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since 03/12/2002


Haynes International Motor Museum, Sparkford, Somerset, England 24/02/2009

The Cars the Star

Haynes International Motor Museum, Sparkford, Somerset, England So you have a couple of days spare, you happen to be in the West Country, and you are stuck for something to do, I think I might be able to help you! Especially if like me you love cars, not in the petrol head sense, but more the marvel of engineering and style. *** What is it? *** Haynes International Motor Museum, is just what is say, a museum dedicated to motoring! Some people of a certain age will perhaps remember when they bought their first car, they would get the Haynes manual to help them take it apart! I certainly did, and have taken apart and rebuilt cars by using these manuals. John Haynes started the printing business after building his own car when he 16! From there it took off. The museum was started to house Johns collection, for which he was running out of space! It was actually opened in 1985, and has been expanding ever since. I don?t quite know what it is, but there is a really nice smell about engineering, this museum did not disappoint me, you knew you were looking at real working machines rather than stuffed pieces which sit in sterile cabinets never to be touched. This is an ideal place to visit, if you are a bit nostalgic, maybe some relations had one of the cars here, or if you really appreciate good solid engineering, then this is certainly the place to visit, I think there is something for everyone here. As nearly everything is under cover, it is an ideal wet weather attraction. *** Where is it ? *** Haynes International ...

Phileas Fogg Indian Red Chilli Poppadoms 23/02/2009

Around my tongue in 80 ways!

Phileas Fogg Indian Red Chilli Poppadoms I decided to stay in on Saturday night, too many things to do rather than go out & enjoy myself! With that in mind, earlier in the day I went to Tesco to find something to eat, I quite fancied a curry, as I was wandering the aisles, I came across these poppodums, which I though would go a treat with the chicken jalfezi I just picked up! *** What are they? *** Phileas Fogg poppadoms are just that, the ideal starter for a home Indian meal, or just a snack with a difference. *** What?s the bag like *** The pack is a standard large crisp size pack, which is silver, with blue writing, the front has a picture of Phileas Fogg in his hot air balloon flying over a typical Indian scene! The way the pack has been designed, does to me anyway make them look a real high quality product. For my £1.00, I got a 70g bag of poppadoms, OK quite expensive, but I actually think they were worth it.. read on! The nutritional info on the back only gives details for 100g, and a 35g serving, so 100g is 440 cals and 24.1g of fat, quite high, but I don't think you would really eat a lot of these in one sitting! 35g (half the bag) is 154 cals and 8.4g of fat ! They are also free of any artificial additives and preservatives. With that in mind, my pack has a best before date of 30th May 09, so a good 3 months from time of purchase. The back also informs me that they are made with Black Gram flour, sunflower oil, rice flour and Indian Red Chilli flakes. There is a note that ...

Park Tools ChainGang CG-2 19/02/2009

Clean my Claggy bits!

Park Tools ChainGang CG-2 I?ve got some claggy bits! Well to be exact my bike has got some claggy bits Living as I do out in the country, when I go for a bike ride, the lanes and byways around me are not the best kept, and certainly with the weather we have been having, they are not the cleanest. So cycling along, all the detritus of the countryside generally ends up coving the bike, some not too bad, and some positively bovine! One area of the bike that gets pretty bad is the chain, and the gearing, which can really have a dramatic effect on the smoothness of your ride, a dirty chain can also cause extra wear to the chain, and the gearing (which if you have to replace can be very expensive!) So I needed something to allow me to clean the chain and gearing, but I didn?t want to use chemicals which were harmful to the environment, so I went to my local bike shop to see what they had, and this is what I came away with! ***What is it? *** Chain Gang Chain Cleaning System from Park Tools, is just what it says on the box, a system that allows you to clean your bicycle chain, it can be used on all types of bikes, Mountain, Road and BMX. It comes in a box about 160mm x 160mm on the front is a picture of a hand holding the ?ChainGang? system. The box contains detailed instructions on how to use it, a ?GearClean? Brush, the Cyclone Chain Scrubber, and a 236ml bottle of Citrus ?ChainBrite? The Cyclone Chain Scrubber, is a great piece of engineering! It is large reservoir, with ...

