Tag Archives: off the beaten track

Cheese refueling in Cantal, France

How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?

Charles de Gaulle

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France’s landscape is truly diverse. Not all glamorous but it sometimes feels nice as well to just immerse oneself into the deep countryside, enjoy hiking  volcanoes, canoeing in stunning rivers and …. eating a lot of cheese!

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so what’s your perfect weekend in NY like?

I’d like to launch a series of posts in the format of an “email from a friend”: collecting feedback  from everyone, great little places, tricks and tips… and actually test

and I’m off to the big Apple with my best friend for a long weekend early Feb. I can’t wait!!! great occasion to launch that series.

So what are your best reco’s?

Burma – recipe for a great night out in Yangon?

Burma has been hitting the headlines in the last few months as it starts opening up to the world –  for the traveller who passes by for a couple of weeks like me though, it is pretty clear that there is still a long way to go before it becomes a more “normal” country, with more freedom and more prosperity for everyone, not just the few at the top.

That being said, in addition to the real treasures this country has to offer and that are very well documented in various guides, Burma, or more precisely its former capital Yangon is also, surprisingly, a place where you can party!

We are far from places like Thailand or HK but that is precisely what makes the place pretty fun! Here is the recipe for a great night out in Yangon:

The first ingredient is to find yourself a local friend – if you are lucky enough the person seating next to you in the plane can turn out to be a cool Burmese chap who 1) makes your life much easier when you land at 6am and that you need to go to the black market to change your USD into Kyats  / find a cab 2) knows where to go out! This ingredient is not compulsory but it clearly spices up your night!

The second ingredient is a yummy diner: best is to go simple and just eat in on the many eateries where for USD5-10 you’ll have a real feast! Burmese food is influenced by the neighbouring countries so Chinese, Thai and Indian/Bangladesh are among the standards fares but Burma also has some yummy and flavourful dishes to offer for the curious minds. If you are brave enough you can also try out the local spirits such as Grand Royal Whisky. If you care about your stomach, stick to beer though…

The third ingredient is the club. Not so easy to find, especially since the place we went does not have a name. That is where the local friend comes really handy! If you don’t have one ,it seems like you will simply have to tell the taxi driver to go to the 9th floor night club, and hopefully he should take you to an entertainment complex with several clubs. In the lobby of the building there are several elevators, take the one on the right as the one on the left takes you to another club. Our guide literally called the elevator by manually opening the doors and shouting something – the elevator comes down and then take you to the9th floor.

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The last ingredient is some Burmese disco / rock / R&B; Still a burgeoning scene but some potential!

if you are a girl, one of the great benefits of partying there is that the security guys will make sure no one comes too close to you! Not sure if it was because we were the only white people in the club or it is a standard procedure.

Surfing on a volcano in Lanzarote

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On stressful days like this, I dream of being able to take a coffee break on Famara beach, Canarias.

It’s the end of the world. Don’t go to party, not point. We were alone, watching the sun rise and falling asleep right after the sun had set (and the bottle of local vino), exhausted and ocean-washed. Alone to the point when we wondered : where are the locals gone!?

We asked the (many) Brits we found, why they had decided to live in Canarias: the answer was invariably, “because it’s sunny, and we benefit from steady surf conditions all year round”. It would be a good enough reason; but the volcano-island in the Atlantic ocean, has much more to offer; great wine, cheese, sun, and above all : peace.

Go get your surf board, it’s one of the best spot in the world

The first things that surprised us was that the island is small, but you’ll definitely need a car, no public transport there. Also, that the weather is ever changing. The land is swept by the wind, for the greatest pleasure of surfers, but making the shining sun turn into a bone soaking shower in 3min.

Famara is an amazing beach for surfing beginners, it’s a safe and high quality beaches, with consistent swell. We went in October and could use a short wetsuit
check the weather, tides and other info here

or here
but for more experienced surfers (or for those who, like us, will enjoy watching some serious action live), go to La Santa. It’s 10min driving from Famara, and the most famous surf spot of the island.

