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Lois, Kiwi working as UK Live-in Carer. I have to leave Ciao due to pain preventing me using my laptop for long. Have tried just reading but it is not working out. Thanks to all who read, commented and supported my reviews and membership... Lois

Reviews written

since 13/08/2005


Singapore Airlines - SIA 03/11/2008

An armchair in the sky

Singapore Airlines - SIA An armchair in the sky. I'd never flown Singapore Airlines on my long-haul flights to and from New Zealand, my home country, and now I must ask myself why? I have used three other major airlines and they definitely do not come anywhere near the service and comfort of Singapore Airlines. I flew at a busy time, four flights to and from Kiwi Land early December (2005) and late February (2006) so all trips were a full plane and this I believe is a good time to judge how staff cope with people of all nations, cooped up in a confined space and no-where else to go! . The booking system is easy, I did mine on the internet, the price was slightly more than some others but I was looking for an airline which had an alliance with my Air New Zealand airpoint system and this I achieved in Singapore Airlines. When I checked at the counter I asked could I claim them at that point in time and the lady said I could; after sighting my credit card she did the computer work on the spot and the deed was done. I had to book-in three hours before the flight at Heathrow and it was just as well I was early as the queue was long; I got into the snakelike behaviour which the ropes dictated and it was not too long before booking in at the counter. Only problem I would say here was that I'd phoned a fortnight ealier to ask how much weight I was allowed and was told 20kg in one suitcase. I really did have to organise my wedding and Christmas gifts to take home. To my annoyance, when I got to ...

The Secret - Rhonda Byrne 08/09/2008

This Secret is not for me

The Secret - Rhonda Byrne I have a secret for you. Do not buy The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne. ''You hold in your hands a great secret" it says on the back. ''It has been passed down through the ages, highly coveted, hidden, lost, stolen and bought for vast sums of money. This centuries-old Secret has been understood by some of the most prominent people in history: Plato, Galileo, Beethoven, Edison, Carnegie, Einstein - along with other inventors, theologians, scientists and great thinkers. Now the Secret is being revealed to the world.'' A new friend loaned me this book and as I am not a new-age sort of person I wasn't too interested but she emailed the next day to see if I had started reading it, if so, what did I think of it? So, after reading the blurb on the back and thinking it a bit ''airy-fairy'' for me I set off to find the new me, to see why I hadn't won the huge lottery I have so set my heart on for the five years I've lived in England with access to striking the ''big one''. Now I should have seen it as a warning - in the introduction on the paper fly - ''In this book you'll learn how to use The Secret in every aspect of your life - money, health, relationships, happiness and in every interaction you have in the world. You'll begin to understand the hidden, untapped power that's within you, and this revelation can bring joy to every aspect of your life.'' There was even a hint that I'd obtain things many would regard as impossible. So, why did I go on? Why did I read to the ...

Ebookers 13/07/2008

E-Bookers - I don't think so.

Ebookers Join me for the worst booking experience I have ever had, in many travelling experiences. I have spent a week on the internet researching for my Christmas/New Year annual visit home to New Zealand and on Saturday night I made the decision based on price and availability to book on the internet..... using EBookers. I went through all the procedure required and when I clicked on the box to put through my credit card it came back saying my security number was not correct: ''use another card or try again later''. I do have another credit card but it's credit limit is low because I do not use it very often...... the amount I was putting through (GBP1044.00) was in excess of my limit on that card. I decided to try again later. When I did the same advice came back so I left it a while and tried again. I tried three times. This was my mistake - not that I knew it was erroneous. So, I looked up the top of the website and decided to phone them. This I did on my cellphone as I do not have a landline. A man said he would help me so we proceeded to do the booking. He was really hard to understand and I had to say ''I beg your pardon"" quite often and this really ''irked'' him - I could tell because be was extremly short with me when he repeated his questions to me. This first encounter was really awful. He asked me my first name and I told him it with each letter followed by a word - you know the procedure P for PET, A for apple etc etc. Now believe it or not he did this ...

