I am Alice Horwood. I am a Pilot, Diver, Skier, Adventurer. My three passions are travelling, paragliding and business. Since the age of 15 I have been addicted to flight. At 17 I gained my Private Pilots License, by 21 I began flying gliders and at 24 took to the skies for the first time with a paraglider. I love the sense of freedom flight provides, especially paragliding.
The first step in becoming a paragliding pilot is to obtain your EP and CP qualifications. I decided to train abroad in Switzerland, read 'How to: Decide whether to stay in the UK or go abroad for your EP/CP' on my blogto see why. After a fantastic holiday I was qualified to fly in the UK under the supervision of a club. At this stage my goal was to progress as quickly as possible, to go cross country (XC) and to be confident not only in the air, but also on take off and landing.
After returning and lacking confidence I spent 2 weekends with Fly Sussex, a UK based paragliding school. Here I learned how to reverse launch and became a lot more confident with ground handling (this was non-existent in the Alps, due to lack of wind). Now I felt ready to go to a UK hill and attempt a flight.
First flight without a school
The first time I went to a UK hill I didn’t fly, but did meet a fellow newbie. The following weekend it was flyable so we arranged to meet at Castle Morton, a small Avon site. It was brilliant, after a 15 minute hike we found two small take offs, we opted for the lower one, set up and took off. It was terrifying, but so much fun. After 4 flights and a little bit of unexpected soaring we were on a high and ready for the next flyable day.
UK Flying vs Holiday Flying
Over the next year I flew every weekend it was flyable (in 2016 I was averaging 3 or 4 days per month), mainly top to bottoms. Conditions were great on some days, but I didn't have the skills to use these days to go on epic flights. Most days in the UK seemed to be soaring days. After 7 months I realised that my flying hadn’t progressed as much as I wanted – I still hadn’t gone XC and was often struggling to stay in the air.
In May I booked a trip to Sopot, Bulgaria with Sky Nomads. 50 Euros a day paid for a guide and accommodation. I stayed for 4 days with the goal of learning how to thermal and stay in the air. It was brilliant, I had two first time experiences – getting the cloud base and landing out.
Another month UK flying and I was itching to get away again, I went to Ager, Spain with Free Flight Academy. £500 paid for a week of guiding/ instruction, accommodation, transport to take off (and I managed to squeeze in a tandem acro flight in Organya). Here I really understood how to thermal, was able to practise everyday and flew in stronger conditions which was great for confidence.
I found that holiday flying allowed my flying to progress significantly faster. This is due to the amount of airtime I was able to obtain thanks to better weather and the lack of work commitments whilst abroad enabled me to fly everyday of the week.
Obtaining Pilot Qualification
After Ager I had a few more Pilot tasks to complete and needed to sit the exam. I wanted to get it done quickly so booked 2 weeks with Flight Culture at Dune du Pyla. The aim of this was to do the theory, sit the exam, fly and complete the tasks. The first 4 days were not flyable, this meant I was able to use these days to have intense theory sessions before sitting the exam. The rest of my time with Flight Culture was spent flying and completing the Pilot Tasks. Once these were done, my exam along with a signed copy of the completed tasks were sent off to the BHPA for marking. 2 weeks later I had the results of the exam (96% pass mark) and a pilot qualification.
Visiting Saint Petersburg in the winter definitely has its perks and, despite the bitterly cold temperatures is a beautiful city. I spent two days there with my kiwi friend Casey.
Door to door it took four hours to get from Moscow to Saint Petersburg by airplane (and was cheaper than the train!). Arriving at the Cuba Hostel at 10 30am we were able to check in early and drop our bags off. We had booked a 12 noon walking tour with FeelTour (a free walking tour provider). After our coffee to wake up we pitched up at the meeting point and sadly no one was there to meet us, we telephone them and emailed but no response. Determined not to let this set us back we found a nearby tourist information office, were given a map and planned our own tour.
Walking along the Nevsky Prospect our first sight was the Kazan Cathedral. It was huge, spectacular and beautiful. We ventured inside, there was a huge line of people waiting for their turn to pray to one of the saints. Other people were making their way around the other Saints and praying as they went. Candles were burning all around and the architecture was incredible.
