Tag Archives: review

Hotel Review: Mediterranean Hotel Limassol – Cyprus

We stayed in this hotel during our stay in Limassol and we were positively impressed by the beauty of the hotel and its facilities and by the almost perfect service offered. Quality of the food and management of pools and beach facilities are outstanding as well as the provided entertainment and security services. The hotel had just few negative points that you might want to consider in order to keep under control your expenses and properly plan your stay.

We reached Limassol from Paphos by using the Intercity Bus, a very convenient mean of transportation that connects the major cities in Cyprus and hopped off at Old Limassol Port. From there we caught Bus 30 and reached the hotel in 20/25 minutes. Indeed, the hotel indeed is quite far from the city centre.

When we arrived at the hotel, the doorman (a single doorman) was busy with someone else, hence we had to carry our luggage by ourselves. The check in was quick and hassle free and appreciated the warm welcome the desk operator gave us.

When we reached our room, we found a bottle of spumante (sparkling wine from Italy) and a chocolate mousse cake to celebrate our anniversary. Really a nice touch we have appreciated and the cake . . . wow it was super good. The room was spacious and well-furnished and the bed very comfortable.

The washroom was alright even though there weren’t as many amenities as we expected. No shaving kit, no toothbrush or paste, hence you might want to take them with you and no bathrobe or slippers. The shampoo and soap provided, on the contrary, were of great quality.

The best part of the room was the balcony and the fantastic view offered.

Mediterranean Hotel Room View

The breathtaking view from our Mediterranean Hotel Room – Photo rights reserved

We have immediately enjoyed the beach and the pool facilities that looked so inviting. We had to collect our towels from the gymnasium and select an available chaise lounge. We were impressed by the cleanliness of  the hotel and by the efficient security service that were patrolling the facility and quickly block beggars or unauthorized sellers.

The beach facility was very well maintained, clean and enjoyable. The hotel policy is that you cannot secure your bench for more than one hour in your absence. This solution guarantees a constant availability of lounges and reduces the number of complaints from other guests. The sand is dark color and it gets very very hot during the day, hence remember to wear flip flop or other beach shoes to move comfortably from/to the sea and around.

Mediterranean Hotel Beach - Limassol by AndreaDetto

The beach facilities at Mediterranean Hotel are great. – Photo rights reserved

One negative note is the price of food and drinks served at the beach or the pool. After few hours under the sun, we had to order some drinks: a big bottle of water and a lemonade. Nothing special but we ended up paying few Euro for a bottle of local water that in the street shops in front of the hotel costs 0,50/0,75 Euro. Same for other drinks and cocktails that are slightly more expensive than the average prices we have paid outside the hotel. Food is superb even though a bit pricey if you decide to go A La Carte. The most convenient option is to get advantage of the excellent daily buffet that is cheaper and provide you with a great variety of food options.. Just to have an idea: we had a lunch buffet for something around 20 Euro per person, while a single main course was around 15 Euro. We found the service always excellent and attentive.

Mediterranean Food Selection - photo by AndreaDetto

The food quality and taste was excellent as well as the service. In this photo sea food salad and halloumi sandwich – Photo rights reserved

The hotel is very alive and provide a great selection of entertainments that is weekly repeated. We had the chance to enjoy a Greek buffet at one of the many restaurants available and the entertainment was amazing with Greek music and dancers and an extraordinary equilibrist who was holding a tower of 20 glasses on his head. there were other organized nights with Italian buffet, live Jazz music and so on. Definitely a nice stay. The only little problem is that if you have a sea view room and want to stay in your room and relax, you might be annoyed by the music and laughs that, however, eventually stop at 11pm circa.

Mediterranean Hotel Interiors - photo by AndreaDetto

The hotel is very well decorated both inside and outside. – Photo rights reserved.

The WiFi coverage is great and works perfectly in the rooms, restaurants, pool and beach area. Concierge and front desk operators were very helpful and polite and ready to answer to all our questions.

Regarding the expenses, remember that water is not daily provided in your room and hence you are forced to buy it from within the hotel. As already said, it is more expensive than outside the hotel and therefore you might want to smuggle it in your room from a local shop. It can seem silly, but if you drink an average of 2 bottles of water a day per person, you might easily save a 10/15 euro per day.

