MarocMama

eat well, travel often, dream big!

Rejuvenating at Riad Romm’an

Riad Romman front door“Mama, can this be our house?!” both of my kids exclaimed after walking into Riad Romm’an one evening. If only! It had been a trying few weeks, we’d returned from the United States to find a house full of our extended family. There was always lots of noise and commotion and so when I told them we’d be slipping away for the night to sleep in a riad they were over the moon.

You don’t often play tourist in your own city, but with so many people asking me where they should stay for their visit to Marrakech I realized I needed to do some research. There are different kinds of riads in Morocco. Some operate like a bed and breakfast, offering multiple rooms in the house to different guests. While others only rent the riad as a whole. They can be self-catering or have staff on hand to assist with cooking and cleaning. You really have a lot of options.

Riad Romm’an is of the later category. In Arabic, romm’an means pomegranate and just like this unique fruit I knew something was different from the time we walked in. The neighborhood is unassuming. Truth be told I’d never been to this area of Marrakech but we were happy to find parking nearby. This can be a bit of a red herring in the medina. A short walk brought us to the front doors and quickly we were led inside.

This is the thing about riads. Outside the streets can be loud, dusty, dirty even but once you go through the doors you’ll be completely shocked at what you see. Not sure what a riad is? This is the name for a traditional style Moroccan house. They have large, open courtyards with interior rooms on multiple levels. The style is still used in Marrakech and Fez though has gone out of fashion in many others parts of Morocco.

riad romman marrakech rooms

There are three beautifully decorated bedrooms to choose from. Perfect for a multi-generational family getaway or several couples looking to spend their vacation together. You have plenty of privacy but also the ability to be together. All of the rooms are on the 2nd floor. The ground floor has a sitting/dining area and a kitchen. You can choose to cook your own meals and use the kitchen or have the very talented on-staff cook preparing meals instead. (It is an extra charge for this service but you’re on vacation – you may as well enjoy it!) That being said I think that having a full onsite kitchen is great for anyone who has younger kids who may be picky, or if you’ve got food allergies and are more comfortable controlling exactly what you’re eating.

Riad Romman plunge pool

Finally the rooftop.  Oh, the rooftop – and trust me I’m going to repeat this again and again. There’s nothing more picturesque as the rooftops of Marrakech. I’m wearing MarocBaba down on making our roof as lovely as this. Because, really who wouldn’t want to spend all day – or all night – up here?

IMG_4629

Could this be a home away from home in Marrakech for you? Maybe!

Recommended by MarocMama

Riad Romm’an Derb El Boumba, Arset El Houta, Marrakech

Rates: 180GBP per night – minimum of 3 night stay. Price is for full riad (3 rooms). Weekly rates available.

**Special Discount** Mention “marocmama” when booking and get 10% off your stay!

MarocMama recommended for: families with children, multiple couples or friends traveling together. 

 

Read more
Eating in Morocco with Food Allergies

One of the most frequent questions I get in my inbox relates to food allergies and visiting Morocco. This is something we were very worried about before our move. Our youngest son has an allergy to cucumbers and MarocBaba was diagnosed with celiac disease a few years ago. If you’re visiting or moving it’s important to know what you’ll be up against.

Education

In large cities, tourism is a major industry. People are aware of the needs of travelers and varied diets. While 10 years ago someone who said they were a vegetarian would be met with glazed over eyes, today this is very normal and many menus point out options that are vegetarian friendly. I’ve seen several menus that are now listing gluten free options but I’ll be realistic when I tell you the large majority of people do not understand gluten allergies. Bread is an integral part of the Moroccan diet and many can not fathom not eating it. Don’t ever feel pressured to eat it!Allergy Friendly Menus

Some words that you might want to know;

hassasiya…. — this means “allergy or allergic to” 

luz — nuts

d’geg — flour (I use this word for gluten) 

hleb — milk/dairy

Flexibility

If you’re used to eating, or not eating certain things you may want to prepare yourself ahead of time. Even some things that are very easy to purchase in the US or Europe are not as easy to find in Morocco. Again, you’ll have more luck in big cities. If you’re used to for example, using coconut oil or drinking coconut milk instead of regular milk be prepared to not find these items in Morocco. You’ll need to work with what you can find, unless there’s something you absolutely can not substitute. In that case, you should bring it with you, if possible. If you find yourself eating in someone’s home, you can let them know ahead of time if you have allergies, they will appreciate it and it will make everything more comfortable for everyone. For example if you don’t eat bread you can ask for a fork to eat tajine with, or ask for the couscous to be served separately from the meat and vegetables.

