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My husband and I stayed at the Gatwick Hilton prior to and on return from our holiday, in Sept 2012.
I had initially checked website prices and booked my first night with 9 days parking for £159.00, but for the straight forward night on return rang the hotel direct and got the double room for £69.00.
Priced seemed very reasonable, but I guess the question is about value for money and I didn't think it was great.
We took the 5 hour drive from Plymouth and arrived at the hotel. There about 10 parking spots for temporary stop off, so we pulled in there. No trollies, or assistance, so we lugged all our heavy bags up a long flight of stairs. Escalator not working. There were lifts, but husband lift phobic.
We are Hilton Honours members, so as reception queues so long went to HH check in. Big mistake, as this was the worlds slowest desk. When we got to front a very curt, almost arrogant guy proceeded to check us in. I was really shocked at his attitude. Asked if we wanted upgrade for£10.00 which we took, plus 2 breakfast vouchers at£10.00. A saving of £8.00 pp.
Parking isn't that easy. Not on site, so drive to long stay, and get a bus thru to south terminal, then walk thru to hotel. Took me about 45 mins in total. Had the same process on return. Just a bit of a pain, so much easier to park on site or valet park.
Again, no sign of a porter or trolley, so lugged bags a long way to new annexe.
The room looked very nice, modern and clean, if not huge. Tv, mini bar( be warned it has a sensor, so don't touch if you aren't buying)
Feather pillows though, so had to ask housekeeping to bring foam as allergic to feather. Bed hard, and I really couldn't say it was that comfie. Nice bath/shower, with toiletries there for you.
I didn't like the fact you can't open window, ESP as I felt room was hot.looked at AC and fiddled round.
Thought it was me and hubbie being dumb.
Went to bed and wake about 1am roasting. Checked AC and temp said 25oc.. Fiddled some more, but nothing changed. Went down to reception and told them, they said no one available to sort it,(fair enough) but they would send concierge to have a look. Boy, he was stroppy too, pushed a few buttons and said it would be fine in 20 mins. Strangely enough nothing changed........
Now 2am, went back to reception and asked for another room. Went to new room, straight to bed carrying foam pillows with us! And just got into bed and straight to sleep.
In the morning they apologised and took upgrade and breakfast cost off bill.
Breakfast was the standard fayre, nothing special, but ok. We didn't eat in any other of restaurants so can't comment. Grabbed a coffee from costa outlet in reception. There is a very small gym, about the size of a bedroom, no pool, or other leisure facilities.
Cash machine in reception, which didn't work. Also charges £1.75 per withdrawal.
On checkout we requested a smoking room on return.
Arrived back and strolled thru the walkway to the Hilton. Nicer check in lady who confirmed we had booked a smoking room, and sent us on our way. Had to ring housekeeping for foam pillows, and asked for an ashtray. She said, you aren't in a smoking room. Rang reception, " no not in a smoking room" they put we thru to duty manager who said no smoking rooms available. Firmly reminded him I had booked it a week before, and that its not good enough. Miraculously, they found a room. They said they'd sent up a porter to move bags. Oh no, he came and dropped room key. As hubbie had to go back to airport to pick something up, I asked porter for help, but he said he had to be somewhere else, and tutted when I asked if he could hold the door while I manoeuvred out with luggage.
On arrival at room the carpet was torn and frayed, and the bath was full of black long hairs. Why does they appear to be a culture of allowing smoking rooms to be of a lesser quality?
So 2 stays, 4 rooms, below par service and a bad taste in my mouth.
I won't be staying there again
We have just returned from trip to Maldives with Emirates. It was a bad experience. We normally fly Qatar airlines, and enjoy that, but this was grim
We flew out to Dubai on a Sunday afternoon. Had checked in on line. Boarded the plane, which was a 3-4-3 configuration, except at the back 4 rows which dropped to 2-4-2.
The seats did not feel comfortable, and my 6 foot 2 husband struggled with legroom. Didn't find staff very helpful, and on outbound legs found food only average.
Disembarking took forever on each of the 4 legs of trip, and its hard to see why.
On changing planes at Dubai there is a huge amount of walking involved at this ridiculously big airport, so everything turned into a rush.
The return trip was grimmer, both legs were late leaving. Food was appalling, and because we sat at back, they had run out of meal choices. We had been on the plane for 1.5 hours before we got a drink.....
Staff seemed totally disinterested and would have missed me out completely unless husband stopped them.
The entertainment system is ok, but not as good as other airlines.
I heard people at Dubai saying the level of service had fallen dramatically . I had great expectations, but none met. The overwhelming impression is of people who can't be bothered, and are living on old reputations.
I have just returned from a week's holiday here and wanted to give my thoughts about this island.
I have previously visited 4 other islands, so feel able to make some comparisons.
On this trip I went with Hayes and Jarvis and flew from Gatwick to Male, via Dubai.....I will be writing an emirates review shortly.
On arrival at Male airport, you step thru the doors from customs, and walk thru all the waiting tour operators and you are on the edge of the harbour. It's great, as it is sooooo easy.
We found our island rep and he advised we grabbed a drink while we waited for other passenger.
We waited about 45 mins, then headed off.
Biyadhoo is in the South Male atoll, and is approx 40 mins by speed boat from Male.
It's a great trip watching the Indian Ocean speeding by with flying fish, and interesting looking islands.
You step out onto the quay, and are met by the general manager and staff, who whisk your luggage off in a wheelbarrow.
You do the standard check in things, and get a coconut drink and a cool flannel while you wait.
I had emailed the island in advance by Facebook and requested a room on the east side of the island. We were lucky enough to get a corner room which is substantially bigger with 2 bed, double and single. It's a plain room, which could do with a lick of paint, but was clean and we were quite happy. It has a mini bar, hair dryer, plenty of wardrobe and drawer space. Umbrellas in case of downpours. All beach and room towels plus flannels, but no toiletries. He room also has a tin of bug spray but no plug in or burning movie killers, so take some as I got very bitten.
Balcony almost overlooks the sea, but thick palm growth inhibits the view, and does make it a bit dark. Our room boy was great and cleaned room twice daily.
