Sunday, 19 February 2017

Marrakech, Morocco




Sorry guys, weekly roundup has been bumped for another week...bad blogger!

I've been snowed with work recently as we are gearing up for a very hectic March so most nights I've been catching up with work and have been trying to catch some me time.

Pinky promise though, weekly round up will be back soon, but in the meantime I have a treat of a post (it's a bumper post!) on my trip to Morocco a few weeks back.

Morocco has been on my bucket list for a while now. More specifically: Marrakech. The lure of mint tea, tagine and hamman was too strong to ignore.  C visited a few years ago and he really enjoyed it and so, we decided to head there for  long weekend (second visit for him, first time for me!)

I ended up taking way more photos than I thought, but here are a few of my favourites from the weekend...




Our flight was relatively easy, we got to Gatwick on time, no delays with our BA flight (although they now charge you if you want food...boo.) But the story changed when we landed. We had a free transfer planned to take us to our Riad but whilst driving, our driver (who didn't speak English) gave us his mobile phone.

O...k, then?

The hotel manager mentioned that there hadn't been a booking. Cue panic. After looking through our emails with the lastminute.com reservation, we told them our booking reference and then she said that there was in fact,  room available and we will sort it out when we arrive.
 

Right.

So, we were getting closer to the old town (where our Riad was) and it was MANIC. Bikes were going everywhere, traffic came from every direction and even crossing the road was a hard task.

Our driver had led us to our Riad but when we got there, the hotel manager wasn't there...the receptionist (who only spoke french) just politely nodded and showed us to a room. We explained we had spoken to a woman on the phone but he didn't ask for anything - no check in procedure, or passport? Righttttt. Very odd. He served us some tea (which was delicious!) and cake, and after our initial 'huh, what do we do now' moments, we soon relaxed a little decided to have some tea and unwind.

Advice for anyone travelling to Morocco? Try to learn some basics in french or arabic - it will get you a long way!




A Riad is a traditional house, that normally has a inner courtyard as a central part of the building. We were well looked after and when the manager came back in the morning told us everything was all sorted out. Here are a few shots of where we stayed. (Riad Hasna Espi if you want to check them out).




During our stay we realised we wanted to go to the Sahara desert...unfortunately we wouldn't have had enough time and as we were just there for a long weekend, we would try and stay local and see everything we could here, and head back for a separate trip n the future for the Sahara trip.

None the less we wanted to do as much as possible so here were my favourite things to do whilst we were here:

La Mamounia

Winston Churchill used to be a regular visitor at La Mamounia back in the thirties (and they have even named one of their bars after him!) It wasn't hard to see why he fell in love with La Mamounia. Since opening in 1923 they have opened their doors for a number of distinguished guests over the years (think of this place like Hotel Coste is for Paris).

We stopped by for a drink (although, for £22 for a sandwich..don't expect anything to be cheap here) to check the place out.
 

We walked around the grounds and were pleasantly surprised to find that they grow and use their own vegetables.




But the piece de resistance?




Their courtyard is absolutely stunning. A dream to just stand in the middle and have a moment to yourself. If anything, the water feature and the tiles are just a pinterest dream to look at...



 
It was truly a feast for the eyes, and every inch of the courtyard had been thought out in detail.


I would fully recommend stopping by for a drink (or even staying if you are feeling particularly flush!) - the opulence and beauty of the gardens, the grounds make it worth a visit.


Jardin Majorelle

The story goes, Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé went to look at a property for sale: the Villa Majorelle, which was the former home of the French painter Jacques Majorelle who had died there in 1962.

They bought the property to save it from being turned into a hotel complex in 1980 and decided to restore the gardens.



This particular shade of colbalt blue is called 'Majorelle Blue' and features on the buildings. The shade is named after the painter.


Saint Laurent passed away in June, 2008.

His ashes were scattered within the gardens and a memorial was built, so visitors could remember and pay their respects to him.













A must do if you are in Marrakech - a wonderful oasis to escape to!

Medina

I have mixed messages about the medina if I'm honest.

Whilst I loved the food and the fantastic produce and souvenirs you can buy, I wasn't used to how hectic it can get and how,forward the souks can be.


On the times we seemed even vaguely lost, there would be someone showing us the way which would normally be a lovely gesture from a stranger, however in this case, they would either expect payment after they've shown us where to go (even though we've said we do not need them to show us). Or, they would lead us to another shop or somewhere or a shop where we hadn't waned to visit.

I wouldn't mind this but I felt we were in a situation where you felt like you had to buy in order to a) leave the store b)to avoid offending the souks which. I didn't quite like this and this was a big downer on trip.

I've spoken to friends about their trips and some have said varying things, some felt the same way whereas some have said they loved every second whilst walking and shopping through the medina.

Perhaps because it was low season the attempts to try and get tourists as we were, into the shops was more obvious, maybe? I just felt a bit uncomfortable at times which made it hard to relax and ease into 'holiday' mode.

On this occasion we were taken to a souk who was selling scarves. Although I wasn't in the mood to buy a scarf I did end up buying one and I took a few pics of the dyes and garments which were being dyed.









I think whilst the medina is an experience, I'd be hard pushed to visit it again,  or at least I'd need to brace myself again to go through the madness of the medina!


Ouzoud Falls

I mentioned earlier that we were looking into a trip to the Sahara before realising we would have needed more time to fit that in. Whilst we decided against the Sahara we still wanted to go on a trip so we decided on a day trip to the Ouzoud Falls.

Now, would you look at this...





Our driver Mohammed picked us up early at 8.30 for the three hour drive to the falls. When  we arrived he showed us around, but to him, that actually meant going down right into the gorge through various mud paths and going across paths that led to sheer drops.

Lord, have mercy on me. (Had I known he was going to take us off the beaten track I would have agreed to stay at the top of the falls!)

Turns out when he was driving us back to the old town, he mentioned he was new and it was his first week...(at least he showed us what the locals see eh? )



We stopped for a bite to eat when we got down into the gorge. (Lamb tagine was on the menu for the entire four days when we were there).




The trek may have been a wee bit, er, dangerous but it was worth it when we got to the falls...



We were met by local children coming down to try and sell us tea...






Words cannot begin to describe how incredible it was just watching the water crash down from the rocks and just how lovely it was being there. People were brave enough to take a dip (the water was cold cold cold!)


There were monkeys, but don't be fooled - these little critters can be nice if you feed them, but Mohammed warned us they can also take your things too...put those sunnies away if you want to keep them!



Absolutely breathtaking.


Our trip to Morocco was a fun trip and we managed to fit in a lot of sights (along with eating as much tagine and couscous as we could of course!)

If I were to come back I'd skip the medina and would head straight to the desert for a camping trip, what about you guys? If any of you have stayed out in the desert I'd love to know how you found it?

Hit a girl up...

F x

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