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If my reviews entertain, amuse or brighten your moment in any way, then my task is done! ++ Are food and drink not the very sustenance of life? My understanding is being challenged here...... ++

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since 20/06/2004


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 ...

Volkswagen Emissions Scandal: What are your thoughts about that ecological issue ? Will you still trust to the car manufacturers ? 29/09/2015


Volkswagen Emissions Scandal: What are your thoughts about that ecological issue ? Will you still trust to the car manufacturers ? SCANDAL OR INEVITABILITY? Well, you expected RICHADA to wade into this one, now didn’t you? To start with, I cannot but help think that whoever worded this particular topic is being just a little naive in assuming that we trusted the car manufacturers in the first place. We? OK, make that me then! As far as I am concerned there was no element of surprise in this, still unfolding, story whatsoever. Car manufacturers have been cheating the fuel consumption and emissions system for decades, this coming out is akin to Charles and Diana divorcing, not a matter of if, but when – everybody knew it was going to happen one day. I am a car enthusiast, not a chemist. I am also a director of an engineering company; we manufacture parts from a raw material – steel bar. In everything that we do in life there is a consequence, there are waste products of one form or another, be they emissions from diesel cars, or scrap metal and waste oil products created both in the manufacture of the cars themselves in the first place, or indeed the products that I manufacture and sell. My job role involves an element of business travel, granted, a much smaller element than a decade ago, largely thanks to modern telecommunications. However, I cover enough business miles in the average year to warrant the need for a company car. As with the majority of business car drivers, who, statistically, cover the highest annual mileage of any road users, I was, over a decade ago, forced to give up my “high ...

Benedict's Hotel, Belfast 25/09/2015


Hilton Brighton Metropole, Brighton 19/09/2015


Hilton Brighton Metropole, Brighton SUNDAY LIVE JAZZ CARVERY - LUNCH ONLY REVIEW This is not a review of the Hilton Brighton Metropole Hotel, but specifically of their well known, locally at least, Sunday Carvery Lunch. Being Brighton, there are several large hotels on the Sea Front (King’s Road more accurately), undoubtedly the best known of these are The Grand and The Metrople. It is something of a tradition that these two rival hotels have steadfastly refused to be “rated” in the conventional way. In practical terms they are both 4/5 star hotels with all the facilities that you would expect in such prominent establishments on what is one of the best known sea fronts in the country. These are not cheap places to stay or eat in, you will pay about £150 a night for a “no view” room, add roughly £30 to that for a sea view. The Grand incidentally will be around £30 more. Obviously there may well be offers available, especially to Hilton loyalty card holders in the case of the Metropole. WHERE IN THE WORLD?...... ……Brighton is located 50 miles south of London’s Victoria rail and Coach stations and is linked to the capital by the A23/M23. The Hilton Metropole is a landmark and has pride of place on the famous sea front, being a huge, Victorian, red brick edifice, complete with ornamental white iron balconies. From Brighton Station it is about a five minute taxi ride, probably fifteen minutes on foot. WHY DID WE CHOOSE THE HILTON METROPOLE IN BRIGHTON? With my birthday this year falling on a Sunday, we were ...

Gloucester Services M5, Brookthorpe 12/09/2015


Gloucester Services M5, Brookthorpe MOTORWAY SERVICE STATIONS; LOVE THEM OR LOATHE THEM? This is a rather unusual review – I have not read a motorway service station review previously here on Ciao, they are rare indeed elsewhere too, which I find odd considering that so many of we motorists are forced to use them, more often than not as a “panic” or comfort stop on long journeys. During the early decades of my motoring career, motorway service stations had a justifiably appalling reputation for over-charging and under-serving in equally spectacular measure. Then, with the dawning of a new century, things started to change, places with character started to appear; a proper haven from a busy motorway journey such as Tebay on the M6 opened on the edge of the Lake District. Newer motorways such as the M40 inspired such magnificence as Oxford Services, yes, the last fifteen years have seen we motorists far better, if no less expensively, served by these places that many love to hate. For my own part I will never purchase motorway service station fuel in this country; you will likely be paying at least 10% more than at a fuel station just off the motorway, with most of us carrying smart phones now, there is no excuse for paying this much for fuel, even as a panic purchase. However, on any long journey we stop for the toilets and sometimes even to pick up a paper or beverage of some kind. Until two weeks ago I had never felt inspired to sit down and eat a full meal in the surroundings of a motorway service station ...

Volvo XC60 D4 R-Design 05/09/2015


The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne 22/08/2015


The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne HIGH TEA ONLY REVIEW! With profuse apologies to anyone reading this wanting to know about the hotel in general, my current Ciao earnings only stretched to experiencing afternoon tea at The Grand. The Grand is Eastbourne’s only five star hotel and, as such, has all of the facilities that you would expect of such an establishment. A double room will cost you from around £200 per night, but that will include free use of the car park, Wellness, spa and both indoor and outdoor swimming pool facilities. The Grand has two restaurants, one of which boasts two rosettes. RICHADA are however still in pursuit of the best afternoon English Tea in the country and, in terms of reputation, the Eastbourne Grand sits up there with such luminaries as the Ritz in London and Betty’s in Harrogate. WHERE IN THE WORLD?...... ......This time we are back in Sussex, just 25 miles east, along the coast, from our home city of Brighton, in Eastbourne, centre of what many regard as the English Costa Geriatrica. Eastbourne is actually a lovely, mainly Victorian, typically English sea side holiday town, rather less lively than Brighton, but definitely having a genteel charm of its own. Eastbourne Sea Front is packed with hotels of varying quality, but, unarguably, prime of them is The Grand, standing a little aloof in its own grounds in a very slightly raised position to the west of the main hotel strip. Anyone in Eastbourne will be able to point you in the direction of The Grand, but, being a very ...

Vauxhall Cascada 1.4 Turbo SE 15/08/2015


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