Verona (Italy) 22/07/2008

Veron, Verona, wherefore art thou Verona

Verona (Italy) Walking around Verona in early June, there was a smell all over the city, not the smell of decaying rubbish as I experienced in my work trip to Naples, but the sweet smell of tree blossom, and Jasmine, even my hotel had Jasmine growing under the window! I never really took to Shakespeare, at school I was more into war stories, and adventures, but Verona forever has the association with Romeo & Juliette, as you walk around the city, you will see plaques embedded in various walls with Shakespearean quotes. *** Where is it? *** Verona is in the Central Northern part of Italy Built on a tight bend in the river Adige, it was easy to defend, as the water provided a natural barrier, also it was a natural crossing point. City walls were constructed to defend the rest of the city. The Romans had a major city here, complete with theatre & amphitheatre. The city goes back much further than the Romans though, and the oldest recorded settlement here was in the 2nd Centenary BC. The city now follows the Roman street plan, so it is very easy to find your way around. In the 1800's the Austrians constructed defensive walls were further out from the city centre, these walls still exist, and you can in fact walk on them right the way around Verona (it will take the best part of a day to do it though) I did most of it, and there are some amazing gates (Porta) to see *** How do you get there? *** I flew to Verona direct from Gatwick with British Airways, there are many ...

Royal Palace, Caserta 30/05/2008

A home fit for a King

Royal Palace, Caserta I have always liked visiting large houses and castles, so when working in Italy recently, I managed to get an afternoon off, a friend of mine who is very knowledgeable on art, mentioned that Caserta is a fantastic place to visit. So that was it, I would go to Caserta *** What is it? *** Caserta was the Royal Palace built by the Bourbon King Charles (who went on to become Charles 3rd of Spain). He came to the Throne in 1734, and decided in 1750 to build a palace worthy of his reign. He commissioned the architect Luigi Vanvitelli. One of the objectives was to build a palace to be greater than that of the French King at Versailles The construction was started in 1752, and eventually finished in 1847! To give you some idea of the size of this palace, if you have ever been to Hampton Court Palace, it is of a similar scale *** Where is it? *** The Reggia di Caserta is located in the city of Caserta, some 25km North East of Naples, in the heart of the Campania district. *** How do you get to it? *** I was staying in Naples, so I just took the train. The ticket cost me about 6 Euro return. If you go from Napoli Central Station, you have to buy your train ticket from ticket office No 1! The train takes just on 30 minutes, and it is a really enjoyable ride. The address is at Via Douhet 22. To get there via car, exit the Autostrada A1 at Caserta Nord and follow signs to "parcheggio comunale." Initially I disappointed, as I left the train, and ...

Holiday Inn, Naples 29/05/2008

An Oasis in Napoli

Holiday Inn, Naples When working away from home, you want to try and stay somewhere with some reasonable comforts (especially if someone else is paying!), that is generally why I try to stay in the Holiday Inn chain of hotels, you always know what you are getting - and I get points to allow free stays!! *** What is it? *** The Holiday Inn is a one of the bigger hotel chains in the World, with a presence on all continents. The Holiday Inn hotels are owned by Three Continents Hotel group. This hotel has 330 large rooms, including 32 suites, and 26 executive rooms, there are two restaurants, a bar. There are conference rooms, wired and wireless Internet connections. *** Where is it? *** The Holiday Inn Naples is situated in the heart of the financial/business district - well I must be truthful here, it is the last building! But with development plans going ahead, the old areas past this hotel will soon be developed. Holiday Inn Naples Centro Direzionale Isola E6 80143 Napoli Tel 0039 081 2250111 *** Booking *** As a member of the Holiday Inn Priority Club, I went on the club site and made my booking direct, just select the dates you want, the city you want, the options are then listed in front of you. There were many options to go for, I went for the "best flexible" also I chose a "standard" room, as being a Platinum Priority Club member I knew that I would get an upgrade to an "Executive" room. Cost for the rooms ...