Bravissimo 24/06/2008

I love my new bosom buddy -- Bravissimo

Bravissimo A girl needs a good uplifting experience when she's buying a bra. Now, if you are a wonderful member of the male species you might like to turn away....after all the trussing of the mammaries is not a major for you. (I hope you stay with it as the rating will be a bit of a bonus for me!!!) Big bosomed ladies, the well endowed, can have a bit of a bother when it comes to finding the right brassiere. Certainly I am one of those and a visit to a local bra shop, last week, nearly tipped me over the edge. I've had a lot of upper back pain, around the shoulders, so found a really excellent massage lady and she recommended I go and have a proper bra fitting as that may well have been the source of my daily agony. She recommended one in our town so off I go, asked for a fitting and told her it was to be more medical than 'pretty'. She awaited outside the booth, curtain firmly pulled across, and handed me in a 34 F. Well, that was not going to do the trick. She handed in a FF. Nowhere near the target. Then she floored me - ''We don't do anything bigger than FF. You will have to try elsewhere.'' I felt my mammaries drop an inch or two in sheer disappointment... what, have to get dressed and go to another store and go all through this again!! Bravissimo to the rescue Well, I decided I was not going to put them through this again and off home I went and put into my internet, Bravissimo - seen the lovely girls on the TV with larger-than-life 'boozzies' .... all lacy and ...

Royal Caribbean International 23/06/2008

Wake up to a new life everyday - cruise big!

Royal Caribbean International Sleek, stylish, superb. She took my breath away! That got your attention. Settle in for a host of adjectives as I share my latest cruise on what was dubbed by pre-sail marketing as ''the biggest passenger cruise ship in the world''. I read up all the advertising hype on the Royal Caribbean internet site before we arrived at Southampton, for the inaugural Independence of the Seas, Canary Island/Lisbon/Vigo 12-day cruise in early May, and I was expecting a really huge ship. Nothing could have prepared me for the size of this lady. As we drove into sight we could not believe our eyes. It was massively ginormous! Brand new, only launched a few days before, this absolutely fabulous marine monster totally dominated the port and there were plenty of onlookers capturing it all on film. As well, 3300 passengers were making an orderly and well orchestrated embarkation for the 5pm sailing. Cruise ships use the advertising blurb - ''floating hotel''. All 15 public decks of this 158,000 ton cruise ship truly are opulent and luxurious, with a good balance of formal and informal areas to suit the most discerning cruisers as well as those who want to relax or make the best of the energetic type recreation areas. The largest floating hotel in the world is a cruisers dream. My travel companion was an 83-year-'young' lady- friend on her first ever cruise and fate determined we were in for a luxurious cruise experience. She spent every minute of every day absolutely reveling in ...

Chatsworth House, Bakewell 19/06/2008

A jewel in the English crown..... Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House, Bakewell Experience the living history of rural England, all in the expansive, historic estate of Chatsworth House, where conservation prevails, inside and out. Over 400 years of history has proved Chatsworth House, in England's Peak District, has served its family, its environs and the 650,000 annual visitors to perfection. Dominant in its stunningly rural valley, Chatsworth House is so palacial but has all the history and ambience of a grand family home. It offers a visit to the house, parks, adventure playground, maze magnificent gardens, a farm shop and a really unusual water feature which cascades down the hill behind the house - there is much more to see if you have the time. This is certainly a case where first impressions count. It has the wow factor from the road and once you park up and walk anywhere on the estate you are in ``wow'' mode. Well i was and still am when I talk to people about my visit there or show them the hordes of photos. I had picked it out of a special visit offer in a Britain stately homes type book: a two for the price of one deal, so we set out from London to visit it on our way to Chester. On the map the two looked quite close but in reality you would need to visit early in the day to see a good deal of what makes Chatsworth House memorable. We arrived around 2.30pm and did the house tour and the farm shop so this review sadly will not include personal experience of the massive 35,ooo acres (14,000 hectares) over Derbyshire and ...

