Stockholm-Malta by train part 7: Sicily (Catania) to Malta

After pretty much exactly 24 hour hours in the Sicilian city of Catania, it was time to hit the road again. This was the last major part of the trip, and while the headline says train, this final leg of the Stockholm-Malta by train trip was actually done by bus and ferry.

We checked out from our hotel in Catania and walked down to the harbour, which took about 20 or so minutes. We errounously entered from a side street and spent some time trying to find the Virtu Ferries office in the Complesso Vecchia Dogana complex, where you check in for the bus that takes you to Pozzallo Port from where the actual ferry leaves. We asked in another ferry company’s office and they pointed us in the right direction. Our mistake was that we did not enter the building from the main entrance, but instead followed Google Maps directions to the Vecchia Dogana building, it looked much easier to enter from the main entrace, we realised too late. 🙂

Bus from Catania to Pozzallo
Check in time was 1 hour before the bus’ departure and was quite easy. We showed our passports and a print out of our booking confirmation to the staff members in the tiny Virtu Ferries office. They handed us boarding cards and told us that the bus would arrive 1 hour before departure and that we could leave our bags at that time and then could board the bus 30 minutes before departure. The bus left from just outside the building and arrived promptly one hour before departure. The driver just left though, probably to take a break or similar, so no leaving bags in the bus. He returned with one of the check in girls who seemed to tell him off 30 minutes before departure, and we finally got in our seats. The bus ride went smoothly, and we arrived Pozzallo about 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

 

Pozzallo, Sicily to Valletta, Malta in Virtu Ferries Club Class
After jumping off the bus, we took our bags and just followed signs and after a short walk reached a security check. We had paid extra for Club Class, which entitled us to priority boarding. We were first in line, and were let on immediately after clearing security. Club Class means that you have access to the onboard lounge with its own bar/cafe up a set of stairs. The boat which we were on, The Saint John Paul II, felt super new and modern, and both the common areas as well as the Club Class lounge looked great. There were nice leather lounge chairs and plenty of seating. Flat screen tvs showed information and destination information. Upon arriving we were also handed a complimentary glass of orange juice, and there were small nibbles such as olives, chips and nuts that you could have for free.

We had not have any dinner so we bought some food and drinks, note that credit card only works as long as internet signal works (which is not that long). We had a quite small amount of cash, and we barely could pay for a second round of drinks an hour or so into the trip.

We had a pizza, which came fresh from a bakery it seemed, it looked quite nice, and was sold per slice. I can’t remember exact price, but it was probably around €4-5, wine was priced similarly. It wasn’t many people that took the evening ferry, so it was a lot of space in the club lounge. The lounge also has its own sun deck which probably is really nice during the day time crossings. We also took a walk on the 2nd class deck and had a look into the shop which had a small “duty free” kind of assortment of snacks, sun glasses and I think there was wine as well.

Just 1 hour and 35 minutes after leaving Sicily we got reception back on our phones and shortly we entered Valletta’s harbour. The city is beautiful and it was especially cool arriving at night. I have arrived Malta once before with a cruise ship during daytime which also is a fantastic experience.

We had priority departure and was off the ship a few minutes after arriving. We had booked a transfer through our hotel in Valletta, and those who had prior arrangements could leave straight to the pick up zone, without even entering the ferry terminal. Super convenient.

All in all I was surprised how smooth everything worked out, and especially the state of the ferry. It was really comfortable for the 1,45 hour trip, and the extra €20 or so felt definitely worth the perks priority boarding and disembarkation; and the relaxing lounge area onboard.

Stockholm-Malta by train part 6: Salerno to Sicily (Catania)


After spending three days in fantastic (but super expensive) Positano, we were back in Salerno for a last night at the Hotel Plaza. After breakfast we went to a nearby sandwich shop to stock up on some provisions for our next leg on our way to Malta; Salerno-Catania on a Trenitalia intercity train.

