Photo at Anantara Qasr Al Sarab

5 Top places to visit in 2017.  Well, this is based on my recent Travels rather than all time favourites. I would find it impossible to choose five, wouldn’t you?

VENICE

I know, everyone loves Venice but that it is because it is one of the best places to visit in the world!  Venice has everything from beautiful architecture, magical ambiance, excellent shops, interesting museums and so many art galleries you will never see them all!

Iconic Venice, I will never tire of visiting this magical city

Avoid high season, is my biggest tip!  Treat yourself to a water taxi, by far the best way to see everything.  Avoid the touristy Gondoliers and take a fabulous Riva Water taxi.  However you can avoid the crowds by staying off the well worn tourist route, they generally do not stray very far!  Read all about Venice in my Venice blog.

PALAWAN ISLANDS, The Philippines

El Nido Islands, Palawan, The Philippines

If you want to take a long haul trip, I really recommend visiting the islands of The Philippines.  They are not called the most beautiful in the world without good reason.  Yes, it is a bit of a trek to get there but well worth it.  Go now before the world discovers them and they become spoiled.  Avoid the more touristy Boracay and head to Palawan.

Read my blog to find out where I stayed and more information.

ABU DHABI

Regular readers will know how much I love Abu Dhabi and visit every year!  Don’t just use it as a stop over, stay and see the country.  I particularly like the Liwa desert and stayed at the Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Hotel for the second time.  The desert is a very special place and it is nice to enjoy the luxurious surroundings of the hotel.Liwa Desert, Abu Dhabi, UAE

You will enjoy the city of Abu Dhabi too, there is so much to see and do, including the Sheikh Zayed Mosque which is awe inspiring.  I loved staying at the world famous Emirates Palace hotel Read my blog for more information.

Emirates Palace Private Beach

If you stay at Emirates Palace, I promise you will never want to leave!  However, get out and explore the country in a hire car.  It is perfectly safe to drive and you will feel very comfortable and safe driving anywhere in Abu Dhabi.  Almost impossible to get lost too.

MOROCCO

Atlas Mountains of Morocco

My latest discovery!  Indeed, I am already planning a return trip. Explore Marrakesh and the Atlas Mountains.  Read my blogs to discover more details, see the HOME page at the top.  Marrakesh was a delight and so much nicer than I expected, perfect for a few days short trip if you are travelling from europe.

The Medina in Marakesh

Explore the Medina, Majorelle Gardens eat delicious Moroccan meals and so much more.

Cote d’Azur France:

Cap Martin, Roquebrune Cap Martin, France

I know, I live here part of the year and so am a little biased but please come and visit! You will love it.  Monaco is one of the safest places to be and you will enjoy a trip very much.  Again read my blogs on the subject for more information.

MonacoDon’t forget to visit Monaco or stay a while during your trip. There are wonderful hotels, great events throughout the year, terrific restaurants and so much to see or do.  Enjoy the beautiful weather and beaches too!  Avoid high season on the Cote d’azur and Monaco would be my top tip.  High season is during July and August.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kasbah Bab Ourika

What a way to end my Diva Road Trip around Morocco! I loved a short stay at Kasbah Bab Ourika in the Atlas Mountains, overlooking the Ourika Valley and will be back.  We drove from Essaouira to the Kasbah enjoying the sights and sounds of rural Morocco along the way.

The Kasbah has a magical setting in breathtaking mountain scenery.  It is a joy to relax, unwind and breath in the mountain air.  The perfect retreat after a hectic stay in the Medina of Essouaira.

Gardens at Kasbah Bab Ourika

The setting and the gardens are a highlight here.  What a treat to find such beautiful gardens high up in the mountains!  Enjoy the outdoor swimming Pool and Hammam.  I stayed in a suite decorated in a simple Berber style, making good use of local materials and fabric.  Simple but chic.

Enjoy a mountain view from the bed in the morning, open the doors and step out into a sweet little private garden to enjoy your morning tea!

Private little Garden outside the suite at Kasbah Bab Ourika

We asked for twin beds but there was the option of a larger bed. The bathroom with a shower was simple but functional.

Bedroom at Kasbah Bab Ourika

Enjoy meals in the charming Courtyard restaurant.

Charming Restaurant setting

We enjoyed breakfast on the terrace and tried a Berber Omelette, which was delicious and you should try when you visit.

Terrace for Breakfast

Hiking:

I would definitely recommend a hike with a local guide arranged by the Kasbah.  Hassan was a wonderful guide for our two hour hike followed by lunch in a Berber house cooked by a Berber family which was delicious and a very unique experience.

