Shane McDonald Facebook pixel
The Blakemore Hotel, Hyde Park, London – Hotel Review

The Blakemore Hotel, Hyde Park, London – Hotel Review

One of the hardest things to do it get a decent hotel when you don’t know the area. I was searching for a good hotel in London. After looking at the usual hotel chains I found and booked the Blakemore Hotel Hyde Park London. This hotel booking was done purely on the basis of the ratings. At the time of going to post with this review it was 8.1/10 which is very good.

We arrived in London in really bad traffic and ended up getting a tube to Lancaster Gate, and walking the 7 or 8 minutes to the Blakemore. The Blakemore hotel is really nice in the great location on a quiet street.

Blackmore Hotel Lobby and Reception Area

Having arrived tired at the hotel, we found the check in to be very efficient and handled well by a very friendly receptionist.

The Blakemore Hotel Rooms

We got rooms 311 and 312 as we were there as a group of 4. The rooms are very nice, bright, airy, clean (I personally preferred 311, street view) and had excellent air conditioning. The rooms are serviced daily and are done so to a great standard. One point to note – one of the main things we noticed was that the beds are so comfortable you will want to stay there.

The rooms have TV, internet points, a room safe, ironing facilities as well as tea and coffee making facilities.

The Bathrooms in the club rooms are very nice with great product in bathrooms.

Blakemore Rooms - Rooms at the Blakemore Hotel Hyde Park - Hotel Review

Another great point about the Blakemore Hotel is the Free WiFi which is accessible in the rooms also – many hotels have Free WiFi but only in the public areas and not in the rooms.The free WiFi allowed us to plan our day without incuring hefty 3G roaming charges.

The Blakemore Hotel Food

We tried the food in the restaurant and it proved to be very good, from curries to burgers and Caesar salads. The service was excellent and done so with a smile. We then enjoyed the Euro 2012 playoffs in the lounge which is very nice and relaxing.

The Blakemore Hotel, Hyde Park, London : Review Conclusion

I was very impressed by the Blakemore Hotel, the rooms are a perfect size for those looking for a great city break

The location is very good, just opposite Hyde Park and within a 10 minute walk of Bayswater, Queensway and Lancaster Gate tube stations.

I will certainly consider it on my next trip to London and it will be a hotel I will revisit again in the future.

Blakemore Hyde Park Hotel Location

The Oxfordshire Golf Hotel and Spa – Hotel Review

The Oxfordshire Golf Hotel and Spa – Hotel Review

A while back I went to the UK and stayed at the The Oxfordshire Hotel and Spa, which as you guessed is situated in the heart of Oxfordshire (so it’s not just a clever name)

The Oxfordshire Hotel, Golf Hotel and Spa

The Oxfordshire Golf Hotel and Spa is situated in the heart of the Chilterns. It is located about a 1 hour drive from Luton airport. The Oxfordshire Hotel is a luxury 50 bedroom Hotel and Spa. It also boasts a Championship Golf Course if you are so inclined. This course has hosted some high profile golf tournaments; including the Benson & Hedges International, Andersen Consulting World Championship and Ladies English Open.

The Oxfordshire Hotel : Review

Approaching the Oxfordshire Hotel you drive along a well maintained entrance with the golf course on either side. There is plenty of free car parking and a handy drop off area which should suit everyone. Checking in at the hotel is very quick and done with a smile. We were offered spa and pool times as well as an option to book a time at the restaurant.

The food in the restaurant is superb, very well cooked and plenty to choose from. Whether you are a steak lover or a lover of fruits-de-mer the menu will suit your needs. The restaurant offers fantastic views over the golf course and is lovely at sunset. Service was friendly and efficient. I was very impressed with the depth of flavours in the food.

The rooms were comfortable, spacious and had very good air conditioning. The rooms also had a nice terrace / veranda which was accessed via sliding doors. In room hair dryer and safe for your valuables was good to have also.

Oxfordshire Hotel, Golf and Spa, Oxfordshire, UK - Hotel Review

Room photo at The Oxfordshire Hotel

The Breakfast next morning was varied, hot food was tasty and was actually hot (which some hotels can learn from). I also availed of the delicious fresh fruit, yoghurt, cereals and muesli which were also on offer.