Understanding

For many people in Morocco having food allergies are a luxury not a way of life. Even if people don’t have an allergy they can’t really understand the idea that one would choose not to eat meat, or only eat vegetables. Because life here for many is one of survival they eat what is available. While some do know what gluten-free is, don’t expect people to know what a paleo diet is, for example the phrase “I only eat paleo” will mean absolutely nothing to 99% of people you meet. Be clear about the things you can eat or specifically state the things you can not eat. If you have several allergies consider printing a list that has the name of the item and the translation into French. Better yet – you can print this picture right here, where I’ve translated common allergies for you!

English/French Food Allergy Translations for a Morocco visit

Options

If you’re ready to find some great food that will fit int your diet here are some options that you can order. You should check with the restaurant before ordering as they may have slightly different ways of cooking things.

Vegetarian

This is the easiest. Many things are already made without meat and won’t require much extra effort. Some menu items;

  • salads
  • vegetarian couscous
  • fish tajine with vegetables (if you eat fish)
  • vegetable tajine
  • maakouda
  • bean or lentil dishes (unlike in Europe or US they aren’t made with a meat base flavor)
  • eggs

Allergen Friendly Foods

Gluten Free/Dairy Free

Many Moroccan foods are gluten free to begin with and dairy is rarely used in Moroccan cooking. It’s the addition of bread as an eating tool that makes things difficult. Avoid all breads as there are no breads made only with gluten free flour unless you’re buying at a specialty shop. Some foods that you can enjoy;

  • raib – a Moroccan yogurt that’s great for breakfast (this is not dairy free)
  • Couscous can be enjoyed, simply ask for rice instead of semolina couscous – many places can accomodate
  • All tajines are gluten-free
  • Moroccan salads are also gluten free naturally
  • Many markets like Carrefour or Marjane carry yogurts that are made with soymilk instead of cow milk)

Watch out for soups like harira that are often thickened using flour.

Nut Allergies

Nuts are a Moroccan favorite but are used sparingly as they are expensive. You will want to avoid nearly all Moroccan cookies as they are found in many, many pastries. Sometimes tajines like the famous beef and prune tajine are decorated with fried almonds. Just alert anyone that you have a nut allergy and they will avoid them.

Marrakech Restaurants for Safe Eating

As mentioned, many places can make alterations or let you know what is safe for you to eat or not based on your allergy. You may want to double and even triple check. If you are staying in a riad, the majority are aware and able to help by creating meals that fit your needs. They also offer some of the best meals in the city! These restaurants are some that I know and trust to understand what food allergies are and the proper way to handle foods for those with allergies. You’ll notice these are all mid to low-priced restaurants. The majority of upmarket restaurants will be able to meet any allergy needs you have.

Amal Moroccan Restaurant and Women’s Training Center  Angle rues Allal ben Ahmad et Ibn Sina, Gueliz, Marrakesh

Amal is only open for lunch but the staff is always willing to help you find things that are safe to eat on the menu and make adjustments as needed. All of the food is made onsite, fresh daily and as ordered. Staff speak Arabic, English, French, and Spanish.

Cafe Clock  Derb Chtouka, Kasbah, Marrakesh

This cross cultural cafe is in an area of Marrakech that’s often less frequently visited. The residential quarter of the Kasbah is the heart of old Marrakech. You can trust their food offerings 100%.  Vegan items are clearly notated on the menu. There are also gluten-free options. Simply let the all English speaking staff know what allergies you have and they can help!

The Henna Cafe Arset Aouzal Rd, Souikat, Marrakesh

This restaurant offers a mix of traditional and fusion Moroccan cuisine with a hint to Levant favorites like hummus and falafel. They offer many vegetarian options and can adjust your meal for nut allergies. If you’re wanting to receive a henna application while you’re in Morocco this is the place to go for beautiful designs, safe henna, and a fair price without the hassle.

