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Vila Gale Albacora, Tavira 18/06/2017

A Fishy Business On The Algarve

Vila Gale Albacora, Tavira Just now I’ve had very little Ciao time – occasional reading, and no writing at – then oh joy, I end up in bed for a week with a chest infection. Can’t work. Can't visit folk. Can’t clean or cook. Can’t walk or wash dogs. The Spanielmeister is flying his kite in the southern hemisphere. High time for me enjoy a couple of modest pleasures – reminiscing about a lovely holiday, and writing a very long-overdue review. In fact, it has taken me almost two years to get this one written, so apologies if it (and I) are not too fresh! The run-up to the holiday was blighted by the terrible service of company Low Cost Holidays (see the review that I did write last year - anger is a great motivator). In fact, Low Cost Holidays is no more (no wonder), but I’ve been checking Trip Advisor and this delight of a hotel is still going strong. ---------- The beautiful town of Tavira is a charming little gem on Portugal’s Algarve. Instead of turning right at Faro and heading for the pleasant, but typical coastal holiday resorts, go instead in the direction of the Spanish border and the Ria Formosa nature reserve and you find yourself in the charming riverside destination which boasts a ruined castle, a “Roman” (actually built in the latter part of the 12th Century) bridge and over thirty churches and chapels. I’ve been very fortunate and enjoyed a couple of visits to Tavira in recent years but have always stayed in the centre of town. Taking the boat to Tavira island to the beach, I’ve been ...

Schwarzkopf Poly Color Tint - 87 Red Black 17/09/2016

Black Hair Day

Schwarzkopf Poly Color Tint - 87 Red Black All good things must come to an end. Especially home-dyed, semi-permanent purple hair. It transfers itself to everything it touches, fades into different shades, and the nasty greys just keep multiplying. Besides, semi-permanent hair colour runs like billy-o, and you run the risk of turning the water around you a similar colour when you visit the swimming baths (we were warned that if you wee-ed in the pool the attendants would always know because water would turn purple – is this true, anyone know?). So with the intention of getting an easily manageable, permanent colour, that also provided me with a bit of a change, I chose Schwarzkopf Poly Color Tint in the Red Black flavour - one I had never used before, but I do like taking risks. I've seen this in stores and online before - it is significantly cheaper than other Schwarzkopf hair colourants - I bought two packs in Savers at £1.11 each (in comparison to Schwarzkopf's Live range is usually on the shelves at £3.99). Schwarzkopf is a popular and trusted brand - I rather think that Poly Color is its "Value" or "Smart Price" range. The box design has changed to the one pictured, but the main colour is still red and the box itself is smaller than most other hair dyes. The model on the front has changed too - and the hair in the picture on the newer Red Black box is much more red - a bit like a very dark cherry. The model looks much more moody, and I for one wouldn’t like to spill her pint. ------------- As with all hair ...

Dove Gentle Exfoliating Cream bar 13/08/2016

Some Dove from Above

Dove Gentle Exfoliating Cream bar Bless good old Bzzagent. I've had not a lot of time, and nowt to write about for weeks anyway - when out of the blue they send me an email asking me to participate in a new programme. Not being a member who also promotes their wares on Twitface, I don't get invitations from them very often, but this particular campaign just required a review, so the big "it's you" finger poked from out of a cloud and pointed at me. This time, the product was very useful indeed - a bar (or rather two bars) of soap. Just use it, write a sensible review for Bzz - then I'd have the bones of a more colourful review for Ciao. Plus, as the product was already listed, I didn't need to sweat it out waiting for a proposal to get accepted. ---------- This little bit of manna from heaven was Dove - Gently Exfoliating Beauty Bar. I forgo the usual squirt of Fairy Liquid in the bath, and jumped in with a bar of this stuff instead. I had originally thought that as Bzz were promoting it that it was a new product, but having a search on Ciao I saw that it has been around for some time - so this is probably a relaunch of a rejigged version. I had a quick look at the original product (thanks Nar2) to see if there where were any changes. I have only used regular Dove soap for hand washing - it's my mum's favourite soap and she always has a bar in the bathroom, so unfortunately I don't have a lot of experience as far as writing a comparison review, but maybe that's an advantage. In fact the only product ...

