Browsing Tag

Travel

Beach Travel

Hyatt Place Taghazout Bay

November 5, 2015
Hyatt Place Taghazout Bay

Hyatt Place Taghazout Bay

Last month I was lucky enough to travel to Morocco with work, alongside some amazing travel bloggers and competition winners from the UK and France. With a weekend of sun, tagines and souk visits ahead of us, we flew out to Agadir and travelled onto Taghazout Bay, a small town on the south-western coast of Morocco.

Within easy reach of Marrakech and a drive along the coast from the resort of Essaouira the area attracts surfers and sun seekers alike, and was the perfect spot to unwind. The weather was incredible whilst we were there, and I genuinely couldn’t believe we were only a 3.5 hour flight away from the grey and miserable London we’d left behind. I can’t stress enough what a novelty it was to drag my shorts and sandals out from the depths of my wardrobe and forget about thick winter tights for a few days. For anyone desperate for a bit of winter sun (as I so often am at this time of year) Morocco is absolutely the place to visit, with temperatures often in the mid 20s into November.

Our hotel for the weekend, the Hyatt Place Taghazout Bay, was beautiful and genuinely one of the most instagrammable places I’ve ever been. Every area was beautifully decorated, from the palms and pillows by the pool to the details in the bedroom or unexpected touches in the lobby areas. Needless to say I took an alarming amount of photos in the time we were there, and I won’t mention how long it took to reduce them down for this post.

The hotel has free wifi (priorities), a gym, sauna, restaurant, free breakfast for all guests and an outdoor cafe and cocktail bar. Each evening we sat out by the pool watching the most incredible sunsets whilst sipping on pina coladas and enjoyed working our way through the menu – the meat tagine was amazing and nice to tick off the list. It may not surprise you to hear we never made it to the gym but it seemed a good size and well equipped, although you could make like our more active travel companions and head off into the mountains for a hike in the sunshine instead.

From a warm welcome and Moroccan tea on arrival to arranging poolside BBQs and tips on the local area, every single member of staff went out of their way to accommodate and make the trip special. I got the sense that everyone was genuinely happy to be there and happy to help – which doesn’t come across in every hotel you visit – and I had some lovely conversations with members of the team who told me how much they loved working in such a beautiful place.

Looking at these photos on a cold and rainy December evening I literally cannot wait to go back and explore more of Morocco next year. I’ve always wanted to visit Marrakech so would love to combine a city break there followed by a few days relaxing by the sea here in Taghazout Bay. I couldn’t fit all of my many (many) photos into this post so will post again with an update on the excursions the hotel can arrange in the area, including a trip to the local souk in Agadir and an amazing trip through the mountains on quad bikes!

You can see reviews from some of the other guests here:
The lovely Solli from Solli’s Lifestyle gives her take on the trip here
Anna Cossack took some beautiful pictures for her blog here
See how Emilie from Lovaine.co.uk took advantage of the great surfing in the area here

Emma x

We stayed at the Hyatt Place Taghazout Bay on a comp basis so another massive thank you to the team for having us and making our stay so special. All opinions expressed are an honest review of the hotel and entirely my own.

Style Travel

Travel inspiration with Meriko London

November 2, 2015
Meriko London

Meriko London was founded by jewellery designer Meri Hovsepyan in 2013. Originally from Armenia, Meri’s work is inspired by her travels and her love of nature, with each collection named after destinations that reflect her pieces. I caught up with Meri to talk travel inspiration, jewellery design and business advice – and left with a serious case of wanderlust!

You left Armenia when you were 13 years old. What are your fondest memories of being there?
My fondest memories are the people. Armenians are so warm and hospitable; even if you go to the home of someone with little money they will lay a table for you with the last of their food! In general, my childhood spent in Armenia was special. I was there until I was 13 and I always look back at my memories of playing with my friends in kindergarten and school with fondest memories and nostalgia.

What recommendations would you have for anyone looking to travel to Armenia? What about the area do you love the most? 
Armenia is known as an ‘open air museum’. There is so much to see, including many historical monuments and churches. Armenia adopted Christianity formally in 301 so you are never short of an ancient church or ten to see each day – they really are works of art.

