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We attended Claridges hotel for an afternoon tea. One would think that it is the quintessential place to have afternoon tea but I am afraid that was not the case. We had booked up a few months ago to celebrate a dear friends 70th Birthday. We arrived by taxi and were met by the doorman who was deep in conversation with a colleague. He did not even acknowledge us as we went into the hotel or on the way out. Not a good start to the experience.
We were sat in the foyer where afternoon tea takes place. It is a quite a beautiful setting but they sat us in deep sofa and arm chairs which were actually quite uncomfortable and would have meant we would have had to come right to the edge of the seats just to talk to each other. We asked to be moved somewhere as it was clearly not suitable.
The selection of teas was quite superb and we started with Champagne which was beautiful. The sandwiches could not be faulted, the scones ok but the cakes were rather uninspiring and tasteless. They looked good but tasted of nothingness.
The ambiance was fairly ok but felt a little like a cafeteria in a train station. The art deco furnishings and decor was superb. The waitress was brilliant and very attentive.
For nearly £100 a head it was a complete and utter underwhelming experience.
There are better places to have a special afternoon tea and at half the price.
I could not and would not recommend Claridges for an afternoon tea bearing in mind it was for a celebration I am rather mortified it was such a poor experience.
I flew Tap air from LGW to LIS and Back from Oporto to LGW last week and quite frankly I would not bother wasting my money on Tap Air again. The cabin crew were the most miserable bunch of people I have ever come across in all my years of flying. Check in was ok on both legs but it went down hill from there on in.
The business class lounge they use at LGW was horrible a separate review about that will follow.
There was not smile or greeting on boarding. Once airborn it was over an hour before we say a member of crew who seemed to spend the next hour hiding behind the curtains. We were offered a drink and then a tray slapped in front of us of a cold sausage roll. It was as if they were doing us a favour as opposed to us being customers of their airline. Quite frankly the cabin crew were a miserable bunch indeed.
The seating was fine take off and landing fine but don''t expect good customer service because with Tap Air you are unlikely to get it. The crew let the airline down abysmally.
Do yourself a favour and fly with BA or another reputable company.
The Atomium is for Brussels what the Eiffel tower is for Paris or the London Eye for London. It is a city land mark that was built originally for the Great Expo of 1958. It was originally thought that it would only last until the end of the exposition but was so popular with the Belgians it became a tourist attraction.
It was designed by Andre Waterkeyn, Andre and Jean Polak and is supposed to represent an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. It is a super construction consisting of nine balls connected to each other by arms that act as stairways or lift shafts or elevators running through these arms taking the visitor from one orb to another. It is made out of iron and aluminium with glass in the orbs giving wonderful views over the city and surrounding parks.
From the outside it looks a something akin to a space station consisting of nine balls attached to arms that all interconnect to the chain. It is made of steel iron and aluminium and bolted together and at different times of the day it glistens in the sunshine. You are able to visit the Atomium and enter the structure and visit some of the exhibits inside.
To the side of the Atomium is the ticket office where you can obtain your tickets. If you have travelled on the hop on hop off bus you can claim a 2 euro discount on the entry fee. You can also pick up a leaflet telling you about the Atomium. There are toilets here and a small café at the ticket office and the queue for the ladies was really quite long you had to pay to use the facilities I think it was around a euro but don't quote me on that. The toilets were manned and kept clean but you did have to queue for them. We had a delicious espresso before going up the Atomium in the café which was reasonably priced.
After obtaining your tickets you join the queue to go up to the top Orb in a lift and once reaching the top it gives you a birds eye view of the surrounding area and you can look down on the other shining orbs. At the top above the viewing platform there is also a restaurant where you can obtain food and drink. It is surrounded by windows too so you get a really nice view of the surroundings whilst eating. Once you have finished your visit to the top orb then you move down from one tier to the next. The flight of stairs look quite intimidating and it is quite steep not good if you are afraid of heights or you have mobility issues but you can take a lift down.
To go down to the next orb you have to walk down some stairs along the interconnecting tubes. Some of the orbs contain exhibitions and the ones we saw included a short film presentation of workmen working without scaffold during its construction. It was hard work and showed them working during a snow storm. It must have been bitterly cold during its construction.
Descending down one of the tubes is an escalator with shining and alternating coloured neon lights which give a really great impression and a great feeling as you travel down. There is also an exhibition of some of the memorabilia from the great exhibition including photos and trinkets that were sold throughout the year. The hostesses looked really elegant and classy in their fitted suits and skirts. They must have looked really beautiful.
Back down on the ground floor there is the obligatory souvenir shop you have to go through to get out. They were selling all kinds of tat little replicas of the Atomium and one that made me laugh had balls from Brussels written on it. There was chocolate, pens and other stuff you would rather not buy from there.
It has recently been renovated and is now at its best looking spanking brand new with its new outer coat of Aluminium it sparkles and glistens in the sunshine. At night there are tiny lights around the orbs that glow in the dark.
Would I recommend a visit?
Yes it really is something that is quite interesting and fun to visit. It is unusual, quirky and a brilliant tourist attraction. If you are in Brussels I would definitely recommend a visit here. I imagine we were here in total for about an hour and a half actually inside the Atomium and a little longer admiring it from outside. It is great for adults and slightly older children although there is one of the orbs dedicated to children to play in.
It is open from 10:00 to around 18:00 and costs prior to any discounts applied 11 Euros to enter. However by showing your bus ticket you will get a good reduction in the entry price.
Nestle Rolo milk chocolate and toffee dessert.
I love Rolo and always have done so since I was knee high to a grass hopper. I was pleased to see that Nestle have made a Rolo dessert which lives up to its reputation of being absolutely yummy.
The dessert is sold in a pack of two and is available in the chilled cabinet near the yoghurts and other chilled goods. Each pot weighs 70g and is just enough to give you a chocolate kick. The outer packaging is the familiar brown colour with the words ROLO in red on it. The plastic tub contains the two coloured dessert the top layer being chocolate and underneath the creamy caramel toffee dessert. They are sold on and off for £1 but they do vary in price from time to time and are available in most of the big supermarket chains.
The taste of this dessert is really nice and does taste like a Rolo although not as chewy as it is a smooth easy to swallow creamy dessert. It does taste nice and sweet and to be honest I could eat two of these without batting an eyelid. They certainly are very moreish.
