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Converse all star
Actually names the Chuck Taylor All Star by Converse and whatever you do don't call it a boot - it's a sneaker. As converse say "Shoes blend in and sneakers stand out" (www.converse .com)
These certainly stand out, initially I thought I was too old to buy a pair and having seen them in I Robert with Will Smith I thought I really fancy a pair of them . My daughter then gave me an out - so to speak. Dr Who a firm favourite of hers also decided to wear them and whilst trolling around TK Max my 10 year old pointed out "Look Dr Who shoes".
This made them trendy and wearable by her ageing dad and I thought well? Why not. They were cheaper than anywhere else at £19.99 and although at first they felt strange (low to the ground and flat) I bought them and took them home.
I bought what you or I would call a Grey coloured pair however Converse have their own colouring system (from the rest of the world) and they were in fact a Sea Spray colour. Interesting ...but not interesting enough to detract from wearing the trendy little fellows.
The ones I bought were high tops (covers the ankle) and when done up were very comfortable although I didn't feel like I had any support in the ankle at all. I also felt slightly flat footed when walking and there isn't much distance between you and the pavement.
However I wear them mainly on weekends and they have been near perfect every time. The white banding around the sides can get a bit dirty but it rubs off quite well. If your wearing normal full length jeans or trousers then the logo can't be seen, which is on the side of the boot. Although I am sure more trendy people than me would welcome this to be seen. However the small word logo to the rear bottom of the boot is sufficient for me.
Had them for 8 months now and they really are in good nick, no peeling parts or rubber bits chipping away, the laces haven't frayed and all in all they were a very good buy.
The coffee bean is red originally and then roasted to give it its flavour, apparently Kaldi the goat herder saw his goats eat these red berries and this gave them more energy. He quickly gathered them up and took them to a holy man who threw them in the fire. The smell of the roasting beans was so great that they gathered up the beans ground them and hay presto! Coffee in a cup. (www.nescafe.co.uk).
Did it happen? Who really cares it's a nice story and no one got hurt and we do now have coffee so all is good. Nescafe original is like a worn out T shirt that you like putting on or a pair of jogging trousers that really need to bypass the charity shop and go straight in the bin. Nescafe is the fall back, the place I go when all else fails to get my caffeine hit. This is especially true when out and about in hotels as the complimentary coffee that you get can be a bit on the rough side.
I still enjoy popping the gold and paper foil that keeps the smell of the coffee in the jar. There is something rather satisfying when you smell the contents for the first time. The smell is rich and lingering on the nose. The small granules are dark brown and a personally I take one and a half tea spoons of it in a mug size brew.
Of course the choice of milk and sugar is yours alone and this will of course change your tasting experience to mine. However I have about an inch of milk and no sugar. This retains the rich bitter taste of the coffee which is mellowed slightly by the milk. The kettle should be boiled to boiling point otherwise no amount of stirring will get rid of those brown globules that spin around on the surface of your drink. Along with a white froth if you haven't got the temperature right for the water.
I do like my coffee hot however you can also have it cold, a frappe in Greece and this can also have sugar and or milk dependent on your taste requirements. Personally a frappe is best served ice cold with ice and no milk but a small (quarter teaspoon) of sugar. This can be refreshing on a hot day but also give you that little lift that you gain from the caffeine.
All in all this product has been a market leader for a very good reason and when you open the jar or a refill packet, you know what you are getting. There are many other derivatives of instant coffee out there that taste stronger and are more expensive but at this end of the shopping Nescafe have it in the bag as far as I'm concerned.
There's better out there but the comfort you get out of the old worn out T shirt is second to none.
Had a recent experience which entailed me using ASDA. Com. My 10 year old daughter was looking for a new pair of jim jams and she had a look around the internet and decided that the set she could not do without, was from the George range at ASDA.
Being her father I look at several aspects when picking clothes (yes I do regard Jim Jams as clothes) for my 10 year old however most of this criteria goes out the window when looking at night clothing. Mainly you don't tend to get crop tops in children's nightwear and the design of these clothes is more angled towards comfort and keeping warm than being trendy. Which is music to my ears.
So the perfect set is in front of me and at a very reasonable price of £6. (second criteria of a father gets a good tick in the box here - its cheap) However the downside is that the nearest ASDA is near to where I work and having a short lunch break dosnt give you much time to shop.
On the website I noticed that you could order and pay for the item on line and then pick it up from the shop. This seemed to answer all the issues as I wouldn't have to worry about stock or was it her size etc etc.
So I filled out the details , selected and paid for the item and almost immediately obtained a confirmation of my purchase from the ASDA website. I knew that I would not be able to pick it up until the Thursday (The day of ordering being Monday night) but this suited as it did say leave 3 to 4 days for delivery to the store .
On the Tuesday I received an email stating that my order had been despatched to the store from the depot and everything was running smoothly, I felt quietly confident in the item being there waiting for me at the store and I would just swoop in on the Thursday and pick it up and again Dad has saved the day with his no nonesense approach to life.
