The Australian - Wish Magazine - - MOTORING W - MARIA SHOL­LEN­BARGER

Way down in the Sa­lento re­gion of Puglia – re­ally, truly all the way down, just a hard stone’s throw from the very the tip of the heel of Italy’s boot – there is a tiny vil­lage called Gagliano del Capo. “Vil­lage” is prob­a­bly a bit gen­er­ous; Gagliano is more of an elab­o­ra­tion on a cross­roads, with only a hand­ful of nar­row, slip­pery-stone streets ra­di­at­ing out from its Lil­liputian pi­azza, paved in the creamy pietra Lec­cese so com­mon in these parts. At two in the af­ter­noon in the heat of early June, a veil of con­tented si­lence hangs over the place, bro­ken only by the oc­ca­sional wasp-whine of a scooter pass­ing or the bark­ing of a dog. Two old men in shirt­sleeves and bat­tered leather san­dals doze in the cross­hatched shade of the cane-cov­ered ter­race of the cor­ner bar; a lone boy, slight as a reed, in­do­lently kicks a foot­ball up and down a one-way al­ley. On the air are the scents of jas­mine and old stone, and the tang of the sea, which is only a few kilo­me­tres dis­tant, be­yond dusty groves of twisted, an­cient olive trees. At this time of day, in this light, Gagliano del Capo is a fever dream of Puglia 25 years ago – pleas­ingly som­no­lent, slightly forsaken, ut­terly ro­man­tic.

Which is why Thierry Teyssier, founder of Maisons des Rêves – event planner, hote­lier, patissier, re­tailer, and all around magic-maker – is here. Renowned at home in France as a poly­math, he’s par­tic­u­larly ad­mired in well-trav­elled cir­cles for hav­ing cre­ated one of the world’s most orig­i­nal, ex­cep­tional ho­tels: Dar Ah­lam, se­creted away in the lush palmeraie of Sk­oura in south­ern Morocco. The name means “house of dreams” (“Maisons des Rêves”) in Ara­bic, and is ut­terly fit­ting for the rav­ish­ingly chic, deeply indulgent for­ti­fied palace and its sis­ter tented camp, Dar No­made, deep in the saf­fron-hued dunes of the north­ern Sa­hara.

Over the years Teyssier has cu­rated an ex­tra­or­di­nary se­ries of ex­pe­ri­ences for his guests in and around Sk­oura, a bar­rage of beau­ti­ful mises en scène, from un­ex­pected rooftop sup­pers lit by hun­dreds of can­dles to im­promptu pic­nic lunches in a white-tented bivouac erected in the shadow of an an­cient, de­serted gorge (kil­ims and cush­ions; a half-dozen fresh sal­ads; chilled white wine) which the hik­ing guest comes upon like a mi­rage, just as he or she is be­gin­ning to tire and thirst.

In late 2016, Teyssier in­au­gu­rated the Route du Sud, a three-day im­mer­sive jour­ney across south­ern Morocco’s emp­ti­est reaches, punc­tu­ated by stays in small but exquisitely ap­pointed pri­vate houses, each with an un­re­mark­able ex­te­rior hid­ing a stylish in­te­rior. One has been retro­fit­ted into a crum­bling, de­serted hill town pre­sid­ing over miles of ar­gan-tree groves; an­other is se­creted away be­hind a mud wall in an oa­sis in Guelmim prov­ince; the third is set spec­tac­u­larly atop a blaz­ing red-rock es­carp­ment north of an­cient Am­toudi (guests ar­rive on foot or by don­key). Along the way are fully ac­cou­tred repasts, pri­vate tours and all-to-one­self vis­tas, or­gan­ised by the Route’s ad­vance pro­duc­tion team. Sur­prise, de­light, re­peat: that’s more or less how a hol­i­day plays out, when you’re in Teyssier’s hands.

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