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since 24/02/2003


Wellington (New Zealand) 05/06/2009

Capital views from a wonderfully windy city

Wellington (New Zealand) I lived in Wellington for the first thirty years of my life, and although now residing in other parts of the world, I have always come back to refresh my memories of this ever changing city. When I visited the Capital last Christmas, I was amazed at the changes I saw. For instance, you can now take a harbour ferry from the downtown wharves area at Queens Wharf, and cross the harbour over to Days Bay and Eastbourne. On a fine day, this is a fantastic way to appreciate the magnificent harbour. You can also stop off at Somes Island - a former quarantine station - in the middle of the harbour, and get a later ferry back if you wish. The other attraction I would recommend to Ciao readers is the Southern Walkway which goes along Mt. Victoria. You begin this marvellous walk at Oriental Bay, and climb up a graded track past highly priced real estate to emerge at the top of Mt. Victoria. The views en route are really quite extraordinary. I took a photograph en route, and was very pleased at the way it turned out. You can view this at Once at the top of Mt Victoria, if you have reserves of energy left, you can continue in a Southwards direction along the tops of the hills, and eventually, you'll finish up past Newtown and drop down to Island Bay. From there, catch a bus to take you back to the downtown area. It is a wonderful walk, and if you are lucky enough to experience one of Wellington's windless ...

Gone Tomorrow - Lee Child 30/05/2009

Subway suspense in the Big Apple

Gone Tomorrow - Lee Child If you read a Lee Child book, you are guaranteed action, suspense and thrills on every page. A far-fetched statement ? Not in my opinion, with his latest work.. I found that each of the 441 pages of Gone Tomorrow held my attention with each unexpected twist and turn of the plot. So what can the reader expect ? If you'd like to learn more about the inner workings of New York's subway system, then you should read this book. For me, subway travel will never be quite the same after reading of the thrilling chases, escapades and encounters with FBI agents in this novel. Compared to Child's other books, it continues the tradition of Jack Reacher as a very intelligent, and dedicated hero who stops at nothing when avenging the evils of this world. This book is possibly one of his best, and most readable. I must admit that I found the plot fairly complicated in parts. But just as the action seemed to ease off, a fresh set of very nasty characters would emerge, and it was fascinating to read just how the invincible and very tough Jack Reacher would deal with them. Lee Child must do an extraordinary amount of research into his characters and plot locales. All this pays off in Gone Tomorrow as we learn such gems as how to get a fifty dollar a night room in a New York hotel that is more commonly two hundred dollars a night. The book is narrated in the first person which makes for entertaining reading in my view. Interlaced with a political background, a Washington ...

King Sound Resort Hotel, Derby, Western Australia 18/11/2008

Derby resort for true blue Aussies

King Sound Resort Hotel, Derby, Western Australia These were my impressions of the King Sound Resort, located in Derby Western Australia. I stayed there recently (September 2008 ) - just overnight, but long enough to give Ciao readers some idea of what to expect when you visit a small coastal town in remote North Western Australia. As I was staying at the hotel as part of my coach tour, I didn't book direct. But you can expect to pay around $A180 or 75 pounds, if you booked via the internet for instance. On arrival.... I arrived at the King Sound Resort late afternoon. I was informed (by my coachdriver) that it was the best available in town. This statement is open to question I felt. If Derby had a very high standard of accommodation places, then the resort might be first-rate. But on the other hand, if the town didn't really cater for tourists, and there was not a great selection of good quality motels or hotels, then the hotel might well be less than memorable. There was only one way to find out. We checked in. I didn't see much of the staff at check-in, but it looked basic, but clean in the reception area. Security The first thing I noticed was that the hotel is well fortified - it is of solid brick construction which may be good for withstanding seasonal cyclones or unwanted thugs or ruffians trying to get in. indeed it seems that security of the guests is very well catered for. I suspect there imay be a problem in Derby with petty theft or break-ins, so management has tried to make sure that ...

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T300 18/10/2008

Sony's DSC-T300 Picture perfection !

