Aoibheann MacNamara of Galway's celebrated Ard Bia at Nimmo's'restaurant reveals her top three stays in'the magical whirl of Marrakech?
The most interesting houses I've visited are always those inspired and influenced by the travels of the owners. Unique keepsakes from overseas trips add an inimitable sense of personality and history to a home or workspace - and, for my money, Marrakech is one of the most charismatic choices for an inspiring excursion.
If you have never been to the Moroccan capital, I would highly recommend going - pronto. Ryanair flies there twice a week from Dublin - a three-and-a-half-hour flight directly into the exotic. Stay at any one of the glorious recommendations below and make that as much a part of your inspirational process as the mad adventures in the souks. Marrakech is an endlessly intoxicating city, alive with aesthetic stimulation, cultural layering and magical people - it's one of the most potently inspiring destinations in the world, and a must for those who care about the beauty that surrounds them.
Riad Mena & Beyond This is in the heart of the (car-free) Medina, just minutes? walk through postcard-perfect alleyways to Marrakech's main square, the Jemaa el Fna. Created with lovers of design in mind, the guesthouse even has a room paying homage to Irish design icon Eileen Gray. The owners also have an out-of-town farmstay and provide invaluable tours on the burgeoning contemporary art scene, photography and interior decoration courses (riadmenaandbeyond.com).
El Fenn The art-filled townhouse of Vanessa Branson (yes, sister of Richard) is a tantalising colour assault with impeccable contemporary Moroccan style (el-fenn.com).
La Maison Run by the glorious Franco-German Nicole Francesca Manfron, this beautifully designed Airbnb house combines French linen furnishings with utilitarian finishes, and brings current?international trends into a Moroccan context (airbnb.ie).
Manfron is a fashion, textile, product and interior designer, who set up the hugely successful Secret Souk in a New York loft last year. She also custom-produces homewares with her Moroccan husband, Rachid. Interiors fans, take note: stay here and Nicole will open up a world of possibility in Marrakech to you (thesecretsouk.com).