Friday, 26 April 2013

Reaching for the Moon

It's wonderful when you come across something from your favourite artist's back catalogue that you haven't seen before- I just stumbled upon this beautiful film made by Wendy Bevan for Italian Marie Claire back in 2010. There's even a pug in it! The voice is Wendy's too- you can find my review of her show The Pain of Desire here- as you'll read, I was totally blown away.
You can also check out interviews I did last week with fantastic singers Kate Nash and VV Brown. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Morocco: Oranges and Roses, Earth and Water

I'm a huge nature documentary fan, so I adored the recent BBC programme 'Africa'. What I found most interesting about it was that many of the habitats we saw were not what we'd automatically associate with the continent- there's so much more to it than just deserts and savannah. Similarly, Morocco doesn't feel like you might imagine Africa to feel- both in terms of the architecture with all it's mediterranean and middle-eastern influences, and in terms of the landscape itself. It really felt like something of an 'Eden', with gardens and water celebrated everywhere; roses in the hammams and real freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast every day. Orange blossom water was even added to our mojitos one evening for a Moroccan twist on the classic cocktail recipe, and it's also a standard ingredient in local beauty treatments, like the argan oil below that you can get from Essence of Morocco online.

In traditional Moroccan riads, the rooms all open onto the central atrium space where there would usually be a few orange or lemon trees, and a water feature. The water not only acts as a natural air-conditioning mechanism, but it also absorbs some of the noise, which was useful when more than one family was sharing a riad. These days, even modern hotels have incorporated this traditional feature into their reception areas, gardens and hammams. We often found roses floating in these water features too; rose water being another common ingredient in both the cuisine and the beauty products in Morocco.

       Sofitel Rabat

Magazan Beach Resort- you can get Moroccan Rose body butter here in the UK at The Body Shop.

    The spa at The Sofitel Rabat

This blue and green hammam at the Sofitel in Rabat was my favourite- the tiles everywhere in Morocco were so beautiful- Kate was particularly good at instagramming the best ones which you can see on her blog here. They made me really want to invest in some good prints- Charlotte Taylor's pieces would have looked perfect in Morocco.

More oranges in the gardens inside Kasbah des Oudaias in Rabat

The first hotel we arrived at in Morocco was the palatial Magazan Beach Resort- my fellow blogger Alex got much better pictures than I did which you can see on her blog here. To be honest, it was all a bit huge for me- I like my hotels to be more intimate and homely- but one lovely element of it was their farm- yes, this hotel has its own farm! It was a beautiful site where children visiting could go to play with the baby animals (we saw chicks, lambs and bunnies- see a lovely shot of them on Lela's blog here!) and grown-ups can pick the mint for their mojitos!

 Back in Casablanca, we stopped by the stunning Cafe Maure which had a beautiful garden and tiled water feature.

More gorgeous tiles in the Hammam in Sofitel Casablanca

The Hammam in Hotel & Spa Le Doge- a gorgeous boutique hotel with themed rooms- including  'Josephine Baker' and 'Coco Chanel' suites and an intimate rooftop garden.

I'm now saving up to indulge in a hammam treatment here in London- The Spa in Dolphin Square has some lovely sounding Moroccan rituals.

The hammam below the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca
You can also have your own hammam at home with a block of rose Hammam soap from Toast (one of my favourite companies, who now have a flagship store in London. I particularly love the Toast Travels blog ) and the now famous Moroccan Oil. I've always steered clear of the latter because I have such fine hair that gets greasy very easily but I've been told the light version is perfect for that, so I'm going to be giving it a try soon!

I was a guest of the Moroccan Tourism board and Royal Air Maroc- with thanks to Sofitel Casablanca and Rabat, and the Magazan Beach Resort.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Kasbah in Rabat

One of the things I really loved about Morocco was the mix of cultures; sometimes I felt like I was in Africa, other times Spain, or the Middle East, whilst everyone spoke French. Then there was the kasbah in Rabat; which looked like it had been plucked off a Greek island and placed on the north coast of Morocco!
I've said this before, but I'll say it again: I love how interesting even the most mundane things are in other countries- I thought this street sign was beautiful.

Apparently they use the colour blue because mosquitos hate it!

One day I'd love to have a blue and white kitchen with beautiful Moroccan tiles in it. I'm saving up for these books:
If you're interested in Interior Design, you should definitely check out  Fabric of my Life by Kate Baxter who was also on the trip.

