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New review up of our stay in a hotel in Tokyo! Just added some pictures to it as well.

Reviews written

since 01/09/2005


Hotel Villa Fontaine Hakozaki, Tokyo 11/06/2012

Internet, breakfast and a great price in Tokyo

Hotel Villa Fontaine Hakozaki, Tokyo NB. This review is for the Hotel Villa Fontaine Nihonbashi Hakozaki. The hotel has changed its name and I have asked for this to be moved across to the right listing here. Location It was a bit of a spur of the moment thing to book out holiday to Japan. We both really wanted to see Tokyo, but weren’t sure where to book. In the end we decided to do what usually suits us, which is to book somewhere outside of the very centre of the city and then to travel in by metro or walk to places. The area that the hotel is in is definitely a business part of the city. It’s just a couple of roads away from a huge IBM building and next to two other pretty big office blocks. We also saw loads of people on their lunch break each day rushing around in suits or going to relax by the river. A real bonus for us of being situated in this district was that it had 3 metro stops very close to the hotel on a couple of different lines. It was also (for us) a walkable distance to see sites of interest in the capital nearby. There is one big shrine in Nihonbashi, and on our first day while we were waiting to check in to the hotel, we walked right into the centre of Tokyo and got as far as the imperial palace. Do bear in mind that this was walking at a pretty fast pace for a few hours though. If the location of the Nihonbashi Hotel Villa Fontaine wouldn’t suit your holiday needs then it’s worth remembering that this is a chain of hotels. We saw quite a few of these across Tokyo, including one in Ueno ...

Travelodge Torquay, Torquay 28/10/2011

Our tip-top trip to Torquay Travelodge

Travelodge Torquay, Torquay Like most of our trips away, there’s always a bit of a quirk with how we’ve booked it. Torquay was no exception, our trip was a bargain. My partner’s parents had a room that they couldn’t use at the Travelodge and they couldn’t get a refund on it as the company had said that they could only exchange it for a room for exactly the same price. Being that the price they paid had a number of pence after it, £40.17 or similar, there were no other dates with exactly the same price. Although this was a bit of a con for them (and something a prospective booker should be aware of) it worked in our favour as they offered us the room for free. Now we were also lucky enough to have a pair of complimentary train tickets for the First Great Western network due to disruption at our train station. We’d been holding onto these and wondering what we could best use them for. When the possibility of one night at this Travelodge came up we thought this sounded ideal! Particularly as the train ride down through Devon is stunning – with the tracks just meters from the beach and the rolling waves. The train slips through tunnels in the bold red cliffs and the views are just beautiful. This is definitely a trip worth doing in the day time! So free travel and free accommodation, we headed down to the West Country. Arriving We had been slightly misinformed that the Travelodge was in the centre of Torquay. In actual fact it was in very nearby Torre – which is the train stop before Torquay. I’m not ...

Delta Chelsea, Toronto 02/10/2011

The largest hotel in Canada

Delta Chelsea, Toronto Introduction Deciding to go to Canada Our holiday to Canada was a last minute decision. We had a week booked off work and didn’t know where to go. We were looking for a package deal inclusive of flights and hotel and the prices across Europe weren’t actually that much of a good deal. Expedia kept showing bargain flights to Canada and in the end we gave in and saw how much we could get a hotel for as well. The first hotel we looked at booking a package with was the King Edward hotel. This is part of the Le Meridien chain and is a rather posh affair. It was down as a total steal and we tried to book. However, when the confirmation page flashed up it showed that there had been a problem with our booking. When we managed to get through to the last minute (who apparently the problem lay with) we found that flights were actually a bit more expensive than had been advertised online. However, by this point we had our hearts set on Canada and we went with it – booking the flights directly with the airline – but changed our mind about the hotel. The King Edward was a lovely hotel, but the package didn’t exist for us anymore, and we started looking at other hotels in the area. We then came across a website called Priceline where you can bid for mystery hotel rooms in a given location. If you’re sneaky then you can check out forums online where people reveal which hotel they got – and work out from your star rating and location/facilities which one you’re booking. We figured out the ...

