Saturday, 26 March 2016

The Italian Project

Yes, we did buy a house in Italy. No, we are not leaving Morocco. But we do hope to be able to divide our time and work between our homes in Marrakech, Arpino (Rome) and Stockholm in the future.

Arpino, located in Lazio south of Rome

Italians do it better, they are simply brilliant when it comes to food, wine and enjoying a relaxed lifestyle. We have always loved Italy and spent a lot of time travelling around in this beautiful country and after Morocco this is probably our favorite country. Italy is also very conveniently located between our homes in Sweden and Morocco. So now that we master the life in Marrakech (can you really ever do that?) it feels natural to start looking at properties in Italy. There is Tuscany (beautiful but very touristic), Lake Garda and Lake Como (gorgeous but very expensive), Venice (not so practical) and many stunning small towns all over the country. We wanted to be close to Rome for logistical reasons so we draw a one-hour drive circle around Rome and begun house hunting. 

The main square in Arpino, perfect for that morning espresso

We were longing to find a genuine town with a lot of history, few tourists, nice restaurants, beautiful settings and fresh air. We found Arpino, an amazing medival town with a population of 7000 located a one hour drive from Rome as well as Naples and a few hours on the express train to Florence and Venice. We instantly fell in love with this pretty town located on a mountain top with miles and miles of free views of the rolling hills, olive groves and mountains. We could totally picture us living here on the Italian country side but still close enough to Rome to have a shopping lunch there (or a pizza in Naples).

Medival Arpino is located on a mountain side with stunning views

Arpino is full of history and ancient ruins from pre-Roman times. There are several very good restaurants, friendly people, 52 churches and many Romans are starting to buy weekend homes here. Should therefore be a good investment as well since the Italian economy and real estate market is now picking up. 

History is present everywhere in Arpino

View over part of Arpino

There are many charming piazzas where you can enjoy a coffee or glass of wine

The 2500-year-old wall and gate is located above Arpino

Arpino at night

Casa Colle
After some house hunting in the region, both in Arpino and neighbouring towns, we could conclude that Arpino was by far the most charming little town and there we found Casa Colle. Casa Colle means "the house on the hill" and is an old stone town house from the early 18th centuary located in the highest part of Arpino with stunning views over the valleys. We fell in love at once with this charming little house in desperate need of someone to save it.

Casa Colle, before restaurations started.

So for easter we came back to Arpino to meet with real estate agents, lawyers and builders. And on Easter Saturday we signed the contract for the house and with the builder who will restore Casa Colle to it's former glory and carefully restore all ancient stone walls and add a modern inside design. It will be a six month restauration project where we aim to restore as much as possible of the original parts and make sure that Casa Colle will stand for the next 300 years as well. 

Renovations have started, in six months the house will hopefully be fully renovated and 2 terraces added (one on the top floor and one outside the entrance)

This is Claudio, our builder and architect

Floor plans for Casa Colle

Here we are enjoying Easter lunch with our Italian team (from left): Claudio (our builder), Alison (real estate agent), Valentina (building engineer) and Kathryn (daughter of real estate agent)

Renovations have begun

Signing the contract for Casa Colle!

Morocco magic and Italian pasta - this will be a brilliant combination!

We really look forward to spending time in our homes in Marrakech, Arpino/Rome and Stockholm in the future. We are not leaving Morocco, just adding an Italian home to the collection. 

Our current collection of houses: a riad in Marrakech, a courtyard house in Stockholm city, a country cottage on an island in the Stockholm archipelago and a townhouse in Italy

We will keep you updated on the renovations of Casa Colle here on our blog!

Viva Italia!

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Adventures around Marrakech

Marrakech - the red city - is full of magical experience both within the medina walls and outside. If you have half a day or a day to spend there are many exciting adventures to embark on around the city. In this blog post we share a few of our favorites. All within one hour or so from the ancient Marrakech medina.

A vintage bike ride
Insiders Experience arrange guided tours for 2 in the most amazing vintage motor bikes with a side car. The bikes are replicas of the iconic M72 motor cycle from the second world war. We enjoyed a half day tour of both the medina and the palmeraie and allthough we thought we knwe everything about Marrakech we got to experience places we had never seen. This is a really amazing and unique way to explore the suroundings of Marrakech. Insiders Experoence also arrange airport pick ups with these bikes - how cool is that!

