Saturday, 30 March 2013

Marrakech #4

I used to travel and do everything that the guide book tells me to do.  As a Filipino, I treat my holidays as if I'll never have an opportunity to visit the country again.  I love travelling, obvious naman, but I hate going through the hassle of sorting out visa.  3 months it took me to move back in the UK.  The waiting was such a pain it put me off obtaining visa again.

Our last day in Marrakech was as uneventful as our previous days.  Marrakech as a city is small and you can pretty much cover all the tourist spots in 2 days in my opinion.  If you have days to spare, I suggest going on day trips.  Our riad offered different day trips but we had to decline as we wanted this trip to be as relaxing as possible.

With 5 hours to spare, we went beyond the Old City Wall.  I wanted to buy Argan Oil from the shop that the guide book suggested (yes, I can get into the hype too) but we found it to be a rip off.  Luckily, it was in the modern Mohamed V area and we were able to walk from there to Hivernage and Medina. I was hungry at this point so we consulted the guide book as usual.  It lead us to Hivernage Hotel and Spa where authentic French Moroccan pastries were to be had.

My useful tips when travelling to Morocco:

1.  Brush up on your French.  If you can't speak French or have 0 French lessons like me,please bring a phrase book.  
2.  Wear clothes conservatively.  We went in the spring(highs of 29 degrees celsius), most people are covered up.  It's okay to wear skimpy clothes in the hotel but bring pashmina/shawl when you go out.  You can still look good covered up.  Trust me I did it.  :P
3.  Don't wear heels.  For the love of God, heels aren't good for walking in cobblestones and exploring the souk.  
4.  Splurge on food.  I found loads of good restaurants in Hivernage area.  
5.  If someone says, this is the way to the square, just say thanks.  Most likely they are lying to you and they are only trying to get you to buy from their store.  
6.  Haggle your way.  If you are like us and ended up in un-metered taxi, haggle the price of the fare.  You also have to haggle in souk.  Take half the price of the offer or less.  

Now you are good to go.  :)

Friday, 29 March 2013

Marrakech #3

I will only be talking about 2 things on this post - my first hammam experience and food.  

I have no problem getting naked and I am very much confident with my sexuality.  In fact, I like experiences that involves getting naked.  No, not threesome or orgy type but mostly something cultural like when me and DH went to Taiwan and had to join locals in their hot spring - naked.  Whilst I am still young and childless, I would like to experience everythinggggg.  


DH chose Les Bains De Marrakech for our first hammam experience.  Not trying to sound very high maintenance but if I am gonna get "cleaned" by a random stranger, it might as well be in a legit place.  Hammam is literally getting bathed by someone in my opinion.  This is what our experience involved:

1.  Buhos / buckets of water getting poured.  It reminds me of my grandma bathing me as as child after I had fever minus the tamarind leaves.  I grew up with my grandma in the province 3 hours away from Manila.  I told Luke what it felt like and he didn't understood what I was talking about.  I just now realised that they have a bath and shower in the UK.  LOL.
2.  Steaming.  This will open the pores.  But you already know that.  *wink*
3.  Soaped.  The soap felt so slimmy against the stone.  It was weird.  When she was soaping me, she asked me if everything's okay in French (which I didn't understand of course).  I said "what?".  DH translated in english.  I said "yeahhhh" and she said "yeah?".  DH still finds this story amusing to this day.
4.  Scrubbing.  They take scrubbing seriously and they take their time.  If my boobs weren't flat, I think they will probably hurt.  They scrub as if they are scrubbing the tiles on the bathroom when it turned moldy.
5.  Mask.  When it was time for me to wash off the mask, the lady pointed out at my bikini bottom.  She told me to take it off.  It was so weird doing it in front of a random stranger.

As this was a full relaxation treatment, DH and I had a rose petal bath, an hour massage and I had facial afterwards.  If you are planning to go to a hammam, I suggest going in the morning cause it will take half your day.  Our treatment started at 9AM and we finished at 2PM.  Do not leave this on last minute  or before your flight as you might feel rushed and won't enjoy your experience.


