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koshkha

koshkha

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since 26/12/2005

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Orange Village Resort, Gangtok 07/09/2014

It's not orange and it's not a village. But it's great.

Orange Village Resort, Gangtok Oranges and Lemons Last October we took a tour of West Bengal and Sikkim and one of the places we visited twice was the Sikkimese capital of Gangtok. We were due to stay in the same hotel both times but things didn’t go as planned. Thanks to a hiccup with our hotel bookings and a miscommunication between the company organising the hotels and the one organising the transport, we weren’t able to stay at the Orange Village near Gangtok before we headed into North Sikkim and so we arrived at the hotel only after we’d already been north. As a result of the same hiccup, we’d had a night in central Gangtok in a very swanky new hotel called the Tara Palace and I was a bit worried that the Orange Village might suffer by comparison. If it hadn’t been for the beautiful sunshine when we arrived, we might have been a tiny bit disappointed and suffering from Tara withdrawal symptoms. If you want to be in the centre of the city, you can’t do better than the Tara Palace, but the Orange Village is not a central hotel, it’s located about 7 miles out of the centre beside quite a busy road. It’s positioned as a sort of ‘garden resort’ and as such it plays on its countryside location but our first impressions were a little bit ‘So, is that it?’ because it’s ‘kerbside appeal’ (or whatever it is the house sale people are saying these days), was pretty low. Arrival Our driver and guide dropped us off, collected various extortionate amounts of money from us for services that Clubside travel ...

Desigual Railey Jersey Dress Multicoloured 31/08/2014

Short, loud and great fun

Desigual Railey Jersey Dress Multicoloured The Perfect Storm Have you ever had the experience that something you glanced at once on a website keeps popping up on your screen whenever you are online? Maybe something you saw, thought “Hmm, nice. I’d like one of those” and then Google decided to haunt you with the picture, popping up several times a day to tempt you? That was what happened to me with the Railey dress from Spanish clothing firm, Desigual. Some of my colleagues had been talking about how much they liked Desigual clothes. They were particularly keen on browsing the Desigual store in Barcelona airport. I was looking on the Zalando website and decided to check out the brand. There was a dress, brightly coloured with a spectacular star burst of colour on the front. I looked at it, I looked at all the different pictures, I thought “too short, too young, too ‘loud’” (the dress - not me; obviously I was too tall, too old, too understated) and tried to ignore it. But there it was, waving at me from the screen again. Then one day the perfect storm of events combined. I’d had a couple of payments from Bubblews which meant there was money burning a hole in my paypal account, a mail came from Zalando with 20% off some already discounted prices; and so I bought it. Not just it, but another Desigual dress. After all my 20% off only applied if I spent more than £75. In total I paid £88 for the two dresses. I think the Railey was originally £75 on its own but with the various discounts, it came down to £52. I told ...

Yarlam Resort, Lachung, North Sikkim 10/08/2014

A hotel that's a long way from everywhere.

Yarlam Resort, Lachung, North Sikkim A Journey to the End of the World Deciding to go to the north Sikkim town (and I use the word lightly) of Lachung is something you shouldn’t do lightly. It’s a very long way from everywhere else, it takes a heck of a long time to get there and the roads are absolutely shocking. In addition to the physical discomfort of bouncing up and down for a whole day in the back of a four-wheel drive, you’ll need to get a special extra permit (in addition to the one for being in Sikkim to start with) with paperwork, photos and the uncertainty of whether it’s going to arrive on time. It takes determination or stupidity and it’s up to you to decide which you consider was the case for our visit to the Yarlam Resort. Don’t book with Clubside Travel - they are a bunch of rogues I was deeply angered that Clubside Travel, the company who were arranging our ground travel, ‘forgot’ to tell us we were going to have to pay for a local ‘guide’ to go with us from Gangtok to Lachung and back again until we were already in Gangtok. They ruined our free afternoon in the city with dozens of unpleasant phone calls and even now, more than nine months later, I’m still taking a deep breath and stopping myself from writing the review that tells the world what I really think of these charlatans. We also weren’t pleased that we were going to have to change both our vehicle and our driver after more than a week together. We loved our driver, Bassam. He had an almost psychic ability to know what we would and ...