The Earth Cafe Derb Zawak, Riad Zitoun Kedim 2, Medina, Marrakesh

This is one of the only exclusively vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Marrakech. It gets mixed reviews, while some are thrilled to find a menu full of choices while others say the flavors and menu items aren’t up to par.

La Creperie du Marrakech 14 Petit Marche de Gueliz | Route de Targa, Marrakesh

This small cafe serves Brittany style crepes that are really great. The savory crepes are gluten-free. They are made with a special buckwheat that the owners bring from France. Order either sweet or savory with the buckwheat flour! This place is a favorite for us!

Le Pain Quotidien Marrakech Unité 5 Boulevard Allal Al Fassi, Daoudiate, Marrakesh

In a darija class I was talking I discovered the husband of one of my classmates owns/manages this bakery and they had a line of gluten free products. If you have a severe allergy to gluten this will not work for you. But if you have an intolerance you can find some great cakes, breads, and cookies offered. They also have sugar free baked goods as well for those that need or want a low sugar diet.

Have other favorite Marrakesh restaurants that serve allergen friendly menus?

Leave them in the comments!

Disclaimer: These are suggestions only. Please be sure to double check with any establishments as their menus may have changed from the time I visited and published this.

 

I’m linking this post up with Sunday Travelers. Join Chasing the Donkey and several other of my favorite bloggers weekly as great travel posts from around the world are shared.

Read more
Morocco Month is Here!

Morocco Month is Here!

Morocco October 1, 2014 3

During the summer I decided that I would dedicate a whole month to posts just about Morocco. Of course you’ve seen several posts since we’ve moved here on the topic but not as many as I would like. It took me awhile to settle in and while I was busy trying to figure out what the heck we were doing here I couldn’t really think of a lot of information that would benefit other people. Thanks to lots of email questions, Facebook comments, and interaction with other people I think I’ve got a good idea of what is needed/wanted.

During this month you’ll see;
– pictures and information about some great Marrakech riads
– some new and some revisited Moroccan food recipes
– Advice on eating and staying in Marrakech
– Itineraries for visitors both with and without kids

Something else you’ll see…my very own travel guide to Marrakech! It’s not quite ready yet but I hope to have it released in the next week. It will be available for free download for a period of time (I’ll let you know when) and then for sale.

I’m really excited for this month and have so much to share with you! Don’t forget you can always follow me on Instagram for pictures of our daily life here in Morocco, and wherever else in the world we may be!

Expat Life with a Double Buggy

 

I’m joining All about October hosted by Amanda at Expat life with a double buggy

Read more
Preparing for Eid: Freezer Cooking with Simmer Sauces

All across the city people are making preparations for Eid, including our family. The sheep have started to find their way into city markets, small stalls are popping up to sell charcoal and bundles of straw for the sheep. There are plenty of advertisements marking the holiday, new clothes for sale, and people looking to gather the last little bit of money to go towards their sheep purchase. (Note: if you’re visiting Morocco right now, bargain hard! Most vendors want to make a sale, any sale right before this holiday.) Eid in Morocco is very different than Eid in the US where the holiday lasts one day and often times people make many adjustments to have even a small celebration.

One of the biggest differences here is that the holiday lasts three days and often times butcher shops are closed for up to a week after the holiday. All butcher shops. Yes, you can still get meat from grocery markets but it can be a hassle. Instead I learned last year to prepare ahead of time. I’ve shared before how much I like using freezer cooking for Ramadan prep, well the same is true now for Eid too!

Saffron Roads’ Simmer Sauces are a great time saver and we love everyone of their flavors. I didn’t think it could be any easier to use them than simply mixing them in but I also have added them to my freezer cooking routine now too. Since they are so easy to use as is, why would you want to include them with freezer cooking? I find that by mixing them with meat before freezing it, the flavors can really marinade well. You can achieve this by leaving them in the refrigerator for a few hours too but this saves me time. I simply label the bag with which sauce I’ve used and freeze it! To make it really easy, purchase some Ziploc freezer bags and use a bowl to set your bag in so that the contents don’t spill.