Views of the Atlas Mountains on my hike

The food was delicious and vegetarian as we requested.  Definitely a terrific experience!

Walking through Berber Village

Lunch with a Berber family

My drive back to Marrakesh airport was very easy and straight forward and it took me 45 minutes.  Kasbah Bab Ourika is a lovely mountain retreat but within easy access of Marrakesh.  I would recommend hiring a car and driving yourself around in Morocco, we were 2 women and felt safe and happy for the entire trip.  The people of Morocco are a delight.

Kasbah Bab Ourika

Information:

Kasbah Hab Ourika, Ourika Valley, Tnin Ourika, Morocco tel: +212668749547

http://www.kasbahbabourika.com

 

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Beautiful Atlas Mountains, Morocco

My 5 Top Tips for a Trip to the Atlas Mountains.  Are you taking a trip to Marrakesh?  Make time to get out to the Atlas Mountains.  They are only a two hour drive from the city and so breathtaking,  I would not miss the chance to get out there and see for yourself.

I took a couple of day trips out from Marrakesh, but next visit I will definitely go and stay out in the mountains at Kasbah Tarandot.  More later!

TIP No.1:

Hire a car and driver to show take you into the mountains.  We went with Ali Bouramdane from ATM Journey   and enjoyed a memorable day exploring the mountains.  The morning was spent winding our way up higher and higher,  stopping to take in the view on the way.

Ali from ATM Journey

The road from Marrakesh to the mountains

An easy drive into the mountains, one long road ahead.

Spot Goats, Donkeys and wonderful views en route.

Top Tip No.2:

I ‘borrowed’ this bike for a photo!

If you hire a car and drive yourself watch out for speed traps!  I have never seen so many police catching speeding motorists, they have very strict speeding laws.  Also, make sure you buckle up or prepare for an on the spot fine.

Morocco is perfectly safe with well maintained cars and good roads.  It was a pleasant surprise. Just make sure you stick to the speed limit.

Top Tip No.3:

Ignore all the warnings you have read!  I avoided Morocco for years after being told ‘You will be hassled all the time, and it is not safe!’  and ‘It is so dirty everywhere’, ‘Marie, you will hate it!’.  Well, regular Divalicious readers know just what a pampered Princess I can be and I just loved it!  My advice is ignore all those warnings.  If a street vendor tries to sell you something (remember the poor chap is just trying to earn a crust for goodness sake!)  Do NOT engage in conversation, politely ignore.

I felt perfectly safe at all times, was not hassled in any way.  Morocco is a surprisingly enlightened country compared with others in the region and Marrakesh is a wonderful melting pot of cultures.  The people are a delight and you will love them!  This comes from a tall blond who doesn’t exactly blend in with the locals.

Top Tip No.4:

Kasbah Tamadot:

Visit Kasbah Tamadot.  This is a very special place, above and beyond Diva expectations.  Friends of mine stayed there and recommended a visit.  I was not disappointed and I will be back to stay.  The location is magical and the hotel is a perfect mountain retreat in every way.  The staff are a delight.  The hotel, with its Berber tent suite accommodation is just a heavenly, with exquisitely tasteful design and spectacular mountain views.  I almost cried  and clung to the gatepost when it was time to leave! (I didn’t really, but you know what I mean?)

Lunch with a view anyone?

Start saving now, it is worth every penny!  The suites, designed in the style of traditional berber tents, are the epitome of understated chic.

Kasbah Tarandot

Suite with a view of the mountains

Everywhere at Kasbah Tamadot is super chic, it is impossible to take a bad photo.  Lunch was simple but delicious.

Kasbah Tamadot, Atlas Mountains, Morocco

I enjoyed meeting the resident pets, including Camels, Goats, Donkeys, Mules and even Peacocks.

Even the Camels are friendly at Kasbah Tamadot!

TIP No.5:

Hike in the Atlas Mountains!  Whether you make time for a post prandial stroll or a two day trek, just walk and breathe in the pure mountain air and enjoy the views!

After lunch, we asked the hotel for advice on a suitable short hike.  They were amazing and provided us with water, a map and even a guide to set us off along the right track.  We were invited to shower on our return.  Such wonderful hospitality considering we only stopped for lunch!

Hike with a view at Kasbah Tamadot

I look forward to returning to http://www.kasbahtamadot.com

After lunch we clambered back into the 4 x 4 and Ali drove on to a Lake about another 20 minutes further into the mountains.