Tuesday Evening (yes less than 8 hrs later) I received another email stating that my order was in the store and awaiting my collection and it would remain there until "Wednesday" .....until Wednesday!!! I wasn't due in until the Thursday and this was Tuesday night. I searched through my emails and it clearly stated that the item would be in the store for 14 days and you could extend this if you wished.
During the Wednesday I thought of nothing else other than the tears rolling down my daughters face (sorry a bit of licence here) and the jimmy jammers going back to the lonely depot never to be bought and delivered again.
Thursday lunchtime came and I raced to the ASDA near my work, I went so fast into the store I missed the counter that said "pick up point" and had to ask someone where to go. A very nice 60 year old lady stood behind the counter and I was unsure that my explanation (Repeating what I have written above) was making any sense to the lady and I slowly lost faith in the prospect of me walking out of the store with the said items.
The Lady calmly said that the email had been mistaken and she asked for my order number and the card I had paid on line with. After giving these details she went to a cupboard and pulled out my package. After handing it to me she realised the computer system was down and she wasn't daunted by this one little bit.
She wrote the order number on a piece of paper and the item and also asked me to sign to say it had been collected. Turnaround for the whole experience in the shop was about 2 minutes!!! She still had the calmness and collectiveness to ask "was there anything else I can help you with?"
The online system is easy to use, the ordering and paying is easy to use, the collection point in store is easy to see (if your not in a rush). The collection is easy, the service I received was second to none. Well done ASDA and it's a shame your shop isn't closer to me for the family weekly shop.
Baron Philippe de Rothschild - Mouton Cadet
The red grapes grown for this wine come from the Bordeaux region of France (Western France) which are grown on either side of the Atlantic estuary and tributary rivers in and around Bordeaux. The Mouton Cadet is a red wine made up of 65% merlot grapes, 20% cabernet sauvignon grapes and lastly 15% cabernet franc.
These are macerated separately for anywhere between 4 and 10 days and then the all important fermentation can take place. The wine is then matured for 6-10 months before bottling. Baron De Rothschild has been producing wine since 1930
The wine as stated is a red and the colour is quite brighter than most reds. It can look more raspberry red rather than blood red. There is a definite smell of fruit from the glass when you stick your nose in the wine glass and I find it very sweet - although the wine is not sweet in itself just the odour. The taste is also slightly fruity and this stays with you even after drinking. I find the wine light and not too heavy like other reds.
I tend to drink this wine if we are eating Tuna steaks or lamb. It is better with the lighter dark meats if you know what I mean. I wouldn't have this with steak but that is just my personal preference. I was recently given a couple of pheasants and was told that this wine would be a good one to drink with them. The lightness of the wine complimented the pheasant and I was also told that it would do just as well for Duck or Rabbit. My local independent wine merchant tells me all this. He is usually spot on.
The Bottle / cost
The bottle is a 70cl dark glass bottle with paper label and one of the wines that still has a cork in the top. The motif to the front of the label is of a Ram. The strength of the wine is classed as 13.5% ABV. The bottle is a standard size and weight and has nothing unusual about it and can be stored in any normal sized wine rack.
Normally priced around the £10 a bottle mark (dependent on where you shop) this is a better bottle of wine that is really nice to pull off the shelf on special occasions. My wife is not keen on Red wine but during a recent meal that I made for us (Tuna) she even succumbed to having a glass and although didn't have another she was quite happy drinking the first one.
The wine is light and fruity and at room temperature has a lovely aftertaste that I think is just right, especially when having it with some game. (Pheasant etc) It is a pull out now and again bottle and not a daily drink. If your keen on Bordeaux wine then this won't break the bank but has some of the tastes you would expect to find from this region of France.
Good quality if you can find it on sale or buy in multiples (majestic wine) then you can grab yourself a bargain.
Highland Park Aged 12 years - All the way from the Orkney Islands
Highland Park 12 year old Single Malt Whisky (to give it its full name) is made in Kirkwall on the Orkney Islands. The history of these islands go back some five and a half thousand years although the malt is a little bit more up to date with the establishment of the distillery in 1798. Highland Park is made today, as it has been since 1798. Highland Park believe that this is the reason that they have a global respect for their brand and why they picked up the accolade of "The Best Spirit in the World" in 2009.
Not your usual run of the mill whisky bottle, the Highland Park is squatter and has a bigger opening for poring which I think is better than the narrow necks you get on some whisky bottles. The bottle is sealed with the same type of foil covering that you would find on a champagne bottle which is easy to peel off.
This reveals a black topped cork stopper which is inlaid with the highland motif that you will also find embossed on the front of the bottle. I really like the dull thud noise that the cork makes when you pull it out of the bottle. Very reminiscent of the wild west and pulling corks out of whisky bottles with your teeth. However don't try it with this one as the top is made of hard plastic. (Not that I ever have mmmmmm...)