Rio Grande Games Carcassone 05/09/2011

An ideal game for two after tea

Rio Grande Games Carcassone Carcassonne is a game we were introduced to at a friend’s dinner party. Depending on whether you’ve played a game of its ilk before, it’s the kind of game that can induce groans or cheers on sight. We hadn’t ever encountered this kind of game before, so we were sceptical, but it proved to be quite fun. We actually had to leave before the end of the game to catch a train, but we liked it enough to seek it out in a little board game shop and try it out again on our own. It was around £20, but you can pick it up for about £15 on Amazon. What kind of game is it? Carcassonne is a game where the aim is to collect the most points by building roads and cities. Each player has a number of followers (or meepoles - me-ple, like people!) to place on the board, which is built square by square on each turn. The board starts out with one square and players place matching squares alongside existing ones to extend roads, build cities or place cloisters. The followers can stand on cities, roads and cloisters until they are completed. They can also be placed as farmers, which sacrifices a me-ple until the end of the game, but collects points from any completed cities nearby. How many players? Although we have played this game with 5 players (the maximum number of players there are coloured pieces for), we have found that it actually works best with 2 players. This is mainly due to the limited number of cards in the deck that make up the board. It’s a longer and more satisfying game with 2. ...

Playmobil Animal Clinic 4348: Guinea Pig Pen 27/04/2011

These pigs of the sea are great value

Playmobil Animal Clinic 4348: Guinea Pig Pen It might sound a bit silly, but these lovely little playmobil guinea pigs were actually a present for us! We were on holiday in Germany at the time when we spotted them and, being just about to buy our own guinea pigs (who are now 8 months old!), we decided they might be rather cute in our lounge at home. They are also called meerschwein in German which is pretty cute as it means pigs of the sea! Availability and price Considering that we bought these in Germany I thought I better check that they are actually available to buy over here in the UK as well. We paid around 6 euros for our little play set in an independent toy shop in Germany. It looks as though it’s pretty widely available in England as well – you can get it on Amazon for just under £6 at the moment. The set is pretty small, so if you had it delivered by post then it might fit through your letterbox. The set So what’s in the set? It’s only a small pack – part of a range of other animal-related play sets – so you don’t get a huge amount of pieces. Then again it’s around a fiver and playmobil toys are pretty good quality, so what you do get is good. For your money you will get two people – an adult woman with long longish black hair, wearing a jacket – and a child who might be a boy or a girl, although it’s hard to tell with the hair length and the fact they’re wearing printed on dungarees. I guess this probably makes it more suitable for any child as they can identify with the child character, ...

Early Learning Centre HappyLand Mighty Digger 03/04/2011

A chunky dee-gar!

Early Learning Centre HappyLand Mighty Digger It’s always fun buying presents for children. You can buy things that are purely for fun and it’s great seeing the look on their faces if you get it right and choose something they really love. We were visiting friends the other weekend who we hadn’t seen for ages and it was just before their little boy’s second birthday. We decided that it would be nice to get him a present – especially as they would be putting us up and feeding us for the weekend. Choosing the toy Where do you start with choosing a toy for a child that you don’t see a lot? We weren’t sure what kind of things he was into, but I asked my mum for advice on what a 2-year-old might like and she suggested a chunky truck or a jigsaw. I thought the truck sounded like much more fun, so after work one evening while the shops were still open we went to see what we could get. Being after work, our choices were limited as to which shops we could go to. Ideally I’d have got something from the Early Learning Centre, but this was closed. So we had a look around Mammas and Papas (all far too young and overpriced) and House of Fraser (no real baby/toddler toys at all). Then we decided to try Debenhams. I was actually impressed by the size of their toy department – it wasn’t huge, but it did have much more than I was expecting – even better – it stocked some Early Learning Centre toys! The digger This digger was one of the first toys we looked at. We both thought it was awesome – really chunky with moveable ...

