Friday, April 18, 2014

Destinations : Wales & Marrakech

We're back today with my monthly series called Destinations.  Each month I am interviewing travelers all over the world near and far about destinations they've been to, what they packed, how they got there and so much more. 

Today I have 2 amazing bloggers sharing their chosen destinations with you.  I'm so excited to welcome Rachel and Belinda to share some amazing places in the world with you today!



WHERE DO YOU BLOG?
Hi, everyone! I'm Rachel and I blog over at Postcards from Rachel. I'm so excited to be featured on Casey's blog today!

WHERE CAN I CONNECT WITH YOU?
WHAT DESTINATION ARE YOU SHARING?
I'm sharing our travels to Marrakech, Morocco.


WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE THIS DESTINATION FOR YOUR TRAVELS?
While living abroad in Scotland, we spent most of our time traveling all over Europe. Our good expat friends suggested visiting Morocco for something a bit different and we instantly fell in love! Sightseeing involved Berber markets, camels, the Atlas Mountains, and Ourika Valley, and the people there were wonderful. Everyone should travel to Morocco at least once! 


HOW DID YOU GET THERE?  
We flew from Aberdeen, Scotland to Marrakech, Morocco on easyJet airlines.

WHERE DID YOU STAY?
We stayed in a traditional Moroccan riad called Dar JaguarWe booked the Damascan Blush room and enjoyed a view of the courtyard and the sounds of birds every day -- even though we were in the middle of the very busy medina! It was like our own private oasis with very tasty Moroccan pastries and freshly-squeezed juice in the morning. I would go back in a heartbeat!


TIPS FOR FUTURE TRAVELERS TO THIS DESTINATION?
Be sure to book an all-day tour with a local travel guide. It's a safe way to get around, plus they'll take you to places off the beaten path. Our tour guide allowed us to pass out sweets and pencils to children in the Atlas Mountains and I will never forget that experience. 



TIPS FOR PACKING FOR THIS DESTINATION?
I packed lots of pants since we were going to be riding camels and getting dirty, plus I didn't want to expose my legs too much. Since it was so hot when we traveled there, linen was my best friend. I also wore lots of hats to protect my albino skin (thanks to gloomy Scotland) from the sun. I'm more practical than stylish when we travel so I don't really worry about clothes. I'm much more focused on our photography gear and camcorder! Bringing a camcorder was a wonderful decision because we filmed the bustling medina on a few occasions. 

MUST SEE SPOTS?
The Atlas Mountains were stunning and we enjoyed visiting a Berber Market and Argan Oil Cooperative while driving around. We also sipped on tea in the Ourika Valley, rode camels, and had lunch at an Imam's house. Be sure to step out of your comfort zone and really interact with the people there. You won't regret it!

Other favorites include: Jemaa el Fna, Bahia Palace, and Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret.

FINAL TIPS FOR THIS DESTINATION?
Drink lots of Moroccan tea and enjoy the pastries.





WHERE DO YOU BLOG?
I blog over at Found Love. Now What?

WHERE CAN I CONNECT WITH YOU?

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


WHAT DESTINATION ARE YOU SHARING? 
I am sharing some insider tips and tricks to my new country Wales.

WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE THIS DESTINATION FOR YOUR TRAVELS? 
Since moving to Wales in June 2012,  I have fallen in love with this small and wonderfully quirky country.  It isn't as big of a tourist destination as Scotland or England, and I think that is a shame.   Wales is a lovely spot on the map, and I love shouting about it from the mountaintops.  {Okay, really from my blog.}
  
HOW DID YOU GET THERE? 
Best way to arrive in North Wales {where I live} is via Manchester International Airport.  From there, it is an easy train various spots in Wales.  If you coming from London, trains run right into Chester a perfect starting spot for exploring North Wales.

TIPS FOR FUTURE TRAVELERS TO THIS DESTINATION? 
Wales, especially North Wales, is all about the remote and hidden corners which means you may need hit the road by car.  It may feel a bit scary driving on  the wrong side of the road, but trust me it's worth it! The views are amazing!  Also, I would recommend getting visitor passes for both National Trust and CADW.  These two passes will allow you to have access to wonderful castles, estate homes, gardens and more without having to worry about the expensive admission charges.

