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Having had a wonderful experience in Cape Town during January we thought we’d flip Africa and head North to visit the increasingly popular city of Marvellous Marrakech in mid­­-April.

Why is Marrakech so popular? Apart from being only a 3-4 hour flight from the UK it’s a completely different continent and a feast for the senses, from the bustling Jamaa el-Fnaa square to the intricate tilework and fragrant spices of the souks. It’s a city where you are surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of day to day North African life, which may take you some time to acclimatise to. Marrakech immerses you in a truly cultural experience and is a city which poetic analogies compare to “a drum that beats an African identity into the complex soul of Morocco.”

From medieval times until around the beginning of the 20th century, the entire country of Morocco was known as the “Kingdom of Marrakech”, as the historic capital city was often Marrakech. Even today the name used for Morocco is still Marrakech in Persian, Urdu and many other languages.

Marrakech is also known by a variety of nicknames, including the “Red City”, the “Ochre City” and “the Daughter of the Desert”, mainly because of the colours of the buildings and ramparts of beaten clay which were built during the residence of the Almohads.

In 1985 the ancient section of the city, known as the Medina, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

As you take your first steps into the city, you feel the hustle and bustle of Marrakech with an energy all of its own. You get to the heart of things by winding your way through the extremely busy Medina, the walled, historic neighbourhood where it’s easy to get lost and disoriented! But it’s real fun once you relax and realise you’re not at risk.

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It can be a bit intense, but while there you can fully immerse yourself browsing through the souks for local wares, taking in the Moorish architecture and filling up on street food. At the slower end of things, places like Le Jardin Secret, Bahia Palace, and the famed Jardin Majorelle give some breathing space alongside stunning scenery. Or you can always relax at one of Marrakech’s many luxury spas or ‘hammams’.

Marrakech is also famous for its parks, especially the Menara Olive Grove and the walled 1,000 acre Agdal Gardens. An irrigation system built under the Almoravids is still used today to water the city’s gardens.

Red city walls of Marrakech
Red city walls of Marrakech

Do females need to cover up in Marrakech?

While female travellers aren’t expected to dress as conservatively as local women, it’s still a good idea to pack clothing options that will allow you to cover up at appropriate times. In the Medina you can get away with wearing trousers or a skirt that reaches below the knee and a short-sleeved t-shirt, You will see a variation in dress code with some tourists wearing more revealing outfits but better to err on the side of safety.

Accommodation

Iberostar Club Palmeraie Marrakech

Iberostar Palmerie Hotel Reception
Iberostar Palmerie Hotel Reception

We stayed at the Iberostar Club Palmerie. This is a palm oasis with over 100,000 palm trees planted during the Almoravid Empire in the 11th century, the area is filled with natural beautiful and vast gardens. It’s just 15/20 minutes from the historic centre of the city and the hotel provides a great courtesy bus service, although bizarrely the location of the bus drop off and pick up is a good 15 minute walk to the Medina along a route which can be dusty and hot. The hotel is designed in true Moroccan style, with three swimming pools (one adult only) and a Star Camp for kids entertainment with a huge number of activities. The hotel spa features a Turkish bath, massages and treatments, while football, volleyball, spin classes, tennis, table tennis, pétanque, archery, badminton and basketball are all available within the stunning gardens. The hotel staff work tirelessly at cleaning internal areas, keeping grounds spotless and gardens immaculate, and should be commended.

The adult only pool at the Iberostar Palmerie
The adult only pool at the Iberostar Palmerie

The hotel food is buffet style but of high quality and if you stay a week you could easily have a different meal each evening. Lunches in particular are fantastic and became my favourite meal of the day, a wide choice of tasty salads and Moroccan vegetables cooked in the tagine along with fish and a daily BBQ option. Drinks are available aplenty and, apart from the wine and the beer, are French sourced which is not bad at all! I didn’t try one but other guests commented that the cocktails were quite sweet. The house red, white and rose wine is ‘KSAR’ which I cover later and is average, the rose being the most drinkable.

The hotel’s green credentials are impressive with no plastic bottles, filtered water stations strategically placed throughout, and stringent recycling policies.

Hicham is the mixologist at the Zen Bar next to the adult only pool. His service is excellent and he’ll teach you Arabic sayings while he tends to your drinks. Ismail a waiter in the main bar is at the top of his game, he also likes to throw in some Arabic sayings while serving you. Khalid a young waiter at the outside seating area of the main restaurant went out of his way to ensure we had a table for two each evening.

My only disappointment about the hotel is their speciality restaurant, Jawhara which is anything but special! It offers a set 5 course Moroccan taster menu which includes a choice of beef or fish tagine ordered in advance. The standard of food is poor and I didn’t finish a single course. In fact with the soup and vegetable tart starter one taste was enough to down my cutlery. Something’s not right when the standard of the regular buffet restaurant is far superior. I don’t think I’m alone in this opinion.

The Jawhara experience was so bad it made us laugh and despite that I would absolutely recommend the hotel and the staff who work tirelessly to make your stay very enjoyable.

Language Barrier

Morocco’s two official languages are Arabic and Amazigh, but virtually all Moroccans speak French. Spanish is also spoken as I was getting my ‘gracias’ mixed up with my ‘merci’ and still managed to get a reply! It may feel a challenge but attempting a little spoken word, although it may not mean much to you, believe me goes a long way with the locals.

Here are nine words or short phrases passed on by Hicham that may help you get by in Marrakech:

Afak is the Derija word for please. One way I used this word was to simply point at a bottle of water and say ”head, afak”. This translates as ”this, please”.

Fayn is the word for where. You can use it for example to ask for the toilets – “Fayn al toilet afak?” or “Where is the bathroom, please?”.

Shukran is the word for thank you and which I used daily to thank waiting staff in the restaurant and bars. Moroccans greatly value when foreigners speak their language and using this expression will definitely make them smile.

Ech Hal or Bech Hal is used to say “How much?” when you want to buy something.

Smeetee literally means “My name is…” so could be used when meeting someone for the first time.

Shno smeetek? translates as “What is your name?” so after telling people your own name is the next best thing to ask them.

Anta tahdar al engleezeeya? translates as “Do you speak English?”

B’Saha means cheers or literally good health (like ‘sante’ in French or ‘slanj’ in Gaelic).

Trips, Adventures and Restaurants

Private Walking and Shopping tour in the Souks of Marrakech

As the alleyways and dark passages of the Souks can be intimidating we hired a tour guide for a couple of hours to show us around. We met our guide Hussein outside the Cafe du France, a landmark which was easy to find in Jemaa el-Fnaa Square. Hussein was welcoming, friendly and spoke several languages including very good English. Our walk starting to the North of the Souks where Hussein explained the different neighbourhoods,  communities etc. At a brisk pace he took us down lots of tiny alleys with twists and turns that would easily confuse and render us lost without him. Our first stop was at the Herboristerie Le 35 Épices which was an impressive herb, spice and cosmetic wholesaler. The main product on sale was argan oil and after a brief demo of the production process we were shown a large range of merchandise for sale and offered a delicious mint tea. A small purchase and off we set again through the alleys deep in the Souk taking in the interesting aromas, mostly of the pleasant variety!

Madrasa Ben Youssef
Madrasa Ben Youssef

Our next stop was the ‘Gem of Marrakech’ according to Hussein. The Madrasa Ben Youssef is an architectural treasure constructed by Sultan Abdullah Al-Ghaleb Assaadi between the years 1564 and 1565 and is of invaluable historical significance. Wandering within its walls takes you to a fascinating era where art, knowledge, and culture flourish. After a couple of great photo opportunities and a wealth of knowledge imparted by Hussein we continued our tour, this time visiting the tannery, blacksmiths and silversmiths. Some of the compact, centuries old workshops were eye opening, as were the skills of the master tradesmen. A real step back in time.

We then headed to the Souk des Teinturiers where the dying process for wool and silks with natural materials was explained. The colourful bundles of wool drying above the stalls was really impressive. A quick display of how to wear the head scarfs with me as the ‘dummy’ created real entertainment!

Dyedwool-drying
Dyed wool drying in the open air above the souk

Next up was the Place des Épices with all its pungent spice stalls plus some strange objects – allegedly fish eggs floating in water trays. A real feast for the senses with every trader enticing you to buy.

Olives&preserved
Olives and preserved fruit in abundance
Mustapha's famous oven cooked lamb
Mustapha’s famous oven cooked lamb

Mustapha, a local celebrity, is hard at work with his famous oven-cooked lamb, made famous by Gordon, Fred, and Gino on their Marrakech tour.

The tour was a great way to see and learn from an astute guide, it was far more than just shopping and walking, it was entertaining, insightful and really not to be missed. Plus you could relax knowing you didn’t have to find your way out of the maze of Souks. Thanks to Hussein for his knowledge and time, recommended to get your bearings in the Souks.

