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I was in the Royal Marines for 11 yrs. I retired to study geophysics and have been a freelance consultant since 1980. I live with my wife in West Dorset and travel through my work about 6 mths per year. I have worked in over 50 countries worldwide.

Reviews written

since 20/03/2003


Best Western Hotels 04/02/2009

Best Western Kiel Germany

Best Western Hotels Kiel is not the most conducive place for a winter holiday so it has to be reasoned that anyone wishing to stay there then would either do so on business or in transit. Being the main centre for U Boat construction during WW2, Keil was then a favourite destination for RAF Bomber Command and was badly damaged; the reconstruction is about as imaginative as some similar city centres in the UK such as Plymouth - in other words a quick-fix urban monstrosity. The Best Western Hotel in Kiel rose up out of an existing office block and despite some attempts to disguise the fact, it shows. In terms of four star status it doesn't deserve it if you compare what you get in most four star hotels in the rest of Europe. I stayed there for four days in the middle of January 2009. It was comfortable. No frills, no pretty soaps or shampoos - no "night-night chocolates" - Plain but functional. The shower had a large rectangular griddle like a BBQ griddle and leaked, which meant that large amounts of water sprayed over the top of the shower rail into the outer bathroom - and on to my dry towel! Adjustments to the hot tap needed microscopic manipulation to avoid alternatively freezing or scalding. The outside walls were soundproof and nothing could be heard much from beyond the hotel however inside the room walls had a low noise insulation and every movement up and down the corridor could be easily heard, which if you are a light sleeper like me, is most disconcerting. This is the ...

Ciao Surveys 30/03/2008


Ciao Surveys What a rip off! Unfortunately for this review I had to give Ciao Surveys one star because I couldn't go any lower. As with the previous review on this subject which showed equal dissatisfaction, I only hope that the more that people show their disgust on the subject then the more likely that something will be done about it. I was recently offered 10p for what was expected to be a 15 minutes survey on Travel. To quote Derek and Clive - "Who are you trying to deceive?" I mean buying a property in the Old Kent Road in the Monopoly Game for £250 is more realistic than this is. 40p an hour. You could argue that if you don't want to do it you don't have to, and I accept that for those who are forced to sit at home with nothing else to do, and who are a bit strapped for cash, the odd 50p now and again soon adds up to the cost of another 6-pack. Anyway, Travel is a subject that interests me so I decided to satisfy my curiosity and see what they were asking. Firslt they wanted to know if I had made any international flights over 5 hrs in the past year. Well I have and so then they asked me to list them which I did. NOW GET THIS They wanted to know which airport I had left the UK from and which airline I used on my second leg. The answer was Southampton Airport and Air France for all flights. Neither of these two were on their drop down lists so I used the tick box for "other" After 15 minutes had past - I was timing this by the way, they asked me ...

K + K Hotel Opera, Budapest 18/03/2008

KK Opera Hotel Budapest

K + K Hotel Opera, Budapest The last of a Hungary trilogy - I promise!! The KK Opera Hotel wasn't my choice and I have mixed views about it. I'll be brief and to the point - no point in padding this one out Location: Well being by the river is great, but this is in the centre of the old city , and is within spitting distance of the magnificent Opera House and right by the Opera Metro station; you can walk comfortably to the river in under 15 mins. As a four star hotel costing £80-90 a night I would call this a 3 star 4 star hotel. It had some good feature and it had some bad features. Let's start with the bad features. 1.The room was by my own experience of 4star hotels, a bit on the small side. 2.The bathroom/toilet door was spring loaded. Metal to metal door latches at even a moderate speed makes a resounding and irritating crash. Not good for the occupant, not good for the neighbours especially at 4 in the morning. Not being a person who closes the toilet door when I'm alone in a hotel room I found this particularly brain crunching. 3.The shower controls. A horizontal stainless steel tube. Now if you wear reading glasses you don't normally go for a shower with them on. But if there are only microscopic red or blue dots to work out where and which way to turn the taps, you need glasses. I couldn't actually see any dots without my reading glasses and I was in the shower cubicle for a full five minutes gingerly turning the tube ends. Having once turned on the wrong tap in similar ...

