Friday, 7 March 2014

March 7th

Let’s start with last night’s dinner!  Chris and Hanna had a tureen of harira soup including a sweet almond, honey and sesame flavoured pastry that you put in the soup, which is very traditional during Ramadan when breaking the daily fast.  I tasted a bit of the soup and it really was delicious with a subtle flavour of fresh coriander leaf.  I had the chicken briouattes which were samosa style pastries and also very good.  We then all had trout which made a welcome change from tagines.

Impressive city walls
Today, we left Meknes and drove for about an hour to Fes, which is the oldest imperial city and the 3rd largest city in Morocco.  Our 1st impression on driving in were the huge, crenulated sandy coloured city walls that line the side of the roads which are most imposing and impressive.  Thanks to the very good instructions from the Riad we found the parking area very easily.  From there, having paid the parking attendant, some porters bundled our bags into a large trolley and wheeled them for about 2 minutes to our riad – for that we were charged about €10!!

The riad
The riad is fabulous – wasn’t sure what to expect, but it certainly exceeded any preconceptions that I might have had about what it might look like.  Basically, the rooms are on 2 floors based around a central courtyard with exquisite tiles and a fountain in the centre.  The courtyard has a roof, but when we were shown the roof terrace, we could see that the roof could be rolled back so that the courtyard could be opened to the sky.    The view from the terrace is superb and looks right over the sprawling city with some snow covered peaks way out in the background.
Note the snow covered mountains in the background

We were warmly welcomed and ushered outside into the small courtyard style garden to have a refreshing cup of mint tea whilst our host, Pierre, explained the lay of the land.  The resident riad cat came and inspected us and rubbed against both Chris and myself so I think we’ve been accepted. One of the 2 resident tortoises also came over to check us out and ate a fallen hibiscus flower right beside us, so obviously didn’t see us as a threat either.  The smaller male tortoise was keeping a low profile as apparently was still in shock from being pushed into the swimming pool by the female yesterday when he got too amorous.

Our room is fantastic and on 2 floors.  We have a small lounge and bathroom downstairs and then a smallish bedroom on the mezzanine floor under an exquisite painted wooden ceiling.  The room smelled divine when we went in and I was told they’d sprayed some orange flower water in there just before we arrived.  Our shower also comes equipped with some local toiletries that I can’t wait to try out.  We’ve been provided with a loofah as well, but I’m not sure if Chris will be using it!

Musee Batha courtyard
Once we’d freshened up, we set out on the recommended garden route walk to the gardens by the royal palace via various narrow winding streets in the medina.  We stopped off at the Musee Batha on route which housed various ceramics, clothing and calligraphy but the main attraction for me was that 60% of it was given over to a garden.  This was a large rectangular area bisected by 2 paths down the middle of each side with a fountain in the middle.  There were some impressive large trees in it including a magnificent ilex oak tree.

We finally made it to the main gardens after unknowingly illegally photographing a very impressive gate into the royal palace.  The guard came out and told Hanna and myself off and requested in a very nice way that we delete the image which we duly did.  Then into the gardens which were lovely – areas of succulents and cacti, huge bamboo groves, some lovely fountains and rills and some very impressive large trees and an avenue of huge palms.

Bou Jeloud gate
We then sauntered back via the beautiful Bou Jeloud gate and the medina back to our riad and are currently having a refreshing pot of mint tea on the roof terrace overlooking the city.  We spotted lots of soaring birds high above us which we’ve since identified as lesser kestrels – had no idea that they congregated in such huge numbers.  We also spotted an interesting group in some traditional form of costume congregating in the car park with drums and long horn like instruments – have no idea if it was a wedding or something but was clearly a special occasion and they were being filmed too.

We decided to have dinner at the Riad and had pre-dinner drinks down in the courtyard by the fountain.  We then went up to the 1st floor for dinner and had only been sitting at our table for a few minutes before we had a power cut. So, we ate our fennel and potato soup and our salads of red cabbage, fennel and courgette by candle light which was very romantic.  Then the power came back on so had our lamb tagine with apricots and prunes followed by a milk pastille with oranges and grapefruit illuminated by electricity.  I know which I prefer!!

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