the set comes with a DCC controller. This is more complex than the standard controllers with most train sets. This is an absolute necessity for any model railway enthusiast because it allows for greater expansion than the standard system does, for example instead of only being able to run one locomotive on the track at the time with DCC it is possible to run up to three with great ease, furthermore instead of them all going at the same speed each train is individually controlled, this means that collisions are less likely because some trains weigh less than others and hence can achieve a grater speed. I also like the fact that there is a large red emergency stop button on the control that you can hit if there if going to be a collision, this has given me more reassurance that if I experiment and it all goes wrong I can easily stop everything. I am not a great fan of the way that each locomotive has to be programmed for usage on the DCC set, it is complicated and I felt impatient while doing it because I wanted to try the Pendolino.

                    The lights on the train itself are absolutely fantastic, they are really powerful and noticeable even during the daytime. The train can run in either forward or reverse because both ends of the train are identical, whichever end is the end that is going forwards the lights will be bright white and in my opinion they look really effective when they are coming towards you at high speed, they add a real sense of realism. As for the back of the train, these lights are red but they are by no means as bright as those at the front, these are also very effective and they suggest to me that Hornby have really focused on the detail.

                    Reliability
                    *********
                    When it comes to reliability this is where my biggest complaint is, the train is very temperamental. The DCC system is supposed to have made it easier to control trains at lower speed so that it is more realistic. However the Pendolino is a long train and I have found that at very low speeds it has a tendency to struggle, at this point either one of two things happens, sometimes the back set of wheels on the motorised unit will come off the track and the train will not move or the whole train just jams completely and the wheels will not turn at all. The same is also true for the analogue controller. Both of these problems are really frustrating and for the price that it costs to buy I would have expected more in depth product testing to have been done. I have spoken to several other people about the issue and have found that it is quite a common problem. The Pendolino is reasonably easy to put together and linking each coach to the next is not difficult to do, it has to be done on the track though. With regard to how durable the actual train itself is by modern standards it is not too bad. After considerable usage I have no major scratches or dents but it is made of plastic so putting too much pressure on it is almost certainly not going to end well! The Pendolino is very light but for the reasons of fragility that I have found I would not recommend the product for children under the age of six although the Hornby policy is that it should not be for children under the age of three due to small parts. Do not buy this for a four year old, it is much more of a grown-ups toy.

                    What's It Like To Use
                    ******************
                    When the train is running at full speed I must say that it has to be one of the coolest that I have had on my layout for many years. It looks fantastic and I have occasionally turned off all of the lights in the room to see if the lights are still as strong and in my opinion they are even better than in the day. The room where I have the train set does get quite cold during winter and I often have problems with trains running slowly when I first start them after not being used for a while but I have had no such problems with the Pendolino. I recommend that you increase the speed to near the maximum as fast as is realistically possible as this seems to avoid the problem with the train at low speeds. The same is true when decreasing speeds, try to do this as fast as is reasonably possible to avoid the wheels jamming.

                    Visuals
                    ******
                    I have so much praise for the levels of detail on the Pendolino set! The front unit of the train is incredibly accurate and very well proportioned. With many other trains that I have bought, I have often complained about how the buffers are modelled but I have no complaints about the Pendolino because they do not draw attention. They are also spring loaded which is a great and unexpected feature although I am not sure what practical use they have. The Virgin logo is also well proportioned and the colours are bright and shiny, they have not faded despite being kept near to a window.

                    Cost
                    ****
                    I always say to people who say that they are looking to build a model railway that they need to realise that it takes hours of being frustrated but can also give you hours of family fun. A train set is an investment that can fuel a passion for a life-time but it can also eat money if you allow it to. The most trustworthy seller of the set has to be Hornby themselves through the website, although do be careful because they now only include a standard controller and not a DCC controller in the box. I believe that this means they are now charging more and the customer is getting less. The current Hornby price is £147. If I was buying the set again I would undoubtedly use an online auction such as Ebay where you can buy the set with the DCC controller for between £120 - £200. If bought separately the DCC controller costs £100 from Hornby so it does make financial sense to make sure that you buy a Pendolino set with the DCC controller included. If you're not bothered about building up the railway and would just like the simple layout then there is no point worrying about DCC, instead you can purchase the standard analogue set for between £90 - £140, if it is purchased at the lower end of this estimate the set provides decent value for money especially when you consider the cost of a modern day games console.

                    Value For Money
                    ***************
                    It sounds a little obvious but this really does depend on what you pay for it. When I bought the DCC version which is exactly the same as the one in the picture I paid about £160-00 for the set. I was satisfied with this price as it does include that train itself which if bought separately is going to cost you around the £100-00 mark. Value for money is the main reason why I would say that the set is not ideal for young children who have not got any experience of model railways before because they are clearly not going to get enough hours of use out of it. The train set is great for anyone with an interest and fairly deep pockets because it will certainly allow you to expand any small starter train set.

                    Target Market
                    ************
                    The target market for the Virgin Pendolino set is not easy to guess at. The price of the product and how delicate it is does not make it ideal for a young audience but most experienced modellers will already have the track so will probably just buy the train on its own. In my opinion this set will be most popular with people looking to get back into the hobby after many years because it is a good starter set. However be warned this is not a product for very young children as it will certainly get smashed, teenagers would be fine though, perhaps an ideal way to tempt a video game obsessed teenager away from a screen! Controversial but worth a shot!!


                    The Box And Contents
                    *******************
                    Who doesn't like the excitement when you open a brand new expensive toy for the first time? I honestly don't think you will be disappointed! The box itself is not all that strong as was slightly damaged in transit although Hornby now seem to use extra padding for small items it would be a good idea for them to adopt the same policy on larger items. The layout of the box is logical and shows off the product very well. On the left hand side there are four slots for the trains while the right side holds the entire track along with the controller and plug. The track pieces are securely tied together which is good because it stops it from scratching the surface of the train. The contents of the box are as follows:

                    * The motorised front part of the train.
                    * The so called dummy-unit or back of the train.
                    * Two normal coaches (one of which has a plaque with the name of the train).
                    * One full oval of track that is of a decent length.
                    * A plug to connect the controller to the mains power supply.
                    * The DCC controller.
                    * A track mat which I do not use because it limits my creativity to design my own layout.
                    * A bag with some instructions and a Hornby collection poster (a nice touch).


