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If my reviews entertain, amuse or brighten your moment in any way, then my task is done! ++ Lord Frederick has a new we need an appropriate crime. ++

Reviews written

since 20/06/2004


Ford Escort XR3i 18/02/2017


Ford Escort XR3i RICHADA THE EX-FAST FORD FAN Last week I published a review on the latest Ford Focus, specifically a top of the range Titanium X model, coming to the conclusion that this was a car 25% over priced. Many commentators agreed with me that, for “average” cars Fords were over-priced……. ……This was not always the case, and, during the 1980’s, I had a lot of fun, cheap motoring, in a series of Fords, starting with a 1.1 Fiesta Ghia in 1982 and finishing almost ten years later when I sold my second Escort XR3i Convertible. Unlike the modern, range topping, Focus, the Escort Ghia, XR3i and RS’s had enough trim and styling differentiators to easily justify their premium price over the more humble L and GL models of the day. Both to sit in and to drive they had a decidedly more upmarket feel to them, yes, even then, they were built down, ruthlessly, to a price, but the price you paid was a fair one. Maybe over the last thirty years I have simply grown up, that or Ford’s image has changed to the extent that it no longer mass-manufactures cars which appeal to the masses in the way that they did when I was in my twenties. WHAT IS IT? The Escort, with its roots in the 1960’s, was always Ford’s car for the masses, it was successful in sales terms in a way that few models ever have been since and that was due to a very clever model mix and the presence of aspirational models such as the XR3i and rather more specialist RS (Rally Sport) at the top of the range. The XR3i was a ...

Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi Titanium X 11/02/2017


Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi Titanium X WHAT IS IT? The Ford Focus is the definition of a whole class of family five door, five seat hatchback cars that Ford has laid claim to since the days of the Mk3 Escort in 1981. It is the car for everyman, arguably the largest, most practical car that any of us truly need in our lives and, as such, it faces fierce competition from just about every manufacturer from Alfa Romeo to Volvo, and has consistently outsold the competition since this version was launched in 2011, since being heavily face-lifted a couple of years ago. WILL IT FIT YOUR GARAGE? Bearing in mind that a current model Fiesta is now similar in dimensions to the Escort, this cars forebear, the Focus and the whole five door hatchback class has grown to pretty much fill a 1960’s standard single garage. With a length of 4358mm and a width of 1823mm, dimensionally, the Focus is class average, the 1400kg weight is an eye opener for a front wheel drive hatchback too, clearly my size and weight perception of this class are as out of date as my price / value judgement! To compare, a VW Golf is just 20mm shorter and 16mm narrower, whilst the latest Vauxhall Astra is 12mm longer and 14mm narrower. We are talking cigarette packet differences between the three, leading, class contenders here. WHICH SPECIFIC MODEL? This car, the Focus Titanium X with a 2.0 TDCi diesel engine, is right at the top of the non-sporting, Focus hatchback tree. A similarly equipped, more practical Estate model is also available – for an ...

Question time! 02/02/2017


Question time! HANG ON A MOMENT……. “This is supposed to be a topic entitled “Question Time”; Lord Frederick Jack-Russell, that means I, Richard, ask YOU the questions, you do not get to address your adoring publ……….” “No, no, not you, no, you’re a Black Labrador your breed is awful, vicious, absolutely terrible, no, I’ll not be answering any of your………..” “I am not a black Labrador, and they are not vicious or terrible - stop it Fred! You’ve been watching far too much television here in Brighton, that doesn’t sound in the least bit presidential, just a poor, doggy, impression of one!” “You are the best, absolutely the best, a serious specimen of a human being, serious human.” “Fred this is tiresome, why do you only pick up the most ridiculous and annoying mannerisms, rather than the friendly well mannered ones? Thank God you are asleep by the time Family Guy airs.” “Well Richard, aristocratic and highly intelligent as I am, when all said and done I am a seven and a half year old Jack Russell and have a mental age of approximately two point four of your human years, mimicking our elders is what we do, along with challenging them – pushing the boundaries…… ……Yes, Jack Russell, the best, absolutely the best, the finest, most handsome, intelligent and wise breed there is, serious dogs, the very finest…….” THIS IS A STRUGGLE WHAT IS GOING ON? “YOUR elders, Lord Frederick, do not feature on the BBC News Channel, the only thing that you have in common with the American President is that ...

