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    • Spies - Michael Frayn / Fiction Book / 97 Readings / 95 Ratings
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      26.03.2010 13:45
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      Give it a go

      This beautiful novel by Michael Frayn explores the adventures of two young friends during a wartime summer in rural England. Stephen Wheatley returns to the quiet sleepy cul-de-sac some fifty years later and reflects on the events which changed everything for him. He was the junior rank in a two man army which becomes embroiled in a story of second-world-war espionage. Keith Hayward his best and perhaps only friend is a posh only child whilst Stephen is the younger brother in a family he is embarrassed about. The spies mentioned in the title are German agents who are appearing around every corner of every street in the boys imaginations.

      Without telling us how old the two boys are the author explains their different social backgrounds and how the relationship between them grows in the face of difficult times which the young boys endured during wartime Britain. Rather than being able to grow up and play like young boys should their thoughts and pastimes are dominated by the horrors of war. Stephen doesn`t quite understand why Keith is his friend, he looks up to him and follows and believes in all of his boyish games. Keith has an imagination to marvel at, nothing is quite what it seems in his world. Mr Gort from no 11 is a "murderer" announced Keith and when he informed Stephen that his father was in the Secret Service and his mother was a German spy rather than not believing him Stephen felt jealous because he couldn`t muster up even one parent of any interest.

      As the adventure unfolds we learn how the childish games of the boys are played out against a back drop of anti aircraft defences, bombsites and houses blacked out at night. Stephen is excited about the possibilities of wearing disguises and following people but he isn`t quite sure how Keith knows his mother is a spy. Together the boys begin to spy on the comings and goings of the residents in the quiet neighbourhood, believing almost everybody is a possible suspect they keep a secret log and make notes on all events. It seems that the German spies have infiltrated everywhere and when Keith`s mother appears to vanish into thin air whilst being followed, the fantasy world they have dreamed up emerges from the shadows and becomes a dark and sinister reality. The behaviour of Keith`s mother becomes something of a concern to the boys as the possibility of her really being a spy becomes more than just a fantasy. The author begins to focus on the strange behaviour of Keith`s family and keeps the reader guessing as to how the jigsaw fits together, why does his mother keep disappearing, what information could she be passing on, who else is involved.

      The writer brings together many issues in Spies, we learn about life in war torn England, about how children are affected growing up with the threat of war. We see how the boy`s fantasies and playtimes are influenced by what is happening around them. Whilst they want to do the normal things adolescent boys would do they feel compelled to do their bit for the war effort. We wonder if the boys are trying to grow up too quickly, is their childhood disappearing before they have chance to meet girls and make friends and enjoy the summer as every child dreams of. This was my first Michael Frayn novel, for me it works as a mystery, a coming of age drama and a war time thriller. I found it a very engrossing read funny at times yet deeply serious, always delving into the perceptions children have of the adult world they aspire to join. Whilst the book is only 234 pages making a lot shorter than most mysteries I found I was compensated by the quality of the cleverly conceived plot and compelling misinterpretations of two young adolescent boys. The book will appeal to a wide range of people because of the nature of the story lines and I would recommend it to anyone who hasn`t had the pleasure of reading a Michael Fryan novel before.

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        19.03.2010 14:18
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        Not his best thriller

        Having thoroughly enjoyed James Patterson`s earlier novels which have featured either the Washington homicide detective Alex Cross or the Women`s Murder Club I was intrigued to see if the master of thriller writing could maintain a standard that has seen two of his earlier books, Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls turned into highly successful films.

        In hide and seek Patterson writes with straightforwardness and ease, by using short chapters he makes sure you`re quickly hooked on the engrossing plot making it hard to put the book down.

        This couldn`t be happening. It was unthinkable. Maggie Bradford lay shivering under the porch with her baby girl, Philip her drunken and violent husband is going to kill them. Years later we now find Maggie Bradford is on trial for murder. One of the world`s best known singer-songwriters, a mother who has it all, how could she have killed not one but two of her husbands. We are left in no doubt from the very start about the victims and who is suspected of being the killer but even with this knowledge the reader is kept guessing about the outcome as the author delves into the flawed and complex characters. Reflecting on her life from a prison cell awaiting trial we learn about Maggie`s rise to fame as a much loved and famous musician and singer-song writer, a celebrity who has everything to live for. Maggie is a fighter who has overcome tragic events from the past and is building a successful future.

