Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Round the world Trip: Marrakesh

We were pretty pumped to be on our way to Marrakesh but once we arrived we'd be without a car the rest of the rip. So in the best interest of getting our deposit back on the rental car we decided to spring for a car wash before returning the car. It ended up costing us all of 40 dirhams which at the time was about $4.50. Amazing! With our baggage in hand we hailed a cab for $8 to take us into the medina to our riad.

Unfortunately, due to the very busy, very narrow streets of the medina our cab could only take us so far. We had to walk the rest of the way, which thankfully turned out to be a very short distance. We were in awe upon entering our hotel, the Riad Clementine. Owned and operated by a wonderful French couple, Antoine and Angela, the riad was beautiful and we just knew this was going to be a spectacular stay.

We quickly found out by the loud gossiping that a very large group of British women were also staying at our small and intimate riad. We knew we'd be fighting them for the riad's pool space as since they'd descend on it en masse.

Some of our nights were spent venturing out to the Ville Nouvelle or “new town” of Marrakesh. This area is full of upscale dinning, plenty of mainstream shopping, and was clearly where people with money flocked to be entertained. Since we no longer had a car, all of our explorations from this point on were by foot and our first night, as we head to Villa Nouvelle was no different. With map in hand we thought we could find our way. However, this was not the case so we asked a young guy for directions. In return we got a personal escort to walk us straight there, with no strings attached. It was quite impressive for both us.

We found many great spots for dinner and drinks so if you find yourself in this area definitely check out these couple places.

-       CafĂ© De Poste for drinks
-       Kechmara for food and drinks

Marrakesh is a lot easier to maneuver than Fez and so we opted out of a guided tour and opted in for the "Shadam self guided tour." In one day we hit up the Jewish Mellah, Saadian Tombs, El Badi Palace and Koutoubia Garden. Helpful tip from a Jew, don’t go to the Jewish quarters on Saturday, everything will be closed. 
Another day was spent visiting Majorelle Gardens, which was once owned by YSL and currently houses his memorial. Having worked in fashion for the last 10 years I was quite interested in checking it out. Plus, its just beautiful and highly recommended. Just be sure to go before 10am to beat the crowd. The rest of the day hours were spent shopping in the infamous souks (getting best Berber price), visiting a fairly small but well known photography museum and a quick visit to the Medersa.

A must see is the notorious Jema Al Fena Square. There are tons of food stalls, shopping, and even seminars on health and biology (an uneducation). My recommendation: get there around 4pm so that you can explore and enjoy during the day light, grab dinner at one of the many places (we ate at Chez Chegouri but there are much better places), then head back out as this area gets crazy when the sun goes down.
Jema Al Fena
Adam and I have always enjoyed Moroccan food and if you ever find yourself in Randwick, NSW, Australia then do yourself a favor and head to Moroccan Feast .  That being said, I had done some research and found Maison MK, a highly recommended hotel, spa and restaurant on TripAdvisor, where we could get private authentic Moroccan cooking classes. It began early in the morning with Chef Omar and went through the afternoon. It was a great experience that we continue to reap the benefits from.
Maison MK
Our last day in Marrakesh was spent having a relaxing brekkie and chilling by the pool before heading out to catch our bus that would take us to Essouira, the Moroccan beach town.  Turns out there are two types of buses that will get you to the coast one the locals call “the locals bus” and the other is for tourists. Do not take the “the locals bus” be sure to look for the one called Supratours! The ride was a no AC, painful, occasional beggar-filled, 3.5 hour ride.

We arrived at our hotel, Thalassa le’Medina, in time to settle and get dinner. We were located directly across from the beach and walking distance to the medina. This beach town is much smaller than the other cities we had been to. Its airy, manageable and there is plenty to keep you busy for a weekend. Be sure to get some fresh fish and seafood since this is what Essouira is known for.

On our way back to Marrakesh before our next flight, I ponder, "how strange its going to be back in the land of English and how exciting it will be to see my family!" Next stop… London!