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Varadero, Cuba 14/11/2008

Varadero - Safe, Sunny, Wonderful!

Varadero, Cuba Varadero is a large tourist resort on the Atlantic coast of Cuba and is a peninsular of I spent two weeks in Varadero with my partner at the beginning of June 2008. What a stunning location. Varadero beach is the most beautiful beach I have been on in my life, with its stunning white sand stretching up the coastline and mild temperature Atlantic Ocean to bathe in. I love this beach! The beach is, of course, the main reason so many tourists visit Varadero! There's always loads of water sports going on there too! There is more to do than just the beaches however. With all the hotels offering All Inclusive packages (and it seems almost every tourist is indeed on one of those) the tendency seems to be for many never to venture beyond the gates of their complex, which is a real shame. First and foremost this is one of the safest places in the world and I felt completely at ease walking around in Varadero both during the day and night. In terms of things to do here, I will start with the essential information about getting around! There's a number of ways you can get around. There's plenty of Coco Cabs (the little yellow open taxis/moped style cabs driven by women). There's also a number of horse drawn carriages constantly going up and down the peninsular and they will almost certainly stop and offer you a ride (for a fee of course) all the time. There's also standard taxis often lining up waiting for tourists outside hotels. To get right the length of the peninsular ...

Los Gigantes, Tenerife 03/08/2006

The Giants of the Canaries

Los Gigantes, Tenerife WHERE? Los Gigantes is situated on the sunny West coast of Tenerife. It has a fantastic all year round sunny climate owing to the island's close proximity to the West coast of Africa. During the British summer time, it's very hot! I've known it reach almost 40 degree Celsius in August. During the British winter I've experienced temperatures in Los Gigantes of anything between 18 and 25. Los Gigantes gets its name (The Giants) from the stunning cliffs which rise vertically from the sea to a huge 300m height. The cliffs attract visitors from everywhere and can be seen from miles away! GETTING THERE Los Gigantes is about 40 kilometres from the airport in the South of the island, Reina Sofia. Charter flights fly on Tuesdays and Fridays from most UK airports and you can take a Monarch Scheduled flight from Manchester and Heathrow on any day of the week. Flights, of course, vary in price depending on how far in advance you book and the time of year. I've taken flights that have only cost £70 for a two week return and others have cost me £250! Once you land (and adjust to the immediate heat that hits you) you'll need to get to the resort. Taxis cost around 30 Euros to Los Gigantes. There is also a bus which runs to El Marques in Puerto Santiago, which is only a ten minute walk to Los Gigantes (or 2.50 Euros and three minutes in a taxi). Although the bus is put on by El Marques, if you contact them you can book a seat no matter where you are staying at a cost of 6 ...

Masca, Tenerife 31/07/2006

The Forgotten Village

Masca, Tenerife Masca Village is an absolute must see for any visitor to Tenerife. Admittedly, it is some distance from Las Americas and Los Cristianos, the two biggest tourist resorts. But it is a trip worth making. For those of you staying in Los Gigantes, Puerto de Santiago or Playa de la Arena, you have a much shorter journey. THE FORGOTTEN VILLAGE I'll start by telling you a little about Masca itself. The village of Masca is often referred to by locals as "The Forgotten Village," which is due to the fact that until 1991, there wasn't even a road to get there. The village is located in a gorge in the North West of the Island. Before the road was built, inhabitants would navigate their way down steep mountain footpaths leading to the bay at the bottom and use their boats to go to nearby Los Gigantes for any shopping etc. The village is incredibly rural and still maintains the traditional way of living which has completely disappeared from everywhere else. The population of Masca Village is only around a hundred, most of who remain there to serve the increasing number of tourists, largely hikers, who visit. At the top, the village lies at 2000ft altitude. WHO GOES THERE? Nowadays Masca is visited largely by hikers. The most common Masca walk to do follows the following itinery. A coach or car drops walkers off at the top of Masca Village, walkers make their way down the Barranco right to the bay at the bottom, which has a beautiful beach and stunning bay. They are then ...

