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If my reviews entertain, amuse or brighten your moment in any way, then my task is done! ++ Dear old Fawlty Towers - chuffed with that thank you Ciao! +++

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since 20/06/2004


Ford Fiesta ST Black Edition 15/01/2017


Ford Fiesta ST Black Edition RICHADA'S - REDISCOVERING HIS FAST FORD ROOTS I very recently reviewed the very first new car that I purchased, way back in 1983, that car was a black Ford Fiesta XR2, at the time, the most sporting version of the humble but universally popular Ford Fiesta hatch back, originally launched in 1976. As explained in that review, the early 1980’s were a very different motoring era, far less sophisticated, comfortable or safe. However through the decades, sporting Fords have always been popular, the XR may have given way to the “ST” branding, but the ethos of value for money performance has always suited the Ford brand, particularly the Fiesta, which, early in 2017 is going to be launched in its seventh, Mk.7 incarnation. As the XR series became more lardy I, and many other fans of the breed, grew out of them, in my case transferring my allegiances to more sophisticated, but less reliable Vauxhalls. However, last year I drove an extraordinary Ford Fiesta, which, until writing the previous review on the XR2, I had, regrettably, failed to make the connection between the two cars. In hindsight that was a pity, and now I will redress that by reviewing the car that, were I 21 years old today, I would almost certainly be driving. WHAT IS IT? The Ford Fiesta in all its versions over the years is so ubiquitous that I feel a touch foolish explaining to you what type of car it is – especially as it has been a top seller worldwide since 1977. In brief, I am reviewing a family hatchback ...

Ford Fiesta XR2 08/01/2017


Ford Fiesta XR2 You may well ask how I remember so well, and am able to quote detailed statistics on a car that I ran over thirty years ago – not that it seems anywhere near that long ago to me now....... .....well, decades before joining Ciao and publishing reviews to the world, I used to keep a detailed “car diary”, probably akin to the motoring blog that I should host now, but don’t! Searching Ciao for a topic of interest, to me at least, to write on, I came across this one, the Ford Fiesta XR2. Let me press fast rewind, all the way back to: 1st AUGUST 1983. For car enthusiasts younger than myself, it is difficult to imagine the annual excitement generated by the issue of a new number plate in August, back in the 1970’s and ‘80’s. 1983 was a particularly special year as the number plate format changed, the annual year indicator became a prefix instead of a suffix, thus a car registered in July 1983 may have had a number plate reading APN 350Y, 1st August that year saw the format reversed, everyone wanted a car with a plate starting “A”, and on that day at 10.30am, I drove out of Endeavours Ford showroom in Preston Road Brighton in a jet black Ford Fiesta XR2 registered A350 APN. Car dealers that year had been open from midnight, such was the clamour to be the first on the road with the new registration plate, which suddenly made all other cars look, at a stroke, “old”. In my case there was a double pride involved as, just six weeks short of my twenty-first birthday, the Fiesta XR2 ...

10 Signs You're Getting Old 23/12/2016


10 Signs You're Getting Old Searching desperately for a “Christmas (bonus) Special” here this year I came across this titivating little product category – the title of which amused me: “10 SIGNS YOU’RE GETTING OLD” Age, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and “getting old” is an unduly negative title concept here, I prefer the idea of “ageing” as that covers all stages of life, rather than just the declining years of it. What after all is “old”? Do you suddenly turn 67, retire and are then old? Of course not! I am sure that you, like me, have met people in their 80’s and 90’s even who whilst, statistically, may be classified as old, are in actual fact, far from it. My father is 84, still works (sort of) part-time, this Christmas he is undertaking a 2,000 mile, ten day, road trip to Switzerland. Does an “old person” do that? They certainly didn’t used to! As far as I am concerned with increasing age – at any stage of your life – comes increasing wisdom through experience, and there is no true short cut or substitute for that, we can tell the youngsters until we are blue in the face, but until they make their own mistakes in life...... I, of course, do not age, my profile picture up there, circa 2004, is my once famous “Dorian grey” as I used to call it. Sadly, the truth of it is that it works in reverse, it stays ever youthful, whilst I...... ......However, this is not about ME is it? No, that would be entirely Off Topic here, it is all about the signs of YOU growing older, I can see this ...

