Category / Reviews

Boston 31 October, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Part 1 – The airport

Before you can actually reach Boston, you have to get through the two airports. One in your current location, and the one on arrival. With most places this isn’t an issue, but going to America you have to contend with random security checks. The amount of people being checked isn’t unusual, but the persistence is quite unique. Instead of having one check and assuming that the one check will pick up on anything untoward, they assume you must have hidden anything suspicious on the first check so will do another, thus the majority may not get searched, but those singled out will be thoroughly searched 4 times before they’re permitted entry.

Enthusiasm should be reigned in if you hear someone assigned to fetching you an escort, this will be the bad kind, not the kind that things like GTA lead us to believe is widespread. Be prepared to be passed between different departments for checks while each accuse the previous of incompetence. While going through your passport page by page they will attempt to kill you with the evil eye every time they encounter a stamp from a country which has had any form of violence in the last five years, or any accusations of terrorism. If there have been no accusations of terrorism, they will then accuse the country, and then unleash the evil eye.

The searches are thorough, intrusive and avoid anything which is sealed with tape, because that would just be inconvenient. But they will definitely search you, provided you’ve got a suspiceous name, or have ever visited the Arab world. That’s assuming you get ‘filed’ into the right department of course, and that’s an assumption that shouldn’t be assumed.

Part 2 – Everything else

The rest is okay I guess.


Hong Kong 24 October, 2011 at 12:00 pm

It is disappointing that in distant China, with their reputation, that a short man in Europe isn’t a tall man in Hong Kong. Not quite as short I grant you, but still among the shortest.

Another reputed trait that is incorrect is their English skills, although perhaps this is just the English belief that everyone speaks English. Or perhaps it is the convincing accent of the people of Hong Kong. When a grasp of a language isn’t great, it is usually hinted at with every word spoken. In the eateries the staff will be able to reel off their scripts like an Englishman, but ask them what meat is in the burger and they’ll flounder. Although perhaps that is the correct response in a McDonalds, one which will be mirrored even in England. Partially as the question falls on a grey area, but also as the employees aren’t usually picked for their language skills. Although, I’m not sure what criteria they are picked on, some surprise everyone that they have mastered breathing, others haven’t got past panting.

Although visiting international chains whilst in such exotic countries is often frowned upon, going anywhere else introduces more perils when asking which meat or indeed meats are present in a meal. It is a task that not only requires a translator, but also an zoologist. Even the photos aren’t enough for a normal diner to identify some of the animals.

Most cities are busy, however, there is two types of busy. There is bustle, and there is “oh crap what’s going on”. Hong Kong is the latter. It’s not just the hoards of unusually large groups, it’s also the lights that make it brighter then the middle of the day. Although, I doubt the sun finds a way to the pavement that often. It seems consumers must choose where to make their purchases based on the brightness of the signs, because I could see no other way of differentiating them.

When you want to leave, taxi is a good option, but instead of joining a taxi queue, you should stand where there is no one else standing, because if no one is standing there, then anyone who was standing there has obviously already managed to get a taxi successfully from that spot.

Most people are brought up knowing what is polite, what is informal, and what is rude. Recent years have seen polite and informal merge, sometimes more successfully then others, from staff giving playful banter, to waiters sitting at your table to ‘discuss’ your order. Here however, there isn’t this breakdown and the formality and politeness can be offending by the sheer extremeness of it. This works both ways along the chain. People below you are polite, as are people above you. People equal to you however seem to try to be friendly and informal, but have only managed to perfect rude.

It’s always difficult to judge peoples true feelings when everyone is being formal. Usually you can tell how endeared people are to you by how much they drift into informality, so perhaps most of the people just don’t like me.


