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Ainat

Ainat
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Member since: 22.02.2011

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      22.01.2014 19:52
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      Great visit to an iconic monument!

      === The Statue of Liberty ===

      Before Christmas we went on a fantastic trip to the Big Apple. When you think of New York, one of the first things that comes to mind is the Statue of Liberty, it is so iconic. It was definitely one of the things that we had to go and see when visiting the city.

      The statue is on Liberty Island, in the harbour of New York.

      === History ===

      Very briefly - The statue was a gift from France to America. It was designed by a guy called Bartholdi, and he was assisted by Gustav Eiffel who designed the internal structure (this was prior to the Eiffel Tower's construction, which is built in a similar way). The statue was transported from France to New York and was placed on the plinth built by the Americans ready for the statue's arrival. The statue was unveiled to the world in 1886.

      There is far more history to the statue than this, but as always, I try not to delve too deep into it in my reviews as this information is accessible online for those that are interested. It is also accessible via the audio tour, but more on that later.

      === Booking your tickets ===

      We booked our tickets online before we left the UK. Pre-booking is something I would suggest doing if you would like to visit this iconic monument. When you book online you select the date and an approximate time you would like to visit. It cost us $17 a ticket. This covers you for the boat trip over, and your tours on Liberty Island and Ellis Island. We felt this was a reasonable price to pay. Once you have bought your tickets online you simply print them off and take them with you when you go.

      === Arrival ===

      You need to make your way down to the ferry station at Battery Park (right at the bottom of Manhattan - if I remember rightly we got there by taking the E train from Penn Street Station, near our hotel). Once there you go through security (similar to airport security) before you get on the boat transfer. The queue was relatively long when we got there, but not overly so, and moved quickly.

      The boats are pretty big, but have limited seating on the lower deck. You can go up the steps to the upper level - much better for views, and there is more seating in the form of simple benches. As the boat sails away you can watch the amazing iconic sky line behind you as the statue gets ever closer - a great photo opportunity. The crossing was smooth the day we went, quick, and getting on and off the boat was a quick and easy process.

      === Liberty Island ===

      As you get off the boat there is a cafe/shop/toilet facilities to your right hand side, and a booth where you can pick up the audio tours pretty much right in front of you. And of course the magnificent lady takes pride of place.

      The audio tour takes you around the island telling you a lot of fascinating information. It covers how the statue was made, how it was transported, the importance the icon had to immigrants, and much more. There are options to skip bits of the tour out should you wish, and there are also options to listen to additional information that don't form part of the main tour. It is worded in a way that I found really interesting to listen to. Parts of it are also done in the voices of immigrants stating what the statue means to them. The audio tour is included in the price of your ticket and is well worth a listen!

      There is an option to go up the statue, however we weren't able to do this. When we booked our tickets online we tried to book the tickets that allowed you up the statue, only they had sold out already for all the days that we were in the city. I am guessing this is a combination of the fact we went at a busy time for New York (the run up to Christmas) and we booked all our attraction tickets quite close to our departure date. Should we go back to NYC this is something I would definitely bear in mind, and would book tickets further in advance.

      Despite not getting to go up the statue itself, we thoroughly enjoyed our walk around Liberty Island, listening to our audio tours and taking plenty of photos. It is such an amazing place to visit. I would really recommend going if you go to NYC. Despite the fact that Liberty Island is quite small in size, and essentially there is only the statue itself, the shop and the cafe on the island don't underestimate how long it will actually take. I think we spent approximately 4 hours (including boat trips) but we could have easily spent longer if we had had statue tickets. The tickets do also include Ellis Island, and the boats stop there after Liberty Island, but due to us having another ticket for somewhere else later in the day we decided to give it a miss and stayed on the boat - we were only in NYC for 4 days, we tried to cram a lot in! After stopping at Ellis Island the boat takes you back to Battery Park.

      === Facilities ===

      Shop - We did spend quite a bit of time in the shop looking at all the different merchandise they had to offer. Most of it was your general souvenir type gifts. We did buy a nice photo frame for a nice picture of us that we had taken by the statue. We're in the process of buying a house though and I am slowly accumulating (even though I really don't need to!) things to make it more homely, so a photo frame suited us. Pretty much any souvenir you can think of though they had it with a picture of the statue on.

      Toilet facilities - There are toilet facilities in the shop, which are easily accessible.

      Cafe - We didn't use the cafe, so I can't really comment, but it looked nice enough.

      Terrain - Liberty Island was pretty flat, and easy to walk around. To get into the shop there were steps, but there was also a ramp for pushchairs and wheelchair users. Other than the shop/cafe you are outside the whole time (unless you're in the statue itself) so be prepared for whatever the weather has in store on the day of your visit.

      === Summary ===

      I would definitely recommend going to the Statue of Liberty, and would love to go back to do the things we didn't get to do this time around - up the statue itself, and Ellis Island. I definitely recommend booking in advance, tickets can be purchased at www.statuecruises.com.

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      • More +
        15.01.2014 21:21
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        A great central location, and a great base for discovering the Big Apple.

        === New York! ===

        Just before Christmas I was lucky enough to go to New York City courtesy of my hubby. As a Christmas/Graduation (I've just qualified as a teacher) present we went to the Big Apple for 5 days (4 nights). The hotel we stayed at was the New Yorker.

        === The Hotel ===

        From arrival to departure we had a good experience at the hotel. Check in was an easy procedure. We simply walked up to the desk, gave our name, showed the relevant documents, and were given our key cards and directions to the room. We were on floor 29. The hotel has several large lifts that skip out the first 20 floors (very helpful and very quick!). Being on floor 29 meant we were easily high enough to avoid any of the city noise at night. Even if we were lower down, we probably would have been fine as all rooms have double glazing.

        Room found, we did what anyone would do and had a glance around. We had a metro queen room - one of the simplest, no frills rooms in the hotel. We knew this when booking - we had booked on a deal for a 'metro' room, opting to have a simpler room for a hotel in a better location. This meant we had a view of an office building rather than one of the hotels 'city view' rooms.

        The simple, metro room consisted of the bed, bedside cabinet on each side, desk, flat-screen t.v., and a decent sized cupboard space for clothes (and a decent number of hangers). There was also a heating/air conditioning unit - this heated up the room for us pretty quickly when we switched it on after getting in from exploring the city in the snow. There wasn't too much space to walk around in the room, but as a base for us to explore Manhattan from we were very happy. The en-suite had a sink, toilet, and a bath (nice bonus) with overhead shower and a hair drier. Small bottles of toiletries were provided, but we opted to use our own. Towels were provided. The decor was a little dated, but wasn't too shabby. If I remember rightly, we also had free wifi in the room, but we didn't really use this.

        Most importantly, the room was clean. A big must for any hotel stay.

        === Other Facilities ====

        As we were pretty much just using the hotel as a base we didn't really use the other facilities the hotel had to offer. It does have a gym, shop, and a helpdesk that was able to help you with booking attraction tickets. We booked most of our tickets before we left England so we didn't need to use this. It is worth noting though that when we did speak to staff about any enquiries they were really helpful. When it came to checking out (check out time was 12, and our flight was a late, overnight flight) we were able to leave our cases at the hotel for a small fee ($2 a bag/case) so we were free to utilise our last few hours in the city without having to drag our cases around.

        === Location ===

        So, I've mentioned the location was good. The hotel is right by Penn Street subway station, on the corner of 8th Avenue and 34th Street. This location meant we were a stones throw away from Madison Square Garden (plus point for hubby - he's a big ice hockey fan). The first thing I saw when we arrived on exiting the subway was the Empire State Building. We were a few minutes walk from Macy's, and a 5-10 minute walk from Times Square. Pretty much everything was within a short walking distance from the hotel. And for those places that weren't... Penn Street station was about 10 steps away from the hotels main entrance.

        === Tick Tock Diner ===

        Although this isn't actually part of the hotel, I will mention the Tick Tock Diner. The diner is a traditional American diner, and is open 24 hours. The main entrance is right next door to the hotel, but there is also an internal door between the hotel and the diner.

        === Price ===

        We managed to get the hotel on a pretty good deal for the holiday season. We paid less than £1500 for the two of us on a flights and hotel deal, flying with Delta airlines - Heathrow to JFK through Expedia. Other hotels in the area were at least £100 more expensive each for what looked like very similar rooms.