Playa de la Arena, Tenerife 31/07/2006

A Gem of a Resort

Playa de la Arena, Tenerife Playa de la Arena (or 'Arena Beach' in English) is a small resort 45km (approximately 40 minutes by car) away from the Reina Sofia Airport on the island of Tenerife. As I have said in a previous post, I have been spending my summers in Tenerife for the last 11 years, but I have been visiting for two or three weeks at a time for nearly 20. The reason is that I have family out there who live in Playa de la Arena. The first thing to mention about this lovely little place is that it really is not for those die-hard clubbers who want loud, late music. Las Americas is more likely to suit your tastes. Though there are a couple of small clubs within walking distance of Playa de la Arena, the best and liveliest of these being Karaoke Bar Tropical, which is a Spanish bar playing loud, Spanish music until the wee hours of the morning. You won't find many English people there, but as long as you can order a drink in Spanish (or at least have a go) you'll be made very welcome and have a fabulous time. Anyway, back onto Playa de la Arena. The resort is located on the ever sunny West Coast of Tenerife, around a half hour walk from the better known resort of Los Gigantes and around a fifteen minute walk from Puerto Santiago (which will become more relevant when I elaborate on some of the day trips etc). The first thing you'll notice as your tour bus pulls into Playa de la Arena is the stunning and quite sizeable beach. A lot of beaches on the island are man made, to cater for ...

Parque Ecologico Las Aguilas del Teide, Tenerife 30/07/2006

White Tigers in Tenerife??

Parque Ecologico Las Aguilas del Teide, Tenerife I have been spending 6 - 12 weeks each summer in Tenerife for the last 11 years and as a result, have visited each of the main attractions several times and watched them develop. The Parque Ecologico Las Aguilas Del Teide, or the Ecological Eagle Park of Teide, is a "Tropical Paradise," with 72000 square metres of land. It is essentially a zoo, but one of the big things that separates the Eagle Park is its hands on attitude. Yes, you can actually handle some of the animals in here, which I will elaborate on later. The park is surprisingly not very well known, arguably due to the massive advertising campaign the Loro Parque has going on in Tenerife, which tends to attract some of the custom away from the Eagle Park. However, advertising in increasing, along with popularity. The Eagle Park is located in Arona, just outside Los Cristianos centre, which is a large tourist resort. There is excellent transport provided by tour companies and the park itself for tourists. You can book the trip through your holiday rep of through any of the travel shops around the tourist resorts, but this will undoubtedly cost more than if you book your travel and pay entry separately. However, for convenience lots do prefer to do it this way. For those of you staying in either Las Americas, Torviscas or Los Cristianos, the Eagle Park runs regular free buses from these centres up to the park. For those staying a little further away such as Los Gigantes or Puerto Santiago, you can take the ...

Yahoo Launch 29/07/2006

Free Music Videos - Yahoo!

Yahoo Launch (or for UK surfers like myself) is the address you'll be needing for some of the best and most up to date free music videos around. I already had a Yahoo account before starting to use Launch but it is really not necessary. You can watch videos free of charge without being a registered member. There are other features of the site for which you are required to register and I will point these out as we go through what's available. The homepage usually shows a featured artist, which when clicked on will take you to that artists profile from where you can access their videos and buy their tracks. There is also always a large link to the latest videos, but I personally find it easier to navigate my way around the site using the black bar at the top which can take you to; LaunchCast Radio, Videos, Artists, News, Chart and Shop. I will go through each of these individually in a moment but I think it it really worth pointing out that the search facility available on the homepage is fantastic. You enter your search term and can choose to search; All, Artists, Videos, Albums or Songs. As an example, I put in the search term "Eminem" and searched All and was led to a page with a brief biog about him and links to his songs and videos. Should you choose to navigate your own way around as I am sure most do, the first option is LaunchCast Radio. There is an option to customise your own radio station here, which requires a Yahoo login and ...

