Lately I have been trying to get out and about and see more of what my hometown has to offer. Hamilton is home to a spectacular garden whom won an award for International Garden of the year in 2014.
The Hamilton Gardens were built upon an old city rubbish dump, and who knew how wonderful the gardens would become. There are now more than 15 remarkable themed gardens inside, my favourites being the Indian Char Bagh Garden and the Italian Renaissance Garden.
While I wander around the different gardens, I feel as though I am being transported from one country to another. The Hamilton Gardens have done an absolutely wonderful job and I highly recommend making a visit here if you are ever passing through Hamilton.
You can find more info about the Gardens on their website here
This post is going to be a bit different than usual – it’s turned more into a “journal” entry about my experience in Morocco, and what we did each day. I am so grateful to have had time off work, to be able to visit here the past week. It was by far one of the best experiences of my life, and I will never forget it.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect coming to Marrakech. I had heard a lot of speculation as to whether it was safe to visit or not. I do believe it is a safe city to visit – in saying that, all normal precautions must still be made (such as locking away valuable belongings in hotel, paying attention to items you have on you, not to carry too much cash on hand).
Marrakech is such a colourful, vibrant city, and the weather was absolutely stunning our whole trip, although a bit chilly at night.
The first day we were there, we wandered the souks (local markets) and explored the Ben Yousef Madrasa – an old Islamic college that was founded in the 14th Century. I straight away fell in love with the architecture and tiling of this building. We then found ourselves perched at Terrasse des Epices – which overlooked the rooftops of Marrakech. We all (accept Rachel) decided to try our first Tagine, a traditional North African dish, which was delicious! Faye and I then ventured off to visit the Marrakech Museum together.
As dinner time came around – we headed to a restaurant recommended by the owners of our Riad (a large traditional house built around a central courtyard, often converted into a hotel). I ordered a three course meal; a salad as a starter, chicken tagine as the main, and orange and cinnamon as the dessert, for a whopping 6 euros total! Still to this day I find it hard to fathom the prices of things in Morocco!
The next morning began with breakfast at 6:30am, as we left on our Sahara adventure at 7am. The journey to the desert was long, but was broken into pieces, as we had a few stops along the way. First stop being the Atlas Mountains. We then continued on to our next destination – Ait Benhaddou. An old town, which was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Films and TV series have also been filmed here, such as The Gladiator, The Mummy and Game of Thrones. Faye and I used most of our time here sneaking off the beaten track and lagging behind our tour group. The remainder of the day was spent in the van until we arrived at the edge of the desert by nightfall.
We were greeted by some locals and were taken to our next ride – a Camel! Despite the fact the sun had set, the moon was bright enough to light our way. The locals guided our camels in the direction of the campsite, and I wondrously gazed at the thousands of stars above me and took in the moment. It was nice to see the stars, since i’m sure they have been hiding from us in Paris. At our campsite, hot tea was brought to our “rooms” as a welcome offering. Soon after, Dinner was served; delicious Berber soup (Harira) and…wait for it….tagine! We filled our belly’s and moved to the bonfire outside, where we spent our night dancing to music with the Locals.
I barely slept that night, because of the pure fact that I was too cold! For those of you who plan to sleep overnight in the desert, make sure you bring some warm pj’s, cause I surely didn’t. I am unsure as to whether it would still remain cold during the summer nights however!
Eventually the sun began to rise, and that was our que to get up, once again around 6:30am. I don’t think any of us expected to be getting up this early in the mornings on our trip, as we were on holiday of corse. I guess not all holidays mean sleep ins! We grabbed our blankets and headed out, seeing the desert for the first time in daylight. This sight definitely woke us all up! We hung around the Camels, acting like silly school girls laughing at the funny noises and faces they were making, trying to capture as many as we could on our cameras.
At 7am it was time for us to depart on our camels once again for a 30 minute ride to our vans. The trip back to Marrakech wasn’t hugely exciting, as we only stopped once for lunch. We were all extremely happy to get out of the van when we arrived home.
The owner of our Riad then suggested a place that we could go get a Hammam which we thought meant a Moroccan massage. All of us were a bit stiff and sore from riding the camels, so we thought this was a great idea! We all had no idea what we were in for and it ended up being the complete opposite to what we expected! A Hammam (In Arabic translates to “Hot Water”) is traditionally known as a Turkish/Roman style Bath. This is a place where locals go to cleanse or purify themselves.
When we arrived at the Hammam, we were instructed to take all our clothing off and put on a robe. Little did we know that they would then tell us we did not need our robes and throw the 5 of us into a sauna together, practically naked! Suddenly hot water was thrown all over us and we sat there laughing our heads off at how uncomfortable we felt! They then scrubbed us down and covered us in mud and clay. I can say this was a very different experience and if I had known what it was going to be like – I probably would have said no way! But now that i’ve done it, despite how out of my comfort zone I felt, I’m glad that we had the chance to partake in something so traditional in the Moroccan lifestyle.
The next morning exploring more of Marrakech, buying spices, teas, and some remedies to help our skin. We then visited Bahia Palace from the 19th Century. Bahia means “brilliance”, and this Palace was intended to be the best of its time.
Lunch was spent at Nomad – which had to be my favourite restaurant the whole entire trip! The view was perfect and food was absolutely delicious, so good that we went back the next day! Nomad is definitely a must do for those of you whom plan to visit Marrakech.
Next stop was the main square, also known as the ‘Jemaa el-Fnaa’. Here we aimlessly wandered the markets and somehow ended up with snakes around our necks! Having never touched a snake in my life, I was quite nervous! and of all people, the ‘snake man’ decided to grab a handful of baby snakes, and casually place them on top of my head, mid photo. You can see from a photo below that I was not too happy about that.
Sadly afterwards it was time for Faye to head back to England – as she had to leave a day before us. We said our goodbyes and then headed up to the rooftop of our Riad to watch the sunset over Marrakech.
And then it finally became our last day. We decided to make a quick tour around the Majorelle Garden, the Saadian tombs, and the New Town of Marrakech. The Majorelle Garden was beautiful and the colours of the buildings were such a lovely blue. It has been open to the public since 1947. In 1980 the garden had been owned by Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé, and when Yves Saint Laurent died in 2008 his ashes were scattered here.
We returned to Nomad for lunch, this time managing to get a table in the sunshine. We all made the most of our last meal in Marrakech and ordered a lot! It was just as good as the first visit.
After lunch, it was time to go back to our Riad and pack our bags and head to the airport. I started getting a little sad at this point as I was having too much fun and didn’t want to go back to the cold, rainy weather in Paris.
Now i’m off to London in 6 weeks with my parents, who are visiting me during the holidays from New Zealand!! You can say i’m a tad excited!! 🙂
You can also watch what we got up to in Morocco in the video below – Don’t forget to subscribe for more videos like this to come 🙂 I hope you enjoy it!