Corus Hotel, Solihul 11 April, 2011 at 12:00 pm

This hotel is very relaxed and doesn’t hassle the guest. They will give you space and won’t try to smoother you. So you are free to roam and enjoy the area around reception whilst looking for someone to check you in and provide you with a room. The telephone provided to call for attention rings with a soft patience which gently tells the would-be guest that there’s no rush and a relaxing stroll may be in order. This calm is even extended to the wakeup call which allows you to wake up naturally and then hopes that the time you actually wake up was when you really meant to set the call but were struck by a sudden onset of verbal time dyslexia when requesting it originally.

The bar is also dedicated to keeping the customers happy. Having noticed how cheerful the pub becomes when England wins the football, they manage to show England victories back to back. Admittedly this means they have to resort to games against teams like Jamaica, but it still gives the same effect on the three people watching. It gets near riot levels of excitement.

The menu in the bar is quite impressive, however, it is best to study it and not order anything from it, because as soon as you order anything, it will disappear from the menu making it a progressively less impressive menu with each item you fail to get.

The route to your room may be an adventure. It’s advised to take a snack for a break along the trek. I’ve yet to decide if the padded elevator is a comment about the clientèle the hotel is aimed at, or to ease the transition on leaving the hotel to the custody of the men in white coats.

You’ll reach a point which will seem like a good point to stop for a break and recover your strength for the rest of the hunt for your room, however, this cupboard actually is your room.

Having the bedside light bigger and brighter then the main room light is an intelligent way of improving the quality of sleep by making you tired from eye strain earlier then normal, causing you to go to bed where you begin to feel better before drifting off to sleep. Either that or they’re idiots.

The bathroom is ideally designed to allow full appreciation of your bedroom. The deafening fan will ensure you make speedy use of all the facilities saving on water and extra energy, and the toilet paper and towels are hidden just out of reach to ensure you appreciate the bedroom where you can reach things.

Going down to reception in the padded cell you’ll be expecting to see a van to take you away, but you needn’t worry, you aren’t imaging things, your doubts are actually quirks of the hotel and just add character, of which this hotel has plenty.


Art’otel Cologne 21 March, 2011 at 12:00 pm

What this hotel lacks in logic, it makes up for in style.

What it lacks in common sense, it makes up in eye catching designs.

For example, the sink is a beautiful design and looks like something I’d want in my bathroom. I would actually have liked them to put it the bathroom, because I think the bedroom is a stupid place for the sink. I also object when I can’t figure out how the sink works. I shouldn’t require a degree in engineering, and these ones don’t, they require a degree in art.

The restaurant is beautiful, in the morning and afternoon it provides suburb views over the Rhine, and when the arty crowds are in full flow in the evenings, it acts as a goldfish bowl for people to have an audience for their social acts, and the windows become mirrors so people can maintain eye contact, at least with themselves.

If you find yourself starring out of the window, don’t follow the white rabbit. It’s more worthwhile the gold rabbit. The gold Lindt rabbit. If you do follow it, you will find it takes you to the chocolate museum. As I said, worth following.

Logical design and art are closely linked. And this case, inverse to each other, and a clue to the art orientation is in the title. A nice artistic design means some things just shouldn’t be there. For example, power points are just too ugly, as must be shower doors.

The light switches are also unique and spirited, proceeding to throw a strop and refuse to turn on after you’ve just turned them off making it a hotel which does not favour the indecisive.

In a clever move, the chairs in the lobby are uniquely designed to prevent people from loitering. One set will provide a comfy illusion, but if you lean back, you’ll be at precisely the most uncomfortable angle between sitting and lying. The others gave me a dead leg within five seconds of sitting on them which I didn’t think was even possible, although given their height, perhaps they weren’t designed for sitting on but merely an artistic display as there were no ladders in the vicinity to assist.


Reading 14 March, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Aside from being the birthplace of may great British legends, Reading is also an astounding town which should be studied in great detail regarding the inhabitants weight. Quite how the vast majority aren’t obscenely obese is beyond me. In a random sample of establishments, it was found that only one wasn’t an eatery, and that was a fish shop. Aside from places making beef unhealthy, places making sandwiches unhealthy, they also have shops with the sole intention of making milk as unhealthy as possible (one method they use is blending in Mars bars).

