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I started smoking cigars when I was 20 through the influence of the father of a friend who was a big fan of Cuban cigars. He had a reliable source from Cuba and I lived in the US at the time. My first cigar being a Cohiba, I obtained a slight disposition for fine Cuban cigars. I came across the Hoyo de Monterrey during a trip to Costa Rica, where I was delighted to find a cigar that was smooth and not as strong as your Cohibas or Bolivars. The Epicure no. 2 is a robusto which draws well and is a pleasant smoke...not being to hard on the throat! If you enjoy Romeo and Julieta robustos, a Partagas D4 or the occasional Montecristo Torpedo, this is a pleasant surprise and a bit harder to find. I highly recommend it and if abroad in mainland Europe, a lot easier to find for a 3rd of the UK price. In fact most cigars are about half or a 3rd of the price. Hope you can find one and enjoy the smoke. As usual a fine Armagnac to accompany it is perfect!
I bought a Vespa towards the end of the summer and I must admit that the maneuvrability and handling of this scooter is very good. I bought it new with all the guarantees and specials. The replacement parts are cheaper than other scooters, but take time to order. The look of the scooter has barely changed in 20 years and has great classic/retro value. While purchasing this machine I did realise that the resale value is very good...I even saw a C reg Vespa for £1100! Additionally, many of these are stolen a year so do make sure you lock it to a lamppost whenever possible...you could have an alarm and both wheels locked, but at the end of the day people steal the ones that are easy to lift and put in a van. One of my major gripes against the scooter is the 4 gears on the left-hand side handlebar which between 1st, Neutral and 2nd can get stuck and cause all kinds of bother: you think you are in 1st gear and before you know it are slowly pulling away at lights while being honked at in 2nd gear. Also after long rides the wrist does take quite a pounding from the constant changing through gears. I do have problems with the scooter because I use to own a motorcycle which is sturdier and more responsive. The scooter is very light and not really made for 2 passengers. A slight loss of the steering will cause the bike to fall over. Additionally, there is no space for the helmet under the seat like other scooters, but it does have a spare tire...which I could never envisage myself replacing and have no clue how to replace given the situation. Overall it is a fun ride and can take a London city traffic jam in a heartbeat, but do be careful when riding at high speeds, because although it can go fast (100kph), the sturdiness is not there to go with it!
Snowboarding is a great sport and to be quite honest you don't have to have started at the age of 4 to be good at it. I started at the age of 18 when I saw snow for the first time in my life and have progressed over 10 years. Many people get turned off by the fact that during the first couple of days you will fall on your hands and knees and bottom, until you get the hang of it, but this should not disilusion you. If you were trying to learn how to ski, you would spend even more time falling down. Anyway, the sport is easy to learn and if you enjoy it, it is easy to pick up and get good at it. I admit that you will fall at the beginning and it can be painful but a couple of tips for beginners always help to make it a better experience: - You can start wearing soft boots and this is easier to learn, but if you want to have better style and form it is better to learn with hard boots but this is harder to master (like ski boots). - When learning always keep your hands in fists (as if you were boxing) as this helps protect your wrists when you fall. - Always try to keep your knees flexed and as close together as possible. This is to help you keep your centre of gravity on the board and will also keep you from falling over as much. - Stand low on the board which will come naturally if you follow the point above. - Wear warm clothes because you will be on the snow a lot as you learn and it is not worth being cold. - Before going up a chairlift, play around with the board with one foot in your front footstrap and riding it like a skateboard. Push yourself with your free leg and then step onto the board between the bindings. This will help you get used to getting off chairlifts, as you are not in strapped into both bindings while riding the lifts. - On chairlifts try to be on the ends when sitting down so that you get a bit of clear area to come off it at the top. - When starting to do turns make sure you t
hrow your arms into the direction of the turn, so that you commit and can complete the turn. If your arms are in the opposite direction you end up flailling your arms as you enter a turn and might end up not doing the turn and falling. In summary these are a couple of points which are always helpful and many people forget to do when learning. So get a board follow these points and have fun. By the way, powder riding is much more enjoyable and effortless on a board then on skis!
I have been snowboarding for 10 years and have owned 6 different boards and bindings and to be quite honest Burton has had the most durable bindings I have ever come across. Burton have been building snowboards and bindings for years, and their freestyle bindings are by far the best pair I have boarded with. I have found them to be durable enough to take even the hardest of beatings on the hills. Compared to step-in bindings which I managed to rip off the board when taking a jump a bit too hard. With the Burton bindings you wont have this problem, but you must make sure that the plates at the bottom of the bindings are correctly fixed andmake sure that you check them regularly because they do come loose after a lot of use. These are bindings that need almost no maintenance and the ratchet system for tightening the binding straps are very strong and have a quick release as well....which is a gem for riding the lifts. My only real gripe against these bindings and Burton bindings as a whole is the cost...after spending 400 GBP on a board, having to dish out another 150-200 GBP is a nightmare, but my advice is that you are buying quality and Burton will replace damaged equipment for new equipment if something does break. This is a pair of bindings that will lat you 3-4 seasons and will adapt to almost amy other makeof boards.