As this was our last night, we wanted it to be special, meaning no disappointing food.  Nothing annoys DH more than a bad meal.  :-P  I have to be honest, this isn't our first time in this restaurant.  We went on our first night after the disappointing meal for dessert but we ended up having a full meal.  We just had to.  LOL!
On our first night, we took a chance and went without reservation.  We did the same thing on our second time.  I was worried that they will be fully booked.  We were told that there are no spaces inside and we have to eat outdoors.  I have to say, dining outside is wayyyy better than dining inside. :)  If I have to compare, the inside have more formal feel whilst the outside is more romantic.    
I had lots of firsts in Morocco in terms of cuisine.  I had my first tagine, my first rabbit and my first pigeon.  I have to say, I am not a big fan of tagine and I was kinda disappointed as I was looking forward to eating it.  Nevermind, pastilla saved it.  
If you are planning to go to Le Foundouk, I suggest booking in advance as the place gets very busy.  In terms of food to order, I am biased.  I like pastilla.  And for dessert, go for Pistachio creme brulee.  Yum!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Marrakech #2

Two things I love about the holidays(apart from the obvious sunny weather) are the morning lie ins and the free breakfast.  In fact, I am dreaming of going to another sunny destination in May preferably a country that won't require me visa.  Despite my UK residency, I still need to apply visa on almost every country I want to visit.  

We decided that we would relax on this trip and maybe just go to few tourist places in Marrakech.  My friends recommended going on a nature day trip but seriously, I am here to relax, meaning, as little time as possible spent travelling and rushing in the mornings.

First stop, Saadian Tombs.  Let's get this out of the way, the entrance is not free but it isn't expensive either.  It is only 10 MAD per person and you get to choose your tour guide inside that speaks various languages for a fee of course.  
 I love this photo of me.  I feel like DH captured Marrakech in a nutshell in this photo.  Not that I can explain why.  It looked so exotic.

We arrive before lunch and the area is almost deserted.  We passed by Saadian Tombs the next day on our way to the spa and it looked very full.  I suggest going in the mornings before the big tourist rush.  The place is very small and you have to queue up for one of the tombs' room.

From Saadian Tombs, we took the taxi to Majorelle Garden.  The garden is located outside the old city wall.  It will take 30-45 minutes walking if you have good sense of direction. *wink*  If you are as bad as me, I suggest taking the taxi.  DH haggled our fare from 50MAD to 40MAD in french but ended paying 50MAD as a goodwill.  In Morocco, it is good to know and speak a little french to survive.  Oui or Bonjour don't count.  It has to be numbers.

The Majorelle Garden was owned by the legendary Yves Saint Laurent, YSL.  RIP.  According to the guide book, YSL saved the garden from being destroyed and made into apartment complexes.

The entrance is 50MAD but it's worth the every dirhams.  We spent few hours inside taking photos and just enjoying the scenery.  
The intense blue colour is called Majorelle blue named after the French Artist.  My useless fact came from many hours spent on the internet.  Thanks google. :)
 I can't help but laugh whenever I see pictures from the Majorelle Garden.  Whilst we were having our photo taken by another tourist, another tourist tried to take photo of the background where we were having our photo taken.  He tripped and then tripped again while trying to get his balance.  We asked if he is okay cause it's the polite thing to do whilst the person who he tried to get past didn't say anything.    He didn't respond either.  We later saw him re-counting the story to his wife.  Maybe with a deflated ego.  Luke and I couldn't contain our laughter for a while and tried our best to avoid him.

From Majorelle, we walked to the square and had another disappointing meal.  I think as a general rule, avoid eating at the square.  It maybe cheaper compared to fine dining but the quality at the square is not to my standards.  I trust guidebook suggestions but this time it failed to impress me.  We headed to the Riad after to relax and get ready for our dinner at Comptoir Adarna.

