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Le Mans 24 Hours – Then and Now

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Le Mans Jaguar 1988
Le Mans Jaguar 1988

Later today I will be hitting the road once again with a trip over to France for the 24 Heures Du Mans Motor Race in Le Mans in the region of Pays de La Loire.

It is over 30 years since I last attended this historic race which is one of the world’s big three races alongside the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500.

Back in those halcyon days of the late 80’s and early 90’s, I attended on four occasions with school friends in a variety of clapped-out motors that we all owned over time – a Triumph Spitfire, a VW Beetle, a Peugeot 205, a Renault 5, an Astra, a Lancia Delta Spider and even a Triumph TR4.

Clutching at Straws

On my last visit in 1993, the clutch on my Triumph Spitfire failed and so rather embarrassingly we ended up being towed back to the UK by some lads from Scunthorpe. Another year the tent leaked so badly that in stormy weather we binned it and slept in the car! There is normally some drama!

So on Thursday, I, along with three of those same school friends are heading down via a ferry from Portsmouth to Caen in one vehicle – my Ford Transit Custom Camper. It will be packed to the rafters with tents and creature comforts that we would never have dreamed of when we were all young pups! Mobile phones, event apps, chairs, a sat nav, a table, a wood burner, cutlery, pillows and of course, every camper’s best friend, wet wipes! Oh, how we have aged!

Not Just Motor Racing

As for the race, back then it was Jaguar, Mercedes, Mazda and Peugeot that brought home the spoils. This year – who knows, who even cares! Le Mans is about the experience – I mean the cars are racing for 24 hours so you generally have no idea what’s going on or was that just the beer?! I was a quick runner back in those days and the main image is after I scaled the fence and sprinted onto the track to be amongst the first to greet the winning Jaguar across the line in 1988 – I can’t see that amount of energy exerted this year – I will probably be asleep!

From Friday there is a parade and a party atmosphere in the city then over the weekend at the circuit there are heaps of attractions to keep us entertained from a wild French fun fair, live music every night, a British Pub and an assortment of food and drinks outlets! The 24 Heures Du Mans is not just about motor racing – that’s why I love it.

Follow My Journey

The British media give this iconic event very little coverage so if you are interested in what this event has to offer then you can follow my adventures on Facebook and Instagram but if history is anything to go by, I can’t promise a smooth ride!

Till next time

#justonefortheroad

Rouen – The City Of A Hundred Spires

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Cathedrale-Notre-Dame-De-Rouen
Copyright Rouen Tourisme
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Although many of us have been captivated by the romance and allure of Paris, there are other charming destinations within easy reach of the French capital. One such delightful city that is easily accessible by train is Rouen.

Introducing Rouen

Rouen was once described by Victor Hugo as the city of ‘a hundred spires’. It is the capital of Normandy and a destination steeped in history, culture, and charm.

Nestled along the banks of the river Seine, the city is renowned for its picturesque medieval architecture, rich artistic heritage, its excellent University and its association with Joan of Arc.

Departure from Paris: The Journey Begins

From Paris Charles de Gaulle you should take a train to Gare St-Lazare where you can pick up the service to Rouen. Prices range from approximately 30 to 80 euros depending, as always, on how early you book.

The journey takes approximately two and a half hours with the scenery soon changing from urban landscapes to those wonderful French rolling green fields and rural countryside villages.

Arriving in Rouen: A Glimpse of Medieval Majesty

Upon arrival in Rouen, you are immediately struck by the city’s medieval grandeur. The towering spires of cathedrals punctuate the skyline, casting shadows over cobblestone streets steeped in history.

Having settled into your hotel many will make their first stop, the magnificent 12th-century Rouen Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture that has inspired artists and writers for centuries. Remarkably this building used to be the tallest in the world and even today is still the tallest church in France.

The Church of Saint Joan of Arc stands at the old market square in which the saint was burned at the stake in the early 15th century. Today the pretty houses and buildings that border the square provide a wide range of cafes, brasseries, and restaurants to entice visitors.

Immerse Yourself in History: Museums and Landmarks

Rouen is a city that wears its history proudly, and nowhere is this more evident than in its museums and landmarks. Wander the halls of the Musée des Beaux-Arts and enjoy the many works by renowned artists such as Monet, Renoir, and Delacroix.

The Joan of Arc History Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of the legendary heroine, while the Gros-Horloge, a stunning astronomical clock dating back to the 14th century, stands as a testament to Rouen’s medieval past.

Retail Therapy: Shopping In Rouen

For those inclined to indulge in a spot of retail therapy, Rouen offers a wealth of shopping opportunities. The charming old town, with its cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses, and bustling markets, invites visitors to wander. The bustling city centre is lined with charming boutiques, artisan shops, and trendy galleries. From high-end fashion to locally crafted goods, there’s something to suit every taste and budget. For a snapshot of local life visit the Marché aux Fleurs (Flower Market), where fragrant blooms and vibrant produce fill the stalls, creating a feast for the senses.

