Friday, 5 January 2018

Fabulous Florence


We wish all of you a lot of love, laughter and adventures in 2018!

Florence is always a good idea for everyone!

We really love Florence, or Firenze as the Italians call it, and when we realised it had been almost four years since we last visited this beautiful and historical town we immediately decided to go there again. But first we were off to celebrate New Year's Eve with friends in a beautiful villa in Marche on the east coast of Italy. So we took our white little Fiat and headed for Mogliano in the Marche region, Southeast of Tuscany. It was a beautiful three hour drive over the mountains and through Abruzzo national park.

On the road again, driving over the mountains towards Marche.

Our friends have just recently renovated an old farm house and turned it i to this stunning villa.

Marche is a beautiful area with rolling hills and amazing nature, so much more genuine and less touristic than Tuscany.

This is our new years team. Lots of good food, great wines, laughs and dancing when we welcomed 2018.

After three days in great company it was time to leave for Florence.

Another scenic three hour drive took us to Florence and wow was it great to be back! Florence is the capital city of the Tuscany region. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, but with approx 383.000 inhabitants it is still a small town with a very genuine feeling.

The iconic bridge Ponte Vecchio

Florence was a centre of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of that era. It is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has been called "the Athens of the Middle Ages". A turbulent political history includes periods of rule by the powerful Medici family and numerous religious and republican revolutions. From 1865 to 1871 the city was the capital of the recently established Kingdom of Italy. The Florentine dialect forms the base of Standard Italian and it became the language of culture throughout Italy due to the prestige of the masterpieces by Dante, Petrarch, Boccacci and Machiavelli.

Lots of master pieces of art were created in Florence

Legendary luxury hotel Helvetia & Bristol is located in an old palazzo.

We checked into the iconic luxury hotel Helvetia & Bristol (member of Leading Hotels of the World, Star Hotels) with perfect location right in the historical center, close to all sights as well as the high end shopping streets. Helvetia & Bristol is an old palace, "palazzo", in true Belle Epoque style filled with amazing art and antiquities. We were upgraded to a beautiful two-room suite with impressive interiors and a stunning Art Deco style marble bathroom complete with Jacuzzi. We absolutely loved our stay and the concierge service was world class.

Our beautiful two-bedroom suite.

Our suite was filled with art, textile wallpapers, chandeleirs and antiquities.

Belle Epoque style

Cicero loved both the suite and the friendly staff at this pet friendly luxury hotel.

There is so much to see and experience in Florence. If you love art and history this is really a treasure of a city! The Ufizzi museum and Palazzo Pitti exhibit some of the finest art collections in the world. There are amazing cathedrals and churches as well as great architecture everywhere you turn. Not to mention the very nice and posh shops.

The beautiful and very graphical cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, also know as the Duomo

 Cicero is checking out the sights of Florence!

Florence is a major tourist destination so if possible try to avoid peak season. And be aware that even in low season and even if you pre-book your entry tickets and get assigned an entry time slot for the major sights you are still in for a lot of queing and waiting. To get into the cathedral it can easily be a 2-3 hour wait and even with pre-booked tickets to the Ufizzi museum you will need to spend hours waiting in line to pick up your tickets and get in.

The best thing to do is just to walk around and enjoy the architecture and ambience.

Like all Italian towns Florence is pet friendly and you can bring your dog to all the restaurants, even the fine dining ones. It's really fun to explore a city with your four-legged family members.

Florence by night.

Buonasera Firenze!

The cathedral at night.

There are many great restaurants in Florence and it is good advice to to some research in advance as well as to make reservations to avoid being forced to eat at the toursist traps that you easily end up at if you just chose some place randomly. 

Amazing food at very chic JK Place

Enjoying a champagne lunch at the Guide Michelin restaurant Wintergraden by Caina (pets are also welcome).


