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++ "RICHADA" possibly looking for a new outlet - suggestions in a GB please! ++ Looks like the operation is to go ahead on Tuesday, I'll be away for a spell then. ++

Reviews written

since 20/06/2004


Seasonal words 23/12/2017


Seasonal words WE AREN’T GOING TO RESSURECT THE OLD DAYS HERE ON CIAO…… ……Sad, but I fear all too true. In the “good old days” many of we Ciao members used to intersperse consumer reviews with general interest pieces, where, within the constraints of the Ciao Café area, we pretty much had free reign over what we wrote, indeed some members were even known for only publishing café reviews. Personally, I have to thank Ciao for allowing me to develop my own writing style via the Café section, it lead on to bigger and better things as far as my consumer reviews were concerned, it even lead to the Ciao debut of my friend Lord Frederick Lord Jack-Russell not, I can now reveal, my alter-ego but a real live consumer reviewing dog – well, when he felt like it at least, he is a Jack Russell after all! I have, over the last ten days or so, been re-visiting a lot of my own, and even some other members, Café reviews here on Ciao – partly spurred on to preserve, for posterity, long forgotten and otherwise lost work. Many moons ago, I introduced my dear old, long lost, Great Uncle Bill to the public via this site, and the few stalwarts still participating here on Ciao – if I am lucky – might just remember him as several of them were around here when I was regularly publishing these stories. A chance conversation with secre made me realise that should this site actually go down, I had no means of retrieving my own writings, I have thus acted on her unintentional advice. The whole process of copying ...

Merchants Bar & Grill, Preston 16/12/2017


Merchants Bar & Grill, Preston WHERE IN THE WORLD? As usual a pre-Christmas business trip finds us in the industrial north west of England, staying at the Samlesbury hotel located midway between Preston and Blackburn on the A59. Over the years we have stayed in several hotels in the area and sampled a fair few eateries too. We had previously eaten quite well in this very same location, that being the best part of a decade ago when, terribly run down in appearance as it had become, both food and service had been excellent. WHY DID WE CHOOSE THE MERCHANTS BAR & GRILL AT THE SAMLESBURY HOTEL? In truth we were a bit of a captive audience; having set out early from our home in Brighton, breakfasted in style in Stratford on Avon, spent the best part of the day with friends at a National Trust property in the Midlands, it was now 6.30 and our travels for the day were at an end – oh and it was a Sunday evening! Thanks to having read a pile of recent Tripadvisor and reviews it would appear that we were on safe ground eating at the Samlesbury Hotel’s “in house” restaurant, the reviews were universally complimentary, the consensus of opinion being that the food was fine value for money. LOCATION & ACCESSIBILITY: 13 / 15 There are some good local pubs within the locality, although the passing traveller is much more likely to spot Merchants – effectively Samlesbury Hotel’s dining room. All the convenience of the hotel is obviously extended to the casual diner, the large car park to start ...

Best Western Plus Samlesbury Hotel, Preston 12/12/2017


Best Western Plus Samlesbury Hotel, Preston WHY DID WE BOOK THE SAMLESBURY HOTEL IN PRESTON? For an away from home business base in the central Lancashire area there are few locations as convenient as this hotel, indeed for many years during the “noughties” we used to use it November or December for up to a four day stay. However, under the ownership of Swallow Hotels it was run into the ground and, no matter how convenient, standards there had become intolerable – to the point that the carpet in the dining room had become a positive health and safety hazard - ( mine was not the only two star review on this site of this particular hotel either! Having stayed each year for the last six or so in a much smaller hotel in Burnley, this year I was due in the North Country on my own, having already booked the Samlesbury Hotel for sheer convenience, at the last moment Mrs R, after a rapid change of plans joined me after all. Whilst aware that there had been a change of ownership, leading to a complete refit, I did not know, until arriving there, that Samlesbury Hotel had joined the Best Western group last year. HOTEL DESCRIPTION / OUR PERCEPTION FROM HOTEL PUBLICITY Since late in the last century having been familiar with the appearance and layout of this “Crossroads Motel” 1960’s style hotel, I was more than curious to stay there having been surprised at the radical change in image portrayed on the various booking sites appertaining to this property. Apart from ...

