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This hotel is located just off junction 8 of the M25 so is in a really great location if you wanted an overnight stop while doing a long journey, but you'll need to keep your eyes out for the hotel as its off quite a busy road.
We stayed here while we were visiting friends in the area so checked in at 5ish and then went out for dinner. The car park and entrance to the hotel are very long and thin and while parking at5pm was no problem when we came back after dinner at 9.30pm the car park was full of people form the hotel restaurant. After driving right to the end and finding no spaces I then had to reverse the car in the very narrow car-park in the near dark (very bad lighting) since there was no room to turn around. And then had to wait 30 minutes before getting a parking space, I wasn't very impressed but if I was at the end of a long journey and tired it would have been a nightmare!
The hotel entrance looks great, nice fancy sofas-very boutique hotel. We didn't use the bar or restaurant but they did look very nice and had a piano playing. Although the people in the hotel restaurant were my grandparents age, and it looked like a dress up for dinner place not a relaxing jeans kind of place.
After the entrance things get a bit less fancy, the room was exactly like the photos on the website show, but in the hallway there were piles of towels and a hover left there all night. The room was clean and of a nice size but the view was of the carpark.
We paid £65 for one night room only booked direct via the hotel website, it was about £100 if booked on expedia.
Kiva is a great website, it's all about microlending small amount of money to people with the aim of alleviating poverty. With interest rates being so rubbish at the moment I thought I would like my money to be doing something useful rather then just sitting in the bank. Kiva allows you to lend money in $25 increments to people who's profile you can search through on the website. Kiva has partnerships with microfinance institutions all over the world who manage the loan, information about the loan is available on the profile page so you can be fully informed before lending the money out. The profile covers information on the loan and person its going to, information on the country and more financial stuff like the Repayment Schedule. Its important to remember when doing this that's these are loans so its always possible to lose money. Payment is via PayPal.
The countries and situations covered are really broad so as an indication here are some of the loans I have. $25 (total loan $300) to a widow in Cambodia, to buy pigs to increase her income so she can help fund her children's schooling. $25 (total loan £1,000) to a family in Ecuador, to increase the stock in their shop and increase their income, they are saving up to buy a new house.
When I was an undergrad in Bath for my first year I lived in Eastwood. And I'm sure everyone says this about the halls they stayed in, but Eastwood was the best! The halls are set up like a house, 13 rooms with a bed, desk, sink and a few other bit of furniture. Rooms were spread over 3 floors each floor had a toilet and a shower-this may sound like a nightmare but works out fine since everyone gets up a different times. A kitchen is on the lowest floor, which is shared by everyone. A cleaner for the common area come around and will do a basic clean (but not the washing up!). The big advantage to Eastwood was that it was all year round accommodation so you could leave your stuff there over the Easter and Christmas holidays.
More recently I've stayed in Polden Court for a couple of nights while I was in Bath at a conference at the university. This is some of the post-grad accommodation, the rooms were great, a large double en-suite. They provided towels and some nice White Company toiletries and stuff to make tea and coffee. The cost (2010) of these rooms were Single en-suite £50.00; Double en-suite £69.00; Twin en-suite £69.00.
I think Rune Factory Frontier is the best of all the Rune factory games released so far!
Like all the Rune factory/Harvest moons games you have to farm the land gain forging, crafting, cooking and lab skills. Build a barn and make friends with monsters to help you with the farming. Make friends with the villagers and convince a girl to marry you. The part that is different to the other games is to complete the crafting or cooking you have to press the A buttons on your wii-mote when the cursor falls within a green zone on a toolbar on screen. This is a massive improvement on crafting in the other games where it appeared to be left up to luck. As your skill increases the green section gets larger and hitting it gets easier. You also have toolbars associated with each character that you have to make friends with so you can see how close they are to getting to the next level of friendship or love with you.
This games follows on from the first Rune factory game on the DS, you play as Raguna again, Mist from the first game has gone missing and you set off to find her. You have to explore the floating island above your head and find a way to access the caves and fight the monsters within. These caves each have several floors and the hardest part about is the negotiating the maze of rooms trying to find the stairs to the floor below.
This game take the rune factory games and gives them great visuals and uses the wii to make this a really fun and addictive game to play. Currently about £15 on amazon.
We took a trip around Japan in March 2010 and our chosen mode of transport was on Japan rail.
