I know a hotel is going to be right up my street when I make friends with a spoilt and well-loved animal within the first half an hour of arriving. Regardless of a place having all the details executed to a ridiculously high and stylish standard, which Villa des Orangers undoubtedly does, it’s the extra money-can’t-buy ‘feeling’ that gives somewhere the true X factor. So when Bagera the smiling, purring and probably luckiest cat in Marrakech rolled over for a tummy tickle as soon as I spotted her on a sofa by the pool I knew I was somewhere special. (If you follow me on Instagram you'll understand my excitement was elevated further still by the fact I also have a cat from the Jungle Book clan called Mowgli at home, who recently celebrated his 19th birthday – what a babe). While I (try to) appreciate cats aren’t for everyone, it’s also the staff’s kindness and character that really shine through when you chat to them about less run-of-the-mill things like this.
We arrived at Villa des Orangers straight off the back of a magical wedding in the Agafay desert where we stayed in electricity-free eco-lodges. And, if I’m honest, we were in an exhausted heap. Happily, on coming back into Marrakech, awaiting us was a lush, cool oasis of calm – a stark contrast to the bustling, hot, sticky and at times pretty overwhelming streets of the Medina we'd become so familiar with. Over-tiredness and Medina mayhem was immediately pacified with birdsong, unexpectedly leafy gardens and sunlight dappled nooks beneath shadow-throwing awnings.
We ate breakfast beneath theaforementioned awning accompanied by tiny Disney-like birds hopping around the tables. We tucked into tagines poolside for lunch – I'm sure it's not where most people opt to have piping hot food served but the staff were ever-accommodating for the weird Brits looking to soak up the last of the North African rays. And come nightfall we were happy to surrender to tiredness – cue indulging in room service whilst wearing fluffy white robes with tassels on the hoods before turning into a bed that my high-standards husband described as the comfiest ever. I'm a true pillow snob and am 100% with him on this. Kudos.
Befriending the small army of animals:
I've already filled you in on Bagera. In addition to this, two tortoises roam wherever they please and are surprisingly a) friendly b) speedy. I nearly tripped over one on my way back to our room so rerouted to the hotel kitchen to ask for some breakfast for him. Apparently he frequently turns up there himself so he's more streetwise than I gave him credit for.
Swimming slow lengths in the silky pool:
There's something about the water here, it doesn't feel like other pools. It's generously heated too – I'm often still shivering in other so-called 'heated' pools. Plus it's one of the prettiest set-ups to admire as you bob up and down.