Next stop the Italian Bridge and the Saviour on the Spilled Blood. This Cathedral is absolutely spectacular, it might have been under repair but it is still stunning. We walked around, admired and took plenty of photos.
Having spent a few hours outside in -15 we were totally frozen and in desperate need of warming up.
After a tasty lunch in Myasorubkawe headed towards the Mikhailovsky Garden. A pretty garden next to the Saviour on Spilled Blood. Walking past and admiring the wonderful architecture of the Russian Museum and Saint Michaels Castle we eventually made it to the Summer Garden. This garden is still beautiful in the middle of winter, some of the trees had been boxed up to protect them from the cold weather. I can only imagine that in the summer this place is thriving!
A slightly quirky sight next; The Mosaic Garden. It was a little bit tricky to find, particularly as lots of it was covered in snow!
Having never been to a ballet before we decided that whilst in Saint Petersburg we would give it ago. The Nutcracker was on at the Hermitage Theatre. We didn’t realise the seating was a first come first serve basis, so arriving 5 minutes late meant our view was restricted. Being tired from the early start and long day I prayed that Casey wouldn’t notice my eyes closing and my mini naps during the first half. When the interval came around, coffee was suggested. I jumped at the chance. By the time the second half was on I felt wide away and we managed to get better seats. It was just amazing, beautiful dancers telling a wonderful story. The entire Ballet was 1.5 hours and just magical!
First stop; breakfast at Zoom Café, a quirky café located a stones throw from the hostel.
After breakfast we walk up along Gorokhovaya St and end up at Admiralteystvo, a grand historical building that is currently the headquarters of the Russian Navy. A beautiful yellow building with wonderful statues dotted along the top.
Opposite is Saint Isaac’s Cathedral. Rather than going inside we chose to pay £3 and climb 262 steps up to the colonnade where we had a beautiful 360 degree view of the city. This was a highlight for me and I highly recommend it.
Hot chocolate in hand we headed towards Palace Square and The Hermitage Museum, It was relatively quiet with only a handful of tourists braving the chilly temperatures. We admired the wonderful architecture and took far too many photos, sadly we didn’t have time to go inside.
Feeling the cold we ordered a Yandex taxi to take us to the other side of the Neva River to see the Peter and Paul Fortress. It is a small island that almost feels like it could be self contained little village. A cathedral, several museums and a shop are on this small site. Here we also ventured on to the frozen river!
Aware of the time we chose to head back to the hostel, but not before stopping off at the roof top bar for some delicious cocktails opposite the Kazan Cathedral.
With the sun setting it was time to collect our bags and head to the airport. Saint Petersburg was absolutely magical and is a beautiful city. It was small enough to walk nearly everywhere and with every turn there was something amazing to see. It was bitterly cold, but with plenty of coffee shops to warm up in this didn’t bother us. Also with the cold temperatures there were very few tourists. Which made wandering around this historical city an absolute pleasure.
Wow, where has the time gone? It has been a few months since I wrote here and a lot has changed!
As many of you know I took a year out of work to focus on paragliding, it was an amazing year spent in Andalusia, the Pyrenees and France. When it was time to go back to work I knew I wanted a Governess/Nanny job and really didn’t mind where it was based! After a conversation with an agency I landed a Governess job in Moscow, teaching two children English. I should point out that I had never been to Moscow, and knew very little about Russia let alone the language!
I made the big move in November, the first two weeks of my new job were in Dubai. This was a fantastic way to ease in to the role.
After the working holiday was up we flew (private jet!) to Moscow, I was so scared. I knew no one, didn’t have many warm clothes and couldn’t read or speak the language.
When I wasn’t working I made it my mission to make some friends and explore! I posted in the Moscow Expat Facebook group. On one of my first days off I met up with a fellow expat for a walk in my neighbourhood, followed by a coffee. I also had been messaging another governess who I met up with on another day off.