The shops that are in the hotel should be avoided if possible. We have found magnets and other souvenirs costing even 10 times more than outside the hotel and swim suites costing up to 200 Euro while in the shops in Limassol city there are much cheaper options. Moreover, we asked for a late check out that was granted for few hours for a small fee of 15 Euro.

If you have to go to the airport from the hotel, ask the concierge to book for you a shared taxi. It is really convenient because it will cost you only 12 Euro per person and it is much faster than the available buses.

Hotel Review: Constance Ephelia Resort – Seychelles

We visited Seychelles some time ago and found the Islands amazing. There are many reason to visit Seychelles, as well summarized in this article.

It is quite complicated to rate this hotel because it has great potentials and various pros but also many areas of possible improvement that sometimes generate disappointment. We stayed in the hotel, one of the most expensive in Mahe island for 4 days enjoying a special offer granted by the Entertainer Middle East with a free night.

General Pros

One of the pros of the resort is that it is located in a 120 hectares of tropical forest and includes many protected areas where it is possible to admire spectacular flora and fauna. There are few Albadra giant turtles, one of which is 104 years old; there are many species of birds and crabs, a mangrove forest and many fruit bats that fly just before the sunset.  The presence of the coral reef on the northern beach of the resort allows snorkel lovers and scuba divers to enjoy the beauty of the sea life.

The resort architecture is brilliant. Very elegant and clean with a lot of well maintained tropical plants all over the property. Being so widespread, a system of boogie transportation is available to transport you from south to north and vice versa in case you might be tired and do not want to walk some 20 minutes from one side to the other.

Peacocks are present on the island as well

Another plus for this resort are the available free activities to entertain in an easy and nice way the guests whether it is a sunny day or a raining one. We tried the Fruit and Spices tasting, where a local guy described the local production and allowed you to taste some particular fruit like the star fruit, passion fruit and so on. We tried the photographic tour around the resorts during which a local guide brought us in stunning places ideal to take nice photos while he told to us many interesting facts regarding Seychelles, its people and its culture. We enjoyed the Hiking tour that is a medium level trek. You will be asked to walk in sometimes difficult terrain and conditions and as such is not for everybody. No flip flops, no technology with you because you will be asked to walk few meters in the sea. A nice activity is feeding the turtles every day at 4 p.m. – a must see for kids even though it is worth paying a visit for ‘older’ ones too.

Daily sessions of gym, meditation and abs are also scheduled and could be very useful to kill some hours in case of a rainy or cloudy day. Free availability of kayaks and other marine equipment help the guests to enjoy the beautiful sea.

The resort is the perfect destination for honeymooners, families (they have a kids zone and separate villas for them) and couples in general, however if you inform them that you are in honeymoon the resort will shower you with presents that are not available/offered for normal couples.

The staff is very polite and attentive and always providing a smile and a happy face whenever you encounter them. The locals are even more positive and friendly, ready to talk to you and greet you on whichever occasion. Having been a French colony, the majority of the crew speaks French other than English; however considering the amount of Italians guests, the hotel employed some Italian native speakers and the locals learnt enough Italian to understand and be able to answer basic questions.

The food is very nice and served in different restaurants that provide different cuisines. Corossol, the main restaurant for BB, HB and FB guests, offers a great breakfast and dinner buffet with a mix of English, Italian and Creole food that should guarantee to have everyone happy.

The south beach from the helipad

General Cons

We experienced some difficulties during our stay and would like to share with you all in order to help you in better planning your stay in this resort that is anyhow very respectable.

In the first place, we had some problems in booking our room via e-mail. Or better, the room was duly reserved by the appointed personnel but we received the confirmation only a few hours before our departure from home. We called many times and it was impossible to find the right person at the working station. Maybe we are a little spoiled being used to Dubai standard, but a 5* resort should have a dedicated task force to manage such a important thing.

We were assigned to a Junior Suite at the extreme east of the property (on the right on the map) that was very well furnished and decorated. There were many amenities available like soap, shower gel, hair drier and the like, with the exception of toothbrushes and toothpaste. Hence bring it from home if you do not want to be forced to buy one there where surely it is more expensive.