Soak Seaweed Baths, Newcastle 09/06/2016

Who Weed in the Bath?

Soak Seaweed Baths, Newcastle ---------- Bath Time ---------- As I admitted in a previous review, I’m wont to put Fairy Liquid in the bath – but by no means am I adverse to other experiences. The opportunity came up at the weekend to try something really different, and the Baron and I visited the “Soak Seawater Bathing House” in Newcastle (Co. Down). At the feet of the Mourne mountains, the lovely seaside town of Newcastle has been a favourite holiday destination for over 100 years, as Victorian (and later) folk travelled from the big city of Belfast to indulge in the fashionable trend to “take the waters” and enjoy the invigorating benefits of sea bathing. Here’s what the website says: “ In 2006 Soak Seaweed Baths opened its doors to the public. The rebirth of a very old concept which most of this part of Ireland had long forgotten, seaweed bathing is a centuries old tradition, with its roots in the rural farming communities. Seaweed was and still is used as a soil conditioner, farmers handling the seaweed found the hacks and calluses on their hands got better when using it and so the tradition of bathing began. Soak is the only seaweed bathhouse in the UK and also the only one on the east coast of Ireland.” I had been a wee bit under the weather for sometime, and the seaweed bath was something that I’d heard a lot about so I booked us both in for a soaking session for two. The bath house is a large Victorian front promenade building just off the town centre, and we had called in as we were out ...

Champneys Spa Treatments Body Butter 31/05/2016

Bring Up The Body Butter

Champneys Spa Treatments Body Butter So it’s come to this – something I never thought I’d see – my review on a Body Butter. Lots of reasons have led me thus: unsuccessful product suggestions, limited PF for certain categories, or no payment at all for many reviews (namely food & drink, two of my favourites) have led me to look in different directions for subject matter. And then of course there is another reason – I have some of the stuff and I actually like it. As many of you know, I am a bit of a skank, and not ashamed to admit it. I put Fairy Liquid in the bath and if I pay more than £1 for a moisturiser I think that I am robbed - a but a chain of events led me to buy a great big tub of rather posh body butter, and surprise, surprise, I do use it. Often. So where did it all begin? ---------- Some months ago I celebrated a big birthday and lots of my kind friends gave me a loads of lovely gifts – all things that I wouldn’t normally treat myself to. One of these was a bottle of Champneys Citrus Blush Shower Mousse. Very nice. Thank you. So for once I gave the Fairy a miss and had a go with this. It scrubbed me up well, but the best thing about the product was the incredible smell! It was a warming, lively mixture of citrus and cardamom (orange zest and pilau rice, if you like), but what was really amazing is that the unlocked and evoked long forgotten memories….. Many of you (of a certain age hem, hem) will no doubt remember the 60s & 70s fragrance Aqua Manda, a bitter, spicy, orangey and ...

Shooting For Socrates (DVD) 18/05/2016

"We're Not Brazil, We're Northern Ireland"

Shooting For Socrates (DVD) Release date: June 12, 2015 (United Kingdom) Director: James Erskine Music composed by: Andrew Simon McAllister Screenplay: James Erskine, Marie Jones Producers: James Erskine, Victoria Gregory Running time 88 minutes. DVD available on Amazon from £10.99 new. --------------- -- (Film only review) Or should I say "Fill-im" as it is pronounced. (At this point, I hesitate to warn of a spoiler alert as the result is at the crux of the movie and all that it conveys. If you don't know the end, you don't want to know the end, and you think you might possibly want to watch this purely to see what happens in the end - go and make a cup of tea instead of reading.) --------------- -- Background --------------- - It says a lot about the psyche of the North of Ireland, that we can take a tragedy, and turn it into, if not a triumph, at least into a positive. Take the Titanic. Horrific loss of life on the iconic but ironic maiden voyage - and yet today, Titanic is a by-word for success. The Titanic Visitor Centre was voted Europe's top Visitor Attraction of 2015 - and our own RICHADA was one of last year's 700,000 visitors, reviewing it in his epic "Belfast-iad" cycle. Titanic doesn't mean a disaster anymore. It means, "big" and "mighty", stands for heritage and hard work. From a regenerated Belfast, to potato crisps and even tea bags, the name Titanic is stamped with pride. Typically of the dark Northern Irish humour, we all acknowledge that it was "Alright when it left here" ...

