Morocco has been on my wish list for years but never got there until this past weekend for a dear friend’s birthday bash. It was an outstanding trip and I raced around trying to cram in the highlights in three days. Here are my five musts:
Riad El Fenn With no disrespect to the grand dames like La Mamounia I much preferred being located within the Medina with its proximity to the souks, and to authentic city life. Owned by Vanessa Branson (sister to Richard) the hotel is absolutely gorgeous with its interlocking gardens, small plunge pools and romantic tucked away enclaves. The roof turned out to be my preferred spot for watching the epic sunsets, and listening to the evening prayer calls. I saw a number of rooms but I liked ours, 10, with its deep blue walls and huge bathroom, the best.
Shop at 33 Marjorelle.Think of it as Marakkech’s answer to Colette (on a far smaller scale). This concept shop right by Yves Saint Laurent’s famed restored gardens (his ashes were scattered here), has lovely jewelry, caftan-like PJs (which I picked up for my three year-old,) exquisite, and well-priced glassware, and beautiful cotton napkins. Afterwards, a trip into YSL’s former grounds provided a moment of quiet away from the hectic city.
Drink at La Mamounia. I am a sucker for a hotel bar. I like a long cocktail list, soft upholstered seats where I can watch the world go by while listening to the lobby band and eating bar snacks. Here there was the added treat of outdoor, lantern-lit tables on the terrace, under the palms. The negroni was not the best we’ve had, but the people-watching was stellar.
Lunch at Terrasse des Espices. I have to be honest. I was not completely blown away by the food in Marrakech (I found even the touted La Maison Arabe underwhelming), but I did find that the exquisite design of the restaurant spaces made the somewhat disappointing food less of an issue. After shopping at the marvelous souks (I particularly liked the spice market), the Terrasse makes a great spot to get a second wind with good light food and fresh juices. The shops underneath in the Souk Cherifa, like Maison Bahira (the cotton cover-ups are just gorgeous) and Lalla (where I bought a beautiful bag), are not to be missed.
Design inspiration at Beldi Country Club. Only ten minutes from the airport, a new friend said I must stop in for lunch. Let’s not talk about the food (opt for a drink instead) but get your camera out for all kinds of landscape design inspiration. Acres of beautiful rose gardens lead to long lap pools, little garden alcoves become installations (my favorite, suitcases stacked up alongside a motorcycle) and each pathway lined with even more beautiful flowers and olive trees than the last. Tip: If you have an evening flight stop here en route and use the pool (a privilege available for about 25 bucks a day)