Sunday, 23 April 2017

Last Movies I have seen: "Beauty & the Beast"(2017) & "Ghost in the Shell"(2017)

Beauty & the Beast

Genre:  Musical; Fantasy/Romance
Recommended?  Of course! If you love this classic fairy tale that has been turned into a musical with Disney animated characters. One feels like a kid again . I could not stop smiling and even though i knew the story from the beginning to the end, i was looking forward to seeing it so much and i was not disappointed! Young and delicate actress from Harry Potter, Emma Watson plays her role as the "Belle" very well. What was surprising for me was that in some countries of Asia, the movie is not being shown due to what was considered guys scenes. 
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
Agree with the score? I would have even given it a 90% if not a 100%. Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite children's tales and i'll never get tired of seeing it in the cinema and/or books. 
Did you know?  Did you know that "Beauty and the Beast" was written by a French novelist called Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in the XVIIIth century? Disney converted into an animated feature in 1991.

Trailer can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3Nl_TCQXuw ( I wouldn't mind going again!)

Ghost in the Shell

Genre:  Science-Fiction
Recommended?  This movie needs to be seen in the big screen, i'm sure it loses a lot if you see it on TV and/or on a small screen. I love movies about the future; I knew what I was going to see and what to expect and it's what we got. On top of that , the city where the story unfolds, reminded me a lof of Hong Kong, a place that I loved and living now in Asia, i could definitely picture the future with digital Ads in the air (not very far from where we are now ) & human robots. I'm not a bit fan of Scarlett Johansson but I do give her credit for the role that he plays in this film. Modern robot with a soul from a previous human that are incredibly strong and help to fight terrorism with excellent vision and precision in their movements. Her roles is very believable. She looks amazing , too , which is in fact, very annoying lol. 
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 61% (audience) - Critics 47%
Agree with the score? No, we would have given it a 80% . It was very entertaining. 
Did you know?  This move costed around 110 million of $ and so far after the movie was released on March 31st 2017, they have earned around 155.5 million $ (according to Wikipedia).



Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Tribute to my mum - International Women's Day

On a day like today, I want to dedicate a few words to the woman that has inspired me the most in my life: My mum. She met my beloved father in college in 1961, she finished her degree in Economics, relocated to the South of Spain , got married and raised 5 daughters. Back then, it was not that common to have women with a bachelor degree and working in an office. Women like her fought for women's equality rights in the workplace. Bringing up 5 children and having a full-time job at the same time was not easy. My father was a politician and as a lawyer in a very small town, humble people paid him at times with kilos of oranges or potatoes. My mum was the one with the stable monthly income and our family relied on her salary for main day-to-day expenses. Being busy at work did not allow her to spend as much time with her daughters as she would have liked but she always made sure that we had everything that we needed. My grandfather used to say that my mum was very strong. Life has tested that strength repeatedly. Only a few months after her husband died, his dad also lost his battle to cancer. My grandfather's death was so sudden and unexpected that it did not help my mum to cope with the painful recent death of her husband. Spite of it all, she was able to overcome those difficult times, I have always been blown away by her resilience and inner strength. Me, on the other side, after my father passed away, I felt a strong need to start a new life abroad, away from all the memories. I applied for an Erasmus scholarship and I emigrated to Munich (Germany). A new life in a complete different country with a language i did not speak. I was very young and inexperienced. My mum supported me from the beginning financially and I was able to finish successfully my last year in college there. Living far away from my mum, has brought us closer in a very special way. From the moment I started to have my own salary I wanted to pay her back everything she has done for me, going on a trip with her every year. We have been travelling around since 2006: From Vienna ( Austria), Scotland ( UK), Berlin, Ireland (a few times), Bath (UK), Bournemouth (UK), Liverpool (UK), Brussels, Prague,Budapest to Singapore. Every trip is a collection of unique memories that will always stay with me. 

Do you have a woman in your life that is important to you?  Celebrate it with her today!   Happy International Women's Day !






My mum and I in Budapest.

Photo of me with my beloved grandmother, another important woman in my life. She taught me how to be firm and respect others. I love you Grandma, I hope to see you again one day.





Photo of my parents in College.


