Share this page on

silver Status silver (Level 8/10)

helencbradshaw

helencbradshaw

Trusted by 302 members
See member statistics

thinks Ciao readership is getting a little outdated in its expectations in the digital age.

Reviews written

since 29/07/2001

310

CarphoneWarehouse.co.uk 08/04/2012

Our Big Promises......are not worth the paper they are printed on

CarphoneWarehouse.co.uk When I find a company that I get good service from, I tend to stick with them. It isn’t always about price, but the fact I can trust them. This is why I have saved and mortgaged and had my salary paid into the same bank for 25 years, have bought my contact lenses from the same high street store for 22 years, and just renewed my car insurance with the same company for the 20th year in a row, and I not even 44 yet. Unfortunately, the carphone warehouse is not going to make it into that list, not now or ever. When my contract was up for renewal late last year, it clashed with around the time the iPhone 4s was due out for sale. I had visited the Orange store (another on my list of companies I stick with) and was a little bit indecisive on what model to get, plus the store was mobbed, they didn’t have one of the alternatives I was considering in stock and I had a lift waiting outside. I wanted to reduce my monthly tariff as I felt I did not use the IPhone 3 gs enough to warrant a £35-40 per month bill, and so on a whim I popped into the Carphone Warehouse store in Nottingham’s Victoria centre, to have a look at alternatives to the iPhone. Within a matter of minutes I had agreed to renew my orange contract via the carphone warehouse but on a much cheaper monthly rate, as I am the type of customer that sends 2-3 texts a month. I do like the security of a phone etc., but in reality I probably don’t need one. I selected, on recommendation a HTC phone, which was a fraction of the ...

The Platinum Hotel and Spa, Las Vegas 26/03/2012

Staying off Strip

The Platinum Hotel and Spa, Las Vegas We have recently spent six nights at the Platinum Hotel and Spa in Las Vegas. I had booked a great rate direct with the hotel, but I did wonder as a first (and probably last) time visitor to LV whether I would regret not staying on the strip and in one of the iconic hotels such as Bellagio or Venetian. However the expensive resort fees and the fact we needed to maximise our budget for the rest of the trip meant we decided to stay with the Platinum. And I am so glad we did. We got an industry rate which I wont divulge but suites are available from $129 per night, and no resort fees, much cheaper than the five star resorts on strip. We arrived mid afternoon and we had a swift and friendly check in before retiring to our fantastic Princess suite room. The rooms themselves are an excellent size and similar to a one bed apartment, ours also had a balcony which overlooked the Strip. In some ways I would say we had a better view of the strip than the hotels that are actually on it! We particularly liked the fact that we did not have to walk extensive distances from reception to our bedroom, the platinum being non gambling (and indeed non smoking) and it is great to be able to escape both of these. We are not gamblers ourselves. From the hotel, it takes about 15 minutes to get to the front of Bally's and the strip. This seems like a long walk, but my travelling companions who were in other strip hotels said it took them just as long to get from their bedroom to the hotel reception! I ...

Imagine Ireland 08/01/2012

Imagine your next holiday in Ireland....

Imagine Ireland I have to admit, trying to find a cottage for a week’s holiday in Northern Ireland was quite a challenge. My internet research uncovered loads of sites, and it was a question of too many to choose from. I wanted a well kept fairly contemporary decorated home somewhere close to Portrush/Bushmills area, and it did seem that there were plenty to choose from. One site that I hit a few times was the Imagine Ireland website. As the name suggests, Imagine Ireland book self catering/cottage holidays across the whole of Ireland, and they also have some properties in the UK and even in France. They have been trading since 2002, so a reasonable on line history. I finally settled on a particular property in Bushills (property no 9708) and sent off an on line query. I particularly liked this website as it did have what looked like up to date inventory on line. Many properties are individually owned and of course it can be a challenge sending emails or making calls to see if they are available for the week in question. We had decided that we would drive north to Troon and get the Troon-Larne ferry, as it is a short crossing and the total journey would be no longer than travelling from Holyhead. I asked Imagine Ireland to price that for me as well, as it is not a route that is heavily discounted by P&O and it was quite an expensive week with it being Easter. Imagine Ireland are actually based in Skipton, Yorkshire – something I did find a little unusual, but I guess there is plenty of ...

