City Break

The Marrakech Express

I recently took a trip to Marrakech for a long weekend with some female friends and ended up completely falling in love with the crazy city that it is. I’m pretty well travelled, but this was unlike any place I’d been to before. A city of complete contrasts that assaults every one of your senses..and I highly recommend going!

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If you are looking to take a trip there, here are my top five must do’s for Marrakech:-

1. Get a Hamman.

If you like your beauty treatments, it’s definitely worth giving this one a go. A weekly tradition for the locals, it basically involves scrubbing a layer of skin off. This was the first thing I did once I’d checked into my riad to try and relax after the plane journey and queuing in Customs (be warned, this part takes forever!). If you want to go fully local, you need to head to one of the public baths, but I wasn’t quite brave enough and went to the spa around the corner that was affiliated with our riad.

Now, I’ve had my share of strange beauty treatments in the past, but this was something else. As I stood in bikini bottoms in a small, marble room with just candles for lighting, my experience went something like this…

  • Strip down to only bikini bottoms in a darkened room.
  • Lady uses shower to wash you all over.
  • Lady rubs some scented stuff over all visible skin (lots of cupping involved).
  • Lady leaves you to lie down and “relax” for ten minutes. Feels a lot longer and you start to wonder if she’s forgotten about you.
  • Lady finally comes back and proceeds to scrub harshly at all visible skin, actually removing a layer of skin.
  • Rinses the dead skin off you then randomly washes your hair.
  • Leaves you soaking your feet in a tub of water and rose petals. Get the same feeling as Stage 4 after a while.
  • Lady lets you out and you sit down in a comfy chair while drinking mint tea and someone massages your feet.
  • Go for full body massage – relatively normal experience.

But the Hamman and a full body massage ended up costing me about £30 and my skin was super-soft, so I really cannot complain about the process at all!

2. Get lost in the souks.

If you’re going to the souks, be warned that once you’re in, you have to keep going until you get out the other side. And while you’re working your way down the many allies, trying not to get lost, be prepared to get accosted by practically every shop owner on the way…or just random people in the street trying to get you to go to another part of the souk where a member of their family probably has a shop.

But it’s not half as daunting as it sounds. In fact, it’s actually quite a fun experience and you’ll probably come out the other side with a few trinkets you didn’t plan on buying. The best way to go about it is in the traditional Moroccan way – just go with the flow.

When it comes to making a purchase, shopkeepers can be, er, a little enthusiastic in trying to make a sale. Just remain polite and if you don’t want something, be prepared for them not to give up too easily, but it’s all very good natured. If you do want something, be prepared to haggle. To help me with this, I took a conversion sheet I’d thrown together myself, so I didn’t have to do any on-the-spot conversion of currencies. 100 dirham sounds like a lot but then you remember it’s only a couple of quid!

If you’re a tourist, the shopkeepers will probably start at a ridiculous price. Immediately, drop that price by at least a third and work from there. It’s not a concept we’re used to, but it is actually a lot of fun and the shopkeepers quite like getting involved with some tough haggling.

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3. Visit the Jardin de Majorelle

As you’re wandering around the Majorelle Gardens (once owned by Yves Saint Laurent) you actually forget where you are. Away from the dusty roads and frantic driving of Marrakech, the gardens are a source of tranquillity. Inside its walls, you can happily while away an hour or so just looking at the calming pools, mass of blues and yellows or the impressive nature.

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4. Take a Trip to Café Clock

Tucked down a side street and then through some rubble, Café Clock is hidden out the way but is definitely worth trying to find. The food was amazing and they always seem to have something on. Less touristy, it’s popular with the locals – it seemed to be where the Moroccan Hipsters hung out.

Check out their website to see what entertainment they have on or book one of their special experiences – http://marrakech.cafeclock.com/

I also have to recommend trying their chocolate milkshake!

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5. Go on a camel trek

Ok, so this one might not be entirely animal welfare friendly and I still have a little bit of residual guilt for enjoying it so much, but it really was a nice experience. Taken to the outskirts of the city, amongst the palm trees, we were led around on camels for over an hour. What made our trek just that little better were the baby camels that followed us the whole way round. It was officially declared that day that there was nothing more adorable than a baby camel running!

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Bright Lights, Big City

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I recently came back from New York City for the second time in my life – which obviously is nowhere near enough times to visit it. It’s a place you could easily go to again and again.