Freezer Cooking with Simmer Sauces

When you’re ready to cook you can thaw (or place frozen) in a skillet and finish cooking. You also could put it in a slow cooker to cook while you’re at work. One recipe I recently made with diced up frozen I marinaded with the Korean Stir Fry Simmer Sauce is fried rice. You’ll love it! Feel free to use any vegetables you have on hand either fresh or frozen. While I opted for chicken, you can use beef or lamb too.

Korean Chicken Fried Rice

 

Korean Stir Fry Fried Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken diced into small pieces
  • 1 envelope Saffron Road Korean Stir Fry Simmer Sauce
  • 5 cups cooked rice
  • 2 cups mixed vegetables (or more)
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon Garlic
  • 2 tsp sesame sauce
  • 3 eggs
  • Soy Sauce (for the side)
  • 4 Tbsp vegetable oil

Instructions

  • Dice chicken into small pieces, add to a Ziploc bag along with 1 envelope of Saffron Road Korean Stir Fry Simmer Sauce. Remove excess air, and freeze until ready to use.
  • To prepare - add 2 Tbsp vegetable oil and 1 Tablespoon of garlic to a large skillet.
  • Remove meat from freezer and add to skillet frozen or thawed if previously taken out.
  • Begin to cook meat, adding vegetables when the meat is 1/2 way cooked.
  • If liquid begins to dry up, add a small cup of water and cook on low until vegetables are tender and meat is cooked through.
  • Remove from the skillet and set aside.
  • In the same skillet, add the remaining 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil and cooked rice.
  • Allow rice to cook for 8-10 minutes until the bottom begins to get crispy.
  • Mix the rice and push to one side of the pan.
  • Crack the 3 eggs into the empty side of the pan and use a spatula to "scramble" the eggs.
  • Slowly add the rice into the eggs so that they are completely combined.
  • Drizzle the rice with the 2 tsp of sesame sauce, mix and cook a few more minutes to warm up the sauce and enhance the flavor.
  • To serve lay a bed of rice on a plate, add the chicken and vegetables and drizzle with soy sauce.
3.1
http://marocmama.com/2014/09/preparing-eid-freezer-cooking-simmer-sauces.html

After you make this a few times you’ll be whipping it up all the time! I love using this as a way to get rid of leftovers and get my kids to eat lots of vegetables and protein without complaining. You can use several different simmer sauces with the same recipe for a little different flavor.

Korean Stir Fry Fried Rice

 

How do you prepare for Eid? It’s almost here!

Read more
Meet the Midwest: Minnesotas’ Not to Miss Science Museum

During our summer in the United States we took a trip to Minneapolis for a few days. When we lived closer we’d regularly make day trips for special groceries at the Middle Eastern markets or shopping but we rarely spent time exploring other attractions. I can’t remember who first told me about the Science Museum of Minnesota but I am so glad they did!

We had the chance to not only view the main exhibits but also the dinosaur and fossil section.  Our admission tickets let us into the dinosaur exhibit first. The kids each got a paper to take through the exhibit and stamp at various points. This specific exhibit was labeled in both English and French giving the kids a chance to practice some French reading. I loved that it was so hands on!

Dinosaurs at Minnesota Science Museum

There were experiments and examples throughout the exhibit, including places where you could touch real dinosaur bones. I loved the use of technology and simple examples to engage kids. One of K’s favorite things were the dioramas set up around the room where he could play with dinosaur scenes. One other interesting thing we discovered – many of the bones were found in Morocco! It’s made us want to go further south to where these dino discoveries are being made.

DNA Experiment at Science Museum of Minnesota From the dinosaur exhibit we went to the other areas of the museum. The Cell Lab is where my boys could have spent the entire day. This hands-on biology lab let them not only don coats, gloves, and glasses but preform real science experiments. Most experiments are for ages 8+ but there was at least one K could do along with his big brother. In this experiment they were extracting DNA from wheat germ. This was an involved process that required measuring, timing, and extracting cells. It took more than thirty minutes from start to finish and I was certain K was going to get tired of it really quickly. I was wrong! Both of my boys not only loved doing this but really learned something too. The rest of the day they asked when they could come back and do another experiment.

Fire Exhibit Science Museum

 

Even more of our day was spent in the experiment gallery. Most experiments allow children to preform the actions while remaining safe and not needing oversight. There were live shows done by museum staff every 30 minutes or so and this was also a hit with them. We spent over 5 hours in the museum and didn’t even get close to seeing and doing everything. I really wish that I would have known how great this museum was when we lived closer!