Island Cruises 05/03/2008

A Mediterranean escape with spirit ...

Island Cruises Escape on the Island Escape A beautiful sunset, sailaway music plays, I have the cocktail- of the day firmly in my hand as the ship slowly moves away from the wharf - I am on my first ever cruise. Island Escape has been the focus of my holiday thoughts for months and months, I've read about it and dreamed of the day I'd start a week on the Mediterannean, with my dearest friend in the world, my partner. I'm too old to have dreamed of romantic Di Caprio nights, perching precariously over the front of the ship with a handsome movie star singing memorable words to me; my expectations were of the best of food, presented well, fresh and exciting. Add a few fine wines, cocktails or a cold beer as would take our fancy, relaxing on the deck, matched with a clean, tidy cabin, friendly, interesting staff, with tours of some exciting countries and that's about what I visualized for our holiday on the warm Mediterranean sea. RELAXED, FRIENDLY AND INFORMAL... the motto for Island Cruises For 99percent of our week-long voyage I can say the huge number of staff worked hard to make sure the motto was successfully experienced by the 1600 passengers onboard Island Escape, one of the two cruise ships operated by Island Cruises. We did a stay and cruise - one week in Majorca before our cruise week and we are glad we did. Neither of us had visited this part of the world before so staying at Magalluf proved a good base to explore all over the island and of course to anticipate the ...

Majorca in General 11/11/2007

Discover largest Balearic island

Majorca in General Mallorca or Majorca? Well it doesn't really matter when you get there, but for the record , Majorca is a name visitors have given this absolutely beautiful Mediterranean island, the largest of the Balearic islands, 200 km south of Barcelona, off the east coast of Spain. Locals call it Mallorca, they live the Mallorcan lifestyle. So now you know where it is, you really do need to know why you should go there. We were eagerly awaiting our first-ever cruise and the offer of a week-stay on Majorca, before that experience, was too good to pass up. Tony Kelly's The AA Pocket Guide MALLORCA, was my bible. For months I'd read it and absorbed so much information, planned to visit what looked like exciting and interesting places, diverse activities and historic sites. So, this is my story but have to say I was well versed by the expert before I ever set foot on the island. I had some perception of the neat week ahead but it is fair to say I had no idea I was going to be so excited by the warmth of the weather in October, the sheer gobsmacking scenery as we explored the island via the Soller Train, underground in the Coves del Drac (Caves of Drach), the huge, fascinating Inca Market, an Oktoberfest in Peguera, Mini-golf at the truly beautiful Golf Fantasia in Palma Nova and strolling along a clean, sandy beach at sunset. Oh, must not forget the delightful, tasty drinks, great food and hospitality! Majorca is devine. It is obviously highly motivated by tourism, and in some ...

Channings, Edinburgh 28/09/2007

Stylish country in Edinburgh city

Channings, Edinburgh Arriving in Edinburgh, full of enthusiasm for the sporting job ahead, we were focused on supporting New Zealand All Blacks in an effort to beat Scotland in the 2007 Rugby World Cup. I'd booked the accommodation months in advance and told anyone who would listen that I was incredulous at the price we had to pay on match- night to stay in Edinburgh after the game. Channings Hotel changed our ''rugby'' weekend focus the minute we walked in the door. First impressions are of truly upmarket accommodation. The reception is tidily tucked to one side with the comfortable sofas as the main feature in this ever so important welcoming area to any hotel. We arrived after staying several nights in hostels and I have to say we felt like we had arrived at Buckingham Palace. Parched from travelling we asked for a cup of coffee as we were too early to go to our room. This was served to us in one of the three or four reception rooms and certainly reached the spot. I thought it would be complementary, due to what I percieve to be the high cost of the hotel room: 150GBP for one night, bed and breakfast - the most I have ever paid for accommodation, but the next day I noticed an add-on of around five pounds for this tray. That is part of the only little niggle I have about our stay there - we were asked did we want a paper next day and I said yes and I saw that the 45p was also added on - once again I expected it to be complementary - well, included in the price we'd paid to stay in ...

