A journalist for more than 20 years, I travelled extensively while writing about overseas property markets for a range of publications including Homes Overseas, A Place in the Sun, Saga, The Guardian and the Mail on Sunday – and for my book on the subject, published by Which?
Along the way the place I fell in love with most was Morocco, spellbound by Marrakech’s souks, ateliers and junk markets, and gradually mastering its winding medina streets. I was, and remain, captivated by the ancient buildings, artisanal expertise and in-your-face post-colonial self-confidence of this young and fascinating North African kingdom.
I’ve stayed in houses and hotels and eaten in restaurants at all points on the price spectrum in the 'red city'. I’ve spent untold hours sipping mint tea in street cafes, chatting to locals and tourists, and haggling with furniture dealers, carpet merchants and trinket sellers. Five years ago I became the proud owner of a house in Essaouira – Marrakchis’ favourite coastal resort – and I now split my time between the UK and this fantastic country that stretches my imagination (and at times my patience) and feeds my soul. I have many friends in Marrakech and visit often.My Marrakech
Where I always grab a coffee: In the little old salle du the in Souk Semarine, on the right before Place Rahba Kdima - a perfect place to escape the hordes while you're scouring the souks. Look out for the Cafe Carrion sign and linger over a relaxed 'nuss nuss' (strong coffee with hot milk), costing just 8 dirhams.
My favourite dining spot: The roof terrace at Le Foundouk, one of the medina's favourite eateries and deservedly so for its great location, elegant decor, friendly service and reliably good food.
Best for people watching: The top floor of Cafe de France, overlooking Place Jemaa el Fna. This most famous of cafes is unremarkable in every respect, apart from its bustling status as one of the city's prime meeting spots, and the great views over the square.
Where to be seen: Bo-Zin, out-of-town destination for the hip and happening - great for garden lounging, evening drinks and an occasional booty-shake.
Most breathtaking view: Terrasses des Epices, the medina's top spot for a gossipy lunch or afternoon snack, with panoramic views across the medina and of the Atlas mountains.
My favourite stroll: A relaxing wander through the marvels and mysteries of the Bab el Khemis junk market.
Best spot for peace and quiet: Under an olive tree in the ancient and rather neglected Agdal Gardens, a 40-acre oasis of pomegranates, figs, oranges, assorted flowers and greenery, at the back of the Royal Palace.
Where I'd go on a date: The fascinating and eclectic Dar Tiskiwin, the living museum of Dutch anthropologist and Berber expert, Bert Flint.
Don't leave without: Sampling the madness and culinary delights of the Place Jemaa el Fna at night.
My expert information
For the labyrinthine medina
Wandering through a north African walled medina for the first time – and, inevitably, getting lost in it - can be exciting and scary in equal measure, and Marrakech will not disappoint. The souks seem to go on forever, and before you know it, you’ve lost your bearings completely. You’ll find your way out again – whether alone or with the assistance of a self-appointed guide – and next time you’ll find your way that little bit more easily. It’s all part of the Marrakech experience.Read more...