Heaven's Banquet 08/01/2012

Food for a King

Heaven's Banquet At the end of April, I took a trip to a Health Spa called Ayurveda UK, in Staffordshire. It was a special treat to myself, and I had done plenty of pre-reading kindly supplied in advance, on the holistic approach to health that Ayurveda teaches. I had also tried out some recipes which were sent to me, which I found most enjoyable. I therefore decided I had better treat myself to an Ayurveda cookbook. The book retails for about £12. The Ayurveda way is based around a Vegetarian Diet, so no meat and two veg. in this book. It does contain over 700 recipes in total, and runs to over 600 pages. Now the author did not rush to print this book, it took 23 years to compile, and was written over experiences in three continents.Ayurveda translates as the Science of Life. The diet is intended to promote overall health from within. The first section of the book looks at the principles of Ayurveda. This includes the different body types, and tips for sound digestion, as well as the types of food that pacify each of the different body types. Vegetables-------------An Ayurvedic diet will be rich in tasty vegetable dishes, and it is no surprise therefore, that the menu section starts here. As well as general tips on cooking vegetables, there are plenty of tasty recipes for vegetable curries, stroganoff and goulash. Each recipe contains information about how and where the vegetables are traditionally cooked. And I have never seen quite so many recipes for Eggplant! Grains and ...

Blackberry Wood Campsite, Brighton, East Sussex 16/05/2011

Birdsong

Blackberry Wood Campsite, Brighton, East Sussex I first heard of Blackberry Wood after it was named campsite of the year in the Cool Camping book for England. Fast forward a couple of years and we finally got our opportunity to visit. We actually booked for five nights from Sunday to Friday in May. The campsite does offer online booking, about 13 months in advance but its recent fame has meant that weekends do get booked up very quickly and were practically booked out, as were most school holidays, by January. The campsite takes only about 20 tents, and one of the key attractions of the site is that these are in their own individual glades, of varying sizes, but ultimately very private, while at the same time not being too far from each other. The price for five nights in May was £95, which is a little on the steep side but a price we were willing to pay – finding sites which are geared for tent campers, and do not consist of masses of tents are few and far between. We paid 50% deposit with balance due on arrival. I must say it was difficult to get a real feel of the place from their website (www.blackberrywood.com) as it is (unusually) mostly animated with very little information, although past guests are invited to post their own holiday photos. I had learned from the website that it is essential to let the site know in advance if you have a particularly large tent, of over 5m x 3m. The website states that a failure to do so means that you will not be allowed to pitch until everyone has arrived, an inconvenience ...

How important is social networking to you? 03/05/2011

Facebook me

How important is social networking to you? How Important is Social Networking to me? Hmm. Judging by the picture shown here, this clearly refers to online social networking, and not physical social networking, and so I have answered this accordingly. Just under than five years the likes of Facebook did not exist – unless you were at a certain university which allowed you to join - it did however open its doors to the masses in late 2006. I have of course played an active part in other online communities including Dooyoo and Ciao, and the occasional spin off forum, an interest which in itself has led to the occasional meeting or two. For friends and family the main method of communication was the telephone, followed by email, and occasional letter/postcards/cards. Even further back, around the year 2000, Friends Reunited was a popular way of seeking out old school friends, and even old colleagues and neighbours and was certainly one of the earliest social networking sites and quite revolutionary; the company was even valued at £175m at its peak. However this site seems to have run its course – many profiles from my old school friends have not been updated in ten years. I joined Facebook, perhaps one of the most popular and well known social networking sites, back in the summer of 2007. I seem to recall that one of my sisters sent me a link. In the early days and weeks of course, I did very little with Facebook, not quite seeing the attraction in sending people pixellated gifts and “poking” them for fun. How times ...