Based on my experience, I would suggest to get a Junior Suite on the first floor: more privacy, generally a better view and a different feeling in staying on a veranda instead of the ground floor where people could possibly walk in front of you all the day long.

We experienced many troubles with the boogie service that rarely passed in front of our accommodation when needed. Many times we called the reception for it and awaited more than 20 minutes before deciding to walk all the way to the reception. Not a big deal if it is sunny, but a very annoying thing if it rains.

We were on a Bed & Breakfast basis and hence we could enjoy the breakfast buffet at Corossol restaurant and then we had to pay separately for lunch and dinner.

The first day for lunch we had two sandwiches, one beer and one water at Cabana, the little kiosk located on the north beach, for 550 SCR (around 42 USD)!!. So we decided to stuff ourselves at breakfast and tried to skip lunch whenever possible.

For dinner the cost calculation is more complicated. We were offered to upgrade from BB to HB for 50 Euro each (total of 1,640 SCR per day per couple). Well, considering that an open dinner buffet is 1,900 SCR per couple (drinks are excluded), it is convenient to upgrade to HB.                       However we had dinner in Adam&Eve restaurant and paid a la carte for 2 appetizers, 2 mains, 1 side dish and 2 desserts together with a beer and water only 1470 SCR!! Much less if compared to the 1,640 SCR for 6 dishes and drinks excluded. So be careful with the hidden costs that can reach a significant amount at the end of your holiday.

Another area of improvement is the beach management. The south beach is abandoned. Almost no service, a few lounges, no towels. Just sand and the sea. The Junior Suites have a series of pools available well equipped, but if you want to enjoy the beach you have to go to the north one. Once there, if it is peak time, you will find that almost all of the beach chairs are taken and start walking up and down as looking for a parking spot in a very busy mall. The beaches are quite small but surrounded by a gorgeous tropical flora that provides a natural shelter when the sun is stronger. In relation to this, please note that the sun is very strong and as such you are recommended to bring a sun lotion of medium to high coverage degree,

Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the peak days whereas the other weekdays seemed to be more quiet.

Conclusion

The resort is very well equipped and definitely can assure you a pleasant stay. Just take note of the few problems we encountered in order to be ready and prepared minimizing the disturbances and lowering the extra budget of your stay.

Paphos Sea Cruises – A big disappointment

It was our last day in Paphos before moving to Limassol where we ended our holiday in Cyprus. We enjoyed the UNESCO world heritage site and decided to explore the beautiful west coast of the island by cruising from Paphos up north to Coral Bay, Lara Bay and Akamas Peninsula.

We got various brochures and informations from the numerous kiosks present at the Marina and asked our hotel’s tour operator to arrange the booking for us. Among the various options, we opted for a full day sea cruise offered by Paphos Sea Cruises that promised to have beautiful scenery of the coastline, Coral Bay, the Sea Caves, St. Georges Island, Lara Bay (Turtle Beach) in its itinerary with, pick-up/drop off at hotel, open bar, lunch and seasonal fruits included in the price.

The next morning we were timely picked up by a bus rented from a wedding celebration company. Once arrived at the harbour we were welcomed on-board of the Sea Star boat and let free to choose our favorite spot. Unfortunately, there were very limited sun bed available that were taken in few seconds by the first comers.
We managed to secure a seat on the deck eventually; others were forced to stay inside or close to the anchor mechanism.

Soon after the cruise started, the captain informed us that the weather was getting bad, hence the sea rough and therefore he decided to turn the boat eastwards for safety reasons. He assured that the B plan was entertaining and exciting as the original one.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Instead of exploring a good deal of coast, we managed to navigate a few miles and have a swim in a perfectly useless bay close to our hotel!!! Definitely not the same value nor excitement as promised.

Paphos Sea Cruises Itinerary

The B plan offered is not even comparable with the original itinerary (A)

During the cruise music and live singing entertainments were provided. However, since the majority of the tourists were Russian, the live songs performed were pure Russian music!! I am in Cyprus and would expect to hear Greek music or party music or chill out music during a cruise, certainly not Russians hits.

The cruise offered the possibility to have two swim stops and to enjoy free snorkelling gears and canoes. For the snorkelling gears, they were completely useless since the Timis Bay where we stopped, had just sand to admire. Moreover, with more than 50 passengers, there were just 2 canoes!!!

