Sofa. His Living Room. On the verge of splitting up. 2010.
Him: “Ha! Like Rafiki and Simba?”
Him: “From The Lion King. Rafiki, he lifts Simba, remember?”
Me: “Never seen it”
Jeez, I’ve never seen him more outraged since the Marks & Spencer chocolate milk debacle (to cut a long, calorie laden story short, if you buy a big bottle, it’s cheaper. Fascinating.) Anyway, apparently my childhood was incomplete. My underprivileged, Disney deprived existence explained my glass half empty attitude. Bit harsh, but I had no time to get indignant as sing-a-long Circle of Life burst into life. Disaster averted. Or at least it was until he mentioned Top Gun. And Gladiator. And then Toy Story. And Ghostbusters, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Forrest Gump, Star Wars, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, Rocky, The Bodyguard, The Wizard of Oz, The Matrix, The Sound of Music, The Sixth Sense, Elf… Never seen it, never seen it, NEVER SEEN IT. Alas, movie references are lost on me, character impressions float straight on by and I disappoint people daily. I always thought I was quite widely viewed, I have seen a lot of films. They were just made more for TV, say, a Saturday afternoon on Channel 5.
I don’t know how these said classics have passed me by but as part of my 30 things to do before 30, I need to make movie amends. But where do I start? There are a LOT of films out there and trying to compile ‘The List’ is a challenge. Where do I start? I’ve researched and I’ve read reviews but what I need, what I really need, are recommendations. So I’m sending out a plea, you know your favourite film? That movie masterpiece? The picture that changed your world? Yeahhhhh, I won’t have seen it. So if you can drop me a comment below and tell me what my cinematic education is missing, or gimme a shout over here, you’d not have my viewing pleasure in the palm of your hands, you’d also be contributing to my education. Yowsers, that’s some responsibility y’all but if I finally understand why Baby is in the corner* it’ll all be worth it.
*I kid, I kid, I’ve seen that classic, what do you think I am?
I have always wanted to go to Marrakech. For as long as I can remember I’ve yearned to meander in the medina and souk it all up. I’ve longed to sit on an embroidered leather pouffe in the cool courtyard of a riad, eating a homemade tagine surrounded by glowing lanterns. Probably wearing a fez. And so, last week, my African ambition finally became a reality as he and I touched down in Marrakech Menara airport ready to begin our Moroccan adventure. Any my, what an adventure it was.
I fell in love. Instantly. From the moment Hamid, our happy smiling taxi driver, began the frenzied cart-avoiding and moped-dodging journey to our riad, the crazy city stole my heart. The people were friendly and exceptionally welcoming; the food was stunning, the weather beautiful and the shopping, well, the shopping was heavy. Two pouffes, three tagines, three hand painted bowls, pestle and mortar, lantern, candle, clutch bag, purse, five bangles and three bracelets heavy. We were immersed in a vibrant sun soaked film set of laden donkeys, skilled craftsmen and bustling markets. Every sense was stricken by the colour, spice and cacophony the magical city is overflowing with. I could babble on and on about how mind-blowingly, breath-takingly fantastic it is and how everyone should go, immediately. Alas, there are only so many times I can say GO, book it, book it now! Instead, I have whittled down the highlights.
The only thing better than the exquisite ‘little darling’ P’tit Habibi is Wafi, the riad manager. Taking care of our every whim, from arranging taxis to organising excursions and booking restaurants, he was wonderful. When we arrived unexpectedly late after our delayed flight he ordered us a tasty takeaway of cous cous and chicken pastilla. Serving it under the stars, we sat amidst lanterns eating, chilling and drinking our complimentary bottle of chilled wine. Each morning a homemade Moroccan breakfast was served to us on the rooftop terrace, setting us up for a hectic day in the souks. The decor, whilst striking Moroccan cool in the day, comes alive at night with a mass of twinkling lanterns. An oasis of calm and comfort from the frenzy outside, the rooftop pool, Space Invaders mirror and mouth-watering Moroccan salads mean that when I next visit, there is only one place I would stay. In fact, as Wafi told us the day we sadly had to leave, we now have friends in Marrakech.
When you pay £60 for four cocktails, you expect them to be good. They weren’t. They were amazing. The incredible La Mamounia is indescribably beautiful. I’d heard whispers of the ‘dangerously strong’ mojitos served at Le Bar Churchill so that of course is where we headed. The whispers weren’t wrong, they were indeed dangerous and the carpet was leopard print. I’d come home. Once the mojitos had been savoured we fancied a change of decadence so we were led to Le Bar Italien. Bit of a blur from this point, all I will say is, Best. Cosmopolitan. Ever.
A bit of research had told me that the best tagines were to be found at Le Foundouk, a hidden gem of a restaurant in the medina. We were led to the first floor where our table overlooked the impressive candlelit chandelier. Our hands were washed in orange blossom water, our menus were delivered as scrolls and our belts strained under a wonderful chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives. Whilst it is not a local’s restaurant, it is beautiful and the food is delicious.
When the heat of the midday sun became too much, Le Jardin Marjorelle was a welcome retreat. Famed for its collection of rare plants and cacti, the lush garden is the ideal place to cool off and chill out. Particularly helpful after the blood pumping purchases made on Rue Yves Saint Laurent. Just along from the garden sits a row of chic shops, the chicest of all being the intriguing concept store, 33 Rue Marjorelle. Stocking an eclectic mix of quality jewellery, purses, bags homeware and clothes, my shopping craving was well and truly sated.