Also embossed on the bottle is "distilled Kirkwall Orkney" to the back of the bottle and each bottle has a guarantee on the label stating that "we guarantee this whisky is made solely from the finest home grown malt".
The size of the bottle allows for 70 CL of whisky which is at 40% vol. This equates to 28 standard units of alcohol in a bottle of this size. I find the bottle easy to hold and easy to pour although persons with smaller hands may find this more difficult.
The whisky is a golden brown in colour and has the standard whisky smell when you pour it out. I don't personally smell anything different that a whisky however to taste it has a distinctive smokiness that I find a bit harsh although I have friends that like this about the whisky. Mixed with water I find the whisky sweeter than others but I wouldn't go as far to say that it was sweet.
I am unsure if it's because I know it's made of malt that I can taste malt or not but I do think there is a malty taste that can linger after swallowing. Highland Park themselves state you may be able to taste a fruity aftertaste but to date I have not tasted this and this could easily be my pallet rather than it not being there.
A bottle of the above can cost you anywhere between £22 and £25 dependent on where you do your shopping for whisky, in my experience shopping on line is not a good idea for whisky its just more convenient. However best time to hunt out a malt (especially one you haven't tried) is in January. Some of the big supermarkets have been known to slash prices for these if they haven't sold well over the festive period.
This is touted as one of the best malt whisky's produced in the world. I do like the taste and the individuality of the bottle warms me to the product however the taste - to me - is not that dissimilar to other malts around this age bracket. I am not able ot dintinguish the fruit that the literature tells you can be taste and this is one malt I prefer to take with water. (and ice of course)
10 year old Jura
This is one of my favourite single Malt Whiskeys and comes from the Isle of Dura which is populated by about 200 people called Diurach's (people from Jura) and a distillery. The origins of this distillery date back to 1810 but previous to that Whiskey is said to have been distilled on the island for many years before that. Jura really came into its own from the 1950's onwards when the, by then, out dated distillery was given a new lease of life. This particular 10 year old won the Silver award at the 2010 IWSC Awards.
The different whiskeys from Dura have symbolism on the label, this particular one denotes "birth" and signifies the rebirth of the distillery. The bottle is a distinctive shape unlike most Malt whiskeys which favour the traditional whiskey bottle style.
To the most important part, Jura should be sipped neat and or over ice. I personally prefer ice in my drink as I am not keen on warm spirits unless they come in the form of a hot toddy. As such to relax with a malt and take your time allows the ice to melt and you obtain a different level of taste each time you take a sip.
Jura 10 year old has a slightly sweet taste which is akin to honey or caramel and you can taste the suggestion of oak from the barrels it is mellowed in. There is the obvious alcoholic taste but this does not burn or is harsh in any way. I feel a warmth as I drink it and find it is a relaxing drink with good company. This is as far as my pallet takes me with this drink but apparently tastes such as coffee beans and soft liquorice can be tasted according to Jura's website. Personally I do not taste these when sipping the drink but probably glad that I don't.
A standard bottle in its cardboard packaging can cost up to £28 however I don't think I have ever paid more than £22. Waitrose had this 10 year old for sale for £21.99 only last week as a special. Most of the time the 10 year old can be found cheaper than the standard bottle of Jura.
The packaging makes the bottle good to wrap as a gift although be careful if you're thinking of a bottle bag as it won't fit the smaller ones. The packaging is very square.
For an extra bargain you can go onto the Jura website and sign up for emails which then allows you to become a "Honorary Diurach". This is registered at the distillery and special offers are sent out to all those that sign up. As a bit of fun they also give you your very own Diurach name and certificate
This is a very good single malt that has a distinctive taste and bottle. It helps to set it apart from the "run of the mill" malts and the taste - dependent what you add - is one to be savoured. A good quality malt for not a lot if you shop around.
Grass Roots Mystery Shopping
I joined the Grass Roots Mystery Shopping website back in 2009 and have so far completed 41 assignments. To get on board in the first place you need to fill out an application form and also give a brief summary as to what you think makes a good mystery shopper. Of course at this stage you can only guess or add in some research you have done as you probably won't have done any up to this point.
After being accepted you are then allowed to accept an assignment that is emailed to all mystery shoppers in your area. There is an ability to add two areas with times that you are in either to help the unwanted assignments to not land in your inbox.
***Quicker than a cat
You need to be almost on top of your email for the good assignments and this is fairly easy these days as most? People have some sort of smart phone linked to their email. If you don't have this facility then you will need to check email on a regular basis as the assignments tend to go very quickly from the website.
When you receive an email concerning the availability of assignment you log onto the website and the terms and conditions of the assignment can be read. This may be as simple as if you have a bank account with the bank that is being looked at then you may not be eligible to do the assignment. Other times it might be necessary to have an account with a particular bank or even branch.
