Saturday, October 22, 2011

DAY 3; MOROCCO TRIP WITH PRINCESS DR BECKY LEOGARDO AND MICHAEL MANTZ

KEE@FSWMAG.COM
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Princess Dr Becky Leogardo in the silver lounge of Le Meridien Marrakesh

Day 3 OF MOROCCO TRIP WITH PRINCESS DR BECKY LEOGARDO AND MICHAEL MANTZ ON 17 OCTOBER 2011

DRIVING 3.5 HOURS FROM CASA BLANCA TO MARRAKESH!

Today we had breakfast as usual in the lovely sunken lobby restaurant and checked out for Marrakesh or Marrakech, the fabled city of romance and beauty.

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Stunning view of Hassan II Mosque from my room at Royal Mansour Le Meridien from Casa Blanca
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My trusty Leica camera took this picture from the 7 floor of my bedroom at Royal Mansour Le Meridien!
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The tallest religious building on earth is Casa Blanca's landmark since 1993

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The garden in Le Meridien Marrakesh

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Fountains are essential in Islamic gardens

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So lush and green

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A private corner with playing fountain

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Yellow trumpet flowers steal the show with their showiness!

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Al fresco patio facing the garden infused with the heady fragrances of flowers



Michael Mantz hired a Renault Megane for 400 euros (RM 1,600) and off we went with Princess Dr Becky Leogardo at the back as she prefers the back seat to avoid direct sun.

First we made a detour to Corniche, a beachfront promenade that reminds me of Cannes and Nice as well as Brighton. The Corniche offers several kilometres of panoramic views of the Atlantic. Although the wind was not howling and the weather was just too pleasant and amiable for words, the surf was strong and foamy with waves crashing and pounding the beach.

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The beautiful and well maintained Corniche beach promenade at Casa Blanca

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Boutiques and trendy cafes line the promenade

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Unlike Argadil, the seas are stormy in October in Casa Blanca but the many swimming clubs offer Olympic-sized pools

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Contrast between serenity of manmade pool and Nature's roughness

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The calm and the stormy sea

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Stately poles and equally stately palms

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The minaret of Hassan II Mosque can be seen from the promenade of Corniche

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Michael Mantz had a look-see too

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By law, all buildings in Marrakech or Marrakesh must be painted this lovely peachy, dusky-pink colour which is particularly enticing!

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The buildings in Marrakesh are all identically coloured!

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This well designed building resembles the front of an ocean liner

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Sofitel hotel

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Hotel in the city centre

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This hotel blends modern design with traditional windows with alcoves

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Palm trees really contribute to Marrakesh and Morocco's identity

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The Katoubia minaret and mosque is Marrakesh's most important mosque

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The fortified walls of La Mamounis hotel keep the riff-raff away

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La Mamounia exterior is stark but the interior is pure luxury

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The same peachy tone is painted on walls of palaces and commoners' shops and abodes


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The new generation and the old conservative one live in harmony

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She did not seem too pleased with my photography

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Horse carts are still used in the Old Town

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Enroute to the Kasbah









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The garden in the inner courtyard of Le Meridien Marrakesh was so heavily fragranced with flowers like jasmine I thought I was in paradise!

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The Rose of Marrakesh contribute to the beauty of this perfumed garden

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Elegant palms provide support to lesser plants

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The garden at Le Meridien Marrakesh was as lovely at night as in daytime

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Beautiful lightings working their magic

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You cannot smell the scents from the flowers but the smell is divine

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Fountains are an integral part of a Moroccan garden

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Dramatic indoor tent does wonders to the decor too

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As we had ground floor rooms, our rooms open out onto yet another garden but this one had no fragrance as it was more open spaced whereas the inner courtyard was more enclosed

There was no swimmer in sight so it must be very dangerous to swim in the sea at this time of year. However, there were many swimming clubs with ridiculous names like Tahiti and Hawaii which have Olympic sized pools so one can swim without getting drowned by eddy currents that seize and drag you down to the Flying Dutchman’s Locker.

I saw a huge McDonald’s restaurant by the beachfront with an offer of RM 8 for a meal so I guess this is the most popularly heavily patronised joint along the Corniche.

