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If my reviews entertain, amuse or brighten your moment in any way, then my task is done! ++ Busy, busy, FAR too busy!. ++

Reviews written

since 20/06/2004


SeaCity Museum, Southampton 23/01/2016


SeaCity Museum, Southampton BRITAIN, A MARITIME NATION In Britain, being a maritime nation, we are fortunately well endowed with maritime museums of all sorts, from the vast National Maritime Museum in Greenwich to the tiny, local, one situated in just about every coastal port and fishing village. Of course, some cities have more of a claim to being a maritime city than others, prime of those being Liverpool and Southampton, both, now, homes to museums majoring on their respective connections to the ill-fated RMS Titanic. Some months ago I visited Belfast, primarily with the sole intention of visiting Titanic Belfast, a splendid new, purpose built museum opened in 2012, on the 100th anniversary of the sinking. What I did not know was that on the same day a completely re-vamped and relocated Southampton Maritime Museum reopened as the appropriately named SeaCity Museum. Oh dear, not another RICHADA “Titanorac” review please…… ……well, no, not really as, along with the Mersyside Maritime Museum, SeaCity has a rather broader scope, Southampton proving to have a rather more enduring link to ocean going travel than the legendary Titanic that merely departed from it in April 1912. Incidentally, if you are wondering about the Liverpool connection, Titanic was registered there, Oceanic House (now a hotel) being the headquarters of the White Star Line. “Merely departed from Southampton”? I have to issue an immediate apology now to the hundreds of Southampton families directly affected by the tragedy, more ...

Subaru Legacy 2.0 TD 21/01/2016


Subaru Legacy 2.0 TD PLEASE NOTE: that the car shown in the Ciao picture is NOT a 2.0 Diesel version of the Legacy, but a 3.0 litre R Spec B. The Diesel has a very distinctive bonnet mounted air intake, different wheels and a completely different front bumper. Please refer to my own photographs for identification purposes. ** IMPORTANT WARNING – January 2016 If you are thinking of purchasing ANY diesel engine Subaru, manufactured between early 2008 and late 2010, it is VITALLY IMPORTANT to ensure that the engine has been replaced with the later Euro V compliant version of the Boxer Diesel. If it has not, do not entertain the idea of purchasing the car – ALL of these engines fail between 85,000 and 105,000 miles due to the failure of the crankshaft – the second hand value of these, now, eight to ten year old cars is so low that an engine replacement - £11,000 at an authorised Subaru dealer, £6,000 for a “grey import”, is simply uneconomical to carry out. With a new, £11,000 replacement engine, my car was valued at £3,250 trade in value, £4,250 from a garage forecourt. Indeed, supporting this, I found one, a year newer than mine for sale at £2995 on the Autotrader site - that from a second hand car dealer. Since the engine seized at 70mph on the M1 on 15th December, my wife and I have done considerable research into Boxer Diesel engine failures, it was my intention to put this car back on the road – economically it turned out to be totally unrealistic to do so. All across Europe you will find ...

The Museum of the Miltary Ordinariate, Warsaw 04/01/2016


The Museum of the Miltary Ordinariate, Warsaw Now, if you are anything like me, a child of the 60’s of middle class upbringing, I would lay money on you having been brought up with the mantra drummed into you that ‘we don’t talk about politics or religion’. From the age of about sixteen I was, amongst my peers, relatively politically aware, whilst not having particularly strong views either way, politics was a subject that yes, on occasion, was raised in conversation by myself. Having confessed to this sin, I guess I can go on to boast a 50% success rate in that religion, having been drummed out of me at boarding school, due to circumstances totally irrelevant here, was a subject that simply did not enter into my everyday life, and therefore conversation, for over twenty years after leaving school. Religion, as a subject of discussion, rather than faith, re-entered my life at the age of 38 when I first met my Polish wife, I rapidly learned far more about all religions than I had previously known. If the tone of this is starting to make you feel uncomfortable, please put the thoughts that you may now be having out of your head, the subject of this review is of far more general interest than I could ever have believed possible and, in a very important and graphic way opened my mind to just how important, ultimately, faith is to those who believe. Poland is a staunchly Catholic country, 98% of the population are Catholic and the vast majority of them are still practicing. A touchy subject with the church perhaps, but ...

