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If my reviews entertain, amuse or brighten your moment in any way, then my task is done! ++ Just had a product proposal accepted at 19.02 on a Friday - well done Ciao!. ++

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since 20/06/2004


H+ Hotel, Erfurt 24/10/2016


H+ Hotel, Erfurt WHY DID WE BOOK THE H+ HOTEL IN ERFURT? It had been our original intention to book at least a two night stay in the centre of Erfurt in order to enjoy this historic city as a break on the way back from a funeral trip to Poland. Being the first week of October however, the weather was absolutely awful and for some mysterious reason, every hotel in Erfurt appeared to be fully booked on the nights that we had originally wanted to be there. The H+ was a compromise, if the weather was that poor we would not be sight-seeing anyway and Erfurt very neatly halves the distance between my in-laws in Poland and where we needed to be at 16.20 on Sunday afternoon – i.e. Calais. Searching hotels in the vicinity, the H+ had fair reviews and was in a suitable location. HOTEL DESCRIPTION / OUR PERCEPTION FROM HOTEL PUBLICITY Until January 2016, this was a Ramada Hotel and they make no secret of that either on their website or indeed inside the hotel. The advertising makes this look very clinical, a business hotel as are so prevalent throughout Germany. We have been pleasantly surprised in the past however – the Amber in Chemnitz being in very much the same style whilst offering good accommodation and fabulous food. For an overnight stay, the four star H+ looked ideal from everything that I read about it online, we would not be paying for swimming pools, saunas or gyms which we were not going to be there long enough to use. BOOKING PROCESS: 7 / 10 I should not really hold it against the ...

Volvo V40 T3 Momentum 18/10/2016


Volvo V40 T3 Momentum WHAT IS IT? The V40 is Volvo’s lead in model, the smallest car in their range, equivalent to most other manufacturers mid-range offerings and can be regarded as a prestige five door hatchback. Whilst Volvo would probably prefer you to compare the stylish V40 with such premium hatches as the Audi A3 Sportback, BMW 1 Series or Mercedes A Class, its size and five door configuration also put it in contention with some talented mass-market entrants such as the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf. All of the above listed manufacturers offer a smaller, less expensive, “supermini” type car in their ranges, even if that is badged as a Mini in BMW’s case – the V40 is however the least expensive and smallest way to sit behind a new Volvo badge. It is Volvo’s stated intention, even in Chinese ownership, that the V40 will remain the smallest car in their range. WILL IT FIT YOUR GARAGE? It may be small for a Volvo, but the V40 is not a small car. It is dimensionally larger than all of the cars mentioned above. It is however a convenient size for the majority of people, especially those used to driving much larger cars and now looking to downsize without sacrificing too much in terms of space and comfort. At 4369mm (14ft 3ins) long and 1857mm (6ft) wide it is a mere 11mm longer and 34mm wider than a Ford Focus, which itself is the largest car of the five door hatchback group. We have no problem fitting the Volvo V40 into our standard 1960’s garage. WHICH SPECIFIC ...

Maroccos, Brighton & Hove 24/09/2016


Maroccos, Brighton & Hove WHERE IN THE WORLD? An interesting one as, on the Brighton and Hove Sea Front, this, apart from being on the pier, is about as close to the sea as you are going to sit down and eat a meal. We are actually in Hove, around two miles west of Brighton Pier, close to the King Alfred Leisure Centre. Very different in character from the sea front between Brighton Marina and the i360 tower, King’s Esplanade in Hove could be in a different city altogether, having a far more relaxed, dare I say “classy” feel to it. It is also the only residential development on the sea side of the main A259 coast road between Brighton Marina and Shoreham Harbour. There are several medium rise blocks of flats here – this is a very popular spot, for those who can afford it, to live. Dating from Victorian times there is an eclectic range of buildings facing the sea here, including a none too attractive, 1930’s, “cubist block” smack in the middle of the buildings facing the sea. That cream coloured, flat roofed block is Marrocco’s, something of a local institution having been here since 1969, just seven years short of my own residency in this city! WHY DID WE CHOOSE MARROCCO’S IN HOVE? A born and bred Brightonion, to my embarrassment I only, very recently, discovered Marrocco’s, they do not advertise widely – no need to – and King’s Esplanade was not an area that we ever found ourselves visiting. Two influencing factors introduced us to Marrocco’s, intriguingly it appearing in a music video, and ...

