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gpollock
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Member since: 07.02.2009

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      24.01.2010 18:39
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      Good funny series

      I'm a bit of a latecomer to entourage, only really giving it a go within the last few months after having watched the occasional episode on ITV 2. A friend of mine bought the box sets of seasons 1-5 so I have begun working my way through them and i've found that I love it!

      Entourage is another of the American HBO channel's successful exports following the likes of other successful shows such as the Sopranos and Sex and the City. In a way it is kind of the Sex and the City for guys! There's lots of money spending, flash cars and hot girls and plenty f lads talk and more or less has a special guest star in each episode!

      The show follows the actor Vincent Chase and his career which has its high points and low points but the main focus is not so much on his career however, but his three friends, Eric, Johnny (Drama - his older brother) and Turtle. Eric 'E' Murphy is his manager and probably the more level headed of the group, Johnny Drama is a failed actor who is constantly trying to get a job but never has much success and is one of the funnier characters in my opinion and then there is Turtle who is always trying to pull the girls but usually with less success that the rest of the group.

      The best character probably in the show is Vince's agent, Ari Gold played by Jeremy Piven. He is the funniest in the show - a bit of a workaholic and the way he talks to his wife and family is hilarious - as is the way he treats his staff!

      I found that it took me to watch about 3 or 4 episodes in a row to be able to get into the series properly and to be able to relate to the characters. The best two are definitely Ari and Drama but they are all good in their own way. Season 1 probably isnt one of the better ones - it definitely improves as each season goes on. Im currently half way through season 4, have season 5 waiting and looking forward to getting season 6 soon!

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      21.08.2009 21:30
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      Convenient clean hotel in the centre of Marbella

      It's been a good few weeks since I wrote my last reviews so i'm hoping to get back on track by reviewing Hotel El Rodeo in Marbella where I stayed at the end of June this year. After much deliberation I decided on Hotel El Rodeo as it seemed to keep coming up on the search engine results as one of the more reasonably priced hotels in Marbella in a central location near to plenty of restauarants, bars and the beach. The best deals for this hotel seemed to be via travelrepublic.co.uk. Before I went I read plenty of reviews on tripadvisor which were very mixed - some very bad and some very good reviews! I decided to think positively and risk it! On the whole it turned out good enough but I'll try to structure this review as best I can and give my overall balanced opinion!

      LOCATION:
      As described on the various websites the hotel is in a great location which is one of its best points. It is located in the centre of Marbella (which is about a 40 minute taxi journey away from Malaga airport) right on the edge of the old town. It is just off one of the busier main roads in an area of tiny, narrow one way streets. The side of the hotel that we stayed in was quiet enough as it faced on to the narrow street side but the other side of the hotel faces on to the main road which is a lot busier and probably noisier.
      From the front door of the hotel if you take a left and walk to the end of the road you will find the taxi rank which is very handy for going to Puerto Banus or getting a taxi to the airport etc. (Taxi to Puerto Banus is about Euro15 and a taxi to the airport is about Euro50). There are also horses and carts that you can go on from this road as well - (I used to always wonder why I was awoken to the sound of horses and what sounded like sleigh bells each morning!) The beach is a 5 minute walk downhill from the hotel and there is a mssive promenade that you can walk along the beach front which stretched for miles. You can also walk the whole way to Puerto Banus which we did one day along the coastal path which is about 7km away - and tough enough going in the heat! There are also plenty of shops, restaurants and bars not too far away from the hotel. The old town is just up behind the hotel which has a good selection of bars and restaurants.

      COST
      As I mentioned above - the best deal that I found was on travel republic which worked out about £260 per person for the week full board. This was expensive enough for what it is but it was one of the best offers we could find as the hotels in Marbella generally tend to be expenisve.

      THE HOTEL ITSELF
      The hotel has 100 rooms and is 3 star. It is fairly basic and a bit dated but the main thing is it is very clean. There is a small reception area and only two lifts which are very small and hold a maximum of 3 adults. I wouldnt risk trying to squeeze any more in! The decor is all very 1970s and the rooms could do with being freshened up a bit but they were surprisingly spacious with large bathrooms - the shower was surprisingly good too. The was maid service every day with fresh sheets and towels. The rooms are described has containing a fridge in them but to be honest they are just small mini bars which dont have anything in them. We did our best to squeeze our bag of ice, beers and mixers in though! Just remember to take the ice out before you go out for the night otherwise there'll be a pool of water waiting for you on return! Each room has a TV and air conditioning. We never actually tried the TV but the air conditioning came in handy.
      One negative aspect of the rooms is that the walls are quite thin. Luckily enough we didnt hear too much as there didnt seem to be many people about but I did hear someone being sick one morning!
      The views from the hotel aren't great either as it's in quite a built up area so you are basically looking out at other buildings which tend to be private residences or office buildings. The balconys though are quite spacious.

      FOOD/RESTAURANT
      Ok, this is the worst thing about this hotel!! Before booking I read mixed reviews about the food in the hotel and to be honest they were mostly bad but because the deal I was getting worked out better with full board I thought I would risk it as I thought even if the food isn't great, surely there would be something decent enough which would do and therefore save a bit of money rather than eating out every night as generally Marbella is quite expensive. I was wrong. Take my advice....NEVER EVER waste your money on full board with this hotel. The bad reviews I read about the hotel are true! When we first arrived it was lunchtime so we decided to give it a go before we went out to find our bearings. We were the only people there and it was a buffet of supposedly hot food....but it was freezing. I chose a selection of things which were not good at all - all the meat was just pure fat and the galmon was like rubber! So I thought the chips might be ok - but no they were freezing too. So we all settled for melon and ice cream...which was great! That evening we thought we'd risk dinner to see if that was any better....but no! Dinner was a mixture of the same things still sitting out since lunchtime plus a new batch of unidentifiable cold things! We perservered again the next two days but after three days of living on ice cream for dinner and waiting until our end of night pizzas we decided to cut our losses and spend the money eating out the rest of the holiday! The full board option didnt even include any drinks either which had to be paid for separately and the restaurant staff wouldnt allow you to bring in your own water....though pleading ignorance to what they were trying to say always helped so they usually gave up! Just dont eat the food here at all! Maybe bed and breakfast would be ok but certainly nothing else.
      There is a bar in the hotel but it's dead and no-one seems to use it so dont be coming to this hotel if you are expecting any kind of entertainment or bar atmosphere. Again, the website describes having a pool side bar but this doesnt seem to open any more....what they now have is a coke machine!

      THE POOL
      The swimming pool is on the roof top and I have to say is pretty disappointing! It is a very small pool which is more or less covered by a glass roof so it's a bit like having a swimming pool in a conservatory or a greenhouse!! There are a few sunloungers at the pool as well. It's alright if you want a bit of peace and quiet as there never seems to be that many people at the pool. The beach is so good and handy that most people tend to just go to it.

