Tuesday, 28 January 2014

And finally Marrakech

We felt a bit sad to be leaving the restful environment of the mountains especially knowing how busy Marrakech can be. It only took an hour to get to the city so a nice short drive.

Due to the fact that the streets in the old part of Marrakech (the medina) are so narrow the taxi parked and then we walked to our Riad which was a different one to that which we had stayed at on New Years Eve. We said our fond farewells to Hassan. He was a fantastic guide and according to the rave reviews he gets on trip advisor we certainly aren't the only ones who think very highly of him.

The new riad was a bit more comfortable with a rooftop terrace and mint tea whenever the need arose! Our bedroom was side by side to the kids rather then across the courtyard which was great. After our last restaurant experience in Marrakech we decided to consult trip advisor this time. This place had great reviews and wasn't too pricey. It was hidden away down some little narrow alleyways and even though we didn't have a booking they managed to fit us in. It was a lot more expensive then we had anticipated - about the same price as France but we did get a bottle of wine which was a treat. As Morocco is a muslim country alcohol is not readily available. The wine we had though was actually Moroccan wine and very nice. They also had a bit of variety in their menu - not just tangine!! The food was lovely and the kids especially enjoyed their creme brûlée for dessert after not having any desserts while on the tour except for mandarins.

Inside Pepe Nero Restaurant.

Penelope with her creme brûlée.

The next day we were met by our guide at 9am and off we set to explore Marrakech. First stop was the Bahia Palace. Unfortunately parts of it were closed for renovation so we didn't get to see the gardens. We still got to have a good look at the beautiful rooms where the Kings wives stayed though.

The riad at Bahia palace.

The ceiling in one of the wives rooms.

We then set off through the streets taking in all the sights and smells of the busy street traders.

Herbs and Spices for sale

Meat for sale on the side of the street. Not sure how it would smell when it gets to 40 degrees in summer.

One of the storks of Marrakech.

The Moroccan people are into their homeopathy remedies and there are lots of little shops selling all sorts of potions and oils. Our guide took us into one where we were given a demonstration and talk about a few different remedies and what they are used for. We ended up buying some of course!
All sorts of interesting potions and remedies!

Next stop was the Saladin Tombs where the sultans children's, wives and those that worked with him are buried.
The inner tombs

The tomb of the children of the Sultan.

Hannah and Jasper getting their picture taken with a water catcher. There are lots of these guys around Marrakech and if you pay a euro you can have your photo taken with them.

Next historic site was the Koutoubia Mosque which is the tallest building in Marrakech and no buildings are allowed to be built taller then it. It also has lovely gardens which we enjoyed sitting down in to have a break from the heat.

Lastly we walked to the Jemaa El Fna square where we saw monkeys, snakes, vultures as well as all sorts of amazing things for sale. We felt sorry for the poor animals especially the monkeys being kept on chains for the entertainment of tourists. The kids were very keen though on having a snake draped on them. I was more anxious about the snakes lying on the ground and that one of the kids was going to stand on one as they were the same colour as the ground and still very sleepy.

Yes James had a turn too but not Penelope or me!

Walking the twisty alleyways of The Souks.

Amazing things for sale.

By this stage we were all a bit tired and hungry so we said goodbye to our guide and found a restaurant for lunch. It was nice and tasty and we had a circus group entertain us.

Delicious chicken couscous with chickpeas - yum!

After lunch we popped back to the riad to get rid of our jumpers and then headed back to the covered market. We had great fun haggling for teapots and earrings although I found it all a bit stressful and probably got ripped off. I wanted to buy some silver earrings for Penelope and myself. I bought them from two different shops both guys reassured me that they were silver but when we had a closer look later discovered that mine weren't. Oh well all part of the experience I guess!

So many teapots!

We wanted to head out to the Marjorelle Gardens which had been designed by a French painter called Jacques Marjorelle in 1924. It fell into disrepair and then was rescued by French designer Yves Saint-Laurent. The gardens were lovely even though they were quite small. We had decided to take a horse and carriage out to the gardens as we had seen lots of these around and thought it looked like fun! We were walking across the square and a driver stopped and asked if we wanted a ride. We eventually agreed on a price although we thought it was still expensive. We should have walked on and gone to someone else but decided he would be ok. We hadn't gone far when he was stopped as he was suppose to wait at the pick up point but had jumped the que by picking us up. We then got a bit further and he stopped to pick up a girl he knew which we thought was very odd. We arrived at the gardens and rather then going around the way the other carriages had gone he had gone the way which would make it easier to carry on to where his girlfriend wanted to go. The problem was that we were on the wrong side of the road and had to cross an incredibly busy road. I lost it at this point and was not happy at all and told the driver so. It was a bit frustrating but we didn't let it spoil our outing.
In the carriage.

