Discovering Azeri food

Discovering Azeri food


As is often the case in my life,  before coming to Azerbaijan one of the main things I was excited about was the food. While I will always bitch about the Turks for putting mint in my Tzatziki, I can no longer deny my love of Eastern cuisine.

Staying in Baku and being sucked into the expat bubble, I was getting a little bit frustrated eating steak and sushi every night with all these undiscovered culinary delights on my doorstep (first world problems, I know.) Luckily, over the last few days I’ve had the opportunity to branch out a bit more and sample some local gems.

Here is a guide to some of my favourite Azeri treats.


dolma.JPG Don’t tell the Greeks, but Azeri dolma is my new favourite thing. Vine-leaves stuffed with lamb, but with less rice than the Greek ones (or none at all) They’re so subtly aromatic and juicy and the natural (slightly ripe tasting) yoghurt goes perfectly with them. They’re often served in a little pot with a lid on, and dipping fresh bread into said pot is my new second favourite thing.


Even if this leaf-based omelette thing  tasted like crap, I’d have to love it with a name like that. Luckily, it tastes amazing and is actually really good for you. More herby than a western omelette, Kuku is traditionally Iranian, and can also be made with potatoes or chicken. You’d have to be kükü not to love it!



Qutab are like little tacos, either filled with meat, greens, cheese or pumpkin. I first tried them from a little doorway vendor in the old town, and they are still my absolute favourite. People say there is camel meat in them, I’m pretty sure this is like an Australian drop-bear thing, but even if I have been eating camel all along, if this is what it tastes like then I’m OK with it.


Probably one of the most unappealingly named dishes in the history of the world (I think lobscouse may just about beat it to the post, go Wales!) I didn’t have high hopes for plov. Expecting some kind of gruely slop I was pleasantly surprised to be presented with a plate of rice cooked with apricots and lamb. The oil from the lamb and apricots  stops the rice being too dry and the sweetness of the fruit really compliments the lamb. In Azerbaijan they have a special breed of sheep which has a big fatty sack (sounds fit, right?) and they traditionally put chunks of this fat in dishes to make them extra yummy. It may help to not think about what you’re eating. Alternatively, man up and accept that if you’re eating a dead animal in the first place you might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb.



I’m definitely not going to start debating the origins of baklava, but the Azeris spell it with a P and seem to eat quite a lot of it. For those of you unfamiliar with this eastern delight, it consists of layers of nuts and pastry drizzled in syrup, and unfortunately for my waist-line, it can be bought by the kilo…

Chai and  jam


While I was doing my research for this trip, I read a famous Azeri saying ‘When you drink tea, you don’t count how many cups.’ While I didn’t really catch the proverbial element of the saying, I was sure that it meant I would feel right at home here.

As most Azeris are Muslim, even if they don’t practice, chai houses are far more popular than bars among locals . Traditional chai houses, like the kafeneion of Greece, are typically the male domain, and excepting the touristic cafes in Baku, women would not be allowed to enter.

Chai is served with sweet homemade jams, and often with a selection of paklava, dried fruit and nuts. I was intrigued by the little chocolate cubes we were served in a cafe on the boulevard, only to find that they were in fact portions of Mars bar!

Where to eat:

Cizz-Bizz in Baku’s old town ticks all the boxes. Squeezed in among tacky tourist restaurants, Cizz-Bizz is surprisingly cheap, and most importantly attracts a local crowd. The plov was incredible, and the service was not as bad as most places we visited. Order a variety of dishes and eat meze style.

Xalca is part of Baku’s new carpet museum and has a trendy bar vibe. I popped in for a glass of water and ended up staying for a feast. I did not regret it.  Best dolma of the trip and great views of the boulevard. Funky Azeri mugham music was a little bit too loud, but definitely better than the Abba megamix that they changed it too, probably for our benefit!

shan flag.JPG
And most importantly…Perspective photo ops.

Courchev-Hell 1850…What’s the appeal?

Courchev-Hell 1850…What’s the appeal?