Everything that starts with P ... 22/12/2015

P Is for Sweet PARTING

Everything that starts with P ... P FOR PREAMBLE Having thought that I had, many years ago, run out of A to Z categories to use here in the Ciao Café, the letter P after much searching has PROVEN me wrong – and here I am, once again bringing you a ‘from the coalface’ review of ordinary, well, maybe not, life at RICHADA Enterprises. Being so very long ago since I last wrote on the subject, a brief refresher for those not familiar with my circumstances, a background for those fresh to this type of “review” from me. I am a member of the third generation of family management in a small engineering business founded by my late, great, Great Uncle Bill – a man who, through these pages became legend here on Ciao some years ago. Indeed, this is an auspicious time to write this review as dear old Bill, with his business partner, Graham, founded the business in 1940. Yes, in July we celebrated the 75th anniversary of his founding RICHADA Enterprises. Over those 75 years the Company has very much remained a family business with the workforce very much being seen as an extension of the family. There are currently five of Bill’s descendants employed by the business, in turn we have no fewer than three father and son teams (not including our family members) working on our shop floor, one of those teams also have a cousin alongside them too, we also have an uncle and nephew – truly, in more ways than one then, this is a family business. Without going too deeply here into the politics of family businesses everywhere, ...

Ciao Competitions 04/12/2015


Ciao Competitions RICHADA AND THE CIAO COMPETITION Those who know me well, or even have only spent a few months here on Ciao will be aware that I do not take part in Competitions, Products of The Week or the Raffles either. There is one glaring exception on my part to that; the VAG scandal, a subject that I would have waded into even had it been an unpaid one. VALUING THE INTEGRITY OF CIAO – A CONSUMER REVIEW SITE I am a slightly unusual Ciao member (there are a couple of others that I can think of) in having never done what I do here for cash. I do it due to a love writing, hoping to inform, educate or even entertain, and yes, after all these years, there is still an element of vanity too! Having said all of that, I do pride myself in that whatever I publish has been as thoroughly researched as is possible, is based on sufficient experience to allow me to write a review that I myself, if reading it, would find offered all the information required in order to make – or at least assist – in the making of that vital purchasing decision. Perversely, I am not a member who actively bangs the “ownership drum”. I understand that there are many products that you need to own and experience over a period of time, but I would, having written several dozen car reviews – on cars that I do not actually own, feel hypocritical in criticising fellow reviewers who maybe review a mouse, computer or toilet roll actually paid for by their employers for example…… ……With rates and comments I will come down ...

The Victoria Hotel, Oldham 27/11/2015


The Victoria Hotel, Oldham WHY DID WE BOOK THE VICTORIA HOTEL IN OLDHAM? Quite simply because it is – and always was – superbly situated for my specific business purposes. I guess I had better let you into a little secret here, shhhh, please do not tell Ciao, but I reviewed this hotel some years ago. We stopped staying there due to the standards, at the Bower as it was then called under the ownership of Swallow Hotels, dropping to a level that we could simply no longer tolerate – even at the £19 I once paid for a night there in 2009! It has been in new ownership for around eighteen months and I was rather keen to revisit, especially as there is no hotel better located for my business calls at this time of year. I have now posted a link in that, redundant, review to this one. With less than good memories lingering of the place, I was only prepared to risk one night – the Sunday, which would allow an early start on a full day’s work on Monday morning. As it was, we arrived there at about 6.00pm after a very early start from home, arriving in Liverpool at 10.10 and having a late lunch in Stockport at 3.30 on the way to Oldham. HOTEL DESCRIPTION / OUR PERCEPTION FROM HOTEL PUBLICITY This is oh so hard, we had stayed at the Victoria – nee Bower – probably six times in the past between 2004 and 2009. It was a business hotel which had very obviously seen better days, each year it was increasingly neglected. Last year it popped up on, I could hardly believe my eyes, there were no exterior ...