        When Maggie falls in love with a brilliant athlete and film star her dreams have come true, she has found happiness or has she? The man she marries Will, the perfect gentleman has dark dangerous secrets that no one could imagine. Patterson explores each character making the reader believe first one thing then another, teasing and challenging minds, making it hard to judge whether Maggie should be on trial, making it easy to loathe Will. Will with his stunning looks hiding an evil personality. The novel moves at a fast pace with events on either side of the Atlantic being described in short chapters continually moving between the two main characters. A style similar to a Sidney Sheldon epic, watching two people growing up in different countries their lives destined to become entwined.

        With Hide and Seek James Patterson has moved away from his crime thriller mode and for a one off book has changed to more of a romantic thriller. It is hard not to feel sympathy for Maggie and see her as the victim. As we learn about Wills personality and his sexual cravings the book moves away from the romantic meetings and courtships and into the darker sinister world of a madman. As the story draws towards its shocking climax I found it more difficult to put the book down I got the feeling that I had to know what happens which is typical of the way the author carries his readers along in suspense, never daring to stop until we have the answer, until we know.

        For me Hide and Seek was unusual for a James Paterson novel. I found the story flowed along nicely although I found some of the descriptions of how good a singer and songwriter Maggie became a bit too far fetched at times as was Wills rise as an English footballer. It was also made me cringe to see how an American writer coped with describing our beautiful game of football. Whilst I enjoyed Hide and Seek I didn`t think that it reached the standards of Patterson`s Alex Cross or Women`s Murder Club thrillers. I felt at times the story followed the lines of many other stories about abused women who fall in love and don`t realise what they are getting into, it is probably only the climax that could be recognised as being written by this truly great writer. My normal experience of a James Patterson novel is a thriller with fast paced adventure, action, mystery and suspense. I don`t think Hide and seek quite ticked all these boxes for me although I would recommend it as a good holiday read and I will probably read one of his other stand alone books.
        Published by HarperCollins 1996
        £6.99

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          15.03.2010 13:08
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          Fascinating read

          I decided to dust down my copy of Long Way Down and have another look at it since one of the co-authors Charley Boorman is currently touring the UK with a show about his travels with Ewan McGregor. I wanted to read it again before making my mind up on whether or not to go and see his show in Blackpool. Long Way Down is the second book by the fellow actors and motorcycle fanatics Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor, it is a diary style account of a extraordinary 15000 mile journey from John O`Groats at the northernmost tip of Scotland to Cape Agulhas on the southernmost tip of South Africa. Their choice of bikes, the almost indestructible BMW R1200 GS Adventure carries them across two continents, visiting eighteen countries and over some of the toughest terrain the world has to offer.

          The book which accompanied a BBC television series of the same name reflects the independent views of both riders, each writing short accounts as the journey unfolds. For me this makes for more informative reading as you get a sense of the tensions that can arise when people are travelling and living together for a long period of time. There is also a chance to see how the same strenuous and exhausting journey can have differing effects on each traveller. It must be every bikers dream to be able to undertake a journey like long Way Down and I certainly felt jealous of Charley and Ewan as I read the early chapters which briefly describe the preparations and the mainly tarmac journey through Europe, I even thought I would have been able to step in for Ewan when he broke his leg before the off. There is an obvious rivalry between the two friends. Charley is by far the better rider whereas Ewan is by far the better actor. Ewan is often frustrated by his failings on the bike which are not helped with Charley showing off his motorcycling skills at every opportunity. The tensions build as the journey follows a path through the stunning scenery of the African continent.

          The second half of the journey down through Africa is what the trip is really all about, it is a superb account of two "lads" who set out to enjoy a boyhood dream but are brought back down to earth by meeting children whose lives have been shattered by war, children who were soldiers and children brought up in mine affected areas. They meet friendly tribesmen, gorillas and elephants, they tell of the drama and dangers of Africa, of riding in high temperatures across different challenging terrains. With their unique humour they tell of a journey through Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and many other fascinating countries. They take in some famous sites. I suppose it makes a change to see some one sat on a motorcycle rather than a camel in front of the great pyramids of Egypt.

