Cumin, paprika, garlic and saffron. You can smell it in the air. Onions, harissa, citrus and dates. Wherever you are, Morocco’s flavors and smells will make your mouth water and your tummy growl. This colorful country is a feast of flavors and colors and tastes unlike anywhere I have been. You just can’t get enough.
Lemon and olive Chicken Tajine
We’ve been in Morocco for three weeks now, and we still have more than a week to go. We have learned some of tips for the cuisine of this North African nation that has
Grilled lamb chops
been a crossroads for thousands of years. From cultures near and far the Moroccan cuisine developed into the flavor-filled mix of vegetables, meat and spices we know today. The Berber’s long history in this region, combined
with the Romans, the Vandals, the Phoenicians, and later the Jews, the Spanish, the Brits and French, certainly makes for a unique combination of cultures and flavors.
Farm to market produce
Today Morocco stands independent under King Mohammed VI, and the delicious food is a proud tradition as seen in the medinas and restaurants, street food and homes through out the cities and rural regions of Morocco. Seafood on the coast; beef, sheep, goat, chicken and even camel makes an appearance in the interior; and the ever-present olive can be found at breakfast,
lunch and dinner.
We had a very special experience during our ten days in Asilah on the Atlantic Coast. Our airbnb in Asilah came with a full-time cook, a sweet and talented Moroccan woman named Latifah. She fed us the
Latifah making couscous
most remarkable meals during our time there and we were spoiled beyond reason. We learned a lot about the cuisine, watched her cook and asked her so many questions. She took us to the market with her and helped us understand the foods she was
Latifah serving pastilla
making for us. What a remarkable opportunity this presented and we were so grateful. We wanted to stuff her in the suitcase and keep her forever! So through Latifah we learned the cuisine.
There are some surprises too – like the flavorful fava bean and garlic
soup called B’sara served for breakfast. Not a dish found on restaurant menus but if you ask it can be made for you. We did just that, wanting to try it and the proprietor gladly made it for us even though it was lunch time and well past the normal morning hour it is usually eaten. It tasted much like a split pea soup but spicier and very satisfying.
Another surprise is the pastilla – a completely
Women making the filo on round griddle
unexpected sweet and savory “pie” resembling spanakopita but filled with nuts and dates, chicken or pigeon, sweet and savory spices and baked then sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. It can’t decide if it’s dinner or a dessert, but it is delicious and unusual all at once. The dish is created with a super thin filo type pastry made by hand by artisans in the
Latifah unveiling the tajine
markets using a very surprising shaped cooking shaft that the thin dough is placed on for just a few seconds to let it cook. Pastilla is usually reserved for special occasion meals, but can be found in most restaurants serving tourists. We were very lucky to have a special one made for us by Latifah.
More well-known are the bubbling tajine dishes cooked and served in their unique crockery. Tajine can be made from many things including lamb,
Lamb and dried fruit tajine
beef, chicken and vegetables and the best part is usually the wonderful rich broth at the bottom of the pot. My favorite ones were the chicken olive and lemon and the lamb, dried fruit and nut. These two are also favorites among locals and its easy to see why. I had them multiple times and each time it was delicious.
Another well-known dish is Couscous. But the couscous we know back in America is very different from what we have enjoyed here in Morocco. In fact, making couscous is a major undertaking and is reserved for Fridays, the holy day in Morocco. We spent much of one day watching Latifah make us a remarkable (and gigantic) couscous feast that included chicken, carrots, zucchini, potato and turnips and of course the couscous itself. A special steamer is used to steam the couscous over boiling water – a most unusual and time-consuming preparation.
Dried figs and dates
When all is said and done this lovely and colorful pile of deliciousness is topped with a flavorful broth that has been simmering and reducing for hours. It just really is a special meal and poor sweet Latifah had a real workout in the kitchen on this day.
Grilled meats on a stick, similar to such things in other countries, can be found at restaurants and street vendors. Known as Brochette’s, popular varieties are lamb, chicken and beef, as well as ground lamb, but my favorite was a lime-marinated fish brochette I had in a restaurant.
While in Asilah by the sea we had a great opportunity to sample the local seafood. Latifah made us the most amazing selection of grilled and fried fish including sardines and dorado served with a delicious green chili sauce and lemon. Simple and sublime. We also had anchovies in lemon, octopus salad, rich and delicious fish soup and tiny deep-fried sardines.
The country is teeming with the freshest and most colorful produce that makes its way into every meal. All of these goodies are locally grown and pesticide free, usually harvested with hours or days of your purchase. Unlike the United States, rarely are things in the market being shipped in from other countries. My favorite was the persimmon, pomegranate and tangerines – hands down the best of those I have ever had. A walk through the market is a kaleidoscope of tomatoes, radish, squash, plums, grapes, pears, oranges and lychee, as well as a never-ending variety of nuts and beans and grains.