One possible explanation for the population being in normal proportion is that the sheer number of dining establishments offers so much choice that no one can decide which to frequent, and thus end up dithering into starvation, or at least plenty of back and forth to constitute exercise.

In attempts to resist these temptations, care must be taken as you may stumble into one of the many sweet shops, not all of which are in plain sight. Once entering at least a half decent sweet shop, it is impossible to leave empty handed.

The shops have excellent customer service, they manage to do this by ensuring they have more shop floor staff then customers. However, this means any assistant you seek assistance from will either be dripping with boredom, or have to be torn from fascinating conversations with their similarly idle colleagues.

Snippets of these conversations reveal that the population has just figured out where babies come from.

Reading also should be studied to establish at what point the character that looks like a guy that no one will date with man-boobs and is pushing a pram is more likely to be the mother or the father. It may be a question of cup size – men are more likely to have a large coke with a meal.


Bahrain 24 January, 2011 at 12:00 pm

This hot Arabian country is fascinating in how it manages to be in the desert and still be cold. The wind not only keeps you at English temperatures, but also whips up sand into your face on a regular basis causing blindness, and in extreme cases, bad hair.
Trips to this country remind me of trips to Longleat Safari park which you used to drive through, pressing your face against the car window, and occasionally scream out “Look! Over there! I can see a Lion!….no…..sorry, my mistake, it’s just a tree”. Here you can travel all day, pass hundreds of people, and occasionally you may catch sight of an Arab, but it usually isn’t. More likely to be an Indian or someone hailing from a far eastern country.
The cuisine is varied. There is both McDonalds and Burger King. There is also other generic eateries such as Chillies, Hardeys, Nandos and a few nondescript places of varying nationalities. One common factor is that each place will leave you plenty of time for conversation before inconveniencing you with food. If you ordered a starter, it will make sure you don’t have to suffer all of it by bringing your main course before you’ve finished your starter. It’s usually welcome. For dessert, the waiters are usually unclear on what options are available and may promise you a thrilling selection of one whole item, however, once you’ve forced him to confirm with the kitchen, he will be informed that there are in fact no desserts at all.
The hotels are elegant and provide impressive views over bleakness. With parking lots above the lobby, they show that they are hotels with aspirations of becoming multi-story car parks. A transition which would improve a great many.
During your stay, you may wish to see the tourist attractions, and you’re in luck. Bahrain does indeed have a tourist attraction. It’s a tree. It’s also in the middle of the desert. But a tree nonetheless. It’s survived hundreds of years. An old tree. It’s fascinating.
This country breaks the habit of most Arab countries of running constantly late. However, I think the way that it manages it is by virtue of hardly any native Arabs actually living there.
It can also be proved in a short trip to this desert country, that yes, it does rain in the desert.


Chelmsford 17 January, 2011 at 12:00 pm

This redundant town is a fine example of a town that should be farmland.

It’s quality hotels are matched in standard only by the incompetencies of its delivery drivers.

Hotels show their style by illuminating the corridors with blue lights, unashamedly showing off the crumbling paintwork. Presumably this choice of lighting is to ensure drugs only enters the veins in the rooms or lobby. And quite right, you can’t have the guests hitting up in the corridors.

If you need a public phone to collect a loan, hotels will be happy to provide anonymous call facilities as the pay phones are inaccessible after being fire bombed.

Cheap good food can be found in the takeaways, ask any good receptionist and they’ll list many luxury establishments that they don’t know how to find.

The shop staff are particularly helpful. Ask any assistant how to find anything and they’ll lead you directly to the exact location it isn’t in.

If a clue is required, then the delivery bays are often the best choice. Although you can expect the total IQ to go down if any delivery drivers arrive.