                    My Verdict
                    **********
                    I have chosen to give the Pendolino train set 4 Dooyoo stars because the actual train is very good. The initial cost of the set is considerable and will put of many people who are not enthusiasts off but if you are looking for a quality set that will excite you then this is the one to go for. As far as potential for a Christmas gift avoid this for younger children but for a teenager with an interest in modelling or an adult that is young at heart it is going to be good value for money in the long run.

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                    • More +
                      15.10.2012 23:45
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                      Not quite the perfect travel experience, but close enough!

                      In my experience I have found Loughborough station to be one of the most delightful railway stations to use in England, this is especially the case after the refit that has been completed this year (2012). The station is maintained very well and services are frequent for links to both the north and London. East Midlands Trains are the current operator of the station and to their credit the staff are pleasant to deal with and they have not attempted to cut costs with the addition of the newly extended platforms.

                      A Short History
                      *************
                      Loughborough certainly does not have one of the most elaborate or dramatic histories of all the stations in Britain. The stationed was built and opened in 1840 and at the time was one of three stations that served the town. The station has retained many of the features from when it was built although it has clearly been well looked after because it still has most of the original features. Another unknown fact that many commuters fail to realize is that it is a grade two listed building and this adds to the charm of the station.


                      The location And Local Travel Connections
                      ************************************
                      In my opinion this is arguably the only downside of the station because it is not located centrally to the town. Many university students now call Loughborough home and this has certainly been a key factor in the considerable increase in usage of the station compared to even ten years ago. During term time the student population is 25% of the overall population of Loughborough, in 1970 there were around 3,000 students whilst today it has turned into a vast institute that provides further education for over 16,000. Students come from as far a field as China and South East Asia as well as from all corners of the UK. With the growth of the university has come a requirement for the strengthening of local public transport. However the problem originates in the fact that the railway station is actually about 2 miles from the university using the main roads, if you were to walk the route it is an equally daunting 1.7 miles which is ambitious for a type of people typically not used to getting out of bed before midday! Even for the non university dwellers of Loughborough the station is about 0.7 miles from the centre of town with several crossings of busy roads, this hardly makes it ideal for those with mobility problems or those with toddlers. The only solution for those with lots baggage would be to use one of the many taxis that are readily available from outside the station building, I found that an average fare is about £5 although don't quote me on this to the drivers! The journey will generally take about 10 minutes to the university campus. A frequent bus service can also be used for the short journey to the centre of town and then on towards the university but it is worth baring in mind that the buses are only small and have very limited room for bags, this is operated by a local bus company called Kinchbus. A bus from the station to the main university campus is £1.70 and return tickets are not available, fares are paid to the driver on the bus. The trip from the station to the centre of town will cost £1.40, I personally think this is too high for the journey and if you are not in a rush defiantly consider doing it on foot if you want to save the pennies. Despite the bizarre situation over return tickets there is something called the town easycard that can be purchased on the bus, this costs £6 for a child and £12 for an adult. On showing the ticket you are entitled to ten single trips within Loughborough, this is a good plan for those just hopping into town and over the ten journeys it will generally save you about £2, this all adds up for the regular commuter. If the easycard is used for ten journeys from the university to the station you are looking at a saving of £5, but be sure not to lose the card as it is non refundable. The service that covers the train station and the university or centre of town does not have a number, instead it is called the 'sprint' service and on a normal weekday services will begin at about 07:30am and operate about every 10 minutes, this is ideal for when a planned journey is running late. In my experience the bus is rarely crowded and will generally run to time except during times of severe congestion in the centre of town. The services become less frequent in the late evening and the last bus departs the railway station at 9:00pm. It is worth noting that the timetables change at short notice depending on whether it is university term time or not, such is life in a university town I guess. The Saturday timetables are very similar to their weekday counterparts and a half hourly service operates on a Sunday linking all of the main places from 10:00am through to 8:00pm during university term time. I have found the buses to be very clean, a copy of the free Metro newspaper is not available although I question if you could read it fully in the maximum journey time of 20 minutes, I do think it would be a nice thought.

                      National Transport Links
                      ********************

                      To London: Loughborough station is on the Midland Mainline which connects London with the Midlands and the most northern station of Sheffield. The most popular journey other that local trips to Leicester is the journey of 1 hour and 7 minutes with the fast train to London, this will normally call at only Leicester and then go directly into London St Pancras. The express services can be more expensive than the semi-fast service that also goes to London along the same route, the only difference is that it calls at Leicester, Market Harborough, Kettering, Luton Airport Parkway and Bedford before London St Pancras and will usually take about 1 hour and 40 minutes. All services to London are operated by East Midlands Trains and depart from platform two almost always. Two trains will stop at the station every hour on this route, usually with the semi-fast service at 20 past the hour and the fast service at 40 past the hour.

                      From London: Journeys from London St Pancras follow the same format as those departing Loughborough, there are typically two trains that stop at the station every hour throughout the day and these operate on the same fast service followed by a semi-fast service. Trains coming from London will usually go on to call at Derby, Chesterfield and Sheffield although it is becoming increasingly common to find trains now terminating at Nottingham via Derby. East Midlands Trains are now putting on certain special summer routes that go further than Sheffield to allow passengers to visit places such as York and finally Scarborough without having to change train. This is a common alternative at weekends and it is now normal to see families at Loughborough station heading off for a day trip to the sea side (these service all originate at London St Pancras). Services for Sheffield and beyond (no Buzz Lightyear pun intended!) will usually depart from platform one, this is the one closest to the ticket barriers.

                      Other Routes: With the Midland Mainline dominating the station there is little room for the splattering of commuter trains that call at Loughborough station. Despite the fact that platform three is devoted to commuter services, the destinations on offer seem to escape publicity. An hourly train to Leicester uses this platform as well as the service to Lincoln, having spoken to many passengers that regularly travel through the station, around three quarters were unaware that this service even existed. The timetable seems to fluctuate depending on holiday times and naturally the time of day but it is common for trains to go further than Lincoln, to places such as Sleaford and Cambridge (ideal for a day trip).

