Honeymooning in Moroccan Landscapes

The day after our wedding we headed off on an early morning flight to Marrakesh for 12 days of honeymooning. 

Morocco is a stunning country with awe-inducing landscapes, delicious food and beautiful people.

We spent a few days in Marrakesh to start with mostly eating, drinking mint tea and lounging around on roof terraces. Then we headed off for a 5-day driving tour of the high atlas region. We're not big fans of planned tours and it probably isn't something we would have done if it wasn't our honeymoon as elements of it were a bit constricting and we couldn't just take things at our own pace.  But to fair after months of wedding planning, neither of us was really up for planning the whole trip and figuring out how to get from a-b each day, researching hotels etc. So we went with a tour and thankfully our driver/tour guide was really relaxed and not too pushy like a lot of the tour guides we saw along the way! 

After the tour, we were dropped off at Riad Bouassala, a hotel near Essaouira that we had just found this place on trip advisor the day before we left Marrakesh and it looked great from the reviews so we booked it. When we got wifi halfway through our tour we realised that the booking website had made a mistake and we weren't properly booked! Thankfully when we turned up on the day the lovely people at Riad Bouassala had upgraded us and put us in their beautiful blue and white private cottage. Bouassala was the perfect place to relax and we were lucky enough to have amazing weather and spent the majority of our time there sunbathing by the pool. The staff are so friendly and they serve some pretty delicious food for breakfast and dinner.

Finally, we headed back to Marrakesh for two nights before heading back to London. 

TLDR: We had an amazing honeymoon, Morocco is ridiculously beautiful and here are some photos of the crazy landscapes.

If you're heading to Morocco soon then head to the bottom of this post for places to stay, eat and visit and some further reading.

Where to eat in Marrakesh

Le Jardin - Get the chicken pastilla it is insane. 

Café des Éspices - For lunch, snacks and tea/coffee

Terrasse des Éspices - For cocktails at sunset with views across the medina and posh/romantic dinner

Hammam

Le Bain Bleu Just a really great hammam and massage not cheap but worth it (minus the fake rose petals which gave me the creeps)

Top tips 

If like me, you hate the idea of the crowded souks and haggling to buy bits of cheap tat, visit the souks first thing in the morning at like 8 am, there are hardly tourists, the traders are just setting up and they haven't got into the full swing of trying to swindle tourists into buying cheap crockery! Plus the light is perfect for taking to photos (I forgot my camera the morning I did this and I'm still kicking myself).

When you arrive at the airport take out cash and find somewhere to get some small change or small notes from. It's likely that your hotel will send an airport transfer for you but if you're staying in the medina this transfer will leave you at the gates of the medina as cars can't go into the medina. The driver will call a man with a cart over who will walk you and your luggage to your hotel. There is no agreed price for this service though so its worth having a small bill so you don't get completely ripped off (like we did *insert facepalm emoji here*).

Hotels

We stayed in a number of hotels and riads over our tour and in Marrakesh and they were all pretty great my favourites were.

Riad Dar Mouassine, Marrakesh - In the medina set back away from the hustle down a dark tiny street but once inside it is really beautiful. Staff don't speak great English but were really lovely and helped when we needed it. We quite like to be left to do our own thing so the language didn't bother us. The room we were in was quite dark but there's a lovely a roof terrace and the hotel was generally really quiet so feels very private

Kasbah Azul, AgdzOur favourite night of the tour was spent here the staff are really wonderful and the kasbah is really beautifully decorated with lush gardens surrounding and a lovely swimming pool. Dinner was delicious and served outside by the pool by candlelight. We could've stayed there a few extra nights and spent some time discovering the area but sadly we only had one short evening before heading off to drive to Essaouira.

Riad Baoussala, 5km from Essaouira Perfect place to spend a few days relaxing by the pool and a good distance from Essaouira to take an easy going day trip to the town. Generally has a lovely arty relaxed feel to it and staff are incredibly friendly and helpful. The only thing we found was that in parts the decor was a little too 'eclectic' for our tastes but nothing too bad.