I think Nestle have got it nearly right with this dessert. Not all their products live up to the high reputation of the variations of the sweets they are supposed to be copies of but with this delicious tasting dessert I think they have got it right with one big exception.
These are a fairly high calorie dessert coming out at 170 calories for those of you on the Kate Moss diet. These are just a treat and not something you would eat every day although I must say I do like them and could probably eat more than I should do. They are made with 42% fresh milk so there is calcium, protein in the dessert.They contain Beef gelatine which would make them unsuitable for some Hindu's or vegetarians. Luckily for me my wife won't eat them due to the beef gelatin which incidentally I promise you I was not aware of until I got them home which meant I got to eat both of them!
Would I buy them again?
Yes I would as they really are quite yummy and for me they are up there with all the delicious desserts. I think that Nestle should make them with vegetarian friendly gelatin so that they can be enjoyed by more people. It really does prove that you need to read the ingredient labels when you are buying prepared foods. I usually do but never even gave it a thought that it would contain something that for some would be abhorrent so for that reason and that reason alone I think it warrants losing not one but two stars!
Would I give you my last Rolo?......... Erm probably not! OK if I am honest absolutely not!
BT Graphite 2100 triple phone pack.
Last year our home phone started to play up, reception not clear calls cutting off mid call so I while shopping in Asda I saw they had a section selling telephones. I had a look at the various phones on the shelf and saw the BT Graphite phone. It came in either single, double or triple combinations. As we have three floors in our house I thought I would go for the triple set and have one on each floor. There is nothing worse than being on the top floor and having to come all the way down stairs to the ground floor to answer the phone only to reach it and whoever it is has rung off.
I went home unpacked the box. Inside it contained three black base units one of which was the main base unit which has an extra lead to connect to the telephone socket. The other two do not have this facility and just have a three point plug. Each phone came with a rechargeable battery which you have to put in the phone. The battery is inserted into the battery casing at the rear of the hand set and they tell you to charge it up for 24 hours. The phone worked ok within the first hour of charging it up.
The hand set.
The hand set is approximately five inches in length and two inches wide. It has an LCD display on the front of the phone which has a blue back light which glows when you first put it back on the base unit and also when you receive a phone call. If you pay extra for number display the number of the caller shows up on the phone when an incoming call is received. There is also a sign on the display telling you how much battery life is left and an indication of the sound level and signal level is indicated on the top left hand corner which is handy if you wish to take the phone out into the garden.
Reception of calls is pretty good we can use the phones all around the house and out into the garden and the quality of calls Is consistent and good with no drops in signal strength.
It is quite easy to set up there is a menu button which gives you access to different five ring tones, a directory where you can enter and store 50 telephone numbers you use regularly. There is a clock and alarm facility on the menu list which is handy if you need to set reminders to ring someone at a certain time and there is an advanced setting. There is also a 40 number log so you can check back to see who rang while you were out or what the last calls were and to whom.
The ring tone can be set at five different levels and although it is set on the loudest level I cannot hear it at all if I am in certain rooms in the house. (I must point out that I only have 7% hearing and often miss phone calls but the others in the house can hear it.) I can hear the phone if I am near it or I can see it light up when there is a call. I find if the phone rings for long enough eventually I might get to hear it but generally I cannot hear it ring. The ring melody can be changed and I have chosen the one that I am most likely to hear.
The battery can last for up to 10 hours in use and up to 100 hours off charge which is handy to know if you are likely to be making many calls in succession. My wife can be on the phone for several hours at a time which annoys me intensely and all she does when the battery is low is put it back in the charger and change to another phone. We do not always put the handsets into the charger especially me if no one else is in the house and I have it in front of me so I can see when there is a call.
There is also a secrecy button on the unit so that you can talk to someone else without the caller listening or over hearing what you are saying. There is also a paging facility so for example if someone is on the top floor you can page that phone to get hold of them. You can also transfer calls easily between sets which is handy.
Would I recommend it?
If you want to have several phones spread around the house then yes it is handy to have them place in strategic places for example in the lounge, in the kitchen and one upstairs. We have one in the lounge one in my study on the middle floor and when someone is staying one goes on the top floor otherwise it is kept in the kitchen. It does not really matter where you site the phones because they work anywhere within the house and outside in the garden which was really handy last year when we spent most of our time outside. This phone is really quite useful for us and I am sure you would find it useful too. For £59.99 I think it is quite a bargain and suits our needs well and give it my full endorsement.
Death Valley California. Bad water and Furnace creek.
I have visited Death Valley a couple of times although the first time it was a bit of a misadventure. We were staying in Las Vegas and drove up to visit Scotty's castle and was planning to drive all the way back to Las Vegas via Death Valley.
We had breakfast and made our way up to Scotty's Castle and after going around that for a couple of hours we came out just as the sun was just setting. We set off for the journey back through the desert but unfortunately it was pitch black and we could not see anything apart from the odd light here and there and passed no cars on the road. The only thing we could see was a few yards of road ahead of us.
You could feel your ears pop as we descended into the valley but there were no visual clues as to what was going on in the darkness. The sky was clear so you could see the stars and the moon but it was just black and nothingness. You could make out the outline of the mountains either side of the valley but that was about it.
Death Valley is the lowest point in America at 282 feet below sea level. There were markers on the road to tell you how low you had reached and the odd sign now and again telling you how far to the next junction but apart from that there is absolute nothing to focus on. The odd bush here and there but that was about it. We finally got to a turning which we needed and after driving for about half an hour we suddenly had to come to a stop as the road had been washed away and there was no way of passing this area we had to turn back along the road and join the main road again. The temperature in the dessert drops considerably during the night and it feels really cold. So from one extreme to another, boiling searing heat in the day and freezing temperatures at night.
Our second visit was a little bit more successful. We were there in April and decided to get out and make our way earlier than the last time we were there. We did not bother going to the north of Death Valley but headed towards the Bad water basin. We travelled along the mountain ranges and every so often there were viewing points which gave spectacular views over the barren land.
My title not much water here is true enough as what is there is practically undrinkable due to the high salt content but it can support some of the fantastic fauna that grows quickly and briefly following rainfall but due to the extreme temperatures it soon evaporates.