Salisbury Christmas Market, Salisbury 19/12/2016


Salisbury Christmas Market, Salisbury CHRISTMAS MARKETS You will probably be relieved to know that this is my last Christmas Market review for this year; one by one they are now being dismantled as shoppers thoughts turn, presumably, to mince pies and turkey, or more likely the January sales starting near you by now! Whilst I have spent remarkably little money at the various Christmas Markets in my tour around south and south west England (my sleigh has consumed plenty of diesel, but that’s another matter) I have had a blast re-visiting some favourite cities and even enjoyed some great roads and scenery getting to them. Bath and Salisbury were visited on the same day, by the time I arrived in Salisbury it was around 16.00 and just starting to get dark – these markets are always best visited in twilight and after dark as they seem to come alive – on this score, Salisbury had an unfair advantage over Exeter and Bath, both visited soon after midday, but not Winchester, which definitely came alive after dark. LOCATION 8 / 10 “Location” here is the city, rather than the Market itself, and for most, Salisbury is just a touch off the beaten track, certainly by road it is far further away from the motorway network than any of the others that I have visited. Salisbury is located in the heart of central, southern England in the county of Wiltshire. It is in the centre of a largely rural area, although is surrounding in ancient settlements and is just nine miles south west of Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain. ACCESS ...

Bath Christmas Market, Bath 14/12/2016


Bath Christmas Market, Bath Regrettably, Ciao did not process my category request on this one in time for this review to be of use to potential visitors this year as the Bath Christmas Market finished last Sunday. To be fair I did not propose the category until after I returned from Bath last Wednesday, it not occurring to me that it would finish a full two weeks before Christmas Day. Hopefully the following may prove of value and inspiration for those looking to visit Bath next November / early December CHRISTMAS MARKETS With or, mostly, without the Christmas spirit I seem to have been bitten by the Christmas Market bug, an odd occupation really roaming the country visiting famous cities at this time of the year with the weather wet and miserable – oh, apart from Bath and Salisbury last week when it was bright, sunny and 15 degrees centigrade! I overheard one fellow “market tourist” comment to his family that it was actually too warm ‘for this kind of thing’. I knew exactly what he meant, all that mulled wine and hot chocolate when it felt like early September rather than three months later. The Christmas Market bug all started several years ago with a few wooden huts (sorry “chalets”) outside Churchill Square Shopping centre right here in Brighton. Apart from the German Bratwurst one, selling delicious sausage and onion in a proper German style bread roll this market was a bit of a non-event, exactly what it turned into over the last two years – missing my traditional “Christmas Bratwurst” I ...

Fawlty Towers - Complete Fawlty Towers (DVD) 12/12/2016


Fawlty Towers - Complete Fawlty Towers (DVD) The following review is written in fond memory of one of the best comedy support acts of all time: Andrew Sachs (Manuel) Born 7.4.1930 (Berlin) – Died 23.11.2016 (London). WHY DID WE BOOK THE FAWLTY TOWERS HOTEL IN TORQUAY? Because we are masochists perhaps? I hardly need to write a review as you would have to be pretty disconnected with television comedy not to have heard of Fawlty Towers! Indisputably this is one of the greatest, in my opinion THE greatest situation comedy of all times. Sadly however this particular establishment has been long closed – imitators abound, in a hotel near you, you may well find “Fawlty Towers” theme nights, but my advice here is accept no substitute, the original is the best and easily available via a host of online retailers. Sad as it may seem, I am old enough to remember the very first TV screening of Fawlty Towers on BBC2 in 1975, it was filmed in colour, but as a thirteen year old boy I was viewing it in black and white at home, by 1979 when the second series aired we had a small colour set. All these years later it seems almost unbelievable that only a mere twelve episodes – two series of six, separated by four years, were made, if ever a TV comedy ended at its peak this one did! HOTEL DESCRIPTION / OUR PERCEPTION FROM HOTEL PUBLICITY No publicity required in this case – Fawlty Towers reputation goes before it, to be a guest here you need stamina, nerves of steel and a cast iron constitution. A twenty two room, Victorian ...

Exeter Christmas Market, Exeter 03/12/2016


Exeter Christmas Market, Exeter CHRISTMAS MARKETS Now on my second Christmas Market review of the season and is RICHADA feeling any less curmudgeonly about the season of goodwill this year? Is he b%^^*$y! The sight of Christmas decorations going up, even in people’s homes in mid-November I find quite depressing. Two weeks ago in my review of Winchester’s Christmas Market, I commented that these events “take all forms, the good, bad and the indifferent and are therefore worthy of reviewing at this time of year”, well the Exeter one I actually felt quite strongly about patronising this year and then reviewing here, bear with me for a moment or two and I will explain why....... ......Exeter is a city that I have known for a very long time – since the 1970’s in fact, only recently getting to know it much better due to the increased frequency of our visits there. It is now a prosperous just “up and come” city, not a bad place for shopping all year round, and, unlike our own dear Brighton, it even has a couple of proper department stores – John Lewis and House of Fraser – but no, it is the historic heart of the city, the ancient High Street and behind it Cathedral Yard, and of course the Cathedral itself that make this such a good environment in which to shop or simply visit and spend time in. For Christmas 2016, this was all rather threatened when a colossal fire broke out in a large building over an art gallery facing the Cathedral. The upper floors of this beautiful building were being converted into ...

