I am in a mild state of suppressed excitement right now: lil’sis & I have been mumbling for a while now about going away somewhere warm just after Christmas and over New Year, given that we both loathe NYE in London. I had been faffing about, way too busy with work to dedicate a day to researching options and, even with my years of experience at Conde Nast Traveller, feeling a little daunted at the prospect of putting together the jigsaw of transfers, booking hotels, flights and all the rest in Bali, our first choice.
When I finally got around to making a desultory start on planning, flights were reaching impossibly stratospheric pricing heights. Then lil’sis started to worry about her legs spasm-ing (an MS issue) on a 10hr+ flight squashed in Economy. When we found out that her next MS drug infusion was on the 6th Jan, curtailing our trip by four days or so, we decided to go somewhere a little more realistic with the eight nights we now had available. (We’re off on the 28th.)
So we mulled it over. Finding a suitable destination was tricky because we need to fly to direct to our destination, the flight can’t be too long because of the being squished in Economy situation, and we can’t have boat, single-prop or bus transfers to our ultimate destination, as lil’sis gets exhausted quickly.
It’s amazing how quickly we managed to write off most of the world, with some sweeping noes. Second choice was Tulum in Mexico, but everywhere was booked, it was too complicated to get to & I’m not sure how much of a vacation it would be seeing half the fashion industry on the beach each day. The Caribbean is achingly expensive over NYE, too far and there’s quite not enough sightseeing. Given that I spend so much of the year in America, that’s not my first holiday option.
We definitely wanted some culture as well as warmth, so we turned to the Middle East. Egypt? But Sharm doesn’t appeal and things are a bit twitchy in Cairo right now. For obvious reasons Syria etc are not an option, and Hell will freeze over before I go to Dubai – the thought of all those indentured slaves propping up the UAE makes me feel ill.
Around the Med Southern Spain (our grandparents lived in Nerja, near Malaga) & the Balearics were too familiar & not quite warm enough this time of year, the hotels we liked in Sicily were too expensive, and I was in Turkey only last year.
Then we looked at the Atlantic: I’ve been to the Azores which are ravishingly beautiful, but once was enough. Being not too fond of frozen vegetables, because they export all the good stuff, I lived on cheese & only cheese for a week. The main Canaries are a bit too beach resort-y, and we didn’t want to have to travel to one of the more exciting islands in the chain (although one day…). Madeira looks lovely but it’s all winter sun retiree at this time of year…
India, Sri Lanka, South Africa & the Antipodes were too far, and the Seychelles/Mauritius/Maldives too far & too couple-y.
So that left us with: Marrakech…Rather embarrassingly for me (given that I travel incessantly and worked on a travel publication for nearly five years), I’ve never been, & neither has lil’sis. We are both wondering why on earth we didn’t think of Morocco before. Clement weather, wonderful food, culture, a language we both speak (French), a beautiful city, hammams…it’s all win.
It will be the first long holiday I’ve been on in years. Sure I travel incessantly, but it is always for work. There’s been the odd three-dayer – Barcelona this summer, and a few days here & there in France at my friends’ house, or a weekend tacked onto a work trip – Miami last month for instance, but a proper holiday of over a week’s duration, with no work agenda at all is just the most exciting prospect. Of course I’ll blog away whilst I’m there, but I adore blogging, so that’s no hard task.
And, even better, instead of researching & booking all the myriad parts, I rang Chris Lawrence, a Morocco specialist I had worked with frequently many years ago on Conde Nast Traveller and devolved all responsibility onto him & his son in their new travel venture, Lawrence of Morocco. We are having to fly Easy Jet because it’s so last-minute and even that is wincingly expensive for travel in a bright orange tube, but absolutely everything else — transfers, my Moroccan cookery lesson & both our hotels are all in the expert hands of Lawrence of Morocco in exchange for my credit card number.
Given the endless list of riads and hotels in Marrakech, the joy of having an expert choose for us cannot be exaggerated. And knowing that if anything needs sorting, or if my sister gets ill, they have trusted people on the ground is endlessly reassuring.
As I’ve got older, the thrill of doing things on an ad hoc basis has definitely worn off. It may be easy to research and book things on the web, but even for an, ahem, expert, like myself, sometimes it’s just better to use a travel company who really do know what they are doing.
Photo: the grounds of one of our hotels in the Palmerie in Marrakech.