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My sister purchased her Tiguan a few months ago, and I have been out in it many times, and also helped with a lot of the driving on long trips too, so I am in a fairly good place to write a review of it.
The model is the Tiguan Sport 2.0 TDI 140 PS 4MOTION, a 6 speed manual, and a starting price of £23,775. This sits above the Passat in the price range, but lower than the Phaeton and larger Toureg. Described as a 'compact SUV' it is basically a people carrier with extra ground clearance and four wheel drive. So if you don't need these two things you may as well look at other models like the Passat or Golf.
Performance from the 140PS diesel is excellent, 0-60 apparently in 10.5sec, which in the real world means if you put your foot down you'll leave most cars behind. There is also 236lb/ft of torque, which basically gives great in gear accelleration for overtaking, and excellent pulling power when you've got the car full of people/kids/luggage. I really like driving, and I certainly had a smile on my face in this car :-) certainly a pleasing experience for what could have been a boring family carrier! Economy is pretty good too, 45mpg is fairly normal, and on a cruise then 50mpg is also attainable.
From the outside the metalic blue paint looks very smart, as do the 18" alloys. As you would expect from a VW all the body panels meet evenly and nice and close together.
Inside, the legendary VW quality continues, with excellent quality 'touchy feely' finishes and aluminium trimmings. There are plenty of options and gadgets to keep everyone happy too. CD/MP3 player, electric windows, climate control, see me home headlights, auto lights, auto wipers, and an electronic parking brake. Now that takes a bit of getting used to, but if you don't like hill starts then you will probably find it very helpful. My sister got the panoramic sunroof too which is brilliant, it makes sitting in the back a pleasure, and adds to the sense of space.
On the safety side it comes with the usual myriad of air bags, ABS and also ESP (Electronic Stabilisation Programme) which includes EDL (Electronic Differential Lock) and ASR (Traction Control). These gadgets basically help reduce the likelyhood of you sliding and losing traction and ending up needing the airbags!
The seats seem fairly firm at first, but they are very comfortable, even after several hours I didn't have any problems. My dad who has a bad back also found it very good too, and was even happy in the back which is a minor mirracle!
There is plenty of boot space, swallowing luggage for a long family holiday, or giving two dogs plenty of space on a day trip out. There are also roof rails, which make adding a roof rack for bikes/kayaks/roof box an easy operation further increasing the carrying capacity.
The only negative point about this vehicle was the tyres it came with. These were very sporty tyres, and therefore don't have much grip when it comes to any form of mud or snow. Being a 4 wheel drive this is a bit stupid, and the ABS, traction contol was always kicking in. Suffice to say that when the first sprinkling of snow appeared the car went to the garage for some winter tyres. These have been a revalation! Suddenly the ABS/traction control hardly ever kicks in, and the car stops better, and doesn't slip anywhere near as much! I'm sure a lot of people won't care about that, but if you need to stay mobile and live out in the sticks then changing the tyres is pretty much essential!
Overall however the Tiguan is a great vehicle, and I would be very tempted by it if I needed a four wheel drive people carrier type vehicle.
Polarisers are the ONLY filter that it is impossible to recreate in Photoshop or other photo editing software packages. This means that after a protective filter this will probably be the first filter you get for your lens, or may be the only other filter you get if you don't get particularly into photography.
Polarisers help increase the saturation of colours, especially the blue of the sky, and green in foliage/plants. This is in part due to their ability to cut out reflected light, and in this way they can also be used to remove unwanted reflections off water too. Because they are removing a proportion of the light then obviously they cause a loss of light (of 1.5 stops) which can be useful if you want to use a slower shutter speed, but can also be a hindrance if you are trying to keep shutter speeds up! Also remember, with digital cameras you must get a circular polarising filter.
There are a number of different Polarisers available, for a range of prices, and the Hoya PRO1 Digital is fairly high up in the range. This filter offers a number of advantages over cheaper models:
1. It has a digital multi coating (DMC), which reduces lens flare and ghosting
2. Matt black frame and rim to reduce reflection and glinting light
3. Low profile frame, which is especially important on wide angle leses to prevent vignetting (the frame getting into the edges/corners of the image)
4. Knurled edge, makes it easy to grip for attachment and removal
This filter really is good quality, and definately worth the price premium over cheaper models. They are well made, and come in a handy tough case which will protect your investment. You're filter is probably going to outlast most consumer lenses. And unless you drop or scratch it, it should last a lifetime.
One potential problem is that it can be difficult to remove the filter if you tighten it too much. This is partly due to the rim being so narrow and tricky to grip. You can get a filter removal tool, but I just popped a thick rubber band around the rim which gave me enough grip to loosen it.
Having done a few long haul flights recently I got rather bored of the incessant noise, and saw a couple of people wearing noise cancelling headphones. This summer I have flown from Shetland to Cardiff, flying on two different sorts of noisy turboprop planes and got these headphones for the journey. My uncle has a pair of noise cancelling headphones which he uses regularly whilst commuting into London and Switzerland, one piece of advice he gave was in-ear 'noise isolating' or 'noise reducing' headphones have a tendency to make the noise of eating, walking etc seem rather intrusive, not something I wanted.
Purchased on special offer from play.com these came in at a wallet friendly £29.99 with free p&p.
++++ Packaging ++++
The packaging was rather over the top, a lot could be done here to reduce the environmental impact of this product. First there was a plastic box, which was rather fiddly to get into, in this was a paper sleeve cut-out with branding, spec etc. then there was a moulded plastic section holding the headphones and airplane adapter. Behind this was a card section containing a soft touch vinyl drawstring bag, instructions, Pan European guarantee (75 pages!), and the loose ends of all the wires. This could have been done to the same standard with a card box with a plastic window, and then a moulded card insert to hold the headphones behind which would be the other bits. (Maybe I ought to be a packaging consultant?!)
++++ Features ++++
Swivelling and then folding out the earpieces gets them ready for use. Having active noise-reduction (NR) there is a small unit in the lead into which you put an AAA battery, an LR03 should last 54hrs (unfortunately one isn't included in the box), if you don't want the NR then you don't need a battery. On the unit is a switch to turn NR on and off, with an LED to show when it's on, a volume control which works when NR is on or off, a monitor button, and a clip to attach it to your shirt, jacket etc. When you press the monitor button the volume is muted and instead of cancelling the noise around you it plays the noise through the headphones, this is useful when an air hostess speaks to you on a plane, as you don't need to take the headphones off.
Apparently they will reduce noise by 83% (more than 15dB). The main reduction is to low frequency noises like those from planes, trains, buses, cars, air-con units etc. Telephones, voices, car horns are less effected. This seemed to hold true from my experience.
The lead is 1.4m long total (nearly 5 foot), with the battery/control unit in the middle, this is plenty long enough for most requirements.