If you’re a fan of exploring flea markets and antique shops, head over to Rue Damette and Rue Saint-Romain. These popular streets are brimming with intriguing art, ceramic workshops, and antique stores offering second-hand treasures. This neighbourhood is an ideal spot to immerse yourself in the city’s ambience and indulge in its culinary delights.

Parks and Gardens: Finding Tranquillity in Nature

Amidst the hustle and bustle of city life, Rouen is proud of its many parks and gardens.

The Jardin des Plantes, where lush greenery and colourful blooms provide a serene escape from the urban chaos while the Parc de la Presqu’île Rollet, with its sweeping views of the Seine River, offers the perfect spot for a picnic or a moment of quiet reflection.

For those interested in outdoor activities, Rouen’s picturesque riverside promenades, lush parks, and scenic trails offer opportunities for strolls, cycling, and boating.

Evening Entertainment: Dining and Culture

As is the way with many of the best French cities there is a vibrant dining scene. From cosy bistros serving up traditional Normandy fare to chic wine bars and gourmet restaurants, the city offers a culinary adventure to suit every palate.

If you are looking to try some local dishes then how about the Normandy-style sole meunière, scallops a la Rouennaise, Agneau de Pré-Salé (Lamb) or why not indulge in the many varieties of Normandy cheese, particularly the Camembert?

The apples are famous in this region and as such the local cider is a great choice to wash down some of those fabulous dishes as are, of course, the French wines.

As a sweet treat and something to perhaps bring home, how about Les Larmes de Jeanne d’Arc which translates to the Tears of Joan of Arc – these are almonds coated in caramel and chocolate.

After dinner, take in some culture at the Théâtre des Arts or you could catch a live music gig at one of the city’s many bars and clubs.

Festivals & Events

Throughout the year Rouen boasts a plethora of events including art and history to photography and music.

Perhaps the standout event planned for 2024 is the 5th edition of the “Normandie Impressionniste” festival which showcases masters such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley. From the 22nd of March to the 22 of September 2024, this event will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Impressionist movement!

Where To Stay In Rouen

Rouen offers a diverse array of accommodations to suit every budget and preference. Here are some suggestions:

Luxury: Hôtel de Bourgtheroulde, Autograph Collection
Known for its stunning architecture blending historic charm with modern luxury, this 5* hotel offers an opulent spa, gourmet dining, and elegant rooms.

Mid-Range: Mercure Rouen Centre Champ de Mars
Situated in the heart of Rouen, this 4* hotel offers comfortable rooms, friendly service, and convenient access to the city’s attractions at an affordable price.

Budget: Ibis Rouen Champ de Mars
Perfect for budget-conscious travellers, this 3* hotel offers simple yet comfortable accommodations, a central location, and excellent value for money.

Explore: In the Vicinity

If you are staying in Rouen for a few days, then how about hiring a car and heading out and exploring some of the treasures of Normandy:

The picturesque village of Giverny is located approximately 80 kilometres from Rouen. Explore the famous Claude Monet’s House and Gardens, where you can admire the beautiful water lilies and vibrant flowerbeds that inspired many of Monet’s paintings.

Discover the charming port town of Honfleur, situated about 90 kilometres from Rouen. Stroll along the cobbled streets lined with half-timbered houses, explore the historic Vieux Bassin (Old Harbour), and visit the Sainte-Catherine Church, the largest wooden church in France.

Explore the stunning cliffs and natural arches of Étretat, located approximately 90 kilometres northwest of Rouen. Walk along the coastal path for breathtaking views of the English Channel and visit iconic landmarks such as the Needle Rock and the famous Arch of Étretat.

A Journey to Remember

From its medieval landmarks to its vibrant cultural scene, Rouen offers a unique and fascinating alternative to Paris. With its easy rail connection, superb gastronomy, rich history, and French flair, this timeless gem of Normandy is very much worth a visit.

Contact Information

For more information visit the Office de Tourisme de Rouen or contact your local travel agent or tour operator.

My thanks to Rouen Tourisme for providing the images for which all copyrights are stated.

This article is featured in the Aurigny Airlines Magazine “En Voyage“.

The Allure of Agadir

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El Had Souk Agadir
El Had Souk Agadir
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When good friends seek advice about a destination I’ve yet to visit, my inquisitive nature takes centre stage. I have that desire to discover more and become intrigued as to why, when there are so many popular Winter Sun choices, you would choose Agadir – a Moroccan city that is, to my knowledge, not really at the forefront of people’s minds.

My pals Christian and Sara were in search of a value-for-a-money all-inclusive hotel along with a short(ish) flight, guaranteed sunshine, a great beach, a relaxing pool and water sports to satisfy Christian’s love of paddleboarding. Now I would have suggested the Canaries, Cyprus, Egypt, Tunisia, Gambia or even Cape Verde but they, to my delight, were set upon Agadir!

