Thursday, August 7, 2014

"Edinburgh is a mad god's dream…" Hugh MacDiarmid

As usual…
it takes an eager visitor to shake up our normal routine while in Edinburgh,
where for the next month,
 nothing will be normal. 
 Fringe Festival has taken over the city and is currently diverting the attention of all. 
Events are scheduled all over town 
in small and large venues,
providing a great opportunity to see the city
 while theatre, music, comedy and more literally ooze from every street corner.

For example,
while in town most recently,
we finally made it to the Royal Botanic Garden
where our attempt to break the Guinness World Record for a group tree hugging 
is still awaiting official confirmation.
I was accused of finding the most unlovable trees of all to show our affection.
In August, as a venue, you can enjoy Fringe and the gardens all in one swoop.
See what I mean?

Having walked past St. Giles Cathedral many times,
its location on the Royal Mile, 
 is front and center for street performers 
and small snippets of fun to entice you over to the full events around town.
St. Giles offers an oasis worthy of a few moments of reflection, 
but is also a venue for Fringe events, some of which are free.

One of my fave shopping haunts in Edinburgh is usually frantic at best,
however, since our visitor was here for the longest day of the year…
 we were in search of a view…
and we finally slowed down enough
 to check out Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor Bar.
A lovely place to watch nightfall, 
and also overlooks a Fringe venue at St. Andrews square.

We enjoyed one impressive event coinciding with the Fringe…
and is mentioned right here on TS…
the Military Tattoo... 
which takes place outside the Edinburgh Castle each evening. 
However, somehow we have avoided actually exploring this historical castle until now.
Ren Man even had the pleasure of watching them set off the One o'clock Gun
fired every Monday through Saturday at,
well, you guessed it
1:00 p.m. since June 7, 1861.
Quite an amazing view of this city we have grown to love. 
Hugs and kisses to our visitor for giving us the opportunity to examine it more closely.

Hugh MacDiarmid, in his poem quoted above, continues

"...But irresistibly at last 
Cleaving to sombre heights 
Of passionate imagining…" 

Monday, July 21, 2014

My Aberdeen Monday...

As far as Ren Man is concerned,
one of the best perks of living in Aberdeen, 
is its proximity to the ubiquitous whisky distilleries.
Unfortunately, we have not actually toured many.
We keep saying we will get around to them one day.
Of course, there is also the problem of responsible transportation 
after giving the products a good taste.
AWA came to the rescue 
and one of the members organized a bus to whisk us north to the Spey Valley, 
on the Malt Whisky Trail through beautiful Speyside in the Highlands of Scotland.

Our final destination…
is the only malt distillery pioneered by a woman 
and eventually concocted one of the main ingredients of the Johnny Walker Blend.
Because of this,
it is referred to as the 'spiritual home' of Johnny Walker.
I found this quote fascinating, 
coming from a company who, 
in an effort to change the direction of the company, 
felt it was necessary to change the direction of the 'striding man'.
The marketing gurus will tell you it made all the difference.
However, who knew that heading to the left was considered walking away 
and heading to the right is walking toward 'something'.
News to me.
After a tour of the stills
and getting a peek of the pure spirit kept guarded in a safe,
we were invited inside the stone walled tasting room...
where we narrowed down our favorite...
beneath the glow of one massive chandelier.
The library offered a cozy final taste,  
and made our tour feel much more personal than the average public tour.
Good questions to ponder as we headed to the gift shop 
for our own bottle of the fifteen year Cardhu.

Quite a tasty tour.
'Keep Walking'

Friday, July 18, 2014

"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever." ~ Jacques Yves Cousteau

The sea does have a magnetic pull for us,
and picturesque Essaouira…
provided a chilled out escape from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech.
Once a fortified city…
surrounded by walls,
its has cast movie makers under its spell.

The whitewashed buildings with blue shutters remind some visitors of France
 which makes perfect sense when you find out the city was designed by a Frenchman.

Essaouira has...
discovered throughout.
Even the market is laid back…
except for the chicken man who seemed to be camera shy.
So there you have it.
The sea and shopping...
art galore…
goats in trees…
camel rides…
what's not to love.

Essaouira is not to be missed...
and we can't thank Abdul enough 
for sharing his country with us.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"Why aren't we flying? Because getting there is half the fun. You know that." ~ Clark Griswold

It all started with the goats.
After reading an article about the goats in Morocco climbing trees to reach the fruit of the argan tree, 
I knew we could not be so close without seeing this spectacle.
Apparently, when the argan fruit is ripe these goats get creative in search of a snack,  
and since this does not happen year round, 
the owners got creative for tourists like me 
who travel hours to see this for themselves.
Further down the road,
on the outskirts of Essaouira, (pronounced essa-weera)
another opportunity to play tourist allowed me my first camel ride.
Abdul gave very clear instructions to hold on tight.
He repeated this over and over until I became a bit concerned.
I mean, how hard can this be?
Then he backed away and the camels handler started signaling.

Next thing I know,
I am hanging on for dear life like a cowboy riding a bucking bull.
Except it is in verrrryyyy sloooooo mooooootion.
I held on.
With both hands.
Camels are really tall.

We were not even at our destination
and our drive, traveling west to Essaouira with Abdul,
 had already provided half the fun.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen." ~ Benjamin Disraeli

It's been awhile.

We have been out and about 
placing stars next to locations mentioned in...
As life continues to fill every second with adventure,
and I reflect back on where I left off…
in Marrakech…
 the part about having seen more than I remember rings true.
My shutterbug obsession helps to push aside more recent memories 
in order to get back into the groove.

one of the best decisions we made regarding our time in Marrakech 
was having a local guide draw us into the life of the city and country.
a friend's recommendation led us to Abdul, 
and seeing Marrakech through the eyes of Abdul 
has left me captivated with his city.
Facebook is a great way to keep up with him.

As we meandered up and down the pathways…
of 'The Red City'
Abdul took us on a journey through the neighborhoods of people 
who have penetrated the culture over the centuries.

Near the Jewish quarter,
surrounded by eight acres of gardens,
the Bahia Palace
in all its grandeur
 spends its days filled with tourists…
unless of course, the Royal family comes to town... 
and fills the rooms with festivities.

Seeing where Abdul went to preschool…
was, for me,
a highlight.
Look at those precious faces.

Of course,
the foodie loved our next stop at the community baker…
where women drop off their loaves of bread in the morning…
to be baked and picked up...
later in the day.

In the planning stages, 
Abdul asked where we wanted to focus our time 
and without much input from us, 
each stop captured our interests as if Abdul had known us forever. 
 His passion for responsible tourism 
immersed us into life in Marrakech in a meaningful way.

Our one request for the day 
was to visit the best carpet guy in town.
Ren Man will attest to Youssef's expertise because before we knew it…
 one carpet was heading to Texas…
 and two others were on their way to Scotland.

After a full day in Marrakech,
we were looking forward to our day trip with Abdul to the coastal town of Essaouira.

that is for another day.


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