Hotel Review: Kasbah Angour

Place: Kasbah Angour, Tahanaout, Nr. Marrakech, Morocco
Type: 4-star Hotel
Operator: Owner and Creator Paul Foulsham
Web: www.Kasbahangour.com
Date of Visit: March 2019

A man with a dream – no, a Yorkshireman with a dream. A geologist working for oil companies buys a barren hill some 40 kilometres outside Marakech and starts to create an oasis, an idyll, a garden on its top. ‘Kasbah’, so the taxi driver tells us, means castle, and the architectural form strongly reinforces the name – or is it that the name reinforces the perception of the architecture? Either way the name is reinforced by the winding track up from the road outside the provincial town of Tahanaout leading to a blank walled car park through which entrance is made, almost like a defensive castle entrance.

Reception desk

Yorkshiremen think of their home county as ‘Gods own country’, but here the owner has created almost his own Garden of Eden in Morocco, shielded completely from prying eyes by the way the architecture works with the location. It achieves a privacy for guest the nearby Richard Branson property notably fails to achieve. Rooms tune their backs onto the valley in the most part, turning instead towards the glorious gardens and the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains not too far away. Those same snow-capped peaks provide a steady supply of water from the hotels own bore hole, control of which ensures exclusivity on this hill top.
Currently just 26 bedrooms, the owner has almost completed purchase of the rest of the whole hilltop and talks of growing to 50+ rooms with maybe an indoor pool and a spa operation. Meanwhile he personally supervises the operation of the existing romantic property having fought his way through three architects to realise his vision. Bedrooms make a semi-circle around the garden and use stone and building techniques recognisable locally. Based on local materials and furnished with locally manufactured products his interiors reflect the Moroccan traditions of carpets and hard floors, stonework, polished plaster and shuttered windows.
A couple of suites provide the towers that punctuate the bedrooms, most of which have individual balconies and patio areas. All open onto the gardens, and oasis of green full of bird and insect life. Certainly, it is the first hotel I have been in where I have been kissed by a butterfly – I say kissed but I think it was an alcoholic butterfly wanting the beer off my lips, but it sure beat kissing the blarney stone…

This is an hotel for relaxation and contemplation with nature. Rooms are free of television, but there is the internet for those who feel discombobulated by the idea of simply listening to the cuckoo call, or simply relaxing on a terrace or by the pool in the quiet of the gardens. There are excursions into the mountains to a local souk or to take tea in a village house, guided walks, camel treks or for those who miss the noise and bustle of the city, an easy taxi ride into Marakech.
For me waking each morning to birdsong together with the ability to just sit and relax in the warmth of the March sun (22° to 29°C whilst I was there) was enough. Bird life is a mix of African and European, and the garden, said another guest, reminded of the winelands of South Africa, and the Moroccan wine on offer was very quaffable too. Food was local, vegetables from the hotel garden (the broad bean is a major local crop, as are of course, oranges although they don’t make marmalade…)
I didn’t intend to write a Review of this hotel – spent enough time doing hotel reviews I my life, but the charm of the spaces and their use of the local vernacular as well as their African feel led to me to write about it again. That an individual can create such a little gem with his own efforts (he even created his own building company) deserves approbation and applause. Yorkshire it is not. God own country? Well its different but maybe this Garden of Eden has a stronger claim to that label than much of our English county.

 

Wakeup Copenhagen Borgergade Review

Introduction My wife and I became hoteliers in 2000 after having fulfilled creative and caring professions unrelated to hospitality. In 2000 we started to convert a dilapidated terraced house next to our own house into a luxury 3 suites “Hotel” or Luxury B & B and operated it under the name Haagsche Suites (i.e. Suites … Continue reading “Wakeup Copenhagen Borgergade Review”

Introduction

My wife and I became hoteliers in 2000 after having fulfilled creative and caring professions unrelated to hospitality. In 2000 we started to convert a dilapidated terraced house next to our own house into a luxury 3 suites “Hotel” or Luxury B & B and operated it under the name Haagsche Suites (i.e. Suites of The Hague) until we’d closed it in December, 2013. Currently I am an almost full-time blogger with several blogs, Happy Hotelier and Chair Blog covering areas which are the closest related to Hotel Design.