        Looking on the website for current rates, the rooms are coming up at approximately $190 dollars a night for a night in February - of course these rates will change throughout the year, depending on season.

        === Summary ===

        Overall we were happy with our experiences at the New Yorker. Our room may not have been the poshest out there, but it was clean, had everything we needed, and was a great base for discovering Manhattan from. I'm going to give the hotel 4 stars as I don't think it quite deserves the 5 due to it's dated look, but other than that the room was fine, and the staff really friendly. I would stay there again.

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        • Magicool / Sun Care / 56 Readings / 56 Ratings
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          05.10.2013 15:01
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          I don't think I'll be purchasing again next summer

          On our recent trip away I decided to try out some of this Magicool stuff that I had heard people praising. I can sometimes suffer with prickly heat, and although I love the sunshine and the warmth sometimes it can be a little overbearing for me.

          === Usage ===

          This is a spray, and in that sense works in the same way as any other standard aerosol can. To experience the claimed cooling effects you simply spray. You can use this on your skin directly (both body and face - though don't forget to close your eyes if spraying on your face!). You can also use this spray on broken skin, to cool the air in smaller spaces such as in the car (open a door or window first), and it is safe to be used around pets. The spray is self cooling, meaning it doesn't need to be kept in a fridge or anything in order for the cooling effects to work.

          When using this on myself I simply spray it like I would a deodorant, just all over my body rather than specifically under my arms. The spray does give an instant cooling feel, which can be instant relief if you are hot! In that sense, it really does work and does what it says on the tin. However, I didn't find the effects to be that long lasting which I must admit I was a little disappointed with. When I actually purchased this spray I was initially looking for an FCUK cooling spray I had had a few years ago, but was unable to find it. I am a little disappointed, if I remember correctly the FCUK spray had much longer lasting effects (and a nicer scent, but seeing as the FCUK spray was described as having a floral scent and Magicool isn't described as having a scent this is a minimal difference).

          I have used this around my dog when the weather was particularly hot. I didn't spray it on him directly, rather just in the area surrounding his bed. It did cool the air for a few moments, but again it really didn't last very long at all. He had no adverse reactions to the spray, but I can't say it particularly helped him either.

          === Price and Availability ===

          I believe that this product is available in some larger supermarkets, as well as high street stores such as Boots and Superdrug. I however chose to order this online off of Amazon.

          The 200ml cans of Magicool are currently retailing at £6.95, or two cans for £10.20, thus making packs of two more economical if you wish to buy this product. There are other variations of Magicool available (such as 'itchy skin' and 'sunburn' to name just a couple) though these tend to come in 150ml cans and prices vary.

          === Summary ===

          This spray does work... But the effects are not very long lasting. Combined with the high price tag I'm not convinced I would buy this product again. It does work in the first instance though giving immediate relief from heat, so I will give this spray 2 stars.

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            21.09.2013 16:54
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            A very interesting place to visit

            We went on a cruise for our honeymoon (I'm sure those of you that have read some of my other reviews are fed up of hearing this!), and were fortunate to be able to see some amazing places. I am slowly working my way through reviewing some of the places that we visited. Our cruise ship offered many different tours, or of course you were free to do as you liked in each of the places we docked. We decided to spend a little more than we would normally and opted to take tours at many of the places. We thought this would allow us to see the most in the limited time we had in each port as other than Rome (where my hubby has been once before several years ago) these were all new places to us.

            The day we docked in Naples we opted to go on the 'Sorrento and Pompeii' tour which allowed for a few hours on our own in Sorrento before being taken to the historical site of Pompeii in the afternoon, complete with a guided tour (and of course travel to and from the ship and between Sorrento and Pompeii). This was a perfect tour for us as we still got to see Sorrento (where we nearly booked to go instead) and Pompeii.

            === Up Pompeii! ===

            Pompeii is a place that I have heard a lot about since I was a kid. I have a fascination with history (always have done) and with volcanoes (probably initiated by a geography project I did in school that I enjoyed). I find it fascinating that the earth can be so beautiful, yet so deadly. From this interest I have read/watched several things about Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii before visiting the site.

            A bit of background history just in case you don't share the same views of history as me! Pompeii was founded in approximately 7th century BC. At first glace, it's location perfect. A bit of height for protection, a river for transport. But as I'm sure you all know, located near an active volcano. In 79AD the volcano erupted, destroying the nearby city of Pompeii, which at the time had approximately 20,000 inhabitants. The city was frozen in time by the 20 meters of ash that fell. There is a lot of information on the eruption and the city widely available, so I'll keep the history brief and leave it at that.

            === Visiting Pompeii ===

            As we visited Pompeii as part of a tour we were taken right to the main entrance by our coach driver. I believe though it is easy to reach by train as I did look in to this a little when we were first thinking of spending our honeymoon in nearby Sorrento.

            Entrance fee was included in our tour price. Looking at the website though it would seem entrance is 11Euro for adults, and 5.50Euro for reduced rates (2013).

            Around the entrance there are options to purchase audio tours, or hire a guide. There are also free maps available. The free maps are very helpful, and I would suggest with the map (and with a good travel guide if you want to know more) you would be fine without the need for any other sort of guide. This would also allow you to go around the city in your own time and at your own pace.

            Something also worth mentioning here would be that a lot of walking is required, and on cobbled and uneven ground so ensure you are wearing appropriate footwear - I was wearing a pair of flip flops that I knew were comfy to walk in and these were okay for me. For us, waking wasn't a problem, but something to bear in mind if you have mobility issues or travelling with little ones. We did see a couple of buggies so I imagine it's do-able to take them, just very difficult. We were there in August, and it was definitely hot. I would ensure you have plenty of water to drink (though there is the odd water fountain or two if you need a top up) and wear a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of suncream.

            === The City ===

            I'll try to not go in to too much detail as a lot of information about Pompeii is available online, but just to give you a brief overview:

            The city of Pompeii is amazing to walk around. There really is so much to see and be fascinated by - especially if you're in to your history. You can see the amphitheater (and climb up the steps), there are shops, bars and houses all in varying degrees of derelict-ness. You can enter some of the buildings whereas others are blocked off by bars, but you can still see in to them. Even without any sort of guide you can tell the manor houses just by their decoration. The paintwork and mosaics are of outstanding quality even after the damage caused by the eruption.

            As for the actual make up of the city itself it's hard to believe how old the city is. The engineering that went in to creating the city is phenomenal. The drainage and sewage systems, the streets, etc. really are fascinating. Something I found interesting was that on the min streets it is possible to see where the stones have been eroded by carts used prior to the eruption.

            There is also a building where they are currently housing many clay pots, etc. and plaster castings of some of the people who were unfortunate to lose their lives during the eruption. You can't actually go in to this building, but you can see a lot through the bars.

            === Summary ===

            Would I recommend going to see Pompeii? Definitely!

            It might not be for you if you don't find history interesting, if you have mobility issues, or have really young children with you.

            If you find history interesting I would totally recommend going. There is just so many fascinating things to see. I think I would recommend doing this without a guide, but with a good guidebook instead. That way you could see the things you want to most without being with a tour group. We did have a good guide with little audio things where we could hear her through her headphones, but I do feel I would have gotten more from the trip doing it by ourselves.

            Don't underestimate how big the city actually is. We didn't get to see all of it, but we did get to see the main bits. Had I been doing it in my own time though I probably would have stopped at smaller things a lot more. We had about 3 and a half hours and it felt rushed. We did get to spend time in Sorrento in the morning though, which I also really enjoyed and am glad we did, only unfortunately this meant it cut into our Pompeii time. I would recommend you give yourselves at least 5 hours to get the most from your visit. The good thing about having a guide with us was that we got led to the main points of interest without getting lost. If you have time though getting lost and discovering new things is part of the fun.

            A couple of final points: As with everywhere that is touristy prices for food and drink are expensive. We didn't need to eat here - we ate lunch in Sorrento - and we brought water with us which we could then fill up at the water fountains. It may be worth your while bringing a picnic if you plan to spend a long time here. There are also stalls outside the main entrance to the city selling various 'souvenirs' at ridiculous prices. If you wanted to buy something I'd suggest bartering, but we didn't buy anything. As with anywhere touristy - tourist spots are good places for pickpockets. If you have your wits about you you shouldn't have any issues. And last but not least, there are toilets available just outside the main entrance to the city (which are chargeable at 50cents).

