Monopoly Money Matters

Today we started another game of monopoly. So far, none of the three of us have gone bankrupt, but I feel that one bankruptcy is just around the corner.  I have one full monopoly (yellow) Eryn has the first set past go, and Mother has the railroads.

We only played for an hour, and in that hour, not much has happened, so we can’t see a clear winner. The future is foggy, and as the Artful Dodger might say, the fog is sometimes very helpful. See Terry Pratchett’s Dodger for full details.

In any case, we played monopoly today, and hope to continue tomorrow and maybe see a winner by tomorrow, and have that winner have won by the next day.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Periodic Table of the Elements (Rain)

Today’s weather element: rain.

We were planning on visiting Notre Dame (the church of Semur-en-Auxois) after eating ice cream, but a funeral was in progress. Instead we headed home and Mom, Ethan, and I started a new Monopoly game. We halted the game after an hour so Ethan and I could do our favorite task.

In school, Ethan and I are “enjoying” working out of a workbook on the Periodic Table of the Elements. Besides learning about uses (such as fluorine in toothpaste and erbium in pink glass) and origins of names (Curium was named after Pierre and Marie Curie, Francium was named after France, and Einsteinium was named after Albert Einstein), Ethan and I are also memorizing the Table. Actually, the memorization started in Morocco, and I know from hydrogen up to cadmium (atomic number 48). Ethan only knows up to ruthenium (atomic number 44)—we’re separated by rhodium, palladium, and silver. Ethan’s favorite element is arsenic, naturally, but I prefer oxygen.

Ciao!

A Modest Bell Tower

The modest bell tower in the title that my mother mentioned while ‘guiding’ us through a UNESCO World Heritage site seemed more of budget cut to me than being modest. The reason for that is that the bell tower was barely a tower; it barely came up above the ridgeline of the roof from which it was protruding.

We saw all of that when we were walking through an abbey this morning. The abbey is named L’Abbeye de la Fontanay, which I think means the abbey of the Fountains, which is an apt name indeed because the use of the natural supply of water to keep fish and to turn a waterwheel which in turn made a hammer hammer a block of wood to help the monks craft iron.

We first went and saw the Church, which was a traditional church with barrel arches and not much fluff. It used to have enameled tile flooring, but now the floor is only dirt. Inside the church, near the alter, are two tombstones that depict a knight and his wife, both of which are not carved ultra-well. We then walked up to the monks dormitory, which also had a dirt floor, and learned that the monks lived in close quarters, with only a small screen separating them from their comrades.

We then went outside and saw the boiler room and other rooms. We also saw two gardens with fountains in them, hence the name of the whole Abbey. We finished off by looking through the museum part, which pictured broken sculptures, video, and a shop.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Monopoly

We visited the Fontenaye Abbey this morning, where we viewed the areas we couldn’t go (such as most of the area) and admired the fountains.

Once we got home, Mom, Ethan, and I resumed our Monopoly game. It didn’t take long for Ethan to go out after he landed on Mayfair (the British version of Boardwalk) and gave me everything (the cost for rent was 2,000 pounds).

We went back into town shortly thereafter, planning on getting ice cream. The ice-creamery was closed, so we went to a patisserie where I chose a dessert called “Louvre.” It’s shaped like the infamous pyramid and tasted better than the similar chocolate dessert we had in the Louvre. This one had chocolate mousse with a dark chocolate shell. The base was a thin layer of white cake. In the mousse were four delicious raspberries.

Back at the house, after schoolwork, Mom and I continued Monopoly. With my monopolies on one-and-a-half sides of the board, as well as the railways, she knew it was going to be hard. I had one orange, one green, one yellow, and one red card and I wasn’t going to give them to her so she could have more monopolies. Slowly her £8,000 was dropped into my bank account. By the end of the game, which I won (she lost by £12—she needed to pay £2,000 and ended up with £1,988 after mortgaging and selling everything), I had over £23,000.

You want to know my way of winning?

Ending with the most money.

Ciao!

Parisian Paragraph (Plural)

After a week in Paris, we did not, according to TripAdvisor, hit up the top three main attractions, including the Musée d’Orsay (#1) which was very close to our flat. We crossed #4, Pont Alexandre III, once and also paid a visit to #7, the Louvre, and #8, Jardin Luxembourg. Ten and eleven, Saint-Chapelle and Notre Dame, respectively, were visited. Since Notre Dame was just a few minutes’ walk and across the Seine from our apartment, we visited it several times: for an organ concert, free Sunday tour, the chance to go the towers and be like Quasimodo, and at night.

