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since 07/10/2002


Four Seasons Hotel, London 03/01/2005

I Could Get Used to This!!!

Four Seasons Hotel, London *** What was I doing in a place like this? I was lucky enough to win a night in the Four Seasons Hotel, Mayfair with champagne afternoon tea in a competition run by the Evening Standard (also won a meal in Moshi Moshi, reviewed separately. My boyfriend and I used the prize to celebrate our seven-year anniversary. Of course we mentioned this and got a nice, crisp bottle of Veuve Clicquot thrown in! I’ve stayed in the odd posh hotel before, but never in London and it was pleasing to spend the weekend as a tourist in my own city! We did get a strange look from the concierge when he asked how far we’d come and we replied West London but he quickly remembered we were competition winners and treated us with the high respect and admiration we deserved! *** Our arrival The opulent entrance is a tiny bit intimidating for those not totally accustomed to the lifestyles of the ridiculously rich. After checking in we were led to the lifts by a smiling porter boy and taken to our room. We gave him a £2 tip, not bad for two minutes work but probably quite stingy compared to the tips of millionaires (although maybe not, the richer the person the stingier they are from what I’ve often seen). We stayed in a superior room on the 9th floor. After dumping my overnight bag I went straight over to the tall window and onto the tiny balcony to take in the sites of central London. We could see as far as the twinkling Canary Wharf towers, but were also looking down on Big Ben, the ...

This Year In View - 2004 03/01/2005

2004: Not Bad At All

This Year In View - 2004 Here is a review of my last year, just in case you give a damn! January ^*^*^*^*^* We spend New Year and a few days afterwards at the home of a French friend, in a beautiful little town called Chantilly, about half an hour’s drive from Paris. It snowed on New Year’s Eve when we were at a house party and the next day was a white winter wonderland. I had a big birthday party in a bar in London at the end of the month. Had a bit of a result when I managed to wangle free private hire of a room in a Soho bar after complaining that they messed up my reservation. I went on a day trip to Rugby of all places, well I got free first class tickets on Virgin trains from doing a survey so thought I may as well use them. We just went shopping and enjoyed complimentary food and drinks on the train. Also, despite having first registered with Ciao in October 2002, I finally got round to writing some ops in this month. Can’t believe it’s only a year ago, although in all other ways 2004 went so fast. My first ops were on Tolouse and Love Actually. They were short, vague and pretty useless. February ^*^*^*^*^ My mum spotted an offer in the newspaper for £20 train fares, so I quickly booked trips home, to Somerset with my boyfriend to visit his family and to Newcastle to visit a friend. I had been to Newcastle before, years ago, but this time was really impressed by the way this city is coming on. The area by the river now looks really impressive and everyone is ...

Cantref Riding Centre 02/01/2005

Brecon by horseback

Cantref Riding Centre “Nah, we’re used to it, we do it all the time,” was the nonchalant response to my friend’s slightly apprehensive questioning on the wisdom of allowing a group of 20 riders, (mostly beginners) loose into the open Welsh countryside with only 2 guides to keep control! I’m an experience rider ,so not nervous, but was still sceptical about the likelihood of this 5 hour ride being chaos-free! However, we had chosen this place because we wanted to see the Brecon Beacons and it was cheap. £25 for five hours. You’d pay more than that for an hour's ride in many places in South East England. However, some people are never satisfied. “It’s too cheap”, moaned my boyfriend, "that means it's bound to be dodgy"" To be fair he did fall off last time we went to the Brecons. He’s a beginner but his unsympathetic horse decided about half a mile from the yard that galloping would be a much quicker way of getting home. I assured him that the centre was approved by leading equine safety organizations and so off we went on the Saturday of the last Bank Holiday weekend. Three friends of ours had joined us on a well needed long weekend escapade from stressful London. We were a group of five; 3 experienced riders, 2 novices, but we were joined by a large group of touring South Africans, all trying riding for the first or second time. Maryanne and Sian were our ‘tour leaders and sorted out riding hats for those without, then a brief instruction was given to the beginners on the very basics of ...