The beaches are lovely, I recommend the small beach by the quay. It's quite here, only about 8 people here, as opposed to main beach which is quite busy. Plastic loungers can be a little tricky to get.
The snorkelling off the quay beach is easy access to the reef, and most of the time with little current, and lots to see.
The spa was peaceful and nice treatments. I did the three treatments for $150 + tax.
The dining room lacks real atmosphere, but is fine. There isn't a huge selection, but food is ok. Nice curries every night , plus a pasta choice and a western meal too. Always salad and soup and puddings.
We went all inclusive, so our meals were included but we did have a nice burger in the bar one night, which we paid for.
All the staff were friendly, ESP room boy and the chefs and reception staff.
Biyadhoo is a great option for a "cheap " Maldivian destination, but it is not the luxurious destination often found in this part of the world.
If you want to enjoy the sun, sea, sand, if you want to snorkel, be spa'd and eat good curry, then this is the place for you. If you want 5 star luxury, choose another resort.
I first came across this magazine in the local hospitals waiting room. It grabbed my attention because of a big article, on how to do really special things, at bargain prices. I liked the look of it so, when xmas came around I thought I might subscribe for a year.
At £32 for 12 issues, I thought it was more than I wanted to pay, so mooched around and went thru quidco, and got £1.50 cashback on a
£19.99 subscription, so saved 13.50.
First edition took about 6 weeks to arrive, but certainly is worth it.
Its a nice glossy magazine, with plenty of options. Whether you are looking for a really special holiday, a weekend break/city break, holiday in the UK.
It has a pictures section that people have sent in and they are really good, and just make you feel you want to head off now.
As with all magazines it has a useful question and answer session, with plenty of specialists there to help with some very obscure queries.
It then has a chunky session on an area: Middle East, Indian Ocean, in last 2 editions. It then breaks it down to countries within the area, and gives you a good low down, on where to stay, see, eat and do. It also gives you some top end and cheap options, so it can apply to all budgets.
It will then give you 6 of the best- last month was "sexiest european cities".
I like the fact it does have a factfile on obscure destinations, that you may not have known about.
The adverts also have some good ideas as well.
It ends with a travel orientated question and answer session with someone famous.
All in all its a good read for those who like to travel, and perhaps look at different options.
I had had a really grim few months, so thought a few days at a spa would help....and it did. I decided to go alone, as I wanted real peace. parked my car for me.
I live in Devon and chose to go to Ragdale Hall, ( a friend recommended it). It was easy to get to although I must admit I got a little lost on the country lanes, around the hall.
Arrived safely, around 12 midday, which really was a little early. I pulled up outside the front and a charming porter collected my bags and parked my car for me. I strolled in and was taken into the bar, given a super hot chocolate, and then the liaison officier explained my stay, and the treatments I had booked. She advised how I could book more and gave me a guided tour of the whole place.
By this time it was around 1.00pm, and I was able to go in and order lunch. I have to say about the food, it is tasty, not too healthy, i.e. its not all lettuce and smoothies. There are three courses and comp. hot drink after dinner. Lunch is a buffet, with huge choice from salads and quiches to a hot meal and jacket potatoes. The portion size is good too.
Nice wine list, I treated myself to a glass of champagne with dinner, and it felt really decadent.
After lunch I went upto my double room, ( i got a special deal, so I got a double for the same price as a single). Really spacious, and beautifully decorated room, with an ensuite bathroom, with huge bath.
I really like the option that you can have your breakfast in bed, great for a real pamper. The other great thing is that you can mooch round in your dressing gown/ pyjamas all day. Really funny to go down to dinner in your goonie!!!.
I think one of the nicest bits though is the huge amount of little spots, where you can just sit and read. Big comfie armchairs, and poufees to put your feet up on. There is also a room full of beds, you can just lay in there and read, without being disturbed. It is really nice that if you want to be sociable, you can.
There is a "social table in the dining room", or if you want to be like me and sit alone, no one minds....
The main pool is nicely thought out, and has easy access and a couple of waterfalls. However, it was a little on the fresh/cold side.
The spa complex is really special. There is a little warm water "river" that you can swimm along and rest in the "coves" outside. Great when its cold as the steam rises off the water. There is an illuminated waterfall.
There are a selection of steam and saunas- I'm not a great fan, but plenty to choose from. The candle lit cave for relaxation is really relaxing and theraputic. Great showers that are like tropical thunder storms. Again many places to sit around in the warm ambience and relax.
At the other end of the building are the treatment areas, which again has been very tastefully done.
The choice of treatments is huge, but not cheap. I had 3 treatments in the package I chose: a facial, pedicure/manicure and body massage.
I paid for some reflexology, and to have my hair cut, which they did really nicely, and that was reasonably priced.
All in all a 3 day break cost about £600.00, but well worth it.
I would wholeheartedly recommend it
Never done one of these " about me quiz type things", so thought I might give it a go.
Hope its not too boring
Which do you prefer - shower or bath? And why?
A bath everytime, I hate showers.
2. What do you swear you'll never do?
3. What's the most embarrassing thing you ever done?
Got a rubber ring stuck over me and having to get my husband pull it off while standing on a beach full of very sophisticated italians. Although, husband says he was more embarrased
4. What is your favourite quote?
The only thing to fear is fear itself
5. What was your favourite holiday? And why?
our last holiday to India and Lakshadweep islands was just magical
6. What was your favourite childhood toy?
7. Do you have any pets?
Yes, 2 cats, 4 rabbits, 3 tortoises, 3 tanks of tropical fish, and a pond full of fish
8. Savoury or sweet?
9. Hot or cold?
10. What's your favourite drink?
11. What's your favourite food?
chocolate, and anything italian
12. Who do you hate the most?
13. Do you have a crush on someone? If so, who?
Only hubbie, oooh how sad
14. What is your favourite colour?
15. What did you do last night?
went to bed early with a cold, and because its my weekend to work
16. What's your favourite thing to do?
Be in my garden, pottering on a warm summers evening, with the animals out, my husband bringing out an ice cold coke
17. Favourite movie, T.V Program, Book?
Book: The historian
TV programme: Hustle, or any forensic investigation
Film: Brigadoon, Seven, and American Beauty
18. Who's your hero?
Nelson Mandela, Shane Williams, Neil Kinnock
19. Favourite song of all time?
7 seconds away- Youssou D'Nour and Neneh Cherry
20. Have you ever had a supernatural experience?
21. Favourite Sound?
22. Favourite Smell?
23. Favourite place to be?
24. Happiest moment in your life?
Too many to mention
25. Saddest moment in your life so far?
Curently, watching my mother struggle with a psychiatric illness
26. What is your dream job?
I have it
27. What would be your idea of a perfect date?
Dinner on a deserted beach in the indian ocean
28. What are your favourite Newspaper/ Magazine?
Lonely Planet magazine
29. Which celebrity do you like the most?
30. Do you have any siblings?
yes one older sister
31. Have you ever been in hospital? If so, why?
Yes, hysterectomy 4 years ago. Got MRSA!!!