Once we reached Bad water we got out of the car but boy it is really hot there. There were salt pans there and you could walk out along the board walk taking in all the scenery. There was no plant life here just surface salt for as far as you could see. You would have thought it was snow as it was brilliant white colour and quite blinding in the blistering heat. It is fair to say that we were not here for too long as the heat was absolutely unbearably hot. We had to get ourselves back to the car as quickly as possible. The sun was quite strong and burning I really cannot imagine working in this heat or travelling on horseback. Thank the lord for air-conditioned cars!
We carried on and drove to a Furnace creek where there is a very small town where there are caravan and motor home parks. There is also a visitor's centre with the history of death valley on display. There are swimming pools and camping grounds a couple of cafeteria type restaurants, a motel and a museum. Outside were a couple of train locomotives and wagons on display. We stopped here for a while to use the toilet facilities get a drink and have an ice lolly. The temperature was 109 F which is around 42 C. You can imagine how difficult it must have been when the settlers and gold miners lived in these very harsh and inhospitable conditions and bearing in mind this was Spring and nowhere near the height of the summer. The hottest temperature ever recorded on earth was in 1913 here in Furnace creek when temperatures reach 57 C or 134F.
This time as we drove through the desert a lot of the fauna had sparked into life there was an abundance of colourful flowers here and there obviously where there was a slight water supply. I guess that it is fairly short lived as the temperatures creeps up over the summer months. We saw no wildlife at all although I dare say in that heat they may well have been hiding in the little shade that is there. Summer temperatures can reach 42C in the summer and is the hottest place on earth. What is spectacular is the scenery. According to the time of the day and the position of the sun the surrounding mountains change colour from bronze, amber to purple and blue hues. There are different rock formations all around the lower valley and whether you are at base level or high over the mountains the views are spectacular. Traffic is steady and it won't be long before someone passes you during the day time but as I said at the beginning we were very much alone in the valley at night. I did like Death Valley it is a place of beauty but due to the harsh weather conditions it is one of the most dangerous places on earth.
Would I recommend a visit here?
Yes I would as it is quite a fascinating place. It is not all glamour or neon lit at all but you can put yourselves in the place of the earlier settlers and gold diggers and imagine the harsh conditions they had to put up with. There is some beautiful scenery here set amongst the blue sky above the mountain range but if you can only stand the heat it is worthwhile visiting it. Summer night time temperatures do not dip much below 98F or 37C which is body temperature so it might be pretty uncomfortable to sleep in. You are perfectly safe as long as you stick to the main routes through the desert. Essentials are to take water with you, a sun hat and sunglasses.
Surf with essential oils.
While shopping a few weeks ago I had to get some some detergent as my wife was away on holiday I thought I would have a look and see what was available. Hmm confused by the massive selection on the shelves these days all the different brands, powders, tablets, capsules, bio and non-biological. I stood overwhelmed by the variety and different brands but then I saw some tester packs of Surf on offer, 10 liquid capsules for £2 which worked out quite good value compared to other packets. So I grabbed a couple of bag of these and put them in the trolley.
The fragrance so we are told are tropical lily and ylang ylang not that I know what these are supposed to smell like individually. There are also essential oils in the liquid which are supposed to enhance the fragrance of the detergent liquid.
I had a large load of clothes to wash so after sorting out the coloured clothes I filled the machine and popped two capsules in with the load. This is quite useful as there is no measuring out of powders and the little capsules dissolve in the water releasing the liquid detergent directly onto the clothes.
I had put the clothes on a short wash as most of the clothes I wear are only used once and in reality only need freshening up they do not really get stained that much so there are not difficult stains to get out although if the clothes are stained badly it is recommended that you pre treat the clothes to help get rid of stubborn stains.
An hour later the wash was done I turned off the machine and got the clothes out. They smelt quite nice but I could not describe what they smelt of but I was happy with the smell. The clothes were nice and clean although as I said there were no stains on them anyway. I put them in the tumble dryer and an hour later they were ready to take out of the machine. I purposefully did not put any conditioner in with the wash or put tumble dryer sheets and once they were dry they still smelt quite pleasant.
What do they contain?
Each capsule contains 32.1g of liquid and consists ofanionic srfacants,soap,non-ionic surfacants, phophonates,perfume,citronellol, butylphenyl methopropional, enzymes, limone, geraniol, linalool, hexyl cinnamal and opital brighteners.
There is a black cross on an orange background on the rear of the packaging warning that it is an irritant and should not be used for hand washing. Some people may develop an allergy to some of the ingredients should this happen then stop using the liquid detergent. Do not cut the capsules or handle them with wet hands. If accidentally splashed into the eyes rinse with copious amounts of water and if necessary seek medical attention.
You should not use them in washer dryers and they are not suitable for silk or wool which I find a little surprising.
Overall I found the detergent quite pleasant smelling. It seemed to clean the clothes ok and my wife was happy with the wash too so much so we got some more.
As this was a trial offer but they are actually available now for £4 in Asda for 25 capsules although this larger pack was more expensive at the time I purchased mine. Quite good value I thought and I would recommend them!
Compeed medium blister plasters.
Anyone who has bought new shoes knows that for the first few weeks of wearing them and wearing them in can cause rubbing, chaffing resulting in painful blistering of the skin caused by the constant friction between the skin and the shoe surface. Just recently I had bought a new pair of shoes for work and ended up with a blister on the back of my foot where the left shoe had rubbed against the skin. I tend to do a significant amount of walking during my shifts and by the end of the first day it was so painful so I nipped into Sainsbury's on the way home to buy some compeed plasters.
They are not particularly cheap at £3.90 for five dressings but they are worth their weight in gold as the give practically instant relief once they are applied. They are not ordinary plasters which tend to fall off within a blink of an eye but are a special type of dressing known as a hydrocolloid dressing.
Hydrocolloid dressings are often used to cover more serious types of wounds such as leg ulcers and pressure sores. The advantage of these dressing are that they can be left in place for a couple of days and tend to adhere to the skin and can stay in place providing an ideal healing environment. Not only this the dressing absorbs any oozing from the blister soaking up exudate which is sealed away from the skin trapped in the dressing itself. You will notice a discoloration of the dressing but that is fine it is not necessary to change it. Generally it can be left in place for four to five days but may roll and drop off on its own accord.
What do they look like.