But there is one thing I have not yet elaborated on – the key to all of the distinctive Moroccan foods we have savored over the past three weeks. The spices. Moroccan cuisine has developed through a magical mix of spices, in a region abundant with the finest. In the markets you find the colorful choices piled beautifully on display while Moroccan grandmothers sniff and purchase
Fresh mezze salads
the savory wonders. Most common in dishes are salt, pepper, ginger, turmeric (often referred to curcumin), saffron, paprika, cumin, cinnamon and white pepper. A special spice blend known as Ras El Hanout is a blend of dozens of spices and is unique to individual shops and regions. Ras El Hanout means “best of the shop” and will include cardamom, nutmeg, anise, mace, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, turmeric and often other “secret” spices.
I’m taking away from Morocco a real gift in this cuisine, an excitement to try new flavors and techniques I’ve learned here. I wonder why there aren’t more Moroccan restaurants back home and encourage you to get out and find the flavors of Morocco wherever you can. Because there are so many amazing things about this country – but if you can’t visit – at least eat Morocco. You won’t be disappointed.
Morocco on my mind. We’ve been in Morocco for 15 days and in Asilah for a week already and I am enchanted. And so very relaxed. Morocco is just about everything I could have hoped for.
View from Our airbnb
No, in November Morocco is not warm. I’ve layered up a lot, buried myself under blankets and comforters at
Tea by the fire
night, and cuddled up by a roaring fire in the evenings. But it’s actually nice. It’s sunny during the day, and comfortable and dry and we know we have heat and humidity coming up in destinations in the near future, so we are enjoying a bit of “winter” in North
Moroccan Harira soup
Morocco on my mind.
Casablanca was “meh”, Chefchauoen was “bright”, Tangier was “confusing” but Asilah – ahhhh Asilah. I will never forget you. We are right on the ocean where the crashing waves lull us to sleep. Where our morning coffee and breakfast is served on the terrace with the wind and salt air cooling our coffee mugs. We walk on the beach each morning, with the resident camels, and wander the quiet “off-season” historic medina. We visit the mercado with the locals, no other tourists around and we are both
Latifah makes Couscous
accepted and stared at by the amazing variety of residents of this region. Asilah has been a spectacular, laid back, relaxed place to recuperate and regroup on the Grand Adventure. Exactly what the doctor ordered.
Of course our perfect Airbnb plays a major role in how happy we are here. Not only is the space perfect but it comes with Latifah, our personal chef and housemaid who is talented, kind, funny, and one of the hardest working people I have ever met in my life. We have not eaten out at all during our
View from our room
time in Asilah – we have instead allowed the talented Latifah to pamper us beyond reason. And I am so happy.
Morocco on my mind.
Our friends from California Sarah and Steve arrived two days ago and they too are loving Asilah and Latifah and we all are learning to cook the incredible Moroccan cuisine together. Expect a blog soon about the cuisine of this amazing country.
Two weeks in and still two weeks to go. We relax
here in Asilah for a few more days and then we pick up the pace again; four days in Fez where we have a lot planned, five days on a tour that includes the desert and then three days in Marrakesh. Feeling satisfied and welcome, enchanted and enthralled in this colorful, ancient and fascinating world.
I don’t take a cooking class in EVERY country, but I’d like to. I love to learn about local cultures through food and I look for that experience when I can find it. In some countries finding a class is difficult or impossible. Other times it just doesn’t fit my schedule. But I always make an effort and when I do attend a class I am never disappointed. Just today I signed up for a cooking class for my upcoming visit to Hong Kong.
I can recommend all of the cooking classes below…many of these I have written blogs about and you can click directly to read those blog entries. I encourage you to consider cooking classes, even if
Cooking in Tuscany
cooking isn’t a big part of your life. Taking a class in a foreign country with local people, often in their homes and with their families, is one of the most rewarding ways to open up the cultural lines of communication all while enjoying a delicious and fun experience. Fabulous!
Tuscany/Italy – My first cooking class took place in Tuscany with a group of friends we were traveling with seven years ago. We learned to make an amazing meal from the owner of the Villa where we were staying. She was a former chef and chocolatier! Our amazing meal included handmade pasta, vegetable terrine, beef loin and lots and lots of wine.
Argentina – We took a very fun cooking class in Buenes Aires during our two day visit prior to getting on a cruise ship. Unfortunately we were so jet-legged the experience is a little bit fuzzy in my memory. The class was
Cooking in South Korea
held in the home of the chef, and there were about 8 people in attendance. We made several different kinds of empanadas, made delicious chimichurri sauce and butter cookies and learned about Matte – the unique and ubiquitous drink of Argentina.
South Korea – in Seoul I spent two full days with a world famous South Korean Chef the Korean Food and Culture Academy and it remains one of my all time favorite experiences. One of the days I was with just one other student. The second day I was with four other students. I learned to cook about a dozen dishes including Kimchee and I have used these recipes over and over
Cooking in Croatia
ever since. Who knew Korean food was so amazing? I didn’t and that is one of the best parts of the experience.
Croatia – I’m a sucker for slow roasted meats and it’s one of the staple foods in many of the East European countries. My experience in Croatia was a mouth watering one, learning the ancient and incredibly delicious process of cooking Peka over an open fire. The lamb dish is spectacularly delicious and a celebratory Croatian speciality.