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            • More +
              15.09.2013 19:01
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              A good bra, just a shame about the sizing issues.

              I had a strapless wedding dress, so I needed to buy a good strapless bra to go under it. I can never normally find a decent strapless bra as I am relatively well endowed, but when I was trying on several different bras in Debenhams I came across this one.

              === Why Wonderbra? ===

              Most of the bras I tried on were the type of bra that have the option to have straps. Only when I took the straps off they didn't feel like they were giving the support I needed. I needed a bra that was comfy, fitted well, and stayed in place for the entire day. Pulling a bra up all day was not what I had in mind!

              I ended up trying this bra on in a few different sizes to figure out what size fitted me best. I then tried the mandatory 'jump test' to ensure that it was nice and secure and I wasn't going to 'pop out'. All this being well I purchased the bra for about £28.

              === The Bra ===

              The bra is different to the others on the market in that it actually has plastic in the cups to help keep you secure. The plastic moulding makes it feel like you have a pair of hands holding you in the right place - Neither too high or too low from where you want to be. There is also the standard rubbery band that you get in most strapless bras running around the inside to help keep the bra in place. There is no option to add straps. There are a small variety of colours, I opted for the nude with lace detail.

              It is comfy to wear, though does feel a little different due to the plastic 'hands' holding you in place. This took me a little getting used to. I did actually wear it a couple of times before the wedding day to make sure it was not going to fail me. I discovered I probably should have bought a back size up. This was easily fixed though I just added on a bra extender to make the back that tiny bit bigger.

              The bit in the middle comes up high enough to give support, so I'm not sure how it would look with low cut strapless tops - I don't wear anything too low cut, I'm too self conscious!

              === Negatives ===

              Feeling that I need an extender as felt a little tight. When I tried the size up from the one I bought it didn't feel tight enough.

              The bra is hand wash only. Which is a little annoying, but no real biggie as it doesn't take much to hand wash in the sink. Another minor thing is that it takes up more space in my drawer than my other bras.

              === Summary ===

              A good bra. Was very comfy once I put the back extender in place for that little bit more breathing space. I've worn this bra several times since the wedding and it works really well with any strapless outfit.

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              • More +
                10.09.2013 20:36
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                Definitely a place to visit if you're in Rome.

                We went on a Mediterranean cruise for our honeymoon, and were fortunate to be able to see some amazing places whilst on our travels. I am hoping to slowly work my way through reviewing some of the places that we were able to visit. We were only in Rome for a day as part of the cruise, so with the limited time we had we opted to go on a tour (through the cruise ship company) that took us to the key places that we wanted to visit. I have written a review on Rome in general (shameless plug - please go read and rate if you haven't already :P), but The Trevi Fountain, otherwise known as Fontana di Trevi, was one of the sights in Rome that was right at the top of my list of places to see, and deserves a review in its own right.

                === A Brief History ===

                Our tour of Rome came complete with a very knowledgeable guide who was able to tell us loads of information about the history of Rome and it's key monuments and structures. As our group were walking towards the Trevi Fountain she was giving the group information about the fountain and how it came to be. The Trevi Fountain is so called because it was where three roads met (tre vie), though today there are 5 or 6 small roads leading to this point. Initially the famous Bernini was set to design a new fountain for this spot (fountains traditionally being used to mark the end of an aqueduct, however the previous fountain had been demolished some time earlier), having been asked to do so by the Pope. When the Pope died the project was abandoned. The next Pope reinstated the idea of having a fountain and favoured a design by a sculptor called Salvi - someone I hadn't heard of before - and work began in 1732, and was finally completed in 1762. If I remember my information from the guide correctly Bernini's house is right near the Trevi Fountain and he would have had this grand project that had been taken away from him being completed practically on his doorstep. What a cruel world.

                === The Trevi Fountain ===

                I'd seen pictures of it before, but never had the opportunity to see it in real life. I'd always thought that it looked amazing, but nothing prepares you for that moment you turn the corner and see it for real. The sight is truly breathtaking.

                There are several figures on the fountain. The main one being in the centre stood on what appears to be a clam style shell being pulled along by horses. If my memory serves me correctly this guy is the ruler of all oceans. There are several 'waterfalls' off of the stone with all the water meeting in the large pool at the bottom.

                It was a beautiful sight. You can sit on the wall of the fountain, but be careful if you're wearing a dress with a flowing skirt like I was. The back of my skirt ended up in the fountains waters whilst I was posing for a picture. To be fair, this didn't really matter. It was a hot day and it dried pretty quickly! Other things to avoid though would be pick-pockets. What with this being a very busy tourist area apparently pick-pockets are around. We didn't experience any problems, but something to be aware of wherever you travel - especially in touristy areas.

                I have seen photos of the fountain lit up at night. It looks beautiful. As we were on a bit of a tight schedule what with trying to cram as much of Rome into a day as possible we were unable to see it lit up at night. We will have to do this when we go back to Rome (which hopefully we will be doing at some point).

                Mobility wise, the roads we walked down to get to the fountain were all fairly flat. At the actual fountain itself there are a few steps to navigate to get to the water. I didn't spot any ramps, but I was also a little preoccupied with the fountain so there may be one. You can still get an amazing view of the fountain without needing to be right up at the waters edge.

                === Coins ===

                It is traditional to throw a coin into the fountain. According to our guide if you throw one coin in to the fountain it means you will return to Rome. Two coins means you will find love, or if you are already in love your love will grow stronger. Word of warning though, apparently three coins is related to divorce! Having just got married and not wanting to tempt any sort of fate my partner and I both threw two coins of small amounts in to the fountain. Our guide did tell us that the money is emptied regularly and it goes towards charitable causes, which is good as there was certainly a lot of coins in the fountain when we were there!

                === Ice Cream ===

                Worth a quick mention - we went into an ice cream parlour on the left had side of the fountain if you are stood facing it. That was some gorgeous gelato and although it was expensive, considering where we were in such a prime location I felt it was reasonably priced.

                === Summary ===

                I could have sat with my gelato and just looked (and listened) to the fountain all day. I love the sound of water, and despite being surrounded by crowds of tourists I felt peaceful here. Although realistically you are probably not going to want to stay at the fountain all day, it is definitely worth a visit and next time I am in Rome it will still be right at the top of my list of places to visit.

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                  04.09.2013 21:06
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                  The Eternal City - Definitely a place to visit.

                  We went on a Mediterranean cruise for our honeymoon, and were fortunate to see some amazing places. I am hoping to slowly work my way through reviewing some of them. We were only in Rome for a day as part of the cruise, so with the limited time we had we opted to go on a tour (through the cruise ship company) that took us to the key places that we wanted to visit.

                  Firstly, may I apologise for such a long review! I tried to keep things brief but there is just so much to share about this amazing city.

                  === Rome in a Day! ===

                  Where to go if you only have a day in Rome? As many places as possible! As part of our tour we went to:

                  Colosseum
                  Spanish Steps
                  Trevi Fountain
                  Pantheon
                  Navona Square
                  St. Peters Basilica in the Vatican

                  We were able to see some other key places, such as the Forum, and the Altar of the Fatherland (nicknamed 'the wedding cake') though only through a coach window!

                  === Our Tour ===

                  We were lucky in that we had a tour guide that clearly knew her stuff. Benefits of being on a tour such as this meant we were able to see as many places as possible and learn about them, in the short space of time we had. We had units with headphones which meant we were able to hear our guide clearly. An extra benefit to us is that the Port of Civitavecchia (closest port to Rome) is a bit of a distance away from the city and as part of the tour we also had train travel included to and from our ship.

                  I won't go in to detailed history of each place - this is information can easily be found online. However I may include some historical points I found particularly interesting. I'll try to keep it brief!

