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I'm sure there are many technical explanations of what a Cenote (pronounced "say-no-tay") is, but the one that made sense to me is that they're like underground rivers where the cave ceiling has partly or completely collapsed, leaving the water open to the sky. This means that the water itself is crystal clear and rather on the cool side, and when you dive or snorkel there are often amazing underwater cave features (stalagmites and so on) in the limestone floor under the water. I believe they're only found much in Mexico and small areas of the Caribbean - i can only vouch for Mexico as that's where i was!
I thought the Cenotes sounded like a wonderful idea in theory, but I don't dive and am quite nervous of deep water so wasn't sure if i'd like it in practise. Before we left for Mexico I found it impossible to find any clear information about what to expect, so here's the poor swimmer's guide to the Grand Cenote.
The Grand Cenote is about 10 minutes' drive from Tulum, and very easy to find - basically the whole area has one major road running north/south along the coast, with the occasional turnoff to go inland. We had a very rudimentary map in our Rough Guide and were easily able to spot the one we needed. The Cenote is on your right as you head away from Tulum, with just a couple of largish hand painted signs stuck at the end of a dirt car park to mark the entrance. There are various Cenotes all over the area, but from what i understand some of them are pretty much vertical wells more suited to divers than swimmers / snorkellers, and based on local recommendations i got the feeling that this one was prettiest as well as one of the larger ones.
Arrival and costs
We parked up and headed for the entrance, where we paid about £5 per adult to get in. You can also rent snorkels etc but i'm not sure of the costs as we had our own. The Cenote is essentially surrounded by sparse jungle, so there's a walk of maybe 100 yards to the steps which descend to the waterhole itself. The water level is about 15 feet below ground level, and at the bottom of the stone steps is a series of wooden decking platforms, some benches and a small hut where the snorkel gear guys hang out.
I was under the impression (from vague comments in guidebooks etc!) that there would be some kind of locker / changing room / bathroom arrangement available. Definitely not - the whole thing is a way from being that formal, it really is essentially a swimming hole which has been made accessible, but isn't any more developed than that. So you need to leave all your valuables in the car and bring just the minimum down with you. There were a few nooks and crannies around the platforms where you could stash a bag, so we just left our towels and stuff there.
If you head leftwards on the platform walkways, at the end of the platform are a couple of ladders into the water, which is quite deep at this point - i could just about get a toe onto the larger rocks at the bottom, but it drops off quite sharply towards the entrance to a large (and rather dark and scary if you ask me!) cave. You can swim right into the cave, and there are bats flying around above you...i didn't spend too much time here because the water was dark and i have a monster phobia - for anyone who remembers the cave scene and the lake that Harry and Dumbledore crossed to get the horcrux in the latest Harry Potter, those creepy goblin things that appeared from underwater are pretty much what i always expected of dark lakes!
Towards the right hand side though there are more ladders and the water is shallower - leading to a beautiful "underground" section where you can swim from one pool to another through what is essentially a low roofed cave with waist-deep water throughout. Shafts of sunlight come in through gaps in the ceiling too, illuminating the blue water and sometimes reflecting off of the pale floor to light up the underwater features - it really is gorgeous here.
Beyond this section, there is a small sandy "island" surrounded by more water which is again open to the sky. At the edges of this area, the "floor" drops away very steeply as it approaches the side walls of the sinkhole, looking as though it leads into the centre of the earth - really amazing.
The whole complex is quite spacious and with the sunlight filtering down into it through the trees above, it doesn't feel claustraphobic at all. The water itself is definitely cool but not unpleasantly so, and it's crystal clear - basically fresh mineral water - so nicer for your skin than drying saltwater.
I would recommend having at least a snorkel and mask to be able to see what's going on under the water - the depth can change hugely just within a few feet, and because of the stalagmites and uneven floor, it would be easy to get a nasty scrape to your foot or leg if you were swimming blind. And because the underwater views are so stunning it'd be a shame to miss out on those, too!
Dive shoes are also really useful for keeping your feet safe on the rocky areas. Bearing all of this in mind, although there were children in the cenote, i'd certainly want to supervise them pretty closely if i was taking kids there.
If you have a cheap disposable waterproof camera, take that along too - i left my expensive dSLR in the car because i was worried about it getting damaged or stolen, but really wish now that i had some photos of the place.
Grand Cenote is also a great visit to combine with Tulum, because the ruins there are particularly baking hot and it's a nice way to stay out of the sun for the afternoon - in our case, despite using high factor sun cream, we both got burned at Tulum but didn't realise it until later in the day - heaven knows what we'd have looked like if we'd not spent the afternoon out of the sun and in cool water!
Overall, this was one of the many memorable experiences we had in Mexico, and i'd definitely recommend it to anyone who's going to be in the area. Floating in cool, fresh water looking up at the sky through a tunnel of jungle foliage isn't something you get to do every day.
I spent ten days at the EDR last January, and it ranks right up there with the best holidays i've ever had. I've been to a number of similarly or higher-priced All Inclusives in the Caribbean (Grenada, St Lucia, Barbados) and for me, this place blew them all out of the water. Here's a summary of the bits which make it brilliant!
EDR is about a 30 minute drive south of Cancun and its international airport. It's well located for visiting the main attractions in the area - i won't go into a lot of detail on these as they're reviews in themselves, but Tulum is the most southerly at about 90 minutes away, with the other tourist hotspots (Xel-Ha, Xcaret etc) in between. Unlike some of the Caribbean islands, there are a hundred fabulous things to do in this part of Mexico - from amazing Maya ruins to swimming in crystal clear Cenotes (underground rivers where the top has fallen in so parts are open to the sky).
A multi-lane highway runs north-south along the coast, and the turning in to EDR takes you through what is basically quite thick jungle for a few minutes - we even had to stop to let a couple of spider monkeys get out of the road. A promising start!
We arrived just as the sun was going down, and were greeted with the usual chilled towel and miscellaneous champagne / cocktail business - personally all i ever want when i get off of a long flight is three pints of water and *then* a cold beer, but i seem to be alone in this! Anyway, checkin was reasonably swift, and my request for a room well away from the evening entertainment venue was granted, although that for an upper floor room wasn't. I believe that is something to do with First Choice though, i heard on the grapevine that they have some stupid 'elf and safety restriction against their customers falling off of balconies and suing them. We were parted from our luggage (another one of those mildly annoying "luxury service" foibles - i'd rather drag mine down a few steps than then have to go through the waiting and tipping routine, but it comes with the territory) and directed to our room.
~ The rooms ~
As with most of these places, there are about six categories of room, although i suspect that the difference between the basic room cost and the higher ones was bigger than average - personally i never upgrade, after all 99% of your holiday happens outside your room and you're getting all the same facilities as the upgraders. However there is a major divide here between "normal" rooms and what they call "casitas". The latter are all together on one side of the resort, are larger and slightly more luxurious, but do also come with privileges - only casita guests can pre-book dinner reservations, they get dedicated palapas / loungers on one part of the beach, and dedicated loungers around some smaller pool areas - clever ruse here by the EDR, the brochure say "X pools" available to all guests because technically you may *use* any pool, you just can't use the loungers around the Casita ones so in practise you just won't bother! However, you pays your money and you takes your choice; Casita rates were almost double what we paid for our standard Garden View room, and i didn't feel hard done by in the least!