Giant`S Causeway, Portrush 03/05/2011

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants..

Giant`S Causeway, Portrush The Giant’s Causeway, on the Antrim Coast, probably needs very little introduction. It is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, and is one of the premier attractions in Northern Ireland. It has also been one of the main reasons that I have wanted to visit this area for some time now. The Giant’s Causeway is currently under the care of the National Trust (NT), as is Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, and so if you take out membership you are already starting to recoup some of the costs in visiting this region. Thankfully this wonderful site has free entry, although you do need to pay for car parking, which is £6 – but free to members. Entry to the Giant’s Causeway is via the main ticket office. At the moment there is some building works going on, as a new visitor centre is being constructed, said to cost in the region of £18m. We did not find there was any significant disruption during our visit however. The usual National trust gift shop is located here, and adjoins the hotel next door, which houses a smaller shop. Car parking is worth further explanation – if you visit during the busier periods of the year, then you may need to plan this in advance. It is most likely the site car park will be full, so you will need to make use of the park’n’ride options to the site, including the one at Bushmills, and this one is recommended during the period of the visitor centre works. There is a third car park nearer the attraction, which involves a steeper descent/ascent. We opted to go ...

Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, Antrim 02/05/2011

A Bridge too Far..?

Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, Antrim The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is one of the Antrim (Causeway Coast) must see attractions. The bridge itself is accessed near to Ballintoy, which is only a few miles from Giant’s Causeway on the north coast. The bridge is now under the care of the National Trust (NT), which is great for those with membership as of course it means free entry – otherwise adult admission is £5.60 (Apr 2011) with the usual concessions available. The bridge itself is a suspension bridge, made of rope and wooden planks, which crosses “The Atlantic”, or more accurately about 75 feet of it, between the mainland and Carrick-a-Rede Island. The bridge itself stands 30 metres above the sea and the rocks below. We visited in late April, on a gloriously calm sunny day. We arrived at lunchtime and were able to park up easily in the spacious car park, which is free to all, I understand. There is a nice lawned area nearby and we opted to stop and picnic here after the walk. There is also a NT café and shop area which has some wonderful black and white photos of the bridge during its construction. Access to the bridge requires walking approximately 1.5km from the car park and ticket office, along the side of the cliffs. The walk itself is pleasant and part of the experience, indeed we took around 45 minutes to walk the return journey, resting occasionally to take in the view (and rest the legs which were rather wobbly for a good hour or two after the ordeal of crossing the bridge!) Would be bridge ...

Hilton Hotel, Belfast 27/04/2011

Raising the Bar

Hilton Hotel, Belfast We recently stayed in the Belfast Hilton for a one night stay at the beginning of a nine day holiday to the Northern Ireland coast. Although my family is from Dublin, Belfast had remained an elusive destination, one that had been on my “to do” list for years. In the end, it was only to be a one night stay with around 36 hours or so in the city at the most, and we wanted a nice hotel to mark the beginning of our holiday, which was to mark both our wedding anniversary and my birthday within the same week. Working in the hotel trade, I tend to use a third party site to determine pricing, but book direct and this was no exception. Five star or excellent four star was a definite requirement. I had identified the hotel from one of the “top secret” destinations and could have secured Bed and Irish Breakfast for around £84. In the end I booked on line and upgraded to a Corner City Suite room, which included B&B and access to the executive lounge on the 11th floor each evening, for £126 on a Spring BB 1 night special rate via the website. I did only book about ten days in advance, so considered this was a reasonable rate for a five star hotel in the city with upgrade. Parking, like many city centre hotels, came at a premium, in this case an additional £18 for 24 hours, however the car-park space was easy to locate and secure a space, it being a bank holiday Friday on our arrival day, and the city was fairly quiet. The car park is attached to the hotel, and the Hilton itself is ...

