Sunday, 7 February 2016

Marrakech, I LOVE YOU - part 2

This post is my notebook of where we stayed, where we ate and what to remember for next time. For where we went and what we did, see part 1.

Where we stayed

We stayed in Riad Chi-chi, which was right in the medina, near the souks and very close to Medersa Ben Youssef and Musee Marrakech so an ideal location for us as we were only there a short time and it was so easy to access everything we wanted to do. The souks are a maze and cars can only get to a certain point but with airport transfer, we were met at the drop off point by a lovely man from the riad called Saleh who showed us the way and gave us a map.

A riad is a traditional building with all the windows of the rooms facing inwards to a central garden/courtyard and has a roof terrace on top.

Riad Chi-chi is so peaceful and beautiful and it was lovely to walk through the chaos of the medina and plunge into calm. The décor is subtle, creams and whites and stone, white Moroccan lamps, cream pom pom blankets, pot plants, rose petals and a small fountain.

When we arrived we had mint tea and biscuits while filling in forms - lots of form filling for tourists in Morocco. We had to fill out a little card as we arrived at the airport, when we arrived at the riad and when we left the airport.



Our room had this beautiful big window seat - so romantic and pretty! 



View looking down at the central courtyard which you eat meals/breakfast in.


Delicious breakfast of bread, eggs, pancake, yogurt and fresh orange juice with butter, jams and honey in the mini tagines. So cute! We also had 2 meals at the riad which were utterly delicious. We had the most romantic dinner in the courtyard. We were the only people staying at the riad this week and had the courtyard to ourselves and our table was sprinkled with rose petals and the little fountain was tinkling. We both had vegetable tagine that night - big, soft, delicately flavoursome slices of veg with broth in the bottom that we mopped up with bread. Yum!


View from the roof terrace, enjoying the peaceful sunshine!


Where we ate

Nomad
Beautiful and high quality restaurant right in the souks, the roof terrace is so romantic, covered in plants, strung with little lights and overlooking the streets. The staff were so nice and friendly and everything so pretty. Even our bottle of water was wearing a woven cover. I had a really good, intensely flavourful vegetable tagine (if you're vegetarian, you'll have this a lot but they are amazing) and Stu had calamari. We shared a moist and intense flourless orange cake slice after. Mmmm.

Koawa
This cute café is right opposite the entrance to the Majorelle Gardens and serves fresh juices and lovely light meals. Stu said his beef wrap was incredible and I really enjoyed my roasted goats cheese drizzled with honey on toast with a bed of salad. Also, I adore fresh juice. I try not to drink too much of it because it's so high in fruit sugars but I was on holiday  and the juice was so amazing and affordable that I was going to have as much as I wanted.


Orange, carrot, ginger juice and grapefruit juice!


My lunch at Koawa - what a pretty plate!

Earth Café
A vegetarian/vegan restaurant in the medina - yay! We had originally planned to eat at one of the stalls in the square that night (jmaa el fna) but it is very hectic and meaty in the square! Touts are on you at every step! All the guidebooks recommend eating in the square but I don't regret trying Earth Café instead - maybe we can eat in the square on another visit! Earth Café was lots of fresh juice (of course) and veggie stirfry, giant spring rolls and burgers. Really fresh and flavourful and pretty cheap too!

Café des epice
This fantastic café is across a little market area from Nomad - from the roof terraces you can see the other from whichever you are in. The whole café is filled with sunshine, straw hats, beautiful Moroccan pillows and smiles. We sat on the roof terrace (obviously) and people watched to our hearts content. We both took a gamble and ordered 'vegetarian sandwich' with no idea what it was going to be and were thrilled to find it was a dream open sandwich, half with sliced tomato, half with mashed avocado. Amazing!



And of course everywhere you go will have the traditional mint tea. It is very, very sweet so I have to admit I didn't love it but the teapots and little glasses are beautiful and I love the ritual feel to drinking it. I do very much recommend Moroccan biscuits/cakes though. We actually bought ours from a patisserie at the airport - tiny and beautiful. My favourites are little sesame cookies and little orangey cakey biscuits thickly dusted with icing sugar. I have actually found a recipe for sesame cookie and will try it soon!


Things to remember!

Be polite but wary

Many people in the medina will try to scam you/ask for money for helping you when you didn't actually want any help. Stay calm and polite and don't let this upset you! I'm quite good at deflecting attention, mostly by not making eye contact with strangers so I may not even notice they are trying to get my attention. If I do make eye contact, I smile politely and say 'no thank you' while moving on confidently. As I would in London when confronted by people with fliers, people who want me to set up a charity direct debit or people who want me to go to some comedy night! Stu is much more open and friendly than me and struggled with this a little and it is hard because we never want to think that people are lying to us. It's important to remember that the streets do not close! This is a trick to either get you to walk past certain shops, or to get you lost so you will pay for help to find your way. We were caught out by this our first night, too tired to feel confident that we knew our way!

Get a map app

We used MarrakechRiad and it was invaluable - it has offline maps with loads of restaurants/museums etc marked out and you can select the ones you intend to visit as favourites so your map just has your relevant places marked. It works with GPS and because the map is pre downloaded it is free to use when out and about. This was utterly essential in the warrens of the souks for the first 2 days! It provide loads of information and handy tips about haggling etc too. Everywhere I've listed that we ate at, is marked on this apps map.

Haggling isn't so awful

The tips on the MarrakechRiad app were really helpful when it came to haggling. I'm not a fan of shopping and definitely not a fan of haggling (am not a sales person at all!) so I intended to have none of this. However, once you wander the souks it is hard to stay strong. The products and designs are so wonderful. We wanted some small plates anyway so we went for it and we love them! I wish I had the money and space to have also bought a gorgeous pompom blanket! Important points we were told are to be calm and polite but not too obviously excited, research reasonable prices, set your upper limit in your mind and don't offer any more than you intend to pay.


Guidebooks will tell you not to just buy in the first shop you go to but we did this (I hate intense shopping and we had already been wandering around and seen wares from the outsides of shops, it is all fairly similar) I'm not going to beat myself up over this, we got a good price, love our plates \nd had a good experience. If you want an easy life, have a good eye and/or are not going to be super picky over minor differences between shops and their goods, why not? The important thing is that you are happy with and love the product you buy.

I would recommended visiting a shop outside of the main crowded streets of the souks as these are less crowded and more likely to offer a good price. This is what we were advised and it worked out pretty well.

I wouldn't call myself a haggling fan, but it certainly wasn't the nightmare I had expected and the salesman was very nice.





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