My favourite place is Lake Sevan, about one and a half hour’s drive from the capital Yerevan. The colour of the lake is just stunning; it’s light turquoise in colour and later on became the inspiration for my jewellery designs. I remember as a child every time going there with my family, and how as soon as I could see the lake my heart would beat so fast from the excitement.

You’ve lived in a lot of places over the years – from Armenia and Moscow to London and Spain! Which place has had the most influence on who you are today?
It’s hard to choose between London and Spain. You can’t beat the thrill and fast paced excitement of life in London; the energy and pulse of life there never leaves you. London has it all – from history and culture, to the latest in art and design… it’s a jewellery designer’s dream as inspiration is on every street corner. As for Spain, or at least the South of Spain where we have a home and I spend a lot of time, that’s the very opposite and it truly nourishes my soul. Where London wakes me up, Spain chills me out. From my bedroom window I can see mountains on one side and the sparkling Med on the other. I can take my son to the old town in the morning, the beach in the afternoon and in the evening go to the huge array of fiestas and parties that seem to go on every night in the summer. I wake up each morning smiling because the sun is always shining and the air is always clear.

You’ve mentioned that travel and nature are your biggest inspirations. What impact have these had on the pieces you produce for Meriko London and which destination has been your greatest inspiration to date?
Other than Spain, which as you can tell brought me closer to nature and inspired my Gold Coast collection, I would say that California holds a special place in my heart too. It’s such a visually beautiful place… in fact it is quite Mediterranean in places. The surrounding areas of LA such as Orange County (Laguna Beach, Long Beach) and Santa Barbara are so, so pretty.

Where in the world would you love to travel to next and why?
I love all things Latin and I am dying to go to Cuba and Mexico. I love colour! And these places seem to be teeming with it. I love countries where the people are warm and the weather even warmer; where the food is delicious and art and culture is all around you. I can’t wait to get to Salsa and Samba in the streets of Cuba one day, and hopefully come away with some inspiration for a new collection.

At what point did you know you wanted to be a jewellery designer?
I can’t remember wanting to be anything else! As a small child I could watch my father make fine jewellery all day. Precious stones and gems were like toys to me, instead of learning colours out of a book I was introduced to the colour blue by being taught the difference between turquoise, lapis and aquamarine stones.  I specifically got my degree in Art History to understand the evolution of design, and then went on to study accountancy and business… the perfect stepping stones toward my vocational nirvana. Which is where I am now.

What advice would you give someone looking to start their own business?
Do your research, because it takes a lot of investment – both time and money, so you need to know exactly the direction you are going in. Know your competitors as well as you know yourself, and get to grips with the changing face of technology and social media, because without it no one will know who you are. It’s also important to surround yourself with the right team – you don’t know everything, so make sure you work with people that are knowledgeable, trustworthy and as passionate about your brand as you are. It’s not easy, and even when it looks like it’s all for nothing keep soldiering on as you never know if your big break will be tomorrow.

And for someone who’d love to work in jewellery design?

Remember, everyone out there is already bigger and more successful than you… so make sure you really have a passion for what you do or it will show in your work. Stay on top of the game – be creative, innovative and unique in everything you do. I truly believe that when you love your work, never give up and stay hopeful…good things happen. Well I hope they will!

Your top tip for travel:
Insider knowledge. I believe you won’t ever truly experience a place if you don’t live it like a local. So immerse yourself in the culture, language, food and customs. Make friends with local people who will show you the unseen parts of where you are. That’s when you go from being a tourist to being a true adventurer.

Meri’s newest collection, Colorado Escape, is now available online at www.merikolondon.com and through stockists in London, Madrid, Malaga and New York.

City Travel

Hotel Saint-Louis Marais, Paris

September 29, 2015
Le Marais

Travel is good for the soul, I genuinely believe that. You can workout every day of the week and eat your bodyweight in superfoods, but experiencing somewhere new and escaping the everyday can invigorate you in a way no spin class can. If I had it my way I’d live in a different AirBnb apartment every month and travel the world, but for now city breaks and weeks by the sea keep me happy and satisfy my every growing wanderlust…

So it feels only right that I share with you here some of my favourite places – the places that complement my quest for balance and do for my wellbeing what a barre class does for my calf muscles…

I really, really love Paris. Whenever I visit I come over all ‘Amélie’ and get carried away with the romance of it all – the red lipstick and breton stripes come out, I instantly wish I had a chic brown bob, and extra thought goes into my somewhat scruffy London uniform. Much the same occurred earlier this month when I took my boyfriend to the city for a birthday trip (Paris in Spring is beautiful – I can’t recommend it enough) and previously last summer when I travelled to the city with my mum and my sister for a long weekend.