Photo of my grandmother and my mum



Sunday, 5 March 2017

"5 Top Movies I recommend out of the last 18 we have seen in the Cinema By Belen Delgado

My parents' love for the cinema influenced me to start my passion about seeing films in a proper setting: in the cinema, with popcorns or nachos & a soft drink. 
I started to write in this blog years ago due to my short-term memory about movies I see. Not sure why it is but usually I only remember whether i liked the film or not. This is one of the main reasons why I started this blog. 
Since i moved to Asia it has been more challenging for me to keep up with my 3 blogs, time just goes faster here! 
I had a mini backlog of films to write about from 2016 to yesterday and today I have decided to tackle that. I can't write to the level of detail that I usually like but let me at least share with you the title of the film, genre, whether I recommend it or not and the Rotten Tomatoes score that I usually agree with ( in case I don't, I'll let you know, too). 

* Doctor Strange (2016). 
Genre: Action & Adventure; Science Fiction. 
Recommended? Yes, Entertaining! Excellent special effects.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88% (audience) 

* Passengers (2016). 
Genre: Science Fiction. 
Recommended? Yes, Entertaining! 
They could have done much more with the original idea of the plot though.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%( audience) ( Agree!)

* Fantastic Beasts (2016) 
Genre: Fantasy    
Recommended?  Yes, why not.  
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81% (audience)

* A Monster Calls (2016) 
Genre: Fantasy/Drama 
Recommended?  It is a must! Beautiful film, different from other movies you may have seen recently. It reminded me a little bit of "Pan's Labyrinth"( another great film, in case you haven't seen it ! 
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84% (audience)

* Bridget Jones Baby (2016) 
Genre:  Comedy    
Recommended? It is a must if you are a fan of the Bridget's series and if you have read the books like I did ( Yes at that time i was single and i felt like Bridget so many times ..) ! I hadn't laughed so much in a very long time. 
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 69% ( audience). To me it was a 90%!!

*Mike & Dave need wedding dates (2016) 
Genre: Comedy   
Recommended? No!Avoid!  ( Don't even ask me why I went to see this one.. I guess i was brain-dead at that time.. aw, wait i remember.. Andres chose this one!)   
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 54% (audience, 35% critics, i have to agree with the critics..)

* Dirty GrandPa (2016) 
Genre: Comedy    
Recommended?  Yes, why not! Entertaining. It depends on your mood.  
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 45% ( audience)

* The Purge, Election Year (2016) 
Genre:  Horror    
Recommended?   No! Avoid! Extremely violent, there is already enough violence in the world.I liked the first movie and the second one but not this one.  
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 49%

Since 2017 started we have continued our passion for cinema & we have seen the following films:

* Why Him (2016) 
Genre:  Comedy  
Recommended?  Yes! Very funny ( If you like American humor, as I do)! James Franco is not only very attractive but also very hilarious in this movie! 
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 59% (audience)

 * A street cat named Bob (2016) 
Genre: Drama    
Recommended?  Yes (if you read the book like I did and you like cats) 

It is based on a true story. You can follow James Bowen and his cat on Facebook,too. I always wanted to see them in London but i didn't manage to. He became too famous after his book became a bestseller. If you look carefully you can see the real James at the end of the movie. I never saw homeless in the same way after I read this book.

A short video about the Real James & his cat Bob: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdYTaoftSgk 
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%

* La La Land (2016) 
Genre: Musical/Love Story   
Recommended?   Yes! Beautiful film! (If you like musicals & Ryan Gosling, you can't miss it! If you are not fan of musicals, do not bother, you will probably hate it..)    
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84% ( Agree!)

* Split (2017) 
Genre: Suspense/Horror    
Recommended?  It is a must!   
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%   James Mcvoy's is stellar in this movie! He reminded me a bit of Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. Terrifying at times the multiple personalities of the protagonist. James Mcvoy is without doubt one of the best European actors of this time. If you haven't see his movie "Filth"(2013), you should. Another of his masterpiece terrifying performances!

*The Light Between Oceans 
Genre:  Drama   
Recommended? Yes! Beautiful film! I cried so much but you what? There is nothing better than a movie that makes you feel, even if it is sadness.    
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 62% ( I disagree with this one it's a 90% for me, i loved it and i could relate to the protagonists pain. Excellent chemistry between Michael Fassbender & Florence Clery )

* Fifty Shades Darker 
Genre: I can't even classify it.. 
Recommended?  No! Avoid!              
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 56% (audience) - I'm afraid i have to agree with Rotten tomatoes critics score on this one 9%, is even generous. OMG is so BAD!! 

*Manchester by the Sea 
Genre: Drama    
Recommended?  Not for me but some people love it and his score in Rottentomatoes is very high, too.. and it the main protagonist has even won an Oscar. The protagonist's life cannot get any worse than what it is in the movie..seriously. After this film we started to talk about how lucky we are in our lives right now. 
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80% (audience)  I'm the odd one here since i found it boring at times and then very depressing..I don't understand that high score. However, I can understand why the protagonist won an Oscar, he plays very well his role. Very credible.