32. Have you ever broken a bone or had stitches?
33. Do you believe in Angels/Ghosts/Demons?.
34. Are you superstitious?
35. What colour eyes do you have?
36. What colour hair do you have?
37. What religion are you?
38. If you could change 1 thing about you , what would it be?
to stop smoking
39. If you could change 1 thing about your personality, what would it be?
too hard to say
40. What is your biggest fear?
41. Do you have any regrets? If so, what are they?
nothing, I make a choice then accept to live with those consequences
42. Have you ever been in love?
43. What's the most important thing to you in the world?
my husband, mother and animals
44. What is your most treasured possession?
45. What's your job?
46. What's the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?
just loved me for who I am
47. What's the worst thing anyone has done to you?
I really can't think of anything
48. Dream car?
Don't have a dream car, anything that gets me from A- B
49. Favourite celebration?
50. Where do you hang out?
51. What School did you go to?
Lady Margarets Grammer school Fulham London
52. What/ Who annoys you?
53. Do you recycle?
yes, as much as possible
54. What's your favourite sport?
cricket and rugby union
55. Who was the last person to upset you?
My best friend, when she got into rant mode with me
56. What are your hobbies?
my animals, reading gardening/veg growing, holiday planning!
57. What was the last joke you heard?
try to forget them generally
58. What is the best joke you've heard?
Where do you weigh a whale
at a whale weigh (railway)station
better in person
59. What's the worst joke you've heard?
60. Name 3 places you have been on holiday:
India, Maldives, St Lucia
61. Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Hopefully still here
62. Favourite Season?
63. What's your favourite website?
64. What's your favourite shop?
does ebay count?
65. What's your worst habit?
66. What's your favourite animal?
Tigers, but all cats
67. What is your ultimate fantasy?
To have an animal sanctuary, with no problems financing it!!!
68. Can you cook?
69. What is the last lie you told?
that I had to get off phone because dinner was ready- to father in law
70. Favourite flavour ice-cream?
71. Favourite take-away?
72. What do you hate doing the most?
emptying dishwasher and bins
73. What do you like doing the most?
being with my husband and animals, and going on holiday
74. If you were a Super Hero what would your name be?
75. What is your favourite name?
76. If you were an animal what would you like to be?
77. What would your animal name be?
78. If you could go back in time, what time would you go to?
79. Any person alive or dead - who would you meet?
Queen Elizabeth 1
80. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Where I live now
81. Favourite band?
82. What was/is your nickname?
83. Have you been to college?
84. What is the wildest thing you've ever done?
Is this site censored!!!!!
85. Can you play an instrument?
All of them very badly
86. What's your favourite Disney Character?
Bambi and Thumper
87. Favourite theme park?
Don't have one- such a misery
88. What size feet are you?
89. If you were King/Queen for a day what 3 changes would you make to the world?
cut our carbon emissions
make people think about others before self
ban all animal hunting
90. What is your favourite Night Club?
well past that!
91. Name one thing that most people don't know about you?
I am frightened of deep water
92. When was the last time you cried? And why?
listening to a dying wife talking to her husband, saying how much she'd miss him
93. If you could have 3 wishes, what would they be?
no more animal cruelity
my mother was well again
94. Would you ever have plastic surgery? If so, where?
95. What are you most ashamed of?
96. What pet would you love to have?
97. Blondes/ Brunettes or Red heads?
98. If you won the lottery what would you spend the money on?
99. If you could have a super power/ ability, what would it be?
To be able to run at superspeed
100. Did you enjoy doing this quiz?
I wanted to write this review, to let everyone know how happy I had been with the service Qatar airlines offered us on our recent trip to India.
To begin with I have to praise the reservations staff, which was really helpful when I realised 7 days before we flew, that I had booked a flight that flew out on Gatwick, but into Heathrow. This would have been very tricky as car was due to be parked at Gatwick, so would have had to get coach or taxi transfer would not be cheap. Rang the lovely staff at Qatar airlines and they arranged for a change of flight and instead of charging me £270.00, which is there standard rate, only charged me £70.00. So I was well pleased.
Checked in on line on outbound leg, all very straightforward, and meant we just had to drop bags, and wander though to departures. Boarded plane, and were welcomed by very smiley airline staff.
Having a husband that is 6 ft 2, means leg room is paramount, and he felt very comfortable with the space. (Interestingly seat pitch is the same as Air Sri Lanka, but the way they placed metal boxes under seats meant they felt very cramped).
Our flight was only about half full, so many people chose to stretch out on middle 4 seats (my husband did), but I was very happy having my 2 seats to myself.
The food was excellent, best airline food I have had. Complimentary drinks as required, and later on in the flight a light snack.
Really enjoyed their entertainment package on first leg, as you could choose what you wanted to watch, and when, then pause it, rewind at your leisure etc.
Husband recommended the music channels, as you could go through and make your own play list. There were also a few good games. I'm not a "gamer" but played solitaire, and "who wants to be a millionaire" which kept me amused.
Flight was on time, and we landed ahead of schedule in Doha. LHR to Doha flying time 6.5 hours. We had about 1hr 30 mins in between flights, just perfect.
I loved it because there was a smoking room, so I could go and top up nicotine levels. Also had chance to have a wander around, and stretch legs.