Further Reading

Emma from Field and Nest has written 2 great posts about her time in Marrakech

Field and Nest - Marrakech Exploring the Souks

Filed and Nest - Marrakech 24 hours in the desert

Field and Nest - The Slower Side of Marrakech

Suitcase magazine have a fantastic guide to all things cool, hipster and arty in Marrakech (yes Marrakech has a thriving hipster scene, I know it's problematic but hipsters make great choices about food and bars)

And here I put some pins on a google maps list of Our fave Marrakech spots - I suggest if you're going to Marrakech download the city map on google maps and pin the places you want to visit and your hotel so you don't get lost. Scratch that, Marrakech is a maze, you will get lost!

Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate Photo Story

I recently spent the afternoon at The Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate in north London helping out and taking behind the scenes photos for a music video Nikolai has been working on for my dear friend Tawiah (I'll share it when it's ready, it's pretty amazing). 

I took the opportunity to have a little walk around the estate. Have you heard of it before? It's a pretty iconic piece of architecture and you probably know it from music videos and iconic photographs. 

Like the Barbican Conservatory I had always seen pictures of it but never really known where it was or how to get there.

alexandra & ainsworth estate

The Architecture lives up to the hype. It is the perfect representation of the ugly beautiful modernist architecture that was so popular in the 60s & 70s.

The structures are a little crazy and you wouldn't expect them to feel so beautiful but somehow they are whilst also being really imposing. I can't imagine how it feels to live there. Wouldn't you love to see inside some of the flats?

I feel like the community must be really interesting too. Most of the flats are still council housing but the privately owned ones are highly sought after by people who want to live in these iconic buildings.  I'm sure it makes for a mix typical of London's diverse population. 

All the way along the Rowley Way blocks there are these planters featuring brilliantly curated flowers. Slightly wild, and fantastically juxtaposed against the harsh reinforced concrete. The evening I was there the light was great, the overcast sky created a soft box of dappled even lighting. A photographer's dream lighting basically.

A lot of the time I find living in London pretty difficult. The fast pace, the pressure, the financial strain but finding spots like this and taking the time to walk around and appreciate some of London's unique beauty makes it a little easier to handle.

I'm also really grateful that I now work part-time so I can afford to use my free days to focus on some of my creative pursuits, like my photography, without feeling pressured to be "productive". That is a privilege I don't take for granted. 

Do you know any other hidden spots in London that are perfect for this kind of exploring? I know of a few spots out of London I'd like to visit, one that I've been meaning to go to for a while is Dungeness beach in Kent. Have you been?

Any suggestions? Leave them in the comments or share them on Instagram with me.

Slow Sunday at The Barbican Conservatory

Did you know that hidden on the third floor of The Barbican there is the most magical conservatory?

I've seen photos from this magical place over the years but I never really knew where it was in the maze-like structure that is The Barbican. At some point I actually just thought it was a myth. When I finally figured it out, I also found out it was only open to the public on Sundays and Bank Holidays. 

My usual Sunday routine includes doing housework and spending most of the day at church so I've never really taken the time to go to the conservatory, so very foolish of me. But, one of my besties is soon leaving the country to go study in Australia and we had been talking about visiting for months. So, two weeks back, we finally took a Sunday off and spent a bittersweet afternoon at the conservatory catching up and taking the time to be together for one of the last times before she leaps into her new adventure on the other side of the world.

Turns out the Barbican conservatory is the perfect setting for an afternoon of strolling around, chatting and making memories with your dearest.

With more that 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees, the conservatory is a visual delight. There is an inspirational collection of cacti and succulents, beautiful bamboo 20 feet tall and, plants and trees I've never seen before.

We spent time sitting amongst the trees marvelling at the strange contrast between the wonderful plants and the harsh brutalist architecture they are set in. It's a contrast that shouldn't work in theory but in practice is perfect.