The key to this town is shift work. For example, sellers will work in the morning and buyers in the afternoon. Or loading bays close at 12pm and delivery vans deliver at 3pm. The saving grace to this town is that its placement within the United Kingdom means that whole chunk of the country can be cut away and cast off to sea without any real loss.


Furama Riverfront Hotel Singapore 27 December, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Firstly, what does Riverfront mean? Opposed to Riverview as the neighboring hotels are called. Well, it means you can’t see the river, it’s just in the rough area, across a main road, and probably surrounded by main roads. If you’re lucky there may be a bridge connecting it to the river.

The hotel is refreshing in the way it refuses to conform with the standards. The reception for example doesn’t clutter your view when you enter but is instead hidden around the side. The same concept was extended to the bar which I have yet to find.

When you arrive in the lobby you will be surrounded by a loving crowd of concierges and bell boys, seeking to smother the visitor with warmth and affection like a crazy lover smothering your head with pillows.

Another loving touch by the hotel is to prevent you from oversleeping by having someone break into your room in the morning. Unfortunately the chain was on the door so I didn’t get to find out who was stalking into my room with a pillow.

They do supply a doorbell, but this seems to be more of an announcement of who’s about to break into your room rather then a plea for admittance.

From the booze bearing mini-bar man to the surgical mask wearing lady, the hotel ensures your feeling loved by providing a string of visitors.

In a desperate bid to provide a large family of loving staff to ensure the guest gets the attention they need, they found that recruiting staff is more important than training, so although the receptionist dealing with your request may know nothing however long they’ve been working there and will constantly seek out superiors to query, you will find there are staff free so you don’t have to wait to be seen and will be repeatedly wished a good morning.

The staff are also more interested in making sure you feel loved then actually helping you. On your way to a taxi, you will be asked at least 5 times by different staff where you’re trying to get to, making you feel taken care of, and give you the impression that the taxi will take you directly to your destination. Them then telling the taxi driver where he should go after you’ve described it in detail several times is something which is only available for guests tipping above my salary.

Overall this is a loving hotel that provides more love than usefulness, but is very warm and cuddly.


Glasgow 13 December, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I was asked if I wanted to go to Scotland. I declined.

I was then asked if I wanted to go to a small town near Spain called “Glasgow”. It sounded nice, so I accepted.

It was two days before I realised I’d been tricked and the use of “near” was very liberal. The snow was one clue, the money was another. One of the reasons it took me so long was that I asked passer bys what country I was in, and they didn’t say “Scotland” they said another country which I couldn’t make out which started with “Fec”. Perhaps another name for Scotland.

The motorways are odd and tend to point out details that other people would think obvious like “Drive on the left” and “Observe Speed Limits”. How many times do people have to be told this before it sinks in? Or do I come from an area which is far too English to suggest that you might not know these things? I do however suggest that you don’t ask the taxi driver “Do you take Sterling?”, they start talking about their country a lot.

The town is a lovely area, and what is probably the high street has been dubbed “Style Mile”. It seems the council did a lot of work to make everything as nice as possible, however I think there are easier ways to make the floor white then summoning snow.

You should be cautious when walking at night as drunks like to take out their aggression with a solid kick, but as long as you don’t look like a pub advertising board, you should get away without too much issue. If it’s food you’re after, you can stay in your cigarette scented room and order room service off the tempting menu which offers a diverse range of flavours of Pot Noodles or a selection of two Snickers and a Twix.

It’s worth packing extra supplies. Personal experience has shown a trip for one day means one day in Glasgow and two days in the airport. I’m not even going to try to see what happens if I go for a week. Don’t worry about food though, the airline will provide you with food vouchers enough for half a meal a day, or one bar of chocolate. They will also provide you with a hotel, dependent on flight. If you have a late flight the next day, the hotel will be right next to the airport, and if you have an early flight, the hotel will be a short drive away. The hotel facilities are adequate, the drop off area is a short drive from the airport, and is regularly patrolled by the finest Scottish police to ensure nobody is committing heinous crimes like picking people up in the drop off area. I can only imagine how far away the pick up area is for people to feel the need to commit such atrocities.