After leaving Hussein, we had a delicious lunch in Cafe des Épices followed by mint tea. Even in the heat of Marvellous Marrakech the hot mint tea was outstanding and highly recommended.

Atlas Mountains
3 Valleys & Waterfalls Hike plus Camel ride

Atlas Mountain village view from Imlil village
Atlas Mountain village view from Imlil village

This trip came recommended and we were not let down. A day and an experience to remember with thanks to our hiking guide Rachid and driver Omar. Some great views and some sombre ones too due to the destruction from the recent earthquake, very prevalent in every village we passed through. Omar was our driver and the knowledge he imparted of the area, the Berber culture and its history was excellent. He is open and hospitable which helped make the day trip one to remember. At a short stop at an artisan shop just outside of Tahannaout, which is known for its Jewish cemetery and being the first Berber speaking town after Marrakech, the shop owner provided a brief history of the town and surrounding villages followed by a tour of his shop. Then we were off to the Tighanimine Fairtrade Argan Oil Cooperative. Here we had a traditional breakfast of local bread, olive oil, argan oil, rosemary honey, and argan paste (mix of Argan oil and almonds) with herbal tea which was sweet but tasty. Again after a sales pitch on the various products we had a quick walk round and made a few purchases for gifts etc. Back on the road we headed towards the village of Imlil for our hike into the mountains. On route we drove through a very busy market in the town of Asni which was a real sight with bustling market stalls and traders bargaining with locals.

After what can best be described as a sometimes uncomfortable drive due to the earthquake, Omar introduced us to our guide Rachid. We started off our hike at pace on paths, some of which were still badly damaged from the earthquake. The first thing we noticed was the snow still on the mountains and how unbelievably fresh and clean the air was, just brilliant after the hustle and bustle of the Medina in Marrakech. Rachid kept us on track and paid particular attention at potentially hazardous points, all the while imparting his intriguing local knowledge. He guided us up the rocky mountain with impressive views on the way of Jebel Toubkal which is North Africa’s highest mountain. The footpath mostly follows the incredible engineered irrigation system until we arrived at the absolutely stunning waterfalls. Here Rachid took charge of our camera and snapped several great photos which will serve to enhance our memory of the day. One thing to note is that the site can be busy with other tourists but all have a local guide directing them and preventing congestion.

Waterfalls near Imlil village
The impressive waterfalls near Imlil village

After a short break taking in the fabulous sight of the waterfalls we started our decent to the village and on our way even managed to bump into Rachid’s mother and aunt who were on their way to pay respects to a lady in a neighbouring village. Rachid explained the strong relationships that exist across villages and highlighted that even now there are many families still living in tents near to where their houses stood pre-earthquake. He suggested that central government emergency assistance for remote areas was often difficult to obtain.

Suddenly out of the trees a large Atlas Mountain monkey appeared. Rachid explained this was very unusual and it certainly caused a bit of a commotion with several locals emerging from their houses to catch a glimpse.

Rachid seems to know everybody in the village and we were accompanied on the last stage of our walk by a host of primary school kids on their way home from school.

Lunch at a village restaurant was just delicious. Our starter of fresh salad and spiced couscous, accompanied with locally baked bread was great. This was followed by a main of chicken tagine which was simple but very tasty and highly recommended. The food and the mountain views from the roof top terrace just finished off our hike perfectly and so reasonably priced as well at less than £12 in total.

On our way home and fighting our inner concerns for animal welfare we stopped for a short camel ride. This was testing and interesting at the same time. Getting on and more particularly getting off is the challenge. Despite very sweaty hands holding the bar I managed not to embarrass myself …. just!! Something else ticked off the list but I won’t be hurrying back for a repeat of experience.

My Moroccan Camel
My Moroccan Camel

I can honestly say thanks to Rachid, the 90 minute walk was one of the highlights of our trip to Marrakech, the scenery and photographic opportunities were just incredible and not easy to do justice on an iPhone!

A trip which can only be highly recommend and certainly made what it was by Rachid and Omar, thank you guys you do your villages proud!

KSAR Moroccan Wine

Not expecting to find Moroccan wine produced 300 miles from Marrakech we were introduced to KSAR in our hotel. I suppose it is almost inevitable that a former colony of both Rome and France would end up producing wine at some point. KSAR is produced near the inland town of Meknès in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains and belongs to the Les Celliers de Meknès group, the best-known and probably the largest wine producer in Morocco. Investing early in planting Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes while ageing its product in oak barrels was a first in the country. A wide range of red, white and rosé wines are produced by Les Celliers des Meknès and exported under brands such as Château Roslane, Domaine Riad Jamil and KSAR. Having witnessed the landscape of the Atlas Mountains I’m sure the soil and weather is perfect for wine production.

Sampling both KSAR red and rose at the hotel, I far preferred the rose which is dry and drinkable. Although it must be said the red and white KSAR wines were being sampled just as much by others in the hotel. I’m sure other Celliers des Meknès wines will be good but a lack of availability of the wider range in our hotel restricted any tasting opportunities.

The drinkable KSAR Rose wine
The drinkable KSAR Rose wine

Rabha Kedima Spice Square

CafeÉpices- roof-terrace
Looking towards the Cafe Épices roof terrace

Café des Épices is a world-renowned cafe restaurant that attracts people from all over the world and is situated in the middle of the famous ‘Place des Épices’. After one of our wanders through the souks we were lucky to secure a table for an early lunch while watching the busy wicker and spice market stall holders trade their wares and the Henna tattoo ladies bargaining with customers. From my time observing and learning, I’d clearly stick to a price between 33 and 50% of what the vendors first ask!

Épices wicker hats
Vendors even sell the Café des Épices wicker hats while you dine

We couldn’t get upstairs to the terrace as it was already full but I’m told that on a clear day you get a perfect and breathtaking view towards the Atlas Mountains, to complete your experience you sit at low tables on Berber cushions. Pre-booking or waiting a long time on a terrace table is the norm!

Our lunch consisted of aish burrito and a kefta morrocan sandwich, just fabulous with the harissa and mint flavours almost jumping out at you. As with the vast majority of places in Marrakech, there is no alcohol on sale within the cafe. We tried their famous mint tea which really lived up to its star status. Poured with true Moroccan style by our waiter it was a spectacle too. What a wonderful lazy lunch in the middle of a chaotic spice market.

The art of pouring Moroccan mint tea
The art of pouring Moroccan mint tea

So if you are on a visit to Marrakech, make a visit to Cafe des Épices as I can assure you will find the food very tasty and the views a bit chaotic but entertaining.

La Pergola
7/8, Riad Zitoun Lakdim

The rooftop La Pergola is a jazz bar and restaurant located on the terraces of the famous Riad Monceau.

Jazz Band playing on the ground floor of La Pergola
Jazz Band playing on the ground floor of La Pergola

It is easy to find, as we established, and situated only 100 meters from Jemaa El Fna Square. We had a booking for dinner but went early to find its location. Literally stumbling upon the entrance situated down an alley we went in for a drink just to give us the feel of the place. From entering the reception area it was very impressive. An ideal place to enjoy a pre-dinner drink on the terrace or at the bar.

The jazz band were already playing which gave the place a good atmosphere, hard to believe that outside the Riad walls there was the hustle and bustle of the busy Medina. Just sitting in partial sun on the rooftop listening to the live jazz music three floors down in the courtyard was really chilling.

We finished our drinks and had a quick wander round the Souks and Jemaa El Fna Square before returning for our 1900 table reservation. What a transformation the whole place was packed but relaxed still due to the sound of the jazz band.

Walking through the ground floor restaurant of Le Bistro Arabe, which is slightly more refined dining, we then climbed the steep marble steps for our evening meal at La Pergola. In comparison to earlier it was very busy and our fabulous waiter (unfortunately didn’t catch his name) told us the rooftop is generally full days in advance, he recommended booking as early as possible if we wanted to revisit before we returned home.

Morrocan Chateau Raslane
A very nice Morrocan Chateau Raslane

We ordered a bottle of Chateau Raslane from Les Coteaux De L’Atlas which raised my expectations of Moroccan wine.

It was a very nice accompaniment to our delicious lamb nabrik starter stuffed with grilled almonds and goats cheese. It was a large starter so thankfully we opted to share.

The ‘special’ of Moroccan tapas also looked delicious and described as XXL it certainly lived up to its label, so can really only be shared. Our mains of fish & bakchich and crying beef kofta are signature dishes and excellent. The crying kofta comes with a chilli warning but is not too hot, just perfect.

We finished our evening off with a lovely Moroccan mint tea known for its digestive benefits. No wonder the menu is authorised by chef Abdel Alaoui, creator of the Choukran restaurants in Paris, it is magical Moroccan. Highly recommended for its delicious local food or a jazzy pre-dinner cocktail. It has a real warm ambiance, very friendly staff and is a Marrakech culinary experience not to be missed.