The hotel is an ideal base for visiting places like the university town of Oxford and the Oxfordshire countryside. You could also enjoy punting on the Thames in Oxford or a visit to the Harry Potter Studios in Watford. If you are interested the village where the Vicar of Dibley was filmed (a small town called Turville) is located near by. There are many other great places, gardens and country houses to visit nearby also.

The Oxfordshire Hotel : Accolades

The Oxfordshire has had some recent accolades including the top 50 places to Stay & Play voted by Golf Monthly magazine, Top Golf Course in the county voted by the Top 100 Golf Courses in England and awarded 4 Bubbles by The Good Spa Guide.

The Oxfordshire Hotel : Conclusion

I did not know what to expect on booking (via but was more than happy in the first minute inside the doors. The Oxfordshire is a well serviced, clean and friendly hotel which I have bookmarked and will certainly return to in the future. I had a very enjoyable stay and look forward to returning to the The Oxfordshire Hotel and Spa at some point in the future.

The Oxfordshire Hotel : Contact Details & Map

The Oxfordshire Hotel, Rycote Lane  Milton Common, Oxfordshire OX9 2PU, United Kingdom

The Oxfordshire Golf Hotel and Spa

Travel Packing Checklist | What To Pack for Holiday & Vacation – Pack like a Pro

Travel Packing Checklist | What To Pack for Holiday & Vacation – Pack like a Pro

Packing for vacation? Take a look at this travel packing list so you pack the important items for your vacation or holiday. The holiday and vacation packing checklist is all you need, whether this is your first vacation or you’re a seasoned globetrotter. This is a helpful packing checklist.

One of the most stressful things you have to do before you even get into the car to head to the airport, is packing for your holiday or vacation. This handy holiday packing checklist might help you before you actually start packing and it might help you ensure that you don’t leave home missing essential items to pack into your suitcase for your holiday.

This list is not complete nor will it suit everyone or every type of holiday since a checklist for a city break will be different to a packing checklist for a 3 stop long haul trip.

Simply cross out items you don’t need then tick off the items from the list by your suitcase as you pack for your holiday.

The packing checklist below does NOT include clothes as everyone is different. Hopefully this packing checklist will help with the other items which you may wish to bring. If you spot any omissions please make a comment and we can add it to the list.

Packing Essentials

Passports (ensure they are at least 6 months in date)
Drivers License (should you wish to hire a car)
Airline Tickets
Visas if required by your destination
Wallet – Debit and Credit Cards
Cash / Travelers checks
Emergency phone numbers
Hotel, rental car, confirmation details
Copies of your travel insurance

Guidebooks & Maps
Contact numbers to report lost credit

Electric Plug adapter
Cell Phone adapter
iPod / iPhone Charger
Books and magazines
iPod Earphones (ideal for the flight)

Personal Items / Toiletries

Travel alarm clock and batteries
Glasses, sunglasses and contacts
Birth control
Anti-bacterial hand gel or wipes
Hand lotion
Small first-aid kit
Travel pillow
Shampoo and conditioner
Hair Brush
Cosmetics & Soap
Razor and shaving cream
Sunblock & After Sun
Insect Repellant

Extra Items

Locks for your Luggage (and keys!)
Luggage name tags (include phone and email)
Sewing kit
Hiking Boots (make sure they are very clean prior to packing if traveling to Australia or new Zealand)
Camera, Flash & Lenses
Camera Mini-Tripod (for the photo enthusiast)
Camera Battery Charger (e.g. Canon DSLR type)
Extra film or memory card
Memory Card Holders (to keep them safe)
Journal and pen (if you like keeping notes on where you were)
Sweets for the Journey
Finally is the house locked and is the heating off and everything plugged out?

I hope this holiday checklist helps you on your vacation

Remember to put all liquids and gels into your checked luggage.
Remember to check there are no sharp items in your hand luggage.
Remember to ask a neighbour to check in on your house when you are away.
Remember to have a good time on your trip.
Updated March 2018

Enjoy Your Holiday!

Lady Bird (2017) – Movie Review of Lady Bird starring Saoirse Ronan

Lady Bird (2017) – Movie Review of Lady Bird starring Saoirse Ronan

Lady Bird – Movie Review

Released : 2017
Director : Greta Gerwig
Writer : Greta Gerwig
Starring : Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts

I had been anticipating the release of Lady Bird for some time now. The trailer looked funny, it seemed to be an interesting film. The last Saoirse Ronan movie I saw was Brooklyn, which was good, but just good. I went to Lady Bird expecting something wow but I have outlined my thoughts on Lady Bird with the review.