If you’re unfortunate or stupid enough to repeatedly give your bags to your airline for the day while they cancel your flights, you will need to allow between one and two hours for the collection of said bags. It is obvious that it takes longer to get your luggage off an aeroplane and into baggage reclaim when there is in fact no plane. However, that leaves the question of exactly where they put the bags in the meantime. Given the size of Glasgow airport, even if the bags were in the furthest reaches, a limping snail would surely be quicker. It is during this time waiting for bags that everyone else in Scotland seems to be forming a queue to book places on the next flight which you want.

With two days sight seeing, you will have plenty to do, however you should pace yourself. The entire list is a restaurant, a Weatherspoons, a shop, and a tie shop. Quite why airports are convinced people will be travelling and suddenly get a craving for ties is beyond me. There are only two explanations I can think of. The first is that they’re expecting the next wave of extremest attacks not to commit suicide by detonating bombs, but instead by hanging themselves, a tactic which will surely grab attention, but it remains unclear how many planes they’ll crash this way. Or secondly, the shop is anticipating a further tightening of security where businessmen will find their ties confiscated as they go through security when they start to be deemed a weapon.

The airport has a complaints box, however, the most common complaint wasn’t being addressed:

“There are no planes!”


Innsbruck, Austria (Europe!) 29 November, 2010 at 11:51 am

This town holds what is perhaps the most beautiful view from the aeroplane as you can find, as you approach the plane has to weave skilfully through the valley with snow capped mountains creasing the land like the wrinkles of an ageing earth.

When you touchdown in a glorified field, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was an emergency landing, but it is actually Innsbruck airport. After getting off the aeroplane, you’ll board a bus. Before there’s even the chance of half the passengers screaming in unison into their phones that they’ve touched down, the bus will arrive in the terminal. Approximately 20 meters.

As you pass through the terminal and note similarities to a barn, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was an emergency landing, but it is actually Innsbruck airport.

On the way out there are various banks where you can change money. These are like they’re from a movie, meaning they’re not real, just cardboard fronts and aren’t ever open.

When on the ground, the mountains are just as spectacular, but with low cloud it can get claustrophobic.

Scanning the mountainside you can find a spectacular ski jump. Spectacularly stupid at any rate. There are few sports that seem as futile, dull and repetitive, it would only be fun if it was a dare and the first time the participants ever tried it. Or without the skis. Or if it simulates one of the many flash games a bit more faithfully.

There is an unmistakable charm about the town, but the charm only extends to the hotels in as much as you’d think “How charming! And people actually used to live like this!”

Where the Germans are found for a lack of humour, people here are trying hard not to be tarred by the same brush. It’s not that they have a sense of humour, they just call everything funny regardless. Making the catchphrase:

“It’s funny yes?”

No, chances are it’s not. It gets tiring to play along but it seems mean to destroy their fantasy.

One thing which is funny however, is their taste in music. There’s a passion for dreadful music. The dreadful music that plagued the nineties. Possibly the worst decade for bland pitiful drivel to date. But the music industries are constantly trying to outdo themselves.

With timing they are also trying to beat the Germans. Although it’s difficult to beat a reputation of being on time, they tried their best, and shops set a day as their opening, and promptly open a couple of days ahead of schedule.

The food is similar to English. In as much as the restaurants are dominated by Italian, Chinese, Indian etc. But the native food seems dominated by salami. The Chinese restaurants seem to also be effected by the humour, insisting on calling a dish “Funny Chicken”. What’s funny about it you ask? It was a normal chicken dish! Isn’t that amazing! Haha! Erm, yeah.

It’s a relief it’s such a nice city, because if you manage to find your hotel, the chances are you won’t find the way out. So sit back and enjoy your retirement in Austria.