The Eiffel Tower is #15, and we saw it every day and were in its general vicinity four or five times. My favorite part was seeing it at night when it was lit up with blinking white lights. The Seine, #17, was crossed multiple times every day. On our way to the Louvre, we were crossing Pont Neuf (the Ninth Bridge) and were told to hurry along in our crossing because they were filming a movie and we mere peasants were in the way.

We visited numbers 21 through 23: Arc de Triomphe, the towers of Notre Dame, and Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, one of the few (and the only one we found) English bookstores in the city. We visited it on a whim because it was only a few blocks from our house.

In terms of food, our breakfasts were boiled eggs, oranges (sometimes clementines or bananas), Kellogg’s Special K, cheese, baguettes, and some pastry that Ethan would bring home along with the baguette. Snacks were usually high in sugar, such as ice cream and chocolate bars. We had plenty of variety in our suppers, but I think we were all very excited for that of our first night: we had pizza for the first time in a month! (Morocco is not a pizza country.) And there was vinegar! (You probably don’t know, but I love vinegar. And pizza dipped in vinegar is wonderful.) Later, we would enjoy salads at a vegetarian restaurant, two meals from Subway because we had to have a quick supper, another meal of pizza (that wasn’t as good), and mushroom risotto.

Oh, I’m feeling hungry already…

Ciao!

Paris Impressions

Looking back upon it now, Paris seemed like a very novel place. As we have had several rainy days here, I have decided to go back in time in my mind and posts to tell my many readers what I learned about Paris and what I thought about it, besides the fact that the Eiffel Tower is really tall.

One issue that I think some people have is the expense. Paris is expensive, but I am wondering if the occupants and laborers of the city get paid respectively to the city prices, as in, they get enough to match the prices. I think that, though, one of the reasons that we were surprised by the prices was our time in countries that had currencies that were worth less, and so we were used to have a dinner be in the 100s range of that currency. In Paris, it is 40, and twice or three times as much.

Another thing that I learned about Paris was how nice the people were. They seem nicer out in the countryside, but even in the crowded city, people on the street greeted a passerby with a cheerful ‘bonjour,’ even if they had never seen the person before.

In all, I think that Paris is a great place to live, even if it is a bit expensive; the people are nice and there are enough ways to get around, aka Metro, Bus, and taxis.

That’s all for now, Folks!

French Village Life

130423 25614 FR Semur-en-Auxois, River ArmanconWe have taken up residence in Semur-en-Auxois, a medieval town of about 4,500 souls in the Burgundy region of France. The first several days were gloriously sunny, but it then rained for a couple of days. In this photograph, you can see our white house, just left of centre on the river Armançon. This is providing a good base for exploring the area, and a comfortable place to catch up on things left undone during our hectic days in Paris. Read Ethan’s and Eryn’s posts for more details.

Rain Relaxation

Today we lounged around inside and relaxed, as there wasn’t much that we could do with the rain pouring down outside and the river bursting its banks. And so we spent much of our time sitting around inside, playing Scrabble and working on the puzzle, which is almost finished.

Later in the day, we went out under our four umbrellas of four colors and got some ice cream. I got a good selection of two scoops of chocolate, one scoop of vanilla, covered in chocolate with a deluge of whipped cream on the top. It was very good.

I am thinking that most of us are hoping that the rain stops sometime, as the height of the waterline of the river is getting higher and higher, not to mention the fact that we have been stuck inside for two days, not counting my daily runs to a boulangerie.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Wet day in France

Today, when we woke up, it was precipitating slightly, but by the time that I left to get some items from the boulangerie, it had stopped. However, once I got back, it started again, and it hasn’t finished since. The rain came down in torrential amounts, washing the streets of debris and making the river flow higher than usual.

However, since it is spring in France, the rain is expected, so we have anticipated it with some dread. Once we get to Switzerland, though, the rain will be frozen and in the form of snow, so we will be thoroughly chilled.

Today, we mostly stayed inside, with the notable exception of going out to dinner, which we did at two restaurants. The first one was not to our culinary tastes, so we went to the place that we had gone to on our first night in Semur.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Definite Down Day

I had the last doxycycline pill today!

For some reason, we had 4x+1, and since I happen to be the snottiest person right now, I got the one.

 

In other news, it rained today so we just stayed inside and worked on our puzzle, which is a picture of this town/village. Also, Dad deleted pictures (!!!) and Ethan and I forced ourselves through some schoolwork. I texted the most I’ve ever texted in my life on our little green Nokia phone: it was just things to my parents like ‘Algebra 2 workbook’ and ‘Done with question 44’ and ‘Is everyone else going too?’ and ‘Hey wheat thin.’ (That last part was to Ethan.)

Ciao!

There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom!