                  === Colosseum ===

                  One of the iconic structures in Rome, the Colosseum is towards the edge of the city. Once used for gladiator fighting the ruins of this amphitheatre are still impressive. The building stands in the state it is today after being partially destroyed by an earthquake, and by Romans taking some of the building materials for other purposes. We were unable to go inside - doing Rome in a day we were restricted by time! From the outside we could still admire the beauty and the work that went in to creating the building. The arches are incredible. To think this was able to be built in 70AD.

                  Something that I found interesting is that apparently there were classes of seating for the spectators. The richer and more notable of a person (scratch that... more notable of a man!) you were the better seats you had. Almost like being a season ticket holder in a box by today's standards. Women were able to go to the Colosseum, but were unable to sit with their husbands. As for poorer people, they were able to attend, but they had the stands.

                  The outside of the Colosseum was extremely busy, and we were warned to be aware of pick-pockets. There are loads of stands trying to sell souvenirs, be wary as we found all the stalls had similar items but a range of prices.

                  I enjoyed getting to see the enormousness from the outside. Having heard mixed reviews about the inside I wasn't too disappointed that we didn't get to go in considering the rest of our days plans. Had we had more time this would be something I would have done. Maybe next time...

                  === Spanish Steps ===

                  Next were the Spanish Steps. We took a coach from the Colosseum. The Spanish Steps interestingly lead up to a church that is apparently French! There are 135 steps that form the widest staircase in Europe.

                  The steps were crowded, but still incredible to look at. We had limited time here so we didn't climb to the top! Something that amazes me is the way that this magnificent staircase is between buildings the way it is. The building to the right is an orange coloured building and is where the English poet Keats lived. This building is now a museum. A few buildings along to the left is where you'll find Babington's tea rooms.

                  At the bottom of the steps is a fountain with drinking water. A good place to fill up your water bottles!

                  === Trevi Fountain ===

                  One of the main things that I wanted to see during my whistle stop tour. We walked to the fountain from the Spanish Steps. A walk that wasn't too far and was easy on the legs took us down a street that our guide likened to 5th Avenue, New-York - full of designer stores. We were then led down a couple of much quieter streets when all of a sudden - there it was.

                  Our tour allowed for us to spend a bit of time here and the place is so beautiful I have to give it it's own review. In brief summary though this is a place worth visiting. The fountain is beautiful. Designed by Salvi it is at the point where three roads met (tre vie - three roads) although there are now 5 or 6 small roads leading up to this point. It does seem like a random place for such a fountain, and has some interesting history (a little of which is mentioned in my Trevi Fountain review - I don't want to repeat myself).

                  === The Pantheon ===

                  If my memory is correct, the Pantheon originally built BC was a Pagan church. The building that stands today is not the original built before Christ. The Catholic church 'took over' in 7AD and modified it to remove Pagan symbols. Again, this building is full of fascinating history. Most interesting points are that the dome is one solid piece of material with an opening (the oculus) designed to let in light, and the ancient drainage system that allows for any rain coming in. Other than the entrance, the oculus is the only source of natural light, and also acts a little like a sundial. The artist Raphael is also buried here.

                  The building is amazing to look at from the outside, and even more so from the inside. To get the most from visiting I feel you would need a guide of some description whether that be a person, an audio guide or a book to enlighten you about all of the things there are to see. We were able to spend a little bit of time here, and with our guide in our ears we were able to discover a lot about this place.

                  === Navona Square ===

                  We passed through Navona Square, or Piazza Navona, but we were not able to spend much time here. It looked like a nice place to sit and have a coffee with the selection of coffee shops available (though apparently they're expensive). The square also has a lot of history. It once was an arena - which you can tell by the shape of it. It is definitely not a square! It is long and thin with one end being straight and one being curved.

                  There are several statues and three fountains in the square - the most notable (in my opinion) being the fountain of the four rivers in the centre. The fountain has four figures representing the four continents known about at the time it was built. This is a Bernini fountain, apparently commissioned by a Pope whose family lived in the palace on the piazza.

                  I would have liked to have spent a little time in the square just wandering round and enjoying it, but time being of the essence, we were unable to spend more than 15 minutes here. I would like to come back, but I don't imagine it's a place you would want to spend a lot of time unless you were having a coffee break. Very beautiful though.

                  === Vatican City ===

                  The Vatican technically isn't Rome, and there is a lot to say, so I will give it it's own review, but it is worth noting that this is another interesting place to visit if you plan on visiting Rome.

                  === Weather ===

                  Being British I have to mention the weather. We were only there a day, and temperatures were high at about 33-35 degrees centigrade. Weather is important to consider as if you are planning to do some sight seeing you need to plan for the weather. Plenty of sun cream, plenty of water and take opportunities to spend time in the shade if possible.

                  === When in Rome... ===

                  Rome was a fantastic city to visit, but in reality you need longer than a day. At a guess I would say about 4 days, with one of those days dedicated to Vatican City. We were only able to see the highlights, it was definitely a whistle stop tour! I felt we did get to see an awful lot considering what time we did have, and if you are doing Rome in a day I would suggest a similar sort of programme to what we followed to get the most of your time.

                  It is worth noting that Rome is quite an expensive city. Though I am certain with a bit of research and know-how it could be done on a budget. It is also worth noting that if you go a little off of the beaten track you can find bars and restaurants with much lower prices. For example, we had lunch at a quiet restaurant as part of the tour (included in the price). On the menu we could see you could order a three course meal from the set menu from 20 Euro. On the main streets in the main parts of Rome you could expect to pay at least double of not quadruple that! There are also water fountains all over the city to re-fill your water bottles. This helps with both budget and with keeping you hydrated.

                  As with any city that attracts tourists you do need to be aware of pick-pockets and beggars, and there are a lot of people trying to convince you to buy souvenirs at ridiculous prices. As long as you keep your wits about you and don't give in to the sometimes really persistent sales people you will be fine.

                  There was a lot of traffic about. We got a little stuck when on the coach, but then that is to be expected in a city. Seeing as we were on our tour we didn't use any of the local transport systems. We did see buses and taxis, and there is an underground system. My partner has been on the subway system before and says that it is easy to use, but overcrowded and hot - apparently worse than London underground in rush hour. Most of the main attractions are in walking distance of each other and Rome is a relatively easy city to walk around. If you haven't got someone to follow though I'd recommend taking a map!

                  Something that may be of interest is that there are a lot of Egyptian obelisks scattered over the city, as well as loads of amazing looking buildings and fountains that aren't considered the 'main attractions'.

                  === A few final words ===

                  Rome is a beautiful city, is full of history, and definitely worth a visit. I do plan to go back to be able to spend a little more time at the attractions and see the places we missed out on. I do enjoy history and find it fascinating and really enjoyed seeing all of the historical sites. I would recommend having some sort of guide with you to make the most of the city.

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                    01.09.2013 14:28
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                    A nice conditioner, but not worth the money when other cheaper brands work just as well.

                    Apologies for a similar review to the shampoo in the same range. I used the products together, so feel it is apt to write the reviews together also.

                    As a bit of background information, when it comes to shampoo and conditioners I normally buy what I consider to be mid-range (i.e. not 'value' brands, but not premium brands), and although I have a favourite I am not brand loyal and try out different ones. Brands such as John Freida and Toni and Guy generally fall above my budget.

                    === Price and Availability ===

                    This conditioner is generally easy to find in shops such as Boots, Superdrug and larger supermarkets. With an RRP of £5.40 for a 250ml bottle it is a bit more than I would like to pay for conditioner, especially when with the shampoo it would set me back £10.80 for a set. After a quick Google it is available for £3.50 on Fragrance Direct for the 250ml size, which is slightly better value for money.

                    I had a 75ml bottle which came as part of a hair care set that I got for Christmas, so I didn't purchase the conditioner myself.

                    === Usage ===

                    Despite getting the hair care set for Christmas, I only recently used the product when on holiday - I like to save and take smaller sized bottles with me (for one thing it's less weight in the suitcase) when I travel.

                    As I had the matching shampoo as part of the same set, I used this on my hair before using the conditioner.

                    You use this conditioner the same way as any other. I tend to use more conditioner than is really necessary (I am cutting down on this!) and used a relatively large blob of this per wash. All in all I got approximately 6 washes from the 75ml bottle (plus accidentally dropping some on the shower floor). After applying and briefly massaging the conditioner into my hair I leave it for a couple of minutes before rinsing out thoroughly.