Ali and Ramazan - Perihan Magden 04/08/2014

A desperately sad story of young love and loss

Ali and Ramazan - Perihan Magden A Love Story with a lot of Differences ‘Ali and Ramazan’, written by Turkish novelist and journalist Perihan Magden and translated by Ruth Whitehouse, is a story of young love. That’s not an unusual topic for a novel but in this case, it’s a very different story than the classic ‘boy meets girl, they fall in love, overcome some obstacles, and all live happily ever after’ structure to which was are so accustomed. Why? Well Ali and Ramazan meet in an Istanbul orphanage and they are both boys. That’s probably the first thing you’ll notice is very different. There aren’t so many teen love stories about same-sex relationships out there - or if there are, they’ve passed me by. Despite the protagonists being young, I don’t think you could classify this as a ‘young adult’ or ‘new adult’ (or whatever the terms are) novel. It’s very dark, very dismal and deeply shocking, introducing us to the abuse and the horrors that both young men have been subjected to, even before they meet and gradually fall in love. When Ramazan met Ali Ramazan is not strictly speaking an orphan though he has no family to love and care for him. There was a mother and obviously a man who got her pregnant but he knows nothing about either of them. He was abandoned in swaddling clothes in the courtyard of a mosque. He was a baby, a foundling as old Victorian novels used to call such unwanted children and because he was found two days before the Muslim holy month, the imam who found him named him Ramazan. He has ...

Balance Me Super Moisturising Hand Cream 02/08/2014

A truly 'Super' Super Moisturising Hand Cream

Balance Me Super Moisturising Hand Cream A bargain that came in handy Back in the Christmas and New Year holidays, I snapped up some bargains on a website that used to be called www.activebeauty.com but is now rebranded as www.allbeauty.com It’s a great site and I recommend anyone who loves a good deal should go and sign up to get notifications of their special offers. One of my bargains was a four pack of hand and body products from a company called ‘Balance Me’ which made up a set called the ‘Skin Quenching Body Collection’. I’ve been a fan of Balance Me ever since I tried some of their products which were offered as ‘gift with purchase’ goodies on a women’s magazine and I’ve also bought a box of assorted Balance Me products through Youbeautydiscovery.com so when I saw the set on offer at £6.40 instead of the normal price of £16, I grabbed the chance to buy it, figuring that if I liked even two of the products, I’d be doing well. Of course I liked them all, and the one I liked best was this hand cream. My tube contains 30 ml but if you want to buy the full-size, it retails at £14.50 for a 100ml tube. The nominal value of my tube is thus £4.35. I like to carry hand cream in my handbag so a smaller tube is actually better for me and I would try to buy small ones again if I could. About the Company Balance Me is a home-grown British success story and was started by three sisters who gave up their jobs in the hope of creating a company and products that would let them get back their work-life balance. Hence - I ...

Eye Bar-Restaurant, Amsterdam 31/07/2014

An Eye for an Ij

Eye Bar-Restaurant, Amsterdam One in the Eye Last week I was - yet again - in Amsterdam and we went for dinner at the Eye Bar and Restaurant in the Eye Film Institute Netherlands. I had long been wondering what the big white building across the water from the back of the Amsterdam Central Station was, partly because it looked so much like the new Museum of Liverpool which also stands on the waterside. I then learned that it was the film institute and - more importantly - the place where we were having dinner. Boats run back and forth across the water between the station and the Eye and rather remarkably, they are free. I may well be wrong, but I’m not aware of any other transportation in Amsterdam that’s free of charge except these cross-Ij boats but I was happy to take advantage of the service. In case you’d wondering about the name ‘Eye’, I assume it’s a pun on the name of the river which is the Ij - pronounced as ‘eye’ and not ‘idge’ or any other strange things you can come up with. Eye was Late We were booked at 7.30pm and - as always - we were late. I’m a stickler for punctuality but my boss will probably be late for her own funeral. We walked to the station, took the boat and arrived about 45 minutes late. Luckily, despite our lateness, they still told us that the fact we had a reservation meant we would go to the top of the waiting list for a table on the terrace. In the meantime, whilst we waited, they suggested we take a table inside and have a drink, or we could sit on the steps outside in ...

