Dubai, UAE

If you follow me on social media or know me personally, then you’ll know that I moved to Abu Dhabi a few years back and settled there for a while. In many ways, I still think of it as home. Perhaps I’m in the minority here but for me personally, I had never before been to a place where I had actively envisioned myself settling down for the foreseeable future. And believe me, I’ve been to a LOT of different parts of the world in my time and, despite falling in love with those little corners of the world, I couldn’t ever picture myself living there. For those of you who didn’t know, Abu Dhabi is only around 1 hour away from Dubai (or 40 minutes if you drive like a maniac, i.e., moi) and as a consequence, I spent a good deal of time frequenting the big city on weekends and evenings.

If you haven’t been to Dubai before, I would highly recommend it! For me personally, its one of those places that you just HAVE to visit at least once in your life. Trust me, you wont regret it.

Where to eat 

Dubai is one of those wonderful places where you literally can find ANY type of food at practically any time of the day or night. I’m not kidding, the amount of times me and my friends would return home at 2am after a night of partying and order a 3 course meal of freshly cooked Pakistani food is actually embarrassing. And the best thing? It doesn’t have to be expensive. If you’re looking to get your moneys worth in the form of a top-notch buffet then check out Mistral at the Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate. With everything from Mediterranean dishes to Japanese sushi, they’ve got it covered and all for a very reasonable price of AED 159 (£35) for lunch and AED 199 for dinner. With prices like that, its easy to see why it gets booked up very fast so I would highly recommend booking a table in advance, particularly if you are planning to go on a weekend. Ravi restaurant, on Al Dhiyafa road doesn’t look like much from the outside (or on the inside to be honest) but it serves up the most amazing indian and Pakistani food and is super cheap. Wafi gourmet in both the Dubai mall and Wafi mall is home to some incredible Lebanese food and, despite having a bit of a fast-food vibe to it, its actually super fresh and healthy. Try their falafel’s and grilled chicken salads for a taste bud explosion! If you’re looking for something high-end then I cannot recommend enough Kaleidoscope at the Palm, Atlantis. Specializing in Indian, Arabic, Mexican and Italian FOOD, this upmarket international buffet really does have it all! Prices start from AED 225 per person but it is well worth visiting, especially if you’re a buffet lover like me. Just make sure you come with an empty stomach!

Explore the desert 

As I mentioned in my post about Abu Dhabi, a desert safari tour is a must do! It really is one of the most fun and adrenaline-inducing things you’ll ever do. Popular to contrary belief, they don’t have to be expensive either. If you can grab yourself a copy of the Entertainer-Dubai’s number voucher book, then you can get up to half price off safari tours as well as restaurants, nights out and shopping. Using the Entertainer, me and 4 friends were able to get a desert safari tour which consisted of hotel pick-up, dune bashing, camel riding, shisha, henna, a HUGE Arabic buffet in the middle of the desert, under the stars and a belly dancing show to finish it all off, all for a VERY reasonable price. If you don’t want to buy a full Entertainer booklet then take a look at Dubizzle, as many locals tend to sell off their vouchers throughout the year, particularly towards the end of the year. Honestly, sitting under the stars in the middle of the desert with a belly full of arabic food is a blissful experience that you won’t forget anytime soon!

Shopping 

I think its pretty much common knowledge to everyone who’s ever thought about going to Dubai that is is arguably one of the THE best places for shopping. Like. Ever.
With hundreds of high street brands as well as plenty of designer stores, you can, quite literally, shop till you drop. Obviously, one of the most popular places to visit is the Dubai mall, which is also one of the easiest places in the world to get lost… it quite literally is, MASSIVE.
But the mall isn’t just for shopping, oh no no no. A long with a gazillions shops, theres also an indoor theme park, an ice rink, an aquarium, and a giant cinema as well as 200+ restaurants and cafes. Oh and theres a water fountain, a huge water fountain. If you’re looking for something with a bit more of an `cultural vibe’ then check out Global village, just off Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road. From November to February, there is an international shopping festival, jam-packed with food and clothing from all corners of the earth! Take a look here for more info on opening times and which countries will be participating this year. Handy tip- if you wait until the very last week of the event, you can get discounts of up to 60% on many of the goods! Deira Gold Souk is the place to be for all things gold but is also a great place to pick up local souvenirs too. You’ll find everything from gold jewellery to actual bars of gold- only in Dubai, eh?! Make sure to take a pit-stop here before leaving to grab yourself some gifts.

