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Marrakech through the ages – In three days

Morocco is a city of contrasts; colour, poverty, dust, antiques, donkeys, motorbikes, horse drawn carts, history, architecture, artisans and gastronomic delight.  To take all this in, in three days is quite an assault on the mind and body.

For a good place to start your tour is the new Almaha Marrakech Riad based in the the Kasbah district of Marrakech, a 20 minute walk from the main square of Jemaa-el-Fna – from where it is possible to see the whole of Morocco in a condensed state.  Almaha Marrakech which opened in February, is run by a small team.  It comprises 12 rooms and suites, the size of which places it in the ’boutique’ hotel category.  Each suite on the first floor has its own private staircase leading directly to a large roof terrace, divided into private spaces by the clever use of fencing made up of Bougainvillea.  From here you have the vantage of surveying the whole of Marrakech and beyond to the Atlas mountains.  Also on the roof terrace is a small swimming pool and a covered terrace for breakfast or dinner.  The hotel is situated in a residential area meaning that you hardly see any other tourists and become immersed in the culture quicker. We built up a good rapport with the gentleman who sold water from a kiosk just minutes from the hotel and despite walking from the main Square back to the road at night, we felt much safer than we would have done in London.  Almaha Marrakech provides excellent food and you should definitely try their speciality (and indeed Morocco’s) of lamb tagine with prune and almonds.  Off the main courtyard is the Library where a wall panel of hand-folded books features the words from the poem by Charles Baudelaires ‘L’invitation au voyage’.  Another lovely room is the Pixel Room, so named due to the 23,000 or so silk pieces of fabric manually fitted  together to represent the Mosque and surrounding area of the Jamaa-el-Fna.  Bearing in mind the heat, a spa and hamman with its various treatments on offer is very welcome. A time to reflect on all that you have seen and done during your stay.
The architecture of Marrakech is varied and beautiful – places we would highly recommend as visiting are the Medersa Ben Youssef containing the most exquisite stone carvings you have ever seen representative of the Arab-Andalusian architecture;  The Secret Garden containing two sections – one for indigenous planting and the other showcasing plants from five continents; the Virtual Museum of the Public Square which holds temporary exhibitions reflecting local heritage and culture; The Marrakech Museum with its fantastic mosaics. For a rest from serious culture, go to Jemaa-el-Fna at night and see Marrakech come alive with its informal culture; snake charmers, medicine men, tooth pullers, storytellers, acrobats, musicians and entertainers.
You can walk everywhere, but at the end of the day, after some 8 miles of walking never has a spa or a sunbed been so welcome!
Lucy and Stephen were guests of Almaha Marrakech
Almaha Marrakech, 55 Derb Ben Zina, La Kasbah, 40040 Marrakech, Morocco   www.almahamarrakech.com

Images and copyright:  www.lucyelliottphotography.com

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Out of Kensington: Beautiful, historic St. Moritz

St. Moritz, high up in the Swiss Alps, feels like entering Narnia.  Travel via the UNESCO Rhaetian Railway, the most scenic route imaginable and a few hours later reach St. Moritz.  Be greeted by liveried staff from Badrutt’s Palace Hotel and enter a different time, a different experience.  The hotel, built in 1896 epitomises luxury – an historic building filled with antiques, discrete staff, beautiful views and various restaurants to suit all types of requirements.

Most people visit in the winter months, but the summer months also have a lot to offer – plenty for all to see and do.  Try a trip on a horse drawn carriage complete with picnic hamper, to the mountain lake and swim in what must be one of the world’s most beautiful pools…. learn to make cheese in an Alpine lodge, try your hand at sailing in the ‘Badrutt’s Palace’ their own 6-person sailing boat, with the wind flying in your hair.  Shopping is provided in the hotel’s own Palace Galerie – a Bond St. in the mountains.  In addition to the hotel restaurants you can also try Chasa Veglia, a rustic style restaurant housed in one of the oldest farmhouses in St. Moritz.

For foodies, a Chefs Dinner in the kitchen, complete with silver service, followed by a ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ pudding experience in the Dessert Kitchen, is a must and will delight adults and children alike.   As for the bedrooms they are large and it is well worth trying for one overlooking the lake, which with the morning mist, looks spectacular.  Breakfast can be taken inside or on the verandah, the latter being very picturesque with flowers and again, over looking the lake.  Of course many famous people visit Badrutt’s Palace Hotel but even the less famous are treated as special. A real gem of a place and a diamond experience.

Lucy Elliott was a guest of Badrutt’s Palace Hotel

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Images: Copyright; Lucy M Elliott www.lucyelliottphotography.com
www.badruttspalace.ch

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monaco – Not just for the jet setters!

Monaco is a wonderful destination for a long weekend. Buzzing with activity, wonderful architecture, cars galore and people watching. The principality is very small covering some 1.5 square miles so walking around is easy although fairly hilly. The bus service is good but taxi’s need to be booked and are expensive. A good time of year to visit is in the Spring, beautiful weather, not too many tourists and relatively few queues to the attractions. For such a tiny place there is plenty to see; the daily 11.00 am. Changing of the guard at the Palais; the Oceonographic Museum, the botanical gardens with their splendid hilltop views across the sea. If you are able to arrive in style, then the helicopter from Nice airport is the way to go. Unless you absolutely love Formula 1 and racing cars, it might be best to avoid Monaco at about the 17th May when it holds the Grand Prix. Hotel rooms at a 3* start at £7,900 for three nights (it does overlook the race track though). Best hotels are the Hotel de Paris and the Hermitage – absolutely top notch, but deep pockets are required. The Cafe de Paris opposite the Hotel, is a prime spot for people watching, although don’t have the sandwiches here at lunch time. Beer or coffee is just fine. Lunch or dinner at the Brasserie are however wonderful and a nice chance to get dressed up. Would highly recommend Monaco for a weekend break to experience something completely different.

Images and copyright: Lucy Elliott/www.lucyelliottphotography.com