Saturday, March 23, 2013

Marrakech Sunset

I just wanted to post these photos I took in Marrakech a few weeks ago. 

As the sun began to set, the sky became this most incredible colour. Although I know this looks a little like a fake background on a movie set, this truly was the colour, albeit momentarily. Amazing colour in nature is one of my favourite things and these photos captured the beauty of this dusk sky perfectly. I am not sure if it is the dust that blows in from the Sahara desert, or the physical position of Marrakech, but the light there is superb and I witnessed sun sets like this one on several nights during our 10day visit. 

6 Nations Rugby - Italy vs Ireland

So Italy is not known as a huge rugby nation, but no one told them that! 

Last Saturday we went to Rome for the day to watch Italy play Ireland in the 6 nations test and ....Italy won!! The crowd was huge and the 70,000 seat Foro Italico stadium in Rome was virtually completely full. With a good influx of Irish fans and plenty barracking for Italy, the contest was a good one, in fact Italy had the main play for the majority of the game though at times it looked like the Irish might just take over. With St Patricks day the following day the Irish probably had an excuse to drown their sorrows when the final hooter sounded.

The end score was a healthy Italy 22, Ireland 15 and the Italians went wild - thanks Ermenegilda for a great Christmas present for Lorenzo & I, it was a wonderfully atmospheric event to attend.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Lisbon..... I have to admit, has never really on my agenda of "must see places"......... and yet after a few days visiting I am delighted to say I think it is possibly the jewel in "undiscovered" Europe. Now I realise saying this is incorrect as many have discovered it long before me, but no one told me I HAD to visit, and yet it is absolutely gorgeous! If you love history...... this place has it in spades with its incredible courageous voyagers, Vasco De Gama, Dias & Magellan who sailed across the globe in search of new lands (year 5 social studies lessons would never have been the same with out them!)... if you love architecture, this place has it in spades with spectacular buildings and a unique sense of style with exterior painted tiles covering many of the old buildings around  the city (simultaneously practical and beautiful) and if you love food & wine, this place has that too with a long history of making spectacular port wines plus delicious Portuguese custard tarts - and all of that is only the start. 

On our 4 day visit to finalise events for a conference we are running in Portugal next year, we walked with a private guide to discover the incredible depth of history, went to a dinner where we listened to several fabulous Fado performers (the soulful music of this country) plus found ourselves in the midst of a huge protest against austerity measures which the newspapers reported was about half a million people. In most other countries where as a foreigner you happen upon half a million angry people, you may be concerned, but this was a calm protest that made one truly feel for the people of this country. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

La Mamounia & being a 'scarfaholic'

I think I am becoming a 'scarfaholic' - do you think there is a word? One of my favourite areas of fashion has always been accessories as I adore the creativity accessories allow, plus I particularly love how they can elevate the ordinary to extraordinary. With regular travel, and sometimes being limited to only a few outfits for several weeks, accessories stop me being bored with my fashion choices. Purchasing a scarf when you travel is usually inexpensive, light weight and if you scour local markets like I love, then you can discover handcrafted versions that express individuality and become a gorgeous travel memory. However, my mantra is they must have a sense of fun and make me smile. So today I was in Zara (not a local market but hey I was passing it!), and bought this fabulously soft animal print scarf that  my very beautiful friend Sophia bought and is wearing in this photo below - I don't have her exuberant youth or award winning smile, but am still delighted with my scarf purchase! On the day I took this photo last week, we all had the most fabulous few hours chatting over several (too many) wines in the spectacular garden of the La Mamounia Hotel in Marrakech - our excuse for the extended wine time is we were waiting for La Mamounia guests Bill & Hillary Clinton to join us in the garden for a drink - or perhaps Jude Law who was also staying there - clearly all missed our invitation (their loss), but despite their non appearance we had one of life's incredibly memorable days!! Thanks to Sharon, Bibi, Dianne & Sophia for the extended laughs - one for life's memory bank! 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tagine Cooking Class at Maison Arabe

As one the of the social activities on our recent conference in Marrakech, we organised a tagine cooking class at Maison Arabe. The cooking school in this riad receives exceptional reviews on web sites across the world and it is totally deserving of such. The design of the physical space one cooks in is well organised and the women who run the school are very professional with just the right amount of humour to ensure the lesson is alot of fun plus highly informative. I enjoy cooking and am reasonably adventurous in my choices, but had never previously cooked a tagine as I thought they seemed tricky. However our class showed they are easy as long as one has access to fresh spices and good ingredients. We also visited the local bakery where we watched a skilful baker baking the breads  brought in by local women - it is traditional that each suburb in any Moroccan city has its own wood fired oven where the woman of the house sends her homemade bread to be baked. We learnt the technique to making a perfect glass of Moroccan mint tea and at the conclusion of the class we enjoyed the fruits of our labor by lunching on the tagine and Moroccan salads together with some very nice Moroccan wines. We laughed heaps, ate well and all in all it was an excellent way to acquire some new kitchen skills in the company of friends.

The entry to the local bakery is non descript to a foreigner but a vital part of the community life 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Trip to the Sahara Desert, Morocco

For the past 2 days we have been on a trip with Arib Voyages to the Sahara desert, 455kms south of Marrakech and only 20km from the Algerian border. The drive is long, 7+hrs, but the scenery along the way is very beautiful as we passed through the Tizi n'Tichka pass in the high Atlas mountains (2260mtr altitude) then the middle Atlas mountains. Following this we drove through the lush palm grove in the Draa valley before eventually reaching the sandy dunes of the desert of the Sahara. Along the way we passed many villages that looked seemingly unchanged for centuries, blending into the surrounding with their houses made from the locally available rammed earth. Our wonderful guide Aziz was born to a nomadic family who roamed the Sahara with a camel train. He told us his parents insisted that he and his siblings be educated, so from an early age they lived in the village of Mhamid near the Algerian border where they attended school, followed by university in Marrakech. Aziz is currently studying for his Masters degree in Tourism and culture and was very knowledgeable on the areas we visited and the local customs. Our accommodation in our nomadic Saharan campsite was in bivouacs, individual tents covered with blankets and rugs   which were both practical and authentic. The site also included a communal dining tent where in the evening we were entertained by 2 local men who played some wonderful Berber music. Of course no trip to the Sahara would be complete without watching the spectacular sunset over the dunes then a full moon rise like a 2nd sun, over the uncluttered horizon. Sunrise created the most beautiful light and a camel ride completed the Saharan experience. The trip was an event we shall remember forever and it gave us a greater insight into the people and history of this beautiful country.