Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Happy New Year! Scott and I are just back from a little break in Marrakech, which sits at the foot of Morocco's Atlas Mountains.

Unlike our trip this Fall to France, which I loved but was majorly fast-paced, this week was spent barely moving from poolside loungers except to readjust the sun umbrella or sip freshly squeezed orange juice.

The sun felt so good after months of rain, fog and wool. And although England stays pretty green all winter, I missed the earthy, alive smell that plants emit in the heat. And of course the smell of flowers.

Our hotel was tranquil and relaxing (click on photos for larger view):

After the first day I stopped consulting my French dictionary and striving for intelligent sentence construction (too much brain activity). Instead, I settled for saying things like "The sun is very strong. We our tea in the shadows, please?" and "It is possible for us the red wine?"

I had the good fortune to have brought a selection of truly non-put-downable books: Bonfire of the Vanities (really amazing); The Rise and Fall of a Yummy Mummy (airport impulse buy--enjoyable); Valley of the Dolls (I'm sure it was smutty when published in 1966); Birdsong (WWI novel which I'm partway through); and The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (a 25 year study of how children's personalities are shaped by their parents' breakup, as well as how their adult relationships and parenting are affected--really fascinating).

Scott was similarly absorbed with a thick non-fiction account of WWII in Northern Africa, Nickle and Dimed, and there may have been a science fiction novel but truth be told my nose was so far into my own books I don't really remember:

But it was not all sedentary. We ventured out to the mountains one day for a hike:

And we did a little shopping:

And we visited Turkish baths. My favorite, Les Bains de Marrakech, was like being at the Peninsula Spa in NYC. Tranquil, understated, elegant. We had our own private hammam -- a beautiful marble steam room. The steam was luxuriously thick and we'd periodically douse ourselves with buckets of icey water. A pair of jovial Moroccan women came at intervals to scrub us with loofah mittens and various products (eucalyptus oil, mud). After an hour or so we were taken to a peaceful open air lounge with soft beds, lush carpets, trees, birds, soft music and mint tea. We had almost fallen asleep when they came to take us for our one hour massages. Afterwards, we floated out smelling like jasmine bushes.

By 9pm on New Year's Eve we were feeling so relaxed that we weren't sure we could even stay up until 12 (having been asleep by 10 all week). We were nestled into our room, practially in PJs, nursing a bottle of nice Moroccan wine, and watching an old Oum Kalthoum concert on TV.

We briefly considered going to bed and waking at 5 am to watch the ball drop in NY but decided that would be really pathetic.

Our hotel was throwing a big New Year's Eve bash and we had reserved a table for dinner. We decided to check out the festivities and settle in for what we hoped would be a quiet dinner. We were initially horrified to learn that we were seated at a large group table. But our fellow diners (a couple in their 60's from Rome and their single friend and a couple from Casablanca) turned out to be lively and fun. The conversation was a mix of broken English, French and Italian, and Scott was voted the official time keeper and was given one of the Italian women's watches to make sure we didn't forget about midnight.

The thing about champagne is that it sneaks up on you. A glass here, a glass there and before you know it you're either ready to dance til dawn (even, in our case, to really bad Latin music) or you very much just want to sleep. In my case, it was one followed immediately by the other. So while I did make it to midnight, I was sound asleep not long after.

The next day we pulled into the airport parking lot right next to a rakish Hugh Grant as he supervised the unloading of his luggage from the back of an SUV. But even a random celebrity spotting does not change the fact that air travel in the fog of a champagne hangover is not pleasant. And it is especially not pleasant when you are traveling from a place like Marrakech where there is little order and everything is a mad dash. All I have to say is, thank God for the British. Unlike passengers on every other flight called at the same time as ours who mobbed their gates in a jostling, bag-laden shuffle, the passengers on our flight to Gatwick formed a sedate, orderly queue and that was that. Spot on!

Many more observations about the trip, but that's all for now. More soon!


boz said...

luxuriously thick steam. no kidding. I was thinking of going to morocco in January, I'll have to find out some details from y'all. happy holidays

Jim Teacher said...

This sounds awesome. My gal has been wanting to go to Morocco for forever, but I had no interest--until now.