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Hmm I really should write something but I seem to have lost my mojo! AM hoping it returns sometime this decade.

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since 23/05/2007


London Olympics 2012 13/09/2012

Our Finest Hour

London Olympics 2012 HELLO AGAIN, IT’S BEEN A WHILE Having been away for a heck of a long time, it’s taken something quite exceptional & unexpected to coax me out of my writers block so here it is ladies & gentlemen – London 2012! THE AUSTERITY GAMES Well for the last 7 years, I have been as sceptical & cynical as most people in the UK (or Great Britain, as, unaccountably, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) still have us down as) regarding our hosting of the 30th Games of the Olympiad. The logo & mascots are awful. We can’t afford the huge expense. The Victorian transport system will melt down. Terrorists will have a field day. “We are proud to accept only Visa” plastered everywhere, coupled with the McUbiquitous impression of a dystopian corporate megalith. A shocking ticketing system that robbed me amongst many others of any chance of seeing the world’s largest sporting spectacle; we had paid for this and big business would be the ones benefiting from corporate junkets. Working in telecoms, I was involved with the running of the mobile phone network in the Olympic venues, and that added to my pre games anxiety, making sure everything would work. And so come the opening ceremony, if I’m quite honest, I said to myself that I couldn’t wait until it was over, working a 6 day week for the duration, along with countless others, doing the little things behind the scenes that brought it all together. In my case making sure that you could all watch iPlayer in the Olympic Park on your iPhones. ...

Riverside Pizza, Nuremberg 30/08/2010

A missed meet requires an alternative restaurant review!

Riverside Pizza, Nuremberg INTRODUCTION It was quite unfortunate that a weekend away in Nuremburg clashed with the London Ciao meet. Doubly so as this was a trip originally scheduled for April. As we readied ourselves to go to the airport, we thought Ms Larsbaby’s mum was winding us up when she said that volcanic ash has grounded all traffic in Europe. Do us a favour! But true it was, and one refund and rebooked trip later, guten tag Nuremburg. As we strolled round the city centre, our hosts asked us what we fancied for lunch. After some debate, pizza was settled on and this restaurant that I had visited a couple of years ago was chosen. THE RESTAURANT I must admit that I didn’t go inside though a quick peek inside the window revealed an elegant interior that looked quite turn of the (20th) century. My companions went inside to use the loos though, which I am reliable informed were clean. Outside, to the side of the river pathway, were about 20 plastic topped metal tables set out with metal seats. These were almost full the whole time we were there, as this was a popular spot to dine. It was certainly a decent spot for peoplewatching, as we spied various groups of people wandering by, most notable a segway tour of the city speeding by; it was quite amusing to watch people try to control these odd 2 wheeled vehicles. THE FOOD The menu was quite comprehensive. With a decent selection of Germanic meat & fish dishes, but it was mostly concerned with Italian cuisine, with some desserts tagged ...

A Land of Two Halves - Joe Bennett 01/08/2010

And in this charmless book, this charmless man

A Land of Two Halves - Joe Bennett INTRODUCTION Before my visit to New Zealand last year, my sister bought me this book as she thought it’d be appropriate reading for my trip. As it happens, I prefer to read travelogues after I’ve visited somewhere, so that I don’t go in with any preconceived ideas from writers’ opinions. Now that I’m back I thought it was time to read it, though. THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE PHALLACY The book follows the author as he attempts to hitch hike around New Zealand, travelling basically where he can get a lift, setting off on the South Island near to his home just outside Christchurch and going wherever the lifts take him. We follow the various trials and tribulations as he attempts to get from one place to the other, and gain an insight into both the places he visits and the characters who are prepared to give him a lift. This at times can be quite interesting, as many of the drivers treat this as some sort of confessional, spilling details of their lives to the stranger in the car who they will probably never see again. You also get to see his opinions on various tourist attractions such as Franz Josef Glacier and Queenstown. But most of all he scratches away at some stereotypes and preconceptions about kiwis to see if they’re really valid in the remotest of outposts. NOW FOR THE BAD NEWS The thing is, you don’t really learn much about New Zealand that might interest you as a casual visitor. The author is from the UK but has lived there for 16 years, and hence has no interest ...