      SUMMARY
      On the whole the hotel is alright if you aren't expecting too much and just want somewhere clean to rest your head which is in a convenient location. It's definitely not the type of place you would go to stay in if you are expecting the kind of 'holiday resort' type atmosphere that you might find in other spanish resorts/tenerife etc. It is very much more like a city break type hotel. If I was going back to Marbella I wouldn't rule out going back to the hotel but i'd probably go for a villa next time which can be better value for money. If you do decide to stay here take my advice on the hotel food!! Normally I can eat anything, even if it is rubbish but this was the worst i've ever had and after a few days it does start to get you down!

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        11.07.2009 22:05
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        Enjoyable, Easy Read

        "Bringing Down the House" by Ben Mezrich tells the real life story of how six students were able to develop a card counting system to take most of Vegas's and Atlantic City's casinos for millions of dollars. The story focuses on the main character, Kevin who notices that his two flatmates seem to be making loads of money some how even though they are basically college dropouts and not working. He discovers that they are part of a secret card counting team and he eventually gets persuaded to join the group. At first Kevin is a bit dubious about getting involved but once he experiences the thrills and high life of Vegas as well has the partying and the money it isn't long before he is hooked!

        The book describes how they went about counting the cards and all the various codes they had. It's a very exciting read as there are many occasions where things get very risky with many close calls and ups and downs. I didn't know a lot about Blackjack before reading this book but it explains it very well - almost to the point where I had convinced myself that maybe I should give it a go and try and make a few pounds!!

        This is the second book of Ben Mezrich's that I have read and it's very similar in style to his other book 'Rigged' that I read not so long ago. It's very easy to read and once you get started it's hard to put down. The book is split up into 32 chapters and is 293 pages long. As each chapter is fairly short it also makes it a nice quick read.

        My only negative point with regard to this book is that it seems to just end with no real conclusion. I felt that the ending could have been developed slighltly better as it seemed to just end all of a sudden. I also felt this about his other book 'Rigged' as well. It's a bit like when I had to write essays in school - after a while I would get tired of writing and decide to end it quickly with no proper ending! On the whole though this is a good book to read and wont take you too long to get through. It has also been turned into the movie '21' which I haven't seen yet but I think the book would probably explain things better than a movie would.

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          22.05.2009 22:34
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          A great aftershave which can be worn for all occasions

          I had been bought ordinary Armani a few years ago and didn't like it that much so I kind of stayed away from Armani for a good while until I bought Armani Code which I liked and then after that I decided to give Armani Attitude a go......now I am on my second bottle of it and have another one waiting unopened for when this one runs out!

          There's nothing really spectacular about the style of the bottle that it comes in but it is good enough. It's a rectangular shaped black/ blue coloured bottle about 15cm high. (This is the 75ml bottle) about 5cm wide and about 1.5cm thick and there are ridges on the front and back of it. The lid is made of a shiny silver metal which flips up for you to be able to spray.
          As another reviewer has mentioned it is a bit difficult to see how much of the liquid is remaining because of the dark glass. I thought I had a lot more left than I actually did until it was nearly too late!!

          The average price for 75ml is about £50 which is dear enough. Thankfully I haven't had to pay for any myself yet!

          Attitude is a fresh, modern fragrance with quite a 'woody' smell but not too overpowering. It seems quite strong when you first spray it on but it does fade in quite quickly after a few minutes. However, it is still fairly longlasting and can make do for most of the day.

          In my opinion it's something that can be worn either day or night. I personally prefer wearing it going out for the night as it is one of my favourite aftershaves and I would rather associate the smell with a good night out rather than a terrible day at work! I have many other more average aftershaves which a more work suitable!

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        • Australia (DVD) / DVD / 55 Readings / 55 Ratings
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          05.05.2009 22:12
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          An Ab-original story!

          Australia stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman and is set in the 1930's...and is set funnily enough in Australia - in the vast outback in the Northern territory. I didn't know what to expect from the film before watching it at all as i'd not heard or really read any reviews about it. I had just heard that it was a pretty long film.

          The film opens with the words: 'A life lived in fear is a life half lived' and is told through the eyes of a half-white-half-Aborigine-boy, Nullah (Brandon Walters) who descibes Lady Sarah Ashley's (Nicole Kidman) arrival from England at her estranged husband's cattle ranch, Faraway Downs.

          When she arrives she is met by Drover (Hugh Jackman), a cattle drover who knows her husband and he takes her to the Faraway Downs ranch. By the time they arrive she discovers that her husband has been murdered and the young boy Nullah's Aborigine grandfather, King George (David Gulpilil) is suspected of killing him. There is also the additional problem that the ranch is in trouble and Lady Ashley is under pressure to sell to the neighbouring landowner, Carney (Bryan Brown). The only way for the ranch to be saved is to drive 1500 cattle across the Northern Territory to sell to the Americans, but Lady Sarah mistrusts her husband's manager Fletcher who very clearly from the start is up to no good and cannot be trusted at all. Drover is the best person to do this but he is unable to do so so they all have to pull their resources together and do what they can to drive the cattle across the vast, barren outback in the sweltering heat.

          Without giving too much more of the story away the rest of the film goes on to describe the struggle to drive the cattle, the relationship between Lady Ashley and Driver as well as their relationship with the aboriginal boy Nullah and the impact of World War 2. The story brings out lots of issues about the treatment of aboriginals and 'The Stolen Generation' where thousands of aboriginal children were taken from their families by the authorities and put into white society. The film also has a lot of links and references to The Wizard of Oz throughout which was pretty interesting.

          At first I didn't really think I was going to 'get' this film as I couldn't work out whether or not it was meant to be comical/black comedy or not. I found Nicole Kidman's character to be quite strange at first and I felt it was as if she was trying to be like Mary Poppins! Maybe she had watched that as her inspiration for playing the part of someone from that era! As the film went on though and I settled into it a bit more I felt she was pretty good and played the part well. Hugh Jackman played the part of Drover well and at least it was a proper Australian playing the part which helped rather than someone trying badly to put on an accent!

          There is a lot of great scenery in the film and probably very impressive to watch in the cinema (I only managed to see it on DVD which is never quite the same.) The camera shots are pretty impressive. The only negative thing I would comment on a bit is the impression I got quite a lot of some of the backgrounds looking very fake - particulary those of the ships etc. It kind of takes me back to my Mary Poppins point with the same sort of backgrounds in some cases!