Assignments can range from Banks to retail outlets, High St shops, travel agents or supermarkets. As I have found in the past it pays to read the assignment in its entirety as there is normally more than one job to do and at times this can go way past a normal shopping experience as you ask yet another question of a member of staff. I believe that members of staff are on the lookout for mystery shoppers as well, so it can be easy to be spotted on your first few attempts. My tip here is to keep to a story and don't deviate, act like you own the place and they will just think you're arrogant and try to resolve your issues quickly.
During the assignment you will need to keep a good eye on the time and also be able to remember detail of the people you have spoken to. It is not enough to just remember names you will need to remember height, build, eye colour, hair etc. This can be practiced just normally during the day and I found with practice that it comes easy after a while.
When you get back the report is filled out on the PC and this should be done in most cases within 24 hours of the assignment being completed. I find the sooner I do it the better as I retain a good amount but only in the short term. One good trick is to look at the building you are going to enter on Google earth or Google maps to get a good idea of the surrounding area and the layout of the street to see if you can loiter to make notes before and after going in.
These quick notes afterwards have proved invaluable on a couple of my assignments especially during travel agent ones as these can go on for a while. The report also has a spell check button that allows you to re-check your work and this I have found is very useful as it is easy to ramble when describing things at times.
You then submit the report for it to be checked by Grass Roots and they will call you or email you if there is a query. They have also phoned me previously concerning the accuracy of information which I believe was to allow a particular member of staff to be identified. If accepted you are then entitled to the fee that was stipulated.
Payment is made via BACS and I would suggest that you are not down to your last tin of beans in the kitchen when you see the words "payment pending" on the assignment that you have completed. Pay pal now takes about 5 min to transfer funds, Grass roots takes about 5 or 6 days to transfer funds.
Normal fee for a standard visit with no purchase requirement is about £10-£12.50. This depends on the requirement of the assignment. However some, especially supermarkets etc. will also reimburse mystery shoppers with any purchase they have had to make. This is normally between £1 and £5, the former for food shopping and normally the latter for electronic goods. Both the fee and reimbursement are paid at the same time, directly into the nominated bank account.
Don't do this to get rich - it isn't going to happen, however if you want to earn a couple of quid extra then it's not a bad choice of extra jobs. I personally do it to sharpen the memory and I find that you can train yourself to get better at recall the more that you do. Be careful not to spend more than you earn when carrying out the assignments.
Black Tower White Wine
The blast from the past for me, I thought this wine had moved onto the wine graveyard many moons ago but NO I was mistaken. A recent trundle around the Tesco supermarket has shown me that it is still there to adorn the dinner tables of the UK's households.
My first recollection of black tower was when I was about 9 years old (some time ago) and I drank some after my mother's dinner party. I am unsure how it tasted then as I probably had a mouthful of Christmas sweets at the same time. However I couldn't resist a bottle when I saw it at Tesco's and thought I would test out my years of "tasting wines".
The Black Tower brand has changed slightly and now comes in bottles that are clear as well as half clear and half dark. They were previously only in dark coloured bottles which was strange as this is a white wine.
You can now procure a Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Fruity White, Chardonnay, Rose, Pinot Noir or a Bubbly Pink. Their Chardonnay received the coveted Gold Medal in the Berlin Young Wine Trophy in 2009 and in fact this brand is one of Germany's best known wines.
The taste of the Riesling (which is the one I bought) is very subtle and fruity tasting, it has a crisp aftertaste but is very easy on the pallet. If you have ever drunk anything made out of elderflowers then the scented taste is not far away from that. (The flowers and not the berries as these are dark). I drank mine when we had a few friends around and with a bit of finger food (cold meats, olives etc) and the wine went very well with this type of meal.
I should say here I am usually a red wine drinker and not white but the nostalgic interest got me going enough to buy the bottle. However should you not fancy splashing out the £5.99 a bottle then you can buy a single serving from ASDA as they sell the smaller bottles at £1.48 although I have only seen the Rose in this size. But if you like it, then Tesco's sell it by the half case (6 bottles) which brings the price down further. Watch for Tesco special deals for this, normally on mix cases as well.
As I said something from my past which makes me bias to this product and in reality it is a good but wine that is easy to drink. I agree with other reviews here in that the taste is what matters and not the label, I like it so I buy it and drink it. Should you be worried about people thinking your stuck in the 70's then dont buy this wine. When I need a trip back to my childhood then this is the bottle to do it for me, like chatting with a childhood friend.
Low flying Dicky Bird
Well that's what we call it in our house, to the rest of you its called "Famous Grouse" and for those that don't know it is a whisky that was first created in 1896 when it was just called "Grouse" and then later when it became famous the owner added another word....guess what it was? This was in 1905 and the first time that we see "famous Grouse" as a branded product.
The spirit is made under royal warrant which was awarded in 1984. In 2006 "the personal" touch was launched that allowed you to purchase a bottle and add some words on the label. Have never done this but feel it could be a nice touch if you know of someone who is really into this whisky.
