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Let me get it off my chest - I'm not happy with the new system of payment that Dooyoo has suddenly introduced with no warning. I, like many others, am convinced that it is due to the news that Ciao is struggling and so Dooyoo can justify lowering its payments. Dooyoo states that it still pays more than any other opinion site on the net and I cannot dispute this, its just that I don't think the new payment method is fair. The idea is that you no longer get paid simply for writing opinions - you only get paid when people read them. One good point of this is that it should dissuade "churners" who simply wrote lots of very short, sometimes badly written ops, just to get a bit of quick easy cash. However, I can see lots more bad points looming on the horizon. The people I feel most sorry for are new members who will now take a good while to accumulate a reasonable amount of miles. When you first start people don't know who you are and you are not a member of anyones circle of chums (as I call it). This means that you either have to rely on people looking at the new members page or liking the title of your op. I, for one, struggle to think of witty imaginative titles for my ops and I refuse to make sexual references in them just for the sake of it (this seems to have been a bit of a trend recently!). Just because the title of the op may not be the most amazing thing in the world, does not mean that the op is not of good quality. Yet this is what seems to attract people to read the op in the list of "25 most recent ops" etc. Therefore no amazing title - less reads. Another problem that has been round for a while is the "disappearing op". This is when your op disappears from view not long after it has been posted. In the past if this happened at least you could console yourself with the fact that your effort had been rewarded with miles for actually writing it. In the old days I had op
s that disappeared very quickly before anyone could read them but at least I still got something for them! This problem has been partly fixed by the most recent lists but it can still happen at peak times. Coming back to the circle of friends thing. The new rewards system will probably make no difference at all to the well-established writers who consistently turn out excellent ops nearly every day. People know their names and read the ops because they trust and respect the writer. However the vast majority of us will notice the difference. Dooyoo claim that the new points system will reward better writing as more people will read your op. How? When the latest 25 ops etc are listed it just gives a list of titles, products and user names. There is no indication of the quality of the op therefore you have to read it to find out - it doesn't matter if the op is good or bad, people will still have to read it before they find out the quality. This means that bad low quality ops will still be read! Let's face it, most reads are done as soon as the op is put in these lists so good and bad writing will still be rewarded. The only obvious solution I can to see to this problem is to put the rating for the op alongside it in the lists. This way bad ops can be avoided and read less but good ops and ones that have not yet been rated, can be properly read, rated and rewarded. I think that's my rant over with now and I do feel a lot better! Please leave comments to say what you think of the listing ideas. Thanks!
I'm not joking - Copenhagen's Kastrup airport is probably THE worst signposted airport I've ever had the misfortune to land in! Kastrup airport is situated 6 miles south east of Copenhagen on a little island called Amager. The fact that it is on an island makes no difference whatsoever but it's one of those useless little facts that I like to trot out. Anyway, landing there is not a problem. I was flying in from Amsterdam courtesy of KLM and there was the usual problem of me arriving but my luggage being away on its own little holiday somewhere MUCH more exciting. The lovely men at the lost baggage counter were wonderful even when I couldn't remember the name or address of my hotel for love nor money (well I was in a bit of a flap!). They all spoke excellent English (who doesn't these days? It's embarrassing only being able to speak one language?.) and gave me lots of help and phone numbers to call etc. So leaving that disaster behind the next challenge was to make my way into the centre of Copenhagen. Fair enough. Out the baggage hall and I followed the sign with the little train on it. Bit sneaky of them to put the ticket booth above the train station with no obvious sign on it but they didn't fool me! Yet another perfect English speaker behind the counter who made sure I had the correct ticket, told me the platform number and even helped me wrestle with the strange currency (dare I say roll on the Euro?). I think the train ticket cost about £5 - not cheap but it is the easiest way to get into Copenhagen. Down the huge sloping walkway and onto the platform. Next challenge checking that I got on the correct train and that I knew when to get off again! This obviously had quite a few people a bit confused as there were lots of confused looking tourists stumbling about. There was no one official to ask so it was a bit hot or miss. A quick question to a Danish girl of the same age as myse
lf reassured me that the train approaching the platform would get me to Copenhagen. The helpful Dane even told me how long the journey should take and that I should get off at the Central Station (but it wasn't called this on the screen announcing the train departures!) The train was big, clean and very European i.e. modern and actually worked unlike ours! The journey in only took about 10 mins and then there I was in the centre of Copenhagen in a big bustling train station. My hotel was right next to the station so I didn't need any further transport. If you do, this certainly isn't a problem! There is a huge taxi rank right outside the station and it seems as though every bus in the city stops there as well. For me the biggest problem with Copenhagen airport was trying to get back home again! The trains left the Central Station every 15 minutes. There are plenty of automatic ticket machines or you can be a coward like me and go to the extremely efficient ticket booth. There are lifts down to the platforms so you don't have to wrestle your big suitcase (my luggage had finally decided to join me on holiday by this point!). The train I took was the actually the train to Malmo in Sweden so don't fall asleep or you may find yourself in the wrong country!! Once back at the airport I was in the familiar territory of the train station but this was where the confusion began. Up the stairs to the check in desks and I looked at the board to find my desk number. Fair enough I though number 280 (or whatever!). However, when I looked around all the desks were SAS and only went up to number 50 something. There was absolutely no indication of where the rest of the desks were! I wandered around aimlessly pulling my huge suitcase behind me, tripping people up and running over their feet etc. After fruitlessly searching and looking dubiously down what seemed to be service corridors I eventually found a map hidden behind
the staircase. This informed me that I had what seemed to be a 5 mile walk to my check in desk down a maze of corridors! Please leave plenty of time for checking in at this airport - you'll need it. Off I soldiered down corridors full of shops and cafes. Suddenly I turned the corner and here was this HUGE check in hall and I mean huge! How they could have hidden it I do not know. Unfortunately the hall was packed with people and long snaking queues so it was a bit of a rugby scrum to reach my check in desk, which was at the other side of the hall and was totally empty. After checking in the rest was a breeze. There are plenty of shops to keep you occupied but they are a bit expensive like the rest of the country really. I took advantage of the vast amount of seats and sat and read until my plane boarded. I would recommend taking a good book as there is not a lot to do there really! So in summary - leave plenty of time for checking in as you have to walk miles, take a good book, make sure and ask about the train platform and DON'T fall asleep on the train unless you plan on ending up in Sweden!