 *Jackie 
Genre: Drama      
Recommended?   No! Avoid!  ( And I was very interest in the history of what happened when Kennedy on the day he was killed but i expected much more.. )   
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 66% ( To me not even a 30%.. Natalie Portman plays very well her role but in general, thought the movie was very boring.. i even fall asleep for some of it. )

* Alone In Berlin 
Genre:  Drama  
Recommended?  Yes,Why not. 
Interesting and based on true facts. It shows what a revolutionary man tried to bring awareness about Hitler's regime through post-cards left in different parts of Berlin anonymously. It would have been much easier now with Twitter! 
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 42% (audience) . To me it was a pass : 50%

 *Trainspotting 2 
Genre: Drama/Comedy    
Recommended?Yes It is a must!  Best movie I have seen this year so far! It shows a sad reality of a drug underworld that can be seen in most cities around the world. In this case in Edinburgh.  ( Needless to say if you didn't like Trainspotting 1, do not even bother.)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%                     

Top highlights of Trainspotting since i watched it yesterday and I remember it well: I loved this movie even more than the first one! Worth the wait all this years to see the trainspotting "gang" again! and Franco is a very bad, bad hombre! Great soundtrack , too!

Best monologue of the film: 

"Choose life,Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares
Choose looking up old flames, wishing you’d done it all differently
And choose watching history repeat itself
Choose your future
Choose reality TV, slut shaming, revenge porn
Choose a zero hour contract, a two hour journey to work
And choose the same for your kids, only worse, and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody’s kitchen
And then… take a deep breath
You’re an addict, so be addicted
Just be addicted to something else
Choose the ones you love
Choose your future
Choose life”

So to sum up, see below the movies that I truly recommend: 

                                                   T2  Trainspotting  : 

" I loved this movie even more than the first one! Worth the wait all this years to see the trainspotting "gang" again! and Franco is a very bad, bad hombre! Great soundtrack , too!"



SPLIT : 

"James Mcvoy plays a stellar role in this film! He reminded me a bit of Anthony Hopkins in "The Silence of the Lambs "



                                                 A Monster's Calls : 

" A love story between a mother and his son that uses his imagination to get away from the sad reality of his mum's slow death due to cancer" 


                                                 Bridget Jones Baby: 

"I hadn't laughed so much with a movie for a very long time. Who doesn't love Bridget clumsiness?" 


                                         The Light Between Oceans : 

"Such a beautiful sad love story , loads of chemistry between the protagonists. I cried a lot at the end.."


                                           La La Land: 

" I'm a big fan of musicals. Impossible love story, excellent music and very colorful photography. It is true that it can never be compared to the classic old musicals from Hollywood, however it is a very good attempt."

Note:* I have had some issues with the formatting writing this post, apologies and i hope you can read the content.

Concert Ronan Keating ( August , 2016, Singapore)

It is unbelievable things you would do when you are abroad just because you miss home, home for us is Ireland since we lived in Dublin for 11 years. We had only moved out from there months ago at the time when we decided to see Ronan Keating at the Universal's Studios in Singapore. I actually used to be a big fan of him when I was a teenager, i had a poster of him in my bedroom, wearing jeans and a white t-shirt. Everything started as a joke between Ciara & I: " Ronan K. is coming to Singapore, it would be fun to go and see him". Ciara also agreed that if she was in Ireland, she would have probably not had gone to see him live. Well, not only we decided to see him but we got "VIP" tickets with a table and some food/drinks very close to the stage. We had a VIP pass with his name on it. It ended up to be so much fun, he is so amazingly talented, such a great voice and still so handsome. Our goal was to get a selfie with him, my husband, Ciara & I tried in so many different ways to call his attention waving the only Irish flag in the audience: mine. Well, even though we were very close to the stage ,we never managed to get a selfie with him :-(. At one point, he started to walk among the audience and we started to chase him like a couple of teenagers lol . At the very end of the concert, he stopped to talk about his wife. Oddly enough, even though Ronan did not seem to care about a true Irish girl, Ciara and an adopted one, me, his wife took notice of us! She posted a photo of Ciara &I waving the flag on her Instagram page ( see below photo); she even replied to one of my comments on her page. I actually started to follow her on IG after the concert and she is such a nice and sweet woman. Our work colleagues were laughing at us due to that photo and our excitement to see him but you know what? Carpe Diem! We had a great team and only those who emigrated very far away from their families and friends, understand how seeing an EU pop-star came make your day. There are not as many chances to see concerts from EU singers in here, so we could not miss this one! Who knows whom i'll go to see next! Ronan if you read this by any chance, you owe us a Selfie !






