Fes, Morocco

A couple of weeks ago I was sat with a friend, reminiscing over our fond memories of previous travels and dreaming of all the worldly places we were yet to visit when we suddenly found ourselves scouring the internet for cheap flights. 

Morocco has long been on my list of places to check out and it just so happened that the cheapest airline I have ever seen in my life- Easyjet- where offering flights for a measly £50 return! Too good an offer to miss out on, we booked our tickets without a seconds thought! One week later and we were both on the plane (more of a large tin with wings when you fly with Easyjet) to Morcco’s third largest city and former capital, Fes. 

The beautiful and vibrant city of Fes was founded in the 8th century and currently holds a population of more than 1.1 million people. Yet it is surprisingly lacking in tourists, most of whom prefer to frequent the hustle and bustle of Marrakech instead. So if you’re thinking of heading to this alluring North African country anytime soon and would prefer to see a quieter, more rustic and untouched side of the culture, I would definitely recommend you visit Fez. 

Here are 5 of my favourite things to do: 

Souk sports

Shopping at the local souk’s should become a recognised olympic sport! Throughout the narrow and winding uphill and downhill labyrinth of Talaa Kebira in Bab Boujeloud you’ll find hundreds of shops and stalls selling everything from typical arabic snacks, spices, cosmetics, souvenirs, clothes, leather bags and shoes… The list goes on. It’s also here that you’ll find some of the worlds most natural oils, like argon oil, in abundance. I would suggest that you buy a boat load of this stuff as it is impossible to track down in the UK and it’s bloody amazing for your hair, skin and nails. If you’re visiting the souk, be sure that you come prepared with a bucket load of patience and a good clear set of lungs to haggle your way to a bargain price for any goods you pick up. Act confident and have a set price in mind or those sneaky buggers will see right through it and you’ll end up paying double your money. Oh and be sure to remember how you actually got into the Talaa Kebira souk in the first place or you’ll end up getting completely lost like I did. 

Chouara Tannery

Hidden away amongst the ancient buildings and narrow, crooked passageways of the city’s old Medina you’ll find a vibrant cluster of stone wells each filled with a brightly coloured liquid. Chouara, the 11th century tannery, still operates in exactly the same manner as it did over a thousand years ago, producing everything from leather handbags to jackets which are typically sold in the nearby souks. Look to the sides of the stone wells and you’ll see the skins of cows, sheep, goats and camels hanging up, ready to be soaked in the a mixture of cow urine, salt, water and errrrm pigeon poo. For obvious reasons, this place was rather….potent, so much so in fact that on numerous occasions I had to stop myself from projectile vomiting. The workers though, clearly accustomed to tourists holding their noses and their stomachs in despair, kindly handed me and others a small sprig of mint to mask the smell. Standing from a balcony just above the tannery, admiring the spectacular ancient ritual was a once in a lifetime moment and I would highly recommend anyone going to Morocco to take a look at the nearest tannery. 

Tea and Tagine

If you visit Morocco without trying the local tagine then you’re not doing it right! This typical dish is traditionally made in a clay pot which has been placed on hot charcoal and left to cook slowly for a good few hours. The pot is usually filled with vegetables, dried fruit and meat of some kind, (generally chicken or lamb as pork is not consumed in most arabic countries). A small amount of liquid is added to the mixture which in turn produces the most tender, melt in your mouth meat you’ve ever tasted in your life. Unashamedly, I ate tagine pretty much everyday and although I tried a few variants including chicken and almonds and meatballs with potatoes, you can’t beat a good old lamb and vegetable tagine. It’s also surprisingly healthy and you’ll find that most places serve it up with thick, fresh bread or a side plate of light and fluffy couscous. You can find a mouthwateringly-cooked and fragrant tagine at pretty much every restaurant for around £5-10 for two and believe you me, they are big portions. Two of the best Tagine’s I ate were at Chez Rachid which has also been awarded a certificate of excellence and Cafe Laglali which was highly recommended on Tripadvisor. I must admit, I never really knew what all the fuss was about surrounding the whole mint tea shebang until I got to Morocco and tasted the real deal for myself. Turns out that s**t is out of this world!!! This highly addictive green tea is prepared with fresh mint leaves and sugar and you aint never tasted anything so sweet! You’ll find mint tea in almost every cafe and restaurant in Morocco and all at a ridiculously low price, averaging around 75p to £1 for a full pot for two. After a long day of walking around and negotiating deals with souk merchants there is no better way to unwind then with a warm glass of this stuff! 