Vera Drake (DVD) 24/07/2006

Vera Drake - The Woman with two Lives

Vera Drake (DVD) I was browsing in Music Zone when I saw this DVD available for £5.99. Never one to miss a bargain, I decided I'd give it a go. I'd read the back of the box and the story sounded interesting, so I went home and put it on. What followed was an emotional rollercoaster of 2 hours viewing. This film is absolutely fantastic and, in my opinion, one the best British films ever to be produced. The film is available from for £6.99 now. Vera Drake (played magnificently by Imelda Staunton) is a cleaner in England in the 1950s. She is a devoted Mother to her now grownup children who still live with her, and offers her time selflessly to help the needy. Her husband, Stan (played by Phil Davis, who does a magnificent job) is a mechanic. Her son, Sid, (Daniel Mays) is a tailor and daughter, Ethel (Alex Kelly) works in a light bulb factory. These low paying jobs mean that, like so many other families living in London in the 50s, they struggled financially. Between cleaning for the rich, looking after her ill Mother and taking care of her family, Vera also helps young women. Namely, those who have fallen pregnant unintentionally. She 'induces miscarriages' swiftly, discreetly and professionally, working efficiently and leaving the patents in as little pain as possible. She does this by injecting a syringe of a toxin into the uterus. More importantly, she refuses to accept money for this service, which she provides to unmarried women who cannot have a child for the shame, ...

The Emperor's New Groove (Animated) (Collector's Edition) (DVD) 23/07/2006

The Emperor is Groovy!

The Emperor's New Groove (Animated) (Collector's Edition) (DVD) I went to see 'The Emperor's New Groove,' at the cinema when it first came out. Although I was not blown away in the same way I was with 'The Lion King,' or 'Lilo and Stitch,' I did leave the cinema feeling as though I had enjoyed myself. Not enough, however, to purchase the original DVD release. When the collector's edition came how, though, I just had to have it. As I die-hard Disney fanatic I would have been a cardinal sin not to. I purchased my copy for £17.99 from Music Zone, which was the cheapest I could find it around. It did go right up to £23.99. As is has been a while since its release, you can get it much cheaper now. The story itself was not excellent, but the characters were fabulous. Disney never fail to deliver in this aspect of their animated film production. Emperor Kuzco, voiced by David Spades is a spoilt brat. He treats his subjects terribly and his actions are all performed with solely his own gain in mind. One day, however, he makes a mistake! He fires his advisor, Yzma (voiced fabulously by Eartha Kitt). Yzma, who is a sorcerer, seeks help with the aid of her sidekick, Kronk (Patrick Warburton), who certainly isn't the brightest bulb in the box. She tried to poison Kuzco but instead mistakenly turns him into a llama! Kuzco must return to human form and regain his throne, but the only person he has for t help is Pacha (John Goodman), a peasant who has just been forced to leave his home by Kuzco! Kuzco must learn the error of his ways and become a ...

The Phantom Of The Opera (DVD) 20/07/2006

I Quite Fancy The Phantom!

The Phantom Of The Opera (DVD) Imagine a beautiful, breathtaking piece of architecture whose brilliance can be easily seen for miles around Paris. It is the nineteenth century and this wonderful theatre is frequented by hundreds of people every night looking to be entertained. While the owners count their cash, their changes and refusal to accept the existence of the Phantom who dwells underneath this theatre are causing this ingenious "ghoul" to become increasingly irate, with some devastating consequences. Imagine no more. Now you can see for yourself! The theatre is far less frequented these days, largely owing to the popularity of the cinema, which is a far more accessible, convenient and cheaper form of entertainment. I was lucky enough to see a theatre production of this in Manchester, but I know most have not. I love Andrew Lloyd Webber's work. I think the man is a genius. Because of this, I was very wary of watching a cinema adaptation of arguably Lloyd-Webber's best piece. Having seen previous adaptations of it, I had been left believing that they simply ruin the story and leave the viewer completely unsatisfied. However, noting that Andrew Lloyd-Webber had himself contributed greatly to this production, I decided to stump up the cinema ticket money and give it a go. I went back a further three times as well, I was so amazed! So, of course, when the DVD came out I was first in the queue to buy it, at a very reasonable £14.99, considering the extras it comes with. I purchased my copy from ...