Heritage, Christchurch 19/07/2010

Rounding off down under in luxurious style

Heritage, Christchurch INTRODUCTION On our final leg of our New Zealand holiday, myself and Ms Larsbaby ended up in Christchurch to see some friends. Having booked through Trailfinders, we found ourselves in the centrally located Heritage Christchurch hotel. As we entered the large, light reception in the main building, little did we know what we would be treated to. THE ROOM Thanks yet again to Trailfinders, we had a room upgrade, which entailed a room in the annexe which used to be the part of the Government Buildings. This is a beautifully restored old colonial style building, with ornate corridors. I am told this hotel is where the All Blacks rugby team stay when in town and I wouldn't be surprised if it was in these kind of luxury rooms. This was effectively a split level suite. As you entered from the plushly carpeted corridor there was a living room and kitchen area. A classy wooden comfy chair and mirror above it was near to the door. As you turned into the room itself you could see a small heater; perhaps it's worth noting at this point that central heating is a somewhat alien concept in New Zealand. This is notable as the boiler was in a cupboard behind this, and this was liable to run out of hot water if overused. An entry phone system complete with little video display was also there, which we never had the need to use. To the right was a white floor tiled kitchenette that took up a whole corner of the room. This was a fridge with small freezer on top, microwave, kettle, ...

Brew Moon Garden Cafe & Brewery, Amberley 19/06/2010

A fine example of kiwi microbrewery culture

Brew Moon Garden Cafe & Brewery, Amberley INTRODUCTION It was our fortune on our New Zealand holiday that friends lived near to Christchurch, and so staying with them gave us the chance to see areas off the usual tourist trail. With their local expertise at hand, we were taken to one of their favourite drinking spots out of the city. BREW MOON Located on the South Island, in the North Canterbury countryside in Amberley, 25 minutes north of Canterbury, Brew Moon has a pleasant location and you feel like you're far away from the city. As you arrive, you can see a big red and blue sign above the building, with their tree and moon logo right in the middle. The gravel car park is to the front of the building, and you can see some painted blue wooden benches outside, as well as an ancient car chassis, there presumably for decoration. As you enter the main door, right in front of you is the food counter, which has a large display case of savouries and cakes, all looking delicious. To the right is a rack of 8 or 10 magazines. On top of the counters are some menus and a jar of amaretto biscuits. Behind the counter is a large coffee machine. To the left of the entrance is a wooden floored seating area of 4 or 4 tables which is quite spacious. In the right hand corner of this area is the bar, which has several brews on tap as well as bottled beers in a fridge behind. You could also buy beers and beer glasses from here to take away. To the right is the doorway leading to the large beer garden, which is where we sat in the ...

C1 Espresso, Christchurch 18/05/2010

Peoplewatching from a kooky, trendy vantage point

C1 Espresso, Christchurch INTRODUCTION Looking for somewhere to stop off for a coffee in Christchurch, myself and Ms Larsbaby, not for the first time, used the Lonely Planet guide to help us. This place sounded interesting, and looked popular as we peered in, so we thought we'd give it a whirl. C1 ESPRESSO Located at the trendy end of the high street, close to many trendy clothes shops, C1 Espresso was pretty full on the day we visited and seemed to be a popular spot with the local trendies, taking in the cool music playing in the background. As you enter, you're struck by the innate kookiness of the interior and you can see straight away that this is no ordinary coffee shop; it has unique character in abundance. There were all kinds of kooky little touches all round such as pictures of playing cards on the walls. As you enter, it feels quite gloomy but warm thanks to the bright red walls, and to your immediate right are some chairs that look like, and indeed almost certainly are, old fabric backed cinema chairs, arranged around a wooden table. A fishtank made to look like a TV sits close by. As you move along that wall, you come to the counter which could probably take a review in itself to detail. A large, old American style, metal display cabinet with curved glass windows sits to the left corner, full of cakes and sandwiches, next to a sparkly metal till. A wide, red coffee machine that looks like an antique sites next to this, with a coffee grinder with the C1 logo sitting next to it. ...

