Take 12 Trips March: A Moroccan mini honeymoon
As part of my mission to ‘Take 12 Trips’ in 2014, I’m taking at least one trip every month – which can be anything from a local day out to an international trip. After January and February had me bundling on the layers for trips to the north of England, it was time to warm up with my first international trip of the year to Morocco in March. And it wasn’t for just any old trip, it was my honeymoon… well one of them anyway. When it came to planning my wedding last year, the big honeymoon question was probably the toughest decision to make. We had no shortage of ideas for amazing destinations, from Belize to the Maldives. But when it came down to it, I couldn’t quite bring myself to blow the budget on one long-haul luxury trip. So instead we’re stretching it out and having a few mini-honeymoons spread throughout the year. And trip number one took us to Morocco for a week in Essaouira and Marrakech.
Now I’m normally all about maximising my budget, but that’s not really getting into the spirit of honeymooning. So we threw in a few more luxury touches than normal, like getting private transfers rather than the public bus for the three-hour trip to Essaouira, and starting off with our BA Business Class flight from London to Marrakech. From the separate security clearance and drinks in the lounge to the proper meal and Champagne onboard, it was well worth the splurge. But frugal travel habits die hard, so although we went out in business, we came back in economy. The price difference was too high to justify – plus as we had to drive home from the airport the free bar would’ve been wasted!
Our first destination was Essaouira, out on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast. I spent a couple of weeks travelling around Morocco a few years back, but stuck to the mountains and deserts so this was new territory to me. A former hippy hangout, Essaouira has kept that laid-back feel. It’s also seriously picturesque, with photo opportunities around every corner. There’s the medina, with its warren of whitewashed buildings with freshly painted blue shutters. Or the ramparts that surround the old town, built of honey coloured stone and lined with cannons. It’s not just a tourist town though, there’s a big shipbuilding and fishing industry that keeps the port area buzzing with activity. Flocks of seagulls swoop around the bright blue fishing boats as they come in in the evenings. Then beyond the port there’s a wide sandy beach which arches around the bay. But it’s not a spot for sunbathing – the ferocious winds along the coast mean that more likely to find people windsurfing or kite-surfing.
After four days we reluctantly tore ourselves away from Essaouira to head back to Marrakech. Morocco’s biggest city was a shock to the system after the gentle pace of Essaouira. We stayed in a traditional riad in the north of the medina, surrounded by the souks. Inside it was as quiet as a museum, but as soon as you stepped out of the door you were overwhelmed by chaos – motorbikes speeding through narrow streets, stallholders trying to tempt you inside, piles of rubbish on the streets, a constant flow of young men offering directions (via their friend’s shop of course). And that’s before you even get to to the heart of it all, the Djemma El Fna square, where you run a gauntlet of snake charmers, musicians and henna tattoo ladies. There are quiet places you can escape though, like the mosque gardens or the roof terraces high above the streets, where you can relax and breathe for a moment before plunging back into the madness.
I have lots of posts coming up on where to stay and what to do in Essaouira and Marrakech over the next few weeks. You can also check out what the other Take 12 Trippers got up to in March here. In April I’ll be sticking closer to home again, with two trips to my old home city London where I plan to do all the tourist things I never did when I lived there! Are you taking part in the #Take12Trips challenge?