Lancut Castle, Poland 25/01/2017


Lancut Castle, Poland Lancut (pron. wineshoot) was one of the very first places in Poland that my then fiancée and I visited in our first flush of romance. Indeed, it was on the Sunday of my very first visit to Poland - the "meet the parents" trip in June 2001. That day trip to Lancut was rather rushed for several reasons, partly though due to the heavens opening. It was a very hot and humid, thundery day. Outside the sky was as black as night, we saw little of the gardens, or indeed the Coach House. During the five years that followed I have always wanted to return on a finer day - partly because, due to the weather, we were unable to take photographs that first time. On the last Sunday of July (2006), we made our return visit, this time as a family party, Mrs R, her sister Klaudia, their parents and myself. It was an equally hot day, the outside temperature gauge in the car reading 35deg.C, as we parked in the road that crosses the park. This time however, a bright blue sky formed a backdrop for the many photographs taken. WHERE IS LANCUT? Assuming that very few of you have heard of, fewer still actually visited this little town, I had better explain where it is located. Follow European route E40 all the way east from Calais, across northern France, central Belgium, all the way through Germany and then Poland - stop around 50 miles from the Ukrainian border and there you will find Lancut, situated on the left hand side of this ancient trans-continental route. It is about a 20 minute drive to ...

General: Poland 24/01/2017


General: Poland Some years ago, I published an up-dated version of this, probably my most ambitious review ever here on Ciao - Poland in General. Originally it was published in September 2005, Poland was already changing rapidly. For several years by then, I had been advising anyone interested in visiting this fascinating country to go 'sooner rather than later'. There are some things that I hate being proved correct about and this, regrettably, has proven to be one of them. Having made three visits to Poland in 2016, I have been inspired to re-visit this review in order to see just how much things have changed. Currently it is not only the character of Poland that is changing, but due to economic factors, then Brexit devaluing the pound against the Zloty, this is no longer a bargain destination. Indeed, due to the rate of exchange - the pound may be weak, but the Polish Zloty has been strong - even against the Euro, prices generally in Poland are now higher than in neighbouring Germany. Here follows an experimental update then, following sections that now warrant further comment you will find 01.17: followed by updated comment. How on earth to review a whole country "in general"? Well I am going to stick to the bits I know and have found out about during the last five years since "discovering" the Poles and slightly later Poland itself. The many aspects that I do not know about I am not going to attempt to bluff my way through here. 01.17: It has been over sixteen years now and the ...

Kasprowy Wierch, Western Tatras 24/01/2017


Kasprowy Wierch, Western Tatras KASPROWY WIERCH - WHERE ON EARTH ARE WE? Unless you happen to be Polish, from the Tatra region of Slovakia, or have holidayed in the mountain resort of Zakopane, there is no earthly reason why you would be expected to have heard of this particular location. Yes, in case you are still guessing, I am reviewing a mountain here, Poland’s most popular ski mountain at that! In order get your bearings, let me explain that Mount Kasprowy Wierch is located immediately to the south of Zakopane, the most popular winter resort in Poland. Its’ summit actually forms part of the Polish / Slovakian border along the High Tatras in the south east of Poland. In turn, Zakopane is located about two hours south of Krakow by road or rail, which in all likelihood, if visiting the area, is where you will have landed, having flown there. This particular area of the Tatra Mountains is the most accessible, both for Polish tourists and others visiting the region. Consequently, summer or winter, this is not an area in which to escape from the maddening crowds. If that is your intention and the Tatras’ are your desire, then I would recommend trying the Slovakian side of the border, it is quieter there, although the slopes, being south facing, are covered in snow for less of the year. That hardly represents the spirit of this review though! PONY & TRAP or SHANK’S PONY? OK, so you find yourself in Zakopane and want to see the sites. Kasprowy Wierch will appear in all the tourist guides, assuming ...

