Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Five Minutes Walk from the Colosseum

This is where I found myself at this time last week, in fact at this time last week I was sitting in my favourite Italian Restaurant L'Orso 80, on the Via Dell' Orso in Rome, my lovely big sister Clare took me there for my birthday, the restaurant not Rome. We stayed in an apartment and have decided that this is the way to go, the apartment was five minutes literally from the Colosseum which is so central and it was beautifully dressed and decorated and even had it's own private terrace which was well used for lunch and an evening's glass of Prosecco before heading out to dinner.

Having been to Rome a couple of times now I am getting the hang of the public transport (Bus if you want to see the sites and have time on your hands; the metro if like us you are there for four days and time is of the essence), the site seeing (even got to see the Sistine chapel this time) and the food (try and stray off the beaten track for the best deals).

The first time I went to Rome was with the church for World Youth Day 2000 and I remember thinking what a beautiful city that Rome is and how clean etc. The city has never lost it's attraction to me and I find myself every so often wanting to return. When we entered the flat late on Saturday night the girl Francesca (who could not have been nicer) asked us if we had been to Rome before the usual chit chat and we advised that we have been a couple of times, when she asked why I quipped 'Because we keep throwing money in the Trevi' Francesca giggled as did my sister and I but it is one of the reasons I return to keep throwing that money in so that I guarantee that I come back.

I have included some of my photos below of the Vatican museums (although not the Sistine chapel as no talking or photos are allowed in the chapel itself), the gardens and the general surroundings of Rome, I have also detailed below a couple of my top tips for travelling in Rome.

Top travel tips in Rome

Queues are not a big thing in Europe so if like me this annoys you and you are flying with a budget airline get speedy boarding or priority boarding as this will allow you to not have to queue and get on the plane first.

If you have limited time get the Metro it does not show you the sites of the city but if you get the three day pass you can get on and off busses and all public transport in Rome so if you want to take in the long road to the Vatican (the number 62 bus from Termini goes down this road and stops just around the corner) then just jump on the bus instead.

Always get lost! Half the fun in places like Rome and Venice is the getting lost, stick to the streets around the main tourist sites and you should be able to find a nice reasonably priced restaurant with great food (just remember and visit the tourist information office and pick up a free booklet with a map as it has the bus routes in it and is really helpful)

If you can, go to a football game, we went to watch Roma versus FC Basel and although Roma got beat it was an excellent experience and I would definitely do it again especially since a ticket to see the Champions league game only cost 10 euro's from the club shop, despite being quoted 80 euro's online. Add to this we got a discount because we were female?!?


If you are going to see the Sistine chapel get your ticket online before you go that way you beat the crowd, the queue every time I have been to Rome the queue is consistently down the road round the corner, down the road again and round another corner it is really busy so book first online at

Just outside Termini on the Terravision bus side of the building (at the platform one side) across the road there is a small shop that sells wine, food etc and this is open quite late (we got two bottles of prosecco and some food at the back of 11 at night) it is reasonably priced and a real wee find.

Friday, April 23, 2010

If it is all about style and PR

Debate Round-up

Having not watched the first leaders debate last week (I have it recorded just have not gotten round to watching it yet) I was surprised by the second in the series.  A few things jumped immediately to mind, it was too long, this could have been an hour comfortably and the last half hour dragged on.  Secondly the set up was a little strange, I don't mind that the audience are not allowed to contribute except for asking questions as this tends to stop the party hacks populating the audience so that their guys can boo at the others, a tactic regularly employed by the SNP, however, the leaders were very cramped on the stage and I would have liked to have seen a little more attention and pushing for substance in the answers.  I would also have liked to have seen a little more introduction and the Leaders being able to answer the question instead of the moderator summing up what the questions actually were as he then changed it into a sound-bite format for the ticker writer. 


There were a few different issues discussed that David Cameron misled people on and I thought that I would point out a couple here.  How can he claim that he has a new team when the people the Conservatives put on the TV for the pre debate hype were Malcolm Rifkind and Ken Clarke?  Old policies coming through and old heads pulling relatively young strings.  Further to this the election leaflets that Mr. Cameron is so synthetically angry about were based on a election promise that the Conservatives refused to make until last night when Mr. Cameron decided to make up the policy on the hoof.  

Most importantly for me is the question of defence and Europe, there are a number of really important things that Cameron and EVERY Conservative candidate needs to answer....

1. Do you agree with the political ties that the Conservatives have in the European parliament.

2. Moving to immigration, if -as the Conservatives have advised on many previous occasions have admitted that they would- we moved out of Europe how would the Conservatives immigration policy work?  They seem to be tied to the EU for this?