View from the top 

If you can find the perfect spot, there are some absolutely breathtaking views of the city to be had, especially during the early hours of the evening when the sun is just beginning to set and the Islamic call for prayer begins. We stayed at Riad dar guennoun, a lovely, family-run Riad which provides a magnificent view of the city from the terrace roof and is open to guests (and possibly non-guests if you ask nicely) from morning till night. The owner, Juliet was also more than happy to make us some fresh mint tea to accompany our incredible sun set views. On a side note I would highly recommend this particular Riad to anyone, the staff were both friendly and accommodating to all our needs and they cooked us up the most amazing breakfasts! If you fancy a more top-notch view with an equally top-notch meal to accompany it then book yourself a table at either L’Amandier or La Terrace at palais faraj. With both being some of the most famous and in demand restaurants in the city of Fez (with both tourists and locals alike), you’ll likely need to book in advance to nab yourself a table at this exquisite fine-dining restaurant. As you can imagine, prices far exceed what that which you would pay at a local Moroccan restaurant but for this one-off experience, its well worth the price.

Hammam, man.

A ‘Hammam’, also known as a steam bath or sauna, is an ancient and integral part of Moroccan and middle eastern culture and has since become popularised in Turkey as well as numerous other European countries. As physical purification and cleanliness is one of the essential rituals of Islam, you’ll often find Moroccans visiting their local Hammam at least once a week for a few hours and having a good old catch up. Inside the Hammam you’ll find a steam room, a bathing room and a ‘cold’ room as well as a massage room, should you choose to use it. Upon your visit you’ll be asked to strip off (to your basics) so I would advise that you bring your swimwear if you don’t want to rock the disposable underwear provided. There are typically 2 types of Hammam experiences, the DIY option where you’ll bathe and clean yourself or the errrr ‘assisted’ option where someone will do it all for you. Be warned, if you choose the second option then you may be in for a bit of a rough ride as they take the whole ‘good old scrub’ thing very seriously. To the point you may even begin to shed a bit of skin during the whole exfoliation process! With more than 250 Hammam’s dotted around Fes, you’re sure to find one on almost every street corner and all at a relatively low price, ranging from £5-£30 depending on where you go. As a side note I would advise that you bring along some essentials such as soap, shampoo and a towel unless you want to pay for them upon entering the Hammam. Oh, and when available, I would suggest buying ‘sabon beldi’- a gooey black olive oil soap that usually comes in bulk, rubbing this stuff into your skin will leave it feeling softer than a baby’s bottom

Back to Black

You know how the saying goes, when in Rome? Well, when in Morocco…

Surprisingly, djellaba`s- a traditional garment worn commonly throughout Morocco- are actually a lot more comfortable and breezy then you would expect! I picked up this gorgeous black number from one of the hundreds of souks dotted all around Marrakech for just under a tenner! I love the intricate gold detail at the waist and I am a sucker for anything black as it is simple, elegant and classy. I would love to cut this open at the front and wear it as a sort of long kaftan but I’m too scared to do anything to it incase I ruin it! You can find so many designs and colors of djellaba`s all around morocco (and the middle east for that matter) but if you’re not going anywhere near there for quite some time and you fancy yourself a djellaba or two, take a look on eBay. You can find some really good quality ones for a very decent price although you may have to buy from abroad.