I think, made in Marrakech website is a good insight on everything about Marrakech.  Never mind the shopping, it is better to know where to eat and how much your budget is.  When on holiday, there is a big possibility of overspending.  This is what happened that night.  Our meal although we don't have budget, came to 85GBP.  It's like eating out in the first world although we were in the third world.  In Morocco, the meals are as expensive as the alcohol so if you drink like a fish, prepare for the large bill.

Having the bill aside, DH and I had a good time.  We arrived at 8PM without reservation and was lucky to get a seat.  We stayed for 3 hours to watch the belly dancing at half 10.  It was good fun and I was asked by one of the belly dancers to dance with her.  Although I am a bit shy about it(with no belly dancing training), I couldn't refuse her offer in case I offend her.  Luke thoroughly enjoyed the performance whilst I was totally weirded out by girls being objectified.  They were dancing on the table.  I am no feminist and I've seen worse than this but being in a Muslim country, I reverted to my conservative roots.  We retreated to the Riad and woke up early for our Hammam experience.  Google hammam and I will tell you my experience in detail on my next blog post.  :)

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Marrakech #1


I have been neglecting blogging since I now have a life.  :P  I have two things tick on the life list - getting married and getting a proper job.  Married life is easy but the job part is difficult.  Whenever I wanted to quit on work as it is very demanding and physically draining, something inside my brain pulls me right back(Read:  Stubbornness) . I love working in fashion and will always do but noone told me how difficult it's gonna be and how low the pay is.  Fashion is definitely a passion and it is not glamorous as people think it is.  IT IS HARD WORK!  PERIOD.

I haven't been in a different country since India.  Last time I was on a plane was in July when I packed my life from the Philippines to the UK.  Since then, life happened.  I can not elaborate as I have a personal blog for that.  Hehe.

I have been itching to go to Morocco since my friend went and described the scene as The Aladdin.  My passion was further fuelled by the SATC 2.  Yup, you read it right.  The only problem is, my dear husband(DH) Luke doesn't want to go for safety reasons.  Very Western, I say.  In the end, my constant talking of Morocco prevailed and we were off to Marrakech.  :)

We left Reading at 4AM to get to the half 7 flight to Marrakech.  The flight was smooth, I slept all through out as per usual and when we landed, I had a bit of headache.  I blame the motion sickness.  We queued up for an hour in the immigration were I was worried about my visa although I don't need one.  You see fellow travellers, as a citizen of the 3rd world country, I always prepare myself for the worse - A to A.  Afterwards, we found our driver who took us to our Riad.

We only had a month to plan for this trip and to be honest with you, I planned on last minute, meaning the day before the trip.  Back in the day, I would have daily itinerary and directions written but this time it's different, I don't have my family to boss around and me and DH just want to relax.  We arrived the Riad at 1PM and left at 3PM to explore the old city - Medina as they call it.

Few things I learn about the souk trip:

1.  Bargain and haggle.  You can almost knock down prices to half of their starting price.  We bought a condiments serving container in the shape of tagines.

The souks sells everything apart from bikini sets. :P  We wanted to buy leather bags for travelling but they were poorly stitched.

2.  You have to spend money to get good food.  
This was the scenario - I was getting bitchy as usual from lack of food and I jumped on the first food opportunity.  The guide books recommends that for an authentic Moroccan experience, you should try eating at the souks which we did.  The photo above was our meal when we were through with it.  Barely touched.  That's how bad it was.  To compensate, we ate out.  This time, fine dining.  Just the way I like it. :)

3.  Drinking mint tea in Cafe de France is good for people watching.  I can't stress this enough.  People watching is one of my favourite past times.  When I watch people, I create conversations in my head or I say it out loud to Luke.  Thank God for DH.  He understands me.
4.  You have to be careful with bikes, donkeys, horse drawn carriage, motor bikes in and out of the souk.  It is a jungle out there!!!


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