Moving to London in and of itself is an exciting undertaking with loads of cultural possibilities, yet when the relocation anxiety dies down and the familiarity sets in, you’ll find yourself eager to jet off to other foreign lands in search of new environments and experiences. A UK winter in particular will be enough of an excuse—hey, I’ve said time and again that this Chicago gal is not one to point a finger at London for weather (the year-round green grass and milder temperatures are awesome!), but even snow-blanketed, frost-bitten Chicago can see a clear blue and brightly sunny sky this time of year.

And so it was that at the end of a grey, rainy London week, my husband and I headed south for the winter…well, for the weekend at least. Destination: Morocco! Marrakech, to be more specific…a dry, hot, and sunny escape that’ll have you humming a whimsical tune when the UK otherwise has you singin’ the blues.

Marrakech is precisely the exotic experience you’d expect it to be, something out of an Indiana Jones movie or tales of the Arabian nights. True that you’ll notice modern, Westernized elements (not least of which the motorbikes zipping through the souks), yet you’ll be astonished by the extent to which traditional culture and architecture has been preserved. The souks—i.e., markets—are a labyrinth of colorful delights, donkey carts, and haggling. Just be aware that you’ll invite the hard-sell whether you’re interested in their wares or not; also watch out for random locals in the street who offer unsolicited directions to a popular site; it’ll come across as an unexpected favor out of the kindness of their hearts, but result in an expected gratuity in the palms of their hands. Nonetheless, conical spires of spices will tempt your nose, and the signature mint tea (the beverage of hospitality) will treat your tongue; kaleidoscopic patterns will feed your eyes, and Moroccan flutes and drums will charm your ears. It’s a sensory stimulation out of your imagination.

In addition to being only a three-hour flight from London, the fact that the joys of Marrakech lie mainly in walking around and absorbing the atmosphere renders it a locale very conducive to a quick weekend getaway—and a discount airline like EasyJet makes it an inexpensive one as well. For accommodation, consider selecting among the numerous riads, which are basically like bed and breakfasts and also reasonable in price. We stayed at the French-owned Riad Nafis, which I’d recommend to anyone for its friendly staff, quality service and aesthetic, and easy walking distance to the city center. For traditional Moroccan dining, I likewise can’t rave enough about Dar Essalam, which Hitchcock film buffs will recognize from The Man Who Knew Too Much, starring Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day.

I could go on and on about our own experience, but you’ll have to experience it for yourself once you move to London. And I think one of the best aspects of traveling anywhere after your London relocation is the so-very-cool realization that when you return “home” to London, it’s like you’re still on vacation :).