Marrakech and Madrid

Glancing through the haze of the past week, which was spent moving, building IKEA furniture, and generally handling the logistics of life in a new city, I vaguely remember the sienna-colored medina of Marrakech. Even after all this travel, I still have moments where it feels surreal to think, less than two weeks ago, I was walking on a completely different continent.


During the last week of June, I made my way (Gustavo in tow) to a conference in Marrakech, Morocco. Much to my surprise, there isn’t a very direct way to get to Marrakech from Philadelphia. Or even most of Europe for that matter.

Our route took us directly from PHL to MAD on a flight that brought us to Spain very early in the morning. With a 10-hour layover, we decided we would dock our luggage at the Madrid airport (it was about 30 euro for three pieces for half a day) so we could make our way into the city.

While in Madrid, I had one central goal: I wanted to go to San Ginés. I’d been once before during another work trip with my colleague and friend, Pam. I remember scooping up every last morsel of chocolate sauce that came with the churros. Understandably, it was my goal to relive that moment.

We hopped on the train from the airport to the Nuevos Ministerios station and then switched to the metro. (At least, that’s what I think we did, since I’m still not entirely clear on how we arrived at our destination.) Nevertheless, we made our way through the Puerto del Sol and landed at Chocolatería San Ginés for some churros and chocolate – at 9am. An ideal breakfast, to be honest.

Arriving in Marrakech

After our layover in Madrid, we spent a few days at the Palmeraie Palace resort just outside of Marrakech, where I attended my conference. It was pretty far removed from the rest of the city, so I felt like I didn’t really arrive in Marrakech until much later that week, when we moved to Riad 11 Zitoune in the heart of the medina, just off the Jemaa el Fna square.

We did indeed get lost on our first try finding the Riad, but were successfully able to interpret Google’s instructions the second time around. On the first night, we ate at the highly recommended Nomad. We, unintentionally, booked a table right at sunset and the atmosphere was amazing. The food was delicious, especially the date-saffron caramel cake I had for dessert with some mint tea.

The next day, we booked a tour with Adbul from Marrakech Guided Tours, who showed us all around the old city. We started around 9am, walking through the area just around our riad. Our first stop was at the Dar Si Said museum, which highlighted both traditional architecture and textiles. We made our way through the Jewish quarter, past the Koutoubia mosque, and down to Dar Cherifa for a beautiful, delicious lunch.

Finally, we toured a maze of souks and shops in what felt like the beating heart of the city. I highly, highly recommend taking a tour if it fits in your budget. There is so much to see, and it’s so easy to miss it without having a guide or local introduce you to it.

Walking through the Jardin

On our last day, we visited what was one of my favorite places to see – Le Jardin Majorelle. It’s iconic with its deep blue and bright yellow walls and pottery. It was so much bigger than I expected. It felt like the more we explored, the more there was to explore. (And, best of all, there was a café on-site!)

We intended to walk back from Le Jardin Majorelle to our riad but had a bit of a struggle with Google Maps. After exploring the area a little bit – primarily since I was on the hunt for a supermarket – we hopped back in a cab and made our way through Jemaa el Fna to rest from the hot, sunny day.

Because we were staying in the old city, it was difficult for cars to take us directly to our destination. As a result, we spent a lot of time walking. It was really nice to spend so much time on my feet, walking around, and just moving without thinking. I used to love going for runs as a way of exploring a new city. Going for a walk is the same thing and, sometimes, even better.

* * *

While I’m glad to be home and settling into our new city, it was such a memorable week spent in Morocco. It’s a place I’ve dreamed of for such a long time and never expected to get there so soon. In many ways, it was precisely how I imagined it to be. In others, it was a big surprise.

Categorized as Travel

By Erica V.

Always seriously joking and rambunctiously soft-spoken.

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