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We stayed at the Grand Canal Hotel for 3 nights over the new year weekend 2012.
Our room was on the 4th floor with a reasonable view over the city. It was a double room with ensuite. The room itself was a good size with a big comfortable double bed and plenty of storage space. I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the room. The ensuite bathroom had a bath with shower. The biggest downside of the hotel was that there wasn't enough hot water so we had a few lukewarm showers.
I can only comment on what we used. So... Gasworks Bar is joined to the hotel and was decent. We ordered food from there as room service, which was good. Nice chips!
From the airport a taxi cost around 25 euro. We were able to walk everywhere in the city. It took about 15 minutes to walk to Grafton Street and a little longer to Temple Bar.
The hotel staff were friendly, helpful and professional - everything you could ask.
===Recommendation and rating===
The room was very good quality for the price (from lastminute.com) and we thought the location was very good. The tepid shower though was a real negative, so would hesitate to recommend it for this reason. I rate Grand Canal Hotel 3 stars.
We live about 20 minutes away from Chester Zoo, so I've been a fair few times over the years. My last visit we were there 8 hours, pretty much from opening to closing. It's safe to say I love it there!
Chester Zoo is huge. It really does take a whole day to get around it all. There is the whole range of animals, with everything you'd expect - like elephants, giraffes and lions - and some more unusual creatures too - like the mesmerising African painted dogs and the beautiful spectacled bears (like Paddington so they say!). One of my favourite exhibits is the fruit bat forest where you can walk through the darkness with bats swooping past you - amazing. My other favourite is the jaguar enclosure - feeding time highly recommended!
It's quite annoying that you have to pay extra for the monorail, but you do get a great view of some of the exhibits from above. Food is reasonable, quite expensive - but better than you can expect at many theme parks / attractions.
I totally recommend Chester Zoo. It's my favourite zoo that I've visited. They also do lots of conservation work in the UK and overseas. A great day out!
I thoroughly love Chester Zoo but always wince slightly at how much it costs to get in. Therefore I am going to rate Chester Zoo 4 stars.
The Sony ICD BX800 dictaphone is a basic digital dictaphone available for around £30. The technical details are available for all to see by clicking on the "technical details" tab, and as that kind of thing isn't my forte, I'll focus on my opinion of this dictaphone rather that what it does!
My boyfriend and I have used this dictaphone mainly for recording notes, for exam revision. It is very easy to use - completely intuitive and no need for reading the instruction manual. You can see from the picture that buttons are laid out clearly and aren't too small.
Apart from being really simple to use and doing a great job, I really like the fact that this dictaphone is lightweight and has over 500 hours of recording space. It is also great value for money and the battery life is good. Sound quality is good whether played back through the built in speaker of headphones. The hold function is good so you don't accidentally start recording when it's in your bag/pocket.
Recordings can't be downloaded to a computer, but I didn't need this function anyway.
I've given this product 5 stars because I think for the price it is excellent quality.
These binoculars have 10 times magnification and objective lens diameter of 42mm. They come with a strap, case and lens covers. Online they are available from around £230 to £320.
I have the waterproof version of the Nikon Monarch 10X42 binoculars. I bought them about 4 years ago and have used them frequently since, mainly for bird watching - including professionally - so I think I've tested them well! I've been really impressed with the binoculars and have no plans to replace them anytime soon.
Image quality: I think the image quality is excellent for the price of these binoculars. The image is clear. They struggle in low light, but as most bird watching is in the day time it has rarely been a problem.
The image quality is lower than top-end models, but for the price I think these binoculars are a good compromise for the price.
The binoculars are robust, which is really important when you are using them outdoors in all weathers. I've not dunked them in water to test whether they are truly waterproof - but they are certainly rain proof! I've managed to drop them on the beach several times unscathed.
I give these binoculars 4 stars. I think they are great value for money with good image quality, but I've taken a star off because compared with top quality binoculars they are middle-of-the-road.
The car I am reviewing is the 2010 Corsa ecoFlex Energy.
===Why I Bought It===
I bought a new Corsa ecoFlex at the end of February 2011 (60 reg). I didn't particularly want a Corsa - I was looking for an eco-friendly, economical car with low tax, but I was open minded about which one. I got a good deal on the Corsa and it fitted my criteria, so that's really why I bought it. And I'm pleased with my decision.
I'm not going to go through all the features of this car, as I will probably make a total hash of it (not being much of a car expert!). So I'm going to highlight some of the things that are important to me. If you want a more details the Vauxhall website is very good.
So, as I said I was looking for a economical car. The engine is 1248cc (1.2 although it was marketed as 1.3). The fuel is diesel. One of the highlights is the fuel economy - around 70mpg combined. The CO2 emissions are reasonably low, meaning that road tax costs only £30 for the year.
