22 September 2013

Not Mushroom

There is not mushroom before our Wednesday morning flight.

I will be honest.

At this moment, I would love nothing more than to hide from the chores and errands under a pile of fallen leaves.

find 1,200 words for two pressing deadlines. give house a good scrub. laundry + ironing.
return library books. mow the garden. send deposit for pre-school. buy a light bulb for lamp. post a birthday card. pick-up prescriptions. pack suitcases. organise ten hours of toddler activities for plane ride. walk dog. bathe dog. exhaust daughter in hopes of an afternoon nap that will allow me to accomplish some of the aforementioned.

and pause. 
take a few deep breaths. 
inhale. exhale. inhale. exhale. 

My fungi list must, and will, be done before the wheels go up in three days.

Tick. Pack. GO!

We are (almost) outta here (again)...

19 September 2013

Meandering through Marrakech's Museums and Souks

After pressing through the crowded souks on our first night in Marrakech, we realised how easily you can get lost in the serpentine stalls. We were told there were authentic Moroccan treasures to be found, and opted to have a knowledgeable guide escort us to the select souks.

The Concierge at Four Seasons Hotel Marrakech booked our private tour, which cost more than a pocket full of dirhams, but was money well spent.
NOTE: For any tour ensure you bring extra dirhams for entrance fees and tipping.
We started at the Majorelle Gardens which the late fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent, restored to its original glory in the early 1980s. Laurent was beloved by the citizens and is credited for making Marrakech a trendy tourist destination.

After his death in 2008, the icon's ashes were scattered around Marrakech and the grounds of his garden sanctuary.

We arrived to the Majorelle Gardens just after 9:00, which allowed us time to wander freely before the throngs of tour buses arrived.  While you could easily spend several hours in the gardens, it is small enough to walk around in 45-minutes.

You cannot help but be impressed by the vast display of cacti. Ouisie enjoyed repeating Dr Seuss' riddle from Hop on Pop, "No Pat! Don't sit on that" (ie: cactus) at each cactus spotting. Did I mention there are 100s of cacti in the gardens??

Fortunately, sand footpaths lined the gardens which kept her curious fingers far from the prickly pears.

Our driver then took us to the medina where we walked the narrow streets leading to 14th century, Madrassa Ben Youssef. The madrassa (an Islamic religious school) is the largest in Morocco and a breathtaking work of art.

You enter the madrassa through a wooden door, and do not realise you are standing in true beauty until you enter the central courtyard and see this:

12 September 2013

Hoofing it through Marrakech

When we travel to a new destination we like to start with a city tour to single out the neighbourhoods we want to explore further. On our first visit to Marrakech we decided rather than take a traditional guided bus or taxi tour, we would go by horse drawn carriage.

The Concierge at Four Seasons Resort Marrakech arranged for the carriage to pick us up from the resort. Once we assured Ouisie she did not have to kiss the horses she climbed aboard, and we clip-clopped our way into the bustling city streets. 

One thing you want to avoid in the Red City: driving and cycling. Being on the road feels like a game of truth or dare. Marrakech driving defines disorganisation. The roads are a jumble of horse drawn carriages, mopeds, cyclists, cars, taxis, and donkeys, too. 

Our carriage driver liked to believe he had the right-of-way. Any vehicle that did not give priority to his mares was shouted to in Arabic. He further shared his woes to pedestrians who, in turn, shouted back at him. I am not sure what the locals were shouting, but feel certain our oversized carriage was at fault in most incidents.

When he was not shouting profanities to other drivers, he was shouting salutations to acquaintances on every street. In between he was turned backwards to wink and blow kisses to Ouisie. I placed my trust in the two horses who, at least, kept their eyes on the road. 

An upside to a carriage tour? Aside from plenty of local colour, great street photography as no windows to obstruct the frame.

At one point, the driver stopped the carriage at the side of the road. He proceeded to jump out, leaving the three of us and two unattended horses.

09 September 2013

À table

As I began to write this post about our visit to France, I quickly found its theme in two words: à table.

Nothing qualifies a more successful visit to France than days spent visiting around a table, toasting good health over bottles of wine, and eating multiple course meals.

It is a fact, in my visits to France, I have spent the majority of the time à table.

On this visit, we started our family holiday in the sleepy village of St Hilliers, about twenty minutes outside the medieval fair town of Provins. It is here that Chef’s great uncle and his family have resided for the last 50+ years.

On previous visits, I have enjoyed touring Provins. In 2001, the town was inscribed to UNESCO World Heritage ListVisitors cannot help but be impressed by the 11th century ramparts that stand over 25m (82ft) and once safeguarded their citizens. The town is best explored on foot for wandering the old cobbled streets and admiring the centuries of architecture.  

A climb to the top of The Caesar's Tower will leave you winded. What once served as a watchtower and a prison, today, houses the bells of the Saint-Quiciace Collegiate church. While the panoramic views from the top are great, the tower's interior views are just as impressive with 17th century framework as a highlight. 

While we did not make it to Provins on this visit, we hope to show Ouisie the city's sites once she is older. Although, with our toddler becoming more antsy with each food course and hours of adult conversation, the thought did cross my mind to have her monte (climb) Caesar's Tower to burn off some steam.

 This visit was focused on family time which ultimately revolves around la table. 

I now understand why the French call breakfast,  petit dejeuner. It is the only little meal of the day. You do not need more than a piece of toast and coffee to jump start your day with lunch and dinner promising to roll into one long gastronomic affair.

Here's what happens à table:

01 September 2013

On tiptoe

No one has the first day of school jitters in our cottage. No one is dreading returning to work after a long break. Quite the contrary.

Today marks the beginning of our family holidays. yeehaw!

Chef is off work for two weeks. Ouisie and I are nomads for two months (!).

We will travel by cars, trains, planes, on foot, and (hopefully) camels, too.

We will eat, drink, laugh, explore, and relax with each other and loved ones. 

While on the road, Ouisie will be promoting her hit singles Old MacDonald Had a Farm and Itsy Bitsy Spider. Concerts are available upon request. No pre-booking required.

There is a lot of packing to be done. We have started sorting through our things. Some things, we may have to leave behind. 

Like tutus... 

... and floral headbands. 

But shoes! A girl must coordinate her footwear. 

How do you ensure you have the right pair for any occasion a holiday may spring?  

I love traveling. 

But right now, I can think of so many other fun things I would rather do than pack our black roller bags. 

Yes, with holiday just days away, we are all so giddy we can hardly stand on our own two feet. 

The blog will follow our travels. We invite you to come along. 

First stop: Provins, France 
Departure date: Tuesday 

See you on the road. 

Bon Voyage!

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