Leading a successful life in New York isn’t everything, as Anouk, a renowned fashion stylist for several leading magazines, found out. After a period of extensive soul searching, too many empty champagne bottles and a healthy dose of self-pity, she decided to change direction. A one way trip to Morocco seemed the perfect remedy, she had never been there but her inner voice told her that this was where she would find some much needed rest. And so she boarded a plane and left behind the New York rat race to fly towards new happiness. Bull’s eye! She had never felt so in sync with a place as she did with Morocco. The colours, the authenticity, the light, the smells, the worldliness…..it simply had to be. And so Anouk began a new chapter in life.

It is a couple of years later when I meet Anouk in Essaouira in January, and by now she is the proud mother of a beautiful daughter. This time of year the Netherlands are cold – by now it’s even snowing – and here in Morocco I’m outside, warming myself to the sun and light; south (west) Morocco is the perfect winter break for me: not too far away and yet it feels like you’re in another world.

Anouk tells me that she eventually discovered her sanctuary in an article in one of the leading magazines: a beautiful villa in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature and close to the sea, not far from Essaouira, and for sale too! It was love at first sight, which I understand completely, for I too feel a strong connection with Morocco. It is a deeply rooted feeling and because of it, Morocco is one of my favourite destinations. Her villa is a true paradise, with only a handful of rooms and suites, all tastefully decorated and beautifully styled with objects found in the most varying places. Each of them tells a different story. It is a Hideaway in the literal sense of the word, completely hidden from the main road. The directions you receive upon booking are all you can rely on to find your way. As soon as the gate closes behind me I’m enthralled.

The house offers some lovely corners to relax in, warm blankets for chillier evenings and a fresh bunch of flowers decorates each table. Again, it’s all in the details. There’s also a wonderful indoor swimming pool and lounge seats on the outside terrace. Said, my super friendly and proud host, pampers me with lovely little bites and drinks. My room is beautiful and large and features a private terrace with outside shower. The bathroom is like a ballroom, complete with roll top bath.…shower or bath: I’m spoilt for choice ;-).

That evening, I’m having dinner in a fairytale-like setting…candles are lit everywhere and countless stars glitter outside in the sky. This is such a special place! The following day, I take my rental car and drive to my beloved Essaouira to visit some of my favourite spots (for more details, please read my ‘Essaouira insider tips’ blog) and I lose myself in the narrow streets of the medina, the old city. In the afternoon, I decide to discover the surroundings of the villa, and Anouk advises me to follow the piste, dirt road. It leads me to a deserted beach, vast and all for myself!

And then it’s time for a last pot of mint tea in the sun before heading back to the Netherlands, where it’s damp and chilly. I’m so excited to have met Anouk, for her villa is a hidden gem, an ideal location to unwind and a wonderful addition to the Local Hideaways collection! It’s a place with soul, or two souls really: a Moroccan soul intertwined with Anouk’s gifted soul…..perfect synergy!

More insiders tip Essaouira? Read my blog with all my personal recommendations!