Saturday, November 25th 2017.

Destinations

Karin de Graauw
MARRAKECH:
ONE OF THE MOST HIP DESTINATIONS OF THESE DAYS

 

By Karin de Graauw

 

Even if you think you know Marrakech, we are convinced that this report will still learn you something. Marrakech keeps reinventing itself and is undoubtedly one of the most hip destinations of these days, on an equal level with Miami or Ibiza. Restaurants open each month, the trick is to find them.

Therefore BBT Online visited Marrakech with Ria Mooijaart, who represents the DMC Morocco Unlimited on the Belgian and Dutch markets. We visited a lot of not-to-miss restaurant and hotel newcomers.

 

Marokko Marokko
Marokko Marokko
Marokko Marokko
 
©Marcel Borninkhof

 

Ria Mooijaart, representing DMC Morocco Unlimited on the Belgian and Dutch markets, invited us for a 4-day trip starting on 11 February 2010 to Marrakech together with 11 incentive planners from Holland and 4 from Belgium.

The flight with Royal Air Maroc to Marrakech takes in principle only three hours, but during the winter season unfortunately with a change in Casablanca. In summer there are direct flights. Also Ryanair (from Charleroi airport) and some tour operators offer flights, but we feel that for incentive groups it is better to use a private charter.

 

Djema Djema Djema

 

Morocco has no less than 8 sites on the World Heritage list, including Djema El Fna Square in Marrakech. Especially at night the square bathes a magical atmosphere with snake charmers, storytellers, henna tattooists, fortune tellers and countless street restaurants. It is not to be recommended, although it looks picturesque, eating at one of the food stalls. Tourista, you know, although some people are less sensitive than others...
A nice place you can trust to breathe the atmosphere of the square, however, is the roof terrace of the Café de Paris.

 

HOTELS WORTH CHECKING OUT

We spent two nights at the Palmeraie Golf Palace & Resort hotel, with its beautiful meeting rooms, congress centre, golf centre and the Michelin two-starred Dar Ennasim restaurant. (http://www.bestrestaurantsmaroc.com/fr/restaurant-maroc/detail/marrakech-dar-ennassim.html).

At the magnificent wellness centre we got back our baby skins. The treatment was perfect, but we have to admit that the organisation and the friendliness of the staff were not of the highest level. Some of us had to wait for more than 30 minutes on the massage table, only dressed in a bathrobe. The centre was clearly understaffed, and this lack was surely not compensated by a friendly attitude. Some staff bluntly gave a ‘take it or leave it’ impression. And this should not occur in this class of hotels. We had a strong impression that the wellness centre had been outsourced.
But now on to a far more positive item: breakfast and lunch were to die for.

 

Palmeraie Golf Palace Palmeraie Golf Palace

 

Another renowned hotel is Sofitel Marrakech (http://www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-3569-sofitel-marrakech-lounge-and-spa/index.shtml). It is located adjacent to the town centre, a major advantage over the Palmeraie, which is at 25 minutes’ drive from the centre. Despite the town centre shuttle of the Palmeraie Golf Palace & Resort hotel, or the cheap taxis, you do not go to the centre for a quick visit. The Palmeraie is a great hotel for conferences & golf.

At the end of 2009 the Naoura Barrière Hotel & Ryads opened its doors, the first Lucien Barrière hotel outside of France. The hotel offers 85 suites, 26 luxury ryads, 2 acres of lush gardens surround the hotel, a luxury spa and the world renowned Fouquet’s restaurant (of Paris fame) ensure a great stay (http://www.lucienbarriere.com/localized/en/hotel/etablissements/hotel_ryads_naoura_barriere.htm?lang=en).
The location is top, very close to the Djema El Fna square.

