30/09/2016

Getting Henna in Marrakech, Day 2





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Uploading:
As you can tell from the previous post, uploading the vlog was just not happening, as well at the photos for the previous post, took about an hour to upload and would have potentially missed breakfast and since the wifi is stronger in the lobby, we decided that we would go eat separately to stay with the laptop (see how much dedication we have to this blog) 

Breakfast:
James went first, he's a quick eater anyway, so it didn't feel too long. Eating on my own is something I mastered when James was working weekends in Sheffield, so it wasn't as daunting as one with anxiety would. There was standard breakfast foods; toast, eggs, tomato etc, along with a selection of cereals. To be honest, I was more surprised that they were serving bacon, which I think is very nice of them to still serve a dish they do not eat themselves due to religion, although I didn't actually have any, but James did. As I finished, the last photo was finishing, just on time for scheduling and our day to begin!


Booking a taxi:
With all the hassle yesterday, we thought it was a better and safer option to get a taxi to our destination. Although they say booking taxis with your hotel is much more than a regular taxi, we liked the idea that it was already booked for our return from wherever we may be for what time we want. The lady, Asma, was very helpful and welcoming, she even gave us her number as we was indecisive about what time we'd like to return. 

Jardin Majorelle:
Our first stop was to this beautiful garden, this is #2 in things to do in Marrakech on TripAdvisor, so it was a definite must go and we were not disappointed, take a look for yourself...










About 3/4 into the gardens, you'll find the Cafe Majorelle, which is where we decided to take a short break and have lunch in the sun. 





Getting lost:
Let's not even go there, from the gardens, we decided to attempt to make our own way to the next destination on our list. Not even 5 minutes into our walk and we've already been approached for someone to "help" us. No. Please. Stop. This first man accept our no thank you straight away and moved onto his next victims in front of us as we approached a police man across the road for directions.

Thinking we're on the right track, we once again was approached, no matter how much we insisted we do not need his help, he proceeded with walking with us, walk away you say? We did.. and he followed. Honestly, it wasn't scary or anything but I broke down, I started having a panic attack and I just really wanted to leave, but we had no idea where we was during taking the impulse turn to get away.

Once I had calmed down, I was determined to find the Henna Cafe, as I refused to let my anxiety ruin this holiday. We asked several shop keepers and police men along the way, and eventually found our way. 

Travel Tip: If you need to ask for directions, the best people to ask is people working in shops, it is more likely they will help you and will not ask for money. They will not be able to leave their work to physically leave to direct you.

Henna Cafe:
To be honest, many people we asked on the way, even the taxi man was not too sure where or what the Henna Cafe was and when coming face to face with the venue, we can see why it's so easy to miss; with such a small dark entrance and unofficial signage but nevertheless, we've heard amazing stuff about this place and we was excited to be there.

After taken up two flights of narrow stairs, we arrived at the top of the Henna Cafe, a very small intimate place, perfect for a break from shopping and/or simply getting your Henna done.

Before I continue with our day, I'd like to share with you the purpose of the Henna Cafe...

Our mission is to offer free education to local residents of Marrakech alongside an authentic Moroccan experience for visitors to the city.
The Henna Cafe is an oasis of culture and comfort in the medina, offering delicious, traditional food and safe, beautiful henna in a social setting. All income from your experience is used to offer free education and assistance to those in need in our community.
The Henna Café was established in June 2011 by four UK business people who wanted to give back to Marrakech and Morocco. As riad owners and professional henna artists, they came up with the concept of the Henna Café.


Both James and I got a well deserved drink, I say that as if it was something special, a Fanta and a big bottle of still water. You'd understand after all that thirsty walking, with a nice refreshing fruit salad, as we were still full from lunch at the gardens. We drank while deciding on which Henna design we both wanted, I was aiming for a long one to go up my arm, so matching ones wasn't an option, instead James chose a nice design to go on the side of his leg (where I can hide it, he said)




After both Hennas were complete, we ordered some cakes and mint tea to complete our lunch meal. All was finished just on time for our taxi to arrive at 4pm, although we didn't think he'd show on time due to his lack of knowledge of the whereabouts of this hotel and one of the workers kindly called our taxi for us and guided him to us. It was such a refreshing feeling after the day we've had.

We honestly love the concept of the cafe, the food and vibes just made it all worth the stress of finding it!