I was (and still am) determined to make the most of my days off. In the first couple of weeks I found my local supermarket, woodland and riverside walks, shopping malls and even squeezed in a walking tour of Moscow. Uber was my life saver during this time and after 2 weeks I felt so much more confident getting around, had braved the metro and felt so much more comfortable in this new city.
However I wanted to meet more people who were living in my area, so my new Governess friend and I created a Facebook page for Nannies and Governesses living in Moscow. It was amazing, suddenly lots of people were joining and we arranged a cocktail evening to meet all our new friends. Now in Moscow on my days off I always have people to hangout and explore Moscow with.
That was 2017; setting my self up for Moscow life.
After spending Christmas and New year in the UK it was time to go back to work, 2018 started amazingly. The first few weeks were spent working in the Maldives, which was just paradise. The most beautiful location to be teaching English!
Now back in Moscow, I have finally bought myself a new warm coat, am planning my social activities, have booked language lessons and climbing sessions (I need to do something active!) and am set for the cold winter that is rolling in. Bring it on!
After arriving in Barcelona I checked in to my hostel – Hostel One Paralello and was given a map with the key things to do. The friendly staff showed me around the hostel and to my room. As I only had a day and a half in Barcelona I dropped off my bag and started sightseeing.
The first stop was La Sagrada Familia – I didn’t have a ticket to go inside, so looked on in awe of the stunning architecture.
To get inside you need to buy a ticket online beforehand or join the long long que to get a ticket there.
Once I had walked around the entire building and weaved my way through the hoards of tourists I headed off for Parc Guell. Taking the metro there and walking through the park I eventually made it to the famous tiled walls. I had bought the tickets the day before so didn't have to que. The views were spectacular..
Up next on my list was the Gothic quarter. The Gothic Quarter is so pretty, it was raining which somehow made it even prettier – the lights reflecting on the wet walkways were just beautiful.
To escape the rain I popped into the European Museum of Modern Art. It was well worth the 9 Euro entry fee. Walking around in silence admiring the eclectic pieces of art work was just what I needed after a day of the hustle and bustle in Barcelona. To make it even better about 45 minutes after I arrived a concert started in the central room of the museum. It was fabulous. A wonderful pianist and Spanish blues singer came on. An hour later, feeling totally satisfied, relaxed and content I headed back to Hostel One Paralello.
I made it just in time for the free dinner – a delicious spicy noodle dish. Being a solo traveler I found the hostel was super friendly, for the dinner everyone gathered around the big tables and was served yummy noodles, everyone went up for seconds! Before long the drinking games started and by 11pm everyone was out and heading for a bar. Teaming up with the 2 other Hostel One hostels a group of about 20 descended on a beer bar and with Jenga on the tables everyone was having the best time.
The following day I headed to the Bunkers to get the morning view of Barcelona. climbing over a small fence allows you to chill out on a large concrete roof, where you can relax and take in what is quite possibly one of the best views of Barcelona. A free beautiful activity that is well worth it.
Barcelona is a beautiful city with so much to see and do, from the people to the food to the sights, this city has it all and is well worth a visit!
First published on the Summit to Eat Blog on 24/08/2017
At Summit to Eat, we’re proud that our tasty meals are used to help people from all walks of life, hailing from countries around the world, to conquer their goals and reach new places, and we love catching up with our customers to hear all about their adventures.
So, when the Adventures Unbound team – Rhys Fisher, Fons de Leeuw and Mark Baldwin (who we introduced you to in a previous BLOG ARTICLE) – returned home after an attempt travel from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean by paragliding and hiking, we couldn’t wait to find out all about their expedition.
Did they make it to ‘Lost Mountain’, Mount Perdido? It’s over to Rhys for the answer: “Nobody got hurt, and two of us managed to complete the challenge – so it was a success!” The two he refers to being himself and Fons, as the third musketeer Mark experienced difficulties with flying, and technically didn’t complete the entire journey on foot or by paragliding, as was the aim. Nevertheless, he still made it to Mount Perdido, flying a personal best distance to boot.