3. Do you agree with the Conservative candidate in Scotland lying to the public about local business leaders being against the NI raise and using their names without authorisation on the election leaflets?  If not what action will you take against them?


Again Nick Clegg has misled people on many occasions now and seems not to know basic history of the political system in the UK. The Liberals as a party are much older than the Labour party so when he talks about the two old parties he is really referring to his own and the Tory's.  He 'forgot' to mention his ties to big business and his lobbying jobs ad doesn't seem to want to answer the questions asked of him re funding, which rings alarm bells, I am sure there was no wrong doing but why not publish the details now rather than later?  

Questions for Clegg and EVERY Liberal candidate

1.  Religion and politics how do you feel about a Liberal candidate describing themselves in a Catholic newspaper as 'the closest thing to a pro life candidate' in  an election?  (Eileen McCartlin in the last election Scottish Catholic Observer)

2.  What will you replace Trident with and when would that decision be made?


From this mornings press conference Gordon Brown is right it is not a game show it is an election and all voters should be taking their vote seriously, today is a more important moment the recovery is under way and this campaign has already made clear that the Tories are a risk to the recovery.  Voters should not be expected to put their cross against a question mark and the questions regarding their policies are growing day by day.  We need to ensure that we are not making the mistakes of the 1980's and 90's.  We need to make sure that we are talking up Britain and that we are showing the positive side of the Labour Policies that we have, but it would be irresponsible NOT to point out the flaws and dangers in the other parties policies, ask yourself this if we don't who will?

On a personal note I used to live downstairs from a real live suffragette, someone ho was denied the vote simply based on her sex, someone who struggled to ensure that we lived in a fairer and safer society and someone who inspired me to join the Labour Party and remember that as a party we know we are better together than we are apart and we know that we are moving towards a fairer, stronger and safer society.

Vote Labour on May 6th

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Take them to Court

Have a listen to the Ryanair stance on refunding their customers for their food and accommodation.  Keep in mind that Ryanair were one of the last companies to restore full service to their passengers (only tomorrow will it be fully back up to speed) and one of the companies who have been complaining to the EU about the regulations.  According to the Irish 'Rich List' for 2010 Mr. O'Leary is worth over £182,000,000, and yet Ryanair 'cannot afford' to re-inburse their customers under the EU legislation that as a European Airline they operate under.  This is Mr O'Leary's company deciding that they will pick and choose which laws apply to them and as such they should be taken to court and not only due compensation but damages rewarded to EVERY customer who has had to suffer because of this, personally I think that it should come out of his personal fortune.  They are suggesting that they will only compensate to the price of the ticket, my response to this is that they operate under European Law and are duty bound to compensate their customers they are not above the law.

The thing that really annoys me about this is that Mr. O'Leary is playing with emotions during an election period watch this space for him or a spokesperson (if he doesn't have the guts to do it himself) coming out and saying that if they were to compensate to the EU regulations that they would either go bust or have to lay off masses of people, this is his way of trying to bully ALL parties into supporting him and I for one hope that it fails miserably, call out to Ryanair and Mr. O'Leary - you knew the legislation when you started operating time to suck it up, think about your customers and their suffering and pay what is due to them.

Update - Michael O'Leary of Ryanair has advised he is going to sue the EU Government for compensation for the shut down for £30M losses ... Despite the Ryanair profits being in excess of £241M last year!!!!  Again O'Leary suck it up and take the money out of your own pocket if needs be!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Volcanic Ash

Living up to their Promises

Anyone who has flown over the past few years will no doubt have suffered some amount of disruption and delay in the flight plans and under EU law the airlines are supposed to look after their customers by providing food and shelter if needs be, I must admit that I for one have never been treated to such attention from ANY airline that I have travelled with.  We learn today that many of the airlines have now decided to abandon their passengers abroad and expect the Government to step in and fill their obligations.  I would expect to see more than a few court cases over expenses incurred and not covered by the airlines.

Pasenger Safety has to come first

I agree that passenger safety has to come first but someone should probably explain that to East Coast Rail who continued to sell tickets on the 2pm service from Lonon's Kings Cross to Aberdeen service on Friday.  Despite their being NO seats available the train company continued to sell tickets for the train and we had each carriage with passengers and their luggage littering the aisle's.  One member of staff was overheard saying that they were concerned about safety and asking why the company continued to sell tickets.  Add to this the lack of air conditioning and you have an unhealthy situation where the temperatures were soaring to almost 38 degress celcius at times - and before anyone asks I have an application on my phone that is a thermometer-.  Keeping your customers safe should apply to all methods of transport.  And to those airlines who are saying that it was safe to fly yet the airports stayed closed I would respond that the safety of passengers should always come first it only takes one plane to go down and the Government has ben neglegent in it's duty to protect the public.  Mr Walsh of BA would be best minded to remind himself of the BA near tragedy in 1982 due to the same issue and then answer why if it is so safe to fly has his airline not completely restored their services?