I have a soft spot for brutalist architecture and The Barbican is one of my favourite iconic London buildings. I also spent a fair bit of my childhood there at music concerts with my parents, it holds a special place in my heart. Little did I know it housed this beautiful conservatory, the second largest in London.

Do you know where the largest one is? (Note to self: google that when I'm done here)

This has quickly become my new favourite spot in London and I will not stop talking abut it with everyone I meet.

Which has made it clear to me that I wasn't the only one who didn't know about it. So many people I've spoken to had no idea it existed. 

If you've never been I suggest you make plans to check it out one Sunday soon. 

(Before you do, check the website because sometimes they have funny closing times)

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Let me know if you make a trip and tag your Instagram posts #gowildlyandslow so I can see all your photos! 

Happy adventuring!

N x

Go Wildly & Slow: June Giveaway

go wildly and slow giveaway
refined bohemia giveaway
refined bohemia giveaway

I started the #GoWildlyAndSlow tag a few months ago as a way to document my adventures, travels and walks in the outdoors. I've loved having this theme to help give me a focus for my photography and make space for documenting the time I spend outdoors. It started as a small personal project that came from a desire to explore the idea of slower, thoughtful adventures.

Then much to my excitement the # got picked up by Sara Tasker and she featured it in her monthly hashtag newsletter. It has since become a really beautiful and inspiring pocket of the Instagram community. It's so wonderful to see people pick up the idea of capturing their slow adventures. Its so lovely to see that other people got joy from capturing and exploring the slower side of wild adventures.

If you spend time looking through Instagram # feeds you'll see that most outdoor photography on Instagram is all about the extreme and magnificent. It's always beautiful but also pretty unachievable in your everyday life. I felt like there wasn't much space for the slower paced, smaller more achievable outdoor adventures. The everyday walks in the park, the slow wanders in the forest. I wanted to capture those moments and I feel like #gowildlyandslow has become a place for people to showcase their slow wilderness adventures. Now I spend time scrolling through the #gowildlyandslow feed looking at the beautiful things people have encountered along their walks and in their everyday and I love it. All the beautiful moments people share with their little ones, amazing scenery from all over the world, and of course so many flowers. It's such a joy to see people exploring and adventuring in a very mindful, simple, everyday way. 

(Details on how to get involved at the end of the post)
go wildly and slow giveaway

As the tag has been growing I've been thinking it would be lovely to create a way to celebrate this little corner of community that has emerged. So, I thought it would be really lovely to collaborate with people making products and brands that fit together with the story behind Go Wildly & Slow. 

A few weeks ago over on Instagram, I announced the first of what will hopefully be a fairly regular giveaway project. Together with Jessi from Refined Bohemia I am giving away a beautiful Afternoon Light necklace to my favourite Go Wildly & Slow photographer from June.

I'm sure it will be super hard to find a winner but I'll definitely enjoy going through all the photos and getting a peek into people's slow adventures 

go wildly and slow giveaway
go wildly and slow giveaway

Refined Bohemia

Based in Germany, Jessi hand makes a delightful range of jewellery for Refined Bohemia. Her pieces are all inspired by her love of the outdoors and the world around her. Past collections have been inspired by the seaside, the journey of the lone wanderer or the places we call home. She takes her lead from nature and the wilderness to make beautiful delicate pieces of jewellery.

It is such a joy to scroll through her website. It is also so very perfect for Go Wildly & Slow. 

Each piece comes thoughtfully packaged with hand stamped tags and postcards of Jessi's own photography. Each item, made with love, feels like a gift to receive and makes wearing it even more special. 

Personally, I don't wear loads of jewellery so I appreciate how simple and understated a lot of her work is. I've been wearing my Afternoon Light necklace pretty much nonstop since I got it and I'm now seriously considering getting some for my wedding jewellery as she has a great bridal range too.