Jardin Majorelle

Yves Saint Laurent memori
Yves Saint Laurent memori

A visit to the Jardin Majorelle on Rue Yves Saint Laurent was recommended to us by Tony Reid. With the weather forecast to be 30 degrees plus we were thankful to secure an early morning booking. This was a very good move as it got extremely busy when we were leaving the gardens later in the morning. Even at 0830 it was difficult to take a photo without some random tourist making a cameo appearance. On entering a small gateway the gardens open up in front of you. The peaceful atmosphere initially takes a bit to comprehend since you have just left busy city streets with no hint of the beautiful gardens behind the wall. They are impressive and boast a variety of water features, plants, trees and cactus from all over the world.

catus and palm trees within the gardens.
A sneeky view through the catus towards the palm trees within the gardens.

Everything was impeccably maintained and the clever use of colour (majorelle blue and yellow) really enhances the gardens. Truly a hidden gem and remarkable that such a peaceful and beautiful place can be situated in the city. A great experience, which is recommended and certainly one of the best urban gardens we have visited.

Cafe Bacha

Replica Bacha
Replica Bacha Coffee sign

The story of Bacha Coffee begins in 1910 in the Medina of Marrakech. The spectacular Dar el Bacha Palace, which means “House of the Pasha”, brought together the greatest cultural and political minds of the century over glittering pots of “coffee of Arabia” or Arabica as it is known today.

After being closed for 60 years, Bacha Coffee recently reopened to reignite its tradition of offering fine 100% Arabica coffees from around the world and now has locations as far afield as Taiwan, Qatar, Singapore and of course, France.

After our early morning visit to the Majorelle Gardens we caught a taxi to Cafe Bacha which is located in the Confluence Museum and opens at 1000. We had no choice but to wait 40 minutes on it opening as a queue had already formed. Once inside you pay 10 Moroccan dirham each just to gain access to the coffee shop but this doesn’t guarantee a seat due to how popular it is. It’s important to note that only cash is accepted so be sure to have this on hand. Also I suggest to get ahead of the crowds, it’s best to arrive around 0915 as the queue forms quickly. We were near the front so managed to get straight into the coffee shop. It was worth the wait and offers a truly memorable experience with a massive selection of coffees sourced from all over the world. This caused me a problem as reading the menu I wanted to try them all. I chose a medium strength coffee from Surabaya, Indonesia. We had the set continental breakfast menu – two delicious French bread rolls, homemade jams and local butter. The orange juice was so fresh it tantalised our taste buds. This was followed by a very light and tasty almond croissant and a raspberry & cinnamon croissant. Great accompaniments to terrific coffee. Hot breakfast options such as omelettes are also available and the display of cakes and treats looks fantastic. The service was impeccable, incredibly polite and knowledgeable staff provide recommendations to guests on their choice of coffee.

Marvellous Marrakesh Splendors
Marvellous Marrakesh Splendors

The ambiance in the Cafe is stunning, with beautiful decor that cannot be done justice in photos. The cedar carved doors are simply stunning. Again another Moroccan treat hidden behind closed doors. The entrance is so insignificant you would simply walk by if you weren’t aware what grandeur and treats lie within. 

Travel and Transport

Travel and transport in and around Marrakech is a challenge and very stressful. Our experience was not good but I will come back to that later.

Getting around the Medina in Marrakech is really only done by walking. Most of the historic centre’s streets are so narrow that only pedal cycles, mopeds and motorbikes can gain access to this part of the city. It can be nerve wracking and you need eyes in the back of your head to keep a watch out for the bikes and scooters as they drive at unbelievable speed despite the crowds.

I thought of my scouting days when told that orienteering through the souks is a little tricky, however it can be totally disorienting, there are no maps and guide books often have different street names from the nameplates on the walls of the souks making it even more confusing. If you ask a local for directions it’s mostly customary for them to accompany you and then blatantly ask for a tip, which they will most likely say is not enough, or they’ll take you somewhere different, so not recommended.

I suggest taking a photo of google maps on your phone or asking for guidance from the reception staff in your accommodation before starting out rather than walking about with your phone in hand. It’s a challenge but a good one and to be honest a safe one. Avoiding the sales pitch from the stall holders can a bit wearing but a polite ‘no thank you’ and quickly moving on usually works.

The local buses in Marrakech are very old and are usually packed with people, so I would recommend avoiding them and use hotel courtesy buses or take a taxi instead and if close, go by foot.

If available, I firmly suggest using your hotel courtesy bus where possible. By far the safest option from the maniac driving and drivers who think nothing of texting while they drive at speed through the narrow streets and markets. To be honest our taxi experiences on occasion brought a really stressful end to what should have been magical Moroccan evenings.

Taxis

Two kinds of taxis exist in Marrakech: small ones called “petit taxis” and the big taxi called “grand taxi”. The smaller taxis are used in the city centre while the larger ones are for far-away excursions. Taxis in Marrakech have meters, but unless you remind the driver they don’t activate it. Unless you have pre-agreed a fare make sure they switch it on before you get in, if they refuse, just find another taxi. I suggest you always negotiate and agree a fare for the journey with the driver before the engine starts.

To get around the centre of Marrakech it will cost between 30 Dirham (£2.50) and 50 Dirham (£4) but be aware it can be a nerve-wracking journey. Taxi drivers are very happy to be hired for a whole day and will visit other areas even a few hours drive from Marrakech.

Horse-drawn carriages in Marrakech

This is one of the most traditional ways of getting around the city, a nice to do but again my inner conscious in respect of animal welfare got the better of me and this time I avoided it. The horse drawn carriages are plentiful throughout the city.

Marvellous Marrakech – Been, seen and will struggle to return!

As I view the sun setting behind the beautifully manicured palm trees in the gardens of the Iberostar Palmerie, I wonder if I will ever visit what is an intriguing city again. Several experiences have been wonderful and are highlighted in the review. However, there are a few safety concerns worthy of highlight.

From our first steps through the arrival doors at Marrakech Airport and into a very unsavoury interaction with the taxi manager I have not really felt the love. The aggression shown by this person was quite honestly shocking. He suggested our booking was for 12 hours before the agreed time even though this is tied to a flight number, he demanded my wife’s phone number, refused mine, said our taxi booking which was prepaid with British Airways was invalid and then bumped me with his chest! It was extremely hard to hold back my inner wishes. Only when I suggested we go to the local Police did he back off. Thankfully I have had an initial apology from British Airways who sorted out our return airport transfer but I still await a formal response from BA to my complaint.

The next concern is the manner of driving, mainly by taxi drivers, it is just frightening and totally unsafe in such a busy city. Then there is the constant feeling of being conned or overcharged with every interaction being a negotiation, which leaves such a bad taste and a sad feeling. Yes people have to make money but please don’t exploit what undoubtedly is a good source of income. Once they’re gone, they may be gone for good.

Despite these concerns I would like to thank those named in my blog and the other hotel staff, tour guides, and restaurant staff in places we visited for doing their utmost to welcome, accommodate and enhance our stay. On this occasion however one real bad apple certainly ruined the barrel, unfortunately it tainted our first impression of Marrakech.

But never say never again!

On recovery from the devastating earthquake on 8 September 2023 and to the good and honest people of Marrakech, I truly wish you good health and speedy recovery or ‘B’Saha’.

It’s a choice to visit Marrakech, if you do, enjoy it and please sample the best things on offer but look after your personal safety.

Calum Glenny

Gourock’s ‘Avid Traveller’

Culum glenny

 

 

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Avid Traveller, barbados, family holidays, holidayvacations with toddlers

In this blog post, the Avid Traveller, Calum Glenny, shares the excitement of taking his Barbados Family Holidays with Toddler Maxie. Toddler Maxie was on her first vacation to Barbados. Maxie is warmly cared for by friendly staff throughout their adventures on the island. Calum reflects on the familiar faces they encounter each year at Miami Beach, noting that visitors from Canada, the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom return annually and extend their stays in Barbados. Drawing inspiration from Ian R. Clayton’s book “Rogues in Paradise,” Culum described the atmosphere at Miami Beach as camaraderie and shared laughter among genuinely lovely and helpful people, making lasting memories.

The holiday/vacation was full of surprises, like a day at the race track,like  winning some bets at the horse racing track, the Oistins fish fry.horse racing at sunset

And especially their time at Miami Beach in Oistins Bay. Of particular note were the beautiful friendships forged over time, which emphasized the inclusive nature of Bajans and Miami Beach, which cater to all ages and comfort levels. Notably, the beach offers a tranquil lagoon area, perfect for young children or those seeking respite from the main beach’s waves. Maxie particularly relished floating in the calm waters, accompanied by gentle turtles and schools of fish.

toddler maxie takes a dip in the Caribbean Ocean
Barbados family holidays with maxie

xi

friendle bajs keen to help outOne could not help but notice how local young Bajan business entrepreneurs thrive. Liam at Cottage Meats (the best sausage breakfast cutter on the island) continues to produce top-class products sold in retailers throughout Barbados and hopefully soon beyond.