NaouraNaoura

Although we did not stay there, the charming hotel Les Deux Tours made our heart beat faster. This hotel is situated near the Palmeraie. Unfortunately its website does not render all the splendour the hotel has to offer (as is the case with a lot of hotel websites). 13 standard rooms, 15 suites (8 having their own pools) create an atmosphere of 1001 nights, one of the most romantic places in the world. (www.les-deuxtours.com).

 

SalammboSalammbo

 

Or what would you think of a stay in the Tamadot Lodge of Sir Richard Branson, just outside of Marrakech in the Atlas mountain range? A sure must-do! (www.kasbahtamadot.virgin.com).

 

Tamadot Lodge Tamadot Lodge
Tamadot Lodge Tamadot Lodge
Tamadot Lodge Tamadot Lodge

 

Amanjena Hotel, situated as well in the Atlas mountains (not really for our budget, rates starting from 600 euros per night per room) - http://www.amanresorts.com/amanjena/home.aspx - http://www.amanresorts.com/amanjena/picturetour.aspx

And last but not least: Murana Oriental Resort (http://90plan.ovh.net/~muranore/marrakech/murano.html).

 

TWO EXTREMES: PAST EN MODERN IN JUST ONE DAY

Marrakech allows you to combine two extremes: the past and the modern times. We took a trip on a donkey’s back (these were well treated strong animals, so you do not have to pity them), the proceeds going to the local population. Each donkey had its own guide, who did not ask for a tip after the trip. And because they did not ask any, our guides got most royal tips.

 

Donkey trip Donkey trip
Donkey trip Donkey trip

 

The donkeys took us up in the Atlas mountains to enjoy lunch in Kasbah du Toubkal in the nice February sun (www.kasbadutoubkal.com). The view of the snowy Atlas mountain tops is stunning.

In the evening we changed our trousers and mountain shoes for an elegant cocktail dress and stilettos, ready to dine in the trendy Bo & Zin (www.bo-zin.com). With a lounge bar and French cuisine, this is a splendid place. And those who want to hang out after a delicious meal, can do so in the Pacha Club (www.pachamarrakech.com).

The red city had undoubtedly become one of the hippest destinations. Here is list of favourites.

Brasserie Azar – www.azarmarrakech.com

 

Azar azar
Azar Azar

 

Villa Rosa – Restaurant – Bar, 64 AV Hassan II 40 000 Gueliz (new town of Marrakech). Tel +212 5 24 44 96 35. The hotspot of the moment. Same owner as Nikki Beach. Strangely enough, there is no website.

Yellow Sub – Bar & Restaurant, 2 Av Hassan II – Gueliz

Suite Club at the Meridien N’fis

Jad Mahal, restaurant next to the Sofitel, nice atmosphere with live band after 12. Local as well as international food. http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g293734-d1025330-r33875232-Jad_Mahal-Marrakech.html

 

Pacha Pacha
Pacha Pacha

 

Crystal Lounge - Restaurant, part of the Pacha complex http://www.pachamarrakech.com/. Very beautiful spot with swimming pool. From there on you can continue easily to the Pacha Club or the Cozy Bar.

Bab Restaurant – babhotelmarrakech.com

 

BabBab

 

Lotus Club – Hotel / Restaurant / Lounge - www.riadslotus.com

 

And more traditional ….

Tangia Restaurant – traditional restaurant, excellent for groups, with entertainment by belly dancers etc.

Le Grand Café de la Poste –This is where the locals meet. The atmosphere is that of colonial times with blinds, fans etc. Brasserie-type cuisine. Ideal if you are longing for good old European colonialism.
www.grandcafedelaposte.com

 

Tangiafoundouk

 

Le Foundouk  - www.foundouk.com

Dar Yacout in the Medina, created about 20 years ago, private rooms and a great view from the terrace overlooking the medina. Traditional Maroccon gastronomic cuisine.  http://www.bestrestaurantsmaroc.com/en/restaurant-maroc/detail/marrakech-dar-yacout.html

Café du Livre. An English-language bookshop. Ideal for a quick bite: there is a limited but delicious menu offering soups, salads and daily changing suggestions to be savoured while you leaf through the books.
www.cafedulivre.com

Also definitely visit the following website: www.bestrestaurantsmaroc.com

 

CHOICE OF DIFFERENT ACTIVITIES

The following morning we had a choice of different activities. It was a pity that we couldn’t do all of them. Here’s the choice:

 

souk souk
souk souk
 
©Marcel Borninkhof

 

  1. Quad tour of the Marrakech villages
  2. Cooking workshop
  3. Spa
  4. Souk & Djemaa Elfena Tour & Taxis
  5. Garden Tours (Majorelle & Menara) with horse carriage

After lunch we left for the Couleurs Berberes Camp (www.couleursberberes.com), run by a Moroccon-French couple. After many years of rat race in France they decided to go for a less stressing life.
Couleurs Berberes CampThe camp is beautifully situated on a 7 ha large site in the Atlas mountain range adjacent to Takerkoust lake. Guests are accommodated in tents and they are completely cut off from the rest of the world. A separate gigantic tent offers the possibility to organise discos. Further there are 2 meeting rooms, swimming pool. Everything to make the experience complete... except that there is no bathroom and toilet in the guest tents. For me the memories of youth camps were too strong... Leaving one’s tent in the midst of the night to use the toilet is nothing for me. Fortunately, this is not a problem for everyone.

The location offers many group activities: quad, canoeing, jeeps, archery, cooking lessons etc. Companies involved in sustainable tourism, this is an extremely suitable venue.

However, our own preference goes to the picturesque ryads, that Morocco is full of. The following ryads are managed by Belgians or Dutch.

Dar Soumay (Philppe and Vera Blommaert) – www.dar-soumaya.com

TchaikanaTchaikana

Tchaikana: another marvel operated by Belgians – www.tchaikana.com

Chambres d’Amis (managed by Amsterdam-born Anke van der Pluym) – www.chambresdamis.com

Some more magnificent ryads:
Riad Tarabel – www.riadtarabel.com

 

TarabelTarabelTarabelTarabelTarabel

 

Riad Noir d’Ivoire – www.noir-d-ivoire.com
Riad Farnatchi – www.riadfarnatchi.com
Villa des Orangers – www.villadesorangers.com

 

TOP INCENTIVE DESTINATION

In our opinion, Marrakech has all assets to make it as at top incentive destination.
  1. Easily and quickly accessible
  2. Totally different culture
  3. Affordable
  4. Good food; alcohol is no problem
  5. Atmosphere of 1001 nights
  6. Fine hotel offer
  7. Extremely wide offer of themed activities

Also important: even in February the sun shines and it is not cold. All this makes Marrakech into a year-round destination, with the exception of July and August when it is really hot.

We would like to thank Fatima Hassoune, managing director of the DMC Morocco Unlimited and Ria Mooijaart for this renewed introduction to Marrakech.

 

group
From left to right:
Corine Rosenbrand, Marcel Borninkhof, Ad Deurloo, Martine den Exter, Jeanette Pegels, Nora Warmerdam, Tonne Verdonk,
Loek Weimar, Carolien Brink, Ria Mooijaart, Frans van Meeuwen, Susy Beins and Barbara Pamperl

 

Contact:
Morocco Unlimited Agency, Events & Travel
Fatima Hassoune, Managing Director
www.morocco-unlimited.com/
Email: info@morocco-unlimited.com
Tel. +212 524 30 92 85

Ria Mooijaart, info@riamooijaart.com, www.riamooijaart.com, representative Belgium & Dutch market Morocco Unlimited.

 

 

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Christophe Verstraete
LATVIA, UNKNOWN BUT NOT UNLOVED!