Collaborating with Jessi for the first #gowildlandslow giveaway felt like a lovely match and I'm so exciting to share her work with you and send the lovely Afternoon Light necklace to my favourite post from June.

refined bohemia giveaway

Giveaway Details

If you'd like to get involved in the giveaway you still have 2 weeks. All you need to do is tag your slow outdoor adventure posts on Instagram with #gowildlyandslow and make sure you're following me and @refinedbohemia.

If you need some inspiration check out the Go Wildly & Slow page here or on Instagram

I'm really looking forward to seeing all your posts, Good luck! 

Our Engagement at Cascade d'Ars

I remember chatting with my sister back in November 2015, probably sitting at my mum's kitchen table. Nik and I were about to go off travelling for 3 months in Colombia and Peru. We had been together for just over a year back then and were embarking on our first big trip together. Half joking, my sister said something about who she would be really angry if Nikolai proposed at the top of some mountain in the middle of nowhere where we would have no reception to be able to call her and let her know. I laughed it off and didn't really think about it again.

So, it's fitting that at the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere in France Nik got down on one knee and popped the question. It's almost like the passing remark my sister made 18 months ago foreshadowed this life changing moment. 

I feel like mountains are such a central symbol in our relationship. 

When Nik went to India and Nepal he hiked the Annapurna Circuit in the Himalayas. I was at home frantically trying to finish my degree and write my dissertation. We were miles apart in both physical and mental circumstance. I was sitting in my house not seeing or speaking to anyone for days on end surrounded by my books, buried in my thoughts. Whilst Nik was hiking (at times alone) through crazy beautiful mountains. Most days Nik would check in from wherever he was laying his head for the night and send photos or show me the view of the most magnificent mountains, but also tell me about his homesickness, feeling alone, and how his body was tired and sore from pushing it too hard.

We were both facing challenging and overwhelming emotional and physical hurdles. Being so far away and at times so alone in our own struggle was really bloody hard.  But in the end, the distance also made our relationship stronger, it helped us build trust and have empathy for each other.

Then, last year, whilst we were hiking in the Andes together Nikolai gently and lovingly encouraged me through the hardest, most physically and emotionally challenging thing I've ever done.

I’ll never forget the first day of the hike, we set off onto the trail full of expectation and anticipation. I had never done anything like this before so I was thankful to be in good company with Nik and three friends, two of whom were pretty much professional adventurers. But, the first day brought with it a pretty quick reality check, I knew I wasn’t going to find it easy but I had no idea how hard the altitude would hit me, and then, of course, I slipped on some rocks, injured my toe and my boots started rubbing. After hours of hiking, we made it to camp and it started chucking it down. We hurriedly set up camp only to find our hired tent had numerous broken zips making it little more than a draughty plastic bag for 3 of us to sleep in. Not the best way to start.

That first night we were all exhausted, in pain and hungry but the thing I remember most is how Nikolai went out in the pouring rain to fetch water from the river and get the pot on to boil while all I could do is curl up in the tent trying to warm up. I'm pretty sure the meal he made us that night was most amazing pasta and veg sauce with garlic bread ever cooked on one dodgy camping stove! 

On the second day, about ten meters from where we had packed down camp, I stopped and broke down crying. I just couldn't fathom 5 more days of hiking like the day before meanwhile, Nik was hurrying off like the mountains were his natural habitat unaffected by the high altitude (we all decided his spirit animal is a mountain goat as a result). For most of the five days, I whinged and whined and felt frustrated that the altitude was killing me whilst not bothering Nik at all. 

I have never felt more broken than I did on that hike and I felt like the worst version of myself. I’m sure Nikolai was deeply frustrated at times, but I hardly saw it, instead whilst I felt weak and afraid, Nik told me I was strong and brave. He could have walked ahead and left me behind but instead, he took my backpack and slowed right down to my pace gently nudging me along, cracking jokes with me, stopping when I needed to rest and hugging me when all I could do was cry because I was struggling to catch my breath in the thin mountain air. 