L'Oreal Color Riche La Palette 10/04/2016

A sophisticated palette.....

L'Oreal Color Riche La Palette Another make up review? What is happening? Have I taken to glabbering myself in the stuff, in an attempt to re-invent myself as a middle aged tart? Have I discovered that “Beauty” (and it’s a term I personally use loosely) is one of the few categories for which Ciao will accept product proposals? Or did I blag some free stuff off of BzzAgent so I was already motivated to write an review to begin with? Answers on a postcard please. ************ To give away one of the clues, yes…..the lovely folks at BzzAgent invited me to join a programme to try out the new L’Oreal La Palette, and I probably just squeezed into the target demographic by the skin of my teeth (have most of my own still, folks!). In fact, I don’t tend to get many offers from Bzz – so much of this kind of “Word-of-mouth” advertising is done through social media and since I’m not on TwitFace, my Bzz score is built up from reviews only. However in this instance, all that was required was a review – so I signed up. There was a choice of three sets to try – from what I remember the options were Beige Nude, Rose and Smoky and I chose the latter. Retailing at £14.99 this set is a bit of a luxury I would not usually afford myself, and despite not using a lot of make-up, and not being particularly interested in the stuff, I was secretly really excited and looking forward to trying it. The set is in a rectangular shiny black box, about six inches long, and contains 10 colours, a double sided applicator (sponge ...

Do you think you can be more efficient at gym with the virtual reality headset? 03/04/2016

Lamentations of a Lazy Luddite

Do you think you can be more efficient at gym with the virtual reality headset? At the suggestion of 1st2thebar I'm having a go at my first ever CI - surprising as I have little knowledge and even smaller experience of either Gyms or Virtual Reality (I struggle enough with the confusing state of real reality). Whilst I'm comfortable expressing my opinion on beans or booze, I usually avoid the CIs as I always kind of worry that my view or opinion will be too disagreeable that I will get dead rats put through my letterbox. I hate it when that happens. So being flattered that I received the encouragement, and feeling something like being set a homework assignment, I got to work. And since this was at 1st2's inducement. please send all dead rats there. *************** I'll start with gyms. I consider myself to be very active and always seem to be on the go, but never exercise. Yonks ago I joined a gym and paid £40 a month for the privilege of hiding in the showers or deliberately forgetting my plimsoles. What little exercise I did do was ten minutes at the lowest setting on an exercise bike with a book propped up on the handlebars, and when I came out I was so Hank Marvin that any small good I did was immediately undone by a visit to the fridge. I never really fitted in with the gym crowd. My exercise gear was a The Sweeney "You're Nicked" t-shirt and an old pair of leggings that I'd bleached the kitchen in. My hair colour usually ran in the shower and messed up their fancy complimentary towels. It was not an enjoyable experience, and after I was ...

Max Factor Wild Mega Volume Mascara 28/03/2016

Wild? I was absolutely livid!

Max Factor Wild Mega Volume Mascara Between categories earning nowt to product proposals being unsuccessful, I’m getting a bit desperate to stay in the game (wipe the smile of your face Baron Spanielmeister, I said “in” not “on”) so once again I am resorting to a dusty dooyoo review, and borrowing a line – and the corresponding image, from an old Not The Nine O’Clock News Sketch.* The review is about make up – not a favourite subject of mine, and one I find hard to get excited about, but books & booze won’t pay the bills nowadays, so there you are. Anyhoo......I’d been in Superdrug recently and after splashing out a whole Pound on a lippy I was feeling rather flush, so I was easy prey to an enthusiastic sales assistant. For just £4.99 – instead of £6.99 – could buy the fantastic new mascara from Max Factor – Wild Mega Volume! Hold me back! I really like Max Factor’s 2000 Calorie Mascara, so I thought I’d treat myself as it is a reliable brand with good quality products, but not outrageously expensive for a tight wad like me. The bottle is bright lime frog skin green – not usual for Max Factor to be so flamboyant with packaging – and in black writing it tells you that this is “Wild Mega Volume –Volumising Mascara”. The lid has a big feathery logo, obviously a reference to how big and thick your lashes will be once you treat them to WILD MEGA-ness. I foolishly did not see a sample. The bottle is very chunky and like most mascaras the wand is attached to the lid. The one I bought was in black, which I ...

