Come Away With Me: Marrakech, Morocco
"Somewhere warmer and sunnier than London." That was my response to Mat's inquiry about where I wanted to spend our travel days last February. We had been living in London since December 1st and had seen way too little of the sun. I am willing to bet we were vitamin D deficient. And I was cold. Hubs pulled up a map and started to look for destinations that were south of the European freeze, and then crossed that list with places we could travel fairly inexpensively and where we could get a deal on a hotel. Morocco made the cut and we booked it. We actually arrived on Valentine's Day, and the second we stepped off the plane into the low 70's temperature I was in love with Marrakech: I heart Morroco. This was our last trip just the two of us before Faye arrived in April. Our babymoon. Traveling when you are really large and uncomfortable is different than when you travel without a human inside you. So days were not really packed with lots of moving around and exploring. Mostly we spent daylight hours by the pool and night time hours eating. The exception was Saturday. We headed to the main market and souks between the Jemaa el Fna and the Ben Youssef Mosque. It's a maze of never ending tiny shops selling beautifully hand-crafted goods, as well as its fair share of tourist souvenirs and items that probably had a "Made in China" sticker. When we first got to the market we realized quickly that sunglasses did not make the packing list and spent $6 dollars on two pairs of knock off Ray Bans (which we still wear to this day). Killer purchase. The main square is full of all sorts of craziness - the stereotypical kind that comes with the idea of Aladin and Arabian Nights. Snake charmers had their snakes in a trance, men with little monkeys had their monkeys doing tricks and women set up to do henna tattoo art on everyone's hands. I refused to get anything closer than across the road from the snake charmers. What happens when the snake is less than charmed? We saw one guy put his snake on a chick's shoulders as she shrieked. I generally have a no snakes rule, not even in a Moroccan market square, not for me. Too worried about getting close to an uncharmed snake, we walked through the center of the square to get into the spaghetti bowl of small souks. Both Mat and I were instantly picked out as easy targets - go figure. My blonde hair and baby bump apparently screamed "I want a henna tattoo" and two ladies were grabbing my arm and squirting ink on my hand. Simultaneously - I think they've done this before - a man with a tiny monkey was placing the monkey's hands on Mats shoulders. Both of us had to get a little rough with our "no," as the polite way did not work at first. I had a yellow stain on my hand the rest of the day and I think Mat was feeling ghost monkey fingers on his arm until we got back to London. Walking around the souks was incredible. In the mainly tourist sections the men running the shops called out, "Lady with baby come look" and "I have things for baby inside." On our way out one of the men said "Lady with baby and skinny man come look inside, just look!" Mat wasn't convinced the guy was talking to us. Yeah. Right. We ended our afternoon with a mint tea and a Sprite on a rooftop terrace that overlooked the market square. The views were beautiful views and watching how this culture functions was fascinating. We watched strawberry carts and market performers make their way from one side of the square to another before we grabbed a gelato on our way out. That gelato was ridiculously good, by the way. That evening we had planed to eat a traditional Moroccan meal somewhere but didn't have reservations as of that morning. We had been using the same driver service since we arrived at the hotel, and the guy who took us to the market that morning suggested a restaurant in one of the Riads. He said it was the best traditional Moroccan fare we would find; the street outside was chaotic but the inside was very relaxing, and that he would need to make us a reservation and order for us when he did. I looked at Mat and we exchanged "are we going to let our cabbie order our dinner?" looks. I nodded and we put our evening in the hands of a very nice Moroccan man we had never met. The driver picked us up for our meal that evening and when we arrived at the right street, we realized very quickly that there was not another non-native Moroccan around. The street felt like a movie scene. It was overly narrow and packed with food venders selling all sorts of flat breads, fresh produce, just butchered meats and drinks. The driver got out to walk us to the restaurant. I really thought that any minute Daniel Craig on a motorcycle was going to fly by us followed by a gang of Moroccan vandals sending oranges, apricots and lettuce flying as he went. We turned from the crazy narrow road onto an even crazier narrow ally with a single light with a little kid kicking a soccer ball in the corner. The alley viewed to the left and there appeared a beautiful wooden door. Both of our faces must have registered, "no freakin' way" as our driver smiled big and asked us if we would have found it without him - obviously we wouldn't have. When we walked in from the dark ally we were transported into an Arabian Palace. It. was. gorgeous. Hand tiled walls and floors, fountains flowed with jasmine scented water and rose petals and opulent glass chandeliers all around. "The street is chaotic but the inside is relaxing" the driver had said. Agreed, sir. We sat down in a room with six tables and enjoyed five courses of traditional Moroccan food. One being a starter of ground chicken with almonds covered in a layer of super thin pastry and topped with powdered sugar - sounds like something you would think twice about but if you get the chance, eat it. At the end of the night we decided it has to be one of our top five favorite meals in our culinary adventures thus far. Could not have been any better of an end to our Moroccan Babymoon. We didn't do a crazy Morrocan trip but we loved every bit of it (besides the monkey and henna moment). Put it on your list!