To get the Japan rail (JR) pass you have to buy an exchange order in a country that isn't Japan, they are valid for 3 months, you then need to present this and your passport (not Japanese) to a rail office and they will exchange it for your pass. Exchange orders can't be bought inside Japan or with a Japanese passport.
We paid about £350 (45,000Y) for a 14 day pass in standard class, but other cost are below (1,000Y is about £7)
7-day 37,800 YEN (First Class) 28,300 YEN (Ordinary)
14-day 61,200 YEN (First Class) 45,100 YEN (Ordinary)
21-day 79,600 YEN (First Class) 57,700YEN (Ordinary)
Our pass covered the whole country, JR express to and from the airport and some ferries (the JR ones). Most cities have lots of different rail companies operating inside them so we generally bought a day pass for the city we were in to travel around freely and easily but with a bit of planning all your travel could be covered by JR. If you were staying in one small area you can get local rail passes for less money. The pass isn't valid on the super fast trains but on services that do more local stops.
To be on the safe side we reserved seats (free) at the train station a couple of days before we were due to travel, they do have some unreserved seating but it was very crowded. This was really easy to do and the trains were all very frequent. Finding seats and platforms for train was really easy since most things are announced in English as well as Japanese, and all the staff were so polite and helpful finding where we were meant to be was no problem.
The trains were clean, on time, had loads of leg-room (I could nearly touch the seat in front with my legs out-stretched) and were a joy to travel on!
Hiroshima was our second stop in Japan, here we wanted to stay in somewhere that had much more of a Japanese feel to it. We picked the World Friendship Center because we liked the ethos and it seemed pretty cheap. This place was set up in 1965 by some Americans to foster world peace, its still run by a pair of very lovely Americans, and aims to act as a 'home from home' which it does very well, it felt very nice to just chat easily with people, after a while of communication problems!
Its based in a traditional Japanese house, on a small street, but the directions on the website and the many signs around make it very easy to find. Like all Japanese homes you have to take you shoes off when you enter. There is a lounge for everyone to use full of books and videos (yep, videos!) and a small bathroom that every one shares (so yes we did have to queue in the morning). The bedroom had two futon beds, which were very comfy, a small table and a wardrobe. None of the doors are locked and there is no curfew. They provided loads of information on the local area, including which restaurants to go to, and how to get to all the places we wanted to go. Breakfast was at 8am, no alcohol was allowed.
This was a really lovely place to stay it felt very warm and welcoming, and was a great place to stay, but it wasn't fancy or posh. Just clean, friendly and welcoming.
We paid 3,600 yen per person per night, breakfast included, and booking via e-mail. (March 2010)
Our flight out of Narita Airport was at 11.30 in the morning, since it took an hour by train from Tokyo to get to the airport we decided to stay a bit closer to the airport the night before. There was a bit a lack of imagination when booking this hotel it was cheap and we knew it would be of a fairly high standard.
We had some problems with the trains getting there, so we went to the airport and got the airport shuttle bus to the hotel, they don't run very often (one an hour during most of the day) so getting the shuttle from the train station in Narita or a taxi might be a better idea, it took 20 minutes from the airport. We also got the shuttle back to the airport the next morning and both times we were the only people on the bus. It looked as if lots of cabin crew stayed at the hotel, which made it very quite as they all went straight to bed.
The hotel is in a big complex in the middle of nowhere, it looked like it catered for a lot of weddings or conferences. Our room was clean, tidy and of a good size, the bathroom was very ordinary compared to others we'd seen. It was very stylishly decorated as was the lobby and the rest of the hotel.
We'd run out of energy by this point so decided to have dinner in the hotel sports bar, which was quite reasonably priced for a hotel. We paid 1,400 Yen for a burger and a drink (1,000 yen was £7-March 2010) and 2,500 yen for a bottle of wine.
The only downside to this hotel was that it could have been anywhere in the world, it had American bars and restaurants, and there were no little Japanese touches anywhere. It was a bit of a let down for the end of our holiday since it made it finish earlier then it actually did but that is because of my expectations nothing that the hotel did wrong.
We paid £69.37 for one night, bed only, via expedia.
This was the fourth place we stayed on our little tour of Japan (March 2010) and unfortunately the worst. We wanted to stay in Kyoto but that was couldn't really afford it so we stayed in Osaka and got the train to Kyoto every day (20 minutes). So we picked the hotel based in location and unfortunately that is the only good thing about the place. Its in Umeda station which has a direct link to Kyoto.