          Long Way Down is an account of two lads on an adventure inspired by their previous visits to Africa on behalf of UNICEF, sometimes funny, sometimes emotional and sometimes sad. It differs from the one man on his travels like many adventures as Charley and Ewan give the reader an insight into their friendship, their character and their determination to succeed. We see two people working together being supported by family and friends but as in life, relationships and paths don`t often run smoothly. We see two grown adults both successful actors with their boyish humour showing off and bragging to each other. We see hints of jealousy and rivalry none more so than when Charley describes the visit to the Star Wars film set in Tunisia and points out that whilst Ewan was a star of later Star War films no one recognised him even though he walked round the set with a shirt with McGregor emblazoned on the back.

          The book has forty eight pages of colour photographs as well as maps and technical details of equipment. It is easy reading and follows the natural path of a journey from the planning through to completion. It will appeal to motorcycle enthusiasts as well as travellers. It describes a journey that I felt I could complete myself and gave me a feeling of wanting to be travelling with them. The fact that it was filmed for television meant that they had to take a camera crew, equipment and support vehicles with them sometimes giving the impression of the boys getting too much help and not just about Charley and Ewan facing Africa by themselves. I found Long Way down a compelling adventure to read and I would recommend this fascinating book even if motorcycling and travelling may not be your first choice subject matter for a good read.

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            07.03.2010 23:22
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            Ideal for a budget traveler

            Located on the rue Rodier in Montmartre Paris and just a short walk from both the Moulin Rouge and Sacre Coeur this charming hotel /hostel is ideal for travellers who are looking for cheap accommodation in the heart of this beautiful and historic city. Close to the Anvers metro station on the nearby boulevard de Rochechouart the hotel is popular with both families and students from all over the world and makes an ideal base from which to explore Paris.


            In common with all Parisian hotels space is at a premium so room sizes are small and not all the rooms in the hotel Perfect have private facilities so be carful when making your booking to stipulate whether or not you wish to share. All floors can be reached by stairs or the rickety lift which creeps slowly upwards as you wonder if you might spend your whole visit to Paris stuck inside. The rooms are basic in their furnishing and the decor is old and tired but they are clean. The hotel appeals to travelers who spend most of their time out and about and not too interested in luxury. The dress of the day is backpacks rather than designer suitcases.

            The reception, open 24hrs a day is run by friendly and helpful English speaking staff who will happily advise you on any aspects of your stay in Paris, they also offer a safety deposit box for your valuables although this is a communal one and you will need to wrap your valuables to keep them secure. Also available in reception are free maps of Paris, free baggage storage and English newspapers. Adjacent to the reception is a small rest room which is usually busy with guests preparing for the days sightseeing and swapping stories about their experiences of the city. There are vending machines for coffee or soft drinks as well as a well worn piano in the rest room.

            Breakfast is served next door to reception and consists of French bread, butter, jam, coffee and fruit juice, whilst this might not be as generous as other continental breakfasts, guests are welcome to use the small kitchen to make a light snack or drink. On the street outside the hotel as well as a few grocers and local bars you will find a lovely cake and bread shop serving fresh baguettes stuffed with ham and cheese and fantastic mouth watering pastries overflowing with glazed fruit just right for your picnic during the day.

            So is this hotel for you? It`s busy, vibrant and full of character. The enthusiastic backpackers can be a little noisy as they begin to retire for the night using the shared facilities. The breakfast is just about adequate as are the facilities but you will get the feeling of being a traveler rather than just another English tourist. You can exchange tales of yesterday`s exciting trips with like minded adventurers over a coffee in the inviting rest room. With prices per person per night starting at E22, and being able to reach the hotel in about 10 to 15 minutes on foot from the Eurostar terminal in the Gare du Nord are what makes the hotel Perfect an attractive option for your stay in central Paris. If you are looking for luxury and being pampered this is not the place to go. If you are traveling on a budget and don`t mind the basic hostel style of the younger traveler this is a lovely place to rest your weary legs after pounding the boulevards and avenues of one of the worlds great cities.