“I wish we could have made it together, bu
t that’s the nature of the game. It’s hard and pushes people to their limits and we’re playing with mother nature at the end of the day, so anything can happen,” Rhys remarks. The challenge lived up to its billing as an ‘expedition of the unknown’ then!
The team set themselves the goal of completing the challenge in 10 days, so making it to the finish point on day 13 took them only slightly over target. But when poor flying conditions almost thwarted their entire trip, morale understandably took a bit of a dip.
The unwelcome appearance of thick fog and strong winds to the party didn’t help matters, and for Rhys a rather testing period of several days spent waiting for flyable weather conditions led to feeling nearly ready to give up. “We were running out of time, behind schedule and it wasn’t fun pushing hard only to realise we couldn’t fly.”
Luckily, a renewed sense of motivation came courtesy of a good nights’ sleep, and a phone call to a friend who had some top tips to hand.
Combined with a long-awaited spell of blue skies, it was the boost they needed to push on and the next day, both Rhys and Mark actually set themselves new personal bests; with Rhys flying 136km over six and a half hours. “It was an amazing experience. Flying from one peak to the next, over so many valleys, seeing wild deer from the sky,” he recalls.
Were there any other challenges, aside from what mother nature had up her sleeve? ‘Ticks,’ recalls Rhys. “On the first day, Mark landed at the bottom of the next mountain, whereas Fons and I slope landed and so waited for him to hike back up. During that time more than 50 ticks had climbed onto Fons’ arm – they were everywhere!”
Throughout the highs and the lows, metaphorically and literally speaking, the team, who were also accompanied by brother and sister Alice and Josh Horwood who documented every hike and flight, were only ever a jetboil of hot water and a few minutes away from delicious, nutritious adventure meals.
“Summit to Eat’s meals massively helped the project. When you’re hiking so much, these meals keep you going! We all had our favourites – mine being the PASTA BOLOGNAISE,” says Rhys.
“After every push on the ground or long flight, knowing we could boil some water and have something tasty to eat boosted morale and and gave us something to look forward to. It kept the mind and body alive.”
“Everyone enjoyed waking up to the MORNING OATS, and the VEGETABLE CHIPOTLE CHILLI was very good too,” adds Mark.
So what’s next for the intrepid trio – more of the same, we’re guessing? Unsurprisingly, since the expedition, Fons and Mark haven’t stayed still for long, taking part in the Chabre Open paragliding competition. Mark also wants to crack his personal goal of flying 100km in one flight. For Rhys, it’s also back to the day job (for now) while planning the next adventure. We can’t wait to find out where their next journey will take them!
After leaving the UK last September as a Club Pilot, I returned in April with my wing in tow. My wing is a little more battered now, a few more repairs and I am now at pilot level with 80+ hours. It is fair to say that I am a lot more confident when it comes to take off and landing.
On my first day back in the UK I was desperate to fly, so checked the weather using xc-skies and windytvit looked like it was going to be flyable in Pandy, Wales. After a two hour drive and a brand new membership with the Welsh Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club I arrived at a site I had never flown.
I found my way to the take off, where a couple of hang gliders were set up and some paragliders were packing away, I persuaded one of the pilots to give me a quick site brief. Just as I was unpacking my gear another pilot, Ian, told me he was heading up to the higher take off.. I decided to go with him. 10 minutes later we were on the take off. It was pretty steep and VERY windy, more wind than I am used to. I knew that if I wanted to fly today, this was to be it.
My take off was ok.. well, judge for yourself in this video..
After ridge soaring and gaining a little bit of height I struggled to connect to anything and quickly realised that I wasn’t going to be going XC today. I changed my mentality and decided to use the chance to practice my top landings. The first few landing were pretty
awful, epic skids, loud thumps but eventually a lovely little landing.
A few days later it was flyable again, this time I headed to one of my favorites - Westbury, Bratton Camp. Loads of familiar faces were here, the sun was shining and the cumulus clouds were fluffy.
