It is grey and chilly when I leave the Netherlands to do some Hideaway spotting in Essaouira, Morocco, over the weekend. After a 3.5 hour flight (straight from Weeze- Dusseldorf, I do hope they will continue this flight, but this is never a given – and also straight from Brussels, London and Paris and by car only a 3.5 hour drive from Marrakech) the plane lands in the sun. This is one of the perks of my job: being able to catch a bit of sunshine and warmth during the dreary Dutch winter.
It is not my first visit to this area, Essaouira is one of my favourite cities and I love to return here occasionally. It lacks the (touristic) turmoil of Marrakech and it is located on the coast. Its micro climate makes it pleasantly warm throughout the year, about 23° Celsius, and the constant wind creates a fun alternative, bohemian, surf vibe. And if you want to get out of the wind, there are plenty of wind still areas to enjoy the sun!
At first, I visit Villa Maroc, the oldest riad in Morocco and therefore the first accommodation ever in Essaouira. What started out as a single house hotel is now a row of 4 connected traditional houses. This wonderful maze of indoor corridors and unexpected areas creates an unusual atmosphere. Villa Maroc is located on the outside of the old city – the medina, but within the city walls and its roof terrace offers a stunning view of the beach and the harbour. A perfect location, in other words, beach, harbour and the medina with all its shops around the corner. After checking in, I’m taken to my room, I have to watch where I go for, as I said, this charming hotel is a labyrinth of nooks and corridors, a perfect reflection of the old medina! Night is falling and I’m just in time to witness the spectacular sunset from the roof terrace….Magical! After that, the temperature drops quickly, which is inherent to the climate here, especially this time of year, and it is high time for a drink, so I head for the bar. They don’t serve wine everywhere in Essaouira, it is a Muslim country after all, but here (and in quite a number of other places as well) it poses no problem. I get settled in front of the fire place with a glass of Moroccan Gris, the French certainly made sure that Morocco produces some lovely wines. It’s cosy and comfortable here. Dinner is served in the adjoining salons, again in front of a crackling fire…not only functional, but it also enhances the atmosphere greatly. Dinner is simply fantastic: tonight I’m having a perfect pastilla: a crunchy meat (or fish) pie with a lovely filling.
Back in my room I discover a hot water bottle on my bed, how very thoughtful, it’s the details that make the difference! The next morning, I wake up early, the muezzin doesn’t much care for western beauty sleeps, but this only means I have some extra time on my hands to discover the hotel and its surroundings and to head into the city early. The hotel features a lovely spa, complete with hammam and there’s a gift shop for souvenirs. And if you want to enjoy a relaxing day at the swimming pool, sister hotel Le Jardin de Villa Maroc next door is the place to go. I have been here before (it is also open to non-guests of the hotel) and it is a wonderful place to escape the city and to unwind for a day. A beautiful garden and ditto swimming pool, and out of the wind, so it’s a bit warmer here than elsewhere. In the afternoons, they serve an extensive barbeque lunch.
It is wonderful to be here, by now it’s snowing back home and I’m sitting on my roof terrace, enjoying my lovely and delicious breakfast…what a way to beat the winter blues!
And then it’s time to get lost in the many narrow streets in the old city. I have a soft spot for captivating old derelict houses, and there’s plenty of those around! But there are also hip little shops, restaurants, fruit and vegetable stands, the fish market and the chicken market….it’s all here! For some further recommendations, please read my blog ‘Insider tips Essaouira’.
Villa Maroc has been found Local Hideaways proof, that’s for sure: this place breathes the spirit of Essaouira, the staff are super friendly (for instance the lady who served me my breakfast and has been working here for the past 27 years!), the rooms are comfortable and the food is delicious, and all this in a perfect location. It is great to be back in my beloved Essaouira!