My Resolutions 29/12/2004

2005: My Expectations

My Resolutions Well I’ve been having a bit of a writing spree lately. I don’t expect it to last once I’m back into the daily trudge of working life, but it has been fun while it lasted. I don’t usually stick to resolutions much past January, but this year I am extra determined since 2005 coincides with my 30th birthday. I am on the whole pretty happy with my life and the people in it but there are one or two changes I could make to improve it even further. In fact really I should extend this resolution to cover going out less in general, eating out included since I spend a fortune on this activity and should spend my money on other things. The will power feels pretty strong at the moment; I’ll let you know how long it continues! 1. Don’t get rip roaring drunk except on very special occasions! There are some things you can get away with in your twenties, but less so in your thirties when people expect you to be a bit more grown up (and I’m working on it!) I am changing jobs now but in my last company we tended to have at least one boozy night out a week and I’d often end up just a bit over the merry limit. My alcohol tolerance has lessened with each passing year and a good night’s drinking session frequently results in a horrific hangover when most of the day is written off. I do here solemnly vow not to do this nearly so often in 2005 and thereafter! 2. Stop ‘social smoking’ This one goes with the above recently, since the only time I crave cigarettes is when I’ve had a ...

My 10 Musical Memories 28/12/2004

Hey, I'm No Music Snob!

My 10 Musical Memories This challenge was invented by Matt C. I don’t profess to be a music expert, nor do I have time for music snobs who look down on others for their own individual tastes. Therefore I thought I’d share my honest music preferences with you, good and bad! HOW MANY CDs DO YOU OWN? I’m afraid I don’t know, but at a rough guess 300. That is including my boyfriend’s CDs because our collection has merged together ever since we’ve been living together. He no longer buys CDs so most of the recent ones and compilations (which he hates for being ‘cheesy’) are all mine. CDs IN YOUR COLLECTION: MOST EMBARRASSING I have a few slushy romance compilations which I kind of hide at the back of the shelf so visitors don’t take the p! They were usually bought on the strength of a couple of tracks on there, when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to buy the artist’s actual album. Usually I end up getting it anyway though! MOST RECENT I had two new ones for Christmas – ‘Scissor Sisters’ by you guessed it the Scissor Sisters and ‘Songs about Jane’ by Maroon 5. I’ve listed to them both several times. Scissor Sisters is my favourite by a push. FIRST Single on 7": I didn’t really ever buy many singles, went straight onto albums to start with. I may have bought the odd charity or novelty single but can’t remember if I did and I certainly don’t still have them. I do have Common People by Pulp on single, but someone gave it to me cos they broke the case so wanted a new one! Then I bought ... 26/12/2004

An Online Equine Treasure Trove I was the most horse mad of teenagers. I grew up in a small, affluent town in Wales, with very few facilities for bored teenagers. Consequently, parents were faced with two choices for their daughters. Either get them into horses, praying that they don’t fall off and severely injure themselves or risk boredom leading to underage sex and Class A drugs addiction. My parents preferred the former option and so I had horses from the age of 13 until I went away to university at 18. As much as I got away with hanging out with friends and drinking and smoking at parties, I was always careful not to get caught and stayed well clear of dodgy drugs, knowing full well that my dad would be happy to stick to his threat of getting rid of Kimberley at the first sign of me popping or snorting! I have outlined some of my riding adventures in my op on my five favourite animals. These days, busy city slicking professional that I am (or like to think I am), horse riding unfortunately is a very rare luxury. There is the odd centre in and around my area in London, but it’s just too depressing riding the demoralised and stale permanently stabled horses, whose only outings involved trotting round in circles in a poorly kept ménage. I was used to having miles of open Welsh countryside, with the odd forest and beach thrown in. So I make do with the odd weekend in places like West Wales and Devon, or a rushed hack on my too infrequent visits home. All is not lost though. Recently I’ve been ...

