2014 was a good year for travel. So good that it’s got me feeling haggard with a lack of holidaying. Every evening I find myself on airbnb scouring for a designer apartment in Milan, a cabana in Thailand, a caravan in Skeggy (anything!).
I’m going to cheat a little and count my two holidays at the end of 2013 but since all five (yes FIVE – no wonder I have no money) were within 10 months of each other, I figured you may let me slide…
SEPTEMBER 2013 – PARIS, FRANCE
I decided to surprise the ‘housemate’ by taking him to Paris for his birthday. This was my first frolic with airbnb and now I am OBSESSED. We stayed in a beautiful two bedroom apartment (no longer listed- boo) in between Pigalee and Monmatre and it was so cool. I mean, the owner had fashioned shelves out of crates. Give him a crafty medal, someone.
The best thing about staying at airbnb’s is that if you ask (and normally you don’t even need to), the owners will leave behind a list of their favourite restaurants and bars. On Grégory’s recommendation list was the wonderful La Balançoire, a tiny restaurant with super attentive staff and delicious food. We also visited La Famille for Heston inspired cocktails and moved onto Le Carmen for electronic beats (darkest bar/club I have ever been in though. I actually fell asleep. Twice). We ended the evening at Le Bus Palladium which had a rockier vibe and snuck in front of a huge queue because the bouncer liked that we were English – we were as surprised as you!
NOVEMBER 2013 – MARRAKECH, MOROCCO
After hearing rave reviews from just about everyone, I was very excited to get some winter sun before the cold months crept in. Yet, whilst the weather was indeed spoton.com, the experience was a tad disappointing. Whilst I understand that we went off peak, there was a huge sense that Marrakech was a bit vacant. And with the vacancy came a glimmer of unease… From being horrifically ripped off by just about every local to getting groped by a drug dealer (yes, really) I couldn’t help but think that Marrakech needed a heavy dose of tourist hospitality.
Of course, it wasn’t all doom and gloom! We stayed in a beautiful private riad that I found on Owners Direct (which is unfortunately no longer listed!) for 3 days which overlooked the outstanding gardens of La Mamounia. La Mamounia is where the celebs and high flyers stay and my god, it’s opulent. A must visit to peruse their orange grove and sip on some £20 cocktails (yikes!). A good tip is that many of these high end hotels offer pool passes for the day so if you can’t afford the £400 a night price tag, perhaps you can just lounge in luxury for the day instead?
We also went quad biking around the local villages which was such a stark contrast from the grandeur of the westernised hotels. The best bit of the trek was watching the sun set as we sipped on mint tea and nibbled on honey pancakes, our dusty bodies strewn on colourful carpets in the field of a local farmer.
We spent the last 4 days at an all inclusive resort on the outskirts of the city and which was okay (not big fans of all inclusive) and it did feel a little safer than being in the main labyrinth of the city. Ultimately, it was an interesting place but not somewhere I’m gagging to go again.
APRIL 2014 – ROME, ITALY
Not wanting to get one over on me, the housemate decided to surprise me this time by taking me to Rome! As an Ancient History graduate I was VERY excited to get my history on. However, after finishing a week long studio show and stumbling home from the wrap party at 2AM, my 6AM flight didn’t do me too well… Let’s just say I don’t really remember much about the Colosseum (but I have pictures to prove I was there, look!). After a power nap in our apartment in Trastevere, I was able to enjoy some great traditional food from Il Duca where the house wine was 9 euros. NINE EUOS, BITCHEZ (I’ll take 5, thanks). Across the way, we visited Cioccolata e Vino, a buzzing chocolate bar that served liquor in chocolate shot glasses, topped with whipped cream. A drink and dessert all in one? I’ll take that. A quick note on Trastevere – it’s boisterous and popular with the student/creative types and for that we loved it. Felt like a real community and the prices were much better than in the city centre.
The next day we visited the Vatican and decided to skip the famous balcony area to try the ‘best pizza in Rome’ which was a 40 minute walk away. Only turned out to be closed. Typical. The housemate nearly got into a fight with a streetseller on the Spanish Steps who gave me a rose and wanted paying for it. The end result was that he snatched the rose away but I got to keep the stalk (see the photo above!!!) Our evening meal at Taverna Trilussa made me finally understand how pasta is supposed to be cooked. Divine.
JUNE 2014 – OLHÃO, PORTUGAL
The filming of ‘Dance Mums with Jennifer Ellison’ culminated at the Dance World Cup in Portugal. Cue 4 days of running around looking for fishnet tights and coloured hairspray, trying to get foreigners to sign release forms (actual hell on earth). The light at the end of the tunnel is that I was allowed to stay on for an extra 3 days and get my sunnn onnnnnnnnnnnn. We stayed in the small fishing village of Olhão which the Portuguese TV fixer Marcus told me was a very strange choice for a holiday destination but actually, it was PERFECT. No tourists, amazing fresh fish and veg markets and cheap alcohol. What more could you want? The house we stayed in was INCREDIBLE. The private roof terrace came complete with a hottub with surround sound – the perfect place to watch the sun go down. Unfortunately, this was another Owners Direct beaut that is no longer listed : ( So upset as we’d definitely go back!
JULY 2014 – COPENHAGEN & AARHUS, DENMARK
My last jaunt was to meet up with my good friends Line and Rebecca – we all went to University in Atlanta for a year together back in 2008. Resident Dane Line hosted us at her Grandad’s in the big city and we had such an amazing time! One of the best experiences was going for smörgåsbord at Kanal Cafeen, looking over the canal. It was quite simply some of the best food I have ever had. We whiled away the sunny evening at Kayak Bar, dipping our legs into the water and sipping on wine (imagine doing that in the Thames – eck!!)
Line studies in Aarhus so we spent the rest of our week there going for bike rides, visiting the art museum (which had an AMAZING rainbow panorama and coloured smoke room) and having midnight swim sessions in the sea! The bay in Aarhus has some magical wizard powers that makes the sea so warm. As long as you don’t mind jelly fish (they don’t sting) it makes for quite a relaxing swim! I also learnt how to say ‘I’d like a hotdog with all the trimmings’ in Danish and got married to a man in a bar after reenacting the birth of Simba in Lion King with Rebecca. But less of that…
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