The next time we spoke they had booked the four-hour flight on easyJet Airlines from London Gatwick Airport to the city of Agadir in Morocco. I subsequently discovered that travel companies including Jet2holidays, Tui and Easyjet Holidays offer flights and holidays to Agadir from a choice of UK airports including Gatwick, Bournemouth, Birmingham, Luton, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Having seriously questioned my travel knowledge after a lifetime in the industry, I promptly wished them a good time while asking for updates and photos as I was genuinely interested to know what Agadir had to offer. Let’s find out!

So Why Agadir?

Travellers are drawn to Agadir, a coastal treasure in southwest Morocco, by its value for money, its sandy beaches, lively culture, and the nearby Atlas Mountains that offer both adventure and cultural attractions.

I find it strange that Agadir, particularly as a Winter Sun destination, doesn’t receive more space on the pages of travel websites and newspapers. These days people like Christian, Sara and myself, are looking for somewhere a little different, non-commercial and, dare I say it, far away from the stereotypical British Holidaymaker that has changed or should that be tainted many a holiday resort. Agadir would, on the face of it, tick the box!  

Sun-Kissed Beaches

Unquestionably, Agadir’s most alluring feature is its nearly six-mile stretch of immaculate beaches along the Atlantic coast. The golden, silky beaches are ideal for taking leisurely walks, tanning, or engaging in a variety of water sports including paddleboarding (Christian was happy), surfing, or just lounging in the Moroccan sun.

On the beach there are camel and horse rides and for those looking for a bit more of a thrill then how about Quad Bikes and Dune Buggies? I have heard mixed reviews about the care of the camels and horses but as this is second-hand, all I would say is make sure you thoroughly check it out before handing over any money!

Another tip is to make sure your insurance covers these types of activities.

The Historic Kasbah of Agadir

Perched atop a hill overlooking Agadir, the Kasbah of Agadir Oufla stands as a testament to the city’s rich history and cultural heritage. Originally built in the 16th century by the Saadian dynasty, this fortress served as a strategic stronghold, offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Despite its storied past, much of the Kasbah was destroyed during a devastating earthquake in 1960, leaving behind only remnants of its former glory.

Today, visitors like Christian and Sara can explore the ruins of the Kasbah, wandering through the crumbling walls and remnants of towers that once guarded the city. While the site may be in a state of disrepair, its commanding position provides an ideal vantage point for capturing sweeping views of Agadir’s modern skyline, bustling port, and sun-drenched beaches below. The journey to the Kasbah is an adventure in itself, with winding pathways leading up the hillside and offering glimpses of traditional Moroccan architecture along the way.

Despite its dilapidated state, the Kasbah of Agadir Oufla remains a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike, drawing visitors who are eager to delve into Agadir’s past and admire its stunning vistas. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a photography buff, or simply seeking a tranquil escape from the city below, a visit to the Kasbah promises a memorable experience that captures the essence of Agadir.

Souk El Had

I could not help but smile at the name of this souk. Let’s hope after the haggling you have not been “had”.

Jokes aside you need to take in the colourful local culture at Souk El Had, one of Morocco’s biggest markets. The vibrant textiles, loud conversation of the locals, and scents of spices combine to create a sensory feast at this busy marketplace.

Wander around its lanes, bargain for trinkets, and, as Sara is doing in the image below, enjoy some of the Moroccan street food flavours.

Agadir Marina

The Agadir Marina offers a taste of contemporary luxury. This chic waterfront neighbourhood serves up fine restaurants, designer shopping, and a bustling nightlife.

Enjoy a stroll around the marina, take in the yachts, and take your pick from a variety of hip cafés and eateries serving both regional and global fare.

Valley Of The Birds

I was surprised to hear that in Agadir away from the bustling city life, there is the Valley of the Birds. This serene retreat invites visitors to immerse themselves in nature’s tranquillity and discover an array of bird species.

Dating back several decades, the Valley of the Birds has been a cherished attraction in Agadir, enchanting generations of visitors with its natural beauty and diverse bird population. Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or simply seeking a stroll in picturesque surroundings, the valley’s winding pathways offer ample opportunities to spot a variety of feathered friends in their natural habitat.

Visitors can expect to encounter a wide range of bird species, including colourful parrots, majestic peacocks, and graceful swans, among others. Admission to the Valley of the Birds is typically affordable, making it an accessible and budget-friendly attraction for visitors of all ages.

Paradise Valley

Paradise Valley, nestled in the Atlas Mountains near Agadir, Morocco, is a breathtaking natural wonder renowned for its stunning scenery, lush green valleys, cascading waterfalls, and crystal-clear natural pools.

The journey to Paradise Valley is an adventure in itself, as travellers navigate winding mountain roads bordered by rugged cliffs and verdant landscapes. One of the highlights of Paradise Valley is its series of natural rock pools, where you can take a refreshing dip in the cool, turquoise waters or simply relax on the sun-warmed rocks.

For the more adventurous traveller, Paradise Valley also offers opportunities for hiking and exploration. Guided treks through the surrounding mountains reveal hidden trails, panoramic viewpoints, and stunning vistas, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the Atlas Mountains.