I do normally have a bottle of this in the house but it tends to be for non-whisky drinkers and normally when people want to add something to a whisky to "flavour it" As such I don't mind when they add Coca cola or lemonade as they are not missing a fine single malt but enjoying a blended whisky which are poles apart from each other.
However it would be rude to sip my single malts or even better Jack Daniels when such people come around and as such I enjoy a whisky with some ginger, known in our house as a ginger tailed low flying dicky bird" The taste of ginger with the whisky is excellent and you obtain sweetness from the ginger and harshness from the whisky. The aftertaste of the ginger and whisky are very complimentary and allows you to savour the taste especially if you add ice.
You can buy a bottle of Famous Grouse for £15-£18 dependent on retailer and be wary there are other makes like the snow grouse and the black grouse (not tried these so can't comment) However a standard three quarter litre bottle is the usual suspect in the supermarket although you can buy up to a 4.5 litre bottle should you have the need to do so. (I feel compelled here to state that all spirit websites advocate the "drinking sensibly motto").
All in all the low flying dicky Bird with a ginger tail gets my vote, not as a savouring fine whisky but as an enjoyable blended drink which has a very good pedigree. I would rate this particular whisky above some of the more common labels found on the shelf and it stands tall amongst such company.
***Whiskey / Bourbon?
Many people debate the need to label this spirit either as a whiskey or a bourbon and in fact Jack Daniels themselves say it isn't either it's just "Jack Daniels" and this is my experience, I am not sure that I have actually tasted a drink that is even close to the Single Barrel.
This alcoholic beverage is an American brand that is a bit more expensive than your usual brands of whiskey and sits in and around the malt Whiskeys. It can be found in supermarkets but not often although online it ranges from £37.75 up to £42.55 (at time of writing) . This does of course depend where you go and some retailers do take advantage of the fact that only a certain amount of bottles can be filled from the single barrel (about 240 bottles) .
Its individuality comes from the way that the "Single Barrel is matured in the highest reaches of our barrelhouse, where the dramatic changes in temperature cause its colour and taste to deepen further." (jack Daniels website)
The contents for the "single barrel bottle" are hand selected at, Lynchburg, Tennessee the home of the "Jack". By signing up to their emails and information service you are regularly updated with news from the distillery and also sent small items in the post, over the years I have had a passport wallet, card holder, ice cube maker etc.
I am a collector of Jack Daniels bottles and as such took the opportunity to purchase two bottles when I came back from Dubai earlier in the year. I did not get the chance to taste it until a recent gathering that we had around the house.
The single barrel is made from corn malted barley and Rye, barrels are crafted using cave spring water and all of this (and a traditional process) is overseen by the master distiller in the distillery. I do not get the strong whiskey taste that I have tasted from many single malts and there is only a little after burn. I also drink mine the recommended way and that is just with ice and nothing else. This allows a small amount of water to enter the spirit and provide a cooler taste.
However Jack Daniels is not just the drink it is the experience, the company promote that family feel and I have a sense of belonging to that family by choosing this as my preferred drink. I do not have any American connections and have never visited that side of the pond but for some reason I associate myself with the ethos of this drink. It is rugged, hometown, unlike anything else you are likely to drink and something with that little bit of difference.
Jack also have several limited edition bottles - of which I have a couple and they allow you to register those bottles on line. Again this is a buy in to you as a consumer but personally I like this and it makes it more than a transaction of money for alcohol.
A very good drink which is best served without any mixer save some ice as required. It is good as a "sit around and have a drink with friends drink" rather than "let's get hammered drink" although there would be nothing to stop you doing either. For me - and I am bias - it's a must have not just for collecting but also for drinking.
The Bath Store
We are looking at getting our bathroom brought up to date and I thought I would go in to the Bath Store to get a quote.
I found the store a bit confusing as the layouts were a bit jumbled and seemed to be crammed into the store. I had a good look around and came across a member of staff with two cups of tea and he was taking them to the staff desk. I walked around for about 10 minutes before the same person came back to me to ask if he could help me.
To be honest I felt like I had interrupted his tea break and what you have to consider here is that I was the ONLY person in the store. Granted it was a Wednesday afternoon and I guess not an expected busy period but I felt that the service wasn't quite there.
With the member of staff I looked at several options for the bathroom and settled on a product that I liked. The range is vast and I felt they catered for the modern, traditional and speciality. The good thing was that - within reason, you could mix and match the taps etc for the units. They also do a very informative colour brochure that has all their products listed and is of a good quality. Although slightly heavy.
----Sit down service
I was asked if I had time to plan my bathroom on their bespoke software which was good and made me feel like I was getting a bit of service from the member of staff. It showed where I could put the three piece unit I had chosen and what sort of room I would have left over - I had the dimensions of my bathroom before I went in.
This was printed out for me and I was given a copy all free of charge and it was produced in 3D as well - which looked OK but a bit cell like as the bathroom isn't large and only one window.
