Monday, January 18, 2010

The London/Marrakech Express, Part Seven

For five days, the mountains had been beckoning. With infinite patience, they waited for the travellers to arrive. There was no hurry. Sooner or later, the travellers always came.
(Daybreak in Marrakech, 12/31/2009)

We headed east on the empty highway. The hot sun rose over the jagged peaks, sucking the color out of the landscape and transforming it into a black and white photograph.

We drove on. As we approached the foothills, we could make out the thread of a narrow road tracing a route back and forth across the slopes.
(Atlas Mountains)

Higher and higher we climbed. Our driver raced enthusiastically around the hairpin turns, dodging donkey carts and schoolchildren with the zeal of a man who has made peace with his life.

A road marker announced we were entering the land of the Berbers.

Imlil was our destination, a tiny village tucked into a small cleavage of bedrock in the High Atlas mountains.

We left the driver to smoke cheroots at a roadside café and set out to explore on foot.

All the long red carpets everywhere reminded me of Hollywood, except that here, instead of being stepped upon by stars, they pointed the way up toward them.

A fruit stand displayed a vintage set of scales and weights. As life has been, so it continues to be.

So many fossils, so little time.

Everywhere, one is confronted by a brutal beauty which at first shocks and then settles into a deep understanding.

Eight year old boys have no such adjustment issues.

As Piero and Luca wandered ahead...

...I spotted something that made me stop in my tracks: a horse wearing a Technicolor dreamcoat. I needed an immediate communion with that saddle.

A closer look revealed the remnants of brightly colored rugs, tassels and worn yellow leather fashioned into a patchwork masterpiece. It was equestrian couture, a la Dries Van Noten.

Unfortunately, the saddle was not for sale, but this traditional Berber-style necklace was. An assemblage of glass and ceramic beads, old coins and shells, I loved it at first sight.

On the way down the mountain, we realized we were hungry. Piero remembered seeing a pink wall with an especially ornate set of wooden doors set into it. As we rounded a bend, we saw it and gestured our driver to stop.

The doors were open now...

...and up a cobblestoned drive, we spied a pink castle. Was it a private home? A hotel? Would we be allowed in?

Piero saw the brass plaque first. He grabbed my elbow and pointed to it. "You're not going to believe this."

We walked up the main path, through a cool dark entrance hall...

...into a courtyard, through another archway...

...and came face-to-face with this view.

In true Bransonian fashion, Sir Richard purchased the property in 1998 when he spotted it during one of his famous balloon expeditions.

The handsome waiter (all the staff are hired from local villages) recommended an Atlas Breeze -- mint tea, juice, herbs, sugar. All I can say is Berber knows best.

It would have been nice if my son could have put down the menu for a moment, but even in Paradise, you can't have everything.
Unwilling to think about the fact that in twenty-four hours we would be going home, we deemed the subject verboten and discussed how delicious our tagines and cheeseburger (you-know-who) were instead.

Morning of departure
Rain dotted the cobblestones for the first time since our arrival. Luca didn't want to leave and tried to persuade us that he'd be fine on his own by giving us his best street-savvy look.

Like all great journeys, it ended too quickly.

But inshallah ("God willing"), we'll be back.


Hotel Details:
La Sultana Hotel, Marrakech
Rue de la Kasbah,
Marrakech 40000, Morocco
Tel: 024 38 80 08

Avenue Bab Jdid, Marrakech
Tel: 024 38 86 43

Kasbah Tamadot, Asni, Atlas Mountains
Tel: 024 36 82 00

23 comments:

Jane said...

Those mountains. Just something about them. I wonder are you able to go further inland and stay berber style (in a tent) or is that just wishful thinking (I guess it would never really be real anyway would it).

Wouldn't it be funny explaining the saddle to US customs if you had purchased it? The necklace is a wonderful substitute lucky you. I have loved this series. xoxo

Laura [What I Like] said...

This series has been fantastic, it's given me my travel bug back! Why is it that the last days of the best trips are always rainy? Perhaps to make parting a bit easier? Hope you've had a lovely homecoming and that L.A. has welcomed you back with open arms.

Modern Traditionalist said...

I have been imbued with wanderlust since your first installment. Now I'm simply left counting my pennies and dreaming of far-flung destinations. For now I will live vicariously through your tales and photos.

Courtney said...

I was jumping up and down over the tecnicolor dreamcoat, but then. Then. Then I came to that necklace and good Lord I wanted to jump through my computer screen!

