Monday, 15 June 2015

Our trip to Marrakech!!

This time last week we had just gotten back from our holiday in Marrakech. It's somewhere I've always wanted to go, and we managed to pack so much into our 5-night stay that it felt more like hardcore travelling than a holiday! Having said that it really was an amazing place and such an experience. Here's the best of what we got up to:



The flights: We managed to get some really affordable flights through Ryanair, about £250 for two return journeys. The flight out was pretty early but it meant we had arrived by 11am and got get straight to exploring. I really rate Ryanair for shorthaul - cheap and cheerful but with everything you need available in-flight. We also did carry-on only which saves a fair amount of money!





The digs: After some careful researching we booked ourselves into a Riad for the duration of our stay. Riad Jona is just a 5 minute walk from the main square, Jemaa el Fna, but provided us with a surprisingly quiet oasis in which to relax away from the craziness.

Breakfast was a yummy, sweet affair and a rooftop pool and terrace gave is ample space to lounge in the sun in the afternoon when the heat (a steady 38C in the daytime) got too much. The staff were so helpful and accommodating and had plenty of local recommendations, as well as a handy map they took us through.








The sights: I haven't listed every place we visited but there are countless historical sights in and around Marrakech. One of the most beautiful places I've ever been was the Madrasa Ben Youseff, an old religious school. The mosaic work was perfect, and you can wonder in and out of all the rooms for views of the courtyard and it's 'basin'.

My favourite attraction by far was the Jardin Majorelle out towards the new city. It was home to Yves Saint Laurent, who the street is named after, until his death in 2008. He even had his ashes scattered here. It was a beautiful blue oasis amidst the dry, dusty heat of the outside world and even contains a couple of shops and a museum. We could have spent all day there!

We also took a somewhat involuntary trip to the tanneries when a pushy local ushered us away from the main markets and up towards the leather district. It was fascinating and I would recommend going for a look, but only with an official guide. The guy that dragged us here got us into the most uncomfortable situation when we tried to leave without buying anything (exit through the gift shop, anyone?), and we then got very, very lost trying to find our way back in the midday heat. While most of the locals were nice and helpful, make sure you give a firm 'no' and keep walking if you think they might be shifty.





The eats: If there's one thing you must do in Morocco it's try the food. From tagine and couscous to pigeon and dates, it was some of the most flavourful, soul-soothing food I've ever eaten. We tried all ends of the spectrum, from street food (eat with your hands to avoid the questionable cutlery and you'll be fine!!), to high-end.

My favourite places by far were a very modern cafe by the Jardin Majorelle called Kaowa - where the above wrap was from - and a small brasserie just off the main square. I can also recommend Cafe de France on the square for its iconic views and stellar ice cream, and the Patisserie des Princes for all your dessert needs. The best thing about the grub? Sooooooo cheap compared to the UK and Europe!





The shopping: Marrakech is famed for its vast, busy souks (markets to you and I) and you'd be missing out if you didn't delve in and attempt a spot of bartering. While the stallholders will try and sell you stories about their products being hand-carved or stitched by ancient mountain communities, most of the manufacturing, especially for metal, leather and wooden goods, happens in the souk workshops themselves. We found we could get prices down to even as much as 15% of the original, grossly inflated asking price so do not pay the first price you're given.

Don't be afraid to get stuck in - they can spot tourists a mile off and will try and profit as much as they can! From the souks we came away with several lovely small gifts as well as a tea set for ourselves! We also found that Friday and Saturday (being the Arab 'weekend' with Friday a holy day) were much quieter so made for a much more chilled out shopping experience.

We also found in both the surrounding area and up on Rue Yves Saint Laurent some more modern, upmarket stores selling beautiful homewares and trinkets. Joined to the Kaowa cafe was 33 Rue Majorelle, a boutique store in which I would've bought everything if it wasn't for my tiny suitcase limiting me!

***

There are a few more things we did on our trip that I'll be blogging about in the near future, but that about sums up the gist of it. Our week was busy and hot but we also found places to relax, ate some gorgeous food and really enjoyed immersing ourselves in the local culture. I think we'll definitely be back in the future as there wasn't time for absolutely everything on the agenda. If you're thinking about visiting, stop contemplating and get booking!
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