Castle of the Egg (Castel dell'Ovo), Naples 28/05/2008

Humpty Dumpty should fall from here

Castle of the Egg (Castel dell'Ovo), Naples There are many wonderful, and awe inspiring places to visit in and around Naples, this Castle is just one of those places. I've always had a love of castles and old house, the fact this was here seemed to good an opportunity to miss out on. *** What is it? *** The Castel Dell'Ovo is apparently the oldest castle in Naples, having had many guises throughout the years, it is now a fantastic place to visit. *** Where is it? *** The Castle sits on a promontory of land, a small islet, jutting out from the main coastal road in the heart of the Bay of Naples. It is located on Via Partenope, and Via N. Sauro, in the Santa Lucia district, it separates the harbour area in the slightly upmarket sea front areas. As a landmark it is fantastic, if you walk away from the castle, on the promenade, you will soon be rewarded with the most amazing views right across the bay to Vesuvius and Sorrento *** Why is it there? *** The castle gets its name from way back when in history, there is supposedly an egg buried in the foundations, the poet Virgil, warned that if the egg ever broke a major catastrophe would engulf the city - read into that what you will! The castle in its present form dates from around the 16th century, but the site dates back to the ancient Greeks, who built the original harbour here. A Roman General had a villa built here, and used the land the present castle is on, as a grain store. In the 5th Century a Monastery was built on this site. In the 12th ...

Europcar 31/03/2008

I'll Always Keep Coming Back

Europcar With my job I have to travel to Europe quite a lot, this travel also entails carrying quite a lot of equipment, so flying is really out of the question, both practically and cost wise. To get to Europe, the best option for me is to drive, and I'm certainly not going to use my own car! Also my office is some 250 miles from my house, so I could use my own car, but looking from a cost perspective, I can claim 40 pence per mile up to the first 10,000 miles (Inland Revenue rules) or I can hire a car, which benefits me on 2 counts # I'm not wearing my car out # It is actually cheaper for the company *** What am I going to do? *** So to cover my requirements, I always try to rent a car. The company I use is Europcar, simply for the fact that my local branch was quite easy for me to walk to (until they moved), and they offered a good service. As a company, you can set up an business agreement and get a 15% discount, depending on the volume of car rental. *** Who are they? *** Euorpcar are a large car rental business spanning some 170 countries. Europcar were founded in Paris in 1949, and have over the years had many varied owners, from Volkwagen, to Wagon-Lits, right up to 2006 when they were acquired by Eurazeo (a European Investment company) *** Where are they located? *** They have many local, regional, and country offices, and of course at all Major airports. My local office in Taunton, has recently moved from the convenient location of the local ...

Fort Eben Emael 25/03/2008

The futility of war!!

Fort Eben Emael I travel to Germany quite a lot, and as part of my travel, I have to spend weekends out there, so having exhausted all the shops (yes girls you can do that) I went on to look at some of the more historic places This is one such place *** What is it? *** My visit was to the Fort of Eben-Emael, which is a defensive fort built to defend various strategic points of the Albert Canal in Belgium, just for simplicity, and to tie in with all the information given in the guide books etc, I'll call it F.E.E from now on. *** Why is it there? *** In simple terms, it was constructed to protect the then newly constructed Albert canal, to the South it could protect the "Gap of Vise", and to the North the roads from Maastrict, and also some of the bridges in the area. F.E.E was built between 1932 and 1935. It really all stems back to Napoleon, and the way France and Belgium had to defend themselves against everyone!! During the First World War, Belgium was one of the main battlefields. The Belgians really didn't want that to happen again, so with the French Building the Maginot line, the Belgians built a number of Forts to protect themselves against the expected German attacks! In May 1940 the Germans attacked, 75 German paratroops basically took out the fort with it's crew of 1200!! Only about 30 people were killed. This was one of the first actions of the main war in Europe. *** What's the tour like? *** The tour is really divided into three sections, the ...