Reigning down on lesser villages from an actual elevation of 1747, it seems the so called Courchevel 1850 is  falling short of more than just 103m…

Atmosphere for a start…

While France is hardly renowned for the charm of its ski resorts, I have to say that I expected more from the ‘playground of the rich and famous’ than the grey, tired, purpose built blocks that greeted me upon my arrival to 1850. Arriving a week before the start of the season, I could have been forgiven for thinking that things would liven up in due course, however I soon came to realise that empty streets, and the feeling that something must be going on somewhere else, were the norm in what seemed to be more of a cemetery than a playground.

Now imagine without the snow…

Having spent the previous winter in Alpe d’Huez, a smaller but infinitely livelier resort, the eerie calm on returning from the slopes after my first ride struck me as bizarre. Where were all the people? More importantly, where was the après?! For the first few days I searched in vain, roaming the town on a quest for wonderwall covers and pitchers of Mutzig. I quickly realised that all I was gaining for my efforts were dodgy looks and the dawning realisation that I’d just signed myself up for four months in purgatory.DSC_0078_1.JPG

After spending a few evenings nursing a glass of happy hour wine in the lovely- but- not-exactly- pounding Joe’s bar, I decided to bite the bullet and try the London-priced French bar l’Equipe. While I didn’t balk as much as my northern friend did at the prospect of 10€ for a spirit without a mixer, we certainly agreed that despite it being the liveliest place we’d discovered so far, this could not become a regular thing. Next on the trail was the Luge, a much more down to earth bar, bordering on normal if it weren’t for the fact that it was bizarrely placed in a shopping mall. It turned out that this placing wasn’t that strange after all, as the bar is marketed as ‘concept store, social life’ and is actually part of a shop selling everything you need to look like a try-hard on the slopes. While the staff were friendly and the dingy décor and ski videos made it almost feel like a seasonnaire bar, the fact that even the snowboards decorating the bar were for sale served as a constant reminder that everything in Courchevel 1850 has a price…

In one last desperate attempt to make a night of it, we decided to head to La Grange, the first nightclub to open for the season. While the posters plastered in the alley outside my room promised a seasonnaires welcome soirée, the bouncer’s expression suggested otherwise. As he gave me the once over with more sass than a high-school girl, he lingered disdainfully on my ski jacket and snow-boots before telling me that the club was full. By this point I was adamant that I wasn’t going anywhere, and proceeded to make his life difficult for the next twenty minutes as I slowly progressed from incredulous to enraged that I, as part of a group of young, not unattractive girls, was left to wait out in the cold, as a constant stream of middle aged and unsightly men were let into the apparently ‘full’ club. What was this parallel universe we found ourselves in? Eventually I think the bouncer either got sick of my shit, or realised that I was more of an eyesore in the entrance to the club than I would be hidden deep within its bowels and conceded defeat. We were in.

Having made it off the red carpet and into the club I had two instant realisations. The first was that there were more people in this room than I had seen so far in the whole of Courchevel. The second was that I was neither drunk enough nor rich enough to be there. There was not a scrap of ski gear in sight, and I was not about to pay the equivalent of a day’s wages to sip a drink under the withering gaze of girls with eating disorders. I had seen enough.

Time to branch out…


As well as the inauspicious greeting on the wall of my staff accommodation, (Welcom to hell, 666) my predecessor had also left me a clue in the form of a Funky Fox sticker left on my light fitting. After a quick google I learnt that the Fox was one the last bastions of seasonnaire life, promising cheap drinks, and fiiiiinally, live music. The only drawback was that the Fox, and as far as I could tell, anywhere else worth going, was down in 1650, or even lower. I also learnt that Courchevel 1850 used to have a great seasonnaire scene a few years ago, but pretty much all the reasonably priced bars had since been priced out by the arrival of the Russians and their luxury boutiques. While this did explain the disproportionate number of estate agents, I still struggled to grasp how this could have been allowed to happen, or more precisely, why.

On Tuesdays we wear blue… Pretty much my only respectable photo of a night out from the season!

Having quickly conceded that Courchevel was not even slightly my scene, (quelle surprise…) I resigned myself quite happily to what I thought would be a quiet season to focus on my writing and fitness. However, it wasn’t the prospect of an underwhelming social life that bugged me (and in fact, that wasn’t even slightly the case) but rather the fact that my hatred for everything Courchevel stood for grew by the day.

