About Harriet Constable
Harriet Constable is a communications executive and freelance travel writer and blogger. At the age of 23 she stepped foot on Antarctica, and in doing so achieved her aspiration of traveling to every continent.
Harriet is the founder of Harri Travels aka http://www.harrietconstable.com/, a travel blog focused on providing affordable stylish adventure inspiration across the globe. Harriet lives in London and when she isn’t half way across the world she can be found exploring her home city for awesome new things to do. You can follow her on twitter: @Hconstable.
Latest Posts by Harriet Constable
In the ancient lanes of Morocco kittens scramble over chicken bones while Berbers nonchalantly guard their souks filled with ancient jewelery and charming boxes: an Aladdin’s cave of treasures. The baking sun sets over the crusted, ornate rooftops covered in satellite dishes and with the rising moon the Imam’s call reverberates through the air.
Journeying to Morocco and experiencing the charm and madness is exhilarating but can be overwhelming. On my first trip there, I did a lot of research but found it difficult to learn what clothing was going to be appropriate – whilst still being stylish, comfortable and suitable for the bubbling-hot temperatures. Having now spent over a month there, I’ve put together an outfit that’s colourful and respectful. Here are my tips on what to wear in Morocco:
Go for a light, breathable fabric if possible and light colours which will keep you cooler. This Aztec t-shirt from Oasis is great as it covers your shoulders, so as not to attract unwanted attention, and is loose-fitting for the in high temperatures.
I like these gold and wooden bangles to top the outfit off. I’d wait until you get to Morocco to pick these up as there’s tons of lovely souks. Marrakech tends to rip people off now they’re so cottoned on to the tourist trade, but in other areas like Fez and the Atlas Mountains you can pick up some great pieces for pittance.
3. MAXI SKIRT
Loose and breathable clothes are great in the heat, and this orangy-red maxi skirt adds colour too. The length is great as it’s modest and respectful of the Moroccan culture, and it looks great with the Solillas sandals.
4. STATEMENT EARRINGS
Accessorise your outfit with some statement gold earrings. These ones are from ASOS, but if I were you I’d wait until you arrive in Morocco and pick some up from the souks like the bangles. Essaouira is the jewellery capital of Morocco so for the best selection, head there.
5. COMFY SHOES
Choosing a comfortable, hardy pair of shoes that will stand the test of the heat all day is really important. Exploring Morocco’s winding souks and cobbled streets you can work up a lot of miles.
Take a scarf with you to cover up in particularly religious areas or shade yourself from the heat of the day. Once you arrive, you’ll be overwhelmed by the colours and options of shawls on offer so you can add to your collection!
Dress like this and you can walk around in all day looking great, keeping cool and not offending anyone in the process.
I might be a travel addict, but there are ways to make a travel destination work for you without having to do it all. I have highlighted how to take in Belfast and make the most out of the city.
1. TAKE IN SOME HISTORY
Visit the political hot centre of Failte Feirste Thiar in West Belfast between the Clonard Monastery and cemeteries. Whilst there you can also check out the Armagh County Museum – the oldest County Museum in Ireland no less – and Belfast Cathedral.
2. SPEND A LAZY AFTERNOON IN AN OLD PUB
Built in 1826, the Crown Liquor Saloon offers good fish and chips for just €10.70. Or try the stylish Kitchen Bar, just a half mile away, which was built in 1859.
3. STROLL ALONG THE SEA FRONT
Choose from one of several different paths along the shoreline of the Sunken Gardens: one of Belfast’s most beautiful assets and while away the hours breathing in the fresh and salty air.
4. EXPLORE THE CAUSEWAY COAST
Head north out of the city and you’ll soon be winding along cliffs and bays with stunning views of the surrounding beaches and quaint villages. And, thanks to the compact size of the province, you can be back in your room well before bedtime.
Tips come from Danny Thomson at The Outreachers
Recently whilst in Morocco we decided to go mountain biking in the Atlas Mountains. I had never actually mountain biked before, so it was rather a baptism of fire…
We hired bikes from a little shop in the valley of Imlil for 400 dirhams (£30ish) each and set off up the mountain to the start of the trail. I felt like an instant pro with my helmet and gloves on: lookin’ gooood. Yeah, that lasted about 3 minutes as the heat of the Moroccan day and my impressive lack of leg muscle made the uphill ascent torturous! It was TWO HOURS of hairpin bends which we approached at the speed of a slug.
Feeling a little disheartened at this stage…
Finally, amazingly, we reached the top of the mountain many sweaty minutes later. Wiping the droplets from our brows, we climbed back on the bikes to begin the ride. From this point on, the journey was absolutely incredible!
