Travel

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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Goodbye 2014. Hello 2015!

2014 has been an amazing year. I had planned to make it a pretty good year but it ended up surpassing all expectations. There were quite a few life changes, but I genuinely feel that the majority of them were positive – even if they originally didn’t start out like that.

At the beginning of the year, I started a 2014 jar where I would write down all the good things that happened over the course of the year. As you can see from the picture below, I didn’t do too badly. So here’s my 2014 review and why 2015 is going to be even better!

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Books

In March 2014, I took the first step into self-publishing via Amazon after getting a little bored with going the conventional route. I was really pleased with For Better or Worse and I just wanted to get it out there. So I started selling it as an eBook and two months later, I put the finishing touches to the sequel (Viva Las Vegas) and uploaded that too. Fast forward to December and I had a total of four books on my Kindle Bookshelf (they weren’t all written in 2014 though – I’m not that quick!).

The responses I’ve had back have been great and I’m really glad I took the step to self-publish. If anyone reading this now has purchased any of my books, I just wanted to say a massive thank you for making me feel so amazing!

The plan for 2015 is to bring out some new material and continue to plug the existing material I have. There’s something truly wondering about being able to do what you love.

Travel

This has been a great year for travel. I managed to get in two countries I’d never been to before, along with one I had. I also took my first solo trip abroad.

When you say you’re going on holiday by yourself, you get a mixed reaction. People will either say how great it is and how much you’ll love it (most likely, these are the people that had done it themselves) or people just ask why. It was something I had always wanted to try and I was so glad I did it. I think it helped that I chose a fairly laid-back option (I went to Iceland) to ease me into my first solo trip. The best thing about going solo is that you can do everything at your own pace. You don’t have to worry about making the other people in your party happy – you can eat where you want, go where you want and do what you want. It’s something I would suggest everyone tries, at least once.

Travel in 2015 is already set to be even better, with at least three new places I can add to my list! Barbados is first, then there’s two I can’t mention just yet as they’re both surprise trips and the people involved might come across this page (don’t want them to know where they’re going just yet!). Plus there’s the possibility of some super-exciting travel plans in the second half of the year, so stay tuned!

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Friends

When you hit your twenties, a weird thing starts happening – every year you seem to lose friends. Whether this is a case of people’s lives taking different paths or just growing into different people, you start to drift apart and lose contact. Over the past few years, I’ve lost touch with people I thought I’d be friends with forever. This year, I ended up drifting apart from someone I considered one of my closest friends. Gradually, life got in the way and we found less and less time to catch up. So 2015 is to become the year I actively try not to lose touch with any friends.

Thankfully, when you start doing other things in your life, you end up meeting new people and making new friends. As well as having some amazing old friends in my life, I’ve been lucky enough to for some strong bonds with people I’ve gotten to know better this year.

Money

The root of all evil but something we’d all like more of. And with a penchant for travelling and designer shoes, something I’m not very good with. One of the big decisions I made this year was to move back in with my parents. After renting for eighteen months, I decided it was time to be a bit more sensible. Part of my decision was based on not getting on with one housemate. I’d made the rash decision just to move out because at 23, I didn’t think I should be living with my parents anymore, and found a place with people who were willing to move too, without thinking about it too much. One was a good friend, so that was fine, but the other was someone I realised I didn’t really know, despite what I originally thought. We were polar opposites and it didn’t take long for there to be tension – things were not great (probably as much my fault as anyone else’s).

The other half of my decision was the money factor. After working out what I’d spent on rent over 18 months, without having anything to show for it, I felt really bad. It is dead money. I’m glad I’ve gotten the experience out the way but I wouldn’t do it again. Moving back home has been nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be and it’s a chance to have a bit more surplus cash to play about with.

With the big plans I’ve got for 2015, going to be able to splash the cash! But the best thing about it is, I should hopefully still be able to bump my savings up.