          Overall I enjoyed this film once I got into it. There is a good storyline and some underlying stories and metaphors which continue throughout. It is quite long - nearly 3 hours but you don't really notice it compared to some films of similar length. The main storyline kind of gets tied up about half way through and then the second part of the story develops with the start of the war and the difficulties that brings. I don't think I would rush out and buy the film on dvd to watch again soon as it's the type of thing i'd only watch once and because of its length but I would definitely recommend renting it out for an evening.



          Runtime: 165 minutes
          Certificate: 12A
          Director: Baz Luhrmann

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          • More +
            01.05.2009 23:42
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            Great busy venue with no entrance fee

            Café Vaudeville is a bar/restaurant - or as it describes itself a "Luxebar & Dining establishment!" based on Arthur Street in Belfast City Centre. It doesn't seem that long ago since it first opened but thinking back it must be open now since at least the end of 2005 or early 2006. Before it opened I hadn't even been aware that there were plans to refurbish the building in which it is located but then all of a sudden it was open and ready for business.

            HISTORY:
            Prior to the building being a bank headquarters it was back as far as 1825 the headquarters of Dunville & Co. which became Northern Ireland's premier whiskey distillery exporting throughout the world. It then became a bank headquarters for a number of years before becoming the pretty exclusive bar/restaurant that it it today. The building is ideal for such a venue and the decor and amount of detail inside is fantastic.

            LAYOUT:
            Entrance to Cafe Vaudeville is off Arthur Street which is a pedestrianised street in the centre of Belfast not too far away from Belfast City Hall and right in the vicinity of all the main shops making it a great place to call into during the day for lunch if you are out shopping on early in the evening after all your shopping has been done. To enter Cafe Vaudeville (of Vaud or Cafe V as many people tend to call it for short) you have to go up about 4 or 5 steps. When you walk in through the front door for the first time it is very impressive. The whole place is very spacious and stretches quite far back and there is a lot to take in. To the very left as you walk in there is a seated area which is used for dining during the day and early evening. There is also a small cocktail bar in this area too. Over to the right of the entrance is another seated area which is also used for dining during the day and evening. Straight ahead and down a few steps is the main bar area which has about 5 or 6 circular bar tables with bar stools around them in the centre of the area and the long bar to the right of this area. The bar is quite an elongated oval shape which serves to the main bar area and the narrower, quieter seated area on the other side of it! (It would be so much easier if I could draw a diagram!!) Anyway, at the very back is a raised seated area which food is served at and also a bit of space which tends to become the dancefloor area on a busy Friday and Saturday night!

            There is also an upstairs VIP area which is meant to be a champagne bar - or that's at least how it was originally marketed. The upstairs bit has a normal type bar which serves all the same drinks that you can get downstairs but at a slightly more expensive price! There aren't many seats at this part but it's more of the kind of place where people are happy enough to stand about looking around them anyway! It's also good for looking down at everyone below to see what's going on....or in the case of some people...'spotting their prey!!' The upstairs VIP section extends around the full length of the venue with more seated areas but this upstairs side bit is normally cordoned off for private parties, so even if you are able to get upstairs its not very often that you will get into this bit. The rules for private parties in this area consist of having to buy at least one bottle of champagne for every 5 people in your party.

            TOILETS:
            The toilets are quite often a topic of conversation for those who visit the place for the first time! I have since got used to the 'trek' up three flights of stairs away at the back of the venue to get to the toilets but a lot of newcomers are often unaware of this! I have now become accustomed to setting off on my trip to the toilets a few minutes before i need to - especially on a busy Saturday night as there are a lot of factors to be taken into account such as having to push yourself through the crowds and bumping into someone you haven't seen in a while who keeps you back another few minutes! Once you get there though the toilets are always in good condition and there are plenty of them. The downside is by the time you get back to where your friends were standing they have wandered off to another part of the bar which then involves doing a couple of circuits of the place on your own until you find them again!

            For those who smoke there isn't much of a smoking area really - just a small area outside the front of the building which isn't covered over so if it's wet the smokers will just have to get wet. There is also the same problem with going to the smoking area as it is with the toilets - by the time the people you are with go off for a cigarrette and come back again you end up hanging around for what seems like ages unless you go with them!

            That was probably quite a lot of detail on the layout of the place which wont mean a lot unless you go there!

            FOOD:
            Vaudeville is quite nice for lunches and dinner. It has a very relaxed atmosphere and the spacious surroundings mean that you are squeezed in on top of other customers. The food is fairly much what you would get in most places - burgers, salads, pasta dishes, fish dishes etc. A lot of the courses have the option of a smaller portion for about £6 or £7 and a large portion for around about £12. The grilled sirloin is £18 and all side portions are additional. The desserts are all over £5 which is dear enough for a dessert! The food is not particularly over priced but it is an expensive enough place in general and the drinks tend to be about 10-20p more expensive than a lot of other bars - for beer anyway!

            WEEKENDS:
            Friday and Saturday nights are probably the best two nights to go to Cafe Vaud and they are the busiest. All of the dining areas become used for the main bar and you oftern get a lot of people who book a table for dinner so that they can keep the table for the rest of the night for drinking at. It attracts an age group of about late 20s upwards and the crowd is decent. I don't think i've ever seen any trouble in it at all. Early evening there is a live Jazz group playing in the background but that finishes up around 7-8pm and from about 9.30pm onwards the place gets busy. From about 10pm there are queues to get in which can take quite a while to move sometimes. The good thing is though there is no entrance fee at all but there is quite a strict door policy. After about 10.30pm the whole place fills up and there is a DJ playing all the latest kinds of pop music. The bar can get annoyingly busy and it can take a while sometimes to get served which im not too fond of.

            Luckily, from going there regularly and a lot of good relationship building between us and the doormen over the months (basically one of my mates being a good bull**** talker!) we no longer have to queue to get in and we get straight up to the VIP area upstairs which is much easier to get served at, plus we are one floor closer to the toilets which makes such a difference! The VIP area is much better too for getting chatting to people. It's also great because once you have been stamped to get up there you can come and go up and down as you please throughout the night as it's often good to go up there to get your drinks then go for a wander downstairs and see who is about! The downside about the VIP area is that it's pretty much the same faces that you see there most weeks! It is good to give it a break for a week or two before it gets too boring.

            OVERALL:
            Overall, I like this place and would recommend going to it. At first I wasn't too fussed on it because of how busy it can get and because it took ages getting served but after a while I began to like it. I think if you get there early enough you dont notice it filling up and getting served at the bar doesn't seem as much as a hassle. It's mainly when you walk in fairly sober and it's already busy that it can be annoying. It has the tendancy to be slightly pretentious in many ways but apart from that it is good for a fun night out. It closes at 1am though so if you are in the mood for staying out later you would really need to start moving on elsewhere before that!