We brought Liam a bottle of Bruichladdich (pronounced Brook-laddie), my favourite malt whisky from the progressive Hebridean distillery on the Scottish island of Islay. How ironic Bruichladdich is now owned by Remy Cointreau, whose liqueurs & spirits division hosts eight brands, including Mount Gay rum from Barbados. Having one of my favorite rums linked with the single malts of Bruichladdich, including Port Charlotte and Octomore, plus the excellent Botanist gin, is heaven-made for me.

But Maxie skipped those indulgences and happily dipped her toes in the sea and lazed in the shade at Miami beach.

Barbados Family Holidays - Miami beach at oistines

 

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The book Rogues in Paradise By Author Ian R Clayton


africa, Avid Traveller, cape town, Safari, TravelWatchNews

Capt Town- Table Mountain from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
Table Mountain – Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

Cape Town – Adventure Meets Culture

In the last couple of years, I’ve been lucky enough to experience a warm early January in both the Caribbean and the Canary Islands. This year, prompted by various UK storms (Pia, Gerrit, and Henk), we escaped to take up the challenge of a 10,000km British Airways overnight flight to Cape Town, which opened up new horizons in South Africa and the breathtaking beauty of the area’s natural attractions.

Cape Town is a port city on South Africa’s southwest coast and sits on a peninsula beneath the incredible sight of Table Mountain. It’s one of the big five Antarctic gateway cities along with Punta Arenas, Chile; Ushuaia, Argentina; Hobart, Australia; and Christchurch, New Zealand.

As well as being South Africa’s oldest and second largest city, it is the legislative capital and also hosts the Parliament of South Africa. Because it was the site of the first European settlement in South Africa, Cape Town is known as the country’s “mother city.”

A true worldwide tourist destination due to its sun, sea, outstanding culinary reputation and incredible scenery, probably the reason it’s been voted the best city in the world seven years in a row!

But like many other major cities Cape Town also has a chequered history, Robben Island sitting in Table Bay is Cape Town’s version of Alcatraz, a notorious prison for over 300 years which has also been a leper colony, a mental hospital and a military base. Thankfully, today it’s a Unesco World Heritage site preserved as a memorial to those who were incarcerated there. You can take a boat trip and visit to this living museum and gain an understanding of the strides the city, and in fact the whole nation, has made since Mandela was freed on 11 February 1990.

One of the most famous moments in world history, marking the beginning of the end of apartheid in South Africa came from the balcony of Cape Town City Hall where Nelson Mandela delivered his first public speech hours after his release from imprisonment. In a nod to his fellow black countrymen the start of the speech was delivered in Xhosa, one of the main languages spoken by black South Africans. He opened with:

‘“Amandla! Amandla! i-Afrika, mayibuye! (Power! Power! Africa it is ours!)

My friends, comrades and fellow South Africans, I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all. I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people.

Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I there fore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.’”

It took four years following this event for the first democratic elections to be held on 27 April 1994.

Since then South Africa has become known as the rainbow nation and managed its return from being ostracised by much of the rest of the world.

Summer in Cape Town runs from November to March with its dry heat tempered by the ocean breeze. Apart from Table Mountain, city attractions include the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa on the V&A Waterfront and Bo-Kaap with its colourful houses and Cape Malay culture or a boat ride to Robben Island. It’s also only a short bus ride to many beaches or hire a car (better with a driver) and take fabulous day trips to the vineyards of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek or the Cape of Good Hope.

Accommodation – President Hotel, Bantry Bay, Cape Town.

President Hotel in Cape Town
Infinity pool view from reception

We stayed at the President Hotel which has a long and interesting history dating back to the establishment of the area we now know as Bantry Bay and Sea Point.

A pictorial history chart is displayed on the wall near the dining room and shows that a hotel has stood on the site for 150 years. Prior to that it housed the first substantial building in the area, the Society House, when the very same land stretched down to the sea and up the slopes of Lion’s Head to Kloof Road.

At check-in, we were made most welcome by a young receptionist, Michael Owen, who made us feel very welcome, not only to the hotel but also to Cape Town.

Due to the exceptional city attractions on offer most guests do day trips, then spend the rest of their sun-kissed time beside the infinity pool. Sit back, relax and let Zibele, Vuvu or Thumeka from the waiting staff serve you a cool drink or an oversized pizza! The poolside bar ‘The Deck’ serves great drinks and food and guests have the opportunity to take in the sunset views.

The hotel hosts wine tastings on a Friday evening (unfortunately, we didn’t make it), and on Saturdays, various promotions are held. Johnnie Walker Blonde scotch whisky, Cointreau liqueur, and Corona beer were available during our stay. Giving free Johnnie Walker whisky to a Scotsman in the sun brings on a huge smile!

While the main restaurant is recommended, the hotel location is perfect to venture out and savour delicious locally inspired cuisine in the Bantry Bay restaurants and bars. NV-80, The Greek Fisherman, Jarryds and Aerial are four really good quality restaurants within a 5 minute walk from the hotel. The even closer Piazza da Luz has two excellent and very well stocked supermarkets and a wine shop. The hotel is also an ideal location to reach the beaches, mountains, winelands, shopping and outdoor adventures on offer nearby. The hotel offers a courtesy bus with various stop offs and pick up points, all helpful in your local exploring.

Everything you could think of was on offer at breakfast with very attentive staff such as Nosihle serving you fresh coffee or a range of teas.

A great hotel for its location, facilities and staff.

Cape Town Tourist Attractions

Red Bus – City Sightseeing Tours

This service is on a mission to ensure its touristic sightseeing experiences are the number one thing to do whilst in Cape Town. They are doing a grand job at it, offering memorable and even educational fun. On just one of several open top bus tours you can easily tick off the best bits of Cape Town.

It’s easy to find one of the numerous bus stops, pay for a day ticket on the bus or easily book online. Then simply ‘hop on’ and discover the city sights, with the option to ‘hop off’ to explore particular sights further. The excellent service also offers day trips to Cape Point, the wine country and Table Mountain or join their harbour cruise but be warned the vessels are very small in comparison to some in the harbour area.

The day after our arrival we joined the Classic Tour which lasted close to 2 hours, helped us gain our bearings and allowed us to enjoy several sights on one trip.

Highly recommended.

Camps Bay

Cape town Camps Bay
Camps Bay

Camps Bay has been described as upmarket and draws crowds to its impressive promenade, shops, restaurants, fine white sandy beach and views of the Twelve Apostles mountains. The beach is vast and with huge granite boulders breaking up the sand it looks perfect although the Atlantic water can be very cold. It’s also very open and can be affected by strong winds. Behind the beach, there is a great range of restaurants, cafes and cocktail bars with terraces ideal for a sundowner. The nearby Mall has boutiques and a supermarket. There is also a Theatre on the Bay which advertises drama, musicals and comedy. Houses situated behind the promenade on the hill towards Table Mountain are very impressive and have outstanding views out to the ocean.

The Bay Hotel is at the centre of the area and on our list for a future visit. It really is a lovely area and highly recommend for a visit.

The Bay Hotel

Boulders Beach

African Penguins on Boulders Beach
African Penguins on Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach is a special place as it’s the only place in the world where you can get up close to African penguins, made easy by boardwalks that lead you across the beaches and allow you to view the penguins in their natural habitat. There is also an information centre.From our hotel Boulders Beach and the penguins were just 50 minutes south of Cape Town depending on the traffic and the day you visit. Sundays as we found out to our cost can be exceptionally busy as this is when many families head to the local beaches along the stunning False Bay coastline.

Beach Chalets at Kalk Bay

Beach chalets at Kalk Bay, Caoe Town

Beach Chalets at Kalk Bay on the Coastal Road to Boulders Beach

You can view the Boulders Beach penguins all year round, but locals state the best time is from March to May, the peak of the breeding season. Adults will smile and children will love the penguins and their antics. Boulders Beach which has a separate paid entry is also worth a stop for safe and enjoyable swimming.

The penguin viewing entrance fee is R190 for adults and R10 for children under the age of 12. It’s cheaper if you’re a South African citizen. Most of this charge contributes towards the conservation of this rare breed of African penguins. Tickets can be purchased easily at the entrance by card only as they have moved to a cashless system.

Boulders Beach is believed to be the only place in the world where you can swim effortlessly among penguins and possibly find them flopping onto your beach towel.