Atlas Mountains
Atlas Mountains

Traditional Moroccan Cuisine

One of the many delights from a visit to Morocco is to sample the diverse range of culinary delights. In Agadir, you can enjoy some of the finest Moroccan cuisine, including iconic dishes such as tagine, couscous, and pastilla. Explore local eateries to experience the variety of spices that characterize these mouthwatering dishes.

In Agadir, indulging in a traditional Moroccan tea experience is a must-do for visitors looking to immerse themselves in the local culture. Head to one of the city’s charming cafes or tea houses, where you can savour the rich flavours of mint tea, a beloved beverage enjoyed throughout Morocco. Sit back, relax, and soak up the vibrant atmosphere as you sip on this sweet and refreshing drink, served in ornate tea glasses and accompanied by sweet pastries or savoury snacks.

Whether you’re enjoying a leisurely afternoon break or a post-dinner treat, sharing a cup of tea with friends or locals is a delightful way to embrace the warmth and hospitality of Agadir.

Agadir Nightlife

In Agadir, the nightlife scene offers a vibrant and diverse array of entertainment options for tourists looking to unwind after a day of exploration. Whether you’re seeking a laid-back evening sipping cocktails by the beach or a lively night of dancing until dawn, Agadir has something for everyone in a safe, fun and welcoming environment.

One of the highlights of Agadir’s nightlife is its beachfront bars and clubs, where visitors can enjoy stunning ocean views while savouring refreshing drinks and soaking up the lively atmosphere. Beachside lounges like La Cantina and Sunset Beach Club offer a relaxed ambience and often feature live music or DJs spinning tunes into the night. For those looking to dance the night away, popular nightclubs such as Papagayo Beach Club and So Night Lounge provide an energetic setting with top-notch sound systems and vibrant crowds.

In addition to beachfront venues, Agadir boasts a variety of bars, pubs, and discos scattered throughout the city centre such as Bodeguita. Visitors can explore the bustling streets of Agadir’s downtown area, where they’ll find an eclectic mix of bars offering everything from traditional Moroccan cocktails to international beers and spirits.

Whether you’re in the mood for a casual drink with friends or a lively night of dancing, Agadir’s nightlife scene promises an unforgettable experience for tourists seeking excitement and entertainment after dark.

Top 10 Things To Do in Agadir, Morocco

These attractions offer an excellent range of experiences, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the culture and beauty of Agadir, Morocco.

  1. Agadir Beach: Relax on the city’s beautiful sandy beach, known for its calm waters and stunning sunsets.
  2. Kasbah Agadir Oufella: Visit the historic Kasbah ruins for panoramic views of the city and the bay.
  3. Souk El Had d’Agadir: Explore this bustling market to experience Moroccan culture, shop for souvenirs, and sample local delicacies.
  4. Crocoparc Agadir: Discover a variety of plant species and learn about crocodile conservation at this unique botanical garden and crocodile park.
  5. Agadir Marina: Take a stroll along the marina, lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants, and enjoy views of the yachts and boats.
  6. Valley of the Birds: Enjoy a peaceful walk amidst lush greenery and a variety of bird species in this picturesque park.
  7. La Medina d’Agadir: Explore this reconstructed traditional Moroccan marketplace, featuring shops, artisan workshops, and cultural performances.
  8. Agadir Argan Factory: Learn about the production of argan oil, a Moroccan speciality, and shop for high-quality skincare products.
  9. Amazighe Heritage Museum: Discover the rich history and culture of the Amazigh people of Morocco through exhibits and artefacts.
  10. Taghazout Beach: Experience the laid-back vibe of this charming fishing village, known for its excellent surfing conditions and bohemian atmosphere.

Where To Stay in Agadir, Morocco

Christian and Sara enjoyed their stay at The Hotel Riu Tikada Beach Resort citing the beach, pool and breakfast as the best features!

This adult-only, four-star, all-inclusive hotel has 254 rooms and is situated on the Agadir beach. There are three outdoor swimming pools available, all perfect for soaking up the sun amid the mild southern Moroccan weather.

In addition to its classic Hamman and gym, the hotel has an excellent thalassotherapy facility where you can get massages, beauty treatments, and hairdressing services. For dining, the main restaurant serves traditional Moroccan fare for lunch and evening, in addition to buffet breakfasts with live cooking stations.

Here are some other accommodation options in Agadir to consider:

Luxury:

  1. Sofitel Agadir Royal Bay Resort: A luxurious beachfront resort offering elegant rooms, multiple dining options, a spa, and stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.
  2. Robinson Club Agadir: An upscale resort offering modern rooms, various sports facilities, entertainment programs, and a serene beachfront location.
  3. Hyatt Place Taghazout Bay: A luxurious hotel with contemporary rooms, a rooftop terrace, an infinity pool, a fitness centre, and access to the Taghazout Bay Golf Course.
  4. Royal Atlas & Spa: A deluxe beachfront hotel boasting stylish accommodations, several restaurants, a spa, outdoor pools, and easy access to Agadir’s attractions.