Guatemala – I loved my full-day private cooking class in Antiqua Guatemala. I had the chef all to myself and an English translator. We made several dishes, enough to feed an army, and I ended up taking all the food home to enjoy another full meal with my husband. Learning
Cooking in Spain
to make the tortillas was a favorite activity, that proved much more difficult that you might expect!
Morocco – In Asilah Morocco we were blessed to have the most wonderful Airbnb that included a daily housekee and full-time cook. What a special treat that was during our ten days in this tiny
Cooking in Thailand
ocean front village. Each day she cooked for us and we watched and learned from her. We also went with her to the market and learned about the local specialities from tagine to couscous.
Thailand – It’s a tough call for me to say which class was my favorite but I would definitely put my two days at the Thai Kitchen Cookery School in Chiang Mai very near the top. It was a comedy of errors how I ended up there, but in hindsight I was so glad I did. I loved the class, the staff and the wonderful foods I enjoyed over my two-days with them.
South Africa – Several of the classes I have taken over the years have been in the personal homes of the chef, bringing me closer to the local
Cooking in Belize
culture in a familiar and family way. In Capetown South Africa my husband and enjoyed a wonderful evening in the home of our Chef who taught us about local cuisine from the African culture with the European influence. We ate Emu for the first time and many other delicious dishes as well as exceptional South African wines with our Chef and her husband.
Vietnam – One of my all time favorite cooking experiences was in Hoi An Vietnam, which coincidentally is also one of my all time favorite cities. I took an all day class at the famous Mrs. Vys Cooking School.
Cooking in South Africa
The class began with a bike ride around the city that included stops at several markets, a beautiful organic community garden and at the home of a bean sprout farmer . I learned so much and enjoyed the bike ride as well. Returning to the school we toured the multiple cooking stations within the school watching the professionals making food beautiful before heading upstairs to the kitchen to tackle our own recipes. I ate so much that day, and learned so much, and highly recommend this place if you are ever in Hoi An. I hope to return some day.
Spain – I loved Barcelona, and especially loved the famous Mercado de la Boqueria for its color and festive atmosphere as well as delicious and fresh food. It was here where my class began, touring, tasting and
Cookin in Poland
purchasing the ingredients before heading upstairs to cook. Our three-hours class included such Catalan specialities as paella, gazpacho and Spanish Tortilla. I have cooked these items many times since.
Poland – Krakow is one of my favorite European cities, under-appreciated by many visitors to Europe.
Cooking in Vietnam
We loved the food of Krakow and did a food walking and drinking tour as well as a pierogi cooking class. My teacher was a young college student who was born and raised in Krakow. We met at the market where she helped us speak Polish to the vendors to acquire the ingredients we needed for our dish. We then proceeded to her tiny, communist era apartment where we maneuvered around her little kitchen learning to make the dough and the stuffing for several different pierogi. It was one of my favorite classes ever.
Belize – Learning about the food and culture of the Garifuna people of Belize, with our two adult sons was a highlight of our family time together in Belize. Cooking outdoors on an open fire with Chef Gloria doing everything from breaking and shredding the coconut to pounding the yams with a wooden mallet made the final delicious dinner all the more satisfying and fun.
So those are some of my favorite cooking class experiences over the past several years. To be sure I will be writing about more wonderful cooking experiences in the future. Because life is fabulous and delicious!
I am writing this blog laying on the couch in my SEVENTY-SIXTH Airbnb, my 603rd night sleeping in an Airbnb. Whoa. That’s a lot of Airbnb’s!
With that many houses, huts, apartments, condos, lofts, shacks and cabins under my belt, I feel it’s time to give you a list of our favorites around the world. Because even though we carefully research each and every Airbnb before booking, there are of course, some duds. So we like to give a shout out of the best of the best!
Click on the image for a larger view
If you are still hesitating about staying in an Airbnb I really encourage you to try it. We have had outstanding luck using this hospitality model in our travels. Airbnb has changed and grown ALOT since we stayed in our very first one in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood in 2013. The changes are mostly good. For us it has been safe, simple and efficient. We use the following as our guide for choosing an Airbnb;
1. Read the Reviews and look for Super Host and Five Star properties.
2. Check the amenities that are important to you. We always want a kitchen, wifi and good walkable location.
3. Check where it is on the map…BECAUSE if you search Seattle it might show you a house in Seabeck (this happened to us). If you don’t know the area you would be pretty surprised when you try to find your Seattle house.
4. Contact the host if you have ANY questions. We have on a number of occasions negotiated a better price based on our long stay. We have asked many questions such as neighborhood safety, parking, grocery stores etc. We’ve negotiated airport pick up, late arrival, chef service and other necessities.
5. Look closely at the pictures. If you arrive and the unit is NOT what the pictures show contact Airbnb right away. But honestly if you have done steps 1-4 above that probably won’t happen.
We do have one complaint about Airbnb…a complaint I have expressed to the company with ZERO response; As a loyal and frequent customer I would like to see the company AWARD me for my business. Just like an airline frequent flyer program. At the moment Airbnb has more of a focus on rewarding its hosts than its guests – even guests like me who use it almost every day of my life. I hope they will acknowledge users more generously soon.
