Sofitel Agadir Offers Solo Travelers Beauty and Bliss

 

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Recently  I stayed at 5-star Sofitel Agadir Thalassa Sea & Spa,  just named continental winner of  “Luxury Wedding Destination in Africa” by the 2015 Luxury Hotel Awards.  My time there was perfection.  Though I endorse travel for all, I especially encourage single women waiting for a prince to live happily-after-after to find your bliss now at places that will make your dreams come true.  At the premier hotel on beautiful Agadir Bay you don’t have to be on a honeymoon to be pampered like a new bride.  In fact, any lady here will be given princess treatment.

When I moved to Marrakech to write, teach English, and travel,  I began asking students where their families stay when vacationing.  The answer was always the same.

In Paris? Sofitel. London? Sofitel. Rome? Sofitel. Morocco? Sofitel.

Such big brand loyalty (120 hotels on five continents in 40 countries) in the age of hip default to indie companies got my attention.  But then again, I’ve always appreciated timeless, classic quality.

The French company committed to total well-being first opened its doors in Strasbourg in 1964.  Dedicated to superior service infused with the celebration of art de vivre, each hotel provides  cultural experiences from not only France but also each host country in which it is located.   Showcasing  the best artwork, literature, music, fashion, architecture, gardens, fitness, wines and foods, the hotel beckons guests to experience the sweet life layer by delicious layer. Like bees burrowing gently into the rose— velvet petal by velvet petal—drinking nectar that will become honey in the hive, guests enter space after space of palpable beauty in interactions that feed the soul. Sofitel Agadir Thalassa Sea & Spa stimulates every sense—from plush decor to soothing sounds of fountains and sea to a signature scent, Jatamansi, found only in the Himalayas.  Jatamansi, also known as “nard” smells of citrus, ylang ylang and mountains and has so many medicinal powers it is considered sacred in some countries. I left filled, relaxed, energized, healed.

But beyond all these offerings, what makes the Sofitel the Sofitel is the people who work here.   From the moment I walked through the doors everyone–from doorman to gardener to manager — greeted me by name.  I arrived feeling ill–a situation that could have been a nightmare when traveling alone–but I quickly learned I couldn’t have been in better hands.  The staff  offered to get me medicine and kindly brought me treats to feel better–Chamomile tea, sweets and fruit, two dozen roses.  I am forever grateful for their professional, superior service.  Rightfully called, the So Staff is the best in the  business.

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The new Sofitel Agadir Thalassa Sea & Spa  greets guests with a 100 meter long Andalusian pond and 2,000 rose bushes.

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Maison Arabe (Lobby) - Sofitel Agadir Thalassa sea & spa (5)

Photo by Sofitel

I was welcomed at the door of  La Maison Arabe, the reception area in a traditional riad with contemporary black and white design,  and served mint tea and Moroccan cookies while the staff checked me in.

 

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Photo by Sofitel

 

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Designer Didier Rey said of the collaboration of building this modern classic, “We had some great interaction with Moroccan artisans.  Here I find the pleasure of working in simplicity as it was 20 years ago in France.”

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In the gallery on display were thirty works by Younes Fizazi in a collection called “Moroccans Landscapes, Richness and Diversity.” Shots of the Atlas Mountains and  Merzouga  desert allowed me to relive great trips taken last  fall and spring, but having just arrived from the surf town of Taghazout , I especially loved this photograph.

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I was excited to see the pool and beach areas next.  So Gorgeous.

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The spacious suite was sumptuous, and I was especially thrilled with my three favorite elements — the terrace, bed, and bathtub (something I miss most in my Marrakech apartment).  This one offered the best of both worlds–a soak with a view–so first on my agenda was a bubble bath followed by a massage.

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Prestige Suite Photo by Sofitel

 

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View of pool and ocean from outdoor lounge

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Prestige Suite - Sofitel Agadir Thalassa sea & spa (11)
Photo by Sofitel

 

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My only complaint was the Sofitel MyBed which abducted me –a custom made mattress, featherbed, down duvet, and sleek, soft sheets.   After my massage, I took a nap and slept for hours. 🙂

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Hind has magic hands. I swear.
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“Evasion et beaute Berbere” (Berber Escape and Beauty) treats the skin to Argan, prickly pear cactus, orange blossom water, rose water and honey.  After treatments one can lounge overlooking Agadir Bay and sip herb or fruit drinks. Photo by Sofitel

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Palais du Jardin (Moroccan Restaurant) SOFITEL AGADIR THALASSA SEA&SPA (5)
Les Palais du Jardin, the gourmet restaurant where Chef Fatima cooks  Moroccan cuisine fusing traditional and modern flavors. Photo by Sofitel
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At L’Amane Bar fresh fruit smoothies, classic cocktails, and a jazz duo can be enjoyed every night from 7:30 PM.

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Day 2 I rose early feeling great and ready for breakfast on the terrace of L’Atlantique.

 

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IMG_9392After breakfast I went to play in the next door neighbor’s backyard–Sofitel Agadir Royal Bay, recipient of “Luxury Beach Resort in Morocco” by the 2015 Luxury Hotel Awards.  Of its many distinctions, Sofitel Morocco was selected to  host the first Kids’ Villa offering educational programs, pastry classes, belly dance, gardening workshops, swimming, aerobics, and a library for children.  The honor was bestowed because The Little Prince was born in the imagination of  Antoine de Saint Exupery in Morocco.