We started with a very bumpy hairpin decent to the river over large rocks and gravel. It left me exhilarated but a little nervous – the bike kept skidding out from under me as I hit the brakes too hard but I learned to master the suspension, my hands gripping the bars so tightly my knuckles were white. As we reached the bottom of the road I could see the shaded river bubbling through the valley and we skidded to a halt for a delicious picnic lunch made earlier by our guesthouse whilst we soaked our toes in the cool water.
Before long we were off again and after a bit of intense midday heat and uphill struggle on the rocky road the other side of the valley we were back swooshing down the mountain roads with the wind rushing through our hair. The dusty trail provided spectacular views of the Altas Mountains and the thrill of having only a sheer drop to your side.
It was pretty much like being in the Tour de France.
Every so often we’d whizz through a little hamlet where a few kids waved us by as we swerved to avoid a crossing chicken, or we’d pass a lonely villager carrying goods on his mule, smiling and nodding to us like we were totally crazy to be biking down these roads.
It was a whole day of exercise having started in Imlil at 9am and not pulled into our finish point in Asni until 4pm. We were hot an exhausted but exhilarated. Our final 20 minutes of riding were down a beautifully smooth and winding tarmac road with the mountain views sprawling out in the distance. I kept a close tail behind and watched my boyfriend fly down the mountain with his t-shirt billowing in the wind, chuffed with what we had achieved and relishing another adventure with him. An incredible end to an incredible day.
In the heart of fashionable Soho The James hotel protrudes into the skyline in all its tall and shiny glory. I stroll in past the bowls of organic dog food and water as the handsomely rugged doorman greets me G’day ma’am from the chic stone and glass-clad lobby and directs me up to the reception a level above.
The glossy elevator slides upwards, chilled house music pumping from the speakers, and pings excitedly as I’m immersed into the tastefully decorated reception lounge with a sophisticated-beach feel. The lights look like they are made from tubes of softly-lit melting cotton wool, the gold-ish curtain panels resemble fishing net and the cushions and chairs are covered with gauze. It’s very nicely done.
I’m welcomed by the helpful and friendly receptionist who takes my Amex in return for a tan leather wallet holding my key card and informs me the lounge serves tea, coffee and fruit during the day; wine and cheese in the evening and cookies before bed.
Ten minutes later I enter my home for the next few nights with a simple swish of the card wallet: its a cube of glassy elegance with a spectacular view over New York’s cityscape. I can’t see any of the main attractions from my window and I kind of like that: I’m looking down on New Yorkers go about their lives. The buildings in the distance are embellished with quotes and graffiti, the yard of the apartment opposite contains three dogs running for a ball.
I’m immediately drawn to the marsmallowy-bed, it looks good enough to eat. I dive on board (the only way to get into bed, in my opinion) and it is offensively, outrageously comfortable. I mean, I pride myself on my bed at home, and this is unreal.
I realise that this is a recurring trend: the toilet paper is impossibly soft, the towels may as well be fluffy puppies who have just been shampooed. It’s high end and beautifully modern. The bathroom is glass walled with a printed shade blind you can choose to lower should you wish for your dignity to remain in tact (the neighbours can see in), the minibar contains a selection of tempting snacks, there’s complimentary filtered water in carafes and the shampoo is gluten free. Other nice touches include free bike-hire and rooftop yoga in the mornings.
After settling in, I change and head back for the elevator to ‘The Jimmy’ – the hotel’s rooftop pool and bar. It’s like stepping into a Vegas pool party: young and attractive people cluster together clutching mojitos while financial-types drift up and down in the pool hitting on the hotties in bikinis. It’s wanky as hell. I decide to retreat and return the next day at a quieter time where I can admire the sweeping view and plunge in the pool without being accosted by some prick who think’s he’s the Wolf of Wall Street.
Back in my room, I plug my iPod into the dock and blast out some Destiny’s Child, metaphorically flicking the girl-power V to the men on the roof. I spend 10 minutes running around like a child playing with all the lamps and various dimmer-switch options before bedding down on the cloud that pretends to be a bed, asleep in seconds, dreaming only of being referred to as ‘ma’am’ again the next morning.
Details: rooms start from £170 per night. The hotel is pet friendly and contains a restaurant and rooftop bar. Room service is available, as is ordering take-away to your room from a local restaurant.
Welcome to Morocco, the land of colour and light.
Giant lanterns, bright rugs, dimly lit restaurants with low tables and belly dancers, candles, snake-charmers, mountainous sand dunes shaded burning orange and dusty hairpin roads stretching as far as the eye can see: Morocco is an experience not to be missed.