Click on the image for a larger view
Many of our Airbnb’s don’t stand out for anything in particular, but have served us in an efficient, clean, comfortable and functional way within our budget. That’s all good. That’s the case for the nice apartment we are in right now in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. It’s got all the comforts of home; kitchen, washer, two baths, a pool. And it’s in a nice, safe and convenient neighborhood. Our hosts are helpful and even have a car available for us to rent.
So since this apartment is our last Airbnb until next September, we thought this would be a good time to expound on our Favorite Airbnb’s Around the World and what makes those stand out above the rest. We’ve provided link and photos when possible, in hopes that you can consider some of these little gems we have found along our journey. Here is our list;
We just left Guatemala and the Cave House we stayed in on top of a mountain in San Marcos was amazing. It had some quirks, but nonetheless it was amazing. You got your built in work out throughout the day going up and down all those stairs. We give it a big thumbs up.
This Airbnb was three times what we usually try to spend, even while being one of the smallest Airbnbs we have ever stayed in. Oh but that view. Heaven on earth. There is nothing like the crater view of Santorini and it was right outside our door. Amazing.
We have had some really awesome hosts in our 76 Airbnb’s. And we have had some crappy hosts, usually those who leave you to fend for yourself. While we don’t want or need a host to manage our stay, we love it when we have a kind, engaged, thoughtful and hospitable host who is there for our occasional need. We have found that in many locations but the four mentioned take the prize. In Rio our host was incredibly kind with gifts and food and wine. In Exmouth we loved the darling family who provided us fresh ahi, yoga mats and much kindness. Two Airbnb’s in Bulgaria introduced us to the most thoughtful Bulgarians who made sure we had everything we needed including a special oven pan when requested, fresh cherries and Bulgarian roses in our room.
Bulgaria overall is a bargain, and it remains one of our most favorite countries for many reasons including the prices. These two favorite Airbnb’s were very large, multi bedroom units with full kitchen, exceptional hosts and awesome locations. The one in Sozopol included a giant deck with view and a swimming pool. We paid $30 in Veliko Tarnovo and $60 in Sozopol.
We spent two wonderful, relaxing weeks with our friends Randy and Sue in this unique and comfortable house right on the beach in Mal Pais Costa Rica. For fourteen nights in a row we documented the most exquisite sunsets…a wonderful end to each wonderful day.
Having a private pool is a real luxury for us, not something that is usually in the budget. Our two favorites listed here happened because we were sharing a house in these locations, so spending a little bit more for the luxury. The Ocotal pool had an amazing view, while the Koh Samui pool was very secluded and lovely.
Best Shared Pool – Hua Hin Thailand
Hua Hin, Thailand
The largest pool we ever had was the full Olympic size pool in Hua Hin Thailand. Despite the fact the pool was closed for maintenance for an entire week of our three week visit, we still enjoyed it for swimming laps and relaxing pool side.
It’s rare to have breakfast included in an Airbnb, and so we took full advantage at these two favorite spots. Each morning in both places breakfast was delivered to us. In Hoi An it was eggs and fruit with the BEST coffee and in Hikkaduwa it was the local Sri Lankan breakfast of either Roti or Hoppers, both which we really fell in love with.
Best Onsite Yoga – El Tunco El Salvador
El Tunco, El Salvador
Since I try to do yoga most everyday, I love it when we have an Airbnb with a nice open and comfortable place to do our own yoga. But even better is when there are yoga classes available onsite, and Balance Yoga in El Tunco El Salvador was the best. I have only taken yoga classes in Punta Cana DR, La Fortuna Costa Rica, and on a cruise ship, mostly because it has not been convenient anywhere else. But in El Tunco it was right out my backdoor, there were multiple daily classes, it was inexpensive and it was exceptional.
We loved everything about our house on the beach in Mal Pais, but the unexpected and impressive daily nature show was a big bonus. Laying in the hammock each evening watching the howler monkeys was truly fascinating…an activity many tourists pay big bucks to see on a tour. Not us. These monkeys came to us almost everyday and it was an incredible sight.
In Siem Reap we stayed in a historic Khmer home, with the absolutely nicest family living down below. Breakfast was included and the house was beautiful, historic and authentic. In Lombok Indonesia we stayed in an authentic Javenese Historic wood house, that had been disassembled, transferred from Java and reassembled on the site of this very remote and small resort we visited. Very memorable.
Best Daily Service – Asilah Morocco
We adored our full-time housekeeper and cook who came with our Airbnb in Asilah Morocco. Not only was it the first and only time we have had a cook and housekeeper on site, but she was so incredible. I gained ten pounds I think during our ten days there. We would absolutely go back to Asilah again and I hope we will. Latifah was very special.
We have stayed in some pretty rustic places, but Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka takes the prize for the most bugs, snakes, and rodents living with us in our hut. We felt like we were on Gilligans Island. And yet, we absolutely loved our three weeks here for the wonderful hosts, the incredible beach front property, the great weather and the delicious breakfasts all at a bargain basement price.