If you haven’t been before, then below are my own personal observations on five must-do things if you’re stuck for ideas on where to start (not that you should be short on things to do in a place like that!)

Hope you find them useful…

 

 

5th Avenue

Because why wouldn’t you?

Whether you can only afford to window shop, have saved your hard-earned cash for a massive blow out or are lucky enough to be able to afford those kinds of things, a trip to 5th Avenue is a must. Stroll past the likes of Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada…I could go on. Even if you are only window shopping, the window displays are so incredible, you could happily stare at them all day.

If your budget doesn’t stretch that high-end, there’s still a Zara, H&M and Hollister (where things are a lot cheaper in here than they are in the UK!)

When you reach the top of 5th, it’s definitely worth a look in Bergdorf Goodman’s to see how the other half live or at least check out their amazing window displays. Or grab a Danish and stare in the windows of Tiffany’s, a la Holly Golightly. Stepping inside is a completely different experience altogether. On the ground floor, a single display case of jewellery is probably worth more than ten years’ worth of wages for the average person. The lifts are even manned by employees, so you don’t have to tire yourself out by pushing a button. It’s also a great place to people watch, sifting the real customers from the tourists and hazarding a guess at who their purchases might be for.

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The Village

It might be controversial, but I’m going to just say it – I don’t like Times Square.

It’s done, it’s out there and I can’t take it back.

Twice I’ve been to New York now and the second time didn’t make me like Times Square any better. It’s definitely worth a look and an opportunity to say you’ve been there but I’m not one to stick around. It’s noisy, busy, commercial and you’re constantly being hassled to go on an open-top bus tour, go to a comedy night or have a picture taken with badly costumed cartoon character for money. But this is one expected view of New York – the busy, tourist-filled, traffic jam view.

If you can’t being doing with too much of this environment for extended periods of time, get yourself over to the West Village. Walking down the tree-lined streets without being barged into makes you feel like you’re in a completely different city. It’s full of bars, restaurants and some amazing shopping in Bleecker Street. Plus with the number of A-listers with homes in the area, it’s a great place to celeb spot.

Broadway

Like moths being drawn to the glitzy lights, you can’t ignore the pull of Broadway. It’s like the West End on steroids and definitely worth a visit.

Before you go, check out what shows are available and who is staring in them because you can get some pretty big names doing a stint on the stage. With shows that you know are going to be very popular, it’s worth booking your tickets beforehand.

If you have a few hours to kill one evening and don’t mind what you see, it’s worth checking out the box offices to see who has cheap tickets going. On the most recent trip, I managed to get a Les Mis ticket for $57 (about £35) and it was worth every penny.

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Some Kind of Tour

Ok, so you’re in the Big Apple and you want to come across as cool and chic, maybe not advertising that you’re a tourist. That’s all well and good, but maybe shove a couple of cheesy tourist things in the mix too. A great to do this is with a tour.

The options are limitless. Where you decide to purchase a ticket for the hop on-hop off bus from one of the many, many guys on street corners or want to go a little more tailored, then it is a good way to get around and see things you maybe wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

Check out On Location Tours (http://onlocationtours.com/) to see they do a coach tour revolving around your favourite TV show. I can personally vouch for the Sex and the City bus tour – it’s fun and it includes pizza, cupcakes and cocktails!

Going further a field, there’s always the option to do a ferry cruise to check out the sites – Manhattan is an island after all.

Ellen’s Stardust Diner

If you like:-

  1. A) Musicals
  2. B) Glee
  3. C) Food
  4. D) Fun
  5. E) All of the above

then you will definitely love Ellen’s Stardust Diner.

Located on Broadway, it’s a retro-styled diner where all the food has a  fun name and the portion sizes are massive. But the main attraction is the wait-staff. All with their sights set on Broadway stardom, they take it in turns to get up and sing to the diners between serving the food. It’s pure unadulterated fun, if a little on the cheesy side. They’ll do requests and cover quite a range of songs, belting out each tune with everything they’ve got. Basically, if you go in there and don’t crack a smile, you are probably dead inside.

If you don’t go for the music, at least go for the dessert menu. Check out the size of the Wicked cake. It took me two separate sessions to eat the thing!

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This was just five ideas, but there are hundreds more including Central Park, dozens of art galleries and museums, Ground Zero, Wall Street, pizza, cocktails, the Brooklyn Bridge…the list goes on and on!

Feel free to post your own personal preferences in the comments sections 🙂

Until next time…

xoxo