Interestingly, went to buy drinks, but they only accepted dollars or pounds. I only had £2.50 in change, and the drinks came to £4.89 for 2 cokes, but the man accepted £2.50. Never bartered for airport drinks before!
Second leg was in a smaller plane with a 3-4-3 formation, but again as plane not full, we had 3 seats between 2, so were very comfortable.
Sadly, entertainment on this leg was not so good. It was the traditional 1 screen bet 6 seats, and they were showing a Hindi musical with subtitles. Husband said it was entertaining, but I resorted to my book. The flight was just over four hours, and we landed smoothly in Cochin.
Our return journey meant a 5am flight from Cochin, so 3am check in, as we couldn't do it online. Again all very smooth, plenty of spare seats on both legs, and nice food. The return flight was one of the best and most comfortable ever, and the 12 hour journey flew by.
Our flight price was around £485. Per person, this seemed very reasonable to me.
I've just booked our holiday for next year, and insisted on flying Qatar again.
Well worth a try
Having just returned from a trip to S India I felt compelled to write a review of our stay at the Taj Malabar, Cochin.
We opted to splash out, and on our first night, before we flew out to the Lakshadweep islands, we chose to stay in the Executive suite. It was not cheap, the room was 17,500 rupees ( approx £250.00), but it was worth every penny.
Our flight arrives in at 4am, and we arranged for collection at the airport (about 1 hrs dive away). We were met at arrivals by James, our chaffeur, who loaded our cay, gave us cool flannels, and cold water for the trip. He then put his chaffeurs hat on and drove us to the hotel. Well worth the £20.00. We were at the hotel by 6am, and although check in isn't till 2pm, they took us to a spare room to rest, until our room was available- which was 10am.
Our suite had a large bedroom, with huge 4 poster bed, plus flat screen tv and dvd player. The bedlinen was the softest I have ever felt. While you were at dinner, the staff came and cleaned your room again, and turned your bed down.
The lounge also had TV/DVD, sofa and chairs, mini bar, all the newspapers and complimentary fruit bowl.
The bathroom was out of this world with huge double person bath, rain shower, double sinks. And plenty of extras, as well as the normal soap(which was sugar soap and fantastic)shampoo and bath stuff, also toothbrushes and toothpaste, razor and shaving foam, flannels, loofah, moisturiser, slippers, shower cap, and big fluffy bathrobes.
For the second part of our stauy their we stayed in a deluxe sunset heritage room, which was very elegant, and dates back to to 1930's.
All the same facilities as suite, but bathroom slightly less impressive, and only a bedroom. No balcony either. However, you would still feel very comfortable staying there.
The whole place gives an air of understated elegance, without being showy. The staff cannot do enough to help, and are charming.
The travel concierge is really helpful too. They arranged a trip for us on the keralan backwaters, on a riceboat, but as their main one was in use, we got the luxury delux riceboat. It had 3 bedrooms, a lounge, shower room, and upstairs deck with dining facilites, and a day bed. They also arranged a driver to take us there an bring us back. The meal on board was all made fresh, and we had 3 servants, for 2 of us. Again, not cheap, but fantastic trip- cost about £200 for the 2 of us.
The infinity pool at the Taj merges with the arabian sea, and is beautifully clean, but would say, slightly chilly.
The Jiva Spa was outstanding, my hubbie and i had a relaxing aromatherapy massage, for 2, including oil foot bath. The therapists were very professional and me had a steam bath before the massage. For an hour for 2 of us £70.00.
We ate in the outside restaurant which did an indian bbq, and N Indian dishes, which we had to wash down with some champagne !.
We also ate at Peppers restaurant, which slightly lacked atmosphere, and I didn't enjoy food quite so much.
The pool bar also did nice snack lunches, club sandwiches/wraps etc
Room service was great and we ate on our balcony once.
The Mattencherry bar, is full of dark wood and comfie sofas, very atmospheric.
Every evening they do a free cruise of cochin harbour at sunset, with tea and biscuits before you go.
There is also an exhibtion of cultural Kathkali dancing at 7.30pm in the garden.
All in all this really is a first class hotel, which is now having to have extreme security, following the attack in Mumbai. It doesn't however detract from a wonderful experience in a classy hotel, which knows how to treat a client.
We will certainly go back
The Lakshadweep islands are a group of coral atolls approx 200 kilometres off the coast of Kerala, India, in the Arabian Sea.
They belong to the same group of islands as the Maldives, and up until 1972 were known as the Laccadive islands.
The are a union territory of India.
Population: 60,595 (as of last census in 2001)
Total number of islands: 36
Administrative centre: Kavaratti island
Total land area: 32sq miles
Average temperature: Min 28oc - Max 32oc
Highest recorded rainfall: 241cm in 24hrs.
Climate: The South West Monsoon season is May to October
The North East Monsoon- Nov/Dec
Best Months to visit Jan/April
Religion: 92% population is Muslim
Lakshadweep symbols- The Parrot fish, the Sooty Tern, and the Bread Fruit.
The people of the islands are mainly fisherman, coconut farmers, and coir twisters
(working the husk of a coconut to make coir products, such as doormats). Some men now work as international seafarers. Tourism is just an emerging economy.
The Indian Govt have been saying for a couple of years, that they are planning to upgrade tourism to the Lakshadweep's (after seeing the success of the Maldives), so it look some of the islands may change in coming years.
The society is highly matriarchal. Women maintain ownership of the land, and husbands must pay there wife's to live in it. A women may divorce her husband if these are not paid. Re-marriage is allowed for both divorcées and widows.
The ancient history of the islands were never documented, but it is known that Islam reached the islands around the 7th century.
The Portuguese planned to take the islands over in the 16th century, but a reconnaissance ship arrived, and all the crew were killed, by poison. This seemed to put the Portuguese off, and they moved on to Kerala.
By the 1850's the islands had been annexed by the British East India Company.
Finally in 1956 it became a Union Territory of India.
Visiting the Lakshadweep's ?
Things to note:
Only certain islands are allowed to take non Indian visitors.
You need a permit to visit the islands. Your tour operator should arrange, or contact
CGI group, Kochi.
Remember prices may be cheaper during the Monsoon, but you will see some very heavy rain, but usually in short bursts.
