Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mule Riding in the Atlas Mountains

This Texas gal has ridden a couple of horses in her younger years, but never a mule, and never up and down a mountain in Morocco, for sure! Although I probably would not have been the one to plan such an excursion, our group had this activity on the itinerary, and heaven help me if I wasn't going to go along with  what everyone else was doing.

So we mounted the mules and headed up with a little help from our guides some 3000 feet to the Berber village of Aremd.

We met a few of the locals along the way, making deliveries and running errands. Never could I have delivered dozens of eggs intact all the way up the side of that mountain, like this villager did.

Going up was not too treacherous, since we were on a wide pathway and the mules felt pretty secure, so we felt pretty confident by the time we made it up to the village

which at 6000 feet sits in the shadow of Mount Toubkai reaching to a height of 14,000 feet.

We were invited into the home of a local family for a brief cooking class and lunch.

Local musicians welcomed us with their music and dancing,

and we broke up into our cooking groups: couscous,

chicken tagine,

and flat bread.

Our lunch setting will be forever imprinted on my memory,

as we sat in the mountains enjoying our lunch and the scenery.

The shortened view below was disconcerting, I admit, seeing the primitive homes, some of them without even a roof over their head.

And yet, amidst the poverty, the children laughed, and in doing so, made us smile.

Salads were our first course,

followed by couscous with beef, and a tagine as well.

Our lunch ended on a high note with the local hospitality of the traditional green mint tea.

And then.... it was time to go down. If we had known what the trip down was going to be like, we might have rented a room overnight! I have no pictures to share of our descent because we were literally hanging on for our lives. Our route to our rides back to Marrakech was down a narrow and steep, rocky mule path. Just a little shrieking and whooping from us girls, as our trusty mules stepped gingerly towards our destination.
Whoa doggies, it was an adventure!

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's back to Marrakech again!

I never would have guessed that I would return to Morocco within the year, after having such a wonderful time in November, but I had the opportunity to return with girlfriends from the American Women's Club and got to see a few different sides of Morocco that made my heart sing.

I thought I might not have anything new to say about this trip after I gushed wrote so much about Morocco in the fall, but I still have a couple more blog posts in me if you care to stick along. And if you care to read more, there are more posts at your fingertips that you can find with the search engine on my side bar.

This time, I was struck anew by the vibrancy of the colors of the area. As soon as we landed, we headed to the Majorelle gardens.

First set up by Jacques Majorelle in the 1920's and restored more recently by Yves. St. Laurent (whose ashes are buried here,) the gardens showcase an abundance of vegetation representing 5 continents.

The colors of the garden are what struck me,

as seen in this Moroccan design,

the camels at sunset,

and the Moorish ceilings of the Bahia Palace.

The city is painted with the oranges in the trees

and in the fruit vendors' carts,

the terra cottas of the doors,

and the many minarets of the mosques.

Beauty surrounded us at the Dar Moha restaurant where we stopped for lunch,

sampling the typical Moroccan salad spread,

and watching the turtle at our feet enjoy his own little salad.

We adored the colors of the roses in the pool at Richard Branson's resort, the Kasbah Tamadot. Someday I dream of coming back here.

Color was spilling over everywhere as we made our way

towards the souk (market,)

past the black magic shop where the women buy potions for their love life,

and in the tanner's shop as he dyed the leather to be made into a snazzy pair of red shoes.

Light and color everywhere you look

everywhere you turn,

surrounding you: a visual feast for the eyes.

Stick around: next time I post, you'll hear about our mule riding adventure into the mountains.

We're still laughing about that one!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I was extremely excited to see an Amorino ice cream shop open up on King's Road near our house in London. Always a favorite of mine in Paris when I go,

the two founding brothers, since 2002,  have opened up several other shops in addition to the ones in Paris,

including London and New York City. Plenty of room upstairs to chat with friends, or grab a book to read in some quiet time.

Its logo, the distinctive cherub (this one with ice cream)

is found throughout the store.

All sorts of chocolates and sweets are available to tempt you

with choices of sugar coated flowers and berries, fruit pastilles, and crystallized fruits and seeds. Makes such a lovely gift,

and there are also lollipops for the young at heart.

The chocolate sauce looked divine,

and the sweet balsamic vinegar is one of their trademarks.

So what would you order if you were there--focaccina: soft brioche bread filled with ice cream of your choice? Waffles with ice cream are also on the menu.

Since it was such a cold day, the 10 flavors of hot chocolate were very tempting,

so Cristen opted for a thick cuppa chocolate topped with whipped cream.

I couldn't pass on the homemade gelato al natural, with no artificial flavors

and so many flavors to choose from.

I decided to have the stracciatella and chocolate amorino, which the waitress fashioned

into their distinctive rose petal shape. Somehow being pretty and tasting pretty make for an even more fabulous taste sensation.

So what are you drooling for?