My wedding in an exotic location. 24/01/2017


My wedding in an exotic location. Our hairdresser celebrated her nuptials in Mexico in February last year, undoubtedly the kind of "Exotic Location" that the proposer of this review category had in mind. We were invited, but regrettably had to turn down that invitation having returned from Poland the previous month. As it turned out, with my leg in plaster at the time, I would not have been able to travel all the way to Mexico. Her wedding took place at an all-inclusive five star resort, the ceremony itself taking place on the beech. Exotic indeed. Yes, this is supposed to be about "our" exotic wedding is it not? Our first wedding, here in England, was far from exotic, taking place in the Blackpool Registry Office on a wet, late October, day in 2001. In order to save myself from being accused of writing an Off Topic review here, I am going to share with you my Pocket Oxford Dictionary's definition of the word "exotic": i.e. "Introduced from abroad". I may not have been "introduced" as such to my fiancée, but the south east of Poland, where she was born and brought up, definitely qualifies as abroad. As you have by now almost certainly guessed then, this review is about our Polish wedding! WHY HAVE TWO WEDDINGS? Well, it certainly was not because I enjoy attending weddings, even as the groom! Maybe at the age of 39, most men have by then been through two weddings and I just wanted to catch up with my contemporaries! No! When Adrianna - A.K.A. Mrs R. hereabouts, first came to England from Poland, ...

Hotel Zlote Deby, Warsaw 24/01/2017


Hotel Zlote Deby, Warsaw WHY DID WE BOOK THE HOTEL ZLOTE DEBY? When searching for a hotel abroad, our priorities probably vary slightly from the majority – especially as on our recent visit to Warsaw, where we needed the reassurance that our car would be safely parked at night. We originally intended to stay in one of the better known, city centre hotels, however, suitable rooms AND on-site parking were an impossible compromise, plus, as we all know, better value can be obtained outside of the city centre. With only loose plans for our three night stay in Poland’s capital, and less than happy memories from my one and only previous visit – coinciding as it was to turn out with the momentous events of 11th September, 2001, extensive internet searches threw up the Zlote Deby as an attractive new hotel, crucially, advertising guarded car parking. HOTEL DESCRIPTION / OUR PERCEPTION FROM HOTEL PUBLICITY As the hotel’s own website is entirely in Polish, unusually not offering an English translation, I paid little attention to it, beyond a brief look at the photographs. If you are fluent Polish speaking then from their website you will glean that this is more of a business by week and wedding by weekend venue, rather than a tourist hotel in the way that we would conventionally recognise one. Indeed, photographs of the rooms are absent, whilst prominence is given to the downstairs “public” facilities such as the conference suite and bar / restaurant. None of the above would have put me off of booking a ...

Old Town (Stare Miasto), Warsaw 24/01/2017


Old Town (Stare Miasto), Warsaw WARSAW - SEPTEMBER 11th 2001 - REVISITED Until June this year (2011), I had, due to my first visit to Poland’s capital, reservations about returning to Warsaw. Not wishing to labour the point here, but our previous experience was, for two reasons, a rather moving one, that having absolutely nothing to do with Warsaw’s fascinating, but bloody history. On 11th September 2001, at 11.00am, my, then, wife-to-be had an appointment at the English Consulate, located in what I, at the time, assumed to be the very heart of Warsaw, almost opposite the immense Palace of Culture and Science. My Polish fiancé, partly due to the location of her family home, more closely allies herself with Krakow, and was far less familiar with, and decidedly less interested in, Warsaw. Primarily then, our two night stay there was regarded purely as a “business trip”. Business successfully conducted, in a state of rather tired elation; she had after all just been granted a marriage entry visa to the UK, we returned to our hotel to enjoy a celebratory meal..... .....The non-English speaking, elderly, waiter approached my fiancé, towards the end of the meal, to ask if her companion was English or American; he had just heard on television that there had been an air crash in New York...... ......the rest of that day, as they say, is history and may well explain why I had mixed feelings about returning to Warsaw at all. Before those momentous events, both personal and global, we had done a touch of ...