Overall I'm really pleased with the Corsa, having driven in for the last couple of months - nearly 2000 miles! One of the first things I noticed was how comfortable the driver's seat is - adjustable up and down as well as the usual, with excellent lumbar support. This has made a real difference, making driving more comfortable and therefore less tiring.
Some nice extras are the aux-in so I can plug my iPod straight it to the stereo, and radio controls on the steering wheel. The interior is nothing special, but perfectly adequate. The steering column is adjustable, which is a bonus as I'm quite short! Mine is the 3 door model but friends who've been in the back tell me it's quite spacious.
In terms of economy, I'm really pleased with the low road tax. I do enough miles to make diesel worthwhile, and I'm seeing the benefits of a more economical car (my last car was 7 years old, so things have moved on a lot!). I'm not yet getting the max mpg, but it's good and over time should improve as the engine settles in.
It accelerates really well - it certainly doesn't feel like a small engined diesel. It's a fun car to drive.
Really pleased with this car so far - obviously I've only had it a few months so can't comment on reliability yet (no problems so far!). But over time I hope to update this review as I learn more about the car.
I'd definitely recommend this car if you are looking for an economical small car, that's also fun to drive.
I've been listening to The Archers occasionally for a few years now, but over the last 6 months I've listened to it more and more. And I'm totally hooked! It's the only soap I bother with nowadays, but it's just enough to satisfy that part of my brain.
The Archers is set in the fictional village of Ambridge in the fictional county of Borsetshire, somewhere in the English West Midlands (between Worcestershire and Warwickshire I think!). The Archer family are the centre of many story lines, along with other villagers. Many of the characters are farmers, so agricultural story lines feature regularly, as well as general village life and the occasional scandal!
The Archers is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 for 15 minutes at 7pm and repeated the next day at 2pm. There is also and omnibus edition on a Sunday. There is also a podcast and the programme is available on the BBC iPlayer.
As I said before, I'm pretty hooked on The Archers. I listen to most of the episodes - usually online on the BBC iPlayer.
Most of the time it is a nice gentle listen, with the characters going about village life. But that's not to say it's boring...the characters are varied, interesting and funny. The acting is great. But there are more serious stories too, like Nigel's death...Elizabeth coping with the loss of her husband has bought me to tears several times of the last few months!
One thing that makes me chuckle is the very clear distinction between the middle class characters and the working class characters.
One of the things I especially like about The Archers is the agricultural stories. The show has an agricultural story editor (Graham Harvey), and the themes are topical. I live and work in the countryside so I like how it relates to my life.
Even if you don't think you are the kind of person that listens to The Archers, I think you should give it a listen. It's a great way to relax for 15 minutes and absorb yourself in the lives of others. So I'd recommend The Archers - especially if you've never listened before. You might just find you're new favourite soap!
This cleanser is a pale green gel, which you massage into damp skin and either wash off or wipe away with cotton wool. It is for oily/combination skin. The product is dispensed through a pump. It currently costs £8 for 200ml from Boots, but it is often on 3 for 2 - making it good value.
===Why I Bought It===
I've been using this cleanser for a few years now. I keep buying it because I really like it and think it does a good job! I originally bought the cleanser with a £5 No7 voucher, which made it amazing value. I've got combination skin, so this cleanser was ideal for my skin type.
I use this cleanser in the shower every morning. I only need a couple of pumps of the cleanser for enough to massage over my face and neck. I really like the smooth texture of the gel. I massage it especially into my nose and forehead where my skin tends to be most greasy. It easily gets rid of the grease, leaving my skin smooth and shine free. It is also hypoallergenic, so it's good for sensitive skin - which mine can be some time.
I think that the price at £8 is OK - it's a bit more than I'd like to pay, but one bottle does last a long time. And if you get in on 3 for 2 it is pretty good value.
On the downside, I've found the pump dispenser means that you can't get the last bit of cleanser out of the bottle.
I would definitely recommend this cleanser if you have oily/combination skin, because it leaves your skin feeling smooth and fully cleansed.
===Why I bought it===
I finally decided to buy an epilator after being sick of shaving my legs so frequently but being unable to afford to get my legs waxed in a salon regularly. This model appealed to me because you can use it wet or dry, and it was on offer in Boots (1/3 off if I remember correctly).
Overall I have been pleased with this epilator, but it was a shock how much it actually hurts. I must be a big wimp! The pain is similar to waxing but the epilator is much easier to use and far less messy - with equal results.
I have used the Braun Silk-epil on legs, bikini line and face. There are different heads for the different areas of the body, shaped for that area. For me this product has worked well on short hairs (1-2mm). It is also very good at pulling out fine hairs too.