The hike was tough, but it wasn't all bad. When the mountains broke through the thick rain clouds we found ourselves walking through scenes that could easily be found on the front of National Geographic. We sat eating our dinner awestricken by the glaciers surrounding us. We worked really hard to see and experience things that most people only dream of.

When we had finished the hike, I had been pushed right to the edge of my physical and mental capacity. I had been well and truly in 'the stretch', that place where you learn the most about yourself. At the end (after having to push our bus out of a small landslide) we were sat on the last leg of the journey back to Huaraz and I distinctly remember feeling so exhausted, dirty and gross but deeply proud and so grateful for this amazing man who swallowed his frustration and with great empathy showed me what love looks like on my absolute worst days. 

All this to say, we have a history with mountains.

For us, mountains hold stories, strength, struggles and dreams. Mountains have separated us and brought us closer than we’ve ever been. We have been pushed and tested and made stronger. 

So, it really is no surprise that on this trip to the Pyrenees we wanted to fit in some hiking. 

After rising early in the morning and catching a beautiful sunrise from the balcony of our Airbnb, we drove to pick Jason up from the airport and drove a few hours south to Aulus Les Bains where the trailhead to Cascade d’Ars lies.

We started off on the picturesque trail, as we walked higher into the mountains the path underfoot gradually turned to melting snow. Being my mother’s daughter I became anxious (and grumpy) because the sight of melting snow could only mean AVALANCHE. As we hiked the path grew steeper and narrower, whilst I got grumpier, and I’m sure Nikolai got more nervous.

At the top, we were met by spectacular views of the waterfall and snowcapped mountains whilst we were surrounded by crisp white snow with the tops of coniferous trees sticking out.

I'm standing there snapping some photos, thinking these will be great for Instagram (I know, I'm that person) whilst Jason, Simeon and Laura casually made themselves scarce. Then, Nikolai, rummaging in his bag, got down one knee and I’m there blissfully unaware. He produced from his bag a beautiful ring and asked me to marry him. I was so surprised, I thought he was joking at first, and then it sunk in and was overjoyed and overwhelmed. It was emotional. I cried, of course. 

I don’t think I can fully express how it felt. I’ve tried writing it down but I’m not skilled enough a writer to put it into words that make sense of it all. 

It was both magical and really awkward because we're both really awkward. So, we're there making really ridiculously excited giddy faces at each other, and the ring won't fit me because my hand is all swollen from being at a higher altitude and we keep falling over in the snow and Jason and Simeon are trying to take photos to capture the moment. It was very classic us! 

The story doesn’t end quite there though. After our little engagement photo shoot, (thanks Jason and Simeon), we walked back to the car all giddy and excited, had a little snow ball fight along the way. The five of us got in the car and got ready for our drive back to the house and we thought 'hey let's take the scenic route home'. About half way along this long, dark, winding mountain road we took a corner and drove straight into the aftermath of a small avalanche. And there we were, newly engaged and stranded on the snow covering the road. It was now pitch dark and the wind was picking up promising a full-on storm would hit any moment and we’re stranded on this dark mountain road! 

We all went from giddy excitement to super-efficient, we-need-to-get-the-hell-out-of-here mode very quickly! We started pushing the car to no avail. Then, we dug snow from under the car with our bare hands and we prayed no trees would come tumbling down on top of us. Eventually, we gathered nearby fallen branches and dug them into the snow creating enough traction for the car to get out. 

After what felt like a long time, Simeon managed to reverse the car out without sliding off the edge of the mountain road and we were free of the snow and driving back home. Of course, five minutes from the house we see a sign saying the scenic road was closed due to snowfall.

Still, we got home with stories to tell and we lived to tell our engagement story!

If you made it to the end of this post thank you for reading! I wrote a more informative less gratuitous post about the holiday we took a few weeks ago. Check it out if you want links to the Airbnb and other things we did on our trip. 

N x

*photos in this post are a mix of mine and Nikolai's and our engagement photos were taken by our lovely friends Jason and Simeon.