Salerno-Catania in Trenitalia Intercity First Class
As the grafitti covered train rolled into Salerno Centrale station we realized that we might not be as happy with this trip as our latest onboard the amazing Italo. We had paid roughly €30 per person for “1 classe” which was about the double from 2nd class, but still a worthwile upgrade for the nearly 7 hour ride. The carriage felt quite modern, and there were electrical sockets so we could charge your phones which is always appreciated.

Unfortunately we sat on the wrong side of the train, going backwards, and in a seat where we were facing our co-passengers. Great if you want to chat with other people for a while, but not fantastic if you want privacy and to mainly relax for a 7 hour trip. To add to this the grumpy guy that sat on the “right” side of the train shut his window blind meaning all the pretty sea views were gone. The lady that sat facing us tried to convince him to open it up, but no success unfortunately. After about three hours with constant stops (meaning the air con was turned off) we arrived Villa San Giovanni from where we was to take our second train ferry of the trip, the one crossing the Messina straight over to the city of Messina and thus Sicily.

The ferry ride was a quite nice break from the train, and we went up on the deck to get some air and eat our sandwiches we bought in the morning. I did not check the ferry interior, so not sure if there are any restaurant or similar onboard (there isn’t any on the train). We were free to stay in the train, and some of the other passengers did. The views from the ferry is quite nice though, so in my mind it is definitely worth it to get up on deck. We left our bags while away, but as mentioned the train is open (unlocked) if you have valuables with you.

A few minutes before arrival in Messina we were told via loudspeakers to head back to the train, and shortly after we rolled off the ship and into Messina Centrale. Here we had to stop for about 30 minutes for an unknown reason, and many in our carriage got off getting some air. Since we did not understood the announcement which was in Italian (and to lazy to ask someone) we remained onboard. After 30 minutes we took off again, only to stop every 10 or so minutes for about the same time. This time though, we sat on the right side of the train and could view the beautiful Sicilian coastline while slowly progressing. A word of warning here, the train stops shortly, and a couple of older tourists missed their stop, just because they were to slow disembarking. So they had to go to the next station and get off there instead, which probably was a good 20 minutes later. Eventually and finally reached Catania, where we stayed at Hotel Villa Romeo, which as most of the other places we stayed was basically next to the railway station.

This was probably my least favorite train of the trip, but if we’d have had our own seat pair I think it would’ve been an entirely different story. The carriage was quite nice and modern, but it got super hot since the regular stops meant that the air con was off and did not fully cool the train until it was time to stop again. But this might have been extraordinary and not something that always happens.

Ristorante I Moschettieri
We arrived quite late and through Google Maps we found a restaurant next door that had good reviews and decided to head there. While not maybe a 4,6 as the current rating states, we were quite happy with the food and the price. The food was rustic and tasty, and we had Sicilian starters, a huge plate of spaghetti alla norma (eggplant tomato sauce) covered in ricotta salata, and a mixed grill platter with sweet Sicilian onion & tomato salad. All this was washed down with house wine, and I believe the total bill was around €40. Staff spoke good English and were very friendly. A classic cozy family restaurant, that felt super Italian.

Stockholm-Malta by train part 5: Como-Salerno


After two days of pasta eating it was time to put on our backpacks and get on the road again. First step was to jump back on the SBB train we arrived with two days earlier to take it to its end station, Milano Centrale. We only had  40 minutes in Milan where we were to jump on a train that was on another ticket, meaning if we missed it we probably had to buy new tickets. Since that train was next most expensive (after the Nightjet) we were a little anxious. To stress us a little, the SBB train both arrived late and then made several stops during the 45 minute ride. Fortunately we still had 20 minutes when we arrived and found our new train quite easily. A lot of other passengers seemed to have missed their connections though.

Milano-Salerno in Italo Executive Club
The Italo has been called the Ferrari of trains, which I guess is due to its futuristic, sleek design, and for being red. We had splurged and booked the Executive Club class, which out of the four classes onboard is the “highest” for the almost six hour ride to Salerno. Since the price was about €60 in economy, and only €40 more for executive, totaling at around €100 per person, we decided it would be worth it since it was a quite long leg.

Having an italo Executive Club ticket we were entitled to use the lounge in Milan, but since we were late and noticed there was an airport style security check to get back in to the train departure area from where the lounge was we decided to skip it.

