Sunday, 6 May 2018

Sahara Desert Revisited

Welcome to the Sahara Desert!
 
Three years ago we visited the Sahara Desert and it was truly a great expereince. Back then we went to the Zagora parts of the Sahara. You can read more about that trip HERE. To reach the outskirts of the real Sahara Desert it takes at least 8-9 hours of driving, so you need at least three days to for a nice trip to the desert. The journey from Marrakech to Sahara is really beautiful and offers some really breathtaking nature experiences, and if you take it slow and spend one night in a nice kasbah hotel on the way it is really an unforgettable trip.
 
There are by the way some great luxury desert camp sites close to Marrakech in the Agfay Desert, like the Scarabeo camp, but that is in a stone desert and can not really be compared to the real Sahara sand desert.

The drive from Marrakech to the Sahara takes about 8-9 hours and offers some spectacular nature experiences.
 

It´s a good idea to stop for a night on the way to the Sahara, we checked into the stylish kasbah hotel Xaluca Dades, located half way between the Red City and the desert.
 

When we started to feel the urge to return to the Sahara Desert we decided to explore the Merzuga part of the it and once again we embarked on a scenic route from the Red City over the Atlas Mountains towards the sandy dunes of the Sahara. After a beautiful drive where we explored some amazing caves and spent a night a beautiful kasbah hotel, we finally reached our destination, the ERG Chebbi Luxury Camp, a five-star desert camp site, nestled among some stunning dunes in the middle of the desert.

 We stayed in our own private desert camp site, nestled among some impressive Sahara dunes.
 
The ERG Chebbi Luxury Camp was truly five-star offering comfortable tents with huge bathrooms and hot showers as well as excellent dining experiences, bartenders and great service all in the middle of the Sahara desert.
 
 The stylish camp site even had red carpets!
 
They lit lots of lanterns every night, to match the starry skies, which made the experience even more magical.
 
 The Sahara desert is truly spectacular.
 
 Sahara sunrise moments
 
Those Sahara dunes 

 Hello desert adventure!
 
 Exploring the Sahara on a camel is a must. We had a 2 hour ride with a Moroccan tea ceremony among the dunes.
 
We thought we pulled off the Lawrence of Arabia style rather well! Right?!
 
We spent three days exploring this beautiful part of the Sahara by camel and by foot. The striking thing in the Sahara Desert is the total silence as well as the amazing clear skies. Star gazing here at night is a mindblowing experience. It is also the perfect place for relaxing, reading books, reflecting on life and getting totally off-line. To be WiFi-free for a couple of days is actually very cleansing!
 
Those sweet Sahara sunsets
 
 Amazing nights in the desert
 
 Our tent at night
 
 Glamping - camping in style with cocktails on the dunes
 
 Exploring the Sahara is so much fun
 
Sahara is always a great experience, we will soon be back!
 
Thanks Toubkal Guide for planning such a great trip for us, it was world class! To explore the magic of the Sahara Desert in a private and five-star setting is a very unique experience that we can strongly recommend. Alongside Machu Picchu in Peru, the Galapagos Islands, the Amazonas rainforests and the safaris in Kenya, Botswana and Namibia, this is one of our favourite nature experiences.
 
Keep Exploring!
P&P


Wednesday, 7 March 2018

A Visit to Wonderland

Living in Marrakech you get very spoiled by being constantly exposed to some of the most stunning and amazing properties in the world. Wheather it’s luxury hotels, stylish restaurants, award winning museums or private homes there is an abundance of spectacular architecture and unique interior design wherever you look. Behind the secret doors in the ancient medina lies the hidden courtyard palaces, so called Riads (read more about the art of Riad living HERE) and in the palm grove called the Palmeraie, 10 minutes outside the medina walls, you find some of the most exclusive villas on the planet (read more about the Palmeraie HERE).
 
The house that has fallen from the sky 

Some of our friends have really cool places in the Red City like Peacock Pavilions belonging to the very stylish designer Maryam Montague, Villa Shiraz that belongs to former UN tycoon Zuzu, Villa Happy that is the home of iconic super model Marisa Berenson, Riad Anayela which is the chic creation of Andrea Bury and Dar JL which is the Marrakech base of a Swedish couple.

Dar JL (photo by James Silverman)
 
And even though we are very spoiled by being constantly surrounded by beauty and creativity both in our own home and those of our friends there is one mythical and magical place that we heard so many stories about since we first arrived but never visited: Dar El Sadaka. Dar El Sadaka is the private home and creation of French artist Jean-Francois Fortou. It’s a place everyone talks about but very few have visited since it’s not open to the public. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by a property that has an upside down house that appears to haven fallen from the sky, a giant's house where you feel like a midget, real-size art installations of animals everywhere not to mention some amazing luxury villas and some of the worlds finest interior design?
 
Welcome to Wonderland! 
  
Always stop and smell the flowers!
 
