One of our biggest travel strategies is what I like to call the splurge-save technique. We pinch our pennies for the majority of our vacation and then live large for a few nights. This means the plush experiences really have meaning and we get to live within our budget.
Because we had a honeymoon registry for our wedding, we had a little bit extra ‘fun money’ than we normally do. This meant a few extra splurges for this trip. One such splurge was a two night stay in the beautiful Riad Louna in Fez. This luxury riad is run by a Belgian man, Jean Pierre, and his wife. The location of the riad is right at the entrance to the medina, but tucked away so it’s very quiet.
The online reviews of Riad Louna say that it’s lovely, but overpriced. I absolutely agree with the consensus of those that have traveled before me. Even with a wood-burning fire (they refused to make one for us our first night), space heater and in-room heating unit we were freezing. The high ceilings, though majestic, are no match for the cold Fez winter nights. I think our nights at Louna were some of the chilliest of the trip, even though the weather in Chefchaouen was much colder.
I have a bit more to add about the ‘value’ of Riad Louna. Our first night, we were abruptly awoken at 6am to a strange man in our room yelling in French. Sleepy and disoriented, my French was not . Instead we called out, “hello, HELLO?”, more than a bit frightened. Eventually the man started speaking in English, “Oh, you are guests?!” It turned out the man was the owner, who had returned late from a trip and did not realize the riad had guests. Luckily, we were able to fall back asleep.
We officially met Jean Pierre, the owner, at breakfast. The breakfast spread at Riad Louna was wonderful, one of the best of the trip. He apologized for the rude awakening and invited us to have dinner at the Riad. He also promised a bottle of Moroccan wine. We thought this was a lovely gesture, given the expense of staying at Louna and the fact that he woke us up!
Given my love of cooking, I asked Jean Pierre’s wife if I could help make dinner. She graciously agreed and gave me a lovely cooking lesson. I was able to do most of the chopping, stirring, seasoning etc., under her guidance while she played with their adorable daughter. I even helped out with the dishes.
Dinner was delicious. It was one of the best meals we had in Morocco and extra special because I helped make it. The wine was also very good! It was so good that we were inspired to buy a few bottles at the supermarket to take home.
If the story ended here, I would say that Riad Louna was a bit overpriced but overall worth it, despite being freezing cold and the morning awakening.
Unfortunately it doesn’t. When we checked out, we were given the bill for our stay, which included several unexpected charges – the meal, a ‘cooking lesson’, and the wine were all on there. Despite no mention of anything, and if I do say so myself, slightly misleading statements from the owner (we were under the impression that at least the wine would be complimentary, given that we were woken up from our slumber), the food at Riad Louna turned out to be the second most expensive meal of our trip. Alarmed, Pat questioned the bill and was told that all prices were outlined on the Riad Louna website. When I looked at the website, the only thing I found mentioned was that there would be a complimentary cake for special occasions. There was no mention of the hefty prices for meals. We felt completely taken advantage of.
So that is the story of our stay and my review of Riad Louna in Fez. I cannot recommend this lovely Riad due to these hidden fees and mistakes by the management. There much warmer and equally lovely places to stay in Fez.
Now excuse us while we drown our sorrows in a mini bottle of wine that we smuggled away from the plane ride here….