Monday, July 12, 2010

La Majorelle.

Palm tree takes a nap.

Sitting here in my house in the desert, fan aimed directly on me at all times (when I'm not taking a cold shower, that is), doing anything to avoid going out in the 110-degree heat, I fantasize about my visit last week to La Majorelle in Marrakech.

The Majorelle garden is a lush oasis of dank dark earth and green growing things, nirvana for a gardener far from her garden. I nearly burst into tears as soon as I entered and inhaled the scent of growth. There's a substantial cactus garden, a variety of blooming exotics (early July must have been the best possible time to visit), ornate fountains and tiles, cascading succulents and spikes, pots and trellises painted in vivid blues, oranges and yellows.

I could live here. Right alongside Yves St. Laurent's ashes.

Yellows and greens and reds, dozens of cactus varieties.

Bamboo, inscribed.

Me in all my hchuma touristy glory.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fes ... and the Fourth.

Sunflower on a rooftop near Bab Boujeloud in Fes.

After traveling north to Rabat for our latest meetings of the Gender and Development Committee (best session yet, btw, lots of new members with great energy and drive), I decided to take some vacation time to visit Fes. Seemed a shame to live two years in Morocco and never have seen one of its most famous cities.

Now I've seen it, kind of. I had a few wonderfully relaxing days in the medina, catching up with volunteers I haven't seen in ages. Got to eat some wonderful food at a very cool cafe run by an American expat. Splurged on a hotel room with my own bathroom, wifi and this crazy invention called air conditioning.

Cool cafe.

What I didn't do is see much of Fes. Faye and I spent most of a day wandering around trying to see several spots on my list. A garden that looked amazing from outside the tall iron gates but is apparently closed to the public. An expensive taxi ride to see the potters/ceramics quarter that just didn't quite work out. A plan C to go walk around in the "ville nouvelle," where a freak but fierce rainstorm broke out just as we arrived.

That all makes it sound like my trip to Fes was a bust. It wasn't. Really, there's nothing I like more than meandering down the narrow, winding lanes of the local souk until I'm tired and sweaty, then sitting down with a coffee or soda in a quiet cafe, with either a book or friends. I got all of that, several days' worth. To me, the perfect vacation.


Row of red chairs.

Medina alley.

Being as I was in the neighborhood, I was invited to a Fourth of July party at the home of a nearby volunteer. His site is where I had part of my training nearly two years ago now, a little mountain town that has the feel of a village in the French Alps, with its slanted, green-tiled rooftops and dense covering of coniferous forest. I likely wouldn't even have noted the passing of the Fourth, but this was the best independence celebration I've had in a long time. Barbecue, brownies, beer and (water) balloons. Great guacamole. A viewing of "Independence Day," reassuring me that very bad movies don't necessarily have to involve Bruce Willis. Most of all, a wonderfully relaxing day with perfect weather and a group of laid-back, funny, smart volunteers.

Don't we look all-American?

Alternative to fireworks.