I can't make up my mind about Warehouse at all. It's a bit of permanent feature on high streets and shopping centres across the country but is it really worth it? I would describe the clothes Warehouse sells as being suitable for young women of around 18 - 25 age group. Of course there are exceptions to this rule for some of the clothes but mainly they sell the latest fashions. We aren't talking about the latest trashy throwaway fads but more like the trends set by the latest style icon be it Kylie Minogue or Victoria Beckham. The clothes appear to be tailored, smart and look as though you could actually wear them into work. There is always a good selection of trousers and skirts suitable for those who have to look presentable when going to work, as well as the clothes more suited to partying. Perhaps this is where I have the problem with Warehouse - it just doesn't suit my lifestyle. I work in a lab where my main emphasis is wearing clothes that are comfortable to wear while standing up all day while wearing a hot lab coat and clothes that I don't mind getting the odd acid splash and burn in! Obviously under these circumstances a nice skirt and blouse is not the most practical outfit! If I worked in an office where I had to wear a suit or another form of smart clothing, then perhaps Warehouse would be of more relevance to me. Their range of "going out" clothes (as I put it!) tend to be a bit too trendy and up to the minute for me. I prefer alternative clothes and classic styles that will last more than one season. I can't cope with the thought of buying a new winter coat each year - what a complete waste of money! Yet that seems to me to be the market that Warehouse is aiming for - people who can afford to change clothes every single season or those that can't afford NOT to change clothes! The quality of the clothes can be rather dubious sometimes and they can seem rather e
xpensive for what you get. The sewing sometimes isn't top quality as I have experienced. However, they were really good and exchanged my faulty top with no quibble and I had worn it! The clothes seem to be divided into 2 ranges at the moment - those with the Warehouse logo splashed all over them and those without. Is Warehouse really posh enough or trendy enough that people want their logo emblazoned across their chest? I can understand people wearing Guess or Dolce and Gabbana tops but Warehouse?!? The only time I ever seem to shop in Warehouse is at their sales. The clothes are too expensive any other time of the year and even then all I seem to by are tops. It has been a very long time since I walked into Warehouse and saw something that I really liked. There seems to be a complete lack of imagination in their ranges. I think a bit of an overhaul is required!
I love TK Maxx - absolutely adore it! It's an adventure every time you go there - never knowing what you might find. I'm waiting with intrepidation until the 1st of November when TK Maxx eventually opens in Aberdeen. Until now I've had to put up with having to visit the nearest store (Dundee) which is over an hour away! I've had a sneaky peak at the new store and it looks fab! - two floors of clothes to rummage through. The way it works is that TK Maxx buys in old stock, last seasons designs and slightly faulty goods. Everything is placed in sections - firstly either men, women or childrens. Then the clothes are further subdivided. The womens wear is divided into tops, knit wear, skirts, trousers, jackets, leisure wear etc and they are all placed in sizes. This is the best place for picking up cheap designer clothes. In amongst the racks and racks of clothes you can find everything from Calvin Klein to Jasper Conran to the odd piece of Armani! When you think what you can pay for a Calvin Klein jumper in a trendy clothes shop - why bother when TK Maxx sells it for a quarter of the price? Okay you don't get a fancy bag but you do get a bargain! The one thing that some people don't like about the store (including my mum) is the way the clothes are organised. Because TK Maxx by odds and ends, you don't get every top in umpteen sizes and umpteen colours. You must be prepared to flick you way through a lot of clothes!! I lived in Edinburgh for 5 years and was a regular at the 2nd hand clothes shops so I can flick my way through 50 tops in a very short space of time. You have to be prepared to look! Another reason that I can get through so many clothes is the fact that I only wear 4 colours - really saves time! Every time I go to TK Maxx I always find something that I need. I never seem to buy things for the sake of it - it's always exactly what I was looking for! Not only does TK Maxx
have clothes but they also do accessories and household items. The household area can be a hit-or-miss. They do lots of ornaments, candleholders, pictures etc. but some of the stuff can be a bit tacky! However, sometimes you can pick up some lovely crystal etc which is excellent for presents. All in all TK Maxx is a bit of an Aladdins cave - you just never know what you might find at a bargain price!