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            • Changeling (DVD) / DVD / 43 Readings / 42 Ratings
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              30.04.2009 22:15
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              Great film - definitely worth watching

              Changeling is directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Angelina Jolie as the main character, Christine Collins. I decided to get it out on DVD the other night based on several recommendations from various people. I had a vague idea of what it was about beforehand but I didn't want to know too much in advance in case it spoiled it for me which can often happen when people rave on about a film so much!

              The film is set in Los Angeles in the late 1920s and early 1930s and is based on a true story which makes it all the more gripping and interesting. Without giving away too much of the story it focuses on the disappearance of Walter Collins and his mother Christine's (Angelina Jolie) struggle to find him. There is much more to it though than a typical real life story about a mother's search for a missing child. The film concentrates on corruption within the LA Police Department and how this impacts on Walter Collins' disappearance. Not only does Christine Collins face the horror of her child disappearing she also has a fight on her hands against the very corrupt police force and all the troubles that this brings her. There is also the element of a serial killer storyline within the story and the film gets you thinking about all sorts of issues including justice and corruption.

              The cast consists of:

              Angelina Jolie - Christine Collins
              John Malkovich - Reverend Gustav Briegleb
              Gattlin Griffith - Walter Collins
              Michael Kelly - Detective Lester Ybarra
              Colm Feore - Chief James E Davis
              Jeffrey Donovan - Capt J J Jones
              Devon Conti - Athur Hutchins
              Jason Butler Harner - Gordon Stewart Northcott

              I thought that the acting in the film was really good. Angelina Jolie has had some bad roles in my opinion but I thought she was suited to and played this part very well indeed. John Malkovich was also very good as the Reverand Gustav Briegleb and the actors who played the LA Police were great as they were extremely unlikable right from the very start!

              The film portrayed the 1920s and 30s very well I thought with all of the styles, cars etc and the way people generally behaved. There was something about the filming of it and the scenes that kind of gave out a feeling of darkness and isolation I thought. A lot of scenes seemed quite dark with constant rain in the backgound and that sort of style but I think that made to the storyline as it was quite a depressing and sad story in many ways.

              I thought this was a great film and would recommend it. At nearly 2 hours long I didn't notice the time pass by at all and didn't get bored at all throughout it. I kept thinking as I was watching it 'how on earth can this be true?' as some of the things that happened just seemed totally crazy and it's hard to imagine people were able to get away with it!

              Definitely one to rent out!

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                23.04.2009 21:52
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                Interesting book discussion the power of intuitive snap decision making

                Blink, written by Malcolm Gladwell is a book about using your intuition and making snap judgements. Sometimes these intuitive snap judgements can pay off with positive results but on other occasions it shows how you do need to be careful when making these snap decisions as sometimes the wrong conclusions can be reached with devastating consequences.

                In the book, Malcolm Gladwell gives plenty of examples, backed up by scientific research and experiments to describe these moments when a person 'knows' something without knowing why. For example, he goes into detail on how an art expert can look at a supposedly multi-million dollar sculpture and immediately spot that it's a fake when others would be fooled or when a marriage analyst knows within minutes whether or not a couple will stay together.

                The book raises issues around subconscious prejudices and how split second decisions, mixed with a variety of factors and influences can result in disasterous consequences, for example the police officers on patrol in a notoriously dodgy part of Brooklyn in New York made the wrong snap decision based on their summing up of the victim, the circumstances and their already in built beliefs.

                I found the book pretty interesting. There were a few occasions that I found some of the explanations tended to become slightly long winded and a little complex, whereas other explanations I found really interesting and has certainly made me think slightly differently about certain situations. The examples I have mentioned above such as the art expert recognising fakes or the police officers making the wrong decision are I suppose not typical examples that the majority of people can relate personally to but there are plenty of other examples provided throughout the book which most people can relate to in their every day lives and it certainly gets you thinking about how you could possibly put some of these ideas into practice a bit yourself or how already on occasions in the past you may have intuitively had that 'knowing' feeling.

                Blink is an easy enough book to read. There is a lot of detail but not so much that you get bogged down or lost in. The book is split into seven fairly even chapters, many of which split into sub-sections which helps keep the momentum going and at 254 pages in total it doesn't take too long to get through.

                Overall, I think it's a good book and certainly worth reading - i probably haven't done it enough justice in this review as it is slightly hard to get all the ideas across without basically giving away all the theories and explanations in the book!

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                  17.04.2009 22:40
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                  Luxurious 5 star city centre hotel

                  The Merchant Hotel Belfast is a luxurious 5 star hotel, situated on Waring Street in the historical and now very much up and coming, rejuvenated Cathedral Quarter of Belfast's city centre. The Hotel opened for business if I remember correctly towards the end of 2005. I actually worked in the building next to it for a few years with the window of my office facing into it so I was able to watch it transform bit by bit from being the derelict, former Ulster Bank building into the exclusive and popular hotel it is today.

                  HISTORY:
                  As I said above the hotel was purpose built as the Headquarters of the Ulster Bank building and was built about 150 years ago making it a listed property. When the Ulster Bank moved out of it it lay empty for several years but has since been sensitively restored to its original splendour and is now regarded as one of the top hotels in Northern Ireland.

                  The building is a kind of Italian style. Its stunning, classically styled interiors reflect the remarkable heritage of the building. Sculptures around the huge dome inside symbolise Science, Poetry, Sculpture and Music. It is below this dome that diners enjoy the exceptional Great Room Restaurant for daytime and evening à la carte dining, and traditional afternoon teas.

                  Waring Street in which it is located derives its name from a successful local merchant William Waring. Apparently the area is where a lot of Merchants lived and the building next to the hotel in which I worked is also a listed building which was once the house of a Merchant - rumour has it his daughter killed herself in her bedroom which was my office but there was no sign of any ghosts!

                  Anyway, back to the hotel! The exterior of the building is also Italian in style, and has sculptures along the top of it which depict Commerce, Justice and Britannia. There are also four Corinthian columns which feature plump cherubs depicting science, painting, scripture and music.

                  LOCATION:
                  The Merchant Hotel is conveniently located in the city centre just 4.5 miles from Belfast City Airport. VIP transfers can be pre-arranged using The Merchant Chauffeur Services, while valet parking is available for residents. It is extremely handy to all of Belfast City Centre's shops, bars and restaurants and tourist activities making it suitable for tourists and those on business.