Amici Restaurant, Stockport 26/11/2016


Amici Restaurant, Stockport A REBRAND? Probably most of you reading this are aware that Amici quite simply means “friends” in Italian, well my friends I am going to introduce you to some of ours in Stockport! The Ciao category here quite rightly refers to this particular establishment as Amici Restaurant, as indeed it was until 2015 when the place was given a light make-over on the outside to modernise the image and scope of dining on offer here, becoming a slightly more trendy New York Italian eatery. At this stage it was renamed Amici New York Italian Restaurant, it is still known by us as simply Amici – although we did get something of a surprise upon arriving there last year – only to be reassured by the same old interior ambiance and team. WHERE IN THE WORLD? This time we are in the north west of England in the Cheshire town of Stockport which straddles the M60 Manchester orbital motorway, the subject of this review actually being located eleven miles south east of Manchester city centre. For those of you right now thinking “industrial northern urban sprawl”, Stockport is also on the edge of Derbyshire’s beautiful Peak District, the fabulous Lyme Park (Mr Darcy’s place in Colin Firth’s Pride and Prejudice) is less than a ten minute drive up the A6. WHY DID WE CHOOSE AMICI RESTAURANT IN STOCKPORT? In all the years that we have been visiting this particular restaurant, I can barely believe that I have not previously reviewed it here on Ciao, as, over the last ten years, we have probably eaten ...

Winchester Christmas Market, Winchester 22/11/2016


Winchester Christmas Market, Winchester CHRISTMAS MARKETS Ironic that a Christmas curmudgeon like RICHADA should be writing about Christmas markets, but, like other things in life, they take all forms, the good, bad and the indifferent and are therefore worthy of reviewing at this time of year. Living in Brighton, a city well known for its eclectic shopping, in some respects we are used to be being spoilt for choice all year round. We have the famous Lanes, which, being ancient narrow pedestrianised shopping streets, very much lend themselves to the Christmas spirit, especially when strung with lights. For some years now a “German Christmas Market” has set up its stalls outside the Churchill Square Shopping Centre, lovely bratwurst sausages apart, a poor apology I’ve always thought for anything attempting to call itself a Christmas Market, indeed apart from the annual, ceremonial sausage purchase, I have never spent a penny at this particular market. Over the last three years we have visited Christmas markets in York, Winchester, Brighton and this year will make a point of supporting the one in Exeter which has assigned space for the traders still out of business due to the hugely destructive fire which recently totally destroyed the ancient Royal Clarence Hotel which, for hundreds of years, stood facing Cathedral Green. We have to thank Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert, for many of the traditions that we now take for granted at Christmas time – many of these stemming from Germany, land of the traditional ...

Mazda MX-5 1.5 12/11/2016


Mazda MX-5 1.5 THANKS FOR THE INSPIRATION…… ……To fellow Ciao member and car enthusiast LiveMusicLoverLyn, who recently published her review on the new Fiat 124 Spider, which is entirely based upon the car that I am reviewing here. Sadly I have yet to drive that model; but if you would like a taster I would suggest clicking the following link as I feel the two reviews are highly complementary: WHAT IS IT? The MX5, Mazda’s baby, two seater, open topped, sports car has roots back in the late 1980’s having first wowed press and sports car fans alike when launched in 1989. The original MX5’s similarities to the 1960’s Lotus Elan were plain for all to see; from its petite, compact shape to its pop-up headlights, through to its simple, but purist front engine, rear wheel drive mechanical layout. In short an affordable small sports car, not exactly fast, but highly usable. Lotus could only have dreamed of reaching the size of audience that Mazda have with the MX5, or indeed the Elan building such a fantastic reputation for reliability and longevity as this model has done over the last twenty-seven years. Why am I harping on about the heritage of this enduring little car? Well, last year Mazda launched this, the ND, fourth generation model, it is probably the most radical of all as, rare indeed among car manufacturers, it not only sheds weight, but also length and girth, very much returning to the ideals of the purist original. The only ...

Daily Thoughts 09/11/2016


Daily Thoughts I beg the indulgence of the readers for a far less “polished” than usual RICHADA review here, and I do not expect you to in any way agree with my thoughts today which could well come across as quite contradictory and perhaps a little rambling. I have a horrible feeling that my thought train here will also lead to the asking of more questions than you, or I am able to answer..... MY THOUGHTS FOR TODAY First there was Brexit, now, we wake up this morning and there is Trump. The silent majority have spoken – or have they? For several decades now, both personally and as a businessman, I have been saying, ranting even at times, that ‘there HAS to be a better way of doing things’ – politically speaking that is. However is THIS, a billionaire business man buying himself the US Presidency, it? For most of our, collective, living memories we have had a see-saw left right and, recently, increasingly fuzzy middle ground politics, run by mostly over-blown, self serving politicians who have absolutely no idea whatsoever how the likes of you and I live and run our lives and / or businesses, nor what we have to do in order to balance the books be that the monthly household expenses or, in the case of a business the accounts. We have been very poorly served by both politicians and “public servants” at all levels of political life for a very long time, and yet, in our heart we know that the UK system is probably the best in the world – or have we simply fallen for the politicos ...

