Room Service: Residence De La Roseraie, Val D'Ouirgane, Morocco

Saturday 13 December 2003 01:00
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In a fertile valley in the foothills of the Atlas mountains at an altitude of 3,000 feet, Residence de la Roseraie is a fine retreat for anyone seeking a peaceful escape from the heat and the hassle of Marrakesh. Set in 50 acres of colourful rose gardens and a swathe of mountain farmland laid out with olive trees, citrus groves and aromatic herbal walkways, the place appeals to nature-lovers and hedonists alike. Bird enthusiasts will spot tiny golden oriels, kestrels and storks. Sun-seekers can stretch out around one of the three outdoor pools. Shade-seekers can curl up with a book in a pagoda. Riders can visit the stables to hire an Arab stallion (with or without guide) for treks around the area. And cultivators of the body beautiful can make a beeline for the health spa, with its heated pool, jacuzzi, hammam, sauna, gym and array of beauty treatments.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

La Roseraie (00 212 4443 9128; www.cybernet.net.ma/roseraie) is in the Ouirgane Valley, an hour's drive south from Marrakesh towards Taroudant - a helter-skelter along the dramatic Tis-n-Test mountain pass. Although its Thursday souk provides a hubbub of activity and local colour, Ouirgane itself is more a string of small settlements than a single village and holds little of interest. But the valley is in the heart of Berber countryside, with tracks and pathways leading across streams and through verdant forest towards lovely mountain villages.

ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?

La Roseraie's 40 rooms are a scattering of low-rise pink cottages set back from the tiled walkways that run through the formal rose gardens and the groves of orange, lemon and lime trees in the farmland beyond. Almost all rooms have private patios, and junior suites have open stone fireplaces in their sitting rooms for burning wood on chilly winter evenings. The decor is very Arabian Nights, as you'd expect - terracotta-tiled floors, vaulting, pillars, carved woodwork and brightly enamelled fittings. Bathrooms are cool; bed linen is crisp; sofas (in the junior suites) are suitably squidgy.

Freebies: the usual assorted bits and bobs for the bath.

Keeping in touch: a telephone by the bed and a satellite TV is as far as it goes.

THE BOTTOM LINE

You have to have either half or full board. A standard twin or double room, half board, costs £137 per night for two people. Two people sharing a junior suite on half board will pay £187. The Best of Morocco (01380 828 533; www.morocco-travel.com) organises four- or seven-day stays at La Roseraie in standard rooms or junior suites, including flights and transfers: depending on the time of year, four days half board in would cost £593-£712 per person, a week £822-£940.

I'm not paying that: L'Auberge au Sanglier Qui Fume (www.ausanglierquifume. com; 00 212 4448 5707) is a 10-minute walk from La Roseraie, on the other side of the river bed. It has 23 chalet-type rooms, including seven suites, a small swimming-pool and a good restaurant. The cheapest room rate on half board for two people sharing is £39 per night; £44 secures a sun terrace, and £52 a suite.

LINDA COOKSON

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