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
Welcome to the land of William Wallis, the land of epic landscapes and rugged terrains, of hunky men in tartan kilts with their wind-chilled hairs standing on end and bagpipes droning in the distance. This is Scotland!
Drive through Skye to the northernmost tip and arrive at your accommodation: Check out the charming Kilmaluag Bay B&B for cosy Scandinavian style, excellent food and wonderful hosts. Bring snacks so you don’t need to leave again (no great dinner options nearby) and curl up on the leather sofas for a romantic evening.
I’d recommend driving back to the south of Skye. This time, take the bridge over past Loch Ness and spot the monster as you stop to skim stones on the way back.
For one month over August every year Edinburgh Scotland bursts into artistic bloom with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. As part of my 25 goals this year, I wanted to head to this beautiful city and catch as much of the action as possible.
The Edinburgh Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival. It was established in 1947 as an alternative to the more expensive and selective Edinburgh International Festival. The Fringe celebrates all types of art from dance and music to comedy, plays and poetry. Any performer or performance may participate; there is no selection committee. Because of this, practically every coffee shop, basement, front living room and other random space in the city is transformed into a venue of sorts. On offer are performances dreamed up by those hoping to make it big. As such the tickets are very affordable (anything from free to about £15).
Tip: head to the half price hut off Princes Street for great shopping.
I spent the August bank holiday weekend soaking up the atmosphere and trying out several different performances, from comedy to a one-woman monologue, story-telling and insane gymnastics. The one-woman monologue, The Height of the Eiffel Tower followed the life of Terry and her children (ranging from awkward 13 year old to pregnant teenager), all played by New Zealand actress Morgana O’Reilly. It made me laugh and cry all in the space of one hour as she morphed from one character to the other.
Another highlight was A Simple Space, an acrobatics show created by a group of burly gymnasts who pulled off insane balancing tricks and showed us their strength and core power in a lighthearted performance in the Udderbelly space.
One of the best parts of the weekend however was just exploring the city properly. As my boyfriend constantly reminds me (it’s his hometown), Edinburgh is spectacular. Its turreted buildings, church steeples and green hills provide fantastic photo opportunities. It has a castle – a castle that looks about as perfectly castle-like as any I’ve ever seen – and views stretching right down to the sea from some areas. In the old town, a higldy-pigldy jumble of streets and shops lead to the Royal Mile – the best place to catch the Fringe street performers action. In the new town, expensive shops and posh restaurants stand in elegant Georgian buildings.
Wander off the main strip a little and you will stumble across sweeping crescents of townhouses: some of the most beautiful accommodation in the city. On a bright crisp day as the sun beams through the turrets and gothic architecture over the bright green grass of Princes Street Gardens there are few better places in the world to be.
We managed to see six shows over the weekend and were exhausted by the end of it! Happily, we intermingled all these shows with lots of trips to coffee shops, cafés and Fringe locations for drinks and food.
Finding a great new brunch spot in London always pleases me – the many weekends of relaxed pleasure I have brought myself by stumbling upon this place! Here are a few of my favourites that any brunch-fanatic needs to experience, in no particular order:
1. JOE’S KITCHEN, BOROUGH
If only they had loyalty scheme. I’ve probably spent more than a month’s rent on brunch at Joe’s the amount of times I’ve been there. Tucked away down ‘the dodgy end’ of Borough High Street by Borough tube, Joe’s has an open plan layout with a couple of nooks for larger tables and a friendly atmosphere. Expect big groups of friends, families and lone rangers stretched out with their paper and a cuppa. The menu has all the classics, from Eggs Benedict served on giant muffins and dripping with hollandaise sauce to a stack of pancakes with strawberries and maple syrup. The milkshakes are amazing and the prices are reasonable.
EXPECT: A menu so good you’ll need at least fifteen solid minutes to choose
2. ROAST, BOROUGH MARKET
Sitting proud on the top of Borough Market, Roast is your luxury brunch destination. Go to impress your parents or for a special brunch date. The layout is open-plan and spectacularly light given the art-deco windows stretching from floor to ceiling. Arrive as early as possible to secure a table by the window and gaze down on shoppers shuffling through the market to buy organic fruits and veg. The menu includes ‘The Veggie Borough’ and ‘The Full Borough’ – their take on English breakfast and an exciting array of drinks including a breakfast martini. I can highly recommend the Popeye Juice, which contains a refreshing combination of mint, cucumber, elderflower and apple juice.
EXPECT: Exceptional service that leaves you feeling like a royal
Read more about Roast.
3. JACKSON & RYE, SOHO
For the New York brunch experience, head to Jackson & Rye in Soho. In this dimly-lit parlor expect booth-style seating, wooden floors, and sleek interior design. The tables are filled with pretty glassware and sugar in jars, and the drinks are inventive and brightly coloured. My ‘Green’ juice contained avocado and chia seeds. It tasted absolutely disgusting, but maybe that was the point. The menu is slightly intimidating with so many options – we Londoner’s aren’t used to seeing gnocchi, sea bass and dessert options at brunchtime. Eventually, I opted for the cheese melt and a chopped salad with blue cheese dressing. Both were mouth-wateringly good.
EXPECT: Overenthusiastic waiting staff shipped straight in from NYC and enormous portions
4. THE RIDING HOUSE CAFÉ, FITZROVIA
Totter a few streets back from busy Oxford Circus and you’ll stumble across The Fitzrovia’s Riding House Café, a chic and elegant brunch spot in central London. Here, you can hitch yourself up onto a tall teal seat at the bar and gaze at the waiters concocting pretty drinks, or sink into a low chair in the lounge with a coffee and a great book. A giant communal table occupies the centre of the restaurant surrounded by theatre-style seats and a chandelier overhead. The teal blue of the seats is picked up in the water tumblers and the heavy shiny cutlery feels expensive. To eat, try the buttermilk pancakes with berries, vanilla clotted cream and maple syrup and a peony and rosebud tea.
EXPECT: Buzzing atmosphere and some of the best restaurant toilets in London – you’ll see what I mean
5. STORIES, BROADWAY MARKET
Bar and all day brunch spot, Stories is a relatively-new addition to the London Fields crew offering a nice food menu, great drinks options and a bursting events calendar. The layout is colourful and quirky: there are hexagonal tables to be filled with a group or shared with others, a long pale wood table in the centre of the room, hanging wall art in bright shades and a ceiling light with drooping plants which makes it feel bright even on a rainy day. The menu hits the spot and the veggie breakfast is one of the best I’ve tasted. For a delicious bargain, opt for the avocado on sourdough toast with lime, red pepper flakes and watercress salad at only £5. The spiked juices and smoothies also make for a fun start to the weekend. Options include drinks with strawberries, rum and coconut water and non-alcoholic juices with spinach, mint and pineapple.
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.