Schwarzkopf Live Wild Lights 05/03/2016

Caught red handed - and blue haired!

Schwarzkopf Live Wild Lights Some time ago I got a splendid hair colouring bargain in Poundland, whereby I got some fabulous purple dye - and much to my regret I only bought one box, and the product was never to be seen again in the store. This week while I was rooting around I found Schwarzkopf Wild Lights and as my grey roots were making their regular comeback, I thought this would be worth taking the chance to try. And as I believed that I had learnt my lesson before, instead of one box, I bought four. ---------- So what is Wild Lights anyway? ---------- It is designed as a home hair dye kit whereby you can add streaks, tips, dips etc you your natural hair colour, lightening and colouring at the same time, if the box is to be believed. Inside the box the kit contains instructions, protective gloves, one tube of colour cream (or creme as they insist on describing it - yaaaak) one bottle of developer, a mixing bowl, a highlighter brush and a tube of conditioner. The box features the usual cautions - avoid contact with eyes, do your 48 hour strand test, don't use on eyebrows or eyelashes, keep away from children, read the leaflet etc. I looked for ingredients on the box but the only thing it noted was hydrogen peroxide. ---------- What did I do with it? ---------- As my hair has never been it's natural colour since I was 13, I knew from experience that highlighting without stripping the hair colour wouldn't work well, I decided to use two packs and cover my whole head with it. It was easy to ...

Rimmel Apocalips Lip Lacquer 13/02/2016

Apocalips Now? Maybe later.

Rimmel Apocalips Lip Lacquer Once again, to keep myself in the game, I'm dusting off an old dooyoo review, sprucing it up and making it all presentable for the sophisticated Ciao palate. Seems that just now make up is a good category to pick, and although I have much more fun writing about the ill-fated verruca remover, we still have to eat at Spaniel Hall, so in order to collect a few coppers here's another from the vaults. ---------- Make up isn’t something I get too excited about. To me it’s a necessary ritual, more for the benefits of others than myself. Working in a dental surgery, folk are frightened enough when they come for their fillings and root canal treatment, so it would be beyond cruelty to subject them to my unmade face moments before they go under the drill. I spend little time and even littler money on the stuff, so when a big occasion like a wedding or a court appearance comes along I usually have to go beyond my usual blunt eyeliner and flattened lipstick to make myself presentable. Some time back one of these occurrances occurred. They wanted photos instead of chalk drawings, so I had to visit Superdrug – and was enticed by the shiny bright, pointy bottled Rimmel Apocalips Lip Lacquers on a two items for £10 deal. The Lacquer was available in eight colours and the one I chose was a dusty rose pink shade dazzlingly called Celestial. Used to just slapping on a swipe of lipstick, this was quite an adventure for me. I haven't worn lip gloss since it was mint flavoured and came in ...

Everything that starts with B ... 29/01/2016

A Bat Bag is for life - not just Halloween

Everything that starts with B ... You know how it is. You turn your back for one moment then “baff” another category disappears off the review list. I’d been away for some time, so coming back into the fold, I was all excited and started writing with gusto, on all sorts of products – all of which got rejected as the category in particular was no more. Taught me a valuable lesson, to propose first, then write once it was accepted. Bemoaning my wasted endeavours, some clever Ciao-ers suggested that I post them in the Ciao café, and since many of you expressed an interest in one product in particular, here it is. For you delectation –the Bat Bag! --------------- --------------- ---------- It was only a coincidence that I happened to buy this bag at Halloween. How nice for the season, folk remarked. Just like they tend to do when they see you unloading at the Bottle Bank, they enquired, "where you at a party?". My answer was, and is, always the same. Brought up on such intellectual stimuli as Hammer Horror movies, Shiver & Shake comic and "Supernatural" telly series (BBC 1977) I've always had a penchant for things of the night. Even in my ripe age, if it has a skull, a bat, or a haunted house on it, whether it is jewellery, socks, specs or scarves then I must make it mine. The old bag (steady, now...) was on its last legs, so a new one was a necessity, not an extravagance. Handbags on this theme are hard to come by, so imagine my delight when I searched for a "scary handbag" and was presented by this ...