                      Station Refurbishment
                      *******************
                      In preparation for the Olympics the station was subject to considerable building work which was completed by May 2012, I certainly think that this work is well overdue because previously the platforms could only accommodate five full coaches, this meant that passengers in the rear coach and the front coach had to walk to the middle coaches in order to get off the train. This was notorious for causing many problems with foreign people who did not understand the on board announcements as well as unsuspecting people who were listening to music who found themselves rather alarmed if the doors would not open to let you off. However with the recent development the station now can easily hold a ten carriage train (normal East Midlands Trains service are seven coaches long). Improvements have also been made to the lift system to allow disabled across the track, the previous system was almost pre-historic and was very often not in operation. Additional alterations have been made to area for leaving bikes, the car park which rather bizarrely has decreased in size and also the platform toilets. I was absolutely delighted that they have decided to leave the small convenience store that inhabits platform one, because it sells fantastic home made sandwiches as well as anything else for a long journey, all of this at a very reasonable price. My only slight complaint about the refurbishment is the fact that the car park has actually got smaller (now 180 spaces) because of the installation of a barrier and hence the competition for a place for the whole day is considerable. The problem is made worse by the fact there is a lack of a large car park nearby, the only solution I can think of is to park in the multi-level car park in town and then either catch a bus or walk to the station, not very practical in reality. All of the development was clearly planned with the Olympics in mind but in the long term the potential electrification of the Midland Mainline may mean that the station management were keen to establish it is a important part of the network and to make sure that it does not fall victim to some of the larger stations along the line.


                      Facilities
                      ********
                      The station is equipped with both a ticket office and ticket vending machines which can be used 24 hours a day, I did find that if you are using cash this is only possible with the machine on the left as you look at the station, the other one is card only. This is poorly advertised and can often lead to long queues at peak times, allow at least 5 minutes. I could not find an ATM machine at the station which is defiantly a downside and something that I would have expected to have been put right during the recent refurbishments. Ticket barriers are in operation during the day although this is rarely the case after nine o'clock at night as they need to be manned when in use. Staffing levels are pretty good to be honest for a station of its size and they can be found even late at night which is reassuring to know!

                      My Verdict
                      **********
                      Loughborough station is one of the most traveller friendly that I know of and is not that complicated that you can become lost. The station would undoubtedly benefit from the installation of a cash machine. Transport links to the centre of town are generally good and user friendly. Loughborough is perhaps not as daunting as Leicester or Birmingham and certainly does not feel as enclosed, this makes it ideal for any first time visitor to the town.

                      This review may also be published on Dooyoo under the username chrisbriers567.

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                      • Twinings White Tea Pure / Tea / 66 Readings / 63 Ratings
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                        07.10.2012 20:01
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                        Not the greatest tea in the Twinings range but it does what it says on the can

                        White tea is one of those subtle tastes that you either adore or despise, subtle but steamy, comforting and cosy. I must say that I enjoy trying different flavours of tea and have had particular success with the different teas of the Twinings range which contain some thoroughly different versions of some very traditional teas. Twinings are notorious for being the upmarket brand that can boast being by appointment to the Queen herself, a tremendous accolade for the London based company.

                        The origins of white tea are certainly elaborate and grand, at one point the only person who was allowed to drink white tea was the Emperor of China, I knew I had to have something in common with the former Emperor of China. I love the story of the origins of white tea which states that about 5,000 years ago there was a Chinese Emperor called Shen Nung who happened to be moving around his land in the countryside when he required a drink, but with the hygiene standards of the time not being up to today's modern standards, he ordered for some of the previously undrinkable water to be boiled. When the water had been boiled a tea leaf was blown into his hot water, the Emperor was mystified by this and let it stay in the water, as result what we now know to be modern day tea was evolved. Tea became a massively important commodity in both China and Japan following the events with Emperor Shen Nung. To demonstrate the obsession of the time with tea, the Emperor Hui Zong became so engrossed with his love and life's desire to find the ultimate tea that his empire was gradually lost. The origins of white tea undoubtedly lie within Asia until fairly recently but it is now used around the world.

                        There are several varieties of white tea that are of different quality levels. The four main varieties are silver needle, white peony, long life eyebrow and tribute eyebrow. The different forms of white tea are all produced in different ways so this can therefore mean that it is occasionally possible to experience slight taste differences. I have had no problems with taste differences regarding the Twinings version of this tea. The envelope that contains the tea bag itself states that it is 'made from the unopened bud and young leaves of the Camellia sinensis from the Fujian province of China', I have no reason to doubt this information but I do think that it would be a good idea for Twinings to publish which variety of white tea it is. The fact that the tea comes from the Camellia sinensis species of plant perhaps makes the origin of it seem more elaborate than it is, the plant is a very common variety in the tea producing world and is used for everything from white tea through to both green tea and also black tea. The tea is typically grown in the hotter and more humid climates of the world and the general consensus is that it should be grown at a high altitude for a better flavour. The result of the growing conditions required mean that it is mass produced in India and China predominantly, the Twinings pure white tea comes from China.

                        Pure white tea is supposed to have many health benefits although Twinings do not market the tea based on any of the somewhat unsupported claims. The elaborate claims in terms of health benefits include cancer prevention, an ability to lower high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, heart protection, stronger bones and maintain healthy teeth, gums and skin. If all of the apparent health benefits are actually true it begs the question of why the NHS doesn't pack in research and instead invest in buying the entire worlds supply of white tea. As you may well have guessed it's not hard to see that I am sceptical.

                        With regard to the packaging, it is done with the typical chic elegance that is expected of the quality Twinings brand. The brand name itself is clearly visible in large font just above the middle of the packet that contains each individual tea bag. The Twinings logo is in black text with a gold stripe background the makes it stand out. Under the company logo it clearly states that the tea is a 'white tea' with 'pure' written underneath, this clearly distinguishes the product from the similar Twinings product that is also white tea but with a hint of pomegranate. The packet is not elaborate but clearly makes it's point, the picture is of a green leaf on a short stem which in my opinion is effective but is not trying too hard to get noticed. The pack that I bought contained 20 tea bags, each one presented in it's own little packet. The box itself is made from cardboard and survived transportation very well without any corners having been squashed. In my opinion Twinings have tried to put the minimum number of teabags that they possibly can in the box, for such a quality brand I would have expected perhaps 25 or even 30 in the box.

