Category Archives: Marrakech

Marrakech (but no express and no Graham Nash)


Bougainvillea (?) in the hotel gardens

Just back from a week in Marrakech. I’m of an age which means that I can’t hear the word ‘Marrakech’ without thinking of the song (first recorded 50 years ago this year – can you believe that Graham Nash is 76?).

Sadly, we flew rather than took the train, nobody smelled the garden in my hair (OK, that’s not so sad) and, as a non-smoker, I didn’t blow smoke rings from the corners of my mou, mou, mou, mou, mouth.

Perhaps that’s just the effect of the passing of 50 years for you.

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It was not our usual sort of holiday. Normally we’d go for a villa with a pool, hire a car and be rather anti-social. We’d provide for ourselves during the day, eat out at night and while Mrs O likes to soak up the sun, I tend to read, swim, walk and run.

This time we wanted some sun earlier in the year (well, one of us did) so we headed further south – in Morocco it seemed more sensible to opt for a hotel.

Marrakech airport is very impressive but the first thing that struck me when we arrived in the early evening was that everyone – security men, people on passport control, cleaners – seemed to be eating. I was wondering if we’d come to the obesity capital of the world until it dawned on me that it was Ramadan when the faithful are not allowed to eat or drink between sunrise and sunset and that they were taking the first opportunity to put that right. Sadly, the arrivals were bringing more than enough obesity to go round.

The road in from the airport is equally impressive – wide and well surfaced with a separate lane for bikes and motorbikes (which seem to be almost exclusively 50cc/moped types). It was very difficult to discern the traffic laws as it appeared to be complete chaos (I was not even tempted to hire a bike). I came to the conclusion that either:

a) There are many rules, but nobody observes any of them, or

b) There is only one rule which is ‘there are no rules’.

We’d been to Morocco before – pre marriage – so that puts it over 31 years ago. It might not have been my greatest holiday moment as it turned out that I booked us into a bit of a businessman’s hotel in Tangiers – with a brothel on the second floor!

This time there was no brothel, so far as I know.

We were staying at an all inclusive hotel with 257 rooms and lots of other people, generally even older than me.

The hotel was very good, the staff welcoming (and very numerous) and the food and drink beyond expectations. However, although the ‘all inclusive’ is extremely convenient it’s a terrible temptation to eat and drink more than necessary. At home, I probably don’t eat before early afternoon – here I’d had breakfast and lunch by then and carried on to an evening meal bigger than I’d normally have.


Gratuitous cactus picture

The pool was excellent, but surrounded by a hundred people doing nothing but lying on sun loungers (day 2 repeat, day 3 repeat, etc, etc). On the first day I was the only person actually swimming, with perhaps another two standing in the pool cooling off and a child on an inflatable.

Other groups were sitting in the shade – it’s really weird seeing groups of people sitting around a table, silent, but with each completely intent on a mobile phone. What are they doing? Social media?, web surfing?, texting (the person sitting next to them)?, Netflix? I do worry for the art of conversation.

And the tattoos …..

Clearly, I’m getting even older than I’d realised.

In addition to the swimming, we ran most days (there was a 0.9km path around the inside perimeter of the well-tended grounds and I ran over 21 miles in all) and I visited the gym – I saw one otherĀ  person running and two others in the gym. I read two books (and should have taken a third) and generally relaxed. Even the eating and drinking settled down – I gained just about a kilo (just over 2pounds).


The perimeter track – unfortunately I didn’t have a camera with me when I passed a small tortoise crossing it one morning. Don’t know the name of the cactus on the left but I think it’s what we call ‘mother-in-law’s tongue’ in the UK

So, a very different experience – a really enjoyable holiday but it hasn’t changed my mind about my preference for a villa with a pool.

I’m not saying our approach is better or worse – but, boy, is it different! And on the basis of ‘majority rule’, I guess we must be the weird ones.

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Thinking about the cycle training while away from it, I think I’ve realised why I keep going for the turbo in preference to the road. I believe it boils down to impatience.

If I’m just going out for a ride, I don’t mind all the faffing about to get ready: the kit, the helmet, getting the bike down from its rack, checking the tyre pressures, getting food and drink, setting up the Garmin, etc.

However, if I’m just going out to clock up the training miles, I just want it over as quickly as possible and that points clearly to the turbo. Kit, a quick check on the rear tyre pressure and away I go.

Can I change my approach and turn training rides into something more enjoyable, rather than just a way of clocking up the distance?

3 day training block Distance Week Distance
1 150km (93m) 1 271km (168m)
2 246km (153m) 2 407km (252m)
3 160km (100 m) 3 319km (242m)
4 249km (155m) 4 Run 21+m swim & gym