How to get there:
By sea: Boats travel from Kochi to the Lak's.
Can take anything bet 15 and 24 hours.
Choice of accomodation on board is available.
For times and fares see http://lakport.nic.in.
Both Indian airlines and Kingfisher airlines fly from Kochi to Agatti island.
Trip time is approx 1hr10 mins.
See the airlines websites for details.
What will I do there?
Well, much like the Maldives, its not a place for nightclubs, shopping or visiting sites.
It's a beach holiday, in a very quiet, unspoilt paradise. For many the main draw is the sea. Snorkelling and diving fill the days. There are coral reefs to explore, with manta rays, turtles, sharks, and hundreds of varieties of brightly coloured fish to see.
You can hire a kayak, or go out on a catamaran, to see the dolphins, or flying fish.
Try your hand at deep sea fishing, or a night fishing trip.
Play volleyball on the beach, or just lay there staring at the aquamarine sea, and the tropical sun beating done, on a silver sand beach with swaying palm trees in the breeze.
By night have your dinner on the moonlit beach, eat fresh seafood, barbequed with a warm infusion of Indian spices, with a cool beer (NOTE: Alcohol only available on Bangaram island). The walk along the beach and watch the hermit crabs, running up and down the beach. Fall asleep to the sound of the waves breaking on the beach, and dream of tomorrow.
Bangaram and Agatti islands are the 2 main tourist islands open to non Indians.
Various small travel companies offer trips there from India. The main one in the UK is the Keralan travel centre.
Casino group of hotels operate the resort on Bangaram, and you can visit their website for more details.
It is a very popular spot for Indian government to holiday, and apparently Roman Ibramovich has also visited.
So what is a holiday like there, well having just returned I can safely say it is truly paradise.
We flew Kingfisher from Cochin 1hr 10 mins- great flight, arrived in Agatti and was very speedily transferred to Bangaram island. White coral beaches, great snorkling and diving. I thought the corals there were much better than the maldives, although more fish in maldives, as local fisherman still fish the reef.
The accomodation is in "huts" which are in groups of 4. There aren't luxury, but very comfortable, with fan, and tepid showers, which is great when it is hot. Mini bar in room. They supply all mossie killers for room and veraanda, but you need to take spray for yourself. We used nightly and only had a couple of bites.
Good dive school, and great snorkling, plus various options for excursions: turtle snorkling trip- turtles everywhere, a day alone on a deserted island, which was fantastic, they even sent us with a picnic.Other options, we didn't do: snorkling off the shipwreck, glass bottom boat trips, dolphin watching, kayak and cataran hire.
It was my birthday while I was there, they provided a cake, iced with my name, and all the staff came round and sang happy birthday at dinner.
The staff were fantastic and nothing was too much trouble.
Food was great, but very indian- all curries. Lots of fish, veg and meat, salads, and sweets. We really enjoyed all of it. Dinner is served on the beach, and that is really nice.
No evening entertainment, but there is a small games room and library, and the bar stays open as long as you want a drink. We would just sit on the beach with a drink and watch the stars, which are amazing due to darkness of skies.
We spent 7 days there, and could easily have stayed longer.
The deal is full board, and we spent about £150. on drinks, excursions, and a few gifts from the shop, so although its pricey to go it is cheap there.
If you are looking for an unspoilt tropical island paradise, it may just be for you
Cuprinol anti-slip decking treatment really seems to do "just what it says on the tin"
It is a clear varnish (although it goes on and looks white, but goes clear on drying)
It is an anti slip, that helps esp. when wet. It is water repellent, and helps protect the decking from rot.
It works in 2 ways: firstly but patented micro bead technology, that gives a non abrasive finish, but it certainly feels very secure underfoot. Secondly, it has a algaecide, and anti mould formula, to stop slippy algae and mould growing on the decking.
It is useful for any deck that is in shade, but also as a winter preparation, when any deck gets reduced sunlight on it, hence increasing the likelihood of algae formation.
It can be used on any bare new or used decking, or decking that has been treated with stains. But if you are going to use it on decking that has had more penetrating treatments, the manufacturers suggest you let it weather first.
A 2.5 litre tin (the only size it comes in) will treat an area of approx 30m2 for one coat. You may need to apply 2 coats. It is important that you do not apply to thinly.
My garden is north facing, and as the deck is at the top of the garden, gets no sun in winter, and had turned into a "cresta run", bet Oct and April. Going out to feed the animals in the morning was life threatening. So I decided to avoid litigation, when my neighbour looks after the pets when I am away, I thought I'd better treat the decking.
I bought my cuprinol anti slip deck paint from home base, and it cost about £28.00 for a 2.5 litre pot. They say you can apply with a roller or brush.
I decided to use a brush because it is VERY TOXIC TO ANY AQUATIC ANIMAL, and as the decking surrounds our ponds, needed to be very careful.
It was very easy to apply, just needed to be stirred regularly, and painted on. The tin says takes 4-6 hours to dry, but mine dried much quicker than that, and I did apply a second coat, over danger areas, like the steps.
Had just finished applying the 2nd coat, when one of the cats decided to walk thru it. So ended up bathing the cat, as I wasn't sure it wouldn't hurt them, and didn't want it all over the carpet!. That really was the hardest part of the job.
It took me about 1 hour to do first coat, and 30 mins for 2nd coat (then 10m ins to bathe and dry cat and half an hour to dress wounds from bathing cat)
I did this back in September, and I have to say, each time I step out on it I am astounded as to how non slip it really is. I will be interested to see what it is like with a frost.
So yes, it is a little pricey, but I didn't use all of it, so can touch up as necessary, and if I only do it once a year, it will be fine.
I am really impressed with the product and ease of use
Well recommended, if a little pricey.
I visited Thassos a few years back, but was so impressed with it, I felt I had to write a review to encourage others to visit.
We went to Thassos on one of those last minute package tour holidays with Thomson's, and only paid £175 each for 14 nights, in a self catering studio apartment at the Glyfada apartments, just outside Thassos town.