Best All Inclusive for the Price – Huraa Maldives
We spent three weeks on the itty bitty Maldivian Island of Huraa. We had a small room with bath, access to the beach, a great secluded place to do yoga and three meals a day all inclusive for $90…not $90 per person, $90 total. Our time here was spent just kicking back, running everyday, going snorkeling, hanging in the hammock and all for a remarkable price, especially in the very expensive Maldives.
Funkiest – Funky Truck in New Zealand and Tiny Trailer in Bend Oregon USA
Motueka, New Zealand
Bend, Oregon, USA
There are several Airbnb’s we could have given this award to, but these two experiences were so unique they win the prize. We only stayed two nights in each place. Both had outhouses and outdoor showers. Though tiny, both were comfortable and the hosts for both were helpful and hospitable and happy to have us visiting their unique little piece of paradise.
We have had access to a lot of beautiful beaches in our travels. Our favorites listed here though all are because we could walk right outside of our door and enjoy a beach. These three though were all very different; Mal Pais was a beautiful but unique beach just steps from or house made up of rocky pools that provided natures hot tub all day long. Seabeck Washington was a stunning beach on the Hood Canal with spectacular Olympic Mountain view and although a bit chilly, great summer swimming. And finally Hikkaduwa was a long beautiful stretch of golden sand beach with a bar right next door and our hut only steps away. Perfect.
Both Antigua and Malaga are gorgeous, historic and fairly compact cities and our Airbnb’s provided us a great location in the center of these towns to enjoy all the splendor they had to offer, along with the comforts we enjoy like kitchen and wifi. In Antigua we also had a magnificent patio where we could see two amazing volcanoes and do yoga or just sit and enjoy our morning coffee.
Flat and safe are my requirements for running around the world, and we have run in nearly every country but not in every location. Often there are dogs, cobblestones, snakes, mountains, crazy drivers or questionable characters that make running unsafe. But while in El Tunco, Placencia, Seychelles, Split and Punta Cana we ran every single day – safely and with wonderful scenery to enjoy!
Number One Out of Seventy-Six, Our Favorite Overall – Antiparos Greece (Cover photo at top of this page is Antiparos)
There are a few other’s we considered for this BEST OF moniker, but our three weeks in tiny Antiparos in this beautiful home with stunning view on the side of a mountain with a kind and lovely host is definitely our favorite experience, so far, of all our Airbnb’s. It is the one place that we think we will definitely visit again some day. As we go forward with our Grand Adventure next fall we have Airbnb’s booked all over; Asia, Africa, Europe. Time will tell if this favorite in Antiparos can hold its position as Number One.
If you have questions about our Airbnb adventures feel free to contact me. Other blogs that might be of interest to you on this topic are listed here;
Oscar nominations this week! A big week if you are a movie fan – which of course I am but since I have not stepped foot in the United States in more than 14 months I haven’t seen any of this year’s big films. But instead I have seen a world of real life drama, fantasy, comedy, mystery and animation. Enough to last a life time. So in keeping with the announcement of this year’s Oscar Nominations, I give to you our picks for World Travel Awards, Best and Worst of 2017 and 2018 – My Fab Fifties Life.
And the winner is…
Hoi An Vietnam
Favorite City – Hoi An Vietnam
By far our favorite destination in Vietnam with it’s colorful old town, beaches, rice fields and fabulous food. We loved this place and the airbnb we stayed in here.
Most Surprising – Namibia
We came to Namibia practically blind, allowing our tour guide from Wild Wind Safaris to hold our hand and we were not disappointed. A spectacular destination I think everyone should visit.
Best Value Destination – Bulgaria
We loved our month in the friendly, beautiful and historic country of Bulgaria where we didn’t
meet any Americans. Put this inexpensive and great country on your bucket list and go!
Best Overall Scenery – New Zealand
Jaw dropping scenery no matter where you go or which way you look, New Zealand is an
Abel Tasman New Zealand
outdoor enthusiast dream and is stunningly beautiful.
Most Crowded City – Hanoi
The scooters alone make this wild city that never sleeps total chaos. Then add the cars, trucks, carts, pedestrians, vendors and well – its pretty wild.
Most Beautiful City – Split Croatia
Whether you are perusing the mega yachts in the
Diocletian’s Palace, Split
harbor or wandering through Diocletian’s Palace, Split is a magical place and my favorite Croatian city.
Most Interesting City – Fez Morocco
Around every corner as you get lost in Fez there is something interesting and amazing and I enjoyed this maze of a city
Most Disappointing City – Tangier Morocco
Getting lost in Tangier is easier but nowhere near as fun as getting lost in Fez. We found Tangier a bit of a disappointment.
Best Airbnb for Service – Asilah Morocco
We adored our “mom” Latifah during our ten days
Latifah unveiling the Tajine
in Asilah and wanted to put her in our suitcase and take her with us. The food and care she gave us was unparalleled.
