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If my reviews entertain, amuse or brighten your moment in any way, then my task is done! ++ I will return, but my current workload keeps me away currently. ++

Reviews written

since 20/06/2004


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 ...

Porsche 718 Boxster 15/07/2017


Porsche 718 Boxster WHAT IS IT? The Porsche Boxter is a close coupled two seater, open topped sports car, one of a slightly old fashioned and indulgent breed loved by flash, rich, youngsters and grey haired empty nesters downsizing from their family cars. You could pay half as much for a Mazda MX-5 or Fiat 124 Spider, a similar price for a Jaguar F-Type 2.0 or twice as much for an Audi R8 Convertible. Porsche should need little introduction here as a manufacturer of some of the finest sports cars in the world, a remarkable feat bearing in mind that all modern Porsche sports cars can trace their origins to the original, humble, Volkswagen Beetle. If I am honest, until driving this car, to me, Porsche only meant one thing - the iconic 911 Coupe, a car which, ever since first driving one way back in 1994, I have aspired to own. The 911 is a masterpiece of fifty years continuous engineering development and is directly descended from Mr Hitler’s “people’s car”, but developed to such a level that it left a gap in its own previous market for a slightly smaller, simpler and less expensive sports car. Whilst bearing a striking family resemblance to the 911, the Boxter is an altogether more modern car in concept. Instead of being slung out over and behind the rear wheels as in the 911, the Boxter’s engine is mounted immediately behind the seats and in front of the rear axle line thus making the Boxter a mid-engined car. Regrettably having never previously driven one, no matter how much praise the ...

Toyota C-HR Excel 1.8 Hybrid 08/07/2017


Toyota C-HR Excel 1.8 Hybrid WHAT IS IT? Toyota describe their latest model – the C-HR as an urban “crossover”, if you are going to ask me to explain exactly what a “crossover” is, I am going to struggle. Primarily I guess it is the kind of car that you are going to cross over the curb outside your kids school to park on the grass verge. It has no four wheel drive, although, tantalisingly in the specifications, a la Land Rover, Toyota publish approach and departure angles – good luck in getting it up a gradient that these statistics would imply that it can approach! In practical terms it is a spacious, tall, five door hatch. Think Volkswagen Golf Plus or Ford C-Max and you will not be far adrift in terms of concept, even if on another planet in terms of styling. Having recently reviewed the rather elitist £106,000 BMW i8, here in the Toyota C-HR, hopefully I bring petrol electric hybrid power at least within the possible sight of a greater majority of potential owners here. WILL IT FIT YOUR GARAGE? There should not be a problem here as, spacious as it is, its height allows for a compact length and an average width. The C-HR is 4360mm in length, 1795mm wide and 1555mm high. As a benchmark comparison a current Ford Focus hatchback is 4358mm x 1823mm and 1469mm tall. Bearing in mind the hybrid drive’s electric motor and battery pack, the C-HR’s mere 1380kg weight is an impressive achievement. A base model, 1.0 litre, 3 cylinder petrol powered Ford Focus weighs in at 1276kg. WHICH SPECIFIC MODEL? The ...

Volvo V90 D5 AWD Cross Country Pro 01/07/2017


Volvo V90 D5 AWD Cross Country Pro This review is dedicated to two friends of mine, one a Ciao! member, the other not – both having in common that they currently own this cars immediate predecessor, the excellent Volvo XC70. WHAT IS IT? This is the “jacked up” Cross Country version of the new Volvo V90, the largest estate car in their range. Whilst the body and structure are shared with the V90, the “CC” model receives a four wheel drive power train and rides some 60mm (just under 2.5 inches) higher off the ground than the standard V90 model. There is an XC90 model also, but that is a very different configuration of car – a large “SUV” rather than an estate car that has been “ruggedized” for gentle off-road use. The V90 CC has a small group of competitors, including the well regarded Audi A6 All Road, about to be launched Mercedes E Class All Terrain and even a version of the VW Passat, the Alltrack. In addition to any mechanical changes, the bodywork on these cars is usually “enhanced” with lower body cladding and under body protection – both of which have very subtly and stylishly been done here by Volvo on the V90CC. Volvo pretty much invented this segment with the V70XC almost twenty years ago. Anyone familiar with any of the three V70XC models over the years will have no problem understanding the concept of the V90CC. WILL IT FIT YOUR GARAGE? Not my 1960’s standard single garage it wouldn’t, no! This is a BIG car; 4963mm (16ft 3ins) long, it is also wide at 2019mm, but that does include the door ...

