After a decade long obsession with stained glass moroccan lamps, handwoven carpets and saffron spiced tagines, I finally made it to Morocco at the beginning December. It had been a busy few months for Mr O and I, so we arranged an impromptu getaway for a little ‘us’ time and a drastic change of scenery. Now I’ll begin by saying, I love a bargain, I know I’m not the only one. So when I received an email newsletter with a cheap flight deal to Marrakech I thought it was a ‘sign’. We travelled very cheaply with easyJet. And as the saying goes, buy cheap… pay twice. Well we paid for our ‘cheap flight’ again and again I can tell you. EasyJet on paper was a great choice and at £50 return each, I didn’t really expect much. What I didn’t expect however, was the appalling service of the ground staff both at London Gatwick and at Marrakech Merana. As I write this, I feel the white hot anger rising up in my chest just thinking about the treatment we endured at the hands of the Easyjet staff. I currently have an active complaint filed and I’m awaiting their response before I decide which version of my rant blog to unleash.
But let’s put the negativity to one side, (check back to get the full horror story and the update) and reminisce about the magic that is Marrakech.
I had initially wanted to stay in a Riad (a traditional moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard)for a truly authentic experience, however due to the spontaneous nature of our trip, I decided to err on the side of caution and book a hotel by a chain I trust.
I’ve been a guest at a number of Radisson blu hotels so I was confident that we would at the very least have a clean, comfortable room. I was right. After a horrendous experience with Easyjet , we were only too happy to be shown to our room for the night at the Radisson Blu Carre Eden.
Our first room was bright, airy and very clean. The decor was very modern (complete with selfie ring light) with subtle Moroccan touches, like a handwoven throw on the bed and a room partition in a quintessentially moroccan, geometric pattern. Outside, we had a lovely spacious balcony with beautiful poolside views. After an amazing shower (waterfall) , we slipped into an oh so comfortable bed and pillows as fluffy and soft as cloud carried us off to the land of nod.
The next morning, after breakfast, (a spread of moroccan pastries, fruits and mint tea) we decided to take a look around. The hotel itself is exquisite, the decor is plush with dark wood, atmospheric lighting and stunning pieces of art throughout. The mood is relaxed yet sophisticated.
The 5* Radisson Blu Carre Eden hotel opened in March 2016 and is situated in the Gueliz quarter atop the Carre Eden shopping mall. Now I know this doesn’t sound very appealing, but trust me, once through the hotel doors, you are transported into a beautiful oasis leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind.
Its fantastic for business guests as its located in the heart of the city, with a variety of restaurants and bars within walking distance, but equally great for couples and families as the rooms are clean and spacious, staff are attentive, and the outdoor heated pool will keep the water babies happy. There is a well equipped onsite fitness centre (I promised myself I’d use every morning…no comment) and the Eden Spa offering a range of treatments for face and body, hammams and more. The outdoor space in the hotel is actually quite genius, reminiscent of a modern hanging garden, the patio provides relaxing seating areas to soak up the sun, cocktail in hand. The infinity pool is really something, absolutely stunning to look at and it doesn’t hurt that its heated too. There is so much on offer here, you really wouldn’t believe that there was a multi story shopping mall, just a few floors down.
Tired and famished from our wanderings we had lunch at the hotel restaurant. Firstly, the service was impeccable particularly our Waiter Mousabbe who was so attentive (remembered our favourite drinks, my dietary intolerances and made great recommendations of food and activities) that by the end of the week, there was a blossoming bromance between him and Mr O, and secondly the food was amazing.
Lunch was a beautifully tender medium ribeye (‘the best steak ever’ high praise coming from Mr O), and for me, grilled juicy king prawns with fragrant coriander, freshly cracked black pepper and Himalayan pink sea salt. One word… delicious. We later had the pleasure of meeting the Executive Chef…. a charming gentleman, whose innovative menu kept us well fed and wanting more all week.
On our second day we hopped into a taxi and our friendly driver turned tour guide, took us to La Palmerie. La Palmerie is a large date palm oasis just outside of Marrakech where ATVs and camel rides are on offer. Mr O and I donned the tradition garb and saddled our fabulous ships of the desert ( fitting as our camels were called Beyonce and Shakira). We were led around the grove to take in the spectacular views of the palms, sweet smelling orange trees and the Atlas Mountains in the distance. At the end of our guided tour we were shown the customary moroccan hospitality with a drink of mint tea, as is very often the case in any establishment, business or residence you visit. You see, Moroccans are very hospitable and so we had copious amounts of tea on this trip, being a tea pig, this only made me fall deeper in love with the place. We were taken to the Medina where we peered through the winding alleys in search of treasures from precious saffron and hand pressed argan oil to embroidered silk kaftans and of course more tea. You want it, you can find it in the medina.
We were taken to the Medina where we peered through the winding alleys in search of treasures from precious saffron and hand pressed argan oil to embroidered silk kaftans and of course more tea. You want it, you can find it in the medina.