Our room was smartly, neutrally decorated with marble flooring and dark wood furniture, and featured two double beds with canopies over, and a massive jacuzzi tub under the window. I thought this was a gimmick we wouldn't use, but actually we did end up using it most nights, it was a fun way to relax and cool down before bed. Plus, a bathroom larger than most people's bedrooms with two sinks and a huge walk in shower. Usual mod cons in terms of satellite TV, tea & coffee making stuff, minibar - kept stocked with water, soft drinks and beer. Outside, we had a small private terrace with hammocks (mmm!) and chairs. Most importantly to me, the beds were really comfortable ( i slept like a baby every single night), the hot water was plentiful, and it was quiet - no maids shouting in the outside corridor at midnight, or gardeners mowing the lawn on the other side at 4am, both of which seem to be common practise at other high end resorts i've been to.
After a quick change of clothes, we headed out for supper. It was about then that i knew for certain we were in for a fabulous couple of weeks. The resort itself is spread over a huge area, it takes maybe 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other. All of it has beautifully landscaped palm filled gardens, and at night the curving pathways were lit by fairy lights around the trunks of the palms. It looked just magical.
~ Food and drink ~
There's a bar of some kind roughly every five minutes when walking around the resort - one by each pool, and some larger ones. My absolute favorite, where we stopped off that night on the way to supper, was in a huge palm-roofed building, open to the air at the sides, and had king-size beds on massive ropes hanging from the ceiling. The whole place was lit by candles and soft lights, and was very tranquil early in the evening (less so later when the entertainment started!). It's very hard not to be delighted with life when you're lounging on a huge, slighly swaying bed, consuming the first of many free cocktails (all inclusive, remember). For those who are fussy about such things (i'm not!), premium internation brand spirits were available at some of the bars, you just had to keep an eye out and ask the bartender if necessary. The local beer, Dos Equis, was a pleasant and refreshing lager which was on tap at every bar - i'm usually a Stella drinker and this did me just fine. Extensive cocktails featuring everything under the sun could be got anywhere. And the wine...well let's say nobody goes to Mexico for the wine, do they. Actually their house white and red were both Chilean and perfectly palatable, but any brands you might recognise had to be actually paid for (imagine!!) and were definitely pricey.
Restaurant wise, that first night we went to JoJos, an open air place where you could eat caribbean-inspired cuisine whilst listening to the waves break on the beach next to you. I got rather obsessed with their giant shrimp with black beans and plantain, followed by the best banana tarte tatin i've ever had. On one night, we were even offered lobster within our all inclusive, although i had to turn it down as it was a "pick a live one from the tank" arrangement, which gives me the creeps. I'm perfectly well aware that all the fish i ate had to be killed at some point, but actually pointing the finger is beyond me. And yes for the record, if there were no butchers i would starve!
Other food options included a mediterranean place, an Asian restaurant (awesome - they had superb sushi and you could just keep it coming for as long as you wanted!), and Italian and a Mexican - the latter served more traditional food (cochinita pibil, smoked marlin tostadas, mmmmm) at lunch, although the evening stuff was "gourmet" mexican gone mad (scallops with white chocolate mole, only without the chilli so as not to upset the feeble of digestion, so more like scallops with custard really) and i personally wished they'd stuck to Burritos and so on.
The restaurants are described as "gourmet a la carte" - ie, you chose from menus - rather than buffet based, so the food was prepared fresh and beautifully presented. Portions are small because they expect you to have four or five courses, but any time you want more, just order a double portion. One of the restaurants did run buffet style at breakfast, which was great because i don't wish to converse with anyone much before 10am and was much happier helping myself to a huge glass of watermelon juice, a stack of french toast and some tropical fruit. On the whole i really, really enjoyed the food, but i think one small improvement would be to have a casual dining option for the evening. There were one or two days when we'd been out and about in our hired Jeep all day and were shattered ,and really just wanted to do the equivalent of vegging out on the sofa with a bowl of pasta. Those days, i found the elaborate multiple courses and formal waiter service a bit overwhelming. In the end i figured out my own solution - order a double portion of just a main course which you like, and get them to bring rice or fries with it to make a normal size one-plate meal. Still, a "steak and chips" bar would have made the place absolutely 110% perfect for me.
During the day there was also a "healthy bar" place which did massive smoothies / fresh juices plus salads, nachos and guacamole etc. That tended to be my second breakfast squeezed in before lunch - a milk, honey, papya, oat and cinammon smoothie, just to keep my strength up!!
One incredibly important thing i didn't mention yet, which was right up there with our reasons for choosing the EDR: it's adults only. No wailing babies in the room above us; no tantrumming toddlers screaming around the pool or mashing food into the floor in the restaurants. I really love my peace and quiet and this resort totally delivered - they'd managed to resist playing loud music anywhere outside of the evening entertainment / nightclub area too.
~ Recreation ~
So, in between eating, drinking and, er, eating again, we sometimes found ourselves with a few hours to kill. There were two huuuuge landscaped pools, usually with nobody much in them (the water WAS quite chilly, but in general i think that's a good thing!) and with giant four poster pool beds around them. I did spend a fair amount of time asleep, again, on one of those! There was an issue about lounger / pool bed hogging i'm afraid - most were "bagged" by 8am and your choice was, be a martyr and enjoy sitting on your (hard) moral high ground, or just get in there and join the competition. As we were on a jetlagged up at 6am schedule, we always got a bed, but we did try to be considerate and give it up if we were going out for a couple of hours, not everyone did the same. That could easily be cured if the staff just moved any belongings left unattended for more than a couple of hours, but I guess they preferred to let the "lounger wars" rumble on quietly rather than tackle the problem.
The beach is the one area where this resort isn't 100%. After the most recent hurricane, much of the sand was washed away and the currents changed so that huge sandbags had to be put in the water to protect what was left. The sand itself is soft and white, and the water is turquoise and clear inside the lagoon areas made by the sandbags; but yes, there are these huge black lumps (think dead killer whale size!) somewhat spoiling the view and preventing you swimming out to open water. Didn't bother me a bit, but if your "thing" is spending all day on the beach with that perfect tropical view, you need to go further south down the coast to the Maroma, Playa del Carmen or Tulum areas where the beaches are more perfect. If you're really hankering for a perfect beach day, a 20 minute shuttle trip takes you to Maroma Beach (£5 for beach only access or included for free with numerous activities available such as bananaboating, horseriding, waterskiing etc) which has endless pure white sand and tranquil water.
You could also borrow bikes to ride around the resort or out into the jungle trails, and there were numerous (dis)organised activities like water polo, football on the beach, aerobic etc available. Oh and a very well equipped gym (who the hell goes to the gym in a place like this?! certainly not me!) with sauna and steam room, and two very high end spas. You could also get sunset massages on a platform overlooking the beach, if your body could take any more sheer bliss. The spa treatments were more expensive than at home though, so I went when i got home instead as a way of getting over the sheer stress of not being pampered 24 hours a day any more.