A bit about the island:
Thassos lies 10km off the coast of mainland Greece. Its nearest port is Kavala, which is the far east of the country. The island has a 91km perimeter road It is almost circular in shape, and is described by the Greek Tourist Board, as the Emerald Isle. It is very green, with a lot of coniferous forest. BUT also because it has a relatively high rainfall.
It also is well known for its bees and honey, which are made locally, and for the bird watchers amongst you, a good spot for bee-eaters.
Apparently, Thassos has been permanently habituated since the Stone Age.
After a long and tumultuous history, Thassos belonged to the Romans, Macedonians, Egyptians and Turks, but in 1912, it was united with Greece. However during WW2, it was occupied by the Bulgarians.
Thassos has had a history of gold mining, and more recently oil has been found off shore.
The main town of Thassos is Thassos town, or Limenas as it is also known, is in the N.E of the island.
Our journey began at Gatwick where we took a flight to Kavala, on the Greek mainland. Approx a 3.5 hour flight. It was all pretty straight forward. Kavala airport is small. Only 2 baggage reclaims, and no bureau de change, but all seems to run OK for a Greek airport. On arrival we were whisked down to the port, by coach, it was around a 15 minute trip. The port is actually a lovely spot, with a little beach, and a couple of taverna's, where you have time to sit and have a bite of lunch, while you wait for your ferry/hydrofoil.
The hydrofoil crossing is quickest and takes around 30 mins from Kavala to Thassos town
Summer 2009 it looks like the main operator is Thomson, who fly from Gatwick, Birmingham, and Manchester to Kavala, on a Sunday.
We arrived in Thassos town, with the sun beating down, and were taken by coach to our hotel, which is outside Thassos town, about 5 mins in a taxi, and opposite a little sandy beach.
We checked in, the room was a nice size, but next to reception, and being a light sleeper, wouldn't be ideal. Spoke to the nice manager, and he moved us to a room in the newer block, which was smaller, but quiet. There were 2 twin beds, with rather hard mattresses, a small seating area, plus en suite bathroom. There was a fridge, 2 ring cooker, and very basic plates, saucepans etc. It was fine for us as we only had breakfast there. A small balcony, from which you could see the pool, The pool was a good size, clean, but very cold at end of May, I think they topped it up with cold water daily! and a small pool bar that was open till about 9.30pm.
Their was no restaurant at the time we were there
Just down the road was Hotel Esperides, which had both a restaurant and pool bar which did snacks. This did really nice food, and was a very nice hotel. We always said if we went back to Thassos, we would stay there.
Menu had a fine selection of Greek and continental food + some English dished
They did the best Spaghetti Bolognese I had ever tasted. The hotel also has a great bar, which does cocktails, and has a great selection of games to keep guests amused.
http://www.esperides-thassos.com is the hotels website.
Thassos town was a really nice port, with a great selection of restaurants, tavernas and bars around the harbour, that all seemed to serve nice quality food, at reasonable prices. We found it was the best food we have eaten in the whole of Greece here. Highly recommend the lamb kleftiko, with giant beans...ummmmmm. You will not find it hard to find a good place to eat, it will just depend on what takes your fancy. Also found a lot of seafood here.
Take a walk around the port, and see many fish scooting around..
While in town take a walk to discover the ancient theatre and agora, there is also a small archaeological museum that's well worth seeing. It is a short walk from the old harbour.
Other things to do and see:
Golden Beach- some people's ideal resort- long, golden sand beach, with taverna's and hotels.
Alykes: Finest resort for me, in the South East of the island. A walk down the hill from the main road, brings you to 2 coves, with sandy beach with rocks at either side. Great for snorkelling/swimming. 2 lovely taverna's on beach for lunch.
Hire a car and drive round the island. Each small town/ village has something different to offer, and a fine selection of great beaches. The beaches on the west coast are pebbly, whilst sandy on the east.
Great cliffs on the south of the island. Bit scary in places.
Peygia: Little mountain village that feels very traditional, and has some lovely "real Greek taverna"
All in all I thoroughly recommend a trip there.
WE decided a few years ago that instead of taking our main holiday in the summer, when Devon is at its loveliest, that we would go away in the winter. To try and get away from the misery of the winter, and actually warm up.
We have been to the Maldives, and St Lucia on our previous 2 winter holidays, and so had to put our thinking caps on for this year. We had been lucky enough to go away around Xmas for last 2 years, but unfortunately, I am working this year, so we aren't going till 24/1, in time for my birthday.
For me, the planning of any trip is vital. I suspect that is about being a control freak !.
So where to this year. Well, we decided we wanted to return to India, ideally the south. So investigated returning to Kovalam, in Kerala. Sadly, it seems it has become very touristy, so decided against it.
Instead we opted to fly into Cochin, spend a few days there and then fly out to the Lakshadweep Islands. A group of coral atolls, 200 miles s.e of the coast of India. Many of the islands are uninhabited and some only accessible to Indian citizens. As a holiday option for us non Indians, we can choose between Agatti, and Bangaram islands. You need a special permit to enter the Lakshadweep's.
It is said that the Lakshadweep islands are like the Maldives were, 40 years ago.
The islands can be accessed by either plane or boat, from Cochin. The boat takes 24 hrs, whilst the plane takes 1 ½ hrs, from Cochin to Agatti, with 11/2 hours speedboat from Agatti to Bangaram.
Bangaram island is approz 128 acres in size, and shaped like a teardrop. It sits in a perfect turquoise lagoon, with a white sand beach, and fringed with palm trees. The resort is owned by the Casino Group, who's aim has been to make this as little like a hotel/resort as a possible.
So the island has just 30 huts, that have no TV/hot water or air conditioning, but have all the comforts you need. Your own private hut, beach fronted, with double bed, outdoor, private shower, veranda and hammocks between the palm trees.
There is one restaurant, where all the food is cooked in traditional ways, but is apparently highly acclaimed. There is also a bar, the only place in the whole island chain where you can buy alcohol.
The diving and snorkelling is notable, as so few people come here and do it. Manta rays, turtles and sharks are frequently seen. We made the booking for the resort via the Kerala tourist board, in UK, but the rest of the trip we booked independently. 10 nights, fullboard, plus flights to Agatti and boat on Bangaram, for 2 people £ 2400.