                        Some speciality teas have a reputation for not being the best in terms of how they look, the strong ingredients can sometimes mean that the look repulsive but taste great. The white tea does not look all that different to ant regular cup of tea, the only noticeable difference is that it is slightly lighter in colour than many regular cups of tea. The lighter look of the tea that I have commented on is almost certainly down to the fact that I did not drink it with any milk in, as Twinings strongly recommend.

                        The taste of the tea itself is subtle and delicate and it is certainly important to note that that this never will be a replacement for coffee and this is proven by the fact that one of the selling points that Twinings use, is that it actually contains much lower levels of caffeine than many of the other teas on the market today. A very useful tip that I have found on the Twinings website is that the water should be allowed to boil in the kettle but the left for between 5 and 6 minutes to allow the temperature to cool to about 75 degrees and then poured into the mugs with the teabags in, I agree with the fact that this makes for a more flavoursome cup of tea with a stronger scent. The fragrance of the tea can be made stronger but it is still not powerful and it is not going to keep you awake well into the night. I do like the taste as it is subtle and when it is piping hot and it will tingle on the tongue. While Twinings seem to insist that the tea is best if it is enjoyed naturally, which I do not believe is a bad conclusion, I would also suggest that it may benefit from the addition of something slightly more bitter, possible serving it with a lemon slice or a similar ingredient to give it a bit of kick.

                        For a reason unbeknown to me this tea is not readily available in the supermarkets as many others in the Twinings range are. The best source to buy it from is Twinings very own website on which a box that contains twenty tea bags will cost £2.05, this works out at a cost of 10.25 pence per cup of tea which is towards the high end of the market. As I have already said I think that it would be possible to put about five extra bags in each box very easily and this would mean a better tea economy rate of about 8p per cup of tea, this would be easy for Twinings to do and could certainly increase my level of customer satisfaction.

                        All in all I would say that this tea is a great starting point for people who are perhaps not all that keen on different forms of tea and may want an east one to begin with, on the other hand I cannot fault the taste because it does everything that it says on the can. Twinings are ultimately correct when the say that it can be described as both 'subtle' and 'delicate'. The packaging for the tea is strong are survives transportation well, the royal crest gives it that mark of quality that makes the brand stand out as above some the other common rivals. With regard to cost it is hard to fault a product that costs only a little over £2.00 for 20 teabags but I think that it is fair and honest to say that they could have put more in the box given it's size.

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                          04.10.2012 22:40
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                          A superb scented spray for thos with deep pockets!

                          Hugo Boss has a reputation for quality in the competitive men's fragrance industry, having been founded in 1924 they very much cater for the luxury end of the market. It strikes me that although Hugo Boss retails it's products in about 110 countries around the world, everyone wants to be associated with the quality that the brand is synonymous for. The facts and figures for the company are staggering; the profit levels sit at £148,000,000 in one year during a time of severe of global recession. The evidence suggests that the company are certainly during something right, so are they?

                          The Just Different fragrance certainly has to live up to considerable expectations as it is the long term replacement to the original Hugo Boss Man which has been the industry benchmark for the last sixteen years. The marketing states that it is 'unconventional' but has a 'confident style' and I must say that I can find no reason to doubt this, the scent is subtle and refreshing. I always think that if a men's fragrance is too powerful and strong then it can come over as a bit cheap and as though you are trying too hard to get noticed, Just Different does not fall fowl of this simple rule. As an experiment I decided to put equal amounts of this and one of the latest Lynx products on at the same time just to see if it was drowned out but I am pleased to report that although it was not as strong, it was still detectable, which is good to know as Lynx is the strongest fragrance that I use (the things I do in the name of product reviews!). The box states that it is 'a vibrant fragrance with a cool twist to inspire whatever you do', this leaves me a bit cold to be honest because the 'whatever you do' seems a bit cliché and too similar to the mass of cheaper products that engulf today's market, it is almost as though it is trying not to alienate young or old but in an attempt to do this it has not exactly made the brand stand out.

                          With regard to the all important smell the top note is apparently 'ice cold mint', it is a correct claim that mint is detectable and the fragrance is cool but I am not sure I would go as far as to say that it is 'ice cold'. When it is applied to the skin you do not get a sense that it is a cold fragrance and it certainly didn't cause me to shiver as 'ice cold' would have you believe. On the other hand I guess that 'ice cold mint' sounds better than just mint. The heart notes of the spray are described as 'basil and freesia' which are two smells that are the epitome of the great outdoors and everything natural. The prevailing scent of the two is undoubtedly the freesia and it is the one that will last the longest. I personally like the smell as it is a bit different from the typical lemon and orange smells that are so common. The freesia makes the fragrance seem less as though it has been made in a factory and more as though it was bottled up with wild ingredients, even if it was made in a factory! The base note is Cashmeran and I have to confess that before looking it up I had no idea of what it was, according to the internet it is a 'musky scent' that is designed to evoke the feel of cashmere, this left me rather more confused than I was originally but I honestly don't believe that it adds anything to the fragrance, then again I guess it is only a base note. The scent is not the longest lasting of all those on the market but I guess it is designed for evenings rather that everyday so that does not seem to be an issue for me. On average I would say that it lasts around 6-8 hours. All in all the different scents come together to form a natural and comforting scent that most of all reminds me of the countryside, this is always comforting after a long day in the town.

                          They say that first impressions are everything when it comes to making a product stand out amongst so many others nowadays. The box for the Just Different fragrance is concise and not cluttered without being lavish and extravagant. I would almost go as far as to say that the box is efficient and businesslike in it's presentation. The front of the box features an outline of the bottle for the spray which is a slightly lighter shade of black to the rest of the black, the outline of the bottle is white which makes it noticeable and stand out. The range of Hugo Boss products that eau de toilette is from is the Hugo range and this is clearly displayed about two thirds of way down the front of the box. The logo is large enough to easily be able to read and is set on a red background with black text which quickly drew my attention. A small banner underneath the Hugo logo states that the product is called Just Different and this has a white background. The back of the box is once again black but this time it has grey writing on it although there is some red that is at the top centre and states the website which is www.hugo.com. Details included on the back are all of the scents that I have previously mentioned as well as the ingredients. Hugo Boss do deserve credit for the fact that the contact details for the company are included as well as the made in the UK information that I believe adds credibility to the product and gives a sense of quality as many cheaper sprays do not give details of where they are made. The actual box is made from very strong and high-quality cardboard which makes it ideal for long distance transportation if it has been bought in duty free in a different country.

