Cruising the world with our floating home – familiar comfortable bed, clothes hung in the wardrobe, stocked kitchen and mode of transport rolled into one – is an exceptional way to travel. However sharing a small space 24-7 with the family can become a pressure cooker on occasion! Sometimes we need to escape and will treat ourselves to a few nights ashore. Below are a handful of the memorable accommodations we’ve great pleasure in recommending, should you ever find yourself in the same corner of the world.
ERG CHEBBI – SAHARA – MOROCCO
Desert Luxury Camp is not claiming to be a five-star property, instead treating guests to small luxuries in the middle of the desert: plush king-sized beds heavy-laden for the brisk nights, canvas Bedouin tents with Berber rug floors, flushing toilets, running water, wood furnace-heated showers, lovingly prepared meals and attentive service from our gentle turban-wearing host Hassan. By chance we were the only guests and enjoyed the private camp all to ourselves. Another slightly larger camp with six accommodation tents sat quietly a few dunes away.
We were told majority of Erg Chebbi’s desert camps sit on the edge of the sand dunes and close to the town of Merzouga. They were often busy and noisy with quad bike excursions racing past and large tour bus groups on camel back or sunset 4WD tours. The owners of Desert Luxury Camp were disillusioned the original magic of the camps had been lost and sought to find a perfect location deep in the dunes where their guests could experience the idyllic silence and remoteness of Morocco’s Sahara.
Ample time was available to relax and appreciate our surroundings: quietly wandering the dunes following tiny tracks of jerboas and desert beetles, resting on a lounger watching the sun melt into the sandy horizon, reading a book by flickering campfire light or being mesmerised by a sky bursting with stars.
On the other hand, our hosts were happy to action pack our only full day at the camp. After an impressive breakfast spread we started out with a rhythmic but crotch-torturing dromedary over the golden dunes, tracing ancient Sahara trading routes by camel caravan. Our camels were slowly guided to a parched mud brick hut on the edge of a remote village. There we ate a delicious tagine lunch and local Berber ladies showed us the intricate and arduous technique of hand-threading camel wool through the loom to make a jalabah coat. A return trip four-wheel driving up and over the dunes was epic fun; the night concluding with a lively concert of gwana music around the fire pit. An optional upgrade, our short stay at Desert Luxury Camp was a highlight of our private Your Morocco Tour itinerary.
Formentera – Balearic Islands – Spain
Formentera, the southern-most Balearic island, has happily basked in the shadow of her hedonistic and wild sister to the north. The wishbone-shaped isle lays a stone’s throw from the world-famous party island of Ibiza. A yachtie friend described laid back Formentera as underdeveloped; a hippy vibe without the pretention and throbbing club scene. Where scooters and bicycles are standard transport, sandy roads lead to sun drenched chiringuitos (beach bars) and local fisherman winch their boats out of limpid Caribbean-like waters into ramshackle driftwood shelters.
October is a special time for Mike and I, celebrating both our birthdays and wedding anniversary within nine days. Whilst Mum and Dad anchored finally my darling of gorgeous Playa de Llevant, we took the opportunity to check into a resort hotel; spoiling ourselves with long hot showers, a plush king bed and four walls that didn’t move.
Since opening in May 2014, Blanco Hotel Formentera has been at capacity. Its chic white-on-white-on-white décor is popular with the Italian clientele, the beds heavenly, buffet breakfast fresh and delicious (sliced jamon, queso and figs my favourite), service attentive and located just a few minutes sandy-footed walk from Es Pujols’s lovely beach.
Read more about funky Formentera HERE.
Nafplio – Peloponnese Peninsular – Greece
Hailed as one of the prettiest villages on the mainland – like many regions of Greece – Nafplio’s history is intriguing yet explosive. Built onto a peninsular jutting into the Argolic Gulf, the Palamidi Fortress dominates the southern ridgeline. At sea level, the township is tucked out of the view from boats approaching from the Aegean Sea. The fortifications, mansions and residences bear a style reflecting the various ruling influences of Byzantine, Franks and Ottoman – though Venetian architecture dominates. Nafplio was an Ottoman stronghold during the Greek War of Independence. Eventually the Ottomans were overwhelmed and surrendered, and for a short period in the early 1800s it was named the capital of Greece, before the capital was moved to Athens.
Given we travel around with our floating home, we rarely stay in land-based accommodation. So when we must part with our hard-saved cash, we agonise over booking something characterful, central and still in our budget. Our choice of Kyveli Guesthouse was just what we’d hoped for with a plush king-sized bed, steaming hot bath, floor to ceiling shutter doors, petite terrace overlooking the bougainvillea strewn laneway below and of course, walls that didn’t move with the passing swell! Luck so had it, we were also perched above the most atmospheric street in town, when come nightfall the simple taverna below filled with diners and the vibrancy of a talented bouzouki-playing duo permeated the air.
Read more about our visit to Greece’s Peloponnese HERE.
Istanbul – Turkey
Zipping and zigzagging in a taxi through a moody labyrinth of backstreets in the Taskim and Beyoglu districts was a speedy and exhilarating re-introduction to Istanbul. Mike and I had visited as fresh-faced 21-year-olds more than a decade before and at the time had stayed in a hostel in the touristy Sultanahmet district (as you do). Yet on researching via the trusty Lonely Planet, this time we opted for modern day Istanbul‘s Beyoglu neighbourhood, across the Golden Horn on the European side and where the city’s next generation prefers to reside.
Istiklal Caddesi is the pedestrian shopping stroll running downhill from Taskim to Tunel Square. An endless river of people and faces, the boulevard pulsated all hours of the day and night, and its iconic red tram somehow managed to part the sea of bodies as it plied to and from Taskim Square.
Mama Shelter Istanbul is the latest in a growing chain of new age hotels (also in Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Bordeaux) catering to the emerging discerning independent and business travellers. Ranging in price from 69 euro for a single-bed room to 149 euro for a double deluxe terrace – when each accommodation offering morphs into the next, this stylish yet fun loving and affordable establishment stood out in the crowd.
Conveniently located a stones’ throw from Istiklal, contemporary Mama Shelter opened in 2012. It oozed cool and exuberance through its slick reception area, indoor brasserie and expansive rooftop bar overlooking Istanbul’s mosque minaret-accented skyline. The rooms were small yet bright, white and super functional, and the fluffy queen bed was the kind of blissful comfort you wish you could replicate at home. Our sunny double terrace, a corner room on the highest (sixth) floor, was perfect for morning coffees or sunset beers. Where we could toast Mike’s birthday, our first wedding anniversary and reflect on the surreal last eight months at sea. Though our favourite feature of Mama Shelter must go to the gracious and cheerful young gents behind reception. Their welcoming and personal service was refreshing and an invaluable asset to the hotel. Mama loves you!
Read more about our visit to Istanbul HERE.