What an amazing journey!

Julie Anne Rhodes said...

GO BACK NOW (but have lunch with me first)! I don't want it to end. Fabulous! xo

Virginia from Texas said...

The journey has been a dream come true. I'm so sad it's over.

Debra said...

An adventure of a lifetime~ Thank you so much for including us on all of its wonder.

Miss Cavendish said...

Do you have a close-up of that stunning necklace? I am dying to imprint it upon my memory!

Lily said...

The brilliant colors of your photos are like stained glass.. now if you could only add the soundtrack and the smell of smoke in the distance! Such fun to read your installments of adventures. And what a very cool chronicle you are giving to your son! (And your devoted readers too of course...)
PS: A fascinating book to read about the Bloomsbury equivalent of writers in Morocco in the 50's is called The Dream at the End of the World by Michelle Green, you might enjoy it.

Emily said...

Lisa, I never wanted this series of posts to end! But then again, you did have to come home, right? It has been such a pleasure reading about your holiday adventures. I always enjoy your blog and can't wait to see what you have to say and show us!

Amy said...

ah, we spent three days at kasbah tamadot. it was amazing in every sense of the word.

fantastic trip series, thank you for posting.

Allyn said...

I've loved reading your blog for well over a year. Whenever a new post comes up, I savor it. They're often what get me through my day in my horribly boring office job. This recent series of travel posts in particular have inspired me to stop dreaming and finally start planning my own global voyage, to take place this summer. Thank you for sharing your world with all of us!

CashmereLibrarian said...

Thank you, thank you, Lisa! What an incredible vacation, and I appreciate you sharing it with all of us in Blogland!

Denise said...

The only blog I know where I'm not surprised to find words like "cheroot." And now I can't stop thinking of the Nine Inch Nails Closer video after seeing Luca with the carcass. And how Rimbaud left poetry behind and became a gun runner in Morocco -- your posts are so evocative!

Bart Boehlert said...

Wow, Lisa, what a trip. And what a series. Fantastic! (Love that necklace.)
BB

Helen James said...

The perfect end to a most captivating escapade!!!!

Kathy Gillespie said...

I am in lovelovelove with that saddle...such beautiful inspiration...I hope the necklace made the trip home with you and you can give us a more up close personal look!

ewix said...

Such bliss to see your brilliant pictures bringing Morocco alive and vibrant.
We are off back there in March, two years after leaving.
We spent 2 years living in a 500 year old house in the medinaand I miss it horribly!
You went to the most lovely places.
I hope you return soon.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Miss Cavendish: I will post a photo of that necklace for you. It looks even better up close.

Lily: Thanks for the book recommendation...it sounds right up my alley!

Amy: Love that you stayed at Tamadot. Three days. What bliss!

Allyn: I'm so excited about your trip. Will you please keep in touch and tell me what your plans are so I can vicariously follow you?! :)

Denise: Just watched that Nine Inch Nails video again. Love that song...and the side of beef. :)

Ewix: I need details, please. Two years in a 500 year old house in the medina? I smell a book... "The Sheltering Souk", "Under the Moroccan Sun" or "Two Years in the Medina", perhaps? :)

A Super Dilettante said...

Nature vs. Civilisation , I think nature always win in these breathtaking, panoramic landscapes. Thanks for giving us a little tour with your beautiful photographs. Have you ever heard the artists called James/Marguerite McBey? They had a house in Tangier and they also had an enormous house and studio in No 1 Holland Park, Notting Hill in London. Their house in Tangier is one of the most bohemian houses I've ever seen. The pictures of their house is available in Moroccan Interiors. Marguerite was born in Philadelphia and one of the most elegant women. She was elegant in very Bohemian way..the way she dressed and carried herself. She was stylish.

This is a bit about her in The Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/1999/oct/23/guardianobituaries

Lynne said...

Just beautiful, those mountains are pure magic! Love your blog btw.

Grace said...

AH, you did see Kasbah Tamadot! We absolutely loved the Kasbah ... relaxing in the pool with nothing but the mountains around you and the call of prayer from the Berber village beyond. Thank you for sharing your journey. Now, I can't wait to explore more of Marrakech!

Paul said...

Just been able to spend 15 minutes reading about your great experience.

Although not at the same time, we've (myself, wife Sarah and children - Miles and Emily) been to so many of the places you mention - The Gore, Rules, Lamb & Flag and recently Marrakech and Essaouira.

Love your blog, reminds me of so many places and memories. Merry Christmas.

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