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I’ve read a lot while planning our Morocco trip, and figured we should visit Taroudant known to be “little Marrakech” on our way to Imlil, before we actually visit Marrakech. The heart of Taroudant is a small market, and perhaps, if you want to get some shopping out of your system, after spending some time in Morocco, this place could be a bit cheaper and less intimidating.  So I bought some moroccan glass tea cups, and we enjoyed some m’semen and tea in the market. All in all- a cute little manageable market town.

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M’semen guy in the Medina’s square. Couldn’t have enough of those

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Ahhh.. Sabres in Hebrew, or prickly pear fruits that we miss so much. Juicy, sweet and cheap.

Where did we stay? Again- off the beaten track, a few km away from the medina, at Riad Anma, where Marc, the Belgian owner knows everything about meats. Its located on a quaint road. We had some lovely time just catching our breath chilling in the pool or on the rooftop, while enjoying a tasty breakfasts and a dinner.

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Superb views of the Atlas mountains from Riad Anma’s rooftop

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Riad Anma’s pool

But the big discovery was a true amazing gem located outside of the city, that I wholeheartedly recommend making an effort to visit. Since not too many people visit Taroudant to begin with, and because you need transportation to get there, we had an elevated dumbfounding experience visiting and strolling this unique palace, that was almost, entirely, just ours for the day. It really helps to have your own car and driver.

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On our way to the palace. Views of the Atlas Mountains

Claudio Bravo was a celebrated Chilean painter, noted for his hyper realist still lifes and figurative paintings. Bravo who was born in 1936, traveled and worked around the world, but fell in love with Morocco, and somewhere in the 70s he built a magnificent palace, gardens and all, about 10 km north of Taroudant. Everywhere you walk in the palace says art, every little corner was well thought of and designed. Numerous paths invite you to discover sculptures, an abundance of exotic plants and at least three pools. It’s an oasis amid the red and yellow hues of the desert. Today, the palace is both a museum to Bravo’s life, art and collections, as well as a fancy hotel. I encourage you to take the tour lead by the knowledgeable Bashir Tabchich who was Bravo’s assistant, and to our understanding, inherited Bravo’s palace. After we got a closer look around the art and the beauty of the different rooms and halls, and got to ask many questions – we ended our tour at a patio, located near a lake, and were offered some Moroccan tea, pastries and fruit. The views were marvelous. From here on- I’m letting the photos of Palais Claudio Bravo do the talking.

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*A word of advice: besides the market and Bravo’s palace, we booked a tour to see the palm oasis and kasbah outside the city, an hour drive away. I DID NOT like it one bit. They offer a donkey ride around and some explanations. I felt sorry for the poor looking donkeys, and declined the ride. The scenery is nice, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for this. It definitely felt like a tourist trap. Statistically, it has to happen at one point or another when you travel a lot…

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The Kasbah

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I’m accumulator of photos. I’m interested in patterns, shapes, colors, history, and it’s change throughout time. Maybe that’s why I fixate on doors (and knobs, and windows, and floors/roofs, and…).

I’ll let my photos speak.

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This is my favorite. Which one’s yours?

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Ok, not a door. Still love it.

 

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We arrived in Essaouira at night. No cars are allowed in the medina, so the car stayed behind in the large parking lot, and we walked our way through the big gates of the old city, pulling our trolleys behind us. At this point, it was very helpful to have the cellphone GPS with us, as we navigated through the narrow alleys. Also- check out the map at the end of the post.

Finally- our beautiful Riad, that’s actually part of the old wall that surrounds the Medina. Our beautiful room had the most fabulous view. Through the window, part of the ancient wall, we had an amazing vista of the ocean. Waking up to THAT… Oh mine! Riad Perle d’Eau.  Breakfast was great- served on the rooftop, with (what would be a staple in Morocco for breakfast) M’semen (local crepe), eggs, fruit, and coffee/tea. The Riad owners were very friendly and helpful.