We had a lot of discussion over this one. We have been, frankly, so lucky with our airbnb’s. And even this one had a few quirks. But we loved it for the view, the private pool and the car that came with it. It was however, also our most expensive Airbnb. https://myfabfiftieslife.com/sweet-samui/
We loved this top floor unit with a huge deck and amazing view. We think we might return to this place some day, only $55 a night.
Best Hotel – Luang Prabang Laos
Luang Prabang Laos
We spent three nights in the beautiful Maison Dalabua hotel in this darling and historic city on the Mekong River and it was one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in. From the comfortable and spacious room, the food, the pool, the flowers and the service, everything about it was first class on a budget.
Because noodles always put a smile on your face.
Favorite Overall Cuisine – Thailand
This is the best food in the world. Simple, healthy and so flavorful I can’t get enough of Thai Cuisine.
I’ll never forget the dinner we had at Cervejaria Ramiro with our son Erik and his friend
Salvador who lives in Lisbon. It was a gluttonous evening and I loved every bite. Someday I will go back. In Piran Slovenia with our friends Raymond and Marbi we gorged ourself on the most amazing anchovies in oil followed by spectacular spaghetti
Ladja Padlanika Restaurant in Piran
con vongole. We loved it so very much we went twice.
Worst Food Overall – Camino de Santiago
When we really needed the sustenance the most, our 41 days on the Camino de Santiago provided the least inspiring of food.
Best Cooking Class – Chiang Mai Thailand with Honorable Mention to Cape Town South Africa
I try to take a cooking class in most of the countries we visit, and I do it as much for the cuisine
My favorite Chiang Mai Noodles
and culture as to meet local people who love their food and want to share it. My classes in Chiang Mai (two full days) and my evening class in the home of our instructor in Cape Town South Africa fulfilled what I am always looking for.
Best Beer – Cape Town South Africa and Honorable Mention Piran Slovenia
Capetown because they had a vibrant micro brew scene and good non-lager beers available in most stores and restaurants, and Piran because here my husband had the single best beer he has had since leaving the USA. Don’t know what brand it was but it was a spectacular Slovenian IPA.
Worst Grocery Availability – Seychelles
Hands down the most difficult place to find decent produce and healthy ingredients for day-to-day cooking, we learned to eat a lot of rice, lentils and beans during our month in the
Seeing these two places will stay with me all my life – when you think about opening your mind to understand cultural
Himba Women and Children
differences, embrace and learn from living hand to mouth and become more tolerant of other cultures – visiting these two places had all that and more.
Best Beach for Scenery – La Digue Seychelles
No wonder Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition has shot here several times. This place with it’s unique rock formations, sparkling white sand and out of this world blue water is about as spectacular as they come.
La Digue Seychelles
Best Beach for Spending the Day – Meia Praia, Lagos Portugal
It helped that our condo was a short walk to the beach, where we went everyday during our three weeks in Lagos. Golden sand, lots of room to spread out and easy and safe swimming made this our favorite.
Best Day Hike – Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand
An experience I will never forget, climbing the mountain, seeing the volcanic crater and lakes and just accomplishing this feat will always hold a special place for me.
Most Difficult Day Hike – Climbing Down Table Mountain, Cape Town South Africa
We thought down would be easier. It wasn’t. There were times where I literally didn’t think I was going to make it. My body gave it all I had, and it was
Our three-day Glamping Tour on the Able Tasman was one of the highlights of our time in that country. We were blessed with spectacular weather, met new friends and were introduced to the wonders of New Zealand.
Best Historic Sight – Angor Wat, Siem Reap Cambodia
Angor Wat Cambodia
It was a lifelong dream for me to see Angor Wat and it was not disappointing. The fascinating ancient story that unfolds in these ruins set amidst the friendly and persevering Cambodia people is not something I will ever forget.
Fewest Tourist at a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Dougga Tunisia
Nothing like having an entire UNESCO site to
yourself, and that is exactly what we enjoyed at the beautiful Dougga Roman Ruins in Tunisia. Not many tourists in Tunisia, but slowly they are returning, and we loved our time in this ancient country, cradle of civilization as we know it today.
Even though the food was bad, the experience is now branded on my soul. It changed me and I loved it.
On the Camino
Best Live Performance – Tie Violin Concert Piran Slovenia and Carmina Burana outdoors in Dubrovnik; Honorable Mention to Kandy Cultural Show, Kandy Sri Lanka
Front row seats in a tiny historic theater in beautiful Piran Slovenia made for a special night as we enjoyed a beautiful violinist accompanied by a guitarist. It was just so pleasant. Just as mazing the spectacle that was hearing Carmina Burana performed outdoors in historic Dubrovnik
Carmina Burana performed outdoors in Dubrovnik
town center. Spectacular!
Kudos also to the very authentic Sri Lankan dance, music and firewalker show we enjoyed (also front row seats) in Kandy Sri Lanka.
Best Nature and Animal Experience – Etosha National Park Namibia
I’ve said it before – this country was such a surprise and this National Park was the bomb.
Best Free Experience – Free Walking Tours
Our Free Walking tour guide in Sofia Bulgaria
In nearly every major city you can take what is known as “Free” guided walking tours. These are awesome and we love them because it is always a local guide, someone young and enthusiastic. You tip them at the end – so its not really Free – but it is worth it and we have done this at least ten times. A great value.