                  The Cathedral Quarter in which the hotel is located is an area which was historically very vibrant and cultural but then during the past several decaded - probably throughout all of the troubles and even before then it became a very run down and delapidated area with derelict buildings, no offices, hotels, bars, restaurants or anyone really living in the area. It is only over the past 5 or 6 years that the area is beginning to rapidly transform and is now becoming one of the trendiest parts of Belfast with the aim of becoming a bit like Dublin's Temple Bar area. Opposite the Merchant Hotel is a tapas restaurant called Taps 2 which has a great atmosphere in the summer with seats out on the main square. Beside this is the Pothouse grill bar & nightclub which is a 3 story building with glass dancefloors so you can see everyone on the dance floor above/below. It gets it's name the Pothouse as when it was being built it was discovered that it was on the site of an ancient pottery factory. Further still, on the corner of Waring Street and Donegall Street you will find another historically significant site - The four corners, this being the point that all milestones out of Belfast were originally measured. Another new hotel has recently opened in this area two and there are also some other great bars and restaurants near by such as the Spaniard, Nick's Warehouse and The Duke of York bar.


                  ACCOMMODATION:
                  There are 26 rooms in total including 5 suites. It is an expensive hotel but it is 5 Star and has the best of everything in it. All the guest rooms are have air conditioning, black out curtains, high speed wireless internet access, flat screen televisions and spacious en-suites. Typical cost is arounf £220 for a Deluxe Room or a Suite from £450 - all rates are per room. It may be best checking though to see when you are booking if there are any special rates or offers on and there does tend to be from time to time. I've also heard that the hotel as plans to expand with extra accommodation as the building behind it has recently been demolished and I believe the Merchant Hotel has bought it over to extend.

                  The hotel also has private meeting and dining rooms which can cater for up to 40 guests and can be customised as required. I used the meeting room once in a work capacity and it was very spacious and had all the necessary equipment etc.

                  CHAUFFEUR SERVICES
                  The hotel provides a chauffeur service which isn't too common an offering in Belfast hotels! At a cost you can be chauffeur driven luxury in the Merchant Hotel's Bentley Arnage which is available for all types of occasions - VIP transfers, a days touring with a picnic - where you can actually choose your picnic through the hotel or it can be used as transport to a wedding or simply to come and pick you up and take you to The Merchant for a meal/drinks!

                  The prices for airport transfers with the service are £80 to Belfast International Airport or £45 to Belfast City airport. Personally i'd just take a taxi but maybe with a few more dooyoo reviews under my belt i'll be able to afford it one day!!

                  RESTAURANT/BARS
                  The Merchant Hotel restaurant is called The Great Room and is very exclusive and worth a visit for the decor and surroundings alone. The food is meant to be first class (and expensive) but unfortunately I haven't yet eaten in it myself but the reports I have heard to date have all been very good.

                  Within the main Merchant Hotel there are two bars - one is a cocktail bar which if off to the right hand side as you walk in through the entrance to the hotel. At night time the concierge on the front door will escort you to a seat in the cocktail bar but it is very much a seated bar so if it is busy, with no seats left you wont be permitted. The cocktails are excellent and cost on average about £8 each. The bar is also in the Guinness Book of records for having the most expensive cocktail. I can't remember off the top of my head how much it actually is but it's around about £500 and is that price because of the type of rum in it. Needless to say I don't think i'll ever be buying any but I think they have sold a few!

                  The second bar is off to the left hand side as you enter the hotel and is the private members/celebs/residents bar which is quieter than the cocktail bar, comfortable and also serves great cocktails. This is where a lot of celebs would do press conferences if they are staying in the hotel. My office looked into this bar so the girls in the office were loving it when it first opened and Fat Boy Slim was giving a press conference in the room to promote his concert and he made some reference to them waving out to him in his news conference. I've managed to wangle my way in to this bar a couple of times at night time. Sometimes if the main cocktail bar is full and you're a couple or in a small, mixed group then rather than turn you away they will let you into the private bar for drinks as long as it's only the Z List celebs about! Last time I was in it they offered to phone us a taxi at the end of the night and as there were none available they asked the barman to give us a lift home, which was quite random but handy!

                  The Hotel also has another bar/restaurant attached to it which is part of the hotel but the more relaxed, informal area called the Cloth Ear. This is quite a spacious bar though it can fill up surprisingly quickly at night time. I've eaten in here a couple of times and the food is general bar type food of burgers, chicken, pasta dishes etc and is kind of standard price for Belfast. This is quite a good bar to go to on a Friday/Saturday night with an average age group of about 25 onwards. It is very mixed with older and younger people. You would need to get there before about 10pm though if you don't want to queue to get in. Dress code can be strict enough too! They play some background music at night time but it's not too loud at all because the guest rooms are up above so they can't have much noise.

                  The Hotel also has a night club called Ollies which is based in what was once the Ulster Bank's vault. This is what's supposed to be one of Belfast's most exclusive night clubs. On a Saturday night it costs £10 to get in (which doesn't seem to be putting off the crowds in these credit crunch times) and you would probably need to get there before about 10.30am if you don't want to queue for too long. Sometimes I think they make a queue form for the hell of it - though it does tend to get packed! Friday night can get busy too and the entrance fee is about £7 though there is less of a queue to get in on a Friday night as it tends to fill up a bit later on. Ollies is pretty dark inside and quite easy to lose people in as it has many alcoves and different seating areas and corridors which can be disorientating the first couple of times that you go there...especially with a few drinks in you! The music is mainly all current chart type/dancey type so the dancefloor gets pretty packed. It can sometimes take a while getting served at the main bar but what many non regulars often don't realise is that there's a smaller bar hidden off to the left as you head towards the back of the night club near the toilets which is also busy but sometimes quicker for getting served at!

                  OVERALL:
                  This hotel is definitely worth it's five star status. The service is good, the decor and surroundings very nice and the location is excellent. I would certainly recommend this hotel to someone wanting to stay somewhere for a special occasion or someone coming to visit Belfast for a weekend who has enough money to enjoy it and make the most of it! Even if you don't stay in the hotel it would be worthwhile checking out the bars/nightclub or restaurant in it.

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                    14.04.2009 20:56
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                    Great hotel ideal for tourists

                    The Jolly St Ermin's Hotel is located on Caxton Street in the Westmintser area of London right beside New Scotland Yard and St James's Park Underground Station making it very convenient to many of London's tourist spots.

                    The Hotel is over 100 years old and is a listed building. The architecture is pretty interesting and due to its close proximity with the Houses of Parliament it used to be very popular with MPs and apparently used to have a secret tunnel connecting the Hotel to the Houses of Parliament. Nowadays I doubt any MPs would use the hotel at all as it is pretty dated but it is a handy and reasonable enough place for tourists wishing to visit London.

                    There are 285 rooms in total which are pretty spacious and have all the standard equipment such as TV, hairdryer, Tea & Coffee making facilities etc but the decor I have to say is very dated and could definitely do with freshening up a bit! -If you spill a drink on the floor I wouldn't worry too much as it'll probably blend in well with some of the other stains!

