Monday, January 28, 2008

The Berber Trail - Marrakech Riding

The fabulous Jenni from Sweden has opened a superb stables about 25k out of Marrakech on the Route de Fez. Its a little way out but really worth it for the fabulous scenery. There are a number of different rides, some around amazing mud villages. Jenni picked up perfect Moroccan dialect arabic in a year of being here. The trick, she only spoke to Moroccans originally during the initial build of the club. Her horses are top notch and impeccably trained, even though they are mainly stallions, nice as you don't ever get that out of control feeling, sometimes associated with stallions. Jenni drove the first horses all the way from Sweden with her father. They got stopped at customs with the horses for 10 days! Jayne and i ride with Jenni every Friday morning. At the moment it's very civilised riding as the weather is so wonderful. We drop the kids at school and head off down the Fez Road to her stables. In the summer you have to ride very early morning or late afternoon. A late afternoon ride is very special in the summer as the colours are so stunning - just waiting for her apres bar to open and all will be perfect for a balmy summers night. I'm helping her put together a menu of different rides, lengths and abilities so there will be something for everyone. She's going to be doing longer rides with lunch in a Berber Village included. This is my favourite horse, Esprit. He's like a hunter in the UK. It's also the only time i feel taller than everyone else. Just look at that sky!! Behind me is the paddock. Below you can also see the large school for training, which also includes training horses for stunts in the movies. The stable also has a number of horses in livery.
One of the stable blocks and tack room.

Jenni and Jayne riding out. No they never stop talking!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

L'Heure Bleue - Essaouira

I thought i'd share with you some photos i took of L'Heure Bleue a Relais and Chateaux Riad in Essaouira Medina. It has a wonderful roof terrace with pool. If i'm correct, the only guesthouse riad in Essaouira which does. What i think is truly fabulous is the little beach in a corner of the terrace where little people can make sandcastles while you sunbathe. What a fantastic idea, a woman after my own heart must have devised this. It even comes with minature table and chairs. Guesthouses are all about making life as easy as possible for the guest, this idea is a little gem. My photos are a bit misty because of the salty sea air on my lense. If you can't afford to stay at LHB, go for a lovely lunch instead as i did. You will not be disapointed.
Looking down on the patio of this vaste riad you get a little idea of its proportions. It has been decorated in a colonial African style and is very charming. The bedrooms are very comfortable and elegant although a little more hotel than boutique hotel, due to the size of the riad. Nevertheless this is a charming place to stay or visit with all creature comforts and is brilliantly placed in the medina so that you don't have to go far to the beach.
You find these wonderful tiles in Morocco. Im in the process of choosing ones for the riad. It's not easy as there is such choice and you don't want to go to mad and give guests vertigo. The HB has used these tiles brilliantly, in blocks, like little carpets or tapis as they say here.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

A trip to Villa Maroc - Essaouira

Beautiful sunset out of our bedroom window.



Bar area for drinks.


Off we went to Essaouira to have a look at the place with my folks, who were still thinking that a place by the sea for winter sun was a good idea. I really thought it was going to be cold as it can be very windy, so i made sure everyone took lots of jumpers. We were booked into Villa Maroc, just for 2 nights. I had heard a lot about the place over a number of years mainly from people i bumped into in London, after all it was one of the first, if not the first riad guesthouse in Essaouira Medina.

The drive was great, blue skies, mountain ranges. We followed the snowy atlas the whole journey, they really are spectacular as i keep mentioning. I will never get tired of them. We arrived over the customary hill top and started our decent to the beach with shouts of 'i can see the sea' reminding me of my childhood all over again. This time though enjoying hearing the shouts of my daughter.

Villa Maroc was really charming, a little disorganised but then hey, this is Jimmy Hendrix territory, so i decided to just chill. The weather was glorious and a hot 20 degrees, much hotter sitting in the sun having coffee and the air was clean and gorgeous. I love the sea air. My daughter and i had a charming room, actually it was two which was nice as we didn't have to sleep together. Just as well as the beds are a standard double, quite small by today's standards and so high i needed a stool to get out. No jokes please i am actually 5 foot 2!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year Everyone

Happy New Year to you all! thank you so much for reading my blog and sending me messages of encouragement. I hope 2008 is a year of good health and hapiness.