The Winchester Hotel, Winchester 16/03/2011

Lovely hotel hidden inside an uninspiring exterior

The Winchester Hotel, Winchester Every year I usually travel down to Southampton for an annual university club meet up and a formal dinner. This is usually at one of the many hotels in and around Southampton, but after a very disappointing dinner at the Southampton Park Hotel last year, this year it was decided to head out to a new venue in Winchester. This was unchartered waters in the history of these gatherings, but as I no longer live in Southampton it wasn’t much of a problem for me to get to – more of an issue for the students who had to get a coach out to it. Depending on which hotel the meet up is held at, we sometimes stay on site. This year looked really promising, albeit a bit more expensive than a lot of the places in Southampton, so we decided to go for it. It’s great getting ready in the actual hotel and not having to worry about going outside in the wind and rain and makeup smudging and hair getting ruined – not to mention the potential of losing/storing/carrying extra coats and bags. Why we chose the hotel I can see that a potential guest at this hotel might be put off by its outside appearance. Unfortunately I forgot to take any pictures of the outside, but I can describe it as fairly modern and non-descript. Rather like a very outsized house with lots of dark brown and no real features. Luckily you can also check it out on their website here: which has a few uninspiring photos of the outside. But potential guest, do not be perturbed. This ...

Nivea Visage Natural Beauty Radiance Boosting Eye Cream 02/03/2011

Greasiness boosting eye cream

Nivea Visage Natural Beauty Radiance Boosting Eye Cream I actually received a free sample of this eye cream through the post from Nivea. I always send off for the freebies on their website and they now sometimes send me through complimentary samples. This eye cream sample came with the matching Nivea radiance moisturising cream and the shower gel. I had enough in my free sample for about 5 uses around my eye area. The full tube of this in the shops obviously holds a lot more and will set up back around £6 for a rather small 13ml tube. Initial impressions I’ve always liked Nivea products, so I was hoping to get good results from the radiance boosting eye cream. However, when I squeezed a little out of the packet I was rather surprised that it appeared to be full of little flecks of what looked like glitter. It seemed that Nivea planned to boost my natural radiance with the aid of actual glitter. I figured that this appearance would be just the pearly sheen of the cream and that this would disappear when I applied it to my eye area. I was however much mistaken. The glitter just wouldn’t disappear! I was left with the overall effect of looking rather like a 9 year old on her way to a party and perhaps a bit of a shiny greasiness as well. Not exactly the look I was going for. Now these aren’t big traditional bits of glitter, they’re pretty small particles, but they are definitely glitter. An additional problem to just the appearance of the cream was also the fact that these glittery particles kept working their way into ...

Berkshire 4x4 Segway Tours, Berkshire 18/02/2011

Geek for a day

Berkshire 4x4 Segway Tours, Berkshire A while ago an offer appeared on Groupon that my partner and I couldn’t resist – a discounted Segway tour! We’re both wanted to have a go on a Segway and this was cheap, near where we live and sounded fun. For anyone unfamiliar with what a Segway it, I guess it’s best described as a two-wheel vehicle that stays upright and moves by the ‘rider’ balancing and leaning. More info on these here: Price and booking As I mentioned, we went on this Segway tour as part of an offer. Ordinarily this 1 hour experience costs around £25/person, but our voucher effectively gave us two for the price of one – so it worked out at £12 each. I thought this was pretty good considering this is something we’ve been wanting to do for a while and also considering the fact that there aren’t actually that many places in the country where you can do this. Part of the reason for this is the cost of an individual Segway (depending on type anything from £2000 - £5000) and the fact that it’s illegal to ride Segways on roads/pavements in the UK. This means that tours like this can only take place where the land owner has approved it. We booked this through Groupon, so I am afraid I’m not sure what the full experience would be if you booked everything through Berkshire 4x4. Saying that, our voucher lasted for 3 months and we we did have to book the day and time of our tour with the company directly over the phone. This all went to plan, although we didn’t realise quite how early ...