Time Out Market

Having been mightily impressed with the New York Time Out Market and in light of Cape Town’s trading port history, which has informed its culinary landscape to include influences from Europe, Asia and of course Africa, we thought we’d give it a go.

The Market is conveniently located in the popular Victoria & Alfred precinct alongside The Watershed which is an impressive design hub, and just a few steps from the Hop-on-Hop-off bus stop.

It’s also next to Nobel Square which features statues of South Africa’s four Nobel Peace Prize winners: Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F.W. de Klerk and of course Nelson Mandela.

Time Out Market, Cape Town offers about a dozen kitchens, all run by leading local chefs and restaurateurs, alongside four unique bars pouring fine Cape wines, local craft beers, and what seems like an endless list of cocktails.

Plenty of seating options are available with 750 seats, including outside quayside tables with jaw-dropping Table Mountain views.

The Market’s kitchens offer a tasty snapshot that shows just why Cape Town is Africa’s if not one of the world’s culinary hotspots.

Recommended venues include:

Mlilo – Fires of Africa

‘Fires of Africa’ brings a truly pan-African experience, the food on offer interprets the many ways that cultures across the continent have incorporated fire into their cooking. Zulu, Senegalese and Kenyan dishes are all on the menu but we stuck to vegetarian starters of chargrilled corn on the cob and broccoli with satay sauce. They were simply amazing! Highly recommended.

How Bao Now

This Asian street food was a lunchtime favourite and the spicy chicken and fish bao buns left our tastebuds tingling with delight. Also on offer are creative combinations like crayfish bao with Cape Malay flavours and a coconut and curry furikake, or wagyu sando-bao with a chilli crunch mayo, tonkatsu and pickled cucumber.

Culture Wine Bar

Having visited vineyards in Saint Emilion, Napa Valley and throughout Spain we were eager to get a tasting of the Cape wines. It was at this bar we met staff member Siya who expertly guided us through our sommelier tasting flight from a Le Lude Brut Reserve, 2022 Kaapzicht Skralhans Pinotage (which was a clear favourite), a 2020 Ananndale Cabernet Sauvignon from Stellenbosch to the heavier Syrah from Bakenkop Melish. Siya expertly talked us through the wines and after she identified our favourites she then poured us a 2021 Culture Crozes which was their own label and quite simply full of flavour and not too heavy. Siya, thank you, you provided a much needed Cape wine education!

We were later joined by sommelier, Sharrol who talked us through some local wines and vineyards of interest, particularly those lesser known, and of course we purchased another couple of excellent tastings on Sharrol’s recommendation.

As well as the tasting flights the bar has an extensive wine list, including a good range by the glass. Here you can easily sample a vinous trip through the Cape. Culture Wine Bar and its amazing staff captures the best of the Cape in the glass.

Matt Manning please look after your amazing staff!

Dry Dock Bar

Located on the ground floor and the heart of the Market we had a disappointing experience. We stood for at least 10 minutes waiting on the person in front being served, card payment only seems to cause some people problems so please be aware. Then the bar tender who was well aware that we had been waiting for some time immediately served two ladies who also knew we should have been next. No apology or even acknowledgment was forthcoming so we thankfully took our trade to the Culture Wine Bar. Not recommended at all!

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens

Hand on heart I’m not a garden enthusiast but I must give it to the Kirstenbosch Gardens, they are fantastic and so interesting  – even for the uneducated in horticulture like myself, after all my botanics are normally in gin! These impressive gardens are acclaimed throughout the world and very few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of the setting of Kirstenbosch against the spectacular eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain.

You can quite easily spend a day exploring the impressive gardens, walking the tree canopy walkway or simply sitting on one of the many benches with a view. If you’re lucky enough to visit on Sunday afternoons between November and March live music concerts are held in the grassed theatre area There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes offering very good quality food and drinks, even picnics which can be taken out into the gardens and enjoyed underneath the shade of a tree. Highlights for me were the Silver trees which looked as if they had been spray painted and the wobbly but impressive Treetop Walkway. It’s only a short drive in a taxi from the city or visit via the Hop on Hop off bus service.

I completely concur with the quote from R. H. Compton, Director of Kirstenbosch 1919-1953 who in 1965 stated, “It would be a tragedy if Kirstenbosch were ever to become static: it should be as changeful and dynamic as the living plants which are its reason for existence”.

Bo-Kaap

Bo-KaapBo-Kaap with Table Mountain and the Lions Head in the background

Due to its impressive pastel coloured house and tight steep cobbled streets it’s one of the most Instagrammable places in Cape Town. On our very short visit it was packed with tourists in large groups. There was also a Pro-Palestine protest ongoing with many law enforcement vehicles and officers in high profile positions. However, there’s much more to Bo-Kaap than the stunning coloured houses, like the 1790s built Auwal Mosque and the local restaurants which serve curries, roti and other Cape Malay dishes.

It’s also one of the oldest and most historic residential areas in Cape Town. I asked why the houses were painted colourfully, the answer given was its attributed to the fact that while on lease, all of the houses had to be painted white. When this rule was eventually lifted and slaves were allowed to buy the properties, all of the houses were painted bright colours by their owners as an expression of their freedom.

The Noon Gun cannon is fired daily at midday from nearby Signal Hill.

Inverdoorn Signature Day Trip Safari

Safarii LiosStandard return transfers from Cape Town are included in your day trip safari experience. Scheduled pick up times are between 0600 and 0700 the morning of your safari tour dependent on how many are in your party. We were to be joined by another three persons so looked forward to a more private safari experience.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with a welcoming selection of freshly-baked banana bread, scones, chocolate brownies, pastries, fresh fruit, and a choice of tea or coffee. Then we embarked on a guided big five (really four) safari game drive, with our guide Shareen, who drove us through Inverdoorn’s incredible wildlife in a controlled but natural habitat. Please note that some of the tracks can be extremely bumpy and dry so expect sand in the wind.

Up close we saw lions, blue wilderbeasts, buffalo, ostrich, rhinos, giraffes, elephants, onyx, zebra and of course the speedy springboks. Only the leopard was missing from the big 5 but seems to have eluded any sightings in the local area for some time

giraffes.

On return to Inverdoorn we sat in the grounds and had lunch. Prior to our departure back to Cape Town at 1500, we visited the shop which sold wildlife souvenirs, snacks, safari gear, and local crafts.

I must say that the safari itself was excellent but the 3 hour 15 minute drive each way was tiresome. Thankfully our driver Craig’s singing kept us awake as did the scenery, some of it just breathtaking.

African Elephants

 Top Rated Travel & Transport

ransportion optionsWe were very lucky to be introduced to Chadd Pretorious by Craig our ‘singing driver’ from Inverdoorn Game Reserve. How we wish we had met on day 1 of our Cape Town trip. Taxis and Ubers are numerous and available 24/7 in Cape Town however Chadd’s company, MCG Charters ranks significantly higher. Their professionalism and service delivery goes above and beyond the norm, his team offering flexible packages ranging from straightforward airport transfers to VVIP close protection.

MCG Charters is based in Kuils River, Cape Town. As Chadd says, ‘I can take you anywhere you’d like to go, at any time’. He’s even driven a prestigious client to Egypt!

Having a chat with Chadd opens your eyes as to what trips are on offer in Cape Town and the surrounding area. Options include Hout Bay, Cape of Good Hope, Boulders Beach, Chapmans Peak, Mariners Warf, Kirstenbosch Gardens however Chadd will also develop a personalised travel plan if you give him an idea of where you want to go or what attraction you want to visit. We arranged a trip to the Cape Winelands and to be honest Chadd, his local knowledge and his impeccably clean Mercedes people carrier allowed us to experience a new level of travel and left us feeling like VIPs.

I can only highly recommend Chadd and MCG Charters.

For more information, advice or bookings, Chadd and his team can be contacted on MCGCharters@gmail.com or WhatsApp App/call him on +2782 959 0024.

Nearby Winelands

Boschendal Wine Estate

Boschendal Wine EstateRecords show that this is the second oldest wine farm in South Africa. It offers picturesque views of the Groot Drakenstein Mountains along with Herbert Baker architecture. On entering through a small door in a stone wall our eyes opened up into a very impressive venue. After a short stroll about we enjoyed an exceptional Methode Cap Classic tasting (MCC – Cape Sparkling Wine) seated in the shade under a tree. The absolute highlight was the Grand Cuvee Brut, a spectacular MCC. Other tasting venues are available on site such as the Cellar Door but by reservation only.

There are also two restaurants (reservations recommended) and fabulous picnic spots beside the band stand. At the farm store you can stock up on various delectable baked goods, ready-made sandwiches, a very impressive range of cured and fresh meats, cheese, fruit, and of course Boschendal wines to enjoy in the shade outside or later at home.

There is a stress free atmosphere which can be enjoyed by family and friends, often joined by very large chickens roaming about freely under tables etc. When we return we will spend much more time at Boschendal and will consider staying in the luxury accommodation.