If there's one thing i would say is bad about these places, it's the culture shock when you get home. What, i don't have a choice of 150 different things for supper?! AND, i have to clean up afterwards??! For the first few days after i got back i literally felt like i'd been expelled from heaven, if i believed in such things. Still, i have fantastic memories, and for what we paid (about £1,500 each for 10 days, including flights with extra legroom upgrade) it was worth every penny.
This is the product that got me back into using foundation - i used to use the Prescriptives personal colour blend one, but it didn't seem to be making that much difference as the coverage is very light indeed, and i'd gone back to using tinted moisturiser plus concealer where needed. I had a sample of the Clarins product in a magazine while i was on holiday in mexico, and as my skin tends to go blotchy in high humidity, i thought i'd give it a try and was so impressed with the results that i rushed out and bought a jar as soon as i got home!
The full size product comes in a lovely frosted glass jar with a screw top. Looks great in the bathroom, although not so great for travel as it's really quite heavy. I also find that the screw top can be a little awkward if i'm in a real rush - the shape of the jar is more oval than round, and it's easy to cross thread the screw. It also comes with one of those tiny spatulas for getting some product out, so that you don't stick your fingers in the tub and start breeding germs in the rest of the foundation.
I believe this comes in around six shades - not a huge range, but it seems to have superior ability to blend with your skin tone. I say this because the original sample i had was about two shades darker than the "correct" one for me when i bought the full size one, but still looked fine so long as it was applied sparingly. I also used to find that foundations bought in the winter would look chalky on me once i got a bit of colour in the summer months, but again that hasn't been a problem with this one.
~ So why would you buy it?! ~
The product blurb promises " Soft Focus pigments" for a light-diffusing effect; Acacia Micro-Pearls for "line-plumping and smoothing" and
Vitamin E and Rose essential wax "to protect and comfort". So we have the obligatory obscure ingredient count, but i don't actually think this does justice to the main feature of this product which is the "instant smooth" part!
~ In use ~
The product is a mousse style foundation, so can be applied to the skin with either fingers or a foundation brush. I just use my fingers. A very tiny amount scraped off of the surface of the pot, using the supplied spatula, is plenty to cover the areas of my face i want to improve - i don't go for the "foundation mask" approach, i just use it on the areas around my T-zone which are prone to redness or blotching.
It has a very subtle but lovely scent, which I really enjoy now because it takes me right back to being on holiday!
The mousse does go on very smoothly, and blends superbly with my skin tone - even when i get a bit carried away with the quantity, i don't get any nasty orange patches. I'd describe the coverage as medium level - it'll definitely deal with reasonable variations in my skin tone. My skin needs quite a bit more help to get a nice smooth texture and colour than it did ten years ago, and this foundation is spot on for me.
The results are a better, smoother skin texture, and a nicer, more even tone with no enlarged pores showing; the mousse also leaves a semi-matt result so you don't really need powder as well, although i find it lasts better if i use a little powder in some areas. The original reason i loved this so much was the absolute transformation it achieved in my very blotchy, shiny skin after a day out in mexico - my skin would be best described as "grumpy" at that point due to suncream use (which hates) combined with sweaty humidity.
The improvement doesn't last all day i'm afraid, especially if i've been rushing around a bit and getting hot, but it is well up to the challenge of an evening out. Overall, this is the best foundation i've ever had in terms of ease of application and impressive results.
~Value for money~
Another huge plus for this product in my opinion. I loved my sample sachet, but knowing that Clarins is a premium brand (and in my experience, foundation can be one of the more expensive items in other ranges) I was expecting a hefty price tag - maybe £35-£45 - for the full size. I was delighted to find that the retail price for this is only £21, which i think is a bargain. Even allowing for the fact that there's quite a lot more jar in the packaging than is strictly necessary, after using the pot most days since February, I have barely dented the surface and i think it'll easily last me over a year.
So overall, I'd recommend this very highly - and if you're nice to the ladies on the Clarins counter, you often get a nice selection of sample products along with your purchase as an added bonus.
It's hot, my skin's feeling a bit grubby, and i'm browsing Asda for a miracle cure that'll leave me feeling cool and fresh. And hopefully more youthful too, as my current Philosophy cleansing wash is nice but i'm still getting older.
Enter this. It's going to be referred to as "this" because its full christened name is: L'oreal Derma Genesis Cellular-Youth Nurturing Cleansing Fresh Foaming Gel wash (with cell activator + menthol). I can't be alone in thinking they gave the marketing department the day off on this one, and employed a random "good sounding word" generator instead?
Anyway, it was half price at £3, which is below my "what the hell" threshold, so i stuck one in with the shopping. I did especially like the idea of the menthol, which has no beauty effects whatsoever but does make your skin feel a bit cool and tingly - at 31 degrees outside, that was appealing.
You can see the packaging on the catalogue shot above - points for the "standing on the lid so all the product drains downwards" design, and the white and silver combination is smart and understated. The front of the tube claims that it "detoxifies and illuminates". On the back, my theory that Marketing had the day off when this was done is borne out by the first part of the blurb: "Over time, skin becomes more deficient in certain vital substances and generates less new cells". "Certain vital substances"?! They can't even be bothered to make up a name for what these might be, standards are slipping here! Hydra-youtholoids, maybe? Baby'sbottomolene?
Sorry, i digress. Anyway, normal service is slightly resumed underneath: "...the formula is enriched with Cell Activator (still a bit vague if you ask me!) to reveal new skin cells and menthol for an intense sensation of purity" (ie, feeling a bit chilly). Gotta love it.
~ In use ~
The cleanser is a clear gel, which does indeed foam up into an impressively creamer lather. You also don't need very much of it to do a thorough job - a 5p size dollop in the palm will do it. Because of this, it really does feel as though it's giving you a good cleanse.
The menthol sensation isn't immediately apparent, but if you leave the lather on in the shower for a minute or so whilst washing the rest of you, as you rinse and dry you can definitely feel a pleasant cool sensation. It also rinses off nicely leaving no residue, and not leaving skin excessively squeaky clean. Overall, very pleasant.
~ The results~
OK, a couple of other thoughts before i comment on this. Curious about what this magic "Cell Activator" might be, i actually read the ingredients list. I recommend more people do this, I know the words are long and all, but you do get a feel for "normal" ingredients after a while and can at least spot when you're being offered two almost identical products for wildly different prices. Beyond the usual stabilisers and soap-replacements (sodium laureth sulfate etc) and the menthol, the only other potentially active ingredient i could identify based on my decade-old A level chemistry knowledge, was Salicylic Acid. Nothing wrong with this, but this is obviously where all the marketing team's energy went - salicylic acid is as old as the hills, used in lots of preparations for, basically, dissolving skin - from spot preparations to verucca removers. I just LOVE that they've reinvented this as "Cell Activator" - technically it's totally true, the stuff will bring newer cells to the surface by helping get the old, scruffy cells on the top off, just like an exfoliator does, but it's not exactly rocket science. Anyway, i was quite happy with this as 1) i'd only paid three quid for it, though it'd have felt like a total mug if i'd paid seven plus, and 2) i was getting a few breakouts at the time and hoped that the salicylic acid might help out with those.