  
TIPS FOR PACKING FOR THIS DESTINATION? 
Layers, plenty of layers. No matter what time of year, you will want a combination of long sleeve t-shirts, easy thermals and a light rain jackets.  Oh, if you are thinking of doing exploring… like medieval castles or Roman ruins, you will want shoes with good sturdy traction.  {There is nothing worse than slippery castle steps!}

MUST SEE SPOTS? 
Oh, this is a tough to just pick a few fave spots! But, here are my top three:

Caernarfon Castle: 15th century medieval castle filled to the brim with history. After exploring, Snowdonia National Park is right there, just waiting to be explored. (CADW pass)


Penryhn Castle: Guys, I am not really a "speechless" person but I was in awe at Penryhn Castle.  From marble details, stunning stained glass and epic scale of the rooms…. I was in love. (National Trust Pass) 

Portmerion: Portmerion is a quirky gem in Wales, that you have to see to believe.  The moment you step into Portmerion, you feel like you are in the Mediterranean not in a seaside village in Wales.  With gardens, cafes and sea views, Portmerion is perfect for a relaxing day out!


FINAL TIPS FOR THIS DESTINATION? 
Wales, in my humble expat opinion, is a gem filled to the brim with stunning sights typically with less tourists than Scotland or England.  On top of that, everyone is welcoming and friendly that it makes it even better.  With that in mind,  be willing to go off the beaten path, get lost a little bit and veer from the guidebook.  You may discover something simply wonderful!

  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sharing the World : Dream Destinations

I love hearing other peoples' travel stories and favorite travel destinations, as well as any tips they might have.  So I've gathered my amazing sponsors together to answer travel questions.



Find Christina: 
Start here:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Every Day Moments : A New Daily Goal


At the beginning of the year, I sat down and laid out travel goals for myself this year.  One of those goals was to really take in each and every moment while seeing the world, to embrace everything and enjoy each and every moment for what it is. But as I really did do that on our first few trips this year, I realized that I need to do more of that in my daily life.  

And while I know it might look like we're constantly traveling to far off destinations, with endless cash-flow and holidays all the time, I can assure you that's not the case at all.  We do have a very normal day to day life, we get up, go to work, work hard and work many long days, and then come home, cook dinner and do it all again the next day.  We travel on weekends when we can and take 2 larger trips each year, but the rest of the time we are living normal working lives, lately it seems full of many late nights of working overtime with projects that never seem to end.  Often times, in the span of those normal day to day lives, I get so caught up in project deadlines, answering a never ending stream of emails, planning dinners for the week and running the errands that never seem to end, I forget to stop and take in the moments like I do when traveling.

Nick and I were having a conversation not long ago about how bad my memory is when it comes to things I should remember, mostly memories that are not that long ago.  But as I got to thinking about it, I remember our travels like they were yesterday and I remember everything we saw, everything we felt exactly.  I realized that I remember our trips because I really do take in the moments, see things as they are and keep an open and non-cluttered mind while traveling.  In my daily life, I'm usually so busy trying to multi-task everything going on, that the little things escape me and I don't remember them how I would like to.

This is all a very long winded way to say that I'll be starting a new reoccurring series going forward called Every Day Moments.  It won't be every week and actually it might just end up being once a month or as often as needed, but I want a way to write down and remember every day moments, moments when we're not traveling, moments here at home that mean just as much as the memories we make while trotting around the globe.  It will also be a way to introduce more of my daily life here on True Colours, as I know that often I go straight to the travel posts (as that is such a huge passion of mine) but going forward I'd like to share a little bit more about my every day life.

So in my first post for the series, I just want to say this, we need to hold on to the every day moments, we really do need to store the memories from our every day lives too, not just when something important happens, because as the famous quote says, "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans."  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Oberoi Udaivilas {Udaipur} : A Hotel Review


I've been thinking a lot lately about our time in beautiful Udaipur, a place that we feel so in love with.  And especially as work and life have seemed particularly crazy lately, I'm mentally going back to our days on the shores of Lake Pichola, watching the sunset from our private infinity pool and the incredible Indian food and Masala chai we indulged in on a daily basis.  We also just got some of Nick's photos from India framed on our apartment walls, which is making me reminisce even more,  so today we're jumping back into India! With that said, I want to share the Oberoi Udaivilas.

As I've mentioned before on our hotel reviews from Delhi and Agra, we chose to stay at the Oberoi and Trident hotel brands in India as I have family connections to the brand, so we went through them for everything during our stay in the country.  We also got upgraded at all our hotel stays in India, so many of the images you'll see of our rooms and views, were because of our upgrades.  I can't say anything bad about either brand, Oberoi or Trident, as we had impeccable service, incredible experiences and nothing bad to say at all.  The hotels were gorgeous and each totally unique.

With that, I'm adding another hotel review to the Hotel Review Guide collection today which you can find on my sidebar.  The Hotel Guides now have their very own button in my Categories section.
When we stayed: February 2014  |  Price Range: $500/night (average for standard room)

Address: Mulla Talai, Haridasji Ki Magri, Udaipur, Rajasthan 313001, India  |  Website: Oberoi Udiavilas




This hotel is definitely a splurge as shown on the above price range, but wow, is it worth it in every way!  As I mentioned on my other India reviews, we specifically chose to stay at the lower price range hotels in Delhi and in Bangkok and Cambodia so we could splurge on this one.  Honestly, this hotel was the top thing I was so excited about before leaving for our trip and it did not disappoint.  We got upgraded to a lake view room, with a private patio and semi-private (just sharing with our neighbors) infinity pool, overlooking Lake Pichola and the wildlife sanctuary behind the hotel.  I still dream about this hotel after a month of being home and never have I felt such peace anywhere I've traveled as I did at the Udaivilas in beautiful Rajasthan.  

Check in - One of the things about the beautiful Oberoi hotels, their lobbies are always stunning.  You feel like you're walking into a palace and our arrival at the Udaivilas was no different.  We were driven to the hotel by boat as a special welcome, arrived on the grounds by having rose petals thrown over our heads that seemingly floated from the sky above us, and then being shown through the lobby and grounds to our room, a special surprise from the general manager which he was so excited to show us our private pool and lake view, which truly was spectacular.  I'm not sure if it was just us (through our family connections) or if it's standard at the hotels, but we didn't have to check in at the front  desks at all, they did everything in our rooms, which is so nice when you're tired and just want to get to your room.


Photo by Nick

Room - The rooms here are just lovely.  Large four poster beds, window nooks that look out over the patio, large Persian rugs thrown over the gorgeous tile floors.  The patio had 2 lounge chairs and a gorgeous umbrella with Indian design.  We spent most of our time either on the patio taking in the gorgeous views and watching the peacocks frolic in the wildlife sanctuary behind our room or in the window nook (when it got too hot out) overlooking the surreal scene from inside our room.

Photo by Nick

Photo by Nick
Bathroom -  The bathroom here was my dream bathroom.  White marble everywhere, with a solitary claw-foot tub, overlooking the patio and a view of the lake while you lay and soak.  A large shower, separate toilet room and dressing vanity, made getting ready in the morning like a dream.

Design - Out of all the hotels we stayed in India, each is so lovely, but the design of the Udaivilas was my favorite.  The architecture here reminded me of an Arabian palace, mimicking lots of design attributes from the ancient City Palace that sits across the Lake from the hotel.  The grounds of this hotel are huge, but seemingly feel intimate no matter where you are.  The neutral color palette, letting the landscape speak for itself was so lovely and peaceful.


Photo by Nick
Dining - Since we spent a few days here, we ate at the restaurant many times for breakfast, lunch and dinners, as well as ordering room service a few times.  The food here was beyond incredible.  From the huge breakfast buffet every morning, to the patio tables with curtains blowing in the cool breeze for lunch, overlooking Lake Pichola (we usually had the patio to ourselves for most of our lunches which made it even more magical as there weren't that many people around.)  We spent a couple meals having food in our room, enjoying both Indian and other types of food and everything was amazing.


Photo by me.
Overall Impressions - I'm not sure if it was the time of year we were there, but there were many times that although I know the hotel was pretty fully booked, we didn't see anyone else.  We wandered the corridors and grounds seemingly as the only people there.  As I've said so many times already, this hotel is so peaceful and even though our upgraded room was incredible, when we wandered around the grounds, even the rooms not facing the lake looked perfect too, I don't think there is a bad room at this hotel.  I would be back in a minute if I could and I know we'll be back as soon as we can, it was such a memorable place and it was so hard leaving!