I don’t just mean the ridiculous wealth and lavishness. I obviously expected that. What really disturbed me were the attitudes held by the clients of our own infinitely more modest hotel (one of the only two stars’ in resort.) It actually broke my heart to see people eating pot noodles in their room just so they could say that they went to the same ski resort as Wills and Kate. People paying through their noses for a dingy room with no amenities when they could have been relaxing in a spa hotel in another resort for the same price.  And what were they getting for their money? If they were expecting to be rubbing shoulders with the stars then they must have been bitterly disappointed. When people say Courchevel is exclusive they mean it, pretty much the only glimpse you get of the rich is when they totter out of Chanel straight into their chauffeured cars. And if you make it past the bouncers to have a cheeky browse then you’re far braver than I am.  

I just couldn’t get my head around why anyone would want to come to Courchevel 1850. Yes, the mountains are amazing, but you can access them from any of the other villages in the Three Valleys, all of which are infinitely more ambient and far prettier. I can’t help but think that in going to Courchevel people aren’t paying over the odds for a special experience, but rather like in the designer boutiques that dominate its streets, they’re paying for the concept.

All roads lead to Rhodes…Hiring a car on the island.

All roads lead to Rhodes…Hiring a car on the island.

For our island-hopping escapade this summer, we decided to make the most of cheap Ryanair flights, and use Rhodes as a base for exploring the Dodecanese islands. Unfortunately for us however, that’s about as far as our trip planning went. With everyone being too busy with work/exams/life we just assumed everything would all fall into place, and ended up being thwarted big time by Greek ferry timetables…

Still, there are worse places to be stranded, right?

Rhodes city beach.JPG
Ok, not exactly paradise…


After walking around the crowded city for a whole afternoon, becoming borderline offensive with pushy restaurant touts, and  finally conceding windswept defeat and leaving the underwhelming beach, we agreed that we could not stay put in Rhodes for another three days. Feeling the drop in morale and sensing the inevitable tensions that it would bring, I quickly suggested that we hire a car to explore the island.Being twenty-five didn’t seem so bad any more once I realised I could now  hire a car for 30€ a the day…And  after spending a few days blindly following people around Athens, I relished the freedom of literally being in the driver’s seat.

car selfie.JPG
The perks of making it to  25!

Making our way down the east coast we began to ask ourselves whether we had gone from the firepan into the fire, as the ugly towering blocks and seedy looking clubs of Faliraki prompted choruses and variations of ‘who on earth would come here on purpose?? Instead of the beautiful, winding sea road that Corfu has taught me to expect, we were on a highway to a very specific kind of hell, where a full English comes with a free shot of Sambuca and  a side of chlamydia. (unfortunately for this post I wasn’t inspired to get my camera out) 

The Acropolis of Lindos…Parts of it date back to 300 b.c.

Having persevered for about 50km, we were soon rewarded with the unique view of Lindos, a pretty impressive town/archaological site towering over a cluster of African looking white houses against a backdrop of blue sea. While it wasn’t exactly the island paradise we were searching for, it was certainly worth a frappé stop.

breakfast in rhodes.JPG
Not a bad spot to have breakfast either…

After heading a bit further down the coast, we decided to take a mountain road over to the other side of the island, which we were promised was undeveloped and a tourist free zone. We finally started to see the Rhodes that we had craved, the wild craggy mountains, olive groves, and the thick island air that you can almost taste. The landscape is semi African, with barren rivers and dusty rolling hill-sides, none of the verdure of the Ionian islands.

dirt road.JPG
Bit of a shock for a Corfiot girl like me!

After dropping over to the west coast I took the first little dirt track down to the beach, a fairly anti-climactic stretch of greyish littered sand, but one of the most beautiful seas I’ve  ever seen. I stripped off, not even waiting to change, and ran straight into the waves. I didn’t have time to feel the cold as I was thrown around, jumping in elation. The others waited on the beach, probably wondering what the hell I was doing, but I can’t describe how happy a rough sea makes me. It’s almost as if the energy of the waves recharges me. sea.JPG

It wasn’t really a place to hang out though, not without a bit of planning (which we’ve already established, is not our forté) so we decided to head to the most southernly part of the island, a little peninsla called Prasonisi. Here we finally found our paradise. A massive expanse of two bays, one for windsurfers and a rougher one for kite-boarders, linked by a little hill for hiking. While it was too windy to sit comfortably on the beach and perve, the hike to the top of the hill was well worth the view, and after scrambling back down the other side for about twenty minutes we were finally rewarded with the secluded beach paradise we’d been dreaming of…

That’s more like it!