Mid-Range Boutique:

  1. Hotel Timoulay & Spa Agadir: A stylish boutique hotel offering comfortable rooms, a spa, an outdoor pool, and a tranquil ambience near Agadir’s attractions.
  2. Labranda Les Dunes d’Or: A charming boutique hotel featuring cosy rooms, a swimming pool, gardens, and close to the beach.
  3. Allegro Agadir by Barcelo Hotel Group: A contemporary hotel offering well-appointed rooms, a pool, dining options, and a convenient location for exploring Agadir.

Budget:

  1. Hotel Timoulay & Spa Agadir: A budget-friendly option with comfortable rooms, a spa, and convenient amenities for a pleasant stay.
  2. Labranda Les Dunes d’Or: Affordable accommodation with cosy rooms, a swimming pool, and a relaxed atmosphere near the beach.
  3. Allegro Agadir by Barcelo Hotel Group: A wallet-friendly hotel offering simple rooms, basic amenities, and a convenient location for exploring Agadir’s attractions.

Contact Information

Agadir is a year-round destination and offers a wonderful fusion of natural beauty, rich culture, and sun-kissed beaches. Whether you’re looking for adventure in the mountains, rest on the beaches, or cultural exploration in the busy markets, this is a destination worth considering for your next Winter Sun holiday.

My thanks to Christian and Sara for introducing me to this destination and for supplying all the photos you see. They had a great time and are now busy considering where next…. I am secretly hoping it’s another off-the-beaten-track gem.

Normally I would suggest contacting the Morocco National Tourist Office which I did through their website contact as well as their social media but got no response – maybe you will have better luck! You can also try Visit Agadir and of course, you can always speak to your local travel agent or specialist tour operator.

Marrakech – The Red City

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Marrakech Ceramic Pots
Marrakech Ceramic Pots
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If you are planning your first trip to the Red City of Marrakech in Morocco, then I suggest you strap yourself in and prepare to immerse yourself in a city that will enchant, inspire, surprise and at times, shock you!

Before visiting, I had received mixed reviews about Marrakech. So many people love this iconic North African city, in particular highlighting, the history and beating heart of the ancient Medina, the incredible souks, and the delicious cuisine. However, others expressed reservations concerning issues such as cleanliness and safety.

It was back in 2014 that I first took the short 3-hour 30-minute flight from London to Morocco’s 4th largest city. On my first evening, I will never forget pulling up in a taxi at the iconic Jemaa el-Fnaa square. I stepped out into the dry, warm evening air and immediately came face to face with a craggy-faced gentleman pulling a wooden cart stacked high with snails. These were not just any old snails in transit, they were Moroccan snails that make up the local delicacy, Babbouche – a spicy broth sold in nearby street stalls. As I reached for my camera and pointed it in his direction, he wagged his finger while covering his face. I immediately knew that I was in a city that demanded my respect…. I had learned my lesson!

It may not have been love at first sight, but I can assure you that, as you get under the skin of this fascinating, rich, and vibrant city, you will begin to fall for the undoubted charms and the gritty authentic atmosphere, that is Marrakech!

When To Travel

Marrakech enjoys very hot dry summers and cooler yet sunny winters. The hottest month to travel is in July when temperatures can reach over 40C, whilst the coolest month is in January when they drop to an average of 19C.

From personal experience, I believe the best time to visit Marrakech is during the Spring and Autumn months when the weather is warm but not intense. These days allow you to sunbathe when you wish but also explore in relative comfort.

What To Wear

Speaking of comfort, another key consideration is how to dress, especially for the ladies. There are no rules as to what you should wear but as I have mentioned, it is important to have respect for the local people who are mainly of Arab and Berber origin.

When out and about, especially when visiting religious sites, women should dress more conservatively with their shoulders covered together with long dresses or trousers.

You should be prepared to walk long distances in Marrakech as there is so much to see especially in the Medina and around the Souks, so ensure you have comfortable and hard-wearing shoes.

The Highlights of Marrakech

When visiting the historic centre for the first time, I would recommend you pre-order a tourist guide, whether that is via your accommodation or in advance through your tour provider. The city is vast and getting lost, especially in the souks, is, trust me, very easy. Qualified trained guides will work with you and understand what it is you want to get from your visit and tailor their walking tour accordingly.

As a couple of extra tips, make sure you take bottled water with you as tap water is off limits and note that many places will not accept a credit card as payment, so be sure to have a well-secured and hidden supply of the currency, Dirhams.

The Medina

The heart and soul of Marrakech is the ancient historic centre known as the Medina which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built over one thousand years ago and extends to an area of about 600 hectares.

Marrakech is known as the Red City, due to the buildings having this pink, ochre colour which derives from the beaten clay that was used to construct them all those centuries ago.