                    I stayed at the Jolly St Ermin's at the start of March this year when a mate and I went over to meet up with friends in London for a weekend. I had booked the hotel online and was really only looking for somewhere cheap and in a good location to everything so I wasn't really too fussed on what the quality would be like as I knew I would only be needing somewhere to get a drunken sleep before heading out for the day again! I managed to find a good deal for the Jolly which was £75 per twin room per night, bed and breakfast which seemed to be about one of the best deals in that area and it was advertised as a four star hotel so I thought it cant be that bad! I went ahead and booked and then decided to check out other people's views on Tripadvisor and discovered that the majority of which were not good! One person even described it as "Jolly St VERMIN's" Needless to say I ended up going there with low expectations of it!

                    We got to the hotel after arriving in on the Greenline bus from Luton Airport to Victoria Station. The hotel is literally a 10 minute walk away from Victoria and pretty easy to find. When we got there I remembered that previous reviews on tripadvisor had warned of the slowness of the reception staff and swarms of tourists waiting to check in/out but thankfully there weren't too many people about when we arrived. The woman at the reception desk was friendly and helpful enough but she explained that out room wouldn't be ready for another few hours so we could either leave our bags with the concierge and come back later on or else we could take one of the smoking rooms instead. She gave us the opportunity to go up and take a look at the smoking room first of all to help us decide whether or not we wanted to take it. We got in the lift to go up and have a look (the lift is literally ancient, narrow, has a capacity of about two people at a time.) As we entered the room the smell of stale smoke was overpowering! It was also as if the window hadn't been opened for a long time! Apart from that the room was fine. We decided that to save any hassle having to wait around for another room that we would put up with the staleness and take the room as we wouldn't really be spending a lot of time there and we left the window wide open before going out for the day!

                    The dining room where breakfast is served is one of the nicer parts of the hotel. It is quite ornate and has a balcony area up above overlooking the main dining area. Breakfast is buffet style with a wide selection of food on offer from full english breakfasts to croissants and pain au chocolat, fruit and cereals. Breakfast is also served until 11.00 from what I can remember which is handy if you've had quite a late night the night before!!

                    The hotel bar is very relaxing. Again, it is pretty old fashioned but it is comfortable and quite nice to have a few drinks in or a coffee beside the fire. It is very quiet though and mainly only used by the hotel guests. From what I remember it was reasonably enough priced for drinks. Pints of lager were definitely cheaper than the majority of other bars I went to that weekend!

                    On the whole I was very impressed with the hotel and was surprised by all the negative comments I had read on Tripadvisor. I do wonder slightly about it's four star status and it certainly wouldn't be the first choice of somewhere i'd bring someone I was trying to impress but it was ideal for the sightseeing/partying weekend that I was on! I can also understand that some people might not be that impressed by the decor of the rooms but generally the room I stayed in was very clean and there was maid service every day with fresh towels. All of the staff seemed pretty helpful and friendly too. Maybe the other reviewers on Tripadvisor just had an unlucky experience. I've certainly stayed in a lot worse than this!

                    For anyone wanting a convenient hotel in a nice part of London I would definitely recommend this hotel. It is so handy to the likes of Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, The London Eye and there are numerous bars, restaurants, theatres and shops in the area. The fact that Scotland Yard is right nextdoor with heavily armed guards on duty day and night also makes the area seem reassuringly safe, particularly at night! I just had to be careful that I wasn't going to be the one being lifted for staggering back drunken and disorderly to the hotel past them at 3am!

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                      10.04.2009 22:15
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                      Shocking true story of life inside a Bangkok prison

                      The Damage Done is the real life story of a young Australian guy called Warren Fellows who gets convicted of heroin trafficking between Thailand and Australia in 1978 at the age of 25 and goes on to spend the next 12 years of his life in the most horrendous of Bangkok prisons.

                      The story is written and told by Warren Fellows himself who from the very beginning makes no excuses for his actions which led him to his conviction and makes very clear from the start that he is not writing the book out of self-pity and seeking sympathy. He knew that what he had done was wrong and regretted it but he just wanted to tell his story, explaining in full details the horrifying ordeal of life in a Thai prison with the hope that anyone even considering doing what he did will think twice before doing it!

                      I was recommended the book at was told it was about some guy who gets arrested with drugs on him going back to Thailand from Australia so before reading the book I assumed it was about an innocent guy who ended up in prison after having drugs planted on him. I didn't properly read the description on the back of the book either before starting it so I was slightly surprised when I started it to learn that Warren Fellows had fallen into this life of drug trafficking and kind of thought at the start that if that's what he got himself into then it serves him right! It also made me question why am I bothering to read this? Why should I really care what happened to some drug trafficker who was lured into it for the money and was unlucky enough to get caught and why am I through buying this book also now helping this one time drug trafficker become wealthy again?! (even though it wasn't actually me who bought the book!)

                      I read on anyway as I was interested to find out what happened and to see if my original opinion was justified or to see if it would be changed by the end. Once I started reading I could hardly put it down and finished the book within two days. It is only 210 pages long and broken into 14 chapters all of which are broken into short segments which make it very quick to read. There is a prologue which sets out a pretty disturbing scene from when he is in prison later on in the story which gives an idea of just how graphically descriptive, shocking and disturbing the rest of the book is going to be.

                      The story is pretty much self explanatory but I don't want to give too many details away. It starts with an explanation of how Warren fell into the lifestyle that he ended up in by the age of 25 and the people he met which led him down that road. Some of these people he can hardly bring himself to talk about anymore. The bulk of the book describes in harrowing detail his twelve years in several Bangkok prisons. It was once the book reached the prison stage that I began to have a bit more compassion for Warren Fellows. Some of the scenes he describes are horrendous and unimaginable. He does a very good job of describing these events and experiences on paper - the physcial and mental torture, the cramped, filthy conditions, the cockroaches, rats etc and the slow passing of time. No matter how he describes all of this though he says himself that it is hard for anyone else to imagine. Even trying to get across the passage of time to the reader he says is difficult. He refers in the book to one incident in particular and says to the reader that the only way they would be able to identify with the amount of time he had to endure a certain situation would be to go back and read the previous paragraph which had only taken about a minute to read over an over again for every minute of every day for a whole month without going mad.

                      I think this book is good as it is definitely a real eye opener and actually shocked me a lot more than I thought it would. I don't have sympathy for drug traffickers/dealers but I do believe that he certainly paid for what he did and he ruined his life for ever. It's quite a sad book in a way as he really did ruin his whole life over being stupidly lured by the money drug trafficking brought him. He spent the best part of his life in one of the most horrendous prisons and the conditions and things he experienced are things that he is likely to never be able to get over or forget as long as he lives and his life will never be the same again. If anything good came out of it at least I suppose by writing his book he has the chance to put other naive young people off making similar mistakes!

