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Dear <<First Name>>

We do hope that you are all well and able to celebrate the gradual return to some sort of normality, and that this newsletter uplifts you. It’s over 10 weeks since we were in touch and there is so much more to tell. Here is a summary.

We have two new complimentary classifications!
1) The Moroccan Ministry of Tourism have classified us as a 'Category 1 Maison d'hôtes'. We had a provisional Category 2 classification before their visit so were delighted when they said we like it so much that we deserved to be in the top category. Thanks to all the staff who have worked hard with me to make it so much more beautiful over the last 5 months.

2) Travellers' Choice Award We are happy to have been awarded this prestigious award again thanks to our guests for taking the trouble to report how much they enjoyed their stay with is. It was perfect that it coincided with the celebration of the end of Ramadan, Eid Al Fitr!
To give you an idea of the spring growth and colours. The same place a year ago was quite barren. Photo thanks to Said whose botanical knowledge (and much more) is invaluable to our project.
Great Places to Relax
1. The Arcades Our two stray adopted cats, Marmalade & Gazelle, think so! They advise "in the shade of the arcade is a purrfect place to be in the heat of the day and there is often a nice breeze too". Luckily there are 3 other seats (2 longer ones) should the cats have taken over 3 seats!
2. Our Little Spa
The hammam and massage room have lots of small modifications to ensure that they work perfectly and are comfortable:there are improvements to the massage table and much more.

We are also delighted to have an exceptional new massage therapist. Our other masseuse has injured her back but she continues to provide excellent pedicures and manicures and also offers haircuts.

Moroccan marble seats, traditional brass taps & tiles, containers for the 3 ingredients that perform magic on your skin: olive oil soft soap, henna and rhassoul mud in our partly solar-powered hammam.


All the above are fully tried, tested and approved by 3 of us in recent months.
3. Our New Pergolas
Beautiful places to sit in the sun or shade, the pergolas are set amongst the gardens with glorious views of the town wall, the gardens and the pool. They are surrounded by trees and climbing plants (olives, morning glory, grape vines, pomegranates, kiwi fruit, avocado, Sharon fruit etc).The bulbuls love to sit on the top and sing their glorious songs. Photo credit to Rachid our driver.
4) The Garden Terrace by your Bedroom
The circular chairs pictured below are very comfortable. Gather scented herbs or flowers to decorate your room as you wish. We have made little lavender bouquets for your pillow to welcome you. 

5) The Shutters & Sleep
The quality of your sleep is assisted by the shutters because the rooms are very dark and the rammed earth walls maintain a healthy temperature and humidity in the room giving major benefits for the health of the occupants - I didn't have a single sniffle during my 5.5 month stay this winter!
Charitable Work, Our Photographer & New Activities are linked

We got to know a delightful young local photographer, Youssef, who has produced a lovely video of the ecolodge for us. It wasn’t very prominent on our last newsletter so in case you missed it click here to watch the video near the top of our home page (includes option with French subtitles)

Below is a photo of Youssef with stunning photo he took, now displayed on our dining room wall. The less good photos in this newsletter were taken on mobile phones!
Photo of the town walls & the snow-capped High Atlas taken from the huge paved area by the big fountains where concerts and other events (often featuring local cooperatives selling their wares) take place.
A New Outing: "on FOOT for FOOD and to see a FANTASTIC FORTRESS"
Youssef introduced us to a lovely French lady, Patricia, whose charity Association Maison Bonheur offers training in restaurant skills to help vulnerable women.They serve tasty meals to the public on their attractive roof terrace some weekends.

From this terrace there are views of Dar Al Baroud Palace, said to be more beautiful than any in Marrakech, which plans to open to the public in 2021.  So a new option is an outing combining a walk along the town walls, having lunch to support a good cause (or if not available there is a lovely restaurant with spacious outdoor seating nearby) and a visit to the adjacent palace.


Charitable Work in Support of the Moroccan Children's Trust
We are delighted to have supported this highly effective charity and the associated Moroccan organisation FAPE for 10 years. It was a delight to meet a number of the players in the new research project to improve the lot of children living in institutions in our region. More funding is being sought to extend this project for another 4 years - fingers crossed for the talented Welsh-Moroccan collaboration.
And the photo below taken on a seminar day whilst Jane was resident was, of course, taken by Youssef
More New Offerings
The “Atlas Salt Path”
Rachid our driver (pictured below) & I  investigated  a new excursion which includes a circular walk along a gorge to a part of the High Atlas Mountains geologically and scenically different from others we visit. Natural brines rise to the surface at springs from where the brine is directed to salt pans. It’s all done very traditionally and is carried away on donkeys. We enjoyed the salt on our food which brings me to the next innovations.
New Recipes We tried and tested a variety of new recipes so that we can maintain our reputation to cater for all needs: some vegan, some gluten-free, some lovely sauces to serve with fish, some lovely deserts, salads and main courses including our chefs' scrumptious versions of Moroccan savoury pastries, pizzas, quiches, yoghurt cake and carrot cake.