Tanning and planning:
Once we got back to the hotel, we headed straight to our room, for I to change into something more tannable and went down to the pool to catch the last of today's rays while discussing our plans for the following days. Can't wait to share them all with you and hopefully less stressful than the two days so far haha

Dinner:
Dinner begins at 7 and by quarter past, we was in there ready to conquer all. Love that so far no main has been repeated, and still with a variety of choice: fish soup for starters, a choice of stuffed turkey or baked fish, with mixed vegetables, along with many sides and paella. For dessert, there was a choice from 4 different dishes but tonight James didn't try them all. 



Editing and drinking:
From this morning, we've come up with a logical plan to start uploading photos while James edits the vlog. This wasn't mentioned in the previous post but there was karaoke happening in the bar but we was busy editing and hoping for an upload we didn't attend, so we will be joining tonight's activity with a hearty drink in our hands.

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Hope you've enjoyed reading this once again lengthy post with lots and lots of pictures.


***PLEASE NOTE*** If vlogs are still not up, it will be unlikely for them to upload while we are here but we will not give up, so please be patient with us and we will deliver!

UPDATE: Vlogs will now we uploaded when we get back and Day 1 and 2 will be one vlog and day 3 and 4 will be another etc, rather than uploading 7/8 separate videos!
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29/09/2016

Haggling in Marrakech, Day 1




Hello all, this has been such a long awaited moment and I don't know if you should be less or more annoyed now that I won't say "I'm going on holiday" but now rather that it's even more constantly shoved in your face and will be for the next week! This is how our first day went, we really hope you enjoy reading it!


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Saying goodbye:
We booked our Uber for 2am, to Baker Street where we have booked our 3.01am coach to Stansted Airport. We haven't mentioned this at all, but Jessica's mum and grandma will be heading to Philippines until end of January on Saturday, so this was going to be the last we see them this year. 

Coach to Stansted Airport:
We arrived at the coach stop with plenty of time, so we walked to the station to take some cash out and hoped to find somewhere to eat, although there was no luck there. Heading back to the coach stop, we noticed the earlier coach arrived and thought we'd ask if we could get on it with our ticket and so we did. The journey was about an hour and a bit, in which we was much occupied with our joint jack in James' iPod whilst falling asleep. 

Breakfast at Stansted Airport:
Since taking the earlier coach, we was way ahead of time and of course, our first stop was to get coffee and food at Joe's Coffee House with both getting a Mocha each, James a tuna melt toastie and a chocolate croissant and Jessica a duck wrap, whilst waiting for our desk check in to be announced. 


Stansted to Marrakech:
Due to our lack of sleep and early, very early start, we both knocked out through most of the journey, even which James was dead asleep before and during take off. The flight was smooth, from what I remember and bonus points to the fact that we landed half an hour before our actual arrival time, which gave us more time to get our luggage, exchange some money and toilet breaks before taking another transportation to the hotel. 


Travel Tip: Bring a pen! when you land in Marrakech, they will ask you to fill in a little from and only provide about 2 pens for the whole airport, this will save you so much time as this is only the beginning of security checks.

Transfer to the hotel:
To our surprise we only shared our transfer with two other couples, which all conveniently was staying at the same hotel as us, it was a quick half an hour journey, which was also our first time experiences the complex traffic and what we would call j walking.  

Hotel: First impressions
Upon arrival, we had been greeted at the door and our luggage had been taken from us and put to one side. As you walk in, the lobby is huge, just as it showed on the TripAdvisor pictures; very authentic with it patterns and beautifully spaced with the reception on your left. We are staying in Marrakech Ryads Parc & Spa.


Checking-in:
We was fully aware that check in was at 3pm and we had already arrived by 11. I say fully aware, it was acknowledged but we forgot once we reached there and didn't have a plan, nevertheless, we decided to take the opportunity to walk around and explore our hotel, as we did receive our all inclusive wristbands.  

Hotel pool:
As you walk out the back of the lobby, you will find yourself at a somewhat outdoor dining/seating area, before taking the nice walk down to the pool, surrounded by several sun beds. As you can imagine, coming from cold morning London to afternoon 30 degrees, James and I were not dressed for the pool. So we walked back up and changed into suitable sunbathing clothing, no better way to waste 4 hours. 


Lunch:
Luckily, during our wait, it was also reaching lunch hours, so we was not to fussed on waiting to check in. Food was better than expected, we say in the greatest respects, only because you can imagine what all inclusive food would be like. From rolls of bread, to two selections of pasta, freshly cooked in front of you chicken and many selections of mixed herbed sides and vegetables, big bottles of still water provided too. 