Within these walls and amongst the winding alleys and narrow streets there is much to visit including traditional Moroccan baths or Hammams, palaces, markets, mosques, and cool cafes to sit and people watch while sipping on a traditional coffee or enjoying a mint tea.

The Palaces of Marrakech

There are three main palaces in Marrakech including the ruins of the 16th century El Badi Palace which is considered the most ancient and historic, while the Royal Palace, which you cannot enter, is a wonderful example of Moroccan architecture.

The iconic 19th-century, Bahia Palace was my favourite with the entrance fee, a very reasonable 70 dirhams (about £5.50). Here you can view the intricate Moroccan workmanship that adorns almost every façade, the marble courtyard and gardens, mosaic ceilings, ancient paintings and exquisite ornate stone carvings.

Jemaa El-Fnaa

No trip to Marrakech is complete without a visit to the famous square and marketplace in the Medina, called the Jemaa El Fnaa.

Most taxis or transfers will jostle with hundreds of mopeds for a space to drop you at the edge of this vibrant square where you then make your way by foot alongside, horse-drawn carriages that are waiting to take tourists on city tours.

The best time to visit the square is just as the sun is setting, when the numerous street stalls are in full swing selling everything from spices and herbs to clothes and handicrafts. The buzz, colour, sounds and atmosphere are the heart, soul and essence of Marrakech.

Regrettably, it is here that some visitors encounter issues due to some desperately sad animal tourism. There are snake charmers as well as individuals who are keen to place a monkey on your shoulder, often without warning, for a photo. My advice is to take a wide berth, say a firm no and refuse the invitation. If you entertain the idea for any amount of time or take a snap using your camera, then you can encounter problems and demands for money.

Souk Semmarine & Souk Haddadine

There is no better place to get lost and witness the craftsmanship and skill of the local people than in one of the many souks.

The Souk Semmarine, behind the Jemaa el-Fnaa, is one of the most popular. As you wander along one backstreet it may be selling textiles and clothing, then another will have ceramics or leather goods. Take another turn and you will find food, spices and antiques.

For ironwork and lanterns, the Souk Haddadine is excellent and just a short walk from Souk Semmarine. Here you can see skilled craftsmen using welders or an anvil and hammer to create some fabulous pieces of art.

The quality of the goods on offer is mixed and there is always a deal to be had. Every stall will suggest a price, that after haggling, and walking away which is always a good tactic, will probably have dropped 50% or more. So be strong, resolute and stand firm on what you believe the item to be worth and be prepared to say “no”.

If you love witnessing creative talent and have an eye for a bargain, then this is the place for you! 

Koutoubia Mosque

One of the most iconic symbols of Marrakech is the famous Koutoubia Mosque. Built-in the 12th century and standing at over 70 metres in height, it is not only the largest Mosque in the city but also the most beautiful, with its pink colour and beautiful gardens.

Kasbah Mosque and Saadian Tombs

The second largest mosque in Marrakech is the Kasbah Mosque which is alongside the famous Saadian Tombs. These were created during the reign of Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur in the late 16th century and are the final resting place of seven Sultans and numerous family members of the Saadian dynasty.

Musee Yves St Laurent Gardens

During the 1960’s the classic French designer Yves Saint Laurent fell in love with Marrakech so much so, that in 1980 he ended up buying the Jardin Majorelle. Today the Musée Yves St Laurent Gardens is a world-leading botanical garden, famous for its collection of Cacti.

In 2017, the impressive Musée Yves Saint Laurent opened, showcasing a collection of his finest fashion along with the latest creations from local artists and designers.

Maison de la Photographie

For those interested in both photography and the history of Morocco, then I would recommend a visit to the centrally located, Maison de la Photographie. This gallery is home to a collection of lifestyle photos taken between the late 19th century and the mid-20th century by Patrick Menac’h and Marrakshi Hamid Mergani.

The Atlas Mountains

A 45-minute journey from Marrakech will take you into the glorious and sometimes snow-capped, Atlas Mountains where you can experience a range of exciting excursions or activities. I took an airconditioned 4X4 jeep safari which should be booked in advance.

My bumpy yet thoroughly fun and informative trip included a visit to a traditional Berber Village, a tour of the Argan Oil Cooperative and a visit to the spectacular Ouzoud Waterfall.

Eating Out

Dining out in Marrakech is one of the highlights of any visit. You cannot visit Morocco and not try the tagine – a meat, vegetable and fruit stew that’s simmered for hours in a clay pot, and then served with warm flatbread. Another traditional Moroccan dish is Pastilla, a pie made with thin layers of pastry and stuffed with meat, almonds and eggs, while spiced with saffron and coriander.

There are also Couscous dishes, Merguez – a North African sausage, Bissara – a broad bean soup and of course, there is Babbouche – those pesky Moroccan Snails! A word of warning when eating at the outdoor stalls – ensure you are not alone… as with so many establishments in the world, check out where the locals are dining!

If you enjoy wine, then there is a blossoming Moroccan wine industry with products from local wineries served up in most restaurants along with international brands of beer. The consumption of alcohol in public is forbidden and it is worth noting that there are further restrictions during Ramadan. If you do just need to grab a stiff drink then the Sky Bar is one of the best options in the city.

