Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Quick Review: Laurens Way Rapid Tan

RAPID Tan, £19.95 from Laurens Way*

You'd think that spending a fortnight in Morocco would result in me returning to England like some kind of bronzed goddess. Think again. It didn't happen. For a while now, my skin has become this anti-tanning force. When I was younger, I'd come back from a week in Turkey or Tenerife with a tan that would make anyone jealous. Now, my skin is rebelling. What against I don't know, but it is. I obviously wear sun cream (usually factor 15) when I go on holiday and no matter what time of day I'm out in the sun, I just won't tan. Not even a hint of sun burn. Nothing. It's as if my skin has forgotten how to tan. To be honest, it's probably a good thing as I'm pretty sure I'd rather be a pale healthy munchkin than a bronzed goddess with skin cancer. Maybe my rebellious skin is doing me a favour? Maybe.

"If you can't tan naturally, then cheat"
(Hinde, 2014)

When the folks at Laurens Way got in touch to see if I wanted to try out some fast-developing tan, I figured that I had nothing to lose. I'd only just come back from Morocco and had developed the most pitiful tan (read: none-tan) in existence. So, I was extremely excited to see what the LW magic tan could do...





The Tan Technicalities

I'll be honest with you, prior to applying the tan I didn't really do an awful lot. I didn't embark upon an exfoliation process, I didn't buff my body or anything weird like that, I literally just stuck a bit of moisturiser on my elbows / upper arms. And that was that. I got out my special tanning mitt and squirted some of the foam (read: tanning goo) onto it. Then, I applied it in circular motions to my left arm making sure that it was all rubbed in, then my chest / neck area, and then my right arm, etc. I find that if you apply the tan in front of a large mirror it's a lot easier to see where you've missed a bit or if there's a streak. Also, the quicker you rub everything in, the less likely it is that you'll have streaky bits (as once it's dried, it's a bugger to blend in). After application, I immediately noticed the difference (see picture two) and when I woke up in the morning I was super brown - although I smelt a little biscuity! In fact, I went to work and my friend/colleague/frolleague(?!) Vicki was saying she couldn't believe how brown I was. *Smug face.* And to top it off, she thought that it was a real tan from holiday. Now you know a fake tan is pretty darn great when people think it's real!

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Verdict - 4/5

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Monday, 7 July 2014

A Techy Kinda Post: Nomad charge cards


Charge cards. Not necessarily the most interesting blog post topic, however I find that it's quite an essential topic all the same. 

In a culture where we are constantly insta-snapping, facebook updating, tweeting, lookbooking, spotifying, whats-apping (and all of the other appropriate social-media-related verbs that we've come to know and love), it comes as no surprise that our little smart phone batteries just can't hack the pace anymore. I know my iPhone definitely can't. I'll get to about 2pm on a normal working day and my phone battery will have slowly drained away to about 29%. On days when I'm attending blog events or travelling for long periods of time on the train (with nobody but my iPhone for company), the battery drainage process is FAR quicker. I've often had to carry my phone charger around in my bag so that I could whip it out whenever the iPhone juices began to run low. Thankfully, most of the time I could charge up on the train without hassle or mooch into a Costa to 'grab a coffee' (read: utilise their plug sockets). But that was before this happened...


Throwing a spanner in the works...

Unfortunately, the original phone charger that I had when I first got my iPhone (read: the one that would fit in my handbag) broke a fair while ago. This resulted in me having to make an impromptu trip to PC World, and because of their lack of 'normal' phone chargers (who does that really? who doesn't stock standard iPhone chargers?! pfft!), I then had to fork out for an iPhone charger which had a whopping three (yes THREE!!!) metres of cable. And thick cable at that. It's pretty hefty with all of that excess cable, and funnily enough, it's far from ideal for lugging around in your handbag. Forget about carrying a clutch with this bad boy of a phone charger, it just ain't happening. Oh iPhone gods, why do you do this to me?

So, when Nomad got in touch with me about reviewing their charge cards and charge keys, I was pretty excited to say the least. Mostly because I knew in the back of my mind that the days of not being able to carry a phone charger in my handbag would soon be behind me. My inner geek did a fist pump.


Since receiving the NomadCard and NomadKey, they've been firmly positioned in my handbag meaning that I've had peace of mind when out-and-about. The NomadCard is ideal for keeping in your purse, and the NomadKey (the smaller of the two) has a loop which can be attached to a keyring - basically, you can keep these two little pieces of techy-joy on you at ALL times.

The USB function is super handy as you can plug them into all manner of things including the original white iPhone plug (you know, the plug bit with the USB port), USB ports in cars and laptops. Small and easy-to-use with all manner of devices? Perfecto! And the fact that I can banish my 3 metre long cable to my 'old tech drawer' makes me happier than Larry himself. I'm going to hail these wonderful pieces of kit as a travel essential. And most importantly, a blogger essential.

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Verdict - 5/5

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Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Morocco Series (Part 6) - How to plan your own desert excursion

Hello folks, today's post is a little 'text-heavy' so apologies for that. I spoke to a few people on Twitter who mentioned that they'd like to know more about the desert adventure that Jack and I went on in Morocco. I appreciate that my holiday to Morocco feels like a lifetime ago now, however blogging and working isn't the easiest to keep on top of (as fellow bloggers will appreciate) so yes, apologies for the lateness of this post! Anyway, I've decided to write quite a detailed post on how to go about organising your own excursion if you fly into Fes and want to head across to Marrakech via the beautiful desert. It's definitely worth a read if you're interested in that kind of thing!