++++ Comfort ++++
The padded earpieces are comfortable, sitting nicely on your ears without squeezing them too much. The padding is a ring of soft foam covered in a thin soft touch vinyl type covering, which conform nicely to the bumps and hollows of you ears helping block unwanted noise. I've been wearing them all afternoon and my ears feel fine. They are slim and comfortable enough that you can rest your head up against the side of your seat and sleep with them still on. The headband is adjustable for different head and hair sizes.
Whilst you can hear yourself eating crisps and other noisy food this isn't too intrusive. You can't hear your own footsteps thudding through your body either, and they are a snug enough fit that you can run and jump about like a fool without them flying off (I tried especially for this review, hopefully no-one saw me!).
++++ Sound Performance ++++
Having played a wide variety of classical, pop and jazz music on these I would say the sound quality is very good. Bass, mid and treble seem to come through fairly equally and there is a good level of clarity and detail. Bass is where most small speakers in laptops and headphones have most problems, and I have been very impressed by the amount of bass coming through these headphones. In quiet conditions these headphones do show up low bitrate mp3's which may have been hidden in lower quality headphones.
Having the volume set to max on the control unit I tested them plugged into my laptop and gradually turned the volume up. I did manage to get to full blast on some tracks, although I wouldn't recommend this, it was indeed very loud! The sound quality even at full blast was good, and I couldn't hear any distortion which is good to know. Fortunately the NR means you can play music quieter as it cancels annoying background so you shouldn't need to use them too loud anyway.
++++ Noise Reduction Performance ++++
The small turboprop aeroplanes are notoriously noisy, you're not very far from the engines and the massive propellers whirring around, and it can leave you feeling a little deaf. To start with these headphones didn't seem to make much difference; but after having them on for a while you do really start to notice their effect. While listening to music if you turn off the NR it is much harder to hear clearly, so you would have to play it louder for the same listening experience, so they definately do work. When coming in to land you have to switch off all electronic equipment, this is another time you really notice how much extra noise is around you.
Having just flown down to Cambridge again this time I flew on a conventional jet from Glasgow to Stansted. The noise reduction worked brilliantly with this type of aircraft, taking ambient noise almost to silence! It worked much better than on the turboprop planes where more 'drone' comes through.
++++ Conclusion ++++
For the price I don't think that these can be beaten. A great balance of portability, sound quality and noise reduction performance make these a great buy. I would certainly recommend them for listening to you music, especially when travelling, although if you just want things quieter for sleeping I would probably simply recommend ear plugs!
This internet based shop has now been around for a few years and offers a very convenient way to get new windscreen wipers for your car or van. You simply select your vehicle through a number of option boxes, and it will offer you the appropriate windscreen wipers, simple!
On offer are a number of different sorts of wipers, from the traditional metal framed types to the more modern 'blade' type. There are also modern blade wipers which will fit cars that would usually use the old type of wiper. Basically you look down the list of what is on offer, and pick the ones you want. It really couldn't be simpler.
I used this shop first about 3 years ago, I had a large crack in my windscreen, so thought I might as well get new wiper blades at the same time so that any grit in the old wipers didn't damage my nice new windscreen. I had also seen a lot in magazines about these new 'blade' wipers, so thought I'd give them a try.
These were very easy to order, and cheaper than other shops, and much cheaper than going to the car dealer. When I first got these blades I think there was only one sort I could get, but now there is a selection to suit most budgets. The own brand blades however are good quality, and have lasted me a good long time, traditional wipers usually lasted me about a year, these have lasted 3 and are still fine. The performance has also been first class, no streaks or missed patches, and they don't suffer from lift at motorway speeds or in gusty winds. They are also less distracting as they are much thinner.
My order arrived quickly, and I had no problems at all in fitting the new blades so I was very pleased in deed. I now need a new rear wiper, so I'll use this company again as it makes life very simple and I live a very long way from the shops (2hrs)! On the website there is also a link to an online sister store selling car bulbs, this is handy as it knows what details you have put in so takes you to the right car.
Coniston Water lies at the southern end of the Lake District, sandwiched between Grizedale Forest and The Old Man of Coniston. At the northern end of this lake is the village of Coniston,
Holly How Youth Hostel is situated on the outskirts of the village of Coniston, and is only a few minutes walk from the beautiful Lake Coniston. The short walk into Coniston village also takes you to the bus stop which takes you to Windermere or Ulverston, both of these places have train stations so it is pretty easy to visit by public transport.
++++ Surroundings ++++
On the edge of the village of Coniston sits this large house set in a pleasant garden with mature trees and surrounded by woodland. A short driveway heads up through the garden to the hostel, where you can drop off luggage and people before parking in the available spaces at the bottom of the drive. In the lovely garden are the lawns, some picnic benches, and a fenced off pond area obviously to keep out small children.
++++ Facilities ++++
This hostel has a restaurant with a table licence, serving both breakfast and evening meals. This is a great option if you don't want the hassle of cooking your own meals. Local produce is used as much as possible, and the menu offers a good variety of classic meals, and they are a reasonable price too.
There are a large number of other rooms to relax and unwind in and a variety of useful facilities. A games room, lounge, TV lounge, cycle store, dining room, self catering kitchen, BBQ area, shop, drying room, laundry, washing machines, and obviously toilets and showers. The building was nice and warm, and clean and well maintained.
++++ Bedrooms ++++
There are a range of different sized rooms, mostly they are traditional hostel style with a large number of bunkbeds, there are 4 rooms of 8 beds, and one with more than 10 beds. There are also some smaller rooms, 4 rooms of 4 beds which are suitable for smaller groups or families. There are cots available, and under 3 year olds are welcome.
When you are directed to your room the first thing you have to go is make the bed. Gone are the days of scratchy blankets, instead you get a reasonable duvet. The bedding pack contains your bottom sheet, duvet cover and pillow case, which all come cleaned and pressed in a plastic bag. The bed I slept on was comfortable, although it did seem slightly short, maybe I'd slid down the bed without noticing!
++++ Activities ++++
Not only does this hostel provide good value accommodation but it also runs a number of training courses, family and multi-activity breaks. Courses aren't just aimed at children and beginners, some of them are pretty full on. These include courses for rock climbing, scrambling, navigation, mountain leader (training and assessment), kayaking, ghyll scrambling, abseiling and caving!
There are lots of other things to do locally, like mountain biking, sailing, cruising on the lake and visiting the local tourist attractions.
++++ Prices ++++
Prices start at £16 for adults and £12 for under 18's. I got a special spring offer so stayed for less than a tenner. If you're not a member of the YHA then you pay an extra £3 per adult or £1.50 for under 18's. This is effectively a day rate of membership.
Membership isn't all that expensive though, and is especially good value for a family at £22.95 which includes 2 adults living at the same address and all the under 18's travelling with you.
++++ Conclusion ++++
This hostel is in a really great place in the Lake District, especially if you want to go walking around and up the Old Man. The accommodation is fairly simple, but perfectly adequate and there is a pleasant atmosphere with friendly staff. If you are travelling alone it's also a great way to meet other people which is less likely in a hotel or B&B. For a family this would definitely be a cost effective way to spend a long weekend on holiday, especially if you don't want to or the weather isn't amenable to camping!
