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I spent two weeks in Israel over Christmas and New Year. I lost count of the times people thanked me for going there at a time when so many are afraid.
There really isnt any need to be afraid. The last suicide bomb attack in Israeli territory was in September, and nearly all cases of violence break out in isolated areas which are easy to avoid as a traveller.
A trip to Israel can take in Egypt and Jordan as day trips, although with an Israeli stamp in your passport you will be barred entry from most other Arabic countries. Apparently you can ask immigration officials to not stamp your passport, but I arrived bleary eyed and hungover at 5am and the stamp was dry before I registered that anything had happened.
You will more than likely be flying El Al from the UK to Israel. Get to the airport early, be prepared to be questioned, and dont take it personally. El Al are known for being the most security conscious airline in the world, understandably given the current climate. At least you know you will be safe flying with them.
Israel boasts incredible history and is home to numerous religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, the secret Druze faith and Bahaism. It has beautiful Mediterranean beaches, dramatic mountains, and scorched deserts, all within a few hours drive of each other.
There is a variety of accommodation available in Israel, from budget hostels, to mid range Kibbitzniks, to top of the range international hotel chains. Be warned - I had a fantasy about staying on a Kibbutz, chanting round the fire, children running amongst the flowers and so on. The Kibbutzniks that offer accommodation now are more like holiday villages, but they do offer good value in some great locations.
Israel has a year round pleasant climate. Although I was there in the depths of winter, I wore T-shirts most days. Its well advised to pack a variety of clothing, as the weather can vary hugely from the North to the South. In Jerusalem it was cold and rainy, and the street sellers made a mint on selling Coca Cola umbrellas.
Israel is not really suited to the budget traveller, as there is no dirt cheap way of getting there (RyanAir dont go there yet) and prices are not dramatically different from the UK. Disabled travellers probably wont fare too well either, as so many of the sites are historic and therefore unsuitable for wheelchair users or those who have mobility difficulties. This is something I learned first hand after I had a nasty fall, tore a ligament and was unable to walk for the rest of the trip.
Fully comprehensive travel insurance is absolutely essential. Medical care is very expensive otherwise. I was so grateful for my insurance after the fall, as I had to spend a day ferrying around doctors and hospitals. The treatment I received was good, although I had to wait for hours to be see, and the doctor X-raying me chatted on her mobile phone at the same time.
I was travelling by private coach, although the Egged bus network is thought to be a good choice for budget travellers. There are also many car hire firms.
Best sights in Israel:
--The Old City of Jerusalem
Made up of four different quarters (Arab, Jewish, Christian and Armenian), the walled Old City is home to the holiest site of Judaism (The Western Wall), the third holiest site of Islam (the Temple Mount or Al-Aqsa), and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus is said to be buried.
--The Desert and Masada
Much of Southern Israel is made up of vast desert, known as the Negev. Its a dramatic, harsh yet beautiful place. Nights in the desert allow a fantastic view of clear skies sparkling with thousands of distant stars. Morning creeps in slowly, the sky morphing from red to orange to purple to pink.
Masada is a flat topped mountain, with its dramatic history engrained on the Jewish consciousness. It was at Masada, in around 100 AC, that 1000 Jewish people killed themselves rather than surrender to the Romans. A steep climb to the top gives incredible views to the Dead Sea, and tours about the history of the fortress are available. I was unable to climb the mountain to catch the sunrise (which looked beautiful), but instead caught the cable car up and down.
--The Dead Sea
You cant go to Israel and not float on the Dead Sea. Its the lowest point on earth, and not really a sea at all, but a vast lake situated between Israel and Jordan. It has an extremely high salt and mineral content, which is why everything floats so easily, and is said to have many benefits to health. Ein Gedi is a resort along the shores of the Dead Sea which has shower facilities, massages and a café. You will certainly need a hot shower after going in the slightly slimy water.
Theres no need to buy the expensive Dead Sea cosmetics, simply scoop up a handful of mud from the sea bed and slap it all over any exposed skin. I did just that, and have never experienced such soft skin since I was a baby. Be careful if you have any cuts though, and dont shave your legs or armpits on the same day as going in the water, as it will really sting!
--The Golan Heights
This is disputed territory, on the Northern border with Syria. Looming mountains allow views across to Syria one way, Lebanon another and Israel behind you. A sign has been erected showing the distances to other capitals- Damascus 40 kilometres, Baghdad 800 kilometres. A trip here reminds you of Israels unique position amongst Arab and Muslim neighbours. The only neighbours that are at peace (albeit slightly uneasy) with Israel are Jordan and Egypt.
There is a ski resort on Mount Hertzl, open during the Winter months.
A port city in the North, home to the Ba'hai temple which is beautiful and informative. The gardens surrounding the temple cost £6 million, and it shows.
Home to the Kabbalah sect, this is a mystic town, with winding streets, a great market and many synagogues.
-The Sea of Galilee
This is a beautiful region where I saw many mysterious birds, an orange moon, and felt a sense of peace in the middle of the chaotic, bustling country of Israel.
I ate fantastically in Israel. Fresh fruit, huge salads, an amazing array of deserts. That may have just been the hotels I was staying in though. Street food is available everywhere, specialities are bagels and the ubiquitous falafel. Ive never eaten falafel like I did in Israel. Food, like everything else, is not cheap.
The New Israeli Shekel. Around 8 shekels= £1. Order your currency in advance from the post office as they dont tend to have much in stock, or change it once in Israel.
-Note about Shabbat
On Shabbat (Friday sunset until Saturday sunset), the Jewish day of rest, everything grinds to a halt. No public transport, although you will be able to get an Arab taxi. Shops and restaurants closed. Take it as a chance to relax and have a walk or two.
Hotels should make concessions for Shabbat observing guests, such as having Shabbat lifts, which automatically stop on every floor (observers believe they shouldn't use any electric item on Shabbat)
Some people are understandable wary about visiting Israel, not necessarily for safety fears, but from a moral stance. There is of course, on going conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. All Israelis are conscripted into the army at 18, and you will see armed soldiers everywhere.
If you want to visit any areas under the Palestinian Authority, this is allowed and is fairly hassle free. You may want to visit Bethlehem, or Jericho, which are part of the West Bank area. I had planned to spend a week travelling within the Palestinian controlled areas, which I have heard are welcoming and also beautiful, but after falling and being unable to walk, I changed my plan.
You can visit Israel as a general traveller, to work on a Kibbutz, or alternatively, volunteer on a peace initiative which encourages solidarity between Israelis and Palestinians. I found it heartening to find out about such projects, and the numbers of people there who are committed to working together and making a difference. Israelis have a bad reputation, not only politically, but also for plain rudeness.
I did notice a certain brusqueness from certain people, and found the Arab staff in our hotels far more pleasant than the Jewish staff, Im sorry to say! However, the brusqueness is mostly just a front, a hard exterior disguising a soft, kind and warm nature inside.
Israel, and the Palestinian territories, deserves to be a top tourist destination as it has a lot to offer visitors, history and supreme beauty, but given the current political situation, I cant imagine it happening.
I was in Israel as part of an education tour through which I was sponsored to take part in. I saw things that have made a great impact to me, and actually visiting the country has given me a much better understanding of the issues. It was an experience I will never forget, and I would like to return one day in the future, hopefully when some sort of peace has come to this disputed land.
My announcement that I would be spending my summer in Bosnia met with bemused silences. "But why?", they asked - "Be careful" or "Good for you". My neighbour told me "be sure to take a headscarf with you, its a Muslim country yknow."
So many concerned family members asked me if it was safe, that I began to have doubts. After watching the film Welcome to Sarajevo and reading graphic books about the conflict in an attempt at researching this forgotten corner of Europe, I felt even more unsure.
My worries were to prove unfounded. The hijab I didnt pack proved to be unnecessary, and ironically, I felt safer in Bosnia than I do at home in Birmingham.
I discover a country that is simultaneously familiar and foreign. Glamorous young people frequent the city bars, but one Bosnian girl tells me we can only afford one coffee, which we chat over for hours. Internet cafes have become common, but connections are snail- slow, and the Cyrillic keyboards confuse me.
I find a country recovering from its wounds from the Balkan conflict of the mid nineties. "Yes, there was a war, but we dont want to talk about it all the time, it is the past", one young student tells me.
Sarajevo is a beautiful city, surrounded by mountains which played host to the 1984 Winter Olympics. "Come skiing in Sarajevo this winter", tour guide Sunny encourages. "We have world class facilities, you just have to slalom between the landmines."