Saturday, 3 September 2016

Humble review of "Indignation" (2016) by Belen Delgado

Beautiful slow-paced drama set in the 50ies. The setting and type of dialogues reminded me a bit of the movie "Dead Poet's Society".This film is based on a best-seller Philip's Roth novel and it is also the debut as a director of James Schamus. Rotten Tomatoes Audience rated it with 90% and critics with 80%. Although I really liked it, to me it was something in-between the 2 ratings, I'd score it with a 70%. It is a beautiful love story , which is told with a lot of elegance and style. A very aesthetic film. Sad to see how in those times there was not a lot of freedom of speech and/or a complete lack of understanding of any mental-related illness. You became easily isolated if you did not comply with the strict moral rules of those times.  Some of my favorite scenes were the conversations between Marcus ( the male protagonist) and the college's Dean and the first date of the 2 protagonists and how Marcus reacted after it. You won't see much action and/or impressive special effects in this movie, this film it is about a complicated love story and what society was like back then.

See trailer below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELKsrUssyQE


Humble review of a movie I have watched recently: Nerve (2016) by Belen Delgado

Nerve 

This teen-thriller tells a story that is not very far from reality. An-online illegal app. game where you have two options either to: view/follow or to play the actual game and earn some generous monetary reward and also followers/fame. Handsome & talented James Franco little brother, Dave Franco, is the male protagonist along with Emma Roberts. There is a lot of chemistry between the 2 of them and they play very well their role of being the most viewed players with their "dare" proposals to earn big amounts of money in short amount of time putting sometimes their own lives at risk. This movie shows the new generation of Millennials that are obsessed with the internet, phones, interactive app. games and the concept of fame based on the amount of followers you may have. I loved the freshness , fast-pace and originality of the plot. Not the best movie of my life but very entertaining. I probably would have chosen a different ending but well, it is a North-American movie where the audience should be mainly teens ( well excluding me lol) so the ending had to match that. In the real world it would probably be much different. Some of my favorite scenes: The first dares where they are in the shopping center and then on the motorbike blindfolded. Rotten Tomatoes audience rated this movie with a 74% and critics with a 64%, as you can see it is definitely, a pass! I agree with the audience. Even though I did not have high expectations before watching this movie, it was much better than I thought!


And one last thing, if you are wondering why I'm still watching "teen" movies, well I'm actually very open to the movie genre that I watch , that keeps my view of the world more open and I can learn also from different generations from mine.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Excellent movie, recommended: "Sing Street" ( 2016)

Best movie choice! I could not be wrong since I loved the director, John Carney ( you may know him from the movie "Once"). "Sing Street" is a mixture of the 80ies music & clothing with the beloved green Ireland where I lived for 11 years: Ireland! So many good memories of areas I used to walk by in Dublin and surroundings. I also have to admit that had so many pieces of clothing that they were wearing in the film! Such a beautiful story about a kid that builds a strong bond with his friends and older brother to conquer a girl through music.  So glad to hear the Dublin accent again, we even had some tears but I also laughed out so loud sometimes that I had to control myself. The scenes where the kids from the band changed their style depending on the vinyl record they listened to and the ideas they come up with for their videos .. HaHA, so funny! Some of my favorite 80ies bands can be listened to: Spandau Ballet; Duran , Duran; The Cure; Phil Collins, Depeche Mode, well actually a few of these groups, I know them because of my older sisters (e.g. The Cure or Phil Collins) . I was very lucky to have had such a rich influence based on the different bands that my 3 oldest sisters liked! I have to say that I even liked the original songs from this film and I have been listening to their soundtrack since last Saturday! If you go and see it , just tell me if you enjoyed the scene where they play at the school and the lead singer dedicates the song to the priest .. ( So cool and brave!!!).