Where to stay
- Helvetia & Bristol (elegant luxury hotel in belle epoque style with best possible location and great ambience)
- JK Place (trendy and chic boutique hotel with almost a New England feeling to the interiors)
- St Regis (iconic hotel with a quiet location and sophisticated style)
- Westin Excelsior (a big five star hotel with excellent service)
- Four Seasons (located in a lush garden a bit outside town)

Where to eat
- Il Santo Bevitore (very trendy bistro with a modern take on the Italian kitchen, excellent food and a really cool crowd).
- Wintergarden by Caina at St Regis (very nice fine dining experience with one Guide Michelin star)
- Il Borro (stylish restaurant with high ambitions, operated by the fashion house Ferragamo)
- JK Place Lounge (very cool and trendy lounge that serves excellent lunch and dinner in a stylish setting)
- Hostaria Bibendum (belle epoque style restaurant with a charming street terrace, excellent food in a sophisticated setting)
- Trattoria 13 Gobbi (very busy, very crowded, very genuine)
- Harry's Bar (the Florence version of the iconic Venice restaurant, a bit touristy but also fun and excellent food).

What to do:
- Walk the streets of Florence!
- Ufizzi museum
- Palazzo Pitti
- Galleria del Academia (where the famous statue of David is to be seen)
- Duomo cathedral
- Shop luxury brands in the brand shops located in the charming streets and alleys.
- Check out the Prada outlet outside town..

The stylish lobby of JK Place

The amazing glass ceiling of the winter garden at St Regis

The three of us sure love Florence!

Now we are back in Arpino and working on several exciting projects for our Red City PR clients from our Italian office.

Have a great start of 2018!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Our Marrakech Muses

An exciting 2017 draws to an end. As we reflect back on the events of the year, there is obviously plenty to be grateful for: Our company Red City PR has become Morocco's leading communications agency with lots of new customers and exciting projects. The Project Soar charity organization has grown from one to 26 villages and now supports girls throughout Morocco. A new family member, the cool dachshund puppy Cicero, joined our tribe. A lifestyle and way of working that allows us to have our main base in Morocco but also spend a lot of time in Italy and Sweden. And of course all our amazing friends, both new and old ones and all the move in our lives.

So many talented women and friends.

It is especially the people that we met that made 2017 to a year of interest and substance. People who shared their experiences with us, opened up their homes, told us their stories, showed us alternative pathways and helped us to become better version of ourselves. In Marrakech, we have the privilege of knowing a number of wonderful women who lead the most amazing lives and whom we are proud to call our friends. We could even call them our Marrakech muses since  they inspire us a lot and in this blog post we want to highlight six of these ladies and tell you a little bit about who they are.

Elisabeth, aka "Madame"

Elisabeth Bauchet-Bouhlal
Elisabeth Bauchet-Bouhlal, or "Madame" as we refer to her most of the time, comes from a distinguished French family who founded the casino and nightclub Moulin Rouge in Paris back in the days. Elisabeth's father bought land in Marrakech where he built a casino as well as the iconic luxury hotels Es Saadi and Es Saadi Palace. Elisabeth grew up in Paris and Marrakech and was friends with Yves Saint Laurent and also one of his first customers. The profitable casino has secured family fortune and her hotels are iconic destinations for the international jet-setters. The Es Saadi Palace features one of four Dior institutes in the world and also boasts the coolest nightclub in town, Theatero. Madame lives on the top floor of her hotel and her son and daughter-in-law live there too. She drives around the property in her golf car, keeping a watchful eye on everything that happens in her empire and welcomes all guests personally. Her hotel supports all major cultural events in Morocco and the Es Saadi Palace features one of the country's premier art collections. We got to know Madame because we have our gym at Es Saadi Palace and therefore visit the hotel regurarly. Elisabeth soon became the main sponsor of our TEDx-events. We meet Elisabeth almost daily and are so grateful for her support and friendship. She is such a cool lady!

Maryam - saving the world in style

Maryam Montague
Maryam Montague is an author, designer, hotelier, style guru and expert on human rights issues. She has written a best-selling interior design book (Marrakesh by Design), decorates the homes of the  superstars in the United States, designs interior and clothing collections, is a frequent guest on CNN and in Vogue as an authority on Marrakech and design. When she is not running her chic boutique hotel Peacock Pavilions, just outside of Marrakech, she travels to some of the world's most dangerous places to establish project organizations and optimize aid efforts for the US government because her "day job" is to consult in humanitarian aid work. Maryam is both incredibly glamorous but at the same time an activist who wants to make the world a better place. Her latest initiative is "Agent Girl Power", a feminist clothing brand. It was also via Maryam and her husband Chris as we became involved in Project Soar, the charity project that we have now been a part of for three years. Maryam and her entire family have really become our closest friends in our new life here in Marrakech and together we try to save the world while having lots of fun doing it.