Hyundai i20 1.2 SE 19/09/2016


Hyundai i20 1.2 SE SORTING MY LEFT FROM MY RIGHT I can hardly believe that it is over a year since I last published a car review here, or anywhere else come to that. This one is somewhat unusual in that for the first time my review is based on my experiences with a left hand drive car, driven exclusively in Poland. This has always been an issue of some curiosity to me as the motoring press do it a lot and I was always interested in how well a car, also sold on the UK market, could be assessed with a steering wheel facing what should be the passenger seat and indeed driven on foreign roads. Putting me on safer ground with this one is the fact that the car reviewed here is a new Hyundai. I have driven many of them over the years and all have shown a remarkable consistency in terms of build quality and driving dynamics, this car did nothing to change my opinion on that. WHAT IS IT? In terms of market position the i20 is a five door supermini which, due to its styling and very spacious interior, neither looks nor feels like a small hatchback car. In short, unlike its predecessor which now feels quite boxy and old fashioned, this is the kind of car that many drivers feel quite comfortable downsizing into as there are few drawbacks in so doing. This particular car, as are the ones sold in the UK, was built in Turkey, Hyundai also have a plant in India building the same car for the far eastern markets, making the i20 a true global supermini. WILL IT FIT YOUR GARAGE? Unless your garage is ...

Seven Sisters Sheep Centre, United Kingdom 17/09/2016


Seven Sisters Sheep Centre, United Kingdom ***Very sad to report that as of September 2016 this attraction is now closed. After 29 years here the owners have decided to retire (he is 70 next April) but I was not surprised to read that the increasing burdon of health and safety had played a hand in this decision. We have very fond memories of the Seven Sisters Sheep Centre, it was a place not only popular with local families - children in particular - but also thanks to its unique collection of breeds, some surprisingly rare, it had a worldwide reputation. I wish the owners well in their retirement and mourn the loss of a Sussex institution. Having today (29.3.09) re-visited the Seven Sisters Sheep Centre, a brief up-date to this review seemed in order. At the start of another seasons' outings it should be noted that, as always, both our English Heritage and National Trust subscriptions have increased this year, the Sheep Centre, yet again, has not increased its prices and indeed, in this day and age now looks conspicuously good value for money. When I emailed a friend, a couple of years ago, that Mrs R and I had visited this place, she laughed and said that "up here we just go walking in the hills to see sheep". Well yes, here in the vastly over-populated South East of England, this may surprise some of you, but we too can walk up on the South Downs and see, and be amongst, sheep. Indeed so common are sheep around here that they have a breed of their own - South Downs Sheep! The Seven Sisters Sheep Centre is ...

The Fig, Rye 10/09/2016


The Fig, Rye WHERE IN THE WORLD? For this one we are in one of our favourite towns in the country; Rye. Ancient and beautiful, one of the historic Cinque Ports, in mediaeval times Rye was a virtual island. Now almost two miles from the sea, it is difficult to imagine this hilltop town located on the East Sussex / Kent border as a bustling sea port, its main economy is now derived from tourism, which keeps it just as bustling but, for such a small town, has also found it somewhat over-endowed with eating places of all sorts. On the premise that there is always room for one more, if you offer something different, The Fig opened at number 2 High Street, that is right at the top end where you can enjoy a stunning view over Romney Marsh. If you are very lucky you can park on the street nearby, more usually though it will be the big pay and display car park at the bottom of the hill by the railway station, about a ten minute walk away. WHY DID WE CHOOSE THE FIG IN RYE? When we visited Rye in February, I was looking for, and found, a leather belt in the wonderful old fashioned leather shop there. Having parked on the main street, just down the road, we walked past the Fig, Mrs R commenting that it looked so good that we should pop in for coffee before driving home. It had not long opened, still smelling new inside. Having enjoyed very good coffee and the best Victoria sponge cake we have ever tasted, we vowed to return for lunch on our next visit to Rye, and, last month, that is exactly ...

P & O Ferries The Brasserie, Dover 03/09/2016


P & O Ferries The Brasserie, Dover WHERE IN THE WORLD? An unusual one this as I do not remember reviewing a restaurant that actually moves between two places. We are on board The Spirit of Britain (how very appropriate immediately post-Brexit), one of the several large, modern, P & O ferries plying the English Channel. WHY DID WE CHOOSE THE BRASSERIE ON P&O’s SPIRIT OF BRITAIN? Over the last 15 years we must have taken at least 25 Calais to Dover P&O Ferries crossings, always making our return from our annual visit to my Polish in laws, also from several European holidays along the way too. We have done this for the sole reason of sitting down, relaxing and having a decent meal prior to making the last, English, leg of our journey home. Until about four years ago the P&O on board restaurants were Langan’s Brasserie franchises, whilst always expensive, they did serve good food in a thoroughly professional manner, we always looked forward to our ship-bourne meal. Out went Langan’s, to be replaced by anonymous “The Brasserie” branding – nothing wrong with that, the menu looked similar, but in all other respects it has been down hill all the way - apart that is, from the increasingly ambitious pricing. LOCATION & ACCESSIBILITY: 14 / 15 You will find The Brasserie on the top passenger deck of the ferry, usually located towards the front behind the First Class Lounge. All decks are accessible via both lifts and stairs, making this as easy to use as any other facility on-board. The Brasserie is well ...

Wroclaw (Poland) 20/08/2016


Wroclaw (Poland) FIRST AN APOLOGY…… ……to those who do not like review links in reviews. Rather than repeat a lot of information already published here on Ciao, thus making this review very unwieldy, I have included several links to other reviews. This will, I hope, be of aid to those actually planning a visit to Wroclaw. WHERE IN THE WORLD? At the end of June, we spent four wonderful days visiting the fascinating city of Wroclaw (pronounced vrots-wahf) in western Poland. With a population of 636,000 inhabitants, Wroclaw is Poland’s fourth largest city. For many in the UK, this particular city is completely unknown, some may have heard of it by its German name – Breslau – or even its Czech name - Wratislavia - but few that I have spoken to have heard of it, let alone know where it is. As it transpires, that is a pity. Wroclaw is less of an unknown to other Europeans however and we found that English was very widely spoken here as a second language. Wroclaw is located on one of the ancient trading routes from the west, way into the depths of eastern Russia. Now Europe’s longest intercontinental highway, E40 connects Wroclaw with Calais in the west and Ridder in Kazakhstan in the east, a total of 4971 miles (8000km), Wroclaw is a mere 700 miles from Calais on this route, for us, a comfortable days driving on some of the best, fastest, roads in Europe. Geographically Wroclaw, the capital of Lower Silesia, is located about 220 miles south of the Baltic coast and 25 miles north of the Sudeten ...

Zakopane 16/08/2016


Zakopane AN ADVANCE APOLOGY Rather than allowing this review to turn into a work of War and Peace proportions, I have included links to previously published RICHADA reviews of attractions or places linked to Zakopane. At the risk of annoying some readers, I hope that these links prove of interest and assistance to those seriously researching this particular tourist destination. WHERE IN THE WORLD? We are back in Poland for this one, in the Tatra Mountains, about 110km (70 miles) due south of Krakow. The Slovakian border runs along the top of the mountains (the highest in Poland) and thanks to this geographical phenomenon, Zakopane sits in a small valley surrounded on three sides by this border, forming the very southern tip of Poland. Having been visiting Zakopane most years since 2004, it is a place that we know very well and one that I have long intended to review, but, in a sense, have been at a slight loss as to know how to. Of all the places which we visit regularly during our annual trips to Poland, along with Sandomierz, Zakopane is the least changed over the last decade and is mercifully free of the large scale modern developments that have destroyed the character of so many Polish towns and cities. Zakopane is actually the town, the mountain resort, yet we and the majority of people refer to this small region in the Tatras as Zakopane, whereas in reality this mountain area is dotted with small villages, which serve as satellites to the main town. We have never ...