Landhotel Michaelishof, Offen 25/03/2008

Michaels House is a very nice house

Landhotel Michaelishof, Offen I had to work in a part of Germany I'd not been to before, so I asked my client the best place to stay, he sent me a link to the web site for this hotel, initially when I looked I though "oh well, typical German place" but my impressions rose sharply when I rang to book my room. *** Booking *** I looked at the web site, where you can book directly, but as it was a 7 or 8 hour drive from Calais, I wanted to make sure that I actually had somewhere to stay! I rang the hotel, and the phone was answered by a pleasant sounding lady in German - I explained that my German wasn't too good; she immediately broke into almost perfect English. I explained what I required, she then asked me to confirm by email, which I did, within 20 minutes I had a reply confirming my reservation. *** Location *** The hotel is located on the B3 road between Celle and Hamburg, in the hamlet of Offen, basically Offen is a cross roads with about 4 houses and this hotel. Driving from Celle, after about 20km, you come to Offen, once at the cross road, the hotel is on the right hand side of the road. Offen is in the middle of a triangle between Hanover, Hamburg & Bremen. I don't recall seeing any public transport passing, but there were a number of bus stops in Bergen. *** Check in *** When I arrived, I went to check in. A lady was behind the counter, without any prompting she said my name, and asked if I had had a good journey. I was asked to fill out the standard form for checking in. She ...

National Railway Museum, York 25/03/2008

The railway past comes to life

National Railway Museum, York So on with the anorak and out with the note book, a visit to the National Railway Museum (NRM) is on today. I went on a bright and sunny Monday in mid March *** What is it? *** The NRM is the largest collection of railway artefacts in the World, covering some 300 years of railway history. From full size locomotives to stationmaster's hats, it is all here. There are lots of things to do, from wandering round gazing at massive locomotives, to getting hands on with various interactive displays. The NRM is located right next door to York station, in the old engine sheds and goods yard. *** How Do You Get There? *** I was staying in Yorkshire on Holiday, so I took the train from the local station (Malton £6.40 return) directly into York, the NRM is a 5 or 10 minute walk away (you do have a number of stairs to climb at the station - I don't recall seeing a lift) Also see the parking section below. The museum is very well sign posted with the Brown tourist signs on all the major routes into York. There are 2 entrances to the museum, one on Leeman road (this takes you into the Great Hall, and one the City Entrance, which is joined onto the Station Hall (although you can get to all parts from any entrance.) *** What's There? *** Trains and anything to do with trains, it is not so much the trains, but the society that was the railway industry, so from the humble porter right up to the Royal Train, it is all here. A fantastic insight into Britain's (and to ...

Liberty Park - National War and Resistance Museum 25/03/2008

War should be kept in a Museum

Liberty Park - National War and Resistance Museum It is 1944, the village of Overloon in the Netherlands where you have lived all your life has escaped the brunt of the war. That was soon to change, first the Americans, and then when they couldn't push the Germans back, the British came in to push the German army back to the Rhine. Between September 30th and October 18th 1944, the peaceful village was shattered, destroyed and changed forever. Many of your friends have been killed, there have been many men from both sides killed, tanks have been destroyed. The battle of Overloon was in fact the greatest tank battle in the Netherland during WW2, and also one of the bloodiest, where some 2500 soldiers lost their lives. So what do you do. One villager decided that a commemoration was needed, so just after the battle, 15 hectares of the battlefield were bought, burnt out tanks and all. The area is called Liberty Park, the museum opened in 1946 *** Moving on *** Moving on to 2007, I visited the small Dutch village of Overloon, The village is situated just off of the main A73/E31 Venlo to Nijmegen road, get off at junction 7, which is marked Overloon the road is called Overloonsweg and follow the signs for Overloon. On the way into the village, you pass fields and houses, there is not clue that anything went on here. - Until that is you approach the village, you start to enter quite a densely wooded area, on the left you notice a green Commonwealth War Graves sign pointing you to Overloon cemetery. The park is situated ...