Who Should Pay?

This seems to be the big debate at the present time and to be honest my answer would be the airlines and the insurance companies that is why we pay for insurance and if the airlines do not have a contigency fund to cover such eventualities then they should really be looking at their business practises.  I would also go as far to suggest that the airports should be partially refunding the Taxi's some of the liscense fee that they pay in order to provide a service to the airports as they were also out of pocket at no fault of their own and many of these people are self employed and cannot afford the luxury of a contingency big enough to cover this.  

Who should not pay is the Government and by proxy the tax payer, why should we be paying to bail out a industry that bleeds its customers dry every chance it gets, example airlines like Ryanair who have now decided that they are considering bringing in charges for the airplane toilets!  They charge for using a card online and if you call the price is dearer so you pay that way anyway, they charge for baggage and weigh your hand luggage now as well to try and get more money out the unsuspecting tourist and refuse to provide onward transport if their plane breaks down leaving you out of pocket. 

Don't get me wrong Ryan Air are by no means the only airline who bleed their customers but they are one of the main perpetrators and should be paying to provide their customers the proper cover under EU legislation even if they are a low cost airline (which is a complete falicy in itself we flew to Venice cheaper on BA than on Ryanair and it was much more comfortable).

Anyway what do you think, who should pay?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Some Techno-babble

New Phone

One of the things that I love is new technology and I decided last week to update my phone, and even though I only got it today I am loving it. I upgraded to the HTC Hero otherwise known as the T-Mobile G2 and it is a fantastic phone, I must admit to being slightly annoyed that even though I was staying for an extra 18 months they would not give me it for free (cheap skates!) however, I have fully charged the phone -extremely important- put the sim in and started to use it.

One of the things that I like about the phone is the 'apps' and from what I can tell in contrast with the IPhone and it's applications most of those available for this phone are free to download! I have so far used the maps feature, the weather and the email feature and the etch a sketch (just a bit of fun) and I must admit to being pleasantly surprised.

So a couple of hints and tips on this and other 3G mobile phones...

3G handsets use more power to connect to the network so this will have an impact on the length of time your battery lasts.

When a handset says this is how long you should get out of the phone in terms of battery it means if you don't connect to the network and you don't use the phone, so you can usually cut this in half and get a more accurate picture -let's be honest who only uses their mobile for calls and texts anymore?-

If you are using multiple applications on the phone make sure that the applications are closed down after use as running them in the background depletes the battery power (for the HTC Hero/ T-Mobile G2 you can download an application called 'kill apps' it is free and it will show you what is running and allow you to close those applications you no longer need to keep running).

Check out the Internet forums and try the handset in a store before you buy it because once you have personalised the phone there are very few networks that will allow you to return it, and if it is an upgrade there is no 14 day money back guarantee once you walk out the shop with it that is it.
I hope this is helpful, really I am just trying to say I love my new phone!

Monday, January 25, 2010

American Health Care

I have been following the debate on the American health care system over the past few months and thinking about how good we have it in the UK. I know that this is not always a popular thing to say in fact one of our native Conservative MEP's disagrees with this sentiment entirely as shown through his appearances on American TV Daniel Hannan MEP.

At the moment I am sitting watching 'The Rainmaker' a film based on a book by John Grisham one of the story lines the young lawyer in the film/book follows is that of a young man called Donnie Ray Black who has Leukaemia, his insurance company refuses to pay for the life saving treatment because a bone marrow transplant is an 'experimental' procedure the case argues that this led to the death of the young man.

It does show a stark and albeit dramatised version of the American health care system in which insurance companies would decline and dismiss all claims as a first response. I understand the arguments against an NHS style system however, I cannot thank the NHS enough for the amount of money and time spent on treating members of my close family and cannot help but think had we been living in America these individuals in my family would have had a much harder time during their illness and half the treatments and drugs used would have been denied as experimental or too expensive.

I know we don't have a perfect system by any manner of means but it is clearly fairer and looks after those weakest in society where the US system does not, the elderly and poor are left behind. Surely the measure of a just society is how we treat those less fortunate than ourselves, how can we look someone in the eye and say I think it is fair and just for you to die because you dont have enough money to live?
Have your say here in the comments section and on the BBC website.


Please note all postings on this blog are of a personal nature and do not reflect the opinions of either Renfrewshire Council, the Scottish Labour Party or Renfrewshire Labour Group. NB No annonymous comments will be published on this blog if you have something to say have the courage to identify yourself.