Marrakech in 3 days with teenagers. Before we dive fully into Christmas madness, I thought you might like to join me for a few days of sunshine. As you know, we had a little trip to Marrakech last week. It was a plan that we came up with back in the spring when we realised that my 50th birthday was going to be somewhat subdued because it fell, as it has done all of my life, in exam season.
The eldest son started his internship at Nike in July and so I was aware that he wouldn’t have a sunny holiday this year. We could have taken a more obvious route to sunshine and gone to the Canary Islands or Dubai but I wanted to do something more unusual than that.
We’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that our long summer holidays are unlikely to be adventurous. We’ve found our happy place in Kalkan in Turkey and, knowing that we will have an easy two weeks there that everyone will enjoy to the max, we’re not going to jinx it. (I do have an amazing offer coming up from the people who own the luxurious villa that we rent. It’s exclusive to Midlifechic readers and I’m going to talk about it after Christmas but if you want details before then, do get in touch).
With three days to play with, I thought we could go somewhere different. I wanted to shake the boys up a little and make them appreciate their comfortable lifestyles. Since they were little, we’ve ticked off fifteen different European countries but we haven’t been further than that. So, Marrakech was my choice. Mr MC and I have been there before and we agree that it’s unlike anywhere else on earth.
Marrakech in 3 days with teenagers
Day 1 – Travelling outfit and an early start
It was a 3am start for us so excuse my bleary eyes. However it never seems to matter when you’re on your way out does it? We had spent the night at a hotel in Stansted after picking the eldest up from his commute. I felt like a proper mum again, sending the boys to bed early and instructing them (in no uncertain terms) to go to sleep!
Deciding what to wear was challenging because we were travelling from -2°C to 30°C. You can wear shorts in Marrakech but personally, I feel more comfortable adapting to the culture of wherever I’m going so I opted for maxis. I layered my new cashmere hoodie on top. It’s a wonderful thing to wear despite the fact that for some reason, the middle son finds it hilarious. He insists that it is a hoodie for the middle aged and “but it’s cashmere darling” became his random catchphrase of the trip
The cashmere wrap was sent to me by Simone, a reader who is setting up her own business: Italy In Cashmere. As you know I try to support midlifers who are following their dreams. This wrap is so much better than an average pashmina. Rather than having a flat texture, it is dense, soft and fluffy. I know this isn’t a great shot so I will be featuring it again because I will be wearing it endlessly over the next few months. It was the perfect solution for a journey like this.
Lunch at Nomad
What a difference a few hours makes! The flight to Marrakech is only three and a half hours and we slept though most of it. A word of warning if you are heading there. Immigration at Marrakech airport is agonisingly slow. Don’t stop and fill out the visas before joining the queue – you’ll be there for a long time so do it while you’re waiting in line.
We were collected by our AirBnB host at the airport and taken straight to the Riad that we had booked. It was simply furnished and had five bedrooms so there was plenty of space for everyone. Details are here if you’re interested.
We didn’t want to waste a minute so we headed straight out to the souks. This is where the culture shock really hit the boys. As you’ll know if you’ve been there, the souks are timeless. Very little can have changed over the last millennia and you never know quite what you’re going to find around each corner. There are the obvious stalls with spices, lanterns and leather goods but then suddenly you’ll stumble upon a stall selling animal parts for strange medicinal purposes.
Mr MC and I can wander around for a whole day but after a couple of hours, we could see that the boys were starting to feel a bit jaded so it was time for a pitstop. We went to Nomad which is in the middle of everything but has a rooftop bar (no alcohol) so you can sit and watch the craziness beneath you. Sun hats are even provided!
As he was taking this photo Mr MC remarked that it is easy to make me happy – all I need is my four favourite people, ideally somewhere sunny with a poor wi-fi signal so that we have their attention!
An afternoon in the Souk
Refreshed, we wandered back through the souk getting hopelessly lost which is always part of the fun until your feet start to ache.
Dress; Bag – pop of colour in taupe, available to order from Midlifechic
The eldest was both transfixed and horrified to see cheetah, hyena and zebra skins for sale. The younger two were drawn by the chameleons and tortoises.
This one is just starting to turn black to match the middle son’s t-shirt.
By the time we had found our way back to our riad, it was getting late. Having only had a few hours sleep I was keen for us to make a quick turnaround and head out for dinner. We had decided that on the first night, we had to take them to Jemaa el-Fnaa, the big square in the middle of the city that comes to life as soon as the sun sets.