Ashiana, Newark upon Trent 13/04/2011

East meets West

Ashiana, Newark upon Trent My recent trip to the Ashiana near Newark was inspired by their Groupon offer, which was available for purchase for 24 hours only, quite recently. For £21, prospective diners could have a 3 course dinner for 2, to the value of approximately £56. I had never purchased via groupon before, but a similar offer in my more local Indian had been very successful, and it would seem that there were few restrictions. The voucher was duly delivered by email, and we made a table booking for 2 for early evening midweek. The restaurant is a conversion from a former pub in the North Muskham area, which is close to the Great North Road and the A1 near Newark. The restaurant, rather unusually also includes ten letting bedrooms, which are laid out motel style behind the restaurant. I did not have the opportunity to view these, although on line reviews generally score highly. Nevertheless, given the lack of accommodation in the immediate town, and the close proximity to the A1 and the East Coast Line, I would imagine these are suitable budget accommodation for midweek travellers who do not want the formalities of more corporate accommodation. However, our main reason was for our evening meal. The restaurant consists of a large dining area, which can cater for over 100 covers at a time. The interior design was contemporary, utilising white table runners and leather high back chairs that are typical of many modern interiors and restaurants. There is a large seating area before entering the ...

Review of the year 2010 27/12/2010

Follow your Heart?

Review of the year 2010 And here we are again close to completing another year, so I thought it was high time I looked back and reflected on the year gone by - for me it was a reasonable year, certainly better than the last three or four, however I believe the plans I have put in place for 2011 will ensure I can be true to myself and chase my own dreams a bit more! January-February Started cold and snowy, the main events in my life were that my close friend was about to adopt three children, and we were closing the sale on my Dad's house, buyer was playing a few games, sister dead-lined them and they came up with the monies in the end to conclude the sale at the beginning of February. It was a relief that the pressure was off us a little, as none of us live anywhere near the house. Since found out from the next door neighbour that new neighbours have done a lot of work, would love to see the changes, (if I have the courage to knock on their door and ask for a tour...! ) Sister and Bro in law joined me in the hotel (Work) and we had a nice meal together and all stopped over. At work, I took on temporary responsibility for a third hotel and Shropshire became part of my fortnightly commute for the next couple of months. My husband's aunt had to have an operation and her leg amputated, regrettably it got infected and the prognosis was not good. In 2007 her husband and her youngest son had died within six months of each other. Hubby was also feeling very ill one Sunday night, I took him to ...

Estalagem Quinta Da Casa Branca, Funchal 05/12/2010

a Garden Oasis

Estalagem Quinta Da Casa Branca, Funchal Quinta da Casa Branca was my five star base for my recent visit to Madeira. The holiday itself was a last minute affair, booked about two weeks before departure. We selected the 43 bedroom hotel specifically for its small size, accepting that there might be slightly less features than in a massive hotel, but we would rather have had a more peaceful surrounding. In any event the five star rating and also ranked as one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, we felt this would be a special treat. We did book a package holiday, something I have done on about 2 other occasions in my life. The price for two adults, late November, including flexible dining (3 nights half board), Bed and Breakfast, flights from Manchester, airport parking, and taxi transfer was £1222 for two adults for one week. I had checked direct pricing from their website - http://www.quintacasabranca.pt - but there was very little in it in terms of savings, and it was easier to have the one stop shop. We arrived at the hotel around 8pm, following a transfer time of around 25 minutes, and our check in was straightforward. We were the only guests arriving on our particular flight and were greeted by name. However, wherever we went in the hotel for the remainder of our stay, all staff automatically greeted us and knew our room number automatically – granted the hotel was not fully occupied, but I get the feeling this is the normal standard of service at the hotel. The hotel is about 20-25 minutes walk ...

The Old Volunteer, Caythorpe, Nottingham 02/11/2010

No Charity Collectors here...