A few minutes before departure the screens announced our train was arriving, and in the distance we could see the red arrow arriving. We showed our tickets to the friendly train attendant and entered the carriage. Wow is all I can say; sleek comfortable leather seats, lots of space, personal tv-screens, free wifi, a screen showing speed (max 300 kmph during our trip) and the next station. Fortunately we got a private seat pair (we could not choose when booking on Italo’s website). In some of the other seats you had to face your fellow passengers, and those looked a little bit more cramped.

Before getting onboard we had not really understood whether or not food and drinks was included. But shortly after taking service started and we were offered a free espresso. Service then continued with complimentary alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks, snacks (chips, nuts, cookies and so on you could choose from a box). After every second station or so they made a new “service round” and we probably had four minis of Prosecco each as well as sparkling water and soft drinks. About half way into the trip we had a small meal which consisted of a ham and cheese pastry as well as a sweet pastry that seemingly came straight from the bakery. Very nice.

After six hours of pure delight; a mix of the free prosecco, the super comfy seats and the great views, we arrived Salerno on the Amalfi coast. Absolutely one of the best train journeys I’ve experienced and probably somewhere in between premium economy and business class on a long haul plane. If you’re very hungry, there was some kind of onboard vending machine which I think had sandwiches, but we did not check it out. Next time I’d bring a deli sandwich or something like that to fill up on.

Where to eat in Salerno
We stayed super close to the train station at the Hotel Plaza (you see it when exiting the station). The hotel was nice, clean and while not luxurious, quite good (extra marks for good breakfast with free cappuccinos). It is both very close to the train station in Salerno as well as close to where the ferries to Positano and Amalfi departures (where we were going next). So we stayed for two nights, in total one night before going to Positano, and one night before leaving again.

Since Salerno is very close to Naples, we felt that pizza was mandatory, and we had pizza both of our stays there.

Pizzeria Sorbillo
Great pizzeria very close to Hotel Plaza. Only indoors seating, but reeeally nice pizzas, and good wine and beer. They had an English menu and the staff spoke English too. Pizza and a beer where somewhere around €10, so quite affordable. And the pizza was probably on my top five ever.

Pizzaportafoglio & Fessarie
Our second stay in Salerno, we ventured a bit further, about 1 kilometer from Hotel Plaza (just follow the busy street towards old town). The pizzas here were also amazing and also on the top five of my life. For two pizzas and two Cokes (we had a 24 hour alcohol detox after totally screwing our livers for three days in Positano) we paid €18, which sadly, or maybe hilariously, I don’t really know which, was what we paid for a shared mozzarella salad the night before in Positano a 1 hour ferry ride away.

Stockholm-Malta by train part 4: Zürich-Como

After arriving Zürich by the Nightjet train we left the Zurich HBF for a quick walk around town. I’ve been to Zurich before and because of that we kind of knew our way around. Since it was Sunday and early, not that many shops were open, and not that many people were out either. But the town is pretty and we had no problem killing a few hours walking around checking buildings, views and the few shops that were open. At the station however most venues were open.

Zürich-Como San Giovanni
This time it was time for second class, and we had paid approximately 30 euros each for our seats for the three hour journey from Switzerland to Italy. The tickets were booked through the Trenitalia website, but were carried out by Swiss train operator SBB. The train looked very modern and sleek, and the interior was pretty modern and nice too. We had a seat pair in the end of the carriage, and space was decent and there were electrical sockets we could use to charge our phones.

The trip itself went quickly, we had a loud but happy group of tourists onboard the train, and when they finally got off, the trip was very relaxing. The cool thing with the trip is that although quite short, you very much notice how the landscape changes from a Northern Europe landscape to the more Southern warm kind of climate as you get closer to Italy. Some of the views over Lake Lugano from the train was spectacular, and you see everything from snowy mountains, small alp cottages and turqouise lakes.