Unfortunately for us, having spent most of the day trying to find our island paradise, we now had to head back to civilisation, and more worryingly, I had a Skype interview. I’ve always been inclined to consider no WiFi a plus when it comes to island paradises, but when it came to dragging everyone away from the beach I wasn’t so sure any more…

private beach prassonissi.JPG
Where have you been all my life?


Anyway, the moral of this story (actually, this whole trip) is plan,plan,plan,plan,plan!  I know it sucks the joy out of exploring, but with an island as big (and as charmless) as Rhodes, it definitely helps to do your research and to head straight for where you want to be, especially if you have a time limit. In this case I would have loved to have spent more time on Prasonisi, which also had a campsite and a few bars, and just a generally nice atmosphere. It all turned out well in the end though, I got the job in Colombia, and we ended the day with a terribly british night out in Rhodes…

club in rhodes selfie.JPG

That night we slept on the beach…

That night we slept on the beach…

Free Camping out of season in Eristos, Tilos.

The main focus of our trip to the Dodecanese islands, as arranged by my friend Lisa, was to camp out in the Greek wilderness. So called ‘Free camping’ has become something of a craze recently, with Eristos (on the tiny island of Tilos) being hailed as one of the top spots to partake in this mysterious backlash to glamping.  But I never really knew what the adjective was supposed to add to the experience. Essentially  free camping means camping somewhere where you don’t have to pay, and you don’t have the comforts and facilities that basically defeat the object of camping. So it’s basically what normal, non-hipster people refer to as  camping (don’t even get me started on ‘free swimming’… )


Except Eristos doesn’t really conform to that definition; in the summer there is a bar, supermarket, toilets and showers. It’s basically a free campsite. Free camping for dummies. Despite my pedanticness I was actually quite looking forward to spending a few days in a hippy haven, picturing camp-fire sing alongs, skinny dipping and hungover sunrise yoga. However when we finally pulled up to the beach after a day of hiking to remote coves, Eristos seemed to pale by comparison. While it was undoubtedly beautiful, being the only real sandy beach on the island, its beauty lay in its desolation. The beach is vast, framed by trees to camp under, and engulfed by rocky hills on either side. Behind the trees is less poem-worthy. The shells of bars that had been closed all winter, teasing us with faded advertisements for mojitos and other treats. Shower and toilet blocks where you half expect to find someone tied to a chair.


While we had initially planned the whole trip around our stay on Eristos,  I was beginning to feel grateful that weather and other circumstances meant that we only actually made it for the last night.

We could have been back in Wales…

As dusk began to fall my hippy bravado started to wear thin. While I can imagine the beach in full swing being atmospheric, the full moon rising over the abandoned toilet blocks and the odd empty hammock was slightly eerie. While there were traces of people, the only two we saw were the guys building a shelter on the opposite end of the beach, who drove slowly up and down the track before leaving. I was becoming more and more aware of the fact that we were two girls in the middle of nowhere, but not far enough out of the way for that to offer us any safety.


I started coming up with plan Bs and counter attacks. I decided that leaving the moped in plain sight when there was no one else around was basically an invitation to our potential rapist/murderer. I convinced Lisa that we should hide it, and we spent a good  15 minutes wrestling with the thing. Our initial plan to move the industrial bins into place to shield it was thwarted by our lack of physical strength, which only served as a further reminder of our vulnerability. We finally managed to push it into some bushes to the side of the toilet block, and returned to our spot to settle down for the night. Or so I thought.


I couldn’t help but keep looking over to where the bike was ‘hidden’. At this point  it seemed all the more blatant, except now, when (yes, we had progressed from if to when) our rapist/murderer arrived, we would be helpless, as he would obviously  be able to hack us down before we managed to wrestle the bike out of its hiding place. At this point I was in serious danger of giving up all pretence of being a happy go lucky traveler, and running for the hills/back to the nearest guesthouse. . I finally plucked up the courage to tell Lisa my fears, realising that rather than mocking me, she was also slowly getting infected by my paranoia.  I promised her that once I moved the bike,  that would be the last she heard of it. And I kept  to my word.

