After a vicious winter bug knocked the wind out of her sails, Head of Bookings Kate was in need of some recuperation. A 3-day trip to Essaouira in Morocco – best friend in tow and no kids! – proved just the ticket…
The small fishing port of Essaouira is perfect for easy breaks. There are twice-weekly flights from Luton, and you really do feel like you’ve travelled much further than 3 hours (note the airport is tiny, so don’t expect a cash machine or shop!). The town itself has a laidback vibe and is easily walkable, and we found the locals friendly, helpful and kind. And we ate great food in the sunshine – 20 degrees was a wonderful treat after the cold drizzle we’d left behind in the UK!
On arrival we were met by ex-Londoner Emma, who owns the wonderful Design House. This renovated 4-bedroom house is hidden in the medina and is super-stylish, with amazing retro furniture and cool details at every turn. It looks straight out of a magazine shoot, and it’s ideal for 2 couples, families with older kids, or a fun shopping/spa/sun break with friends.
Emma is available to help guests with whatever they need, from giving tours of the medina to planning their whole trip. She can make restaurant reservations, arrange exciting excursions, share her shopping secrets, organise hammams and more… She seems to know everyone and loves the area, having lived there for 18 years. For our first night she arranged for an authentic meal made by lovely housekeeper/cook Amina to be delivered to the house. There was more food than we could eat in a week, and the chicken, olive and lemon tagine with a variety of vegetable side dishes was superb.
We also dined at Madada Mogador and met with the French owner Christine, who is lovely. The hotel is an elegant mix of French and Moroccan style and occupies one of the best spots in town. Christine has added a fabulous restaurant with sophisticated French/Moroccan food, as well as a well-regarded cookery school; there will also soon be a boutique and gallery in the same street.
Christine really cares about her guests’ feedback and has worked hard to improve their experience by tweaking the breakfast, investing in super-comfy mattress toppers, providing complimentary WiFi, and lending out mobile phones preprogramed with restaurant numbers. There’s even free tea and cake in the afternoon. We found the hotel charming throughout, and the terrace with its sea views is perfect for a relaxing weekend in the sun. The location is hard to beat, and it offers excellent value for money – especially in comparison to city breaks in the UK and Europe.
We had another heavenly day at Le Jardin des Douars (just 20 minutes from Essaouira), where we were utterly enchanted. Manager Gregoire and his wife are passionate about helping their guests and run a simply gorgeous hotel.
The gardens are lush, the rooms and villas fabulous, and the restaurant has great European-inspired food. There’s also a beautiful spa for a special treat. Two emerald swimming pools on either side of the property mean families and couples can happily co-exist, and they’re heated so you can swim all year round. It’s a real winner of a hotel, and I have already dropped several very unsubtle hints about returning to my husband!
All in all, Essaouira felt very safe and fun. There are some great places to eat, enough shopping for any bargain hunter, and a super-soft sandy beach. Now when can Granny look after the kids…?