Budapest (Hungary) 16/03/2008


Budapest (Hungary) I cannot resist quoting from a beautifully written article that I read after my recent trip to Budapest :- "midnight in the enchanting décor of the Rudas Turkish baths. Half asleep we slip among languid bodies in the red marble octagonal basin. …..…it's easy to relax into the ambient hubbub which you can muffle by sinking up to your ears.……and we float lost in daydreams." Budapest has a turbulent history with its greatest period arguably being the 19th Century when it emulated Vienna as one of Europe's greatest cities. However, during World War 2, the Germans did a good job of gutting Budapest and when they were forced to leave by the oncoming Russian army, they blew up all the bridges, including the famous Chain Bridge, which was originally based on the idea of the chain bridge in Marley, Buckinghamshire. Luckily most of the city has now been beautifully renovated including the Chain Bridge, and the Jewish quarter. Budapest used to have a larger Jewish population of around 450,000 before WW2 but the Germans managed to exterminate three-quarters of them in Auschwitz, Dachau etc., including Einstein's wife who wasn't even Jewish but had family connections. Only 100,000 remained in 1945. Budapest like many capitals, is the very soul of Hungary and to foreigners like me, other Hungarian towns simply don't exist. Who has heard of Debrecen for example, the second largest city, with a population nearly the size of Southampton and with a far more interesting history ...

Lake Balaton (Hungary) 27/02/2008

Lake Balaton - Hungary now with Ryan Air

Lake Balaton (Hungary) Lake Balaton, Hungary. "Where the b.hell's that?" you may enquire. Well look at a map of Hungary and the lake sticks out like a racing dog's ……well let's be polite - its very obvious on the map, It is the largest fresh water lake in Central Europe and is about 48 miles long east to west and between 3-9miles north to south. What on earth made me decide to write about this place I'm not quite sure, but one thing is sure, I passed it 18 yrs ago and I am presently working about 25 miles away and it has always filled me with curiosity - I knew that the Germans had taken over the lake as their own, even back in 1989 and my very recent visit has confirmed my suspicion that it is now almost a province of the fatherland . I decided to read previous Ciao reviews, the last I could find was 4 yrs ago, and definitely families enjoyed it - in summer it is hot, apart from the odd cyclonic storm to clear the air of bratworst. The lake is clean, tide-less and apparently according to one review, it is good and warm for swimming from May 'til September. Also, the beaches do not shelve steeply allowing a less confident swimmer to easily stand waist deep. The lake is surrounded by safe promenades and is almost traffic free near the lake, with wide pedestrian boulevards. Not my scene this, but to be fair, at about 10yrs of age my mother took me on a grotty lakeside holiday in Switzerland for 2 weeks and 2 yrs later for a repeat performance to Lake Maggiore in Italy, neither of ...

Hotel Meurice, Calais 08/02/2008

Calais Hotel Meurice

Hotel Meurice, Calais I often go to France for short breaks, usually from Poole to Cherbourg but recently for a change, and because of some business in Kent, my wife and I decided to revisit one of our favourite hotels, the Hotel Meurice, in the very centre of Calais. We spent a Saturday and a Sunday night there at the beginning of February 2008 and we weren't disappointed. Last time we had been here was about 10 yrs ago when its elegant interior was a bit jaded. It has been improved since, although there are still little bits here and there that need some TLC. Let's get straight to the point - Calais isn't the most attractive town in France so who would want to stay here? Well we did. We wanted several things that the Meurice allowed us to do. It allowed us to wallow in the hotel's luxury for a couple of days. It allowed us to refresh our wine supply with some excellent wines It allowed us to stock up on fresh food, cheese, bottled water, coffee, hand creams, all at cheaper-than-uk prices. It enabled us to spend a memorable Sunday walking along the spectacular coastal path between Cap Blanc Nez and Cap Gris Nez. (Gris Nez is the closest point to England and is where most cross-channel swimmers come ashore.) With the sun shining on to the white cliffs of Dover from our more northerly viewpoint on a bitterly cold but very sunny day we had some truly spectacular cross channel views. It allowed us to eat , as always, some wonderful French food; we had dinner twice at the Hotel ...