So, having used it for a few weeks now, is my skin "detoxified and illuminated"?! Honestly, i think not. Considering all the soap-like ingredients, it doesn't dry my skin out as much as you might think - although i'd definitely not recommend this for anyone with sensitive skin, as both the soapy stuff and the menthol would probably irritate it. I can't see much "illumination" happening, so far, but it has reduced the tiny blocked pores i was getting on my forehead, as you'd expect from the salicylic acid helping unblock them.
It's a very pleasant facewash which leaves my skin feeling lovely and clean, and the menthol is especially nice on a hot day. But two stars off for the, er, creative marketing, and the RRP which can only be described as "taking the p*ss" (maybe that's where the detoxification comes in.....)
I was given two generous sized sample tubes of this for free, when i purchased Clarin's Instant Smooth Foundation (review of that one to come later!). I've been using it for about a month now on and off.
The product blurb claims that it uses various natural extracts ("thanks to water, trees and fruit"!) to maintain an "ideal climate" for the skin - keeping levels of humidity etc constant and thus defending skin from the potential ravages of a hot or dry climate. It also has the obligatory SPF 15, because this is intended as a day moisturiser.
The extracts include:
~ Katafray bark and hyaluronic acid, which are supposed to maintain hydration levels
~ Sorbier tree bud, to boost circulation and make skin radiant.
There are a host of other exotic sounding ingredients (Arctic Cloudberry Oil, anyone?!) mentioned in the accompanying leaflet, but on close examination these are only included in other products in the range.
I know that all these obscure ingredients are intended to give the consumer the feeling that at last! someone has discovered a miracle compound which only you have access to, which will deliver the secret of everlasting youth, but as a lifelong skeptic about cod-science beauty ingredients it tends to have the opposite effect on me. It's the same skepticism which makes me and my partner shout "oooh! now with extra Fraudulene and Madeupology" every time a new L'oreal advert comes on the TV. Anyway, I tend to work on the assumption that such ingredients are either a)made up or b) included in such microscopic amounts that they're all but irrelevant, and get on with seeing if the product actually does anything for my skin!
The full size product comes in a really nice blue screw top jar, but as i mentioned, i'm working with the sample tubes here. Even they are very smartly packaged - a lovely matt wedgewood blue colour, with white text - definitely giving you that "premium brand" feeling.
The moisturiser itself is white and definitely on the thick side, texture wise. It has a faint, fresh smell which i would describe as slightly clinical - inoffensive but nothing special. On applying it to my skin, it definitely feels heavier than anything i normally use - it is described as for "normal to dry" skin and I think it's really going to be best for those on the dry side of the scale - it's clearly quite rich. Having said that, it is absorbed quite well with little stickiness, though perhaps a bit more shine than from my other moisturisers.
A couple of times when my skin was a bit sore i did find the cream very slightly stingy - i wonder if this is the SPF as i always find suncreams sting when applied to my face. This was a surprise as i'd have expected it to feel more comforting. As my skin isn't usually very sensitive, i'd therefore suggest that this might not be great for sensitive types.
On a "normal" day, i'd say the results of this were nothing to write home about. However, then we had the heatwave. On days where i'd been outside a fair bit, even with sunscree, my skin got quite parched and tired, and the extra richness of this cream really won out. I think i'm going to keep the rest for the depths of winter, because i can imagine it doing a brilliant job in very cold weather too- with that sort of weather, or for very dry skin, the fact that you can really feel the moisturiser staying on your skin (rather than just disappearing into it) would be a bonus rather than a negative.
I can't say I noticed any huge difference in the radiance of my skin, although it did look a bit better overall because of the intense hydration which keeps everything plumped up.
Overall, this wouldn't be suitable for my particular skin type as an everyday moisturiser, but if i had dryer skin i can imagine it'd be excellent. If you can afford a special tub of moisturiser (at around £30 RRP) for very cold weather, skiing holidays, or just extra dry skin days, this is probably a good choice - although I wonder if there are cheaper options out there.
I'll start off by saying i'm not a huge fan of "women's" magazines, so those who think they are a sacred fount of all knowledge might want to trot on somewhere else! However, Eve in my opinion is better than many - for those who've realised that there's more to life than orgasms and therefore moved on from Cosmopolitan, but for whom Marie Claire is too heavy to carry around.
So, what is the world according to Eve like? Well, pretty much all the women are either a) busy with a glamorous and / or ethically worthwhile career, carried out whilst looking a million dollars in the latest style, or b) producing hordes of photogenic offspring whilst starting up their own business - that business being something equally photogenic and "cool" such as making hand embroidered eco friendly nappies or similar - it's highly unlikely they'll be running a Domino's Pizza franchise. Ideally, they're doing both, whilst living in a restored palazzo on the Amalfi coast which they rescued from ruin.
Don't get me wrong, i'm not knocking it - in fact i enjoyed their shiny happy world enough to have a subscription for a year or two, and even featured on their reader panel at one stage - more on this later.
~ Between the covers ~
So, if you were to pick up one issue of Eve that summarised everything they've ever published, here's what it'd look like, section by section.
At least one article about a sleb that the Eve world view approves of, ideally combining stunning looks at a relatively advanced age, with a stunning wardrobe and the ability to overcome some hidden misfortune (not being able to find a husband / having fertility issues are always faves). See Marcia Cross (Bree from Desperate Housewives), Nicole Kidman etc.
An article on something semi-prurient such as older women falling in love with schoolboys, but handled in a "sensitive and thoughtful" manner so you can pretend you're not just reading it to go "ooooooh my god!! look at THAT!!!"
The Man interview - a hunky hollywood star / musician / sportsperson reveals their feminine side, accompanied by scantily clad and / or fashionably edgy photographs.
Cod-psychology articles explaining why you'd be happier if you did more yoga / voluntary work / believed in Homeopathy. Very unlikely to suggest doubling your Jack Daniels ration when you get back from your shift at McDonald's.
But of course. A whole host of things your life will be meaningless without, including one of their fashion team making a groundbreaking discovery that something considered "sooo last decade" isn't as dreadful as you thought - see Flares, blue eyeshadow etc.
One of my favourite bits used to be in this section, not sure if they still do it - the "fashion maths" article. Hilarious attempt to convince you (or themselves? i'm not sure!) that buying one insanely overpriced bit of designer nonsense (pony skin skirt for nine hundred quid, for example) makes perfect sense because *in theory* you could wear it five hundred times over the next six months, simply by purchasing a host of other items (some of which cost almost as much as the daft item to start with) that will allow you to wear it on every conceivable occasion. Always good for a giggle - if you have any friends who've been wearing the same jacket constantly for six months, you know who to blame.
==Fashion and beauty==
A variation on the above, with a bit of "cosmetic surgery lite" thrown in. None of your heavy duty scalpel wielding stuff, that's for mingers - we're talking nothing more than a little facial peeling. Remember, nobody in Eve World needs more than a little extra help!
Plus, the usual coverage of latest trends illustrated by more designer label madness - if you're lucky, there's be a passable copy at Primark in a few weeks' time.
How to get skinnier, thinly disguised as Healthy Eating. Double points for articles featuring expensive exercise wear, which *also* require you to go shopping!
How to be Nigella. Extravagant picnics featuring mutiple courses, muffins done up in darling little hemp cases, and wonderful pastel printed picnic blankets into which nobody has ever accidentally poured a bottle of Stella after falling asleep courtesy of one too many.