When we neared the border to Italy, the train staff announced that police would enter the train and that we should have our documents ready. No police came onboard though, not in our carriage anyway, and a few minutes later we were in Italy and our station, Como San Giovanni, a few hundred meters from Lake Como, where we were to make our first proper stop of the trip.

Two days in Como
Situated next to the super scenic Lago di Como, Como is a quite luxurious little town. Prices weren’t that horrible though (at least not compared to Positano where we were going next), and we ate very well there, possibly the best during the trip. We also took the funicular up to a surrounding mountain and then walked up to the Faro di Voltiano lighthouse where you could walk up a semi-claustrophobic staircase to a crazy (and vertigo bringing) view of the area.

Our favourites in Como


Ristorante Rino

A Tuscan restaurant that focuses on truffle and steak. We had no reservation, so we went when they opened at 7 pm to see if they had a table. they had one at 9 pm, so we went to nearby Posta Bistrot and had a few drinks were each round gave us a free platter of charcuterie and other small nibbles.

Rino itself was great and we had a divine truffle taglioni as well as a super tasty platter of steak with shaved fennel salad.

Locanda Barbarossa
Another great place. Prices were very affordable and we had a caprese mozzarella salad, spaghetti vongole and a pizza which were all amazingly good.

Gelateria Al Bottegone
Super tasty gelato ice cream and friendly staff in the middle of Como.

Stockholm-Malta by train part 3: Berlin-Zürich on ÖBB Nightjet

The next step of the trip was one of the most exciting: getting on a proper night train.

The Austrian train company ÖBB runs a number of trains that goes through Europe called Nightjets. Ours was to take us from Berlin, Germany, to Zurich, Switzerland in about 12 hours time.

As we waited on the platform during a pretty Berlin sunset, our excitement was getting quite high. About 15 minutes past 9 (pm), the train finally rolled into the station and we could see our “panorama” double decker carriages in the end of the train.

Berlin-Zurich in a deluxe sleeper on the ÖBB Austrian Nightjet
Since we had to spend the night onboard, we felt we could splurge a little, considering we did not have to pay for a hotel, so we booked their deluxe sleeper for two persons, which got us sort of a miniature hotel room that came with two bunks, a small seating area, private bathroom and even a small shower cubicle.

Pretty much as we had gotten ourselves settled in, a discreet knock on the door and the steward offered us two small bottles of complimentary prosecco.

– I’ve got a whole case of these, so just let me know if you want some extra.

– Well okay then!

30 minutes later he returned with a refill. Upon boarding we also already had waiting forms for our breakfast order to fill in. You get a list of items, and up to six are free. After that a small extra fee is added per item (like €1 or so).

Then it was pretty much enjoy the ride time. There is really nothing to do on the train. No bar, no bistro as it is a sleeper train. We just sat and chatted for a while before the mandatory onboard-a-train-shower and then jumped into the complimentary slippers. We were quite tired after a day of exploring Berlin and passed out pretty much immediately.

Around 7.30 our alarms rang as our new friend had told us that he would bring breakfast shortly after Basel. Shortly afterwards the breakfast arrived in the shape of warm breadrolls with butter, cheese and salami, fresh coffee and yoghurt. Outside, Swiss mountains were passing us by.

Pretty much on the minute of expected arrival we rolled into Zurich Hauptbanhof. It felt almost sad to leave the comfort of the mini hotel room, but on the other hand we were now close to our first proper stop.

In summary, a night on the Nightjet was quite expensive compared to other train rides. We paid €299 in total, but that gave us a super comfy and private compartment on the train with welcoming prosecco and snacks, breakfast, and we did not have to pay for a hotel night. There are also cheaper options onboard the Nightjet, from ordinary seats to shared couchettes up to our deluxe sleeper. Highly recommended, without a doubt my best ever train experience so far.

It should be noted though that Deluxe Sleeper on some trains differ from our compartment. Check when you book.

Stockholm-Malta by train part 2: Copenhagen to Berlin


After an early rise from Axel Guldsmeden we went to find where the bus that was temporarily replacing the train (I guess due to some kind of maintenance work) left. The guy in our hotel told us that it was “to the right of the Central Station”. We found the spot, but quickly realised that it was seemingly only private companies using it. We asked a Flixbus driver at the spot and he too confirmed we were in the right spot. But fortunately, we were getting a little paranoid at this time and doubled checked the info and realised our bus was leaving next to the central station building in a totally different spot.

