A little bit of insight to London; art, bars, cafes, clubs, restaurants, and other things to do in this wonderful multicultural city.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Bengal Cuisine

I've lived next to Brick Lane now for about 8 months and I love it, everything is just so close, and there's always good food. Brick Lane is known for Indian and Bengali cuisine. I've only ever eaten at two restaurants on Brick Lane, Cinnamon, and Bengal Cuisine. Bengal Cuisine also does take away, and you can order their food online, and by now the staff there recognizes me and my friend Daniella. Its really funny, they call us the "American girls". 
Anyway, for dinner out, with a nice clean white table cloth and very pleasant staff its worth the price. Unfortunately Brick Lane restaurants have the tendency to charge you for every tiny thing you get. You're charged 50 pence for Papadums and 50 pence for the assorted sauce tray that comes with them. But the main dishes are about 7 pounds each, so it makes up for the mini extra costs. You can also ask for free tap water.
The food is brought out to you on a little rolling table, like the ones you see in movies when they bring you room service. They always remember who ordered what, and they place everything close enough to you, but also giving you a large plate to mix all the food on. I really like this because it makes everyone try each other's food, and its a good way to try new things without having to eat a whole dish of something you might not like. Also, they always always figure out some discount to do which I think is really generous of them. If you order food to go they give you a free wine bottle, its really cute. 
Here's their website: http://www.bengalcuisine.net/

Friday, 28 June 2013


An English company named Graze focuses on making snack food which is healthy, has a low calorie count and is different from the things you can find in stores. I signed up for Graze because I knew that the first box is free. However I have now become pretty loyal, trying out their breakfast range too. I only took photos of the breakfast box I got because I always eat the nibble box too fast to take any photos. Nibble box is the name of the ordinary snack box. 
Each box has 4 sections, which then contains little plastic squares holding your snack or breakfast. On the website you can choose which snacks you like most, and which ones you don't want to ever receive. The boxes generally cost 3,89 pounds per box. But if you get your friends to sign up you can get a 1 pound discount on a box, or you can donate that pound to the Graze school of farming. Which then helps children learn to make sustainable futures for themselves. 
Overall, I love the Graze products because I spend ridiculous amounts of money on snack food, and I am never full. If you use my code you can get your first Graze box for free and try out some of the snacks yourself! 
Here's the code: XZ1WN1C
Here's their website: https://www.graze.com/uk/products

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Fix 126

Fix is a coffee company with 2 stores in London. The one I went to was Fix 126, which is the Shoreditch branch. The wooden bar, and wooden tables give the place a very warm and welcoming feel. Most of the people inside are either chatting quietly, or tapping away at their laptops. You have to make your order at the bar, but unlike other Shoreditch bars they accept card payment for any purchase, so you don't have to worry about finding an ATM before you get there. 
Its set up the same way as Starbucks, you order your drink, they make it, they call out your order, you pick it up, and then you take your seat. Its nicer though, because they have a bigger variety of things to order and the atmosphere is a lot more like a community. I want to go back there soon, because I was able to focus better there than I have been able to focus at home, and it was really for me to study for my marketing exam there. 
Also one of the few other joys of Shoreditch, a random person dressed really creatively can walk in any time making your day more fun and special. Here's their website: http://www.fix-coffee.co.uk/fix-126/