And guess what? Rotten Tomatoes has scored this movie with a 97% ( top critics scores) and 94% (by the audience) . I couldn't agree more! Come on! Go and get your tickets!!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Thinking of going to the cinema? See below a short review of the movies I have seen recently by Belen Delgado

As you may know, I moved to Singapore a few months ago, I no longer have the cinema membership card but we have kept up with the tradition of going to the cinema a few times a month since it is since we love doing. Choices of movies to see is much more limited here but we have been lucky, out of the last 4 movies we have seen, there is only 1 that I would not recommend seeing. Let me start telling you a bit about each of them:

Me Before You ( Recommended for romantic movie lovers!)- 2016




In a scale from 1 to 10 for romantic movies, I'd give it a 9 just based on the fact that I truly believed their love story and those emotions made me cry like a baby. I have not cried with a movie so much for a very long time. You know when you go to see a film with a friend and/or your husband/boyfriend and they start laughing at you because they notice that you are sobbing in public? Well, that was me yesterday. I just could not control myself. If you check "Rotten Tomatoes" Review the audience give it a 82% but critics give it a 57%. I can see why critics may have given it a lower score, it does not have a super original plot and you cannot call it a "master piece", however sometimes a simple story that the public can relate to , played by 2 excellent actors, can touch the audience. The movie is an adaptation of the bestseller book by Jo Jo Moyes. It is about a relationship that blossoms between a paralyzed young handsome Londoner and a his bubbly happy-go-lucky caretaker.  And have I mentioned that Sam Claflin is such a handsome and charming British man?

See trailer of the movie below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eh993__rOxA

Equals ( Not great acting but entertaining) - Romantic-Sci-fi film - 2016




We went to see this film because some of it was set in Singapore but we did not know much about the plot. Well, it turned out to be very entertaining. If you ask me to give it a score, I'd give it a 6.5 since I think they could have done much more with the idea that having emotions will be considered a "terminal illness" in the future and the world will be ruled by multinationals that will have heavy controls to make sure that no-one has emotions and they are able to just go to work, eat & sleep and eliminate anything-else that could provoke any type of feelings. Also I'm not a big fan of Kristen Stewart but It was great to discover Nicholas Hoult . Let me be a bit superficial for a change, if you ask me why I liked the movie, I can highlight 2 things: The utter perfection of Nichola's look and I also found very interesting the fact that multinationals could be ruling the world and getting rid of anyone that has feelings. In a way, that is not very far from what many big business would like to have to be even more profitable. If emotions come in the way of business goals/priorities, they may not be achieved. Who knows if in the near future the so-called illness in the movie "sos" will actually exist and big multinationals will have the utter control of the world!. "Rotten Tomatoes" critics gave it a score of 48%. Not the movie of my life but it was entertaining. Go and see it!

See trailer below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RTN3HnQV3c

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising ( Just do not waste your time..) - American Comedy.- 2016

Critics from Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 62% , in this case I have to say that they have been very generous... come on! a 62? and you will be wondering why I went to see this film. Well, the answer is simple.. there were not other movies at the time that we want to go to the cinema. We did not have high expectations. There were a couple of scenes where we laughed but if you ask me if I'd recommend it, I'd say no. Just go and spend your time doing something else. To me, it does not even get a 5.

Mon Roi ( French love story - Highly recommended! ) - 2015

We were very lucky to see this European film in Singapore since there are not many of them in the cinemas. We had to read the subtitles but we did not care, at all. I, personally, love French movies because I know that I'm going to be presented with an original story along with funny & witty dialogues. This is exactly what we got, a unique film about a torrid love story between an emotionally unstable Giorgio and lively Tony. They are both over their 40ies and they go over a passionate but unhealthy love relationship, very far from being a perfect love story. The movie shows that you do not choose who you fall in love with and everything you can put up with if you love someone very much. There is great chemistry between both protagonists. Truly recommended it, I give it an 8.5 out of 10. This film is from 2015 and although we saw it in the cinema a few weeks ago in Singapore, you may not be able to see in the cinemas in your country. Rotten Tomatoes scored it with a 73% ( critics) and 93% ( the audience).

See trailer below: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hpRsa_doS4




Sunday, 17 January 2016

A summary of our Our 8-day Trip to Morroco and Recommendations by Belén Delgado ( November 2015)

Finally , I have some free time to write about our magical trip to Morroco. Yes, magical due to this country charm, culture and history.