The Knife & Cleaver, Houghton Conquest 28/06/2017


The Knife & Cleaver, Houghton Conquest WHY DID WE BOOK THE KNIFE & CLEAVER IN HOUGHTON CONQUEST? This was an unusual one, last year I actually booked – and then cancelled – the Knife & Cleaver for this very same event – Company Car In action at the nearby Millbrook Proving Ground. The reason why we were not in Bedfordshire for two days last time escapes me now, but, in 2017 we decided to stay overnight and of a handful of listed accommodation, this one seemed most appropriate, being less than ten minutes’ drive from our destination. HOTEL DESCRIPTION / OUR PERCEPTION FROM HOTEL PUBLICITY “Hotel” is a somewhat misleading title for this establishment; it is a “gastro-pub” with nine rooms. If the name, or my pictures are ringing distant bells with you, that will be because The Knife and Cleaver featured in a sequence of Channel 4’s “Four in a Bed” series in January 2013. The pub is part of the Charles Wells Brewery chain, a local company based in Bedford. Until further research after staying there, I was not aware of the Channel 4 connection. I was however aware that this was a historic pub with rooms in what could have originally been a stable block facing the pub across a courtyard. It was, in truth, the reviews and rates on both and Trip Advisor that “sold” this place to us, although it also looked very cosy BOOKING PROCESS 10 / 10 For convenience, we booked The Knife and Cleaver through the website, I have their app on my phone and it saves me carrying extra paperwork. The process, ...

BMW i8 24/06/2017


BMW i8 You will need to forgive me for a touch of self indulgence with this one, during the course of this year’s Company Car in Action event, thanks to the generosity of several manufacturers, with whom I have no connections whatsoever, I got to drive and experience over £1.14 million worth of cars. OK, I appreciate that there are TV presenters routinely crashing £2.5M hypercars, but to the best of my recollection, I do not believe that I have previously driven a car with a new sales price exceeding £100,000 before – last week I drove three, the subject of this review probably being the most interesting, technologically at least, of them. I also beg your indulgence for what is likely to be a long review, the whole concept and driving experience of the BMW i8 means that I have quite a lot to cover. WHAT IS IT? Park a plug in hybrid petrol-electric BMW i8 next to a Prius and you will swear that I am having you on when I tell you that of the two cars the Toyota has the larger engine, cubic capacity and the price apart though, from here on in it is all going the BMW’s way. The BMW i8 has a conventional, internal combustion, petrol engine – a 1.5 litre, three cylinder turbocharged unit, straight out of a Mini. In the i8 it produces 228bhp and 236lb ft of torque and is mounted in the centre of the car immediately behind the rear seats. A supercar with a 1.5 litre engine? Well, yes, that is where the electrics come in, providing power to the front wheels – thus creating a four ...

Poznan Cathedral, Poznan 17/06/2017


Poznan Cathedral, Poznan WHERE IN THE WORLD? As with several of my recent reviews we are in Poznan, western Poland for this one, specifically to the north east of the city centre on Ostrow Tumski – Cathedral Island, an Island created by a split in the River Warta that flows north / south through this city. As with the cathedral, as you will read later, all is not quite what it seems here with the “Island” now being an island in name only, the Warta only flowing to two sides of it. Rather confusingly, although the original island is where Poznan was founded, Ostrow Tumski was later incorporated with the New Town District, the Old Town centring on the Stary Rynek – Old Market Square – which, as a fortified settlement on the river’s south bank, was established about 450 years after Ostrow Tumski in the ninth century. Thanks to the destruction caused by the Second World War, ensuing communist high-rise housing developments, changing the course of the river and some really very unsympathetic road building, on the ground much of both the history and geography of this area is now quite difficult to assimilate. WHY IS THIS AN IMPORTANT, REGISTERED, HISTORIC SITE? Poland can trace both its political and religious history back to the earliest settlement on this site during the ninth century. As this review is concerning a cathedral I will spare you the early Polish dynastic history lesson with all of its unpronounceable kings, suffice to say that on this site was founded the first Catholic cathedral in ...

Paul Hollywood's Big Continental Road Trip 12/06/2017


Paul Hollywood's Big Continental Road Trip BBC2, 9.00pm SUNDAY, A EUROPEAN DRIVE, RIGHT UP MY STREET! How ironic is it that I watched episode two of this three part series, having only a week previously done exactly what Paul Hollywood was portrayed doing – i.e. driving at maximum speed on German motorways. OK, he was loaned two rather fast, German, sports cars in which to travel – I had to settle for my modestly fast Volvo, but the sensation was exactly the same! Whilst understanding that unless you are a fan of Mr Hollywood, which I have not up until now been particularly, this programme may not appeal to you, for someone like me, interested in cars, driving and foreign culture (in that order), the concept of this programme could have been made to order. Indeed, long European road trips are one of our greatest pleasures in life. If Mr Hollywood has not got this right, I am an appropriate person to tell you so in this review! THE CONCEPT 8 / 10 Is this something original that will capture the audience? Paul Hollywood’s Big Continental Road Trip is unlikely to capture the entire Sunday night audience I would have thought. Anyone watching Top Gear regularly will probably enjoy it, as will any established fans of baker and self-confessed petrol head Paul Hollywood, as his personality comes across surprisingly strongly here. The concept is a simple, but rather finite one. Each week Paul Hollywood spends five days in a European car manufacturing nation. This splits down to a three part series covering Italy, ...

