Sunday, November 26, 2017

Top 5 things to do in Essaouira, Morocco


A lot of people, even Moroccans themselves, will tell you that Essaouira is one of the most beautiful places in Morocco. Or in the world. I’ve had really high expectations before visiting it - and it was definitely worth it. I’m already thinking of how to make it a “layover” city of the next Moroccan trip.

This tiny city is an ancient port overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. This means a lot of wind. And seagulls. Their melody follows you days after your trip, reminding you of this great city.

Given its size, a few days in Essaouira seem just perfect. Here are my top 5 things to do when you’re visiting.

1/ Head to the Fishing port

This is my absolute number one. Port of Essaouira has such an important role for the city and gives it a special character. It’s so picturesque and the seafood market is a spectacle in itself. Going there early enough makes you see the fishermen bringing in the catch of the day - and then selling it on spot. It can be noisy and messy and smelly and dirty - but this altogether gives it so much charm. My favorite thing to do is heading there in the lunch time, picking the fish of your choice from the little stallholders, and then bringing it around the corner to the open grill place - where you can have your own fish grilled on spot for a really mini price, served then with some yummy bread, mini salad and of course mint tea. The seats are often a bit improvised and it’s not as luxurious as some riad’s restaurants, but it’s just so authentic that it shouldn’t be missed!

2/ Feel some magic at Skala du port

Fortress walls around the city still enclose part of Essaouira. This makes for a stunning view from the airplane when landing or taking off! On the way back from the port, make sure to stop at the harbour scala. For a really small fee you can enter and enjoy the picturesque views over the fishing port and the Île de Mogador. I got carried away following all the seagulls with my eyes and could spend hours there!

3/ Get lost in the narrow streets of Medina

If you’re heading to Marrakesh, make the most of the Medina of Essaouira. You can take time and enjoy it calmly whereas the one in Marrakesh can be sometimes almost too busy and stressful. Get lost in the little streets negotiate with the local vendors and enjoy the colours and odours. A tip for a good buy - organ oil originates from the region of Essaouira. You can buy it in the Medina for a good price and be sure it is of good quality.

4/ Take a long walk to Bordj El Berod along the golden beach

Essaouira beach is timeless and seems to have no ending. The waves come on the shore so smoothly and peacefully! Take your shoes off and head to a ruined watchtower Bordj El Berod, an hour long walk from the Medina of Essaouira (one way!). On the way get amazed by all the kitesurfers, meet numerous camels and just enjoy the wind in your hair. A tip - head there an hour and a half before the sunset and have stunning view on the way back, seeing the sky turn orange with the seagulls cries along the way. Want to speed it up or make it more dynamic? Have a chat with one of the quad guys on the beach. We negotiated a half an hour tour - just enough to have a bit of fun before heading back to the city.

5/ Enjoy your mint tea on the Moulay Hassan square
We often call it the “Casa Vera” square thanks to the iconic Casa Vera building overlooking the port of Essaouira. Sit in one of the cafés on this main square and order mint tea. Enjoy it while street watching people passing by. Tourists, the locals, children. So much life!


Where to stay
Madada Mogador is an amazing place to stay when in Essaouira. Waking up in the morning to the sound of seagulls, enjoying breakfast with the view over the Ocean but above all feeling like a friend and not simply a guest - this makes you never want to leave this place.

MADADA MOGADOR (read an article here)
7, Rue Youssef El Fassi, Essaouira
+212 5244-72106

Getting There
Essaouira has it’s own small airport with lots of international flights, including lowcost companies. Alternatively, fly to Marrakech and get a bus or taxi to Essaouira. The drive takes around 2 hrs 45 minutes.

Oh, and if you're wondering how to pronounce the name of this magical place like the locals do, just say ‘Swera'.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

citizenM Schiphol Airport, an amazing airport hotel!

It was our first time in Amsterdam. We decided to arrive rather late in the afternoon and wanted to spend the night close to the airport before heading to the city the next morning. What a great decision. I’ve never stayed at an airport hotel before and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect but then the citizenM hotel just looked so great that it won our hearts over the Internet, and then for real the minute we set out foot in their lobby.

We didn’t know the citizenM hotels around the world but quickly realised that we were about to stay in a luxury hotel with a contemporary edge and an eye on value. It was a great mix between futuristic and contemporary, sophisticated and witty.

When we arrived, we were offered to do a self check-in service, using touch screen terminals. We weren’t overly excited to do so because we were tired after the day but then the check-in was so easy and quick that we almost haven’t seen this one minute of our time going by when doing it.

We headed directly to the room before thinking about our dinner. The room had so called 'mood pads' to control TV, lights and temperature from an iPad. We could choose from a total of 6 pre-programmed moods (such as “romance”, “business” or “surprise me”) and 6 pre-programmed functional light-settings (“work”, “shower” or “read”). The mood pad also controls the blinds and the black-out curtain. Mr Handsome had some great fun playing with it as we arrived in the room. And OMG, that shower! I could call it space-age rain shower, especially when adding the violet or green light touch to the room.