Friendliest People – Sri Lanka
Hands down the kindest and friendliest people we
Monk in Sri Lanka
have met – despite all the hardships they have been through; colonialism, monarch assassination , civil war and tsunami. Still they smile. Love them.
Worst Drivers – Vietnam
There are several runners-up here, including Sri Lanka (and we haven’t gotten to India or Bangladesh yet), but still Vietnam takes the prize for the craziest drivers, most dishonest cabbies, scooter
Scooters in vietnam
mania and absolute lack of any pedestrian rights.
Worst Experience – Dog Bite Koh Samui Thailand
Hands down the worst day has been the day Arne was bit by a dog in Koh Samui. The one saving grace is it could have been much worse. But still it makes me angry and the overall feral dog situation in Thailand makes me question whether I will ever visit again.
The colors and the light of the desert at dusk, the animals, the other guest from around the
On the camel trek in Morocco
world and having this experience with our friends Sarah and Steve all added up to a very fun two days and one night camel trek in the desert.
Least English Spoken – Spain
Only in the last decade has English been taught in schools, so few adults are fluent. Especially in the small towns and villages on the Camino we did a lot of pointing and hand charades to communicate. It was fun!
Hottest – Seychelle’s and Honorable Mention Doha, Qatar
We saw some rain in the Seychelles but it was never
Seychelle Islands, Praslin
under 85 degrees and the water was like a bathtub. We only spent one night in Doha Qatar, but it marked the hottest one day on the
trip at 113 F.
Coldest – New Zealand
We were in New Zealand in the fall and we had a few nights were the temperature dropped in the 30’s. Living in the Kiwi Karavan we wore hats and coats and wool socks to bed to stay
Worst Rain Storm – Tie between Hua Hin Thailand and Koh Samui Thailand
After a two hour taxi ride turned into a five hour taxi ride in a monsoon we arrived in flooded Hua Hin Thailand not sure what we had gotten ourselves into.
More than once the sky opened up in Koh Samui, accompanied by flashing lighting and booming thunder.
Best Sunrise – It’s a tie between Napier New Zealand and Galicia Spain
I’m a sucker for a good sunrise, and we have seen
Napier New Zealand
some amazing ones but these two stand out above and beyond for the sheer majesty of the experience.
Best Sunset – La Digue Seychelles (see cover photo)
Mother’s Day Dinner in La Digue we watched the sunset from a beach restaurant and it was a religious experience.
We haven’t even arrived in India yet, but it was hands down the most expensive Visa we have purchased and one of the most difficult online applications. Hopefully when we arrive tomorrow everything will be in order!
Easiest Airport Entry – Capetown South Africa
We breezed through passport and customs so fast in Capetown we were totally surprised.
Worst Airport Entry – tie between Siem Reap Cambodia and Carthage Tunisia
In both cases we got in the wrong line. The line with the guy who was arrogant and pompous and was going to make every passenger know he was the boss. Any sign of dissatisfaction could get you pulled out of line and make your life hell. And so we waited.
Lucky Girl. Fabulous Life Award.
So there you have it. The winner of the Fab Fifties version of the Oscars for 2017-2018. But you do know, the real winner is me. Me and my husband. The luckiest people on the planet. Who needs a little gold statue when you have a Fab Fifties Life?
One month in Morocco has been marvelous. We have seen so very much, and still there is much to see – so we will return one day. But for now, I am so happy to have experienced this magical and friendly country – especially the past five days as we have traversed the diverse geography from Fes to Marrakesh.
We hired a guide to show us parts of Morocco we
With our guide Abdul
would find difficult to reach on our own – and I am so glad we did. Our fantastic guide Abdul from Your Morocco Tours was amazing(5 days only $250 per person). He safely drove us for five days and was funny, interesting and proud of his country and his heritage.
Have I mentioned how friendly everyone is?
With our friends Steve and Sarah we left Fes on a Saturday morning for the long but beautiful drive. We began to climb into the mountains only a few hours out of Fes. Eventually we made it to the beautiful Ziz Valley. Here we began to see the red rocks and reddish pink buildings I had always imagined when I thought of Morocco. Although the white and blue and green and grey we had seen up to this time was beautiful in its own way – this red color of the desert against the green of
the date palm trees made me feel I was part of a movie set.
Have I mentioned how great all the roads are?
After a long day of driving we arrived in the desert, just in time for a spectacular sunset over the Sahara. It was breathtaking. I didn’t want it to end. Awash in orange from sand to sky it was spectacular.
We then continued a short distance into the dunes to our spectacular hotel called Kasbah Azalay. Stunning. How can this be our hotel when we paid so little for this tour? Not only was it pretty in a very Moroccan way but the service and hospitality was perfect. We enjoyed a lovely tagine for dinner
On the camels
and a good nights sleep.