I'm sorry but my one and only trip to Pizza Express left me distinctly unimpressed and I don't think I'll be back! When my friends said about going out for an Italian meal I was very keen. I love pasta and creamy sauces that Italian meat always seems to come in. You can imagine my disappointment when they said we were going to Pizza Express. For a start the name conjured up visions of a fast food joint and not a nice intimate Italian restaurant as I had hoped for. However, several people told me it was really good and it was actually quite a swish place. This was true as the décor was all chrome, minimalist, modern and spotlights. Quite impressive but a bit crowded as the tables were squashed in next to one another. It had the atmosphere of a busy canteen - that's the only way to describe it! My disappointment grew when I saw the menu. The restaurant truly lives up to its name giving you a choice of pizza or pizza - oh sorry and 3 salads if you are really desperate to avoid the pizza. Th doughballs had been recommended to me so I thought I would give them a bash. As they only cost £1.75 I should have known it would have been basic but even I didn't think it would be quite this basic! It consisted of 6 small plain doughballs with no salad or garnish and a small bowl of extremely greasy very pungent garlic butter. Even though I sparingly applied the butter I still felt queasy by the end due to all the grease. My partners starter was as bad. He had taken the mozzarella and sundried tomato salad as he loves sundried tomatoes. He got ONE extremely small shrivelled specimen of tomato and that was it. The other fresh tomatoes in the salad looked distinctly green - definitely not ripe! Moving on to the main course things didn't really improve for me. I had selected a Fiorentino (or something like that) pizza. The toppings consisted of spinach, olives, mozzarella and a fried egg. Interesting I thou
ght. I'm not a huge fan of olives so I asked or extra cheese instead of olives which was no problem. When my pizza arrived it did indeed have extra cheese but the burnt base distracted from the flavour somewhat! To be fair only half of the base was burnt but that was a half too much. It was quite nice despite this with lots of toppings and a thin base. I still persevered and actually ordered a dessert. I had pear tart and ice cream but it was far from startling. It was obviously mass produced and had no individual attention to it at all with a slightly soggy base. Probably the best thing about the entire place was the service. There were 14 of us and the staff coped marvellously making sure we all got our food at the same time and that we were never short of drinks. I can honestly say that I will not be back in a Pizza Express. The menu is far too limited and the food wasn't really up to scratch. If I want an Italian meal I would much rather go to one of the many other Italian restaurants in Aberdeen. Sorry!
I cannot believe it - an advertising campaign with a product that actually lives up to my expectations. I was my normal dubious self when I saw the advert for Pantene Smooth and Sleek shampoo. I though there was no way that any shampoo could tame my tresses. I should explain that I am horrifically lazy when it comes to beauty treatments and pampering myself. I go for the "natural" look - what you see is what you get (unless I'm going out on the town of course!). I have long straight hair that goes way past my shoulders and have done all my life (except for a traumatic 6 months but we won't talk about that!). Although my hair is straight, it has always been a bit fly away and a bit dry looking. If I'm going out for a special occasion I usually wash my hair the day before as it always looks better with a days dirt on it basically. However, I had been slightly tempted by the flashy Pantene adverts that showed my sleek glossy hair that any man would be desperate to run his fingers through. While ion my weekly shopping trip to Sainsburys I noticed that it was on special offer and, as I needed shampoo, I decided to give it a bash. The first thing I noticed was the fantastic rich deep lather that the shampoo produced. It was fantastic and I'll have to remember that I don't need to use as much shampoo as I usually do. A little goes a long way! The shampoo was cream in colour and very creamy in texture with a very light smell - no overpowering perfumes here. The conditioner was just as rich and with the same light fragrance. Once out the shower I treated my hair as normal - a very brisk rub with a towel and blast it to death with a hairdryer for 10 minutes. I know that I probably could have had lovely sleek hair years ago if I spent ages blow drying my hair straight using a brush as they do in salons. Personally I have better things to do than spend 30 minutes drying my hair and, as I mentioned,
I am rather lazy! Surely even after all this the shampoo wouldn't come up trumps? Even if it did I expected my hair to look as though I had dunked it in a bowl of grease. Well was I in for a shock!!! My hair was sleeker and smoother than it had ever been. Even the ends, which really needed cut, were smoother. My hair also felt lighter and the number of knots was reduced. My hair was actually sitting in a smooth layer rather than in separate sections as it normally did. There was a slight hint of the fragrance to my hair but only slightly. Not a trace of a bowl of grease in sight. This stuff really is the business and I have to admit that Pantene have come up trumps with this one. If you have long hair you have to try it. My hair is long and thick and previously all the products were for thin hair that definitely excluded me! This is the first product that has really worked for me. It's a winner!!
What did we do in the days before we had Archies? It's hard to remember to tell you the truth. Ever since Wetherspoons opened the infamous Archibald Simpsons (Archies for short) in Aberdeen, it's been a fixture on the drinking map of the vast majority of Aberdeen. Its situated in a large old bank on the corner of Union Street and King Street - two of the main streets in the town centre. Definitely prime territory. The previous use of the building ensures that the architecture inside is fantastic - columns, pillars, elaborate ceilings. The new owners have been sympathetic to the original fixtures and have enhanced them by adding some wonderful chandeliers. The first thing that you notice when you enter the pub is the incredible amount of space. There are a few seats to the side but most are round the corner out the way. This makes Archies ideal for meeting large groups of people in i.e. works night outs. No matter how many there are of you - 2 to 92, you can always fit in if you don't mind standing. If you are lucky enough to get a seat you won't want to leave again. Deep leather arm chairs with high sides to block out the crowds and the noise. Oh that's something I should definitely mention. Archies doesn't play music - not a note. It's hard enough in pubs to hear the person next to you over the chatter of everyone else without competing with music as well. They sell a really wide range of drinks and, as it is a Wetherspoons pub, the prices are some of the cheapest around if not the cheapest. They always have a good selection of real ales at cheap prices to keep the boys happy and their alcopops (Breezers etc) are incredibly cheap at sometimes only £1. The bar staff are always friendly no matter how busy the bar. I don't know how they cope as I've seen the bar 4 deep and it's a long bar! Some extra staff would be a help! I've also eaten in Archies and I have to admit I
was impressed. My partner and I selected from their "2 for £5" menu that is served every day all day. The food on this menu is plain and simple and, as the name suggests, you get 2 meals for £5. My partner had fish and chips and I had sausage, beans and chips. I was well impressed. I had three huge lovely Yorkshire sausages that were really meaty and herby - not a greasy sausage in sight! The chips were lovely and crispy and there were plenty of beans. I struggled to finish it all. One thing I noticed while we were having lunch was the number of OAPs that were also eating there. I think they get special deals so it is even cheaper for them. Fantastic value for money!! I should explain the title of this op. The only irritating point about Archies are the toilets. They are situated at the back of the pub, up the stairs and down a long corridor. You really have to be prepared to fight your way through the crowds and then the long trudge. Once you get there you find lots of lovely clean toilets so it is worth the trek! They do have a disabled toilet downstairs so you don't have to climb stairs if you aren't able. In summary Archies is an excellent place to meet lots of people for a night out. Lots of space, cheap drinks and you can actually hear yourself think!
Black holes have fantastic gravitational pull, sucking in everything from miles around. Well I now have one in my kitchen thanks to Mr Muscle foamer. You know how it is when you move into rented accommodation - you never know what went on before you moved in. The plug in my kitchen sink was never that good. Water grudgingly trickled down it and I had tried all the usual options - bleach, sink freshener etc. I had been holding out buying Mr Muscle as it seemed rather expensive to me at £4 for two treatments but things got really bad. Eventually I admitted defeat with my stubborn sink and spent my hard-earned cash. This stuff is really easy to use. I would recommend doing this just before you go to bed as it really needs to be left overnight for the best results. First of all you pour hot water down your plughole for about 1 min. I would imagine that this softens and loosens any fat or grease that may be in your plughole. Next you snip off the top of the round plastic packet that contains the nasty chemicals (wear rubber gloves just incase!). You pour this down your plughole and then flush it down with 500 ml of hot water. This carries it down the pipe so it can really clean out all the nasty grime. Word of caution about this bit though. It says on the packet that you should avoid breathing in the fumes when the product is foaming. I found this impossible as the fumes started as I was still pouring the product down the sink!! The smell of chlorine is really quite strong so I would recommend having lots of windows open! When the fumes had died down I went to bed to leave Mr Muscle to do his work! The next again morning I rinsed the sinks with lots of clean water and I was amazed by the results. My kitchen sink is completely cured - it's like a different sink. There is actually a small whirlpool as the water goes down the plughole and that's never happened before! Water empties from the sink very quickly now and I
9;m really impressed by the results. I split the remaining packet between my bath plug and my wash hand basin plug and even that has made a difference. If you are fed up with your sluggish plugs and dodgy draining then splash out and buy some of this. I know it may seem like quite a bit of money for a sink cleaner but it really does work and I shouldn't have to repeat the treatment for a very long time! Thank you Mr. Muscle!
Believe it or not I am talking about a cat here! I am the proud joint owner of a gorgeous 5 month old kitten and he is wonderful. I was always a dog person but now I must admit that I am slowly being convinced otherwise! I have to tell you how I came to be united with my little bundle of mischief. My partner and I used to foster cats for the Cats Protection League (I've written an op on that already!). Homeless cats and strays were placed with us until they could be found a proper permanent home. However when this one appeared we both knew that he had found his permanent home. Socks (that's his name, the cat not my partners!) was found with a brother and sister living as strays at a nearby primary school. Socks was the only one they had managed to catch so far but I believe he wanted to be caught so he could be waited on hand and foot! When he arrived at our house he was absolutely tiny.. His poor body was trying to catch up in size with his head and his paws so he looked a bit strange but totally adorable. He was pure black apart from his four little white paws and his white bib on his front. From the moment he arrived in our house he made himself at home. Cats are extremely independent and very self-assured. He told us where he wanted his litter tray positioned and where he wanted his feeding bowls. He was wonderfully well behaved - fully litter trained and very clean. Some of the cats we had fostered had been a bit lacking in the personal hygiene department. Socks is very clean by comparison. He always uses his litter tray and washes himself thoroughly after every meal. Cats are just like humans in a way. You can teach them to be clean and tidy but you can't make them do it. Every cat is different and some will be clean by nature and others won't. For the first few weeks he slept with us and it wasn't unusual to be woken up in the morning by a paw in your face or your nose getting licked.
However, he is now becoming a "big boy" now and sleeps on his own in the living room most nights although he does come into our room early in the morning. Although he is a stray originally, he is the soppiest cuddliest cat ever. He loves to settle down in your lap to go to sleep and to snuggle up against you when he is relaxing after dinner. The reason I entitled this op my furry toddler is because he is just like a human baby. When he first arrived he slept most of the day as he was young and was growing at a tremendous rate. He reached the "toddler" stage about two weeks ago and seems to be quite happy to stay there for a while. As with all toddlers he is into everything at the moment. His speciality is knocking over pot plants at the moment. He is learning quickly what he is allowed to do and what is naughty. One of the best deterrents is a plant sprayer with water - a quick squirt and he soon stops what he is doing. This avoids shouting or smacking, neither of which I like. Just like human children he has a routine for the day. He gets up, has breakfast, plays with you for 15 mins then settles down to work off breakfast. He has lunch at a set time as well as his dinner. He even goes to bed at the same time every night! This routine works well for everyone as we know when we have to feed him, when he wants attention and when he wants to sleep. You can even time his toilet "activities"! As I said at the beginning of this op I used to be a dog only person. However Socks has change d my mind. Unlike dogs he doesn't need exercising (apart from playtime) which is great when you are really busy or the weather is atrocious and you don't want to go out! If anyone out there is considering fostering a stray please seriously consider it. Not all strays are as soppy as Socks but he is a perfect example of some of the gorgeous soppy cats that are out there desperately in need of a good home.
If you are ever in the vicinity of Tombstone Arizona - you know, just on the off chance that you may end up there one day, then I'd like to recommend somewhere to stay. I spent a couple of days at the KOA (Kampgrounds of America) site at Benson Arizona. We chose this campsite for a number of reasons. First of all it was the nearest campsite to Tombstone and the surrounding tourist attractions and secondly, it was a KOA site. During my 3 weeks in the US I had stayed at several KOA campsites and had been impressed by their facilities and friendliness. The Benson KOA was no exception to this rule! The campsite was impossible to miss as it was VERY clearly signposted from the main highway and well signed from there on in. The campsites also have huge tall signs that you can spot a mile off - hard to miss! The Benson KOA was laid out in the same manner as all the previous sites we had stayed at. The main office building contained the check in desk, a small cafe and the shop where you could buy groceries, postcards, ice etc. This campsite had a bit of history as the building was over 100 years old - very old by US standards! It used to be the Los Alamos Ranchitos which was a working ranch. The land was later sold and turned into a campground with the original house being turned into the office. When we arrived I popped in to register and pick up the keys as we had already reserved our accommodation via the KOA internet site (absolutely fantastic!). We weren't staying in a tent or a camper van (RV in the US). No we were staying in a camping cabin, which is a feature of most of the KOA sites. A camping cabin is a one-roomed log cabin that has a porch, air conditioning, a double bed, bunk beds and a table. Not much you might think but you don't actually need anything else! All we needed to supply was bedding and as it is so warm in the US, a couple of thin cotton sheets is enough! We were quickly checked in and
given a map of the surrounding area, an information leaflet about the site and tourist information. This was another feature common to all KOA sites - they make sure that you are well informed! Our cabin was close to the facilities so we didn't have far to go for a shower and there was plenty of space to park our car right next to the cabin. Our cabin was absolutely spotless and had little extras such as shower gel, shower cap, tissues and even flowers, none of which we had received in other KOA sites. The facilities were absolutely spotless and there were plenty of showers available not to mention sinks and mirrors. It was hard to believe that you were in a campsite as it was more like being in the ladies in a department store! Each cabin has its own picnic table and BBQ so you can cook your own food instead of having to go into town or getting a takeaway. We took full advantage of the facilities and had a great BBQ followed by a couple of beers on our wooden swing seat on the porch! A great way to watch the sun go down. This campsite stood out from the others for several reasons. Even though it was quite busy it was still really quiet. KOA campsites have strict rules that children are kept under control and not allowed to wreak havoc round the site. Quiet hours are also enforced but as they are sensible hours from 10pm to 8am, no one has a problem with them. This campsite also had a lot of wildlife. Baby rabbits surrounded our cabin and there were a good number of lizards running about as well. It gave you something interesting to watch while you were drinking your beer! The site had a lot of facilities that I didn't get time to use as we were out sightseeing for most of the day. A full list of facilities is as follows - 24 hour bathrooms and laundry (laundry was very cheap!) Indoor games room (pool, arcade games) Fishing pond! Modem connection Gift and grocery shop Hot tub and pool Mi
ni golf Outdoor game equipment Playground It was quite amazing the amount of facilities they had for what seemed like a small cosy sight. What is even more surprising is that this cost £20 a night. Split between 2 people that was pretty good value but as the cabins sleep four people it could be amazingly good value for money. Next time you are touring the US seriously think about staying at a KOA instead of a motel. It works out cheaper and you get a lot more facilities! Benson KOA Kampground 180 Four Feathers Lane Benson AZ 85602 www.koa.com/where/az/3133.html firstname.lastname@example.org 6th instalment of Machars tour of the southern US!
Forde Abbey is situated east of Exeter near the town of Chard in Devon. It is a grand residence of the Roper family but they are not the first in a long line of residents. As the name suggests, Forde Abbey was once a monastery belonging to the Cistercian monks over 800 years ago. It was one of the richest and most learned monasteries in the country and you can certainly tell! The house is huge with large towers and now enclosed cloisters. Unfortunately, after the dissolution in 1539 the monastery lay empty for 100 years until 1649 when it was transformed back into a house. The area of the house open to the public is quite large but there is a substantial part that is still occupied by the Roper family. The parts that are open to the public are wonderfully free of ropes and barriers. You can wonder around as if you were in someone's house and admire the views from the windows, the small paintings up close and the wonderful furniture. Each room had information leaflets pertaining to objects in that room that told you enough to make them interesting rather than tiresome. My favourite room had to be the drawing room with its fantastic Mortlake wall tapestries and the amazing views across the 30 acre gardens. Forde Abbey still has the feel of a family home with some of the objects, such as the harpsichord and the bedspreads, made by members of the modern day family. The family chapel was connected to the house by the enclosed cloisters once used by the Cistercian monks. This was one of my favourite areas of the house, full of plants, sunlight and huge fossils! The gardens of Forde Abby are award winning and it is easy to see why. The 30 acres of gardens include everything from herbaceous borders, arboretums, kitchen gardens and even a bog garden! This is a lovely place to wander about either before or after you visit the house. I would strongly recommend bringing a picnic and making a full day of it. There is plenty of grass
for the children to run about. If you don't want to take a picnic, there is a restaurant and tearoom in the undercroft that I would highly recommend. I am normally pretty sceptical about these places but I'm glad to say that this one proved me wrong. The prices were very reasonable and the food was wonderful. A lot of the produce served in the tearoom is actually from the kitchen gardens. You can have anything from a light lunch to a cream tea (Oh how I love this part of the country!). The opening times can be a bit complicated so check carefully before you go. We went in the late morning and didn't realise that the house didn't open until 1pm but we had time to look round the gardens. The opening hours are as follows - Garden - daily throughout the year 10am - 4.30pm. House - Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sun and bank holidays from the 1st of April to the end of October 1pm - 4.30pm. There is also a garden centre where you can buy rare and unusual plants for a lasting souvenir of your trip to Forde Abbey. If you want a more permanent souvenir then a trip to the resident blacksmith is a must. It is a working forge and you can watch the blacksmith at work or admire some of the pieces he has for sale. There was everything from candlesticks to garden seats and gates. Unfortunately it was a little bit out of my price range but if I win the lottery then you never know! Forde Abbey has enough to keep you occupied for a few hours but in addition with the gardens it really does make for a grand day out!
