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Reviews

Review: DFDS Ferry Crossing – Newhaven to Dieppe

Review: DFDS Ferry Crossing – Newhaven to Dieppe

On my many trips to France I have taken every possible channel crossing possible with the notable exception of Newhaven-Dieppe. Having organised a trip to Normandy it was time to choose the crossing. The Newhaven to Dieppe operated by DFDS Seaways seemed a fairly convenient crossing depositing me on French soil about 90 minutes from my rented accommodation in Normandy. The first thing I discovered was the ship’s branding was not DFDS but Transmanche Ferries. Their bright yellow and white ship was definitely not the more muted navy and white of other DFDS ferries I had seen and travelled on. It’s complicated and has to do with who owns what and which company is the parent company but this is not the place to delve into that. It is enough to know the Transmanche Ferries are operated by DFDS. On…

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Review: Le Chardonneret Chaumiere – a thatched cottage

Review: Le Chardonneret Chaumiere – a thatched cottage

On many occasions I have driven up through Normandy to Le Havre to catch the ferry home. As I have done so I have seen the typical Normandy tan and mahogany coloured half-timbered thatched cottages. I always promised myself I would pause on my rush to the ferry port to explore the region and the rural architecture. Never did I envisage actually staying in a traditional Normandy thatched cottage. I found the cottage on the HomeAway website (£) at the last minute when a 9 day gap appeared in my diary. On the face of it seemed to be perfect but I have previously had experience of properties not being quite what they seem to be on the website. I made a couple of enquiries with owner through the website and was pleasantly surprised when I received a reply within a couple of hours….

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The Coffee Experience at Coffee Island

The Coffee Experience at Coffee Island

If like me you have an enquiring mind and are not just satisfied with the taste of food or drink but want to understand its provenance then a visit to Coffee Island in London should be high on your list. It is not just an ordinary coffee bar but a complete coffee experience. Of course you can go in, order your coffee-to-go and leave; or you can order coffee and cake get out the laptop, connect to the wifi and sip, nibble and work. No sooner had I entered than I was greeted by João their Portuguese barista. Surprisingly he was not behind the bar but in front of it. João was not about to serve me coffee but asked if I was interested in coffee and the various brewing methods. In the shop window where the coffee grindery, he set…

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Sicily Unpacked: Fontes Episcopi Review

Sicily Unpacked: Fontes Episcopi Review

I might never have visited Fontes Episcopi if it had not been for the wildfires across Sicily the day preceding our arrival in Cefalu on the north coast. Forced to change our plans and knowing the property was a new addition to the Massimo Villas portfolio I decided to visit and review it. From the outset I fell in love with the place. We drove up the tree lined drive way to what I can only describe as a manor house. To the right were olive groves and to the left a grove of citrus trees laden with lemons and oranges. The farm implements lay on one side, an indication that Fontes Episcopi had once been a working farm. After parking the car we walked along a path through flower beds and an entrance gateway into a wonderful courtyard with climbers…

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Kit Review: Mobile Solar Power Charger

Kit Review: Mobile Solar Power Charger

Solar power chargers are a great idea in the mobile digital world where everything needs to be charged and battery life technology has not been able to keep pace with power demanding technology. I have lost count of the times I have lost power in a camera, phone or other battery operated gadget. The answer is to carry extra batteries, but these can be heavy and some products, notably those from Apple, have integrated batteries. Another solution is to carry a power bank like the Aqua Trek I reviewed in an earlier post. These can be a little heavy but are able to supply enough power for charging several gadgets. In my opinion the optimum solution is to use solar power to charge up a power bank which can then be used to charge whatever device needs it. I already have…

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Kit Review: Aqua Trek Waterproof Power Bank

Kit Review: Aqua Trek Waterproof Power Bank

The first thing I noticed when I unpacked the MSC “Aqua Trek” 6600mah Waterproof Power Bank was it’s rugged but stylish look and feel. The question was does it perform as well as it looks? Tech Specs First the tech bits. The ‘Aqua Trek’ is a power bank with a Samsung 6600Mah lithium polymer rechargeable battery that weighs in at a slightly weighty 240g; fine for a backpack but too heavy for a pocket. It has a micro USB input socket with a charging cable included in the box. Output (DC 5V/1A) is through a standard USB socket. The bit that interested me was the claim that it was waterproof with the proviso that the USB sockets cover was secured and closed. Testing it out It is claimed to be waterproof (see proviso above), sand proof, dust proof and shockproof….

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Airline Review: Alitalia

Airline Review: Alitalia

Alitalia is a full scheduled Italian airline that flies from cities in Italy to Europe, the Americas and Asia with a few destinations in North Africa. As a member of the Skyteam Alliance Alitalia codeshares with a number of major airlines Booking I booked the flight through Expedia.co.uk (£) a site I have often used so was familiar with how it works. I was automatically assigned seats during booking and despite booking two passengers together was give seats in different rows. From past experience I knew I would be able to change our seats during online check-in so I was not overly concerned. Check-in Check-in was online and opened 48 hours before flight. I have never experienced a check-in site so user unfriendly as the Alitalia website. I could not log in despite giving the information asked for – first…

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Sicily Unpacked: Eurocamp Review

Sicily Unpacked: Eurocamp Review

I have travelled with Eurocamp on several occasions mostly in France and a trip to Austria. Each time it has been on a self-drive holiday with my own car. Such an arrangement gave us far more freedom. It was with a little trepidation that I decided on a Eurocamp holiday in Sicily. The logistics would be more restrictive given that airlines these days have limited luggage allowance unlike a self-drive where you can take as much as you can fit in the boot. In our case that is quite a lot (usually more than we need). With this in mind Eurocamp have thoughtfully provided a linen service so you do not have to take bedding and towels which take up a great deal of space and weight in suitcases. A flight and a hire car we managed to find online…

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Airline Review Week

Airline Review Week

My work involves a great deal of travel and I have been fortunate to fly with many different airlines around the globe. Some would say (and I have to agree) that in some cases I have had the misfortune to fly with a few airlines I would be happy never to fly with again. This week on Twitter (follow me @lethers) and on Travel Unpacked’s Facebook page I will be posting links to airline reviews I have written on this blog. You will find them under the hashtag #AirlineReviewWeek. Airline Reviews on Travel Unpacked Aegean Airlines keeps winning awards. Most notably the World Airline Awards for Best Regional Airline. It’s an accolade it well deserves and it is one of my favourite airlines in Europe. They really make the flying part of travel a pleasure; something that cannot be said about many other…

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Cafe Review: Mint in Malta

Cafe Review: Mint in Malta

When I was planning my trip to Malta I had not expected to be reviewing a Kiwi run coffee bar like those populating the streets of London, Mebourne and Auckland. I discovered Mint thanks to a recommendation on Twitter to try out a Maltese restaurant in Sliema; a fortuitous decision to take the ferry from Sliema to Valetta rather than brave the traffic on the approaches to Malta’s capital; and a mention in Time Out’s Malta and Gozo publication that Mint was a great place for a coffee. Sliema is an up market resort full of top end shops and a number of boutique hotels. It has just had a facelift with an improved promenade that curves round Marsamxett Harbour. The lime green and chocolate brown signature colours are not easy to miss. Outside there is a small but not…

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