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe - Romain Puertolas 28/07/2014

A Flat Pack Novel Filled with Surprises

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe - Romain Puertolas A Fake Fakir? ‘The Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir who got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe’ by Romain Puertolas is one of those books whose title makes it a little hard to ignore. It’s an interesting technique to intrigue the potential reader with a title that seems to almost tell the story itself and I’m reminded by such classics as ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ or ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian’. Romain Puertolas is a French writer and this book has already been a hit in his home country. His translator – Sam Taylor – has done an amazing job to take such a bizarre book with its many complex puns and jokes, and translate it into something digestible by an English speaking readership. Knowing a little about the reliance of French humourists on bad puns and word play, I’m impressed that Taylor has captured the spirit of that humour without forcing it on us too much. Ohmygosh This is the story of an Indian fakir called Ajatashatru Oghash Rathod who has been a fake all his life – in effect, a fake fakir. That’s the kind of clever stuff that impresses me about the translation. We meet him on a plane, flying to Paris on a ticket paid for by the villagers from his home who have financed his trip to buy a new bed of nails. On landing he hops in a taxi and says “IKEA”. It doesn’t really matter that the gypsy taxi driver who takes him rips him off by going to a store on the other side of Paris. It doesn’t matter because Ajatashatru is going to pay him with a fake €100 ...

India: 55 Must See Places & 50 Must Do Things - Destination Infinity 22/07/2014

Buying this might just be the number one 'Must Don't'

India: 55 Must See Places & 50 Must Do Things - Destination Infinity Is that really all you need to do for an e-book? ‘India: 55 Must See Places and 50 Must Do Things’ by Destination Infinity is the sort of book whose sheer mediocrity inspires me. It inspires me to think “Hell’s teeth! Someone thought this was worth an e-book. Really?” I have long been put off the idea of doing my own e-books by fear they couldn’t possibly be good enough but e-books like this make me realise I couldn’t really make a worse mess of it than this guy has. Sorry Mr Infinity but your book’s pretty poor. I picked this as my free loan from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and in keeping with my challenge to review whatever I get from the KOLL, I’ll do my best but it’s not the easiest of things to try to describe or to criticise. It’s more like a not very good list with the odd flash of interesting insight. Keep in mind that India is my passion and my standards are very high. If I had paid money for this book - which I didn’t - I would have been hoping to be impressed, inspired and fired up to visit some new places. I wasn’t. The book comes in two parts - not too surprisingly the list of must see places makes up the first part and the must do activities fill the latter part. Don’t let the poorness of the first part put you off hanging on in there as the ‘50 Must Do Things’ include a few really good ideas. Start Counting Let’s start at the very beginning, which as Julie Andrews told us in the Sound of Music, is indeed a very good place to start. The cover is ...

Antica Hostelleria di San Bernadino, Crema 15/07/2014

Basic but quite charming

Antica Hostelleria di San Bernadino, Crema La Dolce Vita? I work for a company with operations all over Europe and I quite like most of the places where we have factories and offices. The site I least enjoy visiting - and which I avoid if I possibly can - is our factory in Crema. It’s partly that the town is a drag to get to, partly the generally uncooperative nature of our Italian team, and the lousy hotel we usually stay in doesn’t help to endear the place to me. On a visit a few weeks ago we stayed at the Antica Hostelleria di San Bernadino instead of the usual hotel. We had a large number of people needing rooms and they had to be split between this place and the usual hotel. I was more than happy to get assigned to a new place and was hoping I might like it more than the Ponte di Rialto. There’s a lot to be said for not being central The Antica Hostelleria is not in the centre of the town which makes it quieter than the city hotels but you’ll need transport - or access to friendly taxi drivers which aren’t always easy to find in Italy. If you do have a car, it has the benefit of plenty of parking. My flight was delayed so I arrived from Milan Linate with three other people and we turned up only a few minutes before we were all due to go out for dinner. We checked in, dropped our bags in the rooms and headed straight out again. My first impressions were that the Antica Hostelleria had pretty gardens, super-neat lawns and looked a bit like an old farm building. I’m sure the owners wouldn’t be impressed by me ...