Just monkeying around in the livingroom
 
Amazing art installations by Jean-Francois Fourtou is integrated with the interiors in every room
 


There is always something around the corner at Dar El Sadaka
 

There is a donkey in my suite!
 
We had read about Dar El Sadaka in some interior design magazines and heard many stories about this property so we were of course thrilled to be invited to an intimate lunch with a really cool crowd and finally experience Dar El Sadaka first hand. And wow, what a magical day it was! Like stepping through a mirror and entering a creative wonderland where nothing is what it seems and your senses are constantly challenged. 
 
 Hanging out with our friend Alexa at Dar El Sadaka
 
Inside the House That Has Fallen From The Sky, where everything is upsidedown, including us
 
 Visiting the Giant's House where you feel really small
 
The stunning villa is a maze with secret gardens, courtyards, parks, terraces and of course a huge swimming pool, cinema, yoga spaces and several lounges. The interiors are spectacular where the creative art installations of Jean-Francois Fourtou blends perfectly with world class interior design. It was also a great pleasure to meet the artist Jean-Francois Fourtou himself and see his latest creation, the Nanintos (see below).


Meet the Nanitos, the latest creative expression of artist Jean-Francois Fourtou. The Nanitos are part vegetables and part humans growing in the vegetable garden of Dar El Sadaka and eventually turning into gardeners helping out on the property. How practical!
 
Dar El Sadaka is the creation and private property of Jean-Francois Fourtou and is not open for visits. It is however possible to rent the villa for private use. It’s really the perfect place for a luxury retreat or spectacular event. We are definatley going to rent this wonderland of a property and plan a spectacular party here in the future!
 
The perfect spot for a pool party

Having a pool day
 
And we’re going to let you in on a little secret. There is actually a way to visit Dar El Sadaka even if you don´t know the owners or rent the entire property for a magical party. At certain times if you book a vintage bike ride with Insiders Experience that is possible to combine it with a lunch at the Giants house at Dar El Sadaka and visit the gardens. 
 
You never know what´s around the corner in Marrakech!

Marrakech is such a magical place and we keep discovering new treasures all the time. You never know what`s around the corner. Beauty, adventure and fun is for sure always there.

With love from Wonderland
P&P

Monday, 12 February 2018

Insiders Guide: Places to Dine in the Red City

Marrakech has a very vibrant and happening restaurant scene. There are a lot of new places opening all the time and of course there are the timeless classics that have been around forever. The fusion between the North African, French, Italian and Asian kitchen creates some interesting menus in many of the newer restaurants and it is always and fun and tasty experience to dine in the Red City. Marrakech is becoming quite the foodie destination and a lot of international tourists come here just for the food.

Seven new, trendy and great places to dine are presented in this blog post, bon appetite!

We have previously listed our favourite restaurants including classics like Grand Cafe de la Poste, La Table of Royal Mansour, Dar Zellij and Le Palace. You can check out previous restaurant guides HERE, HERE and HERE.


North African, French, Italian and the Asian kitchen and fusions between them are popular in Marrakech

But there are so many great new restaurants opening and new favourites added to our list of must-eats that it is high time to update our recommendations. Here are our insider’s guide where to dine in Marrakech:

1. Le Petit Cornichon 

Le Petit Cornichon has been open less than a year and is operated by Erwann Lance, who has several 2- and 3-star Michelin restaurants in Paris and New York on his CV. He was previously in charge of the fine dining restaurant at the ultra-luxury hotel Royal Mansour, he managed to bring both the chef and service staff with him when launching his vision of Le Petit Cornichon. High ambitions, perfectionist cooking, stylish, contemporary and colourful. Service is generally very attentive in high-end Moroccan restaurants, and at Le Petit Cornichon it’s a cut above all the rest. Casual concept and laid-back atmosphere, but what you get on the plates and how it arrives is seriously on the same level as international fine-dining. It really shows that the owner loves his restaurant, he floats around elegantly with the guests (who feel more like guests than customers) every evening and loves to share personal advice and anecdotes on food and wine. The wine list displays intriguing local bottles that you normally won’t find, but also a large selection of exceptional international wines rarely seen in Moroccan restaurants. Le Petit Cornichon has already arrived safely in Marrakech, and it is destined to be a culinary destination. We just love this place and keep coming back for more!

Le Petit Cornichon 

2. Le Trou Au Mur 
This new and very stylish restaurant in the heart of Marrakech Medina is the latest edition to the vibrant restaurant scene in the red city. And what an edition! A true foodie destination that is specialising in historic forgotten Moroccan dishes as well as modern International classics. 

Le Trou Au Mur brings a breath of fresh air to Marrakech. This gem is chic, laid back, fun and intimate but, above all, totally serious about food. The restaurant is fully licenced and features a very nice wine-list. Here you can enjoy an early supper with a glass of wine on the beautiful roof terrace or dine in the chic restaurant. The interior décor is a blend of superb local craftsmanship with the best of modern European style. With its own traditional clay mechoui oven on view, melt-in-the mouth mechoui roasts will be a feature, but no less so than a variety of carefully researched old family recipes rarely seen outside private Moroccan homes. There are both Moroccan dishes with a twist and modern classics on the menu. It's very rare to find a restaurant like this in the ancient Medina and walking through the door of Le Trou Au Mur is like stepping into another world. 