Before I start getting into detail , you can see below what we did day by day, which as part of the initial planning that I did to prepare our trip. I usually do it all myself and I do not need any agency to do that for us when we travel:



It took me time to do the research about places that we wanted to visit and  to find accommodation but it was definitely worth the effort. Especially this trip took me longer than usual to organize because I had never been to Africa before and I had the fear of the unknown. I started my research by asking my contacts via Facebook if they had ever been there before and what they would recommend me to visit. To my surprise, I received a lot of feedback! It seems that we were the only ones that had never been there before! So I started to investigate distance from Marrakesh, which was our central place to stay to visit all the other sightseeing, and how we could go from one location to the other without losing a lot of time and also being safe. I have to say that out of my initial planning for this trip, the only thing I regret is not having stayed another extra night in the beautiful small town of Essaouira. It is true that you can visit it in one day but I felt that we did not have enough time to walk around the tiny and narrow streets and enjoy more the peace and calm of the place.

This was our trip , day by day:

Day 1 (Arrival and initial culture shock!)

Since I knew that we were going to arrive in the evening and it was our first time in Morocco. I arranged it so that a driver picked us up. I found the contact from a friend of mine, whose husband is from Morocco and he knew the owner of this tour agency. This agency is not only one of the cheapest you will find for similar trips but they also deliver an excellent service. I can tell you since we arranged all our trips with them and even an additional one that we were not planning to do since we were so pleased with their service. Our contact was: Abdeljalil , he walked with us from where the driver dropped us to the Riad. Yes, he had to walked with us since cars could not get there and believe me , we would have never found the place without his help. They charged us 10 euros for this service and the driver even had to wait for us for an hour since our flight was a bit delayed and they did not charge us anything extra.

The Riad where we stayed in Marrakesh, was also a recommendation from Amalia , my friend and wow, we were blown away! From outside , we did not know what to expect, especially since it is so chaotic and overcrowded with people, donkeys,bicycles,motorbikes,cats,street stands etc but as you see throughout the city, places change once you get in. Link here

We decided not to go out that evening, it was already 21.00 pm, mainly because we were a bit overwhelmed by the cultural shock. Mainly due to all the information we receive from the different media where they inspire fear . Also take into account that our Trip was just 2 days after the terrorist attack in Paris, so that increased even more the paranoia. There were loads of cancellations from other tourists due to this but we did not let fear overcome us and I´m very glad that was not the case. Our riad, was just at the heart of the old city in Marrakesh, the most authentic part you can choose if you want to see what the real Marrakesh is about. Of course, you can find big tourist resorts and more westernized hotels in other areas but if you want to do this, you don´t live the full experience. If you go with kids, maybe I would not recommend to stay in our Riad , it is more for couples of groups of friends. I´ll explain later why.

Given that it was low season, the owner of the Riad, upgraded us to one of the the most beautiful rooms. We booked via booking.com with a last minute offer I found but they recommended us if we were back, to contact them directly. They speak English, Spanish,French and even Italian and they are totally reliable. Their phone number is: +212 5243-83535. 

While we drank the delicious mint Tea in the typical Arabic glasses,we asked Abdeljalil if they offered any tour around the old city of Marrakesh to be able to find unknown corners the day before. Also based on the initial chaos we saw in the old city, we thought it was worth it to see the old part with someone from there. I have to say that this one was not cheap (30 euros) but one more time, I´m really glad we did it since after this tour we started to feel more confident to walk around on our own. We left the Riad at 9 and we were with our guide until 3 p.m., he also gave us some recommendations for dinner and how to enjoy the rest of the city.

Day 2: Walking around the Ancient city of Marrakesh, a labyrinth of narrow streets 



What a better way to start the day than having a typical Moroccan breakfast at the Riad. Just the best home-made breakfast we have ever had. This became my favorite meal of the day throughout our trip.

For our first day, we arranged a guided tour walking around the old part of Marrakesh. Very glad we did that since it was a narrow street of similar looking streets full of people,cats,dogs, motorbikes, bicycles and we would not have been able to go on our own and see so much with the time that we had. Our tour included:

·       Medina Souks
·       Dar Si Said Museum of Moroccan Arts and Crafts
·       Marrakesh Museum
·       Almoravid Koubba
·       Medersa Ben Youssef
·       Djemma El Fna.





He also took us to a shop museum of spices and to a very big bazar when we did most of our shopping for family and friends. See below my learnings. They are excellent sellers and if it is difficult for you to say "no" , you will end up buying a lot more than you expected lol (like us...). The shop assistant even spoke perfect Spanish and was super nice and friendly. At the end of the tour around the shop he took us to a room where he placed all the items on a table and gave us a final price. We were overwhelmed and were not sure what was a reasonable price to pay. Andres bargained only once and in the end he agreed with the sale...

Day 3 & 4: Trip to the dessert and our first time riding a camel!