The overall price for the bath, sink and toilet was over £700, I felt this was expensive as I had priced others both in other DIY stores and the internet and similar units were several hundred pounds cheaper. I was called about a week later by the bath store asking if I had thought more about the order and offering a "one time only" 10 % discount on the original price. This was on top of their sale price that they were promoting.
Service was slow to start but got better as the visit went on and the range is very good. The software was quick and easy for the member of staff to use and having a plan is always a bonus.
Audi A6 2.0TDI.
I have owned a black Audi A6 for two and a half years and prior to that had an A4 1.9TDI and an Avant A4 prior to that. As you can guess Audi is a favourite name in our house.
**Body and shape**
The flowing lines of the A6 make the external shell look very aerodynamic and in my opinion very sleek. The Grill on mine covers the whole front of the car unlike the previous versions that stopped half way. The silver trim and black body work look great together and as long as it is regularly cleaned it will always look good.
The A6 has a lot of space for the driver and all the passengers. I have easily carried 4 others in the car and without any complaints. However for a more luxurious drive if you only have two in the back then a central armrest comes down. This armrest has a flap and an internal storage compartment which is useful if there is just the two people in the back. We keep DVD's in there at the moment so that my daughter always has a choice in case a journey turns into a saga because of the traffic.
The front passenger has plenty of leg room and the central armrest allows both driver and passenger in the front a little bit of arm resting room without any airplane squabbles. The internal to this front rest also has a lid and a compartment which is very handy for chargers and other electronic devices.
The Wheel is adjustable for driving comfort and the control panel can look a bit daunting at times, however once you get the hang of the MMI system then you can do it without taking your eyes of the road. The MMI system allows you to control (if fitted) The air con, Sat Navigation, Telephone via blue tooth, media - CD's and radio. It also allows you to set up all these devices on the settings to best suit you.
The Sat Navigation is a DVD version that is actually situated in the boot and can be updated by buying the next CD - very simple and easy. The CD changer is situated in the Glove compartment and takes 6 CD's and is very easy to change CD's. The Glove compartment is big enough to hold all the cases as well.
All four doors have space in an open compartment to the bottom of the door that can hold a fair bit of kit. I also replaced my carpet mats for rubber mats as I knew I would keep the car for a long period and wanted the floor carpet to last which by the way has worked.
The only odd thing in the internal of the car is a special drop down pocket near to the internal lights that is (I have been told) for putting your sunglasses in - mine don't fit in, so either I have too big a head or Audi drivers normally have small glasses. - You decide.
The bonnet leaver is also easy to use and located to the right hand side of the drivers well on the door side. The engine compartment is like a space ship and I do not profess to be an engineer by any means. However the oil and water and screen wash are easy to see and easy to pour into. Indicators for all three are integral to the management system on board.
**Tyres and servicing **
Servicing can be an expensive product when you discuss Audi's and I was very sceptical about taking the car to an Audi dealer. However I did due to a deal with Mot that they were doing and the service was £249.00. They did not charge any extras for items that they found and just advised on a couple of things. The tyres were replaced after 25,000 miles which I believe to be very good wear. I do this mileage annually.
My only gripe would be that the oil doesn't last as long as my last A4 - I believe I hardly ever filled that car up and I had it for 3 years. However the A6 has been serviced and then filled up by me some 6 months later. I spoke to Audi who told me that thinner oil is now used to stop wear and tear on the engine. It makes sense but I'm not convinced with this.
What can I say - I drive my A6 almost every day and she is a dream, she starts, she glides and she stops. I have driven BMW's and Mercedes but still prefer the overall performance of an Audi. A full 60 Litre tank will give me between 650-700 miles dependent on the type of driving carried out. All in all the A4 was better than this but only marginal and due to the body weight of the car.
The stats to this car are easy to look up on the Audi website but this review is about the experience of owning one and I didn't buy the car for the bhp.....which could mean briefs, hosiers and panties for all I know so I have stuck to what I know about the car which is not an engineers guided tour but a laymen's approach. - Hope it's useful
Moleskine Notebooks - What good are notebooks? (David Byrne)
If you have never come across a Moleskine notebook previously then here is a bit of history for you. Originally made by a small family owned French business in Tours and later on bought back to life and rebranded by a Milanese publisher in 1997. (Details on Moleskin Website www.moleskine.com).
Purportedly owned and used by a host of famous people which the website uses to give the books a degree of respectability. (Or to charge more?)
Moleskine produce many different varieties of books however I have only purchased 3 types and can only discuss these, they are:
Small notebook - 14cm x 9 cm, black. Lined throughout with just under a 100 pages the end papers are slightly thicker than the others and have a printed space for your name and address and a space for you to enter a reward amount , should you consider your little black book to be worth one. There is also a small concertina pocket to the rear for putting away those bits of paper that you keep losing and an integral elastic band that keeps the book shut when not being used. The covers are hard and covered in (My case) black leather type material and are rounded on the corners.
There is also a page marker attached as well, made of a sort of cloth material. Paid £7.04 with free delivery from Amazon.