TRAVEL: Morocco is easy to get to. From London, easyJet operates flights most days to Marrakech. My personal favourite though, depending on what end of the Morocco you’re planning on starting your trip from, is to fly to Madrid for a cheeky tapas-infused stopover and then hop over to Tangier and from there an a short plane ride. Once in the country, you can hire a car (the roads are generally very good but beware crazy drivers in Marrakech) or take trains and buses throughout the country; check out this site for brilliant travel logistics. The transport infrastructure is impressive and the trains are wonderful. Book your own carriage for the ultimate experience.
WEATHER: In the summer months (July to September) Morocco gets very hot but the temperature varies widely from place to place. Essaouira tends to be cool and windy at 18 -20 degrees C and the Atlas Mountains are cooler too, whereas Marrakech gets up to 50 degrees. If you want to ensure you’re not sweltering it’s worth going in March/ April where the weather is pretty much perfect.
CASH: the currency is Moroccan Dirham and you can get cash from the airport on arrival. Essaouira and Marrakech have cash machines but if you’re heading into the mountains or the desert it’s wise to get cash before you go. Many guesthouses accept cash only so check before you arrive.
PACKING: as a Muslim country women are expected to dress modestly. While many parts of Morocco are used to seeing western tourists it’s still wise for women to cover their arms and legs. I tend to take strapped tops and a shawl to keep cool but covered at the same time. For the mountains you’ll want walking boots to enjoy the spectacular hikes, and for the city go for Solillas – super pretty and comfy at the same time.
Food, to my mind, is one of the most wonderful ways we can experience a country and its culture. My highlights from eating and drinking my way around Morocco:
KOSYBAR, MARRAKECH: Expect dimmed lights, wicker chairs with comfy cushions, candles and giant hanging lamps at this cool Marrakech bar. Head there after a hot day in the old town around 7pm to get a table before the crowds arrive and catch the sunset from the roof terraces. Alcohol is available.
TAROS, ESSAOUIRA: This place makes you feel like a model breezing through in a photo shoot with its blue terraces, live band playing chilled house music and shades swaying in the wind. There’s a beautiful view over the beach to one side and the sea and sunset to the right.
DOUAR SAMRA, IMLIL: This cute and rustic guesthouse on the mountain slopes near Imlil offers some of the best Moroccan vegetarian food I’ve had. Delicious tomatoey tagines and aubergine salsa awaits.
CHEFCHAOUEN: Some of my favourite restaurants in Morocco are tucked down little lanes leading off of the small and pretty blue square in Chefchaouen. Be sure to explore the different corners and nooks and head up to the terraces overlooking the square for a meal with a view.
DOLCE FREDDO, ESSAOUIRA: One of my favourite things about going to Essaouira is this ice cream café. They offer delicious Italian flavours and spectacular hot chocolates that will probably give you a heart attack, all served on pretty tables overlooking the port and square.
CAFÉ CLOCK, FEZ: A quirky and fun restaurant in Fez media, this restaurant is situated above the ancient water clock in the rickety streets of Fez. They often have local music playing and there’s a wide and varied menu to choose from.
Morocco abounds with beautiful riads, quirky guesthouses and luxurious hotels to rest your head at, but the volume can be intimidating. These are my favourites to get you started:
DAR HABIBA, MARRAKECH: A haven away from the bustling heat of the souks and Jemaa El Fna square, Dar Habiba riad is tranquil and peaceful. The staff are helpful and welcoming and the breakfast on the roof terrace is delicious.
DAR L’OUSSIA, ESSAOUIRA: Built in 1954, this riad is tucked inside the media walls just moments from the beach with a roof terrace to rival any Santorini property. Visit in the summer months when the rooms are off peak (but Essaouira is still wonderfully sunny yet cool) to sample their luxurious rooms for just £50 per night.
DAR ECHCHAOUEN, CHEFCHAOUEN: hidden behind a wall on the hill overlooking colourful Chefchaouen is the beautiful Dar Echchaouen guesthouse. Highlights include a breakfast of fresh orange juice, olive tapenade and breads and the pool with spectacular views of the valley and sunset.
DOUAR SAMRA, ATLAS MOUNTAINS: This guesthouse has a fabulous location overlooking Imlil and the surrounding mountains. It is run by a charismatic Swiss woman who nurtures the colourful gardens and has made a rustic haven with hammocks, terraces and cushions, and you can look forward to meeting the ducks, the donkey, the cat and her 4 dogs.
