Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Top Ten Tips for Disneyland Paris

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
Disney

We’re just back from Disneyland Paris with the kids and a super time was had by all, however it pays to do some homework before you go. Here are the top ten things, in no order, we learned from others or just on our own. Worth nothing that these are purely personal ideas which may not apply to your needs or plan.

–          Age: The idea of Disney appeals to all parents however the reality of access to rides, queuing, eating out and a lot of walking does not make an easy journey for the very young. Unless you have kids about to go over the age threshold then hold off on taking the younger ones until the age of about six if at all possible. Worth nothing the very young won’t even remember their trip so don’t be in a rush to bring the under fives.

–          Hotel Choice: We stayed three nights which equated to about two and a half days in the parks. Nearly all of this time was spent outside of the hotel. We got up, had breakfast and we gone by 9am. We did not see the hotel again until 9pm. For that reason we stayed in the 2* Santa Fe hotel which is part of the Disney complex. The hotel is basic but clean and a decent shower to get you going in the morning. Rooms had a flat screen TV with one or two English channels, mostly news but the Disney channel itself was in English. Different families will have different needs but there may not be much point in trying to book a hotel with a pool if you plan to be in the parks all day.

–          Transfers: The package deals will most likely include a VEA (Red Bus) transfer from the airport to your hotel. The transfer can be a two stage process i.e. the first white bus comes every 20mins which then takes you to the main shuttle which also arrives every 20mins. The bus can cost time and be a bit of an unpleasant scrum so we paid an extra €80 for a private transfer from the airport. He was waiting at the gate with our name on a card adn took us direct to the hotel. We landed at 13:30 and, as we carried hand luggage only, were checked in and in Disney park by 15:30. Journey time from the airport to the hotel was about 45minutes. We used  http://www.parisshuttleservice.com but others have recommended http://www.shuttle-transfers.net

–          When: Go midweek if possible. We went Wednesday-Saturday and the crowds in the hotel Saturday morning we a lot bigger to what we had seen Thursday and Friday mornings. Park queuing times will be less midweek. Tuesday to Friday would be the ideal choice for me.

–          Time of year: Outside of peak times you get much better deals. We went in March, and were there for St. Patricks Day, but the weather can be your enemy. Paris can be very cold and it can be wet at this time of year so you need to try plan for all types of clothing. Rather than bring a big bulky coat that will get in the way bring layers that you can take on and off as needed. Add waterproof jackets (or ponchos) and hats, scarves and gloves and you get the idea. Footwear can be the deal breaker here, if it rains everything gets wet very quickly. The Disney shops have children’s wellingtons which you can buy if you’re stuck.

–          Hotel Breakfast: The first queue of the day is for hotel breakfast, Some (most) hotels issue you with  a card that has your requested time on it e.g. 8:15-8:45. Miss this time and miss breakfast. In the Santa Fe they let everybody in regardless of what the card said but I heard of people turned away in the Newport Bay Club for turning up at the wrong time. In the Santa Fe hotel the breakfast room was huge and they let batches of people in every few minutes. Up to you to find a table after that by wandering around. We liberated a few breadrolls every morning which we brought to the park. The kids munched on them while waiting for rides.

–          Early opening: Disney hotels advertise early park access for those who stay with them. You can get in from 8am instead of 10am which is normal opening time. This is a swizz and none of the rides, or even the lands themselves,  are open. Maybe because it was Patrick’s Day on the only day we got there early. It appears to be a ploy to get you to have breakfast in the park with the characters (which they charge you for). Get to the park around 9:30am and get in. Don’t leave it until 10am or there’ll be a queue. If you plan to head early I would check on Google to find out what you can actually do at that time.

–          Fastpass: At the park itself there is the “Fastpass” option. This will only apply to a few of the more popular rides but use it wisely, you will want to avoid the 50minute queues for Big Thunder and Peter Pan. Here’s what you do: If you are staying in a Disney hotel get to the park about 9:30 or 9:45. Most of the lands (Adventure land, Frontier land etc) will still be roped off and closed. Pick the “big ride” you’re interested in for that area e.g. Big Thunder for Frontier Land and make a break for that as soon as they open the rope. This will 1) Save you having to queue 2) Having to use your Fastpass for that ride, remember Fastpass can only be used on one ride at a time, when you’re done on Big Thunder go off and Fastpass the Peter Pan ride (one of the most popular as its open to all ages).