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              07.03.2010 15:00
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              One of the most famous avenues in the world

              For the legions of visitors to Paris the enthralling walk from the Palais Royal, through tranquil gardens to the majestic Arc de Triomphe has become a pilgrimage. Despite the many competing charms the city has to offer, the history and the grandeur of the Champs Elysees is the highlight of any stay in Paris. The entrance to Palais Royal Metro station, the starting point for this walk, was redesigned by Jean-Michel Othoniel, as the "Kiosque des noctambules" (Kiosk of the night-walkers), it was completed in October 2000 for the centenary of the Metro. Made of glass beads coloured and threaded on a structure of aluminum the contemporary design representing day and night is in stark contrast to the surrounding traditional buildings. The court yard of the Palais Royal with its ugly black and white striped pillars and fountains with revolving silver spheres provide further examples of how modern works of art struggle to fit in against a backdrop of historical Paris.



              Long before it became a museum, the Louvre was a royal palace constantly growing in size under a succession of French kings. Even in modern times changes have taken place with the addition of the controversial glass pyramid in 1989. Have a sit down by the pyramid and marvel at the architecture of the Louvre, it is hard not to imagine the scenes of days gone by, horse drawn carriages clattering across the court yards carrying the French royalty as they go about their daily lives. Admire the Champs Elysees in all its glory with the triumphal arch of Arc de Triomphe shimmering in the distance before embarking on a journey along the nation's most famous avenue.


              Nestling between the out stretched arms of the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe de Carousel was built to commemorate Napoleonic victories and was once adorned with four bronze horses which have since been returned to St Marks square in Venice. The graceful arch stands at the entrance to the elegant and formal Jardin des Tuileries. This pleasant stroll takes you through the well maintained gardens with ornamental ponds and dozens of statues. Enjoy your picnic here whilst children take donkey rides and play with their yachts in the ponds or watch the Parisian gentlemen pitch their "boules" as they noisily try to outwit each other. The gardens were laid out by Louis X1V`s architect and quickly became the place to be see and be seen in Paris.


              Leave the gardens by the grand gilded gates, pass the giant Ferris wheel and head for the centre of the magnificent Place de Concorde with its fountains, statues and fantastic views in all four directions. The 3300 year old Luxor obelisk stands close to the spot where the infamous guillotine was once used to behead over 1100 unfortunate people including LouisXV1 and Marie Antoinette. The square itself has been all but ruined by the constant traffic roaring around. It is a danger zone for pedestrians eager to cross over to the safety of the tree lined pavements of the Champs Elysees. Take the winding path through the Jardins des Champs Elysees with its lush Lawns and pretty flower beds another lovely place to picnic. This area hosts a fantastic Christmas market in the winter months. With all the splendour you would associate with this area of Paris, smartly decorated stalls line both sides of the avenue as far as the eye can see. The air is filled with the tempting smells of roasting chestnuts, mulled wine and cheese fondue's. See Santa and his reindeer fly over head to the sound of jingle bells whilst you shop for unusual tree decorations, chocolate and Christmas gifts. It will be very hard to find a better Christmas market.


              Now it`s time to join the throngs of people and march up the dramatic sweeping incline of the Champs Elysees. The ideal setting for historic processions, from the sombre return of Napoleons remains to the victory parades of two World Wars. Although once an avenue where ladies would stroll, adorned in the finest fashions of the day it is now full of brash shops and fast food restaurants. The expensive "Le lido" renowned cabaret show and famous for its blue belle dancing girls typifies the modern touristy image of the Champs Elysees. It can be found amongst a parade of brand name shops and hotels which line the route to the end of the walk the place de Charles de Gaulle. Take the pedestrian tunnel rather than risk life or limb dodging the never ending traffic circling the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc dominates the central point of a web of twelve avenues, commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon it now shelters a flame lit daily at 6.30am and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, reminders of the less glamourous side of war. Before heading off back to your hotel take one last look down the magnificent avenue and think about its glorious history.


              Many tourists complain that Paris can be expensive; this is a lovely way to enjoy the city at its best for free.

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                25.02.2010 15:38
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                Compact, beautiful and fascinating

                Paris is a wonderful city, full of history and culture. It has some of the most famous sites in the world, but what I like most is about Paris is seeking out the unusual, the curious and less well known. Monmartre is full of character and mystery. It is worthwhile spending a full day in this area to get a glimpse of Paris of old. Montmartre`s hill, the butte was for centuries a rural village, littered with windmills grinding the capital`s flour. The low rents and picturesque charm soon found favour with the writers, artist and musicians of the 19th century, and with their arrival came the opening of the lively bars, raunchy cabarets and the sleazy brothels. The tourists arrived after Word War 1, flocking in their thousands on pilgrimages to Sacre-Coeur. Despite there being a notoriously seedy side to Montmartre around Pigalle, the winding streets and picturesque squares have helped the area keep its village atmosphere and charm.