Creepy but beautiful

A few hours passed, and while I was still slightly wary, the  warm buzz from the Raki and the magic of the full moon had me  cocooned in a safe place. Lisa went off for a wee and I was probably mulling over whatever big life question we had just been discussing , when she came rushing back and knelt down to whisper in my ear ‘Kiki! Don’t look now but I’m sure there’s someone over there!’


Two weeks worth of backpacker’s  constipation threatened to resolve themselves all over  my brand new sleeping bag. What. The. Fuck. ‘Where?? Are you sure’ ‘Yes! Over there, by those trees!’ I don’t know if I was more angry or relieved when I realised that our crouching rapist was none other than the moped that we had so painstakingly parked… That’s not to say that I was reassured by any means… Once I’d stopped laughing at her, I too decided to go for a pee in the bushes, this time taking my phone with me to check out any mysterious dark shapes. When Lisa went to sleep , I decided that I wasn’t going to be so easy a target. I resolved to play dead, so that as soon as I heard a sound in the bushes I would leap up with my empty Amstel bottle, and show them that they messed with the wrong girl.
After a while I started to console myself with the fact that if someone were to make a move, they would have made it by now, and the Raki addled side of my brain that had been absolutely seduced by the full moon was arguing that if this was my time to go, there are definitely worse places to exit the stage. I drifted in and out of consciousness, and only when I was aware that I’d seen the moon make its journey across the entire sky, and that the glow coming from behind the bins was the sunrise and not the headlights of a psychotic mass murderer did I allow myself to fall completely asleep. I’d like to say that I finally knew peace, but with the alcohol wearing off and the wind rising, my body now decided that it was time to be cold. I spent the next few hours in eager anticipation of the sun making it past the trees to bake me in my sleeping bag, but by the time it made it around I became aware of Lisa packing up her things and shaking out the map. she was well rested and ready to rock and roll.

morning erisos.JPG
Definitely an improvement…

The verdict? While we didn’t exactly have the chilled out experience we were looking for, I wouldn’t write Eristos off completely. Accounts of the beach during the summer sound like the experience that I was hoping to get from Ko Pha Ngan’s Full Moon Party (don’t eeeven get me started on that) – a great place to meet likeminded people and dance barefoot in the moonlight. If I was in the area I’d definitely go back to see the place in full swing, but for travellers to Tilos in general, I’d say the island has far more to offer than Eristos….(Stay tuned!)

11 language learning hacks from a TEFL teacher

11 language learning hacks from a TEFL teacher


As I’m currently brushing up on my Spanish before heading to Colombia, I’m thinking a lot about the way that I learn languages in the hope that it will make me a better language teacher when I get there. People tend to be quite shocked when I tell them that it’s my fifth language (disclaimer: I definitely had a head-start growing up tri-lingual) But either way,  as language learning has been a big part of my life, from studying French and modern Greek BA to teaching English as a foreign language in France and Italy, I thought I’d share some of my study hacks that have helped me over the years…


  1. The most important thing is to immerse yourself. I know not everyone is lucky enough to study or work abroad for a stint, but try and surround yourself as much as you can with your target language. When I was in uni my study breaks consisted of  French movies and crappy Greek soaps, I listened to the radio and tried to pick out words I knew, watched cheesy youtube videos of pop songs with their lyrics and then looked up words I didn’t know. If you can learn to learn while you’re not officially studying you’ll progress so much quicker. And you no longer have to feel embarrassed about having Enrique Iglesias on repeat….enrique-dancing
  2. Redecorate your house/room. Posters explaining  the difference between ser/estar, post-its on random objects to remember their names, or just randomly placed words that you can’t quite get to stick.  The Greek word for journalist is ingrained in my mind after seeing it written on my friend’s fridge in second year.

    Make it rain…
  3. Don’t rely on one method/source. Things like Duolingo are great, but even if you meet your daily targets you will not learn to speak a language this way. Same goes for any course book/ grammar guide/online videos. Instead, use a combination of methods and different websites so that you don’t get stuck in a rut. Sign up for blogs and online dictionaries that send you a word a day and  take online quizzes to keep you on your toes.

