Up at the crack of sparrow fart to begin Day 5 of this journey, it was 6.00am but now it is 7.00am on a bright, bright March morning. The sun is beating down but the breeze off the Atlas Mountains suggests a cool 14C. Today should be good we have been invited to lunch at a posh hotel round the corner owned by a Moroccan/French family. It is reputed to be one of the best in Marakech. There is likely to be a business deal between hotel and these English interlopers I am staying with. We will look , taste, pontificate and then decide whether to propagate.
However first we will have to tidy up the mess from yesterday. The three ladies do not work Sunday and as there is only me and several kids awake it looks as though the short straw is mine. You do not know how much tidying up there is after six adults and five kids have run amok until you do it yourself and then provide breakfast for four adults and then tidy up again but four hours later I certainly know and as usual with my style of operation everything is now hunky-dory but I look forward to seeing Fatimzara, Hafida and Khadija tomorrow at 8.00am. Meanwhile exhausted and sweaty and 11.00am I am looking forward to my leisurely lunch in two hours time.
The hotel is just down the road off the Route de Fez. A splendid, majesterial approach through blooming gardens and into the semi-circular shaped main building. The public areas of the hotel are Moorish influenced with long drapes, acres of upholstered benches and couches with cushions galore of various colours and fabrics. On the other side of the hotel within the cusp of the semi-circle is a massive round pool. Luxurious rooms on the ground floor exit straight onto the pool.
Around the pool in sheltered areas are dining tables. As we are special guests we have been given two tables under a huge classically inspired cupola, the columns of which are interwoven with bougainvillea and jacaranda which shade the interior wonderfully from the sun. Two tables one for the kids and one for the more circumspect less easily distracted mature individuals but with bikinis only inches from ones nose it is certainly difficult to keep up this demeanour. Two of the teachers are with us and certainly they scrub up well when out on the town.
The service is excellent from a couple of very attentive Moroccan waiters. So far so good. The management have given us one of the rooms accessing the pool to change in and the kids are in, out and in the pool before I had my first sip of wine. Food was ordered off a disappointing menu, we understand a new head chef from the Opera House in London starts in three days time, so we are not expecting miracles from the present brigade. Immediately it became evident of the lack of tight control. It was a curates egg of a meal good in parts but even the good was only average. Finesse was the thing it lacked and for these prices finesse is what you expect. I had ordered duck breast but what came surely came off a swan. It was huge, clumsy and heavy with a few vegetables scattered on one side of the plate. We knew the problem and had to accept it but for the people who didn’t I would think they felt let down. However the surroundings made up for our disappointment. The grounds around the hotel were dotted with luxurious tents, marvellous creations to suggest the desert and Arabian nights. They were an example of the quality guests at this hotel demand and it is just a shame that this quality did not pervade the kitchen.
It is 3.00pm and 32C but because of our sheltered position was more like a balmy 20C. One last bottle of a splendid rose wine and it was back to the compound after lingering in the Moroccan splendour of the lounge. A moment of quiet reflexion on our experience if that is at all possible with dogs, cats, donkeys, peacocks and kids all trying to gain ascendency. I notice the pool is still not filled, some Moroccan pool paint problem that should be sorted manana. The troubador son in law, fortified by the said rose wine gets out his guitar and plays and sings in his rauc0us falsetto “Dirty Old Town” for the hundredth time this trip. I now know all the words and some that Ewan McColl did not put into the original. It was written in 1946 and so is the same age as myself and another anniversary tomorrow is my father’s 97th birthday, still alive and kicking in the Little Sisters of the Poor Care Home in Longsight in Manchester.
Mine host prepares a little supper a few more bottles of wine are emptied around the unfilled pool and an early bed is called for after various post mortems of the day repeated. One last thought about the weather, in most countries I have been in which boast glorious climates I have felt uncomfortable once the temperature reaches 25C but here today when it was 32C I did not get that wearisome feeling, the heat is so dry, no humidity at all. I could do this kind of 32C any day of the week.