Beyond the hustle and bustle of the capital city Marrakesh, there is so much more to experience in Morrocco. We discovered Essaouira, paradise on the Atlantic coast, just a three-hour flight direct from the UK.
Essaouira is a free-spirited destination like nowhere else in Morocco and the Jardin des Douars, the leading independent hotel, is totally unique. Despite the fact that Essaouira officially has around 320 days of sunshine per year, it remains relatively crowd free, so visitors can get to experience a quiet beach, a manageable and enjoyable medina and combine a coastal and city vibe without the hassle.
The drive to the hotel is short, just 15 minutes or so from the airport, and takes you through the countryside. Even before we arrived at our accommodation, we felt like a weight had been lifted.
Le Jardin des Douars, is a family-run hotel and offers luxurious yet affordable accommodation nestled in the heart of the Essaouira hills. Located inside a botanical garden, the hotel overlooks the Ksob River with views of the argan-studded hills. The grounds around the hotel are beautiful and peaceful. This is what makes it a real gem and a place where you do not feel overrun. I’d suggest a stroll around the hotel to enjoy a wonderful selection of Moroccan Berber art; while away time in the lush gardens where you can enjoy many varieties of tropical trees and plants, and keep an eye out for the resident peacocks, last seen gliding past the infinity pool.
There are 19 bedrooms and six suites in total with five luxury villas (two recently launched), with their own heated swimming pools. We arrived in the evening at our two-bedroom suite to a roaring fire and a tray served up with warm sweet Moroccan mint tea and home made biscuits, ordered on arrival of course, priorities! The rooms are filled with trinkets and treasures that the owners and staff have selected from the local area and are decorated in earthy colours, with drops of Argan and African prints and colours from deep reds, teracotta’s to warming oranges and cool sands. There is an abundance of local beauty and bathroom products provided to use and slippers and robes are ready for you to slip into something more comfortable.
As I sat sipping my mint tea in front of the roaring fireplace that first evening, I could see for myself why this is the most raved about independent hotel in Essaouira.
Wellness at the Hotel
Every day before breakfast we enjoyed a swim in the heated outdoor infinity pool. With a quiet zone for adults, it's the perfect spot to relax with a drink from the poolside bar soaking up the sun and enjoying the peaceful setting. Those with families can also enjoy pool-time fun, thanks to the family pool with a wading section, located nearby. All towels are provided, so the only thing you need to focus on is relaxing.
Pool and spa time...
Le Jardin des Douars offers a variety of hammam and spa treatments not typical of most hotels, the Argan oil used is local and organic. Treatments include skin exfoliations, massages and Hammams with Smimou Salt and Argan Oil. On the second night I enjoyed one of the spa treatments. Walking through two grand double doors into a elegant marbled softly lit sanctuary you feel like the whole world is there to pander to you. I laid down on the warm marble bench in just a pair of paper pants and enjoyed one of the best Hammam’s I’ve had yet - a great experience, refreshing, revitalising and very relaxing. Needless to say i was very clean!
Dining at the hotel
There are three dining areas to choose from, a big open plan restaurant, a couples’ dining room and al fresco dining on the terrace. We made the most of one of two sunny days we had and enjoyed an al fresco lunch of fresh catch of the day and a home made burger on the patio. Washed down with a deliciously crisp white and rosé wine.
From the Royal breakfast to dinner, the hotel serves up delicious cuisine with foods sourced from the local area. These guys definitely know how to create dishes that are both complimentary and extremely fresh and delicious. The menu is al la carté and offers light balanced healthy food with daily specials and suggestions on the blackboard. One evening when the weather was whipping up a storm outside we enjoyed an aperitif on the sunken sofas in front of the roaring fire in the great hearth. Divine.
Essaouira is well located for a food adventure in Morocco. Visitors can try Atlantic catches at the fish souk whilst also sampling traditional Moroccan tajines across this cosmopolitan city. The medina includes traditional and new dining ventures, showcasing both the city's location by the sea and the country's freshest produce at local markets. Restaurateurs head to the port each day to get fresh fish.