I would suggest you book ahead when dining out. Here are three restaurants I enjoyed on my visit:

Comptoir Darna
This beautiful stylish nightspot serves up traditional and international cuisine in sumptuous atmospheric surroundings. To accompany the food and the setting, there is belly dancing and traditional entertainment throughout the evening, as well as a Shisha area and a lively bar.

Le Marrakchi
This lovely traditional restaurant is perched up high in the corner overlooking the Jemaa El Fnaa. Here you can enjoy a fabulous menu of tagines and local dishes all intensely flavoured with spices and aromatic herbs.

Dardar
With traditional Moroccan food, and a wonderful rooftop bar serving classic cocktails to trendy sounds, the Dardar restaurant is one of the city’s coolest venues with great views across the skyline and beyond.

Top 10 Things To Do and Places To See in Marrakech

These activities offer a diverse range of experiences that showcase the rich culture, history, and natural beauty of Marrakech, ensuring an unforgettable visit to this vibrant city.

  1. Jemaa el-Fnaa: Explore Marrakech’s bustling main square, known for its lively atmosphere, street performers, market stalls, and traditional Moroccan cuisine.
  2. Medina Souks: Wander through the narrow alleyways of the Medina to discover a maze of vibrant souks selling everything from spices and textiles to leather goods and handicrafts.
  3. Bahia Palace: Step back in time at this stunning 19th-century palace, known for its intricate tile work, ornate architecture, lush gardens, and tranquil courtyards.
  4. Koutoubia Mosque: Admire the towering minaret of Marrakech’s largest mosque, an iconic landmark with beautiful Islamic architecture and serene surroundings.
  5. Jardin Majorelle: Escape the hustle and bustle of the city at this tranquil botanical garden, famous for its vibrant blue buildings, unique plants, and charming café.
  6. Saadian Tombs: Explore these historic tombs dating back to the Saadian dynasty, featuring intricately decorated mausoleums and beautifully landscaped gardens.
  7. El Badi Palace: Marvel at the impressive ruins of this once-grand palace, with its massive sunken gardens, towering ramparts, and sweeping views of the city.
  8. Cooking Class: Learn the secrets of Moroccan cuisine with a cooking class, where you’ll shop for ingredients in the souks and prepare traditional dishes like tagine and couscous.
  9. Atlas Mountains Day Trip: Escape the city for a day to explore the stunning landscapes of the Atlas Mountains, where you can hike, visit Berber villages, and enjoy breathtaking views.
  10. Hammams and Spas: Indulge in a traditional Moroccan hammam experience, where you can relax in steam rooms, enjoy invigorating massages, and pamper yourself with luxurious treatments.

Where To Stay in Marrakech

When planning a visit to Marrakech, the location, style and standard of your accommodation are all important – in fact, I would go so far as to say it could make or break your trip, so if you can, spend a little extra. Here I offer a glimpse into just some of the accommodations available in Marrakech, catering to different budgets and preferences.

Luxury:

  1. Royal Mansour Marrakech: An opulent palace hotel offering lavish suites, private riads, a spa, multiple restaurants, and impeccable service in a luxurious setting.
  2. La Mamounia Marrakech: A prestigious hotel set within lush gardens, featuring elegant rooms, world-class dining, a spa, swimming pools, and a historic atmosphere.
  3. Four Seasons Resort Marrakech: A luxurious resort offering spacious accommodations, lush gardens, a spa, swimming pools, fine dining options, and impeccable service in a serene setting.
  4. Fairmont Royal Palm: A luxurious tranquil hotel featuring gorgeous rooms and suites, a spa, swimming pools, fine dining, and elegant Moroccan art and style. The hotel, just 20 minutes from Marrakech centre, also boasts a magnificent 18-hole golf course.

Mid-Range Boutique:

  1. Riad Jardin Secret: A charming boutique riad offering cosy rooms, a courtyard garden, a rooftop terrace, and personalized service in the heart of the Medina.
  2. Riad BE Marrakech: A boutique riad with stylish rooms, a courtyard pool, a rooftop terrace, and a tranquil atmosphere near the souks and attractions.
  3. Riad Kniza: A boutique riad featuring elegant rooms, Moroccan décor, a courtyard garden, a rooftop terrace, and traditional Moroccan hospitality in a historic setting.
  4. Club Med la Palmaraie: A popular family hotel on the outskirts of the city in the “La Palmeraie” area of Marrakech. This is a great choice for its range of sports and activities to keep the kids happy.

Budget:

  1. Hotel Riad Azukar: A budget-friendly option with comfortable rooms, a courtyard garden, and a convenient location near the Medina and Djemaa el Fna square.
  2. Riad Dar One: An affordable riad offering simple rooms, a courtyard pool, and a relaxed atmosphere in the heart of the Medina.
  3. Hotel Ali: A budget hotel with basic accommodations, friendly service, and a central location within walking distance of Marrakech’s attractions.