Hotel Room:
After we had finished, it was only just after 1, we had a cheeky ask if our room was available yet and it was! We was escorted to our rooms along with our luggage, up until this point we had not realised how big the hotel actually was. The building we are staying is simply amazing, they say staying at a Ryad is better, as you get that more ethnic feel and although it is a hotel, they call it both and you can see why.


The room itself is very spacious, cute bathroom with two sinks, bath/shower, of course a toilet and even a bidet, all complimented with a balcony.



Once we settled in; out our bags away, freshened up and changed, we decided to explore. 

Shuttle bus:
Unfortunately, we had been mislead to think that the shuttle bus was free, was that wasn't the case, we can't actually complain as in convention it would have costed us £3 together and it was a return ticket, I would say the only downfall was that the times to go and to come back was very far apart and not frequent at all, but we went with it.

Travel Tip: (which we failed at) Do not accept directions from ANYONE, polity say no thank you and walk away to lose all contact, or else they will force it and ask for a ridiculous amount of money at the end of it.

Haggling with Mohammed:


This is where the fun begins, we fell for it kids! How dare we? Once we came off the shuttle bus, we had been approached by a man (hint numero uno), claiming he worked for our hotel and was very enthusiastic to show us where to go from there (see where I'm going with this). Walking walking, he's introducing himself, asking for our names, telling us that we'll go here, there and everywhere (well this was hint numero dos). Stupidly, we continued to go along with it, hoping he'll leave us at some point, got brought to this argon oil and spices shop. We were the only customers there (hint numero tres, and a scary one at that) and again, out of respect, we went with it and I must say, we thoroughly enjoyed the explanations on how things were made and what it was specifically for, although you knew he was trying to sell us everything possible! We did leave with some argon oil and saffron, of course with James' new skill of haggling!


Then Mohammed is back, comes out of nowhere as if he was told we were done to bring us to the next destination (I lost count, let's not count anymore, you get it). At this point James put his foot down and told him we had no money left, but of course we did and of course we still followed and of course we bought, within reason! 


After this stop, Mohammed directed us to go our own way and asked for his money. L.O.L!! For being our guide.... we gave him what he thought we had left. In all respects, it was our fault, but we didn't ask for it at the end of the day and as he was doing a job, we had to do ours. It was overall an experience we had taken lightly and anyway, not all was lost, we bought items we wanted to buy anyway! 

Repeatedly walking through Cyber Park:
After all that mess, we were left to wonder on our own, which was fine, but then anxiety kicked me in the ass and started getting worried about the camera being on show and how every person we walked passed was staring at us, I was ready to go back to the hotel, but due to the timetable, this wasn't exactly doable. We could have taken a taxi back, but what a waste of money that would have been, instead we walked to one end to the other about 4 times through Cyber Park, trying to figure out a plan and where to go. After finding somewhere to go, we realised we may have been going in the wrong direction and had just had to refuse the fifth time to walk through that park again, so instead we headed to the bus stop about an hour early. We did go into the supermarket and entertained ourselves with the discussion of Mohammed to pass the time.


Dinner:
We got back to the hotel just in time for dinner. All that walking and haggling, it couldn't be waited, so we headed straight to the dining hall where all the smells were appetising our noses. We went all out with this meal; our starter, vegetable cream soup paired with a roll of bread, for main, there was again another selection of fresh cooked fish, shish kebab, mushroom cream pasta and of course will all the spices and herbed sides you could ask for, song with a olive salad bar and 4 different types of dessert, which James managed to try them all.

Time for rest:
As you can imagine, the early start, massive change in weather, tired feet and full stomaches, we headed straight to our room after dinner; rested, showered and refreshed to come out onto the outdoor seating/dining area for James to edit and I write this post, while sipping on unlimited vodka something cocktails (let's face it, this will become a regular thing)

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We hope you enjoyed this very lengthy post, let us know if you've liked this and if you've been to Marrakech before, in the comments below!

***PLEASE NOTE*** If the vlog does not follow after this post, we may have wifi problems, so please be don't be alarmed, we hope to have it up as soon as possible! Don't forget, we have planned to do a few giveaways while we are here over on our VLOGS, so make sure you are subscribed!

UPDATE: Vlogs will now we uploaded when we get back and Day 1 and 2 will be one vlog and day 3 and 4 will be another etc, rather than uploading 7/8 separate videos!




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25/09/2016

Date Night: ArcelorMittal Orbit Slide


Saturday's date night (day), was to finally take the plunge, forget our fears and #RideTheSlide at the Olympic Park in Stratford. We were bemused back in 2012 when this piece of extraordinary architecture was the latest addition to London's skyline (it does look a bit strange) - but now there is a slide on it, so who cares! 


