Category Archives: Agadir, Marrakech and Mirleft

Mirleft – surfers paradise and Jimi Hendrix’s secret hideaway

Not many tourists know about this hidden gem. Located on the west coast of Morocco, Mirleft is not as flashy as Agadir, doesn’t have the nightlife of Casablanca or the city pulse of Marrakech. But a few people in the circle of trust know that Mirleft is the right place to be for its pristine beaches, fancy villas and a laissez-faire attitude. Most of the crowd is French well-to-do retirees but the place is now also being discovered by a hipper and younger crowd (mostly surfers) who are finding Mirleft just as cool as Jimi Hendrix did when he came here to chill out in 1969.

In Mirleft you can either rent a villa for a couple of weeks, stay in a hotel or in a bed & breakfast (several are available). The beaches are humongous with very few people, so you can easily find a private spot to enjoy the sunshine and the refreshing Atlantic water. However, don’t expect any beach restaurants (when we talk pristine we really mean it).

If you are renting a villa and prepare your own food, it’s good to know there is an excellent butcher in the village who will happily make your barbeque a tasty one (try his pork ribs, they are really yummy). There are also a few restaurants in the vicinity to enjoy some excellent lamb, different types of Tagines and mint tea.

Mirleft is located only 130 km south of Agadir, so you can easily get here by renting a car or taking a taxi.

Mirleft beach

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3 lounge bars you have to visit in Marrakech

On our visit to Marrakech earlier this year we stayed in the Hivernage area outside of the medina. The first evening we were up for a drink and felt like visiting a nice bar but we just didn’t have the slightest idea where to go. By chance we were passing by Palais Jad Mahal close to our hotel. It was just a small sign next to a discrete wooden door but we gave it a shot. We hit jackpot! Wow, what a place. This is a truly upscale establishment looking like a palace inside. We started out in the bar and had a drink before we moved on to the dining area. They had an extensive menu leaning towards Asian-Moroccan fusion and everything we tried was excellent. We also got to see a belly dancing show and ladies doing amazing moves with tea trays (full of candles!!) on top of their heads and listened to a great cover band until late in the evening.

In the end we decided to check with the bartender what other places he would recommend us to visit. Except for Jad Mahal (of course) he gave us the names of two other must-see-bars in the Hivernage area – Le Comptoir Darna and SO Night Lounge. We visited both of them and couldn’t agree more.

Le Comptoir Darnais a landmark in the Marrakech nightlife scene. It’s fun, loud, crowded and just plain cool. Here you can have dinner (the menu is Frensh-Moroccan) in an exotic, lounge-style setting and enjoy a cocktail (or two) while watching the spectacular belly dancing show. It’s simply a must to visit Le Comptoir Darna next time you go to Marrakech.

Just like Jad Mahal, Le Comptoir Darna has a great evening show

SO Night Lounge is located in the Sofitel hotel and has more of a night club feeling. As in Jad Mahal and Le Comptoir Darna, it is packed with party people, all enjoying some entertainment over a few drinks. Nice place but (according to us) not up to the level of Jad Mahal and Le Comtoir.

Have you been to Marrakech and found some other great places to lounge around at night? Share them with us. 

Chevy Chase, eat your heart out!

“-Beam me up, Scotty!”

Remember Chevy Chase in European Vacation, stuck in a roundabout in London? You thought that was funny, didn’t you? Well, even worse happened to us on the way to Marrakech. When we, after an exhausting ride, approached a roundabout, I suddenly noticed that all my driving skills seemed to have disappeared in a big black (pot) hole along the way. I just heard swiiiiish and they were gone. Goodbye!  As soon I entered THE roundabout, there was a beep from a car behind.

–What! What did I do wrong?, I said screamed.

Something that started as a solo was shortly joined by a choir of blowing horns serenading me while I tried to get out of this self-inflicted inferno. I don’t know exactly how many traffic rules I violated, but I was soon to be informed by a police officer who waved me down (his face expressions suggested there were quite a few). After showing my driving license and explaining that this was our first time in Marrakech, he gave me an amused, fatherly look and let us continue. On the radio Aerosmith were blasting away: “I’m back, I’m back in the saddle again!” I raised the volume and we were ready to rock.  Nothing was gonna stop us now!

