As promised, here's a not-so-little look at my recent trip to Morocco in more detail! If you've been or are planning a break, I'd love to hear about your adventures- do leave a comment at the bottom of the post!
Day One- Friday 21st February
Wake up at about 9:30am- the benefit of booking a late afternoon flight! Finish some last minute packing and have a leisurely breakfast before heading to the airport.
1:30pm- Meet Sarah outside a very blustery Gatwick and catch up with Elodie, Tanya and Michelle inside the terminal. Check in our bags, head through security and then to Jamie's Italian for a quick bite to eat before picking up some last minute toiletries and making our way to the gate.
3:30pm- Take off! Catch up on some reading, and finally get round to watching The Hunger Games on my iPad whilst sipping an in-flight Earl Grey.
7:15pm- Land at Marrakech Airport, head through passport control and to the Bureau de Change as Morocco has a closed currency- meaning you have to exchange your money once you arrive. Find our lovely driver who takes us to Essaouira.
10:20pm- Arrive at Dar Lazuli! Met by Rachid who gives us a short tour of the Riad before sitting down to a beautiful lemon chicken and olive tagine prepared by his wife Latifa. Quickly unpack and head to bed ready for our first proper day exploring!
Day Two- Saturday 22nd February
7:30am- Wake up after sleeping fairly soundly- no need for an alarm as the clock tower chimes can be heard more or less anywhere in the main square. Get washed, dressed and head out to explore the shops near the riad before finding a cute cafe for breakfast- crepes, toast and orange juice accompanied by the traditional Moroccan mint tea, which is at first really sweet but definitely refreshing!
10am- Find our way back to Dar Lazuli, making friends with some of the many local cats en route. Catch up with Rachid and Latifa before Latifa takes us on a shopping trip to the souks to pick up an array of ingredients for lunch. Pop into a Hammam where Elodie and Michelle make an appointment to be scrubbed and polished the following day.
11:30am- Back at Dar Lazuli, help Latifa to make lunch- this time a cous cous dish with beef and fresh vegetables including courgette, squash, broad beans and carrots. Learn a lot about the slow cooking techniques of Moroccan cuisine whilst getting to grips with some filo pastry and discovering the secrets of making perfect, fluffy cous cous.
2pm- Enjoy lunch on the terrace, along with a stunning chocolate mousse for dessert- can I eat like this all of the time?!!
3:30pm- Spend the afternoon exploring the beach- whilst a dip in the Atlantic in February isn't on the cards, it's warm enough to paddle and soak up some sun whilst marveling at how sandy it is- especially as I'm more used to the rocks at Brighton!!
5pm- Make the most of the Wi-Fi back at Dar Lazuli to check in at home and share some snapshots on Instagram. After a quick freshen up, pop out to the local bakery (handily located just around the corner!) to pick up some snacks and breakfast essentials for the morning.
7pm- Explore some of the local restaurants before setting on one close to the riad for a few drinks- Pina Coladas and Cuba Libres for the girls and hot chocolate for me!!
9:30pm- Head home for the evening for some much needed post-flight pampering- easily done at Dar Lazuli as each of the four apartments has a bathroom complete with waterfall shower- bliss! Spend the rest of the evening chatting away before heading to bed in preparation for day three.
Day Three- Sunday 23rd February
7am- Wake up early for an 8:30am pick up- today we're heading out of Essaouira to explore some of the surrounding areas- including a Berber market and an Argan Oil co-operative.
9:15am- Arrive at the Berber market, which is about as traditional as Morocco gets! The Had Draa market is the busiest in the area, and held every Sunday. It's absolutely heaving, but thankfully our guide shows us around carefully- it's fascinating to see a really undiluted slice of Berber life, and the array of items for sale is mind boggling- from scrap metal to old television remotes, from fresh fruit to camels- you'll find it all here!!!
11am- On the road back to Essaouira we stop off at the Marjana Argan Oil co-operative, which supports divorced and widowed women. We have a crash course in Argan Oil extraction from the lovely employees (my biceps were given a definitive workout!) before sampling some of the delicious food which Argan oil is used in- Argan flower honey and fresh bread might just be my new favourite snack!
12:15pm- Pop into the adjoining shop and learn all about the different products which the Argan oil is used in. Explain to our guide that there's a serious price difference between the Moroccan Oil which we have at home! Snap up some goodies to bring home, including a face scrub, body oil and hair serum.
1:30pm- Get dropped off back in Essaouira, where we head down to a lovely beachfront restaurant for a pit stop. We order freshly caught sole and calamari and enjoy people watching before taking the seaside walk back to Dar Lazuli.
3pm- After snapping outfit pictures against many of the picturesque backdrops throughout the Riad, we explore some of our neighbouring shops. Michelle snaps up a beautiful leather satchel with amazingly intricate cutout detailing, and Elodie finally tracks down the Graham & Green style poufs which she's been excited about since we started planning our trip. Again encounter plenty of cats, and many of the local shopkeepers start calling us The Spice Girls- no bad thing if you ask me!!! Michelle and Elodie head back to the Hammam for their treatment, whilst Sarah, Tanya and I sit and have a drink in the breathtaking courtyard of Al Madina, a riad hotel situated just a few streets away from the main plaza.
6pm- Reach for our woolly jumpers and head down to the fishing port to watch the sunset, which is postcard perfect. Meander back to the main strip where we head for dinner at The Sweet Clock- one of the many fusion restaurants which can be found throughout Essaouira- between us we opt for a mixture of tagines, pasta and steak before picking up a hot chocolate on the way home.
8:30pm- Another evening of chilling out and nattering before retiring to each of our apartments and capturing the beautiful evening ambience of our stunning base for the trip.
Day Four- Monday 24th February
9am- A little bit of a lie in this morning as our guide Abdellah is coming to meet us at 10:30am. Plenty of time to take some more pictures and plan any last minute souvenir shopping which we want to do, as well as decide on a restaurant for our final night in Essaouira.
10:30am- Start our tour with a visit the artisan quarter of Essaouira- a little bit further than we'd previously explored. Marvel at the wood workshop and the amazing craftsmanship which goes in to making such intricate pieces. Purchase a few pieces before making our way to the silversmiths who create an array of stunning jewellery, using traditional techniques such as filigree and enameling. For a jewellery magpie like me, the temptation is too much to resist and I can't help but pick up a silver star bracelet inlaid with amethyst. After talking to the owner we learn more about the artisan work which happens here, with apprentices working their way up across a multitude of disciplines before completing their training. Make our way across the square to an art workshop and marvel at the beautiful pieces on display. Enjoy some mint tea whilst learning more about the students who create the work on display, as Tanya deliberates which of the many pictures to purchase.
12:15pm- Pay a visit to another lovely shop in the Medina, which lies just across the square from the fish market. This one is a ceramic heaven- and I find myself suddenly compelled to redecorate when I get home! The owner of the shop pours us more mint tea, as we learn all about the different blends- Michelle picks up a Berber infusion to take home, which includes rose, cardamom and juniper- delicious. Here we also learn all about different perfumes, sampling some stunning fragrances including black amber and sandalwood. Sarah snaps up a beautiful ceramic bowl and we continue on our way back to La Scala through the beautiful ancient architecture of Essaouira.
1pm- As we stop and admire the many beautiful buildings and doorways which punctuate the design of the town, our lovely guide shows us around his house, which is another beautifully constructed space, complete with a seafront terrace which all of us are very envious of!
1:15pm- Arrive at La Scala, one of the most instantly recognisable and characterful areas of Essaouira. The ancient battlements were designed to fortify the defenses of the town, and more recently made an appearance in Game of Thrones- needless to say I take as many pictures as possible, and eagerly keep my eyes open for the sight of any dragons!! From here we head back to Dar Lazuli, where we say farewell to Abdellah and thank him for such a lovely, informative morning.
2pm- After a quick rest at the Riad, we head out into the sunny main square for a bite of lunch followed by a gelato from the ice cream parlour- Nutella and After Eight is a flavour combination which I'm going to try my best to recreate at home!!
3:45pm- Enjoy another leisurely browse of the shops and practice our haggling before walking along the beach one last time, having a sit down for a leisurely Fanta lemon in the sun.
6pm- After changing we make our way back to the square, having decided to visit Toros for our last meal in Essaouria. Watch the sunset from the stunning roof terrace before heading downstairs to the restaurant for a delicious meal- complete with Creme Brûlée and chocolate cake for dessert.
9pm- Make it back to the Riad to pack, shower and relax before our early start the following morning. Sheet masks and Argan oil at the ready, we're all prepared for our journey home.
Day Five- Tuesday 25th February
6:30am- An early alarm call so that we have plenty of time to get ready for our trip back to the airport. I bid a sad farewell to my beautiful apartment and we all meet downstairs to fill in the visitors book before saying a huge thank you to everyone who looked after us during our stay.
8am- Bags packed, we jump in the car back to Marrakech airport. It's lovely to make the journey in daylight as it was dark when we arrived, and the beautiful sunshine streaming through the windows makes it much harder to accept the idea that we'll be back in rainy London by the end of the day.
10:30am- Arrive back at the airport, head airside ready for takeoff at 12pm.
12pm- Bye bye Morocco, thanks so much for having us!
3:10pm- Arrive back at Gatwick to grey skies- is it too soon to book another trip?
A huge thank you to Rachid, Latifa and everyone who made our stay in Essaouira so memorable. Also a massive thank you to Rachel and Sophie for planning such a lovely trip and for having us to stay!
*Our stay at Dar Lazuli and transfers were complimentary, but flights, food and other sundries were paid for by us. As ever, my opinions and impressions are 100% honest.
(Image credit: Sarah Farrell & Sarah Sandiford, please do not reproduce without permission.)