By Katina Hristova
With summer upon us, this month we take you to beautiful Morocco and its most infamous beach town – Essaouira. A labyrinth of souks in the port city’s medina, hip cafes and art galleries, miles of golden sands, and a general laid-back vibe – Essaouira is the perfect destination for a relaxed sun-filled holiday in North Africa.
Inland from the town is nestled Le Jardin des Douars – a boutique hotel surrounded by lush botanical gardens and postcard-perfect countryside. Katina Hristova tells us more about it.
How often do you go on a holiday, with the objective of rebooting, only to find yourself just as exhausted as before you left? It’s not very often that you come back feeling truly rejuvenated and refreshed, ready to face your daily routine again. Well, I found a place that not only made me come back to reality feeling like a new person, but also a little bit more in love with life.
Located just 15-minutes drive from Essaouira – a port town nestled on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, Le Jardin des Douars is the perfect place for a long weekend getaway. The laid-back retreat is situated inland and is surrounded by hills in terracotta tones, studded with argan and olive trees. As soon as you enter through the wooden gates however, the landscape completely changes – traditionally African, earthy-clay-coloured castle-like buildings, botanical gardens boasting lush greenery, colour explosions and chirping birds. The Jardin promises carefree sun-filled days followed by alfresco dining at dusk and blissful moments at the candlelit terrace over a glass of La Gazelle de Mogador – a delicious organic Essaouiran wine.
Amongst the plant-filled courtyards and the palaces, there is also a choice of heated pools – a peaceful infinity pool designed for couples, and a slightly bigger one, which allows parents to frolic with their children in the water. With the hotel’s relaxed and peaceful vibe, you’ll feel like the time has stopped while you’re lounging around soaking up the African sun, sipping on the mint tea that charming waiters bring to your sun-bed.
With their antique furnishings, traditional bejmat (terracotta-tiled floors), and high-ceilinged spacious bathrooms, the rooms, suites and the three villas are classically Moroccan. Downstairs in the main building you’ll find a beautifully decorated dining room, with a separate annex for more intimate dinners – once again highlighting the hotel’s capacity to cater for both family holidays and romantic getaways. The menu, whether you opt for the set menu (3 daily changing courses) or go à la carte is wonderfully Moroccan, with a slight Mediterranean twist. As delicious as all of the savoury courses were, the real standout was the chocolate tart – not only it was a chocolatey explosion of taste for the palate, but it was arguably the best desert I have ever tasted!
Another factor contributing to the magic of this retreat is its candlelit hammam spa, which includes black soap exfoliations, Moroccan and Oriental massages, and hot-stone treatments. The products that the skilled therapists use are organic and locally-sourced – a key element that even extends to the complimentary bathroom toiletries that could be found in every room. Less than five minutes into my black soap treatment, I realised that I was already starting to feel the Moroccan effect – the spa therapist exfoliated, cleansed and toned my skin, leaving it feeling fresh and full of vitality.
A change of scenery and some time abroad to de-stress can make a world of difference if you’re in need of a relaxed holiday, but sometimes it takes a bit more than simply being in the sunshine. Le Jardin des Douars’ effortless aura of ease, combined with North African exoticism will undoubtedly make you feel in sync with yourself and your surroundings, leaving everlasting memories and preparing you to go back home fully refreshed and revitalised.