We arrived half an hour before check in and they made us wait before they would let us into the room. When we got there it stank of smoke. Since the smoking ban in the UK, I had forgotten how badly places could smell, it made my eyes water and made my husband crave a cigarette (he gave up 5 years ago), there were no non-smoking rooms. The room was very small you could just about walk past the bad on the side that wasn't against the wall. There was a desk and chair, but the chair had so many stains on it I didn't want to sit down. The view was of another building close by. The bathroom was tiny and the showerhead would only point at the wall. But the cleaning of the room was well done. They had a fridge and vending machines down the hall for drinks.
We booked via Expedia and paid £287.42 per night including £12.86 per night tax.
I've just got back from my honeymoon in Japan (March 2010) the first place we stayed was the Prince Park Tower Hotel In Tokyo. We chose this place because it was well priced for Tokyo, well located and had nice pictures on the website.
Getting to the hotel was easy; there is a bus from Narita airport (it says limousine, but really it's a coach) for 3,000 yen per person (at March rate 1,000 yen was £7). We had Japan Rail passes so got the train to Tokyo station the local railway to Hamamatsucho Station. Getting from the station to the hotel took about 10 minutes walking, since we knew it was next to the Tokyo Tower we just followed our eyes.
Check in was at 2pm but we arrived at mid-day, our bags were taken off us and we were lead to a private check in desk with very comfy chairs! The lobby has glass every-where, one side of the lift being glass so you could see down to the pools in the basement, there were 2 sets of lifts, one set for floors 1to 18 and another for floors 18-32, the higher up floors being more expensive due to a better view, we were on floor 12 and had a great view. The room was large with desk and armchairs, fridge and wardrobe. The Internet worked well but wasn't wireless.
The bathroom was amazing! Japanese toilets are very high tech, when you opened the door to the toilet the light came on and the toilet seat went up, the seat was heated and it had a variety of sprays and dryers. The main bathroom was just as good, it had a huge spa bath, which I indulged in twice a day (I normally only have baths about once a month) the shower was also a delight with a range of spray settings.
If you choose not to have the bed linins changed everyday they give you a 1,000-yen voucher per day for the hotel shop. The room was cleaned to a very high standard each day.
We paid £376.43 for 3 nights this included a £19.36 tax per night, the prices of the actual room varied from £106.37 to £115.62 per night depending on which day of the week it was, we booked via Expedia. This was for a Corner room with a king size bed.
We went for a drink in the sky bar on the 33 floor and it was a bit pricey, 1,000 yen table charge and 1,300 yen for a glass on wine but it did have amazing views ad great service. There were also a number of little hotel shops selling some food and clothes. They had a number of restaurants with a range of food but since breakfast was 3,000 yen each we didn't try any of the food here.
Japan is full of observation towers, every city we went to has one and this was the first we came across. The Tokyo Tower is a replica of the Eiffel Tower built in 1958 but is 9M taller and is painted red and white. We wouldn't have gone out of our way to visit it but did because we were staying next to it. After a long queue to get in (we accidentally went on a bank holiday weekend!) we entered the lower bit, which is full of shops, restaurants and museums which were nice but nothing special. The main point is the observation deck, which is just that, an observation deck. It was very busy and having already been to our hotel room didn't show us anything new. With so many tall buildings that are restaurants or hotels in Tokyo I wouldn't recommend going up the tower, you can get a better view elsewhere.
I later read my guidebook and it recommended going for a drink at the sky bar at the top of the Prince Park Tower Hotel (where we were staying) instead of going up Tokyo Tower, and that was much nicer. Partly because you had a great view of the Tokyo Tower all lit up, (yellow then purple, it changed on the hour) and partly because we could sit down in the quite and admire the view in our own time. But it was expensive for drinks (1,300 Yen for a glass of wine, 2,000 Yen for a G&T) and they had a 1,000 Yen table charge (annoyingly every bar seemed) only just over what we paid to get up the tower!
To get to the top of the tower you have to pay 1,420 Yen for adults (but you can only go to the main bit for 820 Yen) and 860 yen for kids (460 Yen), its open from 9am to 10pm.
There are museums inside that you pay extra for each the Wax Museum (500 Yen) or the Guinness World Records Museum, which is 700 Yen- we didn't go in any of theses.