Sound of Music Tour, Salzburg 31/03/2007

The hills are alive with the Sound of Music

Sound of Music Tour, Salzburg No visit to Salzburg would be complete without a tour on the Original Sound of Music Tour especially if you are a fan of the 42 year old movie. MOVIE VERSES REALITY... It is a good way to see the main city attractions and to get out into the mountains while learning how the movie was made and the differences from the original von Trapp families life experience and to see what director Robert Wise and composers Rogers and Hammerstein did to their story. For me the Original Sound of Music Tour was truly a memorable experience but one tinged with sadness as the extremely able and friendly tour hostess exposed the movie as a bit of a fake, for me, who did not know that the real von Trapp family's life was little as it is presented in the movie. She started off by telling us we could sing whatever songs we liked from the movie, all over Salzburg, and the locals would be little impressed as they did not see the movie until 2000, even though it was first released in 1965. Apparently they were familiar with the two movies which the Broadway ''The Sound of Music ''stage show was based on - one of them being ''The Story of the Trapp Family Singers'' by Maria von Trapp. Then of course along came a movie and it was pepped up somewhat to meet box office attraction and to spin a good story. For political reasons it never made it to Austria for decades. Some other movie differences: she said the real von Trapp children took to the new governess, a nun called Maria, with no ...

Salzburg (Austria) 29/03/2007

Salzburg, the sound of

Salzburg (Austria) Tourism based on ancient and modern - Mozart's music genius in the 1700s, and the tunes of The Sound of Music, famous now for just over 40 years. Salzburg has it all, the music story, wonderful, old, historic buildings and the majestic mountains bordering a lovely, open rural plain. 'The Festival City and its beautiful surrounding countryside' - that's what my glossy tourism book says and I agree through and through. My winter visit was magic. Snow was not as predominant as it usually is in February but enough on the stunning mountains to add the feeling of winter turning to spring. This proved to be just the right time of year for us to explore an old, architectural beauty. Mozart was born here - to be precise he entered the Salzburg scene at 8 o'clock in the evening on the 27th day of January in 1756 at number 9 Getreidegasse and one day later he started the tourism trend by going to the Cathedral and gaining the honourable name of Johannes Chrisostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart at his christening. With such a musical name it was always on the cards that he would take the world by storm and create 600 musical pieces from little arias to historic operas. One thing for sure, in his short life he must have been a very busy musician and ''chocolatier''! Well, in today's Salzburg you see many red and gold chocolate creations - Mozart Balls abound -- whole shops of just Mozart-related chocolates, you have to ask the question ''Did he love chocolate or did he not?'' ...

Everything that starts with D ... 03/01/2007

Disastrous Diamonds which don't sparkle

Everything that starts with D ... Everything that starts with D - D evastating DIAMONDS. Or lack of them! This review is written after a cooling down period! As you read through it you will see why I needed to think about it before writing it. In November I wrote a review about Westminster Abbey. I put a lot of work into it, wrote it after visiting a couple of times, collecting information and generally thought it was well worth posting on Ciao. In a matter of days it attracted up to 52% of E (Exceptionals) and settled at a good 48%. Well I thought this should add a diamond to the collection. How wrong I was. D ecember sparklers: I waited a fortnight into December, keeping an watchful eye on my story to see if it had a sparkler on the left side as well as a daily check on the Latest Diamonds list. When eventually I found 10 November Diamonds in a list I was extremely bugged to see I had not been awarded a sparkler. D isappointment: After my initial disappointment I thought I'd go in and see what the winners had contributed, what Exceptionals they'd attracted. To my surprise, (on that particular date) the highest percentage of Es for the top one was 44% and the lowest was a VH.... (Not even an E)! REmember I had settled at a worthy 48%! D etermining that I was exceptionally disappointed I D ecided to write an email to Ciao to ask how Diamonds were allocated/awarded. D escribing what I'd said would be cumbersome so I will cut and paste my email of enquiry to Ciao and then follow it with ...