Love

One of the things I said at Christmas last year was, by the following year, I would be signing my Christmas cards with two names. Turns out, I was way off the mark there. But guess what – it doesn’t matter. 2014 was a year of some bad mistakes, some good mistakes and plenty of dates. One of the main things I picked up from this was that you can’t control things and you can’t have a type. All the men that sounded ideal on paper, weren’t for me. The guys who weren’t what I considered “my type” and were pretty different from me, were the ones I clicked with the most.

I’m a hopeless romantic. I believe in that big, fantastic, wild love. But the thing is, you can’t make that happen – you have to let it find you. I’ve read, and planned out, enough romance novels to know that when it happens, it happens. I wasn’t going to let myself jump into something with a guy who seemed ok after a couple of dates, when I was still waiting for the fireworks to kick in, just to be able to put two names on a card. Don’t settle. Just let things work themselves out and stop trying so hard to look for what needs to find you. You’ll get your fireworks…but that doesn’t mean you can’t play about with the sparklers while you’re waiting ;-).

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So 2014 was good, but 2015 is going to be even better! There’s still a lot of stuff left for me to and there’s still a lot of goals to achieve.

To everyone reading this, have a Happy New Year and I wish you all the best for 2015 – make it your own!

xoxo

The Twenties Limbo

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I recently turned twenty-five (a whole quarter of a century!) and now I feel like I’m stuck in a weird tug-of-war over whether I want to become a proper grown up or still try to hold onto my youth.

If forty is the new thirty, and thirty is the new twenty, does that make your twenties are the new teen years? With life expectancy growing like it is and being a relatively healthy person, I may live to be one-hundred so technically I’m only a quarter of the way through my life. There’s still loads of time for me to become a proper grown up!

A couple of months ago, I moved back home and it hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be. The extra money is definitely helping. And after I worked out how much money I’d spent on renting, I am now convinced I won’t be doing that again. Once you add it all up, it is a lot of money.

So, back to my tug-of-war.

I have now reached a crossroads and am trying to work out which path to walk down. On one side, I can follow the sensible route and do some serious saving to buy a house. Plus I didn’t want to leave it too late in life to get married and have children. I’m already doing the thing where, when I meet an attractive man, I immediately zone in on his left hand to see if there’s a ring, gaging if he’s a possible husband candidate. When I spend time with my friends’ adorable children, I immediately start to feel broody.

The other path is the less serious one. Do I quit the day-job, take a year or two out and just basically become a bit of a nomad? There are still so many places I want to visit and it makes sense to do it while I have no real ties or responsibilities.

As I write this, I’m still not 100% sure, but 93.7ish% is veering into one direction. For a lot of my early twenties, I played it safe. I took the sensible job that paid decently, even though I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I made practical decisions, did what was expected of me, tried to plan life out and generally took no chances.

Now it’s time to be reckless.

One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t plan life. It took almost twenty-five years to work that out but now I realise how true it is. It’s time to ignore the needs of everyone else and be a bit more selfish. It’s time to stop thinking about what might happen in a few years time and start thinking about what is going to happen tomorrow.

So I guess the important question from all of this is, where to first?

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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

Viva Las Vegas

So I recently released my second novel (hint hint, cheeky little insert here of the link to buy it – http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00KO1KKW8?*Version*=1&*entries*=0 ). It’s a follow-up to the first novel I released a few months ago and originally I hadn’t planned to write a sequel.

Then I went to Vegas.

If you’ve read my first book then you’ll understand the Las Vegas link from the end of it.

On the flight over to Vegas, the whole story started to form in my head and so I felt like I couldn’t not write it. So while I was there enjoying my holiday, I was compiling the story at the same time, deciding which places I visited would be useful to mention in the book.

As a tie-in with my novel release, I am posting up my own personal top five things to do in Vegas. In no particular order:-

 

  1. Gambling.

Obviously. What else are you going to do in Las Vegas?