Finally it came the time to enjoy lunch. Bread, salad, butter, jacket potato, boiled vegetables, boiled rice, pasta with tomato sauce and grilled chicken. Just one piece of grilled chicken.
The pasta was something outrageous, at least for an Italian. The rest was just ok even though I was expecting something different in light of the previous experiences we have done around the world.

The boat had tables enough to accommodate 20 people only, the others had to eat somewhere else.

At 2 pm circa, we were offered bananas and watermelon. Very tasty and appreciated under the sun.

I guess if the weather was good and the cruise went the “right” direction, we would have enjoyed it much more, notwithstanding the Russian songs and the very fair lunch. Definitely, Russian speaking people had enjoyed the cruise more than we did.

I would have personally preferred to be dropped at the harbour and refund some money, leaving us upset with the weather but not felling cheated by the organizers.

Vietnam Holidays – Sa Pa

After the long train trip from Hanoi as described in one of the previous posts, we eventually arrived at Lao Cai Train Station, the nearest station to Sa Pa, which is at some 4 km from the Chinese border. Once arrived there, we realized that almost all the people on the train were tourist and the station was filled by tourist guides patiently waiting for their guests. We took a while before spotting our local guide, Miss. May Cham belonging to the Red Dao ethnic group, who immediately started briefing us about the plan of our stay and anticipating the singularities of the place, its cultural back-ground and history.

SaPa from different angles by AndreaDetto

SaPa from different angles

Sa Pa as an unique climate that changes during the day in what looks like a predetermined fashion. A tourist information panel in the town reads: “there are four seasons a day: cool spring in the morning, sunny summer in the noon time, cloudy autumn in the afternoon and cold winter in the night time” and I can assure that it is true.   Sa Pa was a very small village inhabited by local tribes that moved from north to find arable land and conducting a very simple life based on rice and other vegetable cultivation. For this reason the village remained basically unknown to most of the people living outside the Lao Cai province for centuries. Only when the French came in this part of the world and conquered Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia creating the so called “French Indochina” in the late 19th Century, SaPa started being known to foreigners because of its favorable and curative (the French thought so) climate. For this reason, soon Sa Pa started appearing in the national maps and became destination for those people affected by chronic illnesses and bad health conditions. The WWII and the three sino-vietnamese wars mined Sa Pa ability to attract people, condition that remained unaltered until the ’90s when the doors to international tourism were definitely opened and thousands tourists started flowing in the little city to enjoy the particular weather, the breathtaking landscapes and wonderful trekking paths between the different tribes’ villages and rice paddies.

Once we arrived in the little lovely town, we were literally ‘assailed’ by many Hmong women colorfully dressed greeting us with a ‘Xin Chao’ (Hello in Vietnamese) and a lots of questions like “Do you buy from me?”, “Maybe Later?”, “Maybe Sure?”. Our local guide told us that the women work represent the major source of income in the household and they soon learnt that tourists have money and they are pretty much willing to spend it in souvenirs. For the local minorities used to work the land and not having electricity at home, even few dollars could be a significant amount, allowing them to buy some goods from the neighboring cities.

The women community in SaPa

The extraordinary women community in SaPa.

With this crowd of Hmong women following us (see the photos above) and continuing begging to buy something from them, we visited Sa Pa town first and then Cat Cat (Black Hmong) and Ta Phin (Red Dao) Village by amiably trekking through the rice paddies. During our stay we noticed that only women were around with their colorful dresses, different hats (red, black, big, small), some with black teeth (they believe it is sexy) other with big earrings. All dedicated to the fields work, taking care of the children and the household, selling products and souvenirs to tourists . . . we were told, indeed, that men are quite lazy and willing to drink and relax only.