We seem to be loosing a lot of mortgage business through our early redemption penalty. Customers readily accept that if they change their mortgage during the first year they should be penelised. However, to extend this for three years after the end of the fixed rate period puts us at a diadvantage when competing against other lenders. Noteably Cheltenham & Glouster and Northen Rock. Peoples perception of this penalty is that it is sneaky and excesive and that we are not confident of our customer serve to retain customers when the revert to the standard variable rate.
I saw the Dome being built, from my apartment balcony, over the months and then finally got to visit it before it was opened. A quiet word with the security guard and words about how I was a taxpayer and was paying for it allowed me entrance to the site(although lottery money was used, there was probably more put in...as usual)!?! I must admit that the site was impressive and the building is quite large, but I still wanted to know what exactly was it going to be used for later...I mean this thing is in the middle of nowhere...What could you possibly use it for after the Millenium Experience closes. When I visited, I was mildly amused and it was more about the architecture and sheer size rather than the experience... My suggestion would be for it to be used as a large concert hall: now that would be impressive! As a law abiding citizen and taxpayer I still fail to see the advantages of the dome unless it where to be used to host the next Olympics or a Pink Floyd revival concert. What will the government come up with next: maybe closing off London and charging a cover to get in!?!?
This was the original internet cafe until Stelios came along with easyeverything! Anyway, the good thing about this web oasis in the middle of Soho is 1. location and 2. service! The webshack has great atmosphere and student prices for web access. I particularly find the staff really helpful and so nice...there is always music playing and they can make great cappuccinos and milkshakes. The location is great if you want to be close to the centre and not have to fight the lines of easyeverything...and in many respects this has more of a cafe/lounge feel rather than a net supermarket, and additionally there are couches while you wait! And you can smoke! Definitely worth a visit and the staff have good taste in music and will help you with any queries. Great fun: send a video and audio message to friends as an attachment to your email and drink a beer while doing it!?!
Another brilliant product from our friends in Japan...I have not bought myself another CD since having purchased this little machine! It has proved to be most useful, especially if you are an active person...no skipping like those portable players and the size is ideal. It has been amazing to be able to rollerblade without a single skip and it has done wonders while riding a motorcycle on back roads. Technically, the recording power of the minidisc is amazing and crystal clear (comes with an optical fibre for direct recording from CDs). The ear phones are great and the remote control on them is amazing! But, beware of trying to use the cumbersome buttons to write the names of the songs or discs...you'll probably end up not saving them anyway! There are some problems however, one is the invention of the MP3 player which will erradicate most forms of music as we know it (apart from vinyl)! The other is that you can not use the power source and charge the battery. Whilst on the subject of the NiCad battery... its life is not the longest and the extra battery pack makes the minidisc heavier and bulkier! I guess you can't have it all, but this is a great buy and you will have hours of entertainment.
Having Spent a year living in Barcelona, I have fallen in love with a city which I would put on a par with Rio de Janeiro in Brasil or Vancouver in Canada. The people are great and the city is more laid back than Madrid, which must be due to the sea air which filters through the city and keeps it buzzing well into the wee hours of the morning (be ready to have dinner at 11pm and be out on the town till 5am)! Rarely does one get a large enough city by the sea that is liveable (ie not too small)! The sea provides for nice places to lounge out in the summer and the added advantage of having the Pyrenee mountains to the north, allows for great skiing in the winter and is an easy 1.5hrs away. Basically, Barna (as called by the local catalans) is a Roman city which grew to become one of the wealthiest cities, both culturally and industrially, in Spain. Lately the city has been regenerated by both the Olympics in 1992 and also the Catalan's government efforts to make the city more beautiful by paying part of reforms to old buildings. The real beauty of Barna comes in its architecture and art: Gaudi and Picasso both lived here and provide a lot of the art which can be seen throughout the city. In terms of the nightlife, Barna has plenty to do...but don't fall in to the tourist traps and remember there are plenty of locals, even giris (foreigners) that live there that can point you towards the right places. No matter what you are told avoid Mare Magnum in the Port Vell at all cost (a monumental tourist trap with expensive drinks). The Port Olimpic offers a wide variety of bars/clubs and restaurants if you don't feel like venturing too much around the city. But for the true connoiseur stick to the Barrio Gotico and check out the plethura of bars down different nooks and crannies of Barcelona's old city (but beware of your wallet and handbags because there are pickpockets like every major city)!?!