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T300 I have just purchased the Sony DSC-T300 here in Australia. I paid $A470 for it over here, and have been impressed with several points about it so far. WELL DESIGNED These include the elegant design - I like the fact that mine is a snazzy red colour, as I invariably mislay things by accident. The red makes it more visible to find as well as looking stylish. EASY TO READ TOUCH SCREEN The 3.5 inch screen is delightful after my previous digital cameras. How could I have existed without it ? Not being used to touch panel technology ( more used to twiddling knobs or pressing buttons) I am rapidly becoming a convert to pressing the touch panel screen. It seems very easy to navigate even for someone like myself who has a slow learning curve on these things. SCRATCHES ? One point I would make - it seems as if it would be easy to inadvertantly scratch this magnificent viewing screen, but then I learnt that Sony has allowed for that. You can buy an accessory screen protector, as well as a line of coloured carry cases to suit your colour preference. This is an accessory I will probably buy in due course. IN-BUILT SLIDESHOW The other feature that I've grown to like about this hi-tech camera is the slideshow for displaying images that is incorporated into it. You can choose from a selection of different musical accompaniments to view your pictures with. The camera automatically works out a sequence of professional dissolves or pans which make your photos ...

Western Australian Museum, Perth 18/10/2008

Dinosaurs and diamonds at Perth's museum

Western Australian Museum, Perth If you are at a loose end in Perth Western Australia, then I recommend you take a look at the WA Museum. This is located at the Perth Cultural Centre, in James Street. It is easy to get to, being near the railway station and Northbridge area in the CBD. FREE BUSES It's worth noting that there are free buses that run within the city area in Perth, and they cover a loop which will drop you off at attractions like this. This review covers my impressions of the museum when I visited it in September 2008. It isn't a big museum but that isn't necessarily a shortcoming because some of the displays were rather good in my opinion. WHY GO ? I realise that museums aren't really the first thing you'd think of if you were visiting Perth. Possibly you might be more inclined to hit the magnificent beaches, or bike along the miles of cycleways here. But really, the museum is worth a visit. What is there to see ? Please read on to find out. ENTRANCE AREA You enter the museum through the main entrance off James Street. I found this quite an impressive gateway through revolving doors leading to a vast modern foyer. The entrance hall can be described as huge with approx 15m floor to ceiling windows. This area is known as the Hackett Hall Foyer. If you are wheelchair bound, you don't have to negotiate the revolving doors as there is also ramp access. The overall effect is one of light and space - a far cry from the days when museums were dark, gloomy and ...

Kimberley Hotel, Halls Creek 18/10/2008

Kimberley Hotel - Aussie oasis in the desert

Kimberley Hotel, Halls Creek WHERE IS IT ? To get to Halls Creek in the outback of Western Australia, you have to travel a long way. Broome to the West, is over 680km away. Darwin lies well over 1000km to the North and Perth is a staggering 2895km to the South. So it was a relief to reach this dusty little town when I bounced in by bus, and to check into the Kimberley Hotel, which tourist brochures describe as 'an oasis in the desert.' MY IMPRESSIONS This review describes my impressions of the hotel, which is rated four star. As I stayed here overnight on a coach tour, I didn't book the accommodation myself. However, if you were travelling independently, you can expect to pay around $A150 + per night for a room. MOTEL GROUNDS Although the place is described as an hotel, it is actually more of a large scale motel, with lots of verandahs and pathways linking the extensive gardens. What the tourist brochures don't tell you - and perhaps this is understandable from a publicity point of view - is that the entire complex is surrounded by high wire fence crowned with barbed wire. VIEWS ? The publicity material also said there were 'great views of the surrounding countryside' from the hotel, but I couldn't quite see where these views were obtained. However, I was only there for one night, and might well have missed a viewpoint. Tall gates are kept closed at night, and I quickly learned that Halls Creek has a reputation for lawlessness, and perhaps it isn't safe to walk the streets at ...

