This is the ornate central courtyard of the Ben Youssef Madrasa in the Marrakesh old town.
I’m on my way back to Marrakech for a quick two night stop before attending meetings in London. We’re making a return to the beautiful Palais Sebban so I thought it was fitting to post a photo of the riad. This trip I’ll be taking some friends on the same amazing food tour we went on last time as well as making a quick morning trip to go camel trekking in the foothills of the Atlas mountains. It involves two hours on the back of a camel, which should be interesting. I’ve wanted to do a multi-day trip through the desert by camel for a while now. This will be a good test of my willingness to spend extended periods of time on top of a camel.
The walk up to the top of this tower was interesting. It was a tower that vacationers could rent, but there is only one room per floor. So as you walked up, you passed through multiple bedrooms, kitchens and bathrooms, each on their own floor. By the time I got to the top I was ready to collapse. After catching my breath I took a few picture before making my way down again. We sat in a nearby courtyard and enjoyed the most garlicky bruschetta I’ve ever had. It was delicious.
On my most recent trip to Italy, we were driving through Tuscany, a little lost but enjoying ourselves. Suddenly, everything started to look familiar. Out of nowhere I told my friend Chris to take a left. Things looked more familiar and I suggested driving up a small single track road. Chris is good in that he’s always calm, and happy to go with the flow. In his usual way, he didn’t ask why, and just drove up the little road.
My suspicions were correct, that track led to the Castello de Montegufoni. I first came to this amazing hotel with my parents as a kid, and we went again, when I was at university, with my English relatives.
The first time we were there two events stick out in my mind. The first was the sound of beautiful violin music piped through the courtyard you see below. They seemed to have an amazing sound system hidden away somewhere. At some point, we were sat at one of the communal dinners in the hotel’s vineyard and discovered that a man eating with us was the first violinist in one of the famous European philharmonics (I can’t remember which one). It turns out the music we could hear throughout the courtyard was him practicing.
The other memory was waking up in the middle of the night to discover that my parents had joined me on the pullout couch in the living room. Their bedroom was a loft, up above the living room. As it turned out, they’d been sat enjoying a glass of wine at their open window looking at the moon. Suddenly, a winged creature was silhouetted against the glow. A winged creature that soon winged passed my parents and into the rafters. It was a bat.
Oh, three things. The tuck shop had the most amazing multi-ice-cream sandwich/ice cream bar combo. I’ve never found it anywhere else.
On my second trip there, I remember my uncle Mike preparing the biggest mound of chopped garlic I’ve ever seen, amazing gooey cheese, a night of sambucca and limoncello, and my mom feeling bad for my dad as he seemed to be spending all his time on his Blackberry working. As it turned out, he was actually trying to beat the high score I’d set on Brick Breaker.
I’m not sure I told anyone I stumbled upon this place, so this picture may come as a surprise.
This garden, with its weird implements, is in the middle of a torture museum in San Gimignano. One thing you learn there, is that people have done some pretty horrible things to each other. The imagination involved in creating some of these contraptions is just mad. One of the creepiest sections was entering the dungeon to see a small vault where a man was actually walled up. For those that don’t know, that’s when they stick someone in a closet sized hole and brick them in to starve to death.