how 'bout more overwhelming...

seriously, there are too many pictures from my recent trip to morocco to neatly fit into a blog post (or two!).  even in writing this post (part 2), i've left many pictures out.  it has been so nice looking back and reflecting on the time i had.  my aunt once called me a "free-spirit".  a label i fought.  (i have no idea why i thought this could ever have a negative connotation)  as i go over these pictures, i want nothing more than to continue to travel and be amongst new friends and learn from people out there in the world following their dreams and to just enjoy the rich memories that come from being in someplace foreign.  this to me now, is the essence of being a free spirit :)

i mentioned peacock pavilions in my last post, but this photo sequence is mostly about them and eatpraymove.  maryam and chris have built a beautiful, magical oasis in morocco.  erin, founder of eatpraymove, is living her dream of yoga and travel.  i admire them all tremendously in their pursuits and their offerings.  above we have me in front of one of the suite doors at peacock pavilions (just after arrival).  the henna party was a night or two in and was a perfect opportunity to test out future tattoos!!  (you heard it here first ;)  i have a thing for hearts :)  the great room of my building was beautifully decorated and such a welcoming retreat at the end of each day!  these beads were in the main lobby and just so textural and colorful!!  one of the lovely things peacock pavilions does is gives back to the community, through their non-profit organization, project soar.  i was fortunate enough to get to experience their good works first hand as i helped repaint some of the villagers' doors.  this little boy was very interested in what we were doing (and i just love this picture).  the man's door we were painting invited us to celebrate ede, the next week.  i soooooo wished i would still be there to have had such an experience!! i've done a fair bit of traveling, but to be able to have those intimate moments with real people is truly priceless.  the landscape shot (on our way to the village just beyond peacock pavilions) is, yes, filtered via instagram, but exactly how i saw it!  slightly hazy, somehow lush for a desert, with the atlas mountains in the distance (next trip!!!).  the food was crazy yummy!!  i have a love affair with lentils and this dish did not disappoint!! sweet jesus there's egg on top!!  we were all begging for the recipes!!  one night, we headed out to "new" marrakech and had dinner at a lebanese restaurant, where they had belly dancing.  i think i took 30 shots of this chic swirling round and this is my favorite.  i love her expression.  love the hanging basket lights next to the pool:)  i'm gaga over the red hot embers from the hookah during our big night on the town!!

looking at some of these pics i just feel i need to give a shout out to apple!!  good lord my phone takes an amazing photo!!!  i have this crazy thought i'm going to design a tshirt with the "theme" of souk sprint 2015.  we had a souk tour through eatpraymove, but i also got to (literally) run through the souk with mohamad, looking for a particular pottery place i had seen on the first tour with epm.  running through the souk is like participating in a defensive obstacle course.  on one hand you are struggling to not make eye contact with anyone for fear their relentless sales tactics will suck you in.  you're also putting your rote memorization skills to the test as you look up "what's your best price for that soccer jersey, rug, tassel, basket, pillow, 54 pieces of green ceramics, glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice" (all of which i purchased) in french!  all while dodging locals, mules, suspicious liquids underfoot, and f'ing motorbikes (!!) along the narrow walkways inside the souk!  talk about exhilarating!!  i'm already planning my trip for next year!!  ok, back to the pictures. tea at the wonderful rug shop (just beyond the open square, just past the cafe, nomad, through the alley, with the chickens and unpleasant stench), typical leather shop (and fabulous blue door!), shadows on the floor of the souk (as i was running in flip flops, trailing mohamad!), some of the insanely gorgeous primitive ceramics.  they are so beautiful.  i seriously had tears in my eyes to think that real people made these works of art, in a desert!!!  the shot of the metal smiths shop cracks me up because there's all this traditional stuff (design and wardrobe) and then the bright yellow baseball cap!!  the last shot kinda sums it all up for me.  morocco is overwhelming in the sights, smells, textures, hospitality, magic, and then on top of all that, there's a woman in a hot pink dress that out shines everything else!!  thank you morocco for feeding my soul!  it was a beautifully, magical trip!