Hotel an der Oper, Chemnitz 05/11/2016


Hotel an der Oper, Chemnitz WHY DID WE BOOK THE HOTEL AN DER OPER IN CHEMNITZ? For those even less fluent than I in German, An Der Oper (in case you had not already guessed from the title) translates as “At the opera”. This booking occurred thanks to a falling out between our usual hotel – the Amber in Chemnitz and, which only came to light when we turned up at the Amber in the evening for dinner, discovering it to be virtually deserted, in spite of having no rooms to offer. The waiter explained to us that they had refused to release rooms to the booking site, the Amber was empty...... ......their loss was, on this occasion, the Hotel An Der Oper's gain, as I booked this one for our overnight stay on the way back from Poland in July. In reviewing terms I have already given a clue away in that we drove fifteen minutes to our usual hotel on the outskirts of town for dinner. Laptop in front of me and with, ostensibly, “no room at the inn” I had sought out other hotels in Chemnitz narrowing the field down to just two that offered car parking, free Wi-Fi and then only one, the An Der Oper, that had air conditioning. Rating as four stars against the Amber’s three, with an increased tariff to match, we had high expectations of this city centre hotel. HOTEL DESCRIPTION / OUR PERCEPTION FROM HOTEL PUBLICITY Having looked on both the An Der Oper’s own website, and read the reviews on a couple of booking sites, we were expecting a large, modern, comfortable hotel which formed part of ...

AMBER HOTEL Chemnitz Park, Chemnitz 04/11/2016


AMBER HOTEL Chemnitz Park, Chemnitz WHY DID WE BOOK THE AMBER HOTEL CHEMNITZ? Requiring a convenient hotel to stay in overnight on our return from Poland in May, we discovered the Amber Hotel whilst searching for hotels adjacent to E40 (the main East / West continental route) in the Chemnitz area. Last year we stayed in a hotel called the Drei Shwanen, previously reviewed - about five miles to the south west of here. The Amber looked perfectly situated (and easy to find) very close to a motorway junction. The fact that it was a four star hotel offering a double room on the Saturday night for a mere 68 Euros made it all the more attractive! HOTEL DESCRIPTION / OUR PERCEPTION FROM HOTEL PUBLICITY From the hotel website this looked like a "Eurostandard" (read bland!), modern, business hotel. A four star hotel with 103 rooms, I have to admit that it was the very reasonable price that actually caught our eye. The information given showed it to be situated on the edge of Chemnitz Centre, a large "Freeport" style shopping centre, which we have driven past a dozen or so times, next to the E40 motorway. My only reservation, before arriving there, was that this could be one very noisy nights stay! BOOKING PROCESS 6 / 10 Whilst on the hotels own site this looked - and at the time of booking, around six weeks prior to our stay - very simple indeed, when we arrived, there were not only TWO (named) parking spaces reserved but also two rooms. This was a first; we had assumed that we had made a single booking for a ...

Karczma Polska, Mielec 29/10/2016


Karczma Polska, Mielec WHERE IN THE WORLD? The subject of this review is set in the industrial town of Mielec in the far south east of Poland, about 120km east of Krakow. Unless, like us, you have family there, or are attending the enormous adjacent industrial estate on business, this is a town that you are unlikely to visit through idle curiosity; it is certainly not a tourist destination. WHAT EXACTLY IS A KARCZMA? Karczma (pronounced Kartchma) Polska can be translated as nothing really more smart or glamorous than Polish Kitchen, which, in practice (this is the third or fourth one that I have eaten in over the years) is a pseudo-traditional Polish Highland restaurant. All of them are built from traditional wood, looking a little like large log cabins from the outside, they are also roofed with wooden tiles and have a trademark eyebrow dormer window in the roof. Inside the décor will be pretty standard too, rustic wooden tables and bench seating, atmospheric, but probably none too comfortable – even with animal skins to sit on over the wooden bench. Originating from the mountain resort of Zakopane, these restaurants are now springing up all over Poland. The food offered is similar, with regional variations and specialities added. You can expect portions to be meaty and plentiful and served by staff dressed in traditional highland costumes. Compared to less “traditional” hotels and restaurants they tend to be comparatively expensive. Perversely the Poles, if they can afford to, will always go ...

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 ...
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