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Opened in 2004, the Sofitel Agadir Royal Bay Resort was the first hotel brand in Agadir.  A contemporary Kasbah, its colors are warm copper, wood, and orange, the emblem of the Souss Valley symbolic of fire representing Berber hospitality.

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Six duplex villas with infinity pools overlook the ocean.

 

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The So Lounge is the center of nightlife in Agadir and a great place for the Birthday Girl.

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A winter holiday destination that offers sun- by- day and fire- by- night, Sofitel invites reflecting on the past year and dreaming of the one to come.  Photo by Sofitel

Agadir, “Pearl of the South,”  is a three-hour flight from major European cities.  It’s where Europe migrates in winter to enjoy 300 days of sunshine each year and the Sofitel experience– timeless as Coco Chanel, delicious as Crème brûlée, and exotic as only Morocco.

Special thanks to Sofitel and Soukaina Ghallab for an unforgettable experience.  As always, the opinions are my own.

Best Beaches in Morocco: Agadir

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I was the first on the bus ready to ride.

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I had pulled into the Marrakech train station from Casablanca the night before, and at 8 AM Ismail drove me to Supratours (located behind the trains).  I had taken the bus to Essaouira (2 hours and 15 minutes west of Marrakech) and loved that beach town for its mystery and authentic Moroccan feel.  This time I boarded for a 3-day weekend in Agadir (2 hours and 35 minutes southwest).  Both are located on the Atlantic, but Agadir is known for being more typical of beaches in parts of the US and Europe.

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The city was built by the Portuguese in the 15th century as a trade route with the Sahara. Though it was destroyed in 1960 by an earthquake that killed 18,000 people, it was rebuilt boasting a promenade and marina of yachts.

I stayed at Iberostar Founty Beach, my first ever all-inclusive.  The 4-star provided all the food, drinks, private beach, sea view room and pool time I could stand. My cost for two days was 203 Euros/$227 USD. The bus charges 200 dirhams/$20 USD round trip (return tickets are purchased upon arrival) so on February 20th   I was beach bound or bust.

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The drive there left behind winter blues—the coldest, wettest winter Moroccans say they remember. The chill of January and most of February was healed as I passed bruised-blue mountains soothed by dollops of snow and cumulus clouds.

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Sheep and goats grazed in green fields and tents were pitched in orchards.   I thought of my favorite Italian comedy, Bread and Tulips, where a woman is left at a rest stop. At a crossroads–literally– she catches the next bus to Venice and starts a new life. But because I’d started a new life and six months in was enjoying it, I didn’t want to get left. I chugged my cappuccino and ate my Chocolat Pane—both about the best I’d ever had—beside the window where the bus was parked. I had no idea how long the driver had allowed us since I don’t speak Darija, Moroccan Arabic.

From the bus station I took a cab to the resort. As I walked in I dodged parents trying to steer their kids and parents through the lobby to the dining room for family lunch time.Tour busses emptied folks looking for fun—one of them a fortysomething guy who slapped a lady friend on the behind and took off running while she chased him.  With its own airport Morocco’s busiest beach is where Europe comes to play. Some tourists, like the German family I met on the bus, split their time in the country between Marrakesh and Agadir.

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Something about the budget, beach cocktails, buffet, and Love Boat throwback (staff does a routine daily around the pool) reminded me of Spring Break ’79. So much so that I messaged my college friend, Cissy. We’d caravanned with friends to Daytona Beach the first year by car and to Ft. Lauderdale the second by plane. In those days my diet consisted of five Girl Scout thin mints and hooch poured poolside- by- day, then an all-you-can-eat buffet in a beach bar by night. Before internet we chose the restaurant daily by checking deals on banners flying behind planes over the ocean.

Like Muscle Beach in Venice, California, in Agadir guys show off for each other on iron gym equipment–circa 1970s–scattered along the boardwalk.  Between the promenade and the sea, soccer games stretch for miles.

Walking back to the hotel I thought about tourists who visit all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and say they liked their destinations as long as they never left the resort.  I live off the resort. But on this weekend getaway, I, too, enjoyed a vacation oasis where  salsa and bachata played from the pool.

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I soaked in sun and beauty.

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Dad, who loved the American west, was with me as the bus curved along mountain mesas to a beach in Africa. There I saw sisters—the older, like me, turning cart wheels and dancing– while the younger, like Penny, investigated something buried in the sand. Their mom, like Bev, filmed them.

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While unwinding to the sound of waves, I remembered a 20th birthday spent at a beautiful marina restaurant.

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I thought of vacations when my kids were small and members of Kids Club.

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I saw a mom pulling her daughter close. I wished it was my arm around Taylor.

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I messaged and skyped loved ones, wishing they were there, then  noticed others doing the same.

IMG_5145I met friends for breakfast one morning at the hotel who were staying there, too.  And one night other friends– one who will teach in New York City next year, another in Brazil–down the beach at an Indian restaurant.

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IMG_7280And I did something for the first time since moving to Morocco.  Something I once allowed myself to do every Sunday.  As palm trees rustled, casting dappled shadows of sequin sunlight and sea reflections on my balcony, I left the door open, lay down on the cool sheets, and listened to splashing and seagulls.  In the late afternoon, I stopped thinking, allowed myself to drift off, and dared to dream.

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