To epilate your full leg it can take a good half hour. But if you keep on top of it and epilate every week, i.e. to top up, it takes much less time.
Regrowth is slower than shaving, but personally I haven't found much difference in coarseness.
The handset charges fully in a couple of hours and lasts about as long as it takes me to do my legs plus bikini line (an hour or so).
I think this is a good value option for hair removal as well - once you have bought the epilator there aren't any more costs.
I have given it 4 stars because although it is an effective method of hair removal, it is quite time-consuming.
This is a good option for hair removal. It is effective and long lasting. It does hurt but it is bearable.
But remember: always trim your bikini line first! Don't learn the hard way like I did.
===Why I bought one===
I got an iPhone 3G about 15 months ago when I last upgraded my phone contract. I decided to get an iPhone instead of any other smartphone because I've been really impressed with other Apple products (MacBook, iPod) and had heard such good things about iPhones.
The iPhone 3G is a great phone and does everything (and more) I could ever want in a phone.
Firstly, it has a beautiful sleek design, typically Apple. It is a good size and fits comfortably in my hand. The screen is 3.5 inches, which is plenty big enough. It is bright and the colours are good.
The 8GB memory is smaller than newer versions of the iPhone, but perfectly adequate. I guess it depends what you use your phone for, but after 15 months I've nowhere near filled it.
The features of the iPhone are brilliant. All the basics work well - phone, text, internet. The browser is Safari, which Mac users will know well. The phone version is simple to use. In fact everything about this phone is intuitive - you already know how to use it. It all works seemlessly together, and you can easily sync with your computer.
One disadvantage of this phone is that some apps are not supported by the operating system as they require iPhone 4 OS. I haven't found too many like this, but I do worry that fewer app producers will support older versions in the future. Regardless of this the choice of apps is incredible.
Another downside is the short battery life, but this is the case with most smartphones. With the settings I currently have (which aren't that energy saving) it lasts 2 days before it needs another charge. This hasn't changed noticably since the phone was new.
Overall the iPhone 3G is a great choice of smartphone. There are newer versions available, but if you want to save some cash and still get an iPhone you can't go wrong with this one.
===Why I bought it===
When we bought our first house about 6 months ago I refused to get any other vacuum cleaner than a Dyson, after hearing such great things about them and after struggling with rubbish vacuum cleaners at uni. I wasn't too bothered about which model, but in the end we purchased this one as it was on offer in Tesco for about £200, if I remember correctly.
Having used the Dyson ball vacuum for about 6 months now, I can say that it has lived up to expectations. First and foremost, the suction is fantastic! It never loses suction and picks up just about anything.
We have a mixture of carpets and wood/laminate floors in our house and the Dyson performs equally well on both. I use it on the tiled kitchen floor as well. I have used all of the attachments, which work well. The extra long handle is brilliant for reaching the ceiling/top of door frames etc.
The ball feels quite strange to begin with as it is so much easier to maneuver than a traditional vacuum cleaner. Almost like a car with very light steering! It is a really good design though, as it makes it easier to get into little gaps and get closer to furniture.
It is quite compact for an upright vacuum cleaner, which is good for storing it, as well as carrying it upstairs. Although the capacity is big enough that it doesn't need emptying too often.
The only downside I have found is that emptying can be quite messy. I always seem to get dust everywhere - even though the opening mechanism appears to be well designed. I suppose that is one disadvantage of a bag-less cleaner. Unless I am just not doing it right!
It is also quite expensive for a vacuum cleaner, but I think the price is worth paying.
I would definitely recommend this vacuum cleaner. It works so much better than any I've used before, which makes this higher price tag worth it.
I got these boots for Christmas 2010 after wanting some for ages but not being able to bring myself to pay £150 for some boots...I let my wonderful grandparents do that for me!
These boots are amazing. For the last 3 months I have worn them almost every day. They are sheepskin lined so they are incredibly comfortable and warm. They are the ideal boots for the winter months. I wore them on a skiing holiday and they kept my feet lovely and warm.
The neutral colour means they match most outfits.
Because these boots have a proper reinforced heel and good sole, they don't cause the problems with your feet that cheaper versions can. I can walk a good distance in them (shopping all day..) and have no pain.
After a couple of weeks of owning these boots the Emu label on the left boot became unstitched, but that is easily rectified with a bit of sewing. Over time they tend to get quite grubby. You will need a good suede cleaner, but I have found that even though this helps it wont clean the boots perfectly. They aren't hard-wearing boots, and even though you might want to wear them ALL the time, try to avoid heavy rain as you can get water marks.