                Marvel at the wonderful, whimsical frescoes as you climb the precipitous steps from the platform of Metro Abbesses on your arrival in Montmartre. The station exits to the tranquil Place de Abbesses which is dominated by the swirling mass of pale green ironwork and glass of the art nouveau station entrance. In winter the square comes to life with a Christmas market, the air filled with the smell of crepes and chestnuts being roasted on open fires.

                The lively boulevard de Rochecheouart is the starting point for the long hike to the summit of the butte with its masses of tourists, before joining them, take a couple of minutes to find no 84. Now a tacky tourist shop, the plaque on the wall shows it once housed the infamous Le Chat Noir, Rodolphe Sasis` Cabaret. Just a few doors away is the crumbling facade of the Theatre Ellsee-Montmartre where the famous can-can dancer, La Goule made her debut before defecting to the Moulin Rouge further down the boulevard.

                Lined with shops selling fabric and clothes the rue de Steinkerque is where a young Pablo Picasso once frequented its brothels, as you near the top the gleaming white Basilica of Sacre-Coeur dominate the skyline of the butte. Beware this area is frequented by hustlers and street traders eager to relieve tourists of their hard earned cash. One of my favourite experiences in Paris is to climb the steps to the basilica, stopping off on one of the inviting wooden benches in the midst of the immaculate lawns bordered by hedges, and picnic on some lovely fresh baked baguette with "fromage" purchased from one of the many bakers on your way to the butte. The views across the city are truly breathtaking. For the price of a single metro ticket the funicular will whisk you to the top where the 226 steps of the rue Foyatier make for a lovely photograph opportunity. Before leaving the butte other places of interest are the Musee de Montmartre, the districts oldest house takes visitors on a journey through its history, and the Espace Montmartre Salvador Dali, a permanent exhibition of sculptures and paintings by the surrealist artist. Finally a must visit is the famous place de Tertre, a square in the heart of Montmartre bustling with hordes of tourists, eager to have their portrait painted by one of the many undistinguished artists who also sell their tacky landscapes from stalls which are crammed around the square. Ensure you haggle for a better price before you sit for a portrait. The square became popular in the 19th century as an exhibition place, but standards have dropped over the years. The cafes that line the square cater for the tourists and while they may be pricey, it is the atmosphere that is attraction rather than the cusine.

                Descend the butte via the Montmartre vineyard, set in picturesque grounds and planted in the 1930s it is a reminder that once the area was covered in vines. The vineyard produces approximately 700 bottles of wine each year. The wine can be sampled at the bistro La Mere Catherine, found in corner of place de Tertre. It is not however considered to be anything special. The Au Lapin Agile stands at the foot of the vineyard, once favoured by writers and artists including Picasso, it`s now a traditional style cafe by day and turns in to a dancehall in the evenings.

                Leaving the hill climbing behind, wander through the many busy and vibrant streets of Montmartre, the whole area is awash with cafes and bars, squares and statues, too many to mention. A lot of the fun of this area is getting a map and finding your own favourite cafe or place to visit or place to sit and watch Paris go by. Probably one of the most renowned sites of Montmartre is the Moulin Rouge. Constructed in 1885 the "red windmill" was converted into a dance hall in 1902 and soon gained a reputation as the hottest show in Paris, it has now become a very expensive tourist show featuring scantily clad dancing chorus girls and has none of the finesse immortalised by the artist Toulouse-Lautrec. Moulin de la Galette at No 79 rue Lepic a close neighbour of Moulin Rouge was also turned into a ballroom and features in Renoir`s painting Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette. Sandwiched between the two windmills is the quirky Cafe des deux Moulins an ideal place to finish your day with a cold beer, glass of wine or cafe au lait.

                Montmartre is ideal for anyone who likes to explore. It`s very hilly and steep in places and can be unsuitable for people with walking difficulties, electric buses run to the top of the butte for those who cannot manage the climb. If you visit Pigalle you need to be aware of the possibility of pickpockets and petty street crime. The sex shops and cinema`s which come alive in a blaze of neon in the evening are probably best avoided. Like wise some of the food bars can be of very poor standard but I suppose it`s the risqué element that attracts the tourist to" just have a look".