Booked our flight to India direct with Qatar airlines. We were going to fly emirates, but flight times/stopovers better with Qatar, and it came in £ 300.00 cheaper, at approx £984.00 for 2.
Even got a good deal on the airport parking, with Superbreak. Normally book through holiday extras or APH, but got 15 days parking plus a night at a 4 * hotel 5 mins from Gatwick, for £99.00.
While staying in Cochin, we plan to stay at he Taj Malabar hotel. Best price we found, was again directly with the Taj group, at £130 a night, for the Princess room, with sunset view.
As our return flight home is at 9am, we opted to stay at the Abad airport hotel, for that night. Double room £45.00.
Sadly once we arrive home, we have a night in the Travelodge, before we head home, to some very grumpy pets.
Looking forward to reviewing it all when I return
Latin name Oryctolagus cuniculus
The average life span is between 5-8 years for a pet
Baby rabbits are kittens, and there are generally bet 4-12 in a litter, and their eyes usually open around 10 days. They are weaned bet 4-7 weeks and can breed themselves from 16-24 weeks.
The wild rabbits we now know as pets, were originally from Spain and northern Africa, but were introduced to the UK in the 11th century, for both food and sport, and of course, their fur.
By the early 19th century they were being kept as pets.
So, are you thinking of having a rabbit as a pet, or is your small child asking for one?
Well here's a few useful bits of info.
Rabbits can be kept as indoor pets, but I do not feel able to comment much on this, as mine are outdoor rabbits, and only come in when there is really horrendous weather, i.e. severe gales. But I do know they chewed through by Sky cable on one such foray!.
1. Really should be kept in pairs. Rabbits get lonely, and are not used to a solitary existence, and to be honest 2 is little more work than one.
However, please get them neutered/spayed. Not only does it prevent unwanted babies, but many rabbits die from tumours of reproductive organs, so by getting them "done", they will hopefully liver longer, fitter lives
2. Please don't keep your rabbits penned up in a tiny hutch. RSPCA say rabbits need as much exercise as a small dog, so must always have access to an outside enclosure, as well as their hutch.
After a lot of research, I decided to purchase Wendy houses. I opted for them instead of a shed, as they have nice big windows and let lots of light it. I have insulated mine, and put wire at the windows, so when the weather is nice I can open then. I have 2 levels in mine, so they have extra living /playing space. If you look around the internet, including "The Rabbit Shed" has some great ideas for outdoor space. Most hutches you can buy are too small. .
My 2 Wendy houses have permanent access to runs which include grassy areas.
3. As my mother always says " Lot of work, those rabbits", and that is certainly true. This is why they often become a problem, when children have rabbits. They need to be fed, and watered daily, then cleaned out at least twice a week. I reckon I spend about 45 mins a day ( on average), by the time I've done all that and played with them and groomed them. When they aren't well it takes a lot longer.
Please consider this carefully, as often kids get bored, and you as parents will end up spending this time daily!. Just on the side of fairness, many kids are great and always do the chores themselves.
4. Rabbits love to play....., give them toys and activities. There are many toys available, but mine love a cardboard box, with a couple of hole cut in it, and this amuses them no end. It is also great for their teeth, to keep chewing. Toilet role tubes, and balls are great too.
5. Feeding: in the wild they eat grass, so the mainstay of any diet should be good quality hay, on a daily basis. Green veg are also very important, but carrots should not be given frequently, as they are fattening, and like with people, the bunny will go for the carrot first and then feel full up. Pellets, and kibble should be given in small amounts. Mine love apple tree branches, they eat the leaves, and chew the bark off. Again, great for their teeth. They also love dandelions, which are in very short supply in this house, as the tortoises love them too.
Rabbits should have annual vaccinations for haemorrhagic fever, and myxamatosis. Both devastating diseases, which kill rabbits horribly, or leave them severely disabled.
Fly strike is also a great killer. Flies land of dirty fur, or small wound. They lay their eggs, and maggots hatch, which literally eat away at the rabbit. A friend of mines rabbit had to be put to sleep because of this. Check your rabbit regularly, and bath it if dirty.. Keep any wound clean, and treat with antiseptic.
There are many great books about rabbits available to help with keeping rabbits. I recommend
" Care for your Rabbits- an RSPCA guide" by Collins.
6. Names: Do not call your rabbit thumper. I know 5 rabbits called thumper.
My rabbits are called Mimsi ( called that long before the film came out) and Smudge ( Animal shelter name). Harry ( after my dad) and Lavender ( husband chose that)
7. Please try and get your rabbit from a rescue centre. Buying them from pet shops isn't ideal, especially as there are so many waiting for homes.
Rabbits are fun-
When you see them chasing around (mainly dust/dawn) playing, or snuggled up together, you really see what lovely pets they are.
I highly recommend them
Fort William holds a very special place in my heart, as a holiday destination, for many different reasons. We spent every childhood holiday here (more later- oh good you say!), I was married and honeymooned here, (Sadly marriage only lasted 5 years, but I can't blame Fort William for that), and second husband proposed to me on the boat pier there. We have since spent a few holidays there, and I was able to take my mum and dad back there for a holiday, the last one my dad had before he died.
So what can I tell you?
Location, and how to get there:
Fort William is on the West Coast of Scotland, further north than Oban. On the banks of the sea loch, Loch Linnhie.
From the north/south, access is via the A82, and from the west A380.
It is also easlily accessed from Glasgow, by train and bus.
Current train prices vary bet £15-40.00 for a return from Glasgow.
If you are flying up, you can either fly into Glasgow, and drive north, or Inverness and drive south down the A82.
First founded in 1655, when a fort was built (no longer in existance). The scene of many forced emigrations during the highland clearances, and the town that pioneered electric street lighting in 1896.
It is an ideal place to stay, as there are wide choices of accomodation, from excellent hotels, to campsites and caravan parks, as well as many charming bed and breakfasts in between.
**** hotel- Onich hotel- six miles south of Fort William.
Overlooking Loch Linnhie. Lovely looking hotel, prices from £45.00per night. Customer ratings 4.2/5
*** hotel- Ben Nevis hotel and leisure club- A member of the strathmore group. A more modern hotel, with some good price reductions for Nov/Dec/Jan 09.