Everything that starts with E ... 26/12/2004

Looking Back at Emptiness: New York September 2002

Everything that starts with E ... The little girl behind me is getting more and more aggravated. From her persistent grumbles I gather that she is cold, hungry, thirsty and tired. I can empathise with her coldness and she is too young to understand how lucky she probably is or the tragedy of the nothingness she is so bored of viewing. I was due to meet my friends back at the hotel several hours ago, but I am rooted to the spot, lost in thought, but not really capable of thinking straight. I continue to wander without aim or direction. It is the week before the first anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center; nearly a year since the day that “changed the world forever”. I feel like I’m trespassing, in a city which is courageously bouncing back, but still red raw with pain and grief. About five metres from me, on the other side of the tall fence, a crisp packet flutters in the wind. It bumps along haphazardly, pausing now and again, then continuing its windy journey, until it finally stumbles into a fast expanding puddle. I stare at it, transfixed for a moment. The rain simultaneously stings and refreshes my skin. It has rained every day of my stay here so far. A wild, lashing, vengeful rain, showing no mercy to shoppers or sightseers, I am now soaked through but don’t really notice. Site workers are diligently getting on with their reconstruction duties. They pay no attention to their sombre spectators. The monotonous hum of cranes, drills and other machinery fills the vacuum, echoing ...

10 Things I Love About Christmas 24/12/2004

My Favourite Day of the Year!

10 Things I Love About Christmas Christmas has always been a huge thing in my family. Even now we still do stockings and I’m 29, my brother is 26! It just wouldn’t be the same without them. I have been with my partner for over 7 years, but apart from one year when I was working in Canada, I have always come back to Wales for Christmas and he has always gone back to his parents in Somerset. If we have children I’m sure that will have to change but for now I’m happy spending time with my parents, brother and Gran who spends it with us. I also wouldn’t want to miss the traditional Christmas eve drinks, meeting up with old school friends, some of whom I’m still in regular touch with, others I only see on this one evening a year, less and less of them now as people are getting married and having children. I was feeling slightly humbugish this year, as I’m full of cold, so thought this challenge would be the perfect way to get me more in the mood before I set off down the pub tonight! 10. Christmas lights Many people complain they go up to early these days. Why?? In my opinion they can’t go up early enough. The dark, damp and depressing winter streets are given a new lease of life and suddenly look bright and cheerful. I think we should keep them up all winter, the streets look so bare and dull when they’re taken down. 9. Dressing the Christmas tree I left my London flat 10 days before Christmas this year as I took quite a bit of time of work, so didn’t get round to doing a tree there. Not to ...

How do you shop for food? 22/12/2004

Christmas apart, how do you eat?

How do you shop for food? Here is a set of answers to a list of questions created by the nutrition conscious French CanCan and Jill Murphy ... Q1: If your yearly food budget was £100, how much would you say you currently spend in big retailers – e.g. supermarkets? Explain why you spend so much or so little there? I suppose we do one big shop a fortnight, accounting for about 80% of our grocery budget. It depends on how busy we are on the weekends or if we go away or not. Can never be bothered to go food shopping after work that’s for sure, so the other 20% is divided between market stall produce, if I come across it, rather than deliberately going out for it and top up shopping at local shops such as Budgens on my way back from work in the evenings. Q2: Are you aware of any food produce(s) made in your area specifically? Hmm, there is a farmers’ market in West London but it’s early on a Saturday morning and I’m ashamed to say I’ve not made it there yet! London isn’t exactly famed for it’s home grown produce, not too many farms in the area. My home county in Wales though is home to Glamorgan sausages, Welsh lamb, a pretty salty but tasty Welsh butter, as well as very tasty locally produced honey. Q3: Within the shop or shopping place where you spend the greater part of your food budget, can you find those area specific produces which are not mass produced? Do you buy any? Why? Hmm, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to take more care over what I eat. I used to be a lot better, but ...