Shortly after we closed Haagsche Suites, I’d contacted Patrick Goff  who owned a site dedicated to Hoteldesign which also featured Hotel Reviews. I remembered being very proud having Patrick review our Haagsche Suites. I also remembered saying to my wife when Patrick stayed at our place: “Whenever we stop Haagsche Suites I want to do what Patrick does”. So Patrick and I met and we decided to cooperate in creating hotel reviews. This review is the first. Update: And then the cooperation ended after this one review, because  Patrick managed to sell his site. The new owners kicked out many hotelreviews including this one.

You can read more about Patrick in my 10 Questions Interview with him.

Why chose the Wakeup Copenhagen Borgergade?

The Wakeup  belongs to the categorie hotels with small rooms, affordable, but carefully designed to please the guest and to offer as much luxury as feasible. No bathtub, but a showerstall and a very good bed.

I come from the opposite end of the hotel design spectrum. I believe(d) the guest needs to get as much room as economically feasible in order to feel well. Nevertheless I’ve closely followed the other end of the hotel design spectrum, noticing the market seems to undergo a change towards this idea guests don’t matter how small the room is, as long as its design is up to standard. So I was curious how the chain who owns the Wakeup would tackle this in Copenhagen, one of the top “design” cities, especially furniture design. While writing the review it appeared there are more hotels in this segment in Copenhagen.

In May 2014, when I prepared for a city trip to Copenhagen two things drew my eyes to the new Wakeup Copenhagen Borgergade:

  1. It is very well located in the city center near Kongen Nytorv, Nyhavn, the Danish Royal Palace Amalien Borg, the Danish Design Museum and the city’s main shopping walk Oestergade. Actually its location is better than many of its competitors in the small rooms, but “design” hotel, segment.
  2. The fact that it is the second Copenhagen Wakeup. That means that the first must be a success which could be repeated.

Near Amalien Borg where you can watch the Change of the Guard

Location

At the time I visited the Wakeup was approximately 2/3 finished. The 1/3 unfinished is an office building right of it which is being converted. When finished this Wakeup will count approximately 500 rooms.

As I pointed out already, the hotel is nicely located for city hoppers. A plus is it provides for rental city bikes. Copenhagen doesn’t have a cycling plan like Paris for example. Metro station not far away, approximately 15 minutes walking distance. With your own car approach is no problem at all and it is located next to a parking garage which after the building in the basement of which it is located will been completed, will be part of the hotel. The entry to the parking garage is next to the hotel. Ladies traveling alone by car don’t have to be afraid to be bothered while reaching the hotel in the night.

The dark gray brick of the exterior is a nice addition to the other buildings in the street

I usually also look at the way the hotel fits in its environment and this Wakeup, designed by Danish architect Kim Utzon, does it nicely with its contrasting dark gray brick as opposed to an adjacent building in red brick. Height is the same as other buildings in the street. The street is wide. Even the rooms in the front don’t suffer from cramped feelings because there is another high building near by.

Entrance and Lobby

The entrance is either through the front using three steps or through a recession in the building to the right of the entrance where a ramp is available for the disabled. To the right of the recession there is a gate to the back of the building which has a small garden and a storage for the bicycles the hotel offers for rent.

Entrance of Borgergrade Wakeup in CopenhagenThe entrance via the steps

Disabled ramp to Wakeup entranceThe adjustable platform is right in the recession where the disabled ramp to the frontdoor is located

When entering the lobby you will be pleasantly surprised by the fact that the lobby, with its ceiling over 5 meter above your head, gives you a sense of entering an ample luxurious space, with some designer chairs draped here and there. Such luxurious feeling is unusual for budget hotels. It is even unusual for some 5 star hotels where you enter and feel as if you will bump your head so low as the ceiling is.