Forever Marisa 

Marisa Berenson
Marisa Berenson is the model of all the supermodels. The fact is, there is no one who can measure with her greatness, and yet, today, there are not so many outside fashion circles who recognize her name. Marisa was one of the the world's most famous photo models and actors in the 60's and 70's, and was the world's most photographed woman before Princess Diana took over. She is the model that has been on the most Vogue covers ever and she has been in over 70 movies, including "Cabaret", "Death of Venice" and "Barry Lyndon". She was one of Yves Saint Laurent's muses and he called her the "it-girl" of the 60:s. Vogue called Marisa to "the most beautiful woman in the world ever". Her mother was the famous Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, and Marisa has really lived a cool jet-set life. Marisa is 70 years old today and still active as a model for her own beauty brand, Marisa Berenson Beauty. She is a spokesperson for Sofitel and regularly walks the runways of major fashion shows. Marisa commutes between her homes in Marrakech and Paris, and it was of course in Marrakech we got to know her. Marisa is a wonderful hostess who organizes the most spectacular parties, intimate dinners and decadent lunches, always with exciting international guest list  and a sense of style and "old Marrakech".

Andrea - fashion and do-good

Andrea Bury
Andrea Bury came to Marrakech to create a beautiful boutique hotel, the Riad Anayela, that she still operates as a highly successful Starwood design hotel. She is also the founder of ethnic chic do-good fashion brand Abury, that aspires to save dying craftsmanship around the world while creating great fashion at the same time. Her ethnic chic Abury collections are already international hits. She is a former model, famous as Celine, and a well-known fashion and tv personality in Germany. She is the creator of Fashion Talks and splits her time between Berlin and Marrakech. Andrea is also our TEDx partner and a dear friend with whom we have some new exciting projects planned. She is pure joy and all about making the world a bit better and a bit more beautiful.

Jewels in her Marrakech office

Jewels is the fitting name of an internationally recognized jewel and jewelry designer from the United States who spend half her year in Marrakech. Just like "Madonna" she is only known as "Jewels", no one knows her last name. In the late 1960s she lived in Tanger, then a free zone for drugs, criminals and people on the run. Jewels were at that time the mistress of some prince whose wife wanted to clear Jewels out of the way. She was rescued by a bodyguard who smuggled her out of the Prince's palace and she fled the city in the middle of the night without any belongings. In addition to a number of famous lovers, Jewels have always been in the midst of power and has lived a global nomadic life. Allthough today she looks like a harmless little lady, she has lived a life that makes us want to write her memoars. When she does not create tribal-chic jewelry, Jewels organizes magnificent parties in her and partner Roberts home in Marrakech.

Animal rights activist Susan

Susan Machin
Susan Machin is the top lawyer from the UK who sold everything and settled down in the rural areas outside of Marrakech. She and her husband Charles operate Jarjeer Mules & Donkey Sanctuary, a refuge for donkeys and mules. Abandonned, injured and old donkeys from all over Morocco come here for help, care and a worthy end. Susan's work has gained a lot of respect and she is now well on track to create a change in the animal rights laws of Morocco that will hopefully generate a more human animal welfare in Morocco. She has also given some 40 abandoned dogs a new home in her modern James Bond like luxury villa where we love to visit. Charles makes the most gorgeous lunches! 

Global power influencers in town!

And then there were even more talented women...
2017 was the year when we befriended some of the most influential influencers in Morocco and the world, some very talented women who created their own power houses of communication. Yusra, Yasmina, Chiara and many more are the new generation of professional bloggers and PR pros and we are very happy to know them both as friends and partners of our communications agency Red City PR. Yusra is "Moroccan Musthaves" and Yasmina is "Fashion Mintea", both very talented and highly professional women. Yasmina was even one of our speakers at TEDx. And then there is Chiara Ferragni, the Italian super model, turned power influencer, turned CEO with some 11 million followers and her own fashion brands. These girls are really a force to recon with.

Chiara Ferragni, one of the most influential women on the planet, we were so excited to finally meet up with her.

Always suround yourself with beauty and talent. These two (Victoria Secrets) angels are iconic models Karli Kloss and Elsa Hosk, whom we have worked with in several projects. Maybe they are the muses of the next generation but we stick to our stylish Marrakech ladies for inspiration!

