Tuesday, February 22, 2011


One of my painting teachers in college told me he thought I would really enjoy Marrakech and now I can tell him that he was right. It was so nice to be able to spend so much time exploring the city, because there is so much to see and do.

The area is conducive to getting lost - even if you have a reasonable map, which often leads to some interesting places.

The Djemaa el Fna...
is where most roads lead and at night this UNESCO site really awakens with an array of characters, foods, sounds, and smells.

- One of my favorite things was sitting at the little café on the corner and watching the action down below at dusk and watching the early evening action. The light was magnificent and it steadily faded into night.

Snake Charmers

Produce Market...
it felt like we were stepping back in time to see the weights + scales that were used.

Goods Markets...
one of many places to buy tea sets, clothing, carpets, decor + household items.

seeing donkeys, horses, carts, motorbikes, and cars sharing the roads.

there were a large array of goods for sale, but the light beams shining through the thatched roof was especially beautiful. (Side note: Stefan had no idea this slab of meat was behind him.)

Souks at Night...
so quiet compared to the hustle and bustle of the day.

food may be safe, but dishware can be problematic since there aren't great washing facilities - or so we were warned.

this was our favorite restaurant. The ambiance and food were both fantastic. It was recommended by Jamie Oliver. Ironically we saw signs with 'Jimmy Oliver' and 'Jimmy Holliver' painted on many restaurants at other places around the city. I read about this one on his website.

Considered 'New Marrakech' and has a very European feel. It's also an easy place to go for things with marked prices instead of bartering.

Guéliz • 16 café...
Modern foods and fantastic pastries

Guéliz • Grand Café de la Poste...
another recommendation by Jamie Oliver. The food here was terrific and the restaurant was very elegant. It drew a very interesting set of characters.

Koutoubia Mosque + Gardens...
beautifully tended with orange trees, greenery and a bit of shade.

City Walls...
those little holes allowed for the expanding and contrasting of the stone as it was being built.

Tanner's District...
even as soon as we approached the area men would come up with photos of the colorful Fes market to show us in hopes of guiding us there (In Marrakech it's not as colorful). Many people and children are more than willing to offer help back in exchange for some pocket money, although it's easy to visit on your own as well, which is what we did. The children were sweet - they would start yelling 'fermé (closed)' if you ventured down a residential dead end.

Palais Bahia...
one of the most visited sites in Marrakech. There are so many beautiful patterns, textures, and architectural details.

this botanical garden is really something special. It was designed in 1924 during the colonial times by a French expat.

Memorial to Yves Saint Laurent

it's incredible to think this is more or less in the middle of a desert, because the area is so lush and green.

Marjorelle Blue...
Not quite Yves Klein blue, but quite similar and equally as beautiful.

Train Station at dusk




Lantern shop...
I wanted a bright colored lantern and there was only one shop where we saw them for sale. I tried to negotiate for one and the man told me they start at 600 dirhams, which is about 60€. I went with the approach of knowing what I'd be willing to pay and being willing to walk away, which is what I ended up doing.

- We went back another evening with a plan and had a different sales man. Stefan tried his hand and incredibly the starting price was mysteriously 400 dirhams, or 20€ less than I was initially offered. Typically giving 10-20% of their initial offer and not more than 50% is fair market value.

Spices + Tagines...
we also brought back lots of spices and this little tagine trio, which is currently home to a variety of salts on our table, because I certainly love salt - and having a useful reminder from our travels.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Moroccan Riads

Something wonderful about Marrakech, and all of Morocco, are the gorgeous riads. Each of these traditional homes provides a small oasis from the chaotic hustle and bustle of the city. They are relatively small for hotel standards with typically 5 or 6 rooms, a courtyard, and often beautiful roof top terraces.

Upon looking for hotels I have to say I was overwhelmed, because there are so many impeccably styled options. In the end, we chose Dar One during our first stay in Marrakech and Riad Awa after our return from Essaouira. Neither were exactly easy to find, which tended to be the theme of the old Medina with its winding streets and back alleyways. Behind unassuming doors are these brilliant and spacious abodes.

At Dar One, our suite even had its own private terrace overlooking the city. It was relaxing to go up and hear the nearby storks clacking as they sat perched atop the mosques. I also loved to hear the call to prayer echoing through the city.

The owner, Jean Pere, was very inviting. He told us he lives out in the country, although he stops by the riad frequently and often with his two dogs in tow, who appeared so worn out they hardly batted an eye when we pet them. The maps that we were given had many wonderful restaurants and locales marked and with those we set out to explore the city. It was a great introduction to the Medina.

At Riad Awa our room had a gorgeous headboard that was etched concrete with built in lights and beautiful intricate details everywhere you looked. Once again it was a very relaxed atmosphere... so relaxed in fact that people didn't lock their room doors when they were out in town.

Both riads had great roof terraces with quiet areas to relax in after busy days exploring the Medina.