I was a guest of the Moroccan Tourism board and Royal Air Maroc.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Dominica- A week in Paradise.

In February my boyfriend and I went to stay at Rosalie Bay Resort on the island of Dominica. We chose the Caribbean as we were desperate for some winter sun- and this was before we knew that this winter was going to be such a long, cold one!
You might remember I went to the Caribbean last winter with my family - but this time I saw a completely different side of it. Forget the stereotypical clear sea and white beaches of postcards and Bond movies and prepare to experience the diversity of the real Caribbean, boasting thick forests, volcanic mountains and deep blue waves crashing against sparkling black shores. Even the swimming pool at Rosalie Bay is lined with black onyx to fit in with the natural surroundings. This eco boutique resort is built on the site of an old coconut plantation where the Rosalie river meets the ocean. Ancient cedars and palms still line the beachfront where crabs scuttle between the fallen coconuts. Dominica well deserves it's reputation as the Caribbean's 'Nature Isle'- expect visits from curious hummingbirds and kingfishers by the pool, and at the right time of year you can witness turtles nesting and hatching on the beach, less than 30 feet from your bedroom window.
Our room was in this building, about 30 feet from the sea!

 If you fancy some more strenuous exercise, the resort runs hikes through the forests of Morne Trois Pitons national park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or you can opt for a more leisurely stroll to the nearby Emerald pool to swim beneath a picture-perfect waterfall.


Excuse how bad these pics are- they're just stills from my flipcam!
Sperm whales and dolphins can be spotted off the coast most of the year- in February we were told there was a 90% chance of seeing the mammals, and we ended up with half a dozen sightings.

Back on shore there's just as much to see in the island's capital Roseau, especially over Carnival when the streets come to life with colourful costumes, contagious dancing and delicious street food.

How gorgeous are these women?! And the costumes were all incredible- so colourful and creative.

The secret of Dominica's unspoilt beauty may lie in what some might consider to be it's downfall- the local airport is tiny so you won't get a direct flight there, you'll need to fly to one of the bigger islands like Antigua and then get a local flight or ferry. (I'd also recommend only taking hand luggage as they lost all the luggage on the connecting plane between Antigua and Dominica!).
The extra effort this requires is completely validated as soon as you reach the island's shores, for Dominica is a rare example of the unspoilt Caribbean some claim to be a thing of the past. But I'm pleased to report that it's still going strong, and Rosalie Bay is the perfect place to experience it. A new spa is currently being finished, including a massage platform built in the branches of a tree, whilst the old spa will be transformed into a dedicated yoga centre. The organic cuisine is very health-conscious without being remotely reminiscent of 'rabbit food'; think lobster, mussels and fresh fish with local vegetables, brown rice and plenty of fruit.

The outdoor showers at the spa backed onto the jungle- I was slightly worried about any peeping-Tom monkeys, but I had my shower undisturbed!
Here I am wrapped up in a duvet when Ib (my boyfriend) and I got up to watch the sunrise on our last day. It was pretty perfect.

Disclaimer: My stay at Rosalie Bay was complimentary as I was reviewing it for Beach Tomato.  It was honestly so great though, I wanted to include it here too.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Moroccan Bazaar

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll probably have noticed that I was in Morocco last week- you can see the Instagram pics by everyone on the trip by searching the hashtag #MoroccoInStyle. I've never been there before- a statement which always makes people say, 'WHAT?!You'd love it!' And they were right. We went to Mazagan, Casablanca (above) and Rabat- yes, there's more to Morocco than Marrakech! I can't wait to share details of my trip with you- as usual I took a lot of my photographs with analogue film on my lomokino and my Diana, so I'll be posting those as soon as they're developed.
But in the meantime, I wanted to let you know about a Warehouse sale being held by Moroccan Bazaar - basically the closest you can get to souk shopping here in the UK. There'll be up to 60% off from 11am to 4pm; I've got my eye on a few of the things I couldn't carry back from Morocco, including the blue and white ceramics, a tagine (we ate the most delicious lemon chicken tagine in Rabat) and this Moroccan leather handbag.
I'd also love a set of Moroccan tea glasses- we were served the sweet, Moroccan mint tea everywhere we went. And lastly, a Moroccan teapot; the Sofitel in Casablanca served us mojitos in one of these- a practice I'm keen to instigate as a household tradition!

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