 

Do’s and Don’ts

helpful map

go rent a car cauz you’ll need it. They’re lovely people, and you’ll get an audio guide

get spoilt in a cosy B&B

do take your car and cross the island from one side to another, stopping in bodegas to test the wine.

please don’t think it’s a good idea to go for an ice-cream in Puerto del Carmen. It’s not, you’ll be disappointed.

Cultural Corner

Once back at home, watch Pedro Almodovar’s Abrasos Rotos (broken embraces). In Spanish please.

Pedro Almodovar seldom gets it wrong

World Party!

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We love travelling guides, of all of them, the penguin’s “rough guides” are high up in my esteem.

One of my flatmate has received the amazing “World party” rough guide for Christmas and I truly thank his mum. It’s no ordinary travel guide, it’s a window open on worldwide fun and excitement.
It’s also a constant reminder that I have only ticked a very limited amount of boxes, and all of it in Europe: The Notting Hill festival, Pascua en Andalusia, Ibiza opening and closing parties … All were amazing but there is so much more to do I feel like getting plane tickets every time I flick through it.

 

Rough Guide -World Party

Also check out their world music network website

Ps: tell us which ones you’ve ticked off. Was worth it?

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Moroccan wedding reinvented

Picture 006 Medina, narrow street Picture 005

Like the King’s wife, Salma of Morocco, my friend is from Fes. Unlike her, she is a full time executive worker in Paris and married a French guy from the Caribbean  The common point to all Moroccan weddings isn’t the rum-punch; it’s that the bride is always a princess. Like in little girls dreams, she’s pampered, fed delicious delights, being introduced to the party on a sedan chair….

Moroccan weddings are a major institution, and 3 days of festivities could feel quite intense; however, life goes by at a different pace there, and the seamlessly  organised step by step process is also very patronising, securing. First because they’ve invented the wedding planner concept with their tradition keepers (the neggafates), so no schedule slip and no worries – at least for the guests.

I flew there 2 days prior to the wedding and we steamed and scrubbed in the hammam at the sound of women’s songs and chants…marvellous way to relax and gather amongst girls. Unsure if it’s the pampering or the carb and sugar load but the whole pre-wedding experience feels pretty childish, in a good way. more info on Morrocan weddings

dates, symbol of fertility

And the actual wedding ceremony is a spectacular ballet of  – extremely sweet – food, from the pastilla to the Cornes-de-Gazelles and other honey&almond-heavy deliciousnesses. And if you thought European weddings were colourful and Kaftans were a austere dress ? mmm not quite there; guest are rivalling with not so traditional kaftan of all colours, shapes, fabrics, folding it up the knee and dancing till late.

The diversity and refinement of kaftans is fascinating from a fashionista point of view as it gives a canvas that can be declined in to so many versions! I went to the wedding wearing a long gown but instantly wished I had rented one! I had never realised it could be so sophisticated and also figure flattering with the large belt that can be adjusted. To get a better idea, check last year’s fashion shows, and my favourites

Do’s and Dont’s

  • do stay in a Riad in the medinah, avoid the Hilton (Sofitel) unless you’re on a business trip. I stayed in Ali’s Riad Zyo, an oasis of hospitality. I could eat his home-made beghrir everyday for breakfast…yum
  • do bargain argan oil, rose water and orange blossom water: each time I open the bottle, my bedroom travels back to the souk
  • don’t go for just a weekend if yuo’re travelling from London – with no direct flight to Rabat you will have to fly to Casa and take a train. It’s cheap and rather easy, people are friendly enough they will show you the way in French or broken English, but plan at least 5 days

Readers Corner

for those who can read in French: Partir – Tahar Ben Jelloun

my next trip there?

Morocco is an enticing country, with lovely, welcoming people and Rabat combines the wealth, the Mediterranean sea-side and diet. When tourist guides all focus on Marrakesh and Essaouira, I felt pretty privileged to have been invited to Rabat and shared delicious home made Couscous al-fresco.

From there, where next?

surfing in Imessouane, Dakla or Sidi ifni which I have been recommended recently. And given how welcoming people are, how good the food and how consistent the weather is, it’s on the “get back” list

or maybe who knows, one day I put my guts together and sign up for the Marathon des Sables