The Bridge of San Luis Rey - Thornton Wilder 29/01/2011

A classic prize winner that's new to me

The Bridge of San Luis Rey - Thornton Wilder Why I read this book The Bridge of San Luis Rey is a book that I don’t think I would have thought to have read if it hadn’t been chosen for our book club this month. It’s a very short novel – barely over 100 pages – and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of the author before. The guy in our book club that chose the book did so for two reasons. Firstly, it was a winner of the Pulitzer prize in 1928, but none of us had ever heard of it – so we wanted to know what it was all about and why it won. Secondly, we had read a book with our book club about a year before called Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. If you’ve read this book before you will know that it has a unique structure where various stories are sandwiched inside one another, so you begin the book at the furthest point back in time, then work through various stories to the furthest in the future, then as you reach the middle of the book you follow the same stories in the reverse order as they progress. Now that’s not very well explained, but the key thing is that one of the stories (near the middle) features a character called Luisa Rey. This section of the book follows a kind of detective genre (to add to the confusion each story in the book seems to be in a different type of genre) and one of the key scenes in this character’s story sees her under chase on a bridge. Mitchell included this character as an intentional reference to Thornton Wilder’s book (although I have to say I missed this the first time around as I’d ...

John Lewis Orla Pendant Shade 04/01/2011

The finishing touch

John Lewis Orla Pendant Shade We just finished decorating our first room in our new house and we wanted to get something nice to finish it off. We were very lucky in that someone had given us some John Lewis vouchers as a moving in present. We decided it would be nice to put some of these towards a light fitting to make a nice centre point. Ordinarily I don’t think we would have thought to look in John Lewis as I had assumed that these would be far out of our price range. However, we actually found one that was a pretty good price in my opinion at £60. We wanted something sparkly and a bit like a chandelier, but our room is far too small for most things in the shop. We also weren’t keen on getting anything that needed to be attached to the ceiling, so this one was ideal as it just fits into the normal pendant fitting. It was really quick to install – I think unwrapping the packaging took longer than hanging it up! Admittedly there was an awful lot of packaging – polythene foamy sheets holding each swirl of crystals – but it meant it came to us in perfect condition. Appearance The crystals on this light fitting are actually plastic, which might sound a bit rubbish, but I was really impressed with them. I guess this is probably down to being John Lewis. They genuinely look like glass and I had to test the weight a few times to see that they really were plastic. The bonus of them being plastic is that the shade isn’t that heavy and there’s no issue with hanging it from any fitting. The swirl ...

Cath Kidston Rose Scented Paper Sachets Set of 2 21/11/2010

A traditional treat

Cath Kidston Rose Scented Paper Sachets Set of 2 Cath Kidston I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a massive Cath Kiston fan. Okay some of the stuff is expensive, but the odd little thing here and there is a really nice treat . I love walking into the incredibly chintzy and overly floral shops to re-emerge with one small but indulgent flowery vintage-inspired item. I’m a big fan of the items in the home department – partly because they are vastly cheaper than the clothes or bags. And when we moved into our new house last January it was in need of a lot of work, so I treated myself to a few Cath Kidston luxuries to brighten the place up a bit! The sachets The built in wardrobe in my new bedroom has definitely seen better days – it was all just a bit dirty and worn when I move din – I really didn’t fancy putting my clothes in it. So after giving it a good scrub with some Flash ‘scrubbie cloths’ (my new favourite cleaning product party for the good job they do and mainly just for the awesome name) , I decided that I needed some beautiful drawer liners. I got on the net and ordered some from the John Lewis website. Then as I was at it and paying postage anyway, I also ordered these sachets to hang in the wardrobe. They look lovely and come wrapped in cellophane, which I guess is to stop them losing their scent. I decided just to open one to begin with and to keep the other one with the wrapping so I could use it later. The scent is incredibly traditional – much like the Rose scent that you get when you walk into the shower/bath ...

