Wow is all we can say! As Americans booking a bit on the late side and competing with a bevy of Madrillenos and Sevillanas during Semana Santa holidays we tried first for a couple of the riads more often cited in the standard travel guides. No success. One of the riads that was already full suggested Laaroussa and we are very glad it did.
Fred, your host, is a charming Parisian who clearly loves Fes and certainly loves running this riad and making each guest feel that his or her stay is magical. For him, Laaroussa is without a doubt a labor of love!
Where to start this rave review? We were equally delighted with the friendly and warm management and staff and with the gorgeous restoration Fred has done to this palacial former home of a Moroccan defense minister.
As respledent as this place is, we must first commend the staff. Samira, Fatima - check our their blog! - Fred, Reda, Norti, Larbi, the always helpful and generous Saba and the entire staff made us feel like we were old friends come visiting rather than strangers at an inn. We loved our day shopping in the food souks with "La Samira" - a legend of medina glamor in her Jackie O. Chanel sunglasses - and returning to the kitchen to help prepare lunch for the staff and that evening's tagine. This is clearly a place where people love to work and it shows in every detail and each smile and generous suggestion.
Laroussa is the kind of place one would enjoy checking in for a few days rest and relaxation in the middle of a hometown - let alone in its ideal location in the Fes Medina. The kind attentiveness started when the able and charming Larbi picked us up at the gate of the medina to show us the way "home," and didn''t end until the efficient checkout and fond farewells! At the same time, it must be said that the staff clearly values the independence of the guests' choices in guides, outside dining, excursions, shopping, etc., and there is never a sense of being smothered by an I-know-better harangue or being didactically directed to or away from any of the many wonders of Fes and its surrouding attractions (I mention this because this is not always the case in Moroccan tourism - the staff at Laaroussa will be happy to give their recommendations if asked but are equally happy to let the independent traveler chart his or her own course and those who might appreciate a more distanced courtesy in service are treated with equal respect).
And don't forget to enjoy the convenient and extremely relaxing on-premises hammam! The steam and expert massage made us feel like we were honored Abassid emissaries from Damascus come on official business with the Fassi court!
The riad has been exquisitely restored from the quiet, muted calm of the entryway - we only regret we forgot to sign what must be one of the world's largest and most adoringly notated guestbooks - to the opulent courtyard with it's orange trees and impeccable tiles and plasterwork to the lavish guestrooms. There is a feeling that Fred spared no expense in the decoration. Because of the combination of late booking, decision to prolong our stay for an extra night in Fes before moving on to Marrakesh, and because we were lucky enough on only a few days notice to be joined by a close friend from Milan, we became well aquainted with several of the suites and rooms at Laaroussa - each of which was superbly designed with great style and a sense of relaxed detail. While maintaining high standards of comfort, each had its own particular brand of contemporary Fassi luxury. And the beautifully tiled bathrooms in each of the suites and rooms are large and well appointed with robes and toiletries. We stayed in both the green and the gray suited and would be hardpressed to say which is more magnificent. The rooms are equally stylish.
The rooftop has marvelous views of the medina and is a relaxing place to take breakfast weather permitting or to just get away from it all.
Although - with the exception of the Nikes everywhere - the medina has change dlittle since the 10th century, and its streets are filled with the traffic and noise of Fassis and tourists, donkeys, burros, shoppers, merchants, worshippers on their way to the many mosques, and perveyors of all the spice, textiles and pottery one expects to find here, and although the riad is smack dab in the middle of all of this, it miraculously remains a quiet haven - designed with authenticity but thankfully equipped with modern plumbing.
Everywhere at Laaroussa, inside and out, are lovely places to lounge,.take tea or just chill with one of the myriad books or magazines. This is what a riad should be!
Finally, the food! First it must be said that in a country of amazing breads, this was the very best we tasted in Morocco. Saba will arrange for mint tea - be sure, as everywhere in this country, to specify that you don't want it sweet (or not that sweet!) if that's the case - and delciious cookies upon your arrival or whenever you wish a little refreshment. The intimate dining room is not the palacial one found in some riads of this caliber but instead a relaxing salon with a fireplace that doubles as a lounge, an environment that can't help to invite warm conversation between those guests who are willing. The salads, tagines and bastillas were traditional but never old-hat and were lovingly prepared, and Samira and Fatima also mix it up a bit -a simple roast chicken was a refreshing change one night. Dessert might be a perfect lemon or apple tart or a superb bastilla with cream.
The only people I would not necessarily recommend Laaroussa to are those who do not want to enjoy the occasional polite greetings of Fred's handsome labs Bill and Tom and his equally charming cats Mimi and "Ze Cat" - but it must be said that the staff is mindful of any sense of intrusion and happy to call the animals away - but most of the guests during our stay were, like us, happy to give these adorable pets a little attention.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- In the heart of the Medina of Fez, Riad Laaroussa opens its doors to you for an exceptional place in a relaxed atmosphere. An immense 17th-century palace, 8 suites and rooms surround a beautiful courtyard with orange trees so that you can relive the splendor of Fez. A huge terrace, pool and garden, a variety of spacious living areas, comfortable and warmly decorated and a very caring staff are at your disposal to make your stay memorable. At Riad Laaroussa, you can also enjoy our spa with a private, authentic hammam and relaxing massages as well as enjoy quality Moroccan cuisine on one of the terraces with breathtaking views. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Riad Laaroussa Fes
- Riad Laaroussa Hotel Fes