For those looking to enjoy the hustle and bustle of Marrakech but have a few days of relaxation, how about combining your stay with a few days in the nearby Atlas Mountains? A popular retreat here is the Kasbah Tamadot which offers superb levels of service whilst having numerous cultural experiences, sports and hiking opportunities on the doorstep.

More Information

Marrakech will ultimately deliver a fantastic city break. Yes, you can expect snails but certainly not a snail’s pace! If you embrace this frenetic, somewhat hectic city, respect the culture, and ride any bumps along the way, then you are in for a treat.

For more information on taking a trip to Marrakech contact Visit Morocco, your local travel agent or tour operator.

Best Emerging Travel Blog 2024 – UK

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Lux Life Magazine Awards
Lux Life Magazine Awards
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LUXlife Magazine – Travel & Tourism Awards 2024

I am excited to tell you that a few months ago I was informed, out of the blue, that I had been nominated for an award from the LUXlife Magazine. As if being nominated was not exciting enough, I last week learned that I have indeed won my very first award as a Travel Blogger for the “Best Emerging Travel Blog 2024 – UK“.

Needless to say, I am delighted. After 30 years in the travel industry, the arrival of COVID-19 in 2020 and the need to care for an ageing and poorly parent unexpectedly caused me to reset, rethink, reboot and redirect my career.

I am truly loving this journey which is creating a lifetime of memories and giving me the freedom and independence to express myself through my photography and writing.

To be recognised in this way is both exciting and flattering.

A Message From LUXLife Magazine

For many people, travel is a positive form of escapism, serving as a much-needed break from the stress of work and the monotony of everyday life. For others, travel is a thrilling adventure characterised by the exploration of new places, the discovery of new foods, and the creation of life-long memories.

No matter their motivations, the strong desire that people feel to embark on journeys across the world fuels the success of the travel and tourism industry, which not only provides employment to millions of people but also contributes greatly to the world’s economy.

For the eighth year in a row, the LUXlife Travel & Tourism Awards sets out to recognise the excellence of the sector’s best enterprises, from luxurious resorts to quaint campsites to unique tour operators. Our winners go above and beyond for their clients, providing them with unforgettable experiences that will stay with them forever.

Awards Coordinator Jessie Wilson commented, “It has been a pleasure to host this year’s Travel & Tourism Awards, and I am delighted to congratulate our winners on their success. I wish them all the best and look forward to seeing them flourish throughout the rest of 2024 and beyond!”

Please visit LUXlife Magazine where you can view the winner’s supplement and full winners list.

Thank You

It’s not my goal to win awards but if they come my way I will, of course, embrace them. It is, however, my goal to keep growing, learning and developing my blog as well as entertaining and informing my audience about destinations or experiences which are not perhaps the first that spring to mind.

Throughout my travel career, I have championed those off-the-beaten-track specialist destinations instead of the traditional favourites. Last year alone I visited many fabulous authentic places including Cuba, Biarritz, Andros, Naxos, San Sebastian, La Gomera, Cangas De Onis, and Bolzano, and I even took a trip on a luxury expedition Ice breaker!

So far this year I have spent my time writing, learning more about website tech and social media, plus the best bit, making plans for some exciting trips in 2024. The first of these is in early May with a truly amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience…. more of that nearer the time!

So my thanks to LUXlife magazine and all those hotels, tour operators, cruise companies, tourist offices and travel partners who have shown faith in my efforts and supported me along the road thus far.

So… till next time… from the Award Winning… “Just One For The Road”.

Hotel News From La Gomera

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Jardin Tecina Hotel La Gomera
Jardin Tecina Hotel La Gomera
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Different By Nature

Exciting news arrived in my inbox last week: the fabulous Hotel Jardin Tecina and Tecina Golf in La Gomera, which I visited and loved last year, is set for significant renovations and improvements in 2024.

The hotel aims to uphold its commitment to sustainability, innovation, and natural living through these changes. Expect refreshed decor and furnishings in the rooms, as well as revamped public areas like the Salon Bar, Beatriz de Bobadilla Terrace, Main Restaurant, and Pool Barbecue. Even the little ones will benefit, with major upgrades planned for the Palmito Club and “Laurus.”

Based on this video teaser, it seems this upgrade will elevate an already wonderful hotel experience to new heights!

Hotel Jardin Tecina and Tecina Golf

For those who plan ahead, whether it’s for a Christmas family getaway, a golfing excursion, or even a holiday in 2025, the Hotel Jardin Tecina and Tecina Golf on La Gomera should be on your radar. This unspoiled island gem is set to become even more sought-after with these enhancements!

The hotel will be closing on the 8th of April 2024 and will reopen following the changes on the 6th of December 2024.

Contact Information

For more information on the Hotel Jardin Tecina and Tecina Golf check out my review from last year. To book contact your local travel agent, tour operator or visit the Hotel Jardin Tecina website.

Till next time…