One of the greatest welcomes we’ve ever had in a Moroccan riad was whilst staying at Riad Laayoun in Fes. House Manager Simo came to meet us from the taxi and insisted on carrying up our two largest suitcases himself. After some very half-hearted protesting we agreed and were more thankful with each step as the alleyway steadily increased in gradient as it meandered through the vegetable market and up into the residential area. It was quite an achievement to simply negotiate our small cases around the piles of bricks, children and kittens, let alone two colossal ones, but Simo didn’t even break into a sweat. Hubbie looked on in glee as his suitcase became more travel battered with each cobblestone, whilst I turned away, the thought of just a single little scratch on my prized luggage almost setting my teeth on edge.
The heat was astounding, mainly because we’d not expected it in October, and by the time we reached the riad we were more than ready to drop. In reality it was only about seven minutes walk from the road at Place R-Cif, but the stiff British upper lip had all but disolved by this time and all we wanted now was some mint tea. We didn’t have to wait long.
The moment we stepped over the threshold into this charming pocket of calm we knew we’d chosen another good ‘un. Owner Jean-Claude was there with a smile and a firm handshake, and it was good to finally meet the man who’d been helpfully and patiently responding to all my emails. Both he and Simo were such genuinely friendly chaps, ready to help with the smallest detail and on hand with good suggestions for our visit. It was a pleasure to be staying with them.
Moments later we of course got our wish – a whole pot of refreshing mint tea, and surely the best home-made macaroons in the world! I had to ask for some more they were so tasty, much to hubbie’s embarassment! When our friends joined us the next day, I had to eat theirs too, just in case they didn’t like them!
By the time we’d finished munching, our cases had disappeared upstairs, and we were once again thankful we didn’t have to lug the monstrosities up several flights of stairs to our room. The walls in Fes are almost as high as they are long, so it was unsurprising to discover Riad Laayoun is built upwards rather than outwards. Great for the views, and for working off all those macaroons!
We were staying in the small but perfectly formed Chambre Vanille. It’s one of the two smaller rooms (together with Paprika) which overlook the smaller patio, and being slightly separate from the other rooms and suites which overlook the main patio, it was more private, a feeling quite hard to find in most traditional riads.
It should perhaps be noted that the rooms overlook the small courtyard from way above, rather than leading straight onto it, which isn’t a problem at all, it just isn’t quite that clear on the website.
The adjoining bathroom is across a little balcony, all very private and cute. There are curtains you can pull so it’s ok to go scampering across into the shower in nothing but your birthday suit!
It was rather stifling in the Fes heat, and luckily we had air-conditioning (Paprika has a fan) so were able to catch a few z’s which would have otherwise been impossible.
The bed was quite comfy, although the pillows rather hard, which I’m sure they would’ve changed for us had we asked, but being English we are often too scared to complain! So that one is on us! There was enough room in Vanille to store four cases, and we had a wardrobe as well as a small table and chairs. The lovely tiled floor had a slight wonkiness that only added to the charm of such an old building. You could almost feel the history beneath your toes.
The amazing panorama from the roof terrace just tops it all off, literally. Breakfast is served up here, with the refreshing morning breeze a perfect antidote to the heat. There is very little air flow in the alleyways down below, so choosing a riad with a decent roof terrace is important – you’ll spend a lot of time up here!
The breakfast spread was fantastic with breads, fruits, cakes, pancakes, you name it…don’t think I’ve ever had a bad breakfast in Morocco but this one came with a view! The dinners are glorious too, probably the best kefta tagine we’ve ever had, thanks to Rachida the cook. She’s a real gem (and the source of those macaroons!), I wish we could take her home to let loose in our kitchen.
Riad Laayoun was very energy conscious (something quite rare in Morocco) with the lights in public areas all on timers – a great idea since as well as saving energy it also means total darkness and a better sleep for those of us who have been known to struggle with the concept! And as hubbie discovered also a little hazardous if it all goes black when you’re downstairs and you don’t know where the light switches are! Damn the wife for making him climb down all those flights of stairs to get her a late night drink.
The location is great, right in the heart of the medina yet away from the more touristy area of Bab Bou Jeloud. And once you get your bearings, it’s really easy to navigate and always fun coming home through the market which sells everything from other-worldy vegetables to the freshest chickens you’ll ever have the pleasure of buying. Their terrified squawks follow you through the market, ending abruptly at about the same time you reach the camel heads. Possibly not a highlight for vegetarians but exactly the reason we’d come to Fes. To experience real life!
We had very little time in the city but wanted to see as much as possible, so Simo and Jean-Claude booked a guide, Abdou Malik, to give us a whirlwind tour. We very rarely use guides as we much prefer doing things at our own pace and making our own discoveries (and mistakes), but Abdou was perfect and got it just right! We couldn’t have done it without him, and he even kindly bought us some figs from the market for lunch to eat straight out of their skins, yummy. And messy! Just as well hubbie had his trusty packet of wetwipes to deal with his wife’s predictable sticky fingers, and arms, and nose…
We loved Fes, and a huge part of that was having somewhere so special to stay. Accommodation really can make or break a holiday, which is why it’s so important to get it right. Which we did. Of course!