The Old Volunteer, Caythorpe, Nottingham Although the Old Volunteer in Caythorpe was refurbished almost one year ago, we somehow never managed to make it for dinner there until a little over six weeks ago. Since then we have visited five times in total, four times for dinner, and once for a cheeky wee glass of wine after work. Situated just a couple of miles from my house, it has quickly become my restaurant of choice in the area – and we are quite spoiled for choice around both banks of the Trent close to where I live. The Caythorpe in question is located at postcode NG14 (Notts), with the pub being in a fairly remote location as you enter the village. There is usually adequate parking at the side or rear of the restaurant, and the rear car park has outdoor seating, although we have not had the opportunity to sit outside, given the time of year. What you cannot miss, are the fantastic old apple trees in the grounds. While on the subject of outdoor seating though, there is a very attractive outdoor seating area adjacent to the main restaurant, and which also serves as a secondary entrance/exit. This area, which would seat approx 16-20 is heated with external patio lights, so it is possible to sit outside even at this time of year, and of course makes it slightly more comfortable for the smokers. However, most will enter through the front door, and the contemporary décor will not disappoint. The décor is contemporary, using woods and green/brown tones together with brick fireplaces, making it warm and ...

The Spyglass Inn, Isle of Wight 03/05/2010

I Spy, with my little Eye...

The Spyglass Inn, Isle of Wight A week’s camping holiday in the Isle of Wight, and as good as an excuse as any to try out some different eating experiences. I had seen a brief glimpse of the Spyglass Inn in the Island tourist magazine, but have to confess it was not the reason that we called in for our first visit. The pub is situated on the Esplanade at Ventnor, a popular tourism spot, with fantastic views over the English Channel. It was exactly these views that captured our attention and we decided to give it a go for our anniversary luncheon. The pub itself is privately owned and provides extensive outdoor and indoor seating for dining and drinking. As well as ample seating in front of the hotel itself, there is an adjoining building called The Boathouse, which is also available for dining – inside and out. This means the Spyglass can cope with the busier summer crowds. The entrance sign - Well Behaved Dogs and Muddy Boots Welcome – certainly lets you know that there is no air of pretentiousness at the Spyglass but a place where everyone is welcome, families or couples, and all day dining is certainly a bonus, especially as this is not the normal kind of chain food all day dining experience. That said, there was a bit of a breeze on both occasions when we ate there last week, and you’ll need a good fleece at this time of the year if you want to enjoy your meal out of doors. There are three separate tables which are slightly protected by the weather due to the design of the porch and these ...

Veet Sensitive Skin Hair Removal Cream with Aloe Vera and Vitamin E 07/12/2009

Hair Raising

Veet Sensitive Skin Hair Removal Cream with Aloe Vera and Vitamin E The brand Veet, formerly known as Immac, has dominated the market for hair removal creams for many a year. I have recently started to use it again this year after years of salon waxing, or home waxing using strips, or using a plain old razor on the odd occasion. I typically buy the 100ml tube which costs £4.88, which does seem a little steep but on the other hand it is quite a bit cheaper than visiting a salon, providing it does a reasonable job of course. It is generally a lot more convenient than visiting a salon, and a lot quicker and easier to apply than using waxing strips at home. My previous memories of using hair removing creams such as this at home have been that it is messy, smelly, and not always that effective. So would the “New Formula” Veet be more effective than its predecessors? In the box, as well as the tube of cream itself, you are provided with one spatula which is slightly scooped in shape. It is important to read the instructions on the box itself, and there is no in pack leaflet provided. Common sense of course suggests you do a patch test. However I didn't bother, not particularly having suffered any negative reactions in the past, and simply because having bought the cream I just want to get on with the task at hand. The New formula is apparently manufactured for sensitive skin. It is a small mystery as to why all creams are not made for sensitive skin, seems pointless not to, but perhaps I am over analysing it. The formula, made up of ...
See more reviews Back to top