vamosavalencia

Living life in Valencia, Spain.

Arabian Nights June 24, 2013

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This post is a bit delayed…..as we have been super busy around here with Jesus’s birthday and other important future projects….to be shared soon ūüôā ¬†Anyways, you only turn 36 once, right? ¬†Clearly we had to celebrate in style.

We kicked off the celebration a week before the big day with a quick trip to our mysterious southern neighbor, Lady Africa.  I had never been there before and was so excited to experience something different.  And let me tell you, it was different.

Rose Garden

Rose Garden

We spent two days and two nights in Marrakech, Morocco.  This is a place that I could describe as magical, mystical, and best of all, mysterious.

The International Man of Mystery

The International Man of Mystery

I don’t know how to explain the energy going on in the main plaza, Jemaa El Fna. ¬†This main square is the busiest in all of Africa, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. ¬†It’s behind the main mosque, in the middle of the Medina, which is the old town full of windy streets, colors, markets, ¬†and mystery. ¬†Adding to it’s charm is a red sandstone wall built around the entire Medina, where many of the building are also red, lending the name “The Red City.”

The Red City

The Red City

By day, there are various merchants selling freshly squeezed juice, dried fruits and delicious snacks. It’s always bustling, full of locals and tourists alike, buying, selling, and wandering. ¬†When the sun sets, the mood changes, and you can find everything from snake charmers, henna tattoo artists, tribal drumming, Arabian story tellers, and every kind of food stand you could imagine. ¬†The food. ¬†Oh my goodness, the food. ¬†We ate amazing things: a few of my favorites included a crepe like thing called “msemmem” which we tried both with honey and butter and with cheese, and a lentil/chickpea soup. ¬†They drink everything down with Mint Tea, which is delicious, refreshing and just sweet enough. I liked it more than I thought I would. ¬†We also had lots of couscous, lamb tangines (cooked in a big clay pot), veggies, meats, ¬†and sandwiches. I loved the soup so much I went back for it the second night. ¬†Also, everything is incredibly cheap. ¬†I think we spent about 5 euros total on dinner each night.

Plaza by Morning

Plaza by Morning

Dried Fruits Please

Dried Fruits Please

Morrocan Crepes and Tea for breakfast

Morrocan Crepes and Tea for breakfast

The Plaza by Night

The Plaza by Night

YUM

Veggie Couscous and Chicken Tangine

The best soup ever.

The best soup ever.

There is also something to be said for the actual sunset on this Plaza.  At the advice of previous visitors, we grabbed a rooftop table and a couple of Fantas (remember, no alcohol sold in this Muslim nation), and watched the sun go down on The Red City.  From above, you can look down at Jemaa el Fna, the city center of trade, commerce, and everything else, and you can practically see the vibration of energy.  People passing through, buying and selling, cooking, motorcycles zipping along between donkeys, bikes, and the occasional car.  Enchanting music, food stands setting up.  Women in bright colors, kids running along, men with beards and caps.  You can watch the sun slowly lower into a red ball and disappear behind the mountains in the distance while the lights of the city come on one at a time.  This is definitely a special memory, a moment in time that I will never forget.

Getting Ready for the Sunset

Getting Ready for the Sunset

The Sun goes down

The Sun goes down

Magical Marrakech

Magical Marrakech

The market is called the Souk, and it is another enchanting spot. ¬†It can get exhausting, because you have to barter for everything, but the happy market sellers love it. ¬†Our taxi driver even told us that for Moroccans, it’s an insult if you don’t try to barter a bit as this is an important part of the culture. ¬†Jesus was clearly better at that part. ¬†I was better at admiring the beautiful rugs, leather jewelry, scarves, pottery, and of course the “Hand of Fatima” (the daughter of the prophet Mohammed). This is a symbol that predates Christianity and Islam and is sign of protection, bringing blessings, power, and strength. ¬†I definitely bought a few of those, because lets be real, we all need some blessings, power, and strength in our lives.

Souk

Souk

Olives

Olives

Markets

Markets

Although the Plaza, the sunset, the nearby markets, and the food there were our favorite spots to spend time in Marrakech, we also checked out the beautiful Majorelle Gardens. This is a 12 acre botanical garden designed by a the French Artist Majorelle when Morocco was a part of France.  It was calm and relaxing to wander around in the shaded gardens and brightly painted buildings.

Gardens

Gardens

Burst of Color

Burst of Color

The culture is markedly different, as you can imagine. ¬†It really left me thinking, more than any other trip that I can remember, about culture, and differences and similarities you can find around the world. ¬†Marrakech is considered a progressive city in Morocco, but one thing that cannot go unnoticed is that almost all women wear covers over their heads, and some wear a full Burka. ¬†I don’t know exactly how to properly express what I think about that except that it left me feeling uncomfortable and extremely curious at the same time. ¬†It is impossible to understand the inside workings of another culture or belief, but as a woman, I think I noticed it, and¬†felt¬†it, the whole time I was there. ¬†Because of that feeling, I had to mention it here, but not as a judgement, only as a sensation that I imagine is felt by many Western visitors. ¬†Perhaps a Moroccan woman visiting Valencia, Spain might feel something similar due to the lack of those very head covers. ¬†It was extremely interesting experience nonetheless.

One last cup of tea

One last cup of tea

Overall, fun was had by all, and it was a weekend we’ll remember forever. ¬†I can hardly wait to explore more places around the world with my one and only, 36 year old, International Man of Mystery. ¬†//-_

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From MADison to MADrid! April 23, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — vamosavalencia @ 8:04 pm
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This weekend, two old friends reunited on the other side of the world in a different Mad-city than the one where they first met over 12 (gulp) years ago. HOW do we do it?

Here we are, in all of our off-centered glory!

Here we are, in all of our off-centered glory!

Jesus, Janette, and I spent the weekend hoofing it all over Madrid, with our amazing hosts, Giovanni, Sandra, Alfonso and Mario. We saw all the important monuments: El Puerto de Alcala, El Palacio Real y sus jardines, La Plaza Mayor, La Puerta del Sol, El Museo del Prado…. Alfonso was able to fill us in on so much history; we all agreed he could be a tourist guide. Great fun was had with incorrect translations leading to incorrect historical references.

Madrid Walking Tour

Madrid Walking Tour

Perhaps of even greater interest to all involved was our gastronomical tour of Madrid, starting at the Mercado de San Miguel. Alfonso took me there on my first trip to Madrid a few years ago, and it NEVER FAILS. We realized we needed to immediately stuff Janette full of delicious Jamon and Spanish Cheeses, washed down with incredible wine from the Rioja, so we did just that. I didn’t get any other pictures there, but this one says a lot about a special place:

"Madrid Hugs Boston," what we saw walking into the Market.

“Madrid Hugs Boston,”
what we saw walking into the Market.

We continued on with various other stops throughout the day for cerveza, cafe, vino, and tapas. A few other highlights of course included our delicious dinner and a sunny stroll in Parque Retiro the next day. All in all, a special weekend to remember for these “mad” friends, new and old.