Of course it is no ordinary slide (hence the £17 price tag to ride it!) It is the world's longest tunnel slide with large amounts of it being dark, but the light shows London's skyscape flashing in your eyes! You travel a long way in just 40 seconds and the first few of them we were absolutely petrified,  but by the time we were at the bottom, we were wanting to go again and again!


After the slide, we made our way back up the lift to spend some time on the viewing platform which showcased the Olympic surroundings and beyond into Canary Wharf, Greenwich, and the rest of East London. However, the bit we were most amazed by were the mirrors that were on the platform.


It's difficult to explain but they are apparently called 'concave' which gives some plain weird effects depending on where you stand. Slim, fat, tall, tiny, upside down! What's even stranger is that you can't see it through a camera from most angles! We have no idea how it works but we were fascinated! 



We could have been boring and taken the lift back down, but we decided to take the looping 431 stairs with the wind in our faces the whole time! There were soundscapes of various East London landmarks, from Brick Lane market to Upton Park on a Saturday afternoon.



UPDATE: VLOG IS NOW LIVE

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Brunch @ Snaps + Rye, Golborne Road - London


Ever since we left Sheffield, we have lost touch with going out for breakfast and brunch, and we do miss it! It made us very excited for today, as we were heading to Golborne to a place we have been wanting to go to for a long time!

I remember spotting it back in January when we visited nearby Golborne Deli. It is also all over Instagram accounts that we follow, so we hoped to follow suit and get some great snaps too (get it?!)


As soon as we were sat, we were asked if we'd like a drink. Being a traditional man, this wasn't a problem as I almost always go for a latte, but Jessica does like to explore the menu and doesn't like to  be rushed as soon as she is seated. It's just down to personal preference I guess. When it arrives, the coffee was very smooth and extra hot - just like we asked.

Kedgeree - Smoked Haddock, Cured Salmon, Tomato, Spinach, Soft Boiled Egg, Cumin Salt - £10 - James

I, James went for the Kedgeree - an old favourite of my Mum's, and something I haven't had for quite some time. The egg and tomato went perfectly with the salmon and haddock. It was an extremely tasty dish! 

Jessica went for the classic salmon and scrambled eggs, but of course being at Snaps + Rye, on rye bread. I managed to steal some and that bread was so soft, just perfect!

House-Cured Var Salmon, Scambled Eggs, Homemade Rye Bread - £8  - Jessica

If we were ever to open our own Food & Baker cafe, we would certainly be taking inspiration from here for it's aesthetics and appearance. Minimalistic and simple, but it's extremely effective and gives off a relaxing vibe for a Sunday morning. The walls are arty and there is a section where you can purchase their own purchase from both British and Danish suppliers. It's surprising that this is the only Danish restaurant in London. If this one is anything to go by, there should be plenty more! But this place doesn't only stand out for that reason, it has been voted no 20 by Time Out in their list of London's best 100 restaurants. 


As delicious and filling as my Kedgeree was, I couldn't leave without having one of the sweet items that were tantalisingly on display by the counter. Chocolate brownie is one of my favourites and I was confident this one would be special. Indeed it was - the texture and taste was great and complimented perfectly by the cream. The presentation was also a bonus.

Chocolate brownie with walnuts - £1.95 - James

If you are looking for a relaxing weekend brunch, this is the best we have so far come across in London. It comes highly recommended. 

Food: ★★★
Coffee: ★★★
Customer service: ★★
Atmosphere: ★★★★★

UPDATE: VLOG IS NOW LIVE

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24/09/2016

How To: Yoghurt and Dukkah Crusted Chicken with Aubergine and Bulgur Wheat


Serves: 2 | Prep Time: 10 mins | Cooking Time: 25 mins

Ingredients:

- 300ml Water
- Chicken Stock Pot
- 100g Bulgar Wheat
- 1 Aubergine, chopped
- 1 Red Pepper, chopped
- 2 Chicken breasts
- 1/2 Pot Natural Yoghurt
- 2tbsp Dukkah Spice

Instructions:

1. Pre heat your oven to 200 degrees. Fill a pot with the water and bring to the boil on high heat, with the chicken stock pot. Once the water is boiling, pour in the bulgar wheat, place a lid on the pot and rest off the heat for 15mins, or until the water has completely soaked into the wheat. 