Stunning home decor ideas for people who don't own any of the normal crap that the rest of us clutter up our houses with, and mini-break ideas for boutique hotels, increasingly in the UK to maintain the eco-credentials, although once in a while they do conveniently forget all that and go for a blowout in the Seychelles or similar.
The usual - letters, at least two of which will express gushing admiration for the Sleb / victim of routine misfortune featured in the previous edition; the Editor's thoughts on the meaning of life; and the Reader Panel. Now, it was the Reader Panel issue that really brought home to me the narrow boundaries of Eve World. You see, i was one. If you're a subscriber, you may be contacted at random and invited to feature on the panel. The deal is, you send them a suitably glossy looking photo (ideally in a trendy bar or exotic holiday location ,although they don't specifically say this...) and some responses to maybe 10 questions about yourself. In return, they send you a case of (very nice, absolutely no complaints there!) Sauvignon Blanc, and edit your answers so that you're a worthy inhabitant of Eve World. The questions are chosen so they can pick out the ones to which you give suitably glossy answers, and ignore the rest in the handful of "facts" they do include - so if you work in Tesco's, that's unlikely to go in, but the fact you once went sky diving will. Likewise, nursery nurse good, stamp collector bad. In my case, I "confessed" to a penchant for Internet chat in my answers...clearly too geeky for Eve World. In Editorese, this became "gossiping". Er, thanks guys - i work in an area where i often have to deal with client confidentiality, that definitely wouldn't have been my first choice of random fib in a national magazine.
On the plus side, the writing is generally pretty good, they do cover some more complex issues in a sensible and balanced way, and Eve definitely fills a market gap between late-teens-early-20s Cosmo and the People's Friend. And it's a hell of a lot more accessible (and less dull, frankly) than Vogue. Sometimes, a dose of shiny happy people does us all good.
I have really fine hair that's prone to puffiness and frizz, and just generally looking, well, unfashionable, frankly! Consequently, I'm alway on the lookout for products that'll help me get that wonderful thick, textured hair that us English just don't have the genes for.
I don't get on well with any of the "body building" shampoos and conditioners, i tend to find that they leave my hair feeling coarse and slightly dirty rather than thick and silky. This TiGi tonic is used when styling, either on wet or dry hair (or both, if you're really going for it!) so allows me to use my regular shampoo and conditioner to deal with my dry hair issues, and still get some extra body when styling.
~ in use ~
The product itself is basically a liquid, inside the blue and silver TiGi Catwalk packaging with a good spray nozzle which manages reasonably even distribution over the hair. It has very little in the way of scent, and combs through easily.
~ the results ~
This product really does deliver what it claims - there's a really noticeable difference in the thickeness and texture of my hair when i dry it after using the spray. In fact, on one occasion i got a bit carried away using it both before and after blow drying, and then went out in the car with the top down. when i got home, i had THE biggest 80s hair you have ever seen (not necessarily a recommendation i know, but does prove that the stuff is effective!).
Another thing i really like about it is that the product doesn't contain a lot of alcohol as many styling products do, which can end up drying your hair out with regular use. This definitely doesn't do that, although I do find that I have to wash my hair sooner when i've used the Tonic than when i haven't - i guess that's to be expected with any styling product really, and i'd rather have one or two days of decent looking hair than three days of flyaway skinny stuff!
~ Value for money ~
The bottle cost me about £7 i think, pretty much in line with the cost of most of the TiGi range. So it's not exactly cheap, but i'm about two thirds of the way through the bottle and i've been using it maybe once a week for about six months, so it does last well. And not damaging my hair with cheapie alcohol-filled products means fewer expensive hairdresser visits, too.
A helicopter flight into the Grand Canyon was one of the highlights of our road trip around California and Nevada, an absolutely unforgettable experience i'd recommend to anyone - there are few things i'd urge my friends to spend their last dollar on, but this is one of them.
~ Choosing and booking ~
As we were starting and ending our trip in Las Vegas, I decided to book the heli flight on our last day, as a way of dulling the pain of leaving! I did a fair bit of research about companies and prices, and found the situation to be quite confusing in terms of what exactly is included in the various packages, whether it's better to book in advance etc. In fact, there are only a handful of companies offering these trips, but you'd never know that from the internet - the same company may be offering packages under more than one name, or the same packages are resold by other operators - the latter may be something to avoid as it increases the chances of things not going to plan due to miscommunications.
In the end, these are the crucial factors in making a choice (other than cost!), which might be useful to anyone else considering a Grand Canyon flight:
1. Where does the actual flight depart from? Some operators use a coach to take you some or all of the way to the Canyon - which is several hours' drive from Vegas. Others use the airports at Boulder City or the main Las Vegas McCarran airport - this was the case with our Papillon package, which meant less time spent on the road and more time in the helicopter.
2. Where exactly does the flight go? I wanted the experience of flying into the canyon itself, which Papillon offered. When we travelled, only two operators were allowed to do this, because the Canyon is actually part of a reservation belonging to the indigenous American Indians, and they auction limited licenses at what one might imagine is a pretty substantial sum of money. Other operators offer flights over the canyon or around the rim.
3. What will you be in? Again depending on the operator, could be a small plane or various types of helicopter - those used by Papillon have large panoramic windows, another point in their favour for me.
4. Are there any other extras, optional or otherwise? We had a limo service to collect and drop us at our hotel, and were also able to add on a flight over the Vegas Strip at twilight, during the return leg.
I booked direct with Papillon's own website, as I preferred not to go through an intermediary, and their prices were about the best anyway. The booking process was simple, and I received a confirmation number and voucher plus confirmation of the pickup time, within a few minutes of booking.
~ On the day ~
Our flight was booked for around 6pm, which meant the limo would pick us up from the hotel about 90 minutes earlier. As the afternoon wore on, I went from excited to quite nervous - my partner is very afraid of heights, and I suffer from motion sickness, so I was thinking that maybe what we were about to embark upon had considerable scope for disaster!
The limo arrived pretty much on time, and so it began. Actually i think the limo collection was the only part of this trip i didn't totally love - a bit like London cabs, limos have that very bouncy suspension and as we picked up two other couples from their hotels, there were plenty of speed bumps to be got over. So the journey was actually quite uncomfortable, and longer than it needed to be - i'd recommend just getting a 5-minute cab direct to McCarran.
On arrival, we were given a short safety briefing about which i remember absolutely nothing, such were my nerves at that point! They also have a photographer there who takes a shot of you getting into the helicopter, which is printed and given to you as a complimentary gift on your return.
You have to give the weight of all passengers when booking, and this is used to determine where you sit on the flight, so as to ensure even distribution in the copter. There were six passenger seats in the helicopter, two in the front and four across the back, and my partner and I were assigned to the back row. This was fine as we only had four on board, but i have to admit to being a bit jealous of the slightly better views enjoyed by the couple in the front, and if we'd had a full house, the two middle seats in the back row definitely offer poorer visibility as there are people between you and any window. Finally, we were all given headsets which allow the pilot to communicate with us during the flight.
