For part one of our holiday click here...
After a few days of relaxing and taking it easy in Essauira it was time to explore Marrakech so on day five after a final breakfast at Le Jardin de Douars we headed back to Marrakech via another pre booked transfer - which meant we didn't have to negotiate the tiny streets of the medina to locate Riad Hikaya where we were staying for the next three nights. On arrival the owner John (an Arabic speaking Englishman) was there to greet us to his small Riad which he spent four years renovating. This place was great, really small with a lovely team of Moroccan staff, a nice little heated pool in one of the courtyards and a relaxing roof terrace. We only had one room for all of us so it was a bit of a squeeze at times but it worked fine - next time I might just book two rooms next to each other.
In the afternoon we hired a guide to give us a tour of the medina, having been to Morocco before I thought it would be good to have a guide for our first day to help us get our bearings and also stop us from getting too hassled by anyone else wanting to be our guide... however Marrakech has become a much more chilled out place since my last visit - although you still do
get a lot of people talking to you it's not nearly as aggressive as I remember it being from my first visit.
The guide was recommended by our new friends back at the Jardin de Douers and he was a good knowledgeable fellow... I wonder if we could have found a more child friendly guide as we did end up walking a loooong way and it may have
been better for us to do a couple of more manageable chunks. Henry was fine in the backpack but Coco got a bit whiny until we bought her a chupa-chup type lolly. Wish we'd got that at the beginning! She did however count over 60 animals and this time branched out to include not only cats but also dogs, donkeys, horses, monkeys and snakes. At least I think she counted the snakes.
In the evening we all ate together on the roof terrace with a couple of patio heaters to keep us warm. Day time temperatures were lovely but it did get pretty cool as soon as the sun went down. )*(See notes below for weather info!)
Day six -
The riad was very close to the Saadian Tombs so we paid them a visit on
Saturday morning. I'd explained what they were to Coco and about the
tiles there being 1000's of years old and she decided she was going to
draw some. So even though the complex is pretty tiny we actually spent
quite a bit of time there pottering around (and trying to stop Henry
treating all the fences/barriers as climbing frames). Then we slowly
headed back to the Riad for lunch and a relaxing afternoon of kids in
the pool and us reading etc before going back out to the souks and Jemaa al Fnaa in the early evening.
Day seven -
When we were doing our internet research back home Hugh stumbled across the company Fleewinter,
the owner Alisdair was really helpful with tips and he recommended a
trip to the foothills of the Atlas Mountains so we booked a daytrip via Fleewinter (we also booked Riad Hikaya through Fleewinter).
So on Sunday morning we were picked up direct from the hotel for an
hour an a half drive out of Marrakech and up into the mountains.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day, not a cloud in the sky and the air was so crisp and fresh. Once we got to the village of Imil we met our local guide and Catrina the mule who was going to be giving the children a lift. Then we did a pretty gentle walk up the mountains and around through walnut tree groves and small clusters of houses and eventually to another guesthouse for lunch. Our guide Driss was lovely and really helped to look after Henry who was on and off the mule like a yoyo and was insisting on jumping rather than walking... Henry quite took to him and I heard him telling him about what he did at nursery... at least I think that's what he was saying, something about play dough and books. It was so nice for me and Hugh to be able to look around, chat and take photos and not be on constant Henry watch.
It's funny to go to these tiny villages and see people with all the same wants and needs that we have and yet such different surroundings in their everyday life. It always makes me ponder about the choices I've made (and been able to make).
On the way back to Marrakech, while I was thinking about life the universe and everything Coco and Henry fell fast asleep... ready for some last minute pool time before our final supper - the only evening we actually had cous cous.
Day eight -
We left pretty much straight after breakfast and had a smooth
journey home arriving back just in time for dinner.
Holiday Notes - Packing, Weather & Food:
As previously mentioned we used two companies to book our holiday in the UK - both of them by chance are actually located here in Chiswick... totally random. Smith & Family are often associated with higher end boutique hotels but I would say that Le Jardin de Douars was actually excellent value for money coming in at only just over £100 a night for all of us for bed and breakfast - plus the food was delicious and good value. One of the main reasons we booked there was for the heated pool - at this time of year in Morocco you wouldn't be swimming in an unheated pool.