I use this book for important numbers and passwords, it is small enough to pop in my pocket and robust enough to get bashed about a bit and still be in one piece when I find it. The pages can be awkward to write on but this is due to the size and you compromise the ability to write with the size on these products. Love this little book and never go far without it.
Medium Notebook - 13cm x 21cm - This book is exactly the same as the one above in every detail except the size. I use this one as a daily journal and have no issue writing on the pages and have taken it to the top of Ben Nevis and written in it there. Although to be fair the cold got to my fingers and it does look a bit like a spiders scrawl on that page.
The concertina pocket on this one is large enough to put postcards and larger items and I find very useful as I come across items that I want to stick into my journal but not straight away. It keeps them flat and stops them getting crumpled prior to sticking in. Again this is a hard backed book and this stays in my brief case most of the time as I use it on a daily basis. Over 200 pages to this book and I find using it as a journal very economical. Cost £9.92 from Amazon
Extra Large Notebook - 25cm x 19 cm Again this follows the standard rules for this type of book, the exception here is that I chose a flexible soft cover. I chose this because I wanted something for a specific event. In this case it was for my English Channel Solo crossing. It allowed me to pass the book around for people to write in prior and afterwards to the swim and also collect the countless cards and emails I received from people and stick them in like a scrap book. It also has the elastic cover holder which helps to retain the pages and the flexible covers allow some movement to allow for the now bulky look of the book. Cost for this one was £9.34 (but this was an offer and I bought two)
I have several of these books unused and waiting on the shelf, I buy them when I see them on offer which isn't very often. They are not the type of notebbok that you would want to buy and use as scrap paper. These books do look good but are also very practical and if used as journals or "little black books" then they will last a long time and become an economical buy. If you have some bits you want to stick in a book and keep for a one off event then again these are nice to use.
For daily notes and scribbling paper - use something else.
So to answer David Byrne (Talking Heads, Life During Wartime, Stop making sense album) "What good are notebooks?" - I think they are great, the better made the more I like them and each size has its own use. An extravagance that lasts.
Grand Burstin Hotel - Folkstone Harbour.
I needed a quick last minute stay near to Dover and wanted it to be cheap, I trolled the usual websites like trip adviser etc and came across "Grand Burstin Hotel" at £25 (yes that's right £25) for a Saturday night INCLUDING breakfast. Well what was the worst that could happen, other than it being run by Norman Bates and fictitious mother.
The Grand Burstin sits and dominates the whole length of the harbour at Folkstone and looks like it was designed to look like a channel ferry, it is very imposing and you will not need a map - just head for the harbour and you won't miss it. There is free car parking to the rear sides and front of the property and I believe there are also some underground but I didn't venture that far. No tickets required, you just need to supply your registration when booking in. The car park looked fairly secure and is separated from the harbour by a low wall. I did park to the front of the building as I was unsure about CCTV coverage to the rear.
The Hotel sits in the centre of a one way system although if you miss the car park entrance you do not have far to travel to come around again.
There are 550 rooms in the hotel which is a monster amount to have and probably was part of the reason for the special £25 deal that I had come across. I was allocated the room on arrival and pot luck sprung to mind. The booking in was easy and the person behind the reception was pleasant although very busy. My room turned out to have a double and a pair of bunk beds in it and a good sized bathroom. If I had paid £65 for a couple for this room I would still have been very pleased with what I had been given.
The room was very clean and tidy although the only window looked out onto a high level courtyard (small) with the other side being about 8 ft away. Stragnly I was told I was on the 14th floor and had to get a lift that was located through the bar and took no time to get to the 14th floor. However I later found out that this was part of the new refurbished part of the building and the lift only went to 3 floors - the 14th was the 14th floor in name alone it was actually about the 8th floor.
This is all very confusing and actually irrelevant to the stay and the standard of the hotel.
I was told there was a swimming pool and gym but I did not use either so can't comment however I got to see the bar area for a relaxing drink and also the dining area for breakfast. (More of that under the food heading)
The Bar area was Old and dated and as the evening went on I could see that the average age of the guests increased hour by hour. Talking to a barman he explained that they have a lot of coach parties due to the amount of rooms and the availability of getting them all in. When explained I could see that this was indeed the case as groups were forming in the bar area.
The entrance can seem a bit dark and has large glass doors that again look dated. There is little in the décor that tells you this is a modern or well-run hotel in fact the decoration leads you to think "neglect".
Breakfast was the only meal that I indulged in - it would have been rude not to as it was included in the price. It was a buffet style and sausages, bacon, egg, fried bread, tomatoes were all available. There was plenty of bread for toast - self-service toasters. The dining area did seem a bit like a old style coach café with Formica tops and wipe clean surfaces.
The food itself would be best described as adequate although if you were hungry there was nothing to stop you topping up on food for the day. The orange juice was very sweet and I suspect very cheap, the coffee (as I don't drink tea) was also of a passable grade but not good enough for a second cup.