If you’re visiting the Minneapolis area and have school aged children this is a really great museum to visit. Many times museums for children reach a really young demographic, but I think that even if my kids were in their teens they would have really enjoyed many sections of the museum.

The Science Museum of Minnesota

120 W Kellogg Blvd

St Paul, MN 55102

Open daily at 9:30am.  Closed on Mondays.

Special thanks to the Minnesota Science Museum and Visit Minneapolis for providing us with free admission passes. As always all opinions are my own, and we can’t wait to go back! 

Read my other posts about traveling in the Midwest, USA;

Read more
Meet the Midwest: Eating and Art in Sioux Falls, SD

When I told people I was going to Sioux Falls, SD on vacation this summer they scratched their heads. South Dakota? For a vacation? It was part of a grand road trip I took with my friend Julie and what a trip it was! This will be my last post on this trip but I can honestly say who you’re with is just as important as where you go. It was only a few days but we shared lots of laughs, good food, and really fun experiences.

After we left Mankato, MN we decided that instead of taking the highway to Sioux Falls, we’d take the scenic route, mostly because it went through Sleepy Eye and Walnut Grove, MN. I grew up in the Midwest and The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder was as close to required reading as you got in elementary school. Julie and I both had fond memories of the stories from the books and later scenes from the TV series. It didn’t look like it was that big of a difference so why not?

Truth is, it is a bit out of the way and summer road construction didn’t help things either.

Sod House on the Prairie

Right before you get to Walnut Grove there’s a sign on the road for the “Sod House on the Prairie.” Being under no real time constraints and expecting to find a fun tourist trap we decided why not? A little bit of research told us that there really wasn’t much remaining from the Ingalls’ original settlement so this looked like it might be our chance to see something more authentic. We pulled up to a farm and were greeted by Virginia, her husband built the site. What we found were several sod house, a site that once covered the prairies of the Midwest. At one time you could actually spend the night in one of them – pioneer style!

After twirling through the prairie grass we hit the road again. This is when we discovered Pipestone National Monument, a great site for anyone passing through to visit.  Finally we approached Sioux Falls.

Strawbale Winery Sioux Falls, SD

On Friday evenings in summer Strawbale Winery opens up for guests to come out, enjoy live local music and food. They have wine tastings too of course along with wine slushies.  You’re probably thinking, what in the world is a Muslim girl doing at a winery? Don’t worry they have some really great non-alcoholic slushies too. One of my favorite finds were some of the vendors selling antique and vintage items like a beautiful quilt from the 1940’s that almost found it’s way home with me.

After a long day on the road we drove to our hotel, while not the most glamorous, a nice new La Quinta right off the interstate with a good breakfast and giant rooms. The next day we had plans to explore more of the city.

Falls Park, Sioux Falls SD

One of the most beautiful features in Sioux Falls is Falls Park. The Sioux River cuts through the city and was a major focal point of industry and the building of the city over time. Today it’s a gorgeous park with waterfalls and we were told an amazing Christmas light set in winter. We also discovered a trolley that runs from the park through downtown Sioux Falls every day.  Best part – it’s $1 and you can use it all day. There’s free parking near Falls Park so you can keep your car here and use the trolley all day long to get around. The conductor for the day told us about the history of the buildings and areas we passed and it was a really nice overview of the city.

Lunch and a Coffee Break in Sioux Falls, SD

For the afternoon we opted to eat, shop, and then eat some more. We discovered a restaurant called Sanaa’s and I was delighted to find some great Middle Eastern food. It’s only open for lunch during the week but I found the food incredibly authentic and delicious. There were lots of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options and we learned everything is fresh made daily. After some shopping we indulged at CH Patisserie, a French style cafe with an American twist on flavors. While it was a little on the expensive side, we shared a pot of French press and pastry and were very happy!

Artists in Sioux Falls, SD

We were lucky to be in Sioux Falls on a Friday night to enjoy their Downtown First Friday events. Like many small towns in the Midwest there’s a lot of effort going into revitalization and building community. Downtown restaurants have specials, musicians fill store fronts and dozens of artists are at work. If you’re visiting in the summer months this is an event not to miss!

Duck Breast and Cheesy Polenta at Bros Brasserie Americano in Sioux Falls SD

Now, my favorite meal of the entire vacation. Bros Brasserie Americano was a really fun place to sit with friends, enjoy a cold drink, and a really well done meal. I chose duck breast on a cheesy polenta and it’s one of the few times I really wish I would have had a larger stomach to eat every last bit. Everyone else at the table heartily agreed. If you like craft beers than you’ll really love all the options they have on tap but don’t worry there are lots of options for everyone.

Outdoor University Sioux Falls

After collapsing in our room on a food coma, we woke up the next morning to attend the Outdoor University, an annual event held at the Outdoor Campus.  The one day event is a great opportunity for families of all ages to learn about the outdoors and try outdoor activities like kayaking, archery, rock climbing, and wildlife. The event is completely free and I couldn’t help but think how much fun my boys would have had. I dressed up in some sweet fur items like this skunk-skin hat and fur gloves. I doubt they’d be much use in Morocco but they would have kept me toasty in a Wisconsin winter.

Even though South Dakota might not be high on your destination list, we had a great time! It’s a very family friendly location or pack up your girlfriends and enjoy a weekend away.

Check out what Julie had to say about our trip on her blog Wisconsin Parent;

Outdoor University and Midwest Travel: Sioux Falls

If you prefer to listen, check out the podcast instead!

Read more
Nassau, The Bad Boy of the Bahamas?

Last month, I took my mom on a Caribbean cruise. I wanted to do something with just the two of us and figured she could use a week of relaxing in the sun. We’re pretty good travel companions. There were plenty of naps, lying around on beach chairs and relaxing. We didn’t do everything – or see everything there was to see. Our ship stopped at Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos, Half Moon Cay, and Nassau, Bahamas and that was enough. It was very different from the previous cruise I had taken with MarocBaba and the boys for a lot of reason but one thing sure stood out – there was a BIG push on the shopping. By the time we docked in Nassau, our last port stop I really wasn’t interested in shopping.

But, from the second that humid Bahamian air hit me, I knew I was going to like it here.

Street in Nassau Bahamas

Nassau reminded me a LOT of Marrakech. The bright colors everywhere, horse carriages, and jam packed streets full of activity were just the start. It was evident to me that there was also a very sharp difference between the have’s and the have-nots. The blessing and curse of tourism had cast it’s spell here too. This wasn’t much of a surprise as there were 3 other ships docked at the same time as ours; we estimated that was roughly 15,000 people that could be visiting the island just from cruise ships that day.

The cruise line had given warnings that there was an increased security risk in Nassau and we should stick with ship approved shore excursions. Of course I was skeptical as to whether this was actually true or just a way to bolster fear and have more people buy on to ship excursions. I don’t know about you but I’m not one to spend $150 for a day at the Atlantis hotel, nor do I want to spend my time wandering around tourist shops. Mom and I decided we’d get off the ship, walk around and have lunch, then go back on board.

Just like in Djem al Fna there were plenty of people offering tours, taxis, and other services. We just kept walking. Then towards the end there was a really nice man who caught our attention. He wasn’t hustling, he simply shared with us what he had to offer and was happy to answer any questions we had. I’m a pretty good judge of a con and the real thing and he felt genuine. We walked over to where another family was waiting. There were 8 of us in total that would be taking a tour of the island in his van.

Conch Fritters Nassau Bahamas

This is where the story usually starts to turn however, I’m very happy to say we couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Lil ‘D’ (otherwise known as Darren Brown) has lived on the island his entire life and regaled us with tales of island life and insider stories about the history and culture of the island. What I liked the most was how candid he was, he told us what it was really like without making things all rosy or telling a sob story. We also got a ride through the “hood” as he put it. There’s poverty everywhere and it didn’t surprise me it exists in the tourist mecca of the Bahamas. Nor did it surprise me how we went from the opulence of The Atlantis, to the more down and out neighborhoods in no more than 10 minutes.

There aren’t a lot of attractions on Nassau, but we saw the “Pink House” the Government House of the Bahamas as well the other government buildings.