Wine and vineyards of cape Town

Highly recommended, particularly for its laid back and stress free atmosphere.

My favourite of the day’s vineyard visits and still have the red wines to taste. Looking forward to tasting the Black Angus!

 

 

Delaire Graff Estate

Stunning mountain views at Delaire Graff Vineyard.

This prestigious estate is the jewel of the Cape Winelands and looks stunning from the very moment you enter the grounds. The gardens are beautiful and immaculately maintained, making the drive up to the entrance very pleasant. This beauty then opens up into a spectacular estate with mountain views.We were immediately seated at a table and given an outstanding choice of wine tasting experiences which were elevated by the breathtaking setting.

Boschendal Wine Estate
Stunning mountain views at Delaire Graff Vineyard

The panoramic views provided an unforgettable backdrop to an expertly curated selection of wines. Our sommelier, Sikelela was personable and provided us with in depth knowledge about the one rose wine and three red wines we chose to taste. Throw in the delicious vegetable and olive platter and it was a small feast for the senses.

Delaire Graff is very upmarket and with its stunning views can only be highly recommended.

Fairview Wine & Cheese

Our third vineyard was thrown in as a surprise by our driver Chadd. Fairview is a vineyard & goat farm which offers paired wine & cheese tastings, it has a remarkable farm shop and I’m told it also has a mediterranean-style restaurant. It’s a charming and tranquil place. We had the pleasure of savouring some exceptionally delicious wines and quite honestly the best goat cheeses I’ve ever tasted, making the visit even more delightful. The wine tasting experience with Zita was the least impressive of the day (only because the previous two were unbeatable and staff at Fairview were looking to close up not long after we got there) but still interesting and the match to the cheese and meats was impeccable.

The grounds are pleasant with lots of shaded seating areas and goats penned just nearby. I didn’t come across any kids in our time there but I could see how Fairview would be a perfect destination for families. My only disappointment was due to our flight home we were unable to take some of the abundance of different goat cheeses home. They tasted quite delicious and certainly enhanced the wine sampling experience!

Cape Town Cuisine

Pier

Cape Town Cuisine- The PierWhat an impressive evening! At this fine dining experience, the waiting staff were as integral as the highly skilled kitchen staff. We had the most amazing 11-course tasting menu. I heard another customer call it a ‘masterful tapestry of education and experience,’ so I’m going to steal that quote!

It was by far one of the best dining experiences we have had. The waiter (our star was Warwick) will explain each dish so you can best enjoy it. All allergens can be catered for, even at short notice – gluten free, dairy free etc and for those wishing to avoid tuna! So professional, the kitchen staff simply adjusted each course as necessary and still provided a fine dining experience. Keegan expertly poached our oysters right at the table commenting on all he was doing and outlining the ingredients. They were fantastic!

It’s very difficult to pick a stand out but my favourite course was the crayfish, pork, spiced coconut and kimchi. Very tasty with a chilli kick. Towards the end Gavin brought his cheese trolley to the table. Unable to choose I sampled all 9 cheeses plus accompaniments. Again a fabulous tasting experience.

Eleven courses sounds a challenge but they are small, divine plates, plenty of time is taken over the course of the evening and you don’t leave feeling overly full. It’s all finished with a secret salt course!!

A superb selection of top wines and cocktails are on offer as are wine pairings to match your food. We opted not to have the pairing but most of the tables around us did and it looked impressive as well providing an educational element on the local vineyards. Good to see such a classy restaurant supporting local winemakers!

We ordered a glass of Colmant Brut Reserve from Franschhoek as an aperitif followed by a wonderful bottle of Groot Constantia 2021 Pinotage, both local to Cape Town. It really was one of the best experiences we have had and the tasting menu plus coffees took around two and a half hours.

By South African standards it’s certainly not cheap but from a UK perspective certainly worth the money and I’m 100% sure the cost would be significantly higher if the equivalent was on offer at home.

Can only be highly recommended and not to be missed, so go and let Warwick, Keegan, Gavin and the rest of this top team perform their magic!

Two last points, book well in advance and don’t expect too much by way of views as it’s located on a working harbour but that’s easily forgotten due to the superb food and service!

Thanks to Martin McLaren for his recommendation.

NV-80 Grill & Bar

This gem of a restaurant was recommended to us by both Jacklin Purdon and a regular visitor to Cape Town, Gillian McCrindle. It hides away on the first floor of The Point Mall Shopping Centre in Sea Point.

Despite it being a short 5 minute walk from The President Hotel, we had to ask mall security staff where it was located. It’s generally always busy and bizarrely has only two set sittings, so I suggest booking in advance.

NV-80 focuses on executing the classics very well. It won’t be a gastronomic experience, people come here for great quality steak and meat paired with a sauce and side dish. We had the taster menu with Boschendal wine pairings and it was really impressive.

We started with fresh oysters one with a natural dressing and the other Vietnamese, paired with a small glass of Boschendal brut NV.

Two large but delicious sauteed prawns followed as our second starter. These were paired with a small glass of Boschendal chardonnay pinot noir.

Our main was a flame grilled ribeye steak with pepper sauce and roast vegetables, both on the side. This was expertly paired with a large glass of Boschendal Nicolas red wine.

Dessert followed with a chocolate fondant accompanied with armagnac ice-cream and a small glass of Boschendal Vin D’Or to finish off the fantastic meal.

Would rank this very well in the best meat restaurants in Cape Town.

The Test Kitchen Fledglings

TTK Fledglings Yedst Kitchen
Kitchen Staff hard at work in TTK Fledglings

The British born chef Luke Dale Roberts, who is now based in Cape Town, has won numerous awards for his work at La Colombe. That restaurant won the Acqua Panna Best Restaurant in Africa and Middle East in 2010 and was ranked 12th in the overall San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

At The Test Kitchen Fledgelings Roberts has focused his energy on offering opportunity to a new generation of talent. Aspiring chefs, often with zero formal training, are brought under the wing of former Fledgelings and professional chefs, and taught the basics from the kitchen to the pass. It’s a remarkable project offering employment, training and hope to young people.

All this certainly doesn’t diminish the standard of food or service. While not fine dining, the focus is on elevated cuisine with an a la carte menu (two or three courses) that runs from starters such as exceptional korean fried chicken and beef tartare through to delicious mains including lobster and pan seared linefish.

On your arrival at the restaurant, every staff member simultaneously greets each new table with a ‘welcome’ chorus!

The open kitchen creates an incredible atmosphere which is intriguing and infectious, the service is exemplary. You can essentially watch the skilled chefs in action creating your dish and follow the process through to your plate being served. Our waiter, Stanton expertly talked us through each course and described our choice of Boschendal red wine impeccably.

There is also an extensive tasting menu with wine pairing.

Located in the Old Biscuit Mill, which also houses its sister restaurants, Fledglings is slightly further out from the harbour, however security are ever present outside in the communal concourse and parking lot and take good care of you ensuring transport is easily and safely accessible to each customer.

A very busy and vibrant restaurant which provides expert on the job training to what will undoubtedly be stars of the future. The restaurant promotes that it’s ‘a place where dreams come true’ but I’d also suggest their clients’ dreams come true as well! The food was fantastic and an experience not to be missed. Highly recommended and a clear favourite of our Cape Town trip!

Thanks again for another fantastic recommendation from Martin McLaren.

Winchester Boutique Hotel

Winchester Boutique Hotel

Walking along Beach Road was a challenge in the wind and heat but this impressive boutique hotel is impossible to miss, The Winchester Hotel stands out with bold appeal on the edge of the Sea Point Promenade. This grand 1920s Cape Dutch-style icon is rivalled only by the views of Table Mountain, Lions Head and the Atlantic Ocean that surround it. It’s also known throughout Cape Town for its Sunday Brunch with live music in its internal courtyard.

As it was our final evening in Cape Town we decided to revisit the Winchester Boutique Hotel for sundown drinks and relaxed bar food. We were greeted by Soso who looked after us all evening.

Initially we sat at the bar’s outside terrace sipping a Boschendal Brut

Rose while watching the sun slip away for the day. The last few minutes of the sun is a spectacular sight and certainly a camera shot, but you only have seconds to capture it!

sunset terrace

Then as the temperature cooled we moved inside and had fabulous oysters followed by a Greek lamb plate and a spicy chicken dish. The bar has small plates on offer as well as the same menu options as the more formal restaurant and the food was excellent.

Highly recommended for the views, service and food. Thanks to Soso for making our final evening in Cape Town a very special memory! 

Cape Hilarity

Cape Town is home to the Africa’s first downhill tobogganing track. Aptly titled ‘Cool Runnings’ after the famous film about Jamaica’s first bobsled team, the track is located just 25km outside of the city centre on Carl Cronje Drive. The late actor John Candy would be very proud.

Personal Safety

Having spent 14 days in and around Cape Town you become aware of the social issues such as homelessness and street begging. Admittedly South Africa does have a reputation for crime and violence, even the South African Minster for Policing, Bheki Cele accepts there’s a big issue and says violent crime rates are “not pleasing at all”.  To be perfectly honest we saw neither crime nor violence apart from little boys stealing fruit off the back of an articulated vehicle. Be sensible in your surroundings and avoid carrying large sums of cash, don’t carry your phones or cameras in clear sight and do not leave belongings unattended, even on beaches. Avoid walking in deserted and dark places at night and take honest advice on where locals go after dusk and I’m sure you will be safe. Private taxis and Ubers are aplenty and very reasonable prices so use genuine transport from appointed taxi ranks or book online.

Private security staff (some even carrying side arms) are everywhere. The sight of them is reassuring and they will generally go out their way to help you or to provide advice. As with anywhere in the world, if you are approached for money, be polite in your refusal and walk on. Every person we came across begging simply accepted a ‘no’ and moved on. The authorities openly urge tourists not to give money to beggars as they say this discourages them from using locally provided hostels or emergency accommodation. As food portion sizes can be larger than wanted in some restaurants we simply took up the option of taking the remainder of food away and handed it to very appreciative homeless persons on our way back to the hotel.

Close

I thoroughly recommend you go and explore Cape Town and the surrounding area where a real world of wonder awaits. From endless white beaches and glittering waves to preening penguins, fluking whales and prowling great whites, there’s so much to discover in the Cape where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.

It was our first visit to Cape Town and despite a very busy schedule while there, we still have to visit Table Mountain, Robben Island, Hout Bay, Cape of Good Hope and many more attractions – not forgetting our desire to enjoy a stay at Boschendal Vineyard.

cheers with a snorkeling white wine from Cape Town

 

We will absolutely return to explore further the city that the locals say has four seasons in one day (obviously not been to Gourock in the summer!).

With grateful thanks to Gary & Jacklin Purdon who suggested Cape Town as an incredible place to visit, also to Mark Bell and David Shannon for insight into their experiences.

We are certainly open to your next challenge!

Summary Video

Contacts

Calum Glenny - The Avid Traveller

Calum Glenny
Gourock’s ‘Avid Traveller’

More like this – The AvidTraveller.News

Associate of Rogues Guide and the Book
Rogues in Paradise –

 

 


Depravity of War, TravelWatchNews

Here is a short verse on The Depravity of War

“War destroys the planet- pumping greenhouse gases into our air, changing climate,  increasing global warming. It pulverizes cities, people, and all life, but they dont care. War is greedy and self-serving, caring naught for those who disagree. It does not discriminate, dropping bombs and missiles everywhere, killing hundreds to get at one. How do we stop it when all the might and power rest in the hands of those with much to gain? Perpetuating their cause, like selling lethal weapons to both sides. Profiting from ending lives, money down the drain, it is all just so insane.”

See in-depth article  http://war.RoguesHistory.com

by Author  Ian R. Clayton:

The Depravity of War is taken from “How War is Destroying our Universe,” which is part of a long article on the Hamass Isreal War. It covers media reports and original thoughts on forgiveness, understanding, and reconciliation against hate and revenge. It explores issues of hope and ways to aid the suffering.

More >>> http://war.RoguesHistory.com

Related Articles

RoguesHistory

Rogues history is derived from the book Rogues In Paradise. An alternative history that includes views of everyday people, unsung heroes, Rogues, and legends. A departure from the original colonial-based historical narrative.

 


Avid Traveller, Malaga, nerja, travel literature, TravelWatchNews

While eagerly waiting to disembark our flight at Malaga Airport, I become aware of my fellow passengers’ rising anticipation of sun and warmth, the brief excited chat going on around me is about where people are travelling on to. The vast majority were heading West of Malaga to the popular resorts of Marbella, Mijas and Benalmadena. Knowing where we’re going I feel we’re pushing against the flow by saying, ‘I’m heading East to Nerja’.  This makes me think that Marbella (West) or Nerja (East) may be the question!

Heading East to Nerja on the Spanish Sunshine Coast

Nerja - A Great Spanish Sunshine Break

Nerja can be described as quaint, quieter and probably more family-orientated than Marbella. There are very few stag parties or ‘football tops’ in comparison to Marbella and its surrounding coastal towns. Dining in Marbella however can be superior, although often more expensive. So saying, Nerja has its share of top class restaurants. Marbella also has Puerto Banus on its door step with its shopping, coffee venues and sight-seeing attractions during the day, then its mega club scene at night. At my age thankfully the club equivalent is relatively small scale in Nerja, the most well known being Plaza Tutti Frutti which is a large square, lined with numerous bars and which is frequented mainly by locals at weekends.

Your own destination choice will be very much dependent on what you’re looking for in a Spanish holiday. This blog takes in several visits to Nerja when I was staying in the award winning and beautiful pueblo blanco of Frigiliana.

Nerja on the East of Costa Del Sol

On our frequent visits to Southern Spain and mostly to the autonomous region of La Axarquia, I have spent many a sunny day in and around the town of Nerja.

Nerja is a picturesque Costa del Sol resort town sitting along Spain’s Southern coast. Just 50 kilometres east of Málaga city and connected by the Mediterranean highway. Once a sleepy fishing village, Nerja now has a population of over 25,000.

Nerja a picturesque Costa del Sol resort town
Balcón de Europa from Hotel Balcón de Europa.

It boasts an impressive seafront promenade and stunning blue Mediterranean sea views from the famous Balcón de Europa. Sightseers are mesmerised looking out across the water and often forget to turn around and take in the stunning views of the rugged mountains behind. Nerja is home to several historic churches and beside the Balcón de Europa is the impressive El Salvador Church, first erected in 1505 but rebuilt in 1697. If you catch sight of a wedding there you will be impressed by the set up and fashion on show. On either side of the Balcón are sandy beaches and numerous coves in the cliffs.

Balcon de Europa

The Caves of Nerja (Cueva de Nerja) are nearby and house unusual stalactites and stalagmites, although I’ve yet to see these as every time I’ve visited they’ve either been full or closed!

Nerja is also known for its paleolithic paintings (early Stone Age) which are best viewed by guided tour with many on offer. The town also has a three story museum covering the history of the first settlers based at the Nerja Caves until the tourist boom of the late 1950’s.

Festivals in Nerja

Similar to other local towns and villages, Nerja is served well with festivals. Catch one if you can, the main ones being:

Three Kings (January),
Carnival (February),
Semana Santa (March/April),
San Isidro (May),
San Juan (June),
Virgin del Carmen (July),
and the Feria (Second week in October).

Nerja Attractions

If you ask a local they will list the following attractions as the best places to visit:

1. Old Town
2. Balcón de Europa
3. Church of El Salvador
4. Museum of the village of Nerja
5. Beaches
6. Caves

Nerja Accommodation

There are a large number of hotels, hostels and self catering rental options in Nerja. To be honest you are spoiled for choice and you will easily find what you require and meet your budget needs.

Hotel Balcón de Europa

Plaza Balcón de Europa

Plaza Balcon
Balcón de Europa

Built into the rock face, this impressive hotel has direct access to Caletilla Beach and Playa el Salon. It features an outdoor infinity swimming pool and a restaurant with great sea views.

The hotel has a lovely outside terrace on the Balcón itself serving drinks and light meals. Sitting relaxing and people watching with a glass of Juve & Camps Cava is one of my favourite pastimes here.

Located in the centre of Nerja, the hotel is close to many shops, bars and restaurants. Its only downside is it’s accessed via the pedestrian walkway so unless you arrange a meet and greet you will have to carry your luggage for about 10 minutes from the transport drop off point to the hotel which can be strenuous in the heat, especially if you overpack.

I’ve heard people say some areas of the hotel look dated but for service and views of the Mediterranean I’d recommend this as an accommodation choice.

Parador de Nerja

Calle Almunecar, 8

Parador de Nerja a Malaga gem

A ‘parador’ in Spain and some other Spanish speaking nations are establishments where travellers can obtain accommodation, food and beverages, similar to an inn. Since 1928, the Spanish National Tourist Board in an attempt to boost domestic and international tourism began to nationalise these paradors and develop a national network. Paradors range from historic buildings, monasteries and castles to modern buildings that tend to hold ‘special appeal’. At the impressive 4 star Parador de Nerja this appeal is recognised in its panoramic views of Burriana Beach, the Mediterranean and Nerja Old Town.

This is a large, bright modern hotel with terraces facing the sea, a beautiful garden with an outdoor swimming pool, a lawn tennis court, a paddle tennis court and is very close to the pedestrian walkway into the centre of town.

Nerja Restaurants

During our visits we found several great tapas bars and restaurants all within a very short distance of each other in old town Nerja.

Redondo Bar

Calle Gloria 10

 Redondo Bar

A busy bar with limited tables outside, Redondo Bar serves good food with a large selection of drinks. It offers free tapas with each drink ordered but be sure and ask for your tapas. Very popular and in a busy street, sometimes there’s a wait for a table particularly in the evenings or if the weather is not sunny. Recommended for a quick drink and tapas, don’t expect a relaxing evening meal as it can be slightly chaotic when busy but the atmosphere is great!

Mum Indian Restaurant

Calle Pintada, 3

I do like an Indian meal and we have eaten in Mum several times. Each time we are impressed with the incredible tasting food and excellent service. Not really sure what is going on with the decor mind you but some people seem to like it. If going ask for a seat through at the back terrace of the restaurant. Overall really nice food however the stuffed tandoori mushrooms were a personal firm favourite and the chicken hyderabadi biryani really did tingle the taste buds without being too spicy!

We will revisit when next in Nerja or nearby and I recommend if you like good authentic Indian food.

La Braseria de Pacomari

Calle Almte. Ferrándiz, 31

La Braseria de Pacomari in the heart of Nerja

Situated in the very heart of Nerja, with a family friendly atmosphere. This is a brilliantly different restaurant where the menu merges Asian and South American options with premium Spanish cuisine. It’s truly an art form and your taste buds will love it! Combined with an excellent wine list from all corners of Spain to go hand in hand with the delicious dishes. I cannot recommend highly enough but be sure to book especially in the evening as you have little chance of getting a table without a reservation.

Restaurant 34, Hotel Carabeo

Calle de Hernando de Carabeo
Hotel Caraba- Restaurant 34

We were kindly invited to a meal at this restaurant to celebrate friends Kevin and Jenny’s special birthdays (not 21!). It’s neatly tucked away in the boutique Hotel Carabeo in a fantastic setting. The authentically Spanish-focused menu comprises many delicious, mouthwatering dishes. It claims that the organic fruit and vegetables used in the cuisine are sourced from their finca, as is their own homemade extra virgin olive oil.

Daily chef specials run alongside the a la carte menu and there is also an impressive set menu at €30 for three courses.

There are various dining areas to choose from, including the original hotel dining room, tables secluded in hedge trimmed alcoves around the impressive swimming pool, or on the summer terrace overlooking the beach. Truly a wonderful experience and comes highly recommended, the octopus starter and the suckling pig main were incredible dishes, just delicious.

Hotel Carabeo
Hotel Carabeo pool and dining alcoves

We can’t thank Kevin & Jenny enough for our introduction to Restaurant 34 and inclusion in their special celebrations. Feliz Cumpleanos to you both!

Terraza Buddha Lounge Bar

Calle de La Gloria 13

If you’re looking for night time entertainment, Bar Buddha is it. It has various levels with a restaurant, outdoor lounge and karaoke area. A wide selection of cocktails and chipitos (shots) are available at the impressive rooftop bar. Fairly priced and a great atmosphere although it can be very busy. The entrance is tucked away but can be accessed from opposite the Rodondo Bar.

Beaches

As previously stated Nerja is a small town but it punches well above its weight for excellent beaches. The coastline is dotted with loads of small coves and sandy beaches. You are spoiled for choice whether looking for watersports, sunbathing or simply swimming in the crystal waters of the Mediterranean.

Burriana Beach

Burriana Beach in Nerja' in Malaga Sunshine Coast

Burriana beach is the longest beach in Nerja, virtually one kilometre in length with as many watersports on offer as you can imagine. Lined with some of the best chiringuitos in the area, you can also find numerous beachside shops selling snorkels and all sorts of beach paraphernalia.

Chiringuito Ayo

Burriana Beach

A local favourite to visit is Ayo for a lunch on Burriana Beach. Every day you can watch chef Alfonso make fresh paella in traditional big pans on an open fire. Great photo opportunity.

Chef Alfonso at work

It’s certainly no palace but straight forward and simple with plastic chairs and tables. However, the paella is the top attraction and very good, loaded with chicken and shellfish. It used to be known for free paella refills but following the pandemic and mindful of the waste that people left, this is no longer an option. The service is great and even in the height of summer when there are long queues, table turnaround is quick due to the efficient and friendly service of the waiting staff – Nico, Livia and young Jose certainly look after you! You can’t really beat the price and quality on offer, the paella is fabulous and must be sampled but the rosada a la plancha is a winner for me and simply delicious! Eating grilled fresh fish while sampling local wine, sometimes it’s hard to remember you’re in a chiringuito on a beach and not a top class restaurant! Also worth knowing about is the breakfast here which is excellent – a large strong coffee and pan con tomate sets you up nicely for a day on the beach.

Nico, Livia and Jose at work

This is a local institution and certainly not to be missed! Go and visit Nico, Livia and Jose who work as a great team at the far left hand side of the restaurant.

Playa la Caletilla Beach

This is one of my favourite Nerja beaches, which is accessed by a steep downward hill and has a small shop selling drinks and snacks. Facilities such as showers, sun loungers and umbrellas are also available.

The beach is home to what were fisherman’s huts, now renovated into summer accommodation. It’s a fairly popular beach in the heart of Nerja town so can get busy. Although there are no restaurants or chiringuitos on the beach it’s only a short walk to the heart of Nerja and a huge choice of restaurants and tapas bars.

Carabeo Beach

Nerja - A Great Spanish Sunshine Break

Only accessed via the pedestrianised Carabeo street although with parking available in the adjacent town car park. Carabeo Beach is really a very uncomplicated beach, there are no sun loungers, bars or restaurants available. The simplicity of this beach is not to be understated however with its sandy crystal clear waters beautifully enclosed by high cliffs it’s the most natural of beaches.

Travel & Transport

While West of Malaga has a terrific train system, the East relies on its bus and taxi infrastructure. Nerja bus station is a 15 minute walk from the Balcón de Europa although this is somewhat of a misnomer as it’s effectively a layby on the N-340 with a small ticket kiosk. But don’t be mistaken as it provides excellent and regular bus links throughout the region. There’s also plenty of cafes and bars nearby to grab a refreshment in between journeys.

There are a multitude of taxis in operation but if you’re going to pre-book an airport transfer or a pick up from outside of Nerja, I suggest you use Taxi Frigiliana. WhatsApp or call them on +34 696969469 or check out their website www.taxifrigiliana.com if you require a taxi service to get to Nerja or to travel from Frigiliana. Owned and run by Paulino Lopez, it is a stand-out in service provision, honesty and integrity.

Historically West v East?

So back to the original conundrum. Local folklore states that dictator Franco, who ruled Spain from 1939 until he died in 1975, divided the area in two:

West of Malaga was for tourism; East of Malaga designated for agriculture. To be honest who really knows if this is true or simply an urban myth, but actually there is some logic in the statement particularly driving East along the Mediterranean Highway gazing at the farmers’ green hilly fields!

So here is a quick debrief on the original question of West or East of Malaga?

West

The western part of the region stretches 60 kilometres from Malaga to Marbella and beyond. In between you will find Torremolinos, Fuengirola and Mijas, and past Marbella you will reach Estepona and Gibraltar. All familiar names that roll off the tongue and true favourites with tourists.

East

East is very different and most readers will not have heard of Rincon del Victoria, Algarobbo or El Morche. Velez-Malaga and Torre del Mar may be better known along with Torrox and Nerja. This 69 kilometre agricultural stretch is lined with poly tunnels and greenhouses, it’s also the largest mango and avocado cultivation area in Europe. Tourism clearly exists but not to the same degree as the West. I know I’m not alone in saying that the East and in particular Nerja is rather more relaxed.

As the sun sets


I’m certainly not discrediting Marbella, Mijas or other resorts west of Malaga as we have several good friends who own impressive properties in these areas. We have also spent many a happy holiday or long weekend with friends and family in these locations.

So despite the West v East conundrum the resort choice is as always down to the individual traveller. No matter what your choice you will enjoy warmth and hospitality. If you’re undecided perhaps opt for the ‘middle’ as I personally find Malaga an exceptional city to visit and it should be classed as up there with the best of Spanish cities.

In conclusion I’d say Nerja is an excellent choice for a holiday, it has it all and is friendly and relaxed. For me, one of the best secrets attached to Nerja is its easy access to the award winning and beautiful pueblo blanco of Frigiliana. Only €1.20 (£1) on the bus or €12 (£10) in a taxi to visit this stunning village but be ready for its many stairs and hills – as my local friend Antonio Domingo says ‘it’s all ups and downs in Frigiliana!’.

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AvidTarvellers.News Blog by Calum Glenny

 

Calum Glenny
Gourock’s Avid Traveller

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