Bosnia has a real need for tourism, to attract investment and move on from its past. It has a lot more to offer travellers besides a standard sand, sea and fish and chips type of break. Bosnia is a good destination for both backpackers, as well as the adventurous older traveller, but not suitable for young families or those seeking luxury. There is a Mediterranean climate, and stunning landscapes ranging from dramatic cliffs and canyons, to rolling hills and gently bubbling streams. The extreme sport lover can paraglide, raft and climb, all at a fraction of UK prices.
Sarajevo has obvious Turkish influences, from the Ottoman period. Calls to prayer from the towns mosques compete with one another, echoing off the surrounding hills.
Approaching the centre of Sarajevo, through its sprawling suburbs, I was greeted by the sight of rows of communist blocks peppered with bullet holes, neighbours to a former government building now just an empty shell.
Daily "war, history and tolerance" tours are run in Sarajevo, from a small tourist office frequented mostly by international backpackers. For 10 Euros, the dry humoured guide, Sunny, takes groups around the hotspots of the city in a minibus. These hotspots include a market where 59 people were killed by a bomb, and a Jewish cemetery overlooking the city where Serb snipers picked out targets in the streets below.
Sarajevo offers a wealth of history, the most recent of which can make visitors feel uncomfortable and intrusive. As the tour bus drove past the market, it is full with Bosnians getting on with their daily lives. I wondered how they felt about buses taking tourists to gaze upon their previous miseries. The tour was interesting and informative, but I couldnt help feeling a little voyeuristic.
I ate a kebab with a Turkish boy and a Finnish girl in "pigeon square", at the entrance of the Turkish quarter. The winding cobbled streets are lined with shops selling leather good, jewellery, and even used bullet cases left over from the conflict.
There has always been a lively arts scene in Bosnia, which has flourished since the war ended, with annual festivals such as the Sarajevo Film Festival, numerous art galleries and national dances.
A little known fact is that the first world war started after Duke Francis Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914. A small plaque marks the historic spot.
Grenade indentations in the pavements have been filled in with red rubber and are known as "Sarajevo roses", a sight both disturbing and strangely beautiful. A scarlet hijabbed woman strolls along the pock marked pavement, hand in hand with her husband, avoiding stepping on the roses with her heeled feet. Walking the narrow streets, and going for coffee are the main pastimes here.
The bus to Banja Luka takes me away from Sarajevo along Snipers Alley, past the familiar bright yellow Holiday Inn which was home to international journalists during the conflict, one side of which is covered with the scars of war. Facing Snipers Alley are modern office blocks. The local government plans to pull down all war damaged buildings and completely rebuild the city, in an attempt to move on. The next time I visit, the view may be very different.
There are no direct flights from the UK to Bosnia, but it is possible to fly via Austria
There are numerous hotels and hostels in Sarajevo. Hostels start at £5 a night
You can take out the local currency, the convertable mark, from cashpoints
It is possible to take daytrips to Sarajevo and Mostar from Croatia
Green Visions run walking trips in Bosnia. Telephone +387 33 717 290
The Sarajevo film festival is every August
Country code: +387
Time: GMT + 1 hour
£1 = 3.9KM
I'm a bit of a whore when it comes to shampoos. I've tried them all- ones that smooth, ones that bodify, ones that smell like bananas, even washing up liquid when I ran out once (I don't recommend it).
However, for six months now, I've become a changed woman. I have pledged my alligiance to the best shampoo I have ever used.
Introducing Henna Copper Radiance shampoo (and conditioner). It contains natural henna extract and in tests carried out by Timotei, 8 out of 10 women could see noticable highlights in their hair after using it.
I have tried shampoos that are specifically for brunettes before, but have never been very impressed, until now.
Naturally my hair is very dark brown. I like it, but it can be a little dull. Since using this new shampoo, my hair has natural highlights which shimmer in the sun.
Several people have commented on the nice tones in my hair, in fact, complete strangers have approached me in the street, aghast in wonder at the spectacle my hair is making.
The shampoo smells lovely and herby, it looks somehow glittery, it lathers up nicely, and leaves my hair squeaky clean. I only need to use a little bit to clean all of my hair.
Copper Radiance is cheap- just £1.99 when I bought it last time. I feel this is good value for money when many specialist shampoos cost a fiver or more.
The only criticisms I have of this shampoo is that, firstly, it doesn't help dandruff. I occasionally get flakes in my hair, but to alleviate this, first I wash and rinse with an anti dandruff shampoo, before using Copper Radiance.
Secondly, sometimes my hair feels a bit "fluffy" after using this shampoo. I used to use smoothing shampoos, so this may be why.
It is recommended to use this shampoo together with the conditioner. I found that my hair had noticable highlights after a few weeks of use.
The bottle is a distinctive copper colour which stands out on the shelves. I do not hesitate to recommend this shampoo to all ladies (and men) with dark hair, who want to brighten it up a little.
What has happened to Eastenders?
I started watching the soap many years ago, one Christmas when Michelle was threatened by a crazed gun man. Since then I was hooked.I whiled away the evenings of my school years, avoiding homework, caught up in Grant and Phil's latest row, Pat and Peggy's bitchfighting, trips to Spain, gay kisses in Blackpool,and sexy David Wicks. Oh, the memories. The sight of Frank Butcher, naked apart from a red bow tie, will remain etched on my brain forever.
So, just what has gone wrong with my regular dose of escapism?
It has lost decent characters. Janine, the most hilarious evil spoilt teenager ever, Ethel and her little Willie (escorted to death by angelic Dot), Barry, Grant, the list goes on. Nobody worthy of replacing them has come along, apart from maybe Kat and Little Mo, who are both excellent actresses.
Sharon and "brother" Dennis-who cares? This story has gone on for far too long.
The tedious repetitive gangster story lines are making my teeth grind. Nobody cares. We care about people, real lives, families, relationships - not stupid men in suits thinking they are the chav version of the Mafia.
It's unrealistic. A typical job for an Eastenders character is bar maid (little Mo), shop worker (Billy, Dot), or thief (big Mo), yet they all live in houses costing hundreds of thousands of pounds, get taxis every time they leave the square, and eat all meals in the "caff". I want to watch people living in squalor, in council flats with no heating, infested with mice and lice. Now that is escapism.
Despite being set in the East end of London, there are only a few black characters (one a binman (Gus) and one a criminal (Jules)), and one odd Asian family (who despite having a Muslim name, celebrate the Hindu festival of Divali). Have the script writers actually been down the East End lately? It often feels like a middle class portrayal of how they imagine workingclasslife to be - everyone getting along, close knit families, pulling together.
All is not lost, however. Bring back Grant Mitchell, for a start. And Robbie Jackson, for that matter, who at last sighting had transformed into an Indian hippie.
My idea for a new story line would be a family of asylum seekers to move into the square. This would be topical and could allow the BBC to show the way communities react to "outsiders". Maybe Zoe could go out with one of them. Although the soap has had mixed race relationships, (Gus and Sonia, Janine and Paul), I can't recall a mixed religion relationship, or even much focus upon religion at all.
Sonia is considered a high and mighty intellectual for daring to look beyond the limits of Albert Square and train to become a nurse. That says it all for the prospects of Walfords children.
Watch out for Eastenders at Christmas- more hand wringing over Sharon and Dennis, yet more gangster rubbish, and some well placed misteletoe for Alfie and Little Mo. You heard it here first.
I spent the summer of 2003 working in California and during that time, I paid several visits across the border to Tijuana. When I told my work colleagues I was planning a trip, I was greeted with various, mostly negative reactions.
"I hope they let you back into the states"
"The police are corrupt, they'll arrest you for anything and take bribes".
Tijuana is notorious for trouble and has a bad reputation amongst lots of Americans, who will no doubt have a story about "a friend of a friend who was arrested for crossing the street and has never been seen again" but my opinion is that, it is fine to visit as long as you are sensible.
* Passport/visa information *
Americans do not require a passport to cross the Mexican border, but should take ID such as a current driving licence.
Visitors of other nationalities should take passport and/or visa, and be prepared for questioning at the border control when re-entering the usa. The US authorities are understandably, very security conscious. The border at Tijuana is said to be the busiest in the world, and illegal immigration is a big problem so be prepared for a wait!
My experiences at the border was that when entering Mexico there are no controls whatsoever. When leaving Mexico, on one visit, we waited for 2 hours before we went through. At other times, which were very early mornings, we near enough walked through.
Immigration are likely to ask if you bought anything, may check your bags, and want to know your intentions in entering america.
* TJ- partying and shopping! *
Tijuana is often referred to as "t-j", maybe english speakers are too lazy to use the spanish pronunciation. This border town is very popular with young americans because unlike the strictly enforced drinking age of 21 in the us, you can drink at 18 (and no doubt younger with some form of id) in Mexico. On weekends you will find the streets packed with young Mexicans and Americans hitting the many bars and clubs in search of a good time, which was also one of my main purposes in visiting. I had my 21st birthday during my stay in America and still visited Tijuana after I was legal in the US because I enjoyed the atmosphere so much.