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                  22.02.2010 20:50
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                  Seek out a bit of histoy

                  Fewer places can offer so much to do in a day than Gibraltar. Standing majestically on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula with stunning views over the Rif Mountains of Morocco, the colony has historically been an important base for the British Forces, and is easily reached from the Spanish holiday resorts on the Costa del Sol. The Gibraltarians are deeply patriotic and are proud of their association with all things British. Union Jacks flutter from apartments in the gentle Mediterranean breeze, the pubs and cafes on Main Street tempt weary tourists with full English breakfast, fish and chips and a pint of bitter. Familiar high street names like Marks and Spencer, Mothercare and BHS mingle with traditional retailers selling leather, fine porcelain and glassware. Explore the narrow lanes and alleyways seeking out duty free bargains as you head along Main Street towards Casemates Square, once the site of public executions, and now a trendy plaza lined with fashionable cafes and bars.


                  Head for Europa Point, the views of Africa are exceptional on a clear day or evening. The lighthouse at the Point is 150 years old and still in service today, it is the only one outside Britain managed by Trinity House. Looking out over the Straights of Gibraltar it is clear why the Rock has been strategically important during many bitter conflicts, a legacy which has left many relics from a fascinating military history. Along the coast near the Spanish port of Cadiz, Admiral Nelson engaged with the Franco Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar. The battle was Britain's greatest naval victory, but Nelson was hit by a French sharpshooter and mortally wounded. His body was brought back to Gibraltar before returning to England for the last time. The Trafalgar cemetery on the edge of town is a wonderfully peaceful place amid the hustle and bustle of daily life of Gibraltar. The Grave stones name some of the young sailors who died during the battle.


                  Among the most impressive of the fortifications of Gibraltar are the Southport Gates, a series of walls and fortifications that were part of Gibraltar's defences for literally hundreds of years. Other fortifications worth a look at are The Ragged Staff Gates, The Grand Casemates Gates, South Bastion and Kings Bastion.


                  There are over 30 miles of man-made tunnels inside the Rock of Gibraltar. That's more tunnels than there are roads. The Great Siege Tunnels were hollowed out during the longest siege in Gibraltarian history, lasting from 1779 to 1783. In order to repel the Spanish and French forces, tunnels were dug into the rock by the soldier artificers to house the canons. The tunnels are open to the public and will give you an idea of the terrible conditions the soldiers had to fight in. Imagine the noise of the canon being fired inside the tunnel. The tunnels lead down hill into the rock and out to the other side with impressive views of Catalan bay from the observation platform, be careful how deep you go its a long climb back to daylight.


                  No trip to Gibraltar would be complete without a visit to the upper rock nature reserve. This can be reached by car but the road is narrow and winding. It is probably wiser to take one of the organised rock tours by taxi or coach, or for those with a head for heights take the cable car. As well as being home to around 240 Barbary apes, there is an abundance of other wildlife to see including over 300 species of birds, 600 species of plants, red foxes and mouse eared bats. Legend has it that when the apes leave Gibraltar so will the British. Also worth visiting in the reserve are the Pillars of Hercules and St Michaels cave a fantastic natural grotto filled stalactites and stalagmites. Cathedral cave is now used for concerts because of fantastic acoustics. The upper nature reserve was the location for the daring chase scene in the 1987 James Bond film "The living Daylights".


                  Sometimes it`s nice just to relax and the stunning Catalan bay is an ideal place to soak up the sun and take a dip in the crystal waters of the Mediterranean. Sip an ice cold beer in the cafes and bars along the harbour or cruise in the calm waters watching the dolphins.


                  Gibraltar is an exciting and intriguing place, full of history and has something for everyone as long as you are prepared to look. The people are friendly and you have all the comforts of home. Travelling from the Costa del Sol will cost around £10 to £15 by coach and takes about 1 or 2 hours

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                    20.02.2010 14:24
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                    Lovely way to relax for an hour or two

                    Featured in the quirky low budget film Amélie, the Café des Deux Moulins is a lovely offbeat place to visit whilst staying in Paris. Found amongst the atmospheric streets of Monmartre 18e on rue Lepic and just a five minute stroll from the nearest metro Blanche, it is an ideal way to savour "cafe Paris "at its best. Take the weight off your feet whilst you enjoy a piping hot "espresso" sat outside under the heaters on a cold winter day. Observe the hustle and bustle as the locals search for bargains to cook for tea in the fishmongers, bakers and butchers below the chic apartments. Take in the sights and sounds of Parisian street life before you retire to the warmth and character of the cafe, where Amélie made famous her habit of breaking the crust of her crème brûlée with her spoon.