Well for a start if you can actually manage to get into the little boxlet and get to them in the first place is quite a feat in itself. The little boxlet is aqua blue in colour and slightly barrel shaped. I found it particularly fiddly to get it open so anyone with arthritic fingers will have a hell of a job. Once open there are five dressings inside. The dressings appear translucent and do not show up very much on the skin so it is particularly good for ladies who wear shoes that show the back of your heels.
How to use.
You should clean the area around the blister and ensure that it is completely dry. Do not rub the skin pat it dry. Peal of the protective dressing cover and apply to the affected part gently ensuring that the whole dressing comes into contact with the skin and the blister. IF the blister has not popped do not pop it. You will feel instant relief of the area and the minimal thickness cushions and provides protection to the area. The dressing should be left in situ for a couple of days without needing to remove it. Do not be tempted to have a look underneath the dressing as by pulling it off it will not reapply and stay on. You will probably see a whitish colour develop over a day or two where the excess fluid from the blister is drawn away from the blister. If the dressing rolls down and exposes the blister then remove it by gently peeling it off. Clean around the wound and reapply a new dressing.
Some people might rarely be allergic to the compounds of the dressing if that is the case do not continue to use it.
I found after my first day of use the dressing had rolled down and was causing a bit of pressure to the area so I removed it and reapplied a new dressing. The blister looked nice and clean and seemed a little sore being exposed to the air. The second dressing rolled slightly but I was able to keep it on for two days before I felt it needed taking off.
My opinion of Compeed.
This is a gem of a dressing and unlike ordinary sticking plasters it actually provided instant relief from pain. Not only that it stayed in place for over one day rather than ordinary plasters which may have had to be replaced several times in a day. I know from my work that these dressings are very good indeed and well worth paying that little bit extra for not only in terms of providing pain relief and comfort but for the help it gives in healing the blister. If you are a walker or have new shoes that are causing you discomfort and you develop blistering these are an ideal dressing to have in your first aid kit.
I absolutely recommend this for treatment of a nasty sore blister and they are easily obtainable from Supermarkets, Boots and other chemist shops.
Brilliant fast relief from discomfort and heals wounds quickly. Well worth the little extra cost.
Philips Aqua touch plus. AT896.
Anyone who shaves will know that razor blades these days cost a packet and can cost anything up to £15 for a packet of razors so much so that they are security protected in most supermarkets these days due to their high value and being easy enough to slip into pockets.
I used an electric razor some years ago and thought blimey this shaving malarkey is getting too expensive these days with the price of razors and looked on the Boots web site to see what electric razors they had for sale. As I was shopping in Bluewater shopping centre I decided that I would nip in and buy a new electric razor. There were several different razors on the shelves and this one was supposedly half price being sold for £49.99 I thought that will do for me so I picked it up and took it to the till.
Whats in the box?
Inside the box was the razor and a charging plug and lead which has a fairly long lead of about a meter which is quite handy as I can stretch the lead to reach awkward sockets. There was also a guarantee card that you can use to register on line your razor.
What is the Aqua touch plus razor like.
The razor looks quite sleek and stylish and the body is a blue and silver colour and a sealed black body which contains the on off switch which is sealed and under the flexible black body. There is a power indicator light on the bottom of the razor which flashes orange when it needs recharging and green when it is on charge. I do like the look of it.
It has been ergonomically designed for ease of handling and fits snuggly in the palm of your hand. It is quite light weight which is another bonus. The razor is a tri rotary circular blade which is flexible and moves to the contours of your face. It is also is a low friction blade giving you a smoother closer shave without irritating the skin. On the back of the razor there is a flip up blade which can be used to trim sideburns or mustache. To be honest I have not seen anyone with sideburns for years but it is there should you need it. The head of the razor lifts up so that you can remove and clean the shaved hairs which are held in the collection chamber.
This razor is quite versatile as it can be used wet or dry so if you wanted to use cream on your face you could do so. The other thing with this razor is that you can rinse it under water as the unit is sealed. You must not use the razor when it is plugged into the mains in fact it won't let you turn it on if you try to do so. I tend to use my razor for dry shaving so have not used it with shaving gel but I imagine it could get pretty horrible in the hair collection chamber but you are able to rinse this out under the tap.
Initially you need to charge the lithium battery for an hour and three quarters after which you can use your razor. The single charge will last at least a week. It takes only a few minutes to shave and the beauty is that you can do other things at the same time whilst shaving. Once shaved I must admit my skin does feel nice and smooth and it does catch all the hairs on my face getting at them in all nooks and crannies.
Do I recommend this razor?
The razor is quite good but I feel it is not up to the standard of my previous razor. One thing I do find with this razor is that I have to shave every day. Although it leaves my face feeling smooth I can definitely feel later in the day I am ready for a shave again which generally I never did having a bladed shave. I am happy with the razor though and I think by now I would have spent about the same price for razor blades as I would have done had I not bought this razor.
I do not think it is the best electric razor on the market and if and when it dies I will not be buying this razor again and I would probably opt for a more expensive razor. It rather amuses me to see that Boots often have their razors on sale for half price which makes me think that they are actually selling the razors at a massive mark up in the first place. I am not entirely happy with the razor but for the price I guess it is just ok but it is definitely not worth £99.99 the supposedly recommended selling price.
Based on my use I would give it five stars for the price but as I feel it is not up to the usual standard of Philips razors I am only giving it a three star rating as there are better razors out there.
Pizza express. Reigate.
I do not usually go to pizza hut or Pizza express as it really is not my idea of a meal but some friends had invited me to go for a meal with them at Pizza express. I panicked because there is usually so many combinations and varieties of pizza I can never make my mind up what to have sitting there like am imbecile whilst everyone seems to know exactly what they want. Fortunately that decision was more or less made for me when I told my daughter where we were going. She had been a couple of days before and raved about the place and the pizza she tried. She told me exactly what to order which was a bit of a relief. We were actually going to the pictures afterwards so went to the pizza express in the high street in Reigate.
Who are Pizza Express?
Pizza express is a chain restaurant which started trading from Wardour street in London in 1965 growing over the years to have 400 branches all over the UK. Its founder was Peter Boizot an entrepreneur and philanthropist who tried to recreate an authentic tasting Italian pizza. He created and launched the Veneziana pizza of which 5p from each sale goes towards a charity that was set up to help conserve the buildings and art in Venice. He was also a fan of jazz and art so there is a strong influence of jazz and art works on the walls of each branch.
