Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Seville - Moorish Palaces And Moreish Tapas

The air soft as that of Seville in April, and so fragrant that it was delicious to breathe it - Christopher Columbus

Seville sums up Andalusia- hot, stunning and with a rich Arabic heritage. This romantic, medieval city has some of the best food in the country. It's streets are lined with orange trees and with hidden plazas tucked away in the maze of cobbled alleys, this extraordinarily charming city has heaps to offer. 

A relaxed and fun loving city, this is the place to enjoy good food, good nightlife and more culture than you can shake a stick at. 

After nearby Cordoba, Seville is the hottest city in Europe. Personally, I would not recommend to go in summer as the heat can be overwhelming. The weather in spring and autumn is hot yet pleasant and really allows you to make the most of what the city has to offer. 

With so many tapas bars to choose from, it can be hard to decide where to eat. My only rule is to avoid anywhere where the menu is in English and seems full of tourists. Try find somewhere more discreet and full of locals. Order a range of tapas and some sangria, sit back and watch the world go by. Paella is of course a must- from tiny tapas sized portions to giant batches cooked on open paelleras, there is plenty to choose from. 

The cathedral

The largest in Spain and one of largest in the world, this gothic cathedral is simply huge. This vast and ornate religious edifice boasts the wealth of the city.

The Alcazar

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Alcazar is a Moorish royal palace in the heart of the city, one of the oldest palaces in Europe. 

I am completely in love with the Alcazar.

Peacocks roam its lush and intricate gardens. This tropical expanse is dotted with water fountains, fruit trees, undergrounds passages and palm trees. 

This palace is a testament and a living memory of the arabic rule in Spain. As soon as you walk into the  palace you feel transported to North Africa. The sheer opulence and scale of the building is awe inspiring. You can spend hours getting lost in its extravagant rooms and exotic gardens.

The markets

We were lucky enough to visit when there was a market and international food fair on. With everything from German beers to Argentinian steaks, there was an impressive array of international cuisine on offer at the various food stalls. Seville is fantastic for organised cultural events, food, music, theatre...

Plaza de Espana

Built in 1928 in the Maria Luisa Park, this huge half circle is decorated with numerous tiled alcoves representing the various kingdoms in Spain. With it's painted ceramic benches, mini canals, boats, fountains and bridges, plaza de Espana is an idyllic place to sit and relax. 

I have a bit of a love affair with this city. Seville is my favourite place in Spain. I have been back again and again and every time I discover something new. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

High in the Atlas Mountains

After a few days in the Marrakech, we travelled three hours into the heart of Morocco to the Atlas Mountains. 

The drive was amazing- through dusty deserts and small rural towns. I know some people who have complained that this drive was too long, to me however this was part of the experience. With more goats than cars on some stretches of the road, this is truly a ride into the Moroccan outback. 

We arrived at our spa hotel, the Widiane Suites and Spa, set by a lake where the views just blow you away. Tucked away in the mountains, this hotel is ideal for couples looking for a few relaxing days away from the world. Although there are a number of activities in the area, including fantastic trekking opportunities, the hotel lends itself to flop and drop holidays. So make sure to pack a few good books and several bikinis.

With two infinity swimming pools overlooking the mountains, we were spoilt for choice. The pool side bars mean that you are always catered for. 

A boat trip through the canyons was a great way to appreciate and explore the surrounding countryside.  The Widiane offers a variety of activities on site, including a spa (the Thai massage is fantastic), guided hikes, day trips to local villages and the Ouzoud waterfalls, cookery lessons and much more. 

With large en-suite rooms, there is a definite sense of space and luxury. Traditional artisan Moroccan art and furniture decorate the room. The clay walls and tile floors keep the rooms cool even in the summer heat. The rooms are clean and comfortable, I would however recommend upgrading rooms as this really does add to the experience. 

This hotel truly knows how to make the most of its incredible location. Even the restaurant has stunning views of the lake and mountains. With both Moroccan and European food on offer, there is something for everyone. The breakfast is amazing, with an impressive selection of fresh fruit, juices, breads, cheeses and meats. Great value for money!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gibraltar - Where The Wild Monkeys Roam

Well, Gibraltar is a place which you either love or hate. I quite like it. It's a rock, that is essentially what it is. It's a British colony - Nigel Short

Gibraltar is a confusing place. It is British and yet Spanish. Simultaneously. 

This strategic port is has been British longer than the US has been American. However this is a piece of land that has a dual identity.

It is in Spain, with weather typical of southern Spain, and yet you come across children in British school uniform and British pillar boxes.

You queue (for what can be an excessively long periods of time) to get past passport control and get access to cheap duty free goods and quintessentially British food.

This tiny 2.6 square miles territory is worth visiting for its mixed heritage unlike anything you can find anywhere else in Europe.

From the cable cars you get an impressive overview of Gibraltar and the surrounding countryside and sea. It is fantastic for panoramic views, but if like me you are scared of heights, do take a deep breath.


The Rock of Gibraltar is home to 30,000 people and roughly 300 free living Barbary Macaques, the famous 'Apes of Gibraltar'. These wild monkeys are the only wild monkeys found in Europe.

Summer is the best time to go for the AWW factor as this is when the new borns are out and about.
You are strictly encouraged not to feed the monkeys as this is a fragile relationship. The monkeys are very used to humans however they are still wild animals who can lash out and should not become overly used to close human interaction.

Although incredibly cute, do not attempt to stroke the monkeys.


St Michael's cave is natural grotto well worth a visit. This limestone cave was created by rain water and with its impressive stalectites and stalagmites, there is no wonder it receives over a million visitors a year. The 'Cathedral Cave', the largest of the caves chambers also serves as an auditorium! With plays, concerts and even the Miss Gibraltar beauty pageant held here, this awestriking chamber is an incredible feat of nature.


Gibraltar is perfect for a day trip as you can get so much packed into one visit. The Rock is an integral part of the history of Spain. And despite the difference in climate, of Britain too.


Friday, October 25, 2013

New York

A town so nice they named it twice- David Letterman
Image Image

New York City- I have just moved to Manhattan, the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps.

In my opinion the most vibrant, eclectic, fascinating city around. Today I decided to wander, to roam, aimlessly and see where it led me. I ended up in Times Square, a place so visually loud, vibrant and impressive you cannot help but stare. For a first timer like me, it is difficult to try and take it ALL in as there is, quite simply, so very much of it.

Times Square to me so far sums up this city. It is of course very touristy. But aren't most great cities? It is big. It is brash. It is busy, it is unapologetic, it is fun, it is New York.