Where togbussen leaves from
After a semi-panicked brisk walk we found the right spot for “togbussen” (there were signs inside the central station building) and was safely on our way to Rødby.

Taking the train onboard a ferry
In Rødby we boarded a train just next to the ferry terminal and were driven onboard the Scandlines ferry, quite cool and there are only a few ferries like this left in the world (we’re taking one of the others in a week or so.).

The ferry was packed with Germans, Danes and probably the most by fellow Swedes. We had a quick curry sausage with fries for breakfast (when in Rome) and after 45 minutes we jumped back on the train and rolled off into Puttgarden and Germany.

This leg we had upgraded to first class, and we were sat in a mini cabin with two comfortable chairs facing each other. There were electrical outlets in the roof (took me half trip to realise) and free wifi. No food or drink of any kind by some reason. DSB’s website promised breakfast for before-10-departures as well as coffee. But you couldn’t even buy any.

We were about 35 minutes late arriving Hamburg where we had a connection that we hence missed. On the train they told us to go to the ticket office to get a new ticket in Hamburg, which we did with very little effort. Convenient.


From Hamburg to Berlin in ICE First Class
For our final leg to Berlin we got to try Germany’s famous ICE high speed train, a very sleek, spaceship looking vehicle.

The interior was nice and comfy with leather seat and 1+2 seating across the cabin. We sat next to an older guy that seemed to be some kind of celebrity since people stoped and took selfies with him. In first class there was table service from the dining carriage, but you had to pay for it. We tried an apple spritz that came in proper glassware by the super friendly attendant. Since the train goes up to 330 km/h the trip to Berlin took only 1.45 hours and we arrived right on time, an hour after our intended arrival, giving us nearly 6 hours to explore Berlin before our next train. We locked our backpacks in a locker for €6 (coin locker) in the station and went on our way.

 

5 hours train transit in Berlin
And what do you do in Berlin if you are a hungry person like myself if not taking yourself to the nearest decent kebab shop? The likes of Müstafas gemüse kebap were a bit too far, so we found a place called Kebab Baba looking nice within a 15 minute walk from the central station. The kebab was really good and the guys working there friendly.


From there we walked to Brandenburger Tour, the Reichstag and then back to the central station where we had a faßbier or two on Hans Im Glueck, which had a nice outdoor terrace. Half way into our beers two police men arrived and started cordon off the area. We were told a suspected bag was found and hence evacuated indoors. We never saw how it all ended, since we had to get to our train, but I guess it was in a good way since we could not find any more info online after leaving.

Stockholm-Malta by train (ish) part 1: Stockholm-Copenhagen

This Summer we’re trying something new: taking the train all the way from Sweden to continental Europe, and then on to the tiny mediterranean island of Malta.

The first step: catching Swedish SJ’s X2000 high speed train to Copenhagen. The trip is about five hours and we paid the equivalent of €30 each per person in second class. 2nd class was quite decent actually with good legroom, space and electrical outlets at every seat pair. There was also free wifi which worked okay. We brought our own food (from Urban Deli) onboard, but they do have an onboard café with food and drinks that looked decent enough.

Onboard picnic.

When arrived in Copenhagen we checked in at Axel Guldsmeden, a really nice four star hotel a couple of minutes’ walk from the central station. Then we took a short walk to Hija de Sánchez for above tacos and a cold beer or two.

Also in the area is Mikkeller Bar, where we had a night cap before heading back to the hotel. Lights out quite early as we had an early start the following day for the next leg of the trip.

A day trip to Chernobyl Nuclear power plant and ghost town Pripyat

Just got back from a trip to surprisingly great Ukraine a few days ago. Before I go into details about the food, low prices and pretty buildings of Kiev though, I will tell you about a side trip we took during our visit, to the currently “in the news”-destination of Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

I must admit I had no clue that an HBO series about the 1986 Chernobyl disaster was in the making when booking this trip last fall. Born in Sweden in the 80s however, I’ve always been told about the disaster; when we visited the North of Sweden when I was a child, I was told to not eat and pick berries for instance, as radioactive clouds from the disaster swept over the Baltics and Scandinavia delivering poisonous rain.