Royal Castle, Warsaw 24/01/2017


Royal Castle, Warsaw THE HISTORY LESSON The history of Warsaw’s Royal Castle very much reflects the turbulent, bloody and destructive history of the city in which it is so prominently situated. The ‘short history’ is that only 40 years ago there was virtually nothing on this site, the Nazis firstly, in 1939, severely damaging the castle with incendiary bombs and subsequently meticulously dynamiting this whole, enormous, structure immediately prior to withdrawing from Poland in 1944. Along with the rest of Warsaw, the castle lay in total ruin, deserted and desolate. Whilst the adjacent Old and New town areas were completely re-constructed after the war, there was neither the cash, nor political will to restore the castle complex. In 1971 the decision was taken to use public funds in order to finally rebuild the castle, this completing the restoration of the historic heart of Warsaw in 1980, four years later the interiors were complete and it opened to the public as a museum. In the twenty-first century, it is now almost inconceivable that the Old Town could ever have been without the Royal Castle as the anchor attraction. Few people in any country were designing and building castles in the 1970’s, which makes it all the more remarkable that the communist regime made the decision to do so, and all the more surprising that it did not finish up looking like a concrete bunker! Reading much of the publicity material – and guide book accounts – you will be fooled into thinking that it looks as it did ...

Lazienki Park, Warsaw 24/01/2017


Lazienki Park, Warsaw THE WORLD’S LARGEST BATHROOM? Sadly Ciao formatting does not recognise the Polish letter “L” with a slash through it – as in Lazienki, pronounced Wyjenki. If you ask a Pole for the Lazienki, he or she will show you the way to the bathroom, yes, the subject of this review, when translated into English, is Baths Park! In reality, the literal translation proving somewhat amusing, rather than realistic, maybe we should compare Lazienki Park to the Royal Baths at Bath, Buxton or Tunbridge Wells, not a great comparison admittedly but it will give you a better perception of this particular attraction as the review progresses. WHERE IN THE WORLD? Well there was a clue above, suggesting that you ask that, hypothetical, Pole would indicate that we are in Poland, more specifically, actually, in Warsaw, Poland’s sprawling, mostly modern, capital city. Follow the “Royal Way” out from the Old Town area of the city and, at its end, you will find the 198 acre Lazienki Park, home of the Royal Summer Palace, a short distance by car, bus or taxi from Warsaw’s Royal Castle. We actually came here in our own car, having travelled from the Old Town, as luck would have it there was a parking space in a tiny lay-by opposite the main gate to the park, I forget now how much I fed the pay and display parking meter with – quite probably 5PLN (zloty), just over a £1 for two hours parking. Lazienki Park is one of Warsaw’s great attractions and any Warsavian will be able to point you in the right ...

Park Historycznyb, Blizna 24/01/2017


Park Historycznyb, Blizna RICHADA AND THE ROCKETS I suspect there will be remarkably few reading this who actually experienced the terror of Hitler’s ultimate weapons of war, the V1, flying bomb and V2 rockets which rained down on the population of London during the closing months of the Second World War. My own experience is a directly second hand one, my mother’s parents - having refused to evacuate their children from the capital during the war – were to inadvertently subject their young family to the terror of the Nazi rocket attacks. That, remember, after years of Luftwaffe bombing had already taken its toll on the population. Whilst even that cannot compare to the atrocities that took place in Eastern Europe at the same time, for many Londoners who survived the Blitz, it will remain, until their dying day, an unavoidably powerful and painful memory. Whilst, thanks to our visit to this museum, I am now aware that the British authorities of the day were well aware of Hitler’s secret weapons, the general populace were not. The first, devastating explosions caused by the V1 and V2, un-manned flying bomb and rockets must have been a shocking and surprising experience – especially in the case of the 13 tonne V2 rocket which hurtled into the ground at 1790mph – well above the speed of sound, the sound of their approach being heard moments AFTER the shattering explosion. According to my mother, who well remembers both weapons dropping on London, the V1 was actually more frightening as the innocents ...

Sandomierz 24/01/2017


Sandomierz WHERE IN THE WORLD? For the vast majority of you this review will truly be about foreign territory. OK, hands up, who's heard of Sandomierz? Anybody……no? I kind of expected that, but I hope that this will prove a voyage of discovery and culture, if not indeed an adventure. As some of you will know, I am married to a beautiful Polish lady who came from a village just to the north of the industrial town of Mielec in south eastern Poland. As what is nowadays referred to as an "international" marriage, rather than just merely "holidaying" in Poland we therefore have "roots" there, socialising and indeed living amongst family and friends for as much as four to five weeks of the year. We do certain business there, some things still make good financial sense - I'm talking about primarily health matters, opticians and dentists, for the two of us our two trips per year are paid for in the savings made on dental treatment alone. Partly through this, my wife has very much introduced me to the 'insiders' Poland - warts and all, but that is for a different "Poland in General" review, there are no warts - you'll be glad to hear - in the following review! Here I am going to attempt to do a whole town justice. I don't like to conclude a review before it truly begins, but I have to state here that there really is NO substitute for actually visiting Sandomierz. It is my favourite place (yes including Krakow!) in all of Poland and less than an hours' drive from my wife's parents home. How ...

Baranow Sandomierski Castle, Baranow Sandomierski 24/01/2017


Baranow Sandomierski Castle, Baranow Sandomierski WHERE IN THE WORLD? Baranow Sandomierski is located in the south east of Poland on route 985 (an English equivalent “A” road), 26 kilometres north of Mielec, which itself is approximately 120km east of Krakow. By road Baranow is roughly a two hour drive from Krakow, most of which is covered on the new E40 motorway. From Warsaw the journey is far more arduous as you will be driving around 230km on mostly country roads, estimated journey time in that case would be five and a half hours – putting it well beyond the realms of a day trip from Warsaw. For the more adventurous traveller, public transport is slow and rather unpredictable in Poland, you would need to get to Tarnobrzeg (the nearest main town) by train and take a taxi the 9km south from there. Frankly a car, either your own, or hired, is the more practical solution – especially as any visit to Baranow should also find you exploring nearby Sandomierz (half an hour north by road), as well as Lancut Palace which is about an hour and a quarter drive to the south of here. Both of these highly recommended attractions I have previously reviewed, in seeing these three sites – plus the Blizna rocket site on the way – you will have seen the best that this region of Poland has to offer. Having now been travelling to Mielec for the last fourteen years, I know this region very well indeed – my wife was born here – Baranow is an annual visit, making it as familiar to me as many of our own local parks in Brighton. The reason that ...

Mielec, Poland 24/01/2017


Mielec, Poland WHERE IN THE WORLD? Mielec – pronounced Mielets – is a town situated in the Subcarpathian Voivodeship (Województwo Podkarpackie) which is located in the far south east of Poland. By road, Mielec is 95 miles (150km) to the east of Krakow, an easy enough hour and a half drive, mostly on motorway, and about five hours from Warsaw which is 165 miles (265km) to the north, travelling on much more challenging main roads. If flying, Rzeszów Airport, less than an hour to the south will be your most convenient destination, there are several flights, mostly Ryanair, from airports all over England and Ireland daily. The usual airport facilities, such as car hire, are available and you will find progress through the airport stress free compared to most. Mielec is the regional and administrative centre for the Mielec District (county). It is also the market town for a large area, dotted with many villages and hamlets, and, as such, where Mielec finishes and these ribbon developments – mostly along the main roads leading to it, start – can be hard to identify even when you know the place well. This is a largely flat, agricultural region which is bisected by the River Vistula, Poland’s arterial river. Flowing around, rather than through, Mielec is a major tributary of that river, the Wiswoka. WHY HAVE I PUT OFF FOR SO LONG REVIEWING THIS PLACE? This is a town which for many years I have had it in mind to review and a subject that has occupied more thought than probably any previous ...
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