Sight-seeing

The most obvious tourist attraction that seems to stand out in Dubai is the Burj Khalifa, at 829.8 meters high, it is the world’s tallest standing man-made structure. Whilst the view from its 144th floor observation desk is definitely breathtaking and does make for some incredible skyline New York type photos, it still doesn’t cut it as my favourite attraction in the city. Instead, I absolutely fell in love with the lesser-known gem which is the Dubai miracle garden. This gorgeous spot is home to the worlds largest natural flower garden and has more than 45 million different species of flowers spread about its 72000 sq. meters. It has also featured in popular Bollywood films and cost an arm and a leg to create, an estimated $11 million in fact.
The Bastakia quarter of old Dubai provides a more rustic and traditional feel amongst the busy and rather manic modern city life. Built in the late 19th century for wealthy Persian merchants, its limestone walls have miraculously survived until today, or rather, they have been preserved very well. Im a sucker for all things history so I would recommend visiting the sheikh mohammed centre for cultural understanding and the Dubai museum if you go as its always nice to learn a little something about the county you’re in!

The Palm 

That giant palm tree off the coast of Dubai? Thats the Palm and it also to be THE happens to place to be on weekends. This man-made island is one of the largest artificial islands in the world and is pretty awesome indeed. The palm itself is home to numerous high-end hotels, bars, clubs and restaurants but my favourite has to be the Atlantis.  There is literally no end to the things you can do at the Palm, want to scuba dive with sharks? Check. Relax in a 5* spa? Check. Take a helicopter ride? Check. Slide down a GIANT waterslide on a rubber dinghy? Sure, why not? To take a full look at everything the Palm has to offer, click here. 

Travelling in the wake of a terrorist attack: tips on how to stay safe abroad

After last weeks large-scale terrorist attacks on the french capital of Paris, the British government have made several announcements urging european citizens against travelling due to fears over safety. Although the majority of the warnings were aimed directly at those planning to travel in and out of France, many other countries across Europe and the rest of the world have now been put on high alert of terrorist attacks with Western travellers being at a greater risk.

Despite the worries associated with travelling abroad at the moment, you don’t need to cancel your holiday just yet, you just need to travel smart. So, if you’re planning on holidaying in the near future or are now re-thinking your original holiday destination, take a look at my following tips on how to stay safe abroad:

BEFORE YOU GO

Check the safety of your destination

Before booking your holiday it’s always a good idea to check what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has published about the country you’re planning to visit. You can do this by viewing the FCO’s official website https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice where you will find an up-to-date list of safety information related to all countries. This includes information and news of any political unrest and terrorism as well as the FCO’s official opinion on wether the country is deemed safe to visit. The website also offers users an email subscription which, if you chose to register, will send regularly updated travel news and advice through email alerts.

Plan ahead

Once you have chosen the country you wish to visit it is a good idea to identify safety points such as local police stations, hospitals and official buildings so that in the case of an emergency you know exactly where to go. It is always better to be prepared and know exactly where to find these places before you arrive in the country you can produce a rough ‘action plan’ of what you will do in the event of an incident.

Share your travel itinerary

Before you leave, its always a wise idea to hand over a photocopy of your travel plans or itinerary to a family member or friend. If possible, this should include your flight details, hotel or hostel address and any specific tourist areas you plan on visiting including the dates you will be visiting them. If (god forbid) something terrible was to happen, this will make it much easier loved ones to contact you and will equal benefit you. Do not however share your entire travel itinerary with everyone and their mum on Facebook, you never know how who will catch wind of it.