Dinner and a tribute to Yves Saint Laurent
Before we got there though, there was time to stop for a drink in one of the old palaces that is now a lovely hotel. Given that we were staying in his favourite city, it seemed appropriate to pay tribute to Yves Saint Laurent’s most famous look – ‘le smoking.’ So when Baukjen invited me to choose some of their pieces, this classic tuxedo jacket was top of my list.
As with everything that Baukjen makes, it is exquisitely tailored.
It is lightweight which I found to be a good thing because it means you can keep it on during the evening. I always think it’s a shame when you see a woman overheat in a heavyweight tux and have to discard it. The one thing that I would point out is that it comes up small – you need to go up a full size.
After a quick gin and tonic, we headed back into the mayhem and walked to Jamaa el-Fnaa. We ate at Marrakchi, a restaurant on the edge of the square. It was touristy but it was where we wanted to be on our first night. Actually the food was pretty good – and they had wine which is really unusual inside the medina.
By the end of the meal, we were shattered so after a quick walk round the square, watching the bands and the story tellers, we went back to the riad for a night that was regularly punctuated by the exotic sounding call to prayer.
Day 2 – Breakfast like a queen
Mr MC and I were awake early the next morning but nobody else was moving so we decided to head out on a mission for coffee. It was harder than we thought and we ended up back at the palace. I could really get used to this style of living.
Dress – Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo SS17
Lunch like an empress!
The younger two boys had been sleeping for fourteen hours when I finally woke them. The youngest never sleeps late so he must have been shattered. Nobody seemed keen to go back into the bustle of the souk so we headed off to a rather lovely hotel that I had read about – Les Jardins de la Medina.
I have to say that this was the highlight of the break for me. I haven’t experienced five star Marrakech before but I’d read that if we had lunch there, we would be able to stay and use the pool for the afternoon.
The food was absolutely fantastic. Everyone found something that they loved and we had a lovely bottle of Moroccan Gris wine. We’re finding that wine disappears unnervingly quickly now that the eldest has developed a taste for the finer things in life!
A tortoise ambled by to share some of the youngest’s raspberries…
… and we spent the afternoon sitting in the pool just chatting – and marvelling at the fact that it was the first day of November.
An aperitif chez nous
Sadly the sun disappeared at 5pm so we headed back to the riad. This is what the boys call ‘midlife preloading’ – a glass of duty free champagne before heading out in case we didn’t find wine.
We headed to Kosybar. Mr MC and I have been there before and it has a rooftop bar with a great view of storks nesting on the rooftops next door. Unfortunately there was a mix up with our reservation so we had drinks but didn’t eat there. Instead we headed back to Jamaa el Fna because after our fabulous lunch, the boys just wanted pizza and we knew where to find one.
Aqua has an incredible rooftop view of the fire throwers and story tellers below. We ate to the rhythmic sound of the many drummers in the square. The pizzas weren’t anything special but it was such a fab location it didn’t matter.
Day 3 – revisiting the souk
We started the day by leaving the younger two to sleep again and headed out with the eldest for another palatial breakfast. It was good to have him on his own because it gave us the chance to catch up on everything he is doing at Nike. His internship is unbelievably good – the experience that he is getting at a hands-on, big brand level is unsurpassable. I have no idea how he is going to settle back into university life again next year because every moment that he spends in London is just so exciting.
You can take the boy away from Nike but he still sniffs it out!
Anyway, back to Marrakech. The younger two had emerged by the time we got back to the Riad, hunting for food but the cupboards were bare. They’d missed the opportunity for a luxury breakfast so they had to make do with freshly pressed orange juice in the square.
All three of them loved the snake charmers. They get it from my mum who adored snakes and taught them how to handle them whenever she had the chance.
Somehow the fascination skipped a generation because I am not particularly keen on them.
We watched the eldest negotiate fiercely for an absolutely gorgeous wool throw which would look fabulous on our sofa. I am extremely envious but we weren’t sure how we would get one through Ryanair’s baggage restrictions, never mind two.
Lunch in an Instagram hotspot
Whenever you see Instagrammers travel to Marrakech, they always feature the restaurant La Famille. It is, indeed, an oasis in the heart of the souk. It is very pretty but in my opinion, it is overrated.
Mr MC set to work, taking pictures as we sat down but I hadn’t realised he was taking these. I think any mother of a fussy eater will relate to this little sequence so let me explain. The menu was in French which I speak well. The youngest has also inherited my love of languages but the other three are sadly hopeless. This meant that Small and I tended to be the first to go through the menus when they arrived so that we could translate for the others.
