Friday, January 15, 2010

The London/Marrakech Express, Part Six

It was late morning. We sat in the horned chairs outside our room and pondered our plan for the day.

Luca wanted to explore the hotel again, so while Piero made some calls, we crept through the exquisitely detailed hallways and corridors and courtyards (all five of them).





...and five.

After peering into every nook and cranny, Piero reappeared and we headed for a repeat visit to the souk. We tried to assume the insouciance of locals, but our efforts proved hopeless as everything was so enchanting it required a second glance...

...and sometimes a third.

Caution: Becoming oblivious to your surroundings may result in a real-life game of Donkey Kong.

After my harsh jolt back to reality, we repaired to the safety of a cafe where Luca ordered his favorite new elixir: sparkling water and mint syrup. It tasted exactly like fizzy mouthwash, but Piero and I kept that to ourselves.

Lastly, there was a freshly-drawn henna scorpion to make the outing truly indelible.

Back at La Sultana, Luca discovered the pool had a secret viewing window...

...which could be seen from the underground "Jules Verne" bar.

The waiter said we were the only ones to want to take a photo like this.

But why not?

The afternoon was spent at Les Jardins de Majorelle, the resting place for Yves Saint Laurent.

Formerly owned by French artist Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962), it was purchased by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé in 1980. The main residence, designed to emulate a Moroccan palace, sits in the midst of a paradise of lush vegetation.

The palette of red, blue, yellow and green is based on Majorelle's fascination with Fauvism.

When Saint Laurent died, he requested that his ashes be buried here.


Later that night, we prepared for our stealth mission.

(Note: For very important reasons which I will explain later, there are no photos in this section.)

The Plan:
Famed blogger Maryam of My Marrakesh had invited us over for dinner. When I spoke to her that afternoon, she gently nixed our plans to take a cab to her house because, in her words, "we live in a very remote village. Even the taxi drivers can't find it."

The Pick-Up:
At 8pm we had our driver deposit us in front of a giant supermarket about twenty kilometers outside of Marrakech. Imagine Costco meets Home Depot with djellabas, dust and donkeys and you're halfway there. A few minutes later, a black car glided into the parking lot and the window rolled down a crack.

"Are you Lisa?" asked a deep voice.
I nodded.
"Maryam has sent me. Please to get in."

Inside the car, we found the delightful Jaime and David, two honeymooning New Yorkers who had also been invited to dinner and who also had not yet met Maryam. It was turning into a Graham Greene novel. We bounced on unpaved roads deeper and deeper into darkness, through teeny villages (that I swear are not on any Google map) and finally up to an immense gate. In the distance, through a grove of olive trees, a white pavilion beckoned. As we drove up the long drive, we saw two elegant figures standing in the doorway, silhouetted by soft golden light. This was our first glimpse of Maryam and Chris, her husband. It only got better from then on.

The Night:
My memories, in no particular order:
1. Children playing hide-and-seek in a magical outdoor grotto.
2. Plates piled high with Moroccan delicacies.
3. Touring the jaw-dropping, not-to-be-believed main house and grounds.
4. Being serenaded with an impromptu violin concert by two little girls.
5. Laughter. Lots of it.
6. Luca inside a huge Berber tent whispering with four new confidantes.
7. Moroccan wine (surprisingly good).
8. Discussing embroidery with Maryam, a fellow textile obsessive.
9. Spiky, the huge spiked pet lizard, running down an endless hallway.
10. Saying our goodbyes and hearing, "We met with a handshake. We leave with a hug."

The reason I can't show you any of my photos of the night is for a very exciting reason: Maryam is writing a book about her life in Morocco, due out next year on Artisan Books. Well-known editor Ingrid Abramovitch (author of the just-published "Restoring a House in the City") is helming the project, so it's bound to be fabulous...and of course, mum's the word until then.

I did get clearance on this one, however.
(LBG with Maryam of My Marrakesh. Photograph by Anna Wong)


pve design said...

How wonderful.

Imen McDonnell said...

These Marrakech posts are so very remarkable..if it were possible they should be awarded the highest honour in the land for visual storytelling and evoking such human emotion that puts the reader right there with you. Thank you, thank you. I have been following Maryam as well via Twitter as she is visiting Kabul at the moment, how wonderful to have met her! Imen x

Helen James said...

How incredibly delightful, the images .....goats feet strapped to a handlebar??????? the souk , the pool oh it is all so enchanting and then the evening with Maryam! It is a magical mystery tour. (I look forward to that book). I will be sad when these posts end. You have an incredible ability to notice the nooks and crannies of life and write of them with such panache.

Lily said...

This blog is turning into the tales of a thousand and one nights, and you our Scheherazade! Like a snake charmer you have held us all hypnotized with tales of far off lands and treasures. The title of a story teller is an ancient and noble one, you should be proud.. Here is a quote by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: "Writing is a hypnotic act- if successful the writer has hypnotized the reader. Whenever there is a stumble the reader wakes up, comes out of the hypnosis and stops reading..." Lisa, we are all still caught in your dream...

Dandy said...

You met Maryam! I love how the blogging world comes together. Wonderful posts. I don't know if I would have made it past that marvellous horned chair! Thank you for sharing your explorations.

Mrs. Blandings said...

Oh, I was hoping you were going to meet Maryam while you were there. What a treat - I am filled with envy.

CashmereLibrarian said...

I'm sad that this is almost over...but looking foward to the last installment!

materfamilias said...

I can't remember where I discovered your blog, but I'm so glad I did. I'm just loving this vicarious visit to Marrakech and dreaming about making the trip myself. Gorgeous photos, wonderful storytelling -- thank you!

Michelle Parks McCourt said...