Swallow Bower Hotel, Oldham, England 27/11/2015


Swallow Bower Hotel, Oldham, England Three years further later.......PLEASE NOTE: The Swallow Bower Hotel has now been re-branded as the Victoria Hotel and is no longer part of the Swallow Group. From photographs on the webside it would appear that the "front of house" has seen major alterations. We have not returned since 2009, but would be keen to hear from anyone who has since the re-branding. To save you further reading this, here is a link to my review of The Victoria as this hotel now is. The following link makes this review redundant: (Two years later and......)......IT'S NOT ONLY THE VIEW THAT WE ARE NOT LIKING! Sometimes one feels that returning to favoured places, hotels in this case, may prove to be a mistake - but if, in having published a glowing review, I am urging you to stay there, then the very least I can do is to follow my own advice and use it...... ......use it at least until I can no longer recommend it and no longer choose to use it myself, as, sadly, has become the case here. 2009 has been a year of some considerable hardship to the majority of us, both in business, and as a result, personally too more often than not. Many industries are having a very tough time of it and in the very specific case of the formerly more than acceptable Bower Hotel, it appears that every cost has been cut in order to survive; the trouble is that you can cut costs to the point where your business will fail anyway, in the case of a hotel, ...

Titanic Memorial Garden, Belfast 21/11/2015


Titanic Memorial Garden, Belfast WHERE IN THE WORLD? Well, the clue’s in the title here; we are in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the very city, where, in 1911, RMS Titanic was built by Harland and Wolff in their shipyard on Queen’s Island. The Titanic Memorial Garden is located in the grounds of City Hall in Donegall Square, right at the very centre of this city, once world renowned for its shipbuilding. THERE ARE SOME WHO WILL NEVER FEATURE IN A TITANIC MEMORIAL The Titanic story is the stuff of legend and I am sure that you do not require me to fill you in on the whole story here, so I will keep the history lesson brief, however, without it, the “attraction” that is the feature of this review would simply not exist, at least, not here in Belfast. The original concept for three sister ships, the largest ships then afloat originated at a dinner in London in 1907. That dinner took place at the London home of Lord and Lady James Pirrie, Downshire House, in Belgravia – now Spain’s London Embassy. Pirrie was an owning partner in Belfast’s Harland and Wolff Shipyard, his guest that evening was J Bruce Ismay, managing director of one of the world’s foremost shipping lines – The White Star Line. Such were the times that these two men must have considered themselves virtual masters of the universe, how the mighty were to fall – particularly in Ismay’s case. Less than two years later, on 31st March 1909, the keel plate of the second of the three sister ships, Titanic, was laid, starting a three year construction ...

Belfast in general 13/11/2015


Belfast in general WHERE IN THE WORLD? Back in Belfast, Northern Ireland for this one, just a short hour and five minute hop from Gatwick Airport to George Best City Airport, then a ten minute taxi ride to the city centre or any of the many hotels. Indeed, not much more than an hour by air from any UK airport, Belfast is more easily accessible than you would think. THE BIG PICTURE….. … spite of the length of this review, isn’t really all that big at all, as Belfast is a surprisingly compact city, especially the city centre which is a very easy place to orientate on foot. It is unusually well signposted too and sectioned, in the modern way, into “Quarters”, however, even as a first time visitor I found it an instinctively easy city to explore and never once found myself lost. It is also a comfortably flat city so not a tiring place to explore – unless you seek an invigorating uphill hike and wish to visit the Zoo and Cave Hill on foot, that will have taken you well out of the city, but does provide superb views of it, as well as Belfast Lough, from above. This is a location that will give you the biggest picture of Belfast possible and, while you are up there, do take a look at Belfast Castle, open to the public and a dreamy location for a wedding. Scottish Baronial in style, the Castle was built in the prominent position in the late 1860’s by a local architect and builders at the behest of the Third Marquis of Donegall. The city centre is really quite grand, as Victorian “power house” ... 06/11/2015

