Our final day in Marrakech was initially overcast and a bit cool – perfect for walking! We went to visit the Majorelle Gardens, located just outside the medina walls in the Gueliz (New Town) with its beautiful cactus plants, palm trees, and bamboo – the guidebooks list these Gardens as the second biggest “must-see” in Marrakech, trailing only the Jemaa el Fna.
They were a labor of love for the French painter Jaques Majorelle, who had come to Marrakech in 1917 to recuperate from an illness. He first built a small studio, which he painted cobalt blue, a color widely used throughout the Atlas Mountains, and then sourced plants for his garden over the next forty years. He opened the gardens to the public in 1947; they were restored by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge in the 1980s.
The gardens are small and intimate, with a winding pathway and numerous places to stop, rest a while on a bench, and listen to the birds and the wind through the bamboo, but at first when we arrived, there were three tour buses and a line of tourists waiting to buy tickets.
We camped out at a cafe across the street, and waited for the hordes to move on to their next destination. Sure enough, within a half hour, the Gardens returned to relative peace, and we went in, and enjoyed a pleasant stroll. Afterwards, we went over to eat a disappointing lunch at what was supposed to be an excellent pizza place – ah, the perils of paying any attention at all to guidebooks! We have seen that they’re completely unreliable when reviewing places to stay, but if anything they’re even less so when it comes to places to eat! Tali has reminded me a hundred times that we are looking to write the guidebooks, rather than follow them, and of course, she’s quite right..
By then, it had started raining, so we ducked into the Cafe du Livre, right next door, where we hung out until dark, writing and talking. We went back to Cafe 16 for a light dinner, then took a taxi back to the Mosque close to our Riad.
After a drenching rain that lasted all night, Tuesday dawned with a blue sky and crisp air – clearly summer is over here in Morocco! We checked out of our Riad, happily left Marrakech, and headed back again into the High Atlas Mountains…fresh air, incredible landscapes, peace and quiet, small rural villages – perfect!
Yesterday’s rain had left the many mountain passes and river crossings of our route in an anxiety-producing condition, but our Suzuki mini, and God’s universal love for ALL his children, even foolhardy travelers, got us through the mud, near-washouts, and narrow, narrow roads with the occasional oncoming truck (for whom slowing down is clearly sacrilegious).
It was an eight-hour driving day, our longest of the trip so far, but we were rewarded at the end with a delicious couscous dinner and a comfortable bed at the beautiful and restful country estate of Monsieur Hassan and his talented wife Malika, the Palais Saguia, located just a few kilometers from Taroudant, which we will explore tomorrow.