We stayed in a riad in the old town. They’re a sort of posh B & B, usually hidden down some dark alley in the Medina, and - even after three days of residence - not easy to find. The Riad Arabesque is a former Andalusian/ Moroccan palace tastefully restored, its sumptuous reception hall looking as if Sydney Greenstreet might stroll in at any moment in a crumpled white suit. The first night they told us that dinner would be “special”. It was held in one of the rooms off the hall: singers and oud players - are they oudists? - wandered in and out as we reclined on low couches and more cushions than John Lewis’s; people plying us with Morrocan delicacies like stuffed aubergines, sun-dried tomatoes, and wild artichokes - thirteen dishes in all; at the end of which we could hardly move. That was the starter. After that came the lamb tajine, with which we coped gamely before falling back exhausted into the cushions. That was when the chicken tajine arrived. I recall vaguely refusing various deserts: dates, fruits, etc., and cheese and as we struggled upstairs the DG saying something about surgical intervention, but it’s all something of a blur. Breakfast turned out to be similar, but with only 12 courses. We gave dinner a miss.
Halfway between Fes and the coast is the Meknes wine territory - mile after mile of flat, sunny vineyards which produce most of Morocco’s wine. We knew some of them beore we got here, (even Windsor has a Moroccan restaurant) but we decided to try our luck down-market - and got as far as the Gerouane - red, white, rosé or gris (a near-rosé) - without problems. One of these would cost you 32dh - a whole £2 - but our favourite red is still the Domaine du Sahari Reserve, costing an outrageous 63dh, or £4. We found the answer to what happens to empty bottles: they go in the poubelle - there are no facilities for recycling them. But it still hurts.
It was like missing an open goal and I blew it. Our American friends who live in an eagle’s nest, high above Villefranche, are often telling us that they’ve seen (100-miles-away) Corsica - while we who spend our lives down in the town haven’t seen it since the mid-eighties. But the other day they mailed to say that they saw Elba.
It was probably the only time in my life I’ll have the opportunity to say “And are you now able?”, and I didn't.