                    A combination of the packaging and the product itself did make it difficult to get the last of the product out of the bottle. I prefer bottles with the lid at the bottom (so long as they don't leak!) as they are generally easier to remove conditioner from. As the conditioner is so thick, and the lid at the top, some vigorous shaking was required to get the last bits of the conditioner out of the bottle.

                    === Results ===

                    Knowing that Toni and Guy are generally more expensive than brands I normally buy and that the brand has such a reputation I think I expected some sort of miracle with my hair. As stated in the shampoo review I didn't get bad results when using the Toni and Guy combo, I just didn't get amazing results either. Leaving my hair to dry naturally (which I normally do) my hair did dry to leave nice smooth (ish) curls with no other products added. For these curls to last any real length of time though I did have to add hairspray. This is pretty much the exact same result I get from my current favourite shampoo and conditioner combo - V05 'give me moisture'. Same results, yet V05 is considerably cheaper, and often on offer. For example, at time of writing (August 2013) I believe the 250ml bottle is on offer for 98p (in Superdrug), and has a full price of £1.99. Even full price considerably cheaper than the RRP of £5.40 for this Toni and Guy conditioner.

                    === Summary ===

                    This wasn't a bad conditioner, and matched my current favourite in terms of final results. But I can get the same results for a much lower cost, so I can't say I'd repurchase or recommend this product over my current favourite.

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                    30.08.2013 22:58
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                    A nice shampoo, but not worth the money when other cheaper brands work just as well.

                    When it comes to shampoo and conditioners I normally buy what I consider to be mid-range (i.e. not 'value' brands, but not premium brands), and although I have a favourite I am not brand loyal and try out different ones. Brands such as John Freida and Toni and Guy generally fall above my budget.

                    === Price and Availability ===

                    This shampoo is generally easy to find in shops such as Boots, Superdrug and larger supermarkets. With an RRP of £5.40 for a 250ml bottle it is a bit more than I would like to pay for shampoo. After a quick Google it is available for £3.50 on Fragrance Direct for the 250ml size.

                    I had a 75ml bottle which came as part of a hair care set that I got for Christmas, so I didn't purchase the shampoo myself.

                    === Usage ===

                    Despite getting the hair care set for Christmas, I only recently used the product when on holiday - I like to take smaller sized bottles with me (for one thing it's less weight in the suitcase) when I travel.

                    You use this shampoo the same way as any other. I found that I needed about two 50p sized blobs of this shampoo in order to wash my medium length hair properly - a little more than I would normally use. The shampoo doesn't lather up particularly well, so I was initially worried I wasn't using enough. It is easy to wash out, but no easier than most other brands. The shampoo is almost clear in colour, has a good consistency - neither too runny or too thick. Scent wise, nothing to sing home about, but a nice fresh scent.

                    As I had the matching conditioner as part of the same set, I would then use this on my hair afterwards.

                    === Results ===

                    Knowing that Toni and Guy are generally more expensive than brands I normally buy and that the brand has such a reputation I think I expected some sort of miracle with my hair. Don't get my wrong, I didn't get bad results, I just didn't get amazing results either. Leaving my hair to dry naturally (which I normally do) my hair did dry to leave nice (ish) curls with no other products added. For the curls to last any real length of time though I did have to add other products. Maybe I was expecting too much, after all my hair did feel soft and smooth after using the product. This is the same result I get from my current favourite shampoo - V05 'give me moisture'. Same results, yet V05 is considerably cheaper, and often on offer. For example, at time of writing (August 2013) I believe the 250ml bottle is on offer for 98p (in Superdrug), and has a full price of £1.99. Even full price considerably cheaper than the RRP of £5.40 for this Toni and Guy shampoo.

                    === Summary ===

                    This wasn't a bad shampoo, and matched my current favourite in terms of final results. But I can get the same results for a much lower cost. I would also have preferred it if it lathered up better.

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                      25.08.2013 23:08
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                      A great day to day deodorant

                      Along with my other daily essentials I always apply deodorant as part of my morning routine. I am not brand loyal when it comes to deodorant, but due to the good prices lately I have been using Sure a lot more recently.

                      === The Deodorant ===

                      This deodorant is 'Bright' from Sure's fragrance collection. It is possible to get the same fragrance as a roll on, but this review is for the aerosol spray. There are other scents in the fragrance collection that you may wish to consider if 'Bright' isn't for you.

                      === Packaging ===

                      This spray is available in the larger sized spray cans, but the one I am using is one of the 'compressed' 75ml cans. The packaging is the same for each size. The cylinder shaped can with an indent towards the top is white/pale pink in colour with the Sure logo and Sure 'tick' in pink. There are also pink flowers going around the can. Then of course you have your standard ingredients list, etc. printed onto the can. I'll admit it was the colour scheme of the can what attracted me to this in the first place - it's pink and girly (I'm not always a girly girl... honest). It is really easy to spot this one on the shelves which has been useful when out shopping in a rush.

                      The compressed cans are 75ml, which supposedly have the same amount of product in them as a larger 150ml can, just compressed further. I prefer to have smaller cans so I can just chuck one in my bag without it taking up too much room. It may also be worth bearing in mind that anything 100ml or less is acceptable in your hand luggage when flying. Seeing as I wanted my deodorant with me (just in case... you never know!) it was especially important for me to have a smaller can on my last purchase. It is also more environmentally friendly to use these smaller cans (less packaging, more cans can be transported in a smaller space, etc.).

                      Aerosol cans are recyclable depending on your local facilities.

                      === Price and Availability ===

                      Most recently I bought this spray from Superdrug for around £1.20 for the compressed 75ml can. At this price I do feel the product is good value for money.

                      Sure is a big brand name and is as well as Boots and Superdrug is generally available anywhere that sells these sorts of products: supermarkets, chemists, stores like Wilkinsons, etc. I have seen a range of prices and offers so keep an eye out. If the size of the can isn't a problem I have found the larger cans to work out be the same price, if not cheaper, than the smaller cans in terms of mls of product per pound, but as previously mentioned I prefer to have smaller cans.

                      === Usage ===

                      You use this the same as any other deodorant spray - hold a distance (recommended 15cm according to the tin) and spray. As with any spray I would recommend doing this in a well ventilated room.

                      The spray has a nice floral scent to it. It does also have a vanilla like sweetness to it, but in my opinion this is not overpowering. This may just be because I happen to love sweet things (both to eat and scent wise!). The scent does stick around for a couple of hours or so after applying, which I love. Just wish it was longer! I do sometimes spray this on my clothes to help the scent stick around.

                      In terms of a deodorant and anti-perspirant though the effects thankfully last longer. The tin claims they last up to 48 hours - I can't say I've tested this out - but an application in the morning is generally enough to make me feel protected all day. I would then normally apply again in the evening if I was going out anywhere. This seems to have been fine for your normal standard days.

                      I did have a couple of issues when on holiday. In the Mediterranean heat this product was going to have a tough fight on it's hands. I must admit though generally I felt sticky more than sweaty - if that makes sense, possibly aided by the fact I was constantly covered in sun cream. I kept the can with me so I could have a nice floral top up if I felt I needed it. A quick spray and I'd feel a little refreshed, but nothing felt better than a cool shower after a busy day sightseeing.

                      On a different note though, I like to take my dog to the park on my bike - Both my dog and I have more of a work out than if we just walk. At a slow to medium pace (my dog only has little legs, have to give him a chance!) and a relatively unfit me this deodorant is enough for me to not feel like I have drenched underarms, though I do get a little sticky and always shower afterwards to freshen up.

                      === Summary ===

                      I love the scent, and I love the product. For general day to day use this product is long lasting. There is also the added bonus of I have not found it to leave white marks on me or my clothes like some other sprays.

                      I am happy with the product, have re-bought it, and most likely will again. The only gripe I have is that I wish it would perform a little better during exercise and in hotter climates, which is why I have dropped one star.

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                    • Karrimor Urban 30l / Rucksack / 75 Readings / 72 Ratings
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                      23.08.2013 18:41
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                      Good rucksack for the money I paid

                      As mentioned previously we have recently just got back from our honeymoon, and now that we are back I am working my way through reviewing the things we took on holiday with us. I used my Karrimor rucksack as my hand luggage item. The rucksack I used was the Karrimor Urban 30l, and this is the one I will be focusing on in this review.