We had the possibility to visit some houses in the mentioned villages and found them very different from our comfortable-provided-with-everything modern apartments. They have a big room where they cook, enjoy their meal, store corn and rice and take a rest. The proper bed room is in another space well isolated from the ‘common’ area. The various minorities follow Confucianism, Buddhism and Catholicism (imported by the French) but the majority of them believe in the Ancestors that continue living in the same house protecting the families.

saPa Market by AndreaDetto

Sa Pa Market – live fish, chickens, pork, spices and herbs, vegetables

The environment is quite in danger being a common practice to burn the forest in order to increase the arable area to grow rice and corns. We were told that the Government started implementing adequate information campaign with the hope to stop the deforestation in progress. Another curious thing is that the government has provided each and every local community with a clinic with qualified nurses to guarantee an adequate first aid and medical coverage but the local people do believe in the traditional Chinese medicine (based on the use of roots and other natural products) and for this reason the clinic are always empty.

The restaurants available in Sa Pa are generally very good, being the ingredients very fresh and directly available from the local farmers. However I would recommend you to enjoy a dinner at Little SAPA Restaurant where the massive presence of Vietnamese people indicates the food is really Vietnamese. The simple life that the Vietnamese have is a kind of assurance that each and every food you are going to enjoy, either it is a local pig or vegetables, it is made with 100% organic products.

A glimpse of SaPa's life by AndreaDetto

A glimpse of SaPa’s life

Restaurant Review: Rosso – Dubai

Last visited in February 2015

Location: Anwaj Rotana Hotel – JBR

Style: Italian

I have been in Rosso many times in the past and I always received a good service and excellent food. We liked the food, the fact that it has a terrace and a lively bar and the discounts granted by the TimeOut City Card. We used to go there very often and usually ordered Mains but sometimes we were more oriented in enjoying appetizers and mains.

We had so many lovely dinners there that I was really surprised in noticing, during the last quarter of the year, that the Pizza was really awful. The quality of the ingredients used as topping was really low (the ham on my pizza was one of the cheapest quality) and the dough chewy. The pizza was really salty and we had to drink water all night long to digest it.

I was so upset that I wrote a very nasty comment on TripAdvisor, which received the Manager apologies and commitment towards an immediate improvement. I went back a Saturday afternoon for a late lunch. It was February 2015 and I decided to give to the Pizza another try. I was pleased to note, or better to taste, the difference. The pizza was again as good as before.

The Tommy and Tuppence saga by Agatha Christie

I first met Agatha Christie’s books few months ago during my stay in Dubai. My sister is a big fan of Agatha’s stories and I thought it could have been a good idea to give a try to one of her books in English also to improve my English skills. Well I think I was very lucky in picking “By the Pricking of My Thumbs”, an astonishing novel with two amazing characters: Tommy and Tuppence. I literally fell in love with these two characters and I quickly read all the books where they are the protagonists.Chronologically, the sequence of the books about these characters is as follows.

1922 – The Secret Adversary
1929 – Partners in Crime
1941 – N or M?
1968 – By the Pricking of My Thumbs
1973 – Postern of Fate

Even though I read them randomly, I will report their review in a chronological order.

The Secret Adversary

Returned in London after the war, soldier Tommy Beresford and nurse Prudence Cowley, know as “Tuppence”, were desperately looking for a job and money. Not having other practicable and immediate options, they decided to found “The Young Adventurers, Ltd” in order to merge their necessity to live adventures and earn their salary. With a series of unpredictable coincidences and smart deductions, Tommy and Tuppence found themselves involved in one of the most delicate and complex case ever. A mysterious Mr. Brown, whose identity is unknown, is looking for a secret Treaty that could destroy England ruling family and parliament.

 The identity of the arch-criminal, the elusive “Mr Brown”, is cleverly concealed to the very end, leaving the reader with an intense desire to complete the book as soon as possible.
 A fantastic novel, rich in suspense that will literally take your breath away.

Dedication of the book: “TO ALL THOSE WHO LEAD MONOTONOUS LIVES IN THE HOPE THAT THEY MAY EXPERIENCE AT SECOND HAND THE DELIGHTS AND DANGERS OF ADVENTURE”.

Partners in Crime

This book is a short stories collection glued together by a main story where Tommy and Tuppence old friend Mr. Carter, that works for a governmental secret agency,  contacted the adventurous couple to take over the “International Detective Agency” recently turned in a spy stronghold and act as the owners in order to intercept any enemy messages coming through.

Meanwhile the duo could manage the agency as they like and  they did not waste a so intriguing chance. They therefore were involved in 14 different stories before solving the assignment given by Mr. Carter.

In the book the couple hired the young Albert who will assist the couple in all the future books.

The end of the book reserve a great surprise that I do not reveal as many other blogs and website are eager to do in order to do not spoil your reading.

N or M?

I really enjoyed this book that reserves continue surprises, twists and turns to the reader.

The story is set in England during the WWII when Tommy was asked to investigate about the Fifth Columns, a secret German agency that was operating in England in order to get as many information as possible to help the Nazi to win the war. Even though Tommy was supposed to investigate alone, the stubbornness of Tuppence who followed Tommy anyway had a very positive influence in solving the intrigue.

Everything started when a British secret agent left a cryptic message on his deathbed: “N or M. Song Susie” that for the MI5 agent Mr. Grant who employed Tommy meant: a male (N) and a female (M) nazi spies hidden as normal british guests in Sans Souci, a hotel in seaside Leahampton.

After many “coup de théâtre”, the duo could eventually identify the Nazi spies and save the country.

By the pricking of my thumbs

I really enjoyed this book whose title comes from the famous Macbeth written by William Shakespeare that at Scene 1 of Act 4 says: “By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes.”.

The story is well written (as usual) and is about an old lady’s memories, Tommy’s Aunt Ada friend Mrs Lancaster that before disappearing without an apparent reason, was continuously repeating something about ‘your poor child’ and ‘something behind the fireplace’.

The intrigued couple could not help but start investigating after Aunt Ada natural death and the incomplete answer provided by the geriatric nursing home personnel about Mrs Lancaster disappearance, discovering a very surprising story “hidden behind the fireplace”.


Postern of Fate

I’ve read many reviews of this book. Many were negative saying that Christie had lost her talent and grip and that the story is not as exceptional as others previously written.

For instance Robert Barnard wrote negatively that “Postern of Fate” was “The last book Christie wrote. Best (and easily) forgotten”.

Many readers commented on specialized websites that the book lack of something that there is mention of some silly things and statements.

I honestly did not recognize any of those things and enjoyed the book. I appreciated instead the fact that Tommy and Tuppence are in the book old as they were supposed to be and therefore their ability to remember and move were diminished.

Anyway, the story is based in an old house where the couple settle to rest and relax. Unexpectedly, while tidying up the library, Tuppence got a strange hint about the apparently unnatural death of Mrs Mary Jordan. The couple start investigating and discovered an old crime committed in the house.

Game Review – Call of Duty Ghost

In order to ease my stay in Saudi Arabia, where there is not much to do for an expatriate after work, I decided to buy a PS3 having found a very good deal in a specialized shop in Jeddah. In the first batch of games I bought there was Call of Duty Ghosts.

 Call of Duty Ghost is a first-person shooting video game where the Ghosts, a U.S. Special Operation unit, fight against a fearful adversary: The Federation. The leader of the latter is Rorke an ex Ghost that turn into a crazy and powerful enemy.

In the game, the player mainly play as Logan Walker the son of the current leader of the Ghosts and will assigned to conduct clandestine missions behind enemy lines. The game story is very well structured and the graphic is excellent. During the development of the story the player will be mainly Logan, sometimes a German Shepard, Logan’s father, a space scientist using the space suite, a tanker, many different kind of weapons and guns, a tank, an helicopter and so on.

The game is very entertaining and the graphic is superb as well as the story that begins from the Walker’s home where Logan’s father explain what is the Federation, who is their leader and what it is necessary to do. A sudden jump in the future will allow the player to understand which is the threat, the definitive weapon that the Federation is planning to use: a giant space gun to destroy whatever they want on the planet earth.

Step by step Logan will learn how to behave and fight as a ghost and . . . . I will not ruin your time with the game telling you the final.

If you like this kind of game, I think you definitely will love this one. Very nicely done. However there is nothing much to invent. Everything is already set for you, there is always someone telling you what you should do and who you should kill first. You have just to pull the virtual trigger and shoot’em all down.

On the other hand, it is very nice the continue switching from forest fight to snowy places, from Logan to the German Shepard, from the space to the underwater world, from a tank to an helicopter.

Ah, just a piece of advice: set the difficulty of the game to the top. I chose an intermediate one and the game was really too easy to be effectively challenging.

 Originally Posted on 4th May 2014