We were really tired by this time, the fresh mountain air, a good lunch and hike completely finished us off. Ali drove us serenely back down the mountain to Marrakesh and a nap before dinner!

Ali Bouramdane from ATM Journey:

It is not easy taking pot luck and finding a guide in a new destination.  Ali was a delight.  A  good and safe drive, comfortable 4 x 4 and informative too!  I recommend a trip with ATM journey whether it be for a day trip or for a longer excursion around Morocco.

Book A Trip:

I am already planning my return trip to see more of Morocco and will travel around the country with ATM journey.

http://www.atmjourney.com

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Beach at Paradis Plage Resort

My second stop on our Diva Road Trip around Morocco was at Paradis Plage Surf Yoga and Spa.  Set on a stunning beach, popular with surfers and holiday makers looking for a chilled out relaxation break, it has stunning views of the coastline.

Paradis Plage, view from my hotel suite

A lovely welcome at Paradis Plage!

Enjoying a welcome drink!

The resort is a 20 minute drive from Agadir and I enjoyed a two night stay here.  I spent my time walking on the beach, riding, exploring the area, practicing Yoga and chilling out!  There was a mix of guests from couples, to young families.  There were a lot of children staying and they have a Creche to enjoy.

View from my Premium Suite

My suite was very comfortable and enjoyed a terrace with spectacular views, pictured above.  It was comfortable, modern and clean with a little sitting room, looking out over the sea.

My living Room in the Premium Suite

The bedroom was small but the bed very comfortable and quiet.  I would recommend more wardrobe space!  My usual Diva problem of living out of a suitcase.

My bedroom at Paradis Plage

The bathroom was large with a big shower.  A little kitchen area was a very useful addition too.  You can enjoy the gorgeous Yoga Studio overlooking the beach, a good Surf Centre with instructors, The Spa is very luxurious with a Hammam, Sauna, massages and all the usual Spa treatments.

The Gym at Paradis Plage

I enjoyed the gym at Paradis Plage and a training session with the excellent trainer and a wonderful Yoga session.

Stunning, endless beach at Paradis Plage

For me, the setting of the resort was just so special.  The coastline is unspoilt with unrivalled views and crystal clear sea water.  Enjoy horsehides along the beach on well cared for horses or even a Camel ride!  Relax and unwind in this eco friendly resort.

Resort Pool

Breakfast at Paradis Plage

Then you can enjoy the restaurants here, breakfast pictured above in the Ocean Restaurant was a good selection and choice. We enjoyed a nice evening meal  by the beach at Chiringuito.  There is a good selection of restaurants to enjoy or visit the local restaurants in the nearby villages if you have a car.

 

Information:

http://www.paradisplage.com   Tel: +212 (0)528200382

26 km from Agadir on the route d’Essaouira, Imi Ouaddar

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 Marrakesh Medina

“Marie, why are you going to Marrakesh? You will hate it! It isn’t your kind of place. ” So said some of my friends.  Well, they were wrong!  I loved it.  It was a great experience and I will be back to explore more of Morocco.

My trip was short so I will tell you about the places that I enjoyed and recommend.  The first surprise was the fabulous, new airport, a modern International airport with great shops.  I was disappointed with the Air Maroc business lounge but everything else was perfect.

The second surprise was the size of Marrakesh,it is BIG and it is impossible to walk everywhere.  This blog will concentrate on the day I spent at the Medina and give you some recommendations if you are planning a visit.

Wearing my new robe co-ordinated with Louis Vuitton bag!

Third surprise was the people!  Everyone is friendly and it is a very tolerant society with people from different cultures and religions getting along.  I had been warned to expect ‘hassle’ from Souk vendors but this was not the case.  Maybe because we were with a local guide but it was totally stress free.

Start at the main square of Jemaa El Fna.  I would definitely take a guide.  Our fabulous guide took us deep into the Medina and we would never have found the secret little alleyways and souks on our own.  I couldn’t resist  the spices, dates and herbs. I bought some traditional robes too.  I caused a great deal of merriment by wearing the robe I bought for Stephen.  It isn’t the done thing to wear a mans robe such as the one Im sporting above!

