I have been blowing through spending money like crazy and thought it would be wise to take a break from it. What better way to distract myself from the souks than to get a tattoo?
I’ve heard that getting that first tattoo is a gateway to more, perhaps that’s been the case for me with my tiny finger tats.
I have been considering another one after an experience I had recently in Boulder that was truly profound and meaningful. I think of my dear Màrion and the way she commemorates people and moments on her body yet somehow looks elegant and not covered in ink.
Leave it to the French.
When Mimi and Shannon floated the idea of getting inked on this trip together, it just seemed right.
This trip has been one of a lifetime, not that I’ll need ink to remember it (except in the case of amnesia which I still believe is distinctly possible) but I’ve always been so careful and conservative. Why not do something spontaneous?
At 47 I don’t have much to lose, or at least a lot less time to regret a poor decision than had I done it at 18. The more conservative among us reminded us that hepatitis is a bummer, but we aren’t going to do anything that looks sketchy. Like this.
The ladies went in search of a reputable artist and decided on one in New Marrakech. While the souk is like living in midaeval times, new Marrakech is perfectly modern.
This didn’t stop people from trying to discourage us, but Lindsay and Mimi have had enough tattoos done that they know what proper hygiene looks like … cryopack needles and ink with an expiration dates, gloves, sterile surfaces.
They promised to bounce if they observed any red flags.
We walked to the edge of the medina and hailed a couple cabs with Hesham as our escort.
Our tattoo artist was French and took the designs we texted to him, made changes and created stencils while we watched, and I went first.
The ladies were C.R.A.Z.Y. for him.
On our way there Lindsay was like, “Viv, you can’t just leave after you are done!” Which is how I like to roll, I hate waiting around. “You need to stay with us while we are getting tattooed.”
One look at Julien and she was like, “I’ll go last and you all should feel free to go back without me, I’ll be fine. Actually, I would prefer to be alone with Julien.”
I went first.
Did it hurt? Yep. But Lor held my hand and the ladies provided good comic relief as they flirted relentlessly with him.
Mimi, Lor, and I got lunch at a salad place while Lindsay got her work done.
With some differences in architecture, New Marrakech looks like any big city with chains like Starbucks, McDonald’s and Zara anchoring the downtown. The small businesses would fit in anywhere (our lunch place was fabulous and inexpensive) and there were the usual hustlers on the street with knock-off purses and sunglasses.
The whole thing begs the question as to how the old médinas exist.
There is very little infrastructure, trash everywhere, dirt floors and crumbling roads.
Not to mention a lack of refrigeration and a tragically large feral cat population.
It’s not that Moroccans don’t know how to do public works, they just don’t want to do it in the médinas.
I inquired about real estate and was told that it is more expensive than in the modern part of the city, that people who have homes there usually go back generations. But there is also where you see beggars and people who appear to live in abject poverty.
It’s an interesting juxtaposition, one that I’m sure has been studied and is understood, just not by me.
That night Jo took us to Pepenero for dinner, a gorgeous Italian place that was especially challenging to get to. Luckily Hesham was born here and knew the place like the back of his hand.
The joke is that everything is only eight minutes away, but that eight minutes is a moving target. It’s always eight minutes regardless of how long you’ve been walking.
We were very happy to finally arrive.
Cherry and I teamed up and ordered all over the menu so we could enjoy more things. We had seafood risotto, fish, eggplant, pasta … it was a feast. Jo could have easily sold this as a culinary tour.
I wish I had my camera when I went to the ladies’ room. The restaurant was clearly a renovated riad and they left the hammam intact as part of the bathroom.
I’m still unsure how we made it back, we were so full and happy.
The next morning Jo took us to the Beldi club, a swanky place for ex-pats and wealthy visitors. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite warm enough for us to enjoy relaxing by the pool but we wandered around the grounds, took in the flowers, and had a lovely lunch.
Beldi is a wedding and event venue with acres devoted to growing the roses they use for their events.
Jo told us that for our final meal together, she had a special surprise for us and we should wear something nice.
Tonya came out of her room with her hair still in curlers and gave us a little show. I adore her.
We posed by the pool for a group photo.
La Bohème House of the Wishing Trees Morocco 2019 Retreat
That night we had our last meal on the roof of El Fenn. How would I describe it? Say it with me … It was the most beautiful place I’ve even been.
It was a super exclusive boutique riad, indistinguishable from any other building from the outside, but the inside, OMG.
What stood out to me was the modern art, showcasing female Moroccan artists. I couldn’t take as many pictures as I wanted because El Fenn is all about exclusivity and privacy. It isn’t for the whole world, it is for its rarified guests.
We sat on the roof while the sun set, the call to prayer echoing in the background, the Atlas mountains clearly in the distance and felt wonder. We gave thanks for this experience and for Jo who brought us all together.
The food? It was okay.
JUST KIDDING! It was amazing of course. We were served gigantic filet mignons which no one could finish. I filled up three to-go containers full of meat for my street cats.
We were served by a wonderful young woman who is about to move to Canada to manage a Dairy Queen.
We all fell in love with her spirit. Dairy Queen is a far cry from El Fenn but it will only be first step in a new life for her. I wish her well.
And I wish well to all the wonderful people I met on this trip, it was truly life changing. I often stopped to marvel at how I found myself in this place in life, where a trip like this could even be possible.
And for the series of random events … seeing a repost of Jo’s bohemian interior decor on someone else’s feed, following her in Instagram, and deciding to take a leap of faith to go to Morocco with her.
I am deeply grateful for that flutter of a butterfly’s wing that brought me here.
We said our goodbyes the night because people were trickling out to the airport starting at 3am.
Lor, myself, Tonya and Cindy were the last to go with a flight at 9:30pm. I spent the last day tying up loose ends, making arrangements for shipping all my loot, and enjoying a few last meals.
Okay, maybe one more meal.
Meanwhile Lor packed.
It feels like more than 10 days passed since we first set foot in the médina, I left feeling deeply satisfied and happy with the experience, although in shock over how much I spent on rugs and various design pieces. C’est la vie.
The tiny house will be more beautiful for it and a shrine to this life changing trip.
Lor and I spent the night in London, I was as jarred by the hotel’s little bathroom and their continental breakfast as I was by anything I saw in Morocco. My immersion into a world of tradition, art, and luxury had me spoiled.
But oh am I ever eager to see my family, I miss them so much.
At least we traveling British Airways where I didn’t have to experience American “customer service” too soon.
I had the perfect trip and get to go home to a family I miss, I have the best of both worlds.