(Blog post by Crazy Travslista (me!) and video by my travel partner in crime CareBear Abroad) ♥
I am a sucker for boutique hotels, what can I say? I cherish the small, unique, and more personalised feel of staying in a boutique hotel, as opposed to a big chain. When I tell you we found the perfect boutique hotel in Cape Town, we really mean it!
Is it a house, is it a hotel? Who cares, it’s freakin’ awesome!
The Derwent House Boutique Hotel used to be a house. It has since been transformed into the cutest little hotel consisting of only 10 rooms in the main house, as well as 18 self-catering apartments located in the rear of the property next to the pool. It also has a pool plus jacuzzi and great outdoor seating area that would be great for parties. Although we didn’t have much time to try them out, it was nice to have the options. It also was nice to look at from the living room.
It was the perfect little hideaway during our time in Cape Town. Having that “homey” feel in a new city/country is really important!
Oh, and in case you were wondering, it has a perfect 5 star rating on Trip Advisor! I’m not surprised.
That View Though
We were lucky to have a room with a fabulous view of the infamous mountains in Cape Town. We could see both Table Mountain and Lion’s Head from our window and we weren’t expecting that. Such a nice surprise to wake up and pull back the curtains to see these grandiose mountains staring right back at us. With the foggy haze in the backdrop, it was perfect!
The Most Cozy Little Living Room
Th entire guesthouse had a classy interior with pops of color, especially in the living room. The contrasting funky furniture was so pretty we couldn’t stop taking photos of it. The couch was comfy and as soon as we walked in from the frigid nights, it was so inviting, especially with the cute little furnace in the center.
There was one day when it was rainy in the morning so our plans were cancelled. We just sat on the soft couches on our laptops making plans for the day. It was actually really nice to sit back and unwind for a bit.
Friendliest Staff Ever
The staff was super friendly, like to a heightened degree. Luka, the manager, was never seen without a huge smile across his face. He constantly checked in on us to see if we needed anything (but not to an annoying extent). When we were leaving, we mentioned how coffee for the road would be nice. He quickly ran in and ran back out with our coffee to go! The entire staff had a great energy and were always making sure we were having a good time. That definitely didn’t go unnoticed!
What is this honesty bar concept? Well, just like it sounds! The hotel provided many cold drinks, bottled water, beer and wine in the fridge available at all time of the day. You take what you want and mark it down on the list and pay at check out. I’ve never seen something like this in the U.S. before so I thought it was pretty cool! They must be really trusting!
OMG the breakfast! Everything was so nicely displayed I wanted one of each! For coffee, they give you your very own mini French press machine. I thought that was very nice, especially for someone who drinks lots of coffee!
The best part of breakfast were the daily specials. Each morning, we were surprised with a new set of choices. Some of the spicy options included eggs Benedict, chorizo, and Turkish hummus and spices (pictured below on the left).
The quality of food was fantastic and super fresh, it was definitely the highlight of our stay. (You know you’re a little piggy when the food was the best part of your stay haha #noshame).
The one negative was that there were NO gluten free options. This might sound a bit nit-picky, but in a city so extremely gluten-free friendly, this was a bit of a disappointment. I was still able to eat well, however my choices were very limited. There was also no milk alternative for those who are lactose intolerant, so keep that in mind if you have food allergies!
Quiet & Ideal Location
Well, since the hotel used to be a house, it was located in the middle of a residential neighborhood in the trendy Tamboerskloof area. That means it was pretty quiet! It was also right offKloof Street, one of the BEST streets in all of Cape Town for food. They also had plenty of street parking and a few private spots if you rent a car. An extra plus since we had a car!
The city centre and popular Long Street was just a 15 minute walk. The first day when we didn’t have our car yet, it was raining so we took a freakishly cheap Uber ride to the center. I think it ended up being $2. So even if you don’t have a car, it’s super easy and cheap to get around.
Right down the street is a place called Bombay Bicycle. This place is a must! I had the best steak of my life here…and actually might be mybest meal I’ve ever had! The choco-chilli steak isn’t on the menu, but ask for it if you go. The combination of chocolate and spice covering a melt-in-you-mouth tender steak was heavenly! Reservations are required as this place is quite popular!
Other Awesome Features of this Hotel
Super fast wifi-rare to find on the continent of Africa.
Free port and sherry available for guests. Hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?
Heating pads under your mattress, for those who like to stay crisp when they sleep.
Free coffee, tea, and snacks all day.
Turn down service nightly with animal shaped chocolates. Because #Africa
Local cellphone to use- we had local SIM cards so we didn’t need this, but I thought it was extremely convenient to offer for guests.