On my trips to Morocco I have been amazed by the variety of landscapes, the differences and similarities both in colours, traditions and temperatures and the plentiful activities to arouse your interest. These are some of my all time favourite things to do:
EXPERIENCE MOUNTAIN BIKING: Biking down the narrow passes on the mountains of Imlil in the High Atlas has got to be one of the best days of my life. You can hire a bike from Imlil and at the top of the mountain whizz off for hours arriving in Asni later. You’ll want a local area map so you can head off without a guide.
RIDE A CAMEL IN THE SAHARA: For the ultimate Arabian nights experience book onto a camel trip through the desert. I stayed overnight and camped at a Berber tent in the middle of the Sahara – the stars are enough to make you weep they’re so beautiful.
PHOTOGRAPH CHEFCHAOUEN: The city of blue is one of my favourite places in the world. It’s combination of colours and bright, friendly individuals make it a perfect place to photograph whether you’re a pro or newbie.
BUY ART IN ESSAOUIRA: Essaouira is littered with art galleries sporting brightly-coloured, modern pieces at hugely reasonable prices. Go ready to barter and while away the hours ambling between shops choosing some pieces.
GET LOST IN FEZ: Fez is known for it’s complex souks and streets but that is the beauty of this historic city. Inside the patterned walls you can walk for hours sampling foods, buying goodies and visiting the spectacular palaces and mosques.
At first morning light hundreds of swallows fill the hazy blue sky where the softened sun glows as if covered by frosted glass. Over the roofs of varying shades of terracotta they swoop and swoosh, chasing one another and lapping up the coolest part of the morning.
On the terrace of Dar Habiba Riad you’ll find me, lying on the cushions under the shaded iron awning, the curtains slightly pulled to block out the sun’s heat but allow the breeze to filter through. Around me are the roofs and terraces of the surrounding Marrakech riads; cacti adorn a side of one, an elaborate canola-topped temple and palm trees protrude from the middle of another. I admire a skinny cat leaping from ledge to ledge in search of scraps or the perfect spot to sunbathe.
Dar Habiba is a tranquil and elegant place to stay in this exciting, vibrant city. The staff are caring and helpful and although fairly small, the rooms are carefully thought out and beautifully decorated. Above the beds intricate lamps hang casting beautiful shadows on the wall and as you enter the bathroom the smell of floral incense hits you before you shower under the gold taps.
In the centre of the riad the peaceful courtyard opens up to the heavens, an oasis away from the heat and madness of Marrakech. Rose petals adorn the fountain and water dribbles from a lion’s mouth cascading water down into the plunge pool.
After a restful and cool sleep in the air-conditioned room, a delicious breakfast is served on the terrace of fruit and breads, mint tea, fresh orange juice and eggs cooked to your choice. The day is left to me: all I need to decide is whether to bake in the heat of the medina, explore the sprawling souks or relax with a book in the courtyard. I opted for shopping (naturally) and then I sat happily in the courtyard soaking my hot feet after a day of walking.
As night ascended I climbed back up the stairs to my spot on the roof as the distant sound of the music and action in the Jemaa el Fna square wafted into earshot. A final swallow dashed overhead and the sky darkened: time for another exciting evening in Marrakech.
Details: we booked Dar Habiba through hipmarrakech.com - rooms start from £60 per night. Dar Habiba is situated in the old town of Marrakech, a short 10 minute stroll into the Jemaa el Fna square and near to lots of great restaurants and cafés. We flew with easyJet from London Gatwick, our flights cost £150 return.
Alas, the Big Apple for great food. Most people know that New York is foodie heaven but with cool cafés and funky restaurants on every corner the options can get more than a little overwhelming. I’ve been exploring the city like a local and sampling New York’s top restaurants following some great recommendations from family and friends. Here are some of the top superstars:
Joseph Leonard, Greenwich Village
Stepping in to bite-size Joseph Leonard in Manhattan’s leafy Greenwich Village sort of feels like dining in your grandma’s front living room. With only a handful of tables and a bar, it’s an intimate spot with quirky adornments like a wall of vintage mirrors and crystal cut-glass bowls filled with rock salt. For brunch try the asparagus and parmesan omelette with baby lettuce and brioche or the avocado toast.
Rosemary’s, West Village
Clutching the accolade of being probably my favourite restaurant in the world, Rosemary’s has the combination of great food and vibrant atmosphere mastered. The doors are folded back as tables spill onto the pavement, Parisian twinkly lights dangle from the ceiling and Sam Cooke and his band of soul brothers pour from the speakers. On a summer’s evening, pull up a table on the curb side and order the linguine with preserved lemon, pickled chili and parmigiano and a glass of rosé.