Well we really did the celebration in style, champage and oysters from Oualidia. Oualidia is only 2.5 hours away and is a wonderful little bay where most importantly some excellent oyster beds are cultivated. Ostrea II drive their oysters all over Morocco so luckily we bought ours from the local cash and carry. We had to buy in bulk though which meant having them twice, a real hardship i can tell you. The first time natural the second time baked with cream and parmasan.

Can you believe Marcus didn't eat oysters before he met me. He is now the fastest shucker in the west!!

Our final spread before we really got going. Hope you all had a scrumptious meal too.

Oukaimenden - Skiing in Morocco

I just thought i would share one of the most exciting experiences i have had in Morocco so far. If you love skiing like i do then you will understand the amazing revelation that from Marrakech in 1.5hours you can be gliding down a slope on virgin powder.

The drive up to Oukaimenden is spectacular, every hairpin bend you take reveals a more breathtaking mountain scape.

You are probably wondering where the photos of the ski resort with slopes are? well i'm sorry i have to tell you, when we arrived and i saw these boots, skis, lifts and beautiful snow i was off and that was the end of my photos for the day. At the end my mother said was that good? 'i said god i love Morocco, fancy living in a place where you can sunbathe in winter and then decide to go the next day for a ski and a really good lunch in a little snow lodge?? It was actually quite surreal.

The journey back is equally spectacular passing pretty berber villages balancing on the side of mountains made out of mud. Finally pouring out in front of you are the plains at the bottom of the mountains heading back to Marrakech.

There are plans ahead to develop this resort by people from Dubai. The plans are extensive and very luxy so one day this outback little haven of a resort where you can ski all day for £6 will be no more. With the new resort will come more challenging runs, better lifts and an all round European standard resort. I however feel that this little rustic resort with all its natural charm so totally untouched is very special.

Photos on the way up to Oukaimenden

As-Salaam-Alaikum

Hi, i'm writing this blog page to share information with all you wanderlust souls out there. Living in Morocco comes with lots of bizarre and unexpected events, which i thought you may enjoy reading about and sharing in the laughter.

My family and I moved to Marrakech 11 years ago from London. The beginning of a huge adventure for us. Choosing which country was right for us to live in had been an extremely long and tiring process. Having made a choice to move to MarrakeSh, was in itself a big box ticked. We had two criteria lists, one for our business (opening and running a guesthouse) and one for personal.

Phase two of our journey then began. Setting up home in Morocco, also a non English speaking country with a very different culture to ours. Marrakech is a real melting pot of; languages, tribes, rich, poor, city slickers, country peasants. It sometimes reminds me of that place Luke Skywalker went to, to buy that space ship, with all those different intergalactic aliens. (Any one know what it was called?) After months of beauroctratic paperwork, rendez vous with people who don't turn up and renting from an unpleasant woman for a large amount of money, we bought ourselves a villa. This was not in the plan as we didn't want to tie up our capital in a home. I now realise it is one of the best things we could have done. When you've had a really difficult day here to be able to close the door and relax in your own place really balances you.

Zamzam Riad & Spa was eventually created out of love and we hope you will come and stay and be pampered in our luxury boutique riad.



Creating the Guest House

We had decided to buy land and build a country guesthouse as per our business plan, about 10 double rooms and suites. The dream was to create a holistic retreat and build our house on the same plot. We were going to have an organic vegetable garden and provide a Moroccan Spa.

Land in Marrakech at that time, went mad. Prices going up daily, lots of people fishing but not really wanting to sell. There is also a problem here of title. ie not much land is titled and to buy land without a title is very difficult, unless you have a lot of time on your hands and like a gamble. We looked at more land than you can shake a stick at, drank more mint tea than you can imagine and got totally no where. It can take weeks to even get a price. You may be being shown a piece of land that isn't for sale or has already been sold. After a year of this we said 'that is it!, we are buying a riad!'

I had a total nervous breakdown and couldn't talk to anyone for three days. He then said this doesn't have to be the end....... It wasn't I have now built an Ecological Camp Adounia in the Sahara Desert!