Memories of Morocco – a story in parts.

Jemaa el-Fna Square – the hub of Marrakech medina

PART ONE: Choices, choices…..

11 nights / 12 days in the Marrakech (Marrakesh) and Safi areas during March 2019.

#Morocco had been on our travel bucket list for many years and once, we almost did manage to book ourselves a holiday to Tangier at the Hotel Continental but we ended up changing our minds and switched to Cyprus instead.

As I said, it was a long time ago and the switch at the time obviously worked in our favour, otherwise we may not have spent 12 excellent years living and working in Limassol from 2004.

After our return to UK in the early part of 2016 and getting settled into a new home as well as an area which was fairly unexplored in the past, the first opportunity to take a trip to a new destination was in the early part of March 2019.

We were in the middle of a kitchen renovation and a small discovery of a wall tile triggered our taste for some #Arabic influence outside of our 4 walls and so, Morocco the Dream finally turned into Morocco, the Reality.

Planning a trip to Morocco was happening at last.

The tile which started our journey on the kitchen colour scheme and our “Road to Morocco”

After making a decision that we really didn’t want to try and “do Morocco” in one foul swoop as seems to be the norm for travellers or backpackers, we decided Marrakech offered us the best travel option of being able to fly in and out of our local airport.

Ideally, I would have loved to have taken in Tangier as well but it meant we couldn’t fly directly either out from UK or on the return leg, so knowing our love of all things Arabic it was taken as read that we would most definitely be taking more trips to Morocco in the coming years….

What was our choice then?

The decision was to base ourselves around Marrakech but rather than staying in just one accommodation, we wanted to get a feel of the traditional Moroccan “Riads” we’d seen in tv programmes and holiday brochures but we also wanted to be able to do some exploration a little further afield without it eating too much into our break.

First of all, we booked an 11 night return flight with easyJet to Marrakech from Manchester. The flying time is approximately 3hrs and 45 minutes.

Next, we began to explore our accommodation in Marrakech options based on their locality for the areas we wanted to visit and for their looks, of course!

The Accommodation Search:

We used accommodation website to make our reservations for 2 reasons:
a) we’ve always had excellent service with them and
b) we had a free cancellation option with each reservation just in case our plans went awry somewhere along the way.

We’ve worked with this company for many years and love the flexibility it offers. We needed it this time as one of our destinations meant we couldn’t pre-book our transport from UK, so everything was riding on us being able to book our return journey on the Supratours bus from Marrakech and we couldn’t arrange that in advance at the time. No foreign (non-Moroccan) credit cards were accepted when we were planning our trip but I believe this may since have changed.

Our first option of Riad Dar Moulay Ali, situated right in the middle of the walled city area of the Medina (old town) where all the excitement happens. We needed to be in a close and central position that we could explore all we needed to see on foot, especially Jemaa el-Fna which remains the main square of Marrakesh, used by locals and tourists.

We decided 4 nights in this first riad was a good choice for the ethnicity, compact size and the fact it had a great roof terrace as well as a pool in the central courtyard. However, knowing it wasn’t going to be an easy place to find as taxis are only allowed a certain distance into the medina and the streets didn’t all have names, we decided to ask the riad to arrange a taxi to collect us from the airport and that he would meet us at the drop off point to guide us to the riad.
This worked perfectly for us, the taxi was ready and waiting at the airport and the driver telephoned the hotel to let him know when he was close by.
It was a great idea as it turned out – the streets are very narrow, twisty like a rabbit warren of narrow entrances and doorways with no names.

You can read my review of our stay at Riad dar Moulay Ali here.

MOST IMPORTANT – Remember, if you’re planning to #Travel anywhere inside and outside of your home country, always take out Travel #Insurance, please – never leave home without it!

StaySure Travel Insurance gave me a special offer to share with my friends. I’m treating you to 20% off your first travel insurance policy. I’ll also get a reward.

An Annual Travel Insurance policy (for UK residents) also provides cover for UK travel if away from your home for 2 nights or more. It’s great for those odd short breaks!

A handy tip for finding your way around Marrakech and/or Morocco: we heard about the mobile app and decided to give it a try. Once you have the maps downloaded for the location you will visit, you can search without having the need for data. You can save places to your Favourites so sticking your accommodation in there when you arrive is a really good tip too!

This little app saved us a great deal of hassle on a number of occasions when we got lost in small streets with no names and no exits… we’ve continued using it ever since for all of our trips both overseas and in UK. We much prefer it to Google Maps.

Next choice, 7 nights in the Le Caspien Boutique Hotel (a large but more modern former riad) in the #Gueliz new town and shopping area of Marrakech was also ideal. Not only did it look fantastic with a huge Moroccan lantern in the central courtyard and reception area that came down from the ceiling 5 floors up, it also had a pool at the back, a roof terrace and a choice of 2 restaurants, one French and the other a Spanish tapas bar at the front of the hotel from the street.

To add to the mix, it was in walking distance from all the main shopping areas as well as the Supratours bus station and Marrakech railway station. We knew we wanted to explore so we thought this would be a good place to do it from as it cut the taxi ride from the riad in the medina to whichever transport method we went for.

You can read my review or our stay at the Hotel Le Caspien here.

All we had to do then was decide where else did we want to go for a few nights outside of Marrakech…..
After having being fans of Game of Thrones over numerous series, there really was only one place it could be. It meant a 3 hour bus ride in each direction as we decided rather than check out of the city hotel, we would keep the room on and our luggage could be safely held there and just travel with an overnight bag each. So Essaouira, a much smaller walled city and less hectic than Marrakesh situated directly by the beach on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco was the destination choice we went for, which put us in another riad in another medina!

Our accommodation choice here was the Riad Nakhla, again a smaller and simple riad with a roof terrace, a view of the sea but no pool this time, it wasn’t a necessity for this short trip.

We booked 2 nights here which was perfect for us as our bus got us to our riad in good time by 13:00hrs from Marrakech so we could enjoy the rest of our day – and we booked the return trip from Essaouira to Marrakech, again using the Supratours Confort Plus service (one bus per day) at 17:00hrs arriving into Marrakech by 20:00hrs.

To add here, on arrival in Marrakech we chose to take ourselves off to the Supratours bus station situated just around the corner from the railway station, where we made our seat reservations. We had the prices and times already to hand which we found during our search. Some information here.

For those who want to know a little more about Essaouira, take a peep here and I’m sure you will recognise those bastions from that famous TV series but if not, there’s also an article about the various locations that were used for filming in Morocco. Essaouira is shown at location number 3 along with some images.

So, that’s how it all came about!
The rest of our trip will follow shortly as separate blog posts, in bitesize chunks as well as individual accommodation reviews.

I hope you enjoyed reading so far xx

2 Replies to “Memories of Morocco – a story in parts.”

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