I would definitely stay at this hostel again, and was very impressed by the variety of courses they offer which I may take advantage of at some point. There weren't really any bad points, although by being a licensed you're not allowed to drink your own alcohol which can be annoying if you are there as a bunch of friends and want to take your own wine/beer.
Northlink runs a couple of routes between Scotland, Orkney and Shetland. Scrabster (N tip of Scotland) to Stromness (Orkney), and Aberdeen to Kirkwall (Orkney) and Lerwick (Shetland). On certain sailings from Aberdeen the ferry does NOT stop at Kirkwall.
++++ Booking ++++
Their website is easy to navigate and book through, and if you are a Shetland resident you can apply for an islander discount which gets you about 30% off your car and passenger fair. This offer has also been extended to a 'friends and family' scheme too which operates at certain times of the year, currently 1st May to 30th June, and 1st Sept to 18th Dec. Islanders have to nominate 6 households to receive the discount. Rather annoyingly this was only announced less than 2 weeks ago, and my family have already booked their tickets to visit grrrrr.
++++ Routes, ferries and accommodation ++++
The Scrabster-Stromness journey takes 90mins aboard the MV Hamnavoe. The journeys from Aberdeen on the MV Hjaltland or MV Hrossey however take quite a bit longer. Aberdeen-Kirkwall is 5.5hrs, Kirkwall-Lerwick 8.5hrs, and direct Aberdeen-Lerwick is 12.5hrs. Southbound journeys get into Aberdeen half an hour sooner than the northbound journeys.
Because of the long journey times to Shetland 117 cabins are available. These book up quickly though. There are a number of options here, two berth outside, executive (with a bunk), premium two berth outside, 4 berth inside, 4 berth inside with TV & DVD, 2 & 3 berth restricted mobility cabins, cabin share scheme, and lastly reclining chairs. I have always booked into one of the shared cabins, they are the best value (from £19.50), although there is the possibility of someone snoring in your room. The reclining seats aren't that great, and a lot of people just bed down on the floor and couches. On one journey I did come across one family who came complete with a large inflatable mattress and duvet! During the summer on the 0630 Scrabster-Stromness sailings there are some cabins available as 'bed & breakfast' where you can board the previous evening between 2130 and 2330.
++++ Boarding ++++
Arriving around 2 hours before the sailing you need photographic ID to board, and if you are in a car you will be directed by the helpful staff. Remember to turn off your car alarm, look in your car manual, there is usually a button or sequence you can press to lock without the alarm. There is nothing more annoying than a car alarm on a ferry, and also it will flatten your battery too.
++++ Facilities ++++
Departing Aberdeen at either 1700 or 1900 there's a bit of time to kill before bed. There's a bar, a restaurant, shop and cinema, unfortunately there isn't any WiFi which is a bit of a shame nowadays. I usually spend some time out on the rear deck, watching for seabirds, dolphins and the seascape in general. There is a deck on the roof, but these ferries don't hang around so it's usually a bit chilly up there. Dinner on board is reasonable, usual dishes are things like lasagne, bolognese, pasta, fish and chips. There is also a luxury lounge and an 'a la carte' menu.
++++ Cabin ++++
Having only ever used the 4 berth cabin share scheme I can only comment on the inside 4 berth cabins. They are pretty simple, with drop down upper bunks, these have a frame which slots into the side of the bunk to stop you rolling out in the night. There are ladders that clip on too, each bunk has a small light. The beds are comfortable, and come with a thin duvet and a pillow. There isn't very much room for luggage, and I usually keep my stuff on my bunk with me. One of my friends did have something of theirs stolen in a shared cabin, so just take care of your stuff. People in Shetland are generally pretty relaxed as there is a low crime rate, but it is easy for people to take advantage of this. There is also a bathroom which has a toilet, sink and shower.
++++ Morning ++++
In the morning I usually get up reasonably early and go outside to watch as we sail up past the coast of Shetland. The restaurant opens at around 6 and you can get a good breakfast. If you have a car you have to disembark when you dock, foot passengers and non-drivers can stay onboard until 0930 drivers can park and come back onboard. There is another option which I think is much better, and that is to go to the co-op or the new harbour café, both of which offer excellent breakfasts.
++++ Pre trip advice ++++
Unsurprisingly it can get quite rough in the North Sea, so if you suffer at all from sea-sickness then get some medication and take it as recommended. It's usually fairly chilly out at sea, so make sure you bring a nice warm jacket and perhaps a hat if you intend to spend time out on deck. Fuel is about 10p per litre more expensive in Shetland than in the rest of the UK, so fill up before you get on the ship, there is a cheap fuel station as you come into Aberdeen.
Ascension Island is one of the remotest places in the world, a small, tropical, volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, 4830 miles south of London and 3970 miles north of the Falklands. So remote and small is this island that until recently on a popular internet mapping page it appeared as some roads on top of blue sea! I decided that as I was flying via Ascension to and from the Falklands I'd take the chance of stopping off on what was described to me as a bizarre, crazy, interesting and beautiful island. My visit lasted 4 days, which I thought would be a good starting place to explore the island whilst not destroying my meagre bank balance having not worked for the last 4 months in the Falklands.
++++ Introduction ++++
This island is an old volcano, rising straight out of the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. It was first inhabited in 1815 by the British when Napoleon was imprisoned on St Helena in order to prevent the French using it as a stepping stone on their way to rescue him. Later it has been used as a telecommunication hub for transatlantic cables, satellite relays, hosts one of 5 ground antennas for the GPS system, tracking NASA space missions including being the ground relay station for Neil Armstrong's famous "One small step" speech. Wideawake (named after the tern) airfield has been used by the British as a stepping stone to the Falklands, and is also an emergency landing site for the Space Shuttle, although no-one is sure how it would ever leave again!
Being a volcano most of the island is made up of cooled lava and volcanic rocks. After the heat this is one of the first things you notice, the strange smell reminiscent of the ash and cinders from an old coal fire! The island rises to its highest point of 859m at the top of Green Mountain in the middle of the island. Green Mountain, as its name suggests is lush and green owing to the microclimate it creates by poking up into the clouds. The mist from the clouds creates a cool damp climate at the top of the island which is a pleasant relief to the heat of Georgetown and the lower slopes. This was the source of drinking water on the island and there are some odd concreted areas on the mountain that were built as water catchments. Donkeys and carts were originally used to transport the water down the hill to Georgetown, and with no shade upturned boats were used to provide much needed shade, this is why there is the village of Two Boats, and also a place called One Boat on the way back down the hill. One Boat is actually home to what is officially the worlds worst golf course (guinness world record), blacks (not greens!) are made of sand and oil! Donkeys are still present on the island, and they are generally friendly and approachable, and very cute too! Now water is produced at the small diesel power station, but it is very limited in supply so no wasting now! A lot of electricity is now being produced by wind power, so reducing the need for fossil fuels.