Pinocchio (DVD) 20/07/2006

One of my Favourites!

Pinocchio (DVD) Pinocchio. What can I say? A classic in its own right adored by children and adults equally. This is an absolute timeless Disney Animation that I could watch time and time again and never get sick of. I bought my own copy of this DVD for £17.99 from Music Zone. I've noticed it selling for up to £25 so, as I always say with chart and Disney DVDs, it's very much worth shopping around. Pinocchio was the first animated Disney Classic to receive the DVD treatment and it is easy to see why, though the 1999 initial DVD release was somewhat disappointing in the lack of extras and seeming lack of any picture or sound improvement. This though, could perhaps be put down to Disney "testing the water" in terms of DVD being a relatively new format. However, we all know it took off in a major way and so the most recent release has been improved greatly. There is an impressive voice cast, with Dickie Jones doing the voice of Pinocchio, Cliff Edwards as the voice of Jiminy Cricket, Don Brodie as Barker and Evelyn Venable as the Blue Fairy. The story itself is fantastic as well, as we all know! Pinocchio is the story of a puppet who longs to be a real boy. Built by Geppetto, who is very lonely. Geppetto wishes so much that Pinocchio could be a real boy. Geppetto is an honourable fellow and so his wishes are helped along their way by the Blue Fairy, who gives Pinocchio a certain degree of life. He is able to speak and move freely but is still wooden. In order to become a real boy he ...

Nokia 7610 17/07/2006

Nokia 7610 - How Smart a Smartphone is it?

Nokia 7610 I bought this handset for £129.99 for a sim free one about 6 months ago. I tend to use it solely as a second or spare handset now though as I have a smaller more compact one. Itis a waste really as its features really are great. I love the huge screen! (65,536 color-display, 176 x 208 pixels) THE BASICS Megapixel camera with up to ten minute video recording capability, 8Mb built in memory, plus it comes with a 64Mb memory card. Weights 118g (I think this is heavy in relation to most current models, even with the features it has). Dimensions: 106.8mm x 53mm x 18.7mm. Changeable covers. THE FUNCTIONS The way I usually do this with mobile phone reviews is to take you through the entire menu. That way I can be sure you've missed nothing! When you finally figure out how to get to the menu, with the somewhat different layout of the keypad, the first thing you will come to is; MESSAGING. This consists of New Message, enabling you to wrtie a text message. You can go into 4 messages in one, which while it will charge you the price of 4 messages, is useful and far easier than sending four individual messages. Next is INBOX, where your received messages will automatically be stored. The next option is MY FOLDERS, which allows you to setup various folders and move messages to them in order to keep them. This is followed by E-MAIL, which will vary in price between networks. The next option is DRAFTS, which is where you can save half written messages to complete and ...

Everybody Loves Mickey (Animated) (DVD) 17/07/2006

I Certainly Love Mickey!

Everybody Loves Mickey (Animated) (DVD) This little gem fell into my hands as a result of a somewhat inebriated impulsive decision I took to buy a copy from Amazon at 2am after being out with friends. "Oooh, look, it's only £5.99! I'll buy one!" That would have been find had that been the only thing I had purchased on that little "shopping spree". However, I will save the other items for other reviews! But yes, £5.99, bargain and it is pretty much the same price everywhere else I have seen it too, so it certainly isn't one of the more expensive Disney offerings. The DVD is 58 minutes in length, so not long at all and is in English with German subtitles available. Itis Dolby digital 2.0 sound. It is a U certificate, so perfectly suitable for family viewing/ The DVD is relatively cheap and they say you only get what you pay for, so perhaps that explains the disappointing helping of extras. There are only two extras on this DVD, which I found bitterly disapponting for Disney. They are; - A Lucky Matches activity, which is a "pairs" type of game. - Can You Recall game, which is another memory game and not a particularly good one either is has to be said. The feature itself is made up of animated shorts featuring Mickey, Goofy, Donald and (my personal favourite) Pluto. The shorts include some of the best bits of animation Mickey Mouse has ever featured in. The shorts on this DVD include: "Thru The Mirror" in which Mickey discovers a world of his own imagination through a mirror. "Hawaiian ...