If you're planning a trip to Morocco it's best to know the riads typically take cash payments and you'll have to get Dirhams once you arrive, so plan for that, or make sure they know you'll be paying with Euros beforehand!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Munich globe

It's been a while since I've even written about life here in Munich. We're trying to get through the Winter, which has been pretty mellow, but it's still pretty incredible how fast the gray days can take over and really be mood drainers.

Thankfully there are small things bringing smiles to our faces.

I spotted this globe of Munich while Stefan and I were out and decided it would be great to add a pretty little glow to our apartment. It's the perfect place to survey the city and map some of those new restaurants we've been meaning to try.

Friday, February 11, 2011


We wanted to get a grasp on seeing two completely different areas of Morocco, so we set out for the coast using the Supratours coach bus for a scenic and comfortable 3 hour journey through the desert.

- Along the way we even saw goats in a tree - no joke. I really wish I could have taken a photo, but I had just enough time to wake Stefan and say, 'Look, goats in a tree!'

We also stopped at a rest area in the middle of the Argan fields. I wasn't aware that Argan oil is made from nuts that goats eat and the pits they are unable to digest. Sort of like that super expensive kopi luwak coffee from Sumatra. Isn't nature grand? The Argan pits then get pressed into the oil, which is edible and also used in beauty products.

- Although unsuccessful at photographing the goats in a tree, I do have some photos of the rest stop dogs, which differ from the Saouirian dogs, who were clearly a mix of dachshund and chihuahua.

- Once we arrived in Essaouira we instantly noticed the sea side feeling of the town - blue and white buildings with many boats and fishermen wandering through the bustling streets.

- Place Moulay el Hassan is where the port and Medina collide.

- The port was packed with boats. Beautiful blue boats everywhere.

- Sometimes it seems so incredible to me to consider how differently people grow up all around the world. We saw some boys playing in the port and on the boats. The feeling of community is omnipresent in Morocco. We encountered that in different ways several times. It's interesting to see children roaming about on their own and being so independent at such a young age.

- Small markets and shops under arched doorways at virtually every turn.

- The Moorish influence was evident with little tiles similar to those in Portugal.

- The blue color was also splashed throughout the city in various tints and tones.

- The monochromatic colors of the city provided a beautiful backdrop for the pops of color.

- The alley ways wove through around the Medina and we were happy that our host had picked us up, because finding this riad would have never happened.

- Something I loved about Morocco is you really have to be in the know. Hiding behind seemingly simple façades are elaborate homes, restaurants, and markets. It's so much fun to wander about and get lost amidst the striking scenery.

- Other times the façade is merely that... like on those pyramids of spices. So picturesque, but really just spice painted on a figure underneath.

- Every meal was served with bread and olives. I think I need to incorporate more lemon herb olives into my diet. Best of all a small bag could be purchased from the street vendors for 30¢ and bread was just 10¢.

- It was a little startling to see entire slabs of animals dangling from meat hooks. One evening we saw 3 cats begging in front of a stand.

- Whenever we travel I love to look at the details and analyze how they should fit into the greater world, because every place I go has something incredible to offer. In Essaouira, one of my favorite things was the lack of chain stores - everything was local. Being on the coast the fish were plentiful. They had two fish markets, one near the coast that catered more to tourists and this 'souk au poisson' for the locals, although both were willing to cook up whatever you'd like right on the spot.

- Locals seemed to enjoy the slow pace of life. When the call to prayer would happen we noticed shop keepers would turn a stool upside down and leave their stall trusting things would be OK. It was nice to see that kind of honesty.

- Wandering through the markets surprised us, because the items for sale were different than those in Marrakech. The small woodworks, bright babouche shoes, Fatima's hand silver jewelry, and tiny tagine spice trays were more prevalent.

- I always love the lanterns and was surprised that many shops didn't have brightly painted ones that I would expect.

- We enjoyed many traditional pastries. I need to learn how to make them!

- We caught a couple of the legendary sunsets from the ramparts. Despite January normally being their wet month, we had spectacular weather the entire time. This time of year the sun has the most brilliant glow over the narrow streets.

- Near the ramparts it was very interesting to watch the stray animals compete for attention. A woman, who we later realized was a local painter, was excitedly greeted by a few dogs. It was really a great exchange. She knelt down and gave them attention, which surprised me, because as I've been told in the Islamic faith Mohammed liked cats and therefore dogs are seen as unclean. One scampered after her as she walked on and we later spotted him sunbathing close to her. At another point a dog and cat fought for attention from some French tourists.

-After a few days in Essaouira we were heading back to really delve into Marrakech's hustle, bustle, and dusty red Medina.

- As our bus drove towards the main road out of town I noticed a witty spray painted doorway that said, "I'm Muslim, don't panic." With that we went into the warm light that grazed the landscape and made everything seem to glow on the way back to Marrakech.