Thursday, 27 December 2012

Marrakech, Morocco

I spent four days in Marrakech with my sister last week. Four wonderful days where no-one needed me and there was nothing to do but sleep, eat, read, go to the spa and spend time in the souks doing my Christmas shopping.

We stayed at the amazing Les Deux Tours, in the Palmeraie area. I cannot recommend this hotel more highly and if you are looking for somewhere relaxing and beautiful for a retreat from life, this is it. {I first came across the hotel on Liberty London Girl this time last year and thought it sounded a lovely place for a winter break}

In case anyone is planning or wanting to plan a short winter break, here's what we got up to. Marrakech makes a great choice (to my mind) for a winter break - it's warm but not hot (temperatures were between 18C-20/22C during the day time) but cosy in the evening. We were happy in short sleeves and in a bikini on our sun terrace, but it wasn't so hot as to be in any way oppressive. In the evenings, we were glad of the fireplace in our room and we required the extra blanket on our bed. Marrakech is also exotic enough to be interesting and out of the ordinary but is only a 3 1/2 hour flight from Gatwick. French is also widely spoken as well as Arabic, making it just that little bit more accessible.

As there were only 9 occupied rooms whilst we were staying at Les Deux Tours, we were upgraded to a private pool suite, complete with an enormous bed, working fireplace, huge bathroom with bath and shower and private sun terrace. We didn't actually use our pool, as it was shaded and unheated (although we could have paid to have it heated had we wished) and we had full use of the main pool which was heated and had barely any guests. 

We arrived on the Friday evening and were met by a driver from Les Deux Tours which was a treat in itself. Last time I arrived at Marrkech airport I had to haggle for a taxi in a dirt car park. Actually, they have built a new terminal there in the intervening years, so there is now a taxi rank. Nevertheless, arranging the hotel driver means that the price was agreed beforehand and it was delightful to step off the flight and into a waiting vehicle. After being shown to our suite and changing for supper, we went to the beautiful restaurant for supper. Our package included two meals in their restaurant and we ate a wonderful feast of freshly prepared traditional moroccan food. 

On the Saturday we awoke and headed to the sun dappled breakfast terrace for the buffet breakfast which was continental in style with additional traditional moroccan foods including pancakes made to order. It was a wonderful start to the day, and to the weekend, sipping coffee and eating fresh oranges and bread with butter and honey whilst soaking in much needed vitamin D and watching the breeze ruffling the leaves of the olive trees.

We spent the rest of Saturday morning in the spa/hammam at the hotel. We had pre-booked traditional hammams for 11am. We needed nothing at the hammam save for ourselves. We were provided with paper 'culottes' and dressing gowns. My sister and I went in together and had no issue with being naked in front of each other; if you visit with a friend and find that uncomfortable you might wish to book hammams at separate times. The spa is of ottoman design and beautiful. Contrasting soaring arches with squared off stone benches and straight edges. We spent some time relaxing in a hot steam room before being covered with savon noir and scrubbed whilst lying on a marble slab in another, slightly cooler room. I could literally feel my  tensions and anxieties being sloughed off with all my dead skin. We then returned to the first room for a rose clay mud wrap and finished the treatment in the plunge pool before relaxation in a atrium lying on loungers and drinking green tea. 

In the afternoon we headed into the town, getting dropped using the free hotel shuttle in the Guilez, or new town. We wanted to go to the souks in the medina, or old town, which is within the old city walls. It is a little surreal getting out of a mini bus near a McDonalds and other shops such as Aldo and then walking along a dusty road before joining throngs of people in the Djemma El Fna and plunging into a market place which sells a million of a few things over and over again, but goods aside appears not to have changed for hundreds of years.We sought out savon noir and argan oil, having the same conversations over and over again until we found a vendor from whom we were happy to buy from and liked his price. We ate our supper at stall 31 of the food stands at the Djemma El Fna, having walked around and chosen one where many locals were eating and the emphasis was placed on the people actually eating rather than luring in more and more people. The aubergines were amazing. 

(this post is getting rather long. I'll be back with part two later)

my sister swimming in the pool at Les Deux Tours | sitting by the fire | lanterns decorating the walkways | sunset from our roof terrace | floor tiles | Jardin Marjorelle | looking through doorways at Les Deux Tours {all images mine}

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A Winter Holiday

palace walls 2
palace walls

Marrakech, Morroco. Turns out good things come to those who wait. Some how, the flights we wanted but weren't available are now, and the hotel we wanted to stay at announced a new, even better, deal. And so, we are indeed off to Marrakech for four days, for a small winter holiday. Four days, sans bebe. Four days to sleep, read, eat, have spa treatments and wander in the souks. Four days, to try and soothe my soul and lift my spirits.

I've been to Marrakech before, 5 years ago. A rather different kind of backpacking holiday. That trip I packed one carry on rucksack. This time, I can take a whole case. A whole case of books maybe. I don't remember the last time I read more than my google reader.

That said, I also would like to do a little sight seeing. Last time we didn't visit the Jardin Majorelle, so that is top of my list, but I would also love to hear any other recommendations. Likewise, any lovely shops or little cafes for lunch. We didn't really have anything on our list on the last visit, just wandered around and made decisions on the hoof. This time, I would like to have a back up of options, just in case.

Photographs by the amazing Peonies and Polaroids

Loving lately: Aesop

These products have made my day. I hardly get any time to myself these days and showers are usually snatched when the baby is sleeping. Each weekend though I make sure to have a long shower and use Aesop's Geranium Leaf Body Scrub which is doing good things to help smooth both my arms and my mind. Small steps. Small steps.

Monday, 3 December 2012

An afternoon in Alexandra Park

Last week the baby and I walked the long way home from her swimming lessons, through the park and past Alexandra Palace. The sun was blazing and although it was absolutely freezing it was a beautiful afternoon. The baby, of course, slept through it all. Which meant I had more time to pause and look at the view and take photos. The building was catching the sunlight in a way that I just couldn't catch, frustratingly, but I thought I'd share these regardless.