With a nice big take off area I was able to practice my ground handling before taking off, the first flight was great, I got lots of height and top landed nicely. The following few flights were incredibly scratchy and I was the only one in the air as the other pilots decided to watch me struggle. Each time I just about managed to scratch my way back up before landing on the take off (I did not want to have to walk up the hill with my wing!).
When the wind switched it was time to head over to the white horse take off, me being the lazy person I am decided I’d ‘challenge’ myself to fly there, the primary reason fro this was I didn’t want to pack up my wing and walk! So taking off in a cycle allowed me to gain just about enough height to make the jump over. When I arrived there were loads more pilots on this side. It was a fantastic afternoon of ridge soaring, catching up with people and more ridge soaring. When it all switched
off at about 6pm I called it a day and
headed home after a great day out
on an English hill.
Despite the frustrating weather I really do love flying in the UK, the grassy take offs, friendly clubs and cows with no horns, make it a beautiful place to fly.
Throughout my first year of paragliding I spoke to numerous pilots who love flying cross country. Each and every one told me how amazing it is, and that as long as you can thermal and connect the dots you can stay in the air. For a year I played with the idea of leaving the home ridge, each time I arrived at cloud base the thought of jumping to another ridge was not only terrifying and stressful but I was left wondering why everyone loved cross country (XC) flying so much. In this post I aim to highlight how, with the help of a coach I was able to pursue my first XC flight.
Defining the problem
My problem with leaving the ridge was landing out in a field with animals. Initially I was in denial about this. It wasn't until I sought help from a coach, that I realised this was holding me back. Once I was able to thermal consistently and get to cloud base, a task was set - Reach 1300m at the end of the home ridge then make the transition to the next ridge.
The coach flew with me, once we were both at 1300m at the end of the ridge we spoke on the radio and started to make the transition.
After leaving the ridge I hit sink and lost height. I felt the gap in height between the coach and I widen, this is when I began to panic. Despite being reassured me via radio that I had plenty of height to make the next ridge I felt unsure and was also aware that I was soon going to be too low to glide back to the home ridge or the designated landing field. On top of this below me was a pig farm and after a friend telling me earlier in the year that when pigs bite they don't stop until their teeth meet I certainly did not want to end up in their enclosure. I turned back and headed straight for the landing field.
In the car and en route back to Algodonales we discussed the flight and came to the conclusion that the thing holding me back is the fear of landing out, specifically in a field with animals. Whether it be bulls, horses, sheep or pigs, I do not want to land with them. The more height I lost the greater my fear became and the louder and faster my 'what if' questions would race though my mind. During the flight the stress and fear became too much, leading to me turning around and ending the flight. The coach highlighted that this fear could result in irrational thinking and potentially dangerous decision making.
I needed to conquer this irrational fear. In order to do this I had to accept a few key points; There is a chance I will land in a field with animals in. There is a chance that these animals might be scared, inquisitive or dangerous. There is a chance that I might get attacked by these animals. I also had to accept that the last thought is irrational. Most animals won’t attack and the most likely outcome is that I will land, bunch up my wing and get out of the field unharmed.
Believing that I will be fine landing out is different to actually doing it. In order to become comfortable landing out I had to get used to animals. Becoming comfortable with animals required exposure, I have walked through a field with cattle in, walked past wild horses and befriended wild dogs. Although I am still not 100% happy being around them I am a lot more relaxed. I also had to get used to landing out. The next two flights ended in landing out. With the coach landing first, leading the way and acting as a windy dummy I felt comfortable and happy to land. The third flight I landed first and by the fourth flight I was happy to land alone whilst the coach watched from the air.
After defining, accepting and acting on eliminating my fear, the coach agreed to take me on my first cross country flight. During this flight he led the way, there were times when I was lower and required a lot of patience to get back up to cloud base. Once both at base we would then push forward to the next thermal trigger and hope to climb again.. There were times when I felt stressed and scared, particularly when I was low and could see horses in the landing options. To overcome this the coach would ensure he was lower than me by going on big ears, this allowed me to change my focus from landing to finding the next thermal. By keeping calm was able to make rational decisions which allowed me to thermal back up to base and continue with the flight. After 20km the thermals seemed to disappear and I had to land. the coach
landed shortly after, we found a bar and had a celebratory drink!