You will find Pizza Express in the high street in Reigate along with many other types of restaurants. I must say there is a wide choice of eateries there. We did not book and just turned up. The restaurant has two floors the main floor is at street level and in the basement there is another room where tables were set up. I think the building used to be a bank so the ceilings are really high and the noise level was incredible. There were a couple of groups in there having a pre meal before going on elsewhere, a couple of birthday celebrations going on at different tables and lots of families and couples all sitting and eating.
The waitress told us that it was busy and we might have to wait a little bit before we actually got our meal but we said that it was ok as we had factored that into the time. We were shown downstairs to the basement room and seated at a table for four. The room was quite large but not as large as the floor upstairs apparently it can seat 30 people downstairs. Again it was quite noisy downstairs but not as loud as upstairs with the volume of some peoples voices reaching sonic boom level and literally overrun with children whose parents seemed more intent on knocking back the wine than keeping their brats undercontrol.
The waiter came and we ordered some drinks and some nibbles, olives, roasted almonds and some garlic bread with olive oil with Balsamic vinegar. He left each of us with a menu to peruse so we started to read through the menu so that we could order. Fortunately for me I had already decided what I was going to have before we got there. The drinks came and we were asked if we were ready to order but asked him to give us another 10 minutes or so.
The menu was quite comprehensive and set out in a nice easy to read fashion. It started off with the intros such as olives and nuts at £2.95. Starters ranged from £3,35 for garlic bread up to £9.95 for Antipasti. The salad selection was around the £9.95 mark and then the next section was the pizza section offering thin crust, filled crust and thick crust ranging in price from £7.25 for a Margherita to £12.10 for the IL Padrino. There were five Pasta dishes from £9.15 to £9.95
The next section on the menu was the dessert section ranging from £4.95 upwards. Finally there was the wine and drinks section offering a range of Italian wines plus a couple of New World wines alongside beers, lagers, spirits and juices. Price wise they appeared fairly reasonable.
In the end we all chose the same thing which was the Il Padrino pizza which is a thin based pizza with tomato topping, chicken, sweet peppers, red onions, mozzarella, tomato and Cajun spices with garlic oil drizzled over it. We also ordered some sides including a mixed salad and some coleslaw. We sat back to continue chatting until the meal came. I felt quite uncomfortable in there due to the noise it really was not my cup of tea to be in such a noisy place. The waiter popped by every so often to see if we were ok or needed drinks and to update us on the pizzas. After about 25 minutes the pizzas were sitting steaming on our table right in front of us. We were given a cutting device each for the pizza which was a wheel on the end of a tiny handle which helped cut the pizza into pieces. The side dishes were delivered too. None of us were impressed with the size of the coleslaw. It looked so small. There was no more than about two ounces of coleslaw and when you think they are charging £2.95 for it that is an incredible mark up and the profit margin of this must be rocking through the roof.
The pizza was well cooked nice and crispy on the underside not soggy in the middle and the vegetables and chicken were cooked perfectly. There were some nice browning tinges in places but no burnt pieces. I must admit I was really pleased that my daughter told me what to order as I really enjoyed the pizza it was quite tasty. I was not that impressed with the coleslaw taste wise or portion size. None of us had a dessert but we all chose a coffee, three latte and one double espresso. The bill came to just over £105 for the four of us.
My opinion of Pizza Express.
I thought the Pizza was superb really tasty and well cooked.
The price was fairly reasonable I thought bearing in mind it included drinks.
The staff were brilliant, nice, friendly and cheerful.
The noise levels in the restaurant both upstairs and downstairs was quite awful.
The portion of the coleslaw was dire and quite frankly a disgrace.
Would I go back here?
The answer to that is yes I would because the pizza was actually very enjoyable but I would hope that it was less noisy the next time I went. Overall I am going to give it four out of five losing one star for the noise and the meanness of the portions of coleslaw. I am not that bothered to be honest whether I went back or not but if we were to go out for a pizza I would definitely consider Pizza Express. To be honest pizza does not really do that much for me. I always feel there is something lacking after having a pizza but then I just guess that's me being of a certain age and do not really see it as a treat.
You can order a takeaway from Pizza Express and there are various apps available to book a table or order your pizza directly from your phone. I would have to say that Pizza Express is far better than its rival Pizza restaurant chains. It is an ok place to visit and is very popular especially with younger people.
15, High Street,
Telephone 01737 241969.
The NH Grand place Arenberg is part of the NH chain of hotels that are found throughout Europe, North and South America and South Africa. In total they have 381 hotels which can be booked on line through their web site. The NH Grand Place Arenberg has 155 rooms and is ideally situated in the centre of Brussels about a five minute walk from the Grand Place. At one end of the road is the Cathedral and opposite the hotel is the university campus.
We booked the hotel via telephone and confirmation was promptly made via Email. I travelled with a group of friends and on arrival at the hotel upgraded my room to a suite. The original room was 89 Euros per night but for an extra 50 Euros you could upgrade to a suite which I did. It was well worth having the extra space in the room. In total I paid £240 for two nights including breakfast, early check in and check out wasn't until 5PM which was really quite handy although we did check out of our room during the afternoon so that they could prepare it for the next guests.
We arrived in Brussels quite early in the morning and thought that we would go and drop the luggage off so that we did not waste any of our valuable time we had in Brussels. We did not expect that the rooms would be ready but they certainly were. They asked for a copy of my credit card and photo copied my passport and that was all we needed to do. The check in staff were cheerful and very helpful and told us our rooms were ready so we went to our rooms to drop off our weekend bags before hitting the city.
Coffee is available from 7-11 in the reception area which you just help yourself to. One of the reception staff came and made us all a cup of coffee from the machine despite it being 11:30 which I thought was really kind of him as we were quite thirsty and it was a nice welcome gesture.
My room was on the third floor and was up a slight corridor which made the entrance to the suite very quiet and private. The door was operated by a key card which you just rubbed over the door and the light flashed green allowing you to open the door. Entering the room you are in a small corridor with the bathroom opposite the main door. The door was made of glass. Coming along the corridor there was the toilet and ahead of you another glass door leading into the room.