Every time I’ve visited I’ve been lucky enough to stay in the Marais, the most lovely area in my opinion. Some visitor guides will tell you to avoid the Marais at certain times, warning how packed it can be on a Sunday when the rest of Paris is typically having a rest. Whilst this may be true, I absolutely love the business of the area – the buzz of the crooked medieval streets, the vintage shops, the galleries and the beautiful architecture. Living in East London, it felt almost like a home-from-home when I arrived (albeit a far chicer, prettier one) and I instantly wanted to explore.

We stayed in the most beautiful hotel whilst we were there, just off of the river and a ten minute walk from Notre Dame. The Hotel Saint-Louis Marais on Rue Charles V is perfectly placed between the buzz of the Marais cafe culture and the equally lovely Ile Saint Louis, another of my favourite spots. We spent a lot of time exploring the local area, trying out the coffee shops and wandering aimlessly through the pretty streets.

I’d recommend the hotel as a base to explore the city, and can vouch for the third floor bedrooms being worth the extra 20 euros! Throwing open the windows from the top floor and peering out across the rooftops certainly lived up to my ‘pretending to be Parisian’ fantasy… and yes, red lipstick was involved.

If you’re looking for things to do in the neighbourhood once you’ve finished your café glacé (I had a lot of these), the Place des Vosges is around a ten minute walk away from the hotel and is said to be one of the prettiest squares in the whole of Paris. It really is beautiful, and although busy in the late summer sunshine, it also felt incredibly peaceful.

Food-wise you’re spoilt for choice, but L’As du Falafel is a must-see on rue des Rosiers, and Miss Manon on rue St-Antoine was our favourite spot for breakfast.

You can read more about Hotel Saint-Louis Marais and the local area on the hotel’s website, which also has a great list of recommended restaurants and bars.

Emma x

Beach Travel

Agios Nikolaos, Peloponnese

August 27, 2015

Greece has always been my favourite place to explore – from treks up volcanoes in Santorini with only flip flops between my feet and the burning sand (bad choice of footwear here), to BBQs on pirate ships and quad biking across Corfu. Inappropriate shoes aside, there is no culture I love more, no food that comes close to my love of tzatziki, and no other place I’d rather spend a relaxing week in the sun. And luckily for us, in the tiny fishing village of Agios Nikolaos you’d be hard pressed to do anything but.

This was my first trip to the mainland, and I can genuinely say it was the most beautiful part of the country I’ve visited yet. Whilst the likes of Santorini and Mykonos might be the headliners when it comes to picturesque settings and whitewashed walls, the undiscovered beauty of this quiet, traditional village was unlike anywhere else I’ve been. So I’m sharing the love for my new favourite hideaway with my top reasons to visit the beautiful Agios Nikolaos.

You can really, really get away from it all
No, really – we quickly learnt that there was only one place in the village with wifi that actually worked. At first it feels impossible to wind down from the stress of the office and the constant buzz of London, but when your nearest neighbouring village is an hour’s walk along the coast and your biggest worry is which taverna to drink your next Mythos in, life gets simpler.

Almost two hours drive from the airport through mountains that resemble Jurassic Park, when you reach this sleepy village you’ll realise things run at a much slower pace, and quite frankly it’s better that way. You also can’t help but notice how untouched the area seems. Sure, there’s tourists in the tavernas and Brits drinking the odd beer on the marina after dinner, but Kavos this is not.

Pack a pile of books, pick a favourite cafe, and forget the rest of the world even exists.

You can watch your dinner being caught each morning
Okay, so you might need to wake up a little earlier than your average holiday brunch (how does sunrise sound?), but if you make it out on time you can see the local fisherman leaving the harbour to catch the evening’s meal. From what we could tell most of the restaurants serve whatever has come straight from the sea hours earlier, and it genuinely doesn’t get fresher than that. With most fish dishes served simply grilled and covered in lemon juice, it’s an authentic experience you’ll want to repeat every night.

