les jardins de villa maroc : essaouira : morocco

les jardins de villa maroc : essaouira : morocco

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…

 

lluna aqua hotel : sóller : mallorca

lluna aqua hotel : sóller : mallorca

When we last visited Mallorca, one of the hotels we booked was the Lluna Aqua Hotel in Sóller. Housed in a traditional Mallorcan townhouse, which we were told had been empty for over eighty years, the renovation had only recently been completed and the hotel only opened a few months previously. It’s located on the bustling main thoroughfare of Carrer de sa Lluna, but once inside the cool interior, it’s peaceful and restful. The renovation has been beautifully done, with as much of the original interior retained and restored. Original Spanish tiles are very much in evidence, elaborate ceilings and beautiful dark wooden furniture. The main wall behind the reception area has been taken back to the the plaster, which looks lovely – and with the addition of suspended bird cages, full of fluffy clouds…

A lovely touch on arrival greeted us – a welcome Cava, meaning that check-in is a much more leisurely process. The reception staff are just lovely – Catarina especially, gave us lots of information about good places to eat (off the tourist trail). If you stay here, and she recommends places to you – go to them! She’s a mine of priceless local information and every single place we tried, that she recommended, was faultless.

We had a perfect start to our stay as we were advised we’d been upgraded. The room we had originally booked had a problem with the shower and so as well as an upgrade to the only room with a terrace, overlooking the mountains, for our “inconvenience” (!) we were also informed that during our stay the mini bar would be entirely free. A marvellous start to our stay in the Lluna Aqua Hotel. Even the tonic bottles are a class act – obviously now back at home in Istria, filled with flowers.

Our room was a bit of a stunner. It was unusual in that the room you walked into was the dressing room/bathroom which were separated by luscious navy velvet curtains. A big tick here – they were exactly the same as ours at home. Unusually, the bathroom was wallpapered – even inside the huge shower. I’m not sure if this was special wallpaper, or had been treated but during our stay, it all seemed OK when showering.

The bedroom area was just oh-so stylish, with the original tiled floor, navy velvet drapes, cool lighting and doors opening out onto the terrace.

The terrace was a perfect size, with a couple of sun loungers and an ornamental wood-burner. Another tick here as it was very similar to the vintage one we own, which we’ve just sprayed gold. It was a perfect place to pop a glass of cava on, too. And those views! Across the rootops of Sóller to the mountains beyond.

The communal areas of the hotel were again, so well thought out, designed and stylish. Deep, rich colours, metal balustrades, quirky pieces of artwork, tiles, original artefacts repurposed to bring new life to them. Just lovely – a rich source of inspiration for me to bring back to Istria.

We were quite sad to leave Lluna Aqua after two nights, but by another twist of fate – horrible next hotel – we were very lucky to find that they had one room available for the next two nights. And so, hours after checking out, we were checking back in again – and this meant we got to see another room. This room unfortunately didn’t have a terrace, like we’d gotten used to, but it was as cute as a button. Maybe not for those who want absolute privacy though, as only a pair of those lovely navy velvet curtains are there to protect your modesty.

And, again those tiles. And attention to detail. Loved the quirkiness of this place.

When we stayed, because the hotel has only recently opened, they were still in the process of adding the final touches to the breakfast room (which was due to open within the week), so we were given vouchers for breakfast at the beautiful bakery just next door. It’s worth a visit, just for the pastries and coffee – as well as the gorgeous interior.

And, what really caught our attention, was the exposed well – just like ours!

As usual, this is not a sponsored or paid for blog post. It’s just what we thought of a very nice place we found – and maybe it’ll inspire you to check out Lluna Aqua Hotel, too

 

project printworks : update 2

project printworks : update 2

2020, as everyone knows, was a pretty unbelievable year, all round. If someone had told me the following, in January 2020, I’d have thought they were daft:

  • that we’d have to have official travel permits to drive to the supermarket
  • that wearing a mask would become the norm
  • that apart from a couple of local people, we’d see NO-ONE else socially the whole year
  • that we could count the number of meals we had out, on one hand – we had three
  • that apart from a night in Rijeka in January, we’d not be away from our house for the whole year
  • that we could not make the very easy trips to Slovenia and Italy – usually a once a week occurence, if not more
  • that we would have absolutely no visitors at all, for a whole year
  • that we could not make the annual roadtrip back to the UK at Christmas to be with family and friends
  • that Zoom would become our lifeline
  • that we would put our house on the market and begin the renovation of another property…