There is a local newspaper, called The Islander, which is available online, there has even rather famously been one edition that was entirely blank there being no news whatsoever to report! Interestingly there is also no permanent population, most of the people working here are St Helenians, and some have lived on Ascension for many, many years.
++++ Before you set off ++++
Before you go to Ascension you have to apply to the Administrator for a visitor permit by filling in various details of your travel and accommodation. This is very, very simple, and is mostly just a formality. I met some people in the Falklands who turned up having not applied and just filled in the form 'at the gate'. Ascension is governed by the St Helena government, and they require you to have appropriate travel insurance that will enable you to evacuated in medical emergencies.
Being a tropical island average temperatures are around 27degC (31degC max) Feb to May, and 25degC (28degC max) Aug to Nov. The wind almost always blows which is pleasant but not all that cooling. Temperatures up Green Mountain can be about 3-5degC cooler than the coast. Make sure you pack a good high factor suncream, and also a wide brimmed sunhat. Shorts and a T shirt are the general attire, although I only had one pair of shorts with me so wore thin trousers in the evenings while my shorts were drying after my afternoons swimming.
++++ Getting there ++++
There are two ways to get to Ascension. The first and most practical method is on the flight that stops here on its way to and from the Falklands. The flights leave Brize Norton (UK) twice a week, late in the evening, and arrive the following morning. If you are coming from the Falklands like I did, then you leave Mount Pleasant (FK) early morning, and arrive in Ascension late evening. Flights are contracted by the MOD from commercial airlines, I flew South on the now bankrupt GlobeSpan, and North with Air Seychelles, the Boeing 767 was comfortable and well equipped, the staff were very pleasant, and the food was also good. The number of civilian seats on these flights is limited, so it is worth booking well in advance. After take off you can move to empty seats giving you more room to spread out and sleep.
The standard fair cost was £1150 return Brize-Ascension. As I was working in the Falklands and got the 'duty rate' the whole northbound flight cost me £670. If you can get a duty rate Brize-Ascension this would have been £790 return. These were the prices at the end of 2009 so have now increased somewhat. The standard baggage allowance was 27kg. You have to get off the plane here for re-fuelling, and it's simply a case of heading through the appropriate doors, stamping your passport, paying the arrival fee, waiting a couple of minutes for baggage to come out and be checked by a sniffer dog, then you're in!
The only alternative is aboard the Royal Mail Ship St. Helena. This visits Cape Town, St. Helena, Ascension and also at certain times of the year, the UK. This half cargo/mail ship, half cruise ship is the only way to get to St. Helena, and would be a great relaxed way of getting to Ascension, if you enjoy travelling by sea. Having not travelled this way I can't say much about it, but I've seen a DVD all about it, and it does look very good. Professional staff, high quality food, entertainment, and the chance to experience an important piece of British history.
++++ Accommodation ++++
Unless you have friends/relatives on Ascension your choice is limited to the Obsidian Hotel. There are a number of options at Obsidian, a house on the beach, luxury air conditioned rooms (£110 double VIP suite), more basic individual room hostel type accommodation (£31.50 single), and a house on Green Mountain. I opted for the middle ground, of an en-suite room that had a fan, fridge and TV, and a shared lounge. Breakfast can be included (£5), as can dinner, meals are served at the hotel on the shaded veranda where there is also a bar. Breakfast includes cereals, toast, hot and cold drinks and a cooked breakfast and is definitely worth having. The cost is comparable to those in the UK, my single en-suite room with breakfast cost £ 47.50 per night. Accommodation needs to be booked in advance due to the limited number of rooms, usually this is not a problem, although it can be busy when the RMS St Helena is in. You also have to write the address where you're staying on your visitor permit. When you book your accommodation you can arrange for Obsidian to pick you up and drop you off at the airport, alternatively you can have your hire car delivered to and from the airport for you.
++++ Eating ++++
There are a number of options for eating out. These include the bar/restaurant at the Obsidian hotel, the Volcano Club Snack Bar on the American military base serving 'fast food'. Food prices are reasonable and comparable to the UK. The Obsidian restaurant makes full use of the excellent locally caught fish, and I would especially recommend the Wahoo!
There is a shop in Georgetown where you can buy food and supplies so that you can cook your own meals. Lunches are available from various including a sandwich bar and the Reflections Coffee shop in Georgetown, and the Two Boats Club.
++++ Getting around ++++
Cars can be hired from Obsidian Hotel, book in advance as sometimes they can all be booked out. Hire costs from £20 a day, and the vehicles are mostly reasonably new, and many have air conditioning, fuel is also cheap. The roads are good and there is very little traffic. You are not allowed to take hire vehicles off-road, with the exception of the short track to Comfortless Cove; hint: use the first parking area you get to, the track to the second parking area is rough, rutted and steep, and only gets you about 25m closer.
I wouldn't particularly recommend walking, although it is possible to walk to Comfortless Cove, but not really all the way to Green Mountain.
++++ Towns ++++
'Towns' is a very loose term here, with these being smaller than the typical UK village. The main town on Ascension is Georgetown. There is a police station, court, shop, the hotel, post office, museum, Ascension Conservation office. This is also where the small port is which accepts passengers and goods from the RMS.
Two Boats is part way up Green Mountain, and is therefore a little cooler than Georgetown. There is a school and club there. The other settlements are Travelers, the UK military base, and Cat Hill the US military base.
++++ Walks ++++
There are a number of great walks, many of these are known as Letterbox walks. On these walks you visit a letterbox in which is a visitors book, and a stamp which you can stamp in your own notebook or guidebook. These walks are a great way to see different parts of the island, and getting a stamp at the end of it is also fun, especially for children. Some of the walks though are pretty hard, especially in the heat, so it's worth reading up about them beforehand.
The most popular walk on the island is that to the Dew Pond at the top of Green Mountain. Surrounded in introduced Bamboo this pond contains some goldfish and toads, again introduced. The path up the hill has a boardwalk, and is not too strenuous if you take your time. The climate is also quite pleasant up here, although the cloud can get in the way of some stunning views. There are lots of other interesting walks around Green Mountain that are well worth doing.
Most walks take you to different geological features such as the Devil's Ashpit, or the Devil's riding school, and various historical features too. Just make sure you take plenty of water, basically you can almost never have too much water. Have a big drink just before you set out, take as much as you can with you, and have a load in reserve for when you get back too. If you have access to a fridge keep it stocked up with water.