Our cooking facilities have now improved even more (as if our huge kitchen wasn't enough!). We can do charcoal barbecues in the lovely outdoor kitchen complete with a little roof and chimney AND we can use huge pans to cook up plant dyes for the new ecoprinting holiday (see below).  

An interesting ingredient I discovered is the Moroccan version of millet (finger millet) which is gluten-free, very healthy (for example to ward off osteoporosis) and tolerant of drought - the perfect plant for Morocco. We have experimented with it added to interesting ingredients to make stuffed peppers.

Another (pictured below) is Kalinti, a traditional dish of North Morocco, which is free of wheat, dairy & eggs yet is remarkably similar to a quiche.
NEW CHOICES FOR HOLIDAYS

1) Independent Holidays

Now that we have 14 bedrooms it will be possible to stay with us without joining a group holiday on many dates (few groups need  the whole ecolodge).

2) Group Holidays
We have listed below the number of each holiday type programmed over the next 2 years. The greatest number of our guests choose holidays with an element of:

We also have these holidays with new themes over the next 2 years:
  1. Ecoprinting, (botanical contact printing) We are delighted to have been approached by renowned textile artist Caroline Nixon.  She is excited by the range plants in our gardens and locally. Dates: 24 September-1 October 2022. Link to Brochure or Register your interest hereSee a sample of Caroline's work below.
2. For Basketmakers interested in mastering the use of Arundo donax will involve a local craftsman and experienced basket maker Liz Balfour who will translate. Dates: 21-28 May 2022  Register your interest here

3. The Power of Connection Join Katy van Haeften for a deep dive into what gets in the way of true connection and what enhances it. Dates: 19-26 October 2021. Zoom Taster Session available free of charge on Sunday 19th September at 3pm BST.. To book email Katy here. Katy is also happy to chat with those interested on an individual basis. Link to Brochure

4. Self Esteem - how does our self-regard impact the life we are living? Also tutored by Katy. Learn to challenge the negative beliefs and judgements of ourselves & by others, whilst receiving the feedback to enable us to develop resilience. Dates: April 30 – May 7 2022. Register your interest here

We are keen on ground cover plants for many reasons. The lovely daisy pictured below is highly drought resistant.
New Introductions to our Gardens
We have 3 young female tortoises and one male all of whom have been rescued from unsafe environments such as crossing a main road.

For those of you that don't know Jane first came to Morocco in the early 1990s to research the threats to this protected species Testudo graeca . She was delighted when in 2000 there was a sub-species soussensis (named after the Souss valley) was recognised in the region - it was paler coloured. Behaviour was different too - there was no need to hibernate due to the warm winters in the Souss Valley - and that's why our guests like to visit then. You can bask in the sun like our tortoises. 

Below is a young female pictured with a food plant (from the pea family) for both tortoises and humans - it makes a nice salad - and it is a very good ground cover plant too.
TRAVEL NEWS 

BORDERS
Morocco opens its borders to travellers from the UK, France on Spain at the end of May (in less than 2 weeks).

FLIGHTS
EasyJet 
have an excellent flight protection promise. They have taken over from Ryanair as the main budget flight operator to Morocco. They now operate from both Gatwick and Manchester to both Agadir & Marrakech as well as London Luton to Marrakech (a better North-of-London location than Stansted for most). They offer connecting flights from Scotland.


OVERLAND TRAVEL
See below for a new future route as well as the ones we publicise on
our responsible travel web page

AMBER OR GREEN LISTED?
It was expected (and reported) that Morocco with only 8 cases of covid-19 per million population on 8 May would be on the Green List, yet Portugal with more than 4 x the number of cases per million was green listed and Morocco remains on the amber list. Of course things can and will no doubt change in time. 

Our view is the amber listing is not a problem for the time being Morocco will be able to get even clearer of covid for the main season (autumn to spring) because fewer people will travel if they are obliged to quarantine on return to the UK, although I must say I have quite enjoyed my recnt quarantine - it's been a sort of retreat and a time to reflect - and write this!

