Memorable meals [ November 11th, 2014 ] Posted in » Articles, Food, Travel articles

The Rock Restaurant, Zanzibar

The Rock Restaurant, Zanzibar

Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to eat in some top quality restaurants in the UK and around the world.  But, while gourmet food is always fantastic at the time, I’ve come to the conclusion that memorable meals are really made so because of the location, the occasion and the people they are shared with.

One of my most unforgettable meals was a stuffed butternut squash, cooked over an open fire in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.  The fact that the guide leading our trip bothered to make such an intricate and tasty dish with only a wilderness camp fire for an oven still amazes me.  The act of sitting under the stars to share it with new friends from around the globe and our local guides from a neighbouring village in Botswana before we all embarked on camp fire tales and singing made it a meal to remember forever.

When it comes to scenic restaurants, a couple of places top my list.  In Israel, we once ate at The Red Sea Star restaurant which is underwater in the Red Sea.  I no longer have any clue what I ate on the night, but I’ll never forget the bizarre experience of eating a three course meal as beautiful species such as Red Sea Clownfish, Lionfish and the odd turtle swam past the windows.  I’m pretty sure we didn’t eat fish.

On the beautiful island of Zanzibar, we once spent a very happy lunchtime eating at The Rock Restaurant, a tiny little place on an islet just off the beach.  The view out across the Indian Ocean was breathtaking and part of the fun was wading back to shore after our meal, when the islet had become cut off by the high tide.

Without doubt though, top of the memorable meals list for me was a dining experience we shared in a rural family home in Vietnam last year, after a morning visiting the villagers involved in an micro financed project we were supporting.  We were invited into the home of a local lady who showed us how to cook a delicious range of traditional Vietnamese dishes, including fresh spring rolls, which were fried over the open fire in her kitchen.  For us  the very fact that we’d been invited into a village home made it a very special meal for us.  I think we provided some reciprocal enjoyment for our host too, because she was most amused by our attempts to use chopsticks to turn the food frying over the open fire.  Thankfully, she intervened and deftly flipped them, or we’d have frazzled them for sure.

It was simple home cooked food, but in a place and with people I will never forget.

 

 

 

 

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Magical Morocco

Camel train Sahara Desert, Morocco

Although it was something of a whirlwind trip – stopping off at more than 10 towns and villages during a two week visit – a recent trip to Morocco was absolutely fantastic.

There’s something utterly beguiling about sleeping under the stars in the Sahara Desert and boy, is it cold at night!  Sleeping is perhaps an overly ambitious description of the experience, because when you are sharing a section of sand with another 10 bodies, all at similar odds between sleep and wakefulness, it’s hard to get any meaningful shut eye.  That’s without factoring in the camels wandering around the camp and the spectacle of being under an inky midnight blue sky, showered with brilliant stars. A bit surreal, but definitely not to be missed.

Between visits to the major cities of Casablanca, Fes and Marrakech, we had chance to get somewhat off the beaten track and visit some remote villages in the Atlas Mountains, where the daily life of local people is still influenced by long standing traditions.  There was stunning scenery, bracing air and brisk exercise to be enjoyed (apart from the handfulSkala Du Port, Essaouira of people who cheated and hoofed it up on a mule that is) as we hiked up to Armd village for the night.  Traders had set up little stalls with Berber goods for sale and after some hard bartering, I found myself in possession of a rather fetching hand knitted woollen beanie hat.  It came in useful, as the mountains gave us another breath sucking insight into quite how cold Morocco gets in some places.

In Essaouira, we had the lCafe Des Epices. Marrakechuxury of two days to potter around the town, to enjoy the active bustle of the fishing port and chill out at pavement cafes in the Medina, where we sipped the most glorious freshly squeezed orange juice – definitely the best we’d ever tasted.  Another highlight here was a visit to the local Hammam, but that’s another story…

As we neared the end of the trip, we set off for Marrakech, stopping en route to watch the famous goats of the Marrakech-Tensift-El Haouz region, which nimbly climb trees to eat the fruits of the Argan tree.  Quite an astonishing sight.

Marrakech was everything we’d hoped for. Vibrant and hectic, full of curious smells and sounds and with a souk worth getting lost in for a couple of hours.  In Djemaa El-Fna Square we watched agog as colourful characters entertained the masses with acrobats, magic, storytelling and dance, whilst nearby stalls served steaming bowls of food scooped from bubbling vats.  Courage failed us though and we didn’t tuck in, but headed instead to the Earth Cafe Marrakech, where we sank gratefully into their comfy cushions to enjoy some superb vegetarian food.

Our trip was arranged through G Adventures which made it possible to see so many fascinating aspects of the country in a limited amount of time.  Our travelling companions were delightful – there was a staggering 65 year age span between the youngest, at 19, to the oldest, who at 84 was an inspiration to all of us.

It’s a joy to know that life really is what you make of it, whatever age you are.

December 1st, 2009 | Comments Off on Magical Morocco

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