Best Western Hotel Obelisk & Sumengen, Istanbul 24/01/2008

Hotel Best Western Obelisk - Istanbul

Best Western Hotel Obelisk & Sumengen, Istanbul This Best Western hotel is one of about six Best Western Hotels all in this old part of Istanbul known as Sultanahmet. It really is in a very convenient location and the LOCATION is its greatest asset. It is a three star hotel in an area containing five star holiday attractions. The hotel advertises its roof terrace as the sort of restaurant under the stars of everyone's dreams. I thought it was jaded and thus overrated with a distant view of the sea which was hardly on the waterfront. The rooms are OK. I had a de-luxe room which had been reduced on-line from an advertised price of Euros 134 to Euros 75.The TV had CNN and BBC World and the bed was very comfortable. I found the decor a bit drab. A buffet breakfast on the roof was fine but the service was non-existent. Didn't really matter though - the stuff was all there, I helped myself and left. When I first arrived at the Obelisk, it was a Saturday afternoon and the whole reception area was undergoing major renovation work. The banging and knocking down of walls did actually stop at 7pm and didn't start until 1100 Sunday morning. The en-suite bathroom had a shower, and it was all very clean and comfortable, with a good strong supply of hot water. I had read elsewhere that the walls are thin and the noise from adjoining rooms is very distinct. I found that to be true, the lady in the room next to me was having a phone converation from 6.30pm until I went out at 8pm - if I had spoken Turkish, I could have ...

General: Turkey 16/01/2008

GENERAL Turkish Wine

General: Turkey Having made a hash of slotting my two last reviews into the right category, I found this no easier. I just want to talk about wine in Turkey - in general - and if you are contemplating a holiday there for the first time - what you might expect to buy. Firstly I went to Bodrum on a sailing holiday in October 2006 and had a fantastic holiday, sailing out of Bodrum, which is absolutely gorgeous - a gem in fact, with such friendly people. I actually didn't want to go, having worked in Turkey near the Iraq border twice before.How wise I was not to refuse to go (which was on my mind) "Toursit" Turkey is like that however, but wine is not available in general off the beaten track. If you are travelling by car or by boat - stock up when you get the chance!! The Turks have been making wine like forever. It is not a new tourist gimmick, in fact if anything it is a somewhat covered up subject due to the country's Islamic roots. There are many good muslim Turks however who drink wine and it is sold widely in the better supermarkets such as Migros (the largest supermarket chain throughout Turkey) although many of the smaller ones don't sell alcohol. Beer is more widely sold however and more easily purchased out of town. (Try EFES - the widely distributed one - as a lager type beer its OK!!!) If you are going to Turkey and like wine, you can breathe a sigh of relief, local red and white wines aren't bad in general. But they ARE VERY EXPENSIVE in the grand order of things - ...

6 and 12 String Guitar - Leo Kottke 11/01/2008

Marcel Dadi - country guitar an' all.

6 and 12 String Guitar - Leo Kottke There are well over a 100 possible review slots for Country Guitar on Ciao, and yet I can only find one review. I am not therefore expecting this review of little-known Marcel Dadi to be exactly what you might call a "whizz bang" in terms of general interest. Never mind!!!! Marcel Dadi was a highly talented "flat picking" guitar specialist, and a personal friend of Chet Atkins. Sadly Marcel perished with all the 229 others aboard the Boeing 747 TWA Flight 800 which plunged into the sea off Long Island New York in July 1996 when he was at the relatively tender age of 44. At that tragic time, he had just been honoured as a new entrant in the Nashville County Music Hall of Fame and was on his was back to France after the ceremony. So why should I get wound up enough to write a review about a relatively obsure musician who I had never heard of until 3 years ago?His music was introduced to me by a French colleague, who had been taught guitar by him, and said that I just had to listen to this boy play guitar. I was absolutely stunned by Marcel's techical guitar skills and the absolute simplicity that he appeared to be giving to his music. Although he faithfully followed the instrumental styles of Chet Atkins, Merle Travis and Jerry Reed, he was in many ways a much more varied musician too and played renderings of Vivaldi and Mozart, Nashville Rumba as well as his own country compositions. So I bought two of his CDs, there are many available but mainly on French ...

Choosing a Breed of Dog - Flat Coated Retrievers 10/01/2008

Flat Coat Retrievers - a tribute.

Choosing a Breed of Dog - Flat Coated Retrievers This review is dedicated firstly as a tribute to the best friends my wife and I had, our two "Flatties" Pepper and Gemma who passed away two years ago, and secondly as guide to prospective owners I hope that I can give an insight into the kind of animal you will be getting if you decide to own one - don't make the decision lightly as much for their sake as for yours. Animals after all should be for life, and definitely not just a fashion statement FLAT COAT RETRIEVER HISTORY: Flat coat retrievers started to appear in the early 19th century and were first known to have been developed by a Mr Hull in 1864, to whom the breed is officially tributed. They were used for retrieving shot game in all kinds of uplands and particularly in water. They rapidly became a common sight on some of Britain's larger estates. They had been partly developed from the lesser Newfoundland Retriever and today still share their trait of having webbed feet. FLATCOATS TODAY: They are handsome, intelligent, and highly sociable dogs with a great love of adults and children alike. They are good eaters and will cost about £4-£7.50 day in food etc. Puppies currently sell for between £500 to £650 each and are not always easy to find when you want one. If you can manage to have two then two would be better, or at least another dog of any kind for companionship. We know of one who lives in a house full of cats - they are all great friends!!!! The breed has incidences of hip dysplacia and also ...

Your personal review of 2007: Which events stand out for you? 05/01/2008

Immigration - boon or bust.

Your personal review of 2007: Which events stand out for you? In my view the most outstanding issue of 2007 is immigration control or lack of it. This government's apparent inability to cope with the ramifications of a 3rd world population nearly all of whom want to come to England is spineless and cagey. There is an underground culture of illigal immigrants in this country, acitviely supported by former immigrants in positions of responsibility eg Wandsworth, who protect and support these people to remain in this country. I do not support the National Front as they are basically an extremist party but I can understand exactly where they are coming from. In the 50's and 60's the Brits had it too good. We wanted too much for too little and had the power of the shop stewards in their Trades Union to pamper to the will of the workers and wreak havoc in our daily lives through their repetitive strike actions. In an effort to sound apolitical, I really do support arguments on all sides, and all these poor people who remain underground, as individuals in most cases ,are fine honest people with a burning ambition to live in peace. But I cannot help but come out finally with the view that our small island cannot continue to support every Tom Dick and Hariette from every slum or university of the world, just because England is a better bet than where they live now. 2007 didn't help and it gets worse. The subject is too vast for me to come out on top. There is little doubt however that if the billions of people who want to ...

Devon - Welcome Family Caravan Park 04/01/2008

Burgh Island South Devon and around

Devon - Welcome Family Caravan Park Burgh Island is a tidal island in south Devon and is a lesser known little gem on this well known coastline. I use the word gem because of its natural beauty and unusual assets. There are 16 tidal islands listed in the UK in Wyklopedia. St Michael's Mount near Penzance, a much better-known and more impressive site, is its nearest neighbour. Burgh Island is only 200m from the mainland from which it is seperated at high tide but can be reached at most states of the tide and weather by an unusual sea tractor. The small island itself has only a whacky 1930's Art Deco Hotel for the super rich and a little pub aptly called "The Pilchard." It is immediately close to the village of Bigbury, not far from Kingsbridge. HISTORY In the 5th Century AD locals used to trade tin and iron with Mediterranean visitors for wine, oil, and spices. Through the centuries it became a refuge and meditation centre for monks who used to brew their own mead. Until the early 20th century, pilchard boats used to launch from there, but probably due to overfishing, the industry died just as rapidly. In 1929 the Burgh Hotel was built and extended in 1932, to a state which it largely maintains today. In the past decade it has been professionally restored as a super hotel for the super and nouveau rich. THE BURGH ISLAND HOTEL TODAY Rooms with individual names such as Cunard, Odeon and Chrsitie command a nightly tariff of from £355 per night. Noel Coward planned to stay there for 3 days ...