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This is what we saw from our room window, every morning

We stayed in Essaouira 2 nights. The small Medina is easy to navigate and is vibrant and much fun. SInce there’s so much to see, let yourself to be absorbed with this town, and here’s what NOT TO MISS:

Synagogue Slat Lkahal

A somewhat restored synagogue that served the Jewish community in Mogador- old Portuguese name for Essaouira, that was built in 1850. The synagogue was a center for many social and religious aspects of Jewish life, as witnessed by the photos on the walls. Morocco is known for its good Jewish-Muslim relationship and as we travelled we have witnessed respect, love and compassion to the Jewish minority in Morocco. Slat Lkahal is located in the northern end of the Medina, in the heart of the Mellah (the original jewish area), and is just one of other synagogues in Essaouira. Synagogue Slat Lkahal.

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Visit the old port

A mosaic of little fishing boats, fish stalls, ropes, nets, ships, seagulls, fishermen, and Moroccan mamas going out to purchase their fresh fish dinner. The sun is shining on it all, the sounds are taking over, as well as the smell, the wind, and sometimes the light spray of the sea, if you’re standing close to the water. Breath and feel alive. Charming.

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Fresh fish anyone?

Salut Maroc- Riad and restaurant

You absolutely have to visit this place, and especially before sunset. Grab a table on the rooftop, order some light food and mint tea, and get ready for the most stunning sunset. They usually have live music as well. Get there an hour before that, and just tour around the Riad, all the way up to the rooftop, to discover the gems of dazzlingly intricate tilework and splashes of color (stairways, ceilings, floors, walls, tables, heck- even the restroom). I couldn’t stop taking photos. It’s definitely psychedelic. Salut Maroc.

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lobby from above

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Salut Maroc rooftop

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psychedelic corner on the rooftop

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Even the toilet are mind boggling

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Epic sunset

Climb up to see the city line from above

Climb the old Portuguese ramparts, enter hotels and climb up to their rooftops (I recommend the views from Riad Mimouna, Skip the rest of the hotel, go straight to the roof).

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Old cannons, cobbled stone and the ocean

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From the rooftop of Riad Mimouna- 360° views

Wonder the local quarter (both morning and night market)

Lose yourself by strolling around the non touristic areas of Essaouira within the Medina, and out. Observe the bustling life of the locals, buy and eat authentic food at the night market. Try the Harira soup from the vendor, or local moroccan crepes served with honey, nutella, or Amlou (almond spread mixed with honey and argan oil). Go for the spicy olives!

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Local

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Local night market. Of course we filled our bellies with these goodies.

What else do I recommend?

-Chill with tea at African Roots cafe. Great vibes, great music, friendly staff.

-Share a lamb tagine, Moroccan tomato salad, or Pastilla (traditional chicken filo pastry pie). With so many eateries, it’s hard to decide where to eat, and you’d wish you had more time to try them all. I advocate for the ones that look the most humble, and unassuming.

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The son of the owner is watching the tagines. Can’t get more authentic than that.

-Adore the doors and entryways. I’ll have a whole post just for that. I’m obsessive.

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I bumped into my stained glass instructor, of many years ago, Mrs. Rachel Bissette, at a garage sale.  Rachel is a talented stained glass artist, a good, dedicated teacher, and a beautiful human being. Not only has she been a good instructor, with loads of patience, good advice, and humor, but she would also make sure the class have plenty of glass scraps to work with, always an extra soldering iron or anything else that’s needed (and we always needed something), coffee and cookies, and… class trips to glass factories,  which is the equivalent of Disney World for a kid. Not less.

After we had our laughs, and brought up shared memories, I made up my mind to go back to her class next Fall. I got that stained glass itch again…

Meanwhile, here are some of my stained glass creations. Nothing grand, but certainly fun. I gave some as gifts, and did not have the sense to photograph beforehand.

Enjoy.

Bzzzz

Bzzzz

Put on your dancing shoes

Put on your dancing shoes

The very hungry caterpillar

The very hungry caterpillar

Fall Leaf

Fall Leaf

Tiny Fairy

Tiny Fairy

Coffee Jar covered with mosaic

Coffee Jar covered with mosaic

Colored Feathered Bird

A lighted Chanukia, for Chanukah

and… a  lit Chanukia

Mr. Owl

Mr. Owl

Mosaic at my (then) kitchen window

Mosaic at my (then) kitchen window

Sea Scene- given as a gift to my neighbor

Window Sea Scene- given as a gift to my neighbor

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You may recall an earlier post, where I wrote with astonishment about Agata Olek’s art. Well, she did it again. She does not stop. This time we visited the open studios @ the AAI– down at the Lower East Side.

It started off at the corridor, where my kids discovered 2 crocheted figures, standing and offering toasted cheese sandwiches.

crocheted people serving stringed toast

with the artist, Agata Olek

The cheese seemed to be part of the display, being melted into a long, continued piece of (cheese)yarn. Thus, my very own little guy became part of the display by accepting (more like grabbing) that toasted sandwich, curiously gazing at the crocheted people, and munching, only to find out the sandwich is connected by (cheese)yarn to the very next sandwich, and so on. After three (!) such sandwiches, I stepped in to stop it. The reports from the battle field state that the sandwiches were yummy! Also, a passerby dog was caught eating the string (cheese).

dog enjoying the crochet display

We later stepped into Olek’s studio to find more crocheted gems.

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crocheted balloons !

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Our magical journey continued with a musical setting, crocheted of course.

crocheted drummer

Our final surprise came as we left the building. The kids just loved the bicycle. You guessed it. It was crocheted.

crocheted bicycle

For a balanced justice, I must also bring your attention to some other talented artists that I especially liked:

Elaine Carl at her studio

Linda Byrne's recycled plastics

Tutte, oil on linen, from the Self Deceit series by Jennifer Mazza

Check out Linda Griggs interesting use of Walnut Ink she produces herself:

paintings with walnut ink- Linda Griggs

Finally, a little word about the Lower East Side. Walking the streets at that part of town is fun, lots of little stores, cafes and even galleries. A very nice place to have either lunch or dinner, with the kids, was the Noodle Bar at Stanton & Orchard. Decent sized dishes at a decent price. Kids and noodles- you can’t go wrong.

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woodblock printing

Casbah, woodblock, reduction, color

I took a course that involved traditional printing methods with woodblock, and linoleum. The art and craft of printmaking is composed of three main branches: The creative idea or the composition, the planning, and the execution that results in a final print. Thanks to my teacher I was hooked. These are my very first prints, a bit naive perhaps, but I am ready to explore and experiment more and more.

Lior, woodblock b/w

monoprint b/w

monoprint color

Abstract 1, woodblock b/w

Abstract 2, linoleum b/w

city, woodblock b/w

Shteitle, linoleum b/w

tree trunk, wood, b/w

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floating gracefully

floating gracefully

So we had a party coming up. A BIG party. We needed to decorate a large hall. I schlepped around some party stores that sell a tiny decorative item for at least $2. For a larger item, the price blows up like crazy. I wasn’t ready to spend a lot of money, though I must admit that I have bought some decorations. Call it party fear factor.

Making it a family project, we sat around the table and started to prepare some decorations. we had fun and laughs  making them. Whether or not they’re cool, they sure are original. I call it: the jellyfish decor. That’s what they remind me of.

jellifish decor

jellyfish decor

wait, don’t throw: colorful plastic bags, plastic bottle (such as your empty organic apple juice).

to do:

  • Flatten the plastic bag, then cut off the top to remove the handles, and the bottom to remove the closed end. Fold the bag lengthwise several times,  then cut strips (between an inch to 2 inches wide) thus creating plastic rings.

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putting my brother to work into cutting plastic rings. he's good.

  • now that we have many colorful rings, we’ll take our empty, clean and dry plastic bottle and cut it into… aha… more plastic rings. On second thought, it’s more like slicing the bottle, like so:

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plastic slices. Use a utility knife or scissors

  • now, we need to tie the plastic bag rings onto the plastic circle we created. Wrap the ring around the circle and pull out through the ring itself. Nothing like a picture to demonstrate:

wind plastic rings around plastic slice

wind plastic rings around plastic circle

  • cover the whole circle with many colorful, dangling rings, till it looks like- a jellyfish when you play around with it. You then attach a string to two sides of the circle, to be able to hang it high up on the ceiling. Make many jellyfish to brighten up any party.
  • and…we also managed to create yet another cool colorful chain from the plastic bag left-overs- by tying them to one another, and tying balloons on.
balloon chain

balloon chain

did I mention recycle?

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