Walking and running in Malta

April is a beautiful month in Malta.  Wildflowers abound and there are still places on this very small island that you can get away from it all.  We stayed in Mellieha, an ideal base for running and walking as it is in the less populated north.  All the following trails started from our hotel, the Mellieha Bay and all are easy (no more than five miles).

IMG_1415

Our first run/walk started in the hotel grounds.  There is a trail right on the doorstep which starts at the edge of the gardens – just follow the coast path towards Marfa Ridge.  It’s not far until you are rewarded with this amazing view.

IMG_1418.JPG

From here, we scrambled across rough ground to a track with a campsite.  Following this road we ended up right on top of Marfa Ridge, on the main road to the ferry at Cirkewwa.  There are clear views of Gozo from here.

IMG_1447

We dropped down to the other side of the ridge, easy running, down to Armier Bay where we stopped at the Victoria café, right on the seafront, for a coffee and a rest before heading back towards Ramla Bay.

IMG_1445

By this point, aside from a few locals in the café, we had met just one other couple out walking. Bliss.

IMG_1443

Carrying on the main road past Ramla Bay you see the Red Fort ahead.  This landmark led us back to Mellieha.

Our next run was into the village of Mellieha.  Not far, maybe a mile and a bit, but uphill (seriously uphill!).  After a mooch around the village, we were able to run back in much more comfort, getting onto the beach at Mellieha for a better view of the sea.

IMG_1423

Our third outing was much more random.  We set out for Anchor Bay where the Popeye Village stands.  No way we were going to walk along the main road, so we followed our noses, starting at the rows of prefab houses opposite the hotel.  This took us right into open country, so we headed for the cliffs and figured we could follow the coastal path.  Wrong!  After climbing to the top of a ridge, all we got was a great view of a sheer drop into the sea.

IMG_1453

Tracing our steps back, we spotted what seemed like a well worn path and took that.

IMG_1452Eventually we spotted the cliff edge and beyond that, what appeared to be Anchor Bay.  Spot on: there it was.

IMG_1455

However, this wasn’t straightforward as there were signs along the cliff edge saying keep out and danger, so following the edge wasn’t an option.  Instead we could see the back of Popeye Village in the distance, so we headed for it, hoping to find a way in.

The place looked shut to be honest and there was no obvious entrance, so we climbed over a small gate and we were in!

IMG_1461

Making our way to the official entrance, we were relieved to find a coffee shop (excellent espresso).

We were not the only visitors.  Sicily’s version of Hell’s Angels had come over for the day on the ferry and all their Harleys were parked up!  We enjoyed giving them a send off.

IMG_1468

The view over to Anchor Bay is absolutely amazing.  The Popeye film set is now a kiddies attraction, but pretty nonetheless.

IMG_1463

The weather was cool enough for running, but from May to September, I don’t think I could do it.  I will come back in Spring again no doubt.

IMG_1437 (2)

 

 

 

Tenby Under Moody Skies

DSCF0416.JPG

Tenby is a gorgeous place for a weekend getaway: beautiful beaches, quirky shops and cafes and the South Wales coast on your doorstep for you to explore.

DSCF0408.JPG

We spent four days there in the winter months.  Everything was deserted but beautiful nonetheless.

DSCF0412.JPG

Aside from a couple of dog walkers, I think we were the only people on the beach.

DSCF0414.JPG

The town itself is picture box pretty.  Set within ancient walls are a myriad of shops and cafes which kept us amused when the rain came!

DSCF0417

The harbour is famous for it’s higgledy piggledy ice cream coloured houses which even on a grey day looked fabulous!

We used it as a base to visit nearby Saundersfoot (excellent fish & chips on the front!) and St David’s with its magnificent cathedral.

Well worth a visit.

What To Pack For Marrakech

We visited in March when the weather can be very unpredictable – it was 30 degrees when we arrived but by the end of the week, plunged to eight degrees at night.  This is not a dressy place so a casual wardrobe is the way to go. I was strongly tempted to go full on boho, but decided to temper my choices to be age appropriate.  I can keep my boho stuff for yoga classes!