We passed many splendid villas and expensive bungalows. However, their architecture can be improved as most seemed to be very big boxes and rectangles lightened by curved arches, elegant columns and breezy balconies. Bougainvillea plants are highly favoured.

The highway to Marrakesh is new and now it takes only 3 hours or less if you speed. But do not speed over the limit as there were traffic policemen every few hundred metres as we left Casa Blanca and when we neared Marrakesh.

The scenery was relatively monotonous and not breathtaking so Princess Becky went to sleep but I stayed awake to keep Michael Mantz company.

Marrakesh is simply DIVINE!

ALL the buildings are painted rose-pink to match the colours of the desert and Atlas mountains. It must be the law here as all the buildings are similarly coloured so like Jaipur, Marrakesh looks like a pink city.

We arrive at the New City which left me breathless. It was purpose built like Cyber jaya. Unlike Cyberjaya which has 1 million different designs, dissimilar shapes and any-colour-will-do-as-long-as-you-pay attitude, the new buildings in Marrakesh are all uniformly coloured dusky rose and even look like they came from the same artist’s brush. All the buildings are relatively low rise but well maintained and look spick and span. Though different, each block is united by same paintjob and design.

The star is Theatre Royal which dominates Mohammad VI avenue, named after the present King. We thought of staying in a hotel in the heart of the old town which was filled with traffic and people weaving through cars, taxis, motorbikes, bicycles and donkey carts but the hotels were more backpacker than Shangri-La so we gave up and checked into Le Meridien Marrakesh. After all, we stayed at Le Meridien Casa Blanca and liked it so much so Princess Becky decided we should all stay at Le Meridien Marrakesh which turned out to be an excellent decision.

What stunned me most was the garden. As I strolled into the garden from the lobby, I was bowled over by the fragrance from the jasmine and other scented flowers! The smell was so strong and over-powering I stood still ad simply inhaled and inhaled nonstop! I had never entered a garden so laden with fragrant flowers emitting such strong fragrances to seduce my olfactory senses! In fact, I was suspicious and wondered if the scents were manmade and released through hidden pipes! But no, the flowers were real and I smelled them and yes, they were releasing their natural scents! Even in botanical gardens run by government agencies the fragrances were not so strong and usually so subtle I could only get a whiff now and then.

But the garden that separated the lobby from the rooms was truly magical though it was average sized but flaunted a fountain pool and two other small round fountains.

Even more amazing were the flocks of birds swarming the trees each evening, chirping madly and merrily away! The small brown birds were definitely real and not operated by batteries as I made sure of that! I just found it hard to believe the birds would fly everywhere in flocks, descend and ascend the trees which seemed to vibrate from having so many descending on them each time. The bird songs lasted for 2 hours each evening and many first timers stood still in astonishment to watch the whirring birds and inhale the intoxicating floral emanations! I highly recommend Le Meridien Marrakesh!

Our rooms on the ground floor opened onto the lush gardens and had garden chairs and table for us to sit in the cool evening with drinks. All very charming and lovely and well worth the 140 euros (RM 560) for my single room and 160 euros (RM 640) for a double inclusive of breakfast. At Le Meridien Casa Blanca it was 220 euros per room (RM 880) but we had free unlimited WiFi, free soft drinks, evening cocktails and alcohol drinks from 6 to 8pm.

Dinner was at the Italian restaurant by the pool and after that I went for a stroll. I was surprised there were so many policemen! There was one policeman with Alsatian dog every hundred metres or so! This must be the safest town in Morocco!

King Mohammad VI has one of his 10 palaces here which may explain the tight security and sense of safety everywhere. The roads are clean, the countless palm trees nicely trimmed, the grass lawns manicured and roses bloom in great profusion everywhere.

This is a prosperous, pretty and postcard perfect place though there are no glitzy malls. We went to Al-Marwa mall but it was like any mediocre shopping centre, boring and brimming with nondescript boutiques and shops.

The only Louis Vuitton boutique was at Sofitel hotel while La Mamounia has Dior, Ferragamo, Chopard, Gucci and various designer brands. There are no malls ala Pavilion or KLCC and the only cities with such malls are Casa Blanca and Rabat the capital.

THE END