Aaaaahhhhh. Essaouira, my end-of-holiday beach retreat. But this is no palm trees and cocktails on pristine white sand, ladies and gents.....
....its altogether more yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum, me mateys - only, "where has all the rum gone?"
My arrival in Essaouira in the early evening coincided with dark and stormy weather. Not the ideal start to a beach holiday. I alighted the bus and dragged my luggage past the twenty or so touts who crammed the exit doors and wandered aimlessly for an hour looking for my hotel. I didnt dare stop to look at the map, I already had a tag-team trail of men following me and calling out "madame, madame, madame," ready to grab my money. It may have been quicker and easier to have accepted their service, but I gave myself a good orientation to the medina.
The Hotel Palais des Remparts is beautiful. Stone and wood, just how I like it. The concierge tells me Ive been given a suite - upgrade, nice!! Then he takes me to said suite and I start having conniptions. Before I get comfy I double check that there hasnt been a mistake, that this is a COMPLIMENTARY upgrade from the standard room I booked. "Dont worry, its ok" he says. This suite is bigger than most Moroccan's homes.
My first day started out dark and stormy, which is entirely appropriate for Essaouira, with its foreboding stone ramparts and bronze cannons lining the Atlantic. This weather conjours swashbuckling seaman battling pirates, and the elements. Though if I close my eyes, it sounds like one of those relaxation CDs, with waves breaking on the rocks and seabirds warbling overhead.
The quality of light here is extraordinary. Ive been going berzerk snapping everything in sight - storm clouded skies filled with birds, over turbulent seas, backlit by the most brilliant sunlight. No wonder Essaouira has been a haven for artists and writers of all genres. Jimi Hendrix is reputed to have spent time here - and some writer has a square named after him..... Orson Welles!
My second day started out dark and stormy, which seems to indicate a pattern. Though I will not be discouraged. At 11.30 this morning I checked out of the Palais des Remparts, walked all of 5 minutes across the medina and checked into the gorgeous Villa de L'O. If I was impressed by Remparts, I was somewhat premature. De L'O is all that and more. Also stone and wood, but infinitely more stylish. My room, named L'Orizon, has a private lookout to the top of the medina wall (miss the sea view by... that much), AND it has what every girl needs - a French-style copper claw-footed bathtub!!! Im in L'Ove!!!
A sunburst gave me confidence to head outdoors and explore, though duty called first. With my passage to Casablanca booked and paid for I could rest easy and see what else Essaouira had to offer. First stop, the beach! But, as luck would have it, thunder clouds and hard rain set in, so I retreated to my room for a date with the copper bathtub. It didnt disappoint.
Starving by 5pm, I was aghast to find most places dont open for dinner till after 7pm so, all dressed up with no place to go (and no one to go with!), I indulged in a Mojito and a book in the hotel lounge. Then I strolled, sauntered, sashayed across the next lane into the uber-chic, After 5.
I have to say at this point, I am very used to dining alone. I make a weekly habit of it at home, to treat myself out to lunch, and I relish it. But here, I feel like a bit of a tool. I am yet to find another person dining alone, amongst the couples and families, with whom I can strike up a conversation and laud or lament our singledom status. Nevertheless, I treated myself to yet another mojito (seems Ive found the rum), and settled back to enjoy the chillout tunes and some sublime mediterranean-style seafood fare. Sauteed garlic and parsley calamari, whole grilled bream with mediterranean veg, apple tart - all on the €20 ($27) menu!!!
Suitably sated, I slid, staggered, stumbled my way back to my room and climbed into bed with........................... that book!