Mum's 24, Christchurch 12/04/2010

Asian food like someone's mum used to make

Mum's 24, Christchurch INTRODUCTION During our visit to Christchurch we were spoilt for choice for foody places to try during our relatively brief stay. Lonely Planet recommended Mum's for home style food your mum would cook (if you're mum was from Korea, that is). As this sounded like a foreign student frequented, budget kind of place, it sounded exactly up our street and so it was high on our "to do " list. Having hovered around the place several times in anticipation, the time came after a couple of days. MUM'S 24 Located in the middle of downtown Christchurch, Mum's can be see from the street from it's red topped awning and big windows which let in lots of light, one of which has a display of plastic food such that you might get in Asia. Bento boxes, mock rice dishes and soups all compete for attention in this pretty display. Inside on the grey stone floor were about 15 tables for 4, most of these small, square wooden tables with thick legs that would just about seat 4 people, and there were 3 larger tables. A couple of seats were located against the window, joining a Christmas tree as it was November at the time. Although quite close together, the tables never felt cramped and so they were well arranged. To the right of the entrance was a small old style CRT TV hanging from a wall bracket, and below this the specials boards in English. Another TV was against the window about halfway into the room. The counter was at the back of the restaurant on the right, with a display of ...

Dim Sum City, Christchurch 06/04/2010

Traditional dim sum in a sparkly new food hall

Dim Sum City, Christchurch INTRODUCTION One of the handy facts about having friends where I visit on holiday is that I can get local tips what I might otherwise have missed. My friend works in Christchurch city centre and as a result is pretty familiar with what it has to offer in terms of decent places to have lunch. The High to Hereford Food Hall (which more than likely gets its name from its High Street location, intersecting Hereford Street) offers various choices of cuisines, from fish and chips to pasta, Greek, Japanese, Malaysian, Singaporean and Chinese. One place my friend recommended was the Dim Sum City stall, and so it was that we met him for lunch one day during our city stay in Christchurch. DIM SUM CITY Nestling amongst the hugely cosmopolitan choices in this gleaming new food hall is Dim Sum City, through the High Street entrance and to the right, past the Robert Harris coffee shop. At the front of the stall you could see the dim sum baskets in a glass case, as well as the menu hung over the top. The hall itself is a large building with pristine shiny white tiled floor with lots of small white tables for 4 with metal chairs lining the entrance hallway, which at the end of is where this stall is. Further into the hall are the majority of the outlets, some with tall seats around the counters, and many more tables. It got quite crowded at the noon time that we chose to dine, getting quieter as the lunch hour drew to a close. All the stalls had signs of identical style, which ...

Highview Apartments, Queenstown 01/04/2010

A great price for a great view

Highview Apartments, Queenstown INTRODUCTION As a friend had recommended visiting Queenstown and was going to join us (but couldn't in the end), he also recommended a place to stay. A handy tip to know is that prices can drop about a month ahead of booking, although you have to be quick to pick up bargains at this point. Luckily, this is what I managed with HighView Apartments. HIGHVIEW APARTMENTS Just outside the main part of town, about a 5-10 uphill walk from there (which can be quite bracing or testing, depending on what mood you're in and how the weather is), Highview Apartments were well located, on a hillside with many other apartments, offering a superb view of the bay and mountains across the water. The apartment was split into 2 separate sub apartments, as we had rented it out with a view to 3 of us staying, but as our friend unfortunately couldn't make it, we ended up staying in the larger apartment only. I only had a brief look around the smaller one, which seemed to of s similar style but obviously smaller, and with slightly fewer facilities. LIVING AREA The living room and bedroom were actually made up of the same large area, which could be divided by using a large pull across wooden door that was folded flush into several sections along the wall so that it folds out. As you entered the apartment, the bathroom was directly to the right, and past this on the right wall was the kitchen area. Further on and to the left was a large glass topped dining table with 4 metal ...