Reef View Hotel, Great Barrier Reef 17/10/2008

Reef View Hotel, Hamilton Island,

Reef View Hotel, Great Barrier Reef Reef View hotel, Hamilton Island offers magnificent views of the Whitsundays. Travellers tip is to stay on the upper floors - These are the Coral sea rooms it's much quieter, and the views are better. It's worth paying a little more to do this. Lower floors - known as Garden View - (especially near the night club/bar) tend to be a bit noisy from my experience. MY EXPERIENCE AT REEF VIEW I stayed here earlier this year (2008), found the rooms spacious, clean and comfortable. I paid $290 (Australian) per night toom rate (approx 118 pounds) - a rate which included full buffet breakfast daily. They also gave me a free day cruise out to the Barrier Reef which was a highlight. Also had full use of all resort facilities, non-motorised watersports, catamarans etc. Worthy of note - be careful of stingers (venemous jellyfish) at certain times of year when swimming. MY ROOM My room was furnished in bright cheerful tropical colours, wide balconies. Two king-size beds in the room. All the usual facilities one would expect for a resort hotel - aircon, colour TV, tea and coffee making, bar fridge, ensuite etc. Tiled floors. Room was larger than I expected - spacious and pleasant. LOCAL WILDLIFE A special attraction is the local cockatoos which fly in to perch on your own balcony. These wonderful creatures with snowy white feathers and yellow plumes really add local ambience to your stay at the Reef View. Be careful though, they may come right in your room uninvited ...

Star City Casino 17/10/2008

Sydney's Star City buffet breakfasts a good bet

Star City Casino This review for Ciao describes my stay (during August 2008) at the glittering Star City Casino Hotel, located in Pyrmont, an inner city suburb of Sydney Australia. Previous reviews of this hotel have only really described the casino area, but you can have a great time staying here even if you aren't into gambling, because there's lots of places to eat and things to see and do. Also I took a few photos at the hotel, and readers may be interested in these. Good points were as follows. Excellent proximity to the downtown area. It was easy to get to most of Sydney's attractions from here. For example there is a monorail which runs very near to the hotel, and this got me in no time to shopping areas downtown. This facility runs every two or three minutes. However, it's a pleasant 15 min walk if you prefer walking and there's lots to see en route. . There are also metro rail links and bus services to the hotel (#443). Also harbour ferry services link the hotel to Circular Quay, which is the focal point of Sydney. The hotel has a minibus service too. When I checked in, I was greeted courteously and efficiently. Although the official checking in time was 2pm, they let me have my room early (around noon) which was good. Staff were polite and helpful. MY ROOM My room on the ninth floor ( I asked for an upper floor because I like having a view if one is available) was clean, and tastefully furnished in muted beige and brown colours. The higher up you stay, ...

Best Western Country Club Hotel, Kununurra 16/10/2008

Kununurra Country Club Resort, Western Australia

Best Western Country Club Hotel, Kununurra This review covers my stay of two nights at Kununurra Country Club Resort, which is located near Lake Argylle in North West Australia. I stayed here during a coach tour of the Kimberleys, so I didn't book direct with the resort. It is set in green, well-tended grounds, with lots of palm trees. There is good security with high fences around the resort, but even so, management advises guests to keep doors locked to discourage petty theft. Reception area When I arrived at the reception area, porters took my suitcase to my allocated room. Regarding the reception area, the check-in staff seemed friendly and helpful. There was an internet kiosk here (coin-operated). , One point I liked about the foyer was the crocodile design which had been set into the stone-flagged floor. I took a 'snap' shot of the croc (see photo). My room What was my room like ? I found that my accommodation was a ground floor unit. There are also rooms on first floor blocks (with stairs for access). At first sight, I was favourably impressed with my room. The air-conditioning Tiled floors provided relief from the tropical heat of Kununurra - and of course there was airconditioning as well. The only problem was that the airconditioning blew forcibly down onto the bed, even on the lowest setting. This meant I had to sleep in an icy blast all night, or otherwise swelter. I found this a bit inconvenient, but perhaps I hadn't adjusted it properly. Decor Room decor could be described ...

