I had always planned to celebrate my 50th birthday in style but, as with so many people's special occasions over the last 18 months, COVID-19 scuppered these plans. Thanks to the support and flexibility of Elegant Resorts and their partners, I managed to reschedule my plans for six months later and, as October came around, I was delighted to find restrictions easing and Morocco open to explore!
Early morning, we were met at our Gatwick hotel by a representative and ushered through, making the airport experience completely seamless which was a relief, just having to show our vaccine passport throughout. On arrival in Marrakech, we were immediately welcomed and fast tracked through the airport to our air conditioned vehicle ready to take us to the iconic La Mamounia. The regal property was a favourite of Winston Churchill and is set in beautiful gardens in the heart of Marrakech. It is the perfect oasis to retreat to after a day exploring the winding streets of the medina and the vibrant markets in Jamaa el-Fina square, brimming with colourful and rich smelling spices. We enjoyed rooftop drinks overlooking the bustle of the square before dining at Al Fassia, a recommendation by Fred Sirieix, where all the staff are women and the traditional Moroccan cuisine was delicious!
After the excitement of the city we went on to the tranquillity of the Atlas Mountains, just an hour away. I am a big fan of Virgin Limited Edition hotels so was beyond excited to experience Sir Richard Branson's Moroccan hideaway, Kasbah Tamadot. I had high expectations, which were beyond exceeded! We stayed in a Berber Tent with Jacuzzi, which was spectacular and had everything we could possibly want or need. Nothing could be more romantic than relaxing on your own private terrace with views over the desert and mountains! Each mealtime was really special, with a different cuisine and venue each time in some really beautiful settings. One of our highlights was watching Casablanca on the big screen by the pool, where we were brought blankets and popcorn. We were truly 'wowed' by the service throughout our stay. It was the perfect combination of personal and thoughtful while professional and efficient. There were plenty of excursions on offer too - from a mule trek to visiting the local village, but I'm ashamed to say we couldn't tear ourselves away from the beautiful hotel and our Berber Tent to venture outside the property!
After a sad farewell, we continued our journey to the capital of Morocco, Rabat, where we stayed overnight at Story Rabat Hotel Boutique & Spa, which boasted a beautiful garden area with a welcoming heated pool one side and a restaurant terrace the other. Both perfect for relaxing after the 4.5 hour drive! The next day we awoke feeling refreshed ready for another 3.5 hour drive up to Tangier. Our driver was really knowledgeable and a pleasure to chat away to, as we learned more about the history and life in Morocco whilst we took in the sights out the window and stopped for a few photo opportunities en route. The journey was certainly worthwhile as we arrived at the Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay, an impressive white building emanating a blend of Moroccan and Mediterranean style, that almost appeared floating on water. After a warm welcome, we were shown our beautiful Bliss Pool Villa, another romantic riad style suite set within its own walls, with a small private pool with steps direct to our opulent bedroom. We were certainly spoilt for space and privacy here! It was a little cooler by the coast but we still managed to enjoy the white sand beach along with our stunning accommodation.
A highlight of our whole itinerary (and partly why we ventured up north!) was the day excursion to Chefchaouen, known as the Blue City. It was so unique, beautiful and great to explore as our guide explained that, while the city was built in the 1400's, it was actually only painted blue in the 1900s. There are many theories as to why, whether it was to keep mosquitos away, symbolise the sky and heaven to reassure Jews fleeing WW2, or just to attract tourists. Either way it makes for some great photo opportunities!
The next step of our adventure was the new high-speed train from Tangier to Casablanca. We travelled first class which included the use of a lovely lounge, where the staff soon advised us our train had arrived and directed us to the platform. The train was very comfortable and civilised, and we enjoyed the views as we were whisked up to Casablanca. Here, a driver awaited our arrival to take us to Four Seasons Casablanca. We spent our two days enjoying the heated swimming pool, eating breakfast overlooking the ocean, and taking a day tour of Casablanca. We joined a small group to see the highlights of the city - from the mosque which was both beautiful and fascinating, to the famous Rick's Café from the film Casblanca, where we actually dined on our final night for a grand finale to our epic adventure!
We honestly didn't want the trip to end. We were slightly apprehensive to do such a big itinerary in a country so culturally diverse, just as COVID restrictions were easing, but we're so glad we did! We were so well looked after - from first making plans with Elegant Resorts, to the amazing hotels and our wonderful driver who joined us for most of the journeys and made sure we were well looked after throughout! Morocco is such a fascinating country. We are so lucky to have such amazing culture, cuisine and history just a short flight away, as well as winter sun, an array of luxury hotels and the very best service and support along the way. I already can't wait to return!