We expect Morocco to move to the green list.  Why?

1) Morocco still has a remarkably good record with vaccinations, being the best in Africa (at one point having administered 96% of all the vaccines in Africa!) & much better than many European countries. Almost all our staff are already vaccinated or will be soon.

2) New research confirming that sunlight is highly effective at eradicating the virus. For a year scientists have known that the virus is inactivated by UV light in under 20 minutes. A second study showed that it was three times more sensitive to sunlight than influenza A, A new experiment shows that sunlight actually renders the COVID virus inactive 8 times faster than the scientists initially predicted. If there is one thing we can guarantee it is an average of 8-12 hours of sunlight a day!

3) Many areas of Morocco including our town have had no cases for several weeks. Let’s keep it that way!


An aside: this photo taken in 1997 is Jane's birthday party not long after we started the project. Latifa our manageress is at the front right, Said our guide's head behind her & Jane in the middle on the left. The rest of the group are linked to the charitable organisation St David's Trust (Wales- yes another Welsh-Moroccan link), the predecessor of the Moroccan Children's Trust. That table is still in our dining room.
OUR OFFER FOR TRAVELLERS
Of course we don't know what the future holds and it remains a great challenge for us. But we do know that many of you are keen to travel over the period late 2021- early 2022. Our general policy is to accept deposits for holidays and then take any subsequent payments when it looks clear that the holiday will be feasible. 

Rest assured: if your holiday is postponed due to Covid-19 you will be offered the opportunity to move your holiday free of charge to another date or if you prefer transfer to another person.
To read more about why we are so well placed to be Covid proof and the current situation please go to our Coronavirus Matters web page
Below roses and edible herbs thrive in our courtyard - the cooks collect flowers and leaves for cookery - rosemary, lemon grass & verbena, lavender, blackcurrant sage, basil, mint, oregano, sage and more
TO LOOK FORWARD TO..
 
WE CAN'T WAIT TO WELCOME OUR GUESTS AGAIN!
After over 14 months without groups already, the staff ask me to tell you how much they are missing their guests. They all send those of you they know their love and good wishes. They feel optimistic about the future because they are now so proud of the new property that they are sure guests will want to come. 
If you are going to travel abroad we are able to offer a safe haven, but we do not want to encourage you to take risks!
 
TWO "KEEP SAFER" OFFERS
Since we are aware some of you are still keen to travel this winter, we are offering d
iscounts on stays of 2 weeks or more - to encourage less travel.

Please ask us for details and the latest advice (things are ever changing) AND read on for safety information at our ecolodge and for travel by air. 

We offer you good food, some grown in our lovely gardens, birdsong, a private sun terrace on the roof, the swimming pool, the solar hammam, the natural warmth of our south-facing earth walled bedrooms, massages (or reflexology for extra distancing), books from our library and yoga on mats and loving care.


 
SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO WITHOUT COMMITTING
Provisionally reserve any group holiday between September 2021 and March 2021 
No need to pay a deposit until you feel comfortable with committing fully.

See Our Calendar                    Email us to book
YOUR SAFETY DURING TRAVEL & STAYING WITH US
 
SAFE FLYING We feel reassured by recent research on flying. Transmission between air passengers is relatively rare, and careful preventative measures can reduce the risk still further. 

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology statistician reports that if you wear a mask, it greatly reduces the chance of you infecting others, but it doesn't protect you fully, whereas a shield appeared to be up to 10 times more effective against fine aerosols than the mask. He put the chance of catching Covid-19 on a full short-haul flight at one in 4,300.

The reason why the chances are so low is due to high-efficiency filters and that entire air volume of the cabin is exchanged with outside air every 2 to 5 minutes, hence the air you're breathing on your flight is  much cleaner and less contaminated than most office buildings.  Additionally, the cabin air is filtered through a HEPA filtration system 25-30 times per hour (better than N95 respirators used in hospitals) capture 95% of all particles >0.3 micrometers).

Open the air vent(s) above your head to maximise the flow which moves vertically from above your head and evacuated from beneath your feet.

Protect yourself further by:
1) putting a few drops of Lugol's solution (a form of iodine) on your mask because this will kill viruses that you inhale (it is volatile). But do test that you are not allergic to it beforehand by rubbing a little on your skin! A little peppermint essential oil on the tongue will have the same effect in the mouth.