~ The flight itself ~
The moment of truth - taking off! I was crossing all my fingers by this stage that I wouldn't spoil things for everybody by getting sick, and the first few seconds were a bit dicey - the copter tilts forward when taking off, and the motion is weird. However, as soon as we were up and flying straight forwards, i had no problems whatever and any thoughts of motion sickness were blown away by the sheer thrill of the vertical ascent. My partner was fine too - I think the adrenaline rush just takes over. Being in a helicopter is like nothing else I've experienced, unlike the clumsiness of a plane where you can hardly believe it'll get off the ground, the copter is totally agile and the nearest thing i can imagine to being able to fly!
We flew out over Boulder and the Hoover dam, with fabulous views over the network of lakes in the area. The pilot gave a very interesting commentary about the history of the area, most of which i was too excited to take in very well. The scale of the Dam is really brought home to you by seeing it from the air. Then, we flew for around 30-40 minutes until our first glimpse of the Canyon itself. Truly breathtaking is the only way to describe it - in some ways it feels unreal, being somewhere that you've seen in so many pictures and TV documentaries since childhood. We dropped vertically down into the canyon itself, and then flew along within the canyon for quite a way before landing on a ledge maybe half way between the rim and the Colorado river.
We had maybe 15 minutes on the ledge, during which time the pilot tried to interest me in a picnic and some champagne. This is a nice thought but honestly, I'm in the middle of the Grand Canyon, you really expect me to take my eyes off it for long enough to eat an ordinary sandwich?! Not a chance. I was taking photos, and just trying to take it all in, until the very last second when we got back on board.
The flight back took a slightly different route, out over the Indian reservation where we could just spot various native animals. It was a fantastic way to see the landscape, and as we approached Las Vegas, really brought home to us just how the city is built in the absolute middle of nowhere. Finally, a flight up the central Strip, between the neon towers of all the hotels just as the lights were coming on, completed an unforgettable experience. As we landed at the airport, i was just sitting in the copter with a huge, stupid grin on my face, which lasted for the entire evening.
It's not often that you experience a day you know you'll remember until you die (especially not for positive reasons!), but this was definitely one of them. We paid about £150 per person, but the experience was truly priceless. Papillon's service was excellent, with our driver, the airport staff and the pilot all being very friendly and full of interesting information, and the trip itself was all i hoped for and more. I can't recommend them too highly.
I have just received one of these for a birthday gift, and it had a couple of surprises in store, so I thought i'd share with fellow dooyoo-ers!
For those who haven't come across the PoGo before, it's basically the printing part of the Polaroid camera - you make the image elsewhere ( digital camera, mobile phone) and then use the Polaroid inkless technology to print it out. The printing happens by applying heat to a special paper, which then turns into a borderless, 3" by 2", sticky backed print.
The printer is also completely mobile, as it's powered by an internal rechargeable battery. So if the mood takes you, an instant print of you and your mates gurning at your mobile phone camera, can be yours within minutes!
~ Out of the box ~
The printer itself is undeniably a very good looking piece of kit. I got the pink version, and what you get is a rectangular object, a little bigger than an iphone and about four times the thickness. It's finished in a metallic casing, has two connection ports - one for the charger, and one for a USB cable, and a single on / off button. There are also two tiny LED lights, one to indicate various aspects of battery status, and one for printing operation.
Also in the box: the rechargeable battery which has to be installed into the printer, and the mains cable with transformer. And, a "user guide" consisting of several Ikea- style cryptic diagrams as to how to operate the printer. I can't say i was at all pleased to see that, as i have a deep hatred of stupid diagrams and really dislike it when the manufacturer can't be bothered to add even a few actual words of guidance!
~ In use ~
OK, so time to try it out. First, I assumed i'd need to charge the battery, so i plugged the mains lead in and left it for a couple of hours - a total guess, since how long the battery takes to charge is just one of many useful facts that they don't bother to tell you.
Then, it's time to try the fun part - printing. The special paper comes in a packet of ten sheets, so I got one out ready to load. I knew perfectly well that the prints would be 3 inches by 2 inches, but how small that actually is came as a bit of a surprise - i had something more the size of an old Polaroid picture in my head. Nobody to blame but myself on that one, as I should've checked what the size looked like. Then, loading the camera. The useless diagrams give no clue as to which way up the paper should be loaded - one side is shiny for the print, the other has backing paper on it. I took a punt on face down.
I wanted to print a picture from my laptop, since i edit most of my digital camera files because the style of shots i'm creating often require "unreal" light or colour effects. There was nothing in the box to connect to the laptop with, so i went and found a USB to USB cable to connect. Nothing. The computer can't "see" the device at all. Hmmm. Not happy. Return to Polaroid's website, and to cut a long story short, eventually realise that it is *only* possible to print direct from mobile phones (using bluetooth) or Pictbridge enabled cameras. Now i knew it did both of these things, but assumed that it could print from a laptop too....i mean, who wouldn't want to be able to crop and edit their shots before printing?!
So, next strategy is to try copying my edited files back on to the camera, and then printing from there. This also wouldn't work, because my camera for some reason wouldn't allow me to move files from the PC to its CF card. In the end, i give up and print an unedited test shot directly from the camera, just to check what the printer can do.
Researching on the web, i *believe* that i can print from my laptop if i obtain a Bluetooth dongle for it. Not a huge problem as they only cost a few pounds, but an irritating delay.
~ Picture quality ~
So, FINALLY i hit "print" on the camera and the printer starts whirring in a promising fashion. It is very quiet indeed in operation, very impressive. After maybe half a minute, the paper appears from the end of the printer....blank. I wait a few minutes, wondering if it will "develop" like the old Polaroids did. Still nothing. Apparently my "face down" punt was wrong, so I put the paper back in, face up this time.
Success! I get my teeny tiny print out. And the print itself is pretty good; there's a slight colour cast vs how it looked on the screen (which i could easily correct if i was able to print from the laptop, la la la!) but the colour is quite vibrant and the print nice and clear.
So overall, i do think this will be a fun little toy for the price - once i have the Bluetooth situation sorted out. The PoGos can be had for around £50 on the web, although RRP is about twice that. There's no ink to be paid for, although that cost shows up in the paper, which costs about 30p per teeny print. Having said that, if the mobile thing isn't a big deal for you, I think that there are many standard-size photo printers out there which cost not very much more and offer a lot more flexibility in terms of print size.
As I may have mentioned in previous reviews, i'm an avid sun worshipper, and i usually dispose of my natural blue tinge with a long haul holiday towards the end of the winter. Once i'm back in the UK, I need a sun product as much for the moisturising properties as for UV protection, especially on arms and legs where the sun seems to have very, very little impact on my skin.
Consequently i'm always on the lookout for low factor products, which these days seem to be practically banned - i'm showing my age here, but in the 80s when i was a kid, factor 6 was considered "high". These days it's the lowest that many ranges go to. I think this is bizarre, because if the only option i have is between Factor 15 and nothing, i'll go with the nothing. Anyway, my health endangering tendencies duly noted, I was delighted to discover Calypso deep tanning carrot oil with the delightful factor of a mere 2, in my local Wilkinsons recently.
Calypso are a budget brand available through Wilko's and (i think) Matalan. They produce a full range of sun products including the normal high factor creams, but also a good range of "dry oil" type products in the lower factors - 2, 4 and 6.