So I was quite aware of the Nuclear disaster of 1986 already before the series aired, almost perfectly timed about three weeks before our departure. What the series told me however, was how close it was to an even larger disaster, possibly making life impossible for thousands of years in large parts of Europe.

But, can you actually visit? What about radiation?

We where a little apprehensive too, but according to our tour company that has made the tour for quite sometime, the radiation dose that you receive for the full day equals approximately to what you receive in an airplane for a 2 hour flight (because you’re closer to the sun than on Earth). Not very much that is, most people get more on the flight to Kiev.

Booking the tour

We opted to go with Chernobyl Tours (www.chernobyl-tour.com), a tour company we found through Tripadvisor with high ratings. The tour was $99 per person with extras like a Geiger counter at $10 (don’t skip this), lunch in the Chernobyl worker’s canteen at $5 (not in any way delicious, but an experience) – you can also bring your own food and eat it in the same place which might be an idea if you’re picky. We also included pick ups from our hotel at $13 per way which was super expensive compared to Kiev taxi prices, but also very convenient as our driver picked us up very early at 7.15 am from our hotel and returned us back as we arrived late at approximately 9.30 pm and did not need any directions.

Payment of the 25% reservation fee was through Paypal, so not as convenient as just putting in your card details, but not that bad either. Then we got good e-mail updates about the tour and the remaining balance that we paid in cash (Euros, USD or Ukrainian Hryvnia) onboard the bus before departing Kiev.

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

We left Kiev in a bus with about 40 other people at 8 a.m. after having our passports thouroughly checked. After an approximate two hour ride where the guides told us about the incident, safety in the zone (except for pockets of radiation there is also wild animals due to lack of people), and showed us a quite good documentary about the incident we reached the border control of the 30 km exclusion zone. Here they had a few (not so nice) bathrooms and a few kiosks where you could buy snacks, drinks and souvenirs. We were supposed to be there for fifteen minutes, but it ended up being about 80 minutes due to being just a few police officers there to inspect our and other bus tour’s passports.

Our first stop in the outer exclusion zone: an abandoned village.

The Duga-1 radar, 150 meters tall, was a Soviet radar supposed to be able to see over the horizon and thus being able to spot a US Nuclear strike in time to be able to retaliate.

Another abandoned village, this in the 10 kilometer exclusion zone where you once again had to show your passport.

Then it was time to head to the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant itself. First up was this not-so-exciting but still edible tray of pasta with a “cheeseburger”; soup; salad; bread, and a glass of juice had in the Chernobyl PP canteen where the workers used to – and still are – having thelr meals in.

After lunch we headed for the power plant itself. I had not really understood that you even can come close to the damaged reactor 4, let alone getting out at its entrance just a few hundred meters away. I thought we’d see it in the distance from a hill or something. But no. We were next to it, a little bit scary, but also very interesting as I’ve heard about Chernobyl all my life, and here I was. Our guides told us about the new Steel Sarcophagus, finished in 2017, which is meant to last for 100 years and has lead to lower radiation in the area. People has also worked at the power plant, as I understood it pretty much since the accident. At the moment workers in the area work two weeks in the zone, and then they need to stay out of it for another two weeks before going back.

After ChnPP as the guides called the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant we were taken to one of the last, and in my mind, most interesting “sights” of the day: the abandoned ‘ghost town’ of Pripyat. If you’ve seen the HBO series, this is where all the people live. It’s only about 3 kilometers from ChnPP and today it is completely deserted, taken over by the forest.

The famous Ferris wheel of Pripyat, in one of the pods we had the highest reading of radiation during the day. 280 Microsieverts inside of it, compared to about 0,5 standing just a meter beside it. Scary.