Patagonia, Queenstown 24/03/2010

One for the chocoholics on holiday

Patagonia, Queenstown INTRODUCTION Queenstown is packed with cafes and it's nice to find somewhere that stands out. Recommended by Lonely Planet as a good place to sample chocolate, this place certainly made its mark on us. PATAGONIA Patagonia has a good location in Queenstown, just past the main street and facing onto the water and beautiful mountain scenery. There is seating outside onto the open area around it. As you enter the café, there is a dedicated ice cream counter right in front of you, and as this is usually packed you have to ease your way past to the left and around to the main food counter. Against the windows around this are seating areas, each table holding 4 people. Against the window onto the square is a narrow seating area where you sit in a line looking directly out. The place was packed and so we found ourselves settling for an outside seat. The main counter is quite interesting as it's dominated by a glass case display of many flavours and types of chocolate, more than I could mention here, but here's a few to whet your appetite. Dark Chocolate and almond, white chocolate and fig, milk chocolate and citrus peel, dark chocolate and hazelnuts, passion fruit truffle, hazelnut truffle 71% Belgian dark chocolate with caramelised nuts and citrus peel, 71% dark chocolate and ginger, dark chocolate and chilli, dark chocolate with sesame seed ... and that's nowhere near the full collection. Basically you order what you want and they weigh it and you pay for the ...

Halo, Queenstown 13/03/2010

Not quite angelic service

Halo, Queenstown INTRODUCTION On my rainy birthday, we sought refuge for lunch in a cafe, and I had seen this place recommended in Lonely Planet. Located at the edge of town, it was a bit of a walk from our lodgings, but hopefully, it was worth it. HALO Although quite functional in looks, with metal legged hard wooden chairs and sparse wooden tables, with a split dark laminate wooden and stone floor, Halo actually feels like quite a cosy place. There is a lot of light thanks to full length windows on 3 sides, overlooking the neighbouring churchyard that must have inspired the name and street, so the only wall was behind the counter. When we went at midday on a Tuesday, it was very full, with room for about 40 people, although this felt cosy rather than cramped. It was very much a family place, with young families and babies welcome. We managed to bag the last empty table at the time. To the left of the entrance is the service counter, with a large whiteboard in front of it with the soup and specials of the days written on with black marker pen. Some magazines to read were on some shelves to the left of this. A big coffee machine sat in the centre, and a large cake display case to the right. A water fountain which wouldn't look out of place in a church added a nice touch in the left hand corner near to the entrance to the toilets, which were down a side corridor. A small crucifix was hanging above it. As it was November, a Christmas tree sat in one of the window corners. Behind the ...

@Thai, Queenstown 07/03/2010

Thai treats in the Kiwi adventure capital

@Thai, Queenstown INTRODUCTION In our somewhat disastrous trip in Queenstown, myself and Ms Larsbaby did manage to catch a few decent places to eat. Thanks to the Lonely Planet, this place was first on our itinerary. @THAI The restaurant in located just off the main street in Queenstown The Mall, and has to be sought out as it shares the building with an Air New Zealand office, just up the road from several bars. It can be found up a flight of stairs. As you walk in a bar is straight ahead to the right of the room. The restaurant has a lot of tables quite close together, although leaving enough room between each for privacy. Around the edges of the room by the windows are tables for 2. Moving towards the middle are table for 4-6. There seemed to be room for about 50 people at a push. Each wooden table has "@Thai" etched in gold at its corners, which is a nice touch. These tables are accompanied by wooden chairs with white seats, on a greeny-blue carpet, against the cream walls. In the top left corner of the room is a picture of the Thai king, as seems the norm in Thai restaurants everywhere. Thai music played in the background, creating a nice ambience. We arrived at about 7.30pm on a Monday without booking, and the place soon filled up so clearly it's a popular place. We were handed huge menus to peruse. This was huge as in physically, though there was a fair choice of dishes available too. Starters such as prawn rolls, coconut prawns, vegetarian spring rolls, fried tofu and chicken satay ...