I was actually able to come back from Vegas and tick something off my bucket list – I came back with a profit (not on the whole but from the money I had set aside to gamble …it still counts!), all from my first attempt at the roulette wheel. Lucky number 27! If you read the book, that’s going to make a lot more sense.

Basically, you can’t turn the corner without being able to gamble on something and I am now completely aware of how people develop addictions. My sister was very close to doing so. The slots are pretty unintimidating and quite amusing if you can find one based on a favourite childhood game or TV show.

The tables on the other hand, require a bit more know-how.

Keep an eye out during the day to see if free lessons are being offered. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at craps, now would be the time, when there’s nothing to lose. Also, check the minimum bet for the table you’re heading to (they all differ) lest you sit down at one with a higher minimum than you wanted to spend but pay it anyway out of sheer embarrassment.

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  1. All-You-Can-Eat Buffet

This really is something else.

We did the breakfast buffet twice, the second time paying that little bit extra for the unlimited champagne brunch, but it’s worth it alone for the food. If I wasn’t eating at least four plates (one of the plates being dessert, of course) then I didn’t feel like I was getting my money’s worth.

They had pretty much every breakfast food you could possibly imagine, so there’s something for everyone, but also included was a salad bar, seafood station, nacho station and a whole area just for desserts.

You might not think you fancy prawns or ice-cream at ten in the morning, but Vegas runs on its own time and once you’re actually there, it is bliss.

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  1. Bellagio Fountains

Just before I start properly talking about these, note down that they don’t begin until 3PM and go off every half hour, until the evening when they then go off every quarter of an hour. This will stop you wasting time, loitering around at 1PM, waiting for them to start!

It’s worth catching these in both the day time and the evening just because of the different setting. In the evening, when they run every 15 minutes, it’s also worth staying for a few as there are a variety of different songs and therefore a different fountain sequence.

If you don’t know about the Bellagio fountains, basically there is a massive body of water in front of the hotel and they have an extravagant fountain show, where the water sprays, squirts and dances to a variety of well-known songs. It’s incredibly mesmerising and beautiful to watch. A proper Vegas must-see.

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  1. Cirque du Soleil

Las Vegas has great shows in abundance. There’s always some big name in residency at one of the hotels and a variety of performances to suit any taste wherever you turn. But I highly recommend splashing out on a ticket to watch one of the Cirque du Soleil shows.

When we went, there were four shows to choose from at four different hotels. We did a bit of research before we flew out, checking ticket prices because some of them were really through the roof. Doing it beforehand did help us get a better deal and the best prices.

We settled on the Love show at The Mirage (I am a massive Beatles fan). It was A-MAZ-ING. I’ve never seen anything like it but it was incredible. Whenever I listen to Revolution now, I just picture people somersaulting over red phone boxes.

Annoyingly, we’d been up since 6AM that morning to go to the Grand Canyon and were really feeling the effects of it by the evening. I had to force myself to stay awake during the show because I was really flagging. But the fact I didn’t showed how enthralling the performance actually was. I fought hard, stayed awake, and witnessed something spectacular which left me in a good mood for the rest of the trip.

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  1. Have a nose in all the other hotels.

The hotels want you to go in, even if you aren’t a guest there. They want you to spend money with them. So this means you can just waltz into any hotel and wander around to your hearts content. You can even use their pools – though you might have to pay for this privilege if you’re only a visitor.

The best thing about this is that you get to do so much. You don’t even really need to research what you want to do beforehand (although it does help for time management) because you’ll always find something to do.

We wandered into New York, New York to have a ride on their rollercoaster, we wanted into The Mirage to go see the dolphins, we wandered into Excalibur and got lost because it was so big and we wandered into the Bellagio, just because it’s the Bellagio.

Each hotel is trying to out-do the other so it’s definitely worth a look to witness the lengths they are going. It might even tempt you into going back again, just so you can stay there.

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With Las Vegas, there’s literally something to do, all the time. Those five things only just touch on what you can get up to while you’re there, but regardless of what you do, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Happy travels.

Megan

xoxo