The room was very comfortable and high-techy but not necessarily the most beautiful one I’ve ever stayed in. I’ve realised that the idea behind the hotel is to focus on what well travelled people look for in a hotel. Instead of making the room the best place in the hotel, the living room and the restaurant are rather the places you’d like to hang out in - and never leave again.

We very much liked our dinner in the evening. The bakery-style kitchen is open around the clock and serves sandwiches, salads, sushi, warm dishes and beverages. The tiramisu we had as a desert was really yummy and we even got to chat with the chef a bit. A cool guy indeed :)

The living room is another place you'd like to stay a while. It's made up from different bigger rooms that all blend together and are filled with interesting books and objects from all around the world.

An important touch to the citizenM is its focus on contemporary art. Inside the hotel, in front of it - it surprises you on every step. We're curious to check the other citizenM hotels out. Maybe soon in Paris?

More info: citizenM Schiphol Airport
Address: Jan Plezierweg 2, 1118 BB Schiphol, Netherlands
Webpage: http://citizenm.com/

Hotel Gustave, romantic hotel with the view of the Eiffel Tower

When you almost think that sparkling Eiffel Tower is overly touristic - and then stay scotched to the window, soaking in the beautiful view of Parisian rooftops and the Iron Lady in the back. AND waiting impatiently for the next full hour to be mesmerised by it’s sparkling again. The view the Hotel Gustave offers from some of their rooms is astonishing, to say the least. And so is the service they offer.

Hidden from the noise of the nearby attractions and monuments (the Seine, Champ de Mars, the Eiffel Tower and more), this hotel offers an oasis of peace in the heart of Paris.

We stayed in the Deluxe Room with a large and very comfortable bed. The room itself was not super big but it was very well optimised and beautifully decorated, letting you prepare your Nespresso coffee in your room at any time of the day. I always appreciate a spacious bathroom with a big shower - we fell in love with their fab monsoon shower. Modern, beautiful, spacious bathroom with toiletries from Fragonard! Great experience at any moment. Not to forget the bathrobe and sleepers. It's incredible how much little things like that enhances your stay at a hotel.

We enjoyed breakfast in the Scandinavian Pavilion, early in the morning before going to work. Hot drinks, breads and pastries, fruit juices, cheeses, scrambled eggs... What better way to start a day than with a view of the Eiffel Tower and great breakfast!

It goes without saying that the hotel is well served by public transport. Feel like some shopping? Do check out the brand new Beaugrenelle mall with a wide choice of shops and restaurants. If you still prefer Champs Elysées, just hop on the next metro Line 6 - you’ll be there in less than 15 minutes.

More info: Hotel Gustave
Address: 34 Rue Viala, 75015, Paris, France
Webpage: https://www.hotelgustave.com/

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hotel Adèle & Jules in Paris, a real love at first sight!

This boutique hotel has been a real love at first sight! We have never enjoyed our stay as much. Located in the city center but at the same time hidden from the hustle and bustle of the city, it’s a concealed place I’d almost rather not talk about so it doesn’t get too popular too quickly :)

Not very obvious to find, its location is a great advantage. Just a few steps from the Grand Boulevards, Hôtel Adèle & Jules is located in a small quiet private street you probably wouldn’t enter when just passing by. We actually missed a turn when heading there. Once you arrive, you find out that Adèle & Jules are actually two separate buildings, with identical beautiful interior and room organisation.

We’ve stayed in Adèle, in a room with a window overlooking the calm street, and fell in love the moment we entered. On the ground floor, there is a very cosy place to enjoy breakfast, have a glass of wine during the honesty hour or just chill. It has been for the first time that I’ve actually wished to stay in the hotel and read a book in the lobby instead of going around the city or simply staying in the room. The window ceiling with the natural light makes you simply want to stay there forever. I’ll go there for breakfast soon again!

When we came in the room, not only we loved the interior. There was a beautiful handwritten card waiting for us, next to a box of Angelina chocolates! What a nice attention! And this is not all - people behind this hotel are putting a lot of efforts in details. Everything seems to have its place, a well chosen one.

Not only they pay attention to details. Even their bathroom is so nice you want to have the same at your home. We were treated to Fragonard toiletries, enjoyed super soft bathrobes and perfectly sized slippers (which is quite rare for girls!).

Oh, and not to forget - they have a well equipped gym in the basement! I only wanted to have a look at it but my Mr Handsome seriously planned on exercising in the morning. Yeah, why not. I finally went with him to exercise before breakfast and I felt great (and proud, haha) for the rest of the day!

It goes without saying that we felt so much at home that we didn’t want to leave - and have been dreaming of going back for a night ever since.

More info: Hotel Adèle & Jules
Address: 2 & 4 bis Cité Rougemont, Paris, France
Webpage: http://www.hoteladelejules.com/