The region is best known for its art, is a cosmopolitan medina and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The local souks and medina are the main attraction, not to mention the lovely boutique shopping – be sure to haggle for those leather, silver and home goods. Enjoy other activities from water sports, horseriding to camel rides and surfing. As the artistic capital of Morroco there is an abundance of cultural attractions. Enjoy art from the Arab and Berbers cultures at The Galerie Damgaard, L'atelier des Arts Empreinte and the Elizir Gallery and the Galerie l'Arbre Bleu.
The verdict – Le Jardin des Douars is a little piece of paradise. A beautifully peaceful and charming hotel for single travellers, couples and families alike.
B&B priced from around £115 per room, per night or £500 per villa, per night.
Travel Information: Ryanair flys between London Stansted and Essaouira twice per week on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Essaouira airport is located 15 minutes from Le Jardin des Douars and a shuttle service is available. Marrakech is about three hours away.
Le Jardin des Douars
Douar Sidi Yassine, BP209 44000
A summary of our stay at Le Jardin des Douars
Oh, how I love a wee jaunt to Ireland. Living in Glasgow, Scotland, travelling to Ireland is very convenient thanks to daily flights and with a flight length of just over an hour, it couldn't be easier. Add to that the fact that welcoming and friendly nature of the Irish, and you're pretty much guaranteed a fabulous time.
For our latest Irish escape, we booked a stay at The Westbury, a five star boutique hotel, which is a part of the Doyle Collection.
The vibe and location
Located in the heart of the city, just off the main shopping hub on Grafton Street, the place is absolutely buzzing. The hotel is very central; St Stephens Park is a stone’s throw away - perfect for a bit of chill time - or, if you're seeking something more lively, you can hit the pub & restaurant scene, which are also a short walk from the hotel. Shoppers will love Grafton Street, a shopping mecca. Alternatively, if you're looking to buy something that will remind you of your time in Ireland, you can head over to the Powerscourt Centre, where you'll find a selection of boutiques which stock unique Irish designs.
Voted 'Best Hotel in Ireland' in the Conde Nast Traveller Awards 2019 Reader's Choice Awards, the Westbury is the epitome of a grand boutique hotel. From the minute you enter the hotel, the attentive and friendly reception staff put you at ease straight away.
All of the rooms have all recently been refurbed and I was lucky to be upgraded to a luxury studio suite, located on the sixth floor. The room was lovely; it had a large lounge and dining area and was furnished with original Irish artworks and trendy minimalist furniture. I loved the spacious marble-clad ensuite, which was quite flashy with one wall consisting of just mirrors, however, the piece de resistance was the king size four-poster bed, which was so comfy I didn’t want to leave!
Food & Drink
The hotel has two bars and two restaurants. Balfes Bar & Brassiere is located on the ground floor of the hotel on Balfe Street, and you have the option of dining al fresco or indoors; we opted for a seat perched indoors at the bar.
Balfes is very reminiscent of a trendy French bistro. It was a Thursday night and the place had a great buzzy atmosphere. We weren’t too hungry, so decided to have just the one course of gamberoni in a delicious garlic and tomato sauce, which we washed down with some chilled Perrier Jouet. After a wee bite to eat, we headed to the first floor and looked in on Sidecar, the bar next to the reception, it was packed so decided to give it a miss, and retire to the suite.
After a good night's sleep, we looked forward to breakfast, which is served in Wilde. The central design ethos fuses 1930s elegance with an abundance of greenery, giving guests the sense of alfresco dining. It is very luxurious and my fellow diners looked like they had just stepped out of the pages of a high-end magazine. After a hearty Irish breakfast, sadly t was time for me to depart.
The Westbury is perfectly located to enjoy everything Dublin city has to offer. From the moment you arrive, the staff are friendly and attentive.
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