Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Victorian treasure

Well, I have been lax in maintaining this blog quite simply because the year in Marrakech has not started yet, and in these last couple of weeks there have been many things to do, mostly involving packing. Currently, there are six open suitcases arranged around my sitting room, some full but all containing books. Goodness, so *many* books. You see, unfortunately, my wished-for postdoctoral area has nothing to do with my PhD topic, and if I am to publish anything with a view to getting some sort of post-doctoral position next year (or the year after, or the year after that...) then I have quite a lot of reading to do. Mercifully I have the language aspect in hand, but I will have a whole new cultural context to learn about, but in a country with limited access to the sort of material I need. Therefore I go to Marrakech laden with rather more books than can be easily moved about. Or course, I don't necessarily require any of Patrick O'Brien's books, or anything from the delightful publisher, Persephone Books (may I particularly recommend The Making of a Marchioness?) but frankly, I consider the fact that I will be travelling without a single Georgette Heyer to be quite the sacrifice as it is.

Anyway, I'm here to talk about Marrakech. Well. Not really. I'm going to talk about the latest thing to be added to the pile of belongings coming with us, or it will be when it arrives. I'm talking about something I have wanted for quite a while and which I finally caved in and purchased this evening, inspired and spurred on by the wonderful costumes in the film of Vanity Fair. Finally I am the proud owner of a paisley shawl. It is Victorian and a tremendous twelve by six feet! The colours are red, burgundy and orange, with a little grey and forest green. Unfortunately I only have a couple of very bad pictures of if, but here they are anyway -

Isn't it divine? While I fully plan to wear it, if only indoors, in the cooler weather (and apparently Marrakech can get very chilly in winter, with temperatures dipping down to about 5 degrees), don't you think it will look wonderful idly thrown over a bed or couch in the meantime?

Unfortunately I cannot find any pictures online this evening which do the glories of Victorian paisley shawls any justice, but if you are curious, do have another look at Vanity Fair as the shawls which are worn by every woman in the film are simply to die for and in the most divine colours. Now, I'm not sure how historically accurate these colours are, as I haven't seen anything like those gorgeous turquoises or saffrons in the shawls that I have seen online, although I have seen (and been outbid on) beautiful cream-centred shawls with pink borders... They seem to have enjoyed the same ubiquity at the time as pashminas do for us now, but pashminas (while as cosy as ever) seem rather drab compared to the glorious colours adorning Reese, such as in this photo from the film.

So perhaps not quite a post about Marrakech after all, but certainly allusive to the treasures of the East, no?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

1001 reasons to live in Marrakech

When I think of Marrakech, the first image that springs to my mind is that of the Djemma el Fna and the souks. No doubt I will be posting at length in the future about these two most exciting (and not to mention photogenic) places, but today I want to show you the beauty that lies just outside the city - the Atlas mountains:

In July, my father and uncle are visiting John and I in Marrakech and we are planning to go into the Atlas mountains and climb the 13,665 foot Mount Toubkal. We will stay at the marvellous Kasbah du Toubkal:

After the climb, which the Kasbah claims to be quite managable for the reasonably fit, but which I suspect will be quite hard going nonetheless, I feel that an afternoon spent at Les Bains de Marrakech, a luxurious spa in the Medina (old city) of Marrakech, will be imperative, don't you think?

However, before any of that can happen, we have to *get* there and packing is continuing apace here in Dublin, leaving our home looking more stripped and bare by the day. As soon as I hit "publish" on this entry I have to start wrapping our pictures and mirrors in the bubblewrap which has taken residence in our bathtub. We are going so very very soon - just over two weeks to go! And before then, we will be visiting the Cliffs of Moher, Killarney, Prague (John, not me, though), London, and then finally a ball in Oxford...

[Image credits to Kasbah Toubkal and Les Bains de Marrakech]

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Marrakech and Yangshuo

I hope that you don't mind image-heavy posts, even if they take a little longer to load. I have a few things I want to show you this evening before I go to bed.

First of all, I am still sufficiently excited about gorgeous riads to want to show them to people at the slightest excuse, so here is a picture of the house where we will be spending our first few nights in Marrakech, the Maison Do:

Isn't it pretty?