Michelin Crossclimate+ 09/12/2017


Michelin Crossclimate+ CAR TYRES & WHY YOU OWE IT TO YOURSELF TO BE INFORMED In a recent debate article on reading consumer reviews in general, I commented that one of THE subjects that I really value quality reviews on is car tyres. This is not the first time that I have broached the issue, neither is this the first time that I have myself published a car tyre review, far from it indeed. However, on each occasion I have received comments such as “I have never really thought about my car tyres, just go with whatever the fitter suggests as being the cheapest option” and that worries me. Why? Well, driver apart, the tyres on your car are its most important safety feature, no matter if you own a twenty year old Skoda or a new Volvo. Even if you have no interest whatsoever in cars, you, quite literally, owe it to yourself to carry out some research before spending money on replacement tyres for your vehicle. MORE MIGHT JUST PROVE TO BE LESS IN COST TERMS Additional to the vital safety aspect is another factor that you may simply not have considered – that of fuel consumption. If you are a relatively high mileage driver, choosing more expensive tyres – in the long run – could just save you money as your fuel consumption, by fitment of the appropriate tyres, may improve rather more than you would expect – as has proven to be the case with the tyres reviewed on my Volvo XC60. As well as saving money on fuel, more expensive tyres are also, particularly in Michelin’s case, also proven to last longer ...

Bulb 06/12/2017


Bulb WE’VE SEEN THE LIGHT I recently reviewed EDF who, until two weeks ago, provided our energy needs and, following that review, an old Ciao mate of mine commented that: “Martin Lewis is forever going on about people who have stayed with the same utilities supplier for years and, I must confess, I'm stunned to discover you were one of them”. Well I had been hopping from tariff to tariff at EDF, but it was not until they attempted to hike our bill by approximately 30% at the end of last month that the pressure was on to switch to an alternative supplier. There was a little more to it than that, for some years I had been concerned about buying gas and electricity from a huge, French nationalised company, and on principal decided that I would prefer to be purchasing from a much smaller, English one. By nature I am conservatively green, actively recycle and do not overheat the house, making sure the lights are turned off upon exiting a room. I abhor waste in every form and that goes for things that you cannot see such as gas and electricity, just as it does for throwing away food for example. However, there is also a lot of pure bunkum spouted about green energy by many concerned parties, many who have disguised vested interests in various forms of energy production. Most ill-advised, or just ignorant, of all; our government, witness the latest tax loading on new diesel cars, probably, overall, the very least polluting vehicles on the road…… THE BOILER HEATS, THE SWITCH TURNS ...

Carpathia, Liverpool 02/12/2017


Carpathia, Liverpool WHERE IN THE WORLD? For this review we are in one of my favourite places in the UK, the wonderful maritime city of Liverpool, located in the north west of England. Over the years this city has gained many different reputations in the eyes of different groups of society. It is a city that still suffers much poverty, but also one that has seen, partly thanks to tourism, a resurgence in recent years and the property that this restaurant is located in is an absolutely prime example of that. WHY DID WE CHOOSE THE CARPATHIA RESTAURANT IN LIVERPOOL? Oceanic House, built by Thomas Ismay at the end of the nineteenth century to house the White Star Shipping Line’s headquarters, has for many years held a fascination for me. Many of the Titanic crew came from Liverpool and were employed through this very building, it was from here that the sinking was first announced to the shocked city. During the post war years Oceanic House lead rather an undistinguished career playing host to office space. Having laid derelict for a decade, in 2014 this large building re-opened as a theme hotel – 30 James Street – Home of the Titanic. Having never expected to ever set foot inside this iconic building, twelve months ago my wife and I did just that. Out of sheer curiosity and encouraged by the hotel receptionist to do so, we climbed the seven floors of the grand staircase to admire the view from the extraordinary restaurant and its terraces on the top floor. We had on that occasion actually ...