If you are not interested in night clubs and drinking, visit Tijuana in the day time.
* Getting there *
You can drive to Tijuana, it takes about 1 hour from San Diego, and follows a main freeway which is signposted. The best thing to do is to park your car just before the border at one of the many parking lots, which will cost about $5 (approximately £3.50). The walk into the centre is only about 10 minutes, and a cab will cost you about $5-$7.
Going on public transport is easy too. The "Tijuana trolley" runs 24 hours a day from San Diego to San Ysidra (small town just on the US side of the border), and costs $5. Greyhound run services from Los Angeles and San Diego, the cost from San Diego is $11 for a roundtrip, and buses run all night.
* Safety and other tips *
You should stick to the main streets when visiting Tijuana. Don't wander off. On my first visit with a friend, we were looking for the Mexican cultural centre (which is temporarily closed down, so don't bother!) and ended up quite a way from the centre. Some men who were working in a garage told us to go back to the main streets, it's not safe. Instantly upon entering Tijuana, you will see the vast differences in wealth between affluent Southern California. Tourists carrying lots of money and making themselves conspicuous are easy targets, so be aware of your surroundings.
It's a good idea to go with a Spanish speaker if you don't know the basic yourself. Although most of the shop workers and waiters speak some basic English, it will make your trip a lot easier if you can speak the language to some extent!
The main street is called Avenida Revolucion. The start of the "tourist" area is marked with a huge arch structure.
* Shopping *
You can get some great bargains on your visit. Alcohol is very cheap, especially Tequila. Silver jewellery is sold on stalls along the street, just be careful when parting with your money. My friend bought a "silver" bracelet which turned out to be brass.
Clothes such as traditional heavy knitted sweaters in bright colours are very cheap, my friend bought one for $4.
Small souvenirs such as glasses, wooden animals and carved glass are available everywhere.
Pharmacies selling all kinds of drugs which are prescription only in the US operate, many Americans cross the border to pick up cheap medicine.
** Partying **
My number one reason for visiting the town of Tijuana. The Avenida Revolucion is lined with bars and clubs, all competing for your business. Here is some information about places I visited:
This bar/club/restaurant is open all day, serving food and drink. For $7 you can get 2 tequilas and 2 huge cocktails. The friendly waiters will make you delicious cocktails from fresh fruit which they mix in a blender. The music is dance and RnB, with a bit of traditional salsa music. At night an extra room opens with a live DJ and dance floor, on Saturdays they do a foam party.
You can't miss this place, it has a yellow school bus sticking out of the side! You can go upstairs and sit in the bus seats while you enjoy a cheap beer, but watch out for the crazy Tequila men! They wander the bars and clubs, try to pour copious amounts of the crazy liquid down your throat, then extract money from you. I tried to run away..but failed as one of them picked me up, poured it in my mouth and then proceeded to spin me round and round. Very funny, ho ho ho. A warning- this place is steaming- wear the fewest clothes that you can without being arrested. Also watch out for sleazy men!
Playing pop and RnB, this is one of several "one entry price" clubs in Tijuana. You pay a fixed price to enter (usually between $10 and $15), after which all drinks are free. My advice is to practice caution! You don't want to be steaming drunk in a country where you don't speak the language and don't know how to get home at 5 am.
** Restaurants **
There are numerous places where you can eat authentic Mexican food, from fajitas to burritos to tacos, at cheap prices. Look for a sign in the window which says the establishment received an "A" grade in health inspections.
** Attractions **
There are not a lot of things to visit, while in Tijuana. The old palace, at Northern Avenida Revolucion, is worth a look, to see the architecture and fountains. There is also a wax museum, and you could try the cultural centre when it reopens.
Some people find Tijuana sleazy and dirty. If you want to experience true Mexico, travel deep into the country. Tijuana is a town dedicated to taking money from wealthy young Americans and other tourists. It is not a hugely beautiful place, but it has its own individual appeal and and is worth experiencing. While the men selling their wares along the streets calling out to you can be annoying, and seeing small children ask you to buy gum or candy can be depressing, overall the people are friendly and welcoming.
Note on currency-
You can use American dollars EVERYWHERE, it is not really necessary to change your money into Mexican pesos. If you want to there, there are plenty of money exchanges, offering a rate of approximately 10 pesos to the dollar.
I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my hair. I like to have it very shiny, and one colour all over.
I first used Lush Henna a few years ago, and since then I have used it a few times a year, to add shine and even out my hair colour.
-My first time-
The chalkboard above the Les Cacas Henna blocks promises "No sh*t hair colour and shine" and I wanted to know how these strange looking green blocks would make my hair a luscious mane.
There are 4 different colours of Lush Henna available to buy:
Caca Rouge- traditional bright red
Caca Marron- chestnut
Caca Brun- glossy brown
Caca Noir- shiny black
I have used traditional henna before (Body Shop) and did not really like the red colour so I bought the Caca Brun. The ends of my hair are lighter than the roots from the sun and I prefer an all over colour so I hoped this would do the trick, as well as making my hair nice and soft.
Henna from Lush costs £5.95 for 325 grams (6 squares)
If you want to use a credit card, there is a minimum charge of £5 but you can use that as a good excuse to treat yourself to some bathroom goodies!
You can buy the henna from any Lush store, or from their web site at www.lush.co.uk
The site also lists all the store locations, ingredients and instructions for applying the henna.
The block will be served to you wrapped in a plastic bag and if you buy it from a store you will usually get some free samples of Lush products. I got two free products! I was also given a sheet containing the instructions. The blocks are a dark green colour and smell very strong (so don't keep them in your knicker drawer unless you want to smell like you have been rolling around in the bushes!) They can crumble a bit if they get crushed in your bag so be careful.
Each colour of Caca Henna contains specially selected ingredients to enhance the effect upon your hair.
Caca Brun contains these special ingredients:
Ground coffee- to enhance and deepen the brown colour
Nettle Powder- helps to condition the scalp
I will not go into too much detail over the instructions, just give some hints that are not mentioned by Lush.
- Pour Boiling water over the blocks in a pan or bowl, then mash the blocks with a spoon so they break up a bit
- I heated the henna up on the hob on a low heat (although this is not recommended, I do not have a bain-marie as suggested on the web site) and kept stirring it until there are no lumps
- Make sure the consistency is fairly thick or else the mixture will not stick to your head, it will just drip off
- Be warned, it smells very strong (a natural smell of plants and herbs which some find unpleasant) so do not do this at the same time as there is any food cooking in the kitchen!
-Put newspaper across the floor as henna can stain
- Apply the henna to your hair whilst standing in the bath as it will drip onto your carpet/furniture otherwise
- Make sure you apply it to all of your hair, not just the top parts
- If you have long hair, use an old clip to pile all your hair on your head out of the way for the time you have to leave it on
- Wrap your hair up in cling film to get a red tinge or leave it open for a browner colour
- Leave it for at least an hour, longer for a more intense colour.
Wipe your ears and neck after applying the henna- my back was covered in the stuff!
It is suggested that you wear rubber gloves for the application but I didn't as I find this difficult (another reason is that I don't think my flat mates would be too happy if the rubber gloves were covered in henna!) I scrubbed my hands after and the henna mostly came off apart from a brown tinge underneath my fingernails (which has now gone, the day after).
As the hour passes, the henna will go hard- resist the temptation to pick at it like I did as you will leave crumbs of henna everywhere! I still have them on my bed as I type!
When it comes to rinsing off time, USE A SHOWER. In fact, I would even say don't henna your hair if you don't have a shower. Using a shower head is the only way that you will rinse all of the henna out of your hair. I did the henna at home once, where we do not have a shower, and could not get all of the bits out.
Make sure you have rinsed it all out thoroughly (until the water runs completely clear), and then shampoo and condition it as normal.
Ok, so results time...unless you have used the Caca Rouge, or if you started out with mousey hair, do not expect drastic results. As I already have dark hair in a fairly good condition, using henna does not make a drastic difference. It does however, even out my hair colour and add extra shine and softness. My hair feels a lot smoother when I run my hands down the length of it and is much easier to brush after henna-ing it.
Unlike some dyes which contain peroxide, Lush Henna does not leave a strong smell on your hair, just a plant-type smell.
When you apply Henna you know it is a natural product that will not ruin your hair. Lush Henna is made from completely Vegan products, and as with all of their products, is not tested on animals or made from any ingredients tested on animals.
Henna is only suitable for people with mousy-dark hair and not blondes. It will not lighten hair, and can be used on grey hair but it is recommended to do a strand test before hand.