Well maybe not quite unless I was terrorised by lots of petrified wood. The Petrified Forest National Park is probably one of the strangest places that I have visited. For a start it's not even a forest - well not in the true sense of the word. There are no trees left, they are broken up and scattered over a wide area but even still they are a sight to behold. The trees have become petrified due to a process that takes thousands of years and I'll briefly explain how this happens. The trees here are conifers that date from the time of the dinosaurs (Triassic period for fellow history buffs out there!). They were washed by floods into the area that became the park where they were covered by mud and then volcanic ash. They then became fossilised due to mineral-laden water that left coloured deposits around the cells of the wood. It was these deposits that turned into stone. The area was raised due to seismic activity and then erosion exposed the logs to the world again after thousands of years. The area was designated a National park, along with the painted desert which adjoins it, in 1906 to stop the theft of thousands of pieces of petrified wood. So what is there for the inquisitive tourist? There is a lot to see here and I would recommend a full day for sightseeing and looking round the Visitor centres. We started off at the north end at the Painted Desert visitor centre. Here we saw a brief 20 min film on how the trees were fossilised and the history of the park itself. There were also dinosaur fossils and representations of how the area looked in the time of these fantastic animals. After the visitor centre we drove into the park itself. Admission was $10 per vehicle and this included a free map listing the major sites and viewpoints. I should also mention that this admission was valid for 7 days so you could come back as often as you liked. In the Painted Desert section there were plenty of panoramic viewpoints g
iving fantastic photo opportunities over the desert. As you could drive to all the viewpoints, pop out and take a photo or admire it from your car, you were never far from air conditioning, which is heaven in the desert! The desert is an amazing site of different coloured layers of soil. This is due to the sun reflecting off different minerals such as sandstone, carbon and iron oxide. It really is an amazing site which photos cannot do justice! One site of particular interest was the Painted Desert inn, which is a National historic landmark. This was the original tourist facility for the early visitors in 1906. It is now a museum for cultural history as well as having some interesting artefacts from the first days of tourism! There are some short trails that you can walk but please be careful! Even though the trails are short at 1 - 3 miles it is incredibly hot out there. We made sure we took plenty of water, wore hats and had plenty of sunscreen on. I would not recommend these trails for young children or elderly people due to the heat and rough walking conditions. The park then crosses the main interstate (I40) to the south where you enter the Petrified Forest. Again there is a well maintained road with various look out points and photo opportunities. The first main attraction here was a 100 room Indian pueblo dating from before 1400. It has been partially stabilised but when you think that it is made from mud, it's a miracle it survived at all. All over the park there are petroglyphs left by ancient Indian civilisations. In the desert rocks can acquire a dark blue-black layer called desert varnish. This is due to iron and manganese oxides leaching out of the rock over hundreds of years. This leaves a thin shiny polish that the ancient Indians chipped away using rocks to expose the lighter areas underneath. This rock art is known as petroglyphs. One amazing example of this art is "Newspaper" rock, whic
h is absolutely covered in petroglyphs. It must have taken years for the Indians to cover this huge boulder in drawings. I would highly recommend taking binoculars to get a good look at the drawings. We walked the Blue Mesa trail, which was a 1 mile self-guiding tour through petrified wood and clay hills. This was a very surreal experience. Although the landscape was totally barren with hardly any sign of life, it was quite beautiful in its own way. You felt as though you were on another planet with all these strange coloured rocks and soil. The petrified wood was beautiful and it was very hard to believe that it was rock and not wood. You really had to touch it to convince yourself otherwise. The wood came in various shades of blue, red and multicoloured. The polished specimens at the visitor centres were beautiful. One word of warning - don't even think about taking home a small piece of petrified rock as a souvenir, not even a sliver. It is a violation of federal law to remove any piece of wood from the park. There are signs every where reminding you of this and even emergency telephones so you can report any thefts immediately. If you want to take a piece home with you, there are hundreds of rock shops all around the edge of the park that sell wood collected from private land. The Painted desert and Petrified Forest National park is a very beautiful place in its own way and I would definitely recommend a visit. INSTALMENT NO. 4 OF MACHARS TREK AROUND THE SOUTHERN US! :)
What a motto for town! However, it is also an extremely apt motto as it sums up Tombstone completely. Everyone has heard of Tombstone as the old Wild West town but did you know that it is still there and still thriving supported by thousands of tourists? I'll give you a little bit of the background to Tombstone but only a little, as this isn't a history lesson! Tombstone was founded in 1877 by a gold prospector called Ed Schieffelin who actually struck it rich surprisingly! The town quickly became a rowdy silver mining town with its fair share of saloons, gambling halls and bordellos. By 1881 the town had a population of 10, 000 and it was the county seat. This was also the year of the famous shoot out at the OK Corral in which the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday gunned down the three of the Clanton cowboy gang. Unfortunately the silver boom didn't last long and the mines closed down. However, tough old Tombstone survived and became a National Historic Landmark in 1962. So what is now left in Tombstone for the visitor? Well there are a lot of old Western buildings and there are lots of gunfight re-enactments to keep the kids happy. I'll describe the main sights below. OK Corral - I was reliably informed that this isn't the real one but a reconstruction. Here they have gunfights performed by acting troupes daily at 2pm. This often sells out quite quickly so I would suggest getting your ticket ASAP. Historama - this is situated next to the OK Corral and provides a 26min presentation of the history of Tombstone using animated figures, movies and narration by the actor Vincent Price. This is open from 9am - 4pm and costs $2.50 with children under 6 free. Six-gun Wild West Show - this re-enactment fitted in with our schedule and it was easy to find on the map which is why we ended up there! It was held in a courtyard where there was a patio restaurant and bar so you could actually have your lun