I couldn’t be more wrong. While slowly approaching the next roundabout, I tried to recover any remaining knowledge about traffic rules. Should I go clockwise? Should I stay in the right lane when going straight? I was drawing blanks. Zilch. Where are the brain cells when you need them? (My drowsy travel companions didn’t seem to know anything either).

As soon as we entered the roundabout, the same horn choir was back (I could swear there was a conductor hiding somewhere in the bushes). To nobody’s surprise I also noticed how the next police officer prepared to wave me to the side. In a true Mr. Bean-maneuver I decided to avoid another tet-à-tet about my driving skills, so I varooomed through the circle and went back the same way we came from. At this point, my passengers were trying to slip under the floor mat, since they realized (news flash!) I was taking them back to the previous roundabout. (Yeah, the one with the police officer who already stopped me, remember?)

Only a miracle could save us now. Tensions were high and I saw Sam (who usually enjoys an occasional car-ride) nervously tearing off the last piece of hair from his tail. Just when I made eye contact with the police officer (he didn’t look amused seeing us again) I noticed a way out. A road leading to the right was my savior (which, ta-da, led us straight to our hotel). The rest of the week I meticulously refreshed my roundabout skills. Just to be on the safe side.

Munching on a $40 hamburger in Fort Knox

“I think Woody Allen is calling”

Have you ever tried getting into Fort Knox? No? Well, neither have we. That is why we were absolutely perplexed when we came across its twin brother in Marrakech – the legendary hotel La Mamounia. Called by Winston Churchill “the most beautiful place on earth”, it is heavily guarded to stop any onlookers from taking a glimpse inside. However, the samandthedunes team couldn’t just take no for an answer. We had long  wanted to see the famous hotel bar where Churchill and Hitchcock hanged out and where Sarah Jessica Parker probably had a few Cosmos while filming Sex and the City 2. So, our team in the best traditions of Ocean’s Eleven decided to develop a full-proof plan to get in. Everything had to be meticulously taken into account, nothing left to chance.

Attempt #1: Look as relaxed as possible, avoid eye contact, talk jovially and briskly try to pass the guards as if we owned the place. FAILURE. Face control figured us out faster then Sir Winston can down a cognac (back to the drawing board).

Attempt #2: To book one night at La Mamounia at very, we mean very short notice. This way we could easily squeeze in a dinner at the restaurant and a drink at the Churchill Bar. FAILURE. Hotel was fully booked (we hear that after this story was posted, Woody Allen was looking for our phone number).

Attempt #3: Ask the concierge at our hotel to book us a table at the bar. FAILURE. She called back in 2-3 seconds: “sorry (losers) it’s fully booked”.

Attempt #4: (last try before Sir Winston starts giggling in his grave) To attach ourselves to a group of hotel guests, mingling, laughing at their jokes while trying to sneak by the Fort Knox honchos once again. The group we leeched unto eyed us as if we were Freddy Krueger and Morticia Addams (an interesting pair, we have to admit) but BINGO, we were in!

Once we found the restaurant “Pavillon de la Piscine” we were told rather sternly (pupils rolling, how did these bozos get in!) that guests from outside were not served either lunch or dinner and that if we wanted something nourishing we should proceed to the terrace “snack bar”. Now, a snack bar usually is associated with a sandwich or two, maybe a pizza. This one had waiters that would easily fit in the Buckingham Palace and a menu that would shame most bistros on Champs Elysées. We can honestly say, hand on heart, that for the first time we have eaten a hamburger for 40 dollars.

On the way out (snickering how we outdid the security detail, heh, heh), we were passing by THE legendary bar. Unfortunately, it was not open. But we saw the closed doors. They looked heavy. Very heavy.

Sir Winston, Cheers! Have a drink for us upstairs, since we seem to fail down here.

Watch those apples!