DURING YOUR STAY

Travel with someone

If possible, refrain from travelling alone and instead opt to travel with one or more persons to your chosen destination. As the saying goes, ‘safety in numbers’ and it’s certainly true when travelling into unknown territories in the wake of any kind of large-scale attack. Besides, having some company on your holiday will make for some fun times! If you absolutely cannot travel with someone else then I would highly recommend that you inform hotel staff where you are going when you leave your accommodation and when yo intend to return.

Stay connected

This is particularly important if your chosen destination ranks high on the terrorism threat list although it is still wise to stay connected with your family and friends at home when travelling to those deemed as low-risk countries. Utilise social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter and free apps such as Skype and Whatsapp to stay connected to your loved ones at home and let them know you are safe. Interestingly, Facebook have recently added a new feature to the site called ‘safety check’. The revolutionary new feature allows users who are in the country that has been hit by a disaster or an attack of any kind to mark themselves as ‘safe’ before automatically notifying their Facebook friends. Exercise caution though, as important as it is to stay connected to your loved ones whilst abroad, it is equally as important that you do not broadcast the specific details of your whereabouts 24/7 over social media as you never know who may be watching.

Stay mobile

If possible, keep your phone switched on, fully charged and connected to a cell network whilst abroad. If you are unsure how to do this or are worried about the costs involved with using your phone abroad then check with your local network provider for more information. In most cases, using your phone within Europe incurs similar charges to that of your home country. It is also useful to know the local emergency numbers of the country you are visiting and save them to your phone. Take a look here for a full list of emergency service’s numbers around the world: chartsbin.com

Stay in the loop

Practically every country in the world will offer news channels in either english or various other european languages so make sure you regularly tune in to your TV whilst abroad to keep up-to-date on any news surrounding both your home country and the country or region you are visiting. If you can’t connect to a TV then be sure to regularly check internet sites or download a news app for your mobile phone through the google play or iPhone app store. Take a look at the following suggestions and simply download for free: www.aljazeera.com, news.sky.com, play.google.com, news.bbc.co.uk

Passport

Taking your passport out and about with you on daily excursions can be quite risky and I would highly advise against this, opt instead to leave it in a security box in the hotel or behind the desk at hotel reception. There may however be times when you will need to show identification, especially if you find yourself in the throws of a crisis. Taking a clear and coloured copy of your passport around with you is a great idea and is something I tend to do with every country I visit.

Be vigilant

When walking around in public- in particular over-crowded areas or tourist hot-spots- make sure you stay vigilant at all times. Look out for any suspicious behaviour or noises and if you feel the need to report anything that seems unusual to police then go ahead and report it, you would be surprised how many terrorist attacks are foiled due to the vigilance of the ordinary public. Areas to be particular vigilant around include major hotels, restaurants, bars, events, concerts and embassies. Learn to recognise uniforms of authority such as the police, local army, ambulance etc so you know who to go to if needed. Speaking of uniforms, it is also a wise idea to think about the way you dress and try to blend in with the crowd. As western tourists are those who currently seem to be at the highest risk of an attack you may want to consider dressing in a way that will help you to blend in with the local crowds.

Stay in control

Finally, as much as we all love a good old tipple every now and then, a survey conducted by the ‘Know Your Limits’ campaign suggested that the average British holidaymaker consumes around eight alcoholic drinks a day, with more than a quarter of us drinking three times more than we usually would at home. After the recent events in Paris and the rest of the world for that matter, you may want to think twice about downing that extra drink as it’s better to be in alert and in control should a situation arise.