Floorplan of Borgergrade Wakeup Hotel CopenhagenThe triangular plan (here of the top floor) with the glass covered courtyard for breakfast in the middle

In addition, although from the outset it seems a rectangular building, you’ll be even more surprised by the depth of the lobby you are entering, as the breakfast area is situated in a triangular courtyard inside the triangle the building actually is.

The breakfast area is separated from the Lobby by an entire wall of double glass doorsThe breakfast area is separated from the Lobby by an entire wall of double glass doors.

View from the liftcluster towards the front desk

From the main entrance you will find the frontdesk on your right.

On your left hand is a cluster of 6 lifts and beyond that the “Business Center” which basically is an area with cluster of 6 desks with wide screen computers  free for use by guests.

I believe the comic sans lettertype indicating the floorlevels is a bit out of place here.

Throughout the hotel there is free WiFi protected by a password. Around the “Business Center” you will find various seating compositions to meet fellow guests or other people.

View on the ramp from the insideView on the ramp from the inside. Left part of the drinks available at the check in desks.

The brickwork outside  has a double function as smokers’ “bench”

View from the lobby into the garden

A front desk with ample cooling storage for drinks.A front desk with ample cooling storage for drinks.

Very cleverly the front desk has a double function: They sell drinks (wine and beer included) and some snacks. I find this much more hospitable and personal than those premises with mere vending machines like the Citizen M hotels.

To use the lift to go up, you need your key card

A clever design and security feature is the fact that you are not able to use any lift without using your key card. They even though of programming it so that you can go down from your floor to the ground floor. On the other hand they overdo it if they require the same to go by lift to the basement where the toilets are and require it even from the ones who use the toilets in the basement. I suggest they announce this with bigger signs on or in the lift as it lasted 5 minutes before we understood this and the reception guy forgot to explain this to us.

View from the frontdesk: The pillar obstructs view on the entrance and the rest of the hall.

Danish designer Arne Jacobsen’s Swan Chairs for comfortable easy seating anddecoration.

The breakfast room is not open for hotel guests during the day, which amazed me.

This brings me to what I consider a design flaw: The check in desks are located too far from the entrance. In addition they don’t have a good uninterrupted view of the entrance because there are two big pillars in the way. Also there is no way for the receptionists to have a clear view on what happens either in the area where the lifts are clustered or the area where the business center is located or the Breakfast area. In my opinion the Front Desk should have been designed as an Isle opposite the entrance. To cover the entrance and have a better view of the Breakfast area. That would also facilitate acces control for breakfast.

Breakfast

My breakfast issues: Breakfast is not included in the room price. We have not used breakfast, because the Wakeup does not serve cappuccino, nor does it serve warm milk. In my view this is a capital sin against hospitality. Luckily there are plenty of good breakfast cafe’s throughout Copenhagen, so we didn’t suffer, but I noted they used the very expensive professional German WMF coffee machines in the breakfast area and I happen to know that this brand also provides for excellent machines that serve not only ordinary coffee, but also excellent cappuccino or macchiato…. In order to get paid for breakfast they post one employee in front of one set of double doors and he collects the vouchers you have to buy at one of the front desks. However usually there is a lineup in front of the desks. Why in this automated era isn’t it possible to have a vending machine issuiing breakfast vouchers? Or, alternatively why don’t you give entrance to the breakfast room with your keycard and have the keycards in one way or another have a breakfast as an extra? Finally I noted the breakfast room is not available for guests during the day. I really think that is a waste of expensive space.