Christine McPherson likes to be called “Lady Bird”, it is her given name, given to her by herself.

Lady Bird is the story of Christine’s senior year of high school. It portrays the relationship she has with her mother, her friends, the friends she wants to be best friends with, male friends, her siblings and her dad. It also deals with the fact that she is going to school in a strict catholic educational system, which she seems not to believe in. It is a multi-faceted film as it seems to try and deal with all these relationships at the same time and for me, I think the movie somewhat loses itself in trying to cater for all the people in her life.

Some of the funniest and interesting scenes are those she has with her mother, played by the fantastic Laurie Metcalf (who you may know as being Sheldon Cooper’s mum in The Big Bang Theory). There is a love hate relationship there, with her mum being overly critical while ensuring the family needs are looked after. Lady Bird wants to go to an expensive and sophisticated college on the East Coast such as Yale or Harvard. Her mum thinks she is not good enough and that the expense would be wasted. Perhaps her route might be community college, prison and then back to college, he mum suggests. (At which point Lady Bird decides to leave the moving car…). I would have loved to have seen more of the relationship with the mother.

All during the film Lady Bird is all about trying to achieve greatness as she grows up, but at every attempt you see her mistakes. She chooses the wrong friends, tries the wrong drinks and tells the wrong lies.

The film seems more like a load of scenes put together than a flowing movie with a beginning, middle and end. The story itself does not make for a fantastic movie – it is good, but by no means, a Best Picture candidate. However, I think it will appeal to an audience who can identify with it.  Saoirse Ronan is very good as Lady Bird but I walked away thinking, what was all the hype about the movie – not 5 star but a strong 4 star.

In conclusion, Lady Bird is a very enjoyable movie to go and see. I thought it would not be one which I would watch again – however, having watched the trailer again and having seen the movie, there is something charming about the movie. There are elements to it which are really nice, it is very emotional in parts … so, not all bad !

Lady Bird, Overall Movie Rating : 81% (4/5 stars)


Lady Bird – Official Trailer

2018 Oscar Nominations and my Oscar Tips

2018 Oscar Nominations and my Oscar Tips

The Oscars are coming up soon and there are some hotly tipped movies and actors in the running.

Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” won well at the BAFTAs and has 13 nominations. “Dunkirk” might do well with 8 nominations and Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” has 7 Oscar nominations. Other movies in the Oscar Nomination list include Lady Bird with Saoirse Ronan, Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, Get Out, Phantom Thread  and The Post. I have only seen one of the formerly listed movies but this is my list of what I think will Win an Oscar.

The Academy Awards will be hosted by the talented Jimmy Kimmel, a role he will take on for the second time on March 4th.

The Oscar Nominees and my Oscar Tips

Best Picture

“Call Me by Your Name”
“Darkest Hour”
“Get Out”
“Lady Bird”
“Phantom Thread”
“The Post”
“The Shape of Water”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” – WINNER


Best Actor in a leading role

Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour” – WNNER
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”


Best Actress in a leading role

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” – WINNER
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Meryl Streep, “The Post”


Best Supporting Actor

Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”
Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” – WINNER
Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”
Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”


Best Supporting Actress

Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya” – WINNER
Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”


Best Director

“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro – WINNER


Best Animated Feature

“The Boss Baby,” Tom McGrath, Ramsey Ann Naito
“The Breadwinner,” Nora Twomey, Anthony Leo
“Coco,” Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson – WINNER
“Ferdinand,” Carlos Saldanha
“Loving Vincent,” Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Sean Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman


Best Adapted Screenplay

“Call Me by Your Name,” James Ivory
“The Disaster Artist,” Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
“Logan,” Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
“Molly’s Game,” Aaron Sorkin
“Mudbound,” Virgil Williams and Dee Rees – WINNER


Let’s see what happens but some of these categories have close rivals. Get Out could get the Best Director Oscar and also Best Adapted Screenplay could go to Call me by your Name. Although there were not as many blockbusters this year as other years, there are some splendid films. All eyes will be on Hollywood on March 4th.

If you have thoughts on who will win, leave a comment below…