A Breath of Fresh Air

The seasons are starting to change on the Eastern Seaboard.  The cherry blossoms are starting to bloom; but winter hasn’t decided if it’s fully done yet.  But I love the coming of spring, with its promise of eventual summer.

This time of year makes it easy to forget how quickly I complain about the heat and humidity.  It makes me forget how oppressive the heat was in two of the places I’ve lived overseas.  Give me a few months (or even a few weeks) and I will be begging for air conditioning, a pool, or – best of all – the beach.

But sometimes, there’s no escaping the city.  Or, sometimes, our adventures to the city coincide with heat.  So, what to do?

The coming of this spring – with its obscenely nice February weather that led me to Rehoboth – got me remembering an inner city escape in Marrakech: The Jardin Majorelle (Majorelle Garden).  I discovered it during a particularly warm November – and took visitors there during a particularly warm April.  I was tempted by a friend’s description that the Garden feels a good ten degrees cooler than the city around it.

The main entrance to the garden is a short walk up Rue Yves Saint Laurent, just off of a very busy stretch of Avenue Yacoub el Mansour. Noticeably quieter than the main drag, this short walk almost acts as preparation for the quiet within the garden walls. The first sight is a blue and green tiled fountain with stone benches on either side, surrounded by high walls and even higher palm trees – a sort of calming foyer into the garden beyond.

In the 1920s, French painter Jacques Majorelle acquired a piece of land and created what the garden is today, and opened it to the public in 1947. The garden eventually fell into some disrepair; in 1980, designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé purchased the garden and revamped it. As the story goes, the pair fell so in love with Majorelle Garden (and Marrakech in general) that, after he died in 2008, Saint Laurent’s ashes were spread within the walls of the garden.

Just beyond the fountain entryway lies a bamboo grove, with paths leading straight or to the right. Taking the path straight ahead leads deeper into the bamboo, and to more winding paths within the garden walls. The pathways are dotted with plants in vibrantly colored pots. There are benches every few feet to sit in the shade and enjoy the cacophony of birds and colors. Almost every other turn leads to a pond with fish. Everywhere in the garden, the eye is accosted with deep, calming blue – in fact, it is a particular shade of blue that Majorelle himself created for his garden (so called, would you believe it, “Majorelle Blue”).

A memorial to Saint Laurent is tucked away in a shady corner in the garden. In another corner of the garden is the Berber Museum. The museum is an extra charge, and doesn’t take long to get through given its small size.

Majorelle Garden is a major tourist attraction in its own right, so going into the garden to avoid other people entirely isn’t a possibility. Even with all the other people around, it is a place to find tranquility among the Marrakshi chaos – and heat – outside its walls.

So, when spring fever hits – or when the heat is too much – let’s stroll into the garden and sit a spell in the fashionably blue shade beneath the palm trees.

 

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