Les Jardins de Villa Maroc, Essaouira

Les Jardins de Villa Maroc, Essaouira

It’s always great having friends in-the-know when you travel abroad, as they often give you top tips that you don’t find in guide-books or through internet searches. Because usually you don’t know about these places and so don’t search on them. One of these gems turned up on a trip to Essaouira. Sandra, who runs Riad Remy in the Medina, also manages the apartment we stayed at, and so was on hand throughout our stay. She has a wealth of information about Essaouira, especially on the eating out front, but her stand-out-top-tip was a day trip to Les Jardins de Villa Maroc, located about 15km inland from Essaouira.

This secluded idyll is reached by private transfer, arranged through the sister hotel – Villa Maroc – in Essaouira, and when we visited, the cost was approximately £25pp. (The countryside villa used to be the private home of the owners of Villa Maroc). We met our driver at the hotel for an 11am departure and by 11.30 were around the pool, in the most amazing surroundings imaginable. We were there in January and so the only guests, so literally had the whole pool area and restaurant to ourselves. Lunch was served on the terrace by the pool and it is no exaggeration to say that what was brought to us, could have fed at least six people. Every dish was full of home-grown produce and each dish was cooked there and then. Essaouira has no shortage of brilliant places to eat, but this was something special!

Les Jardins de Villa Maroc has three separate boutique suites and private swimming pool – perfect for families or a group of friends. There is also a beautifully equipped kitchen in the largest suite and the hotel staff, if required, will prepare food here. Design wise, it is the most exquisite complex – and the perfect retreat if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the beach or the medina. It was apparently the first riad in Morocco and is now a hotel, comprising of three suites, dating back to the 18th century, with a full hotel service. Designed with nature in mind and ecologically friendly, using solar heating and solar power it is self-sufficient place. Let us take you on a tour, both external and internal, of the villa…

EXTERIOR

INTERIOR

We cannot recommend this villa highly enough – even for a just a day of rest and relaxation. And if you like your interiors (and exteriors), it’s a visual treat. Very 1970s – you could definitely imagine Pierre Cardin chatting to Brigitte Bardot around the pool, looking super stylish and probably smoking Gitanes…

 

riad mimouna : essaouira : morocco

riad mimouna : essaouira : morocco

This is riad is quite simply, stunning. Located right on the sea walls, and converted from a very grand 19th century residence, you just could not have a better place to stay in Essaouira. The entrance to the riad is breath-taking – hand carved thuya wooden ceilings, stained glass windows, mosaic tiled walls and floors, a central fountain, winding stone stairs, an open fireplace. Just jaw-dropping!

We stayed in January so the hotel was probably much quieter than in spring/summer months, and we were actually upgraded from the booking we made – and were thrilled to be allocated a suite on the third floor, which had real wow factor. It was huge, with the biggest bed we have ever slept in, an amazing bathroom – and then the highlight. Floor to ceiling (sound-proofed) windows which overlooked the Atlantic, and the waves crashing against the medina walls directly below. Everything in the room was spec’d to the highest standard – you could not find fault with anything. (Wi-fi is not available in the rooms, but is great in the entrance/reception, which is a huge space, full of comfortable sofas, so not having it in the room was not an issue).

The hotel is atmospherically lit – no top, overhead lights here, so the quality of the photos is a little bit grainy, as it didn’t feel right to be snapping away and using the flash.

A suite with a view. The crashing waves of the Atlantic...

A suite with a view. The crashing waves of the Atlantic…

Entrance to our suite...

Entrance to our suite…

Temporary office...

Temporary office…

Breakfast is served in the roof-top restaurant, which has views on all sides across Essaouira and the Atlantic coast. What a way to start the day, as the sun rises! It was very windy when we were there, and the glass windows were closed – which made it even better to watch the seagulls swooping & circling outside, knowing that they weren’t going to snatch your breakfast!

There’s also a sun terrace with loungers, and up a little flight of steps, the highest point of the riad, with a few more loungers – perfect. But, it’s the interiors which do steal the show. The whole riad has a sense of history – it is large and imposing and feels very, very grand. Many of the original features have been retained and where accessories have been added, they are totally in keeping and help to produce an overall feeling of quiet opulence.

We had six nights at Riad Mimouna, and spending a little extra than we would normally have done, was the best decision we could have made – our flights from the UK were booked in advance, so were very affordable & Essaouira is not an expensive place for eating out/shopping so we felt we could justify a little more luxury. And, we cannot recommend doing the same, highly enough. You will NOT regret it!

(A word of warning – don’t be alarmed by the route to the riad. Essaouira is an ancient town, full of narrow, dark, cobbled alleyways, and this is how you get to Mimouna. However, it is also a very safe town, and once we got our bearings, and realised that as long we were just aware, there is really nothing to be alarmed about. It’s all part of the magic of Essaouira).

We flew, return, to Marrakech from Manchester by Easyjet for just under £300 (for two of us). After staying two nights in Marrakech, we travelled by coach to Essaouira, with Supratours, a four hour journey west (plus a 30 min comfort stop). Riad Mimouna was booked online (via Booking.com) and for a seven night stay (we booked a superior room but were upgraded, at no additional cost, to a suite) we paid 763 euros. This was definitely one of the pricier riads in Essaouira – we checked out a number of others which were less expensive, but just as beautiful – and we return in Jan 2015, now that we know the quality of accommodation generally in the town, we’ll be looking into one of the others, simply so that we have a different experience. On our return to Marrakech, to fly home, we actually took a taxi – this worked out at approx £40, but the plus side of this, was door to door, in less than three hours.