 

By Christophe Verstraete

 

On the occasion of its 10th Anniversary Celebration early February, Baltic Travel Group euromic Baltic States, organised an Educational Trip for Belgian Incentive Houses to Discover Riga.

map

Latvia is the central nation in the Baltic States, bordered Estonia to the North and Lithuania to South, and is situated in North-eastern Europe on the east coast of the Baltic Sea.

The capital city of Riga has hundreds of features that entice visitors, including its rich history, architecture, spacious gardens and parks, museums, art galleries, and a world-class opera.  Visitors enjoy daily treats like a walk in the enormous colorful central market or going to a cozy cafe, club, or pub. It is impossible not falling in love with Riga, a rigacity that truly inspires everyone, from those yearning for the mystery of the ancient to those with a craving for new experiences.

Its key selling points are its size (it is easy to walk to many venues, restaurants, and sight) and its accessiblitiy (Air Baltic offers two flights daily from Brussels). Riga also has the largeset conference facilties in the Baltics and is famous for its spas, its sandy beaches, its Art Nouveau, and a thriving Nightlife.

Upon arrival at Riga International Airport, located 25 minutes south-west of Riga, the euromic group arrived at the Reval Hotel Elizabete for check in. Once settled in we walked across one of Riga’s numerous park for dinner at the "Piramida," one of the most exclusive restaurants in the city, located in the Reval Hotel Ridzene. We then proceeded to the third and last Reval Hotel in the city, the Reval Latvjia, for a nightcap at the Skyline Bar on the 26th floor.

The next day started with a walking tour of the Riga’s picturesque, cobblestone streets to try some of the activities used in the “Riga Treasure Hunt” program.  We visted the the Pharmacy Musueum, where  guests were invited to try Riga Black Balsam and trying to discern as many of the ingredients as possible.  The next stop was the Dom’s Cathedral, the largest place of worship in the Baltics.  The Cathedrals famous organ is one of the largest in Europe, with 6,768 pipes.

 

Mentzendorff's-HousePharmacy-Museumhospital

From there, it was off to the Mentzendorff’s House to taste their pancakes in the cosy atmosphere of an 18th century dwelling.  Finally, we stopped at Hospitalis, a medically themed restaurant that balances the black humor of doctoring with a fine dining menu.

We then transferred to the seaside resort of Jurmala, only 20 km away from Riga. Jurmala, the largest resort city in the Baltic States,  is well-known for its natural treasures – a mild climate, access to the sea, and healthy air – and its spas. The prime attraction of the city, which is flanked by a pine forest and the River Lielupem,  is a long, white sand beach that stretches for nearly 32 kilometers along the Baltic coast.

 

Sate Dacha
From left to right: Bieke Linden (HRG Belgium), Huguette Gijbels (Atop Travel & Incentives), Thierry Delcroix (Travex), Heidi Bijttebier  (American Express Groups & Events Benelux), Christophe Verstraete (euromic), Julie Demuynck (Thomas Cook Business Incentives), Patricia Simonart (YC Art et Culture). Missing on the picture Anouk Carryn (A.C.T.E. Travel & Events)

 

We lunched at Jurmala State Dacha Nr. 2, which was built and designed in 1972, located only a minute’s walk from the beach. During the Soviet era, the State Dacha was a recreational site for Soviet Party leaders. Today, State Dacha Nr 2 allows anyone to  experience a unique immersion in the atmosphere of the Soviet Union in 1970s and ‘80s, during the rule of Brezhnev.   At the door, we were greeted by the General Secretary Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev and enjoyed the meal from their “Soviet” menu.

In the evening, we all joined more than 700 colleagues, suppliers, clients and friends of BTG from all around the world in the celebrations of Baltic Travel Group’s 10th anniversary at the modern night club Discoteque.

After a restfull night, the day began with the visit to the semi-cylindrical buildings of the Central Market. The Baltic's largest marketplace has occupied these converted Zeppelin hangars since its inaugural year in 1930, and the market still retains the lively feel of a traditional trade emporium.  Each of the five hangars, or “pavilions,” has a different speciality, such as meat, fish, groceries and dairy products, while a number of stalls around the hangars sell everything from fresh produce to cheap socks.