A more leisurely day was on hand for Sunday and after breakfast we climbed the dunes and shopped for scarfs in the town of Merzouga. We then enjoyed a visit to the village of Kamila where we sipped mint tea and listened to the authentic Gnaoua music of the region performed by the ancestors of the original Sudanese slaves who were brought here five hundred years ago. Their efforts to preserve their culture and music are commendable and we danced and had a great time with them.
Have I mentioned that this country, more than any other, is where I want to buy things – pottery, rugs, leather? I am restraining myself.
Late in the afternoon we arrived at the staging area for our camel trek into the desert. To be completely accurate it’s actually a dromedary trek. Camels are the beasts with two humps. The animals with one hump are technically dromedaries, but everyone calls them camels so, hey, whatever!
On the camel trek with arne
I wasn’t really sure how this was going to go – was it scary? Painful? Smelly? Actually, it was a teeny bit painful – but mostly just fun. The dromedaries were not smelly, they didn’t spit or bite, but once you are sitting up on one, you realize this ain’t no horse. Wow. They lumber along and your leg muscles feel the movement, but honestly the next day it was my arms that were sore, from trying to hold on when the camel goes down a hill, or sits down.
There were ten of us riding and after an hour and half on the camel, including a stop to watch another spectacular Sahara sunset, we arrived at the nomad camp. We were assigned tents with beds and served tea while we waited for another group of 18 to arrive. When they did we all had dinner together (tagine) and then a bonfire and music around the fire. By this time the temperature had plummeted and we put all our clothes on including wool socks and hats and snuggled under the covers for the night.
Have I mentioned there are more stars in the sky in Morocco? Billions.
Wake up at 6am and you immediately feel the pain in your legs (and crotch) and arms. Yikes. But back on the camel we go, even before I get a cup of coffee. Ugh. I was hoping my camel knew the way to the nearest Starbucks, but instead he took us out of camp into the dunes to watch the sunrise. Surreal. And way better than Starbucks.
After the sunrise and a thousand more photos we were back in the saddle and headed back to town, where we were served a nice breakfast (with plenty of coffee) and had a hot shower before we reconnected with our guide Abdul and began day three of our tour.
We drove away from the dunes and into the amazing Moroccan red rock canyons and gorges. A
truly surprising area of Morocco I had never even heard of. The Todgha Gorge was stunning and we enjoyed it late in the afternoon where the 1000 foot walls had sunlight on the tops, but the river was in the shadow of the mountains. We also visited a remarkable fossil museum where we learned about
the 500 million year old ocean fossils found in this area and another place where we learned about the ingenious well and aqueduct system the Berber people built to access and save water from the
Atlas mountains 300 years ago.
Have I mentioned how diverse the geography is? From ocean to desert to mountains to rivers to lakes.
Finally we arrived in the Dades Gorge, another amazing marvel of Mother Nature, where our hotel for the night was perched on a cliff overlooking the valley below. We enjoyed an authentic Moroccan couscous meal and met a nice couple from Seattle and swapped stories before a good nights sleep.
Up and on our way in the morning we drove to see
more ancient Kasbahs perched in the Dades Gorge and throughout the red rock region and stopped to view the geological wonder called Monkey’s Feet. A geology uplift of rock that is unique to this area and impossible to describe. And yes, it did look a bit like the bottom of a monkey’s foot.
Midday we visited one of the best preserved Kasbahs in Morocco, the Amerhidil – built-in the 17th century and in remarkable condition. Given that most of this construction is made from mud and straw bricks, finding well-preserved ones of this age is unusual. We toured the building, ate a delicious lunch of grilled turkey kebab and then headed on our way to our hotel.
This night we stayed in another very beautiful boutique hotel with exceptional customer service. Everywhere we go the people are so kind and helpful and that is the case at Riad Tama. Big rooms, and a beautiful garden and a lovely restaurant where we enjoyed a a French inspired dinner.
Have I mentioned a Dar is a house, a Riad means garden but is often used to refer to a hotel or house with a garden?
Day five- our final day began early at 8:30 with our fabulous guide Abdul as we headed off to the
Kasar Air Ben Haddou
famous and well-preserved Kasar of Air Ben Haddou where we spent a couple of hours walking with an incredible guide who had been raised in this village. Morocco has a big film industry and this place is one that is often featured in many films including Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, and Jewel of the Nile.
Have I mentioned a kasbah is a house of a rich family usually with four towers while a kasar is a fortified village with more than one kasbah?
Our final day continued with another spectacular
All together and a wonderful time.
drive with surprising scenery and geography over the Tizi Tichka Pass to the famous city of Marrakesh – our final stop of our Morocco adventure. We will be in Marrakesh for three days.
We loved our tour! An inspiring experience in a magical place.
In the future when I think of Morocco I will certainly remember the cities we have visited (Casablanca, Chefchaouen, Tangier, Asilah, Fes and Marrakesh) but I think it will be the rural areas I will remember most fondly. The desert is such a special place to be, and to be able to sleep there and see the stars at night and ride the camels – unforgettable. The gorges and red rocks and Kasbahs of old are like something out of a movie set (and some are) but they are real. And beautiful. And cherished by the wonderful Moroccan people.
Five Days from Fes to Marrakesh. What an experience. What a lucky girl. What a life.
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