Early October I was invited to a friends’ wedding in Marrakech, which was the perfect chance to discover the city for the first time. Obviously, I didn’t have that much liberty to explore the city in real depth, but I feel that if you use your time wisely you can actually get quite a lot out of your visit.
What probably charmed me the most was the Majorelle Garden surrounding Yves Saint Laurent’s house, now turned into a museum. The amount and variety of plants, cactus and flowers, along with the fountains and the famous deep blue used throughout the park made for an amazing garden of Eden. Obviously, the Medina was full of the charms and wonders typical of Morocco. Shops, craftsmen, narrow streets, mosques and such a crowd!! I am also glad I came across the medersa Ben Youssef whose architecture is a true splendor. All in all, a short and sweet city break.
As part of my trip to Fez, I also took a few days to discover the back country around this great city. Meknès, one of the four “imperial cities” of Morocco, is definitely worth a visit. Surrounded by three belts of walls, these fortifications are the longest in the kingdom. Their great protective stance is only broken through by a handful of beautifully adorned doors, opening a majestical way towards the inner city.
A few miles away, the region also boasts an impressive archeological site of Roman ruins called Volubilis. The exceptional state of the excavated walls, house foundations, arches and mosaics is utterly stunning. Perhaps even more impressive are the claims by archeologists that about 60% of the ruins still remain to be found and restored.
About an hour and a half away from Meknès stand the Middle Atlas mountains. Hidden in the forest is a lovely village named Ifrane, which serves as a ski station in the winter. A really great halt for those seeking peace and freshness, Ifrane is set close to an amazing natural reserve with many hiking paths. At the end of my trip, I visited an eco-friendly farm down in the valley, whose owners produce excellent goat cheese, as well as olive oil and honey. A truly great place to stop by and enjoy a nice meal of cheese, bread and other local products!
Besides its incredible location by the sea, the life and animation of the streets are what impressed me the most in Istanbul. Of course there are world-renowned landmarks that you cannot miss, but in my sense, simply wandering through the streets and getting to know the many neighbourhoods of the city is a wonderful way to get a flavour of Istanbul.
The streets are filled with all these “little nothings”: a woman selling flowers, corn, or pretzels, the crowd of people walking up and down the streets carrying children and groceries, calling up one another, women chatting among themselves, cats and dogs knocked out by the heat and desperate for a hideout in the shadow, the fascinating echo of the five daily prayers – all these small pieces of life brought together form the most lively and colourful canvas you can imagine.
A couple of weeks ago I went to spend a few days in Istanbul. The city really lives up to its reputation and it would be an understatement to say that I wasn’t disappointed: Istanbul is simply grand, magnificent, full of art and history, amazing by its architecture, lovely and full of inspiration in its quieter neighborhoods. In one word – gorgeous.
What I particularly liked about Istanbul is its situation by the sea, in-between two continents. The city is so expanded, it’s incredible to contemplate. But it is almost always freshened up by the ocean’s breeze. Obviously, besides the pure and salty marine air, the great thing about it is that one can find countless striking views of the Golden Horn. Uskudar, on the Asian side, provides a great promenade by the sea with fishermen, seagulls, wooden houses and children taking a swim. For other lovely marinas, look at Ortakoy or Bebek, both charming. Also great to wander about and have a nice bite, the fish market by the Galata Bridge has delicious fish sandwiches…