One of our main goals was to sleep on the dessert and see the stars without pollution. I knew that it was going to be a long road trip until we arrived at our destination but it was completely worth it.  Again we organized the tour to the dessert with the same agency mentioned above, I checked with other ones but they asked for extremely high prices and did not convince me.

Transportation to the dessert of Zagora was a minibus with air-conditioning and the driver was super friendly and stopped very regularly on the way.

My favourite part was riding the camel when the sun was going down, all the guys from the tour were complaining all the team about the ride since it was a bit uncomfortable after the first few minutes. The Italian tourists shouted " le mie palle" ( "my bollocks" ). We were riding for 90 minutes and the Berbers took us to the camp where we had dinner with them and our own shared tents. We met a very friendly guy from Chile and we shared the tent with him. After the dinner we were around the fire listening to the drums of the Berbers. We were around 25 tourists. Seeing the starts was amazing, no pollution, silence and tranquility. There was an anecdote when i saw in the dark an animal and I could not see what it was (in my head it was a lion.. ) and I asked Andres and a Russian girl that was there to run. That one was funny.. the berbers were laughing at me , saying that they had 2 dogs. I'll never know what animal it was lol.



To be honest I did not sleep much since I kept thinking I'll find a snake and/or another animal, it was cold but we had loads of blankets and we also bought a typical Moroccan dress which protected us from the cold weather at night. 



We left early morning after the sun rose and on the way back we went to the ancient fortified city city of  Ait Ben Haddou World Heritage , it was very hot and we were tired but it was worth it to see. We had lunch on the road and when we arrived at Marrakech in the evening we went straight to the Riad to rest.



For the above tour we paid 50 euros each , including night at the dessert, trip, dinner and breakfast with the Berbers ( and they also had toilet facilities and showers)

Day 5: Walking around Marrakech

After the long trip to the dessert we did not want to do much, so we had breakfast at the Riad and we walked along the newest part of Marrakech and had lunch on the way to the square and coffee in a terrace bar just in front of Koutobia mosque.

I bought a couple more souvenirs and we booked a couple massage very close to our Riad in the old Medina area in a very hidden place called "Isis" (Yeah the place had nothing to do with the terrorist group). It was one of the most relaxing massages that i have had and the first one i had it with my husband in the same room although we did not talk that much, i just wanted to relax after not having slept much on the dessert. My back and legs were in pain due to the camel ride and the night sleeping inside the tent. We paid around 60 euros for both of us for 90 minutes of massages , relaxation time and mint tea. (580 dirhams).



Day 6: Trip to Essaouira

When I did my research before going to Morocco, most people recommended me to visit this small town on the coast and even though it meant a trip of almost 3 hours by car, i wanted to spend a day in there. The trip to Essaouira is much more comfortable since you do not have to go through the mountains and it is almost a straight road all the way. We stopped on the way in a museum and also to see a sheep pastor that had the sheep in a tree. We loved to see that! I also did not stop taking photos on the way since in Morocco for some reason people seat and/or walk in the most random places and they become part of the landscape.

I'm so glad I made that decision. Essaouira atmosphere is much more relaxed than Marrakesh, it is much easier even to buy in there and walk around. In addition they have delicious fish and the whole town is full of street cats and as you know we are cat lovers. We stayed at a Riad that belonged to a French woman, tiny and beautiful just in the heart of town: http://www.riadsaltana.com/ , I found an offer where we could stay for 45 euros with breakfast included. The place is fully renovated and it is super clean and comfortable, the only criticism I'd have will be our breakfast was not as good as the one we had in Marrakesh. 






We fully enjoyed our stay in Essaouria walking around, having dinner in a fancy place in the square where we had our first glass of wine.

Day 7: Coming back from Essaouira and dinner in Marrakech

We woke up early and took advantage of the last hours in Essaouria and had lunch in a cafe in front of the beach, a bit further away from the touristy area. Prices were much lower and the food tasted good, they even had flan ! The driver picked us up at around 4 pm and we went back to Marrakesh where we had dinner in the square close to our Riad. We had cuscus.

Day 8: Last Day in Marrakech & Going back to Dublin

Andres wanted to see the Majorelle Gardens but they were a bit outside the city and since we were flying back on that evening, i preferred to take advantage of our last day in the Riad and rest a little bit. I asked the owner if we could check out at 5 pm and pay any extra amount that was required but they were so nice that they did not ask us to pay anything extra since they did not have any guests after us and we were also very nice to them during our stay. We could have taken a bus and/or a regular taxi from the center to go back to the airport but I did not want any stress (for taxis you also have to negotiate the price before you get in) so I asked our lovely guide Abdeljalil  to pick us up to take us to the airport. In the end, he did not want to charge us for the lift to the airport and took us for free!! We arrived on time at the airport and we arrived back in Dublin without any problems.