2. In the meantime, cut the aubergine in half lengthways, cut each half into strips and then chop the trips into roughly 2cm cubes. Remove the core from the pepper and chop into roughly 2cm cubes. 

3. Put the aubergine on a baking tray and drizzle over enough oil to just coat your aubergine. Sprinkle over a pinch of salt, a good grind of pepper and put in your oven to roast for 25mins. After 10 mins, add your red pepper to the baking tray, stir together, and pop back into your oven.

4. Lay your chicken breast on a chopping board, place your hand flat on top and slice into it from the side. Open it up like a book. You've now butterflied your chicken. Repeat to the rest of the chicken.

5. Season your chicken with a pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper and season the yoghurt with a salt and pepper too. Put your chicken on a lightly oiled baking tray. Coat the top of each chicken breast with a dollop of yoghurt, then thinly sprinkle 1tbsp of dukkah spice over each chicken breast. Pop in your oven to cook for 15-20 mins. 

6. Once your vegetables are cooked, take them out of your oven and add them to the pot with bulgar wheat. Stir everything together.

7. Cut your dukkah crusted chicken into 2cm wide slices and serve on top of your veggies and bulgar wheat. Tuck in!


Recipe and method by Hello Fresh

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21/09/2016

How To: Courgette, Broad Bean and Feta Orzo with Pork Meatballs


Here's another one of our dishes from our box from Hello Fresh this week. We are pretty much sorted for this week as we didn't use the two meals from last week, but since we had a little mishap with a very long "nap" last night, we missed out on dinner. So before we headed out to the cinema tonight, to watch Bridget Jone's Baby, Jessica made dinner, while James cleaned up our room. What a team!

Serves: 2 | Prep Time: 10 mins | Cook Time: 20 mins

Ingredients:

- 300g Broad Beans
- 1 Red Onion, chopped
- 1 Courgette, chopped
- 1 Garlic Clove, grated
- 1/2 bunch Mint, chopped
- 250g Pork and Oregano Sausage
- 180g Orzo
- 400ml Water
- 1/2 Vegetable Stock
- 1/2 Block Feta Cheese

Instructions:

1. Slice each broad bean pod along with seam with knife and push the brand beans out

2. Cut the red onion in half through the root, peel and shop roughly 1/2cm pieces. Cut the bottom and tops of the courgette and then half lengthways, cut each half into four long strips then shop into 1cm chunks. Peel and grate the garlic. Pull the mint leaves off their stalks and roughly chop

3. Slit each sausage in half and discard the skin. Roll the sausage meat into meatballs and leave to the side

4. Put your onion in a large frying pan with a drizzle of oil on medium heat. Cook for 4 mins then add your courgette, a good pinch of salt and a good drink of black pepper. Cook for another 6-7 mins before adding your garlic. Stir together and cook for 1 min, then pour in the orzo. Stir until your orzo is well coated in the garlicky oil, then pour in the water and vegetable stock pot

5. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve your stock pot, then turn the heat down to low and simmer away for 10 mins or until the liquid has absorbed and cooked

6. While your orzo is cooking, add your meatballs to a frying pan on medium heat with a drizzle of oil. Cook for 8-9 mins until they are brown and cooked through

7. When your orzotto is 4 mins from being ready, add your bored beans to the pan to cook for the remaining last 4 mins, then remove the pan from the heat. Crumble the data into the pan along with your mint and stir together.

8. Serve you orzo with your meatballs on top. Enjoy!

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20/09/2016

Top 3 Places To Have Pasta

1. Vapianos


Just off Oxford Street, Vapiano's is a great way to take yourself from the hustle and bustle, and get some extremely tasty food. As you can imagine any restaurant in that area can be a little hectic too and you do have to queue for your food, but the reward is being able to see it made right in front of you, and be in for some great pasta, pizza or salad. 

2. Carluccio's


Some may accuse Carluccio's of being another Italian chain, but please do not. The atmosphere and food offerings give an authentic Italian feel, and will sweep you away from whatever part of the UK you are in and put you in the middle of Florence, Rome or Sicily. Not only is there a restaurant, but in many branches a shop too where you can purchase quality ingredients and other home items. 

3. Piccolino


The food is consistently of a high standard, the atmosphere is quintessentially Italian and the whole experience is based around quality and customer service. Having been to restaurants of theirs in Chester, Sheffield, and James in Liverpool, we know you are guaranteed a great meal. If it' your birthday, be sure to go just for the Happy Birthday sing-song by the staff - they are always so upbeat whatever the day though!

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