Monday, 24 June 2013

Last Day in Marrakesh

We were able to do a lot on our last day in Marrakesh. We had planned on seeing the important cites at the south side of the Medina on different days, but we then played with our schedule a bit and decided to see them all at once, after all they're all only a few streets away from one another. 
We started the morning at the Saadian Tombs, where you pay 10 MAD for entrance. The building is at the back of an important Mosque and the tombs are spread out in little different rooms with a green courtyard between the different rooms. Each tomb has at least one door way, where people could go to pray and visit their loved ones. The tombs are decorated with colourful tiles, engravings in wood and brick and many other little decorations. 
It was interesting to see so many tourists looking at the architecture, because that's what we see when visiting very different places such as Morocco. However to the locals it probably means a lot more. I would have liked there to be a more descriptive panel posted near the tombs explaining the background of the tombs so we could all gain a little more insight for why this particular tomb is such an important landmark. 
We then visited the Bahia Palace, which was wonderful. There were indoor and outdoor gardens, and so many small decorative details that we no longer see in Europe. The tiny tiles blended in well with the painted ceilings and stone engravings giving each room character even if it was empty. Moroccans tend to show their wealth by having fountains, because if you can waste water it shows that you have enough money to do so. I think that's an interesting mentality behind a decorative feature. 
The Bahia Palace only had windows when looking into the courtyard but never towards the exterior. This was strange to me because it gave me the impression of being closed off. Their windows however have beautiful curved metal wiring. This is where decoration works well with practicality. 
Lastly we visited the Dar Si Said Museum which was off the main roads. The rooms were dark but there were interesting historical objects showing the Moroccan and the Berber cultures very well. Intricate wooden doors and windows were displayed as well as a group of old fire arms and beautiful praying rugs. The museum had several small staircases which we used to see the different rooms, and we were able to visit most of the building which was an old rich man's house. 
Each different landmark we visited we tried to soak in and understand the most possible about the country and the culture. I truly enjoyed learning so much on my own where each discovery was new to me because I organized the trip myself without much previous knowledge about Moroccan culture. 

Souks Marrakesh

Shopping in Morocco is very different from walking down Oxford Street. There are not many "real stores" in Marrakesh unless you go to some of the malls in the new part of the city. The main stores in the Medina are the Souks. Souks are small individual stands which sell regional items and are generally owned by two people. One of these people stands or sits inside the shop and the other one stands outside and tries to lure you in. If you even look at one person's items they will notice that you looked and therefore convince you to look into the store for a better view. 
There are different zones for the different key items being sold. There are specific roads and areas for leather, slippers, jewelry, clothes, lanterns, and clay goods. However they do sort of all blend into one. You will find at least one jewelry store mixed in with all the leather ones. 
Its nice because you can browse at which ever speed you like, and unlike in Europe you can haggle prices to very low and they will still give you the product. You just have to know how to bargain. After the first few days I started getting the hang of it, and I rarely changed the original number I gave them but Daniella was very good at it from the start. You have to be firm and not let them scare you. Try your best not to show them you want their product. 
I loved looking through the crowded jewelry displays and all the other interesting things they had for sale. But thankfully we didn't happen to walk past the animal section of the Souks on any of our visits. 
One thing that people will often tell you is that you will get lost in the Souks, its true. But its ok, after you buy something just ask the seller where you are on your map and how to get to the road you want. Do not ask people on the street because they'll ask for money, or will only tell you where the square (Jemaa el Fna) is. Be alert, but try to enjoy the different experience. We had a lot of fun! 

Paper Dress

Paper Dress is a vintage shop in Shoreditch which happens to be a cafe/bar as well. Its really cute from the sign on the outside attracting in customers to the blackboards inside near the bar showing all the available drinks. There are a few small coffee tables inside, and a bigger one with a large couch. There is also cute detailing near the changing rooms where there are old beauty mirrors for the customers to look at the clothes on themselves.
All the clothes sold in Paper Dress are vintage, and the racks are divided by colour and time period, everything is well labelled, showing the decade it is from and any other particular remark. Vintage in London however is never cheap, but there were a bunch of vintage sunglasses for about 10 pounds each, which isn't too bad for some nice sunglasses. 
Generally, the greatest thing about this place is the ambiance, its like you walked into an old movie, because the employees of the shop are all dressed in their favourite eras of the past. Unlike most other stores, there is also a menswear section, which means if you bring boys they wont die of boredom like the normal shopping trip, cause if they don't like the clothes they can sit down and grab a beer. 
Here's their website (they also do cute vintage events once in a while): http://paperdressvintage.co.uk/