                      Definitely worth reading - though maybe not on holiday in Thailand!!

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                      • Park Inn (Belfast) / Hotel National / 30 Readings / 30 Ratings
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                        09.04.2009 22:38
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                        Great city centre hotel for tourists and business people

                        The Park Inn Hotel is one of Belfast's newest additions which opened officially in January 2009 though the bar and restaurant opened in December 2008. The hotel is located right in the centre of Belfast on Clarence Street West which is just off Bedford Street next to the Deloitte building, opposite the Invest NI building and across from the Ulster Hall.
                        Its location is extremely convenient as it is close to all sorts of cafes, restaurants, bars and nightlife are within walking distance making it a perfect spot for tourists or on business.

                        It is also very easy to get to with Belfast International Airport being only a 20 minute drive away and the bus from the airport stops at Great Victoria Street Bus Station which is a five minute walk away from the hotel. Belfast City Airport is even closer - a couple of miles outside the city centre to the east along the Sydenham Bypass which is only a short taxi journey away and shouldn't cost too much to get to/from - roughly £5-£6. (Allow for slightly longer journey times out of the city centre between 4.00pm and 6.00pm or into the city centre between 8.00-9.00am.

                        The hotel has 145 rooms in total which are of a good size and all very bright, clean and fresh which you would expect from a brand new hotel! Prices are reasonable enough and because the hotel is still new and only beginning to get the word out that it has arrived there tends to be some good offers on. These range from two nights bed and breakfast in a standard room with dinner in the RBG restaurant one night and use of the gym from £95 per person. It's probably best to check before you book to see if there are any particular offers on at other times.

                        Many of Belfast's main tourist attractions are within walking distance.
                        Attractions include Belfast City Hall and Big Wheel (which is located in the grounds of the City Hall), The Grand Opera House on Great Victoria Street and The Crown Bar which is a must for all tourists to call in to for a pint of Guinness and to check out the traditional decor which has been recently restored. All of the City Centre shops are within five minutes walking distance and the Victoria Square Shopping centre which opened in March 2008 which houses lots of designer and high street shops and lots of restaurants including TGI Fridays, Frankie & Bennies, Nandos etc is also only a short distance walk away - about 10 minutes. The Waterfront concert hall is again only about 10 minutes away. It's also very close walking in the opposite direction from the city centre, up the Dublin Road to the Queen's University area where you will find the Ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens for nice walks and of course plenty of student bars and restaurants.

                        The Hotel also has its own bar and restaurant (RBG) which is very nice! The bar is very spacious and stretches quite far back. There is a mixture of seating available with red leather semi circular booths located half the length of the right hand side each of which have their own TV screens on the wall above them. Further back there is a mixture of comfortable armchair type seats and stools along with some higher round bar tables with high bar stools at them. There's also plenty of space to sit at the bar. The bar has a wide selection of drinks and cockatils and the prices are standard for Belfast - £3.00 for a pint or bottle of beer. On my first visit to the bar I thought it would be more expensive being a hotel bar but discovered the prices are much the same as the other bars in Belfast. It is possible to order food all day. The bar has a limited selection of snacks on the menu but the main restaurant has a better selection. The restaurant is located at the back of the room and is split over a couple of levels and a mezzanine. The food is good and the service is beginning to get a lot better. When it first opened there seemed to be a few teething problems with some of the staff forgetting to take an order or clear tables but they seem to have sorted things out a lot better now.

                        The bar can sometimes look a bit empty - probably because of its size as it takes quite a few people to fill it. As someone who works nearby I was in it quite a lot over the Christmas period trying it out when it first opened. I liked it because there was plenty of room and you could get served quickly which is oftern very difficult in a lot of places in the run up to Christmas. There are toilets located in the centre and also up at the back in the restaurant area which are all very clean, spacious and checked on regularly. There is also a good outside area which is handy for the smokers as they don't have too far to go and the beer garden should be nice in the summer if the weather is good. There isn't any loud music played in the bar at night which does tend to put some people I know off because they think it starts to lack atmosphere. I think this was true at the beginning when not many people were aware of the bar's existence but now that it is starting to become more popular I think the atmosphere is much better and there is music played in the background which helps but isn't too overbearing. It's also a good crowd that go to the bar - there are always doormen at the front door to ensure that no trouble makers will try and get in.

                        I would definitely recommend the Park Inn hotel for anyone coming to visit Belfast. With its great location you wont be stuck for things to do. Even if you don't end up staying at the hotel I would certainly recommend going for a few drinks or something to eat in its RBG bar.

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                        04.04.2009 12:10
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                        A great book setting out the money making, partying, womanising lifestyle of a Cityboy

                        Cityboy is the 'fictional' story of a young Steve Jones who by chance gets a job as an analyst for one of the City's banks in London and explains how this one time long haired, peace loving hippy gets caught up in the 'Cityboy way of life' of making huges amounts of money, the whole partying lifestyle - including taking copious amounts of Class A drugs and lots of drinking! Not to forget the fast cars and gold diggers!

                        Cityboy is written by Geraint Anderson who says at the very start that the book has purely been fictionalised but it's pretty clear that he is referring throughout to his own experiences although names of the various banks and people he mentions have obviously been changed.

                        The book gives a very good insight into the author's experiences of working in the City in a very humourous and descrptive way. He is very fond of using a lot of similies to describe things some of which are very clichéd and some of which I have never heard before!

                        Without giving too much away the book begins with a prologue and is then split into eight chapters, each one setting out a different stage of the character's career or introducing a new character. The main character Steve meets various people throughout his career - some he really looks up to and has respect for and others epitomise the type of cityboy personalities! The main theme throughout the story is the character's ultimate aim to beat his nemesis - the vile and smug Hugo!

                        Within the book Geraint Anderson also explains a lot of the investment/trading technical terms and processes which I found really useful. I know other reviewers have felt that he sometimes goes off in a tangent explaining these and he should really just stick to the story but I felt that this really helped set the context and give me a greater understanding of how it all works, which to be honest I only had a vague idead of beforehand. It's done in such a simple and clearly set out way that, it's not too dry, you don't lose interest and you feel as if you have learnt a bit a the same time.

                        I have read mixed reviews about this book on Amazon and it seems to be a bit of a love it or hate it book! I have a feeling that the people who didn't like it so much tended to pick holes in its accuracy as they probably work in similar type situations themselves and feel that some of what he descibes doesn't reflect them fairly. If you take it for what it is and maybe don't question it too much it is a very entertaining and enjoyable read which is hard to put down. There were certainly many aspects of this book that I felt I could relate too and found myself nearly laughing out loud at them. The vivid description of the main character's hangovers is great and the way he portrays going into work the next morning after a heavy drinking session was something I have related to once or twice in the past! Needless to say I don't do it now!