ch while you were watching the show. It was the usual mix of history, comedy and a lot of loud bangs. Please be very careful if you are taking young children there, the family next to us had to leave as their young daughter was so scared with all the noise! It was amusing and there was plenty of audience interaction but it did seem a bit tacky. The performances take place at 11.30am, 1pm and 3.30pm (it lasts about 30mins) with admission costing about $3. Bird cage theatre - of all the places I visited in tombstone this is the place I would most highly recommend. The theatre is situated at the end of the main street (Allen Street east end) and is the ONLY original building dating from the town's heyday and they are rightly proud of this. The theatre got its name from the 14 bed sized draped cages suspended from the ceilings used by the "lady employees" to entertain their clients. Its an amazing place when you walk in from the bright sunlight to the dim interior you really feel as if you are stepping back in time. In the main area in front of the stage they have a large collection of objects from the towns "Wild" era. There is everything from bathtubs to typewriters! All around the walls are photos, newspaper cuttings and portraits. It really did let you see what life was like. There are bullet holes all over the place - in the walls, floors and ceiling. It was a rough place! You can go behind the stage into the prop storage areas where there are original stage screens from the plays that were performed and information on the actors and actresses that passed through. There was also a horse drawn hearse funnily enough! Downstairs was the gambling and bar area and some more private rooms for "entertaining" clients. This was amazing as it looked as though all the cowboys had just left minutes before we entered the room. The card game was in full swing with cards and chips scattered across the green table. At t
he rear of the building was a small gift shop with a display on the women who worked on the "entertainment" side together with their photos and a bit about their lives. It was terrible to see that most of these women joined the old profession when they were widowed in order to support their families. The theatre is open from 8am - 6pm and costs about $3.50 admission. I was a bit disappointed in Tombstone due to the fact that it had seemed to sell out. The main street was nothing but tourist shops with the odd bar in-between. I knew it had a tourist industry but I didn't expect it to be as intrusive as this. There are only so many gift shops, T-shirt shops and Western wear shops you can look at! The prices also tended to be on the high side so I wouldn't buy any Western wear in Tombstone, there are Western outfitters in most towns in Arizona that are a lot cheaper! I have to admit that I did succumb to one bit of tacky tourism though. My partner and I got our photograph taken in full "Wild West" costumes. I was the cheap saloon girl and he was the mean and moody gunslinger. The photo was fantastic in sepia tones and now has pride of place in my house! It was taken at Diamond Jims and cost $25. Not exactly cheap but I had had my heart set on getting it done and it looks fantastic! As you are leaving Tombstone don't forget to pop into the famous Boothill graveyard. It is free but you have to enter through a gift shop! This is the final resting place of many of the gunslingers and outlaws. The gravestones make interesting reading. So what was my overall impression of Tombstone? A bit tacky, like a theme park. If you look for the original parts they are there but you just have to fight your way past all those T-shirt and souvenir shops first!
I'm sure all students can sympathise with me on this one. After 7 years of being a student I have learned to cope with disgusting kitchens, piles of washing up and over flowing bins in the kitchen. Not through me I hasten to add but due to those unscrupulous flatmates who have never seen kitchen cleaning products in their life (or so it would seem!). So, when you enter your kitchen from hell wanting to make something to eat but every surface looks as if it is a breeding ground for salmonella, E. coli, Listeria and dear knows what else, what do you do? The difference between a filling snack and food poisoning is simple - Safeway's Antibacterial spray. This spray is a godsend. Simple enough even for the laziest student to use. All you do is pint the trigger and squeeze at your desired surface. You can then either wipe off straight away with a cloth (kitchen roll, sleeve, lazy flatmates clean washing) or you can leave it for a minute for that extra killing power. This leaves the surface suitable straight away for preparing food and won't taint or impart its odour onto your food. I should mention that this stuff isn't just a huge help for students but it's also great for people with toddlers and babies. You know how much they love sticking things in their mouths and licking things. At least this way you have some peace of mind! The antibacterial spray costs £1.52 for a 500ml spray gun and should last quite a while depending on the state of your kitchen. If your child is moving into a flat for the first time this year and will be sharing with "unknowns", then buy them a bottle of this. It could just save their sanity not to mention their health!
If I were an alien I would definitely stay here! We were visiting Roswell to look for aliens and, perhaps more realisiticaly (!), to visit the UFO Research Institute that I have also written an op about. We had a voucher for this motel that we got from the internet (the New Mexico web site) so we had a bit of an incentive to stay here. The entry for it in the Lonely Planet guide was also encouraging so when we saw the motel as we pulled into Roswell, we decided to stop. You can only describe the Frontier Motel as a normal American motel with the rooms arranged round the pool on 3 sides. You can pull in straight of the main highway and park under a shaded area as you check in. As we had arrived in the early afternoon, there was no problem getting a room and the manager quickly and courteously checked us in. Our room was a wonderful surprise - much better than some of the more expensive motels we had stayed at. The room was large with a Queen size bed, table and chairs, huge TV with umpteen million channels (including 3 HBO entertainment channels and several film channels), a fridge (wonderful for keeping your beer cold) and a large vanity unit with Hollywood style lights round about it. The bathroom was lovely with a shower and a bath - it's nice to have the choice! Everything was clean and in really good condition including the air conditioning unit that was efficient and quiet. The motel was wonderfully situated next to lots of fast food restaurants and restaurant chains so you will never go hungry. It was also very easy to get into Roswell to the main attractions and to get back onto the highway again! However, you didn't need to go out for breakfast. Breakfast was provided in the reception. In the morning we went down to the reception where there was freshly brewed coffee, orange juice, three different types of cornflakes and lots of donuts! You put your food on the tray and took it back to your room.
Considering how cheap the motel was (£26!), breakfast was an added bonus!