                      === Price and Availability ===

                      I purchased this particular rucksack earlier this year as my old rucksack was showing some definite signs of wear and tear. I was originally looking at brands such as Jan Sport as they come in pretty colours and patterns (of course the main reason for buying something!). If I had gone down the Jan Sport route the rucksack I liked was around the £40 mark. The RRP of this Karrimor rucksack is apparently £39.99 - but as opposed to the Jan Sport ones which seem to actually be sold at the RRP, I've not actually seen these Karrimor ones at that price. I bought this Karrimor rucksack for considerably less - about £12. £15 including postage and packaging. Considering how often I actually use a rucksack I decided to make the more sensible choice and opt for the cheaper option.

                      After seeing this rucksack on the Sports Direct website I looked in store to try and find it to avoid delivery charges. Unable to find it in store I bought my rucksack from Sports Direct, but through Amazon. Had to pay a delivery charge, but it was still the cheapest buying option at the time (and I got an unexpected free Sports Direct mug in with the deal... yet another mug in the house). After a quick search I can't find this rucksack on Sports Direct, but it is available through other sellers on Amazon, but for a higher price. Different colours appear to be different prices.

                      === Rucksack Specifications ===

                      So, speaking of colour, I bought this rucksack in 'Amethyst'. Amethyst is purple (no surprises there) with light grey stripes down the sides. There are other colours available including black (all black), navy (with the light grey stripes) and dark fire (red, with dark grey stripes). I have seen a couple of other colours but these are the most commonly available.

                      Size wise, this is a perfect size for a day sack if you're out walking. I've also used this rucksack as my bag for clothes when travelling overnight. I can easily fit a set of PJ's and a spare set of clothes in here. I have used it when travelling for a weekend, so needed two sets of clothes - a bit of a tighter fit - I don't imagine this would work in winter when thick jumpers are required! The actual measurements of the rucksack are - 50cm x 33cm x 16cm. This is large enough to carry A4 folders in if required.

                      There are three compartments to this rucksack. The largest main compartment also includes a padded laptop pocket. Then there are two further smaller compartments. The larger of the two has an organiser section for pens, etc. and the smaller is still large enough to chuck a small paperback book in. There are also two mesh side pockets intended for water bottles and a bungee rope on the front.

                      === Usage and Wear and Tear ===

                      I'm sure you're all aware on how to use a rucksack. Pop on back. Done. What this rucksack has is features to make the actual carrying of stuff as comfortable as possible. The straps that go over your shoulders are fairly wide and padded which helps to distribute the weight of the items in the bag. There is also a strap to go around your waist to help with weight. I've not actually used this strap on this bag, but I have on the larger sized rucksacks and they do really help when carrying heavy loads. I have used the chest strap, I feel it makes the rucksack even more comfortable to carry - personally I find it stops the main shoulder straps from slipping. The back of the rucksack is made from airmesh padding to help give your back some breathing space and help you to keep cool. If you do happen to be filling this rucksack up to it's 30l capacity there are also a couple of straps on each side that help to take the pressure off of the zips, which is a handy little addition.

                      When I first got this rucksack I was actually a little dubious. Even though it was cheap it is also Karrimor, a brand I expect quality from. The material this rucksack is made of is thinner than I expected. That said though this rucksack has been on several long train journeys up and down the country with me, and I used it as my hand luggage for my recent holiday. I've also used it when going to the supermarket on my bike to carry the shopping back to the house in. As things stand at the moment there are no signs of wear and tear which I am impressed about.

                      === The Negatives ===

                      For a little rucksack it does have a range of features. However, it does also come with its problems.

                      Firstly, the mesh pockets on the side aren't really deep enough for your standard 500ml bottles of water. The bottles fit in fine, but are easily knocked out if the rucksack is brushed up against something for example.

                      The airmesh padding on the back of the rucksack is a good feature, though isn't structured like some other more expensive rucksacks. It does semi do the job it is intended to do, but I feel it could be better.

                      Something that I have now seen as being quite common in rucksacks is a phone/mp3 pocket which would have been a useful addition.

                      Finally, I can't really say if this is a negative or not just yet. Related to my initial impressions in regards to the materials, etc. As I say, it has stepped up to the mark, but I have yet to get caught out in really heavy rain with this and I'm not certain it would be good enough to protect my belongings. It may surprise me though if this situation arises.

                      === Summary ===

                      Quite a good little rucksack for the money. A couple of minor design flaws, and could have had more features, hence I give it 4 stars. Overall though I am impressed with this rucksack for the price I paid.

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                        22.08.2013 12:34
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                        Gives me reassurance my belongings are safe whilst travelling.

                        As mentioned previously we have recently just got back from our honeymoon, and now that we are back (and I have a bit of free time on my hands before starting the final term of my course) I am working my way through rating the places we've seen and things we took on holiday with us.

                        Before purchasing this particular case I seemed to just own super size cases (I bought a couple of cheap ones to help me when I was moving around a lot as an undergrad student) and a much smaller case, one that fits within the hand luggage restrictions. This is why I decided I needed a case that I could actually take on holiday with me. I wanted a decent case that wouldn't break on it's first trip out (like the last one I owned that is now demoted to storing stuff in under the bed), but I didn't want to pay a ridiculous amount for one.

                        === Price and Availability ===

                        In the end I settled for this Tripp case which I purchased for £42 from Debenhams in a sale that they had on. Full price this particular case retails at £140. As lovely as this case is I wouldn't have paid that much for it, but I feel the £42 is a reasonable price. I believe that these cases are available from other retailers and also on the Tripp website, though Debenhams may be your best bet if you would like one as they often have these cases in an offer of some description. Having just looked at the Debenhams website I can tell you they are currently retailing this case at £45 (August 2013).

                        === Case Specifications ===

                        The case I have is basically the same as the one in the picture above, only mine has different colours. It's more purple and green. The patterns and colours though does make this an extremely easy case to spot on the luggage carousel at the airport - definitely far easier to spot than my partners almost plain black case, even with the yellow shoelaces tied round it's handles.

                        This case is a reasonable size, actually larger than I first imagined when I originally looked up the case online before going to the store to purchase it. It is 76cm x 49cm x 33cm. This is a plenty big enough space to pack all your holiday essentials. If you're anything like me I seem to feel the need to fill my case when I pack, and this case is large without being overly so, so not giving me too much space to fill! The weight I was told this case was is 3.6kg, though just looking at Debenhams website it states 4.6kg. Both these figures seem quite high really, especially for a case that is claimed to be 'lightweight'. It is easily possible to get cases that weigh less than this, which gives you more of your luggage allowance to be used for your holiday stuff. That being said, on the way out of Gatwick Airport for our last trip my case weighed in at between 12kg and 13kg (a couple of kg more on the way back what with shopping additions) for a weeks worth of clothes, plus the odd spare thing here and there, 2 pairs of shoes and all the toiletries as well as other random bits and bobs. Maybe there is a chance they over-estimated on the case weight?

                        === Usage and Wear and Tear ===

                        Using the case is, well, let's face it... Pretty straight forward. Open zip. Put myself inside. Ask someone to close zip. Get friend to take this case instead of their own so I get an extra holiday! Something tells me that would make the case overweight, and I don't imagine it would be particularly comfortable, though saying that my dog does like to climb in it when I'm trying to pack to go anywhere.

                        On a more serious note, this is a pretty simple case in that it doesn't have a lot of inner compartments, etc. for packing your things in, Nor does it have an expanding feature. These are not issues for me, but may be something that you would want to consider. The case is a 'soft' case, so isn't solid plastic. It is made from durable polyester. The back is solid, whereas the top can be squashed in (or can bulge out if it's overly full, but I've not needed to fill it quite that much!).

