Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Extreme Muling"

Our agenda for Day 3 simply stated.... "after breakfast enjoy a scenic drive up in to the Atlas Mountains make a few stops along the way to enjoy the panoramic views before you reach the village of Imlil, the center of a beautiful valley dominated by the highest peak in North Africa, Toubkal rising up to nearly 14,000 Ft. The first picture shows the rode we drove on in "all-terrain SUV's" and the second picture shows our guides with their mules waiting for our arrival. Maybe not quite the image we had in mind, but with no hesitation and a little assistance, we saddled up!
"lefty" always shows up!
Either Mary or her mule were always leaning to one side! Maybe it was the stuffed Longchamp bags we all seem to carry!
Our destination was the Berber village of Aremd where we were welcomed by musicians and a table set for a feast.
I could not resist taking this picture of three future musicians practicing on the rocks! For our cooking lesson we were divided into three groups: bread making, steamed couscous, and
tagine baked in a dome-shaped earthenware pot. I learned that couscous is actually made from semolina wheat - not gluten free as I had thought - but delicious! Every meal was followed by the dramatic presentation of peppermint tea!
That's it...NO PICTURES of us coming down...that's where the "extreme muling" kicked in!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Let the bargaining begin!

Our guide, Abdul was fabulous! In fact several of our guides for the week were named Abdul which in Arabic means "the servant of"....easy for us to remember! He was soft spoken, extremely knowledgeable, and patient. He nonchalantly keep a watchful eye on us while we walked the narrow passageways and explored the souks or marketplace. Notice his bright yellow leather shoes...No, I did not bring any home for Rick (couldn't find them big enough!)
We stopped to visit the local baker, where everyone in the village brings their dough to be baked and a local chemist, who sold us all on the cosmetic miracle of Argan Oil, produced only in Morocco. Many bought spices and other luxurious oils like jasmine and rose water. Out of respect for my fellow travelers I will not post pictures of the neck massages but I do have some great shots!
The people of Morocco are reserved and for religious reasons do not want their pictures taken. Some would allow it and then want to be payed a few Durhams. At this point I put my camera away and just soaked up the sights, smells, and bargaining going on around me. You know these girls can shop! It was exciting and exhausting! Later we enjoyed a spectacular lunch. Hidden behind the walls on a busy street was Restaurant Dar Moha - an oasis! We started with salads served in small bowls, followed by tagines of couscous, vegetables and stewed meats.....
always followed by peppermint tea, poured from high above the glasses.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

March in Marrakech

Have you ever wanted to travel to Africa? Marrakech, Morocco, near the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, is the place to go to experience a culture rich in history and religion. I traveled with 18 ladies/friends in the American Women's Club of London and it was another trip that opened my eyes to the world!
We stayed in a beautiful hotel just off the market square, Jemaa El Fna where hundreds of locals and tourists spend the end of the day watching jugglers, dancers, fortune tellers, snake charmers and musicians. The Hotel Les Jardins de la Koutoubia was expecting us with rose petals everywhere! From our private patio we could see and hear - starting at 5:45 AM - the Koutoubla Mosque.
After checking in we took a carriage ride (glad to avoid the alternative - camel ride!) to the Menara and Majorelle gardens ...truly a contrast of busy street life and a peaceful oasis. Our guide often referred to the buzzing energy as "organised chaos".
After a refreshing cocktail - NO ICE, being careful! - in the piano bar, we enjoyed our first Moroccan meal of couscous and chicken with lemon tajine. Delicious!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring Cleaning!

London is getting ready with a fresh coat of paint.....the familiar red telephone box is recognised around the world. You know every tourist coming for the Queen's Jubilee and the Summer Olympics will have their picture made standing next to one of these! It's hard to resist!
How about the Tube and "Mind the Gap"?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Where is Hindon?

The Lamb at Hindon, a historic coaching Inn, is at a cross road somewhere between Winchester Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral in the QUIET Wiltshire village of Hindon.... the perfect place to park the car and settle in for an evening by the fireplace and a delicious pub meal of Duck Breast or Baked Hake. Truly, the only sound we heard all night was the chiming of the village church bell....every hour, on the hour!
The next morning we woke up to an English breakfast and rain mixed with snow. It didn't seem to bother this rider, or his horse and dog, all decked out in rain gear. I happened to read about the Wilton House Antique Fair not far from Salisbury so we stopped for a look. The house was beautiful, it has appeared in several films and TV shows doubling as Windsor Castle...... well worth a return visit in the spring!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Winchester Cathedral

Can you say it with out singing it? .... One hour's drive (excluding a rest stop for a Starbuck's soya latte) out of the city is Winchester, capital of the ancient kingdom of Wessex also head quarters of the Anglo-Saxon Kings. With Pub names like William the Conqueror, King Arthur, and Merlin the Wizard you just sense the history!
The weather was crisp and the sun was shining so we decided to stroll along the river walk and explore the working Water Mill and the Wolvesey Castle ruins before heading to the breath-taking Winchester Cathedral.
It was our good fortune to arrive at the same time the choir and orchestra were setting up to practice the Easter program. We took our time exploring the smaller chapels, the Jane Austen section,..........
and the library where the 12th century Winchester Bible, with it's rich gold and lapis illustrations, was on display. And then, we just sat and listened to the was INCREDIBLE and so unexpected!