Approaching Setti Fatma, October 2008. The peaceful, picturesque little Moroccan village of Setti Fatma sits neatly nestled in a canyon beneath The High Atlas Mountains Mountains at the southern end of The Ourika Valley. Keen to do some foothill hiking, I arrived here on a day trip from Marrakech by minibus. The trip took just over an hour and a half and the scenery was fantastic as we closed in on the village.
Hassan Mosque, October 2008. “There’s nothing to see in Casablanca”, a misinformed Australian once told me. Ok… the city may not be packed with an abundance of sights, but this jaw-dropping mosque is pretty much reason alone to make the journey. As the largest mosque in Morocco (third largest in the world!), Hassan is an architectural delight stunningly perched on a promontory overlooking The Atlantic Ocean. It also boasts the world’s tallest minaret, at a neck-craning six hundred and eighty nine feet.
Hampstead Heath, April 2017. There are worse things one could do in London on a sunny Sunday afternoon than lying about on Hampstead Heath shooting the shit with an old friend. A sprawling area of open fields, dotted woodlands and rolling meadows; this is yet another London oasis that allows locals and visitors alike to get away from it all and unwind.
Hampstead Heath, April 2017. The heath boasts an impressive three hundred and twenty acres of grassy space and straddles a sandy ridge at one of the highest points of London. Mapping out a walking route to the top of Parliament Hill, my friend and I embarked on a long overdue catch up, stopping here and there for an ice cream and the odd bout of people watching.
Hampstead Heath, April 2017. It was a festival of lazing atop the hill, with scattered groups of people snacking, chatting, laughing, reading and sleeping. When my friend and I get together we tend to talk a lot of intentional crap, as is our way. We’ve had plenty of terrible ideas for screenplays and novels over the years and our Hampstead Heath banter was no different. A young man called Simon finds his life thrown into turmoil when his tennis partner gets abducted by a great white whale! Determined to save his old chum, Simon sets off to confront the beast and save the day. We called it Simon Dick. Probably for the best then that our inane ramblings were interrupted by the sight of children roly-polying down the hill.
Hampstead Heath, April 2017. The views from Parliament Hill aren’t too shabby at all! Cast your eyes across the horizon and you can pick out The Gherkin, The Walkie-Talkie and The Shard, nicely juxtaposed with historic landmarks such as The Palace of Westminster and St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s incredible just how much London is transformed when the weather is behaving and this day was a testament to that.
The Roebuck, April 2017. We’d walked a bit and sat around a lot, which apparently builds up quite an appetite! So on the way back to Hampstead Tube Station we nipped into The Roebuck for a pint. Dating back to Victorian times, this traditional pub on Pond Street features a sizeable lounge and a pretty garden in the back. Ordering our drinks, I couldn’t resist the temptation of a house-baked pork pie served with sweet piccalilli.
Greenwich Market, April 2017. “Let’s meet up in Greenwich!” she said, “I love Greenwich!” And so it was decided. I hadn’t been to Greenwich since I was a kid, with only a vague memory of my dad taking me onboard The Cutty Sark. Back in the present, it was an absolutely gorgeous day and the people were out in full force, strolling along The River Thames, lunching outside Trafalgar Tavern and lying on the grass in front of The Royal Naval College. Greenwich Market was pumping too, with its world food stalls, cupcake stands and organic coffee huts. Meanwhile, in the market’s bustling Admiral Hardy Pub, rosy-cheeked beer-swilling men cheered on their chosen horses as The Grand National got underway on a series of giant screens.
Alameda Botanic Gardens, March 2017. There’s so much natural beauty in and around the town of Gibraltar! I was sifting through my photos on the way back to Malaga when I realised I’d need to write multiple Top 5 posts to do the place any kind of justice. Obviously The Rock is the major highlight, but I was also blown away by the incredible fifteen-acre Botanic Gardens. Commissioned in 1816 by Gibraltar’s then British Governor George Don, the original park served as a recreational area for the town’s resident soldiers. A huge redevelopment program in 1991 resurrected the gardens after it had fallen into disrepair. Continue Reading »
Schwetzingen Palace, November 2008. In late 2008 I undertook my second visit to Germany. I’d recently gotten married and my wife was a Dutch girl whose mother’s side of the family hailed from Deutschland. Living in Brussels, the two of us made the four-hour drive to Wiesental, a small village in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg. Hanging out with Grandma turned out to be much more fun than expected, what with her sublime home-cooked apple strudel and engaging Second World War stories. There was also the ludicrous TV program we all watched that night, where unreasonably blond, blue-eyed men sang accordion-driven songs about their love for the German countryside whilst dancing around trees and stroking deer. But as entertaining as it all was, the weekend’s highlight was our visit to nearby Schwetzingen Palace, an eighteenth century royal residence set amid a complex of beautifully landscaped gardens.
Jemaa el-Fnaa, October 2008. When most people think of Marrakech, the first image that comes to mind is the city’s incredible market square, Jemaa el-Fnaa. Buzzing with activity morning, day and night; there are smoky food stalls, flashy restaurants, cosy cafes, colorful fabric shops and persistent hawkers flogging all manner of souvenirs. Amid the bustling crowds, you’ll need to battle your way through the many tourists… fend off the annoying henna girls… sympathise with the monkeys chained to their trainers… admire the local musicians… keep an eye open for pickpockets… and perhaps, like me, stop for a look at one of the circles of flute-playing snake charmers.