A Relaxing Morning In The Marjorelle Gardens
Before visiting a new place I like to spend some time on Pinterest looking up all the cool things I need to see, do and eat while we're there. Because we have two little people we tend to travel with a very fluid schedule. To keep my little list-making, super-planner self sane I like to pick a few things that I really want to see (at some point) then when we have a chance we go see them we do. This way we can keep our schedules open to add things recommended to us by friends, fellow travelers, hosts or hotel staff. In Marrakech I only had one must see thing on my list and that was to visit the Marjorelle Gardens, the Moroccan home of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.
I had asked the owner of our riad, Hamid, if we should take a taxi over to the gardens because it was too far to walk. He suggested a carriage would be a cheaper option for us so we decided to head to the carriage line on the edge of the main square Jemaa El Fna. We got everyone loaded in and realized fairly quickly (but still too late) that Johnny is in fact incredibly allergic to horses. A few Benadryl and a very long ten minutes later we arrived at the gardens and let Johnny recover while we stood in line to get tickets.
You know how sometimes you go somewhere because you have seen a picture that makes it look awesome only to realize that whatever was in the picture was to only cool thing there? I was thinking that maybe thats how it was going to be at he Marjorelle Gardens. I couldn't have been more wrong. Everywhere you looked there was something striking or lovely or eye catching. At one point I had to just stop taking pictures for a while because I would literally stop walking every four feet to take another one.
How did this beautiful oasis in the city come to be? My handy dandy little pamphlet tells me that there was a French orientalist painter Jacques Marjorelle who visited Morocco in 1917 and fell in love with it. So a few years later he purchased a large palm grove and commissioned an architect to build him a studio in the middle of it in the Art Deco style. Upon its completion he painted it a vibrant "Marjorelle blue". The gardens surrounding his studio were to be made into a piece of living artwork and would house his collection of rare and exotic plants that he had collected during his travels.
Interestingly enough, most of the plants in the garden were actually things that grow everywhere in Southern California and Arizona so they seemed very familiar to me. I could see how they would be quite exotic to a Frenchman though. The entire time we were wandering around I kept thinking that it felt like it could be a spa hidden somewhere near Palm Springs.
After the passing of Mr Marjorelle in the early 1960's the whole place was basically abandoned. Fast forward to 1980, Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent purchase the Jardin Marjorelle to save it from real estate developers. The garden was restored and new plants were added to the collection. After Yves Saint Laurent's death in 2008 it was donated to a non-profit organization that makes sure it is well taken care of and stays open to be enjoyed by the public.
Initially I thought we wouldn't be there for more than an hour but we had such a nice time sitting and enjoying the different areas, taking moment to jot down thoughts, enjoying the Yves Saint Laurent LOVE gallery and looking for frogs and turtles with the girls that we spent the entire morning and early afternoon inside. Towards the end of our visit the girls fell asleep in their stroller so we decided to grab lunch at a fabulous little cafe across the street called Maowa before heading back to the medina. I had a nice pastilla and cheese briks (pronounced breeks) and some incredible ice cream!
PLANNING A VISIT?
Jardin Marjorelle - Open daily from 8am - 5:30 pm
Tickets are 70dhs ($7) for the Garden and 30dhs ($3) for the Berber museum inside. Kids under 12 are free.