VALUE BASKET? AM I NOW THE BASKET CASE? IS RICHADA TURNING INTO A BASKET CASE? Some four months ago I very successfully purchased online a new Nikon camera – my dream camera – from an online seller,, who, by sheer fluke, just happen to have a UK office right here in my home town of Brighton. Indeed so impressed was I with not only their pricing, but also their outstandingly good service, that I wrote a very positive review of them here on this very site. That review did however caution readers as to purchasing big ticket items in this way; I did so from in the full knowledge that my purchase was a “grey import” from Hong Kong. Their website had pulled no punches about that, but their service, from order to delivery was precisely as promised on their website and proved to be trackable, via UPS, at every step of the journey. Spurred on by the total success of this transaction, which saved me in the region of £800.00 on the camera and lens combined, I naturally made them my first port of call when searching for a second lens for the camera, in this case a rather unusual and specialised 12 – 24mm ultra wide angle Sigma one. Panamoz were asking £500.00 for this lens, which from a UK retail shop would be £600.00, Amazon incidentally were offering it at £506.00 at the time, on this occasion I saw no advantage in buying from Incidentally, three weeks later Amazon are now advertising this same lens for £569.97 against a claimed RRP (recommended retail price) of £799.99, a price ...

Getting around in Belfast 30/10/2015


Getting around in Belfast JETTING IN...… …..To George Best City Airport. OK, not strictly “getting around” Belfast, but in my case, before getting around, I had to get there first, and that will go for any who visit this rapidly regenerating city as tourists or on business from the mainland. Thanks to Aer Lingus I was able to fly from Gatwick, twenty five minutes from where we live, to Belfast City Airport, which is extraordinarily convenient being about three miles from the city centre, in a mere hour and five minutes. On the way back I discovered that few flights are as interesting – it was a perfect day as we flew over the Isle of Man, the Fylde and Wirral coasts, at 31,000 feet from the leather seated cabin of a smart, modern, Airbus A319, the views were simply breath-taking. For a short city break, no other way of getting to Belfast makes sense – the ferry crossings are very expensive compared to flying, and, if like us you live anywhere in the south or east of England you have a very long drive in front of you to get to any Irish Sea port. I really like small provincial airports, so much more convenient than a major hub. With hand luggage only, within five minutes of stepping off of that Airbus, including a toilet stop, I was stepping into the passenger seat of a…… …..VALUE CABS TAXI Whilst planning my three day break in Belfast I came across this outfit on line and had actually entered them into my mobile phone’s memory. It had not occurred to me that the taxi I stepped into from the ...

Titanic and City Tours, Belfast 23/10/2015


Titanic and City Tours, Belfast WHERE IN THE WORLD? There I was, having been on my feet since 9.30am, it was 2.00pm now, standing outside Titanic Belfast on Queens Island. I am tired and desperate for a sit down. I have been experiencing the full Titanic Experience for four and a half hours…… …..just as I am thinking about auto-dialling one of Belfast’s finest (Value Cabs - my new found favourite taxi service) a topless tour bus arrives at the stop adjacent to the museum building. OK, it may look a bit kiddie colourful, and, I had not the slightest idea where it was going, but with a beautiful sunny afternoon to kill and an open topped bus, on impulse, I climbed aboard! Who wouldn’t? Yes folks, I am about to take you on a tour of Belfast, Northern Ireland, courtesy of not one, but two Titanic and City Tours bus journeys. WHO ARE TITANIC & CITY TOURS? Quite simply Belfast’s only local, independent, official sightseeing bus tour company. Bearing in mind that this was my first visit to Belfast, I had a lot learn about the city and, apart from the splendid city centre and Titanic Experience, only knew what everyone else of my age does about the “other” Belfast – the Belfast of the nightly news broadcasts. An open top bus tour, driven and guided by locals, struck me as a good starting point, it proved to be an outstanding introduction to this fascinating, and in parts, beautiful city. WHERE DID THEY TAKE ME? I had taken an upstairs, open air, seat on the main, “Redline”, Belfast Castle Tour, route ...

