Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Ion Hotel, Iceland

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016 | Reviews, Travel

ion-hotel

The Ion Adventure Hotel is located in Þingvellir, Iceland. You get there by taking route 36, unless it is winter, in which case you have to go a different way because the road is closed. Winter remember, is October to May.

With the whole area to choose from, they decided to build the hotel next to the geothermal power station. You really can smell the sulphur, which smells like eggs, but it didn’t bother us.

power-station
“We have the whole of Iceland to choose from: where shall we build our hotel?” “Next to the power station!” “But won’t it smell of eggs the whole time?” “Yes, it will be a feature.”

The location is very convient for exploring Geysir, Gullfuss and Þingvellir. All of these are within an hour’s drive. When both the clouds clear and the wind blows the steam from the power station out of the way, you get a beautiful view.

ion-hotel-spa

They have a huge huge tub (it is an eight metre pool, half a metre deep). If anything it was too hot, especially for Elina and the bump. I loved it. I went in twice a day, once after breakfast and once before going to bed. It was only really that Elina insisted on doing things that caused me to get out.

Once end of the building is given over to their Northern Lights Bars. We didn’t see any of the Northern Lights, given it was light the whole time, but we did get a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.

northern-lights-bar

Click to see in full size.

They have a restaurant, and also offer a bar menu (which seems to be bigger than the restaurant menu) in the Northern Lights Bar.

ion-hotel-food

The room itself was nice. There was desk and chair, the bed was comfortable, and it came with a floor to ceiling window looking out onto the snow-capped mountain. The curtains did an excellent job of blocking out the light.

ion-window-handle

Some of it felt a bit dated, and maybe in need of a little love. The above shows the handle on our window. However, the window did open fully, and much of the hotel was modern: every room had an iPad Mini and their communal areas were filled with Sonos Play:3s.

I would definitely stay here again. The staff were friendly, the room was nice and the view was excellent.

Grillmarkaðurinn, Reykjavik

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016 | Food, Reviews, Travel

grill-market

Grillmarkaðurinn, Grill Market in English, is a sister restaurant to Fiskmarkaðurinn. As you might be able to guess from the names, this one is a little less focused on fish and a little more focused on meat. However, there is still a lot of crossover.

They make a good seafood soup for example, and can cook a decent steak too. The real winner of the meal was Elina’s grilled redfish. It came with a crab roll that could have been a main course in itself. I did not enjoy it as much as Fish Market, but it was still a fine meal.

Fish Market, Reykjavik

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016 | Food, Reviews, Travel

the-fish-market

Fiskmarkaðurinn, known as Fish Market in English, is a restaurant in downtown Reykjavik.

They were fully booked when we rocked up and asked for a table. However, they said we could eat in the bar area. This was actually a stroke of luck. The seating was comfortable, and even a pregnant woman can eat at the little table. It was screened off from the main restaurant, giving us some piece and quiet.

We created our own tapas by ordering four starters and sharing them all. Each dish was carefully prepared and presented with it’s own unique accompaniments. These do not always get the attention they deserve in Iceland, but this was not the case here.

fish-market-food

It was, in my opinion, the best food we had in Iceland.

They even have a cookbook, which I purchased a copy of. It is full of ingredients I think I will struggle to find in Leeds, so it’s even more impressive that they can source them in a country whose entire population is half that of Leeds.

Icelandair

Monday, June 27th, 2016 | Reviews, Travel

icelandair

We flew to Iceland with Icelandair. How original. It was the most expensive airline we have ever flown with. It was a little over £600 for return tickets for the both of us.

Seat reservations

This was a disaster. We pre-booked our seats so that we could sit together. However, when it came to checking in online, our seats were changed so that we were no longer together. I spoke to both the baggage drop-off people and the people at the gate, but none of them could help. In the end, the woman sat next to me was kind enough to swap with Elina so we could sit together.

However, what is the point of having a seat reservation system that you do not honour. It is actually worse than having no seat reservation system as at least in that case you would know to check in straight away.

Ryanair have a brilliant seat reservation system. It costs you some cash, but we had a whole stewardess whose entire job seemed to be guarding our seats so that nobody else sat there. When Ryanair blow you out of the water for customer service, maybe you should take a look at what you are doing.

We had no problems on the return flight, and received the seats we had booked.

Delays

On the outgoing flight, we boarded on time. However, we then sat on the tarmac for an additional forty minutes before going anywhere as the luggage was loaded, then unloaded, then loaded into a different part of the plane.

On the way back, our flight time was pushed back by one hour fifty minutes. This worked out well for us, as we were notified beforehand and meant we could sleep in a little bit longer, but the fact that it was changed was still annoying. Even after this, it took off twenty minutes late.

Entertainment system

Every seat comes with a built-in touch-screen entertainment system. This was pretty annoying. Before the flight takes off it shows adverts for the whole time. Elina finds flickering screens irritating but there was no way to turn it off.

Once the flight started it turned off automatically. You then had to turn it back on and watch another two minutes of adverts before it let you do anything. It then had a limited range of media available. There were maybe a dozen TV shows to pick from, including three episodes of Friends and three episodes of Family Guy. There were also films, a flick tracker, some games for the kids and a few other features.

Economy comfort

Our outgoing flight was economy comfort rather than economy as by some bizarre twist, this worked out to be the cheapest option. I think it was a mistake to do this because it was much nicer than flying coach and now that I have experienced it, I do not want to go back.