Oh and by the way, I am a firm believer that clothes can and should be used as a way of expressing your inner artist or creativity and just because certain items of clothing may be attached to certain backgrounds, religions or countries, who says you can’t embrace and style them out with your own personal touch?! And remember ladies, sexy doesn’t always have to mean flashing the flesh, this outfit is a perfect example!

Black Djellaba-Morroco  

Heels-New Look (sold out, similar here

The downsides to being a constant traveler

Whenever I share stories of my travels with friends and family (or the occasional random stranger if they’re interested), they always seem to provoke a similar response: ‘And you did that all by yourself? ‘Aren’t you brave’, ‘Didn’t you get scared?’, ‘Weren’t you lonely?’,’ Don’t you want a ‘normal’ life’, ‘When are you going to settle down and marry then?’. Given, the latter is usually from my Granddad who thinks at 25 my ovaries are soon to seize up and ill inevitably become a lonely spinster.

Anyway, this got me thinking. Obviously, I love travelling, I always have done and I can’t see that changing at any point in the near or distant future. There are an abundance of new things I have learnt and achieved in my life that just wouldn’t have been possible or attainable if I had chosen to stay within the UK. I have made countless friends across the world, pushed myself, both mentally and physically to the extreme and opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at life. For every moment of this, I am truly grateful and will carry these memories with me for the rest of my life.

However, I can’t deny there have been a few downsides to my constant travelling too. For starters, the countless hours spent sleeping alone on airport benches because of delayed flights, language barriers resulting in some really uncomfortable and sometimes scary situations, homesickness, never really feeling settled. The list goes on but honestly? I wouldn’t change those ‘down’ times for the world simply because it has made me the person I am today.

So, if you’re a fellow traveler or you’re thinking of embarking on a travel adventure, here’s a few ‘downsides’ you can probably expect or relate to.

Relationship what now?

You know how it is, you’re on the go 24/7. One week you’re sat in a wooden hut eating sosatie with an African tribe, the next you’re playing table tennis with your new Australian mates in some hip, uptown New York hostel. (Okay, maybe not quite that extreme, but you get the picture). With your life being so unplanned, erratic and last minute, its hard to fit in a quick Skype call to let your family know you’re still alive, let alone maintain an actual, real-life relationship with someone of the opposite sex (or same sex if you’re feeling that too). This is all fine and dandy until you find yourself sat at a table (for one) in some shabby Italian cafe, crying into your pasta carbonara (for two) whilst surrounded by couples staring lovingly into each others eyes to the point where you can practically visualize what’s for desert (and no, it’s not on the menu). In other words, it gets lonely and you’re probably going to be single for quite some time and contemplate investing in a small brood of cats. But some sacrifices are worth it and you’ll thank yourself later when you finally settle down with that lucky someone and have about seven years of crazy travel stories to share.

Homesickness is a catch 22.

Sometimes the days just can’t go quick enough and when you’re missing home, time seems to drag on for an eternity. It’s normally at this point that you start to think about your friends, your family, your pets, real English bacon sandwiches, mum’s early morning cups of tea… all the little things that maybe you didn’t appreciate when you were there… And so it begins, the deep dive head first into the unavoidable swirling pool of homesickness. This, on some occasions has been known to end in an over-priced easy jet flight (bags, taxes and a cup of watery, over-strained tea not included). Yep, I’ve been there. The only annoying this about this is that when you finally make it home, you wonder what all the fuss was about. Nothing has changed. Everyone is still going about their daily routine, completely oblivious to all the wondrous sites your eyes have consumed and it can become very hard to ‘connect’ with those people who haven’t experienced this with you. This can ultimately leave you feeling a little out of place in the one place you thought you missed the most until you decide enough is enough and you’re catching the first flight out of there! And so the cycle begins again. As I said, catch 22.

You missed it kid.