Internacional Design Hotel, Lisbon 15/08/2010

Designed to please

Internacional Design Hotel, Lisbon What made us pick the Internacional Design Hotel? My partner and I decided to spend a week in Lisbon this summer. Having never been to Portugal before, we thought it would be interesting to see the capital before heading down south to the Algarve for our second week. We knew next to nothing about Lisbon and it was pretty difficult working out exactly where the main centre was. It seemed that most hotels in Lisbon were based in an area that we later found out was the business district, and a pretty long way out, so it took a while to realise this and rule these out. On top of that there seemed to be loads of hotels that were within our price range for this holiday and that got good reviews on trip advisor. In the end we came up with a list of conditions that the hotel had to fall into to help us choose one. It had to have air conditioning, a free high-speed Internet connection and be within walking distance of the main attractions. This left us with a list of about 3 hotels, and with nothing else to base it on, we decided to go for the one with the funkiest website! You can check this out here: Price We actually had more of a budget for the hotel on this holiday than we would normally have as we received the flights as a present. Normally this would be more than we’d like to spend on a hotel, but we didn’t mind this time. We got 5 nights in one of the small rooms in the hotel through Expedia for about £384. Our offer was a 5th ...

Dulux Light & Space Rich Matt 05/07/2010

Four coats later...

Dulux Light & Space Rich Matt Introduction We have recently moved into a new house and we were really looking forward to making our mark on it. We decided to begin with the dinning room as it was clearly the room that was in most need of attention, particularly the ceiling, which had turned a nasty shade of nicotine yellow. The mixture of smoking and an open fire in the room had really ruined the décor. Choosing the right paint We decided that it would be worth getting a decent quality paint for this job. Painting a ceiling is laborious, arm-aching work, so we wanted the paint we chose to actually have an impact. We decided to choose Dulux Light and Space ceiling paint partly because Homebase were running a BOGOF offer on paints and it actually made what would normally be a fairly expensive white paint (£15ish) affordable when we bought it along with the emulsion for the walls. I was slightly won over by the fancy packaging – complete with shiny bits – and the promise that is had a ‘LumiTec Formulation’, whatever that might be. The tin also told us that it had light-reflecting particles which would make the room look bigger. This sounded ideal as the dinning room is pretty small and has no direct source of light (an extension was built over the old back door in the 70s). Colour-wise, we decided to get traditional Absolute White. If the aim was to make the ceiling look as different as possible to the current yellow state, then I definitely didn’t want to buy an off-white cream paint to cover it up ...

Jurys Inn, Southampton 18/02/2010

A bit chilly!

Jurys Inn, Southampton I was back in Southampton the other weekend for a reunion dinner and I needed a hotel to stay in. I come back to the area each year for reunion dinners and I haven’t stayed in the same hotel yet! I don’t know whether this is testament to my love of bargains, or the fact that they haven’t been very good! This time I decided to book a room at the Jurys Inn in Southampton as it was just down the road from the hotel the actual dinner was at (and this hotel was already booked out). I remember when this hotel was built and it looked pretty posh as it went up. I guess that’s partly to do with how big it is – I’m not sure how many floors there are – but I would guess at least 10. Booking Booking the hotel was scarily easy (it’s always frightening how you can press a button and suddenly loads of money has left your account!). I did this through Last minute and Quidco and earned a little bit of money back. I can’t remember exactly how much the room cost as I booked this quite a bit in advance, but I think it was probably around £60/night. This didn’t include breakfast and all we could specify was that we wanted a non-smoking room. We weren’t sure where in the hotel our room was going to be – all we knew was that it was a double. Arriving Even though I know Southampton pretty well, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do when we turned up at the hotel. Jurys Inn is right in the middle of a massive roundabout, so you don’t get much of a chance to work it out and it’s a bit stressful. It’s ...
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