As you came through the glass door there was a writing desk and chair with telephone and a port for your computer if you wished. There was free Wi-Fi available throughout the hotel and the signal was excellent at all times although you had to enter a code which was valid for 24 hours and allowed you access to the Wi-Fi. To the left of the door was an inbuilt open wardrobe with a spare pillow and a glass door wardrobe which was illuminated when you opened the door. Next to the desk there was a cupboard containing the safe a fridge and mini bar. There was also a kettle and Nespresso maker which came in very handy indeed.
In the main part of the suite there was a sofa coffee table and rug a couple of arm chairs all of which were of a modern contemporary design. The bed was a super King sized bed Which must have been about 7 foot by 7 foot square I have never slept in a bed as comfortable and as large as this before there was ample room. Either side of the bed were cabinet's telephones and modern looking bedside lamps. On the bed was a runner along the bottom of the bed and also a white fluffy dressing gown with disposable slippers!
Despite the room overlooking the main road the double glazing was very effective and we could hear no noise with the windows shut however when they were open slightly you could hear people talking down below as they passed the hotel.
The bathroom and little room facilities.
The bathroom was lovely and spacious containing a bath and a sink. The shower was over the bath although I much prefer a proper built shower as I am as awkward as heck and always worried I am going to slip getting in or out of a bath. There were some toiletries provided although I used my own but they smelt sort of OK and nothing special. There were also ample towels which were soft and fluffy. Once you had got the temperature just right the shower was quite good. There was a hair dryer and telephone in the bathroom as well. It was mostly done out in marble and looked quite nice.
My biggest gripe is to do with the smallest room in the suite. It was that small I have never ever seen such a small toilet. You could not actually close the door and had to squeeze yourself around it to shut it however once it was shut it was extremely claustrophobic. I know you hardly spend any time in there but even so at least you should be able to move about in comfort. The easiest way to get into the loo was to actually back in. I would give the toilet alone a minus four although the rest of the features of the room were a definite plus four.
Breakfast was included in the price and what a breakfast it was. Entering the restaurant the young lady on the check in desk asked for the room number and ticked it off the list. She was not very welcoming at all and never smiled once on either morning despite us trying to be friendly to her. Even when she walked around the restaurant never once did her face crack even a glimmer of a smile would have been nice. Luckily that was made up for by the other staff in the restaurant who were quite friendly and efficient at clearing plates and dishes away.
It was a serve yourself buffet affair you could help yourself to coffee which was freshly brewed each time you pressed the button on the machine. The coffee was very nice indeed especially if you added an espresso to the coffee. There was a selection of teas both breakfast tea and fruit teas.
There was a central island that had hot food at one end including bacon, scrambled eggs, tomatoes and beans. There were crepes and porridge too on the hotplates. The food was quite hot and quite tasty. Along one side of the island there were cold cuts of meats and salami, several varieties of cheeses, different types of breads, rolls, croissants, pain aux chocolate, pain aux raisin and various Danish pastries. There was whole fresh fruit along the top of the island. Along one side of the wall there was a selection of cereals including the usual cornflakes muesli, different types of yoghurt and different types of milk and fruit juices.
The restaurant is only open for breakfast and the choice and variety was really quite good and very satisfying to fill you up before going out for a day of touring.
The hotel was very clean and comfortable with the exception of the toilet. The majority of the staff were lovely with the exception of the Maitre'd whose sour face could have curdled the milk. There was a fantastic selection of food for breakfast which was impressive and I loved the idea of coffee on tap whenever you needed it. I had used it up and asked for some more which was quickly seen too and in fact everything we asked for was seen to promptly and with smile.
I would definitely recommend this hotel and would have no hesitation in recommending it to others if they were visiting Brussels. I doubt very much whether I would ever return to Brussels but if that day ever comes I wouldn't hesitate to stay here again.
NH Grand Place Arenberg
Rue D'Assaut, 15
+32 913 984 661
Recently we had to attend a wedding in Malaysia and after looking at all the options available chose to fly with Air Malaysia. Air Malaysia is the state run airline of Malaysia which has been operating since 1947 when it was initially called Malayan Airlines. It has had several name changes over the years from Malaysian airline system to its current name. It also runs two subsidiary airlines that are mainly internal operators flying throughout Malaysia and short haul routes, they are called Firefly and MASwings plus their cargo wing called MASkargo. In total they operate 100 aircraft including 6 new A380 double decker airbuses and fly to 61 destinations worldwide.
Malaysian airlines have a fairly good website where you can book your flight and make enquiries. It is quite easy to navigate and is simple to use. All you need to do is type in your departure airport and the dates and class in which you want to travel and it will show you the options available for those dates. There are two flights a day to and from London Heathrow airport to Kuala Lumpa one in the morning and one at night operating out of terminal four and a couple of options from Kuala Lumpa to Penang. We chose a morning flight which was the most convenient for us. Both flights from London are on the Airbus A380 which is the double decked airbus. We were also allocated our seats for all legs of the trip which meant that we did not have to worry about checking in until we got to the airport. You can check in on line prior to arrival at the airport and print off your tickets but I did not bother with this. We just turned up and checked in.
Confirmation is sent by email once you have booked your flights and all bookings are by e ticket so no actual ticket is issued. All you need to do is turn up at the airport and show your passport and your boarding cards are issued. For British Passport holders there are no visa requirements for Malaysia as long as you are staying for under 30 days.
At the airport and check in.
Check in opens around 3-4 hours before the flight and it was fairly relaxed and quite straightforward. On presentation of our passports we were booked in and managed to get my sister in law moved to sit with us as I had booked her ticket about three weeks after I had booked ours. They were quite accommodating at check in. You are asked to bring the bank card with you to the airport which we did but was not asked for it but it is worth bearing in mind that you should have the card with you in case they ask for it.
The check in lady booked our suitcases all the way through to Penang so once they flew off on the conveyer belt that was the last we saw of them thankfully. There is always a niggling worry that they may not arrive at your destination. We always pack half and half of our stuff in each others cases just in case one of the cases goes walkabout. However all cases turned up in Penang as have most of our cases.
So in summary check in was a breeze. We were also issued with our boarding cards for the internal flight between Kuala Lumpa and Penang. We then proceeded through security and immigration to airside.
From a coffee lounge at terminal four we could see our plane being prepared across the airfield at a separate hanger. We watched as food and other supplies were being loaded . You would think that being a double decker the plane would look absolutely massive but actually it does not look that much different to a 747 albeit without the dome shape at the front. It looks quite neat. Once loaded and serviced the plane made its way across from the hanger to the departure lounge at Terminal four and shortly after we started to board.