Your descriptions of Marrakech are wonderful, I was there in August 2001, and visited the Jardin Marjolle. We stayed at the Villa des Oranges, a very special place and then went on to the atlas mountains for a few days.

The Buzz Blog @ Diane James Home said...

Another wonderful read! Please let Luca know that he is not alone in loving Perrier Menthe (the drink of choice besides Pastis during the summer in France) - I too loved it as a kid and even put the syrup on vanilla ice cream. But be sure to buy your syrup (the best is by Teisseire) in Europe - Amazon sells it for $49.99 in the US!

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Diane James: I ordered some Tessiere the day we got back because Luca is so besotted with it. But I found it for $7.50 at:

It was definitely refreshing, but had too many childhood memories of Scope for me. :)

Imen McDonnell: Maryam is a rare jewel. I felt as if I was representing all of us in meeting her...!

Helen James: Those feet strapped to the handlebar were something else. Such a brutal beauty to them. Thank you for your lovely comments. xx

Lily: That quote by Marquez slays me and I am so honored that you would use it in reference to my post. You have some mighty fine writerly charms myself, my dear! xx

Dandy: That horned chair was so incredible that every time I got up from it I turned around to make sure it wasn't following me.

Mrs. Blandings: It was one of those nights that you pray lingers in your memory banks forever. I don't want to forget a single detail!

Cashmere Librarian, Materfamilias: Morocco is a place of dreams and desires and donkeys and dust and djellabas. I think you both would love it.The landscape somehow shapes itself on your consciousness. I think it would be impossible to go there and not return unchanged.

Michelle Parks Mccourt: I love that you visited the Majorelle Gardens as well. Wasn't it magical? And the Atlas Mountains...that's up next. One word: Beyond.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Cashmere Librarian/Materfamilias: Re: my previous comment to you, I meant to say " would be impossible to go there and not return changed." :)

Laura said...

I'm absolutely committed to buying Maryam's book the minute it is released. She sounds like the most divine woman! Your adventure into the darkness sounds incredible...glad to hear you found your way back!

Madelief said...

What an amazing city, beautiful swimming pool and a dream garden!

groetjes, Madelief

Karena said...

Beautiful images! Astounding!

Miss Cavendish said...

The tiles, the arches, the colors, the lovely people . . . I'm transported and in bliss.

The Peacock Salon said...

This entire series has been magical. You are a gifted writer and your journeys are beautiful and amazing. I look forward to your daily posts.

The Peacock Salon

paris parfait said...

Lovely post. Isn't Maryam fabulous? How lucky you were to get to spend time with her at the gorgeous Peacock Pavilions.

rony @ catbird said...


Jane said...

Hi Lisa - so many things. First I hope you took on your journey one of those magic bags which is bigger on inside than the outside in order to fit in an overwhelming abundance of tassels, textiles, beaten metal platters etc.

And yes isn't Morrocan wine surprisingly good (but then the local wine usually is I found the same thing with Bulgarian wine).

I saw this week that the YSL \ Berge home in Tangiers (I think) is for sale - a modern eyrie perched on the cliff (you can see it on the Times London website).

And you met Maryam - how divine.... what a lovely evening. xoxo

DM said...

Who needs pictures when we have your writing?! Beautiful! I can just imagine how wonderful that night must have been. I'd love for you to write a book as well!

Anna Wang said...

You have such a fabulous writing style, and an amazing generous spirit. Thank you for sharing your adventure and thirst for the mysterious. I had such a wonderful evening with you all at Maryam's. When are you coming out with your book!

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


Greatest blog of all time today.

Luca underwater--so original. Luca diving. In a few years...when he is a will look back on this with such fondness.

The courtyards. Design details.

The horsehoofs on the cycle.

The tone and pace and editing are superb--and the reader follows along, breathless.
I could taste and smell and see it.
As a special consideration at end of Morocco posts, can you please send factual, practical info on finding more about the hotel. Thank you.
Bravo to you--cheers, DIANE

A Super Dilettante said...

I feel like it's Alice in Wonderland...going to a magic land shimmering with colours. While looking Yves Saint Laurent's mansion, I felt as if I died and went up to the heaven xx

Jessica Thor-Miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica Thor-Miller said...

I can't wait for Maryam's book! I can only imagine how fantastic it will be. I will admit, when you mentioned no photos I was imagining something far more sinister than a book embargo!

When will we get to read a book by LBG? (I'm not going to drop this topic until it becomes a reality, you know...)

{sorry for the deleted comment - my computer skills require caffeine...}

Barbara said...

I found you via Maryam. I've spent a lovley morning reading your blog. (Also Jamie's blog). I can imagine the evening with Maryam would be spendid.

Denise said...

I'll take Courtyard No. 1....I'm in an exquisite state of pattern overload from your post. Thanks for taking us stowaways with you!

columnist said...

YOU should write a book. Great writing style, combined with something very enchanting.

kanishk said...

You have an incredible ability to notice the nooks and crannies of life and write of them with such panache.

Work from home India

Louise said...

So enjoyed seeing a snippet of Maryam's artfully unique home!

Angie Muresan said...

Gorgeous! Your memories sound divine, Lisa. I would never tire of exploring that hotel with those horned chairs.

Libby at Aurora Primavera said...

Thank you Lisa. I share with all comments my gratitude for this wonderful trip which we have now taken with you. As a first-time commenter, I want to add that I have explored many of your book reommendations and love them (specifically, Merry Hall and What Makes you Not a Buddhist). If you have not read English Passengers, you should; you'd love.

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lovely story, I have to say you have a talent to write and describe things like this, a very well written story seriously and the pictures are beautiful!

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