Getting there is really easy (most travel around Tokyo is once you get the hang of it!) on the Metropolitan Subway Oedo Line get off at Akabanebashi Station; Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line get off at Kamiyacho Station; Metropolitan Subway Mita Line get off at Onarimon Station; Metropolitan Subway Asakusa Line get off at Daimon Station or the
JR Yamate Line at Hamamatsucho Ststion and just follow your eyes! The park around the Prince Park Tower Hotel was really lovely to walk thought to get to it.
We went on our honeymoon to Japan (March 2010) because it was a place that I'd always wanted to go, since we were going all that way for me we had to include lots of boy things to do while we were there, going to a Sumo tournament was one of them. Once I'd found out that there would be a tournament while we where there I tried to buy tickets, which proved to be very hard! The official places that sold the tickets are all in Japanese, (google translator wasn't much help!) once I'd got a Japanese friend to help sort the reading out it turned out that they only took Japanese Credit Cards (a bit of a problem for western tourists all over Japan) and the y would only ship to Japanese addresses. So I set about finding another way to get my hands on the tickets, this is how I came across BuySumoTickets.com. I was a bit skeptical at first, as I would be with any website I hadn't used before, but they seemed to have a very well thought out website with loads of information on Sumo and just seemed to want to help tourists get their hands on tickets.
Prices for tickets are between 3,200 -11,800 Yen, 1,200Y per person service charge and to the UK 1,200 Yen postage, we went for 2 of the cheapest tickets and paid £85 to delivered (1,000Yen =£7 roughly). It's a bit of a steep service charge but it was the only way to get hold of the tickets (that I could find). Tickets were sent registered post so I could track them and they arrived very quickly. They have a very comprehensive FAQ's, a great page with loads of information about sumo on it and communication with the people running it was quick and easy.
Narita airport has now become my second favorite in the world, (London City being the best). The efficiency and high standard that is all over Japan is also shown here. It has 2 terminals and is about an hour outside Tokyo by train (we stayed at a hotel near by the night before we left so got a shuttle bus to the airport).
Arriving- this isn't a huge airport so walking around doesn't take very long, on the plane we were given the immigration and customs forms to fill in and on the way to passport control there were helpers along the way to help make sure they were all filled in correctly and to provide pens. They take fingerprints and photos as you come in but it took no time at all, no queuing. The bags came out a couple of minutes after we got to baggage claim and customs, while they asked a lot of questions were very friendly and helpful. We were traveling around on a Japan Rail Pass and the exchange office was really easy to find, as was the train station.
Leaving- Each of the check in desks are clearly marked, but you need to keep in mind that if your flying with a UK carrier they might not have a very big presence (we flew Virgin and the only have one flight a day out of Tokyo) so they won't stand out as much. The only time we had to queue was when we turned up an hour early for check in which open exactly on time, we sailed through passport control, and went off to wander the shops, boarding exactly on time and the flight left early!
The only downside to this airport is the lack of a central shopping/restaurant place; the shops and restaurants are all on the way to the gates so you would easily miss some of the ones that were in another direction. Nothing here was overpriced and we picked up some really nice, well-priced souvenirs.
All the signs were also in English and everyone we spoke to spoke very good English.
I'd got a few e-mails at work with link to a website to organize meeting etc and at first I was a bit skeptical and didn't really see the point, but now I am a complete convert and use doodle to run my social life and even help plan my wedding!
Doodle is an on-line scheduling tool, once you have set up an account (free) you can create events choosing multiple dates and/or times, you get a unique web address for your event, you send the link out to all the people you want at the meeting or all you friends you want over for lunch, they click on the link and fill in (ticking boxes) when they are free. It so easy to see the time or date whenever one is available.
You can also create polls on the site asking questions, this is what we used for our wedding asking which meal people wanted, if the needed highchairs or if they needed meals for their children or not (I have no idea what ages babies start eating food!)
People you send the link to don't need to have an account to fill in your doodle, you can see all the polls you have created and filled in, and if you want the replies can be private so only you can see them via the admin link.
The website is very basic, not that you need much! I have seen the they have some google adverts on the top, but until I went to check for this review I'd never noticed them! You can have a premium doodle for CHF28 ((Swiss Francs in case you were wondering) about EU18/$28) this lets you have you own design and no ads.