2) Prepare by boosting your immune system with vitamins D3 & K2 & C and zinc.

Safety during Your Stay Rest assured we have good systems in place as well as a perfect layout and facilities at the ecolodge. We can't quite believe that we designed it so perfectly for current regulations.
Singing Safety Recent research by Declan Costello shows that it is no more dangerous than talking. Provided that distancing rules are kept to, you can sing outside comfortably because of the warm climate (in winter you can stand near our earth walls which are like radiators!)
You can read more about safety in the green box below.
ETHICAL ACTION AND PURCHASES
 
It's good to feel we are lead lives with a purpose. We hope that they may inspire you to support what we do or follow suit.

MONEY MATTERS
Following our previous writings about avoiding using the Big Banks resulting in profits to unethical businesses. The alternatives we use are:
1) Wise (is the new name for Transferwise) On average 8 x cheaper than international transfers using this regulated highly regarded company. They provide a easy, fast, efficient and cheap service with high security. We also have a Euro account with them so you can pay us easily and without any exchange rate or fee issues if you are in the Euro zone.

2) Support for Those in Need In an effort to support producers who hadn't seen our guests for over a year, I bought packs of saffron direct from the cooperative and soap from the project that we set up. I sold about 100 of each to former guests. The suppliers are very grateful.

In a village that specialises in making jewellery we bought several items including those pictured below which have been used to decorate one of our arcades. If any of you are interested in me bringing these or any light weight goods next time I visit (in the autumn) please let us know.
Sustainable Post-Brexit Deals between the UK & Morocco

1) RORO Fruit & Vegetables (and Passengers?)

Thanks to a trade deal with Morocco & the new Poole-Tangier RORO (Roll On Roll Off) ferry, fruit and vegetables from Morocco will be fresher and more sustainably transported than those from southern Spain without complex Brexit -related issues. Roll on (haha!) the time when  this will become a passenger route too.
2) Reliable Solar Energy via the Longest Electricity Cables in the World!
A UK-based renewable energy solutions company is planning to connect Morocco and the UK by early 2027 with a 3,800-kilometer underwater electricity transmission cable which will Morocco has both the ability to reliably generate electricity using both solar (7 GW) and wind (3.5 GW) sources. Cables will be connected to Wales - yet another Wales - Morocco connection!

Miscellaneous
Henry Vacuum Cleaners
We love ours - it is much more fun having a colourful character to help! 

Almost all vacuum cleaners are made in the Far East  BUT for 35 years Henrys have been assembled in Somerset including steel parts from Wales & motors from Scotland.
CHARITABLE WORK WITH STRAY ANIMALS
In October I reported on the excellent Sunshine Animal Refuge near Agadir (SARA). This time I have good news about progress nearer to the ecolodge. The King has decreed that local authorities must make land available for animal welfare projects and there are interested parties in Taroudant. We will of course do all we can to support them.


A Happy Ending There was an incident recently where 2 puppies were left near our gate who were very frightened on arrival (pictured) but by the time they left us a day later they were happy and playful. Luckily we found them a home through a neighbour, but we know there are many more less fortunate animals.


Image:Time to reflect?
DOES A "HOLIDAY WITH HEART" IN WEST WALES INTEREST YOU?
We try to think creatively and we wonder if any of you might be interested in attending a holiday in our style in our home county of Pembrokeshire.

There would be opportunities for walking, seaside activities, singing, yoga and circle dance, maybe even photography and art. We'd ensure that the catering was to a high standard. And of course we would include some Moroccan elements too including online appearances of our dear Moroccan staff. It would be a way of connecting with the Holidays With Heart tribe. 

If this appeals to you please
email us to express an interest here with any ideas re dates, your ideas etc
 
May you be healthy, happy and creative in these extraordinary times.

We would be incredibly grateful if you recommended us to your family and friends.  Maybe you would like to give a present of a gift voucher towards a holiday with us? 

We always welcome comments and feedback. Please do write (however briefly) or phone if you'd like a chat.

Warmest wishes

Jane & Martyn in the Welsh office and the two Latifas, Said, Dounia, Nordine, Rachid, Fatima, Youssef and Souad in Morocco.

Tel (UK): +44 1239 615499      WhatsApp +44 7787 148142


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Our e mail address: jane@holidays-with-heart.co.uk

Our postal address in the UK: Estuary View House, St Dogmaels SA43 3HF, Wales, UK

Telephone: UK +44 (0)1239 615499

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