All of these points sound incredibly mad, but perhaps the last one, most of all, because yes folks, in the middle of a global pandemic we did actually embark on a house sale and purchase. When we viewed the property which will become our next renovation, it was when the world was “normal” and the viewing (and subsequent ones) set us off on a path it was hard to get off. This new property was potentially everything we had ever wanted – it had a view, it was near amenities, it was where friends lived, it was huge, it would enable us to have proper open plan living, and it was affordable. And all things considered, meant that we decided to sell up and go for it. Then the pandemic took hold.

To cut a long story short, our house is still on the market because interested potential buyers cannot easily travel to view the property and with COVID, we don’t feel it is appropriate to be doing viewings anyway. However, the guy who owned the property did want to sell it to us and so the upshot is, we are leasing it until our house sells. We have a contract in place, which allows us to begin doing work to the property – we could renovate it fully, if we wanted to, but until ours sells, we won’t be able to go at it hammer & tongs, as we need to free up the capital. However, with a strong contract in place, which was thrashed out between solicitors, we feel in a very fortunate position. We still have our warm, cosy, renovated property to return to but can begin the initial clearing of the new property.

It was, quite a long time ago, a commercial unit, where a printing business operated – hence the name we’ve chosen for it. The Printworks. It had been up for sale for quite a long and was full of machinery and the mess of a long abandoned business, but fortunately for us, the vendor agreed to clear it before we signed the documents. Pre-signing, this was what it looked like…

I know. Just. Awful! But, after having imagined for so long how it could eventually look, we were able see beyond and through the horror show and we weren’t daunted by the project that lay ahead. Having already renovated a property in Istria, albeit not on this scale, we also felt we were in a much stronger position than we had been four years ago, when we knew nothing and no-one. So, we said good-bye to 2020 with leases and pre-contracts signed, and got the keys to the property. A nice way to end a not-so-nice year.

The property is on one level and is kind of rectangular in shape. Although we have a very clear idea about what we want it to eventually look like, we will be involving architects as we want to ensure that we can actually do what we want to do – and to take their professional advice. We are working to a strict budget at the moment, and so we are doing as much of the preparatory work as possible, ourselves. Where we can remove walls, we’re removing them ourselves, and this is what has been the main focus recently. Two small rooms were divided by a wall which didn’t go all the way to the ceiling, so it was pretty obvious this wasn’t a supporting wall and this has now been knocked down and the larger space we have now opened up will eventually become one of three en-suite bedrooms.

The first task was to rip up the mock parquet linoleum and remove the main internal UPVC doors and frames so that we could begin to assess the space we were starting to play with. The lino came up pleasingly easily and we were very relieved to find solid concrete floors underneath. Hopefully, a starting point for the eventual laying of underfloor heating – and if not, at least we won’t be worrying about wrecking wooden floors as the work progresses.

All of the UPVC frames are white and are all actually in really good condition. However, all of the windows are at the front of the house and to maximise on light and space, we think that most of the windows (and certainly the ones in the three bedrooms) will be widened and sliding glass doors fitted. However, we wanted to see what the frames would be like in an anthracite colour and so did a quick spray paint job, touching up the walls around in white to see the contrast. What an immediate difference! The darker frame, quite literally, framed the view and there and then the decision was made – whatever the windows were going to be like, the frames were going to be dark. I cannot wait for the summer when everything is vibrant green outside and we’ll see for definite what inky frames will look like.