i accidentally (subconsciously?) spent an extra night in marrakech.  i booked my last night's stay in a 4-star hotel after determining which hotel had the "best" cooking class!  it was just me in the class.  the hotel's manager, pierre, from bordeaux, france, conducted the class and lead me on a tour of the jewish quarter, market, and spice market.  he also translated in the kitchen while i had my lesson with the hotel's "dada" (the chef, who was trained to cook at age 5 and sold, once she was a little older, to support the family!  she will never marry, wasn't educated, and will just cook for the rest of her life).  i was assured the hotel treats her (and her sister, who they also purchased) quite well.  i was assured this after an apparent look of horror appeared on my face as pierre was educating me!  both of my kids enjoy lemons, so i had to take a shot of the preserved lemons in the market!  pierre lead me through the jewish quarter (where less and less jews actually live anymore, thanks to the french pitting the muslims against the jews many years ago) and took me into one of the public bread baking establishments.  that's the wooden door.  most households cannot afford an oven (that's right!) so there are public ovens where the community can bring their dough to be baked.  socializing also happens.  i wasn't allowed to take any pictures in the oven room, because, apparently, moroccans don't understand our infatuation with poverty and don't want anyone taking pictures.  go figure!  the concept of providing such a basic necessity, such as bread, for one's community is beautiful ( and yes, there were tears).  i'm not a big olive fan, but when you are surrounded by olive groves, you develop an appreciation!!  these were some reeeeealy good olives!!  the pigeons are what's for dinner!  nyc and venice should look into this!!  

i actually did not make pigeon for dinner ;)  i made 4 small salads.  an eggplant (which pierre kept referring to as "aubergine" - which sounds decidedly more tasty with a french accent!), a zucchini, a pepper, and a tomato jam (which was so yummy it could have been my entire meal).  i also made a lamb tagine and real couscous.  that's me above "fluffing" the couscous and burning my hands in the process.  pierre thought my pain and suffering was amusing (don't be fooled by the smiling, it was right off the stove and $#*#&#$ hot!!!).  i think it was his way of punishing me for admitting to making couscous from a box!  before i started my lesson, my hands were washed (by someone else) with water from that beautiful metal container (during seders, jews wash each others hands, and i couldn't help but wonder if that was a jewish practice adopted by the muslims here or if it's just yet another common thread).  there's an action shot of me preparing to prepare the carrot ;)  i was relieved and impressed that i did not cut myself! and there were plenty of instruments to cut myself with and plenty of maneuvers that seemed to be begging to cause injury.  i am so grateful i had this opportunity.  cooking at home is usually focused on necessity, but this meal was infused with humor (blame it on the rose i was sipping, but there was a lot of laughing, and not just over my preparation techniques!), tradition, the honor and supreme coolness of cooking in someone else's kitchen on the other side of the globe, and appreciation for my life which is rich with experiences like this one.

after my retreat was done, i stayed an extra night closer to the medina, in a lovingly restored hotel, dar les cigognes.  i'm a huge fan of staying in boutique hotels and this one was sensational.  it's right across the street from the royal palace and was the riad (arab home) of a wealthy merchant.  the unassuming entrance door is on a street that's a cross between an alley and a moped training track; dirty, busy, and a little smelly.  when the driver dropped me off i thought, oh dear, this isn't looking good!  then i walked through the doors (which are only marked with the address number!) and into moroccan heaven...the center atrium lobby was truly divine.  you might think all that plaster and tile would feel very hard, but there's such an elegant warmth to it, i wanted to touch every surface and never leave.  the top shots are in the lobby.  gorgeous iron work on the stairs and seemingly every possible tile pattern in one place, just outside my room's door.  that's the plaster vanity and tub in my bathroom.  the blue on the floor is tile!!  i really couldn't get enough of this bathroom.  it was simply perfect.

going through all these pictures has given me an overwhelming case of wanderlust!!!  i wanna go back now!!!!  booking flight...