Le Trou Au Mur means "the hole in the wall"

3. La Table du Palais 

This is the restaurant of the iconic Palais Riad Lamrani. Palais Riad Lamrani is the most beautiful palace in the medina and the restaurant is now open also for non-residents during evenings. The tables are set in the lush and magical courtyard garden of this ancient palace and you dine in this candle lit courtyard under the stars. It is a truly unique and beautiful experience. During cold evenings you are invited to the palatial dining room inside. You come here both for the ambience and for the food. It is the perfect setting for a romantic dinner and by far the most beautiful Riad experience in town. A pre- or post-dinner cocktail can be enjoyed in one of the many beautiful salons surrounding the courtyard garden. The restaurant offers a fusion of the Moroccan and French kitchens and the presentations are worthy of any fine dining restaurant in Paris. There is a great wine list and if you see Eric, ask him for some special French wines hidden in the wine cellar and not mentioned in the wine list.
La Table du Palais at Palais Riad Lamrani

4. Le Jardin / Royal Mansour
Le Jardin is the new poolside restaurant of Royal Mansour. This is the chicest outdoor restaurant in town, beautifully located in a lush garden surrounded by palm trees and the new pool of Royal Mansour. The service is flawless, the guests are fabulous, and the food is great. The menu is mainly Asian divided into a "hot" and "cold" section, where the tapas-sized portions come either from the charcoal grill or from the sushi kitchen. This may be the best sushi we ever tasted. Ever. There are also some very innovative takes on the pizza (a small Pizetta with black truffles) and the classical burger. It's the perfect spot for a lazy, long wine lunch with a cool crowd and jet-set ambiance. Excellent DJ:s pump up the vibe as night falls.

Le Jardin at Royal Mansour

5. La Cour des Lions
The world-famous repertoire of Moroccan food can naturally be found in every street, square and corner in Marrakech. But if you fancy eating it with a spectacular view, and quite often you do, then head to the iconic five-star hotel Es Saadi Palace and its restaurant La Cour des Lions. Overlooking the Atlas Mountains as well as the enticing gardens belonging to the hotel, and the interior shows off some delicate Moroccan crafts and arts within the modernist stylish decor. Acclaimed Moroccan star chef Fatema Hall has taken the North African food experience to the next level and offers traditional Moroccan food with a tiny modern twist and beautiful presentations. Do dress up a bit and enjoy the atmosphere, it really is that kind of place. You won’t find this resto much in the touristic guide books, it’s a hidden gem amongst expats and locals, who love stopping by for a drink in the lobby bar both before and after dinner. in. Es Saadi is strong favourite with the Hollywood crowd and international entertainment business, and in a very discreet manner, so you never know who you might stand next to in the elevator.

  • Dining with a view at La Cour des Lions

6. Quattro (At Four Seasons)

Dark and decadent with the ambiance and vibe of a night club, but at heart it’s an Italian Trattoria. Stunning outdoor terrace, framing some great views over the beautiful gardens at Four Seasons. The all-Italian menu is extensive and features traditional Italian dishes like amazing Pizzettas served directly from the Neapolitan pizza oven. Don’t be afraid of a few Moroccan twists here and there. Beautiful presentations and a fun approach to the Italian kitchen we all love. Excellent steaks, amazing pasta and fresh salads. Portions are big so even the starters can double as a main. The wine list contains some seriously interesting local wines, as well as Italian ones. The service is friendly and very attentive, and this is the place to go for a great Italian dinner in a very chic setting.

A night club vibe at Quattro, located at Four Seasons

7. Le Grand Table Francais

Le Grand Table Francais is the French fine dining restaurant of iconic luxury hotel Royal Mansour. This is as posh as it gets in Northern Africa. You dress up to go here and before even entering the restaurant you are struck by the beauty of the architecture and led into a first-class version of 1001 night. The interior in the dining room is sophisticated and sober in beige and gold colours, styled to perfection by the discrete staff all wearing white gloves. The service is immaculate, and the food is world class. There are both tasting menus and a la carte options available and the wine list is extensive including some very interesting French, Italian and Moroccan wines. Star chef Marc Lahoreau creates the most delicious and innovative compositions, many of which get their final touch by the table. The texture, temperature and tastes are perfection. Le Grand Table Francais offers a world class dining experience in a very stylish setting. By far the best (and most expensive) place to dine in Morocco and a memory for life!

The grand entrance to La Grand Table Francais

These are all some amazing new restaurants in Marrakech that we truly appreciate.

We are off to discover more great restaurants around Morocco!

When are you coming to dine in the Red City?

P&P