–          Planning: There is a lot of walking and queuing which can be very tiring, towards the end of the day feet (and backs) are beginning to suffer so hold off on the more auditorium based, seated, type shows until the afternoon. In particular the Cinemagique and Stunt shows in the Disney Studios. Also, don’t dismiss the Lilo and Stitch show as for the small kids only, it’s amusing and entertaining for both kids and adults. Captain Eo (Michael Jackson 3D movie) and Star Tours and also worth leaving until a bit later when a seat is appreciated.

–          Thrill Rides: I wouldn’t automatically dismiss any of the rides or shows in Disney no matter how lame they seem. You can spot the thrill rides a mile away, some folk like them, some don’t. The Studios seems to have the majority of the thrill rides. Word of advice here: beware Crushes’ Coaster (Nemo), no fastpass system, huge queues and apparently a nice soft ride the young ones will enjoy. The reality is that this is all but a full on coaster in the dark and not the pleasant jaunt through Nemo’s world that it would seem.

95% of what we took in between the Park and the Studios was worth doing. I’m not going to tell you what wasn’t. Some scared the absolute daylights out of us (Tower of Terror) and some were just so well put together you had to admire (Stitch Live!).

Enjoy

Lal Quila – Douglas Village

Saturday, February 19th, 2011
Lal Quila

Four of us went to Lal Quila in Douglas Village last Saturday. The table was booked for 8:30 so a quick drink in Barrys first and then a dash in the rain over the restaurant. We were seated quickly and handed menus and that’s where the attention ended. Forty minutes later we still had our menus and not even an offer of a drink. Plenty of staff were flapping around the busy restaurant, every table was occupied, but the problem was nobody seemed to have a dedicated station. Eventually we flagged somebody down and ordered.

After that the service was reasonable, outside of having to ask for water twice. The jumbo prawn with ginger starter was €9.50 and consisted of THREE prawns. Terrible value. Luckily the other starters represented a more typical Indian restaurant, the Chicken Tikka was tasty. The Lamb Haiderabadi for main (sweet and sour cooked with black vinegar and raspberries, ginger, garlic, fresh lime and selected spices) was also nice but when you add the €15.95 for the dish, €2.75 for Pilau rice and €3.50 for a Peshwari Naan a total of €22 isn’t cheap. Plenty of food though. The bill for four people (four starters, four mains and eight beers) came to just over €150. When you compare this to some of the curry houses in the UK it’s an steep price to pay.

In short the chaotic service ruined an otherwise OK meal. The food and prices were pretty typical of any other Indian I’ve been to. In Ireland.

Murray’s Bar and Grill Dublin

Monday, October 11th, 2010
Murrays Bar

I stopped by Murray’s Bar and Grill while on a recent visit to Dublin. Situated on the top of O’Connell Street (away from the river) it is a pretty big pub with a decent carvery that seemed to be running most of the Saturday afternoon I spent reading the paper, watching the sport and waiting for friends.

With an upstairs and a large smoking area out the back there’s plenty of space and lots of TVs, they seem to have gone with an American feel as they also sell pictures of beer which seemed good value if you had a group.

There is a huge smoking area out the back with more TVs, pool tables and slot machines. No shortage of heaters either. Toilets were downstairs and clean enough.

I would think the crowd gets younger as the night gets older but a decent spot for a beer and a plate of food if you’re around O’Connell Street.

Lunch in Panda Mama’s Chinese, Cork

Monday, March 22nd, 2010
Panda Mama

We stopped by Panda Mamas in Parnell Place Cork for lunch before the rugby game on Saturday. The layout is bright and airy and done in the traditional Chinese style, very pleasant and clean and the staff were all very good. The laminated lunch menu is a scaled down version of the dinner menu, plenty of mains to choose from but only three starters. I chose the crispy wantons for €3.45 and received three of them on a plate which was truly miserable and not worth the money. Maybe I lucked out as the spring rolls looked decent enough.