                          The 100ml bottle is distinctive and I am convinced that I have never seen another product with a similar design. For some reason that I cannot comprehend why the bottle is black and you cannot actually see what is inside or more importantly how much product is left. I think that it is ridiculous to not make it transparent because how can you tell when you are getting towards the end and need to buy a new bottle; I am left playing a guessing game and often find myself shaking the bottle to try to find out how much is left. The Hugo logo is once again displayed and it is in red which fits with the red and black colour scheme. The cap of the spray is a plastic screw top and is very easy to open, however it not possible to lose the top as it is attached to the bottle by a 7cm long piece of fabric, in my opinion this is a great idea that separates this product from the mass of product on the market. The cap is very effective at stopping any leakage although it is still possible to smell a scent when the cap is on, but no more than usual.

                          Now comes the painful bit, how much it costs to buy! I am sad to report that there are no nice surprises to produce here, the standard price fluctuates between £30 - £40 for the 100ml bottle that I am reviewing. Amazon retail the spray at £29-45 while if it is bought from Hugo Boss then be prepared to pay a staggering £48-00! If you haven't passed out and are still reading it is possible to order a sample from the company so that may be worth doing if you like to try before you buy, and with such a big cost it is a good idea to make sure that you like it. The website also has a snazzy marketing video that is nothing special, all it shows is a man staring into a bottle and turning it around, not all that convincing.

                          Ingredients: alcohol denat, water, parfum, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate, bht, limonene, linalool, butylphenyl methylpropional, geraniol, alpha-isomethyl ionone, citral, citronellol coumarin and eugenol.

                          Overall, this is certainly a key player at the luxury end of the market and it has a lovely scent but I question the extravagant price tag. Personally I would willingly pay between £25-£35 but I would make it last, it is not an everyday product. The chic and stylish presentation makes it ideal as a gift if you require something in that price range. At the end of the day the most important factor has to be how it smells and it passes that test easily!

                          This review may also appear on Ciao under the username chrisbriers567.

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                            27.09.2012 23:35
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                            A hardy little guide that is very close to perfect

                            I have always been a great fan of the Berlitz travel guides and I have found them to be a great companion while on my travels, they usually contain all of the information that is essential while in an unfamiliar place while at the same time being concise neatly presented. It is undoubtedly for the previously stated reasons that the front cover boasts that they are 'the world's best selling travel guides', a claim that I have no reason to dispute.

                            Initial Impressions
                            ***************

                            The front cover of the guide is strong enough to survive many a journey through an airport while in the bottom of my rucksack. Traditional blue is the colour used by the Berlitz guides to distinguish themselves from the competition. Where the front cover itself is concerned about two thirds of it is covered with the archetypal image of Dubrovnik which is a picture of the harbour area. Berlitz have done a very good job of making it clear exactly what you are buying, the words 'pocket guide' is clearly visible under the logo for Berlitz, I admire them for doing this because it shows no attempt to mislead you. The name of the city Dubrovnik is clearly displayed across the cover although it does not obscure the landscape of the city. The cover actually expands out to form an extra page and useful words and phrases are printed on this, all the essentials are present such as good morning, how much and some others, a guide to pronunciation is also next to each phrase which can be useful at times if you happen to be really stuck. I really like how accessable the list of expressions is because it means you do not have to scramble around for the correct page, that could be anywhere within the book. The inside cover contains a convenient map of the old part of Dubrovnik, this is fine for the average tourist who is not going to want to go off the beaten trail but for those with a passion for real exploration it does not cover a large part of the more modern city. I am always interested in the small things when it comes to layouts and I am delighted to report that the front cover has been well thought out and lives up to my high expectations.

                            Content - Divided Into Sections
                            **************************

                            I really do feel that the organisation of the guide is fantastic because I have found it to be very easy to navigate through the book. Berlitz have employed a colour scheme in order to help you fine the exact part of the guide that you are looking for, in my opinion this saves scanning through pages of information that may not be relevant just to find a few lines that are relevant. However my bone of contention with the content is early on, there is a page that displays the apparent top 10 attractions in Dubrovnik, I have no problem with this as an idea but it can look confusing with lots of arrows all pointing to different pictures. Furthermore I think that if they include the top 10 attractions then they ought to be ranked in descending order which would be very useful for those with limited time.


                            Introduction
                            **********

                            These five pages for a basic background guide to life in Dubrovnik for the normal people, it is packed with interesting snippets of history without drowning you is a mass of statistics. Having read the section I felt as though I had a basic knowledge of what is important to Croatian families and I also armed myself with some interesting random facts to wow people with when I returned home, such as the fact that a form has to be filled out for every stamp that is sold, rather painstaking and backward if you ask me!

                            A Brief History Section
                            *******************

                            The ten pages that form the history section are actually more detailed than 'a brief history' would have you believe. Complex and sometimes dark periods of Dubrovnik's history are covered in substantial detail and it covers aspects such as medieval Dubrovnik, the earthquake of 1667, The Habsburg Empire, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the journey from communism to independence and more recently in 1991, Nationalism and the Balkan war, the effects of which are clearly visible today. This is well worth a read especially while in the heart of the city because it gives you a real sense of living history when you can seen what is written about.

                            Where To Go Section
                            ******************


                            This is the most substantial part of the book and it covers the largest proportion of it with fifty-eight pages in total. I particularly like the fact that even though this is a pocket guide the editors have not cut out the information about the places beyond the city walls of Dubrovnik. A further great inclusion is the information about the islands that can be accessed by local ferry from the harbour in Dubrovnik. Before reading this section I was unaware that they even existed but I can honestly say that they are some of the most unspoiled islands that I have ever visited, they also provide a get-away for those who travel during the much busier seasons of the year. The island of Lokum is perfectly summed up as having 'little to do other than enjoy the peace and quiet', this is certainly true although the guide does seem to largely overlook the fact that there is a former French Fort on this island which is worth a visit on a cooler day. Other islands featured include Elaphite Islands which are well described, the information covers all of the main points that it is very easy to miss, although it is not easy to miss the lack of a single car on the island. The other pages cover all of the essential information about the city itself and the layout is logical and easy to follow.