Valencia (Spain) 12/12/2006

More to Valencia than oranges

Valencia (Spain) From out of fluffy white clouds, we descend to a wonderful view of an azure blue Mediterranean sea, with 8 cargo and container ships dotted near the shore... we make the turn for a straight path into the airport. Over a massive port we fly, where tiny little containers look like dolly lollies, tidily stacked ready for export; a very large ship is berthed at the portside with four gigantic cranes busy loading; now there's a school, set amid a neighbourhood of orange/earthy coloured homes, a huge graveyard and thousands and thousands of industrial buildings....with what looks like market gardens and orange groves spattered all around. It's a tidy and interesting approach to Valencia Airport and the start of a short break to Spain's third largest city, one steeped in history and nowadays mainly a commerce centre for a vast range of commercial and industrial enterprises as well as those working the La Huerta ( the green belt of most fertile land which sees up to four harvest in a year of a huge range of vegetables, fruit and of course oranges). After such a pictorial airways entrance to Valencia the airport is a bit of a disappointment: it is messy all around the runway and the terminal a bit tired but it was a quick pass through the immigration and a long wait for luggage but then it was time to get into Valencia and explore its many historic and modern attractions. I flew Ryannair which took around an hour and a half and then I took a taxi into the city but it is easy ...

Westminster Abbey, Westminster, London 11/11/2006

Westminster Abbey, grand historic experience

Westminster Abbey, Westminster, London Slip back in time. It's the 25th of December, 1066. William the Conqueror is being crowned... the first monarch to walk down the stone floor to his coronation with subjects watching in awe, with hopes and aspirations for a wise and honest reign. Move forward to 2006 and step into Westminster Abbey. I did and immediately mused about all those feet which traversed these hallowed stones before me. Just a few foot-steps into this London icon you are hushed by the history, whispering in awe of the noble 'residents' some resting in grand chapels, others stately with massive statues and some marked by stone memorials on the floor. Not just the royal, aristocrats and the country's best in society but poets, writers, scientists, architects, politicians, musicians, military people, explorers and even an unknown solider in pride of place near the front entrance (West door) to the abbey. In the church and cloisters there are around 3300 officially buried but records were not kept until 1607 so not all buried here are documented and the actual number is known to be higher. But, don't think this is a cemetery. It is not. The minute you walk in the public, paying entrance on the side you can not help but be impressed with the architecture, the history and the age of this religious edifice. It quite takes your breath away. Truly it does. I've visited twice but I have to say the second time I took so much more in. I was accompanied by my son, sister and brother-in-law from New ...

Olympus IR-300 28/07/2006

Digital darling, big performance, little camera

Olympus IR-300 I was slow to come to the digital revolution. Vehemently declared I would never have one, didn't see the need when I had a perfectly good manual Olympus. What a waste of words that was as I personally have bought one this year and my companion has bought one which I reviewed earlier this year - I LOVE THEM. I was clear in my brief to the camera shop salesman: I don't need a big expensive do-it-all camera as I have a perfectly good manual camera but I do need something I can take photos to complement my travel writing on-line. He confidently moved to the locked cabinet and recommended the Olympus IR-300 because it was so efficient with its many options but the one which I needed most was the E-MAILVGA. Now, at this point I told him I was a techno klux. He said this little camera was just right for me and with a bit of help from him I would be using it successfully when I left the shop. Now, he obviously did not know me well. So, a lesson or two on the spot, my surprisingly easy acceptance of how to use it and instant like of the little (so small it fits inside your hand) whiz and I willingly handed over the $NZ449.00 (approx one hundred and fifty GB pounds) and walked out clicking the main street highlights. Home we sped so I could try out downloading the picture and to my surprise I did it first time. This really is an easy little camera to introduce you to the delights of digital. I was due to fly back to the UK a day or two later but not before I ...
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