Our next outing was to the famous Jardin de Majorelle. Owned by the late Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge, this is one of the most visited sites in Morocco, stepping into the entrance gate you can understand why. The garden was designed by French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s, and the masses flock to see its incredible beauty, its collection of cacti from all over the world and numerous bird species. It is however most famously known for the vivid cobalt blue that is used throughout the garden and the villa that was once the artists workshop (now a museum). So famous in fact, that the colour was later named after Jacques ‘bleu Majorelle’. There is so much to see, every nook and cranny a discovery, every path more beautiful than the last. And of course the rose garden where Yves Saint Laurent’ ashes were scattered, the Majorelle gardens really is a marvel to behold an artistic triumph. It is a vibrant explosion of yellows, cacti greens and majorelle blues. As the sun set, the colours deepen, adding to the enchanting feel of this magical place. You really must visit whenever you make it to Marrakech.
I was invited by Mr… Chef extrodinare for a private culinary class and after trying the bootleg recipe offerings of Jamie Oliver, I was ecstatic at the prospect of learning from an expert. The recipe for lemon chicken confit, was simple but the taste divine. A tasty blend of fresh herbs, saffron, preserved lemon and olives to garnish, slow cooked for a flavourful, melt in your mouth confit, amazing. An hour of slow cooking passed and room service arrived with our special meal (lovingly prepared by moi), served with a variety of accompanying dishes, salads, bread and a selection of deserts, of course. The Radisson really exceeded my expectations in this regard, no request was too difficult, no effort too great. They really went above and beyond to make our stay, memorable, my cooking class was just one example of this. I was given the recipe, which I have since replicated at home and I can safely say I’m now the confit queen.
Next up was La Mamounia. Now if you’re on Instagram, I’m pretty sure you’ve come across pictures of the mosaic great hallway of La Mamounia and died several times. This place is the photo op ambrosia of the gods, snapchat heaven. Well I couldn’t go all the way to Morocco and not get in on the action. Mr O and I spent the day there, a very expensive day mind you, one cocktail is appprox £20 (they don’t tell you that on Insta). We explored the grounds, planned to have a spa session but thought better of it, enjoyed a delicious dinner, got my selfie, and got the hell out of there (any longer and we’d have to take out a mortgage). The place is palatial. The grounds are extensive and impeccably well manicured, the service is good, and the atmosphere oozes gentry. La Mamounia is grandiose ostentatiously luxurious, lavish and any other posh word you can think of. Its so opulent its mind boggling. Its a hotspot to visit when in Marrakech but be warned, visit at your own risk and armed with your credit card.
Our last full day in Marrakech was an obvious favourite as it involved a whole lot of pampering. Following our visit to La Mamounia, we decided we’d look for a more pocket friendly spa as Mr O had a mild coronary on seeing the treatment prices, . hassan our lovely Radisson front desk host recommended we try Les Bains de Marrakesh. Located right at the doors of the Medina, this dark, iron gated building is set back in a unassuming little alley. From the outside not very promising, but step into the gates however, and you are welcomed into a dark, traditionally decorated hammam. We chose a package which included a couple’s hammam and full body massage. We were escorted to a hot room(great for opening the pores) where we were both rubbed and scrubbed to within an inch of our lives. Our therapists (I guess thats what id call our hammam ladies)covered us in traditional black soap, and proceeded to exfoliate our skin using a glove I can only describe as being fortified, industrial strength sandpaper(I could have sworn i’d be leaving there looking like a sunburnt tomato, red raw). Tingling all over we were hosed down and then covered top to toe in a cooling clay mask. After a period we were again rinsed off and left on our own a few quiet moments to recover, before being transferred to the couples massage room. We had an hour long Argan oil massage which was firm and relaxing, a welcomed sensation following the assault by exfoliation. Our Masseurs were very skilful and thorough, Mr O’s snoring was the seal of approval. After our treatment we were treated to some mint tea and cakes, who could ask for more? All in all we had fantastic time and our butter soft skin was testament to the amazing effects of the hammam.
Upon our return to the Radisson, I was wonderfully surprised to find that we had been upgraded to a Business Suite for our final night. The amazing team had arranged our things to be moved to a beautiful room with great perks and even better views. The suite was beautiful, spacious and well equipped with all the added extras you’d expect, the Nespresso machine was Mr Os favourite. Issmil and Mr O had planned this little surprise without my knowledge (now thats incredibly hard to do) as a bit of celebration of our ‘courting’ anniversary (we are serial celebrators). There were scattered rose petals, wine, chocolate covered strawberries, a selection of deserts and a pretty little two person cake. We had a relaxed and romantic final night in Morocco and the Radisson Blu team made it all possible.
The next morning was bittersweet, we were looking forward to being home again, but as we said goodbye to new friends, we felt sad at leaving our new favourite place behind. Marrakech was such a wonderful adventure and the people were so welcoming that we know with great certainty that this was the first trip of many.
Cachet de Carew xx