You would think that boarding would take quite some time bearing in mind there are 492 passengers to board but it was well organised and seemed to take little time to get on the plane. There were two queues one for passengers sitting on the lower deck and one for the upper deck. Before we long we were sitting in our seats after being welcomed on board by smiling sarong clad cabin crew. There was plenty of space to store luggage in the overhead lockers and there was enough room to put smaller bags underneath the seat in front.
After a pre-flight safety announcement which was shown on the screen in the seat in front while we taxied to the runway we were on the runway and ready for take-off. The tv screen then changed to the view of the plane from the cameras on the tail which gave us a view of the whole of the plane and the runway ahead so we could actually watch the take-off which I thought was brilliant. The take off was very smooth and once airborne and at cruising speed the noise of the engines were barely noticeable. It really is a quiet and comfortable aircraft and there were no noticeable droning sounds from the engines for the whole flight.
I actually found the seating quite comfortable and had been dreading the 12 and a half hour flight but to be honest I found the seats quite comfortable although I must admit I was ready to get off the plane once we landed just to stretch our legs and give some relief to our rears. I thought the seat was much more comfortable than the seats on Singapore airlines which were terribly hard. I still had bad memories of that 14 hour flight and had taken air cushions with me which actually never came out of my carryon bag. On the seats there was a blanket and a set of ear phones for the entertainment system.
The seats also contained plugs for the ear phones which were in the arms rests. The arm rests could be raised to give you a bit more space to move. The seats were also able to be eased back at an angle and thankfully for me I had a child sitting in front of me and one behind so I did not have any problem putting my seat back without worrying if it was encroaching on the passenger behind personal space. The head rest could also be moved higher and the cushion could be folded out to make it even more comfortable.
Right in front of you there is a touch screen television which also had a usb socket on it so you could charge or watch anything on the screen you had on your own devices.
Sitting up is not the most comfortable way to catch some sleep ( not including my wife who could sleep sitting on a washing line) however we managed to get a couple of hours. Ahead of us over the top of the screen you could see the mood lighting in business class which looked really nice. It slowly changed from purple to orange and the lights gradually came on and bright. Not for us lucky souls sitting in economy. All of a sudden they whacked the bright lights on which made you squint your eyes and was blooming uncomfortable. I can see no reason why this could not have been introduced throughout the whole cabin. Of course in first and business class the seats turn into fully flat beds unlike in economy but I must say that they seat was fairly comfortable as far as an economy seat goes.
There is a wide selection of new films and favourite films available to view. The new films are changed every month and what was typical I had seen a film that was on the system for August which I would have found interesting but as we travelled in September the film choices changed and there were no films that took my fancy. I thought I might have liked Philieas Fogg around the world in 80 days but it was a daft comedy type film and after about 10 minutes of really trying to get into it I lost the will to live and turned it off. There were television programmes available but were American shows which I cannot stand and some documentaries. There was a wide selection of films in Chinese with English subtitles and plenty of Indian films in different Indian languages as well as Japanese and Arabic films too. There was a selection of childrens programmes and films and a good selection of games too.
There was also a great music selection ranging from rock to pop country to classical and easy listening music. I spent most of the flight listening to music while watching the progress of the flight on the screen. I also had my ipad with me which I used for part of the trip to listen to music which I usually use anyway so with the great selection there is something to please everyone.
We were served a snack of peanuts and drinks which was repeated twice and then dinner. The food service was very nice indeed even in economy I actually enjoyed the meal. The food was Malaysian style food and consisted of noodles or rice based and of course the inevitable chicken or beef. We were served two meals. The second meal threw me into a bit of confusion as I was not quite sure what meal we were eating. Bearing in mind it was nearly midnight UK time the meal consisted of a prawn curry type dish with rice (Sambal Udang) there was also fruit and yoghurt and fruit juice and a muffin. Yes you guessed it was breakfast however saying that the Sambal udang was actually very tasty if somewhat hot.
We arrived and disembarked quite quickly and had to go to another terminal to take our onward flight. After the very long flight and feeling very tired we found the airport confusing and found the signage poor and some of the staff quite unhelpful even at the information desk the staff didn't smile and one of the girls was actually quite rude. Thankfully one of the airport police women who happened to be passing us helped us find the lift and showed us where to take the transfer train.
Our arrival in Penang was good after the hour long flight we were absolutely jaded. Thankfully I had arranged for us to be met and picked up and a lady was there to guide us to our waiting car.
I thought Malaysian airlines were really good. The service was good the flight comfortable and the cabin crew excellent. However the ground crew in KL were rude and not very helpful but overall we had a brilliant flight and I would definitely fly with Malaysia airlines again and I am already planning my next trip using Malaysian airlines. It certainly deserves its five star rating. I would advise trying to get a seat on the upper deck as it is generally quieter and less hectic.
Russell Hobbs Microwave oven.
Our all bells and whistles Panasonic microwave died after having had it for quite a few years. It is not a microwave that I particularly liked as it was so complicated to work out how to use it. Food cooked by weight, grilled, microwaved, mixed grill and microwave and so many buttons to push it was a pain to use. Neither was it used to its full potential but merely as a means to heat food through. I don't think we actually ever cooked anything in it. It was not cheap I think we paid around £400 for it and I was determined not to pay that much for something that you needed a science degree to get it to work. Being a simple minded soul I was dispatched or rather ordered to go off to buy a new one.
I did not fancy traipsing all the way to John Lewis so instead not wanting to pay too much and find the most basic model going. I went to Asda and found them selling this Morphy Richards Microwave oven for £69.95. They did have some very basic models with even more basic prices some of which were cheaper than the kettles on the shelves but I thought the build and quality left a lot to be desired plus the actual cooking chambers seemed a tad on the small size. The Russell hobbs microwave oven appeared to be of such basic design with only two controls which would suit our needs perfectly. One knob that controlled the power level and the other one the timer. There are no other displays on the machine apart from the two knobs.
It is so simple to use even I have no difficulty operating it. I used to think I was technically minded especially when I was younger but to be honest these days I just want something that you can plug in without having to think about what you are doing by selecting the heat level and how long you want it to cook.
