Travel news, from shop openings in Marrakech to new Mallorcan escapes
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Mena’s marvellous Marrakech emporium
Since it opened in 2014, Riad Mena & Beyond has been one of Marrakech’s most sought-after medina redoubts. Owner Philomena Schurer Merckoll divides her time between London and Morocco; she’s a collector, creative consultant and sometime decorator (witness Mena’s unassailable interiors, marrying Verner Panton and hand-laid tadelakt, Barcelona chairs and Berber textiles). To this list of monikers she can now add shopkeeper: The Pink Door, her gallery-boutique adjacent to the riad, opened last month.
Stock has been sourced from points far and near: there are loopy contemporary ceramics from local makers LRNCE Studio, khayamiya tapestries designed by Marrakech-based French artist Louis Barthélemy, provocative street and desert scenes snapped by Tangier-based photographer Hicham Gardaf, and fine cotton kaftans and shirting from CristaSeya in Paris. In and among it all are rare vintage pieces – YSL, Lanvin – selected by the fashion curator Carmen Haid. Next up for Merckoll: Design Marrakech, opening on February 18, 2020, her inaugural showcase of local artisans – each of whom will take up residence in one of Mena’s public rooms or suites for a week – timed to run with Marrakech’s 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair. And late next year she’s opening a second riad nearby, comprising just three ultra-indulgent suites whose style she says will be “old-school Bill Willis Marrakech meets contemporary Dimore Studio”. Watch this space.
riadmenaandbeyond.com, from €245.
An art-world palazzo in Puglia
Gagliano del Capo, way down at the very tip of the heel of the boot of Italy, was forever a mere dot on the map of Puglia. Until, in mid 2018, art philanthropist Francesco Petrucci quietly made his family seat – the mid-19th-century Palazzo Daniele, then fresh off a dynamic restoration by Milanese architects Ludovica and Roberto Palomba – available for holiday lettings. Thierry Teyssier, creator of the roving pop-up “hotel” 700,000 Heures, took over the Palazzo for two glorious months in 2018. Teyssier has long since migrated his show to northern Brazil (via Cambodia), but Petrucci hasn’t rested. A partnership forged earlier this year with Gabriele Salini – he of Rome’s brilliantly original G-Rough – saw Palazzo Daniele reopened in April as a unique hotel-cum-art space, its nine suites and public spaces a palimpsest of period ornament, selectively stripped back here and there to the building’s (extremely fine) bones. If fresh buzz about the Salento – as this part of deep southern Puglia is known – has reached you, credit Petrucci: besides Palazzo Daniele, he’s also responsible for Capo d’Arte, a not-for‑profit contemporary art initiative that continues to bring internationally renowned art-world names, and new energy, to his tiny, breeze-buffeted corner of Italy.
palazzodaniele.com, from €298.
An elegant expansion for a cult Mayan escape
Cue the popping of champagne corks – and the pouring of mezcal shots. Hotel Esencia, the one-time aristocrat’s mansion on the Riviera Maya that has emerged as one of Mexico’s chicest resorts, this month celebrates five years under its dynamo American owner, the film producer/network honcho/hotel appassionato Kevin Wendle. Wendle pulled off quite a trick, cajoling a tired old property into a dazzlingly contemporary present by channelling Mexico’s oldest-school glamour – think Acapulco circa Night of the Iguana – and strategically deploying colour and pattern, Pierre Jeanneret chairs and Serge Mouille lights, Picassos and Boteros, for an aesthetic that has been described as “Mad Men meets Peggy Guggenheim” (in a good way). A careful expansion has seen the rooms and suites brought up to 40 from 29; the brand-new restaurant, Beefbar, is an outpost of Paris’s famed “anti-steakhouse”. And now that tastemakers from São Paulo to South Kensington are on a first-name basis with Wendle’s hotel, he is quietly turning his attention to giving Mexican artisanship its due across his 50 lovely beachfront acres.
hotelesencia.com, from $675.
Sant Francesc’s stunning new southern Mallorca sister
Sant Francesc Hotel Singular was a game-changer for Mallorca when it opened in the ancient centre of Palma in 2015. Its stunning mix of contemporary art and design under neoclassical beamed ceilings was evidence of an altogether more elevated aesthetic than the city had before seen. Now, its owner, Andrés Soldevila Ferrer, has set his sights on the historic southern coastal town of Santanyí, where a 17th-century palace surrounded by acres of gardens will shortly be reinvented as Can Ferrereta, a 32-suite sister property to Sant Francesc. It’s a less urban proposition – fine white-sand beaches are 5km away – with lots of outdoor spaces, multiple patios and terraces (most rooms will have one; the signature suite has its own pool and garden). But here, too, the art collection – a good deal of it belonging to the Soldevila Ferrer family themselves – is the standout, from the dynamic geometry of Manolo Ballesteros to the compelling textural canvases of Guillem Nadal.
hotelsantfrancesc.com, from €315.