                        Once you have your belongings inside there are two pretty bright pink straps on the inside that you can fasten in order to keep your belongings in place. These are pretty standard in cases these days, but they don't always seem to keep belongings in place. My experience of using these straps in this case though tells me that these straps actually do what they are meant to. Once you have these straps in place simply zip up as you would expect, and lock if you choose to do so. The case comes with a travel padlock and two keys for if you wish to do this. The case has two handles for carrying/lifting the case up, one on the top and one on the side - pretty much standard. It also has two wheels and a pull along handle so you can simply wheel it through the airport. It's also good to note that this suitcase is easy to 'drive'. I used to work in an airport, and believe me, it's insane how many people can't drive their cases. The pull along handle isn't too tall in height and is easy to pull up. When you want to put the handle back down again simply push the little button on the handle and it slides back down very easily.

                        Before purchasing my case I did read several reviews for Tripp cases in general as well as this one in particular and pretty much all of them only had good things to say. So far my case has been on a few short haul flights and shows very little, if any, signs of wear and tear, so seems to be living up to it's brand name. On top of this as an extra piece of mind it came with a 5 year guarantee, but it's not looking like I'll be needing it. If you are interested there are also other items such as holdalls, etc. as part of the same range so you could buy yourself a whole matching set.

                        === Summary ===

                        A great case for taking on holiday. A distinct pattern, so easy to spot at the baggage reclaim, yet the colours aren't too light or bright so the case won't look dirty the second you buy it. In fact mine still looks brand new. It is functional, appears to be durable, and gives the reassurance of being a well known luggage brand with a guarantee.

                        The only downsides I can really see to this case is it's price at full price, and the fact it doesn't have any compartments or expansion features. I will drop a star for this as this is something so many cases do have as standard. This isn't something that bothers me in particular, but if the features were there I would use them.
                        I wouldn't pay full price for this case as £140 is an awful lot of money, but I would recommend buying a Tripp case if they are on offer like they often are as this one at least is a really good quality and gives me reassurance my belongings are safe whilst I'm travelling.

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                          17.08.2013 21:24
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                          A fantastic little speaker, great quality and value for money

                          === Audio Dynamix X05 Speaker ===

                          A couple of months ago now we were looking for a bluetooth speaker to use at our wedding ceremony to play the music through. The venue had an ipod dock we could use, and this was our back up option (but would require us borrowing an ipod) but seeing as we wanted a device like this in the house too we thought we'd buy this little device and if all else failed we'd have a little speaker like we were looking for in the house so it wasn't going to be going to waste anyway.

                          === So who are Audio Dynamix? ===

                          Neither my partner or I had heard of this particular company before. We came across them through Amazon. Reading through their website we learnt they are a relatively new company - only set up in September 2012 - that is aiming to bring new portable audio wireless products to the market. Their aim is to be affordable, reliable, and high quality. A pretty standard motto, but a good one for any new business. Being so new there are limited reviews into the company so far, but pretty much every one we did read only had good things to say about the company and their products so we decided to go with it. There are also a couple of videos on YouTube demonstrating their products which did play a part in our decision to risk buying something from such a new company.

                          === The X05 Speaker ===

                          I'm sure this is the most important thing you want to know about... The colour. From what I can gather this particular little speaker comes in red, silver and black. We have the red version. The speaker is quite small in size, approximately 18cm x 7cm x 4cm, with a sleek design with the casing being made from aluminium. There is a handle on top of the speaker for if you wish to carry it this way. There are also 4 buttons on the top of the speaker (power button, vol up, vol down, and a button that allows for phone connectivity) as well as two connection points - one with a headphone connection and one with a micro USB connection. There are also two wires provided with the speaker, one which is a headphone jack with the same connection on each end (useful for connecting the speaker to the headphone point on my laptop for example) and the other is a micro USB to standard USB wire - again can be used to connect the speaker to another device, and can be used to charge the speaker from the laptop. The only other thing to come in the box is a small instruction leaflet. We ordered this speaker through Amazon and it was well packaged with minimal packaging, with the majority of the packaging being recyclable.

                          Okay, so more important than the colour... actual use of the speaker. I'm not the most technically minded of people, so this is from my personal usage point of view. For those of you that can make sense of this information though here are the basic specifications of the speaker (from Amazon):

                          Sound channels: 2.1
                          Type: Bluetooth CSR BC5 with up to 40 metre range
                          Highly efficient digital amplifier
                          SNR: 90dBA
                          Interface: 3.5mm line in and Bluetooth
                          Power supply: 1800mAh, built-in polymer battery
                          Frequency range: 40HZ~19KHZ
                          100mm passive bass radiator
                          Sizes: 180*70*41mm Package size: 210*100*100mm Net Weight: 550g Bluetooth version: Bluetooth® V2.1 BC5 Bluetooth Controller: CSR BC6145

                          And just a small section from the description on the Audio Dynamix website:
                          "2 x Proprietary speakers featuring a woven Kevlar fibre composite diaphragm, extra large spider and neodymium magnets are coupled to a 100mm passive bass radiator to give impressive bass down to 40hz, detailed midrange and treble and long term reliability."


                          If you can't decipher that, (or even if you can) here are my more personal insights. First we had to charge the speaker, which took about 2 hours for a full charge. A straight forward enough process, using the USB cable, and is outlined clearly in the instruction leaflet. Once fully charged we set it up to test it out - again instructions are clear in the leaflet and really easy to follow - (but note to self, make sure you have your bluetooth switched on. Haha. I did try to connect it to my laptop through the bluetooth once only to realise that I hadn't switched on my bluetooth connection on the laptop. Duh). It does say on the instructions that the quality of sound will improve after approximately 50 hours of playback as this allows the components to settle into place, so we wanted to get using it straight away to allow that time to pass before our big day. However we found that the speaker gives a real good quality of sound from the off. The quality of this little speaker is as good, if not better, than the speakers we were looking at in Currys, etc. that were almost double the price of this little device. We've played a wide range of types of music through this speaker from rock to classical and most things in between and everything has come through clearly from the delicate sounds of the strings and flutes to bass guitars and drums. We were impressed enough to use this for the music at our ceremony and the sound quality was good enough for it to be clear in all parts of a large room with approx 70 people in it. After a quick read of the Audio Dynamix website I am informed that 'the cabinet is critically damped with neoprene rubber to stop vibrations and standing waves' which I'm guessing is the reason why there is none of that tinny-ness or vibrating sounds that you can get from speakers when they are turned up on a high volume.

                          === Range ===

                          The range of the speaker is described as 'up to' 40m. I'm always a little dubious when things are described with the terms 'up to' or similar as that could mean almost anything to be fair. I don't think we've actually tested it as far as 40m, we have up to about half that with no problems. We have also tested it by having it in a different room to the bluetooth device (normally one of our phones). In different rooms the sound quality drops a little, especially when corners or closed doors are in the way, but not by much, and to be fair other than testing it out we've never felt the need to have the speaker and the phone in different rooms at the same time.

                          === Speaker as a phone ===

                          Another feature that this speaker has is that if you have your phone connected to it you can use it almost like a hands free device. The callers voice will come over the speaker and if you speak the microphone on the speaker will pick up your voice so the caller can hear you. We've semi tested this out in that we know this works, but seeing as we were sat in the same room testing this out it probably isn't the best test of this particular feature. It is a nice little added bonus though that we weren't actually expecting when we bought the speaker.

                          === Summary ===

                          As mentioned we deemed this little speaker good enough to play the music for our wedding ceremony in a large room with approx 70 people. The fact we were willing to use it on such an important day plays tribute to the speaker. At home we use it to play our music through or even play the radio through and at loud volumes it is still really clear. I have had it at full volume and sound quality is still really good. I don't play it at full volume normally though as it isn't needed. I like that it can be connected both via bluetooth or via the headphone connections using the cable. Battery life is really good - I would say it lasts approximately 20-25 hours on a 2 hour charge.

                          As for price, it's currently on Amazon at £64.99, but it is on the Audio Dynamix site for £54.99 ( http://audiodynamix.co.uk/?page_id=212 ). I think we paid about the £55 mark from Amazon when we purchased it. I feel this is a competitive price for the sound quality you get from the speaker. It may not be a brand name like Sony which we were dubious about at first, but now owning the speaker we are glad we went for this one!

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                            16.08.2013 14:10
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                            A cream that works from a brand I trust

                            I have just got back from an amazing trip (we went on a Mediterranean cruise for our honeymoon) so will be working my way through reviewing some of the things I used whilst abroad and some of the places I visited. This review is for one of the most important things that came with us in our suitcases - our sun protection!