Flag Inn Fitzroy River Lodge, Fizroy Crossing 16/10/2008

Fitzroy Crossing-pleasant stop on outback track

Flag Inn Fitzroy River Lodge, Fizroy Crossing By the time you get to Fitzroy Crossing in the far north of Western Australia, you are a long way from anywhere. It is located approx 380km East of Broome in the scenic Kimberleys area. Access is via a sealed road (along the main highway North). I stayed at the Fitzroy Crossing Lodge in September 2008 - I didn't book direct with the lodge as my accommodation was part of an outback coach tour. My impressions for this review are as follows. On arrival, hot and tired, late in the day, my first impressions of the Lodge were a large, well-run complex set in acres of grounds. There are tennis courts here, a pool, and also a caravan park as well as a pub, bar, restaurant and motel accommodation. My bags were carried by porters to a spacious upstairs room which was set amongst frangipani trees and overlooked the pool. I wondered if I'd get noise from the pool, but apparently it was very cold in temperature, and swimmers didn't stay in long. However it was a pleasantly set out bathing area with adequate shade from the harsh outback sun. One point I noted - communal verandahs ran along two sides of the room. So anyone walking past could gaze in. As it happened, not many people seemed to walk past, and anyway, the room had curtains that could be closed for privacy. My room was clean, comfortable, and had a wall mounted TV. Switching on the telly, I noted that reception was grainy on about three receivable channels, but this may just have been local conditions ...

Cable Beach Club Resort, Broome 05/10/2008

Champagne and camel rides at Cable Beach Resort

Cable Beach Club Resort, Broome I was looking forward to my stay at plush four star Cable Beach Club Resort in Broome, Western Australia. According to their advertising material, I could expect Asian serenity and Colonial Indulgence. It sounded great and friends had recommended it as a very pleasant place to stay. In total, I spent three nights here. Because it was included in a coach tour package that I'd booked, I didn't make a booking specifically for the hotel itself. However let it be said that the room rates vary. I saw one website ( which was offering rooms from $A155 (incl breakfast) plus a free camel ride, but other quotes elsewhere were much more than this. The hotel runs a shuttle bus to Broome Airport to greet tired travellers. Or you can get a taxi to the resort ($10). First impressions of the resort were favourable. A porter was on hand to take my bags, and I entered the Asian themed lobby which was refreshingly air-con cool after tropical heat outside. It must be said at this point that some hotel check-ins go easier than others. My experience at CBC resort was unfortunately in the 'others' category. By this I mean that the young lady behind the desk - blonde, with an American accent - was cool to the point of being disdainful as she checked my details. I had to ask twenty questions to get any information from her, each question eliciting a cryptic, one word response. It wasn't so much that she was uncommunicative, just not all that forthcoming with answers. ...

The Kimberley (Australia) 28/09/2008

Rocky roads and lots of crocs in the Kimberleys

The Kimberley (Australia) I've just completed a 15 day tour of the Kimberleys by 4WD coach, and would like to share my experience with Ciao readers. During the two weeks, I had a marvellous time, and it was not without its share of adventurous moments. If you visit the Kimberley region, be prepared to be taken aback by incredible scenery, curious crocs and searing heat. But you will never be bored. My holiday started from Broome - relaxed and tropical, magnificent beaches, and a great place for buying cultured pearls - prices range from around $A50 for a single pearl, to many thousands of dollars for selected necklaces and pendants. But there is more to the Kimberleys than just Broome. in this untamed frontier of outback Australia, you can explore a total of seven National Parks. Here's my brief impressions of some of the highlights. Geikie Gorge - Incredible limestone cliffs, relaxing cruise (although a boat with a shaded canopy would have been appreciated in the 40C heat). Lots of freshwater crocs, - take plenty of spare storage cards for your digital camera. Wolfe Creek Crater - Second largest meteorite crater on earth out along the Tanami track in the Great Sandy desert. It is nearly a kilometre wide. A short ten minute rock hop to the rim reveals wonderful views and if time permits, you can descend to the crater floor. Tip - take plenty of water and protect yourself from that ferocious sun. The access road along the track is very bumpy. Purnululu National Park - don't miss the World ...