Straying from the old town was something we only did the once. Whilst the new town is contemporary and cosmopolitan, it can’t hope to possess half of the charm of the medina. However, what it does hold is Grand Café de la Poste which with its charming staff and frozen mojitos is a relaxing respite when you’re all cous coused out. They do a bloody good club sandwich too.
I’m not too good at asking for a discount, I find it embarrassing. When I was a student, using my NUS card made me twitchy, so the thought of bartering filled me with dread. It’s the done thing, I was told, and there is no option other than to play the negotiating game. Nope, no way, I couldn’t, there is just no chance…or so I thought. I entered the souks, I spotted what I liked, I marched over and from nowhere, I was suddenly wearing my haggling hat. They offered me 500 dirhams, I offered 200, they laughed at me, they said 400, I laughed at them, I said 250, we settled on 300. Done. My biggest triumph had to be paying 400 dirhams (about £30) when the original price quoted was 1450 (approx. £105). It’s a game, it’s fun, I would always offer less than half the original price and nine times out of 10, we’d both happily meet somewhere in the middle. And if not, I walked away. I was delighted with everything I bought, happy in the knowledge that not only can I barter with the best of them, but that each piece has its own souk story to tell.
Whilst we were away every meal was fantastic. I gorged on tagines, cous cous and pastillas, I devoured dates, pomegranates and sweet pastries, washing it all down with mint tea and mojitos. But sometimes, a girl needs a burger. And whilst the traditional Moroccan cuisine served at Le Comptoir looked fantastic, the original Comptoir burger was just what I needed. A lively exciting venue, a surprise treat was the gyrating belly dancing show that kept us entertained whilst we sipped a pink mojito and classic gin fizz.
Marrakech is manic, noisy and energetic. It is a place where you’ll be jostled by a donkey’s saddle bag in a sandy alley one minute and be dipping your feet in a mosaicked pool as a waiter brings you drinks the other. I was dazzled, stunned and worn out. Every sense was battered and I adored every second. A city of contrasts, the feverish medina is remedied by the tranquil riads which are only an intricately carved door away. A concern about finally visiting the place you’ve always wanted to go is whether it will live up to expectations. Marrakech exceeded every one.
It’s divisive, deplored and derided. It’s the stuff of brassy TV barmaids and long haired old letches. Bet Lynch wears it, Peter Stringfellow lounges on it and I just love it. Hardly a day goes by when I’m not leopard printed in some way or another. It could be a bag, it might be my nails or I could be all out in a maxi dress, probably with a pair of leopardy sandals. Does this mean I’m vulgar? Tasteless? Trashy? Tacky? Have I seen spots for so long I’m now blind, no longer able to tell the difference between a pinch of purrfect from a moggy monstrosity? Well, from my experience there’s an army of print police out there and I’m not sure I’ve got them on pawed (sorry).
Exhibit A. I got an email from a colleague. We’d been talking about superheroes. I work with boys, this is the norm. Said email read, “You would be leopard woman by the way ‘cause you are always wearing lots of leopard print.” True. But we were talking about Batman. Exhibit B. I got a card from a friend. On the front, a quote from Jackie Collins, “My weakness is wearing too much leopard print.” Inside, “Amanda look it’s you!” Hmmm. Exhibit C. The countless comments, remarks and observations about my top, t-shirt, cardigan, tights, scarf, socks, dress, leggings, nails, bag, hat, ear muffs, purse, pyjamas… Whilst nothing is particularly negative, my animal themed wardrobe choices are mentioned, a lot. I’ve seen a mirror (honestly) I know I’ve been doused with a dose of GRRRRR , I chose it, I bought it and I’m feline fine. Apparently I’m brave; by channelling Dorian Green it seems I am marking myself out as a beacon of fashion fearlessness. I don’t feel brave, leopard is everywhere. From Mulberry to the Marks and Spencer, everyone is embracing cat couture yet still it’s mocked by many. This could possibly be part of the reason I love it so darn much.
I don’t like to stand out but I don’t want to blend in. I don’t want to be a carbon copy nor a sore thumb. I don’t want to wear the same as everyone else and perhaps part of my love for it is because not everyone does. I feel comfortable in leopard print. Granted it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I see past its dodgy history and it’s a pattern I enjoy. I can’t really do stripes; they are not the friend of the generous hipped. Spots are ok but they’re one distortion away from my beloved leopard, so that’s what I adopt. I like it, designers like it and it is overcoming its image problem. Yes it will always be the furry fashion fodder of the Kat Slater, Liz McDonald and Bet Lynch soap barmaid crew. The posing pouches and satin robes of the Hugh Hefner’s and Peter Stringfellow’s will always be cut from catlike cloth. But does that monopolise the market meaning I can’t join in the fun? Or when I do, am I tarred with the same brash brush? Other than an apparel animal instinct I don’t have a lot in common with soap landladies or elderly nightclub owners. I grew up in a village, I went to a girl’s grammar school, I’ve never even touched a cigarette, yet my loyalty to leopard is as strong as any cockney cad. I love it, it makes me feel good and I wouldn’t let preconceptions, stereotypes or wide eyed wonder stop me. If a print, pattern or design makes you stand taller, head higher and smile broader, then wear it and wear it proud. You should never judge a book by its cover or, more importantly, a leopard by its spots.