Hotel 81 - Gold, Singapore 31/12/2007

Singapore - the Hotel 81 chain

Hotel 81 - Gold, Singapore I did not mean to stay in a Hotel 81 hotel. I was planning to be in transit through Singapore at my own expense for a day or so.I tried three four-star special offers.The first two came back after about 12 hrs to inform me that their hotel was full on the dates in question. The third hotel was also full but offered me a hotel, Hotel 81 Geyland on Lorong 20, which they recommended for a cost of about £20 per night. Time was a bit tight ,but the photo looked OK on-line and the price was fantastic so I booked it and this is where I stayed, and stayed again on two further visits later in the year. This hotel is not for seekers of de-luxe accommodation. The rooms are completely basic and quite small. My room had an air-conditioner (which did not cost extra to use), a small bathroom with toilet and shower and a welcome bag with toothbrush and paste etc in it. It was spotlessly clean and quiet (I had asked for a quiet room which was unusual as we shall see later. ) It also had asmall UK Channel colour TV and Internet connection which I successfully used. "Hotel 81" have a chain of low-budget hotels throughout the State of Singapore, all pretty much the same, I stepped into the foyers of a couple more and they use the same formula. Anyone checking on line will find 15 hotels to choose from and 10 more offline. Now for the exciting bit as far as I was concerned. I hadn't really got a clue what to expect when I left the airport in a taxi. The ride cost me ...

Evans Building & Plant Hire, Dorset 26/12/2007

Equipment & Plant Hire in West Dorset.

Evans Building & Plant Hire, Dorset I live in the Bridport area and have used Evans on several occasions in preference to other local competitors, Bradfords and Fowler Tool Hire. Whilst not finding the others unfriendly, Evans has its own brand of Dorset charm and is cheaper than the others. Obviously this review will have little interest to those living outside this catchment area which I would guess to be from west of Weymouth up around the many little towns and villages to the north, to Beaminster and round down to Lyme Regis. No doubt if you wanted something big for a long period it would be worth travelling as bit further, if only for the savings to be made. I have hired a variety of accessories such as tile cutters, thumpers and the like. I first went there years ago as it was the only reliable source of "pink" diesel for my fishing boat, which they still sell. Mr Evans's robust and friendly assistant whom I wouldn't like to get in a scrap with, is as strong as an ox, and doesn't look friendly at all but has a dry humour that it took me a while to get used to, but he is the salt of the earth really. Mr Evans is already to strike a deal. His method of payment is casual, "Bring it back when you're ready," "Fill out the form when you come back if you're in a hurry." Casual but always friendly. "That'll be £16.50 make it 15 ." You sometimes have to wonder around for a while to find anyone. He has a door bell which is supposed to ring upstairs in his office but it wasn't working last time ...

London Gatwick, LGW 26/12/2007

Gatwick Airport - A Case of Crisis Mis-Management

London Gatwick, LGW Gatwick Airport for me is a must to avoid. I last went through there a year ago and it was a disaster. I note that most of the Ciao reviews were written before the current security measures came into place, when they would have been justifyably more favourable. I hope, but doubt, that it has changed much in the last year, I don't know, because I have taken to using alternative more local airports like Southampton and Bristol, where the staff are more local and people-friendly. No doubt I could go through Gatwick tomorrow, and if I was lucky to get the time of day right, I could sail through and wonder what all the fuss was about. My last experience put me in such a bad frame of mind from the outset of my holiday, that I won't take the risk if I can possibly avoid it. However, that said,later in 2008 I am taking a flight from Gatwick to La Palma (a new service operated by Thompson Airlines, to one of the smaller Canary Islands started in Nov 2007). I am dreading it but there is no other direct flight to La Palma from the UK at present. Yes, we have a worldwide security problem and I support all the checks that the airport security staff carry out. But other airports in the UK and Europe (Paris CDG excepted) do it better. Unfortunately Gatwick doesn't seem to be able to cope with peak crises. When we arrived at Gatwick Airport in the late afternoon, October 2006, there were "snake" queues in total about 500 yards long and going out of the airport. It seemed ...
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