I have used Caca Noir since I wrote the original review and it made my hair a lovely glossy, blue/black colour.
Oh, and who ever said I, or any other female was sane? Women do all sorts of mad things for vanity, having pubic hair ripped out is an extreme example. So I think in contrast to that, sitting with a green poo on your head is nothing really!
Whyis there such hype surrounding Vegas? I don't see the attraction myself. Having stayed there last summer, I hope to never return. Here's why.
Vegas is in its own little bubble. It's a heaven for consumerism, obesity, greed, and tack.
First of all, the heat overwhelmed me. It made it impossible to go outside for any longer than a few minutes at a time. The air is thick, heavy with the desert heat.
It makes people there very lazy, as the whole system is set up so you don't have to walk far. There is a mini train in Vegas that takes people only around 100 metres. Large fans line the sidewalks to blast passers by with freezing cold air. Sunglasses are an absolute necessity, without them you will be squinting constantly.
I didn't hate everything about the city. I'll get the positives out of the way first. The best thing about Vegas was the drive there from Los Angeles. It was beautiful and probably one of the best drives I have have been on. The scenery went from mountains to desert. Halfway, we were struck by a storm, which subsided to reveal rainbows over the sand dunes. The sky went through every possible colour and seemed so vast.
The other good things about Vegas are the cheap prices, and the food. My first night there, I ate like a princess: dishes I had never tried before, such as crab, monkfish, authentic sushi. The best all you can eat buffet is undoubtably the Bellagio (that's the casino/resort with the dancing fountains outside, as seen in Oceans 11). It's $25 for an international buffet cooked by gourmet chefs. My mouth is actually watering remembering that meal.
There is certainly lots to see in Vegas. Walking up and down the "Strip", you can see casinos of every kind, from an Egyptian pyramid (the Luzor), a half size Eiffel Tower (the Paris)and a reincarnation of Manhattans skyscrapers (New York, New York).
I stayed in the Boardwalk hotel and Casino, which is just off the strip, behind the New York, New York. It was around £15 each for a large double en suite room. All the hotels in Vegas are reasonable, after all, they want to pack in the punters to the casinos.
How do you spend the day in Vegas? Gamble, shop, and eat, that's how. As I don't gamble and don't have much money for shopping, I got a little bored. The water park is only open at weekends, so we couldn't go there. Most hotels have pools, which are refreshing given the draining heat, but you don't need to go 5000 miles to go swimming.
I don't gamble, which I imagine coloured my perception of Vegas. The tourist board tries to market Las Vegas as suitable for everyone, whether they gamble or not, and are trying to promote the city as being a suitable destination for families. I would have to disagree. There is very little for children to do there, aside from watch the circus shows at the Circus Circus casino. If you gamble, you will love it, but otherwise, you are not missing out by not going there.
There are lots of shops in Vegas, including many tacky dollar stores along the strip selling everything from lucky charms to those US most wanted card decks, as well as great mounted photographs and maps. Inside malls, such as the amazing Venetian, more upmarket stores prevail. The Venetian is a relatively new resort, and even impressed me. It's designed to be a working replica of Venice, with its own canal system, gondalas, and the most amazing shopping centre I have ever ben to. It is all indoors, but looks like the streets of Venice, with ornate bridges, live musicians, and the breathtaking ceiling which is like a real sky, with changing weather and the times of the day.
Food lovers will also love Vegas for its buffets. Some are better than others, but even the cheap ones (at around $5) will fill you up and offer a wide range. I'm glad I only stayed a few days or I would have put on so much weight from all that food!
Several casinos offer free ice creams, which bizarrely, my friend and I had to show our ID to recieve. Cheap alcohol is everywhere, especially huge cocktails, but we avoided drinking for fear of passing out in the heat.
Other things the non gambler can do:
- Every night, go to watch the dancing fountains outside the Ballagio. It will be very crowded, but it's a lot of fun watching the huge fountains move in time to music such as Frank Sinatra and Whitney Houston.
-Watch the free circus shows at Circus Circus, several times a day
-Traipse around all of the casinos and collect free gifts, such as mini lucky trolls and packs of cards with naked women on
- Go and see magicians Siegfred and Roy's famous white tigers at the Mirage. Last October, one of the tigers attacked Roy, but they still live at the Mirage, although the magic show has been cancelled.
-Catch a show if you have lots of dough. Nightly entertainment includes world famous Cirque du Soleil, Celine Dion, and occasional performances from other stars. Elton John will be playing at shows in Vegas next year. There are also tacky "adult entertainment" shows all over the place.
-Go to the Big Apple bar in the New York, New York complex. There is no admission charge and bands play nightly. There are a lot of good bars in the NY, NY, including Coyote Ugly.
-Take a helicopter ride along the Strip at nighttime - warning - expensive
-Take a day trip to the Grand Canyon
- Go to Freemont Street, the "old town" part of Vegas. There are yet more casinos there, with nightly light shows
Beware- everyone expects to be tipped in Vegas, even if they just hold a door open for you or say hello. I had to virtually fight the porter off and convince him I was perfectly capable of carrying my own bag, thank you very much!
I saw people from all over the world in Vegas- men in pristine Arab dress, Japanese tourists, young men in England football shirts, and a majority of American families on their vacation. Most of the people working in Vegas are Hispanic, Asian and Black. I can't imagine it's a very happy existance living in that strange world.
In the casinos there are no clocks, in order that punters lose track of time, and it's easy to get lost. They are huge, vast places, lined with money taking boxes and tables, and I just wanted to get out. Only as soon as I got outside, the heat threatened to strangle me.
A taxi from the centre to the airport costs around $8. Flights go virtually anywhere, domestic or international. It's a modern, small airport, with a very poor selection of books in its shop. My flight was delayed for several hours, and apart from my courtesy can of pop and "ranch mix", I was incredibly bored. Vegas is not a destination for book lovers, so I suggest you take your own with you in case of delays.
I was very relieved to finally leave Vegas and head to New York. I only stayed for a few days, but that was more than enough for me. I'm glad I have been and seen it for myself, but there was nothing there for me. I like history, culture, and human life. I found the whole thing pretty soul less.
Our arrival in Dubrovnik after a 24 hour long ferry trip was not the best introduction to the town. Cobbled streets, sunburned shoulders and heavy luggage don't mix well. Luckily though, the Croatians we came across while searching for our accommodation were welcoming and helpful.
I must have heard the phrase "enjoy your stay in Dubrovnik" a hundred times in our short stay. Unsurprising considering that tourism is now the city's foremost form of income. Following the break up of Yugoslavia and the Balkan conflict, people have been flooding back into Dubrovnik to appreciate all it has to offer.
Before the war, Croatia was a popular holiday resort, famed for its beautiful coastline and cheap prices. George Bernard Shaw, Prince Charles, and Margaret Thatcher have all holidayed there (but don't let that put you off!)
I stayed there for 4 days with my sister, en route to Bosnia. We took a long route to get there: we flew from Stansted to Trieste in Italy on a cheap flight. We then took a bus to Rijeka in Croatia, where we caught a ferry which took us down the coast all the way to Dubrovnik. If you have the time, are short on money, and want to enjoy the beautiful views the ferry offers you, I would recommend travelling the same way. The flight to Italy was around £25, the bus was around £5 and the ferry was £20 for deck space only. Otherwise, it is possible to fly direct to Dubrovnik airport but it's not cheap.
It is recommended that you book accommodation in advance in the summer months. My sister and I booked through www.hostels.com and were allocated a private self catering apartment, for £50 each for 3 nights. If you don't book anywhere, ladies at the ferry port hold up cards saying "soba", offering to rent out rooms. This is quite normal and accepted in Croatia. Large, luxurious hotels are all over the mountainside. There is one youth hostel in the old town, which can be booked through hostels.com
Most private apartments will be outside of Old Town, a 15 or 20 minute walk away. You can stay inside the city walls of Old Town, but it will be more expensive.
In the summer months, temperatures are around 35 degrees every day, and the streets of Old Town are packed with tourists, mostly Italian, other European, and American.
The official language is of course Croatian, but nearly all people will speak at least a basic level of English. Street signs can be a little difficult to decipher. It can be a little annoying leaning a few words of Croatian, and asking a lady "Gdje je WC molim?" (where is the toilet please?"), only for her to reply in perfect English. Oh well, at least I tried not to be the typical English person abroad.
I saw no evidence that the lager lout crew have touched down on Dubrovnik soil as of yet. Most visitors are families or young budget travellers.
Currency is the Croatian Kuna, which works out as approximately 10=£1. Some places let you use Euros but they don't give you a very good rate. Prices are reasonable but expensive for Eastern Europe.