IMG_1213

These are my top tips for what to wear:

  • I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, but take sensible shoes.  I have a pair of superlight trainers which take up little space or weight in your 20 kg Sensimar Thomson allowance, and although not particularly stylish, save a lot of heartache in the long run.  Wearing trainers allows you to properly explore – so just do it!  Having said that, there’s no way my fashion sense would let me travel in them.
  • Travel in mules – easy to slip off for security and I pack a pair of cosy socks to wear once we are in flight.  My mules are silver, go with everything and are the only pair of shoes I needed for evenings.  Mine are from Dune.
  • Daytime ‘hanging out’ shoes are my silver Office sliders – metallics just go with everything and these take me from pool to lunch, to a short walk out.  I wouldn’t walk more than three miles in them, but I have my trainers for that.
  • A long tunic style shirt for sightseeing – keeps you cool and is modest.  Mine is by East.
  • DSCN1708 (3)
  • Pool wear – to be honest, I’m not much of a sun lover, but do take one cossie, one bikini and a sarong which is more than adequate for the amount of time I spend by the pool.
  • A cardi – it’s cool at night.  I always travel with a cashmere cardi which I wear on the plane with a large cashmere scarf that doubles as a blanket.  Mine is a burgundy colour from Isle.
  • Jeans: one blue, one white.  These are great for casual evening dressing and I just take a couple of pretty tops in silk or cotton.  My favourite, pictured, is orange silk from Monsoon.
  • One dress.  You never know when a dressy opportunity may present itself, so I have a Phase Eight black stretch dress which rolls up crease free for packing.  It doesn’t matter if I don’t wear it, but it’s a useful option.
  • Now, I did say not too much boho, but I did indulge a bit with a fringed, embroidered kimono which was useful for covering up when out and about.  Morocco is a Muslim country and it’s important to be respectful and not flash too much flesh, so this was perfect.  It’s advised to keep your shoulders covered when out, so anything light over a vest top would work.

 

DSCN1692 (2)

  • I would never wear shorts, but my advice if you do, would be keep them knee length.
  • My khaki walking pants – not a great look, but I don’t go walking on holiday without them.  Light as a feather and don’t show the dirt!
  • I carried my trusty leather hobo bag and it was perfect: you need lots of space for shopping!  I bought this in New York last year and worried about the pale colour, but it really is so useful.

IMG_1253.JPG

  • A teeny shoulder bag.  Enough to carry my iPhone and to keep over my shoulder when in the hotel.

That’s pretty much it for clothes – I didn’t take much jewellery (and nothing of value) as I knew I would buy some bits in the souks – which of course I did.  I also succumbed to some rather lovely slippers.  Happy packing!

IMG_1322.JPG

 

 

Marrakech for Softies

I have wanted to see Marrakech since Michael Palin’s Sahara programme back in the nineties.  This desire was fuelled by Pinterest pictures of fabulous architecture and blog posts about getting lost in the souks.  I finally got my way last month and we touched down in the amazing modern airport full of excitement.

DSCN1709.JPG

Our excitement was tempered somewhat by a two hour queue to get through passport control (yes, seriously) and by the time we got to the hotel we were wondering what we had let ourselves in for.  However, the next morning, the city was revealed in all its shabby chic glory.  Here are my best bits:

DSCN1708 (3)

The Marjorelle Gardens

IMG_1268

I’ve written a full blog post about this which you can read herehere.  So inspirational and it has given me lots of ideas for my own garden.

The Artisan Market

IMG_1253.JPG

Next door to our hotel and perfect for shopping if you don’t like haggling.  I bought most of my stuff here.  The tiles in this place are just gorgeous.  You pay a little bit more than the souks, but saves a lot of hassle if you are a hopeless haggler like me.  They did a mean mint tea too.

The Souks

DSCN1726

Amazing warren of tiny alleyways – we toured with a guide as I wasn’t adventurous enough to risk getting lost.  You can buy almost anything here including wrought iron, leather goods, spices and clothing.

Jemaa el Fnaa

The main square is a cacophony of people shouting; trance like music; and people approaching you with anything from snakes, to monkeys to henna tattoos.  Kids pestered us to buy tissues and were quite persistent.  We escaped to the Café de France to watch the chaos from afar with a mint tea.

DSCN1753.JPG

The storks at the Badi palace

At about 25 minutes walk from our hotel (with quite a bit of pestering along the way) this was an easy DIY option.  We had a pop out map with us, but the huge storks’s nest on the ramparts could be seen from afar, so no danger of getting lost.  I loved this place with its souk and these huge amazing birds just flying around above you.

DSCN1715

 

The whole experience was memorable to say the least – despite us taking the easy option!

DSCN1714.JPG

Sensimar Medina Gardens, Marrakech: Hotel Review

Marrakech has been on my bucket list for years, but Steve has never been keen.  However, in the spirit of ‘just do it’ he agreed, in a weak moment, to spend a week at the Medina Gardens which is located within the Medina and close to all the action.  We chose this hotel for a few reasons.  Firstly, it is all inclusive and great value for money.  We don’t mind paying for all inclusive then eating out too – it doesn’t work out that expensive, plus you are limited for places to drink alcohol outside of the hotel, which is fair enough.  Secondly, this is a way to do ‘Marrakech light’ if you like, a namby pamby way to see all the sights without full immersion in the culture. Thirdly, the location really appealed to us as we like to walk everywhere if we can when on holiday and everything is literally on your doorstep.  I will write about Marrakech soon, but concentrating just on the hotel, this is what we thought.

IMG_1238

The gardens are fabulous!  The air is heavily scented with neroli from the orange trees which were in blossom during our March visit.

IMG_1257

 

All the herbs for the kitchen are grown in the gardens which is great to see.

IMG_1265

They have pet tortoises which are partial to a banana smuggled out of breakfast.

IMG_1234

The food was fabulous – if you like tagines and veggie dishes with lots of pulses, this is for you.  It suited me perfectly. The wine is a bit on the rough and ready side – it was called Kasbah (of course it was!) and we found the rose to be the most palatable.  Steve couldn’t get on with the beer at all.

IMG_1223

Our room was a garden room, so no view, but it was adequate.  I have to say there were maintenance issues – the wall light fell off, the wardrobe doors stuck, coming perilously close to preventing a change of clothes, and the sink had a tendency to block.  We fondly dubbed it Fawlty Towers, but it was OK really.

IMG_1208

The service was on the whole, poor.  Hard to get a drink in the bar.  Another downside was that although our holiday started in thirty degree heat, later in the week the temperature plunged to eight degrees at night and there was limited space to sit and chat indoors.

IMG_1213

The Thomson rep service was good and nothing was too much trouble.  We very rarely go to a welcome meeting because we like to make our own mistakes (ha ha) but this time, we took planned trips to make sure we didn’t miss anything.

At dusk, sitting around the pool and hearing the call to prayer from the Koutoubia Mosque I have to say it was quite magical.

If you are looking for an easy way to see Marrakech then you could do worse than give this a try.IMG_1219

 

 

 

 

Marrakesh: Majorelle Garden

IMG_1282

We visited this amazing garden last month.  The blue and mustard has really inspired me!

IMG_1268

There is running water everywhere.

IMG_1286

The planting and the architecture complement each other beautifully.

IMG_1294

The Moorish influence is clear to see, but the whole is very modern.

IMG_1298

We took mint tea in the little café.

IMG_1281

This mustard colour inspired me to buy a leather pouffe for my living room.

IMG_1314

There are cats everywhere in Marrakesh

IMG_1270

These huge bamboos were so smooth to the touch!

Just one of the many inspiring things we came across on our trip.  I would love to go back.