Winter Escape to Morocco, Part 2

After three nights in Marrakech, we travelled through the arid landscape in the February sunshine on the 2 ½ hour drive to Essaouira.  About half an hour outside Essaouira, the countryside becomes a little more welcoming, with roadside shops selling argan oil, and the distinctive argan trees, many populated by goats!  The charming fishing port and town of  Essaouira, surrounded by its medieval battlements, is very picturesque with its white and blue buildings and ancient doors and archways.  Alleyways lead to the souks, with thuya wood workshops, carpet, jewellery and leather shops, and art galleries -  all providing a colourful backdrop to the 10 km long sandy beach.

Visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out in Essaouira. Every day at the bustling port, there are fish stalls offering  the ‘catches of the day’, cooked on charcoal barbecues; while along the seafront there are many inviting cafés and restaurants with outside terraces, all offering a good choice of light snacks and meals.  In addition, there is an interesting mix of bars and restaurants where you can dine out in the evenings.

Our recommendations include:

Taros

A rooftop bar and restaurant with a wonderful view over the medina, the port and the sea.  Guests are given ponchos to keep warm during the cooler months.  A great atmosphere accompanied by good food and wine …. and a lethal cocktail menu!

Caravane Café

This unusual venue is a genuine Ali Baba’s cave, housing an art gallery, antiques, large pot plants – packed with character, and  with an excellent menu too.

Le Chalet de la Plage

Great beachfront restaurant offering fresh seafood …. oysters, sea-urchins, giant prawns, squid, lobster and whole fish…

Beach and Friends

Casual beachfront restaurant, perfect for long lunches.  Interesting menu with an oriental twist.  Follow lunch here with a camel ride along the beach!

Our accommodation in Essaouira is in one of 8 luxury properties, situated on the Royal Mogador Golf Course about 4 kms south of the town.  The villas have car parking, or you can travel in and out of town by taxi for around 50 MAD (about £4) each way.  All the villas have modern, very spacious interiors and open to terraces with private swimming pool, gardens and fabulous views of the golf course and the sea.  They are great value for the high standard of accommodation and provide a quiet and relaxing base, combined with proximity to town.

Maybe we have been lucky with the very mild weather, but apparently it isn’t unusual and, for a late winter/spring break, a two-centre holiday in Marrakech and Essaouira has to be a great option.  At at all our properties, minimum stay is 3 nights, so both can easily be enjoyed for a week’s break.  This will made even easier shortly by the planned Ryan Air service to  Essaouira from London three times a week, meaning you can fly into  one city and out from the other.

Winter Escape to Morocco

We were lucky enough to escape the cold and snow this week and spend a few nights in Marrakech, just a 3 ½  hour flight away, yet bathed in brilliant warm sunshine.  We stayed at the charming and traditional Riad Tara in the heart of the Kasbah, about 20 minutes walk to the main square, the Place Jemaa el Fna.  The colourful and exotic atmosphere, and bustling markets along the way, offering (among numerous other things!) an amazing array of spices and essential oils are a real feast for the senses.

 Recommended restaurants:

Les Jardins de la Medina, a lovely boutique hotel in the Kasbah, with one of the most beautiful interior gardens in Marrakech, as well as a heated pool, a friendly bar in the evening with an open fire, and great food and wine.

Le Fondouk, a trendy and atmospheric restaurant offering contemporary  Moroccan cuisine, and situated just behind the Musée de Marrakech.

Kosy Bar, in the Mellah, overlooking the Place Ferblantiers (lamp makers’ square), with a great terrace for lunches or dinners.

Special Mother’s Day Offer for March!

The wonderful Riad Dar Jaguar in the Medina is offering a special Mother’s Day package with champagne, massages – a memorably spoiling treat, including a free night’s stay if you book for at least three nights! As well as a bottle of wine and canapes upon arrival, be sure to expect…

· One hour full body massage for each of you.

· An exotic excursion beyond Marrakech to the waterfalls of Ouzoud or another similarly breathtaking trip.

· A cooking lesson followed by a three course romantic candlelit dinner on the terrace overlooking the fabulous Medina. Includes a bottle of wine.

· Private professional guided tour of the souk and/or religious and historical sites

We are now off to Essaouira ….more to follow …

Marilyn and Ferragamo!

As a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, exactly half a century after her death,  there are exhibitions taking place at both the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum in Florence.  The London exhibition is called ‘Marilyn Monroe:  A British Love Affair’ and is a small exhibition showcasing  photographs and magazine covers from 1947 to 1962, taken by British photographers.  In particular, there are photographs from her famous visit to Britain, with her husband, Arthur Miller, to film The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956. Life photographer, Larry Burrows, was one of many photographers who covered this visit, including the press conference for The Prince and The Showgirl at the Savoy Hotel. Other photographs show her at a Royal Command film performance meeting the Queen, and another was taken at the Comedy Theatre with Arthur Miller, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier who directed and co-starred with Monroe in The Prince and the Showgirl.  The exhibition runs until 24th March.

The Florence exhibition is much larger and more ambitious, encompassing not only photographs, but actual dresses and shoes she wore.  Interestingly, Marilyn Monroe was a loyal customer of the late Salvatore Ferragamo and owned 40 pairs of Ferragamo shoes, which she wore in many of her famous scenes -  from the rhinestone encrusted red stilettos in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes to the white heels she stood in when her dress was blown up in The Seven Year Itch. Apparently, she wore her Ferragamo pumps all the time, both on and off the set.

The opening image of the exhibition is a poignant clip from Monroe’s last completed film, The Misfits, which was written for her by Arthur Miller, of her dancing, under a tree, barefoot and in a black dress.  The exhibition also features original dresses from her films, including the pink satin dress she wore for Gentleman Prefer Blondes.  Marilyn’s place in the tradition of tragic heroines is reflected upon in another room, and her death is represented through images and poetry by renowned Italian film director, Pasolino.   The real homage to the star is in the last room with Stern’s famous picture of Marilyn standing on the beach wearing a cardigan, next to a reproduction of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus —the famous painting in the Uffizi gallery – a linking this iconic and much photographed actress with the beauties of grand Renaissance art.

On a lighter note, upstairs in the Ferragamo boutique, it is possible to buy limited edition handmade replicas of the shoes that Ferragamo designed for Marilyn Monroe!

This exhibition has been extended and now runs until 1st April:

For anyone wanting to continue the Ferragamo experience, we are featuring two fabulous Ferragamo properties on our website:

The Lungarno apartments in central Florence, three luxurious, spacious apartments almost right next to the Ponte Vecchio:

And the Villa Le Rose, an exceptionally restored Medici villa, offering many extra services and situated just 7 kms to the south of the city: