Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Magical Marrakech - Part 6

Oh dear.  Well, I am afraid that today (Tuesday) wasn't very magical for Bronx Girl, who has been sick as a dog most of last night and all of today, poor thing.  She had to stay here at the riad, and as I know (single girl that I am) only too well how miserable it is to be sick and have no one look after you, I stayed here too.  But by about 6pm, she felt well enough for us to venture out for some air, so we went to Kosybar, which has the nicest roof terrace I have yet seen in Marrakech (although the real appeal in this case is that it's located only two minutes walk from our riad).  We had a couple of soft drinks and enjoyed being outside, but alas, she had a relapse and we had to scurry back home.  But on the bright side, at least we saw a new view of the Marrakech storks:
Yes, that's a sculpture of a stork in the foreground. These birds are EVERYWHERE!
And I fell madly in love with the cutest kitty in the world, who lives at Kosybar.  I mean, really.  Miss K's frozen black heart completely melted in the face of this awesomeness and I was seriously thisclose to trying to figure out how to bring a cat back to Paris with me, but alas, my common sense took hold.  Ah well.  Sorry, kitty - but we'll always have Marrakech...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Magical Marrakech - Part 5

Well, I have to admit that yesterday wasn't my best day here in Marrakech - I woke up feeling horribly ill and still had to drag myself out on a pre-booked daytrip to the High Atlas.  Which would have been fine - I dosed myself up with medication and felt better, but I nearly fainted from the heat and number of people at a village market, managed to ram a steel wire under my fingernail while crossing a rope bridge, and had to climb a mountain barefoot over sharp stones because it was almost completely vertical and I didn't have the right shoes (we had been somewhat misinformed about the difficulty of the trail).  Admittedly, the mountains were beautiful and I am glad we went, but sometimes the travel gods do test you...

One tiny corner of the village market, which was immense
The rope bridge of OUCH!
Look closely - see all those tiny specks? Yeah, those are people climbing up the mountain and yes, it's as high and steep as it looks
Having said that, there were highlights to the day.  We stopped in to visit with a Berber family on the way to the mountain and I learned that mint tea with sugar, and bread dipped in honey and olive oil (yes, both at the same time) are a) delicious and b) a fantastic way to settle an upset stomach. Who knew?  And the mountains themselves are magnificent and well worth seeing.  But do you know what else is also magnificent and well worth seeing?  La Mamounia back in Marrakech, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful hotels in the world, particularly now, after a brilliant renovation.  I have been booze-free the whole time I have been here in Morocco (my liver needed some loving after the boozapalooza that I have been indulging in for the past few weeks in Paris), but if ever anyone needed a cocktail?  It was me, yesterday.   

Bronx Girl and I got back to the city at about 6pm, took some time to relax and then went out to dinner at Comptoir, one of the hot spots of Marrakech.  Although I have to say, I completely fail to see why.  The food was okay (I never realized that chicken and icing sugar would be a good combination. Again, who knew?) but the entertainment was dismal (other than the middle-aged bellydancer - who may or may not have been a man, I'm still not sure - with the big ol' plate of candles on her/his head, that was a highlight) and the service practically nonexistent.  We had to ask three times for our bill and I am pretty sure we could have just strolled out without paying - we didn't, because we are good girls, but the temptation was extremely strong.  So after such a day, we took ourselves over to La Mamounia, where, as long as you are well-dressed enough to enter (which we were) and you have enough money (which we didn't, but the nice people at Amex always come through), you can sit in the bar and have a wonderful cocktail and relax in the cool, serene room and enjoy proper customer service, where it is all about you and nothing is too much trouble.  Ahhhhh.... bliss.

High Atlas
high camp

Monday, July 26, 2010

Magical Marrakech - Part 4

On Sunday, Bronx Girl and I decided we needed a break from the heat and general madness of Marrakech, so we headed for Essaouira, a laid-back little city on the coast.  In lieu of me yapping about it, how about we just have some photos?

On the way there we encountered a horse festival - very cool
Spectacular seafood in Essaouira - this is Bronx Girl's lunch
Strolling along the ramparts
Handicraft vendors
An awesome railing for a seafood restaurant
Wandering the back streets - just us and lots of cats
The seafood stalls by the harbour, where you can eat the freshest fish imaginable.  Char-grilled sardines -mmmm
Always something amazing to see in the back streets
Place Moulay Hassan
Busy day at the beach
A perfect Moroccan moon

Magical Marrakech - Part 3

Saturday's activities are pretty easy to sum up: we spent the day at the souks.  It was the hottest day here yet (45C) and we absolutely boiled all day, but will a little (okay, a lot) of heat keep two girls from their shopping?  I think not:

We also accidentally stumbled upon the Medersa Ben Youssef, previously a religious school, and one of the most stunning buildings in Marrakech:

And after such a busy day, we deserved a nice dinner at a lovely spot - took a taxi (an adventure all by itself, trust me) to the New City and had the most amazing grilled brochettes at Rotisserie de la Paix, which I also highly recommend - not just for the food, but for the gorgeous garden:

And today was a trip to Essaouira, on the coast, but I am far too exhausted to write about it now - tune in tomorrow, though...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Magical Marrakech - Part 2

Well, Bronx Girl and I have been having quite the busy time here.  Yesterday we started off at the Saadian tombs, which were only revealed to the outside world in the 1920's - it's not a big place, but it's very beautiful and well worth seeing:

Then we moseyed along to the Centre Artisanal, which sells Moroccan handicrafts but is run by the government, so the prices are fixed, therefore no haggling.  Wellll, in theory.  I was looking at a ring which cost 1300 dh, but through passive haggling (ie - I couldn't decide if I wanted it or not so I truly was just dithering about it), he gradually took down the price to 700 dh.  And I still didn't buy it - but that's okay, as Bronx Girl made some purchases there anyway.  I will also never complain again about my job after seeing the amount of work this lady was putting into hand-knotting this carpet:
After that, it was off to an apothecary shop as I wanted to get some argan cream.  Apparently argan oil is the greatest thing on earth - it slices! it dices! it vacuums the floors! (or, you know, it's just really good for your skin).  Anyway, a fascinating shop full of fascinating things:

After that, we attempted to get some lunch but it was so freakin' hot, the only thing we could face was ice cream.  Yes, ice cream for lunch - my inner five-year-old was delighted.  And, like a five-year-old, after that it was naptime.  We skulked back to the riad and the comfort of our air-conditioned room to snooze the afternoon away.

But it was a smart move -  after that we were refreshed enough to enjoy a horse-drawn caleche ride around the city at sunset, followed by dinner at Le Marrakchi, which I would highly recommend.  It's not the cheapest, but the food is delicious and the decor is lovely (and it's air-conditioned, which is no small thing in this climate):

And that was it for yesterday - I suppose I could go on and tell you about today's activities, but yet again, the day's not over, so I'd better wait and do that later (or tomorrow).

Friday, July 23, 2010

Magical Marrakech

So here we are in Marrakech, and thus far it is living up to all my expectations.  Fabulous room at the riad? Check.
An unexpected bonus piece of luck (our riad being located directly behind the ruin of the Badii palace, thereby giving us the best view in town of the storks - a holy bird in Marrakech - nesting there)?  Check.
A nighttime visit to the crazy Jemaa El Fna (the main square)?  Check. 
Seeing things there like the local delicacy (if you're squeamish, skip this photo - those are sheep's heads and the little round things are braaaains - ugh!)? Check.
Skipping that in favour of a delicious lamb, prune and almond tagine?  Check.
Seeing random but amazing things on the wander home?  Check.
And all of that was yesterday on our very first night.  Today has also been interesting, but as it's not over yet, I think I'll wait until later and do another post about today - you never know what we might see and do before the day ends here...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Luck of the Irish - Part 2

Remember my original Luck of the Irish post? (Luck of the Irish)  Well, I can only assume that I stole all the luck from that poor Irishman, because here's my latest lucky break.  My friend Bronx Girl and her boyfriend were due to go to Marrakech for a week so that he could renew his French visa outside of Europe, but he got called away to Los Angeles for work instead.  So Bronx Girl asked if I'd like to come and stay at the hotel in Marrakech with her for free.  Ummmm, let me think about that for a sec.... YES!!!!  So all I had to come up with was the flights and spending money for while I am there - none of which I can actually afford, but Miss K has a pretty firm travel philosophy, which goes something like this: if someone offers you a free place to stay in a place you've always wanted to go to, just freakin' GO and worry about paying the nice people at Amex later.  Seriously.  Will I have a couple of months of living on ramen noodles and air in order to pay for this?  Sure, but it will be worth it.

Off to airport now, will report in tomorrow from Marrakech - the heat is going to be 40+C, so I think I can guarantee I will be blogging in the afternoons from the air-conditioned comfort of our riad after morning sightseeing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Careful what you wish for

Back in January, Miss K was having a bit of a rough time here in Paris.  I had no money, it was freezing cold, and worst of all, I pretty much only had one friend here - not really ideal for a social butterfly like me.  So I wished very hard for a social life and more friends.  And these days?  Well, let's put it like this - it's currently the 21st of July and in the twenty-one days of this month I have been to sixteen social events.  Sixteen!!!  I tell you, the next thing I am going to wish very hard for is more money so that I can enjoy this delightful social life in the manner to which I would like to become accustomed.  Stay tuned, and if you know anyone in Paris who would like to hire me (will do pretty much anything as long as it's not illegal), do let me know...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Consider my fire lit

Gentle readers, my apologies for the delay in reply - it was partly caused by attending social events every single day this week and partly by my internet connection being crappy in the rare moments when I was actually home.  But never mind all that - I know you're tuning in to hear about the Firemen's Ball, so without further ado, let's get to it.

First of all, this event is hugely popular, as you might well imagine.  I got there with my friend The Redhead (known in previous posts as Miss M, but I am running out of initials for people so it's time for me to come up with proper nicknames instead) at about 10pm, and we had been in line for nearly an hour by the time I took this photo.  It's a little bit hard to see, but all those people along the right hand side of the street, as far as the eye can see?  That was the line behind us to get in.  And from where we were, there was still another block and a half of line-up ahead of us, but that was fine - it was a beautiful night and we were chatting to the people around us, so it didn't actually seem like that much of a wait.

And once we got in?  Oh. My. God.  First of all, the fire station was enormous - they park the trucks out in the street and I have no idea what they do with all the equipment (as I understand it, every firehouse in Paris has a party that night, so if you have an emergency on the 13th of July, I'm guessing you're pretty much just going to die.  Which is an even better reason to go to the party - if you have a medical emergency you're already with the firemen and paramedics, it's the safest place to be!) Entrance was by donation, so you could just pay whatever you wanted, and I was happy to donate because I am a huge fan of firefighters (and no, it's not just because they often appear in my fantasies, give me some credit) because they do a very difficult but essential job.  They must have raked in an absolute fortune, because they were clever enough to post a particularly hot fireman by the donation box and really, who wants to look like a cheapskate in front of the hot fireman???

So, as I said, the place was enormous and I found out later that we barely saw half of it, but that doesn't surprise me because it was utter chaos - what a party!  This photo is just one of the many dancefloors, this one was outside in a courtyard but you can't really get the scale of it from the photo, unfortunately.  Firemen (in uniform, no less, those boys are no fools) were everywhere - working security, working as bartenders, working as snack vendors, cleaning up, and generally keeping everything running smoothly.  The crowd went a little something like this:  single girls trying to pick up the firemen, straight men trying to pick up the single girls and gay men trying to pick up each other.  A little something for everyone, all in one party - genius! 

My little something came in the form of a tall, sizzling hot Italian named Lorenzo - after we had been dancing for a while, he dumped his glass of champagne down my front so that he could lick it off my neck and cleavage. And that's the kind of party it was - absolute carnage.  Unfortunately, we ended up losing each other in the crowd and when I caught up with The Redhead, she wasn't really in any condition to be left alone.  So I spent the rest of the party looking after her (more fun than it sounds, she's a very happy drunk) and never got a chance to find Lorenzo again, which is a damn shame, but The Redhead has promised to find me another sizzling hot Italian to make it up to me and I believe she'll do it. 

So, if you happen to be in Paris next year on 13 July and you're looking for some awesome fun, go to the Firemen's Ball.  Ladies, let me offer you these helpful tips: bring lots of cash (bars inside are cash only), bring something to drink while you wait in the line, wear flats (you will wait in line for a long time and then you will be walking on cobblestones inside), wear jeans (best thing at such a rowdy party) and wear a top that you don't mind someone spilling champagne on (see above for why!).  And look for me there, because it is definitely on my social calendar for next year already...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Light my fire - no, really, light it

Tonight I am going to a Firemen's Ball - apparently this is a Parisian tradition on the eve of Bastille Day.  It's not really a ball, but the firehouses all host parties on that night and there will be music, dancing and general revelry.  Like I care about that.  The important thing is this: there will be firemen!  What?  Miss K is not made of stone, and I am just as likely to ogle firemen as any other woman is.  But let's not get into my rich and detailed fantasy life - this is not that kind of blog, people!

I live very near the Tuileries, and most mornings, you will find members of the Sapeurs/Pompiers (paramedics/firefighters) who go running there, and may I just say, they all seem to be most delightfully fit.  Not generally a very tall bunch (don't worry, big burly men of the FDNY, you are still Miss K's favourites!), but nonetheless, I would trust any one of them to swoop me up in his manly arms and carry me off.  (Ahem.  I meant carry me off from a burning building, you understand -what did I just say about this not being that kind of blog? Honestly, people!)  In fact, more than once I have been tempted to "sprain" my ankle right in front of them, just to test this theory, but with my lack of coordination I probably really would fall over and break something.

Okay, now I have to go dancing with a bunch of hot firemen (sometimes it's good to be a single girl, it really is...).  I will report back tomorrow and let you know how it was, but really, how could it be bad???

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Things you might see in the sky

Last week, I came out of a shop on the rue de Rivoli when I noticed everyone outside was looking up - this  (and several other groups of equally fantastic planes roaring past above us) was why.  I have no idea what was going on, but it was a pretty damn cool thing to see on a random Tuesday...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The landlady, her ex-husband, their kids and her lover

Okay, so my living situation normally goes like this: my landlady and I live in her (very large, very nice) flat, and most weekends, her teenage son (who is at boarding school) comes and stays in the spare room.  Which is all absolutely fine.  However, when I got back from London, it was me, my landlady, her son AND her daughter (who is now back from university abroad), plus my landlady's ex-husband occasionally dropping in and her boyfriend also wandering by from time to time.  Needless to say, it was a little crowded.

But the son has gone to stay with the ex-husband, so we were back down to normal numbers, except that now the daughter's boyfriend has come to visit from England for a week or two.  But, you know, I just grit my teeth and smile, because I have one thought that sustains me:  in August, they all go away.  And I will have the whole (very large, very nice) flat all to myself for an entire month.  Ahhhh...  Can't wait!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Totally crap outfit of the week

Ahhh, summer - responsible for oh-so-many fashion crimes.  Witness the below - I mean, really.   Those god-awful harem pants are hideous on anyone, but if you're wearing them when you are already shaped like a Weeble, it's downright dangerous -   someone might give you a shove, just to see if it's true that Weebles wobble, but they don't fall down.  (Not that falling down would hurt this lady, seeing as how she appears to be wearing a bucket on her head.)  And the clearly visible black bra is a classy touch, but I think perhaps the tartan shoes are my favourite thing - you're getting  dressed and you think: "Hmmm, bucket on my head, clearly visible black bra, harem pants that make me look like a Weeble - now what shall I put on my feet?  Perhaps a nice simple black ballet flat?  Oh, hells no - the tartan shoes with the ankle strap that make me look like my legs are literally two inches long, that's the way to go!"

Monday, July 5, 2010

Don't drink and write

Ahh, gentle readers, the things I do for you.  Look at the time stamp on yesterday's post - 23:18.  Do you realize what that means?  It means that after a day of drinking that commenced at 13:00, I staggered home in a state of decided non-sobriety, and before passing out into blissful unconsciousness, hauled out my laptop and wrote something just for you.  And not only that, but my spelling was impeccable and my punctuation wasn't too shabby either.  Of course, my grammar didn't exactly shine and the whole post isn't entirely coherent (hee!!!),  but let's not ask for miracles, people...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

We can call it Independence Day or Drink Till You're Stupid Day, whatever you prefer - I know which one applies to me...

Okay, so today is a bit of a cheat, seeing as how I spent it with my American friends celebrating the 4th of July at a picnic in the Bois de Boulogne - a good time if ever there was one!  But really, shouldn't that be a valid part of the expat experience in Paris?  I am going to go with "yes" as my answer to that largely rhetorical question and just tell you that there was good eatin', drinkin' and bein' merry as part of our Independence Day extravaganza.  All hugely enjoyable  - the only thing that could have made it better would have been able to see Independence Day (the movie) as part of the entertainment - a few of us made do with The Blues Brothers (dubbed into French, no less) at a bar, but it still wasn't quite right....

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sunset picnics

The view from last night's picnic on the Solferino bridge.   Yes, yes, I know you hate me - I believe you may have mentioned that once or twice already...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Things you might see on the Metro

Ahhh, Paris.  Where even the graffiti on the Metro is philosophical...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Canada Day

So it's Canada Day - only Canadians actually know (or care) that we have a national holiday, but we do, and here it is.  Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, there doesn't actually seem to be any sort of expat  celebration going on in Paris today.  I will, of course, be going to several 4th of July events with my American friends over the next couple of days, which will be very enjoyable, but it's just not quite the same.

However, today I went to the bank to take out my rent money, and apparently they are having une soirée  this evening for their clients.  Now, I don't particularly care about socializing with the tellers at my bank (unless of course the manager who opened my account for me is there - because he looks like James Franco and that is always a fine thing), but it's only a block away, it's air-conditioned (it's about 33 degrees in Paris right now), I have no other plans tonight, and there will be free champagne and canapés.  And since I figure that I should get something out of the service charge I pay them every month, tomorrow you can look forward to hearing from one verrrrrrry hungover Miss K...  

Happy Canada Day to meeeee!!!