Brothers 21st birthday? Check. Mother’s day? Check. First family reunion in 20 years? Check. Christmas dinner? Just about made it. Chances are, if you’re travelling the world, you’re going to miss a few key events. This is then made 10 times worse when your friends and family decide to start documenting the whole shebang on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, Linkedin and the frikkin BBC news….! Queue you simultaneously crying and laughing into your laptop at 3 in the morning in some dodgy run-down Thai hostel whilst your new Swedish roommates wonder if you’re bi-polar. (Yep, been there) Generally I use this time to reflect on all the great times I’ve had on my travels whilst also praying that everyone secretly had a really s*** time at said event without me. (everyone knows I’m the life and soul of the party they just don’t want to admit it).

Unsettled 

If you’re looking for that stable life, it aint gonna happen. Unless you’re big, brown, got 4 legs and eat grass heheheheh). You will be living out of a suitcase most of the time, temporary accommodation will take on the literal meaning of ‘temporary’. You will make friends just to part ways before making new friends again, you will have too much money and then no money, you will make plans only for them to be turned upside down and you most certainly will not feel completely comfortable wherever you are because it’s just not home. There will reach a point when you crave nothing more than a warm and cozy bed that you can sleep in on a regular basis, a bathroom that isn’t overrun with ants and shared with 20 other Russian models who shave their toes with your razor and a kitchen where you can cook a real meal instead of loading-up on taco bell every night. In other words, you will crave some form of security or routine. But the fact of it is, as long as you’re consistently on the move, security is something you will never really find until you settle in one place for more than a few months.

Travel bug

Finally and perhaps the most annoying thing about constantly travelling is that once you’ve tasted the sweeter things life has to offer, you begin to crave more and more. Suddenly a 9-5 office job just isn’t going to cut it for you, no matter how good the salary. Waking up to the same scenery every day gets boring, seeing the same people gets repetitive and your list of places to visit gets longer and longer. Unfortunately for most of us this requires working in a stable job for a while in order to save up a bit of money. Just remember whilst you’re slogging it out and wondering when it will all end: a whole new adventure awaits you so just keep pushing through whilst you plan your next adventure!

One shade of grey

As soon as I swept my eyes upon this grey warehouse maxi dress, I knew I had to have it but at just under 60, it was way out of my wardrobe budget! So, when warehouse started their winter sale (which consisted of mainly summer clothing), I practically raced down there to search high and low for this dress! I almost broke out in my best Beyonce dance routine when I saw it had been reduced to 15!

The material is deceiving as although it looks quite heavy and quilted, its actually incredibly light and breezy which makes it ideal for hot weather (hence why it was my go-to evening dress in Morocco with the heavy desert heat).  

Warehouse generally have some really pretty, quirky and glamorous maxi dresses during the summer but they seem to have a slightly smaller range this year. Not to worry though, plenty of high street stores such as New Look, Topshop and online retailers ASOS, all have some gorgeous maxis at the moment.

Grey Maxi dress- Warehouse

P.s- the location for this shoot was the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, if you haven’t been before then I would highly suggest you visit, its absolutely show-stopping!

Black and Berber

Please excuse my rather scary and solemn facial expressions in these photos, but I was trying (and failing) to look sultry in my new berber necklace!

Back when I was on the slightly chubbier side, black jumpsuits were my go-to outfit for nights out as they always seemed to cover a multitude of sins (and several spare tyres!). Since those days (and since losing the extra chub) I have barely even thought about adding any kind of jumpsuit to my wardrobe! I guess I kind of felt that they had become a little outdated and subconsciously related them back to my older heavier days. But when my boyfriend picked out this H&M number and suggested I try it, I thought I might as well give it a shot.

Turns out jumpsuits suit all shapes and sizes and have the potential to make you feel incredibly sexy! (and a bit domineering-business-woman-like!).

I teamed this with my new favourite necklace- my traditional Berber silver wear made from the most intricate tiny bits of silver. Despite it being quite large, it is surprisingly light and I absolutely love huge pieces of statement jewellery, especially teamed with something simple and black.