So, this week’s demolition has involved knocking down the partition wall between the two small rooms, to begin creating a larger space, which will hopefully become one of three (simple) ensuite bathrooms. As I said earlier, we knew we were OK with demolishing this wall as it didn’t go to the ceiling. Despite one of the rooms having a toilet in it…

Today, this wall was finally down – it’s been a bit too chilly to work on the house recently. And, to be honest, we’d have been mad to leave a fully renovated, fully working and very warm house to work on our new project. However, the sun returned today and the wall was dealt with…

The plan is to have a corridor that runs along the rear of the three bedrooms (behind the wall where the toilet is currently situated) and have access to the rooms off this corridor. The walls that currently block off the views (to the left of this photo) will be demolished and the dividing walls extended to the front of the house. By doing this, all three rooms will have uninterrupted views. We’re hoping to install sliding glass doors in each room, instead of the windows which are there now – and each set of doors will hopefully lead out onto a balcony which will run along the length of the front of the house. Because of the incline that the property is built on, the bedrooms are much higher up from the road and so a long balcony will still be private.

Two of the bedrooms will be guest rooms and will be similar in size and design. Both will have simple – but beautiful – ensuites, and as we have plumbing already in, the job will hopefully be easier than starting it all from scratch. We envisage the ensuites being back to back to further cut down on plumbing problems.

The work has definitely started, but once we’ve done the clearance we can do, it’ll be over to the professionals. We need the electrics to be looked at – and we’re preparing ourselves for a complete overhaul in this department, especially as we want this house to be as intuitive as possible. We need architects to help us with the plans. And we obviously need to start the investigation into the boundaries again. Although at least this time, we know what to do and what to expect. It’s been a long time in the planning and we’re very happy that in the midst of everything that is going on, we have a renovation project to keep us occupied. Think we’ll definitely be kept busy…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

project printworks : update 1

project printworks : update 1

Almost four years to the day, since we bought our first renovation project in Istria, we have the next one within our sights. I think we have always known that the stone house was never going to be the house. We have been so happy in it and we’ve worked so hard to transform it from a cold, dark shell into a vibrant, contemporary, warm and stylish home. But sometimes you can only take things so far and you know that it’s time to move on. And that has happened to us.

We’ve found a very, very different property to be our next project. It’s not a traditional stone house. In fact, it’s currently not even a house. It’s a single storey, old industrial unit, with a corrugated metal roof. It’s also, in terms of floor space, huge. Much, much bigger than anything we’ve ever lived in before.

Although we have very clear ideas about what we want to do with this property, we’re going to take professional advice. When we renovated our stone house, the structure was essentially in place, and without spending money we didn’t really have, what we did was essentially dictated by this structure. It’s different this time though, as once the initial work is done, what we’ll have will be four walls and a roof and a floor. How exciting is that?

If you want to follow the renovation journey, you can do so on our Twitter and Instagram accounts. We’d love to see you there.

And, if you fancy joining us in our Istrian adventure, you could become the new owners of our beautifully renovated stone house

 

malmö central station : sweden

malmö central station : sweden

Interiors-wise, Malmö Central Station is about as beautiful as it gets. Designed by Swedish engineer and architect, Adolf Wilhelm Edelsvärd, it first opened in 1856, in what was then considered the outer edge of the city, but an area convenient to Copenhagen-bound ferries, which loaded and unloaded in front of the station building. The building was nearly destroyed in a fire ten years later, on 14 December 1866, eventually re-opening in 1872. In 2000, both local and long-distance trains began running directly to Denmark via the new Öresund Bridge.

In the UK certainly, we’re used to city stations with the usual fare of uninspiring convenience shops and foodplaces. Not in Malmö. The foodcourt is like a smaller version of the vibrant Torvehallerne Food Hall & Market, with a variety of independent outlets, serving freshly made food and drinks, from a range of international cuisines.

We arrived mid-morning so weren’t quite ready for an Indonesian curry – although could have had one if we’d wanted – and so settled for coffess and Danish (or were they Swedish?) pastries, before wandering into a beautiful chandelier bedecked cafe space. It was heaven – aqua blue metro tiles, ornate black pillars, a curved ceiling with metalwork struts holding it all in place and super gorgeous glass skylights. This huge, light, airy space was perfect for elegant potted palms and trailing foliage.

And then, this! Huge pendulous bronze lightshades, pannelled walls, reading lamps, wall storage cubes with books and magazines, plenty of charging points and sockets and a layout which encourages conversation.

How to do a modern railway station – for some people, the introduction to a city – by taking the old and mixing, so brilliantly, with the contemporary. (It’s also, btw, one of the cleanest stations I have ever been in, but I think that’s Scandinavian standards for you).