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).
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.
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.)
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."
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.
"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.
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)