You’ll eat incredible food
I’ve been to a fair few Greek resorts, and as much as I’ve always found beautiful places to eat at in each, there’s also usually a few spots that miss the mark. We tried almost every taverna whilst here, and every evening dinner was incredible. Try Hidden Garden on the harbour for sardines and souvlaki, Veusuvious for stuffed peppers and mounds of taztiki, or Gregg’s for an authentic home-made buffet – serving traditional dishes including meatballs, fried fish and greek salad. Even better, you’d struggle to spend more than 25 euros on dinner for two, including wine and beer.

Tip: If you’re on a budget, try the two euro gyros at the cafe next to Medusa – they’re really good. In fact, even if you’re feeling flush I’d still give these a go.

You can look at the view above whilst lying in a hammock
If you ask nicely, the waitress at Cafe Lithos will even bring you a frappé to sip on as you wonder whether life has ever been this good. I got a bit carried away here, and spent hours sitting on the harbourside daydreaming and instagramming the view (yes, this is the one place in the village with decent wifi). If there was a single place in the world I had to name as my favourite, it would be this very spot.

Where in Greece would you most recommend? I’m already planning next year’s trip!

Emma x

Beach Travel

Things women do on beach holidays

August 20, 2015

… that we don’t always admit.

1. Pack things you will never, ever need
A beach holiday in 40 degree heat, you say? Better have an emergency jumper at hand. Or what if you randomly decide to go to a nightclub in this tiny, quiet fishing village? Then you’ll wish you’d packed the second pair of heels. Or you might all of a sudden fancy wearing the necklace you bought four years ago for a night out and haven’t looked at since. What if the mood takes you? WHAT THEN? Better safe than sorry you decide, and pack the entire collection.

2. Drink alcohol at the airport at any time of day or night 
So what that it’s 5am on a Tuesday morning and the bartender is eyeing you disapprovingly – you’re on holiday! This also applies to the trip home – technically still on holiday.

3. Diet for months and then eat like a horse the second you land
The 5:2 diet’s been going well, you’ve lost six pounds and you’ve finally been able to squeeze into last year’s denim cut offs – hurrah! But now you’re on holiday and it’s time to let loose. Two days in, four pina coladas, a carafe of wine and six hearty meals down, and you’re back to square one. At least you felt good on the plane.

4. Pray there will be sunshine when you open the curtains
Let’s face it – other than to relax and catch up on a bit of reading, you come on a beach holiday to tan (safely of course – as Bas would say, always wear sunscreen). It hasn’t rained in the resort for seven and a half weeks and the forecast is brilliant sun for the next month, yet each morning you hold your breath and pray for sun behind those curtains.

5. Check out other women on the beach
You could be comparing anything – tan lines, boob size, attractiveness of boyfriend, choice of drink… you name it. Are you sweatier/more dimpled/less tanned? There’s a lot to deliberate when you’re lying on a sunbed with not a care in the world (except for the fact that your tan is far patchier than hers). In fact, let’s not limit it to women – you’re nosey when it comes to anyone at the beach.

6. Make sure there is always someone further out than you in the sea so that a shark would go for them over you
Always thinking strategically whilst in the water, you ensure there is someone further from the shore than you at all times, just in case a Great White decides to make an appearance. Yes, it’s the Mediterranean and they don’t really get sharks, but you’d rather the chap swimming further out found out about it first if one did appear.

7. Check your tan lines in the bathroom mirror
What is it about bathroom mirrors? In every apartment in every resort you’ve ever been to, you look ten times darker in the bathroom mirror after a long day at the beach. Step out of the shower, check out your tan, continue.

8. Take balcony outfit photos in the ‘flattering evening light’
In the same vein, your tan also looks much deeper just before sunset so you take this opportunity to snap away on the balcony before dinner. The same pose every night in a carefully curated outfit, designed to bring out your darkening colour the most effectively. Everybody does it – and only the best will make it into the holiday Facebook album.

9. Detest using sun cream on a sandy beach
Annoyance sets in as you attempt to rub sun cream into your slightly pink and incredibly sandy skin. The more you rub the more sand covers your body, in a never-ending fight to keep the tiny particles from the bottle of Garnier. Will it ever come off? It’s not rubbing off. You’re starting to panic.

10. Silently curse people who left their towels out on beds before breakfast
Mainly because you forgot to do it yourself this morning. How selfish of them.

How many of these are you guilty of?

Emma x