There was a second dining area that I believe you could go into if you paid a premium on your stay. I was not aware of this until I asked about the other dining room that I saw. I guess that's where the posh people went. However I was enjoying my singular stay set slightly apart from these coach loads of people that seemed to move around the hotel as though they were still on a coach.
Service as described above for the reception and other than that there was little interaction with members of staff. The breakfast was very much a drift in with the crowds and drift out when finished. I do not have any negative comments to make about the staff and I guess the numbers staying in the hotel would determine the amount of time you would see a member of staff.
I need to explain my comment of "Burstin with laughter", I took the lift after a relaxing time in the lounge/bar and 3 other people also got into the lift. Two ladies and a man, the ladies were about 80 years of age and the man was probably a bit younger, all the worst for alcoholic consumption.
All three were holding two drinks each and winking at each other while trying to hide that they were doing this from me. It was out of "Dads Army" and when I got to my room I could do nothing for 5 minutes but laugh, hence the "Great Burstin with laughter"
However - the place fitted the bill, it was quick and easy to book, it was last minute which helped for the size of room. It was complicated on which floor you were staying and how high up this was in reality and the food was passable. However to grade this establishment on the back of the price paid then it gets 5 stars from me. But I may not use it for a romantic weekend away.
Premier Inn Dover - Marine Parade, Dover CT16 1LW
I have stayed at this particular Premier Inn on 4 occasions and all except for one have been very good experiences. Taken on the whole I believe the one was an exception however it did help me understand the system for Premier Inn stays a little better. I will explain this a bit further down.
Location / Parking
The Inn is situated at one end of the promenade on the Harbour front of Dover, approximately half a mile from the centre of Dover and 2-3 minutes from the Ferry Terminal. The harbour beach consists of pebbles along the whole front and only goes to sand/silt as the tide goes out (a long way out).
There is ample parking space to the front , side and rear of the property which is free for the duration of your stay - just remember to obtain a ticket from the receptionist for your car window. The staff will also give you this ticket if you turn up too early for your room which allows you to park the car for free while you do some last minute shopping in Dover. There are also disabled spaces to the front of the building.
The Premier Inn
The rooms are arranged over four floors and half have a sea view (harbour view) and the other half look out onto the car park. The ground floor rooms that look out onto the car park can be problematic if the dustbin men come early as they did on one of my stays. However when you book your room over the internet you can then phone up the hotel and request to a sea view on a particular floor with no extra costs incurred.
The rooms themselves are clean tidy and exactly what you would expect from a Premier Inn. I like the premier as it gives a certain amount of familiarity and you know - within reason - what you are going to get.
As with Premier inn's you can book with or without breakfast however the cost is the same if you decide to go for it in the morning at the last minute. Breakfast on every occasion at the "Table Table" restaurant attached to the side of the property, was excellent. The food is cooked to order and there is enough time between ordering and arrival of a cooked breakfast for you to sample the cereals, toast, croissants, etc that are laid out. Breakfast cost £8.99 (at time of posting this review) for an adult and children eat free (under 16's).
The evening meal or main menu is very well stocked and very tasty, there is a good choice of starters, main and deserts which could be classed as good pub grub. I did not have chance to sample the bar meals but the menu looked good. Both of these menus can be found on the website to keep you up to date with any changes. This is a real bonus as you can choose well in advance what you are going to have or in fact see if they do something that all your party will enjoy.
Reservations can be made at the time of booking into your room and this should be considered as I have found the place books up quickly and your wait (should you leave it to the last minute) can be in excess of 45 minutes.
The reception staff have always been pleased to help and always have a smile when you enter the reception. The one occasion that I stayed and had a bad experience was due to an odour on the ground floor that was due to some fishermen that were staying in the hotel. The Hotel staff tried to lessen its effect on my nostrils by keeping doors open and spraying "odour eating " sprays. It didn't necessarily do the trick but the attempt at nulling the smell was appreciated. The staff in the restaurant have also been very good and keen to make sure that you enjoy eating your meal there.
Like all Premier Inn's you can book over the phone or on-line. There are normally two types of booking which have different terms and conditions. The cheapest is to book well in advance and pay for the room there and then. This does not allow you to change your booking once made and if you are not quite sure of your dates then this is not for you. I have booked under this at £44 per double room excluding breakfast.
The second way is to book with the option of cancelling up to and including 1200Hrs on the day of arrival. This can be very handy if you are just not sure, however this is normally around £65. Last minute bookings in season see the prices rise and I have paid £92 last minute for a room excluding breakfast. The best deal I have obtained is for 3 rooms booked 5 months in advance that cost me £118 excluding breakfast, with the right to cancel up to and including the day of arrival. Look out for special offers and deals and sign up to their newsletter if you book on line as this can send you some cracking deals at £19 a room (not that I have booked any at this cost).
Exactly what I expect from a Premier Inn, its clean , tidy and a smiley face behind reception. A good atmosphere that is practically located for the Ferry terminal and a walk into town if you have time - or the inclination.