What better way to discover what our holidays are really like than from NotInTheGuideBookstravellers themselves?!

When Denise Haire took our photography and cookery holiday in Essaouira, Morocco this September, she didn’t know what to expect. Read all about her learning experience here…

What made you choose to travel with
I’m a single female and I love travelling. I’ve been on holiday by myself before and I always feel a bit like a spare part in the evenings, and I live close to the beautiful beaches of the Costa Brava and can visit these any time I wish, so your average beach holidays don’t really appeal to me. So I thought this time I’d try something new and take an activity holiday for the first time. I googled ‘singles holidays’ and loved the look of the range of holidays you offered, and my sister also recommended you.

photoWhat attracted you to this photography and cooking holiday in particular?
I cook for a living so am extremely enthusiastic about food, and I love Moroccan food so the cooking element of the course rally appealed to me. I’m also a keen amateur photographer and was looking to improve my skills, so when I saw this photography and cookery holiday combining the two, I thought it sounded perfect! Also, it was easy for me to fly to Marrakech and Morocco is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit.

How did you find the booking process with and did anyone in particular help you?
The booking process was really easy, Jane was really useful in helping me to organise my trip.

What was chef Naima like as a teacher?
Darren’s wife Naima was a wonderful cook and so delightful to spend time with. She took me to the local souks to buy the ingredients for our lessons which was great, and she also took me shopping later in the week to help buy clothes and souvenirs which was good fun, and as she is local to the area she knew all of the best places to go to! We spent a lot of time together just talking and she was so easy to get on with.

photo3How were your cookery lessons?
The cookery lessons were really fantastic – the food we made was delicious. There was one evening where I said to Darren that I loved something we were eating in the restaurant, and I mentioned I’d love to learn how to cook it one day. The next day, I arrived at the cookery lesson to find Darren had told Naima, who had then gone out to get the ingredients for this dish and changed the menu so that I could make the dish! The fact that she tailored the menu to my preference was so sweet and small touches like this really made all of the difference.

What was your photography tutor Darren like?
Darren is a knowledgeable and friendly tutor, and very precise in his methods. He has a quick intellect and humour, and I really enjoyed our lessons together. We must have spent over 50 hours together just the two of us which helped me learn more than I might have done in a group. Every evening Darren escorted me out for dinner and was great company which I really appreciated.

What was your favourite location for your photography lessons?
I absolutely loved the port, it was amazing! All of your senses were stimulated – sight, smells, sounds. Essaouira is a photographers dream and there are good photos everywhere you look, but the port was definitely my favourite location – I loved it so much I made Darren take me back there another day and ended up with over 100 photos there!

photo2What was your hotel accommodation like?
I stayed at an utterly delightful Riad called the Maison du Sud. All of the staff were so sweet and respectful, and I had a lovely room looking out onto the roof terrace. I felt ill one day and the manager of the Riad took me to a nearby pharmacy to help me to by some medicine which went beyond his job description and was really appreciated.

Have you been practicing with your camera since you returned?
Not yet, but I feel my photography skills have improved greatly and I did learn a lot to bear in mind in the future when taking photos.

Do you have any criticisms about the holiday?
I loved my experience, and the only thing I was slightly disappointed about was that I was the only person booked onto the course that week. One of the reasons for booking the holiday was because I wanted to meet other travellers, and I would have liked to have known beforehand that I was the sole participant from either Darren or GoLearnTo. That said, I did have a great time and Naima and Darren were extremely entertaining and friendly. My only other criticism would be that when I arrived at the airport and my transfer was not there to pick me up and take me to Essaouira. I waited for a while and another taxi driver helped me to call the hotel and Darren, and it was a bit nerve-wracking. Eventually my taxi driver appeared and said he was very sorry, and Darren was extremely apologetic when I arrived and said it had never happened before. It worked out in the end but it wasn’t the best start to my holiday!

What was one of the highlights of your holiday?
One of my favourite things about this holiday is that at the end of the course, Darren asked me to choose my best 30 photographs from the week from the hundreds I’d taken. We discussed which ones were the best and why, and then sorted them into groups (abstract, the port etc.) and Darren then uploaded these online. My photos will stay on the website for a year which is great as I can show my friends and family my favourite photos all online now.

Would you take another holiday with in the future?
Yes definitely, my first experience of a learning holiday was fantastic!

Feeling inspired? Contact us today and we’ll be happy to help to plan your learning holiday…