Exploring the palmeraie area on a vintage bike is a really cool experience

A hot air balloon ride
To see the suroundings of Marrakech from above at dawn from a hot air balloon is a silent and beautiful way to take in the landscape. Finish of your balloon trip in style with a champagne breakfast at your landing site.

Up, up and away

The cactus garden and Musee de Palmeraie
Juat a five minute taxi drive from the medina you find Musee de Palmeraie and a beautiful cactus garden. This is a tranquaile place to visit and have a brunch or just walk around, there are also art exhibitions in the surounding buildings.

Thorn in my side, a beautiful cactus garden

Palais du Saffron
Saffron is known as the red gold of Africa and to visit one of the saffron farms around Marrakech is always a nice experience. Harvest time is in October but all year around you can enjoy the gardens, farms, animals and  learn more about saffron. Our favorite farm is Palais du Saffron.

Harvest time at the saffron farm in October

The Atlas Mountains
The gorgeous and dramatic Atlas mountains are always present as a majestic backdrop of Marrakech and they are easy accessible, just a one hour drive from Marrakeh you find yourself up in the fresh air with magnicific views, nice trekking routes and breathtaking nature. Ourigane valley or Ourika valley are both excellent options for a day trip and a nice lunch. Or why not stay over at charming Kasbah Bab Ourika or posh Kasbah Tamadot.

The stunning Atlas mountains 

Go skiing!
Also a one hour drive from Marrakech you reach the small ski resort Oukaimeden, where you can go skiing and enjoy a nice lunch. Make sure you check if it is snow before you go. Normally you will find snow January-March.

Skiing just one hour from the heat of the medina

Ocean Break (go surfing!)
A two hour drive from Marrakeh you find Essaouira on the Atlantic coast. This hippie chic fishing town has some excellent restaurants, great sea food and excellent waves for surfing.

Essaouira blue

Enjoy a beautiful garden, great lunch and a nice pool!
There are several country clubs outside Marrakech where you can go to enjoy a swimming pool and lunch, for instance Beldi Country Club or Maison Arabe Country Club. Our favorite is beautiful Jnane Tamsna, that is also a super stylish hotel, in the Palmeraie. Here you can relax by the pool, eat a great lunch and enjoy the beautiful organic gardens and award winning architecture.

Beautiful Jnane Tamsna

Be impressed by beautiful Arabian horses
Palais Selman is a resort close to Marrakech, where there is also an amazing spa. We come here to chill out by the pool and visit the amazing stables. Here the most beautiful Arabian horses live in stables that look more like palaces. 

The horses of Palais Selman

OK, so we don't do golf but a lot of people visit Marrakech to golf thanks to the beautiful weather all year round and the world class golf courts here. The most stunning one is probably Royal Palm. 

A golf green with a view

We can strongly recommend you to explore some adventures and activities outside the medina. We are celebrating easter in pre-Roman Arpino in Italy and spending time on a very exciting project. Stay tuned for update!


Thursday, 17 March 2016

Update: a dachshund in Marrakech

Hi there, 
It's me Disco the dachshund again! After my previous two blog posts (check them out HERE and HERE) I thought it was time for an update, from a dogs point of view (the only one that counts really if you ask me).

So, we seem to have settled down in Marrakech permanentley now. I like it a lot. The weather is great, I get a lot of yummie food and I have a growing tribe to look after. My tribe now includes my two masters, our house keeper Rachida, our pool guy Fariji, our gardener Mohammed and a fun crowd of crazy friends that my masters hang out with. I keep busy looking after them all and our house.
I usually take long walks in the medina, laze about on the roof terrace and join my masters to restaurants and on trips around Morocco. I love to visit our friends outside town where I can run around free, but in the end of the day I am a city dog. I will share some photos to show you what my days are like here in Morocco.

And don't forget that on April 8 I turn 10 years old, I look forward to some fun celebrations and don't hold back on the gifts or treats!

Here I am relaxing at Palais Dar Donab, where go for lunch quite often.

I generally do not like cats but Kim, a cat that hangs out on our roof terrace, is the exception. He (she?) comes for breakfast every morning and is actually ok and the only cat I don't chase away.

Vincent and Valerie are our two cool turtoises, they always want my attention and since they lack ears they can't hear me bark

As if cats weren't enough here is a donkey in our alley, taking away garange after the latest renovation. I am pretty happy I am not a donkey in Marrakech, it seems tp be a hard life...