Queenstown 24/02/2010

Probably the most over-rated place in the world

Queenstown INTRODUCTION In our original itinerary, myself and Ms Larsbaby hadn't planned to visit Queenstown, New Zealand's self proclaimed "Global Adventure Capital", located on the South Island and surrounded by mountains. But an émigré friend of mine insisted that we go there on a 2 day trip on my birthday with him joining us for the best nightlife he's seen in the country. This didn't seem unreasonable, so we let him book the short 40 minute flight from Christchurch. I just hoped it would live up to the hype. DAY 1 : HERE COMES THE SUN Arriving in the small Queenstown airport, the compact town centre can be easily reached with a shuttle bus in 20 minutes or so. As you reach the centre you are treated to the amazing sight of huge mountains in the background, and there is something a bit surreal about this improbably photogenic picture postcard view; almost worth the trip alone. We arrived on a sunny Monday in the November early springtime, and enjoyed some sunshine in a park as well as a nice brunch after we'd settled into our accommodation, the impressive and recommended Highview Apartments which had its own view of the aforementioned mountains. The sunset we saw from there was very beautiful. One thing worth noting is the many different offices that tout themselves as Tourist Information. Many seem little more than fronts for excursion companies; the one you should aim for is the official i-SITE on the corner of Shotover and Camp Streets. Patagonia (50 Beach Road) provided a ...

Copthorne Hotel Wellington, Oriental Bay, Wellington 17/02/2010

Modern stylish hotel with a harbour view

Copthorne Hotel Wellington, Oriental Bay, Wellington INTRODUCTION Onwards on our tour of New Zealand, myself and Ms Larsbaby spent a few days in the capital, Wellington, travelling from Auckland via the Overlander train. Booking through Trailfinders, we chose the Copthorne Hotel as it seemed to be in a decent location. COPTHORNE The hotel is indeed in a good location on the edge of the Wellington harbour front, near to various bars on Courtenay Place and across the water from the exceptional national museum, Te Papa. A New World supermarket is close by, handy for basic provisions. It's maybe a 15 minute walk to the train station though, which may be a consideration. A cursory look at the building and reception leads you to the conclusion that it's very new due to its shiny, pristine appearance. We got a free room upgrade and also, thanks to our agent Trailfinders, a free breakfast which at first they didn't want to give us until we showed our invoice, as they apparently hadn't been informed of this. I think the receptionist was a bit miffed she'd upgraded us only to find we'd got another trick up our sleeves. THE RECEPTION The reception area was to the right of the main entrance, with the lifts straight ahead as you walked in. Reception was a quite large area, with an unattended desk to the left of the entrance which may have been concierge service. A computer was on a desk in the window to the left, with some high seats. To the right in the main reception area were several sofas next to the windows ...

Wellington Trawling Sea Market, Wellington 12/02/2010

Fishy treats straight from the sea

Wellington Trawling Sea Market, Wellington INTRODUCTION Guidebooks sometimes throw up unexpected pleasures. Along with fine dining and cafes, there is sometimes a random place that is clearly a locals' recommendation, such is its faintly esoteric nature. Wellington Trawling Sea Market comes under such a heading. Ostensibly a fishmonger, it also doubles as a fish and chip outlet. Well we had to try this when we read about it in The Lonely Planet, being fans of random places to eat. WELLINGTON TRAWLING SEA MARKET Positioned at the far end of the trendy Cuba Street in the city centre, the shop (as this is the best way to describe it really) is a small blue one storey building sitting on it's own, quite distinguishable from it's sign out from with fishes pained on either side. As you enter, he fish and chip counter is directly in front of you, with the menu overhead and a drinks fridge to the right with various soft drinks such as Coca Cola. Seating is to the left of this against the window, where there are 3 or 4 tables. I saw many people order takeaway fish and chips, and it seemed to be very popular. To the left of the takeaway counter, all the way round the side of the shop, was a large fish counter with many delightful specimens of fresh seafood to buy, such as crabs, prawns, mussels, hoki and cod. One thing to note in New Zealand is that the dishes in a fish and chip eatery are prepared when ordered, so you can be sure that whatever you are eating has been cooked to order and hasn't been sitting ...
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