Astral All Over Moisturiser 23/01/2016

Astral Plain

Astral All Over Moisturiser A Few Words of Explanation I realised with horror that I hadn’t posted a review in almost three months, so as I’m trying to get back onto the horse I set about writing some nice shiny new ones for 2016. Unfortunately all those “what I have wrote” will never see light of day as the goods weren’t accepted in the product proposals, so you will have to do without the joys of reading about bat-embroidered handbags or verruca removers for now. Therefore , to keep me in the game, I have been reduced to sneaking down into the dusty cellar of dooyoo, blowing the cobwebs of a vintage review from the vaults, and revamping it fit for sophisticated palates of the Ciao readership. So here goes. Ahem…. Over the last few decades I’ve bought and sampled various anti-wrinkle moisturisers, and decided either they don’t work, or that time and gravity have progressed so far that it is too late to try. I imagine if you go for really pricey premium ones you may have more success, but I consider £14 or thereabout really expensive for face cream, and I’d feel it was a bit of a gamble to go any higher. Besides, I don’t want to lose all those lovely character-enhancing laughter lines, now do I? I even remember a famous quote form Body Shop founder Anita Roddick that anti-wrinkle creams were “pap” (what a polite word) and that moisturisers were the only things that worked. So with this in mind and a little £1 coin pressed into my hand off I went to Poundland and bought a tub of faithful plain old ... - Discounts & Voucher Codes 25/10/2015

Hell - Low -  Discounts & Voucher Codes (Review is for Low Cost as a holiday company, not vouchers & discount as in Ciao criteria) I’ve always been one to say that any spare money I have should be spent on doings things – instead of having things – and while I have only about four pairs of shoes, a 13 year old car, and have hardly a stick of furniture in the house that hasn’t had at least one previous owner, I will save, and spend, most of my disposable income on trips and holidays. This year has been a tough one, and I’d only managed to get five days off work when the Baron’s diary was free, so I specifically picked a hotel in the Algarve that would be unique, relaxing, and maybe a wee bit more luxurious than I would usually afford. I chose a complex in the middle of a nature reserve that was created from a former tuna fishing community – it looked beautiful and unusual – and although remote promised good facilities. I did all the research, went through Trivago and found the cheapest hotel deal and I booked the flights independently. I constantly dreamt of my trip – I checked Trip Advisor every day for new reviews, communicated with people who had stayed there, and I put a pic of it on my mobile wall paper. I even drafted out a template for my Ciao review so I could relive my lovely experience as soon as I got back! All was booked and paid for, and as the date got closer, I emailed the hotel directly to see if we could get early access to our room, as the flight got us in about 9.30 am. Who are you, they ...

Tesco Value Milk Chocolate Bar 11/10/2015

Of Mice and Milk Chocolate

Tesco Value Milk Chocolate Bar (Warning – this review deals with rodent dispatch) Chocolate is bad. It has changed my body from a skinny slip of a thing to the matronly figure of Witch Hazel of of the Bugs Bunny cartoon ("Yes, that and ever-advancing decades" - be quiet, Baron Spanielmeister). Except at Christmas when I eat a whole box of chocs at one sitting (and give myself one hell of a chocolate hangover) I try at all costs not to keep the evil stuff in the house. All too often, if there is so much as a crumb about, and especially if I have had a couple of glasses of wine I will manage to track some down, consume, and spend the rest of the next day in gloom, guilt and remorse. Mice are also bad. For weeks now Spaniel Hall has been under siege from the little scoundrels, and all my precious Ciao-ing time has been stolen away through setting traps and cleaning up. Our record to date is eight in one day, and while the harvest continues to provide us with a beautiful golden vista of cut field and hay bales, the blighters are taking sanctuary in my utility room and helping themselves to dog biscuits, peanuts, walls and whatever other vegetable & mineral substances they can find therein. I’m not afraid of mice (or spiders – that’s how hard I am!) and would happily share my home with them if we could house train them. I wouldn’t even mind building a little Lego toilet or having the a mini equivalent of a litter tray for them if they would use it – but unfortunately they don’t so action needs to be ...
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