I'm shaking the sand out of my sandals having just returned from a WONDERFUL weekend on the coast in the lovely fishing port of Essaouira.
The alarm went off at 6.15 on Saturday morning and I woke to the sound of rain falling steadily outside, so, putting on anorak, socks and trainers (rather than the planned sandals and light sweater), I plodded down to the taxis through puddles in pitch dark to meet Sinead and Amy, another volunteer from one of the other houses. After waiting until the taxi was sufficiently crammed with damp bodies we set off down the valley to Marrakech where we caught a remarkably smooth and comfortable coach for the journey to the coast (all the while being entertained by Amy's hair raising tale of a friend of hers who was kicked in the head by a mule the previous Saturday so instead of spending the weekend trekking in the High Atlas she ended up in the hospital in Marrakech while her friend was given a brain scan (but she is now fine). Not surprisingly Amy was in a great state of excitement at having a proper weekend away, while Sinead and I made a mental note to take great care while crossing the road!
Anyway, 3 hours later we eventually arrived to another world of blue skies, gorgeous heat, white washed houses with blue shutters and swirling seagulls in Essaouira. This was going to be a great weekend! We found our guesthouse which was a lovely little riad down a covered alleyway with a small courtyard and fountain as well as a beautiful blue and white tiled roof terrace with views to the sea. I did wonder if the owner may have thought that I was there with my daughters as he very pointedly showed me where everything was on the map, (which we then left behind by accident in the café where we had lunch!) However, the actual medina is very small, so unlike Marrakech or Fez is almost impossible to get lost in and you can always orientate yourself around the sea and the high walls. Amy's chief aim was to go surfing so we headed for the beach, where she was able to hire the kit and we all sped up the sand on the back of a quad bike driven by a cool Moroccan surfing dude with the obligatory bleached dreadlocks to the best surfing spot. It was a stunning beach and in spite of the dire warnings in the guide books of currents and high winds there were quite a few people swimming as well as a lot of surfers and not a breath of wind. In fact it was all you could wish for of a beach and there was the added bonus of the lovely back drop of the walled port, not to mention camels and horses offering rides as well as several games of football. After a great beach walk Sinead and I visited some of the galleries with some amazing brightly coloured art naif style paintings typical of the town. I also explored the port which is an extraordinarily bustling place crammed with fishing boats of all shapes and sizes, while the quay was buzzing with little stalls selling a bewildering array of fish as well as fishermen mending nets and repairing boats. It made some of the ports on the east coast of Scotland look like sleepy backwaters in comparison and I wonder if they would have looked like that in their heyday.
In the evening we had a great supper of grilled fish in one of the little stands by the port, surrounded by lots of pretty well fed cats and kittens - clearly a good place to be a cat! We then headed for a very attractive bar (which actually served alcohol!) with some great live music as well, though I have to say that I did feel my age as the conversation ranged over gigs we had been to, drunken escapades and dodgy jobs, (not to mention the fact that I struggled to hear a certain amount of the conversation anyway - but the other two were very tolerant of the old dear!)
By a stroke of luck we realised that this was the weekend when the clocks changed so Amy and I had a gorgeous walk along the beach before breakfast and I also explored the beautiful old ramparts with magnificent views of the sea crashing onto the rocks below, as well as the winding streets and alleyways with shops selling jewellery, leather, paintings and gorgeously coloured scarves and carpets, as well as some wonderful carved wooden doors and brightly tiled walls. However, by now the temptation to surf was just too great to resist, so I hired a wetsuit - what a revelation as you could stay in the water for hours - as well as a body board and spent a happy morning swimming and surfing.
So it was with a lot regret that, after a lunch of grilled sardines (me), pizza and spaghetti Bolognese (the other two) and Nutella and banana crepes (all three!) we boarded the bus back to Marrakech. I will just have to come back at some point with David as he would love it.
By the time we eventually arrived back in Asni it was pitch dark again, but at least it had stopped raining and I think that the sun has been shining as there does appear to be hot water for a shower so the solar panels have been doing their stuff - thank goodness!