Secondly, if you haven't seen The Painted Veil yet, do. Katie and I saw it a couple of weeks ago, and apart from the breathtaking scenery, to which I will return in a moment, I couldn't help noticing the costumes. After all, isn't that the main reason we watch films set in any period prior to our own? I grant you that a Gieves and Hawke wet shirt would look just as becoming on Colin Firth as a regency one, but for the most part I am squinting at shoes, and envying gorgeous dresses and long coats (for the latter, Colin Firth again, but also Richard E. Grant's in Withnail and I, a replica of which the designer will make you for €1000). Anyway, among the otherwise relatively simple wardrobe of Naomi Watts in the film, a parasol caught my eye - you've already seen it, even if you haven't seen the film, because it features in the promotional poster:

Here it is again, more clearly:

Isn't it lovely? Well, get thee to, gentle reader and search for ivory lace parasol and behold! It can be yours for $28AUD! I have just ordered two, so if you come to Marrakech to visit, you can have one all to yourself as we sit on the roof drinking mint tea and eating sticky buns.

But the parasol isn't the only connection between The Painted Veil and me, as it just so happens that I have seen the stunning landscape featured in the film with my own eyes last year when John and I visited Guilin and nearby Yangshuo and where John proposed, so I will always look at the landscape and the film which showed it so beautifully (not particularly challenging, really - it's very photogenic) with particularly romantic eyes.

[Image credits to Maison Do and]

Monday, May 14, 2007

Of course, it's not just about clothes

There's probably more to moving to Marrakech than selecting one's wardrobe, isn't there? I also get to dream about what our house will look like. This is where imagination must take over for two reasons. Firstly, everybody to whom I have spoken on the matter assures me that our budget is a realistic one for renting a dar or riad in Marrakech, but beyond that...? After all, think of the sort of price range that might be considered reasonable for, say, a two-bedroom apartment in London. How long is a piece of string? Are we going to end up with something as wonderful as the coolly sophisticated Riad Magellan (probably not):

Or the lushly cosy Riad Eden? Again, probably not, although the size of the Riad Eden is more likely.

Finally, I dream of the Riad Louna in Fez:

What I imagine to be likely is that we will find something around the same size as the Riad Eden, without any of the trimmings, although hopefully with some respectable furniture. We will probably need to have the house repainted (for ease, this may be done in pure white, like the Riad Magellan) although the blue featured on the cover of Living in Morocco, and in the pages of Morocco Style makes me go weak at the knees...

Secondly (I nearly forgot), there is the fact that the house may not be in such a state that we *can* reasonably make our mark on it - the hope of finding a relatively blank canvas is just that - a hope.

At any rate, I will be buying silks in chocolate brown, saffron, aubergine and red as well as acres of natural muslin for bed hangings and curtains to bring with me - I will have the pleasurable challenge of decorating a relatively large house for one year of residence on as little money as possible but with as lush and beautiful an effect as I manage. Silk and Moroccan lamps will be the cornerstones of my creativity, but if you have any other suggestions, please let me know!

[Image credits to Riad Magellan, Riad Eden, Riad Louna and Taschen]

The excitement builds...

It is so difficult to think of anything other than the impending move these days. I am so very excited, and everything in the apartment is reminding me of what is coming - the empty bookcases, the packing boxes lining the hall, John's rucksack of books which moves nomadically from room to room with for no apparent reason.

Deciding what comes and what stays is very difficult. Books have already been chosen and rejected (although I have still chosen far too many), and some winter clothes have been packed away while others will live with my parents until winter comes around, because we cannot bring everything with us in one journey. I'm not a particularly "boho" sort of girl - when I think bohemian, I think of the 1920's rather than Miss Miller, and certainly the former is a sort of bohemianism that I might aspire to. I confess that I am bringing some slightly hippyish clothes with me, for comfort and practicality outside the home, but I will also be bringing silk and lace cocktail dresses for sitting on our roof, watching the sun set over the city, perhaps with a cocktail or a gin and tonic... I hope that this fantasy isn't too shallow of me, but it does sound like fun, doesn't it?

Other impractical clothes which are making their way into my suitcases include these scrumptious shorts from the new Kate Moss range for Topshop (for indoor use only!), along with a very long, slinky gold shimmery skirt, which doesn't really photograph so I'm not including it here.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A year in Marrakech

In less than a month from today, my husband and I are moving to Marrakech for one year. We have one-way tickets from Dublin to Marrakech booked for the 7th of June, an appointment with an Italian estate agent and four nights booked at a riad called Maison Do and THAT'S IT.

Isn't that exciting?

[Image credit to Topshop]