Fleewinter as mentioned above were also really helpful and are definitely worth talking to (as in pick up the phone and chat...) mainly as they have LOTS of properties but in our experience they were excellent at recommending things based on our needs and Riad Hikaya was a great find.
Our mountain guide Driss also has his own company and having done our little trek with him I would wholeheartedly recommend him - his site is called All Treks Morocco but of course Fleewinter also helped us book this day and have a variety of tours they can organise.
accident we actually discovered quite a good way little loop hole which allowed us to fly with just cabin
baggage on Easyjet. I think we are pretty good at traveling light,
so three good sized cabin bags between us gave us enough room for all
our clothes/shoes for a week. Also we decided to not worry too much
about taking masses but instead planned on getting laundry done there if
we needed to. The fourth cabin bag was for toys,
books, ipad, camera etc and all the stuff we would potentially need to
entertain the children inflight.
On easyjet you are
allowed to take two pieces of baby equipment for free if you are
traveling with an infant or young child so we could take our back-pack
carrier for free and check it into the hold - this also meant that we
could put all our wash bags into the ruck-sack bit of the carrier and
check them in so we didn't have the faff of the less than 100ml of
shampoo etc at security.
Traveling like this saved us quite a bit of money as obviously we didn't need to pay to put any bags in the hold. On
the way home we actually offered to check bags so
we didn't have so much to haul around in the airport... although the
children loved pulling along the cases (and in Henry's case sometimes
riding on them) it was much easier not to have to wheel the cases
Weather & Packing: Before
we went I was finding it really hard to imagine what on earth 20
degrees felt like and think of what to pack. The weather we had when we
were there was lovely - somewhere between 18-22 each
day I think, which basically meant it was cool in the mornings and
evenings but lovely and warm in the
sunshine during the day, kind of like a nice, average summer day in the UK.
So my packing was basically based around layering, most days I wore sandals, a light pair of trousers and t-shirt or long sleeved top and I pretty much took a light jumper out with me most days too (but I like to be warm). Hugh on the other hand was in shorts and a t-shirt everyday.
Coco; who still refuses to wear trousers, we took a couple
of skirts, a couple of dresses, 2 t-shirts, 2 long sleeve tops one jumper and her hoody plus
tights and socks... she did end up wearing the tights some days along
with her sandals (she loves the socks and sandals look, but then so does Hermes for AW14 apparently). Henry wore pretty much the same as me and ran around in his crocs most days.
Toys & Books We
didn't take much in the way of toys and books as in my experience we've
always slightly over packed in this area. Coco had a couple of chapter books and actually happily read one to herself on the plane home. We took a few books for Henry, favourites with lots of look at and talk about like Stick Man and The Little Red Train. Then we had our cappi felt tips and a stash of paper the mini automoblox for Henry and Rush Hour for Coco both of which made excellent travel toys. Rush hour was especially good, Coco was given it for her birthday, it's a problem solving game and we actually all enjoy having a turn.
One of our must-have travel accessories to go with the ipad is a head phone splitter - that way both children can watch something with headphones together. We put a couple of films on the ipad; Jungle Book and Kung-fu Panda I meant to find some new apps before we left but didn't get around to it and we didn't miss them. Ones that we have which are always popular with my kids are Brushes & Endless Alphabet. I'm quite tight when it comes to apps!
to my food poisoning paranoia we basically pretty much only ate in our
hotels... but both provided really good food and especially in the
evenings it was much more relaxing for us to be able to all eat together
as a family but be near to our room so the children could go to bed
when they wanted to. A couple of evenings Henry ate earlier and went
to bed and Coco stayed up with us. Les Jardin de Douars had a set menu every night which was really good and included a 'menu enfant' too which was normally much more European in style. A very crowd pleasing lasagne one night for our two.
In the Riad all the food was
made to order so we ordered our evening meal at breakfast and had two
delicious tagines and I think we managed to order lamb pastry parcels
every single day. Fresh from the oven these things were devine.
One thing I'd love to do next time is to book a Moroccan cooking lesson.
That's about it folks.
I don't know why I suddenly decided to go into so much detail - but it's sometimes quite useful to see what works for other people so I thought it was about time I shared a few of our tips.