Restaurant Oranzeria, Rzeszow 16/08/2016


Restaurant Oranzeria, Rzeszow WHERE IN THE WORLD? It has taken me some fifteen years to be able to pronounce the word “Rzeszów” in a manner that a native Pole does not laugh at. To help you out, this provincial city in south eastern Poland is pronounced Jzezshoof. Needless to say here, it is a city with which I have been acquainted long before I could pronounce it! Whilst having its history rooted about 700 years in the past, unless visiting the very heart of town – its attractive, if unexceptional, Rynek (Market Square) - Rzeszów will strike the visitor as an extraordinarily modern city – indeed much of it is now unrecognisable since my first visit there in 2002 and that very much applies to the then, as now, landmark Hotel Rzeszów in which the subject of this review is located. In terms of location, Rzeszów is on trans-European route E40, the closest city of any size to the Ukranian border, in south eastern Poland. There is an international airport here (flights from Luton or Stansted pretty much daily) or you could undertake an 1100 mile, seventeen hour motorway drive from Calais – a long way to go for, even a decent, meal I have to confess….. WHY DID WE CHOOSE RESTAURACJA ORANZERIA IN RZESZOW? In this case it really rather chose us. Having some business to do in Rzeszów, fairly early in the morning, we decided to go and have a look at the very new Galeria which opened recently on the site of the old Hotel Rzeszów. This is an unusual development in that externally at least, the hotel and shopping ... 30/07/2016

WEBUYANYCAR.COM - SOLD! WOULD YOU BUY A USED CAR FROM RICHADA? ( guarantee to) In spite of, amongst other things, fronting the sales side of the business for over a quarter of a century, I am a rubbish salesman. I am hopeless at advertising things and asking for money, in many cases preferring to give items away rather than sell them. Good then that we manufacture such an extraordinarily niche product that unless you actually require it, I cannot sell it to you. Cars however are an altogether different matter. These days we have a very small fleet of vehicles, until this time yesterday afternoon, five cars and an increasingly “historic” Ford Escort Van. One of my elderly relatives, who has had company cars for the last 50 years, has now had to give up driving a manual gearbox car, his own car being automatic, a month ago he handed in the keys to his nine year old company car – a Saab 9-3 TiD Convertible, which had covered 98,000 miles. Being the company fleet manager, the “disposal” of this car landed, along with its keys, on my desk. At that age and mileage – that’s the car not the 82 year old driver of it (I would caution against the purchase of an Audi now on the basis that this gentleman was running a Lancia when they pulled out of the UK and also a Rover when that company went pop) – there is little value left in any car, let alone a Convertible produced by a now extinct car manufacturer. To put it politely, this car was in somewhat less than perfect condition; however ...

Jack Russell Terrier 23/07/2016


Jack Russell Terrier ……IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE Hello everyone, remember me? Of course you do! I’m unforgettable, once met never forgotten. It has taken Richard far too long to repair this keyboard (since my last effort in fact) so that I can write to you again here, but, having spent many months looking for a suitable subject for me to write about, he told me about this one – my favourite subject - ME! Well, not really, it is about Jack Russell dogs as a breed, but if you REALLY want to know about them, then what better than to ask one? Before I get to tell you some of my inner thoughts and characteristics (or he confiscates the laptop) I had better tell you that I recently had a near to death experience following a trip to the vet in order to have my beautiful teeth scaled, I didn’t want this done and had to be put to sleep, and, several days later I suffered some awful reaction to the anaesthetic, Richard was very empathetic, as he had had a similar experience following an operation on his leg and ankle. Anyway, apart from scaring the life out of my servants - just what would they do without me telling them what to do? - it reminded me just how good life is and how remarkably popular I am. Having made a miraculous and speedy recovery, I discovered that, with clean teeth and fresh breath – for the first time in a while, I could really taste their, sorry my, food again. I can also keep a much stronger grip on my favourite tennis ball too. Richard even paid me the ultimate compliment by ...

Brexit: what's next? 17/07/2016

Theresa May? I hope she CAN!

