After weathering cold winter nights and long dark days, we‘re all feeling the need for a little sunshine, which is really easy if you’re happy to pop on a plane for a 10 hour flight to the Caribbean, but what about somewhere a little closer to home?
We’ve found the perfect place – with temperatures averaging 22C, won’t have you feeling jet lagged for 48 hours, only takes 3 hours from London to get there and you’ll arrive still in the same time zone – The charming little Moroccan port of Essaouira and I couldn’t wait to explore and experience it for myself.
With a busy few months behind us, we decided to visit Essaouira, for a few days of pure relaxation, with a little exploring thrown in. We had found the most perfect retreat for the relaxing part of our trip Le Jardin des Douars a hidden gem (I know a lot of hotels are described as this), but this really was – the terracotta washed Moroccan palace style buildings set in absolutely stunning gardens was an oasis of calm and tranquility.
Hidden pathways lead us to our room – A Luxe room (on the ground floor) with its own terrace that overlooks the adult only swimming pool and just steps away from the spa. Traditionally Moroccan inside with a comfortable King-sized bed, rugs and candles dotted around, a large beldi style shower in the bathroom and an inviting fireplace (the temperature does drop in the evenings), with a regularly stocked basket of wood all blend together effortlessly to create a real hideaway to enjoy the simpler things in life without any distractions.
Having freshened up, it was time to head over to the main hotel, another example of Moroccan architecture, terracotta pillars, tiled floors, hidden nooks and crannies, open fires, mosaics and of course more candles. Steps lead down from the hotel to the gorgeous terrace surrounded by more of the beautiful gardens, scattered with wicker sofas with large plush cushions, you could sit here listening and watching the world go by for hours, but we’d come specifically to enjoy a glass of wine (similar prices to the UK) and watch the sunset over the hills, a sight that simply takes your breath away. Nothing is too much trouble for the staff here; they are attentive and always smiling.
Once the sun had gone down the temperature certainly does change so we retired inside to finish our drinks in front of the roaring fire in Le Ksar, sumptuously decorated in red and orange tones, with a large cushioned lounge area in front of the fire (this is Le Jardin des Douars casual dining room) friendly and lively, a great space for adults and children to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. But as it was just the two of us and it was about getting away from it all we ate dinner in the adults only La Table des Douars – an intimate dining room lit only by small lamps with an assortment of mirrors adorning the walls and cozy nooks. The menu included dishes such as Linguine with courgettes, garden herbs juice, grilled almonds and parmesan – Lamb shanks, pea puree and parmesan chips – Crunchy pan seared foie gras and Leek confit with beetroot and cranberry, all of which were beautifully presented and had a definite Moroccan feel with a slight French influence. The ultimate foodie pleasure for me though was the dessert a ‘Tea Gourmand’ (or coffee if you prefer) a cup of tea served with small portions of desserts – I do believe that this little delight is a secret that needs to be shared!
An evening stroll through the gardens took us back to our room, where we fell asleep surrounded by silence apart from the odd crackle from the fire that we had lit. Next morning we indulged in a continental breakfast of Moroccan pancakes, breads, home-made jams, cooked eggs, fruit salad and fresh orange juice, as well as tea, coffee and hot chocolate before making our way to the adults-only luxurious and secluded infinity pool for a morning of doing well…..absolutely nothing! With views over the lush Mahgreb landscape, wrought iron day beds, large parasols and silence! It is as if anyone lazing round the pool knows it’s a sanctuary, talking in hushed tones, reading their books, lying on the loungers or just enjoying the warm jade green water of the pool. On the other side of the main hotel, is another pool surrounded by shade-providing olive and argan trees and perfect for families.
That afternoon we headed into Essaouria, using the shuttle service provided by the hotel (there is a charge for this) and 15-minutes later we were strolling along the beach trying to decide where to stop for refreshments. We settled on a chic looking beach fronted café/restaurant where we enjoyed coffee (a Gourmand for me of course), and took pleasure in watching the surfers and the camels having fun on the beach (not together I hasten to add) this area is popular for surfers, thanks to the strong North Easterly winds, and if that’s not enough to tempt you did you know that some scenes from Game of Thrones was filmed here.
Coffees and people/camel watching finished we wandered down to the fishing port to watch the sun go down – not only do the tourists gather here so do a lot of the locals along with their families. Next up is the labyrinth of colourful souks, selling anything from souvenirs to fresh spices along with traditional restaurants serving local specialties and fresh seafood. A completely different experience than in Marrakech, there is no hassle factor here and making eye contact doesn’t mean you’ll be chased for the next 20 minutes. This bustling port, with its history, captivating souks, delicious food, endless beaches and glorious sunsets is a joy to wander around.
A stay at Jardin des Douars, wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the spa, where you can enjoy a traditional hammam ritual, as well as many other treatments, you’ll be pampered Moroccan style using products most of them made from Argan oil and suitable for the North African sun.
We spent five tranquil days at Le Jardin des Douars leaving completely refreshed and ready to face the madness that awaited us once back home.
Le Jardin des Douars offers you the best of both worlds, a tranquil retreat within an oasis of lush botanical landscapes that you can enjoy day after day, but if you need just a little hustle and bustle thrown in the mix then the beach/harbour is just 15 minutes away.
Prices start from £591 for 4 nights in a Luxe Room for 2 people including breakfast.
Flights with Easy Jet direct to Essaouira start from £57.99 return per person
*Prices based on a stay in March 2017