Thursday, January 4, 2018

Hectic and chaotic streets of Marrakech

Street egg seller
Hot, dry, third worldly? Do those images come to mind when you think of Morocco? They did for me. It was even more chaotic than I could imagine.

2½ hour  bus ride through Moroccan countryside and your perception changes. The landscape is almost Martian like. Dry, desolate and rocky red. Passing the sparsely populated fields of trees and the vast herds of goats. The famous tree climbing goats that climb in the trees and eat the argan nut, poop it out, then it's gathered and crushed, it becomes the argan oil that's applied to faces around the world.

When we finally arrived in the bustling city of Marrakesh, it was everything I imaged. Loud, crowed, hot and confusing. While walking the streets our guide did his best to keep us together as a group but it seemed everywhere you looked there was something to see. The side streets were winding, dark  and narrow. Crowded with tourists, scooters and carts pulled by donkeys all fighting for the right of way.

All I wanted to do was to get to the souk or Main Square. But first we visited the Bahia Palace, and the architectural building Ben Yossef Madrasa and then off to lunch of traditional Moroccan foods accompanied by a belly dancer or two. At least it was slightly air-conditioned. After lunch, it was back out into the heat and even crazier and tighter passageways as we walked deeper into the maze of the souk.

One of the many carved ceilings of Bahia Palace

Bahia Palace's many colorful ceilings

Stone carvings, tiles and the interior of  the Ben Youssef Medessa

colorful rose buds

fresh olives

Spices, Moroccan slippers and the clay tagines greeted you at every turn. The walkways still crowded will everyone fighting for space. After wandering for a while if you are lucky to find it, you spill out on to the main open square. Snake charmers and fruit sellers by day, and as the sunsets the night market begins to take shape. Even the evening call to prayer didn't slow down the bustle of the evenings preparations.  
Snake charmers

Piles of tagines

Fresh dates and dried apricots

Back on the bus and back to the ship.   But not after one last taste of Morocco. Fresh dates. Soft sweet and freshly picked. Not to be missed were the dried apricots, too.        

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Hallowed Ground

Early morning in the Normandy countryside

After  traversing hot and arid landscapes through Spain, Canary Islands and Morocco the lush landscapes of Normandy were a welcome change. The light was golden as it the filtered through the yellow leaves of autumn. The nice cool morning was peaceful as our bus rolled through the countryside. Fog still hung low in the valleys, cows were out grazing in the pastures and the apples trees heavy with fruit passed by the windows in a flash.

The first destination was the to see the American Cemetery then on to the landing beaches of Omaha. However, we lucked out; the tide on the beaches was at low tide rising just like on the morning of D Day. For the Americans the invasion started at 6:30 and for the British and Canadians it was to come at 7:30.

Omaha beach

low tide, Omaha beach  

low tide, Omaha beach

However, standing on that beach the words that come to mind are vast and expansive. It is hard to put into words what it must have been like for the young men. If they made it off the boats slogging through soft sand with a rifle, pack wet uniform and boots. How loud and confusing that morning must have been. The solitude for me on that beach was overwhelming.

Les Braves Memorial, by Anilore Banon added in 2004

I took my pictures, gathered up my sand, and boarded the bus for the American Cemetery.

The American Cemetery is the hallowed ground of the remains of the soldiers who died during the invasion. The French donated that plot of land to American so you are actually on American soil while in the cemetery. It is the final resting  place of 9,386 American soldiers.

As you walk up to the semi-circle   the battle plans flank both sides of the monument. Standing there, you only see a part of it for you have to crest the hill to get the true magnitude of this place.  Sons, fathers, brothers all lay silent as you gaze on row upon row of  crosses and  star of David mark this hallowed ground. Even those only known to God rest here.

Known only to God 

Final words

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Bourbon Ambassador

That time I became a Makers Mark Bourbon Ambassador.
 If you follow the Kentucky bourbon trail, you will get a chance to taste bourbons at the Makers Mark Distillery. Not only can you taste and wander the beautiful campus but also you can sign up to be an Ambassador. Therefore, I did. It’s very easy as long as you are over 21 years of age. You can sign up on the iPad kiosk they have in the ticket office. What do you get as ambassador? Swag but the coolest is the plaque with your name on it that is assigned to a barrel. When it comes of age, you can order bottles from you barrel. How cool is that?       
We are lucky enough to live a short (well it’s an 8 hour drive) drive to Kentucky. We took advantage of that and decided to go on the Bourbon trail tour. Makers Mark had a Chihuly Glass exhibition and a dinner paring. And of course who doesn’t want Art, food and bourbon.
Our day started at Roses then on to Wild Turkey,  Woodford Reserve was next where we had lunch on the grounds before the tour and tasting. The last stop for the day was dinner at Makers Mark. 

Three fabulous courses paired with bourbon cocktails. We had a cocktail made with cask strength bourbon (cask strength means WOW thats strong). It was the best Old Fashioned I’ve ever had and it could knock you off your feet. The meal consisted of quail salad, chicken on a bed of creamed corn and then bread pudding. The pre-dinner cocktail was a bourbon slushy of sorts. Bourbon, Ale 8 and a little bourbon cherry liqueur at the bottom. What a way to start the dinner. 

After dinner you were free to wander the grounds, all the buildings were open. If you were lucky, you could get a sample of sour mash (the hubby actually got to taste it). In the gift shop if you can dip your own bottles, glasses, hats cookie cutters and just about anything, you wish. They make nice souvenirs. 
 As the sun was fading, the distillery turned off the lights and lit up the Chilhuly glass. WOW! It was beautiful. Reds and yellow oranges, Blues and clear glass on one. A boat full of colorful glass, red glass baskets in the quiet of the distilling room. But most of all was the ceilings that he is famous for. Four cherubs that were hiding and you needed to find them.  

Art, food and bourbon do you need anything more.