    Not gonna cut it love…
  4. I’m sure I’m not the only one who studied French at GCSE and then realised that no one actually says ‘comme si comme ca’ irl. Read newspapers, blogs or whatever you can get your hands on so that you  learn the real language that people actually use.

    joey french.gif
    We’ve all been there…
  5. Better still, find a native speaker to practise with. Most unis have an Erasmus society where you can sign up to be a buddy to a foreign student, or even just a language exchange system. If you’re not a student (I feel your pain) then try leaving an advert on local noticeboards/facebook pages.use-your-words
  6. Use a monolingual dictionary when looking up vocab, and accept that in most cases, there’s no such thing as a direct translation. I thought my teacher was crazy when she first suggested this, but it is one of the most helpful habits I’ve picked up. Although a bilingual dictionary may be quicker and easier to use, words have different nuances in different languages, and simply accepting that x=y is only going to set you back in the future, especially if you study translation. Learning the etymology  of a word also helps me remember it, as it helps me make associations. bart dictionary.gif
  7. Find out what works for you. For example I have to write things down several times to retain them. If I’m learning a new grammar rule I have to paraphrase it, write it down, possibly draw a diagram, and then colour code it. It’s all about finding ways to trick your mind into remembering things, draw pictures, make word associations… If you use the right techniques you should be able to visualise your notes when you’re trying to recall the information.hangover
  8. Make lists. And more lists. Carry a small notebook around with you and make a note of words you don’t know.  List new words you’ve learnt, or ones you had to look up whilst reading. Read over the list, and make a new list with the words you still don’t know. Then read over that list and make flashcards with the words you still don’t know. If there are some that you really struggle with then write them on post-its and stick them by your bed.  You know it’s working when they start popping up in your dreams.

    Repetition is the key.
  9. Get organised. If your class notes are chaotic (mine always were) take the time to copy them out neatly, re-arranging them if necessary and dividing them into topics. I always have a file or a notebook with 4 sections: 1. Grammar rules 2. Verb tables 3. New words 4.Mistakes. I also re-arrange them as part of revision so that I’m studying subject areas rather than random vocab.monica
  10. Learn from your mistakes. It’s a language teacher’s cliché, but mistakes aren’t always a bad thing. Take snowboarding for example, a cautious border could make it straight down the mountain without falling over once, while his friend who is popping tricks off the side of the piste lands a 360 but is covered in bruises. Who is the best border? Ok we don’t know for sure, but we do know who made the most progress. I find that it helps to keep a list of the mistakes I’ve made, alongside their correction/ an explanation of how I went wrong. (We’re talking strictly language based btw, or I’d never leave the house) Read through them now and again, but make sure you memorise the correction and not the mistake itself!ross mistake.gif
  11. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. While it’s definitely a good idea to set realistic targets, it can also be difficult to measure your progress. Don’t freak out and try and overload your brain as that can be counter-productive (been there!) Frustration and feeling like you’re not learning quickly enough are totally natural, but just take a step back and remember that this is supposed to be fun, and you’re probably taking in way more than you realise. And if that doesn’t work, just  look at this lama!!!como se llama.gif
    Have I missed anything out? Please feel free to comment and share your study tips 🙂

Confessions of a Courchevel housekeeper, Part 2

Confessions of a Courchevel  housekeeper, Part 2


While I spent roughly a third of my time as a housekeeper asking myself what I was doing with my life, it was almost worth it for some of the stories that I’ve got from the season… In this sequel I focus on the more entertaining side of my time as a housekeeper…


1. C’est la MERDE

 You can tell a lot about someone by how they leave their room- especially knowing that a stranger is going to have to deal with it. It still baffles me how people can walk out of their room, look me in the eye and smile, knowing that I’m going to have to flush three times in between gags when I enter their putrid bathroom. Is the length of your log some kind of weird pride thing that I don’t know about? Like seriously, Snapchat it to your mate if you must, but I definitely do not need to see it.  It also astounds me how many people seem to be suffering from IBS, and I wonder whether I should start telling people not to drink the tap water, when about 80% of  toilets are pebble dashed every morning. On the other end of the spectrum it always makes me laugh when couples, clearly in the honeymoon period, spray copious amounts of perfume into the little unaired toilet cubicle. Admirable though their intentions may be, what happens when she realises that his shit doesn’t actually smell like Dior’s Homme Ideal??