Dumbo (Animated) (DVD) 17/07/2006

Dumbo - adorable!

Dumbo (Animated) (DVD) This film is one of the first I remember watching as a child. I still have my VHS copy but no VHS player anymore, so I was chuffed to bits when it was relseased on DVD. The price bit: I bought my copy for £9.97 from Music Zone. It is widely available from this price right up to around the £20 mark, so I suggest shopping around, as I would with all Disney purchases, to get the best buy. Dumbo is the story of of an Elephant, who huge ears make him a mockery amongst the other circus elephants and land his Mother in "jail" when she becomes aggressive in her defence of her son. This leaves Dumbo as an outcast, with no friends and worse than that; he is put in with the clowns in the circus rather than the elephants. His only real companion is a friendly little mouse, who looks after him and adivses him throughout the film. Without giving too much of the story away for those of you (a minority, I am sure) who have not yet seen it, it becomes apparent that Dumbo's ears enable him to fly. He begins flying with a magic feather held in his trunk, but finds himself able to to do so without the feather when needs must. I don't want to give away too much of the story so I'll go through the high points with you! HIGH POINTS: The Characters: these are some of the best characters Disney have created. The crows/vultures are hilarious, the viewer is immediately engaged with Dumbo's plight and sympathises with him from the outset and the mouse is fabulous. The characters grab ...

The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud - Ben Sherwood 15/07/2006

Miracles Happen

The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud - Ben Sherwood I'll start, as I always do, by telling you how much I paid for this! I paid £3.73 from Asda. The RRP is £6.99 but you can always get books a lot cheaper at big supermarkets. Published by Picador, the book is 277 pages in length and they're quite full pages, so there is plenty to get your teeth into! The story is introduced by Florio the fireman, who explains that he detatches himself from most cases he deals with because it is too emotionally difficult to stay involved. But he does remember three stories. He then tells us the one he remembers most vividly; the story of Charlie St. Cloud. On a pleasant evening in Essex County, 15 year old Charlie St. Cloud has tickets to see the Red Sox for him and his 12 year old brother, Sam. They take, without permission, their next door neighbour's vehicle in order to get themselves there. They arrive safely and enjoy the baseball game. But tragedy strikes on the return leg of their outing, with Charlie crashing to car into a lorry on a bridge. The accident steals his brother's life and almost his own, but fireman Florio manages to resuscitate him. But during this period of non-breathing, Charlie and Sam are in between life and death together and Sam, scared, makes Charlie promise never to leave him. Charlie does so. Then Charlie is snatched away from Sam and back to life. The years pass and Charlie grows up. His Mother moves away, unable to live in a place where such tragedy tore her world apart. Charlie gets a job as a cemetry ...

The Little Prisoner - Jane Elliott 15/07/2006

The Little Prisoner - devastating!

The Little Prisoner - Jane Elliott I bought this books for £1.99 from the Works, which tends to do a lt books cheaply. I had heard from friends that is was an excellent read and so set about beginning it when I got into bed at 11pm the other night. The book is the tale of abuse by a step-father, whom the author refers to as "Silly Git" and the abuse he put her through from being 4 to being 21. This entailed physical beating, sexual abuse, mental torture and generally very disturbing activities. I do not think that giving away detail about this book will in anyway ruin it for a reader, as the story is told from the title. So I can give a synopsis here. We are told that Jane (all characters names changed to protect identities) and her younger brother, Jimmy, are in foter care at the beginning of the book. Her Mother and step-father then take Janey back, but leave Jimmy to be adopted by another family, saying they, "only want the girl". From day one, Jane is physically abused by the step-father, who, because of her dark skin, refers to her as the "Paki Slave". There is not much chronological ordering to the book, as the author say she cannot really work out date in her mind or the length of time over which certain things happened. But each chapter tells of several more events, in quite some detail, which happened. The moments which stand out the most are the ones in which she tells her childhood friend, Hayley, what is happening but swears her to secrecy and also the first occurance of sexual ...
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