I feel that without the help of a guide I would have taken far longer to make this first step and have conquered the first hurdle in XC flying. I am looking forward to my next XC flight and know that the more I practice the better my fear will become.
You have decided that you are going to train to become a paragliding pilot. You want to get on with some training, but where do you start?
Your Google search tells you that there are loads of great schools with great reviews in both the UK and abroad (Europe). You might (as I did) decide to narrow the decision down by looking at who has the best offer. Some schools offer free training with the purchase of new kit. If you are really going to get into this sport, you are going to need your own kit. Why not just bite the bullet and buy it at the start?!
The benefit of this is that you will then be training with your own wing, and therefore know it really well by the time you finish training. Obviously the downfall is that you might not like paragliding! (highly unlikely!)
Training in the UK
Advantages – Schools are open at weekends and all year round, therefore training in the UK can fit around work and other commitments. If you train in the UK you will fly UK sites, the majority of flights in the UK start off with a reverse launch, if you train in the UK you will be an expert at this by the time you have your CP.
Loads of UK schools offer deals on kit purchased with a course, the benefit of this is that if there are any problems you can go back to the school and they can help.
Another advantage is that you will get to know fellow pilots, when you head out to the hill for the first time as a qualified Club Pilot you will know a handful of people on the hill to help and guide you.
Disadvantages – Training in the UK can be very time
consuming, I have met people that spent 18 months
training. It is very weather dependent and can be
Advantages – Training to CP level can be achieved within 2 weeks. The weather conditions are generally more reliable (Spain, the Alps etc). Due to the intensity of the training you will learn very quickly and often theory lessons are factored in if it is not flyable.
The cost of training is generally similar to UK schools. Plus you get a holiday out of it!
Disadvantages – Occasionally the weather might not be in your favor and the course might not be completed. The overall cost might be greater as you have to factor in flights, accommodation and food expenses.
Many schools abroad are not BHPA registered, if you are planning on flying in the UK after training make sure the school you train with offers the UK EP/CP training syllabus. Otherwise you may encounter problems with getting insured in the UK.
If you purchase your kit with the school and you have a problem with it once you are back in the UK it can be tricky to solve due to the distance of you and the school.
You might not be ready to fly in the UK after 2 weeks abroad and may require further training.
Train abroad. My deciding factor was time, I didn’t want the UK weather to dictate how long it was going to take me to get to CP level. I knew that if I went abroad I would likely complete training within 2 weeks.
In 2015 I trained with Verbier Summits in Switzerland, although the cost was greater than if I were to stay in the UK I figured that it would be worth it as they guaranteed the training would be completed with the 2 weeks. I purchased my kit through the school and received the second week of training and accommodation for free. The kit I purchased has been great and I haven’t had any issues with it. I also had no idea what kind of wing I needed. Purchasing it through the school, meant they could advise me as to what I needed and had it ready for me when I arrived.
The major disadvantage I found was that I came back to the UK and had no experience of reverse launching. I spent a few days with Fly Sussex where I learned how to reverse launch in UK conditions.
With its warm climate, affordable accommodation and accessible sites Morocco is a fantastic winter flying destination. In this post I will detail the 4 sites I visited. The first two are on the edge of the Atlas mountains and an hour or so from Marrakesh, the second is in the Atlas mountains and the last is a beautiful coastal site.
How to get there – Coming from Marrakech or Aguergour you drive through Majjat. After about 9km you reach M’Zouda, just before the petrol station is a small turn on the left, follow this road, go through the little village and head up towards the take off.
Notes –The take off is quite small, there is space for 2 gliders to launch. The landing is nice and big, children will try to help pack your wing. I am not sure if they know what they are doing. I opted to ‘teach’ them my packing method and paid the two children 10 dirhams each. Enroute to take off were flagged down by a man trying to get us to pay to go up the road. You should not need to pay to use this take off.