Our house keeper Rachida takes me for walks in our hoods in the medina, part of the daily routine.

Striking a pose on the roof terrace, did someone say food?

I like our trips, we always stay in nice hotels. Here we are getting ready for a new road trip.

I like fashion, this nice Burberry scarf was a gift from our new friend Lisen.

Checking out the Atlantic coast in Oualidia the other week.
Let's hit the waves!

Enjoying a treat in our court yard

Baby, all I want for christmas is you...

And here I am with my masters, they are pretty cool guys

I am told we are all going back to Sweden this summer to hang out in our summer house in the archipelago. I can't wait, I love that island! I do hope we fly business class, I don't do economy...

Over and out, woff woff!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

A luxury road trip

There are road trips and there are ROAD TRIPS. After a few really busy weeks we felt it was time for a mini break. So we planned a small road trip that would take us to the ocean and the mountains via a palm groove. We packed our bags, called our driver Jamal and were on our way for an ocean break and mountain getaway via the palmeraie outside Marrakech.

First stop La Sultana in Oualidia
We just love the very stylish La Sultana in Marrakech, where we keep coming back for spa, dinners and celebrations. They never fail to deliver great experiences (see previous blog post HERE) so we were excited to finally check out their posh seaside resort in Oualidia by the Atlantic coast. La Sultana in Oualidia is beyond gorgeous and a truly five star experience with stunning location, beautiful suites, great service and amazing food (especially the sea food is to die for). This is the best place in Morocco to go for a stylish ocean break.
Gorgeous swimming pools with ocean views at La Sultana Oualidia
Disco was happy to hit the road again!
La Sultana Oualidia features 12 exclusive suites with amazing views.

La Sultana Oualidia is a small five star luxury hotel. 

The property is set right on the beach in a lush garden with several lakes.

We loved the great sea food!

Sunny lunches on the beach

Lush green parks surround the property

Disco enjoyed the sea breeze and this very pet friendly hotel
This was our beautiful suite with a huge private terrace with an outdoor jacuzzi. Prices start from 400 Euros/night. Good value for money if you ask us!

Lounging with a view

Gorgeous sunsets at La Sultana 

Disco is checking out the beach

 A truly great experience, we will be back soon to La Sultana in Oualidia.

After a few days by the ocean it was time for the last swim and final ocean front sea food lunch. Our road trip continued and after a 4 hour drive we were back outside Marrakech, in the posh palm grove called the Palmeraie, where we checked into legendary Les Deux Tours.

Next stop Les Deux Tours
We arrived late afternoon to Les Deux Tours, a hotel set in a huge park with several buildings containing some 30 rooms and suites and 2 restaurants. It has almost an Italian feeling to it's architecture and parks. We stayed in a very nice 3-room suite with 3 private terraces and although being a nice hotel it was perhaps a bit too child friendly for our taste with lots of screaming toddlers everywhere. 
We stayed in a very nice suite in this building. Standard rooms from 150 Euros/night

Morning swim in beautiful settings.

Final stop, Kasbah Bab Ourika in the Atlas Mountains
We continued up to the Atlas Mountains and Ourika Valley to stay at Kasbah Bab Ourika that was recommended to us by friends with excellent taste (and they were right, we loved it too!).

 Kasbah Bab Ourika

Kasbah Bab Ourika has the most beautiful location with 360 degree stunning views over the Atlas mountains. This high end Atlas retreats features 21 rooms, suites and a few private pool villas. Excellent service, great food and the most beautiful gardens make this an excellent choice for adventures in the Atlas mountains, only a one hour drive from Marrakech.

Stunning views
Beautiful gardens

Heated swimming pools
Breakfast with a view

Crisp air and stunning views

Beauty everywhere

Our room was on the top floor of the Kasbah with 360 views over the mountains and a private terrace. Superior rooms from 150 Euros/night, pool suite for 400-600 Euro/night.
Nice decor elements in the rooms

The view from our private terrace

Kasbah Bab Ourika by night

We enjoyed some great food...
...and went trekking with a guide in the mountains.

We are writing this looking out over the snowy peaks of the Atlas mountains. Soon our driver Jamal will pick us up and we head back home to Marrakech and an exciting week to come.

Keep exploring, wherever you are!