Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Moroccan dinner inspired by Casablanca for the Chaine des Rotisseurs dinner at the Makati Shangri-la. And about Rick's Cafe in Casablanca, inspired by the movie.


Last night I attended the annual grand dinner of the Chaine des Rotisseurs, living a #Travelife.

This eight-course formal dinner was inspired by Casablanca -- both the movie and the city -- and the watering hole called Rick's Cafe, immortalised by the movie Casablanca.

At the Chaine des Rotisseurs dinner last night

I love Morocco and I have so many wonderful memories from four trips to Morocco in the last two years, plus a couple of other visits many lifetimes ago.

So I was particularly looking forward to this Moroccan-inspired dinner of the Chaine des Rotisseurs.

ABOUT RICK'S CAFE
IN CASABLANCA


Rick's Cafe is famous because of the movie, but, if you must know, it actually doesn't exist.

Rick's Cafe is a place imagined for the movie Casablanca and then recreated in the city of Casablanca by an enterprising American lady.

She's done quite a good job with the interiors, so that everyone who visits Rick's Cafe does really feel the atmosphere, the mood and the decor of Casablanca when the Germans arrived during the war.


ALL BUT ONE

Almost everyone I've brought to Rick's Cafe in Casablanca has loved the place. It's one of the few decent places to eat in the old town area of Casablanca and it really is lovely in terms of interiors.

Rick's Cafe is all about antiques, knick-knacks and artisan stuff put together in such an artistic way that I always feel like redecorating my house when I go there.


REMEMBERING MOROCCO
TWO YEARS AGO

But last night, especially as scenes from the movie Casablanca were playing on large screens all around the ballroom, I remembered the first time I visited Rick's Cafe, which was two years ago, on a two-week holiday to Morocco with the Travel Companion.

This trip took us to the Imperial cities of Rabat, Fes and Marrakech, and then all the way across the Atlas Mountains to an amazing luxury hotel in the middle of the desert, five hours out of Marrakech and about 45 minutes away from the Wild West town of Ouarzazate.

This hotel in the middle of the desert blew my mind away, by the way. I'd love to go back.



LOOKING FOR
ANOTHER KIND OF TRAVELIFE


On that trip, I'd planned to have lunch at Rick's Cafe on our first day of holiday in Morocco, upon our arrival in Casablanca.

But the Travel Companion was not very enthusiastic about eating here.

"Rick's Cafe is a tourist trap," he'd said to me, echoing a Viber message he'd received from some friend who'd given him all kinds of advice about Morocco.



Yes, there he was, living a #Travelife in Morocco in a way few people really get to do, and trust him not to listen to me and to look for advice everywhere else but next to him.

Even these days -- as recently as a couple of days ago, in fact -- this lunch at Rick's Cafe is still a point of contention between us, although in a teasing way.



He never lets me forget that I'd dragged him to Rick's Cafe in Casablanca in spite of his protests.

And, of course, I never let him forget that I'm very happy that I dragged him to Rick's Cafe anyway, in spite of his never-ending complaints about having to go there.

NOT AVOIDING TOURIST TRAPS
IN MOROCCO


"I know Rick's Cafe is a tourist trap," I'd said. "But I don't care. I want to go anyway."

It doesn't take a degree in rocket science to understand that a place like Rick's Cafe in Casablanca will be a tourist trap. But lots of tourist traps around the world are worth visiting at least once, IMHO, and this is one of them.

This was taken in the presidential suite
of the lovely Villa des Orangers in Marrakech,
living a #Travelife...

But this cafe is also the most beautifully restored and decorated building in the old town, so it gives you a romanticized idea of how Casablanca might have been in the pre-war years and in the war years.

So you really should go and see Rick's Cafe, if you find yourself in Casablanca, fancying a #Travelife.

GOING BACK TO MOROCCO
FOR A TRAVELIFE




And that's what I was doing last night, by the way, while having a Moroccan-inspired dinner with Arabian music playing in the background.

I was dreaming about returning to Morocco someday soon. In any season and for any reason. I missed the new cutting-edge art museum in Marrakech on my last trip, and I'll happily return to that private riad we stayed in at the Selman Marrakech anytime.

And I would visit Ouarzazate again, just to do that dune buggy ride across the desert.

DRIVING TO TANGIERS.
AND ABOUT THE OLD ROAD 
TO MARRAKECH FROM FES.

I've been almost everywhere in Morocco, but this time I would perhaps also go to Tangiers and drive along the Northern Coast, and then take the longer route down Fes to Marrakech on the old road, stopping for a night out in the dessert.

I'd taken this old route once about 18 years ago, when the highway was still non-existent. It's about an eight hour drive on the old route from Fes to Marrakech if you just stop for lunch at a roadside tagine stall. That's about all there was in those days.

Yes, my heart actually beat faster last night, for the sights, the sounds and the heady experience of being in the whirlwind of Europe and Africa, and I knew I just had to visit Morocco again sometime for another chapter in my never-ending #Travelife.


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