Caudalie Polyphenol Anti-Wrinkle Eye and Lip Cream 14/07/2014

An eye for an eye and a lip for a lip

Caudalie Polyphenol Anti-Wrinkle Eye and Lip Cream Eye Eye After my last review pretty much blasted Caudalie for their anti-wrinkle defense serum, you could be forgiven for suspecting I’m about to do another hatchet job on their anti-wrinkle eye and lip cream but you’d be wrong. Cutting to the chase, for those who don’t want to read all the details, this is a much better product than the serum. My 5ml tube of the product came as part of a box of three products supplied by the website Latestinbeauty.co.uk at a price of £9.99 including packaging. I’d have to say that having had lots of other products in what were supposed to be 5 ml tubes, this one is distinctly on the generous side and I suspect there’s rather more than the promised amount inside. Although I’ve been pretty good about looking after my skin for most of my adult life, I’m a relatively late convert to eye creams and have only been using them regularly for less than a year. That might be a case of ‘too little too late’ but I’ve come to enjoy having a bit more help around my eyes. I also appreciate tiny tubes because I live most of my life within the constraints of an airport-approved 20 cm square ziplock plastic bag. Size is important for me - and little sizes please me a lot. First Impressions The product comes in a dark green tube which is stable to stand on its cap, ensuring that the product is in the right part of the tube when you need to squeeze it out. The print on the tube is in white and it’s very easy to read, although there’s not too much to read on ...

Caudalie Polyphenol Anti-Wrinkle Defense Serum 13/07/2014

If you can't blind us with science, baffle us with statistics

Caudalie Polyphenol Anti-Wrinkle Defense Serum Ooh la la I quite like the French skincare brand Caudalie. They are not so well established as to have stopped trying to find new customers and so they tend to be very active with the websites that sell small samples in order to encourage people to try them. I first found them through a hand cream in my YouBeautyDiscovery advent calendar last year and have bought more of their hand creams since then. I also tried out some samples of their grape-extract product through Latest in Beauty. When I saw that Latest in Beauty were offering quite respectable sized samples of three of the Caudalie ‘Polyphenol’ range for £9.99 including postage, I ordered a set. The product I’m reviewing today is the Caudalie Polyphenol Anti Wrinkle Defense Serum - henceforth referred to as ‘the serum’ to save my typing fingers. Ideally this should be applied before using the other two products in the box - the eye cream and the day cream. My bottle contains 10 ml and since the 30ml standard bottle costs £35, it can be said to have a value of just under £12. What I like about the 10ml size is that it’s presented in a ‘proper’ bottle and not a cheap-looking tube. The bottle is dark green glass with white printing that’s clear and easy to read and the top is a dropper which is quite effective at sucking up the serum. What’s it supposed to do and why? Caudalie describe this as “a lightweight serum to help improve the appearance of wrinkles and prevent new ones from appearing, thanks to its unique ...

Dr Organic Moroccan Argan Oil Hair Treatment Serum 06/07/2014

Great Hair if you don't mind Smelling like a Dope-Smoking Dentist

Dr Organic Moroccan Argan Oil Hair Treatment Serum Buying Something I Didn’t Think I’d Need I am lucky enough to have hair that’s in really good condition despite being quite long. I say lucky, but actually luck’s got less to do with it than laziness. I don’t use hairdryers, tongs or other heated weapons of torture and I’ve never done a home colour, put loads of gunk in my hair or done any of the many things that destroy hair’s natural shine and condition. My hair’s perhaps not as thick as I’d like but I rarely have problems with it being fly-away, frizzy or disobedient. At my regular 6-weekly appointment with the hairdresser a few months ago, I noticed she had lots of hair oils on the counter. I asked her if she thought I should try one but she said it would be a waste and I really didn’t need it. A few days later, my ‘Youbeautydiscovery’ subscription came up for the new month and I had to choose two products from a relatively uninspiring list. Despite thinking I didn’t need or want it, I picked a bottle of Dr Organic Argan Oil Hair Treatment Serum as one of my two products. I wouldn’t have paid good money for it or picked it if there had been something else I fancied more but I was soon to realise that it was quite lucky I’d chosen it. Oops, there goes my shine Whilst I was waiting for my delivery, I went on holiday for a week in Croatia. The weather was beautiful – almost constant sunshine but lots of sea breezes. Sun and wind together takes its toll on hair, especially hair that’s been living in very different ...

Il Ridottino, Crema 02/07/2014

A very big 'big dinner'

Il Ridottino, Crema A Special Night Out Last week I went to Crema – in Lomardy, about an hour’s drive from Milan - for a big meeting with a potential business partner. Our companies are still in the flirting phase with this company and flirting – real world or business world – is a good excuse to go out for dinner, for good food and more ‘getting to know you’ time. In this case we had a large group – I’d estimate about 16 to 18 people – and a senior guy from the company we were seeing had recommended Il Ridottino as allegedly the best place in the city. To my amazement it ranks as only the 20th best restaurant in Crema in the Tripadvisor rankings which leaves me wondering what on earth the other 19 that are supposedly better must be like. I would love to tell you more about where the restaurant is but I don’t know the city at all. This was only my second visit and all I can say is that the place seemed to be fairly central. Special Opening Under normal circumstances Il Ridottino doesn’t open on a Monday night but the company secretary gave them a ring a few weeks before and persuaded them to open up for us. She also agreed a menu with the restaurateur so that he wouldn’t have to arrange lots of different meals for every different diner. Normally I’m pretty opinionated about menu choices but in Italy I’m more than happy to hand over the ordering responsibility to anybody who’s willing to make the choices. In Italy I never know how much to order or what order the dishes should come in and I ...

Kevin and I in India - Frank Kusy 29/06/2014

It felt like Kevin and ME in India

Kevin and I in India - Frank Kusy Give me a good travel book and you can shut me up for days I am susceptible to the temptations of good travel writing especially if it’s about a journey in India. Sadly, I’ve read a lot of bad travel writing too but my June freebie from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library was a cracking good example of a travelogue at its finest. ‘Kevin and I in India’ by Frank Kusy was my pick and I liked it enough that I’m almost tempted to pay for a copy I can keep. Almost but maybe not quite when I have hundreds of others already on my Kindle. Technically this book is listed at 46 in the Amazon non-fiction rankings for Asia which is impressive but not going to make you fall off your seat. I had a look and it’s actually number three on non-fiction for India - beaten only by a William Dalrymple (he being the ‘king’ of non-fiction about India) and by Sanjeev Baskar’s book which is hopefully better than his TV series. So what does it take for somebody that nobody’s ever heard of (sorry Frank) to hit the heights of the Amazon India charts? It’s really quite simple but whilst it’s commonsense, it’s certainly not common practice. His secret is no secret - an interesting journey, a set of characters you learn to like and enjoy spending time with, and a writer who can deliver a book that makes you keep reading by its authenticity and ego-free approach to describing his experience. The more things change, the more they stay the same The book is an account of the author’s trip to India in 1985. ...

The Moaning of Life - Karl Pilkington 24/06/2014

The Meaning of Moaning

The Moaning of Life - Karl Pilkington I cannot help myself; I adore Karl Pilkington. Ever since I picked up his first travel book in which he was sent on a mission to visit the (slightly modified for televisual impact) Seven Wonders of the World by his so-called friends Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, I have been hooked on Karl Pilkington. Much as I came to venerate this wise man of travel and his laconic outlook on life, I was always deeply irritated by Ricky and Stephen and their determination to force poor Karl into doing things they thought he would hate. Hence the latest book - The Moaning of Life: The Worldly Wisdom of Karl Pilkington - is close to perfection for me. There’s lots of Mr P and not even the slightest hint of his annoying Chuckle Brothers persecutors. All Karl, no Ricky and Stephen; how much better can comedy travel books get? The funny thing about Pilkington is that he’s at his funniest when he’s not trying to be funny. I’m sure that most foreigners who’ve not been exposed to British culture probably don’t ‘get’ Karl Pilkington at all. Quite possibly a lot of Brits don’t either. But his understated observational humour is right up my street. Whenever I’m asked who my ‘dessert island dinner guests’ would be, I struggle to think of anyone other than Karl Pilkington with whom I’d want to sit down and break bread. It might well have to be a loaf of Warburton’s Toastie and I guess the slicing might make the whole ‘breaking’ thing a bit obsolete. The premise of the first book, ‘An Idiot ...
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