DVD collection and DVD player in rooms. We had a packed schedule and didn’t have time to unwind with a movie, but what a cool idea, huh?
Bathtub with nice bath salts. I don’t care too much for baths, but Carey was super excited for this feature!
Daily weather and events sheet left in room-this was a first for me! Every hotel should provide this if you asked me. We have been spoiled haha.
Secure gate that only they could buzz you in and out. If safety is an issue for you, rest assured the place is very secured! Someone is there 24/7 to buzz you in.
Ok, what we really want to know. How much will this place set you back?
This 4 star hotel will cost you $124 during low season and up to $160 during high season for a standard “Fabulous Room” or self-catering apartment.
Cons (Because not all stays are perfect…)
There was no hot water one night so we had to go to a different room to shower one night. They quickly fixed it the next morning…and also gave us a nice bottle of champagne for the inconvenience.
As I mentioned above, they weren’tvery accommodating for food allergies.
Random, but the bathroom doors were made of stained plexi-glass, so there wasn’t as much privacy as I would have liked. Not a huge deal, but thought I would mention it.
Overall, we had such a great stay here! It was so cozy and we really felt like we were staying in someone’s home! The staff were super friendly and always had the biggest smiles on their faces. Anything we needed, they accommodated very quickly and with a great attitude!
The location was perfect, along with the view, and the breakfast was outstanding! I would recommend this place 100% to anyone going to Cape Town. When I go back, I would never even think abut staying anywhere else.
Note: Carey and I were guests of Derwent House Boutique Hotel during our stay. My opinions, however, remain my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. This place freakin’ rocked and it might just be my new fav boutique hotel! ♥
I hate you. No, I really love you. Ok, now I hate you again. I’m so torn. Ugh Morocco, you drive me crazy! I just can’t make up my mind about you.
Now that I’m gone I have a clear head to reflect on you.
Morocco was a tough pill to swallow, especially traveling solo as a female. I have never been harassed so hard and aggressively in my life. I thought I had thick skin, but damn! This trip really tested my boundaries and I often questioned if traveling solo in Morocco was actually a good idea or if it was just plain stupid.
My recent trip to Morocco included half solo travel and the other half with friends. I traveled to Fez, Rabat, Chefchaouen, and briefly in Marrakech solo and then my bff Rachel and her bf Ryan joined me in Marrakech, Essaouira, and the Sahara desert.
I never imagined visiting Morocco would cause so much stress on me. I cried 3 times during my trip (and I’m so not a cryer). It was probably the most emotionally challenging place I had ever visited. I enjoyed my experience, but let’s just say I had never been so happy to see my friends in my entire life when they finally arrived.
Here are the highlights and lowlights of my experience in each Moroccan city:
My introduction to Morocco started with Fez, probably not the best first impression I must say. I’ve heard mixed reviews about Fez, you either love or hate it…with the majority not fans of it.
Well, I hated Fez. I’ve never been harassed so much in my life. The store owners were the most persistent sales people I have ever met . If I went in and didn’t buy something, most of them got angry and made me very uncomfortable. A few times, they even grabbed me by the arms. Super aggressive and NOT cool.
Not only that, the city smelled really bad and was extremely dirty. Imay get some backlash for saying that, but thats’s my honest observation. The rest of Morocco wasn’t in that condition, just this city.
I think my negative experience started within my first 5 minutes in the medina when I saw some chickens being killed and it scarred me for life. I know that’s life and eat chicken myself, so I’m not trying to be hypocritical here.
But this was different….
I saw this man grab the chicken by the neck, from the backside so its face was visible for everyone to see, and then he took a knife and slowly slit its throat. He didn’t chop it off quickly…he slit it SLOWLY. Like in the scene from Game of Thrones during the red wedding where Caitlin Stark’s throat was slashed. Just like that with all the blood gushing out.
I literally cried and had to leave. I couldn’t eat chicken after that for awhile. I mean, why did he have to kill it in such a brutal way? It was tragic. That picture will never leave my mind. Never.
Honestly, you couldn’t pay me to go back to Fez. But I understand everyone’s experience is different and some may like the madness. It just wasn’t for me, and that’s ok. Never again Fez. Never again.
On the bright side: I did buy an awesome leather bag that I will use as my new camera bag, so something good did come out of visiting.
Rabat was such a breath of fresh air after Fez. The capital of Morocco surprisingly had lots of character and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was more calm and less hectic than Fez, which I really appreciated.
However, my trip to Rabat started off on a bad note as well. For the first time ever, I got totally abandoned by my Airbnb host. Stuff happens and I had to book another place last minute. I only had one day in Rabat and this misfortune took almost half my day trying to figure everything out.