Supper, East Village
Another favourite Italian eatery, Supper on the Lower East Side is a rustic spot with chunky wooden tables, a cosy family feel and open kitchen. We arrived soaked having been caught in one of New York’s flash floods and ordered the spaghetti pomodoro e basilico with mozarella which was sweet, creamy and comforting. It’s cash only.
Añejo, Hells Kitchen
This tequila restaurant and bar in busy Hells Kitchen offers tapas-style small plates to nibble on whilst sipping one of their tangy margaritas made with ample lime and agave syrup. It’s open plan with an impressive drinks list and exposed brick walls. Order the trio of guacamole to start and then the mushroom tacos with thyme and garlic.
16 Handles, around town
And then God invented froyo. This mecca for desert fans is an experience to be had by all. It’s a self-serve situation with a bit of a 16-yr old date vibe (expect neon colours and sprinkles) but it tastes damn good and we all need to channel our inner teenager now and again. The salted caramel and mint choc chip flavours are out of this world, as is the hot fudge topping. Be sure to try all the free samples before you buy.
Murray’s Bagels, Greenwich Village
Firmly esteemed as THE place to get bagels in New York. It’s a small establishment on 8th Avenue in West Village with simple decor and a few tables with hundreds of bagel and filling combinations. I played it safe with cream cheese on the ‘everything’ bagel and sat in the window to revel in it’s chewy goodness whilst watching the world go by.
Photo credits: www.seamless.com, www.biteofthebest.com, www.rosemarysnyc.com
I’m sitting in my hotel room overlooking humid Manhattan, having spent the last few days exploring the sprawling metropolis. I’ve seen a woman in a bikini and gold cape rollerblading down Wythe Avenue in Brooklyn, a man cycling with a Great Dane in a giant wheeled basket, puppies in a shop window at the puppy store – yes, that’s an actual thing – and eaten a coconut cream doughnut with sugary white filling spilling from its insides. Welcome to New York.
At the turn of my 25th birthday I decided to make a list of all the things I wanted to achieve in the next year. Number 18 of my 25 aims was to spend time exploring New York like a local. I’ve visited the big apple before and done all the touristy things but this time I wanted to see new parts of the city – from the tree-lined streets of Greenwich Village to the plethora of bars and restaurants in the Lower East Side.
Here’s my day from start to finish, living like a local in NYC:
I start in West Village strolling down leafy avenues lined with apartments with steps up to the front door and fire escapes clinging to the outside of the buildings. I’m heading for Murray’s, the bagel shop on 8th Avenue where I select the ‘everything’ bagel with a cream cheese filling and plonk myself down in the window to watch the world go by.
Fueled up on bagel goodness I head off toward Bleeker Street, still in West Village, to visit the independent stores. On my way, I’m stopped and greeted by Janine, a palm-reader-turned-yoga-therapist who takes my hand and ‘feels my aura’ shoot through her. Lovely lass.
I’ve got the shopping bug now so it’s down to Broadway on Soho for the mainstream stores. At Dean & DeLuca I get a mocha (I don’t even like mochas, it’s just that it’s so New York, darling) and then stand outside sipping as a man with two giant Dalmation-coloured Great Danes strolls past. I dash over to say hello and they slobber all over me.
Two hours later and with an ever-ebbing bank balance I jump on the metro back up to Chelsea. It is a blazing inferno waiting for the train, but as the shiny silver vessel pulls in and the doors open the icy cool air flows out and I jump on, grateful for the coldness. I pop into Chelsea Market past the food shops then walk up to the Highline which passes overhead - a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets which is one of my favourite additions to the city. I find a shaded spot and read my book.
Hungry again, I head to the nearest deli for a tossed salad. I’m getting good at ordering now and am narrowing down the ingredients I want and which dressings I like. I select my leaves and they smoosh it all together in a big bowl in front of me. I walk over to Washington Square Park and sit watching the world go by as I chomp away.
When I’m finished I head to nearby Colombe coffee shop and spend the next couple of hours writing my blog.
I’m basically friggin’ Carrie Bradshaw right now, except with less hair.
Later, I pop back to the hotel to change and chill for a bit on the uber-comfy bed, Frank Sinatra blaring out of the iPod dock because I’m pretty sure that’s what all New Yorkers listen to.
In the evening, I head to East Village for cocktails at 10 Degree bar where they’re super tasty and buy one get one free until 8pm and then jump on the metro over to Brooklyn to admire the view of Manhattan from the rooftop of the Wythe hotel. Later, I grab a cab back and as we speed over Williamsburg Bridge I open my window to hear cars hooting one another and the sound of sirens in the distance. Above, the star (there only appears to be one) has come out.
Top photo guardian.co.uk.