Marrakech. Our plans for a visit were in the works for months and then, finally, we were on our way.
We flew direct from San Francisco to London Heathrow but then had to take the train from Heathrow to Gatwick (ugh) to catch our evening flight to Marrakech. It was an exhausting day, but thanks to a combination of wine, Ambien, and Bose noise-canceling headphones, we arrived mostly intact at our hotel - the lovely Ryad Dyor, in the medina. After a late supper of chicken tajine at the ryad, we fell into bed and slept in until late the next morning.
After a leisurely breakfast of fruit, msemen and jam, we walked out to explore the medina and visit to the Jardin Majorelle.
The gardens were lovely, the famous blue very dramatic. Funny to fly halfway around the world to see a garden heavily planted with Mexican cacti.
There's a small memorial to Yves Saint Laurent in the garden and a small gallery housing some of his Love prints.
After touring the gardens we visited 33 rue Majorelle to ogle some pretty local merchandise and then wandered back to the riad to spend the late afternoon enjoying the breeze on the terrace. We were so lucky with our ryad - it really was a place of peace and tranquility that offered a reprieve from the heat and bustle of the medina.
The next morning, we again made our way out of the medina, this time to the Hivernage neighborhood. We stopped to take a look at the striking Minaret de la Koutoubia and the exterior of the mosque.
But we kept moving. We had a full day of pampering to get on with.
When I began researching things to see and do in Marrakech, it quickly became clear to me that I would be a fool to miss out on a visit to the spa at La Mamounia. As it turns out, La Mamounia offers day passes, including sixty-minute massages, lunch, and full use of the pools and spa facilities. We booked immediately.
It was heaven.
After being massaged into jelly with argan oil, we had a delightful three course lunch (with sparkling rose - vacation!) and then dipped in and out of the many pools. Since it was close to 100 degrees, it was unbelievably refreshing. Oh, decadence!
After spoiling ourselves rotten, we headed back for a simple dinner in the medina and were early to bed (Daniel was thoroughly engrossed in this) so as to be well-rested for our last full day in the city.
Bright and early in the morning, after gobbling down yet another delicious breakfast at the ryad, we walked to the Medersa ben Youssef, a 16th-century Koran school, and poked around taking photos of all the amazing architectural details.
After the Medersa Ben Youssef, we had planned to spend a few hours wandering around the souks, but in the end, they weren't really for us. Everything was just a bit too much: too hectic, too overwhelming, too busy. It was hard to really get a look at anything while trying to dodge bikes, motorcycles, donkeys and other shoppers, so in the end we ended up ducking out earlier than we'd anticipated. We stopped for lunch at the Terrasse des Epices and regrouped.
After a restorative lunch, we walked down through the Jemaa el-Fna, avoiding snake charmers, monkey handlers, and henna artists, to the Bab Agnaou and Saadian Tombs. Jemaa el-Fna loosely translates to something like "meeting place at the end of the world." So there's that.
Side note: there were kittens everywhere! EVERYWHERE! Cute, but also kind of creepy?
Really, the city was just amazing to visit - the peachy pink buildings, the tagines and couscouses, the elaborate tile mosaics, direct, blazing sun, the smell of fleur d'oranger, the little soft-nosed donkeys pulling carts of cement...it was like no place I've ever been before. And isn't that the reason we travel?
After three days, we were off to the coast.