                        With the risk of sounding a bit sexist - I think this book probably appeals slighly more to men rather than woman as some of the phrases and words used tend to me more 'laddish' type humour but that's just my general opinion! On the whole I would recommend this book. I thought this was a great book to read and hard to put down once I had started!

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                          30.03.2009 23:13
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                          Busy student/young professional bar in Belfast

                          The Botanic Inn, affectionately known by locals as 'the Bot' is one of Belfast's busiest and most popular bars and has been for generations. Located on the Malone Road near to Queen's University this bar has been the place to go for students and young professionals for many years and its popularity has never dwindled whilst other bars in Belfast have come and gone.

                          The main bar is quite large with an upper area which has some seats and a bit of a space which sometimes turns into a dancefloor by the end of the night. There is also a smaller bar area off to the left of the main bar known by those who go there often as 'the old men's bar' as this is where the older non-student types tend to prop up the bar during the day/early evening until the students take over! This side bar is often used as a meeting point on a busy night as it's easier to find someone in here and it's sometimes easier to get served at this bar when it's busy. This bar is also quite handy for smokers as sometimes you can smoke outside if the fire escape door is open. There is also the upstairs nightclub called the Record Club which is open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and plays great cheesey 80s music - however it has been the same music played in the same order for goodness knows how many years - possibly since the 80s! There is a large dance floor and large bar but it can also get very packed and sometimes take a long time to get served. Upstairs was great in its day but unfortunately I am much too old for it now! The average age upstairs is about 19-22 and anything older is pushing it a bit unless you are in a very large crowd of people the same age and just there for a laugh!

                          Most students tend to 'graduate' to the downstairs bar after the first couple of years of frequenting the Bot 4 or 5 times a week! They soon realise that downstairs is actually much better and you soon start to recognise the familiar faces you once saw up in the disco now drinking in the downstairs bar aswell! Downstairs can be just as busy, if not busier than upstairs! Wednesday night is a very busy student night with a live band playing downstairs. The place starts to fill up about 10pm onwards and all of a sudden it becomes packed. Wednesdays are particularly busy around the start of every new term when all the students are back in Belfast. Thursday night is also much of the same with students and Friday tends to get a slightly older crowd - normally those who used to frequent the bar as students and are now working but still want to hang on a bit longer to the good old days of university! Saturday night is more of a local Belfast crowd with much fewer students around and the atmosphere can be a bit different. Sundays can sometimes be quite busy with the hardcore students who have called in for a hangover cure and ended up staying on for the day! Sundays will also be very busy if the next day is a public/bank holiday.

                          The bot is probably one of the best bars in Belfast for watching sport - though get there early to ensure you can catch a glimpse of a corner of a TV screen!! There are plenty of large screens and other TVs up when big matches are on so even if you don't manage to get a seat you will usually be able to see a TV screen from some angle. It does get very crowded and hot though! It will be busiest for any Ireland rugby matches, Champions League, Euro/World Cup or Gaelic Football. The atmosphere though is great and there is very rarely any trouble but on days like that anything goes and be prepared for drunken people falling into you or spilling drinks over you etc. St Patrick's day is also traditionally one of the Bot's busiest days where the queue to get in is usually already down the road by 11.30am!

                          The Bot serves food but it's nothing special! It's fine to get a buger and chips or something like that if you are out for an all day drinking session and need to line your stomach a bit but it's not really the kind of place you would purposely go out for a meal to. The service is generally good considering how busy the place can get and the bar staff, some of which have been there a long time always seem to be able to keep their cool and it normally doesn't take too long getting served.

                          Many people thought that the introduction of the smoking ban would result in the demise of the bot as there didn't seem to be anywhere that an outdoor smoking area could be accommodated and they didn't seem to be making any changes right up until the last minute but more or less overnight a wall or two was knocked out and restructed and before we knew it there was an outdoor smoking area constructed which now has an outdoor TV screen as well and is usually just as packed as indoors! The downside of the smoking ban however is that on a busy night the place can really stink!!

                          Foreign students and tourists also love the Bot due to it's traditional Irish feel and the live music playing a lot of well known irish type songs! It's also a good bar for Guinness. It's a good place for foreigners to go to as everyone is very friendly and there's never any hassle.

                          The Bot was probably one of my favourite haunts as a student. I spent many an afternoon - probably when I should have been doing something else as well as Wednesdays Thursday's and Friday nights there and probably spent enough money over the years to buy the place! Nowadays, I end up there on work nights out maybe every few months or so but it's not like the good old days! It used to be that you would know everyone or at least recognise the majority of people no matter when you go now if I go there I usually don't recognise anyone apart from occasionally I bump into someone else from my student days generation hanging on to their last piece of nostalgia also!

                          On the whole this is a great place to go and I would definitely recommend it if you are on a visit to Belfast for the first time. If you are in your 20s you could still manage a wednesday or thursday night just about but if you are late 20s and older i'd leave it for a Friday or Saturday night but if you are heading there to watch sport in the afternoon or early evening it doesn't really matter what age you are.

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                            29.03.2009 03:06
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                            Great book, hard to put down!

                            Rigged is a great book written by Ben Mezrich which tells the story of a newcomer to Wall Street who ends up changing the world of oil through his dealings with the Sheiks of the United Arab Emirates. The story is meant to be based on a true story but it is fairly loosely based on a true story and all names and time periods have been changed greatly.

                            The story focuses on the main character, David Russo, a young Italian-American guy from Brooklyn New York who ends up working for the Mercantile Exhange on lower Manhattan where billions of dollars of oil are traded each week. The story follows the experiences of Russo, starting his job and the many barriers he has to overcome along the way - one of which is the general despise from the traders towards an educated guy from Harvard Business School!

                            I really enjoyed this book as I felt I could really relate to the main character and there are many situations described in the book which many people would be abe to identify with. I enjoyed the stories of the partying, the money and extravagence that goes along with the job as well as the darker side to working in that kind of environment. It's also quite an inspiring book in many ways, making you think that with a lot of hard work and determination anything is achievable!

                            The story unfolds at a quick pace which keeps the reader's interest and the author really gets across how you would imagine the lifestyle of a New York trader to be like and the adventures that the main character goes through and the dilemmas he is faced with.

                            The book is also divided up into fairly short chapters also which makes it very easy to keep reading and not want to put down. On the whole, this is a good book. If anything I was slightly disappointed with the ending as I felt that everything was tied up a bit too quickly as if the author got fed up writing and wanted to get it finished - or maybe I just didn't really want the book to end so soon!

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