Our dodgy driver!

In the gardens where it's quiet and tranquil.

The amazing cacti in the gardens.

We decided to head back to the medina - this time by taxi!

In place Jemaa El Fna at dusk.

Setting up for the night market.

We had a look around the night market but we were so harassed by the stall owners trying to get us to eat at their eatery that we just put our heads down and kept on walking! The night market was busy, chaotic and colourful but we decided to head to a little restaurant we had seen near our Riad. It was fantastic with great food and great service and about a quarter of the price of the meal the night before - although no bottle of wine or creme brûlée.

The next day was our last day in Morroco. We woke to a beautiful day and after packing and then breakfast on the roof terrace we set off.

One final wander through the Souks.

The garden at the mosque.

Our tour guide the previous day had told us about the gardens at the Mamounia Hotel. The gardens are open to the public and were just gorgeous. We had to walk through the hotel to get to the gardens and it was a very opulent place - Penelope was quite keen to stay there but we had to carry on.

The pathways through the hotel gardens.

It had turned into a gorgeous warm day and we were very sad to say goodbye but it was time to head back to Toulouse.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 20 January 2014

Trekking in the Atlas Mountains

We woke to a stunning day.

Waiting for our breakfast on the terrace of the guest house.

We had suppose to go on an overnight trek, walking for five hours then sleep overnight in a mountain hut. We had decided not to do this due to the fact that it would be very cold and we were not sure how the kids would get on. We were very glad we had made this decision because Penelope was still recovering from her travel sickness and was still quite unwell. We decided instead that Jasper, Hannah and I would go on a shorter walk and James would stay at the hotel with Penelope then after we got back he would go off for a bike ride. We had a very leisurely breakfast on the terrace and then met up with Hassan and the muleteer plus The mule - called Bella. We set off up the hill with Jasper and I walking and Hannah on Bella.

Having a rest at the top.

We found some snow - just to remind that it was actually winter despite being warm and sunny!

A view over to the mountains behind us

Jasper's turn

Hannah on the mule too.

Walking into the valley.

Hannah wasn't great at sharing on the mule so Jasper decided it was probably easier to walk.

A football field at the top of the valley!!

Hannah decides to let Jasper have a turn on the mule.

Back down the hill through the trees.

We had a great walk, such a beautiful place!

We got back to the guest house and had yet another amazing tangine for lunch sitting in the sunshine on the deck.

The mountain bike guide arrived and James set off up the hill for a fun couple of hours on a very small bike!
A view from the top.

Having a cup of mint tea at the top - there were little teahouses dotted all over.

The tea house.

James on his bike.

Looking down into the valley.

Penelope thankfully had started to feel better and managed to get out for a little walk down to the shops to get a drink and was feeling well enough to come and have some dinner.

The next day we woke to yet another brilliant day.
Our room in the guest house.

Ready for our walk.

Penelope was feeling heaps better. Even though we were heading back to Marrakech today we decided to do a decent walk and then drive back later in the afternoon - thus making the most of our last day in the mountains.

We had a different mule today - called Jacqueline. We walked up the way that we had come down the previous day.

Walking on the mule trail.

Walking up through the village. Penelope and Jasper happily sharing a ride on Jacquline.

Heading over to the other side of the valley.

Having a break, which of course included a glass of mint tea!

A boy taking his herd of goats up the valley.

Airing out the mats on the roof of a house.

The view across the valley to the town we had walked through.

A house down in the apple trees.

Our guide Hassan was lovely and always took great care of the children especially Hannah.

The path though the hillside village. The funniest thing was that as we walked into this town we could hear the women talking to each other as they just stood on the roofs and balconies of their homes and yelled at each other.

As we were walking down the path we heard a loud 'Oh no' and then a soccer ball came flying over our heads. It took a few minutes to decide who was going to run down and get it - I guess the needed to decide whose fault it was!

This is where our lunch was cooked.

We had lunch in a Berber house in the village. The host was very kind and we had a lovely lunch.

The view outside the Berber house.

Jasper getting his very own Berber headscarf - Cheche.

Hannah with her girl version.

Beautiful Penelope

All dressed up

Where we bought our carpet

Thankfully our mules weren't this stubborn!!

The fantastic guest house we stayed at.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad