Morocco – a country filled with colour and culture. It was a perfect summer, honeymoon destination. Our mornings were spent sprawled out on the day beds, basking in the sun, sipping ice-cold drinks and watching red dragonflies dance in pairs over the still pool.
After the peak of the heat had passed, the time came for exploring. At night, we headed into the city; navigating through the dusty, narrow streets between deep, earth-rich toned buildings. Artisans selling traditional clothes, shoes, furniture and tall pyramids of spices and piles fresh food, all packed tightly into the souks. Our eyes darted from place to place as the colours caught the last flecks of light in the tiny mirrors sewn into large hanging textiles, reflecting them all over the medieval courtyards.
There were so many tales of adventure that came out of our trips away from that quiet poolside, but there was one afternoon that stood out above all.
As the taxi pulled up outside the entrance to the Jardin Marjorelle, this was no ordinary day. This was the hottest day we had ever experienced and we were simply not prepared.
Beads of sweat immediately dripped down our backs and we hadn’t as yet managed even ten steps away from the car. We threw ourselves at a local street vendor, casually sat under the shade of a protruding ledge, cigarette in hand, boredom written all over his wrinkled face; an arm perched on a cooler filled with ice cold water bottles. Drinks purchased, we couldn’t decide whether to drink the water, or to bathe in it.
Still flustered, we carried on. Although completely unassuming from the outside, on entering we found ourselves surrounded by our very own hidden oasis. A metropolis of only flora and fauna. The soothing sounds of birdsong, rustling leaves, the occasional trickle of water and then all of a sudden the blistering heat we both felt earlier, just lifted.
Here we were, standing within a ten acre amalgamation of art and nature, our two passions. Jacques Marjorelle – a painter, regarded these gardens as his most beautiful piece of work. His magnus opus. He brought plants from all over the world to this one plot. Rare varieties of plants and trees landscaped along the walkways around the central basin, purposefully arranged to allow both light and shade. (Later restored by YSL in the ’90’s).
Unlike the sand coloured buildings found in the city, earthy in texture and concept, the structures here were modern in design, consisted of Art Deco precision and boasted vibrant colours inspired by the skies and sights seen over the Atlas Mountains. Of course the masterful Berber craftsmanship was still evident here… hand painted tiles with intricate detail can still be found hidden within the ‘marjorelle’ blue walls.
It was only after we settled for a drink at the Café Bou Saf Saf that we felt the need to speak. Having previously been enchanted and overcome by the beauty of the gardens, our communication had been reduced to an excitable pointing of fingers, at flora and wildlife.
Time drifted on, as did we, slowly and peacefully. I remember the first step back outside, the first step onto the red tinted sand still hot from the afternoon sun. It was almost as though we had stepped out of a dream.
The memory of the gardens stayed with me, so much so I later recreated one of the YSL postcards on display there as a gift for Mo. I chose one that encompassed everything I felt from that experience –
The black represented the mystery and exclusiveness of this secret paradise once occupied by one of the worlds greatest artists. The bright colours I not only associated with those of the floral displays and architecture in the Jardin, but also to the stalls packed full of handmade goods we passed during our evenings in the souks. And of course the word ‘Love’ strong and bold in the centre to remind us of the most important thing we found that summer.
Planning a honeymoon like ours? Or just need an inspiring family holiday destination? Visit Morocco! Book yourself a good looking James villa, pack the sunglasses and prepare to be enchanted by one of the most mesmerising cities in North Africa.
What’s your favourite summer holiday memory??