Stray dog hanging around old bumper cars in the same would-be amusement park (supposed to open May 1st – disaster happened April 26).

Soviet era buildings anno 1986.

Then after a last stop in Chernobyl town where we got to see some of the robots used to clear the reactor roof (which was however mostly done by ‘bio robots’ eg. humans), and the monument of the first responders, many killed in the accident, we left for Kiev again. To leave the area though, we had to go through two radiation controls to see that we did not bring any radioactive dust or similar to the outside world.

Wow, that a day.

Five days of eating in Marrakech, Morocco

Just got back from a five day visit to the exciting and exotic Moroccan city of Marrakech.

For once, we had not planned that much in advance, leaving it to our at-the-time cravings what we were to eat.

We had a general idea about Moroccan food upon arrival, but in the end managed to eat both the obvious stuff such as tagines and cous cous; the ‘middle road’ such as the (in)famous bastilla pigeon pie, and more unique stuff such as old school berber food.

Read below about where and what we ate.

Riad Itrane (hotel)

Ultra-romantic setting by the pool.

The first night in Marrakech we had pre-booked a traditional Moroccan dinner in our hotel, or riad, which is a traditional style Moroccan hotel.

Moroccan salads started the feast. Carrots, beans, potato salad, aubergine, tomatoes and eggs. Also olives, harissa and fluffy Moroccan khubz bread. Delicious.

For main: the national dish of Morocco, tagine which is a stew that is slow-cooked in a clay pot named… tagine (or tajine), this one with chicken, confit lemon and green olives. Sooo good.

Nos nos (half half) with milk pudding, orange coulis, strawberries and mint. A little pannacotta-y.

Moroccan breakfast, also served at Riad Itrane. No buffet within sight, instead a lot of small dishes delivered to your table. Eggs with harissa and cumin, semolina pancakes, jams, dates, nuts, flatbreads and cakes. Each day the menu changed slightly which was nice.

Price: €25 per person for the dinner. Breakfast was included in our stay. Do note that the restaurant might or might not be available only to guests. Contact them in advance (they speak English and are friendly).

Website

Naranj Lebanese restaurant

Lebanese sandwiches, one taouk with chicken and one kefta with meatballs. Served with super-tasty potato chips and cabbage slaw. The (virgin) mojitos were nice too.

Meze platter. A bit small serving size on the dips, but good quality and very tasty.

The prettiest dessert in a while: Slillo cheesecake. Slilo or sellou is an unbaked Moroccan sweet usually served for ramadan. In this interpretation the slilo formed the bottom layer (ground anis, sesame, honey and almonds) and was then topped with a creamy, soft cheese layer and a final sprinkle of rose leaves. So, so good. And clever.

Price: About €45 for two with shared starter and dessert, two mains, two mojitos and a bottle of water.

Website: http://www.naranj.ma

Pepe Nero

Another super pretty location: Pepe Nero, one of Marrakech’s fanciest restaurants serving both Italian and Moroccan food. We tried the latter.

Extremely tender slow roasted shoulder of lamb.

Moroccan salads, including carrot salad, amazing texture (and flavour) baba ganoush, hummus, roasted peppers and potato salad. Enjoyed with local President rosé wine.

Pastilla: crispy Moroccan pigeon pie. Both sweet and savoury. Sounds weird, tastes delicious.

We finished the meal with a few Moroccan pastries and mint tea. The dessert was least exciting, but tasty enough.

The ambience is quite fancy and also quite touristy, at the same time service was so-so. Prices are high, but the food is tasty. And they have wine. So it wasn’t my favourite experience in Marrakech, but I don’t regret going either.

Price: About €95 for two starters, a shared main (serving for two) and a shared dessert with mint tea, as well as two half bottles of wine and water.

Website: http://www.pepenero-marrakech.com

Chez Brahim

We visited Chez Brahim since it was very close to our hotel and that it had good reviews on both Google and Tripadvisor.

While nothing spectacular, Chez Brahim offered relatively decent food for a decent price in the middle of the medina. The lamb meat was grilled and quite tasty, the fries weren’t that exciting and the rice thing was lukewarm at best.