Rubens Barrichelo is another Sao Paulo native who rose through the ranks of Brazilian motor-racing to then become one of the F1 drivers of the international circuit. He has been consistent over the years but has always been in the background, due to be racing for bad teams with terrible mechanics. He had been overshadowed by Senna who was a great driver and who he will never be able to live up to, but Brasil stopped following F1 with such a fervour after Senna's death and now more recently they have begun to support the unknown brazilian star! He has been driving consistently over the past years and has now managed to clinch the second driver position at Ferrari with Schumacher, who in my opinion lacks any charisma to be world champion: git! Anyway, the Barrichelo/Ferrari combination spells success and should help him excel at what he is good: driving. "Rubinho" has the experience and determinatiuon to bring back the world championship to Brasil, and he would dedicate it in memory of his good friend Ayrton Senna!?!
The Ericsson T10s has proved to be a rugged phone, apart from the flip cover which is useless for communications purposes, but stops you from pressing the buttons unwantedly. It size is a plus and proves quite handy for the pocket. The phone has many improved aspects from its earlier model which has gone in to the history books: it has more lines in the screen but still quite small, the phone vibrates and has been made a bit more streamlined. There are some problems with the phone however: when on vibrate mode the phone can vibrate off tables and onto the floor, which brings me to my second problem with the phone...the flip top can easily break off and is hard to replace if it hasn't broken on impact. The other problem is that the phone does not switch off when you close the front cover...which can be a hassle when lending the phone to friends who return it to you with a 15 minute call still ongoing...maybe this was a deal between manufacturer and service provider...great revenue generator!?! Aesthetically the phone looks good but the colour schemes are mediocre and personally give me a grey or black phone over sky blue or yellow!
I must say after all the Disney cartoons coming and going, coming and going...all good but a bit repetitive...it was a relief to see part 2 of a classic, but with mixed feelings before arriving: How could part 2 be any good? The usual characters are in it: Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Mr Potato Head, Slinky and Piggy Bank, among others. Toy Story 2 had me in stitches, apart from the animation which was mind blowing, the humour was for children and also didn't bore the adults. I took my kids and absolutely loved it and was howling when the outtakes were included at the end. The guest appearance by Zorg, Buzz's long lost father was a great touch and helped us remember that we were once kids too (Star Wars analogy); and tour guide Barbie made the movie for me. Overall a humorous and well written movie and don't forget to stay for the out takes...
I have owned a Ducati 600SS foir three years now and have loved owning such a good machine. After years of being a lumbering italian company with many problems with electrics and just a beautiful model to show for, the management was reshuffled (1995) and a new company was born. This was my first bike and a great step for someone who wants to get into motorcycles...not too much CCs but enough to get you going. Its twin-cylinder engine works beautifully and you will become amazed at how much you love the deep sound of a ducati rather than the whine of four cylinders...it is addictive! I bought my SS in 98 (97 model) and have ridden it all over England and Europe, just came back from a 3 day 1600 km trip (Barcelona-London) and it worked and purred over winding roads and even the highways. It did however scream for a 6th gear as I had it revving at 8000 rpms at 180 km/hr. The bike loves a good burn and has the acceleration required for smooth riding, but the top-end speed lacks so if you want to whizz around at 200+ km/hr...this is not for you. In terms of maintenance, I have had no problems apart from the usual wear and tear...tires and brakes. The motorcycle is easy to tinker with and has a relatively simple engine with easy access (fearings are easily removed). Overall this is a fun bike (fast and reliable)! It has a comfortable enough riding position for a bit of fast riding, but can be a bit tiring on long rides and in the city. Its turning radius is also a bit tight so don't expect scooter agility in city traffic!
It had been a long time since an epic had come to the silver screen...well done! The photography, screenplay and costumes are amazing and this is basically a love story with plenty of blood and violence for the lads. A hard topic to film, but very well executed and it had been years since there was a good Roman times movie. In a nutshell, Maximus is the Roman General turned Gladiator turned saviour of the Roman empire. After a dispute over the succession, Comodus (as he believes) banishes Maximus to a cold blooded death and executes his family. Maximus is enslaved and returns as a gladiator and in an act of revenge a la Shakespeare, becomes the Roman hero that saves the nation from the evil grip of Caeser Comodus. Brilliant acting by Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix. The movie is well delivered and very well filmed, although its length was of epic proportions, it maybe was too long! Apart from that a must see...
Costa Rica is a beautiful country with a mix of beaches, volcanoes and tropical jungle. The country is still unspoilt by tourism and the beaches are national parks, making for lovely scenery and natural wildlife. The country has very good eco tourism including hiking, national wildlife parks, whitewater rafting, scuba diving, windsurfing and canopy tours. Getting to Costa Rica by plane is not a problem...there are direct flights on BA. The problem arises in expensive car rentals and terrible roads (there are many dirt roads which require 4WD in the rainy season). Accommodation ranges from cheap B&Bs to grand hotels. An added bonus to the country is friendly local people called Ticos...who are always willing to help and many speak english.