I know wedding lists can be a bit controversial, but when we got married (October 2009) we decided that we were going to have one. We had lived together for 2 years so already had lots of stuff but we really needed some new pillows and we are always losing teaspoons, so we used the list to tell people this.
First decision was where; we looked at 3 places House of Fraser, John Lewis and Debenhams. We chose Debenhams because the wedding list was open immediately (other would only open the list 6-8 weeks before the wedding, and I tend to forget and panic just before weddings if I don't buy the gift when I get the invite) and they gave us more incentives for going with them.. Debenhams gave us a £75 gift card and free delivery for our guest, I think this was a special offer and normally you pick between the 2. And 10% of everything left on the list.
After registering on the website, the wedding advisor at our local big store called us to set up a time for us to go and pick our list. Two weeks later we drove up to Cambridge to start shopping! They have dedicated desks for the wedding service so we could talk to some one with out waiting, they looked after our coats and bags, gave us some zap guns, vouchers for free lunch and coffee. And off we went, you basically go around zapping the barcodes of all the items you want and then enter the number on the screen on the zap gun. Anything you want but can't find (we wanted plates in blue but they didn't have them in stock) the wedding advisor can find on the system and add it to the list. It took us a couple of hours to complete everything, including us having lunch. We had a combined list so people could add money onto a gift card or buy us presents
We took away a bag of information on all the different services Debenhams provide for weddings and 100 cards to give to our guest, I had to write our wedding number of all of these cards, which took ages, but they gave our guest a discount on coffee while they were shopping.
After you have sent out the gift list cards (with the invite I guess) you can log on to the website and see what people have bought and add and remove things on the list. Once an item has been purchased it will show up that they are looking for it, and once its found and stored for you it will show that and that is when your guests are charged for the purchase. Not all of the items can always be found, some of the money got added on to our gift card, and sometimes Debenhams called the guest and the item was changed from purchased to for sale again. This was a bit confusing sometimes since we got no explanation why.
Once we were back from our honeymoon they called us to finalize everything. You get 10% off anything left on the list so we used the money on the gift card to buy the matching pillowcase to the duvet sets and a new mop. We were told there was a 25% off event coming soon and that would get an extra 10% off then so we did most of our shopping then. We then went to the Debenhams on Oxford Street and they were just as helpful as the Cambridge store, taking back a few items that had broken (electronic salt and pepper mills-useless but they make my husband smile!) and find us anything else we needed and more tea!
Guest can pick items us in store and give them to you or have them delivered to us. Our delivery date was set at the beginning when we set up the wedding list for 6-9pm 3 weeks after them wedding. The delivery was on time 6 huge boxes filled our living room, and we set to unpacking. Each item came with a note on who bought it and the message, and there was a separate list for us. Everything was very well wrapped but we did spend ages taking the sticky labels on each plate!!
Every so often during out planning they called with wedding event they were holding that had makeovers etc and we still get vouchers for 10% off.
When planning our wedding (October 2009) we wanted a low key way to get everyone the information they needed about the venues and for us to get all the information about children and dietary requirements from all our guests. I'd seen in magazine where people had sent numbered RSVP cards with pre-stamped and addressed return envelopes, and had received invites that included a wad a paper printed from google maps. We wanted things to be a bit easier.
When looking for an on-line RSVP we came across Wedding Path, we chose to use this as it had lots of examples to look at on the website, was free and provided a password to protect your website.
You pick a pre-made design (which can be changed) fill in some basic detail and away you go. You get a unique web address, which is easy to remember (ours was MyNameAndHisName.weddingpath.co.uk) you can pick the number of pages you have, some of which are already named and set up for you (eg Venue/map) and you can name, rearrange and set up others as you wish. Pictures can be uploaded to the site, so we have pictures of our church and the venue. The map is a great feature, it included how to get from the church to the reception and had links to the local hotels and booking detail.
We included pages with the menu on so people could pick to have the lamb or the brie tart, a timetable for the day so people knew when they would be eating (always I problem I have with 12pm weddings, do you eat before or not?). some information about the churches history, a link to our wedding list and the on-line RSVP.
All of our guest loved it! My parents were a bit skeptical about it and thought that most people would send RSVP cards, some did but then we had to call them to find out what they wanted to eat! The only down side to the website was that my uncle in America couldn't view the pages but other friends in Switzerland and Germany could.