                            What To Do Section
                            *****************

                            Rather oddly I have found this section to be quite vague about the many activities that are on offer, all of the generic tourist activities are mentioned such as water sports and tours as well as information about the seasonal festivals. I noticed this when I read about what there is for children which covers approximately half a page, it does not go into much detail about where their activities take place or how much they cost, this is essential information for any family that plans holidays on a budget. I have found no safety information about things such a children's playgrounds or activity clubs or if they are worth the money. If I am being generous I put this down to the fact that it is only a pocket guide but I would rather have this included that some of the history detail at the start.

                            What To Eat Section
                            *****************

                            I like to know what I am likely to be eating when I book a holiday so to me this is pivotal information. Berlitz have included some basic translations for food items which is always useful when confronted with an alien menu. I also like the fact that a section is included about when to eat as this makes sure that you always find the good restraints are open when you want to eat, it also means that you can attempt to get more of the Croatian cultural experience which I enjoy.

                            Travel Tips And Recommended Hotels Section
                            **************************************

                            This section does exactly what it says on the can, this travel tips are unbiased and the list of hotels considers all price ranges from accommodation for the gap year traveller right through to details of the luxury five star accommodations. The travel tips include guides to tipping and information about local customs which is always worth a read in order to do your best not to offend any of the locals. Hotels details are given with local telephone numbers which are always useful in a time of crisis. I commend Berlitz once again on the fact that they have included details for hotels on the islands around Dubrovnik as this a fantastic and valuable section which demonstrates the scope of the guide.

                            The Price
                            ********

                            The recommended retail price for the guide is £4-99 which is a sensible price in my opinion. However problems arise when you discover that it is not all that easy to get your hands on. I could only find used versions on Amazon and they often retail at around £15 which is far more than it is worth. Other book stores seem to only have limited supplies at the best of times, although Waterstones are probably the best bet as they can usually get a copy in for you.

                            This review may also appear on Ciao uder the username chrisbriers567.

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                              25.09.2012 22:41
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                              Grat location but the layout of the station can be quite confusing for those who are not used to it.

                              Oxford Circus Underground Station

                              You may be wondering why I have chosen to review an underground station and in particular Oxford Circus Underground Station, well have now read quite a few travel related reviews it seems to me that Dooyoo is significantly lacking on basic information and tips with regard to many places. I have therefore decided to start with s guide to my favourite city of the all, London (said in a Michael McIntyre accent, if you don't get the joke move on!)

                              In my opinion the only way to travel around London at a decent speed is on the London Underground, it is generally reliable, efficient and although cramped it will get you from A to B. Buses within the city are frequent but often don't seem to run to any timescale at all due to the ever increasing traffic jams which I don't believe have been cured by the congestion charge. Using a bus can also be a disorientating experience for anyone not used to regular travel in the city as unlike in may cities in the UK it can be compulsory to pay in a machine at the bus stop. Cycling has become more common over the last few years but remains a pursuit only for the brave, personally I find the prospect of sharing my route with large, angry London buses a bit intimidating. Cars are becoming evermore expensive and when you factor in the parking costs which although the can vary enormously, over a year it will undoubtedly come to several hundred pounds for a regular commute. The congestion charge will is unavoidable for the vast majority and will eat money every time that you turn the engine on within central London. This leaves you with very few options, walking can be done if you live very close to your destination but for the vast majority of us it is the London underground.

                              Oxford Circus station lies at the heart of the city of London and is ideally located for many of the attractions such as the London Palladium which is only a short walk from the exit to the station. For those visiting London who are unfamiliar with its road network the underground represents an idea way to get to the Palladium as parking spaces are few and far between around the area. I would suggest leaving the car outside of central London in a secure car park and then riding in on the underground. Due to the fact that Oxford Circus Underground station is served by three separate lines, the Central line (red on all underground maps), the Bakerloo line (brown on all underground maps) and the Victoria line (light blue on all underground maps), this means that many journeys in from the outskirts of London do not require you to change trains, on the odd occasion that this is necessary then it will always be a maximum of one change of lines required. As the name of the station would suggest is in a central location for access to all of the lavish Oxford Street shops such as the flagships stores for large chain retailers such as Debenhams, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Selfridges. A seasonal attraction that is worth a mention is the turning on of the Oxford Street lights at Christmas time, previous stars to do the honours have included Richard Branson, The Sugababes, Westlife and Cliff Richard.

                              You may have began to think that I have forgotten about the actual station itself but I can assure you I haven't! The station features are typical of those for most of the stations on the London Underground network with a ticket hall, several cash machines, ticket gates, payphones and a help point which can be useful for additional travel advice and route planning. Staff are easy to find and there are usually plenty of them particularly at the busiest times although when delays are in operation of indeed that dreaded scenario of a line being closed totally the help points become swamped very quickly. Naturally with the city centre location, a car park is not linked to the station. A surprising facility that is not accessible at the station is toilets, this is worth baring in mind for parents travelling with children. The ticket office operates typical London Underground hours of 7:30 - midnight on weekdays and 8:30 - midnight on Saturday. Although reduced services operate on all London underground lines at the weekend the ticket office is operational on a Sunday from 9:30 - 23:15, these are very good in my opinion and it is another point of human contact which is also an advantage. Oxford Circus underground station should be on the list of stations to avoid for wheelchair users as there are no lifts from the tracks to ground level which is almost certainly due to the age of the station which originally opened in 1900, although is quite different today, not that I was around back then! The lines are all accessible using escalators and the individual lines are clearly noticeable and signposted. The station is under a crossroads where Regent Street crosses with Oxford Street which means that rather confusingly the station has four entrances and exits, one on all four corners of the crossroads. The travel card zone is number one for those who use an Oyster Card to travel around London.

                              Theoretically it is possible to go anywhere in London from Oxford Circus although you are limited on where you can go on direct trains. The Central Line (red) goes from east to west or vice versa and goes straight across London, trains going eastbound will generally display Epping on the front of them while those going westbound will display either Ealing Broadway or West Ruislip due to the fact that the line splits after North Acton so be sure to consult a map before choosing which train to board. The Victoria Line (light blue) goes from north to south or vice versa although it actually finishes in north-east London. Trains going northbound will display Walthamstow Central on them while those heading south will display Brixton as their final destination. The last line to go through Oxford Circus is the Bakerloo line (brown) which goes from north-east to the south. Trains heading northbound will display Harrow & Wealdstone while their counterparts heading south will display Elephant & Castle as the termination point.

                              Overall, Oxford Circus is not the easiest of all of the stations on the London underground to get used to, it can at times be one of the more intimidating stations to go through at busy times but unfortunately this is the reality of how busy the beating heart of London can be these days! I believe that it is worth venturing through the station just for a walk up the world famous Oxford Street.

                              The address of the station is as follows:

                              Oxford Circus Station
                              London Underground Ltd.
                              Oxford St
                              London
                              W1B 3AG

                              This review may also be published on Ciao under the username chrisbriers567.

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                                16.09.2012 19:16
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                                A little gem of a restaurant that is perfect for families

                                The Moorings in Blakeney is, in my experience on of those little gems that you come across in Norfolk. The medium sized restaurant is unassuming and does not have a sea-front (or estuary front) view, instead it can be found up the narrow high street. Don't be fooled into thinking that the restaurant is not of a high quality because the location is not prime, what it lacks in location it makes up for in a fantastic dining experience. Although there are no estuary views the Moorings does live up to it's name to a certain extent, it is only about 200-300 metres away from the estuary.

                                In my opinion the Moorings has a universal appeal when it comes to reasons why you should eat there. The café opens at 10:30 in the morning and serves everything from lunchtime snacks and meals right through to just a cup of coffee. Many people seem to venture in thinking that you need to have something from the menu but in reality it is perfectly ok just to have a cup of relaxing coffee. The daytime menu can be as elaborate as you would like it to be, as it includes dishes such as 'herb crusted local mackerel', 'Norfolk crab cakes' and that most English of institutions, fish and chips. Locality is a key theme throughout the restaurant as is the idea of supporting both the local community as well as local businesses, thus the salads that are on offer throughout the day include the finest Norfolk produce such as Norfolk cheese, local crab and locally smoked fish which I can say from my own personal experience is an absolute delight! I found that the variety in the daytime menu is astonishing because if you don't happen to be a seafood or fish fan then it is possible to have soup, ideal after a long walk on the marshes on a misty winter morning. Further mouth-watering possibilities include sandwiches, baguettes and ciabattas which are all freshly baked and hand made to order. A children's menu is also available although as I have no experience of this it would be wrong of me to comment on how good it is. However the Moorings is popular with families so it must be at least decent quality.

                                I have to admit that I love all of those food items that I really shouldn't have and on that basis I decided to give the home made cakes at the Mooring's their very own paragraph! The cakes are all home made and wow, they taste awesome! If you are a person who loves food that you are familiar with then the chocolate cake is a must but for those with a liking for the more exotic then various other taste sensations are available. All the cakes are left on display on a table at the front of the restaurant which is helpful when choosing what to have. I have always been of the opinion that when it comes to food it is all about the taste, how something looks is an added extra if you ask me. The cake portions are decent in size considering that they will not break the bank but are not served with any added extras, it is just a slice of cake, a plate and a fork and/or spoon to eat it with. They could easily provide the perfect energy booster for the keen walkers that so love the area or a holiday treat for the whole family.

                                In the evenings the restaurant takes a whole different form, it goes from being a casual café into a sophisticated restaurant that serves Michelin Guide worthy food. The menu does fluctuate by season, most notably during the winter season there is an abundance of heart warming dishes such as mussels, whereas the summer sees sea bass and crab as popular choices. Whilst you would expect the restaurant to specialise in seafood, in reality there are also several meat dishes such as fillet steak and roast rack of English lamb. The meat dishes are considerably more expensive than the fish dishes, an 8oz fillet steak costs the princely sum of £21.95 which is excessive in my opinion. The cheapest dish for the main course is the risotto which is £13.95. Most of the main courses are priced at about the £17 mark. I chose to have the sea bass which was cooked beautifully and well presented, the vegetables that came with the dish were again well cooked and the timing of the service was about right in my opinion. Starters are also available and these are prices at about £6 generally and include a good selection with everything from smoked duck breast through to grilled king prawns.

                                If you happen to be visiting Blakeney on a budget I would recommend the Sunday lunch menu as a better alternative as a whole three courses will normally cost you less that one course during the evening. The choice on the menu is undoubtedly not as good as in the evening but it does include the traditional English dishes with a sense of home cooking. The most popular choice is the beef with Yorkshire pudding that is presented without frills but tastes as roast beef should. As always with the Moorings fish is on the menu for any vegetarians. Starters and puddings are also available and they are all part of the £17.50 per person for the Sunday lunch although drinks are not includes. The restaurant has its own wine list and although it is not extensive it does cover most price ranges and has a decent selection of both red and white wines. Puddings are of the sticky variety with both sticky toffee pudding and sticky pudding often on the menu at the same time. My personal recommendation would have to be the apple and rhubarb crumble with custard which I found to be flavoursome but at the same time not too heavy at the end of the meal. A selection of four starters are available and these include a goats cheese salad and a soup which changes by season.

                                The restaurant is not the largest and this can sometimes mean that during popular times booking is necessary, reservations can be made for most times during the day and I would especially recommend this for large groups of six or more people. The Moorings has a family friendly policy and therefore children of all ages are most welcome, this can make for a noisy coffee break at times although it is generally not a problem. On the other hand bringing the pushchair is probably not a good idea as space it at a premium. Car parking is not usually a problem as long as you are willing to pay, two car parks are located near to the restaurant with one next to the key side. This is good during the day but avoid this at times of exceptionally high tide as it does flood, the other safer option is located further up the high street and all of the proceeds from the car park go to the local parish council. The high street in Blakeney is narrow so it is worth keeping a close eye on toddlers when walking along it as cars regularly have to go very close to the walls of buildings.

                                All in all the Moorings is a popular, highly rated restaurant that I like because it is so family friendly. Due to the costs I would recommend the Sunday lunch as a more wallet friendly option. The atmosphere at night is good and welcoming and I adopt the opinion that although the surroundings may not be luxurious it is well worth it for the dining experience.

                                The Moorings has a website which is www.blakeney-moorings.co.uk

                                Reservations can be made by either telephone ( 01263 740 054 ) or by e-mail (reservations@blakeney-moorings.co.uk)

                                This review may also be published on Ciao under the username chrisbriers567.

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                                  30.08.2012 23:41
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                                  A superb day out that is ideal for those who are staying in Lisbon or there for the day on a cruise

                                  Overview:
                                  This review will aim to give an in depth look at how to plan a day, how to travel to Sintra and also what to see in the picture postcard town. In my opinion Sintra is the perfect destination for many different types of tourist, this includes those looking to spend a holiday in a relaxing and generally quiet town to those keen cruisers who arrive regularly in the port of Lisbon but perhaps who have been to the city before. For the purpose of this review I will be describing it as though I just have one day in the town although it is very easy to spend much longer.

                                  Transport:
                                  The hills top location of Sintra has meant that the development of large scale tourist resorts nearby to the quaint town have not been possible. On the one hand this has kept the town unspoiled but on the other hand it has meant that many people who come to the town have to use the difficult and over-used narrow road system that goes through the heart of the town. Parking is very difficult even during the quiet periods of the year and during my last visit during the month of July I can honestly say that the situation is not looking as though it is going to change in the not too distant future. There are multiple car parks but they fill up early in the day and are at least a quarter of hour walk up fairly steep narrow paths to reach the main central tourist attraction, the Sintra National Palace.

                                  The best option for those based in the city of Lisbon or the surrounding areas such as the coastal resort of Cascais is the train. Commuter services are frequent even at the weekend and take approximately 40 minutes from several stations around Lisbon. I mentioned that I felt that a trip to Sintra was possible for cruise ship passengers who have not booked an escorted tour, a shuttle bus operates from the cruise terminal to the area around the Santa Justa Lift although sometimes it can be as far down as the Praca do Comercio, but is generally in one of the side streets around the area. The nearest railway station to this area is Rossio Station which is about 850m or half a mile along the Rua Aurea in a northwards direction, the station has regular services along the Sintra line as often as every 15 minutes at peak times during the working week. Weekend services are also in operation and tend to be approximately every 30 minutes. Trains operate at most hours in the day from about 06:00 in the morning through to just past midnight which is ideal for those with flights to catch at odd hours in the day, it also allows you to make the most of the final day in Sintra. The railway station is Sintra is only a short walk from the town centre but it is worth baring in mind that at times it is up hill and can be a bit of an annoyance for those with luggage.

                                  Buses are a popular way of getting around Sintra and can be accessed at the railway station which is ideal for those who prefer not walk. The route 433 bus is the most common of the tourist buses and most of the drivers will speak some English, enough to tell you how much it costs at least! Other routes include the 434 which is very frequent during the summer period with services at least every 15 minutes. Services are also fairly frequent during the off-peak season. The 434 visits most of the key tourist areas including the Pena Palace, Toy Museum and the castle. It is worth mentioning also the 435 service which operates more frequently than any of the other services but only for limited hours, usually 10 o'clock in the morning to about 6 o'clock at night. Day passes can be bought on all of the buses and it may also be worth checking out if family day passes are available, all tickets are bought from the driver.

                                  My Top 3 Attractions In Sintra:

                                  1. The Pena Palace - This is arguably the most popular of all the attractions in Sintra and it is also unlikely to break the bank. The palace was created in 1847 after only a few years of construction on the ground of a former monastery that had been devastated by the earthquake in Lisbon back in 1755. The palace is certainly noticeable with the bright color scheme that has been employed in order to restore the appearance to how it would have looked all those years ago, this has had a mixed reception with the local population, many of whom believe it has given an unnatural appearance to the site. The whole tour of the palace covers not only its interior but also the exterior park and the Chalet of the Countess of Elda. Adults can gain admission for the whole visit for 13 Euros 50 cents, under 18's can go in for 11 Euros and under 5 gain admission at no cost. It is also worth noting that the Lisboa card can be used to gain cheaper admission to the palace and discounts for seniors can often be obtained. A family ticket can also be bought and this consists of 2 adults and 2 children and costs 46 Euros, be careful though as it may actually be cheaper to buy the tickets separately especially for families with at least on under 5. Tickets that exclude the interior of the palace can also be bought and in some cases this can reduce the cost of admission greatly for those who would simply like to appreciate the beauty of the stunning views that can be seen from the gardens and the terrace. Adult prices for these tickets start from as little as 7 Euros per person and they are ideal for those who may wish to take a picnic.

                                  2. The Sintra National Palace - Palaces are undoubtedly the reason why the small town of Sintra has gained so much UNESCO attention through the years and this site has World Heritage status. Many tourists seem to make the mistake of underestimating the Palace due to the fact that it seems somewhat unloved from the outside, with bits of paint flaking off I agree it could do with some attention. However a visit to the Palace with engulf you in a world of fascinating history and enlighten you to the Arabic origins of palace. I must confess that the title of this review is a little deceptive as the palace does not in fact have any spires, what they are in reality are chimneys that rise far above the building and dominate the nearby skyline, but I am sure you can see why I chose to call them spires when I came up with the title! (alliteration for anyone only half awake). Admission is relatively cheap at only 7 Euros and all young people under the age of 14 can gain free entry, a visit to the palace is fantastic for any budding historians out there. The Sintra National Palace is open from 9:30 in the morning through to the last admission at 5:00, but it is not open on Wednesdays and during all of the Portuguese public holidays.

                                  3. The Castle Of The Moors - The Moorish castle is located at the very top of the hill that towers above the town and in my opinion it gives the best views over the surrounding areas on a clear day. The walk up to the castle is very steep and should be attempted only by those comfortable with difficult and hot walking conditions, lots of water is certainly recommended. The tour bus that leaves from the station calls at the castle and this is the best alternative for the vast majority of people. The opening hours for the castle are generous with the first admission at 9:30 during the summer season and it does not close until 20:00 in the evening, the castle closes at 17:00 during the winter season. Tickets cost 7 Euros and as with all of the attractions in Sintra family tickets can be bought. Unfortunately for those on a tight budget it is not possible to get the panoramic views without entry into the castle itself but the walk up to the castle is free and does give some photo opportunities.

                                  I believe Sintra is well worth a visit and the attractions that I have detailed will leave you spellbound just as they have left me, the appeal of Portugal must now be greater than ever as people become more aware of the environmental effects of long hall travel and also the cost of many places once your get there. Public transport in Sintra is cheap and most people in the town also how a strong knowledge of English, so welcome to my paradise!

                                  This review has also been published on Ciao under the username chrisbriers567

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