Jardin Majorelle Marrakesh

The Jardin Marjorelle are in the new part of the city of Marrakesh. They are the botanical gardens of the city as well as gardens where Yves Saint Laurent worked and produced some of his most incredible controversial ideas. 
The designer who made the first female pant-suit and created the modern pret-a-porter concept was also interested in nurturing countries such as Morocco. Him and his partner Pierre Berge restored the botanical gardens to something much more beautiful than it previously was. There is in fact a memorial for Yves Saint Laurent within the gardens. 
This garden however isn't only a garden, it also includes a Berber museum, showing the population of the Atlas mountains and some of their traditions. The museum is organized in a very modern way compared to the other cites of the city. There are sheets of information in French, Arabic and English for each visitor to read while looking at the different displays. There also is a whole room dedicated to Berber jewelry which Daniella really loved. 
There is a room near the museum showing collages created by YSL showing the yearly cards he sent to his clients and friends for each new year. He sends his love, with the collage by writing the word "love" on each card every year. 
Next to this room there is the garden's restaurant which happens to serve a very interesting cold tomato soup which I found very refreshing and tasty. The spices in the soup give it a kick but its so cool that it slides perfectly down your throat in the blazing heat. This cafe also has some very interesting drinks which cannot be found else where so I advise you to stop there if you're looking for a refreshment. 
Sadly the Jardin Majorelle was really crowded throughout the whole time we were there and it was difficult to take good photos without several people in the background. But if you're looking for something a little different to do and see I really recommend it because nothing else throughout our whole trip was like this garden. 
Here's their website: www.jardinmajorelle.com

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Camel Rides Marrakesh

During our trip to Marrakesh we had to go camel riding, because my parents would never let me when I was a kid. So we got the hotel to book us a camel ride in the Palmarie north east of Marrakesh. We got picked up near our hotel at 9am and joined a group of people who were also going camel riding. 
Upon arrival we paid our 300 MAD (Moroccan money) and lined up with the others to get our heads wrapped in traditional Saharan headscarves. We were then chosen one at a time to mount our camels. I was at the end of one of the lines of camels. 
Its a very strange feeling when the camel sits down or stands up, because their legs bend inwards, which is different from most mammals. We were then all lead on to the road, our line of camels leading the way. We got to stop for photos and to drink mint tea (a Moroccan specialty). 
We were able to gallop with the camels after learning key words to make them speed up such as "yalla yalla" and "zit zit". It was a fun experience and we got to see a much more deserted area of the country while doing something we had never done before. 
But I left with one major question in mind, why are there one hump and two hump camels? I later discovered that the one hump camel is also called the "Arabian Camel" but really it is dromedary. Two hump camels are the traditional type of camel and a dromedary only has one hump instead. We rode dromedaries because the saddle we were seated on was created around the single hump of the animal. I found that pretty interesting. 

Riad Clementine Marrakesh

Riad Clementine was a beautiful oasis. Coming from outside, I was surprised to see a white door in the red/brown madness of Marrakesh. We knocked, and walked in. The big wooden door opened and one of the workers greeted us and took our luggage. We then walked through into the courtyard of the hotel. Where there was a beautiful fountain and a couple of cute tiled tables. We sat down at a sofa, and were asked to fill out a few forms discussing our stay. When we finished the owner of the hotel spoke to us, about how to get to the hotel and which routes were best for getting to the souks and the square. She gave us a detailed map that I looked at often over our holiday. We were then shown to our room, on the top floor of the hotel. 
The room was incredible, a cute little coffee table was the first thing we saw and we were happy to notice several other cute small details throughout the room. However the best surprise was the bath tub. It was a huge clay, tile rimmed, bath tub. Big enough to fit two people and deep enough for you to shower in it without a shower curtain and not make a mess. Little silver cups held q-tips, cotton buds, shampoo and shower gel. Everything seemed so well placed. There was even a safe inside the closet. Everything had personality but it didn't overwhelm the other details of the room.
The hotel pool was a great size, big enough to have a few people lazing around by it but not too big, showing you it was a place to relax and escape the crowds of people rather than a place to exercise. Every lawn chair had two yellow towels and a hat on it, so you didn't need to bring your own and you didn't have to be worried about getting your head sunburnt. 
The people at the hotel were all very friendly, booking a camel ride and taxi for us, as well as serving us incredible breakfast everyday and a wonderful dinner the last day. The breakfast was probably my favourite part of my stay there. The staff came out with a tray with freshly squeezed orange juice, little yogurt pots and fruit salad. They then laid out tiny pots of jam for the bread and Moroccan pancakes they later brought us. They also served us coffee (or tea) and a tray of cheese, ham, cakes, and dates. 
I really really enjoyed my stay there and would really recommend staying there because the Riad is located within the Medina but its not a noisy area. Also I felt very safe there compared to on the streets of Marrakesh. It was a great place to come back to from the "hustle and bustle" of the city and I would love to stay there again. On a side note, if you don't like waking up to birds chirping its not a place for you. 
Here's their website: http://www.riad-clementine.com/