The Rooms

Wakeup corridor

Two types of Rooms

The top floor rooms have a little piece of the roof as a privat “garden”

In general there is one room type of 9 m2. However on the topfloor there are two types. The part on the front that recedes has wider rooms. They are 12 m2. On lower floors there are rooms that have a connecting door that can function as family rooms: Mum and dad in one room and the kids in the other room. I personally do not fancy a double bed against a wall so that I have to crawl over my partner going in or out the bed. It is not so bad as in the CiticenM where you have to crawl over your partner. Here with some gymnastics you can crawl toward the foot part of the bed. In the standard room you will not be able to shuffle away from the bed without touching it and thus waking your partner. In the bigger rooms that is less of a problem. Rooms with a view? Topfloor rooms are a bit more expensive as they are advertized as having a better view. I have a feeling the marketing on the hotel’s site is derived from the other Wakeup hotel. This one’s top floor in the front has no extra view. Maybe a bit more sky. That’s all. However in the back there is more to see. As you can see from the plan there are rooms with a view on the courtyard. Glad to see you won’t look directly into the rooms of another wing.

Standard room

Enter the standard room. Left a suitcase standard a small desk with chair. Above it the TV screen which is not adjustable thus causing some tension when watching from the bed. The bed itself is fixed to the back of the room an the right wall. The headboard is rounded which gives it a little playful effect. The reading lights offer not enough light and are not adjustable. Fixed so high that you hinder your partner when you want to read. No cupboard. An excellent working silent airco….and you can open your window, which is more than you can do at some pod hotels who simply have no windows.

En-suite bathroom in the form of a glass in-room pod with round shower stall

Flush buttons above the lid when up would have been more convenient

The faucet is a bit small for my big hands

Conclusion

All in all the design is well thought out (with minor flaws) and creates a nice atmosphere.

And here is my first hotel review video:

Not easy to make a proper video;-)

Post alia: Part of this review was published earlier at the blog Happy Hotelier, but after HotelDesign.blog was created we moved it here.

 

Would you consider staying in a notel in stead of a hotel?

Notels-at-Hotel-Haiku
You might consider a notel after visiting a new site on the block: Hotel Haiku, curated by Garri Rayne.

Hotel Haiku has taken up the idea of describing Hotels and, more importantly notels in a real Zen way, with a Haiku:

haiku [ˈhaɪkuː] n. A Japanese lyric verse form having three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, traditionally invoking an aspect of nature or the seasons.

I’m particularly attracted to the term notel, because when I started out as a hotelier and was developing our own unique 3 suites only “hotel” Haagsche Suites, I had for some time the idea of naming it Not a Hotel. Eventually I decided to name it “Haagsche Suites” (i.e. suites of The Hague), because Not A Hotel sounded a bit negative. Never thought of notel.

I congratulate Hotel Haiku with the invention of this term notel. As they describe it:

notel [nəʊˈtɛl] n. An exceptional, often architecturally designed, holiday and vacation rental property that draws inspiration from the design hotel phenomenon.

So notel is beyond Hotel, beyond Hip Hotel, beyond Boutique Hotel, beyond Design Hotel or beyond what hotel have you and at the same time it is below the usual hotel radar. Thank you Hotel Haiku!

First Hotel Haiku (@hotelhaiku) found me via Twitter and I noticed it without paying much attention. Then I found out more about the site via our friends over at Tnooz. I refer to their review of the Hotel Haiku site.

I’m set to explore the phenomenon further and created even a notel category, because I’ve featured some notels here on the blog already.

Update:
As Garri pointed out in his comment the undercast n is essential for the idea behind the term notel , so I have edited all, but couldn’t withstand to add little bit of my own: red 🙂

Josiah Mackenzie at BTO

Buy Tourism Online 2010 – Josiah Mackenzie presentation

View more PowerPoint from josiahmackenzie

Josiah Mackenzie at BTO

It was a busy week on the travel and social media front. First I would like to share with you the keynote of my blogging friend Josiah McKenzie @Hmarketinghelp of Hotel Marketing Strategies. at the Buy Tourism Online (BTO) conference in Florence. It’s an instructive introduction for hoteliers why and how they should be involved in social media.

Update

Originally I’d embedded a great video here, but that sadly disappeared. Hence I’ve embedded Josiah’s slideshow.

Last edited by GJE on March 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm