Wanderlust with Cynthia Rosenfeld: Travel plan B

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When the horrendous terrorist attacks in Paris were unfolding on the night of November 13, I was enjoying a Moroccan dinner at La Mamounia (mamounia.com), the legendary Marrakech hotel. Sitting among friends, I shared my concerns about the week ahead, ignorant of the events unfolding in France. 

Every year during Thanksgiving, I meet my parents in the French capital and we stay in the same apartment, overlooking the quaint Rue des Rosiers in Le Marais. Historically, this area of central Paris housed many of the city’s Jewish citizens along with their schools and synagogues. One of the latter sits directly across a narrow lane from our apartment. Over dinner, I showed an iPhone photo I surreptitiously took over the summer of the heavily armed guards stationed outside the synagogue in response to last January’s Charlie Hebdo shootings. While I wondered aloud how my parents would feel within this
newly charged environment, Paris was already in the throes of the utterly unimaginable. 

Travel has always required flexibility, but this has proved truer of late. Regrettable events have meant I’ve had to annul a springtime itinerary in North Africa following the killing of 147 people by Somali militants in Kenya in April, cancel summer plans to visit Greece because of the country’s growing migrant issues and skip an autumn weekend in Budapest as the same crisis spread across Europe. Alongside intense grief for those who have suffered fates worse than my own aborted travel plans, I experienced a sense of regret that our traditional family holiday would also need to be postponed a year.

With not enough time to travel back to Hong Kong or to visit my parents in Los Angeles before my next work commitment, this perpetual traveler stumbled upon a rather stellar plan B by remaining in Marrakech. I stayed on at Jnane Tamsna (jnane.com), the haute homestay of five ultra-photogenic villas within the Palmeraie. Owned by my African style guru, Meryanne Loum-Martin – its thriving organic gardens tended by her ethno-botanist husband Gary Martin – there is nowhere else on earth I would rather take refuge. To thank Meryanne for her exceptional hospitality, I invited her along when I checked in to visit the new Mandarin Oriental Marrakech (mandarinoriental.com). My extended vacation in the city meant I could properly review this stylish oasis of 63 suites and villas set among the most enchanting hotel gardens I’ve ever witnessed. I tried an exceptional native rose scented massage in the Arab-Andalusian spa and we shared Hôtel de Crillon-trained local chef Meryem Cherkaoui’s deliciously novel interpretations of classic dishes like seven cereal couscous and lamb pastilla.

While making lemonade of my axed family holiday, I lucked into an invite to spend Thanksgiving Day at Beldi Country Club (beldicountryclub.com), six kilometres outside the city. My favourite way to end a memorable trip is to try something new. For me, this represents the fact there is always something more to discover. Here among acres of aromatic rose gardens, I actually did drink freshly squeezed lemonade, with a delectable dash of pomegranate, ate grilled sardines in the garden salon and then went horizontal for the best hammam rub and scrub I’ve had to date. Clearly, even with my unexpected two week extension, there is far more still for me to discover in this ancient Berber oasis.

Follow Cynthia on Instagram and Twitter: @CynthiaRoams

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