It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a wanderlusterer with a birthday coming up, must be in want of a destination. Celebrating birthdays is, as we all know, best done by travelling. Some people, like myself, may opt for new and dramatic landscapes. Visiting the dramatic scenery of Oslo even if it does braving -20°C. And some people, like Erik, crave sunshine and somewhat more exotic (not to mention affordable) food. And so it was, that we got our butts to Schiphol Airport and caught a plane to the wonderful Moroccan city of Fes!
The flight to Fes is one of the worst I have ever been on even if it did take only three hours. The only fun part was the prayer before take-off (what other airline prays for your safety?). It appeared that the crew had decided we should get used to warmer temperatures before getting to our destination and so the heating was turned way up and the air-conditioning made non-existent. The seats were cramped and the crew completely uninterested.
Hot and bothered, we got to the airport in a slightly frumpled state. But getting to our hotel room makes us forget all about the flight (ok, maybe not all, but a lot!). The room spans an entire side of the hotel. The ceiling is high and a mosaic has been painted onto the wood. We get to sleep in a huge bed the is raised on a platform looking out over our little kingdom for the coming nights all the way into a massive bathroom. The hotel itself has a courtyard with high arches and a balcony with beautifully carved banisters. And best of all is the rooftop. A place where we can look out over the old medina and the surrounding mountains while we have our breakfast. It is simply a magical place.
“You are up early?!”. The man who’s checked us into our room late last night cannot quiet believe his eyes when we show up for breakfast around 9 in the morning. What can I say other than that we are itching to start exploring the old medina?
And explore we do. Following the somewhat baffling map and instructions we’ve been giving, we walk through the ancient streets. The meander in strange and wonderful ways. The sand-coloured buildings swallowing us with ease as we walk past bakeries and potteries and silversmiths. We enjoy the kindness of the baker who let’s us take two pieces of bread straight from the oven so long as we promise to come back once we’ve got small change (which we do straight away) and simply laugh at the tenacity of the hagglers who show us a small tannery, but start exclaiming that we have not given them nearly enough money when we don’t want to buy anything and simply get back to the main street. “Sister this is nothing!” Well, too bad!
We make our way through the medina and back again. Lunch is enjoyed on a small terrace at the end of narrow winding stairways. And although it’s the men that act as the bosses when they serve us, we get a glimpse of the kitchen where the female cook is clearly firmly in the lead. After more little streets (and placed that seem like they have more good food for us tomorrow), we get back to the hotel for a swim and a rest. Getting up our energies for all the lovely food we’ll be having that evening.
For his birthday, Erik has made a reservation at Nur. A restaurant that promises fine dining and a modern take on traditional Moroccan food. And what follows is amazing. Saffron merengue with spiced vegetables, watermelon gazpacho with a solitary prawn (that I will not eat after our Thailand ordeal), salmon with some kind of wonderful puree, meat grilled to perfection with the earthy flavour of mushrooms and new spices and so much more. By the time we get to the chocolate covered everything that is served on a bed of fragrant dried roses, I am beyond happy. Ready to finish a birthday that is not my own and do it all again the tomorrow.
After another jaw-dropping-because-the-view-is-so-good-breakfast, we head out to explore the newer part of the old city. We make our way through the Jnan Sbil garden and head out to the old palace. The old palace is the first (and only) climax of the trip. It’s basically a wall with a pretty gate. With no way of getting in (though presumably there’s a way of getting out). So we take the old touristy picture and head back to the medina.
Another lunch and exploration session later, we decide to rest a bit at the hotel (yes, I am old and grandma-ish that way and Erik very kindly let’s me be that way) and then we head back out for a sunset view at the local ruins.
We are not the only people who’ve gotten this idea – our hotel host told us about it, so we knew this coming in – but it is fun to mock the people trying to take pictures of the exact same thing. The funniest are the people with massive cameras around their necks who refuse to take off the sunglasses to take the picture, but who’ll push them into their hair to look at the screen. Human beings can be strange sometimes.
And we happily partake in the strange ritual of photographing the city from the same angle that they all do. The sunset promises to be nice, but fizzles out due to deck of clouds sailing in. They obscure the sky without turning the beautiful orangey-pink I so love and so, by the time the it’s dark, we head out to get ourselves some food.
The café we’ve chosen has a lot of great things on the menu and we decide to opt for another mix of modern or easy food and Moroccan influences. Our table is located on the roof that can only be accessed by hiking up uneven and winding steps. We’re nog the only ones and enjoy ourselves by listening in to a group of men getting to know one another and a date that doesn’t seem to be that fun as the girl is constantly complaining to the waiters about not getting a plastic straw (the horror!). We congratulate ourselves on not being annoying tourists, but fun tourists and another travel day well done.
As our last day starts, I have that nostalgic feeling of already missing the place you are actually still visiting. However, that dissipates as we wait for our pick-up that is apparently lost. This is a bit ironic, as we’ve asked for a pick-up to take us to the Hammam so we don’t get lost! We end up sharing a taxi with the guy when he does show up.
The Hammam is great. After getting over the shame of banging my feet on a copper bowl (loud!!!) as I enter the dark of the heated rooms, I simply give myself over to sensory delights. We are scrubbed and washed with hot water. My hair is covered in a white clay that has the most wonderful combination of smells (think grandpa’s apple pie and peppermint but lovelier than it sounds) the permeate the air as we relax in a room lit only by small candles. And after that treat, we get a full-body massage. I don’t care how stressful the airport and plane home will be, by this time I am so relaxed, I can handle anything.
And with that, we finish another great birthday!