2. C’est l’AMOUR

This is what you really want to hear about right? The dirty stuff.  All that grimy hotel sex. I have to admit that this was one of my greatest apprehensions on starting the job, but luckily for me, and somewhat depressingly for everyone else, there doesn’t seem to be much action happening between my carefully laid sheets. It makes me feel better about my practically celibate existence when I go into a young couple’s room and see that the duvet is barely crumpled and  still tucked in at the sides. Either some seriously lacklustre missionary is all that’s going  down or they’re all too tired from snowplowing all day…

While most of my guests are reasonably well behaved however, when it goes wrong, it goes very wrong. I can almost tolerate the usual soggy sheets, sticky flavoured lubes and used condoms but nothing could have prepared me for the Dutch girl who (on a family holiday, no less…) had period sex almost every day. And I don’t mean that she put a towel down and left a bit of a smear, I mean it looked like a crime scene.  I’m not one to judge, but for everyone’s sake- just do it in the shower.


3.C’est le BORDEL

I always wondered why the French and the Greeks used the term ‘brothel’ to describe a mess/ a shitty situation. Until I had to clean up after Russian prostitutes. It turns out they really are messy puppies (and mean to boot.) Thankfully our modest establishment was a place for them to rest and recuperate during the day as opposed to an, ahem, place of work. Nevertheless, cleaning around all their vials and bottles, jewellery and accessories was no joke. Not to mention the facial syringes.  Cleaning up after them made me question my life choices even more than I usually would over the course of a room, playing my usual guessing game of where would I rank on a list of the world’s most overqualified cleaners. I don’t mean that in a snobby way, dusting around their designer bags I was almost in awe that they could make such a lucrative living from such a glamourous lifestyle- this is Courchevel after all, more sitting in clubs sipping Cristal than standing on street corners. Although they spent about three hours getting ready to go out (which made the rare glimpses of their unmade-up faces pretty frightening) as they tottered back up the stairs in their heels and furs as I served breakfast, I couldn’t help but think to myself rather bitterly that they probably come into contact with less bodily fluids than I do in a day….


4.C’est WANK

My eyes have also been opened to novel and creative ways of masturbating.  The phrase tickling the kipper has always made me giggle, but I never would have guessed that smoked salmon offered a route to self-gratification… Apparently if you’re from Marseille it does. I’d like to say that the sight of sticky salmon crumpled up in toilet paper put us off eating the unopened pack that the gentleman had left behind, but mountain prices are way too high for seasonnaires to pass up on such a tasty treat.

One of the most important things to remember when cleaning a room is to check that nothing has been left in any of the cupboards. I’m sure a guest would have been even  more shocked than my colleague was to have found a courgette and a cucumber in the bedside table of  a room that didn’t even have catering facilities….Not as creative as Mr. Salmon-Dance but still made us giggle.


C’est FINI!!!!

So while life as a housekeeper can be exhausting and demoralising there are also moments where it is just  hilarious. Next time you’re living it up on holiday, remember that  a) house-elves aren’t a thing and b) someone very real is silently judging you, probably cursing you, and then more than likely recounting the whole story to the bar later on!

Confessions of a Courchevel housekeeper, Part 1

First confession: I didn’t actually clean in this…

For about five months of the year I like to take a break from my busy lifestyle of traveling the world /sponging off my mum to actually do some proper paid work in French ski resorts. This year, that mostly consisted of cleaning up after disgruntled Russians and unruly Brits in one of the most exclusive ski resorts in the world. It also involved a lot of soul searching and some pretty big life revelations…

Ever wanted to know what’s going through you housekeepers mind? Ok, probably not, because I bet it’s never even occurred to you. Just in case you are curious, here are some of my confessions from my time as a housekeeper, which will hopefully remind you that your bed is made by a human, who is probably having a worse day than you…


  1. As someone who has stayed in a lot of hotels, I’m ashamed to say that I’d never really given much thought to the people who clean my room before. I mean obviously I tip in poorer countries, and at least try to keep it tidy, but it’s never occurred to me that the fallout from a night’s pre-lash can ruin someones day, whilst a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign can actually make it. If you want to do a good deed a day whilst traveling, pass up on housekeeping if you don’t really need it (I mean do you even notice beyond the folded toilet-paper end, seriously?)