Brexit: what's next? THE REVIEW I SAID I WASN’T GOING TO WRITE...... .....But thought this such an excellent topic for Ciao that I would voice my opinion on the subject and thus, hopefully, support further such thought provoking suggestions for Ciao Current Debates “BREXIT: WHAT'S NEXT”? After the last three weeks of political and social turmoil, ‘what indeed?’ was my natural response to Ciao’s highly topical question here. As events over the last week have unfolded, I am now of the mind that ‘maybe this won’t all be SO bad after all’. The much swifter than planned departure of David (call me Dave) Cameron and his flailing, divided government can only be a good thing. Whatever you feel about Brexit itself, the sooner the country gets on now with “what’s next”, the better for all of us. Personally speaking, I was never all that keen on Dave anyway. Cheating somewhat in leaving the writing of this piece until AFTER Ms May’s (fortunately not another Margaret, or we would never have heard the back of Rod Stewart) appointment yesterday, clearly the ball of the “what’s next” issue has already been firmly kicked into motion. Three weeks ago, bound for Wroclaw in western Poland, we drove away from our home in Brighton at 3.30am in the midst of the longest thunderstorm that I can ever remember, long in both time and geography, we did not clear it until 9.00am upon reaching R0 – the Brussels orbital motorway, where we drove out from under the dense, black, cloud into bright blue, blazing hot, ...

Wroclaw Zoo, Wroclaw 13/07/2016


Wroclaw Zoo, Wroclaw RICHADA AND ZOOS An odd way to start such a review certainly, but this is an opinion site and my opinion is that for decades zoos have been well out of touch with the modern thinking of those who potentially would be most likely to visit them. Of course there are zoos and zoos, the best of which do fantastic conservation and breeding work in order to keep rare species from becoming extinct, and, offering in so much as any such place can, wild animals an acceptable quality of life whilst being, unarguably, in captivity. Some have even been pivotal in reintroducing such species into the wild. In my experience it tends to be wildlife parks that achieve this aim best and therefore in which I feel most comfortable as a visitor. Then there are the hideous “tourist attraction” type zoos, once beloved of run-down seaside towns; what should be noble animals cowed and confined in tiny metal cages or enclosures, pacing backwards and forwards until tossed their next meal. I remember leading a debate at school, in around 1977, proposing that “Zoos Should Be Banned” – I had had a recent experience visiting just such a seaside zoo on the Isle of Wight, run on an ever diminishing shoe string, and wanting to shoot the poor big cat (species evades me now I was too upset at the time) to put it out of the misery of being confined to a tiny metal cage that I wouldn’t keep a rabbit in. Apart from several wildlife parks, the only zoo that I have since visited is London, which over the years has ...

Restaurant Akropolis, Wroclaw 09/07/2016


Restaurant Akropolis, Wroclaw WHERE IN THE WORLD? We are in Wroclaw, in the west of Poland, some two and a half hours drive east of Dresden, for a long weekend, en route to see my wife’s parents who live about three hundred miles east of here. Wroclaw is the current European City of Culture, more than justifiably so as it was to turn out over the four days that we were there, to fully appreciate the place you could quite happily spend a week in this city sightseeing and taking in its many cultural attractions. WHY DID WE CHOOSE RESTAURACJA AND TAVERNA AKROPOLIS IN WROCLAW? On our arrival at the three star Hotel Europeum we were told by the receptionist that, during the duration of our stay, their bistro restaurant had no service after 4.00pm. We had arrived at about 7.00pm having been on the road since 3.00am the same morning, 881 miles ago, and I had been looking forward to a full, if “light” dinner. Oh, and during the course of our journey the temperature had increased from 14deg.C to 35deg.C, it was, at this time in the evening, still 32deg.C in Wroclaw. Helpfully the receptionist informed us that there was a large range of eating places within a two minute, two hundred metre walk of here in The Old Town – she was not wrong and, as it transpired, the choice was bewildering! The main square, as Polish city squares are apt to be, was lined with eateries of just about every persuasion and nationality, including McDonalds and KFC who had adjoining premises. Incidentally it has never made any sense ...
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