Learnings:

* We made the big mistake of going shopping on the first day for all the presents for the family. I would not recommend this because you need to have learned how to bargain. I'd encourage you to buy one or 2 things and start practicing to get a better price.Barging is expected and they will usually ask you “how much will you pay for it?” rather than tell you how much it actually is.

*Do not buy spices, creams and/or perfumes in one of the museums a few tours go to, over there you will only find higher prices than other regular shops and/or supermarkets.

* If you ask for a price of something, most likely they will ask you back what would you pay for it and/or they will give you an inflated starting price. Take into account that if you ask, they will insist since it means you are interested.

* You have to be very open-minded and patient. It is a different culture. Embrace it and make the most of it.

* I was told not to rent a car and I would recommend you to follow this advice, too. They have their own way of driving and there are also many police controls. Their driving can be considered a bit dangerous, especially if you want to go to the mountains and dessert. Drivers from tours are experienced and even if you may think they are a bit nuts due to their driving style, they are not.. they go through the same routes every day and they know the roads inside out.

* We did not feel unsafe at all, do not believe everything you read/see in the media about Muslim countries. Most of them are very welcoming & friendly. It is true that they are also a much poorer country and to my point that you need to be open/tolerant, they may ask you for money if you take a photo of them and/or if you use toilet facilities.

* On your arrival at the airport at Marrakesh, they sell phone sim cards for 10/15 euros and this way you can have internet around the country. It is much cheaper than using your phone with roaming costs and it is not that easy to find WiFi in bars etc.

*Have always with you change in case you need to go to the toilet, in Morocco is normal to ask for a coin when you use the toilets, even in bars.

*We were advised to drink only bottled water and that's what we did and we did not have any issues with the food, of course we avoided buying food in the street markets although I have to say that some of it looked delicious but we did not want to take any risks.

* We loved the smell of the spices and mint tea. 

* Some people may ask you for coins if you ask for direction. Also in the square in Marrakesh, be aware of the guys with the snakes, if you try to take a photo of them, you need to pay, otherwise they may get aggressive.

* There are a couple of bars in the big square in Marrakesh where you can go upstairs to the terrace and have a drink, from there you will have a beautiful view of it and it is great to take pictures of the sunset with the Mosque at the back.

We fell in love with the country and we will definitely be back at some point of our lives to see the north part of the country. It remind me a lot about my culture from the south of Spain, even the people and how they behave.

If you are going with kids, I would not stay in a riad like we did in the Medina, it can be very chaotic and not suitable to have kids trolleys if you need to walk around those narrow streets. There are more westernized hotels in the newest area of Marrakesh, you can stay there and go to the Medina to visit it one day. 

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

My second favorite musical after "We will Rock you", "Mary Poppins" (2015) by Belen Delgado


I haven't been so excited for a long time to see a musical as I was to see this one . And you will probably be wondering why..? Well, when I was a kid one of my favourite Disney stories was "Mary Poppins". I can't remember how many times I read it , what I could remember was that I wanted to have a nanny like her. My sisters and I have different nannies but believe me ,none of them were as fun and magical as Mary Poppins (they were more similar to the horrible nanny that the kids from the story had when Mary Poppins leaves for the first time)! I wanted to dance over the roofs with an umbrella ; sing and dance while cleaning up the house but the truth is that Mary Poppins was every kid's dream but noneone had ever had a nanny like her!. Yesterday at the Board Gais theatre I could see the closest I'd ever get to see Mary Poppins. She became alive on the stage, the way she looked, the way she walked, was just like I imagined her. What a joyful way of finishing a regular Monday. I was blown away by the magical effects, the lights, the changes of sets, the costumes, the dancing and faultless singing. 3 hours of endless fun and happiness. We couldn't stop smiling! At the end, everyone stood up clapping and I even had tears of joy. It is unbelievable the magic that it has to see a story like this in the theatre. I could only imagine how i would have felt if i had seen it when I was a kid. The musical even ended up in the air with her umbrella getting closer to the audience among other surprises. I'd recommend it to anyone. One musical that you definitely have to see once in a life time! Thank you so much, Elisa for coming with me and share this unique and unforgettable moment of my life. The day when I finally met Mary Poppins! Yes, she exists!





Places to See