 The best thing about this little black number is that it can be dressed up and down so easily, making it ideal for a handful of occasions. I would even go as far as to say you could probably waltz into your office job wearing it, provided you team it with a suitable and smart top!

Still not sure if jumpsuits are for you?

Take a look at H&Ms range and give it a try, you may be in for a nice surprise!

Purple Reign

Purple rainnnnnnn Purple raiiiiiiinnnnnn!

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

So, Im back with another fashion post, I seem to be reeling them out quite regularly lately.

This is another one of those gorgeous gems I found on my wanders through Marrakesh`s abundant souk markets. As I mentioned a few months ago, Ive been making a conscious effort to add a bit more colour to my all-black wardrobe and generally, purple isn’t a colour I have previously felt comfortable wearing. I guess because its very bright and thus attracts a lot more attention that my standard black outfits would, I was a little dubious to buy something as bright as this purple colour but after trying it on and showing my boyfriend who absolutely loved it, I thought `Hell, why not?!`

Is it super cringe to say I feel like a princess when I wear it? Well I do! The floaty cut paired with the contrasting purple and gold belt is just wonderful and yeah, kinda princess-y!

I mentioned before that dresses and jilaba`s like this can be found everywhere across Morocco, so if you’re heading there soon you will most definitely be spoilt for choice!

Marrakech, Morocco

I first went to Morocco back in November 2015 and instantly fell in love with it! So much so that I decided I would go back again the following year- something I rarely do unless a) I REALLY feel a pull from a country telling me I NEED to go back and explore more or b) I’m relocating there for 6 months +

Morocco is one of those places that you can’t just visit for a few days and get a feel for the place before forming an opinion. There is so much magic and mystery surrounding the entire country and such a strong air of tradition, stepping off the plane there is like stepping into an alternate universe.

 Here’s what to do in Marrakech:

Where to stay

With so many riads dispersed across both central and rural Marrakech, you’ll have a gazillion options to chose from regardless of your budget or location preference. We stayed in riad Lola, a beautiful and rustic boutique riad situated just a 2-minute walk from Jemaa el-fnaa, the center of the old medina and the main shopping district. The staff at our riad were so lovely and welcoming and they spoke great English, French and Spanish. Our room was like something out of an ancient movie with a shabby chick touch to it! Check them out on Airbnb to book your room. We also stayed at Dar Biona, situated at the bottom of the Atlas Mountains. This place was just out of this world- amazing views, home cooked food and a rustic, traditional interior with a huge outdoor pool, this place will be permanently cemented in my mind!

Sightseeing

Along with most of the tourists, we took a trip to the YSL gardens, formerly owned by Yves Saint Laurent himself but now open to the public for a small price.

Although I tend to try and stay away from the touristy locations, sometimes you just gotta roll with it and this little spot is well worth a look.  With so many clashing colors and an array of designer-looking floral displays, the gardens are a great way to relax and unwind after the hustle and bustle of central Marrakech. Prices are 70dh (just under 5 pound) per person for unlimited time at the gardens. If you’re visiting Marrakech during Ramadan, then I would definitely recommend you stop by the mosque at Jemaa el-fnaa between 9-9.20pm. Watching everyone pray in unison to the beautiful words of the Koran (which is blasted out through huge speakers) is quite a spiritual experience! Finally, the Atlas Mountains are one thing you cannot miss, whatever you do! No matter where you find yourself in Marrakech, look up and you’ll see the mountainous wall surrounding the city. However, the best possible views are to be found upon visiting the mountains themselves! Take a 30-minute drive out of the city center (around 200-250dh in a people carrier) and head towards the mountains for a picturesque view that you wont forget. If you’re looking to do something a bit more adventurous, I would highly recommend you try out quad biking! I had never done it before and it was certainly an unforgettable experience!! Take a look here for prices.