The Medina was a treasure trove of spices and herbs

The tiny alleyways are packed full of locals riding their motorbikes, weaving in and out of people walking, so many donkeys laden with goods.  The atmosphere is very special! The Medina of Marrakesh is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre and rightly so!  Marrakesh was founded in 1070-1072 by The Almoravids and has outstanding monuments dating from that period including the Koutoubiya Mosque, The Kasbah, The Battlements, doors and gardens.  Later additions include Bandia Palace, the Saadian tombs and Place Jamaa El Fna, which is a huge square and gathering place for locals today.

Shopping in the Souk, foodie heaven

So, spend the morning exporing the Souk.  I bet you can’t resist buying some delicious dates or spices, they are so cheap, fresh and delicious.  My suitcase was definitely heavier on the way home.  Make sure you stop for a delicious glass of mint tea.  It is ubiquitous so will be easy to find!  The sugar content will make your head spin but it is so good.

 

The colourful souk

Make sure your guide takes you deep into the Medina away from the tourists.

Bikes and donkeys add to the hustle and bustle.

Hammam in the Medina

Time was short this trip but next visit to Marrakesh, I will make time for a Hammam!

Lunch:

Charming little restaurants hide down alleyways and behind beautiful doors!  We lunched at La Famille, Marrakesh and ate a delicious vegan lunch made with delicious fresh produce.  Recommended if you like healthy vegan food!

La Famille Marrakesh

The salad was one of the best I have ever eaten, served with vegan Pizzetta.

Lunch at La Familla, Marrakesh

Afternoon:

After lunch we drove to the magnificent  Marjorelle Gardens  the beautiful garden that belonged to Yves Saint Laurent.  See my separate blog all about the wonderful afternoon!

 

Useful information:

Restaurant: La Familla, 42 Riad Zitoun idid Marrakesh Medina near palais Bahia Tel: 00212524385295

Majorelle Garden http://www.jardinmjorelle.com

I stayed in Palmeraie, about 15 minutes from Marrakesh Tigmiza Hotel read my blog about the hotel.  Click on my Booking.com link on the right hand side for up-to-date hotel prices and booking.

http://www.hotel-tigmiza-marrakesh.com

Best Hotels in Marrakesh.  If you stay in the city, my top recommendation would be La Mamounia Hotel http://www.mamounia.com  An incredible hotel, read my Marrakesh hotels blog

Flights from London are very inexpensive.  Easy jet, Ryanair and British Airways all fly to Marrakesh

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Camel Trek in Essaouira

My Diva Road trip around Morocco with honorary Diva Melanie, photographer for the trip! We loved Essaouira and this is my favourite place to visit in Morocco.  I loved the laid back beach vibe, the beautiful Old Town Medina, friendly people, stunning location ….. can you tell I loved it?  I will be back for sure!  If you go to one place in Morocco, this would be my recommendation.

Essaouira Medina – A cultural and shopping delight! All photos of me taken by @lemanieg

I stayed in a Riad located within the Medina which was a unique and fun experience and something you should do at least once during a trip to Morocco to get a different experience.  The local people were so friendly and I felt like a local after a 3 day stay! However, if you want a more relaxed vibe there are plenty of nice hotels and villas to choose from and you will be spoilt for choice.

Shopping in the Souk at Essaouira

The Souk is a delight, stay away from the main streets and you will find a treasure trove of Spices, delicious Moroccan pastries, just about everything you could wish for!

Pots Galore at Essaouira

I bought some pots, dates, spice mixes to bring home to France.

Camel trekking

Regular readers know I love Camels, so this was heaven for me!  Choose to go on a short trek or overnight and camp.  My Camel trek was a highlight of my trip and I recommend the company I used, see the information section at the bottom of the page.

James, my Camel and me

It was such a treat exploring on James the Camel with just my guide for company.

Then, the next day I used the same company to arrange a horse ride which was just as fun as the Camels but a lot faster!  They have beautiful horses, well looked after and cared for which is essential.

My view between the ears of Aziz

To be honest, for me it just doesn’t get better than this!  Cantering along on a pristine, unspoilt beach on a cracking little horse with a good guide for company.  The perfect morning.

Exploring the Essaouira coastline on a horse

The Old Port:

The Port is a fascinating place to explore and take photos of the iconic blue fishing boats.  Just around the corner are the little fish shack restaurants, where you choose a fish and they cook it immediately.  Delicious, clean and simple food but beware make sure you barter because prices are high.

Old Port of Essouaira

The Old port of Essouaira is charming and iconic for photographers on Instagram!  It is impossible to take a bad photo and the fisherman don’t seem to mind.  The history of the port stretches back into time to 1770.  This was the most important trading port between Europe, Africa and the Americas, originally named Mogador.