Holiday Inn Calais Nord 25/03/2008

Oh la la the best in Calais by far

Holiday Inn Calais Nord I had to travel to Germany, in fact it was the furthest part of the old West Germany you could get to, so I needed to break my journey (after travelling from the West Country), just coming out of the Channel Tunnel, Calais seemed a good place to stop off over night. *** Where is it *** The Holiday Inn "Calais - Nord" is located just out of the centre of Calais near the car ferry port. So it is very convenient for both the Channel Tunnel and the ferry ports. It took me about 10 minutes to drive there from the Channel Tunnel. The hotel is located at 6/8/10 Boulevard des Allies 62100 Calais France Tel +33 321 34 6969 Fax + 33 321 97 0915 The hotel is very easy to find, in fact the directions on the Holiday Inn website are perfect. The hotel is located right next to the car ferry port. If you find the big lighthouse, you are there, look up and you will see the familiar Holiday Inn green sign - if fact you can actually see the sign from quite a long way, so it sort of acts as a beacon. I booked my stay through the Priority Club *** Check in *** When I arrived, I went straight to reception, did the best I could in French, but I think the receptionist took pity on me, and the whole check in process was carried out in English. As I had booked on-line, all my details were ready to go, she gave me my key card, a key for the garage, and pointed me to the lift, and off I went. The reception area is ...

Naples & Pompei (Italy) 25/03/2008

I'll Happily go to Napoli

Naples & Pompei (Italy) I've spent the last two weeks working in Naples, so this is my guide to the city. I've included a few restaurants, where I had great meals. I've included some interesting places I visited too. It is a dirty place, can be a bit smelly, it is noisy, the buildings and roads are in a state of disrepair, there is very bad crime, the drivers are…. Well let's be polite and say not too careful, that was the impression that I had of Naples before I visited, but what I found was that it is a vibrant, happening really interesting city, some fantastic architecture, lots of great restaurants, which I would encourage everyone to visit if they get the chance. Oh and the drivers are not too careful! *** Safety *** Some people have said that Naples is a very dangerous city, but in my experience of walking around the city day and night, you just need to take the normal precautions as you would in any city in the world. Don't flash the cash etc. In my time in Naples, I didn't see one single crime - unless you count the ones the fashion police should have caught! *** Travelling Around *** If you ever go to Naples, I would advise against renting a car, just use public transport or taxis - in my time there, I don't recall seeing a car without a dent, a scratch or bits missing. The train system is really reliable and frequent, and cheap (tickets are sold by the minute). The line I used most of the time - The Metropolitan will cost 1 Euro for a 90 minute ticket. (certainly puts our ...

Herculaneum, Naples, Italy 25/03/2008

They knew how to build then

Herculaneum, Naples, Italy I work overseas quite a lot, and always try to take time to visit interesting places. This is one such place. I've worked in Italy many times, I have visited Pompeii, but I have always wanted to visit Herculaneum *** What is it ? *** Everybody (I hope) has heard of Pompeii, the Roman city which was devastated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Herculaneum was a Roman city & port, which was caught up and devastated by the same eruption, but in some respects the preservation of the city, was much better. *** Where is it ?*** The best way I found to get there was by train. Take the Circumvesuviana from Napoli Central Station and go 8 stops to Ercolano Portico station. The train ticket cost 1.70 Euro for 120 minutes, so you will need two tickets, one for the return journey! To get to Herculaneum from the station follow the brown tourist signs straight down the hill. You can't miss the entrance, as it is a large doorway, in a shaded area, with the name "Herculaneum" in bold above the gateway. Here you find the ticket office. It will cost 11 Euro to get in This ticket is valid for one day.. You do get a really good map and summary booklet detailing 43 of the buildings - which you do need to ask for. You can buy a ticket to access 5 sites: (Herculaneum, Pompeii, Oplontis, Stabiae, Boscoreale) - valid for 3 days Full price: € 20.00 Opening times November - March, every day from 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last admission 3.30 p.m.) April - October, every ...
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