You can see that I am scanning for the highlights – things that the picky middle son will eat. Bear in mind that he had missed breakfast and endured a long negotiation in the souk so he was pretty ‘hangry.’
The food at La Famille is vegetarian and, in my view, its visual appeal is the guiding factor. This is the moment when I realised that nothing was going to press his buttons but that to find another restaurant was going to mean another long walk through the crowds.
So, I put my jolly mum face on and whooped up the options.
His brother, knowing both him, and the reality of the menu, is anticipating a meltdown.
But fortunately it didn’t happen. He declared that he quite simply didn’t have the energy and opted for a board of artisan bread. I’m giving a visual high five to Mr MC here!
So, this was the eldest’s raspberry and goats cheese salad. It was lovely and he enjoyed it.
The youngest is not a picky eater but one of the annoying things about La Famille was that despite it being lunchtime (and it only opens for lunch), nearly every choice was off the menu.
In desperation he had chosen the pizzetta which was topped with the most tasteless hummus I have ever come across and red cabbage.
This photo was actually of the middle son’s ‘meal’ but you can see the youngest’s reaction to his first bite in the background.
So, La Famille. We were brought the wrong drinks but told we had to have them because they had made them! The service was appalling. Go if you’re Instagram driven but not if you’re hungry. It is more hype than substance.
A visit to the musée Yves St Laurent
At the back of my mind I had hoped that we might fit in a trip to the brand new Musée Yves Saint Laurent. As you probably know, YSL was very inspired by Marrakech and had a lifelong love for the city.
Over lunch it was clear that the boys had had enough of the souks and so were happy to grant my wish. I knew I wouldn’t spend too long there. Although I love clothes, I often find that designers are just too esoteric so my expectations were low. How wrong I was – it took my breath away.
Photographs were forbidden but the main exhibition is a large collection of his greatest pieces. Iconic items that I love such as the pea coat, ‘le smoking’, the little black dress. There is also his artist inspired collection where he interpreted key pieces from people like Picasso, Mondrian and Braque into dresses.
There was a gallery dedicated to his muse, Catherine Deneuve and I was able to talk to the boys about her being a model for France’s symbolic ‘Marianne’ and also her famous quote about ‘face before ass after 40’ which triggered a good debate between us.
I must also mention the Jacques Majorelle gallery. I knew that he designed the famous Marrakech gardens but had never seen his paintings before. They are just so evocative.
If you are with teens and so have limited time, you can easily get round the museum and still appreciate it in about an hour. It would be lovely to spend longer but as the faces below show you, I know when I’m pushing it.
Each of them had something positive to say about it though. I’m glad we took them there.
Boden top (past season); Mango skirt (past season)
A special birthday dinner
And that brings us to our last night which we had set aside to celebrate the three significant birthdays that we have in our family this year, my 50th in May, the middle son’s 16th in August and the eldest’s 21st which is coming next month.
It felt like the perfect opportunity to wear something really special and when I think of special dresses, I always look to Katya Wildman at Bombshell London because she is a very clever dress designer. It is a tiny company and she often relies on her customers to do her marketing for her by word of mouth as you’ll see from the number of women who post their Bombshell pictures on Instagram.
Katya dedicates her time to understanding and celebrating the bodies of women over 40. Every stitch that is integrated into her dresses works to complement your figure. Before we came away, I was talking to the boys about whether I should wear this gold sequinned dress and one of them said “let’s face it mum, if you don’t wear it now, when will you?” It was just a simple comment but it made me think about seizing the moment.
Because I have my photo taken so often, I can see myself ageing and I’m very aware of everything that is changing about my face and body. There are two ways forward. I can either feel sad about it or I can embrace it and just keep on working with it.
I will never again be as young as I was last Thursday so that means that it was exactly the right day to wear this beautiful dress. And I would apply the same logic if I wore it next week or next year. Don’t save things for best because so often, ‘best’ never comes.
So, my friends – I wore it. And when Mr MC said he wanted to take a picture of it contrasted against the souk, I flinched only a little. I felt very apprehensive about how people would react but actually, I felt like a film star.
The Marrakshis are wonderful people. So many locals, men and women, stopped me to remark on the dress. Everybody was so kind and complimentary. Even the cheeky teens on their mopeds were polite with the comments they shouted as they drove past. After some intense haggling, Mr MC even achieved a price of 2000 camels for me from this chap – dress included of course.
Gold sequinned dress, also available in black or navy
As you can see, it is designed to skim but not cling. Because it is heavy, it swishes as you walk and the sequins catch the movement, gleaming and glimmering.
Gold sequinned dress, also available in black or navy
The draped neckline is cut to reveal your clavicles but not your decolleté so at no point does it look brassy.
Gold sequinned dress, also available in black or navy
And in the dark, it really sparkles.
Gold sequinned dress, also available in black or navy
Mr MC had a crowd around him when he took this shot from the street. Normally I would have felt embarrassed but when you’re wearing a dress like this, it fills you with confidence.
Gold sequinned dress, also available in black or navy
We had a wonderful evening at Pepe Nero which is one of Marrakech’s most popular restaurants, once again located in an old Palace. It has two menus, Moroccan and Italian so everyone was happy. They made cakes and sang to us so we really felt as though we celebrated.
I just want to say thank you to Katya for designing this particular dress to celebrate Bombshell’s 10th anniversary. Walking through the souks of Marrakech dressed like this was definitely one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It’s something that will warm me when I am “old and grey and full of sleep and nodding by the fire.” I urge all of you to support Katya and keep Bombshell in mind if you are looking for a special dress that will last you a lifetime.
Day 4 – an early return home
And so that was that. We had another early start to fly home and this time I dressed for the reverse, travelling from warm to cold. These pieces are perfect for travelling in. The side stripe trousers are a little more stylish than leggings or harem pants but just as comfortable.
The hoodie is a wool mix so it has athleisure style but it is warm and cosy. I’m looking forward to pairing it with jeans and a leather biker jacket this winter because it is just so lovely to wear. As you can see, I had my trusty cashmere wrap at the ready too.
Marrakech in 3 days with teenagers – does it work?
So there we have it – Marrakech in 3 days with teenagers. I’m going to summarise our itinerary below just in case any of you are considering a similar trip. It took me quite a bit of planning and on the whole, it was a success. Did the boys enjoy it? They said they did. We discussed it over dinner on our last night and they found it hard to articulate because Marrakech is such a city of contrasts.
What didn’t they like?
The eldest – “the animal skins in the souks – I was both attracted and repelled by them. I couldn’t believe they were there or that they had been killed ethically but it was amazing to be so close to the skin of a cheetah.”
The middle son – “the air, I couldn’t breathe properly – oh and the food at that stupid hipster place.”
The youngest – “it was so busy with all of the people and the mopeds everywhere – I don’t like cities much and this one is extreme. I realise I belong in the countryside really.”
What did they like most?
The eldest: “everything is just so different – and the riad – it was like living in a roman villa, it felt like going back in time.”
The middle son: “the five star hotel, both because it was so great but also because of the way it felt when we stepped back out into the souk. It was like going from one world into another.”
The youngest: “the snakes, the chameleons, the tortoise and the monkey – even though I know I shouldn’t because it’s probably cruel. It was amazing to get up close and touch them.”
In the taxi on the way back to the airport the middle son summed it all up. He said, “It’s all made me realise how Western I am, this wasn’t a holiday but I feel like I’ve travelled.”
Marrakech in 3 days with teenagers – suggested itinerary
- Morning – arrive, spend a couple of hours in the souks.
- Lunch – Nomad (contemporary Moroccan food, great location) or Café des Epices at the other side of the square
- Afternoon – go to a different part of the souk, the tanneries are fascinating
- Dinner – Marrakshi (Moroccan food, serves wine but can’t be booked in advance) and Jemaa el-Fnaa by night (alternative Aqua – simple pizzas and a great view)
- Lazy morning
- Lunch – Les Jardins de la Medina call in advance to book, they speak English. If they are not too busy with residents you can arrange to use the pool for the afternoon. Amazing food.
- Afternoon – relax by the pool in five star style
- Dinner – KosyBar (Japanese tapas, wine available, book a few days in advance)
- Morning – revisit the souks and buy some souvenirs. Go to Jemaa el-Fnaa by day to see the snake charmers and drink freshly pressed orange juice
- Lunch – La Famille if you prefer form over function (book in advance) or Bougainvillier (simple Moroccan food and good pizza, better value for pitstop food)
- Afternoon – Musée Yves Saint Laurent followed by the Jardin Majorelle (buy a dual entry ticket at the museum)
- Dinner – Pepe Nero (Moroccan and Italian menus, book in advance)
Disclosure: ‘Marrakech in 3 days with teenagers’ is not a sponsored post. We paid for all of our travel, accommodation and food. Thank you to Bombshell London for enabling me to wear the dress of my dreams, to Baukjen for my fabulous tuxedo jacket and travelling outfit and to Italy in Cashmere for my luxurious wrap.
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