You gotta cut down on those apples!

With a Laurent-Perrier cooling in the fridge on a sunny morning just before New Year’s, one starts to contemplate: to pop it now or to wait a bit and indulge in the fizzy for lunch dinner. In preparation for the big night, one has to be at least slightly lubricated, though hopefully not like the infamous elk from somewhere in Sweden who was found napping in a tree, wasted, after a joyful feast on rotten apples (a bizarre news report that amused across borders in 2011). Once we down the champagne, a promise we will make for 2012: tomorrow’s hangover will definitely not be of that caliber – but if it does happen – we can always claim that we had one apple too many. So, here we go, whatever your party toxin, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

A So Good Christmas!

Michelin star level cuisine, live music in a night club ambiance with champagne by the gallon, roses  on every table and an air of exclusivity. Voilà, welcome to Christmas dinner at So Good restaurant in the Sofitel Hotel in Agadir.

Oyster

The clientele is French (except for the Sam and the dunes team) and the food speaks the same language. The wine is Moroccan. A discreet bass in the background performs Christmas songs while you feast on poached oyster, foie gras on ginger bread with fig chutney (that would fit in comfortably at a State reception) and roasted blue lobster. One small note, though: the menu was perfection, but there was just too much of it (when you have eight dishes coming one after the other, your taste buds tend to start screaming “help!).  Roses

So Good was fully booked for Christmas as most other establishments in Sofitel – a mecca for the glamourous and the haute jeans crowd from Paris, Cannes and Nice this time of the year. Before dinner, a welcome drink was offered in the lobby while an African band was drumming it away.

An enormous Christmas tree reminded us all that the holiday season just started and it was time to kick off the celebrations, which we did with a vengeance. The night flew by like a meteor with guests departing around midnight, or after (depending on one’s stamina and resolve).

The happy, if tired, faces at breakfast the next morning said what needed to be said: This was one So Good Christmas!

Last check

Finishing packing before we’re off to Agadir and Marrakech for the holidays.

- Food? -Woof

- Water bowl? -Woof

- Dog shampoo? -Grrrrrrr!!

- OK, OK! Badminton racket? -Woof

Cat fight

Home, humiliated…but alive

Yesterday afternoon we all set off for a peaceful stroll on the Agadir boardwalk. Sam, while sniffing around, suddenly noticed two kittens. Being the good hearted chap that he is, Sam tried to make contact (or so he thought) with a different species for the first time. Imagine the shock when out of the blue, mother cat (who made the German shepard guarding our hotel look timid) jumped  out  from the bushes and went for Sam. Hanna quickly grabbed the dog but the cat didn’t let go, so Alex ran to the rescue finally scaring it away (what a man). All of this commotion happened just in front of a group of construction workers who were laughing so hard that even Sam got red in the nose. Humiliated by this tiny but, oh, so nasty little animal, our team quickly retreated back to the hotel.

Lobbying in Sofitel

One thing we can say about the Sofitel Hotel in Agadir, it has a lobby that baffles and enchants with its size, sophistication and service provided. It is built in a style that resembles a mix of an old-fashioned French train station and a traditional Moroccan Souk. In the evening a guitar player entertains the guests with some groovy rhythms while clouds of chicha smoke perfume the air with scents of apples and raisins. Palm trees and bonfires add to the ambiance, one of romance and decadence reminiscent of an age long gone.

Sam the man

Wait...where is my Martini?

Agadir is a really cool place, not to mention the hotel we are staying in that welcomes dogs, especially our Sam, with a panache  dwarfing all other 5-stars. Every morning one of us gets up around 6 AM to take him out for  an exercise and other known dog activities, braving the stray ones that roam the boardwalk as well as the guard dog, a ferocious German Shepherd, that tends to jump poor Sam. Still, like clockwork he wakes us up at the crack of dawn ready for another battle with his brethren. After a hefty breakfast organized under code name “Operation Flying Sausage” (don’t ask), Sam wanders off to the pool for a lazy afternoon. Here Sam rules (at least we allow him to think so).

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