Free trade policies were encouraged by Sultan Ben Abdellah who encouraged the settlement of rich merchants and Jews to settle and work in Mogador. This was an important trading port.

Iconic Blue fishing boats

I enjoyed a delicious Lobster lunch at one of the little shacks around the port.  It was the best ever, but very expensive and I should have bartered really!

Delicious Lobster lunch at the Port

Beautiful old ruin in Essaouira

Above is a stunning old building, owned by Jewish traders and abandoned in the 1960’s.  Moroccan law dictates that abandoned properties are left for 100 years incase the descendants owners decide to return and claim the property.

A perfect end to a perfect day

Above is a photo taken admiring the view from one of the bars serving alcohol in Essaouira.  These are obviously popular with visitors to the town!

Definitely put Essaouira on your Morocco itinerary.  We hired a car at Marrakesh Airport and happily and safely drove all around the country from Marrakesh to Agadir to Essaouira to the Atlas mountains to Marrakesh.  The roads are perfectly safe, fellow drivers very well behaved, and the people of Morocco delightful and helpful.  Get out and explore!

The Souk at Essaouira

Information:

Essaouira information: Arrange a Camel, Horse, Quad adventure with: http://www.rando-dunes.com

Book a hotel or Riad by clicking on my Booking.com link on the right hand side of this page

http://www.essaouira.nu

Tigmiza Hotel, Palmeraie, Marrakesh

Where to stay in Marrakesh?  You have so many places to choose!  There is something for every budget from the super luxe to basic.  I chose Tigmiza Hotel, Palmeraie.  I wanted to escape the busy city of Marrakesh and relax and unwind in a tranquil haven.  Tigmiza certainly lived up to my expectations.

The hotel is a 20 minute bus ride from the city of Marrakesh and the hotel provides a minibus twice a day to take you into town. I loved going back to the tranquility of Palmeraie, a very safe and quiet area. I went for a morning run early every morning and felt perfectly safe and at home in Palmeraie.

Marrakesh, the city was a lovely surprise though and much nicer than I imagined!

Rooftop Lounge and Bar at Tigmiza

The staff are very friendly and everyone was helpful.  We were welcomed with a delicious pot of mint tea on arrival at our villa, Number 7.

Welcome Tea on arrival at Villa No7

The fruit bowl was also a nice welcome.  The villas are lovely, comfortable and quiet with only the sound of the birds tweeting in the trees. The beds exceptionally comfy which is a Diva essential!  You have plenty to choose from at Tigmiza from a suite to a villa, villas are varying in size and I would choose a villa if your budget allows because they are good value and very nice places for a stay.

 Single beds as requested, travelling with a friend

The bathroom and shower were well stocked with an array of products and the shower and bath were both absolutely enormous and could not be faulted!  The bedroom enjoyed a terrace with lovely views of Palmeraie.

Living Room at Villa No.7

Downstairs we enjoyed a large living area with an alcove containing another double day bed,  a big TV and patio doors leading out into our own private garden.  What a treat! and our own small pool too.  Sadly, the weather in early February was cold.  I want to return in the Spring time and enjoy warmer weather!

The hotel has a very pretty pool area with two pools.

Pool at Tigmiza Hotel, Marrakesh

One is heated to 30 degrees and the other, above not heated.

I’m admiring the heated pool!

The reception area is very chic as you can see with the Dining room adjacent.  The breakfast was very good indeed, with a wide array of choice including an outdoor barbecue area for delicious omelettes and so many other good things!

Reception area at Tigmiza Hotel

I looked around the Royal Suite, which was magnificent!  Boasting its own Spa, magnificent lounge area and of course large garden with a pool.  This is really exceptional and an enormous space.  Treat yourself!

Lounge area in the Royal Suite

A bedroom in the Royal Suite, Tigmiza, Marrakesh

If you have any questions about a stay at Tigmiza Suites and Pavillons, please contact me.  I will be happy to answer your questions.  The hotel is set in large, spacious gardens.  I visited during low season but everything is well designed, so it will never feel crowded.  A perfect spot for a restful and tranquil stay. And make time to enjoy the Spa and Gym.

Roof top sunset enjoyed at Tigmiza Hotel, Palmeraie, Marrakesh

Useful information: Prices are on my Booking.com link on the right hand side of this page

Tigmiza Hotel, Route de Bab Atlas, Palmeraie, Marrakesh, Morocco

Telephone:212 524393700  website: http:www.hotel-tigmiza-marrakesh.com