Holmes Place, Ealing, London 18/10/2004

Pack 'em in 'luxury' gym

Holmes Place, Ealing, London I don’t actually belong to Ealing Holmes place, I’m a member of a central London branch near my place of work, but had a few guest passes spare and this is the nearest one to where I live so went along this afternoon. I realised on arrival that I had forgotten my padlock and asked at the reception if I could borrow one. This request was granted, without be told I had to buy a new one, which I have experienced before. However, being blonde I couldn’t work out how to do the combination straight away and didn’t quite hear the numbers the receptionist gave me as the code. She at this point was complaining to her colleague about shift changes, so I waited patiently for five minutes or so. Eventually I was forced to ask again and was met with an irritated tut and sigh, before I got the reluctant explanation. Hey I can’t help being stupid don’t make me feel worse? I don’t pay £65 a month to feel stupid, I get that for free! In retaliation I filled in a customer feedback form of complaint about rude staff and pointedly posted it into the box. I saw her glare at me so I’m sure she rushed to get it out after I left, but my point would have been made. One thing I can’t stand is rude and/ or inefficient customer service as anyone who has read my ops regularly will know. Anyway, I’m going off on a bit of a tangent but it is not without relevance, since you must appreciate this was my first impression of Ealing Holmes Place, the only private gym in the area I believe, unless you ...

Everything that starts with V ... 17/10/2004

Vegetables, soaps, rugby and more

Everything that starts with V ... Bexergal who started this challenge seems to be one of the flock of Ciaoers who have left recently. I thought I’d do a challenge to get me back into writing cos It’s been a while. 1. Football or Rugby? I used to hate rugby. Growing up in Wales, all the guys at school tended to be into rugby, not football and most of the rugby crowd at school were obnoxious, arrogant idiots. Did get into the rugby during the world cup last year though and now find the game a lot faster paced and more exciting to watch than a lot of football matches. Adore Jonny Wilkinson too which helps. Having said that I love the atmosphere of the country during football world cups, getting to leave work early to watch matches with friends. Winning the rugby world cup was fantastic, I went to see the victory parade and we all went to the pub and didn’t go back to work at all. However, I have no doubt that it was nothing compared to the frenzied fever that would erupt if England ever (we can dream) won the football world cup. 2. Computer or Playstation2? Computer. Had a PSOne for a while but never bothered to get a PS2 cos after the novelty of the first few weeks I never bothered with it. I use my laptop loads though, for the internet obviously, but also to photoshop my holiday snaps, writing for my evening class and so on. Would find it hard to live without one now, much like a mobile phone it’s something I lived without for years but would be lost without it now. 3. Emmerdale or Coronation ...

Moshi Moshi, London 24/09/2004

Why nosh at Moshi Moshi?

Moshi Moshi, London IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO PAY... This isn’t a negative but it is how I ended up at Moshi Moshi in Liverpool st station, which isn’t my usual London hangout place! You may have read my review on I’d been to this restaurant a few years ago and forgotten about it until I won a meal for two at this restaurant (including alcohol, woo hoo!), as part of a competition I won with the Evening Standard. You don’t have to win a competition though, if you work in Liverpool st, you may well end there on a nice paid for company lunch or paying on expenses as it seems to be a popular place for client lunches and dinners. If you aren’t on a tight budget it’s still worth splashing your own cash on though. NICE PEOPLE, GREAT SERVICE I was meeting my boyfriend here and got there on time, but he was running late but unable to call me due to the fact I don’t currently have a mobile phone (not trying to do another cheap plug but regular readers of my reviews will know about my battles with the Evil Orange Empire). After I had been there over 45 minutes on my own, I think they were a bit concerned that I had been stood up! I knew better, knowing my boyfriend, an accountant, is not one to turn down a free meal, but I could see that it looked a bit odd. The nice waitress had already brought me over some wine and free nibbles (tasty bits of chicken teriyaki in a bowl). I explained my predicament with the phone and they let me use their restaurant landline to call him, bless! He ...