Aberdeen, Scotland

I visited Aberdeen, Scotland’s third largest city a few years’ back with a friend. The city definitely surprised me with just how picturesque and historical it was, something I really wasn’t expecting, despite it being located on the North Sea coast and in close proximity to the Highlands. I think this is partly owed to the fact that all I had ever really learned about Scotland was kilts, cold, grey weather and bagpipes. Terrible, I know. However, Aberdeen has long been recognized as a booming city thanks to the oil industry and there is plenty to do if you’re thinking of visiting.

Where to stay

With Aberdeen homing a population of more than 228,000, you definitely wont fall short in your search for accommodation, but this city offers so much more than just your typical bed and breakfast. If you’re feeling adventurous then check out coastal carriage, a private and relaxing retreat in the countryside which offers rooms onboard its vintage rail carriage. Complete with a log stove, double bed and some cracking panoramic views of the Moray Firth, this takes your average nights sleep to a whole new level! If you’re searching for something more lavish but still want that quintessential Scottish vibe, then take a look at Ardoe House hotel & spa. Set amongst 30 acres of plush countryside and inspired by Balmoral castle, this hotel offers some incredible views across the River dee as well as modern rooms, a fully-equipped gym, indoor swimming pool and of course, a spa.

Sightseeing

Perhaps one of the most notable key points in Aberdeen is the St Machar’s cathedral, a 12th century Church of Scotland which still serves as a place of worship today. It is widely believed to be the home of the left arm of dissenter William Wallace. If you’re not familiar with the story of Wallace; he was executed in 1305 and cut up into tiny pieces which were then sent to different parts of Scotland as a warning. Pleasant, I know. The Maritime museum has won multiple awards for providing a highly educational and interactive insight into Aberdeen’s historical relationship with the sea. This place is great for history-geeks (like me) or for a family day out with the kids. The gardens at Balmoral castle are the perfect place to wander around in the summer sun. One of the official residences of the British royal family, (and the queens go-to holiday haven) this place is just beautifully plush with the most amazing gardens, farmland and wildlife. Open daily between April and July, it is well worth a visit. Dunnottar Castle- which now serves as a medieval fortress- is just a short bus ride out of the city, resting neatly atop of the rocky cliffs. The castle is widely recognized as being the hiding place for the Scottish crown Jewels when Oliver Cromwell invaded the country in the 1600’s. This was hands-down my favorite spot in all of Aberdeen and made for some incredible photos too. The university and king’s college of Aberdeen is quite magnificent. Founded in 1494 with a charter from King James IV, the university grounds include a large tower featuring a huge dome replica of Charlemagne’s crown. If you’re a whisky-lover, then you’ll most likely be in whisky heaven at the GlenDronach distillery, In between Huntly and Portsoy. This place has been making its signature whisky for more than 200 years and provides guided tours on how they are produced. They also offer tasting sessions so I would highly advise that you sufficiently line your stomach before going!

 

Eat like a Scotsman

Being the coastal city that it is, you can bet your bottom dollar that Aberdeen can serve up some incredible fresh sea food and there are of plenty of great spots to find it. The Moon fish cafe has featured in the observer food monthly awards no less than twice and had made quite the great reputation for itself when it comes to beautifully presented fish dishes and off-the-chart flavours. If its good old fashioned fish and chips you’re after then take a look at either Mikado express or Hass’s fish and chips which are both favourites with locals and tourists when it comes to quick and simple but tasty takeaway. If you’re looking for a more fine-dining experience with a higher price tag, then I would highly recommend reserving a spot at Tolbooth Seafood Restaurant near Stonehaven. This place is regarded as one of the best in the city when it comes to local seafood. From pan-seared scallops to braised beef, your tastebuds are truly in for a treat. Fancy a change from seafood and Scottish cuisine? Visit Madame Mews Thai café which serves up some of the best Thai food (outside of Thailand, of course) for a very reasonable price.

