We began our last day in Marrakech with a late lunch at one of the city’s best-known landmarks.
The Grand Café de la Poste takes you back to an era of French colonialism the moment you step through the doors.
Built in 1925, it’s still considered one of the best restaurants in Marrakech, and has a delightful jazz age charm that somehow harmonises with the Moroccan influences found throughout. Surrounded by a sheltered veranda and pavement tables covered by shady parasols, it’s almost an incongruous sight situated as it is on a busy intersection in the French quarter, Guéliz.
We took a table on the terrace and hungrily browsed the menu. Although you’ll find Moroccan touches here and there, the Grand Café de la Poste is unapologetically French – so if you’re hankering after an authentic croque monsieur or beef tartare in Marrakech, this is where you should head. It’s definitely on the pricey side, but well worth it, if you ask me.
And if you ask Amah, she’ll tell you they make a pretty good cocktail too.
But mostly, we were interested in the food. Mindful of the excursion we had planned for the afternoon, I ordered something that sounded light, nutritious and delicious – and I wasn’t disappointed.
This is the Salade Grand Café de la Poste, though it mostly comprises marinated chicken and parmesan shavings, which was absolutely fine by me.
I polished off the lot in short order, and felt thoroughly satisfied. I have no idea what is is that goes into the marinade for the chicken, but I’m tempted to email them and ask for the recipe. It was that good.
A quick powdering of noses (and sneaky photo op) and we were ready for the walk to our second destination of the day.
This was a special one for me, somewhere I’d wanted to go since long before the trip had ever been on the cards. It’s pretty much a bucket list stop for anyone who loves fashion as much as they love travel. It’s also one of the top tourist sights in Marrakech, and just a beautiful place to visit regardless of whether you know anything about its famous former owner.
Jardin Majorelle is named after its creator, the French artist Jacques Majorelle, who spent forty years designing and creating his oasis in the heart of Marrakech. But perhaps its best-known owner was the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent who, along with his partner Pierre Bergé, saved from destruction the garden he’d fallen in love with fifteen years earlier when he bought it in 1980.
The garden is now under the ownership of the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, which preserves its heritage as a lush, vibrant haven in the midst of a busy city.
It’s a breathtakingly beautiful space, and it’s not hard to see how Saint Laurent found an unlimited source of inspiration here. The blue you see everywhere is particularly special, known as Majorelle Blue because of its unique connection to the artist and his garden. If you look back at vintage YSL collections, you’ll see this colour and others found around the garden used again and again.
Sadly I didn’t pack my vintage Yves Saint Laurent jumpsuit (probably a little dressy for the garden anyway), but I did manage to blend in pretty well in this Boohoo maxi skirt.
And Antoine found a place to enjoy a moment of quiet contemplation. Jardin Majorelle isn’t short of places like that. There are little benches and nooks around every corner, and there isn’t a single angle on this place that isn’t as pretty as a picture.
I could never have imagined that these poster paint colours would so perfectly complement the plants and trees and flowers, but once you seen them together you can hardly think of them any other way.
We spent quite a lot of time just staring at things quietly. I don’t know what anyone else was thinking about, but I was imagining Saint Laurent here, drinking in the colours, the constant twittering of the birds overhead, the floral fragrance on the air …
There was one part of the garden where we felt especially humble.
When Saint Laurent died in 2008, he requested that his ashes be scattered here at Jardin Majorelle. I can hardly think of a more beautiful place to spend an eternity.
I once read that a broken column symbolises a life cut short. It seems a fitting memorial to a man who would never have stopped creating had he not been stopped.
You can’t be subdued for long in this garden though, which I have no doubt is one of the reasons Saint Laurent and Bergé loved it so much.
It was a blazing hot day, and although the towering palms and seemingly infinite bougainvillea offered us plenty of shade, we’d started to get thirsty. It was definitely tea time.
So we were delighted to turn a corner and discover this …
See that chap at the table wearing the Majorelle Blue blazer? Well that chap is none other than Pierre Bergé himself. So if anyone asks, I had tea with Pierre Bergé. Sort of.
I chose the ‘1001 Nights’ tea, a blend of black tea, green tea and rose petals. It was kind of like drinking a rose garden, in a good way.
Sadly, we had to gulp it down rather quickly as we hadn’t realised when we’d ordered that it was closing time in 15 minutes, and we were somewhat unceremoniously herded out (Monsieur Bergé and friends were not, of course).
Brusque service notwithstanding, we were a little awestruck by the whole experience, and were all very quiet and tranquil in the car back to the hotel. But that was all the relaxation time we were going to have, because once we were back at the Kech, it was all systems go as we prepared for our big night out. A couple of hours later, we were whizzing past the sunset on the way to the Hivernage district.
On a Saturday night in Marrakech, everyone who’s anyone is most likely to be found somewhere in Hivernage. It’s where you’ll find the luxury hotels, casinos, high-end clubs and fancy restaurants – and we had a reservation at one of the hottest spots in town.
Comptoir Darna is a seriously glamorous restaurant and club serving Moroccan and international food, and has a nightly floor show that is not to be missed. And the one thing you have to remember is that there is no such thing as overdressed. Marrakech goes all out after dark – the rule book is torn up and everyone wears their sexiest dresses, sparkliest jewels and highest heels.
But first … cocktails.
I’ll apologise now for the standard of the photos here – it was pretty dark and if I’m honest I was really more interested in drinking my kiwi mojito than snapping it …
… and also in eating my dinner. I had the harissa chicken, which was thoroughly delicious. I can taste it again as I’m writing and I could happily eat it right now.
But although the food is good and the cocktails are superb, that’s not the main reason you go to Comptoir Darna. At 10.30pm the background music suddenly switches to something louder and more dramatic.
And then a heavenly throng descends the grand staircase and that’s when your night really begins.
The dancers at Comptoir Darna are fairly legendary, and if you go to Marrakech and don’t visit the restaurant to see them, you’re definitely missing out.
It wasn’t long before Antoine was making friends …
… and let’s just say he didn’t need much encouragement to join in the party.
I think he might be after her job! Just look at his happy little face.
It turns out that dancing with a tray of candles on your head is thirsty work, so more cocktails were called for. And it’s safe to assume they weren’t the last we drank that night.
Well, we had to keep ourselves hydrated through two more dance acts, after all …
But eventually we were all cocktailed out, and after our adventures of the last four days we were ready for bed (after all, some of us had to be at the airport for 6am). But you can be sure we dreamed of pearl-clad belly dancers and rose-topped cocktails, tranquil gardens and bustling souks, but mostly of all the things we’d do when we come back.
As Amah put it, “It’s not goodbye, it’s see you next time Marrakech!”