                            It is often communicated (and rightly so) that we do need to protect our skin from the strong rays from the sun. Both my partner and I have really fair skin, and (me especially) can burn really easily even in the British sunshine, let alone in other parts of the world where the strength of the sun is even stronger. Not wanting sunburn to ruin our honeymoon we wanted to ensure we had a high factor of sun cream with us. I opted for this Nivea spray.

                            === Why Nivea? ===

                            I opted for this particular product for a number of reasons. Firstly, Nivea is a brand I often use and trust when it comes to my skin. The bottle also gives reassuring advice stating that it is water resistant and gives protection against both the harmful UVA and UVB rays. The product is also a spray, something that I personally prefer over a lotion when it comes to sun cream. This allows me to spray the product over my skin before actually getting it on my hands. Linked to this, the bottle shape means it is easy to hold even when you do have the cream on your hands meaning that you are less likely to drop the bottle - a problem I have had with other brands of sun lotion in the past. Finally, we all know that sun creams can be expensive to purchase, but I picked this particular bottle up for half price - about £6, which I don't feel is a bad price for the needed protection that it gives. Nivea is a well known brand and is widely available in supermarkets, chemists, Boots, Superdrugs, etc. My particular bottle actually came from Wilkinsons. There are other versions of the spray available including versions specifically for kids delicate skin.

                            === Using the Spray ===

                            As already stated the bottle shape of this spray does help when it comes to using the cream. Meaning it is easy to hold and continue to apply even if you have slippery fingers from having the cream on your hands. The fact it is a spray however does mean you can spray yourself all over before putting the bottle down and commencing operation 'cream rub in'. I normally hate applying sun cream because it always seems to take forever to get an adequate amount of cream rubbed into the skin. With this spray you can spray yourself all over (without the product running before you've rubbed it in). Depending on how close you hold the spray to your skin depends on the effects. Hold it closer and you get a larger blob of cream in one smaller area which you can then spread out and rub all over (my partners preferred method of application) or hold the bottle a little further away and get a large number of smaller blobs of cream over a larger area which again you would then rub in (my preferred method). Once sprayed you can see the spray of white cream on your skin, which also helps to make sure you don't miss anywhere. Then you simply need to rub this in until your skin has been completely covered, the cream absorbed, and there are no longer any 'white bits'. I do find this process a lot easier with the spray rather than a lotion, and with this particular product it is very easy to ensure that you haven't left white streaks over your skin.

                            When it comes to the face, I couldn't bring myself to spray my face so instead opted to spray some of the cream into my hand and rub it in to my face that way, being extra careful to ensure that I had protection over my whole face.

                            === Longevity ===

                            We used this cream over the period of a week. We both used the same bottle and after a week we still have some cream left that we brought back with us. When applying the cream we were able to ensure that we only sprayed the amount that we actually needed rather than accidentally pouring out too much from a lotion bottle (again, something I may have done a few times with other bottles!). This helped the bottle to last.

                            Once actually on our skin the product appeared to last a decent length of time even when we were out and about in the heat, walking, exploring the various places we were getting to see. Even with getting hot and sweaty this cream lasted well. Good to know if you're somewhere with a lot of sun - which, let's face it, is when you would need this product.

                            === Negatives ===

                            The cream did give me a little bit of a sticky feeling when applied which I didn't really like. But once I was used to this it was a small price to pay for the protection this cream gave.

                            It doesn't spray as well when upside down. It did still work, but was better to keep the bottle upright which made spraying some parts a little more difficult.

                            I bought my bottle for just over £6. Not too bad. But this was on a half price offer. Never buy sun cream full price if you can help it as there are normally offers on pretty much all brands.

                            === Good Old Health and Safety ===

                            A couple of boring, yet very important points to note:

                            Although this cream states it is water resistant remember this doesn't mean it is water proof - please make sure you reapply after swimming, lots of sweating, any generally getting wet...

                            Ensure to reapply regularly throughout the day - I often put this cream on in the morning and once again during the day which seemed to be enough. Ensure you do whatever is needed for you and your skin - also remember whatever skin type/colour you have the sun is still dangerous so protect yourselves.

                            Remember no sun cream protects 100% against the powerful rays of the sun. If you can spend the time when the suns rays are strongest (i.e. the middle of the day) in the shade.

                            === Summary ===

                            This cream worked very well for us on our holiday. Neither of us got burnt (Nivea: 1, Sun: 0) and we were able to enjoy the sunshine for the entirety of our trip. The bottle lasted both of us the whole week (Nivea: 2) and was easy to apply (Nivea: 3). The only real down point was that it did leave my skin feeling a little sticky, but I feel this is a small price to pay for what I felt was such good protection.

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                              23.07.2013 00:52
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                              Okay, but won't be watching again any time soon

                              Film - Confessions of a Shopaholic
                              Main actors - Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Krysten Ritter
                              Certificate - PG
                              Running Time - 104 minutes
                              Genre - Romantic Comedy, Chick Flick


                              I have read a couple of the 'Shopaholic' series of books, and enjoy a good chick flick from time to time, so when I bought this for a mere 50p at a local boot sale I figured I had a good buy.

                              At time of writing (Sept 2013) it is possible to buy this DVD from Amazon for £3, Blu-Ray for £6.25 or there is also the option to get the film as part of a 3 DVD collection (also included are Sweet Home Alabama and Coyote Ugly) for £7.50.

                              === Short Plot Summary ===

                              Rebecca Bloomwood is a journalist with a problem. She loves to shop. Due to her shopping obsession she is in a bit of trouble when it comes to her credit cards and her bank manager! When the magazine she works for goes under she manages to accidentally get a job for a financial magazine offering people financial advice. Needing to take the job to earn some money she rapidly needs to make it come across that she knows what she is talking about when it comes to the world of finance. Comedy follows, including the typical chick flick storyline of girl falling for boy, who in this case is the editor of the magazine Rebecca now works for.

                              So the film pretty much has your stereotypical girly film storyline. There are several differences from the books (I believe this film merges the first two books of the series together, but it has been a while since I read the books so I can't quite remember... There are some definite differences though). I admit to watching a lot of chick flicks, but I can't say this is one of the better ones. Parts of it are similar to Legally Blonde (which I love) in that it's girl trying to make her way in the world despite the odds, but it doesn't work as well. It's not completely terrible, but it's definitely not one of my favourites.

                              === Acting ===

                              I don't actually know the main actors/actresses in this film that well, but I'll give my general opinion.

                              Isla Fisher is actually pretty close to how I remember imagining Rebecca to be like when reading the books. There are parts where although Rebecca is a bit of an 'over the top' character at times Isla just takes this a little too far, almost in the kind of way you may over-exaggerate voices and characters to children when reading out loud to them. I do think she is much better in her latest film 'Now You See Me' which I saw at the cinema the other week. A totally different role. It seemed to suit her better.

                              I did prefer Hugh Dancy's character - but maybe that's because he was my eye-candy for the duration of the film! Haha. His character is more uptight than Rebecca is (almost obviously seeing as he is the editor of the finance magazine and she's spending way more than she can afford). At times though this comes across as a bit stand-offish. Not sure if that's intended for the character or not... I think it is...

                              The other main (ish) character is Suze, played by Krysten Ritter. She takes on the best friend role and supports Rebecca through her issues. Until they have typical girly film fall out. Acting wise, Krysten is reasonable. Doesn't really stand out to me in terms of being excellent or in terms of being terrible. Apparently she's good in the t.v. series that's on E4 at the moment, 'Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23' but seeing as I've never seen it myself I can't comment.

                              Pretty much all other roles are acted out averagely.

                              === Extras ===

                              There are very few extras on my DVD. There's a blooper reel, a deleted scenes section and a music video. Neither the blooper reel or deleted scenes sections are particularly long, can only be a couple of minutes or so long each. Mildly amusing to watch, but I won't be going out of my way to watch them again any time soon.

                              === Summary ===

                              So, not the best film I've seen recently. A reasonable way to pass the time during the afternoon. In all honesty it will probably sit on the bookcase with all the other DVD's and won't get watched again for quite a while, with me being more likely to pick out one of my favourite chick flicks the next time I want a girly afternoon.

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