Shop like a Scotsman 

Head down to the international outdoor street market on Union terrace where you’ll find more than 70 stalls selling everything from flowers to handmade goods. Aberdeen country fair, which is held on the last Saturday of every month, predominantly sells goods from the northeast of Scotland. It’s a slightly toned-down version of the outdoor market but is definitely still worth a visit if you’re looking to pick up some unique Scottish souvenirs or try out the local food. If its recognizable high-street brands you’re searching for then head down to the Bon Accord & St Nicholas shopping center on George Street. But be warned- it can sometimes turn into the Sottish equivalent of Oxford street, particularly on weekends! Finally, if you really want to get into the typical Scottish spirit and nab yourself a kilt, check out Alex Scott & Co, who stock traditional Scottish clothing which can be custom-made and fitted just for you! 

All photos taken by Andy Fritzsche 

Phuket, Thailand

This blog post is about 6 years overdue but its better late than never! I went to Phuket many many years ago (or at least it feels like many years ago) a long time before I began blogging about my travels and an even longer time before Instagram had become incorporated into our every day lives. Thus, I don’t have a terrible large number of photos from my trip but I do have some incredible memories. Phuket is much more than just beautiful beaches; it is a peaceful yet vibrant town full of historical buildings, buzzing markets and stoic monks gracing the dusty pavements.

Beaches

Phuket is definitely home to some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. Patong bay beach resort is a popular go-to for hundreds of tourists every year, in particular the party-goers and with a very valid reason. With a huge array of bars, nightclubs and go go bars, this place can get seriously rammed at night. During the day however, the beach is slightly more relaxed although you’ll still find yourself surrounded by plenty of tourists. Kamala beach offers up a much more relaxed and tranquil environment and has some of the bluest waters I have ever witnessed. Just north of Patong bay, Kamala is a small fishing village surrounded by plush green forestry and surprisingly it has managed to maintain its status as a `hidden gem’. Suring beach, also known as the ‘millionaires row’ due to its luxury resorts housing celebrities from across the globe, proves to be very popular with tourists. With beautifully clear waters and some of the best restaurants in Phuket lining its sands, its not hard to see why. Its also a great place for water activities such as jet skiing, parasailing and surfing although make sure you barter with the prices where possible as you might get ripped off! Finally, Karon beach is another great spot if you love water activities. Karon is the second largest beach in Phuket and has more of a family-friendly feel to it, with a large golf course and plenty of activities for kiddies, it’s the perfect spot if you’re holidaying with youngsters.

Eat like a local

If you’re a fan of brightly colored fruits, big bowels of steaming hot noodles and freshly barbequed seafood then you will LOVE Phuket. Lock Tien is practically famous around town, with a steady stream of locals and tourists eagerly queuing outside at both breakfast and lunch time! It looks a little bit like an old-school canteen inside, no eye-catching décor or sea views but the yellow fried noodles with egg are the absolute bomb. Kopitiam by Wilai in Phuket town may not look like much from the outside but don’t let that put you off! They have a VERY extensive menu and were kind enough to cater to my not so spicy palate. Try the mango or coconut sticky rice, tofu stir fry, fresh sea bass or the sharp and tangy noodle salad if you can. If you’d prefer to take a break from the local cuisine for a while and hit up something more Western, then try Surf and turf by soul kitchen in Phuket town. With a mixture of French and European cuisine as well as some pretty amazing steaks and tacos, this if fine dining with a very affordable price tag. Pizzeria AGLI AMICI da Michele & Jimmy in Chalong has also received raved reviews for its authentic Italian pizzas. Wherever you chose to dine in Phuket, I recommend trying chicken satay skewers (my absolute fav), dumplings with either meat or vegetables and  khao thom- a kind of rice soup dish served with minced pork or prawn.