What started off on the wrong foot ended up being okay and I really enjoyed Rabat.
If you have time to do only one thing in Rabat, I recommend heading over to the The Kasbah of the Udayas. The walk up to it is a photo treat in itself as the tiny streets are painted bright blue and are so adorable. I felt like I was back in Chefchaouen!
From the Kasbah you can see the surfers riding the waves below and the backdrop is absolutely gorgeous!
Where to Eat in Rabat:
Le Dhow Boat Restaurant–I usually don’t like tourist places, but this was an exception. Only 3 restaurants came up on google maps as being walkable and this was one of them. The funky decorations and the location on the water with a great view of the Kasbah was worth it alone.
Fun fact: the boat was constructed in India and took 2 years to build. It was then lugged all the way over to Morocco. Such a cool story and a great atmosphere.
Oh, and they had wine. All the wine. Wine solves all problems. I ended the day in a happy place!
Side note: wine is super tricky to find in a “dry” country.
Chefchaouen (Blue City)
Ahhhh Chefchaouen (insert bulging heart eyes emoji here). I could have stayed here forever.♥
The blue city is often called “The Blue Pearl of Morocco”, and that it definitely is!
There are 2 main theories on why the city is blue: to protect from mosquitos/heat and the latter as a spiritual symbol. It was believed that Jewish refugees started painting the city blue to symbolise the sky and heaven.
Whichever theory is true, it’s such a spectacularly beautiful place to see!
Chefchaouen was my favourite city in all of Morocco, without a doubt, hands-down. It was also where I got harassed the least and felt the safest. I even felt ok wandering the blue alleys alone after dark.
There isn’t much to do in Chefchaouen, but the magic lies in just wandering around and experiencing the bright blue colors. I couldn’t stop taking photos and it’s one of the most photogenic cities I have ever seen, if not the most photogenic!
It’s a little (okay maybe a lot) out of the way but SO worth it! I took the CTM tourist bus from Fez and it took 5 hours. Don’t miss this unique city! I have never seen anything quite like it!
Where to Eat in Chefchaouen:
Restaurant Morisco–This one is in the main square, but that doesn’t mean it’s overpriced or super touristy. What to Try:Tahliya (Goat meat tajine with honey, raisins, and almonds). This was the BEST meal I had in all of Morocco. The meat was super tender and the mixture of sweet and nutty blended perfectly. YUM!
Molin’arte-I randomly went into this one as it was near my riad. The food was tasty and the place was so inviting and cozy. And the fruit juices were extremely good!
I really liked Essaouira . It was a very relaxed seaside town with great local fresh fish! Don’t go there without eating fish!
You can walk through the markets and watch them bringing in the fish straight from the nets. There are many restaurants near the fishing area where you can pick your own fish and have them cook it. It is priced based on weight.
Make sure they tell you the price of it before you agree to cook it. We paid around $36 for 3 people for 3 sea basses, and lots of calamari and squid. It was super fresh and not “fishy” at all, just how I like it!
Essaouira is also one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones! The big scene where Khaleesi obtained her unsullied army happened right there in the fortress walls near the fishing area! Surprisingly there were NO signs advertising GOT….which may be a good thing since there weren’t many tourists! #score
For a good sunset: head to Taros rooftop. It’s kinda touristy but they serve alcohol and the views can’t be beat! We highly enjoyed it. Did I mention they have wine? THEY HAVE WINE!
For brekkie/brunch: Yoo
Fresh juices and frozen yogurt parfaits. Healthy, yummy, and in a cute little secluded square.
For dinner: Tiskala
The ambiance of this place can’t be beat. It’s super cozy, dimly lit, with separate little seating areas and comfy couches. The food was pretty good, but I wouldn’t say awesome. But the ambiance won us over and we went back twice!
Ohhh Marrakech, where do I begin? Marrakech is hectic AF! That’s the best way to describe it. There is SO much going on at all times and it’s very fast paced.
Ahhh Marrakech had such unique things! If I hadn’t taken a RyanAir flight with already overflowing luggage, I would have bought SO much more! I wanted it ALL!! I would go back to Marrakech solely for the shopping!
Don’t miss: Fruit juices. The fruit juice stands were abundant in the main squares. Starting at 4 dirham ($.40), we had about 2-3 juices a day! They were so refreshing and so good!
Where to eat in Marrakech if you get sick of Tajines:
Henna Art Cafe for fresh juices, a comfy rooftop, and affordable/unique dishes.
Earth Cafe for healthy veg/vegan options.