What was quite delicious though was their khubz flatbreads with harissa and olives we got when we arrived.

Price: About €18 for two mains, soft drink and water.

La Vallé Atlas Ourika

The river along (or pretty much in) the restaurant is located.

Bonus mountain pictures.

While visiting beautiful Ourika Valley, situated in The Atlas Mountains we had lunch at La Vallée restaurant. Located on a sandbank in the river, location was stunning.

Food was quite nice with above cous cous served with seven kinds of roasted vegetables and chicken.

Berber chicken lemon tagine with a few fries. More of roasted chicken, less of stew than the other tagine we had.

Price: About €18 for two mains, soft drink and water.

Blackchich Café

At Blackchich café, we ate some of the most well-cooked food of the trip. The restaurant is Senegalese-Moroccan so they have both West African dishes such as Chicken Yassa or peanuty domoda stew as well as old school Moroccan berber dishes. They are located in the medina with three floors of seating, where the final one is an open roof top with very nice views of the city.

A minus for me though were that by some reason a pack of cats hung out there, standing by the table begging for food and actually trying to snatch some, so you had to watch your food which was annoying. That might have been a problem specific to just that day.

I had Rfissa, an old berber dish with slow cooked chicken and lentils in a rich butter sauce topped with quail eggs and served with steamed msemen crepes (latter being almost pasta-like since the msemen is cut into ribbons). Clever, tasty and very rich.

We also tried their meze platter with the usual suspects hummus, bana ganoush and Moroccan salads, which came with a fluffy flatbread.

Price: About €40 for a mint lemonade, coke, a shared starter and two mains.

Maison de la Photographie (House of Photography)

Another place with a nice rooftop is the Maison de la Photographie, a small photo museum in the medina. After admiring their old photos of Marrakech for a while you end up at their small café where you can buy both food and (non-alcoholic) drinks. Most people (and us) had a relaxing glass of mint tea before departing againfor the craziness of the medina.

Price: €2 for two mint teas.
Website: http://www.maisondelaphotographie.ma/

48 hours of eating in London

Except for Din Tai Fung Covent Garden, which I wrote about the other day, we visited a few other noteworthy spots.

Barrafina

One Michelin-starred Barrafina on Dean Street a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus delivered some of the best tapas I’ve had.

Cold meat platter. Everything extremely good.

Ham croquetas. Crunchy, delicious and perfect.

Best pan con tomate I’ve had.

A runny, perfect tortilla with peppers and prawns.

Morcilla; spiced Spanish blood sausage (similar to black pudding) with fried quail eggs, a crispy wafer thingy and a rich sauce.

Location: Dean Street, Soho.

Price: £80 for the above (and some more), including a glass of wine each.

Eve Bar (hidden in Frog restaurant’s basement)

It was nearly impossible to take decent pictures, but a staircase down from fancy restaurant Frog (by Adam Handling) is Eve bar. Get it, Adam and Eve?

Clever naming aside, Eve Bar was really my cup of cocktail with great cocktails, ambience, service and decent prices.

Location: Covent Garden.

Price: About £13 for a cocktail.

The American Bar at The Savoy Hotel

A 40 minute wait, £25 cocktails and lots of tourists. Could that be good? I’d say so! Friendly service, live piano music, free snacks and a hard-to-beat ‘old world’ atmosphere. As an extra bonus you’ll get access to their small museum, and can also sneak around the grand lobby (above) of The Savoy Hotel which The American Bar is a part of.

Location: Covent Garden(ish)

Price: ~£19-££££

Breakfast at Eggbreak

For our last meal for this time we went to Eggbreak in Notting Hill, after I read about their crab cake eggs benedict.

The coffee, a flat white, was, as the youth of today (I think as I’m old-ish) would call it: on point.

The star of the show: perfectly poached eggs on top of equally perfect crispy, delicious crab cakes. A few healthy spoons of sriracha-hollandaise sauce and some chives finished the decadent masterpiece.

Price: £45 for three coffees, two mains, a grilled grapefruit (also delicious) and a pain au chocolat.

Location: Notting Hill.