The 250ml bottle is clear plastic apart from the label, with a bright orange pump spray top. According to the label, in addition to the F2 protection, the oil also provides vitamins A and E plus Carrot Oil and moisturisers to keep skin hydrated and supple whilst tanning.
~ In use ~
The oil itself actually is slightly orange when sprayed onto the skin, but this just acts as a very slight intensification of your existing tan once you've rubbed it in.
Again this might be an 80s thing, but the scent is just what retro suntan oil should be - it's what the Wham! Club Tropicana video would have smelt like. Coconut and pineapple, but in that entirely unnatural way that convinces you no living item was harmed in the production of this oil! I love it, but i would suggest anyone thinking of buying this should unscrew the top and take a quick sniff before buying, cos it could be a "love it or hate it" response for most.
A quick rub over the skin, and it feels very briefly oily, but on my skin is quickly absorbed, providing a really good softening and moisturising effect. You'd have to be a bit crazy to use this before you already had a fairly decent tan, but that being the case, the factor 2 works well enough for a little bit of protection and to help keep the tan even. I also need a lot less after-shower moisturiser at the end of the day, as the oil is so nourishing that the effects last really well.
Oh and a final thing - the bottle cost about £2.60, so it's a bargain, too.
Overall, i love this stuff, and i really hope it won't become impossible to find over the next few years. Use it sensibly - when you already have a tan, are not in the depths of the tropics, and alongside a high SPF on delicate areas (shoulders and chest, for me) and it really will help take care of your skin. Not as much as staying indoors with the blinds drawn, no, but if you're going to be outside then at least give your skin some TLC.
Liz Earle is one of those brands that the "it" crowd starting raving about a couple of years ago - specifically, that incredibly lardy "cleanser" ("cleanse and polish", it's called) that you use the muslin cloth with. You could barely open a high-end Sunday supplement without some mention of the brand. Most of the Liz Earle products feature some combination of organic / non animal tested / essential oil type ingredients, and they come in a very classy looking cream opaque packaging with simple black text.
I'd previously used her Deep Cleansing mask and liked it very much, so i invested in the Nourishing version specifically to take on holiday, as a bit of a treat for my skin when i'd been in the sun.
The packaging tells you that it contains the following "naturally active ingredients" - St John's Wort, Borage, Comfrey, and Rose Scented Geranium. The instructions are to apply the mask in a thick layer after cleansing, leave for 10-15 minutes, and then wipe off any residue with a muslin cloth soaked in hand-hot water. Or if you're a normal mortal, i find a cotton wool pad does a pretty indistinguishable job!
~ In use ~
On squeezing out of the tube, the cream is identical to an unscented, fairly heavyweight, moisturising cream. It doesn't have what i'd normally expect as a face masque texture, hard to describe exactly what I mean but i suppose the main difference is that i expected it to sit on the surface of my skin rather than feel like a cream i could rub in. In fact i'd go so far as to suggest that's what this really is - a thick moisturiser that you apply lots of, and then remove what doesn't get absorbed by the skin. The lack of scent was another surprise - Rose scented Geranium in particular is a gorgeous but very strongly scented oil, so if it really is in here, it must be in microscopic quantities because I couldn't detect any trace of it. The cream smells quite similar to my mum's 1970s "Astral" moisturiser, to me.
~ The results ~
I left the mask on as instructed, and it did feel nice and soothing on my face. After 15 minutes i could see that in some places it had pretty much all been absorbed, in other places it hadn't but the cream had partly dried into a speckly white appearance - not a good look, but i wasn't planning on wearing it to a party. The leftover cream did remove easily with a warm cotton wool pad, although i did then find that some of the areas where the cream had absorbed also started to generate a residue so i ended up splashing my face all over with water.
My skin definitely felt very comfortable and quite plump after a gentle pat dry with a towel.
So far, so-so; I was tempted to repeat the process a week or so later just using my normal night cream, and found the results to be identical! No surprise i suppose, but putting a nice thick layer of moisturiser on in the bath for a while, makes your skin quite happy.
So overall, I think this one is mostly hype. It does leave skin nicer, but not spectacularly so; and it doesn't have any of the lovely aromatherapy scents to make the user experience feel really pampering. I didn't feel the need to replace the tube when i finished it.
The Synergie C face wash was a staple of my skincare routine for many years, often alternating with the Garnier Pure exfoliating wash when my skin was greasier or threatening spots.
The wash comes in a pump-dispense container, made of frosted (but still fairly see through) plastic so you can see when you're running out. I quite liked the packaging for this one, it's quite subtle (shades of orange, gold and black) so looked rather smart in the bathroom. The only drawback to the see-through container is that (to me, anyway!) i think it starts to look a bit scruffy once you're a little way down the bottle, because the nice orange colour is coming from the cleanser inside.
The cleanser itself is a gel-type texture, quite light, which foams slightly when massaged into damp skin. It does have a lovely scent - slightly orangey but in a subtle way, with some floral-type overtones as well.
A small amount - one or two pumps - is plenty to get a gentle lather over my whole face, and the lather feels rich enough to be cleansing, but gently so. The wash rinses away very easily and leaves my skin feeling "just clean enough" - definitely fresh and non-greasy, but not at all dried out or tight.
~ The results ~
As i mentioned, i was loyal to this wash for quite some time, so must have been pretty happy with the results. My skin is combination and prone to breakouts, and i did find that if i was going through a greasier phase, I would feel that i needed something stronger. The rest of the time, I kept using this because it smelt lovely, was really pleasant to use and left my skin nicely cleansed and soft.
My one major grumble is that this wash is now almost impossible to find - it turns up in discount stores now and again but that's all. Garnier never seem to stick with a range for very long - just as I find something i really like, they change it. I *think* the Synergie C range was more or less replaced by the active lift range - the one with the red packaging and cherry / ginger extracts - but who knows?! Something you've been buying for years just gradually disappears from the shelves, and you have to start all over again!
My "sun free" skin colour being best described as "corpse with an extra hint of blue", I have tried pretty much everything over the years to speed up getting closer to that healthy bronzed look. I know we're not meant to leave the house even in winter these days without at least SPF30, but I reckoned that if I couldn't manage that, at least maximising my tan with the minimum amount of sun would be a good start....so i got myself a tub of this Tan maximising after sun.
Lancaster are definitely a premium brand in the suncare market, and all through my teenage years I remembered seeing their adverts featuring Amazonian women whose skin was a colour that mine could only dream of, so i had high hopes for the product. It comes in the very distinctive bright orange packaging, with the plastic bottle featuring a built in pump dispenser. I wasn't actually too keen on this, because it's the fixed kind of pump which means you can't unscrew it to get the last bits out of the pot - and because the container is opaque plastic, you can never be sure how much is being left behind and wasted.
The aftersun itself is actually surprisingly nondescript - white, medium thickness lotion, and practically unscented. A bit of a shame I thought, because I loved the smell of my previous bottle of aftersun (ambre solaire) and find that the association of the scent brings back all those lovely holiday memories when i use it after returning home. Still, it'll be worth it if I get to be the colour of those advert models!
On my skin, the lotion did sink in quickly but almost too much so - i didn't feel as though it was very richly moisturising, and on one day when i'd had a little too much sun, it didn't seem to calm my slightly pink shoulders as well as products i'd used in the past.
~ So, does it work?! ~
Well, I think this did go some way to accelerating my tanning process while i was on holiday; it wasn't a huge, dramatic change, but i did feel that i was tanning well and evenly. When I got home, i carried on using this to try and prolong my tan, and it didn't perform so well here - as we all know, the challenge is to try and stave off the flaky skin stage where a good exfoliant is needed to get rid of one's resemblance to a lizard, sadly taking most of the tan with it. Because the Lancaster product isn't that moisturising, i think i got to that stage earlier than i usually do, which was a shame.
Overall, i do think that this product made a difference to my tan, and if you don't normally have dry skin (which i do), the fact that the cream is a bit on the light side might not be a problem. For me, the improvement to my tan wasn't enough to balance out the fact that it wasn't rich enough, and that i missed having a lovely scented aftersun when i got out of the shower, so i wouldn't buy it again. I think I paid around £20 for the (smallish) pot, and for that much it really has to score highly on moisturizing AND scent, as well as improving my tan.
Even those not familiar with Vegas will probably have seen a shot of this iconic building at some point - it's one of the relatively few remaining "old Vegas" hotels, and the retro-style neon flamingo motif over the entrance immediately signal that you're in classic Vegas territory here.
We stayed for a few nights in May 07, and found that whilst the exterior might hark back to earlier glory days, the interior has very much kept up with ultra-modern style - or at least, the superior rooms (known as "Go" rooms, i have no idea why!) on the upper floors certainly have.
Like almost all of the big Vegas strip hotels, this place is a mini-resort in its own right, with the usual facilities - large, tropical style free form pool, numerous restaurants, large casino, and so on.
We chose the Flamingo on the basis of position - it's quite central on the Strip, which unless you're super fit should be a consideration as the walk from one end to the other is a serious hike - price, and good room reviews on the web. As ever with hotels, what you end up paying can vary wildly, we paid just under £100 per night for a Go room on the top floor with Strip views.
~ Our experience ~
As we had a hire car, first challenge was negotiating the parking situation. All hotels offer valet parking, and as we had cases etc to deal with we thought we'd use that because the parking lots are huge and we didn't fancy dragging the luggage a long way. Unfortunately, very shortly after we pulled up, so did a couple of guys in ludicrous Vegas Blingmobiles, whose "arrogant whistling at parking valet" skills far exceeded ours. Despite being first in the queue, we waited about 15 minutes before the valet got around to us, so first impressions of the Flamingo were not great!
....and about to get worse. Checkin, oh dear. Walking into the (massive and extremely grand) reception area, we were greeted by a huge post office style queue. Apparently this is quite normal for Vegas, as large business conventions come and go and huge numbers of people need checking in and out, and nobody else seemed very bothered. I couldn't believe we ended up queuing for the best part of 40 minutes....during the rest of our 3 weeks tour, the hotel service we experienced was almost uniformly brilliant, except for here. And i don't think they were having an off day, as when we walked through the lobby there was more often a reasonably sizeable queue than not.
~ The room ~
So, eventually we got to our room. By this stage i'm not in the best of moods, but i have to say the room made it seem at least slightly worthwhile. We'd upgraded to a Strip view room for about £20 more, so were on the top floor. Walking into the room and seeing the stunning view from the floor to ceiling windows was truly impressive - we overlooked the fountains at the Bellagio on one side, too, so could watch the fountain display from our bed!
The room was flawless in my opinion. The decor was perhaps best described as "groovy" but in a classy way - decorated in white and black with bright pink highlights and lots of chrome, obviously brand new and very nicely done. The room featured the obligatory king size plus bed with all-white linen, big fluffy pillows and duvet. We also got a very spacious bathroom with a few space age touches like an LCD tv which was part of the mirror, looked like a normal mirror until you turned it on. Best of all, the curtain open / close switch was next to the bed, so at the press of a button we could reveal that amazing view, which always felt very James Bond.
The corridors and rooms were reasonably soundproofed so we got very good nights' sleep, although it would've been nice if they could have asked the maids not to shriek and giggle quite so much in the corridors in the early morning.
We didn't make too much use of the other hotel facilities - the pool area was very lovely but tended to have loudish music playing, and anyway we only had a few days in Vegas to see everything so left pool snoozing for another time. I'm not a gambler so couldn't really comment on the Casino, they all look basically the same to me!
I did feel that the breakfast options were all on the expensive side, in a town where you could get a great steak supper for £10, a waffle and some fruit in a kind of food court area at the Flamingo (as against a sit down service restaurant), plus a drink, was coming in at almost the same. Still, you're a few minutes walk from an endless array of other options on the Strip, so no big deal really.
Overall, I would go here again just for the rooms and location, if i could get a good price, but in a competitive market i think they could pay a bit more attention to the rest of the customer experience - two stars deducted for the bits where we actually had to interact with the hotel, ie parking and checkin.
Elemis Skin Nourishing Milk Bath is one of those products where i seem to be on a different planet to the rest of the world.
I've had two bottles of this now, about 3 years apart. Both of them were basically freebies: the first (large) bottle was a free gift with a magazine subscription, then i received a smaller bottle as part of a gift set last christmas. This is relevant because even having not paid a penny for the product, i was still underwhelmed by it. If i'd paid full RRP (not much short of £40 for the 400ml bottle), i think i'd have been hopping mad.
Elemis say that this bath includes Milk proteins with vitamins, amino acids and minerals, making it especially suitable for sensitive or very dry skin. (As an aside, and going back to the cost factor - there's not much else in this by way of active ingredients. What are they using - gold plated cows? Milk isn't exactly expensive, so how does this end up costing as much as it does??!)
Anyway, the first time i tried this, my expectations were high - i have moderately dry skin which means i have to moisturise thoroughly when i get out of the bath, so i was hoping that this product would allow me to collapse ready-moisturised straight into bed.
The first surprise was the amount you need to use per bath. If i'm using any old bog standard bath cream, i tend to chuck in a very generous amount, but usually with "salon" type brands a little goes a lot further - one of the ways we justify the high costs to ourselves. Not with this one - the instructions say to use 5 capfuls, which means not all that many baths to the pot.
Second was that this product doesn't really smell of anything - maybe just faintly like a moisturiser, like the original oil of olay or astral or something. I guess that's because of the sensitive skin thing, but it does make the bath less enjoyable. It also doesn't foam, just turns the water milky, so you're basically lying in a pool of unscented milky water.
I'd have forgiven all of this if my skin was glowing, plump and hydrated when i got out, but i'm afraid it really wasn't. I couldn't tell any difference between bathing in this and the supermarket brands i normally use (things like the Palmolive milk & honey sensitive skin bath, which is about 99p for a lot more!). I still felt as if i needed to moisturise, and of course my skin wasn't nicely scented or anything, so all in all i struggle to find any point to this product at all. On subsequent occasions i tried increasing the amount of soak i used, because we do have quite hard water in our area and i thought this might be affecting the results, but it made no difference.
I still have half of the small bottle on my bathroom shelf six months later - that's how indifferent i am to it, i'm using my supermarket honey & almond bath in preference to this. I know lots of people love this product, so i just don't know what i'm missing - all i can say is, at forty quid a pop, try and get a sample before committing, to see if it works for you!