Wishing all the amazing women (and the rest of you) a sparkling new year and a fantastic 2018!

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Top-10-list of Moroccan food

We have frequently listed our favourite restaurants in Marrakech but we have never listed what typical food you eat in Morocco, so here we go! The Moroccan kitchen is very delicious and diverse in its flavours, influenced by many different cultures like the Berber, Arab, Jewish, Spanish and French. We have put together a top-10-list of dishes, for all you foodies out there, that you just have to try while visiting Morocco.

Tangine is the national dish of Morocco! 

1. Tagine
This is THE national dish in Morocco! It defines not only the Moroccan cuisine but also the way of life here. Tangine is slow food and you mustn't be in a rush when preparing it. One uses a traditional clay pot and fill it with beef, chicken, fish or vegetables. Then one cooks it for a several hours with special spices and herbs into a magical dish filled with unique flavours! One then eats it with lots of bread in order to collect all the tasty gravy in the pot!

The best Tangines in town are served at our own Riad!

2. Tangia
If Tangine is the Moroccan national dish, the Tanjia is a national dish of Marrakech! It is said that the single men used to cook this in their hammam while they were at work during the day. Cooking it very slowly on low temperature over 7-8 hours. The clay pot is more like an urn and is traditionally filled with beef, chicken or lamb together with the usual spices.

Marrakech is known for this local dish - the Tangia!

3. Couscous
Couscous has its origin from the Berber culture and is always served on Fridays in Marrakech! It is made from semolina grains (durum wheat) together with vegetables and meat cooked in broth. 

In Morocco one eats Couscous every Friday!

4. Briouat
Rachida always makes these delicious treats whenever we have guests over for drinks or as a starter before dinner. Briouats are triangular pastry covered with a paper-thin dough. We always eat the savory briouats filled with chicken, fish or cheese but sometimes Rachida makes them sweet with banana, almonds or chocolate. 

Briouats taste best on a roof terrace on a traditional Riad! And maybe with some champagne! 

5. Pastilla
Another very traditional Moroccan dish is the Pastilla, filled with either chicken or pigeon. It is a true delicacy tasting quite sweet since it is garnished with cinnamon and sugar. 

A favourite dish! Both sweet and savory! 

6. Brochettes
The brochette is like a kebab or a grilled skewer filled with meat, chicken or vegetables. The brochette has usually 5-6 pieces of meat, chicken or fish and is rubbed with salt and spices, often paprika and cumin.

Chicken Brochettes are served best by a little Riad-pool!

7. Tride
Tride is a traditional historic Moroccan dish with chicken, lentils and shredded pancakes. It sounds quite strange but it is just delicious! It is seasoned with Rasel Hanout blend and saffron and often served at very special occasions. In Marrakech you can go to the new restaurant Le Trou Au Mur to taste this amazing dish!

At Le Trou Au Mur you can try Tride and alot of other forogotten Moroccan food!

8. Harira
Harira is a simple lentil soup that is often served as a small starter. It is also served during Ramadan to break the fast at the sunset. Then it is often added with some meat. 

Moroccan Harira Soup - Often served as a starter or to break the fast during Ramadan.

9. Moroccan pancakes - M'smmen
M'smmen - the name says it all! Crispy, flaky and fluffy - all at the same time! Yummie! It is such a delicious pastry, often served for breakfast but also as an afternoon snack. In the Medina you can buy it everywhere in the streets! M'smmen is Morocco's favorite pastry, served warm with honey or argan oil! 

Moroccan pancakes comes in many different sizes and forms!

10. Mint Tea
You cannot write about Moroccan cuisine and food culture without mentioning the Mint Tea. It is the drink you are served as a welcome drink when visiting someone or arriving for the first time to your Riad. The mint tea is not just a hot drink, it is very rooted in the ways of life as a sincere gesture of friendship and hospitality. Walking through the Medina you see people sipping it from tiny glasses and you are always offered some when you are negotiating the price for a carpet. 

Moroccan Mint tea has lots and lots of sugar in it! It's often sweeter than Coca-Cola! 

There are of course several other interesting Moroccan dishes like traditional Offal Medley, Tripe, Cherchma, Berkoukesh and Stuffed Poussin. But start with our top-10 list, if you are a true foodie you are going to love all of these dishes!

Bon Apetite everyone!