From £52.00 a night (before reductions), and has a guest rating of 3.6/5
Too many bed and breakfasts/caravans &lodges plus campsites to easily choose, go the www.visitscotland.com website to see what might appeal to you.
So what can I do when I get there:
Well the great thing is there is just so much choice.
For the active types, climb Ben Nevis, a fantastic trip, but remember to dress sensibly. You should be generally fit, and equipped with stout shoes, warm, waterproof clothing, a map, food and a compass.
Whatever the weather in town, a whole different ball game may be happening up the "Ben". The summit has an average of 261 gales a year.
Access to the footpath to the Ben is via Glen Nevis, at Achintee farm. On a clear day you really can see forever, or to then inner hebrides.
If thats a bit to active, take a walk up the Glen, to the series of waterfalls. The River Nevis is a great place for kids to play in. I spent many a year trying to dam it!, but never succeeded. There is a cafe/restaurant in the Glen for a meal/drinks, plus a nice campsite.
More action trips are available- take the cable car up Aonach Mhor, and if its winter/snowy, you can snowboard down, or in summer mountain bike down. There is a nice restaurant at the top, plus a shop.
Sea Kayaking is also available from Fort William, via "Rockhopper Sea Kayaking"
Snowgoose Mountain Centre offers all sorts of outdoor activity, from abseiling, to ice walks. They also arrange packages.
For the "not so active" amongst us:
Treasures of the earth: a collection of gemstones, crystals and fossils in a stimulated cave.
Glen Nevis visitors centre- open April-Oct.
Access for Glen Nevis walks, picnic area restaurant, and gift shop, plus info about Glen and Ben Nevis.
Inverlochy Catle is an old ruin, interesting to have a nosey around, but well worth visiting the whiskey distillery, and taking a walk along the river.
Fort William also has a public swimming pool, and cinema, handy for those wetter days, with the kids.
Boat trip on Loch Linnhie- take a trip down to Seal island, and watch the grey and common seals basking on the rocks.
Getting out and about:
1.Take the West Highland Line- to Mallaig, on a steam train.
Harry Potter fans will recognise the viaduct from the film.
The scenery is beautiful, but if you want to stay and spend a bit more time drive out to Mallaig. Pass along Loch Eil, to Glennfinnan, at the head of Loch Shiel. This is where Bonny Prince
Charlie landed and rallied the clans in 1745. From there on pass along Loch Ailort, a haunting place, with islets of trees. When the mist swirls around it, you feel like you're in another world. I've seen a lot of deer around here.
Visit the silver sands of Morar, beaches so wonderful, that if you catch them on a sunny day, you'd think you were in a tropical paradise. Stop for lunch in Arisaig- the Old Library is first class.
Finally you arrive in Mallaig- there is an aquarium here, plus the ferry to Skye. Its a real fishing village to, so its great to watch the boats come and go.
2. Try Aviemore and Kingussie: Drive north east. Kingussie is the home of the Highland wildlife park, which is well worth a visit, with reindeer, wild cats, and ptarmagan.
visit the Osprey hide on the RSPB RESERVE.
Go on to Aviemore, there is plenty of activity for all. From shinty to horse riding, golf, fishing, more whiskey tours, plus great eateries.
3. Visit the most westerly point on the British mainland- Ardnurmurchan point. Cross Loch Linnhie to Ardgour, and then drive along to Strontian, on Loch Sunart, just keep following the road westward. The scenery is varied, from ancient woodlands, to dramatic cliffs, charming little villages, and seascapes.
Well worth the drive.
The things you can do in and around Fort william and if I were to write them all, this review would never end.
Safe to say, and holiday in Fort William will not disappoint, but remember, it is the wettest place on the UK mainland.
I'm really lucky that I love my job.
I am a Macmillan nurse, and, despite working in different parts of the UK have done this job for the past 17 years.
I started my nurse training in 1984, and qualified in 87. Spent a bit of time working in cardiac care and intensive care, then moved to London and worked on a cancer unit, where we gave chemotherapy and radiotherapy. During this time a did a fair few courses and decided I wanted to move into the field of palliative care. This is the care and treatment of people with life limiting illnesses, at that time mainly cancer, but now any disease that cannot be cured, and will limit a persons life.
I then went on to work in a hospice, firstly as a staff nurse, then as a sister. Finally I moved out into the community to be a Macmillan nurse. I have since done a diploma and degree in palliative care.
So what does a Macmillan Nurse do ?
A lot of people really do not know, or maybe think we nurse patients who are dying of cancer.
Well Macmillan nurses do not actually physically nurse people.
They spend their time in dealing with several different aspects of their care
1. Symptom control: ie. trying to get their symptoms under control. SO whether that be pain, vomiting, shortness of breath, or anxiety, we will liaise with the patients GP, about what the best treatment would be. We also try to look at non drug related interventions, such as complimentary medicine.
2. Psychological support: A large proportion of the job deals with offering emotional support to patients, and their families, including children. Whether it be counselling, or perhaps information giving, to enable them to make a choice about treatment options, preferred place of care, and drug options.
3. Social /financial support: Another large part of the job.
This can deal with a huge amount of issues from ensuring people have the benefits and financial support they need, providing both nursing and social care to meet patients needs. either via NHS community services or social services. Providing equipment to enable people to stay in their own homes. Looking at issues like rehousing, applying for grants from charities, even rehoming their pets. The possiblities here are endless.
4. Education: we also have a remit to provide education to doctors, nurses and allied professions, to help them care for patients.
5. Research and audit: like most jobs now, we have to be able to prove what we are doing, so a lot of time is spent auditing and improving our service. We also get involved in research to ensure our patients have acces to the best care available.
In Plymouth we work 9-5pm Monday to Friday, with each of us taking it in turns to cover weekends and bank holidays.
So many people say to me "don't you find it depressing", but I really don't. Unfortunately, death comes to all of us, and I always like to think, if i make this as good as possible, then my day hasn't been in vain. I guess its a bit like being a midwife, who helps people out, instead of into the world.
I don't think there is anything I'd rather do, and i feel very lucky to have met so many wonderful people. Its a great honour.