Samsung WW80J5355MW 29/11/2017


Samsung WW80J5355MW I NEVER WAS MUCH GOOD WITH A WASHING MACHINE Firstly a sincere apology to any genuine consumer looking to buy what I am sure is a mighty fine kitchen appliance - this really isn't the review you've been looking for, and...... .......also with apologies to my fellow Ciao members for the spoiler in the title, but after all my years writing on this once great site it occurred to me that I have received every other rate apart from an Off Topic one. What is more, my stats can stand 19 or so Off Topic rates at this late stage in the game, even if it damages my credibility as a reviewer, it looks as though it no longer matters anyway...... .......If, as many of my friends predict, this is indeed the bitter end here for Ciao! then I might just as well go out with the bitterest of bangs - in the drum of a washing machine crying out for a first review, after all if I don't seize the opportunity - and why not? I hear you ask! A MOIST EYE TO THE PAST As Ciao in its current form is finished, and, in all honesty few of us should really be surprised by that, saddened, shocked even, but come on folks, the writing's been on the wall since Lexy (Bollinger28) left us to our own devices. As unofficial, yet, very effective guardian of the site she saw this day coming and, presumably, had no wish to be a part of the death throes. Other luminaries such as torr, expert writers, were aware of what I wasn't, in that if you were an outside reader / consumer i.e. a non-Ciao writer - the site ...

30 James Street Home of the Titanic, Liverpool 29/11/2017


30 James Street Home of the Titanic, Liverpool WHY DID WE BOOK 30 JAMES STREET - HOME OF THE TITANIC IN LIVERPOOL? With a mid-week day to spare after two days business in the north west of England last week, we had a decision as to where to go and what to do. I had been in favour of the Riverside Museum in Glasgow, but with truly appalling weather conditions, the 370 mile round journey from our base in Preston was less than an inviting prospect…… ……on Tuesday evening we sat down to dinner in the Carpathia Champaign Bar and Restaurant, which just happens to be situated on the seventh – top – floor of 30 James Street – Home of the Titanic. This was no fluke visit, being a Titanic aficionado, this building has long been familiar to me as the Headquarters of the White Star Line, owners of RMS Titanic, indeed J Bruce Ismay, Chairman of the line and notorious survivor of the sinking, had his office in the lowest turret room facing the corner of James Street and The Strand. We very briefly reconnoitred this hotel and restaurant last November, vowing that on return to Liverpool we would eat here – I never, seriously thought we would end up sleeping here, but, half way through the meal, smartphones at the ready, we were pondering the idea of booking the following night, eyebrows raised at the surprisingly reasonable prices for what looked like luxury four star accommodation. We enjoyed such fantastic service and food in the restaurant that half way through the meal we had resolved to go down seven floors to reception and see ...

Do you consult online reviews before making a purchase? 18/11/2017


Do you consult online reviews before making a purchase? Ciao! Says: “Many of us spend much more time on the Internet than ever before. Whether on social networks or e-commerce sites, we all need to "surf on the web" at some point! When we want to make an expensive purchase, online reviews sites like Ciao are useful for consumers who need help before making a purchase decision. But do you consult them? Do you consult online reviews before making a purchase?”…… RICHADA Says: …….WELL DO I? The answer to that is yes, and, er, sorry, but NO! For me it all comes down to horses for courses and my own route to becoming a member of this very site, way back in 2004. I have, for better or for worse, been known as a “writer about cars” on Ciao! (also at one time, Dooyoo - did I really?) and yes, indeed, it was a paucity of quality car reviews that brought me to the then ever so slightly novel, world of reviewing. Very specifically I was having totally unexpected quality problems with a new Honda, I was attempting to find out if my experiences were shared with other drivers…… …..through Ciao and Doyoo I never did, although catching the reviewing “bug” in general, it was another four years before, on purchasing a new Subaru, that I discovered the wonderful world of the “owners forum” and the concept of sharing opinions on very specific and specialised subjects. Along the way I started reviewing subjects that I myself would actually be inclined to research, not wishing to sound arrogant about it, my review subjects are ones that I hope ...

EDF Energy 15/11/2017


EDF Energy WHERE? Those with elephantine memories, who flatter me by reading my reviews, may just remember that many years ago I had a rant about Southern Water, my “favourite” utility provider who, still to this day, live in a blissful, wasteful, 1970’s era of monopoly…… …….what has that to do with EDF our, until next Monday, electricity and gas (Dual Fuel – catchy eh?) supplier I hear you ask? Well, since 2002, when it took over SEEBOARD, LEB and SWEB, the previous nationalised southern region electricity boards, EDF - Électricité de France - the French state-owned electricity generator, has been happy to hold a lot of previously “regional” customers, ourselves included, in its’ grasp. No, I am being unfair, I could have exercised my right to switch supplier – as indeed I did with our gas supply, about ten years ago from British Gas to EDF when it became advantageous to have a single duel fuel account. We live in Brighton, in the South East of England, we once had no choice but to buy locally from SEEBOARD (South East Electricity Board) and a surprising number of us, through convenience or idleness, merely stayed with the transitioned company, I have nothing particularly against the French, but never, truly, willingly, consciously, chose to purchase French gas and electricity, actually I pretty much turned a blind eye to the “F” in the EDF! HOW? How many of us actually consider how our electricity or gas is generated? Well, according to my online research (prior to switching ...

The Abbey Hotel Golf & Country Club, Redditch 09/11/2017


The Abbey Hotel Golf & Country Club, Redditch WHY DID WE BOOK THE ABBEY HOTEL AND COUNTRY CLUB IN REDDITCH? Oh trust me, you'll like this, this is a good one…… ……The very best indeed, we booked this property in order to attend a wedding there, but not just any old wedding, oh no, this you see was a CIAO! Wedding…… ……Put the Ciao bride and her groom (who had jointly chosen this as their wedding reception venue), two other esteemed Ciao members plus RichAda in the same hotel, at the same time, and my goodness it had better be good – or else! I joked at the time that, with four such eminent review writers in house, the Abbey Hotel had a lot to live up to, this review should reveal all on that score, although good or bad, the wedding itself proved such a joyous occasion that the Abbey merely paled into the background. But then, maybe, in hindsight, that is the best compliment one can pay such a venue. The day should be all about the celebration rather than the building it is housed in. We booked the Abbey hotel for two nights, Friday 20th and Saturday 21st October, we could have driven up from home on the morning of the wedding, but, as the official wedding photographer (I’m open to offers and surprisingly reasonable…..) I wanted to be at the church rehearsal at 5.00 on Friday evening, a feat only just achieved thanks to Friday afternoon M42 traffic! Guest, photographer in chief, reviewer, whoever said men were rubbish at multi-tasking? HOTEL DESCRIPTION / OUR PERCEPTION FROM HOTEL PUBLICITY The Abbey Hotel make ...

Citroen C1 Flair 5 Door 02/08/2017


Citroen C1 Flair 5 Door WHAT IS IT? This is the second model of the Citroen / Peugeot / Toyota Aygo city car collaboration and having driven the previous model Peugeot 106, I can tell you that this car is a very different proposition – all for the better. This is a small, three or five door, city car, much in the mould of the Fiat Panda, VW UP and an old favourite of mine the Kia Picanto. I have long been a fan of small cars, which, in order to be good – and cheap – require far more inventive design and engineering skills than larger ones do. The norm these days is for such cars to have two or three, petrol fired, cylinders, Fiat offering both two and four cylinder Pandas whilst Citroen have just two, petrol powered, three cylinder engine choices in the C1. Whilst nominally a city run about, such a car should, if called upon, be able to undertake a longer, possibly motorway drive, without leaving its occupants stressed and tired, the Picanto and Panda have been tried and found willing and able, this review sets out to find out if the latest version of the Citroen C1 would join my shortlist if seeking such a car. WILL IT FIT YOUR GARAGE? If any car will fit your garage, this one will. The little C1 is very well proportioned and does not look all that little until parked alongside something like a Ford Fiesta or new Mini, next to my Volvo XC60 it simply looks toy like in a way that a Panda or Picanto does not, which probably has more to do with styling than size. Taking a tape measure to the ...