++++ Wildlife ++++
One of the biggest wildlife spectaculars has to be the several thousand Green Turtles that come to the beaches from January to April to lay their eggs under the cover of darkness. In daylight the beaches look rather like someone has been playing with a mini digger, with lots of odd looking tracks and dozens of semi filled in holes! Guided walks to see this spectacle are led by Ascension Conservation at least twice a week, and by special arrangement too. I will never forget lying on the beach at about midnight, looking up at the incredible starry sky, listening to the waves and the sighing of the turtles, the swishing of them digging their nests. Once they start laying you can then watch carefully from behind using a dim torch as they go into a kind of trance. The best time to see and take photos is first thing in the morning as it gets light when some will still be making their way down to the sea. The eggs hatch from March to June, and the babies appear out of the sand at night and scramble down the beach to the sea knowing instinctively which way to go and how to swim. Any that are still appearing when it's light are in trouble falling prey to Frigate birds.
Ascension is a magnet for seabirds, after all, there isn't anywhere else to nest for hundreds of miles. Sooty Tern (Wideawake Birds) nest in lava fairs on the ground, other seabirds include some types of boobies, petrels, tropicbirds (boatswain birds), Fairy Tern, Brown Noddy, Black Noddy, and Ascension Frigatebird. These have been restricted to Boatswainbird (pronounced BoSun) Island due to the introduction of rats and cats. Cats have been a huge problem, wiping out hundreds of thousands of nesting seabirds (calculated as about 33,000 birds per year!). You can see the remains of nests all over the lava fairs, and it is astonishing, there must have been millions (I'm not exaggerating either!). Terrestrial birds found are non-native and include Mynahs, Waxbills, Canaries, Francolins and Sparrows.
By 2006 Ascension Conservation and the RSPB had managed to eradicate all the feral cats on the island. If you want a pet cat you have to get a licence and have the cat neutered/spayed so that it cannot breed if it runs away, such an excellent idea. All over the island there are also rat bait stations to try and keep the rodent population under control. This work is having great benefits as some of the seabirds are now actually returning to nest on Ascension, hopefully in the next 50 years we should see a real boost in their numbers.
There have been lots of plants introduced onto the island, and this causes a great deal of problems to some of the endemic native flora. These endemic plants include Pteris adscensionis, Asplenium ascensionis, Euphorbia origanoides already a number of species have gone extinct including Oldenlandia adscenionis, Sporobolus durus and Dryopteris ascensionis. Ascension Conservation is doing a great deal of work to protect the native flora and increase the security of its populations.
++++ Swimming, Snorkelling and Sub Aqua ++++
The beautiful white beaches and turquoise sea is incredibly attractive, and contrast starkly with the black, sharp, jagged lava. Long beach, right by Georgetown is very conveniently placed for watching turtles at night and early in the morning. However, it is NOT suitable for swimming. There is a salt swimming pool in Georgetown, and freshwater pool in Two Boats.
The two beaches that are recommended for these activities are Comfortless Cove and English Bay. Care needs to be taken if there is too much of a swell, being in the middle of the ocean there is no shelter from the rages of the ocean!
I found Comfortless Cove to be the most sheltered and enjoyable for snorkelling. There is a rope across the mouth of the bay which it is recommended you stay inside of, but it is calm and you are a confident swimmer then you of course can go outside it. There is a limited amount of Snorkelling equipment available to borrow at the Obsidian, but, it was mostly a bit broken when I was there, so you'd be better off taking your own.
There is an Ascension Sub Aqua club, and you can go diving with them. You would need to arrange this in advance and I think be a confident and competent diver before you go.
++++ Overview ++++
I am so glad I took the chance to visit Ascension. The contrasts of the sea, sand, lava, and Green Mountain certainly do give this island a bizarre wonder. 4 days really gave me just a brief glimpse of the island, and I would definitely stay for longer next time. If this was a one off visit I would opt for two weeks, anything less would be a waste. I hope to go back to the Falklands again, so given the chance I will visit Ascension for a week to 10 days, and preferably during Turtle hatching time. Yes getting to Ascension is expensive, but once you are there costs are similar to any holiday destination, and it is an incredible and rather more exclusive place.
This was my second traybake from Tesco, the first being a very disappointing rocky road. On close inspection of the packaging I realised that this caramel shortcake also has a chocolate 'flavoured' topping - uh oh I thought!
I was however slightly surprised that this traybake was rather good! Serving 6 with nice size pieces this product offers a rather high level of saturated fats, 8.1g which is 41% of the GDA. As an occasional treat however this shouldn't cause to much of a concern. The shortcake base is good, crumbly and crunchy, with a generous layer of smooth sweet caramel making up 31% of the product. The chocolate flavoured topping (20%) of this traybake is much nicer than that in the rocky road, and does actually taste chocolaty rather than synthetic like.
I have been rather spoilt by Caramel Shortcake in the past, the best I have ever had was in the café at the Gloucester and Warwickshire railway, they also do a very good chocolate cake, and these are all home made. Whilst this Tesco budget version isn't as good as that at the GWR it is perfectly acceptable, and I wouldn't hesitate to get it again.
This traybake is suitable for vegetarians, but does contain milk, wheat, gluten, soya and sulphites, so those with any allergies or intolerances should be careful.
Not many people have been to the Falklands (including the only other reviewer on here) even though almost everyone in the UK has heard of the place due to the Falklands conflict. It is a truly incredible place, and I urge you to read on a learn a little more about this incredible place.
There are three main reasons why people go to the Falklands. Firstly, and the main reason is that they go as part of the British military presence. Secondly, they visit as a tourist to see the incredible wildlife, most of these visitors are on cruise ships that also visit South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. Lastly, people go there to work, whilst the Falkland Islands try to employ as many locals as possible there are of course certain jobs where locals don't have the necessary qualifications or skills, so outsiders fill these jobs, usually on 2 year contracts.
I was lucky enough to visit as a residential volunteer for Falklands Conservation for nearly 4 months over their summer 09/10, and help this organisation with the valuable work they do around the islands. This has given me a varied look at the many different islands in the Falklands, living on settlements, living in Stanley, meeting the locals and the wildlife too.
Note: 'Camp' in the Falklands is short for 'Campos' and basically means countryside, bush, outback, anything outside of Stanley. Camp driving is off-road 4x4 driving.
++++ Getting there ++++
From the UK there are two main options, either way you will need your passport:
Fly from Brize Norton on the military flight, this goes twice a week to Ascension in the middle of the Atlantic for re-fuelling, and then on to the Falklands, the journey is long leaving late at night and arriving the following afternoon. On the return you leave early in the morning, and arrive back at Brize early the next day. The aircraft is a Boeing 737 or similar and is contracted from a commercial airline so come with pleasant staff, TV's, films, the usual. If the plane isn't full after take off you can move around and probably find 2 or even 3 seats to spread out and sleep on. The food is good, and there is plenty of it, nice toasted panini's, cooked breakfast etc. again if the plane isn't full they will have too much food so you can have seconds usually! On the Ascension stop you stay in what is called 'the cage' a fenced compound with a small refreshments café so that you don't wander off on the island, this usually takes ! Baggage limits are good, and if like me you are going to work, or are a resident then you can take 54kg of luggage (£1350), or 27kg for a regular tourist passenger. There are a limited number of civilian seats, and if you're not working in the Falklands, a resident, or going for military reasons the tickets are rather expensive, around £1975 return. You also have to book well in advance to make sure you get a seat, especially at the start/end of school holidays. Going this way you can also take a holiday on Ascension, which is well worth it if you are making all the effort and cost of flying this way. I will be reviewing Ascension too, so have a look at that if you are interested. 'Residents rate' which workers also get makes this journey comparable to the LAN Chile flight. Visit the Brize Norton website for current prices as they regularly change, also check what documents you need, and also documents for whoever is going to drop you off at Brize.
The other option is on a LAN Chile flight. For this you have to first fly to South America, and stay over night, then take the connecting flight that takes you on to the Falklands. Going this way it makes sense to spend some time in South America to get the best value from your flight. This is the cheapest way for a tourist to get to the Falklands, although you do get a rather restrictive baggage allowance of only around 24kg or something like that. Bad news for me as my photography gear weighs nearly 20kg! I don't know much else about this flight as I didn't do it, but by all accounts it is perfectly good and many people take this route. This flight is also used by the cruise ship companies for transfers so at times it can be very busy, so again, book well in advance.
Both of these flights fly into Mount Pleasant airport, the military base. To get to Stanley you can either go by bus which requires booking, be picked up by friends, or get a taxi which is the most expensive option.
++++ Accommodation ++++
There are B&B's in Port Stanley, the Malvinas Hotel, and even a Motel! While getting somewhere to stay shouldn't be too hard it's worth thinking ahead due to the limited number of places, this may be more of an issue now with the number of oil exploration workers in the Islands. If you are exploring the islands there are plenty of houses available at the different settlements around the islands, these are generally well equipped and comfortable and most of the owners at the settlements will even pick you up from the local air strip if you arrange in advance and are nice to them. For more rustic accommodation there are 'Camp Houses' on some farms. Usually camp houses are fairly basic but comfortable, some require off-road driving to reach them, and generally they have a peat stove, peat open fire, a generator for electricity, and water from a tank which has to be pumped into it from a well. Some are easy to get to, and are well worth staying in for the real Falklands experience, those that are more 'out of the way' are best left to those who have friends or family in the Falklands as you can't take hire vehicles off-road. A lot of tourists will go and visit one or more of the smaller outlying islands, these have various grades of accommodation, and some allow camping too. Two of the most popular are Sea Lion Island and Carcass Island which are both full-board only, and during high season cost £88-£145 this might seem high, but they are incredible islands and well worth visiting as they have no rats and an abundance of spectacular wildlife and scenery.
++++ Port Stanley ++++
The only town in the Falkland Islands, this is home to the majority of the population, and also where most of the Islands' facilities are based. There are two supermarkets, lots of tourist shops, hardware stores, bars, a few café's, a museum, the famous Cathedral with its whale bone arch, a leisure centre, a power station, school, radio station, bank, fuel station..... There are also tour guides who can do trips to see the local wildlife, tours of conflict battle sites etc. There is also an airport which flies to the outlying airstrips at other settlements and private islands. There are plenty of opportunities to go walking around Stanley to beaches, and into the hills too.
Shopping: Prices are quite expensive, most things have been flown or shipped into the islands. An imported Iceberg lettuce costs £4.98, a Banana 87p.... Meat however is very cheap, Mutton is the main staple meat, it is really only called mutton because it's over 12 months old, this is due to the poor grazing so it takes longer for the lambs to grow. It is very tasty, we would get a whole Mutton carcass for less than £20, in the UK this would currently be about £100+. Beef is also cheap, a tray of mince being about £2-£3 which would easily feed 4 people.
++++ Getting around ++++
Stanley is a small town, and you can get around on foot, or use a taxi which in town is only £3 per trip, £5 to Stanley airport. To get further afield there is a road network, these roads are loose stone, and the speed limit is 40mph, 4x4 vehicles can be hired but are limited in supply, also you are not allowed to take them off-road. Most visitors use FIGAS the government air service to get to remote settlements and the outlying islands. These flights are around £60+ depending on the specific destination. If you are staying for a while or have friends in the Falklands you will probably get to experience camp driving, this is quite serious off-road driving, and needs to be approached with care, but it is also great fun and allows you to get to some incredible out of the way places. Working for Falklands Conservation I regularly had to go off-road in one of their Land Rover Defenders, travelling as a pair to pull each other out of boggy holes.
++++ Wildlife ++++
The wildlife in the Falklands is quite incredible, and is the main attraction for the vast majority of tourists.
Everyone loves penguins, and this is one thing the Falklands aren't short of! King Penguins, Magellanic Penguins, Rockhopper Penguins, Macaroni Penguins, Gentoo Penguins all breed on these islands at a number of different colonies. The best way to see them is to visit an island with a penguin colony; alternatively there are trips from Stanley with tour guides who can take you out to Gypsy Cove or to see the Kings at Volunteer Point.
There are also a variety of other birds too, Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel, Falkland Steamer Ducks, Tussacbirds, Caracaras and a particular speciality the Cobb's Wren. The best place to see lots of birds is on islands that are free of Rats, rats decimate the songbird populations, there are current efforts to try and eradicate rats from a number of small islands. Sea Lion, Carcass, George, Lively & Speedwell Islands are all inhabited islands that have no rats. Take care when there are Striated Caracara about, they have the nickname Johnny Rook, and are very mischievous, if you put anything down even for a second they will try and steal it, especially if it's nice and shiny, like a camera, they also try and steal the hat off your head!
Other native wildlife includes Elephant Seals, Sea Lions and occasional Fur Seals. These can be found at numerous beaches around the islands. One word of warning, Sea Lions like to rest in amongst tussac grass, so keep your eyes open if you are walking through it, they are usually as shocked to see you as you are of them and they will flee towards the sea so try not to be downhill of them, they can move surprisingly fast!
++++ Countryside ++++
Outside of Stanley there is a vast expanse of moorland. This can be bleak at times, and can certainly be hostile when there is a gale blowing hail and sleet horizontally. However it can be equally beautiful when the sun comes out, the birds sing, and the native flowers bloom. There is no difficulty in getting away from people, the islands population is less than 2500, and 2000 live in Stanley, not much for a country the size of Wales. The hills are generally rocky topped, and there are famous stone runs which flow down the hills like rivers of stone. Everywhere else is covered by Diddle-dee, (similar to Heather), and Whitegrass, with Tussac grass on coastal fringes and islands especially. There is a wide variety of native flora, although much of this is at risk from over grazing and non-native invasive plants. There are a lot of sheep, producing excellent quality wool, although stocking levels are currently being reduced significantly.
++++ Phones and Internet ++++
Cable and Wireless do have mobile phone sim cards for sale, which you can use to send and receive texts and make calls with when you are in Stanley. Mobiles rarely work in camp. This is only worthwhile if you are going to be staying for a long period. There is also wireless internet available at a number of locations, this is expensive due to the costs imposed by Cable and Wireless, the connection speed is acceptable.
++++ Other information ++++
Falkland Islanders are proud of where they live, their heritage and their history. They, like most people don't like being told what they should and shouldn't do, and who they should or shouldn't be governed by. They have their own government and elections and are distinctly separate from the UK whilst at the same time being a Crown dependency of the UK. If you go to the pub and start mouthing off at the Islanders don't be surprised if you're asked to pick a window to leave through. Respect the people who live in this wonderful place and they will treat you warmly like a good friend.
**Mines** When Argentina invaded they set out lots of minefields, these are clearly marked and fenced off with obvious signs. It is a criminal offence as well as very stupid to go in these or tamper with the safety signs etc so stay well clear. Some minefields are on or near beaches, so if you find anything suspicious on the beach phone the police. There are currently efforts being made to de-mine areas.
If you ever get the chance to go to the Falklands, then go for it! It may be quite expensive, but it will be the trip of a lifetime, and of course, everyone loves Penguins!!
As part of the Tesco long term price offer of 4 for £3, this fruit juice drink represents great value for money, and I find makes life a lot simpler when faced with the barrage of alternatives available in the refrigerated fruit juices section.
The multitude of fruits that make up this juice are as follows:
Passion fruit 2.5%
Peach puree 0.6%
Mango puree 0.4%
Guava juice 0.2%
Other ingredients include sugar, citric acid, natural flavouring and ascorbic acid. The packaging also boasts no artificial flavours or colours.
The percentage of sugar would seem to be relatively high at 34% of GDA for an adult, but this is almost all natural fruit sugar, and really the amount of sugar in the rest of your daily meals should be fairly low, so it's not really a big deal as part of a healthy diet.
One of my pet hates with food manufacturers is the 'no added sugar' banner that is banded about all over the place. Rather than sugar, which is a perfectly natural compound they dose the products with artificial sweeteners, which are unnatural chemicals. In fact, artificial sweeteners are really bad for you, breaking down into a number of quite frankly toxic chemicals in your body! They also trick your body into thinking it is about to receive sugar resulting in a boost of insulin into the blood stream but no sugar and a resulting depression of blood sugar levels!
Chemistry lecture over, what does it taste like?
Well, it's fruity, and tropical, and has a mellow flavour, not sharp and acidic like some juices, but a rather more rounded fruitiness. This is probably one of my favourite fruit juices and out of the 4 I get in the offer, two are generally this one.
The use by date usually extends over a month into the future, so there is plenty of time to drink the 4 cartons, especially if there is more than one of you. The juice is suitable for freezing, which will make it last longer. Once opened they suggest you drink the carton within 5 days which is perfectly doable.
One downside is that you have to keep these juices refrigerated, this could be an issue if you have a full fridge as 4 cartons take up quite a reasonable amount of space. They can be stored on their side before opening, afterwards keeping it upright in the door is safest though. The other downside is the packaging, being pure-pack the plastic coated card is not recyclable like a plastic bottle would be, there is also no recycling information on the carton.
I can imagine this would be a nice summery fruit mixer for punches, or with a dash of a spirit like vodka, rum, or malibu.
I have to admit to having a sweet tooth, and I have a special attraction to anything chocolate. Rocky road, tiffin and caramel chortcake are some of my favourite. Seeing a traybake pack of Rocky road in the Tesco cake section I thought I'd give it a try.
The packet is mostly clear, and according to the information on the front serves 6. This would be accurate at one piece each and they would be reasonable size pieces too. It also states that it is Chocolate flavoured mix with biscuit, sultanas, marshmallows and glace cherries. Unfortunately I didn't see the 'chocolate flavoures' when I bought it as this is usually a dissapointing statement.
I am right to be downhearted about it being 'chocolate flavoured' as the chocolate type product isn't very tasty, in fact, after two pieces I may not even bother eating the rest. It seems to be quite like that 'chocolate flavoured' cake topping you can get that to be honest isn't very chocolatey at all.
I havn't yet found any glace cherries having eaten half of the 240g pack. Interestingly I only know the pack weight because it says each 1/6th piece weighs 40g, isn't product weight one of the statutory things that has to be displayed?
There is a reasonable amount of biscuit although this is a little 'damp' and in small pieces without a satisfying crunch.
The sultanas seem to be OK, there are a reasonable number of them, and they seem to taste OK too, with a good fruity sweetness to them.
The mini marshmallows are supposed to be one of the best things in rocky road, however these let down this product quite considerably here. They use pork gelatin so they are unsuitable for vegetarians. They are chewy and rubbery, not a nice chewy but a chewing on foam rubber type of sensation.
I can't remember how much this product cost, but it was in a special offer too, so it wasn't much probably somewhere between £1 and £2 I guess.
Overall I would have to say it isn't a very nice product, I have eaten 2 pieces just to check whether the taste would grow on me, and it hasn't, I don't think I'll even eat the rest of it. And I certainly won't be buying it again. I would rather buy a bar of real chocolate, a bag of mini marshmallows, some biscuits, raisins and make the whole thing myself, it would taste better, be more satisfying, and I could lick the spoon of melted chocolate too :-)
This is my third summer working in Shetland, and the museum was one of those places I missed out the first year I was here. The second summer however I found myself in Lerwick on a, how shall we put it, a not too pleasant day, and it was quite a treat!
I work at Hermaness NNR on Unst, which is at the far north of Shetland and about 2hrs drive from Lerwick where the museum is, if you get the Ferries timed right. So I arrived at lunch time, and first visited the restaurant.
The restaurant was very pleasant, with a nice view out into the harbour. The food was absolutely delicious, and there was a good variety of shetland style food on offer. I had the cullen skink, and it was delicious, I didn't find the food too expensive, but then it wasn't cheap either.
The museum was free to go in, which is always a bonus. The museum is nicely done out inside, with a great big piece of wood making up the reception desk. The shop is also here directly opposite the entrance and has a variety of items for sale, there are some really nice postcards.
In the displays there are a lot of interesting items, and plenty of information panels to provide an afternoons browsing. These items range from traditional shawls, shetland, unst especially is famous for it's ultra fine spun wool, all the way to various traditional boats.
During the summer there is the opportunity to go out in a replica boat, and they also have a large shed where they restore and build traditional replica boats.
Definately worth a visit, and will be the first place I take my parents and grandma when they come up to visit this summer, will be a perfect lunch stop after picking them up from Sumburgh mid morning!
My main reason for getting this phone was to replace my old PDA which died when it didn't bounce off the floor of a Landrover! My main requirement was to have a windows based operating system, and intergrated GPS so that I could use it as a SatNav and for mapping work.
