The old city, or medina, of any Moroccan city is surrounded by walls. You can access the medina through one of various gates or "babs". It was about three days before I understood what our guide Najib was saying. He kept talking about "Bob" which I finally realized was gate. The top two photographs were taken in Fes of the same gate which is a different color depending on whether one is entering (top) the medina, or exiting (number 2). Blue coming in, green going out. Number three is in Meknes, and the bottom gate is in the beautiful coastal city of Essaouira down by the fishing port.
Friday, August 29, 2014
Every time I go to Paris, I always make a pilgrimage to the Places des Vosges in the Marais district. Considered by visitors and Parisians alike to be one of the most beautiful squares in the world, it is equally stunning in summer, winter, spring or fall. I am certainly drawn to its symmetry, with 36 houses, nine on each side sitting over covered arcades. This square is over 400 years old and has been home to both Victor Hugo and Cardinal Richelieu. This trip, I spent over an hour walking around, taking photographs, and sitting doing nothing but watching Parisians enjoy the beauty of the square.
Sunday, August 24, 2014
There is something so distinctly different about waiters in France, a country where the job is respected much more so than in the United States. There, for many people, it's a career choice, not a last option. A common stereotype of Paris is that you will inevitably encounter a snooty waiter who acts like he's doing you a favor by even bring you a menu. I have experienced aloofness but never outright snootiness. Being polite and knowing a few words of French always helps.The top and bottom photographs were taken this summer. The middle one in the summer of 2003.
My first walls and doors post from the trip to Morocco! Compared to Cuba, for instance, the number of walls and doors photographs I took was way down. Still, there were a few places that caught my eye. These are all about color and geometry. The middle shot has a cat in it, so I suppose there's some content, but mostly I was attracted to the color and texture of the door and walls. The cat appeared "randomly."
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Everyone I have talked to about our trip to Morocco has asked me the same question: What did you eat? When I said that the food was uniformly outstanding, there was often a response like, "Oh, really?" I was asked the same question about our trips to Turkey, Cuba, Southeast Asia, and other places my friends sometimes can't believe we would ever want to go to. No one asks about Italy or France or Spain. I suppose it's somewhat understandable, but all cultures have sophisticated cuisines, and most would please the American palate. We ate lots of vegetables, with the Moroccan salad a menu item everywhere and truly delicious. Kebabs, fresh fish, rice, lentils, beans, tomatoes, lamb, and fries just as good as at Macdonalds were some other ingredients and dishes we enjoyed. Mint tea is ubiquitous, always served to us when we checked in at a Riad or hotel, and always on the menu. A specialty in Marrakech, for example, was freshly squeezed orange juice. Moroccans love orange juice. All photos taken with the SonyRX 100 III, my go-to restaurant camera.
At the end of our trip to Morocco and Paris, we flew home via Washington D.C., a city I had never visited before, much to the consternation of my colleagues at school. They were shocked that I had been to so many places yet neglected to include our nation's capitol on our yearly summer excursions. I had an entire day to kill before my flight home to San Francisco, so I enlisted the help of Rachel Marrion, the daughter of Sue and Nigel, who lives there. She picked me up at my hotel, drove us into the city where we explored the Mall for about six hours, and then drove me back. Above and beyond the call of duty, but that's the Marrions! Rachel is at the bottom when we stopped for lunch at the end of the afternoon. Above Rachel is a photograph in the Air and Space Museum of the astronauts sent up to fix the Hubble Space Station. One of the astronauts is Megan McArthur, a graduate of Saint Francis High School whom we are very proud of. Now I just need to get back to D.C. for a proper visit. Thanks again, Rachel!
Friday, August 15, 2014
Reno bills itself as the Biggest Little City in the World. I'm not at all sure why but there you have it. The downtown area is really sad unless you like to gamble, and even then it's not much to write home about. I did enjoy our ride back to the hotel after leaving my sister's house. There was a downpour and I took a series of photographs out the car window, sometimes focusing on the wet window. I will say this about the Eldorado Hotel; there are some good restaurants there!
Last weekend, my wife and I made a two day trip to Reno for a bittersweet reunion with all my brothers, sisters, assorted cousins, nieces and nephews, my son and daughter-in-law, and friends of my sister who were there to celebrate the terribly short life of my nephew, Brad. We all did the best we could to support my sister and her ex-husband in this tragic time. Along the way, I managed to take dozens of family photographs and even a few sky shots. The storm approaching Reno on Saturday made for some dramatic clouds and rainbows. Photos taken with the Sony RX 100 III.
Monday, August 4, 2014
Our final riad was in our final stop in Marrakech. We were almost the only people in the place except for a French family of three persons. It's called Demeures d'Orient and, like both the other riads, almost impossible to find if you didn't know exactly where to look. Signage outside any riad is almost non-existent. This one our guide Najib drove up to, but both in Fes and Essaouira there was some walking to do to get there. The rooms were beautiful. Dudley, by this point, was almost over the embarrassment of staying in a nice place instead of a half-star youth hostel, even though he isn't a youth anymore. The bottom photo shows Margaret and Dudley enjoying their breakfast by the pool. The pool was most welcome as Marrakech was warm and we walked five or six hours a day.
Our second riad was in Essaouira, a beautiful city on the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest part of Morocco. This was the Riad Mimouna, hidden hanging over the water at the far western end of the medina. Photo number two shows the view from our window. Number three is the riad taken from a tower in another part of the medina, and the bottom shot is the lobby where we spent some time on our ipads because wifi wasn't available in the rooms. The sound of the surf hitting the rocks below our room was something I hadn't heard in years, and was very enjoyable. Essaouira turned out to be my favorite place in Morocco. Great restaurants and walkable with the souks about three minutes away.
The top two photographs are of the Riad we stayed in in Fes. To make the number of photos odd, I've included the hotel in Ouarzazate at bottom. The literal translation of "riad" is "garden." But it has come to mean any old house that has a patio or courtyard. These houses are found in the medinas, typical Arab towns enclosed by ramparts. Riads offer a much more personal experience, as the owners are almost always on the property, ready to help with any problem. I can't remember the name of the riad in Fes. We were the only people staying there and it was eerily quiet. The small pool is visible in the middle photo, just through the door. This riad had a covered courtyard where we had breakfast. Dinner was available but expensive and limited, so we ate in the medina, where Dudley and I both got food poisoning. Not fun when you're traveling. In all three of the riads we stayed, the rooms were huge and luxurious, great places to get back to after the heat and chaos of the medina and the souks.