                    Inside the charming 1950`s decor with mustard ceiling and neon lights gives you a feel of times gone by. The tables are packed tightly together. The toilets are unisex. The menu is in French. The bar is frequented by do nothings, local traders and diners who are oblivious to the constant trickle of tourists, eager to take pictures of the film memorabilia which adorn the walls.

                    The menu is small and caters for the locals. Speak to the waiters, they don`t bite and they can even appear to be friendly if you try a little French. For a snack try the platters, ideal for sharing, choose from meat, cheese or a combination of both, lovely with a bottle of wine, and just right for munching on whilst you people watch. The fillet of beef with three sauces is absolutely delicious, a juicy fillet cooked to your liking with the butter sauces slowly melting on top, served with fried potatoes and vegetables. The succulent hamburger is served slightly rare accompanied with coleslaw and fries. You can also choose dishes like veal escolpes or calf`s liver. The waiter will lay your table with a paper place mat which depicts scenes from Amélie. If you ask nicely he will give you a second one to take as a souvenir.Other than the crème brûlée,the deserts on offer fail to wet the appetite but there are an abundance of cake shops to be found on rue Lepic.

                    With drinks you need to budget between 15e to 20e per head. The cafe is open from 7 am till 1 am every day. Is it for you? The cafe was there before the film and apart from a few pictures it remains pretty much the same. So you get a taste of Paris with the novelty of a film set, two cafe`s for the price of one. See it for yourself and make your own mind up. Amélie was nominated for five Oscars so it probably deserves five stars!


                    Café des Deux Moulins
                    15 Rue Lepic, 18th Arrondissement
                    Paris, France
                    Metro Blanche

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                      18.02.2010 22:33
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                      Lovely food at prices you can afford

                      Looking for somewhere special to eat in Blackpool? Take a trip to the Gurkha Buffet Restaurant located on Waterloo Road south shore. You will find an amazing variety of tasty food served in a friendly atmosphere. Booking is a must over the weekend as word of mouth recommendations have made this one of Blackpool`s busiest restaurants. On entering you will be greeted at the reception and taken to your table by one of the smartly dressed waiting staff. Take a moment to admire the displays of Gurkha military mementoes which will give you an idea of their proud history and association with the British Army. The owners are ex British soldiers and are always happy to chat about their homelands and history.

                      The restaurant is busy and vibrant making it ideal for groups and parties. Order your drinks at the table, be sure to try the Gurkha beer, then it`s off to the buffet tables and on an exotic eastern journey through China, India, Thailand, Malaya and Singapore before finishing in Nepal with the famous lamb Gurkha curry. The buffet is "eat as much as you want" which is an ideal way of sampling the many foods on offer. The menu is constantly changed, the chef`s select up to forty amazing dishes from over one hundred and fifty each day. There is always something for every one.

                      The starters include delicious shredded crispy ducked served with pancakes and chopped spring onions with a choice of sauces including chilli, soy and plum. If you can fit any more on your plate there are onion Bhaji`s samosas, spare ribs, chicken satay, prawn toasts and many more beautifully cooked and tasty nibbles.

                      It is hard to find where to start with the main course such is the variety on offer. Each dish is labelled and served piping hot. Choose from curries, sweet and sour, and Korma. There are unusual dishes like the scrumptious spicy noodles, seaweed and seafood including prawn, squid and muscles. Help yourself to Prawn crackers naan bread and rice. Something for every one, lots of choices for vegetarians, chicken nuggets and chips for the children. When you think you`ve had enough be daring and try the famous Gurkha lamb curry. Tender pieces of lamb in a dry hot spicy sauce, not for the faint hearted. This dish has been a favourite of the British Army for many years and is still served to soldiers today.

                      The Gurkha buffet restaurant is a lovely place to spend an evening with friends and enjoy wonderful food in a lively atmosphere, at less than £10 per head at weekends you will find it difficult to find better value.

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