How to get there – From Chez Ahmed just follow the road up the mountain. You will go through two small villages; Tamazirt and Aguergour. As the road straightens and flattens out there is a sharp left turn. Drive on the gravel road for 60m or so, there is a small area to park (you may need to pay a lady) then make your way to the top of the hill, possibly a 10 or 15 minute walk. You will know when you have arrived because there is a building, wind sock etc.
Notes –The take off is huge, there is a café and toilet at the top and plenty of pilots to ask for advice. If it is too windy here it is possible to take off lower, just below take off and slightly to the right. Or you can go back to where the cars park and take off on the path up.
How to get there – Drive towards La Belle Vue restaurant. Once here you can park along the road and scramble down to the ruins that are just behind the take off. When we were there there was a small caravan that had been turned into a little shop, there is a path to the take off just behind it.
Notes – This is absolutely stunning, however the take off is relatively steep and I found that there weren’t many obvious landing options other than the road.. There also seems to be little information about this site. Be cautious if the wind is more Easterly.
How to get there – Drive through Tiznit and exit on the RR104. Once out of the city, take the first main tarmacked road on the right (just after a sharp S turn in the road). Stay on this road until there is similar sized road on the right. Follow this all the way to the hotel/take off.
Notes – A beautiful coastal site that provides wonderful lift throughout the day. A nice paved take off with plenty of onlookers.. A large top landing area is behind the take off, just watch out for cacti! An alternative and slightly bigger take off is just over the road at Nigel's Nest, if you are not staying at either of the hotels you have to pay to pay a few euros to use them.
Waking up in the beautiful airbnb and having a delicious breakfast on the roof top in the sunshine was a perfect start to the day. The first stop was the Bahia Palace. Famed for its beautiful tiling and rich history it was wonderful to walk around and explore. Going early meant we avoided long ticket ques and the palace wasn’t too busy.
Next we walked through a park and along the city wall towards to tanneries. The Tanneries are open air factories where leather is dyed. Upon arrival we were somewhat mobbed by men trying to give us mint (it’s their way of getting your custom, once you are holding the mint they will take you on a guide of the tannery. For a fee of course!) we managed to decline the this and explored on our own.
As we wandered through the streets we quickly came across a square which was covered in tubs full of brown coloured liquids. It was a lot less colourful than many of the photos online, but was still interesting. In some of the tubs full of water men were washing the leather by walking over it. Other men were taking wheel barrows of animals skins to the next step of the leather making process. We poked our heads inside a little room to find men brushing leather and found someone who allowed us to go onto his roof to see the tanneries from above.
Afterwards, we slowly made out way south through the city and into the Souks, here it was incredibly busy, feeling hungry and keen to eat so went to Le Jardin for lunch. It had great reviews and a beautiful green courtyard which when we arrived were told it was full! So we were offered a table inside (lesson learned, next time book!) The food was pretty average, but we welcomed a break from the hectic streets of Marrakesh.
After lunch we were determined to explore a little more, so continued to wander around the Souks, amazingly we weren’t pestered as much as I had anticipated and it was great to see all the bright colours and items for sale. We tried to go to the Ben Youssef Madrasa school but it was undergoing renovations so instead opted for the Secret Garden. Again it was a little bit of peace in an otherwise hectic environment. Hidden behind high walls, a peaceful green garden with a fascinating history. We spent an hour or so here and had a delicious Moroccan tea overlooking the garden.
Next stop was the Jemaa el-Fnaa square in the medina quarter. With restaurants overlooking the square which had snake charmers dotted around and monkeys keen to climb on your shoulders it was an interesting place with lots to see. We happened to go there during a quiet time, so it wasn’t too busy with tourists which made exploring a little easier.
After a busy day in Marrakesh we headed back to the hotel to enjoy the last of days sun on the roof terrace before getting ready to go out for dinner. Our airbnb had suggested a restaurant called Naranja. Just a short walk from the hotel with indoor seating, it was perfect for the evening. The food was delicious and the atmosphere wonderful, would definitely go back here.
A day in Marrakesh was exhaustingly brilliant and although we didn’t manage to do all of the touristy things I feel that we covered the key ones and have left a few for the next trip!