Shopping

If you get the chance, I would definitely recommend visiting Phuket town, which has some pretty incredible (and slightly bizarre) architecture! From colonial-style buildings to Buddhist temples and Portuguese architecture, the town center homes some crazy yet intricate designs. Every Sunday, the town hosts a market where you can find everything from locally-made clothes and food to souvenirs and sunglasses. The market is traditionally open from 4pm to 10pm however these times can change depending on the season. The town center quickly changes from a quiet and quirky little place in the day to a lot livelier at night, making it the perfect spot for a drink (or two, or three…).

Spa life

We all need a bit of TLC every now and then and I personally think there is no better way to truly show yourself some love than to get yourself a Thai massage! With so many different variations of the standard Swedish massage available and at such a low price when compared to the UK, you might as well make the most of it and get everything you can! Sweet Lemongrass in Patong regularly receives rave reviews from customers across the globe. Located opposite the Seeka boutique resort, Lemongrass offers professionally trained masseurs (who are also very sweet!) and a very good price (starting from just 11 for a full body massage). You can get everything from body wraps to herbal facials here. If you’re looking for something extra extra TLC (which also comes with a bit of an extra price tag) then check yourself into the Mandara spa at JW Marriott. With more than 40 treatments to chose from and extremely experienced staff who utilize techniques dating back more than 2,500 years, you will not be disappointed! Trust me, its worth the slightly bigger budget and you will also come out smelling like roses (literally).

Boho Chick

I love love love a boho chick look for summer! 

I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that I bought these AMAZING boho trousers from Primark of all places! Not that I have anything against Primark clothing by the way, its just that they look so much more expensive and high street than that! The elasticated waist band makes them super comfortable and the flared and light material literally makes me feel like I’m walking around wearing nothing in the intense heat of morocco! I love the Aztec-looking design on the side panels as it adds a bit of a nomad, tribal edge to them. These are quite high waisted although they may be less so if you’re on the shorter side, height wise. Even so, crop tops or off the shoulder tops (which I’m addicted to at the moment!) work so well with these!

I’ll be stocking up on a few more pairs of these boho badboys when I return to England after my lovely stay here in Morocco,  Although I have a funny feeling they’re going to sell out soon! Also, how amazing is my headband? Also from Primark for an absolute steel at 1.50! Super stretchy and comfortable and perfect for keeping my unruly main at bay in this 40 degree heat!

 

Trousers- Primark

Crop top- Bershka

Headband- Primark

Shoes- New look

 Sunglasses- Oliver peoples

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!

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!

Portovenere, Italy

I headed out to Portovenere with a good friend of mine in July of this year, as a sort of belated birthday present to myself. Honestly speaking, I had never seen nor heard of Portovenere until picturesque images of its beautiful beaches and vibrantly painted houses began popping up on my Instagram feed late one evening. Situated just south of the Cinque Terre on the Italian Riveria, this village was charming beyond belief and had a really relaxed, stress-free vibe to it which ultimately left me feeling the same!

Sight-seeing 

Portovenere itself, with its picturesque houses sitting neatly on the Gulf of the Poets, is actually a UNESCO world heritage site. The Church of San Pietro (St. Peter) is a Roman Catholic church situated on rocky cliffs overlooking the sea. Officially consecrated in 1198, its typical Genovese gothic style is not hard to spot as its absolutely huge and overlooks the entire of portovenere. During the day it got quite crowded here but I loved it at night when it would transform into an incredible outdoor cinema! If you’re heading out to Cinque Terre next summer and fancy watching an international film under the stars then take a look here for more information. Overlooking the Gulf of Poets and the Cinque Terre is the landmark Doria Castle, built for the extremely wealthy Doria family in 1161. In case you didn’t know (and I certainly didn’t until I visited) the Doria family were very politically strong and influential, particularly when it came to the military and economy within the republic of Genoa from the 12th century to the 16th century. Although much of the castle has eroded and fallen apart overtime, there is still an air of richness and magic that stems from its broken-down ruins and the views of the sea from its highest point (if you can get to it) are just breathtaking.