The rest of the food was pretty good, tasty, varied and plenty of it. Five starters, five mains and a round of eight Tsingtao beers came to €85 which isn’t bad value. All in all a decent meal only let down by the crispy wanton starter.

Dinner in Orchids Restaurant, Hayfield Manor

Sunday, February 21st, 2010
Orchids Hayfield Manor

As a (belated) birthday treat we recently enjoyed a night in the five star Hayfield Manor Hotel and dinner in Orchids Restaurant which, in their own words, is “the premier choice for fine dining in Cork City”.

The hotel itself is lovely, nice setting and looks very well. The staff appeared warm and welcoming, the girl who checked us in asked if we had a nice journey and how we had heard about them. Off to a pleasant start but while I was in mid-response to her question the phone rang and she raised her hand as if to indicate “one moment, I have something more important to do” and answered the phone. How rude. She hung up and in case I wasn’t sure what to make of the incident she went and did it a second time. The phone rang, she stoped talking to us and answered it. What could me more important than welcoming new guests to your five star hotel? To her credit when the phone rang a third time she asked a nearby staff member to take the call but way too late to correct the terrible first impression.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing, the leisure center and the hot tub are are nice treat. We chose Orchids for dinner over the less formal Perrotts Bistro. Surroundings were nice and we were seen to our table and had ordered without fuss. The duck starter was shredded duck wrapped in a clumsy and heavy pasta tube served with some butternut squash flavours. OK but let down by the pasta. The lamb for main course wasn’t bad, maybe a bit underdone for my taste but nothing to complain about. The most entertaining part of the night came from the sommelier who appeared with our bottle of Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine sur lie and launched into a description of the wine and the area of origin. It started to sound a little generic and vague so to try inject some stimulation I asked him what “sue lie” on the label meant. He stalled, said he had asked his teacher that very same question recently and finally reported it had “something to do with sediment”. He topped up our glasses and sped off. That was the last we saw of him for the evening.

Overall the best I can say is that I wasn’t bad but the point is for a five star hotel who claims to be the premiere choice for fine dining in Cork I think they missed the target. We had a nice stay, the hotel and surroundings are a treat, the staff (for the most part) are attentive and friendly, their prices are very competitive at the moment but I think they were just that bit short on the fine dining and its hard to forgive that girl for answering the phone twice while I was talking to her during check-in.

Chateau Lynch Bages 1985

Monday, January 4th, 2010
Chateau Lynch Bages 1985

From time to time I write about wine but apart from knowing what is nice and what is not nice I don’t have the wine vocabulary to get my point across very well. I leave that to the experts you can see listed over on the right-hand column down towards the bottom of the page.  However this is a special wine with a story attached.

In the early nineties a group of us who were friends in college had just been let loose on the real world and were earning money for the first time, some in Cork, myself in Athlone and most in Dublin. During the course of his duties in Dublin one of the group was given an opportunity to own a then seven year old bottle of Lynch Bages. The year was 1992. The opportunity was taken.

The wine was cared for and and moved around Dublin from rented house to rented house all the time managing to stay unopened which was no mean feat living in the some of the places it did. Over the years it travelled around Ireland and and maybe even further afield but all the time it remained protected from the elements. The owner left to work abroad whereupon it was cared for by our buddy Dan. On the occasions when we would all get together the wine would often come up in conversation, usually “Do you still have it?”.

In the ten years between 1992 and 2002 there was engagement, marraige, birth, divorce and a death within the group. Seven years on and everybody fondly remembers our friend Alan who passed away in August 2002 from an asthma attack. A common or garden asthma attack. This year it happened again. Just before Christmas 2009, a week before his 38th birthday, Dan passed away. Another member of the group gone at a stage where we should be celebrating fortieth birthday parties not going to funerals.

This New Years Eve those friends who were in Cork came for dinner where the wine made a surprise appearence. After owning it, and caring for it, for seventeen years it was shared with the small group of friends at the table. We raised a glass and drank to Dan and we drank to Alan. Two friends who left much sooner than they should. The itself wine was superb but sometimes the occassion can be worth a whole lot more. Life is short. Stop and smell the roses (or an ’85 Lynch Bages if you have a friend good enough to share with you). Don’t let things pass you by. Thanks EB.

