Five accommodations worth travelling for

Sometimes where you choose to stay while travelling is a destination in itself. While I do not mind booking myself in a standard hotel or a camper in the middle of a Dutch farm, indulging in hotels where the view is breathtaking and the wine overflows, makes my travels a little more memorable. Through the years, I have stayed in many unforgettable accommodations,  some cost me a fortune, others not even €10 a day. What they have in common are their amazing locations and top of the class service – two of the most important factors I am looking for in a hotel. I am sharing five of my favourites here:

Mountains have way of making you realize that you a but a tiny speck in this big world. Photo by Robin Kuijs.
Mountains have way of making you realize that you are but a tiny speck in this big world.

Kasbah du Toubkal
Atlas Mountain, Morocco

When I first went to Morocco, I wanted a room here for my birthday but they were fully-booked so I cut my trip short. Three months later, I convinced Robin to travel with me to Morocco and book the hotel before anything else. And it did not disappoint. Kasbah du Toubkal transports you to a place entirely different from the image of Marrakech – mountains, snow and very friendly Berber people. As part of the service, we were picked up by a Range Rover from Marrakech and brought to the Imlil Village and although the ride was a bit treacherous, the view was breathtaking. Since there are no roads going up the mountain, our luggage (and myself) were transported by a mule. That already was a unique experience.

In addition to the well-heated rooms (it can get cold in the winter months) with a gorgeous view of the snow-capped Atlas Mountain, the huge terrace offers an unobstructed 360 view of the surrounding nature, raw and unspoilt by tourism. They’ll serve you different kinds of couscous and tangine but our favourite was the melt-in-the-mouth lamb tangine served in the roof terrace. You’ll be provided with blankets or traditional Moroccan robes in case you want to lounge in the terrace star gazing in the evening. They have hammam where you could relax your legs after trekking in the Atlas Mountain and enough space in the kasbah for a quiet retreat with Mother Nature. Read up on the story of the backpackers who built the kasbah and how they advocate for sustainable tourism in Imlil.

Le Chateau d’Hassonville
Aye, Belgium

It’s been our tradition to stay in a castle hotel on Robin’s birthday so for his 33rd, we booked a weekend at Le Chateau d’Hassonville. Victorian rooms, old and creaking wooden floors, a cheese cellar, 18-year old Macallan in the bar and a 55-hectare private park perfect for a misty, morning walk in the middle of March. Needless to say we found it difficult to leave the chateau to explore the surrounding Ardennes. We specially enjoyed hanging out in the bar and having breakfast at the solarium. Although almost no one spoke English or Dutch (except the owners), the staff were friendly and they served us traditional French dishes and wines with songs and smiles. We checked out with a €700 hotel bill and lots of crazy memories.

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Who doesn’t feel special sleeping in a four-poster bed with only a thick nylon tent separating you from the roaming lions on the evening?
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This amazing view of the savanna comes free with the price. You can also request a camp fire for an absolute savanna experience.


Tortillis Camp

Serengeti, Tanzania

I think it’s pretty obvious how crazy I am of the Serengeti. But my three-day stay wouldn’t have been so memorable if not for Tortilis Camp. Located in the middle of the Central Circuit, Tortilis Camps is small compared to other tented camps in the area. It only offers 20 luxury tents but one is big enough for a family of four. More than the comfort that it affords its guests, Tortilis gives you a unique experience of sleeping so close to the wild animals that you can hear and smell them in the evening and watch them 50 meters away enjoying their breakfasts as you do yours. The service at Tortilis is also incomparable. The staff werevery professional in a heartwarming kind of way, their smiles are genuine and they try to provide you with the most personal experience. I am still grateful for them for accommodating my last-minute, setting up a table in the bush with wine and romantic lights so that Robin and I could enjoy the beautiful sunset of the Serengeti just with the two of us, all for free. In another luxury camp, they’d charge €45/person for such requests.

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That turns into this in the evening.

Mary’s Cottage
Palawan, Philippines

It must have been the sea breeze, the sunsets or the grilled chicken and pancit canton we would order in the afternoons. Or it can simply be the bottles of cheap Antonov vodka that we would finish in a day. But here at Mary’s Cottage, my love story with Robin started. It’s really just a wooden hut, as basic as a hut can be. The small en suite shower was already a luxury. But the week that we’ve spent here became the solid foundation of the next 8 years of our lives together.

Mary’s Cottage will cost you €8 a day but it is walking distance to the Undeground River and the Mangrove River in Sabang. Here you won’t be bothered by the noise of the massive number of tourists arriving in the area every morning to visit the Underground River. You can dine with the freshest selection of fish and meat prepared by the caretakers and coconut juice picked from the backyard. When the weather becomes too hot (or you’re too drunk), you could go skinny dipping without being worried about prying eyes because the area is almost deserted especially in the evening. When you want to get away from it all, this is the only place you should go to in Sabang. Not to mention that  you only have electrict four hours a day so you’d be quite forced to enjoy yourself away from your gadgets. Unfortunately I cannot provide a link because they don’t have a website nor a Facebook page. But you can contact them via +639197577582/+639084165206/+639056104122 or marys_beachresort.sabang @ yahoo.com.

Umbria
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There might be a catch though. Some of my colleagues said that they felt the presence of spirits in the house. I must admit, I also felt a little scared when one evening I felt something invisible weighing me down. I could also be just imagining it.

Il Poggio di Casanova
Umbria, Italy

You cannot go wrong with a scenery right out of the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, except this one is in Umbria. Il Poggio de Casanova is an old Italian villa in the middle of rolling hills, vineyeards and sunflower fields. It has a swimming pool for that humid Mediterranean summer and a huge area for family activities. It is also the favourite conference location of ABS-CBN News’Europe team. So I was lucky to have stayed in this place twice.

The villa is really for a family getaway. The nearest grocery store was 15 minutes by car and the nearest town, Todi, is 16 kilometers away. But €500 a night, it can accommodate more than 20 persons so if you think about it, this is actually a very affordable villa.

Photos by me and Robin Kuijs. None of these is sponsored.

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