Despite my criticisms, I have given these boots 5 stars because they are so comfortable and I am completely in love with mine!
I would recommend these boots to anyone looking for something comfy and stylish to wear all winter long.
Why I bought it:
I bought the HP Deskjet 1050 about 6 months ago when it was on offer in Tesco. I was attracted by the good price and reasonable cost of replacement inks (compared to many of the other printers). I was only looking for a printer, but the extra features of scanning and photocopying persuaded me to purchase this product.
The printer comes with a storage / carry bag which is good, so you can move it around the house and you don't have to keep it out all the time.
The print quality is good, although on normal mode printing is very slow. I tend to use draft mode, which looks almost the same but uses less ink and prints in a fraction of the time. The printer is quite noisy, but I guess most printers are.
The printer feels quite cheap, and within hours of buying it I had snapped the copier lid off one of its hinges.
I must admit that some of the problems I have had with this printer are my own fault! My Mac OS is 10.4 - which is too early to be supported by the printer. Luckily there are nerdy Mac-bods out there who have written drivers for my OS, so that I can use the printer. Although I have yet to find scanner drivers so haven't been able to use the scanner.
I would recommend this printer for Windows users. It is good value for a printer/scanner/copier.
I'm not going to go through all the technical features here, as I wont do it justice. I am just going to give my opinion about the iPod Nano 5G.
I got a beautiful green iPod Nano for Christmas 2009 to replace my old iPod Classic which I had drowned. I did choose it myself. The main reason I decided to get the Nano and not a Classic again was the improvement in capacity of the Nano - which meant I could get a lovely brightly-coloured iPod.
I am very glad I chose the Nano. It is very slim and small in size, so if fits easily into my pockets - even the tiny pockets of most ladies jeans. This makes it very handy for taking out if you are walking somewhere or commute by public transport. I also use it at the gym and it fits easily into the zip pocket on my leggings. I do have a shuffle which I bought for the gym, but I don't use it any more because the choice of songs on the Nano is so much greater due to its bigger memory.
I have used my Nano extensively with headphones, a docking station and in my car via and FM transmitter and cable. The headphones that came with the Nano were perfectly fine, but I have since replaced them with more comfortable in-ear noise-reducing headphones as I have small ears. I found the original headphones hurt my ears after wearing for an hour or so - but if you have average size ears I doubt this would be such a problem! My Nano has always worked well with my docking station and in the car, and I have been impressed with the sound quality however I listen.
I have used my Nano regularly for over a year now. I have not noticed any decline in battery performance - which had been an issue with older iPods I have owned.
The menus are intuitive and the click wheel is easy to use. I can't comment on the video recorder as I have never used it. It does strike me as a strange feature to put on an MP3 player!
Overall I love my iPod Nano and use it almost everyday. It is a great MP3 player, and fits all the songs that I could conceivable want to listen to.
This iPod is brilliant and I would recommend it. The bright colours are fun, it is small in size and has great sound quality. There are newer versions available with more features, but this is still a great product.
This product retails for £1.52 at Boots stores and online at Boots.com.
This moisturising cream comes in a 100ml plastic tub with a screw lid. The cream is really thick with a fresh cucumber scent. According to the blurb it is "enriched with soothing cucumber and vitamins, it is suitable for day or night use and contains antioxidants to help protect the skin from environmental damage."
I buy almost all of my skin care products from Boots and normally use the No7 range, but one day I was feeling particularly tight fisted and bought the much cheaper Essentials Cucumber Moisturising Cream. I have been using it now for a month or so and am very impressed. I love that the cream is really thick, it is absorbed easily and is not greasy at all. It makes my skin feel moisturised and supple. I think that it is absolute bargain for the price - I really can't see any less quality that the No7 moisturisers which cost at least £9. The only drawback is that it doesn't contain SPF so I'll need to get something else for the summer.
I recommend this product for everyday moisturising.
I was lucky enough to be given a free sample of the Dermalogica Age Smart Multivitamin Thermafoliant from my local beauty salon. The price for the full size tube (75ml) is around £30.
This product is designed for mature or prematurely aging skin. It uses chemical and physical exfoliants to refine the texture of your skin.
In my opinion this product has a good effect on the texture of the skin. After using it my skin always feels very smooth. The scent is very pleasant and it is really nice to use. You don't need to use much product so it lasts quite a while. When you start massaging it into your skin it feels all warm. The exfoliant is very gentle and didn't cause any discomfort to my skin, which can be the case with other products. Despite really liking this product, my finances don't stretch to buying the full size version. Which is a shame because it really is good. It makes your skin feel very nice and the warming sensation is really pleasant.
If you can afford the £30 price tag, this product is well worth the money.