In self catering apartments, you can buy food in any of the supermarkets. Restaurants and cafes are all over the town, with fish a speciality. Pasta and Salads are also popular. A meal will cost around £4-8. Water fountains are everywhere, and were very gratefully recieved by the two faint English girls!
The high walls and narrow streets of the old town create welcome shade from the burning heat. The old town is a perfectly preserved city from the 1600's. Buildings are white, with lovely tiled rooves in shades of orange.
Entrance to the outer city walls costs 30 Kuna (£3) and is well worth it. Walking the entire circumference can take several hours taking in all the steep steps and perfect postcard photo opportunities. The views of clear blue sea, boats, people diving into the water off rocks, and greenery covered islands, are amazing. Many destinations fail to live up to the travel guide promises, but Dubrovnik does not disappoint.
You can see some evidence of the Serb bombings of 1991 in crumbled buildings, but thankfully the attacks did not cause any major damage to the beautiful town.
Dubrovnik is known as an artists city, and everywhere you go, you will see small galleries, and artists selling their work from stalls. I saw some lovely paintings which were fairly cheap.
Every August, the Dubrovnik festival takes place, which offers music and theatre perfomances every day across the town. Check at a tourist office for more details.
You will see many kittens roaming around in the old town, some of whom look quite thin and sick. If you feel sorry for them, there is an old woman who feeds them. She accepts donations towards their food, and she lives just behind the small harbour.
There are many things to see in Old Town- beautiful churches, monastries, small shops and market stalls selling lace, clothing, crafts and jewellery. You will also see that people are very glamourous, even on a boiling day, the women will be wearing full make up, tight jeans and have their hair styled.
Something I found amusing, and may be of interest to British people who are used to dowdy middle aged women working as lollipop ladies: Lollipop Ladies in Dubrovnik are beautiful young women dressed in hotpants! This may be a good enough reason on its own for some people to pay a visit. I certainly felt that Durbrovnik is a town for the beautiful people and felt a little out of place with my unglamourous sunburn!
There are several beaches in Dubrovnik, however they are not sandy. You will see people sunbathing on anything possible, even the smallest piece of rock jutting out into the sea.
If you go to the harbour, there are several stalls selling tickets for various excursions by boat. You can take a night ride around the city walls, go on a glass bottomed boat, or go on the great trip me and my sister went on.
We paid 220 Kuna each (£22) for a whole day trip by pirate ship. It left in the morning to visit 3 islands and included a cooked lunch. Unfortunately the sea was very rough that day, and the swaying made me feel a bit ill, but the lovely lunch of fish, salad and bread perked me up a bit. In the morning we paid two short visits to small islands, and spent several hours in the afternoon on the island of Lopud. We trekked for what seemed like miles to discover the sacred "sandy beach" (sandy beaches are something of a rarity there). Swimming in the sea was a delight, so clean and refreshingly salty.
By the end of our stay in Dubrovnik, I was happy to be escaping to Bosnia for some fresh air, but I would recommend the town as a place of beauty and history.
The sea there really is as blue as on the promotional websites. Its beauty is breathtaking, and you feel as though you are walking through history. Despite the large numbers of tourists, it's ot difficult to find a pocket of peace, a quiet empty lane in the maze of Old Town. One can only hope that the renewed surge of tourism does not adversely affect the area.
Dubrovnik tourist board
The war ended 9 years ago, yet there is still a common misconception of Bosnia as some sort of dangerous, dusty, battle zone. When I applied to be part of a project in Bosnia this summer, I had some worries myself. When my departure date came closer, I started to wonder if I was just a little bit crazy to be travelling there alone. Would I have to cover my head in public? Did they hate English people? Was I going to step on a landmine?
I was in Bosnia for three weeks and I'm glad to say that the answer to all of those questions is a big NO. I discovered an incredibly beautiful country, recovering from the scars of war, with lots to offer visitors.
Bosnia and Hercegovina is in Eastern Europe, South-East of Italy, bordering Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. It has a population of approximately 4 million people. The landscape varies from rolling valleys to dramatic mountains and rushing rivers.
Bosnia and Hercegovina as it is known today was created in 1995 following the Dayton Peace Agreement. It is divided up into the Federation, and Republika Sprska (RS, the majority Serb part).
I spent most of my time in Banja Luka, the capital of RS, but also stayed in Sarajevo and Travnik, as well as some places in the countryside.
The aim of the project I was working on was to create an alternative travel guide to Bosnia. This enabled me to meet many local people, talk to them about important issues, to visit many places, and hopefully gain a better insight into the country than an ordinary traveller would.
I found a country that varied hugely, from Turkish influenced Muslim dominated towns in the South, to relaxed Western style Serb towns in the RS.
Although some tourists (mostly the young, backpacker type) are venturing to Sarajevo now, usually as a detour from Dubrovnik or part of a multi country European trip, I met no tourists in the RS. Local people are on the whole welcoming and friendly to travellers, and keen to encourage tourism to their country.
Money and costs: Bosnia uses the convertible mark, which is approximately 1 to 34p. Prices are very low. A pack of 20 cigarettes is between 1 and 3 marks. A bottle of beer is 1 to 2 marks, and a meal out is rarely more than 10 marks. You can buy any copied CD you like, including computer software and games, for 4-5 marks.
Food: If you are a vegetarian or have religious dietary needs, you won't have much fun in Bosnia. The 2 most popular forms of fast food are Burek, a greasy pastry containing meat, and Civapi, meatballs inside a bread wrap. You can get Burek containing spinach and cheese at some bakeries. In big cities there are lots of restaurants, although most sell the same food as the next. Banja Luka has a good Mexican restaurant, but international cuisine is a rarity in Bosnia.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are widely available cheaply at stalls along every road, so cooking for yourself is a good idea if you have the facilities.
Toilets are mostly of the Turkish variety. For the uninitiated, this means a hole in the floor which you squat over. Requires some practice to avoid splashing. There are no public toilets other than in bus/train stations, but every cafe/restaurant will allow you to use their toilet, free of charge.
People in Bosnia and Hercegovina speak essentially the same language, although it is called Bosnian in the Federation and Serbian in the RS. Buy a "Serb-Croat" phrase book if you want to learn a few words before arriving. Many young people speak a basic level of English, but it is not commonly spoken otherwise.
How to get there:
Sarajevo has an international airport, which recently started flights from Manchester.
Buses go to Sarajevo from Dubrovnik and many other Eastern and Central European cities.
The bus station is a few miles from the city centre, a taxi costs the equivalent of £2.50 or you can take a tram number 1.
Where to stay:
If you have money, stay at the bright yellow Holiday Inn, where international journalists stayed during the seige.
If you don't have much money, head to the Ljubicica hostel office, which is opposite the "pigeon square" entrance to the Turkish quarter. A bed in a slightly grubby hostel cost me £5 for a night. Staff are very helpful, speak several languages, and the office runs tours as well as a free left luggage service.
What to do:
Sarajevo is a nice city to simply walk around in. Every night in the summer, families from the city stroll around the narrow cobbled streets, occasionally stopping for coffee. I found it pleasant to see people of all ages out in the evening, enjoying life at a relaxed pace. It's certainly a different atmosphere to most English city centres at night.
The Ljubicica hostel office run a daily "war, history and tolerance tour". A minibus leaves the office at 11am and Sunny, a local man, takes you on a tour of the city. Be warned, this is not your ordinary "oh, there's a pretty view" type of tour. I found it quite moving, and felt a little uncomfortable at times, being a "tourist" to so much destruction and atrocities.
The tour takes in visits to some spots high above the city, as well as the war tunnel museum. While Sarajevo was under seige, it was effectively cut off from the rest of the world, and was encircled by Serb fighters. An underground tunnel, 800 metres long was constructed to allow civilians to get supplies safely from the airport. The first section of the tunnel is still accessible and the house from which the tunnel starts has been converted into a museum. It's certainly different from your typical museum with dusty items behind glass cases.
There are lots of other things to do in Sarajevo, such as go ski-ing in the winter on the rund which were used for the 1984 winter olympics. Make sure you go with a reputable tour operator though, as there are land mines remaining in certain marked areas.
There seems to be a certain breed of annoying, know it all, superior traveller in Eastern Europe. Watch out for raised voices reciting the potted history of the former Yugoslavia (as remembered from their lonely planet guide which was a present from Mummy and Daddy), rah-rahing about how Eastern Europeans don't use deodorant, and ticking Bosnia off in their "countries visited" notebook. If you come across one of these species, just back away slowly.
Banja Luka is 250km North of Sarajevo. Buses go to Banja Luka from Ljubliana in Slovenia as well as Belgrade and Sarajevo. There is also a service from London run by Eurolines, but I strongly suspect you would have a sore bottom after sitting down for so long. It is cheaper and easier to get a cheap flight to Italy or Slovenia and then take the bus.