    And please, for the love of God, don’t pee in the shower!

  2. Every day is a struggle. Cleaning is exhausting and let’s face it, demoralising work. (Four months on, and I still have shoulder issues from polishing…) But as a seasonnaire, I always had the mountain as motivation and a reason to stay.  This made me think of all the people who don’t have this luxury, people who work themselves to the bone in this degrading job to feed their families, unable to draw comfort from promising themselves as I did every day that I would leave if it got any worse. I could tolerate the feeling of powerlessness, knowing that come May I would be leaving, and my final pay package would fund my full recovery on a beach somewhere. However, this didn’t stop me thinking almost every day about my grandmother who worked as a housekeeper for thirty years, walking miles to work in the Greek sun, having already done a morning’s work in the fields at dawn,  all whilst raising four children. I bet she still didn’t complain about stingy tippers as much as I do…

    Putting things into perspective…When the first run of the season makes up for the 72 hour week!
  3. Cleaning people’s rooms gives you a unique and often creepy insight into people’s lives. There’s something oddly intimate about it, as you tend to build up an image of a guest over the week, from the books left out on the side, to the products that they use and even where they leave their pyjamas. It’s always fun trying to match a guest with a room during breakfast/ bar shifts, but it get’s a bit creepy if you accidentally let certain information slip when you’re chatting to them in the bar after work…
  4. I’m definitely judging you, and your housekeeper probably is too. From the women with Chanel handbags but Primark pyjamas to the single men whose rooms smell of women’s perfume, I’m drawing allllll kinds of conclusions.  
  5. I sometimes try your perfume/hand cream/fur coats. Come on, I have to have a little bit of fun.
    Not these though. Jeezus...


  6. I sometimes play God. When the lovely man in 209 told us that he needed his room cleaning thoroughly because his boyfriend was leaving and his unsuspecting wife was arriving, a receipt for an expensive dinner for two may have found its way from the bin onto the bedside table. She didn’t need to waste any more of her time with him.
  7. Tips are nice, but snacks are sooo much better. And free alcohol is the dream. Changover days have been saved by packets of Haribo and crates of beer left on the balcony. We’re basically scavengers, and even leftover toiletries mean more beer money at the end of the day.

    We named him Dmitry
  8. I’m basically a pro at guessing where you’re from, without peeking at your reading material/ passport. And you guys really perpetuate stereotypes. Bulgarians invariably have a holy icon on one bedside table and a bottle of Vodka on the other, and almost every Asian family who stayed brought a rice cooker with them. Stereotypes aside, there were loads of quirky patterns that I never would have guessed. British people can’t seem to leave the country without a week’s supply of home comforts (fyi, leaving Dairy Milk on the bedside table =playing with fire) while French people’s rooms seem eerily tidy by comparison, with an extensive collection of medicines, balms and grooming tools. They make their beds to perfection but almost always leave skid-marks and a trail of pubes around the bathroom.  My favourite guests by far are the Norwegians though, as I often have to check the list to see if the room has already been cleaned and then look for signs of human activity.

    Too much snow is NOT A THING!!!!
  9. While I have a pretty good reason to be miserable during housekeeping shifts (when powder days mean housekeeping takes twice as long because people stay in, as there is ‘too much snow’…) It shocks me that despite having hands that are raw from the chemicals, not to mention the aches and pains from carrying/bending/polishing,  I am rarely the most miserable person in the hotel. Guests who supposedly ‘have it all’ but can’t crack a smile over breakfast before a day’s skiing/shopping make me wonder when, or rather if, they will ever be happy.

    This view actually makes waking up at sunrise to work bearable…
  10. Finally, If you don’t give a shit then I don’t give a shit. I know I’m supposed to clean every room to the same standard, but let’s face it, if you don’t respect yourself enough to flush the toilet after you’ve used it, or rinse blood/snot stains off the shower before they crust, then I can only assume that you don’t care about streaks on the glass or crumbs on the floor. On the other hand if you are a clean and tidy person then I will go the extra mile to make your room spotless, knowing that you will appreciate it, and all of my hard work won’t be undone by the morning.

    All guests are equal…But some are more equal than others!