Monday 18 January 2010

Rabat - Twinned with Canberra

Hotel Balima, Rabat, Morocco

It’s getting late now and I am tired. I am beginning to get that feeling that would wash over me at Ballymaloe, when I’d secretly wish to God I could just go to bed and not bother with the blog. This is my last night in Rabat though, and tomorrow I head to Marrakech ahead of the others. I have to utilise Lindsay’s laptop and bring myself up to date.

Rabat. We were discussing Rabat in detail when evaluating our options for this trip. We read the Lonely Planet description – seat of government, wide open boulevards, large public spaces. Sounds a bit like Canberra, I remarked, to my Australian companions. Well it’s not that similar to Canberra in fairness, but I can detect a tiny whimper of truth resonating in that statement.

Above: Parliament House, Canberra
Below: Parliament Chamber of Representatives, Rabat

Off the train, walking to the hotel, the first thing I notice is pollution. Not very Australian. The roads
are wide. Canberra. But it actually looks and feels more like France. We are staying at the Hotel Balima, right opposite parliament. The “Grand dame of Rabat hotels.” More like the Great-Grand dame if you ask me. I am all in favour of decaying imperial splendour, but it is hard to envisage Ernest Hemingway knocking back martinis in the bar of this place. Unless he was on the lookout for some really sketchy looking dames de la nuit that is.

The weirdest thing is that it feels like I have arrived in a different country. Maybe it’s just because we are in the Ville Nouvelle and not in the medina like we have been elsewhere? Maybe because it is the capital? Maybe it’s because it
does feel French? Or maybe it is the sensation of staying in a hotel room that is unnervingly reminiscent of Alan Partidge’s in the Linton Travel Tavern.

You have a few more food options here, namely French ones. Last night we dined in Le Grand Comptier, which gets a good write up in the book. It looks the part, and has about ten members of staff for every customer, which always seems pretty French to me. But my medium rare cote de boeuf was overcooked and my béarnaise was cold, so Michel Roux would not be amused. Worse than that though, the army of waiting staff had that irritating habit of loitering around the table looking for things to do – shuffling condiments and remove unemptied wine glasses. The beef was good though, and since it didn’t come in a tagine, with couscous or wrapped in filo pastry, I was fairly happy. But
crème brulee guys – I wanna be able to shatter it with a spoon.

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