The microwave came with its own fused fitted plug as do most electrical appliances, a registration card for guarantee purposes and an instruction book. After discarding the box and foam packaging and plastic bag to the recycling bag I gave the insides a wipe down. The microwave is quite small and its capacity is 20L. its power level is 800W which is quite high in comparison with other models. It fits nicely on the side of the work top. The previous one took up so much room it practically touched the back of the tiled work top and reached the front of the work surface. This little baby only takes up about three quarters of the room.
The metal casing is coloured black and although that is not the colour scheme of our kitchen it looks quite classy with smoked shiny glass to which a handle is attached for the door. The top protruding dial controls the heat settings which are for low heat, defrosting medium and high settings keeping it nice and simple. The second dial controls the timing and is graduated into 1 minute settings up to ten minutes thereafter in 5 minute intervals with spaces in between up to 35 minutes. Inside the microwave it is white in colour there is a 25.5 cm glass round plate which rests on a round wheeled ring which rotates whatever is inside to ensure the food is evenly heated or cooked.
Once the food has been heated at the required temperature for the required time a tiny ping sound comes from it to indicate the end of the cooking cycle. It is a single ping sound unlike the other one that continued pinging several times.
We have had this microwave now for about 6 months and to be honest we are pleased with this purchase. It is easy to use, easy to clean you hardly need to use your brain at all to select what you want it to do and it seems to heat the food much better than our previous microwave.
I remember when microwave ovens first came on the market here. They were incredibly expensive and I saved up hard to buy my mother one. It took me an age and for the price of that one I could have bought six of the Russell Hobbs ones today. They are very useful for heating up things although I dare say I am not an expert when it comes to actually cooking in one. I did experiment with the first one we owned cooking shortbread. The first batch was delicious the second and subsequent ones were burnt to cinders!!!!! Beginners luck eh!
For the price I think it is quite good value from an aesthetically pleasing shiny black look to the practicality of heating up food when needed. An excellent buy!
Caramel with a touch of sea Salt.
I bought this 100 gram bar of chocolate a couple of weeks ago and after putting away the shopping completely forgot about it so I was really pleased when looking for something else I found it.
Who are Lindt?
Lindt are a renowned Swiss company that has been making high quality Chocolate since 1845. The company was started by father and son David Sprungli- Schwarz and his son Rudolf Sprungli- Ammann. In those days chocolate was usually taken as a drink and these two started a new fad of making it into bars of high quality chocolate. What a fad they started we are so lucky today that they did experiment with chocolate. Eventually they opened another shop then when demand increased they opened another factory. Eventually the company opened factories in France and Italy and today there are factories all over Europe and Canada. They distribute their fine quality chocolate all over the world.
OK so now for the chocolate.
When passing down the confectionary aisle I noticed that the Lindt Chocolate was on special offer at £1 a bar of 100g. There were several varieties that were on offer and the one that I chose was the Lindt Excellence Caramel with a touch of sea salt. The chocolate comes in a cardboard type covering and inside the box there is a bar of chocolate enveloped in a sealed gold foil wrapper.
Breaking into the gold foil you are hit by the delicious smell of chocolate. The chocolate is dark and contains only 47% cocoa solids. So although it is a dark chocolate it is not super strong or bitter. The rest is made up of milk powder cocoa butter rapeseed and flavourings of vanilla and caramel. It contains 5% of caramel pieces and 3% of sea salt.
The bar of chocolate is sectioned into two lines of fairly 10decent sized portions in total. The chocolate actually snaps when you try to break a piece off. The sign of a good quality chocolate is that it actually shines. As it is fairly rich you may only limit yourself to one or two portions especially when some of their chocolate contains up to 99% cocoa. It is far too strong to have any more. But this one at 47% is rather moreish and really quite tasty.
Placing a portion on your tongue and letting it melt you can get taste of the small pieces of Caramel then a slight tingle of sea salt which makes it quite pleasant. The chocolate actually tastes really nice and creamy. Not sickly so like galaxy chocolate but a smooth creamy warming taste that is discerningly of good quality. I cannot stand galaxy chocolate but this one is a real winner for me. It does not cloy in your mouth but rather melts on the tongue giving you a nice sensual feeling and being fully able to appreciate all the different tastes of the bar.
Boy oh boy, yes do I recommend it. It is a really nice good quality product which for those who are chocolate lovers will absolutely adore this bar of chocolate. It really is smooth creamy and tastes delicious. I absolutely recommend it and for a £1 a bar I think it is a bargain. It is difficult not to be gutsy and eat more after all its only a small bar but the recommended serving is 25g which may seem a bit miserly but in reality this is not your run of the mill bar of chocolate but one of superior quality and taste and who knows it may just give you the chocolate taste you crave.
Blavod vodka has been described as the only premium black vodka. Whilst I agree that it is the only black vodka I would not go as far as describing it as a premium vodka in fact although it is described as being smooth I did not actually find it smooth as much as other brands of vodka.
BLavod vodka is sold in a black bottle with the words Blavod written vertically down the front of the bottle either in red lettering or white depending on where you buy the bottle. The bottle looks quite neat and looks good in the drinks cabinet however as far as that is concerned it is probably better forgotten at the back of the cabinet.
The vodka gets its colour from the catechu herb which can be found in Asia and parts of Africa. It is supposed not to change the taste of the vodka but only changes the colour of the normally clear liquid to that of being a black colour.
Taste wise there is no discernible taste to the vodka it just tastes of vodka but not particularly good vodka in my opinion. This vodka is the only vodka I have tried that left me with a humdinger of a hangover. It looks better than it tastes and can be used either neat over ice, in a long drink or as part of a cocktail.
Personally I think this is more a novelty vodka rather than a serious contender for a decent tasting vodka. Although I have only ever had one bottle I personally would never buy it again due to it not being particularly tasty or enjoyable. It is widely available in supermarkets and sells for around £16 for 70cl.
To be honest I felt quite disappointed with this vodka and do not feel that it is a contender over any other brands especially when you consider there are much nicer vodkas on the market. I leave it to your discretion as to whether to buy this. If you only want to try this vodka I would say go for it but if you are considering it as a decent drink then forget it. Overall I found this to be very disappointing.
I think the black colouring of the vodka is a marketing ploy rather than enhancing the taste of the vodka and in my opinion it won't be a vodka I would buy in a hurry. Save your money and buy something decent there are much better vodkas out there on the market.