C A M P I N G   I N   T H E   D E S E R T

When Jack and I booked our holiday to Morocco, we read about various desert excursions online and were quite drawn to the idea. I'll be honest, Jack was more drawn to the idea than I was, however after reading about it in more detail I came round to the idea of it too. There are a plethora of excursions that are available to book online through companies such as Rough Tours and Sahara Desert Trips however these can be quite expensive, particularly if you want to do a four-day excursion which includes the camel ride into the desert, a stop at the gorges and visiting Ait Ben Haddou. We were eyeing up the three / four day excursions from Fes, however because Fes is less touristy it would've cost us about £350-£400 each for the excursion (as we wouldn't be travelling as part of a group). If you do it the other way and travel from Marrakech, you can join a group and the price per person will decrease. We decided not to go with the pre-organised tours so that we could have more freedom. By doing our own thing the trip worked out to be slightly cheaper, less rushed and more of an adventure... (Brace yourselves for information overload!)

To begin with, we caught an overnight Supratours coach from Fes to a place called Merzouga (which is where the desert is). The coach journey was 11 hours overnight, cost about £13 each and left from the Supratours bureau outside Fes train station at 9pm. We arrived in Merzouga at 8.40am the next day. Despite the coach breaking down for a couple of hours en route, it was a fairly stress-free journey! 

We'd organised with a local guesthouse called Riad Madu to pick us up from the Supratours coach stop in Merzouga in the morning. Our driver, Mohammed was waiting for us on arrival. He helped us with our bags and drove us in his 4x4 to the Riad where we had breakfast, a nap and then embarked on our excursion which included:
  1. A jeep excursion during the day - which to be honest, I probably wouldn't bother with as it consisted of visiting a lake, looking at some local irrigation systems and visiting a 'Berber village' which was essentially a large tourist shop.
  2. A camel ride into the desert - this bit was good and it was just Jack and I, and a Berber man who was on hand to take lots of photos of us on the camels! 
  3. An overnight stay in a luxury camp (the tent includes a proper double bed with a plumbed in toilet, shower, sink, etc. - click here to see a pic of the room) with a four course meal and entertainment. We were the only ones there so we had four people waiting on us and the whole camp to ourselves which was pretty funky. 
  4. A huge breakfast the following morning overlooking the sand dunes. 
  5. Transfer via jeep back to Riad Madu. 
Altogether this cost us 1450DH each (approximately £103), which isn't too bad considering how much you manage to cram in!



S L E E P I N G   I N   A   C A V E

After our desert trip, we moved on to a place close by called Guest House Merzouga (again, another great place to stay) in order to utilise their swimming pool and then the following morning we got up early to hop on yet another Supratours coach to a place called Tinghir. Again, the coach was cheap (about £5 each) and took about three hours in total. 

Once we got to Tinghir we headed in a taxi to our hotel, Auberge Le Festival, which is a 30 minute drive away in a place called Todra Gorge. I would definitely recommend staying there as it's incredible. We stayed in a cave room (which is essentially a man-made cave built into the rock) and it was pretty niche to say the least. They also have castle rooms if you would prefer something a touch more regal. That day, we went on a big walk around the gorge and managed to take some interesting snaps. In the evening, we had a three-course meal (they seem to be the done thing in Morocco) and sat under the stars for a while. I have to admit, as a bit of a star fanatic, it was amazing to be able to see every single star in the night's sky - particularly as there is no light pollution in the gorges. It was beautiful. Altogether, our stay cost 500DH per person (about £35 each) including a three course meal and a large breakfast the following morning.




A I T   B E N   H A D D O U

The following morning we got up early as we were going to be getting a taxi to Ouarzazate, which is about two hours drive from Tinghir (the main town near to Todra Gorge). We had our breakfast, settled up and then hitched a ride to Tinghir taxi rank. There we managed to catch a taxi to Ouarzazate with some other locals, which cost about 100DH each (approx £7, which for a two hour taxi journey is a good price!). Once at Ouazazate, we got another taxi to Ait Ben Haddou which is an ancient, holy city built into the mountain. Game of Thrones and Gladiator were filmed there, plus it's a UNESCO world heritage site, so all-in-all it's a pretty interesting place to visit. We asked our taxi driver to take us there, wait for us for a few hours, and bring us back to Ouarzazate in time to get our 4pm bus to Marrakech. For this, he charged us 300DH (£21). It was definitely worth making the effort to go and visit this place - the views are incredible and it's nice to see traditional Moroccan cities which were built hundreds of years ago and are still standing. It's a real 'Indiana Jones' kinda place.




After our trip to Ait Ben Haddou, we ventured back to Ouarzazate and hopped on a Supratours bus to Marrakech. The four hour journey was a little hair-raising as it went through the Atlas mountains and there were some seriously sheer drops, plus the coach driver seemed to be taking the corners a little too fast! However we got to Marrakech in one piece - and for just 80DH each, which is just over a tenner for the both of us. Bargain!

Instead of costing us about £350-£400 each and having zero control over the hotels and riads we were staying in, our own excursion cost just shy of £200 each and was a true adventure! If you're looking to do a similar thing and you have the patience to travel via coach and organise accommodation yourself then I'd definitely recommend a DIY tour! And if you need help or have any questions relating to this kind of trip then feel free to just drop me an email or a comment below and I'll be sure to reply!

Useful links for your DIY tour:

Supratour / rail timetables and prices can be found here: http://www.marrakechtraintickets.com/morocco-rail-timetables/
Riad Madu (the luxury desert camp) website: http://www.riadmadu.com/en/luxury-camp/
Auberge Le Festival (the cave room) website: http://www.aubergelefestival-todragorge.com

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