The phone comes in a small cardboard box, with very little plastic in the packaging. In the box was the phone, battery, charger (USB cable with a mains USB adapter plug) and headphones. The USB cable for charging is great, there are plenty of car cigarette lighter USB adapters, USB solar chargers, and then your computer for charging and only no data cable to loose either. The USB socket on the phone end is not a normal mini-USB though. Wouldn't it be great if all phones used a mini-USB socket for data and charging?
After an initial charge you can switch the phone on and start playing. The plastic back of the phone is slightly dissapointing, and a machined aluminium or stainless steel one would be far nicer.
The screen is 2.8 inch with QVGA resolution which is nice and clear even in bright sunlight. While this is lower resolution and a smaller screen than a lot of smart phones it does make for a nice compact phone of only 104 X 55 X 12.9 mm (4.1 X 2.16 X 0.51 inches)
There is the usual complement of 3.5mm headphone jack, Bluetooth, WiFi, microSD slot, and a 3.2MP camera. The camera produces pleasing photos with plenty of detail. There is no flash but phone flashes are usually rubbish anyway!
The main screen is the home screen, displaying a nice graphic of the time, and even the weather if you want, with the date and alarm info below too. Below this you can slide through the pictoral menu of contacts, texts, e-mails, internet, photos and videos, music, weather, map search, settings and finally programs.
Most of these are fairly self explanitory, but the programs section is quite neat. You have icons for your favourite programs which you can click on to open, having selected them out of the list of all your programs first, fairly similar to apples interface I think. As is standard on Windows phones there's word, excel, powerpoint, calculator, windows media, FM Radio. There is also the Opera web browser, a Facebook app and Quick GPS. These are all great, and the Quick GPS downloads weekly satellite data to speed up getting a GPS fix which is very useful for me.
There are plenty of other apps that you can download from Windows Marketplace, and also from pocket PC freeware sites if there is anything specific you want.
Making calls is easy enough, selecting from your 'people' icons, or from the full contact list. Sound quality is good, although it is easy to press things on the screen while making a call. You can't easily hang up by accident though as this is a press and slide opperation!
The touch screen is easy to use and responsive, and below the screen is a zoom bar which is handy when looking at web pages. The keypad for typing can be set to a full qwerty keyboard, a compact qwerty and a phone style keypad. The latter is probably the easiest to use as it is familiar and the keys on the full qwerty are quite small.
The only downside I have found has been the predictive text. Annoyingly it doesn't have some fairly normal words in the dictionary, and will suggest a jumble of letters instead. Also, if you enter your own word to the dictionary you then have to type it again into the message.
Apart from this one small niggle this phone is great and I really like it!
Having had fairly bad experiences with disposable razors, and also with a Wilkinson sword protector razor I started using an electric shaver, the only problem was the irritation on my neck which became rather unbearable. So having seen all the hype about the Gillette fusion power I decided to give it a go.
I have now been using this razor for a few years, and have to say that it is brilliant! The shave is efficient and comfortable, and doesn't leave me feeling like I've used a cheese grater on my face. The vibrations seem to help the blades cut smoother and feel quite nice too!
The five main blades cut smoothly, and seem to be fairly resistant to giving you any nicks and cuts, they also keep their edge for a good amount of time. As I don't have to be smooth shaven for work I only generally only shave 2 or 3 times a week, and even after 10 days growth this razor performs very well. Because the blades are fairly close together it does need regular sluicing in hot water to keep the blades open and cutting. The single blade on the rear is ideal for under your nose and any other tight corners.
The lubricating strip is only really effective for the first 3 or 4 shaves. But the blades will keep on going much longer than that.
I am only on my second battery, and they seem to last ages which is nice, and there is a little light which warns you when it's running out. Even then, you can still use it without the power vibrations
The pack that I got has a plastic holder for the razor, and space underneath for a cartridge of blades, this keeps everything together and means you don't forget blades when you stick it in your bag to go on holiday.
Replacement blades are rather expensive but I have a few tips regarding this.
Firstly, you don't need to get the fusion power blades, standard fusion blades are exactly the same, but usually a couple of pounds cheaper.
Second, unscrupulous people on a popular auction site sell a lot of "knock-off" blades which are rubbish, they're blunt and the blades wobble etc.
Third, after christmas there are loads of gillette gift packs being sold off cheap in chemists and supermarkets which usually have a pack of blades in for less than the blades by themselves.
My parents wanted some help putting up a load of shelves in their old stable, which is now used as a large shed for the usual assortement of tools, random 'stuff', and also a large assortment of camping gear for groups doing the Duke of Edinburgh Award and Girl Guides. The shed has concrete brick walls and I only had a cordless hammer drill. After about 5 holes the battery was flat, and with another 100 or so to go this was going to be a long job!
I looked at various DIY store websites and decided to get the PSB 650 RE which was on special offer. When I got to the store however they had sold out, and not wanting to spend near £100 I opted for a cheaper drill, the Bosch PSB 500 RES Impact Drill available for around £40.
Being a Bosch power tool you know you are going to be buying a well made, durable piece of kit, which is one of the reasons I decided not to go for one of the less well known generic brands. It definately seems to be well made, and feels very solid in the hand and not at all 'plasticky'.
-------In the box-------
The drill comes in a smart plastic case, which contains the drill, a front handle, a depth gauge and a chuck key. There are no bundled drill bits, but usually bundled bits are complete rubbish anyway. The drill is also lacking in any modern gadgets too, which if you ask me is great as there is less to break or go wrong. The traditional key chuck is reliable, durable and easy to use.
There is a nice rubberised grip to the handle, which is very comfortable and helps absorb vibrations when using the hammer ability. The second handle can be adjusted through 360 degrees, and can easily be taken off completely. The drill comes in at a mere 1.5kg so is nice and light (my mum is very happy using it too).
-------Power and capability-------
This drill has a 500 watt motor, and the maximum stated drilling diameters are 13mm for concrete, 10mm for steel, and 20mm for wood. Obviously this depends on how tough the concrete is, and if it's oak or balsa wood you're drilling. I do a variety of DIY tasks, drilling into walls, building cupboards, making bird boxes and I've always found it to be plenty powerful enough.
There is a reverse function, which is handy if you get a drillbit stuck, otherwise it doesn't get used much.
This drill only has the one gear, but the variable trigger lets you vary this from 50-3,000 rpm.
The hammer action is good and strong, with 48,000 bpm being struck. The concrete block shed walls were quickly peppered with holes for afixing shelves. Putting up curtain rails is also a surprisingly tough job if you try drilling into reinforced concrete lintels, and again this job has been dispatched with ease a number of times.
If you do a search for corded screwdriving on the Bosch website then it brings up this drill along with some other bigger drills. I havn't tried using it for this yet as it doesn't have the torque settings that cordless drill/drivers have, and it doesn't have as much torque as them either.
This is a quality brand drill with a good spec in a light and compact product. I get the feeling from using it that it will last a long long time. Unless you have specific needs for drilling big holes, not deep remember but wide then this drill will meet your needs perfectly.