 (A word of warning- you’ll be riding through the desert so bring practical clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty (and dusty!) and be prepared for a rather bumpy ride!)

 Where to eat

I’m going to be honest here, there was not a single day throughout my entire 10 days stay in Marrakech when I did not eat tagine for dinner! The traditional Moroccan dish is so full of flavor and tummy-satisfying (and not to mention cheap!) You’ll doubtless find one on the menu in any restaurant you step foot in but I would highly recommend the chicken with vegetables and lemon and olives. There are around 7 different options to chose from with a variety of different meats and sauces, if you have a sweet tooth then chicken and almonds is the one for you! One of the best tagines I had was at Nomad Café, located just a 5-10-minute walk from Jemaa el-Fnaa. I nearly fainted with joy, this food was so good! Prices are very reasonable too which would explain why there was a huge queue and very limited spaces available when we arrived so you may want to try and book a table in advance (apparently it’s a big hit with locals and tourists alike). Le Marrakchi was an absolute gem that we stumbled upon whilst browsing around the souks one day. Rustic and traditionally designed, the food was outstanding and the service even better! Their mint tea game was so strong, I think I developed a minor addiction to it and spent the rest of the holiday comparing every other mint tea I drank to the one I had there. Try it, you will not be disappointed.

Entertainment

Marrakech is honestly a city that just never seems to sleep. By day it is heaving and crowded but at night, it seems like the entire place comes to life in a different way. Head to Jemaa el-fnaa after sunset and you’ll find a slightly chaotic scene of street performers, live music and tradesmen. A word of advice, if you look like a tourist, you’ll get treated like a tourist so expect to be inundated with locals trying to get you to buy fake watches or take a picture of you standing next to a monkey wearing a dress… If you’re not interested, say no and walk away. If they persist, be firm- you don’t HAVE to do or pay for anything if you don’t want it. Lots of restaurants have belly-dancing shows and live local music depending on which night you visit, take a look here for more information.

Shopping

Finally, you just cant visit Marrakech without going shopping (unless you literally have the willpower of a wilderbeast). With hundreds of shops or `bazaar`s` practically overflowing on top of each other, you’re sure to be spolit for choice when it comes to picking up new goodies. You’ll find everything from Nike footwear to silver tea sets but make sure you come prepared to barter as you’ll almost always be given the `tourist price` in the first instance. Tourist price can be anything from three to four times more than what the locals would pay so if something seems too much, it probably is. Oh and don’t forget to leave space in your suitcase to take all your new goodies back home!

The little red dress

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My visit to Morocco was a very last-minute and spontaneous venture and it wasn’t until 2 days before my flight that I realised my little holiday was going to require some sunny-weather clothes! As the majority of my wardrobe is displaced over half of the UK at the homes of friends and family, I made a pit-stop shopping trip to my nearest high street. After running around like a headless chicken for a good hour before realising that pretty much every high street chain had decided winter was well and truly on the way and the stopped selling summer wear, I found this bargain!

I found this gorgeous little summer dress hanging on the sale racks in none other than Peacocks for a tidy sum of £6, £6!!!!!!

Bloody bargain!

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I don’t think the photos do it justice if I’m honest, the red is so vibrant and the whites really contrast giving it an almost 60’s hippy vibe. It was also perfect for the intense heat in Morocco which I really was not prepared for at this time of year. The dress comes with a little belt around the waist to give it a bit of shape or you can sack of the belt and wear it as more of a t-shirt style dress. I picked up a size bigger than normal as I wanted it to have a little slack for the heat but last time I checked, Peacocks still had it in size’s 8-14.

If you’re thinking of visiting Morocco any time soon, do it! I absolutely fell in love with the place and despite having a general rule of not visiting the same place twice unless I’m moving there, Morocco will definitely be a place I visit once a year.

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T-shirt dress- Peacocks

Tan bag- Primark

Black ballet shoes- Primark

Sunglasses- Ray Ban