On Icelandair you get a bigger, nicer seat. It is only two seats each side (coach is three) with a generous armrest in the middle that you can put things on. You also get a blanket, a bottle of water, a pair of headphones and hot food and drink included, including alcohol.

Economy

On the way back, we were back in coach. This was fine, the leg room was pretty standard for a plane and having nobody in the seat next to us provided us with a great place to put our coats. You still get the entertainment system and free soft drinks.

Chuck Norris Grill

Sunday, June 26th, 2016 | Food, Reviews, Travel

chuck-norris-grill

After a week of eating fish, we were in the mood of something different. Realistically, there is only so many times you can walk past a place called Chuck Norris Grill and not venture in.

The decor did not disappoint.

chuck-norris-grill-wall

Disappointingly, the food itself was not Chuck Norris themed. They could manage a reasonably-well cooked steak however.

chuck-norris-grill-food

Having been battered by Icelandic prices for a week, it was nice to go somewhere a little cheaper. I do not have a desire to go back, but it is a reasonable joint to visit once.

Icelandic Fish & Chips, Reykjavik

Saturday, June 25th, 2016 | Food, Reviews, Travel

iclandic-fish-and-chips

Icelandic Fish & Chips is a restaurant located near the old harbour in Reykjavik. It is pretty crammed given the amount of tables they have in there. The services is friendly and attentive.

I don’t think much to their fish & chips. It has made a name for itself as doing something different. They make their own organic spelt batter. This is fine if you like that sort of thing, but being from Yorkshire, I would have prefered a proper chippy.

Elina had better luck with our seafood soup. Although, it wasn’t actually a soup. Indeed, it did not really fit the definition of soup on any level. It was more of a gratin. But what a tasty gratin it was.

The price was pretty reasonable.

Cafe Paris, Reykjavik

Saturday, June 25th, 2016 | Food, Reviews, Travel

cafe-paris

Cafe Paris is an informal restaurant based in downtown Reykjavik. Why it is named after Paris is unclear. The menu seems fairly Islanic rather than French. Perhaps it reflects the general hustle-and-bustle of the French capital.

The food looks a lot better in real life than it does in photos. Specifically this photo…

cafe-paris-food

Presentation could do with some finesse. However, it gets good marks for taste.

The portions were massive. Elina’s creamy seafood soup felt bottomless. No matter how much she ate there was more seafood hiding at the bottom of the large bowl.

Remington D8700 PROtect review

Thursday, April 28th, 2016 | Reviews

I am sad to report that after ten years of faithful service, my Carmen hair dryer has given up. I have replaced it with the Remington D8700 PROtect. It was recommended by Which Magazine as their best buy. As my Carmen is the only other dryer I can remember using, I will be spending most of this post comparing the two.

It is bulky. Here is a picture of it, comparing it to my old one, and with a compact hair dryer thrown in for scale.

hair-dryers

Not only is it bulkier, it also noticeably heavier. The Carmen was really light. In comparison, this feels weightier when you pick it up. Then there are the buttons. The Carmen had sliders, whereas the Remington has rocker switches.

switches

These are easy to knock when passing it from hand to hand, and making holding it more difficult.

Once you get past these issues, it dries well. It dried my hair as fast as the Carmen and comes with the same heat and speed options.

Hear and Now

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016 | Reviews

Hear and Now is a meditation app that focuses on deep breathing. It only takes a few minutes to do: you hit go, it gives you a 40 second warm up, 12 guided deep breaths and then a cool down. At the end it reports back on how you have done.

Results were mixed. You self-measure how you feel at the start of each session (very stressed, stressed, relaxed, very relaxed). I never felt any better after it. It feels like quite a big jump between each point, though my mood never really changed anyway.

The feedback is a little confusing. For example, it might tell me that my pNN50 has increased from 0.38 to 0.50. It has an explanation of what pNN50 is, but so what? What am I supposed to do with that information? I suppose it could potentially be useful if it fed back into Apple Health, but it doesn’t.

At the end you get an overall breathing quality from 0% (rubbish) to 100% (perfect). This varied from day to day. One day I got 44%, over days I got 20%. It said keep practicing to improve it but after two weeks I had not improved. It was just random. Critically, it doesn’t tell you how to improve or what you are doing incorrectly.

I did like the fact that is was so quick to complete every day. However, I did not feel I gained any benefit from it.

hear-and-now

Nike shop

Monday, April 25th, 2016 | Reviews

nike-shop

Elina usually buys her footwear from Deichmann. It’s the logical choice. They put all the shoes out there so you can help yourself to a box and try them on. None of this ‘having to interact with someone’ nonsense, that Elina especially hates. After all, it is weird. Sometimes they even take the shoe out and put it on your foot. It’s no surprise some people find that uncomfortable.

While we were at Crown Point, we dropped in to the Nike store. I was curious about how you filled a big retail space exclusively with Nike products. Half of the store is given over to trainers. These, like Deichmann, are just on the shelves for you to help yourself. Prices are really good too. Elina picked up a new pair of trainers for £26. I’ll go here next time, as it’s a nice shopping experience.

hair-dryer-trainers

Finally we made it home with our new purchases. Being the modern couple that we are: Elina with her sporting goods, and me with my new hair dryer, after my old one packed up last week.