Traveling with a large group has it's advantages and disadvantages. On the good side, Jen and I both agree a large entourage of good looking men is essential. They are like the perfect accessory to complete the outfit. There is also a safety factor. Encircled by these guys, ranging from 5'10 to Dick at 7'2, the local male harassment is minimal. The flip side is getting out the door for any outing is a challenging two hour planning-preparation-peeing ordeal. The *usual* start is somewhere between 11am and 1pm. For our last day in Marrakech, Bill announces an early expedition. The adventure starts at 8am. In or out!
OLD: Bill, James, Dick, Steve and me are out the door on time. The only speed bump is a lack of coffee-to-go options. Without the preferred morning jolt, we still head to El Badi Palace. 'Palace' is a misleading term and Steve is more than a little disappointed. It's not your Cinderella dream. It's the past without the marble. The ruins are expansive with pools and even small orange groves in the main area. It's rocky and dusty terrain. The catacombs are definitely not handicapped accessible and also tough for people with a short inseam. Regardless, we follow Dick in to get a closer look. The ancient and darkened passageways are cryptic spooky. We do a walk-through and a walk-out. Besides the sheer magnitude of the Sultan's home, the most interesting sight is huge storks' nests along the wall tops.
We are on to Tombeaux Saadiens. The final resting place for the Saadien family. According to the guidebooks, it's a huge tourist destination so to avoid lines arrive early. We try for the early-bird special but maps spin us around. At one point, a big 'tomb' sign with an arrow leads us into a rug store. (I have to admit that is a good scam. Technically, the tombs are probably directly behind the store.) We finally arrive but after a few busloads of folks. The mosaic detail on the tombs is beautiful. Still, the ornateness is underwhelming compared to earlier excursions.
We head back to the riad to break into afternoon groups. Some of the guys are going to a spa to experience the old world bathing experience. Others are heading to the roof for a little sun respite. I'm joining Steve, Shawn and Jen on a tour of the finer things in life or what I like to call 'Steve's Marrakech.'
NEW: Once again, behind-the-wall is decadent enchantment. We start the hotel tour at Hotel la Mamounia. Seventeen acres of luscious, green oasis. Gorgeous! I'm pretty sure "Sex in the City 2" filmed the lunch scene at the poolside cafe. The lobby and lounge has a 1920's art decor velvety richness. We melt into the landscape on the terrace with afternoon cocktails. Between the soothing libations and peaceful environment, we take turns enjoying the luxurious bathrooms inside. No bartering for toilet paper here! All the necessities are covered and than some.
Next stop Royal Monsour. We regroup with our peeps on the terrace for happy hour. This eight month old hotel is 'riad suites.' It's so new, as with other developments underway, it's not in the guidebooks or on the map. Owned by the His Majesty Mohammed VI, the plush swank is ten-star extravagance. We are treated like princesses. I need to point out that despite the cover-up protocol, women are respected and cherished more than in the U.S. Jen and I are always served first. At MVI's place, we receive the more generous pours... no cleavage required! While we are at Royal Monsour, we don't see any other visitors just friendly staff. Our server takes us on an extensive tour of the hand-carved, ostrich-covered, Moroccan-glassed rooms. The hotels-of-the-rich-and-famous are magnificent spectacles.
The group splits again as "The Others" go to gawk at Mamounia.... been there, done that! The "Steve's Marrakech" quartet move on to our third hotel, Naoura Barriere. After the majestic double whammy, Naoura is not as elaborate but still splendid. A blue lit pool is a posh touch to the surroundings. We decide to eat at Fouquet's, an offshoot of a famous restaurant in France. Unfortunately, my Bon Appetite is limited. We had been enjoying a steady afternoon diet of nuts, olives and MoMo's cheesepuffs. Having overindulged in good living, we are all a little spent. The fine dining experience is cut short and I ask for a doggie bag for my seafood risotto. Jen dialogues with our server about my special needs. I learn an important protocol lesson. To the French, to-go is a no-no. Karma balances out my offensiveness to the French with an in-your-face hissy fit by a local. A young punk gets up in my grill with a shrieky-wild-eyed verbal assault. For our last day in Marrakech, I had skanked around without a scarf. My naked neck was exposed to the not-so-gentle sirs at the marketplace, Djemaa el Fna (loosely translated Assembly of the Dead). The cover-up continues....