Happy 2010.

Jamie’s Family Christmas – Channel 4

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009
Turkey

We’re currently enjoying Jamie’s Family Christmas on Channel 4. It has some nice recipes and tips on all things Christmas, and some not so Christmas. All of which I thought would be available on the official web site but it seems that only a selection from the show are posted at the moment, HOWEVER what is great is that the shows are on YouTube until mid-Janurary.

During each episode Jamie cooks with different members of his family which gives a nice informal feel. I enjoyed the segment of Jamie cooking with Gennaro in Episode 3.

While the recipes are not overly complicated they are made to look quick and easy due to the amount of pre-preparation done e.g. all the veg is washed, chopped and par-boiled when he does the roasted veg mix. Obviously nobody wants to see him wash and chop veg but but don’t be fooled that these things are as quick as they look.

Enjoyable show.

Web Site

YouTube

Lunch in Paudie’s Bar, The Dingle Bay Hotel

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
Dingle Bay Hotel

A family trip to Dingle on a misty October Bank Holiday Monday brought us to Paudie’s Bar in the Dingle Bay Hotel for a spot of lunch. We wandered in on spec to find the place buzzing with life. Every table in the rather large bar was busy so the five of us were lucky to get a nice comfy corner table just as some diners were leaving. The waitress seated us, gave us menus and promised she would return to give the table a wipe. That was the last we saw of her, understandable as the place was quite busy and another waitress was along in a flash to take our order.

A couple of Dingle Bay Prawn Cocktails were excellent. Fresh, sweet, prawns served in a classic Marie-Rose with some home-made brown bread. The Goats Cheese and Caramelised Onion panini was well received and the Chicken Nuggets for the kids were made of proper chicken, lovely and white with a crispy crumb. Not soggy and dull like a lot of places. A refreshing bottle of Muscadet-Sevre et Maine sur lie brought the bill to €55 for three adults and two kids.

Great staff, excellent food and a great atmosphere.

CX Oriental Cash & Carry, Cork

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
CX Oriental

I found these guys on Tramore Road Industrial Estate in Cork during the summer and have been meaning to post up some info. If you are every looking for Asian food supplies, and some not so Asian supplies such as wholesale take away pizza boxes, then this is the spot for you.

The pictures can speak for themselves but there is a Noodle Bar with all you can eat buffet for €6.95 (Jan ’10); Fresh Deli, Frozen Food, Fresh Fish, Fresh Veg, Wholesale Catering and an endless supply of noodles, Chinese goods, Indian goods and all sorts of fantastic things I can’t describe because I don’t know what they are.

CX Oriental Cash & Carry
Units 11-13 Nyhan Business Park,
Tramore Road, Cork
(Off Tramore Road –
Opposite Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa)
Café Open 7 days a week
9.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m

Tel: +353 (0)21 4320860

Check out their brochure for an idea of what you can find

http://www.evergreenfoods.com/pdf/evergreen.pdf

More photos and comment from Conor over at his blog http://conoroneill.com/2009/09/26/im-in-far-eastern-foodie-heaven/

Toastie Pockets

Monday, August 10th, 2009
Toastie Pocket

So I bought one, actually a pair, of these toastie pockets yokes in Aldi a few weeks back. You know the thing, they’ve been around for ages, little baggies that you pop your cheese sandwich into which you then place into the toaster and hey-presto a toasted sandwich! As a family who have had possibly the slowest electric grill on earth bestowed on them by Zanussi the toastie pocket proved a pretty quick way to make a toasted sandwich. The drawback to the toastie pocket is that you have to use regulation size bread and have to set the toaster pretty high if you want to achieve meltability on the inside. This of course achieves burnation on the outside. It is also worth nothing that meltability is inversly proportional to sandwich thickness i.e. more filling = less meltability which will ultimately result in high burnation. However it does have its uses, I heated a slice of left-over pizza in it last night and it did the job very well. On the downside do not use it to make crushed ice for your Mojitos, NASA technology or not it will refuse to take a hammering with a rolling pin when full with ice, and that is where the story ends….at least until Aldi get them back.

Aldi Toastie Pockets