We then proceeded to the Central District, one of the largest centres of Art Nouveau in the world.  In total, Riga has more than 800 Art Nouveau buidlings, and more than a third of the buidlings in the Central District are in Nouveau style. Most of these were designed and built by Latvian architects.

Central districtCentral District

We then transfered to Sigulda, one of Latvia’s most beautiful cities, sometimes called “Latvia’s Switzerland,” to Ride with Bob''. Bobsledding in Sigulda dates back to the late 19th century, when a nobleman called Kropotkin built a 900 - meter bobsled track at his estate. The track is appropriate for bobsled and luge competitions and training, and it is part of the international circuit. We experienced the thrill of hurtling down a championship bobsled track at over 80Km/h. Sigulda is one of fewer than 10 places in the world where such a fast track is open to the general public.

After this somewhat stressfull but very exciting experience, we quieted down at a local restaurant,  the Livkalns guest house, with some of the most pleasant and beautiful surroundings we had experienced yet.

After an delicious meal, we returned to Riga and, on our way back to the hotel, we stopped by the Motor Museum where more than 100 antique vehicles including cars, motorcycles and bicycles are displayed in two vast exhibit halls

The evening started with a fanstastic interactive meal at the Kalku Varti, a great location in which Nordic light-beige colours prevail. The restaurant’s design creates an ornamental through its incorporation of an ethnic Latvian pattern, derived from a lace needle-point coverlet created in 1895 in the parish of Bebrene. The Chef has created an intriguing offering of contemporary Latvian cuisine. The menu is based on local products: treasures from Latvian forests and produce from local farmers and organic farms.

riga

The evening continued in the Alchemic laboratory of Abraham Kunze, creator of the Riga Black Balsam that was served to us by waitresses in the 18th Century dresses in one of Riga’s most popular bars.

On Sunday, the ladies enjoyed a spa treatment in ESPA Rīga, a building with a beautifully restored Art Nouveau façade. This five star facility is comfortable and inviting, with luxurious interior design, warm amber tones, and an prominent, central staircase, embellished with a beautiful light sculpture. The six floor spa has been uniquely tailored to provide a genuinely holistic and restorative experience for each guest.

 

Riga Riga
Riga Riga

 

Some participants commented:

“I was really surprised to discover the beautiful city of Riga ! I think it is an excellent incentive/meeting destination for a short stay of 3 or 4 days, all round the year !  They offer very good hotels, excellent food, a lot of culture,  interesting  special activities/events…but last but not least an excellent value for money!”

Huguette Gijbels – ATOP Travel & Incentives

“Riga is a beautiful city that has a great history and a rich past as Hanseatic city.
It is a marvellous incentive and cultural destination as you will get a pleasant surprise by discovering the UNESCO treasures of old Riga, a young and dynamic spirit, a lot of exiting outdoors activities to do in and near the city with its enchanting countryside. Try it!”

Patricia Simonart - YC Art et Culture

“Thanks to euromic we had to occasion to discover Riga and the many possibilities for future incentive groups. The extremely well organized trip allowed us to discover several different aspects of the city and special activities. We even had a unique experience in a bobsled. Thanks to the professional BTG team!”

Anouk  Carryn - A.C.T.E. Travel & Events

“Riga is a perfect incentive destination: you can find a good mix of cultural highlights as well as exiting outdoor activities. Not only Riga but also Latvia has given me an enchanted feeling. Winter or summer, at every time of the year Riga and Latvia can offer what you need for the next incentive.”

Julie Demuynck   - Thomas Cook Business Incentives

 

Contact:
euromic – events & destination management partnership
Christophe Verstraete, Executive Director
www.euromic.com
Email: marketing_europe@euromic.com
Tel. +32 2 538 66 25

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