Vancouver (Canada) 21/09/2004

Vancouver: Spectacular by Nature

Vancouver (Canada) Surrounded by sandy beaches and snow-capped mountains, it’s very hard to beat Vancouver for sheer breathtaking beauty. Top that with numerous parks – including the huge forest-filled Stanley Park, superb shopping, varied nightlife, cultural and sporting offerings, as well as bright modern architecture and it's pretty hard to avoid the cliche ‘there’s no place quite like this’. GENERAL FACTS Canada is vast, stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It is further from Vancouver in the West to Toronto in the East than it is from Toronto to London, a 7 ½ hour flight away. Canada’s landscapes actually exceed all expectations – the Rocky mountains, rainforests, desert land, lakes, open grassland stretching as far as the eye can see, tundra, lush orchards, fjords and prairie wheat fields, Canada has them all and is completely unspoilt – over 90% of the country’s 30 million population lives within 100 miles of the US border. - Exchange rate: in February 2004 was 2.17 Canadian $s to the British £. - Vancouver’s official language is English, Chinese is second. - Traveller’s cheques – in Canadian $s are accepted in most major restaurants, shops and fast food outlets. GETTING THERE Air Canada and British Airways fly directly to Vancouver from London Heathrow. Having flown with both I would recommend British Airways, it’s a long flight – around 10 hours and I didn’t have a good experience with Air Canada either way but may be that can go in a separate review! A ...

Crete (Greece) 20/09/2004

Parallel Crete

Crete (Greece) I look out over the tiny waves as they peacefully roll and break. To my right is a clear view of the flora-flecked mountains which plunge into the sun speckled sea. This unassumingly charming view is remarkably undisturbed by the throngs of boisterous, beach-crazy tourists that plague so much of Northern Crete. Having had my ambitious plans of holidaying in exotic South East Asia cruelly thwarted by a last-minute practical review of personal finances, I had dreaded arriving in a drunken Brit-infested Mediterranean hell-hole. Instead, the village of Panormos is the embodiment of everything I’d hoped for: tranquil beaches surrounded by impeccably clear sapphire waters, pretty cobbled streets, baking under a flamboyant summer sky. I lunch on delicious meze, alternating that with less pleasureable sips of the well meant complimentary ‘delight’ of Raki, a meths like alcoholic substance that sets your throat on fire . As I walk over to the bar to ask for the bill, an ancient looking lady, dressed entirely in black with a tired expression but smiling eyes, waves to me. She points to the TV which plays unobtrusively in the background. European elections are showing, with protests in Athens. Esmeralda speaks very little English and I speak much less Greek but somehow we cover the varied subjects of Tony Blair, George Bush (big thumbs down), the British royal family, David Beckham. With lots of hand signalling and odd words in a mixture of Greek (which she persists with ...

Everything that starts with Q ... 18/09/2004

quick, quirky questions

Everything that starts with Q ... No idea who started this challenge sorry. I am actually about to do some more product reviews, but in the meantime here’s a quick question thing! 1. Whats on your duvet cover? Girlie flower pattern. Must get a new one sometime, but have better things to spend my money on right now! 2. What is in the glove compartment of your car? I don’t drive, so sit in the passenger seat all the time. Therefore, with the exception of the usual documents, maps it is full of my junk – magazines, books etc. 3. What is the background to your computer have a photo of Lake Kouvnos in Crete on there at the moment. It is one of the best photos I’ve ever taken, helped by the sunset, light shining on the water. Quite proud of it :-) 4. What was the last thing you sung? Hmm, just being singing along to some girlband on CD Uk. Not my usual type of music, honest!! 5. When was the last time you did a cartwheel? I never, ever learnt how to do a cartwheel. It always used to bother me as a kid when I was the only person I knew who couldn’t even do a bent leg one! I couldn’t get the whole sequence of it all and would end up doing some kind of demented bunny hop! 6. How do you take your coffee? Yuck I hate coffee, the mere whiff of it, especially if I’m hungover, is enough to make me gag! 7. Last time you went clubbing? Never really been a big clubber. Like drinking late but prefer late opening bars. I guess the last time I went would have been about 3 months ago in ...
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