Nomad for hearty and flavorful food (also the great rooftop views!).
Note: most restaurants on this trip were picked by my bff Rachel, as she is the foodie in the group and does all the research, so I definitely can’t take credit for it. Thanks wifey!
If you’re not opposed to getting severely harassed/haggled and have a strong stomach, street food is a cheap option.
What to do in Marrakech:
shop til you drop in the souks.
don’t miss tasting the fruit juices.
drink mint tea. As much as you can. Everywhere.
entertainment galore in Jamaa el Fna square.
visit Ben Yousseff Madrasa for beautiful architecture and an inside look into a former traditional Moroccan school
visit Majorelle Jardin outside the medina . It was beautifully decorated and had some really cool plant life (especially the cacti)! A taxi from the medina should not cost more than 50 dirham!
The monkeys on chains for entertainment and the pushy/rude vendors.
When we walked down the food vendor “aisle”, each vendor would aggressively step in front of us so we couldn’t move and shoved a menu in our faces. All we wanted to do was take a look at options, but that was impossible to do when they literally blocked us off from seeing anything else.
I have an issue with personal space and I get really defensive when someone impinges on that, especially if they touch me. A few times, I just wanted them to back the fuck off. Is that too much to ask?
We were even called derogatory names when we didn’t want to eat at certain food cart vendors. They thought we were British and were bad mouthing British people. One yelled at me to go back to my country. Is that really necessary? Not a delightful experience at all.
You can’t go to Morocco and skip the Sahara desert. I feel like this is THE quintessential thing to do in Morocco. But keep in mind that it is extremely far! As in, most your time will be spent driving. It’s 9-10 hours from Marrakech. It’s painful but the Sahara desert totally is worth it!
Despite our shitty tour company, riding camels in the Sahara desert during sunrise and sunset and laying on the sand viewing the Milky Way was one of my best travel moments yet! Nothing can beat that. We also got to stop in Ait Ben Haddou, another GOT filming location, which we were super excited about!
Learn from my mistake: there are several ways to book Sahara tours..online, through your riad or hostel, or on the streets of the medina from various vendors.
Booking in advance online is usually twice as much. It’s cheaper to book when you arrive through your riad/hostel or street vendors. We booked through our riad for €92 for 3days/2nights.
Our riad was great, however, this tour they offered was awful! The accommodation were extremely low budget, the food was complete shit, and our tour guide was terrible/kinda a dick. And worst of all, they didn’t accommodate my gluten allergy like they promised. All they had was bread and a cake for breakfast with no other options, so I went completely without breakfast, watching everyone else eat, leaving me in tears one day because I was starving/hangry.
If you book on arrival, make sure to get ALL the details and have them show you pictures of the accommodations. If I could do it again, I would have paid more to have a better quality tour for sure!
I have such mixed emotions when it comes to visiting Morocco. I don’t like to say never, but I honestly don’t see myself returning to Morocco any time in the near future. I had a crazy time and I got to travel with my bff and her bf for most of the trip so that made it extra special.
It’s definitely not one of my favorite places I’ve visited, but I’m so glad I went because I liked to be shocked and surprised. And that was 100% accomplished! But by the end of it, I was definitely ready to leave and return to calmness, cleanliness, and lack of daily harassment.
I saw some wild and new things, I experienced gazing under the stars in the Sahara desert, seeing the Milky Way, riding camels dressed like Princess Jasmine, drank way too much green tea, walked the maze like streets of the heavenly blue city, was forced into a quick marriage with a local Berber man with a ceremony while visiting a Berber village (joking but it was funny…he even had a quick ceremony in the presence of all our tour members #awkward), bought some unique souvenirs, and experienced a culture so different than what I have ever seen.
Morocco was hard on me, but it’s such an interesting country with so much to experience. I was always on the edge of my seat, my senses were forced into overdrive, and my boundaries were constantly being tested. Morocco is hectic, it’s crazy, it’s dynamic, and at some times shocking, but it’s such a vibrant place you will surely never forget!
If you could only visit 2 places in Morocco, I would definitely say the Sahara desert and Chefchaoen. These 2 places were the highlights of my trip!
Morocco is a 3rd world country, so go in expecting lower standards than you’re used to and you wont be disappointed. If you like madness, you will love Morocco.
Although I’m in no rush to get back, I would definitely recommend anyone to go and visit, Morocco is a must! Weird to hear after reading this, huh? Can you feel the dichotomy here?
Morocco surely gave me thicker skin and now I feel like I can take on anywhere! Bring it on world, bring it on!
Have you been to Morocco? Have you had similar experiences, or completely the opposite? Let’s discuss!