How will you vote in the forthcoming General Election, and why? 09/06/2017


How will you vote in the forthcoming General Election, and why? "Thrown it all away Thrown it all away There is nothing that I can say You’ve really gone out of your mind I watch the world go round and round And see mine turning upside down You've thrown it all away"....... I simply can’t get this song and tune out of my head this morning, so I guess I can only thank Ms May for that! Please feel free to click Off Topic here, I am fully aware that the subject here is how I am going to vote – well I voted ten days ago, I have a postal vote, more importantly now, after the horse has bolted is how YOU voted I guess. Vote Off Topic – oh go on do, I have a “strong and stable” profile here on Ciao and a lovely “money tree” in my garden, just ripe for “shaking”....... ......well maybe I did shake it this morning, only to find all the money had dropped off in the night and got washed down drains all over the UK, oh apart from in Scotland, fine green shoots of new growth there...... ....... an oddly stale fishy smell wafting down from the north though.....I’m consulting a higher power on that one; the finely tuned nose of Lord Frederick Jack Russell; "is that salmon or sturgeon you’re smelling on the breeze there Freddie?" Damn it, I knew I should have put him up for election in Barking, with a profile like his and a profound ability to keep quiet on every subject of significance in the country today he’d have walked it without breaking into a trot. Vote “Off Topic”, oh go on do, I’ve been up all night and haven’t a clue what I’m talking ...

Italia Saporito, Poznan 07/06/2017


Italia Saporito, Poznan WHERE IN THE WORLD? Another review from our very recent visit to Poznan, western Poland. With this area of Poland having been subject to many border and therefore nationality changes over the years, the city has a not unexpectedly international flavour, although, as it was to turn out, in culinary terms, Italian food appeared to predominate here. A BIT LOST AND CONFUSED IN THE TRANSLATION...... ......When actually there in Poznan it all seemed quite simple, after sixteen years visiting the country I am acclimatised to Poland and Polish names of restaurants and suchlike, and am now even able to make a passable stab at pronouncing them. Here however we have a third language – Italian – coming into play, and, as I carried out a little internet research into this establishment, I became more confused as in places it is simply referred to as “Restauracja Italia” – Italy Restaurant, in others, and indeed on the door from the street leading into the restaurant the word “Saporito” is added which you could translate as Flavour of Italy Restaurant, or even Tasty Italy Restaurant! So, I guess this review sets out to analyse just how tasty an Italian restaurant this is! WHY DID WE CHOOSE RESTAURACJA ITALIA SAPORITO IN POZNAN? To be 100% honest, after arriving at the Hotel Wloski (that’s Polish for Italian – confused? - I am becoming increasingly so!) in Poznan at 3.00 on Saturday afternoon, having been on the road since midnight, our first priority was getting something to eat and ...

Poznan, Poland 03/06/2017


Poznan, Poland TITLE NOTE The word Poznan, in relation to what was then a town on the River Warta first came into being at the very start of the ninth century and refers to the verb poznac, meaning to get to know. Gambling on the fact that very few reading this actually know, even if they have probably heard of, Poznan or Posan as it was when a German city, and may be named on old maps, hopefully this review will at least introduce you to this historic city. WHERE IN THE WORLD? Poznan is located in the centre of Poland towards the western border with Germany. I tend to draw lines across Europe according to ancient trading routes, now marked out by EU route numbers which traverse the continent east / west. On the map you will find Poznan due east of Amsterdam and Berlin, west of Warsaw, Poland’s capital, motorway route E30 linking those cities. Poznan is located on the Warta River which flows north / south through it. By road, mostly on that very route, it took us twelve and a half hours including two stops to cover the 721 miles (1210km) from the Channel Tunnel at Calais. By rail it would take considerably longer, from the UK, by air you could fly to Poznan from several airports in about two hours. A population of around 600,000 makes Poznan Poland’s sixth largest city. WHY WERE WE IN POZNAN? Our summer visits to Mrs R’s parents in her home country have now taken on something of a pattern, we meeting her parents in a different Polish city each year, taking in some tourist sites and ...

Cukiernia Sowa - Galeria Malta, Poznan 01/06/2017


Cukiernia Sowa - Galeria Malta, Poznan WHERE IN THE WORLD? For this review we are in the New Town, Lake Malta, district of Poznan in western Poland. WHAT EXACTLY IS A CUKIERNIA? Sowa’s website uses the word “patisserie” as a translation for Cukiernia. I guess that in reality the experience of one of these eateries probably comes close to that, although I have found nothing quite like a Cukiernia in England, we not really having a direct equivalent, an up-market coffee shop, cafe, or tea room would be the closest here. A Cukiernia is, primarily, a shop that sells cakes (rather than pastries) both to take away or eat on the premises, any cake purchased for either purpose being weighed in front of you and priced by the kilogramme. If you eat in, there will be a wide choice of coffees, teas and a hot chocolate or two, and probably a small selection of cold bottled drinks from a glass fronted fridge. You will not be offered a choice of sandwiches or cooked food. In most of these establishments you will find a small selection of artisan breads, always recommendable in my experience. At many a Cukiernia, you will also find an ice cream counter, some, like Sowa, also do a line in hand made chocolates, which sandwiched by very decorative cakes and ice creams tends to make for a mouth-wateringly delicious counter display. Whilst, visually, most Polish cakes look outstanding, the quality and taste of them varies widely, at a good Cukiernia, they will knock the spots off of anything you can buy in the UK, at some ...
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