The river Vrbas runs through the city, and offers good opportunities for white water rafting, punting on a "dayak" boat, or simply cooling off from the hot sun in the mountain water. The temperature reaches 35 degrees + in the summer, and gets well below zero in the winter.
Banja Luka has a lot of fashion, CD shops as well as a big daily market selling everything from socks to lace to huge watermelons for 10p.
There are quite a few hotels in Banja Luka, try the Bosna hotel in the city centre.
Banja Luka is almost exclusively Serb. Street signs are in the Cyrillic alphabet, people speak Serbian (which is the same language they speak in the Federation, although there it is referred to as Bosnian), and the RS flag flies above official buildings.
80,000 Muslims fled the city, and only a few thousand have returned, mostly because of necessity. Deserted, falling down, graffitied Muslim houses are easy to see. The only non white face I saw in 3 weeks was that of a NATO soldier. Although there are only sporiadic troubles in the city now, there are quite a lot of soldiers in the streets, usually doing nothing but sitting quietly, having a drink.
Hundreds of coffee bars line the streets, and to fit in with the locals, you will have to become a serious coffee drinker. Nobody rushes here: kick back, have a chat and watch the people go by. Ice cream is available in every possible flavour, 1 mark a scoop, gorgeous girls look like supermodels on the catwalk as they strut down the main street. Every August, the Summer Games are held, which combine sports competitions with nightly concerts at the castle.
One of the best things about Banja Luka is its location. A short drive away are a number of canyons, gorgeous picnic spots in the shade of weeping willows alongside the deep blue water of the Vrbas. The people of Banja Luka are sports mad, and visitors can try paragilding, mountain biking and parachuting, for the fraction of the cost in Western Europe.
On the surface, Banja Luka seems like a normal city. I found many things similar to my home city of Birmingham. There are lots of 24 hour bakeries and small shops, as well as several internet cafes. The streets felt safe, even at night. Don't be fooled by what you see- there is a lot of corruption, poverty, and strong nationalism in the RS.
I would have hesitations about recommending Bosnia as a "holiday destination." If you normally go for a beach holiday for 2 weeks and enjoy that, Bosnia will not be for you. But maybe you want to come back from your travels with a deeper understanding of the troubled Balkan area, and just do something different from the norm. I realise people won't suddenly flood to the region, given its past, and in a way that's a good thing, as thousands of tourists would damage the area and in a way, make it less special. One of the joys of Bosnia is the space- only 4 million people in a country of 19,000 square miles.
I had mixed feelings about leaving Bosnia. I saw many beautiful things there and met many intelligent, kind and interesting people. The young people especially, seem highly educated and motivated, despite poor prospects for the future. I found it a little shaming to compare the typical Bosnian university student with the average British student. Being there certainly changed my perspective, and has made me come to appreciate the opportunities I have in England. I would definitely like to return to Bosnia in the future, and hopefully in years to come I will find a country that has completely recovered from its past.
Relatively speaking, it's not long since the war, and ethnic divisions and tensions have not gone away, especially in the RS. Hopefully in the future, the Muslims and Serbs will find some viable solution and continue living in their beautiful corner of Europe side by side.
If you want to go to Bosnia, but not merely as a tourist, you could go on an international exchange project. Workcamps for groups of people from across Europe are arranged across the country, and work varies from working with children, to environmental and cultural work. Projects last anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months, and taking part in a workcamp is a great way to see a country, meet new people, and usually expenses are covered.
I don't suffer too badly from hangovers. I was fairly drunk last night and I feel fine today, like I could run a marathon if I wanted, or alternatively just go back to the pub later. In the past I have suffered from hangovers and that?s usually because the circumstances provoked one. For example, a few summers ago I was working on a summer camp and had been out one night drinking various concoctions. Admittedly, I was drunk that night but however, if the next day I had been allowed to sleep it off I would have been fine. Unfortunately my job entailed starting work at 7 am, and my boss is so kind that he put me in charge of the deep fat fryer, cooking bacon. The smell of cooking fat and bacon turns my stomach when I'm sober so you can understand why I spent every 5 minutes dashing out of the kitchen to be sick. And so unhygienic was that workplace that it was at least an hour before the chef took pity (or disgust) and sent me back to bed. A few hours later I had slept it off and was fine. Another embarrassing hangover incident happened about a year ago. I was temping in an office and had been out clubbing the night before. I don't remember much about the night out other than standing on some ornamental mushrooms and singing songs from the pirates of Penzance. My usual quiet night out. I felt a bit queasy in the morning but thought I would cope. I hadn't bargained on having the worst bus driver in the world, who swerved and braked badly. I suddenly had that nasty sensation "I'm going to be sick" but by then it was too late. I put my hands over my mouth and to my shame, on that crowded morning bus, the sick seeped through my hands and into my hair, on the seat. Old women stared in disapproval, school children jeered, but I was late for work and had to sit out the shame and attempted to use one of the free newspapers to clean it up. I was rather amused when, a few stops later, a lollipop lady came and sat next to me and s
tarted to read the soiled newspaper. My point is, had it not been for the evil chef who put me on deep fat fryer duty and the mad bus driver, I would have been fine, like I am today. I go out quite a bit, I like to have a good time but I don't like drinking too much and have some tactics to avoid hangovers. First of all, PLAN carefully. Preferably you need a free day the day after your night out, or if you're studying, no morning lectures. * Before you go out, make sure you eat a GOOD MEAL, something like pasta, which swells up and lines your stomach is a good choice. If you don't eat you will get drunk much quicker, which is something you may desire, but don't say I didn't warn you. * Don't MIX your drinks. I used to be guilty of this as I got bored of drinking the same thing or I went for whatever was on offer. If you go from lager to vodka to wine, the chances are you are going to get very ill! So stick to one kind. The darker a drink is, the more likely it is to give you a hangover because of the toxins it contains. Vodka will still give you a hangover, no doubt about it, but allegedly it's not as bad as a red wine or port hangover. * You're supposed to alternate non alcoholic drinks with alcoholic drinks when you're out but I have to admit I never do this, it's expensive enough to go out as it is (although last night I managed to spend only about £12-woohoo!). * Know when to stop. Personally when I'm happy and feel a bit pissed, that's when I need to stop and switch to soft drinks. I don't always stop though, that little voice in my head says "go on Katy, have another one then the night will be good". When I was younger, I didn't know when to stop but now I recognise the signs in my body. * Be wary of drinking if you are on medication and read the instructions, because some medicines react badly with alcohol. * Women, be awa
re that your hormones and menstrual cycle affects the way you react to alcohol. I find that I get drunk a lot quicker just before and during my period, and a hangover on top of period pains is not a pleasant experience. * When you go home, have 2 paracetamol and a big glass of water. Make sure you have a wash and get into a nice clean bed, this will stop you feeling quite so grotty. Have a window open in your room so you can get some fresh air and keep some water by your bed. * Sleep as long as you need to, which should be at least 7 hours. * Be gentle on yourself the next day. If you can't handle the thought of food straightaway, just have a glass of fruit juice. When you're ready to eat, do what suits you. Some people love a fry up for a hangover, personally I like to have a more healthy breakfast with a boiled egg and lots of salad, but then I'm odd. * If you are throwing up, just let it happen, drink lots of water and try to sleep it off. If you followed all the other tips though, you shouldn't be sick in the first place. * Spend the day lazing about, chatting on the phone, watching TV and recovering. In the afternoon or when you feel up to it, go for a walk to the park or round the block to refresh your head. * Happy drinking!