Government House, Perth 24/09/2008

Relaxing spot at Perth's Government House

Government House, Perth I recently had a few days in Perth (September 2008) and had the opportunity to look at Government House, located in the city centre. My first view of this stately building (built 1863) was from behind the tall railings that surround the elegant structure, set in lavish gardens. . Through the fence, I could see mysterious Gothic archways, imposing towers, official flags and I must admit, it inspired a closer look. But when I started making inquiries, it appeared that the building itself was only open for guided tours about three or four times a year. So if you are visiting Perth, you would indeed be lucky to coincide with one of these dates, which are advertised in the press. Nevertheless, I began walking around the fenced perimeter of the house and gardens, wondering if it was possible to at least get into to see the magnificent gardens. I was in luck as it turned out. I didn't have to climb the fence. A side entrance displayed a notice which said - Open 12-2pm. It's free to go in and browse around the gardens during this time of day. Once in the grounds, it was obvious that many Perth office workers were taking advantage of this. I would rate the gardens as a peaceful oasis within the CBD, a great place to relax in manicured surroundings. Not too many tourists seemed to take advantage of this, but the locals certainly used the gardens as a handy lunch spot. The gardens cover around 3.2 hectares, and have been set out in Arcadian landscape style. Apparently ...

Goodearth Hotel, East Perth 23/09/2008

Good value at the Goodearth hotel, Perth

Goodearth Hotel, East Perth Recently I spent four nights at the Goodearth hotel Perth Western Australia. Here's how I got on. I booked my accommodation through and can report that the website was safe and secure when processing my payment of $A428 for the four nights. At $107 per night (approx 45 pounds) it seemed good value to me. Initially, I tried to book this hotel through a Queensland travel agent. They told me there were no rooms available for the period I wanted, and tried to cajole me into going to another inner city Perth hotel. That was when I tried doing the booking myself on the internet, and fortunately, found accommodation at the Goodearth on the nights I wanted. So Ciao readers should be aware that just because a travel agent states there are no rooms, it is worthwhile trying the internet instead ! On arrival at the hotel, I stepped into the cheerful, welcoming lobby. Two staff were on duty for check-in, and I didn't have to wait long for room allocation. Staff attitude was helpful and courteous. A minor problem ensued about the breakfasts. I wasn't sure whether my reservation included breakfasts as well. I asked the check-in clerk, and he assured me that because I would be staying a few nights, breakfast was included. So the next morning, I ate a full and hearty cooked breakfast in the dining area. This looks out over the nearby Swan River, or it did until high-rise construction hid most of the view. But you can still see the most attractive capital city ...

Muller One a Day Banana Orange and Passionfruit Drink 22/08/2008

Yummy yog drink in this fruity trio from Muller

Muller One a Day Banana Orange and Passionfruit Drink I must admit that before trying out Muller One a Day drinks, I had previously steered clear of fruity yoghurt mixtures. And I wasn't entirely sure that a combination of banana, orange and passionfruit in one package would appeal to my tastebuds. However, on sampling this banana variety, I found it smoothly palatable, and the taste - to me anyway - wasn't quite as syrupy sweet as I had imagined it might be. Being a fan of bananas from way back, I tend to like banana smoothies anyway, and this drinking yoghurt reminded me of this. So I feel that Muller has put together a nicely blended yog drink - it is to be savoured rather than gulped quickly in one go however, and is ideal for a a leisurely breakfast by the pool, for instance. Product package in my opinion could be presented better - I like more bright and cheerful colours to greet me at the start of day. The orange and yellow lettering could have been made more contrasty with purple passion for example. The concept of 'one a day' made me think that perhaps I was getting a healthy serve of fruit. The health angle was of value to me - particularly the banana bit - my favourite fruit -potassium rich, and goes well with the yoghurt. Muller didn't go overboard on the passionfruit element which I found commendably restrained. . The three fruits worked well together in this product. So my overall view is that I'm somewhat passionate about the product, and the banana taste has the most appeal. Yes, I would purchase it ...
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