Moroccan retreat in the US
Korakia will sweep you away from the nearby hustle and bustle of city life travel2013
SETTLED beneath the imposing San Jacinto Mountains, Korakia is a tranquil desert retreat where stress is whisked away at checkin. A 1920s former artist’s villa once known as Dar Maroc, this Palm Springs retreat encourages a simpler way of life: rooms are without phones and TVs; day beds surround the pool, and there are plenty of nooks and crannies in which to hide away and indulge in a good book.
After sunset, large open fires are lit outside; lanterns flicker on the branches of citrus trees and stars twinkle in the sky. Although it sits just off busy Palm Canyon Drive, Korakia has the ability to transport you to a completely different world from bustling Palm Springs.
Korakia has long drawn artists, writers and creatives looking for a fresh squeeze of inspiration and escapism. Throughout the main adobe house, the Moroccan Villa and the adjacent Mediterranean Villa, the decor fuses the aesthetic of North Africa – Moroccan fountains and antiques, handmade furniture, dark wood beams and cool stone floors – with southern European influences, such as flagstone courtyards and wild gardens.
It’s an exotic alternative to Palm Springs’ midcentury modern vernacular.
Each of the 16 rooms in the villa and 12 in its Moroccan counterpart has its special something, be it a carved Moroccan wardrobe or a stone bath. Most have fireplaces that warm up a chilly desert night and the beds, made from Moroccan wood, have thick duvets.
There’s also a spa with simple treatments that are the perfect tonic for a morning yoga session.
Taken in the charming courtyard planted with citrus trees, breakfast comprises homemade granola and a daily cooked option – for example, the fluffiest of blueberry French toast. In a nod to Korakia’s heritage, there’s sweet mint tea and freshly squeezed orange juice as well as coffee and tea served again in the afternoon.
Originally the home of a Scottish painter, Gordon Coutts, and frequented by bohemian high society throughout his ownership, Korakia was rescued from dereliction by Douglas Smith in the late 1980s. The former architectural-practice owner sought to recapture the spirit of the place and imbue it with the warmth and happiness he’d felt while living in Spetses, Greece. (Korakia is Greek for crows.)
Douglas sold Korakia to Makar Hotels and Resorts five years ago and it’s now looked after by general manager Paulette Monarrez. However, on my visit she was notably absent and the lack of a personal touch let Korakia down; finding someone who worked there often proved a challenge. Fortunately, the relaxed and welcoming nature of the property made up for it and the non-intrusive atmosphere was more homely than lonely.
Palm Springs is popular with Angelenos escaping the grind of LA, and there’s plenty to keep them satisfied. Palm Canyon Drive is lined with mid-century modern furniture shops and while the fashion scene might be small, it’s mighty.
For eclectic costume jewellery, look no further then Route 66 at 465 North Palm Canyon Drive (route66west.com). Resale Therapy at 4109 East Palm Canyon Drive (shopresaletherapy.com) stocks some great pieces, from Gucci shoes to Dior dresses. Everything in the back room is 75 percent off.
Korakia provides bicycles for its guests and, given the flat nature of the Coachella Valley, it’s a great way to get around. Make a pit stop at the Palm Springs Art Museum (psmuseum.org) for its impressive collection of contemporary and modern art.
For natural beauty, strike out into Joshua Tree National Park (nps.gov/jotr) to explore the Mojave Desert, bizarre rock formations and striking Joshua trees.
There’s quite a party scene in Palm Springs, so for a morning-after brunch, head to Citron at the Viceroy at 415 South Belardo Road (viceroyhotelsandresorts.com) for huevos rancheros at $16 (R164). The Bloody Mary for $10 (R102) is worth the trip alone. For something later in the day, Workshop Kitchen and Bar at 800 North Palm Canyon Drive (workshoppalmsprings.com) uses fresh, seasonal produce to put together a menu that includes duck confit cannelloni for $14 (R143).
● Korakia Pensione is at 257 South Patencio Road, Palm Springs, California, (korakia.com). Double rooms start at $188 (R1 928) including breakfast.
AFRICA MEETS AMERICA: Korakia might be in the US desert but with its Moroccan decor it feels like an exotic retreat in North Africa.
DESERT OASIS: Relax in the courtyard to the soothing sound of falling water.