Christina Aguilera gets a hard time in the press for her somewhat interesting dress sense and her general appearance. Behind the media storm lies an album which I think will surprise many. I much prefer Christina to Britney as I think Chrstina is honest about the things that young girls are doing, not a FAKE like Britney (virgin- I think not). I am a Christina fan and think she has a fantastic diva style voice which can hit all the high notes, a bit like Mariah Carey. I don't own any of her other albums but I liked the single Dirrty so much I bought Stripped. The album has a whole is a mixture of ballads and RnB sounds, with appearances from Redman, Alicia Keys, Eve and Lil Kim. There is a Spanish feel on the track "Infatuation" which has an introduction in Spanish and Spanish guitars. It preaches a message of female empowerment (especially on songs like "Can't Hold Us Down"), love and sex as well as touching on issues such as domestic abuse. These lyrics from the haunting song "I'm Ok" say it all: "Hurts me to see the pain in my mothers face, every time my fathers fist would put her in her place" The album opens with Christina saying "this is for my girls all around the world" and Stripped is definitely an album which will appeal more to women than men. It's not ANTI men so much as PRO women. This is an honest album which really does expose Christina and I think Stripped is a very appropriate name for it. Christina has spoken in interviews recently about the abuse and poverty which is part of her childhood and I respect her for that. It makes a change to have an established pop star sing about real issues which normal people can relate to instead of wannabe gangster hoes like Jennifer Lopez singing about all their diamonds and numerous husbands. Listening to this album cheers me up and it is good for cosy nig
hts in to create a relaxed intimate atmosphere. With 16 full tracks you certainly get value for money and not one is a dud, although there are a few which are less memorable. Here's the listing~ 1. Stripped Intro 2. Can't Hold Us Down\Feat. Lil' Kim This is one of the best tracks on the album which discusses the double standard that exists between men and women when it comes to sex. It asks why if a man has several women on the go, he is considered a stud, but a woman is called a whore. Lil Kim does a strong rap and there's a great bit which you can sing at your bloke when he's getting on your nerves: "You're just a little boy Think you're so cute so coy You must talk so big To make up for smaller things". 3. Walk Away A typical Christina ballad, there's nothing bad about this track but it's not one of my favourites. 4. Fighter Fighter is addressed to an ex partner who treated Christina like shit, but rather than hating him, she thanks him because he " made me that much stronger, makes me work a little bit harder, made me that much wiser, thanks for making me a fighter". I can relate to that totally and it's a refreshing view point. This is an upbeat, fast tune with a good beat. 5. Primer Amor Interlude This is a spoken interlude in Spanish which sets the mood for the next song and is talking about a first love. 6. Infatuation I love this song! It makes me think of a holiday romance with a Latin Lover, and the singers mother is warning her not to fall in too deep. "He comes from a foreign place An island far away" If you've ever had a romance with a dark foreign lover who knew how to say all the right things, you'll be able to relate to this song. "I realise big brown eyes can hypnotise" 7. Loves
Embrace Interlude 8. Loving Me 4 Me 9. Impossible This is a beautiful slow ballad featuring Alicia Keys on piano who also wrote the song. "It's impossible, impossible to love you If you don't let me know what you're feeling". If you've heard Alicia Keys album "Songs in A Minor", you will recognise the distinctive sound she produces. 10. Underappreciated 11. Beautiful This is the next single to come out from the album, it should be a big hit because it's a good slow song with a message about inner beauty. "You are beautiful, no matter what they say, words won't bring you down" 12. Make Over This sounds a lot like The Sugababes "Overload" and has a rock feel to it. It's not what you would expect from Christina but she does it well. 13. Cruz 14. Soar This song really does soar and makes the most of Christinas vocal range. I like to warble along to it in my bedroom. 15. Get Mine Get Yours This is one of my absolute favourites off the album, it's a sexy song about a purely physical relationship. Some of the lyrics are a bit naughty, but this is a song for the Sex and the City generation, a total antithesis to love and romance. "We have a physical thing. We make love but don't fall in love, we spend time. Just enough so you get yours and I get mine No strings attached I want your body, not your heart" 16. Dirrty\Feat. Redman I love this song but it's been so heavily played on the radio it has lost a bit of it's buzz, but it's great to dance to in a club as it has a good beat and you can really move to it. 17. Stripped Pt 2 18. The Voice Within Another ballad which is quite sad. 19. I'm Ok Christina remenicses about her childhood w
ith a violent father. "Bruises fade father, but the pain remains the same". 20. Keep On Singin' My Song This song closes the album well and sums up some of Christina's conclusions, mostly about not being bothered about what others think of her. "I woke up this morning with a smile on my face Nobody's gonna bring me down today Been feeling like nothings been going my way lately So I decided right here and now that my outlooks gotta change" I haven't commented on all of the songs because there are rather a lot of ballads which although pleasant. are not entirely distinguishable from one another and are not especally memorable. I love this album. The interludes help it to flow and you feel as though it has been put together in a certain order for a reason rather than just thrown together. Not everyone likes Christina Aguilera's voice but this album really uses her talents to full potential from her soaring high notes to more deep, husky singing. Give this album a go, you might be surprised.
Mike Skinner is a young Brummie lad now living in London. He talks about smoking weed, being on the dole, eating fast food and going to the pub. Underneath there?s some strong beats and occasionally a catchy melody kicks in. It doesn?t exactly sound the stuff of a revolutionary new garage artist, but The Street?s debut album, Original Pirate Material has been a huge success, even being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize (sadly beaten by Ms Dynamite). They certainly do have an original and distinctive sound, and their tunes are about things British youth can relate to, which makes a change to hearing US rappers going on about guns, hoes and bitches. The songs are down to earth and several strike a chord with me, about feeling fed up and bored with everyday life and nothing seeming to change. However, the album has an upbeat feel about it overall and the jaunty beats counteract the sometimes gloomy lyrics. Mike Skinners soft Brummie/cockney tones are instantly recognisable and some say that like Marmite, you love it or hate it. The album lasts for just under 50 minutes and I have to admit I have seldom listened to it in one go. Because the sound is so distinctive, there is the problem of is being rather ?samey?, and I prefer to dip in to it, going straight to the tracks I prefer. ?Brace yourself cos this goes deep?. The album opens with ?Turn The Page?, which acts as an introduction rather than a track in its own right, with no real melody, just Mike rapping/talking over a beat about life in general. But the best is yet to come. This goes straight into ?Has it come to this??, the first single to be released, which was a big underground hit last summer. It?s catchy, has a chorus you can sing along to, and class lyrics like ?sex drugs and on the dole?. This is one of my favourite tracks off the album. The sample is performed by Keith Hammond ?This aint your archetypal street sound? ?Let?s Pus
h Things Forward? was also released as a single and has a great trumpet intro. It?s quite a laidback track with a two step beat you can nod your head along to. ?You say that everything sounds the same then you go buy them there?s no excuses my friend let?s push things forward? Throughout the album, Mike Skinner has digs at the commercial garage scene, and the ?anthems? which artists like the Artful Dodger make. Recurring themes are drugs, depression and drinking. ?Sharp Darts? is next and is something of a filler and only one and a half minutes. I am not keen on this at all and find it repetitive and irritating. ?Round here nothing seems to change Same old thing every day?. ?Same Old Thing? is about the repetitiveness of life, going out drinking because there?s nothing else to do, watching the football, over and over until your whole life has gone and you don?t know where. There?s a nice sung chorus which works well. ?Geezers need excitement if their lives don?t provide it, they?ll incite violence common sense, simple common sense?. ?Geezers need excitement? is about blokes getting violent. It?s an energetic track with a fast tempo. ?I didn?t know that it was over Till it was too late. But if I ever needed you, would you be there?? ?It?s too late? is another favourite, and although you can hardly call it a ballad, it?s as close as you?re going to get. The chorus blends Mike Skinners surprisingly good singing voice, with the female vocals of Jacqueline Rawe to create a nice effect. It?s a sad tale about a bloke being dumped by his girlfriend after neglecting her and he?s gutted- ?now nothing holds significant, nothing now is relevant ?. ?Too Much Brandy? strike a bit close to home, about, guess what, a fella drinking too much brandy. The beat reminds me of being pissed, or ?feeling a bit mangled? as the streets put it so eloquently.
?Don?t Mug Yourself? is the latest single release which is basically Mike and a mate having a chat about the girl he met the night before and how he should play it. His mates are telling him he?s acting like a doormat and encourage him to play hard to get. This is a faster song and ends with a nice bit of them joking about, not realising the recording is still going on. If you wanted to know what blokes talk about when there are no women around, now you know. The Irony Of It All always makes me laugh. It?s a tale of two blokes- Terry, the ?law abiding? heavy drinker, who loves nothing more than to go out, get wrecked and get into fights. Tim, who stays in, smokes weed, plays on the playstation and has chats about the meaning of life, but is branded a criminal. It?s a clever and fun satire presenting arguments for decriminalising cannabis and comparing it to the vast problems that alcohol causes. The two characters Skinner creates may be stereotypes (Terry the thug and Tim, the weedy engineering graduate) but people like that do exist and you might recognise them. ?Weak become heroes, and the stars align?. ?Weak Become Heroes? is another of the best tracks, a melancholy look at taking Ecstasy and the effects it has. Softer tones are used in this track and in my opinion, it?s not glorifying drugs but just telling it how it is. Anyone who has been out clubbing and maybe dabbled a bit in certain dubious substances will recognise the things talked about in Weak Become Heroes. Not that I would, of course. ?Stay Positive? closes the album with a now familiar strong beat. It?s words of comfort to keep you going and give you hope when you have hit rock bottom. It?s an appropriate way to close an album that has touched on depressing themes and leaves you feeling hopeful and encourages you to keep striving for your dream. It tells of how people who tell you to ?stop dreaming? are just jealous because they have given up on theirs.
Overall, I think this is a great and original album. I have to be in the right mood to listen to it, but it has a lot of energy and is a very fresh sound, talking about things that matter to me and a lot of other people. If you are a hot shot lawyer with potloads of cash, a mortgage and 2.4 children, you probably won?t relate to this album. But if you are down on the streets man, have ever been unemployed, got pissed or broken up with someone you cared about, you will know where Mike Skinner comes from. I will be interested to hear the follow up to this album, and hope it contains collaborations with other artists, for I think that is what is needed to ensure the survival of the streets.
Last week I had my hair chopped and instead of a boring long-just hanging there look, I have a sexy choppy-over one eye style. I wanted a funky colour to match my new style, but don't like to use any bleach on my hair. This morning I dyed my hair using Schwarzkopf Live. I dyed it using the semi permanent Cosmic Blue shade. It cost me £2.99 from Superdrug. Cosmic Blue is not a bright blue, it is supposed to give a black/blue hint to dark hair. It lasts for 5-8 washes, so for me that's about 3 weeks. Cosmic Blue is only for use on dark brown to black hair. The model on the box has lush hair, black and shiny with a distinct hint of blue in the light That's what I wanted. In the box there was a plastic bottle of dye, plastic gloves and instructions. I was supposed to do a strand test and an allergy test but I never bother with those things. I recommend it if you have sensitive skin though. The gloves, as usual, were far too big, but they did their job by preventing my hands from being stained. I had to first wash my hair with a mild shampoo and then towel dry it. My hair is of medium length and I didn't find that the one bottle was enough to cover my whole head. The dye was fairly runny and ran down my face, it would have been better if it was a bit thicker. The dye dripped all over the bath and was a purple colour, but washed off easily. I also got some on my forehead and didn't wash it off quick enough so have a bit of a faint stain there. Nice. You have to leave the dye for 30 minutes, then massage and rinse it out until the water runs clear. It took ages to run clear. The instructions say that the dye contains a special conditioner so there is no need to use an extra one, but I used a conditioner anyway. My hair felt nice and soft and it was easy to comb. I blow dried it and it feels lovely and soft, although it certainly does not look in the sligh
test bit blue. It looks slightly darker but does not look like the colour on the box. My hair smells of nasty chemicals too. They could have included a sachet of scented conditioner in the box to prevent that. I want my hair to smell nice and clean, not blatantly of dye. The dye doesn't contain any ammonia or harsh chemicals and it does say on the box that it does not give dramatic results, but even so, I don't think I will spend my money on this again.
I am not a big fan of clothes shopping. I?m only a titch and find it really difficult to find trousers to fit me in length. I also hate going into those clothes shops which are populated by a million 15 year olds who are all thinner, blonder and prettier than me. The kind of shops where a plain top costs £25, the assistants look you up and down, the mirrors are horrendously unflattering and you suddenly go up two dress sizes. Those are the kind of shops which send me rushing for the bus home feeling miserable. Thankfully, Dorothy Perkins is not one of those shops. I have been shopping there for a few years now and have found recently that the majority of my clothes come from there. So why is this? ** Reasons why I like Dorothy Perkins: ** They give an all important 10% student discount. Hurrah! The prices are reasonable. Average £30 for a pair of jeans, £25 for a nice going out top, £10 for a casual top. They sell a nice range of clothes, from smart shirts and trousers for work, to casual tops and jeans. At the moment they have lovely warm jumpers with fur trims and sequins. They also sell glam going out tops. They keep up to date with trends, such as glittery jeans, but don?t turn the stock over too fast. They sell a good range of sizes, including a petite range, a tall range, and a Plus range for sizes 16 and over. They sell lovely jewellery and accessories to match the clothes and these are very often at half price. They sell knickers at 3 for £6, nice ones with different motifs on such as butterflies and union jacks. It never gets ridiculously crowded like Top Shop does. It?s nicely laid out so you don?t get crushed. They take electron cards as well as all usual switch and credit cards. The sizes are honest, so a 12 is actually a 12 as opposed to an 8 The clothes are a reasonable quality, they don?t shrink or fade in the wash. They
sell Disney Nightwear such as pyjamas and dressing gowns as well as sexy slips. ** Things I don?t like about Dotty P?s **: Sometimes they don?t have the appropriate size. You can only take 4 items of clothing into the changing rooms There isn?t usually anyone supervising the changing rooms so you feel like a criminal sneaking in The interior is never very nice. It?s functional but nothing special. Occasionally the assistant serving you will push you to open a store card. But when you say no, they don?t push it. -I have never had to take anything back to Dorothy Perkins but their policy is that they will refund or exchange clothes within 30 days. The staff all seem to be young females, aged from 16 to 25. I have never had a problem with any of them although sometimes they seem inexperienced. There are branches of Dorothy Perkins on most high streets and shopping centres. I go to the one in Birmingham city centre and One Stop Shopping Centre. I would not say that D P's are at the cutting edge of fashion and probably would not appeal to young teens, but to people of 18 upwards who want a classic look. They have a web site at http://www.dorothyperkins.co.uk/promostores/dp/ where you can see their collections and buy online.
Being stressed and pre menstrual makes my face break out in angry spots, not a very attractive thing. The usual tea tree oil doesn?t seem to shift them, so I bought some of this Clearasil gel. It cost £3.50 for a small tube of 30ml (I got mine from a discount chemist though, it?s probably more in Boots), which should last at least a few months, even if you use it every day, because you only need to use a small amount. I?ve tried a lot of different spot treatments and most of them are either so weak they do nothing, or so harsh that they strip my skin raw red. So I was keen to see how this one measured up, and hoped I hadn?t wasted yet more of my hard earned (*cough*) money. The tube comes in a shiny blue cardboard box, which seems a waste of packaging. The packaging is nothing to write home about, but then who displays spot cream anyway? It?s white and blue and made out of satisfyingly thick plastic. The directions are to apply a thin layer of the gel to any troublesome areas of the face after washing and drying. You should do this every night. I like the idea of a night time gel, because your skin has lots of time to repair itself while you are asleep. When I put it on, it tingles in a way that indicates that it is doing some kind of magic, and it feels refreshing. I try to apply it just before going to sleep, because it does tighten the skin a little as it dries, which can be slightly uncomfortable. Don?t apply it if you have a gentleman or lady friend staying over because it makes your face look plastic and shiny, a bit like an alien or a shop dummy. The gel is a medium consistency, not so runny that it drips off your face yet not so thick that it?s a struggle to apply. It is quite sticky, and is clear in colour. A 10p blob is enough for one application. It smells slightly minty, not of bleach as some spot treatments do! The first time I used this, I was a bit worried to look in the mirror in the morning, only to see
stringy bits of gel on my face. You have to wash your face in the morning well to get rid of this. So, does it work? Yes. The claim is that it: ?boosts skin defence and helps prevent spots? Well, I did not get any new spots after using this, or at least not any significant ones, so I?ll agree with that. The spots that I did have, dried up and shrunk, going away within a few days, quicker than they would have gone away by themselves. The main active ingredient in this gel is salicylic acid, which is basically a drying agent which causes your skin to peel. I do find my skin is a little dry after using this and can become somewhat flaky, but I would rather have a few flakes than spots. If my skin gets dry, I just use a light moisturiser in the morning after washing the gel off. After using this gel for a few weeks daily I have found my skin to be very dry and so give my skin a break for a few days, and use E45 cream on the sore bits. It?s a pain that to combat spots you have to subject your skin to harsh treatments which dry your face up but it?s the lesser of two evils in my opinion. I have been using this for a few weeks but am pretty impressed. It?s not a magic solution and you can get stronger treatments over the counter or from your doctor on prescription. However, if you just have a few troublesome spots, or want to prevent any, I recommend this. It?s probably best for oily or normal skin types and better avoided if you have dry skin due to the drying effect. Clearasil recommend on the box to wash your face first with Clearasil deep cleansing wash, but they would, wouldn?t they? I say, use any cleanser but make sure your face is thoroughly clean of all make up and dirt before using this gel. I found it interesting to note thatt when I left the tube at someones house and thus could not use it for a week, I got quite a few spots. So I bought another tube. There aren't many skin treatments which
I have spent my money on more than once, so that speaks volumes coming from me. One last thing, it tastes awful and dries your lips and mouth up the same as it does your face, so make sure you wash your hands well after applying. If you are lazy like me and don?t bother to wash your hands before going to sleep, you will soon find that your hands are horribly dry and cracked, so make sure you do wash them thoroughly. Alternatively, if you are feeling evil, apply a thick layer and invite a willing partner to kiss you goodnight. Not that I would do a thing like that.