Carluccio's, Brighton 22/07/2017


Carluccio's, Brighton WHERE IN THE WORLD? We are back on home turf, once again seeking out the best breakfast in Brighton and Hove. The restaurant trade is a fiercely competitive one here, not only thanks to the number of day trippers visiting the city – an easy weekend hours’ journey from London by train, but also thanks to the many hotels here too – some charging exorbitant amounts for meals, including breakfast. Our seaside city then has a booming trade in breakfast venues of all sorts with many established restaurants of all nationalities jumping into what must be a lucrative trade extender for them. WHY DID WE CHOOSE CARLUCCIO’S IN BRIGHTON? We have only previously experienced – on two occasions – Carluccio’s Italian restaurant at Cheshire Oaks, lunch and dinner the following evening and were very impressed with the quality and value of the food there, that was nine months ago now. Having walked past Carluccio’s in Brighton a few weeks ago, I had been attracted by a sandwich board outside advertising a very attractive looking set priced breakfast. We seem to have fallen into a somewhat extravagant habit of having breakfast out on a Sunday morning; it gets us out of the house when on occasion we might otherwise not be bothered. Sometimes we drive to a different town or city, more often we go to our favourite restaurant on Hove seafront, who provide a magnificent, if somewhat gut-busting spread at breakfast time. Seeking a slightly lighter meal last Sunday morning, an overcast, but ...

BBC - TV Licence 20/07/2017


BBC - TV Licence Various events trigger me to vent my spleen immediately here on Ciao on subjects that concern, infuriate, or even on occasion amuse me. The publishing of the BBC salaries yesterday was just one such event that has actually left me incandescent with rage. ‘What has this to do with the TV Licence?’ some of you might be thinking right now, my reply to which is ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, with the BBC being a publically funded organisation or a public sector employer if you like to put it that way...... ......The Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, was widely chastised, even by his own party colleagues last week, for describing public sector employees as “over paid”. Maybe he knew what we all suspected at the time, that not all public sector employees were born equal and that a small minority of extraordinarily inconsequential ones are so grossly over-paid that the majority of right-minded UK tax payers would rightfully be revolted by it. Revolted. personally, to the extent that, for the first time in at least a quarter of a century, I actually de-tuned my car radio from Radio 2 on the way to work this morning – I could not listen to Chris Evans voice knowing that his annual salary from the BBC is exactly FIFTEEN times what the Prime Minister of the UK earns...... ......’Oh yes, but these media types are all extremely well paid and we need to pay the “going rate” for the best talent’ says the Director General of the BBC. Before, that is, going on in a feeble attempt to deflect the sheer ...

Everything that starts with E ... 20/07/2017


Everything that starts with E ... As a child it was a matter of curiosity to me that my elderly relative's green house was just that - "green". All the other greenhouses around had conventional glass, you could see inside, rows of little plants in pots, elderly gentlemen lovingly tending their seedlings. But not Great Uncle Bill's! Mysteriously he had painted all the glass green; roof, sides, door - the lot. If anyone asked, he told them that it was to protect the tender plants from the suns rays, as a small boy one did not really question this, but surely the same rays also beamed on Uncle Bill's neighbours greenhouses too? Unfortunately Bill was a dipsomaniac, everybody knew about it, largely it went unspoken, but Great Aunt Gwen had a certain "station" in life and spent most of her time one way or another making excuses for his outrageous behaviour or alternatively just walking away from it. In many respects this was a pity because we did not get to hear about some of Bill's wilder antics until after his death - the greenhouse story being one of them. The breathalyser was in its infancy then, but poor Uncle Bill rapidly proved the ideal and most indignant guinea pig. He is the only person I ever knew who drove to a police station (to report a minor accident) and then spent the rest of the day in the cells to sober up, but that's a story for another day! Needless to say his driving licence "remained in custody" for a substantial period of time. However the car, now rarely used as Gwen had her own and did ...
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