For our last few days in Morocco, we headed back to Marrakech for a brief stopover before making our way to the coast to see El Jadida and then on to Casablanca to catch our flight home.
Our base for our second stint in Marrakech was another riad booked through Airbnb, this time in a different part of the medina. The new location was definitely easier to find than the last one, though it was by no means simple. Being in a different part of town (roughly a 40 min walk across the centre of the medina from our last one) meant that we had easy walking access to some new restaurants and the Jardin Majorelle, the last attraction on our list for this trip.
The riad itself wasn’t nearly as nice as the first one. It’s not that there was anything wrong with it, the bar had just been set too high. This one did have two pools, which was lovely. The one on the roof, as last time, was really a cold jacuzzi. In addition there was a larger heated pool in the centre of the riad on the main floor . Otherwise it was more dated and clearly used solely for guests, unlike the last one which was a second home for a couple and felt that way.
The femme de menage, Leila, greeted us when we arrived then hung around with her friend awkwardly while we got settled in. Eventually they left, but this was a bit of a theme with her sitting in another room on her phone while we were eating or swimming. Not a big deal, but a little odd. In short, she was definitely no Saida.
Restaurants in Marrakech
This time around we were in Marrakech for two nights which gave us a chance to try two more restaurants. Nomad and L’Altitude 31.
In general the food in Morocco has been good, but not amazing. In Marrakech, we ate well for cheap after our bike tour and the rest of the restaurants have been generally pretty good. The hosts at our first riad had recommended a trio of restaurants with the same ownership, Le Jardin, Cafe Des Espices and Nomad. We tried the first two during our initial stay and both were pretty good.
Nomad, which seemed the most promising, required a reservation so we had booked that for our return to Marrakech. The space was nice but the food was underwhelming, particularly as it was the priciest.
The following night we opted to try L’Altitude 31, a reco from the owners of our second riad. The food here was very good. Perhaps not as good as the soaring descriptions on their website, but tasty nonetheless.
Paying homage to YSL
Not far from our riad, about a 15 min walk, is the Jardin Majorelle. French painter Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) bought the first parcel of land in 1923, adding to it in later years. An amateur botanist he spent years adding to the plant life, eventually opening it to the public in 1947 to help cover the costs. A series of bad luck (divorce and car accidents) lead to the sale of the garden and his eventual death in 1962.
The garden fell into disrepair and was on the verge of redevelopment as a hotel complex when it was purchased by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge in 1980. They restored and added to the garden over the years, including the addition of an automatic irrigation system. Today the garden is owned by a foundation they started in Paris.
Visiting the gardens it’s easy to see how the two artists, Jacques then YSL, could find inspiration for work in it’s peaceful confines. Just don’t go looking for it now as the thousands of daily visitors really take away from the serene atmosphere.
Negotiator Katy in her element
Having done some initial reconnaissance walking through the souk during our first few days in Marrakech, it was time for Katy to get her negotiation on. While she set out in search of deals on Berber rugs, Ella and I opted to stay back at the riad and have a splash in the pool.
For rugs, Katy contacted our first riad host’s rug guy. He turned out to be a great connection requiring no negotiation and leading to the purchase of two medium size Beni Ourain rugs with a small one thrown in for good measure.
On her way back, Katy stopped at a lamp shop to ruin some poor seller’s day. She got a good deal on two traditional lanterns (“you are getting Moroccan price, I get nothing”) and kudos from a couple of women who witnessed her hardball negotiations.
All we need to do now is figure out how we’re going to get it all home. Up next, a quick stop in El Jedida and a long day’s travel back to reality.