The Queens Staircase, Nassau Bahamas

We also saw the Queen’s Staircase – this was built in honor of Queen Victoria for help abolishing slavery in the Bahamas. Essentially it’s just a staircase but the waterfall and surrounding foliage was really beautiful. Don’t be surprised if you find men around sharing the history of the stairs with you. A small tip is appreciated. On top of the steps and slightly up the hill are some remnants of a fortress that once stood at this high point on the island. There are several stalls around selling typical trinkets but there are also some stalls selling fresh fruit and conch fritters – get some!

I asked Little D where he’d go to eat for lunch and he pointed us to a few restaurants though neither of which really struck me as where the locals go. Mostly because there were no locals inside. We settled on the Athena Bar and Grill. It’s close to the cruise port and even though it was a little on the pricy side the food was good. We both had appetizers and something to drink and were happy.

Greek Bahamian Food in Nassau

Tips for Visiting Nassau:

The Bahamas was a British colony and everyone speaks English. They also drive on the left side of the road so you’ll want to pay attention if you’re unfamiliar with this.

The Bahamian dollar and the US dollar are at a 1:1 conversion – you can use either on the island (or both).

If you want to go to The Atlantis for the day during a cruise stop, you can book a hotel room at one of the nearby hotels (there is for example a Comfort Inn really close). Many have an arrangement that with your room you will get free wristbands to the hotel waterpark. From the ship the day price was $125-$150 per person, a room at the hotel runs about $250 and you get 4 wrist bands. If you’re a family (or 2 couples) traveling together this can save you 50%!

Bargain with vendors! The Straw Market is a popular tourist destination, it’s basically a flea market that sells woven straw goods, bags, some jewelry and carving. Most people don’t do it but I was successful here and at the shops near the Queen’s Staircase bargaining. Just don’t expect them to engage and be as flexible as other locations.

The Bahamian dimes are really fun – they have a scallop shaped edge and make a good (and cheap) souvenir for kids!

Conch fritters are the specialty here – eat some.

I highly recommend the tour we took with Lil ‘D’ – it was $25 and well worth it. If you’re visiting the Bahamas you can arrange something with him ahead of time by emailing him lildtours (at) msn (dot) com — tell him Amanda from Morocco sent you!

 

Read more
Adventure Sports in Essaouira

One of our favorite places in Morocco is the seaside city of Essaouira. It’s less than two hour drive from Marrakech but it feels like a world away. The first time I visited, was right after MarocBaba and I were engaged, and we’ve gone regularly ever since. Ask my kids their favorite city in Morocco and Essaouira is likely to be what they say. But why?

The city is a great combination of laid back lifestyle, lots of activities to keep people of all ages busy, and delicious food. After spending days in the bustling souks of Marrakech, walking through the tranquil streets and port of Essaouira is a welcome reprieve.

Port of Essaouira

 

But, what if you’re after an adventure? You can find it here too! One unique feature of this city is that the wind almost always blows – always. This makes it a great destination for traditional surfers and kite surfers. If water isn’t your thing there are several companies that offer horseback riding both on the beach and on longer trail rides around Essaouira and to further destinations. Or maybe you’d rather a camel ride along the ocean? To get your heart pumping rent a Quad or dune buggy for an hour or for the day. There are trails and you can choose self guided and guided options.

Kite Surfing in Winter

Kite surfing really is the most popular sport here both among local Moroccans and visitors to the city. If you want to give it a shot I ran across a contest being hosted by Explora. The winner will get 7 days board, a spot in their kite surfing camp, equipment rental and airport transfers. All you have to do is get your ticket and pack your bags! (You can also hop over to Marrakech and join one of our food tours if you’re the lucky winner!) The contest ends on September 26th so make sure you go register right away!

Seafood in Essaouira

After spending all day playing you’ll want to eat. Luckily you’ll be able to find some of the freshest and most delicious seafood in Morocco here. Visit the port and pick out whatever looks good to you. Fish, shrimp, crabs, lobsters, eels, and so many more varieties I’ve never even seen. Take your catch to one of the grills and have them cook your choices. Moroccan salads, olives, and bread complete the meal.

I haven’t tried kite surfing yet but I’m pretty sure on our next trip to the coast I’ll give it a shot!

Read more