SS Nomadic, Belfast 17/10/2015


SS Nomadic, Belfast WHERE IN THE WORLD? Once again we are in Northern Ireland, on Queens Island, Belfast; currently being redeveloped into the modern Titanic Quarter, a redevelopment that is seeing this whole area transformed from a shipyard into a predominantly residential area with a smattering of shops, restaurants and leisure facilities for good measure. SS Nomadic is located in the Hamilton Dry Dock, which lies parallel to Queens Road, a stone throw away from the main Titanic Experience building. It is therefore very easily reached by car (there is a large car park under the museum), by public transport, or even on foot via a very pleasant towpath walk from the centre of the city. If, like me, your prime reason for visiting Belfast was for the Belfast Titanic Experience – a splendid modern museum - then SS Nomadic is going to be something of a surprise bonus. As a liner enthusiast, until booking my £26.00 White Star Premium Pass on line, I was, although aware that Nomadic tendered Titanic, completely unaware that it was still in existence. I am aware that many will not share my opinion here but, this ship for me personally, proved to be the highlight of my own Titanic experience in Belfast, ironically not followed by the museum, but by the slipways where the ship was built and the Titanic Memorial Garden at Belfast City Hall. WHAT IS SS NOMADIC? SS Nomadic is a rare and precious link to the golden age of transatlantic liners. More important than that even, is the fact that it is the ...

Titanic Belfast, Belfast 10/10/2015


Titanic Belfast, Belfast WHERE IN THE WORLD? The subject of this review is located in Northern Ireland, specifically Queens Island, Belfast – nowadays known, and “re-branded”, as The Titanic Quarter. Since reading about the building of Titanic Belfast, completed in March 2012 after three years in construction, I have wanted to visit the birthplace of Titanic and her sister ships, Olympic and Britannic, having been a keen liner enthusiast and Titanic historian, for many years before it became fashionable – thanks to James Cameron and his famous movie - to be such a thing. My visit to Queens Island could thus be regarded as something of a pilgrimage. Some years ago I visited Clydebank, near Glasgow, in an attempt to pay homage to John Brown’s Shipyard, apart from a rather sad, but gallant little museum, there is precious little to see of the birthplace of the famous Cunard liners, the QE2 being the last built there – but then they never reached the notoriety of Titanic, which will forever keep the shipbuilder Harland and Wolff of Queens Island, Belfast in the worldwide public consciousness. With that in mind, would my equally distant trip to Northern Ireland, this time involving an Aer Lingus flight, prove more rewarding? THE LOGISTICS Unlike a ninety minute drive to the Southampton Maritime Museum, where there are many fascinating White Star Line and Titanic artefacts on display, getting to Titanic Belfast is likely to involve the great majority of people in at least a short break in Belfast ...

Benedicts Restaurant, Belfast 02/10/2015


Benedicts Restaurant, Belfast WHERE IN THE WORLD?..... This time I am in Northern Ireland, Belfast to be precise, unusually on my own, I am staying in a hotel – Benedicts – that has rave reviews, particularly for food. This is something of a multi-purpose venue, a pub, night club and restaurant; there is even a private dining room for hire adjacent to the main bar and restaurant. WHY DID I CHOOSE THE RESTAURANT at BENEDICTS of BELFAST? Part of my reason for booking the two night stay at Benedicts was thanks to its reputation for food, I had looked up the online menu, very much liking what I saw. Additionally I enjoyed a very good carvery lunch in Benedicts Bar when I first arrived, two courses for £6.95, not only half the price of our carvery lunch the previous day at the Brighton Metropole, but twice as good quality too. If the dinner is of a similar quality then I was going to be in for a treat! Please note that this review is specifically of the first floor Benedicts Restaurant and not of the carvery that takes place at lunchtime in the downstairs bar. LOCATION & ACCESSIBILITY: 14 / 15 This is the heart of the Belfast nightlife scene, being located midway between Queens University and the city centre. Benedicts Restaurant is located on the first floor of Benedicts Hotel in Shaftsbury Square, Belfast. It is easy for all to access thanks to a level approach from the pavement into the reception area where you will find a lift to the first floor. The only challenge here for the less able bodied is ...
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