What and Where to eat 

Portivene Un Mare di Sapori is something of a seafood specialist, boasting a menu of freshly cooked creamy pesto pasta dishes and mussels in red sauce amongst plenty of other fishy dishes! The prices are a little on the steep side but the view and the friendly staff are well worth the money! I would definitely recommend trying one of their freshly made pizzas, to die for!

Il Gambero is a much more low-priced and family themed restaurant however it does have a much simpler menu in terms of the amount of food offered. But don’t let that put you off, every single thing is freshly prepared and cooked from scratch and if you can nab yourself a seat on the outside terrace, you’ll get a beautiful view of the harbour (best enjoyed as sun sets!).Their ravioli and pan fried fish is unbelievably tasty! Ristorante Pizzeria Il Timone seemed to be a bit of a local favourite and was actually recommended to us by our host. He suggested we book a table in advance as it could get very busy in the evening but we decided to just wing it and turn up. Surprisingly we actually managed to blag ourselves a cosy spot right by the kitchen, despite it being very crowded indeed. I had the fresh baked salmon with potatoes and to be honest I was a little let down by the portion size, it was literally tiny (but that might just be because Im generally used to eating king-size portions). Their pizzas however, looked and smelt amazing and were HUGE, like, massive. My friend made a much better choice than me and ordered a seafood pizza for herself which tasted absolutely incredible.

Shopping 

As it is only a small village, you may not be surprised to hear that there is not much in the way of shopping in Portovenere. As an authentic and more traditional Italian holiday spot, you’re definitely not going to find any shopping malls or even a high street. No no no, this place is as rustic as it gets but thats what makes it so great as it means what you definitely WILL find are lots of tiny little local shops selling some of the most amazing handmade souvenirs and typical food. Bajeicò, meaning basil, is run by a lovely woman called Laura Massa who harvests basil leaves from her own plantation before working her magic and creating the most delicious pesto sauce. The guy working the front till (who’s name I cannot for the life of remember) was kind enough to give us a little taste and honestly? Its pesto like you’ve never tasted it before. I recommend you give it a try as she Laura has lots of other tasty foods on offer too! Stroll around a little more and you’ll find more shops selling some high-quality clothing and shoes, particularly leather handbags and belts, and others selling locally-inspured souvenirs such as sea shells, ocean-scented candles and of course, postcards.

Cinque Terre

The world-famous Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore, Manarola,Vernazza, Corniglia and Monterosso al Mare) are just a ferry boat ride away from Portovenere. Alternatively you can take one of the many trains which frequent La Spezia Station, both come at an incredibly low cost compared to the average price of travel in the UK! (particularly London). The Cinque Terre is home to some of the most dramatically beautiful coastal scenery you will ever see in your life so its we’ll worth the trip! Its also been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1997 and in a bit to keep it as untouched as possible (apart from its thousands of tourists every year!) cars have been banned from driving along its winding roads for over a decade!

If you’re not as inclined to venture too far away from the comfort of Portovenere then why not try visiting its neighbouring islands, Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto? To find out more about travel times and costs, click here.

Best of the beaches

 Monterosso beach (Fegina) is definitely at the top of my list of the best beaches to visit! Unfortunately I’m not alone in my rating and subsequently, it was pretty jam-packed with tourists and locals when we arrived. Situated in the new part of the village, Monterosso’s long sandy beach and clear blue sea is absolutely breathtaking and is also conveniently located next to a promenade of restaurants and souvenir and ice-cream shops. Vernazza beach is in the harbour of Vernazza and is quite small as far as beaches go but the sea is an unholy blue! You’ll also find lots of little fish swimming around all of the colourful local fishing boats and vibrant houses make for a truly gorgeous setting. Colombo (Lerici) neatly squeezed in between the villages of Santerenzo and Lerici is slightly more commercialised but is also worth checking out. As is Baia Blu and Le Terrazzo which is conveniently just a 5 minute drive from the centre of Portovenere.