We visited four towns besides Semur-en-Auxois, as well as one special site, today:

  1. Salmaise– This was the biggest town, and we parked by the church. We looked for the patisserie, as advertised on the tourist map, but we didn’t find it. The lavarie, which was a bathing area, was deserted but Ethan and I posed for pictures anyway.
  2. Sources de la Seine– At the source of the Seine River, the French have built a fountain and a concrete grotto. We stood at the top of the first bridge over the little stream while Dad took a picture.
  3. Frôlois– We looked for the chateau at the next little town, and we found it: a large castle-like structure on the hill above. Once at the top, we could hear someone practicing songs on a piano and the bees humming, but we couldn’t admire the view since some people had built houses in the way.
  4. Flavigny-sur-Ozerain– The anise factory in the next little town sold candy, and we were sure to get some. Mom, Ethan, and I took a much-needed stop at the toilettes, which were purple. Then a woman came in and said something quite loudly while gesturing at Ethan: there’s a boy in the girls’ bathroom.
  5. Fouilles d’Alesia– This was not intended to be our last stop, but, because of the late hour, it was. We walked around a Gaul-Roman town, admiring the rather short and deteriorated structures. Ethan and I worked on the activity booklets that we’d been given since we’re just so young.

Ciao!

A Day with Good Hair

I think that I mentioned yesterday how we saw, in a museum, a decapitated statue head that had interesting hair. Well, odd life, but we saw the real thing today. The real thing, actually is still a statue, but it is downsized some. It is in the traditional form of Gaelic looks, as in, what people thought they looked like during the reign of Napoleon III.

The form of a Gael back then looked like what we called a Viking. They wore horned helmets. That is about where the similarity ends. The statue of the defeated king in fighting with JC has long, shoulder length, unkempt hair, a face like Napoleon III, a long mustache, and a pearl necklace. All of which have been proved to be falsehoods about the Gaels.

We saw the statue near Alesia, an ancient town of ruins in eastern France, where we are now. Alesia was place number 5 on the list of our things to do. The first was a town, in which we walked, the second one was the source of the Seine river. We then went to several more towns before arriving at Alesia.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Armor Appearances

Today we went out into the village where we are now residing to explore. Eventually, we came upon the Museum and went in. It was free, which was nice, and the giant head near the door had a neat hairdo. We walked down the aisle and looked at statues.

Most of the statues had what looked like warts coming out of odd parts, and we deduced that that was for more effectual 3D imaging. When we finished looking at statues, we arrived in a room in which Eryn and I tried out a bow and felt the weight of a heavy shield.

We continued with the museum until we got to the top level, which had paintings and several other statues. When we finished, we walked back to our nice house along the riverbank.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Supper After (And In) Semur

After a rather rough and early start this morning, we set out to visit the tourism office. There, Mom re-stocked her supply of brochures while Dad asked about restaurants and how to pronounce the name of Semur-en-Auxois. We walked around the town before stopping at a patisserie, where Dad chose one chocolate éclair, one pain au chocolat, one apple pastry, and one raisin pastry. Returning home, we sat around our table on the river eating our goods. Dad eventually got up to feed the ducks, which came up to our feet.

We went back out for the museum, where we saw statues, paintings, lots of rocks, dead snakes, and a human skeleton and where Ethan and I practiced our drawing-the-string-on-a-bow-back skills.

To get to Intermarche, the supermarket, we piled into the car. After 1.5 kilometers, we passed the store and kept going to get a feel for the town. Back inside the Intermarche, I helped Mom buy tomatoes, cheese, kiwi, milk, chocolate, cereal, eggs, oranges, serviettes, and dryer sheets.

For supper, I had ravioli with the special cheese of the region called Époisses. Dad had chicken with the same.

Ciao!

When in Burgundy

We are now in the Burgundy region of France. Ah, the countryside at last. After a week of hectic activity in Paris, we now will wind down and warm up in this ‘quaint’ little village. We drove most of the morning today and finally arrived in the late afternoon. We got into our place and unpacked a bit before going to dinner.

At dinner, my mother and I decided to share a several dishes, and when I asked her about pizza, ‘Do you want a margarita?’ she said ,’No, we are getting tap water,’ and I replied, ‘Mother, I was talking about pizzas!’ She agreed and dinner was good.

Our house is right on the river, and from it we can see the ramparts of the city. I think it is a good location, and so did the marketers.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Not Going In-Seine

This morning we vacated our flat near the Seine and Notre Dame, realizing we’d never gone in-Seine.

After picking up our Hertz Ford, Dad maneuvered the car through the Paris traffic before we hit the countryside. We stopped at a gas station after Ethan nearly peed his pants. Along with the necessary business, we also bought… Magnums! Ethan and I had a “new” type of Magnum that was a lot smaller than the normal ones.

At around five p.m. we reached our “cute” little cottage, and, after nesting, we walked around the deserted little town. After several false leads, we found a restaurant that served fish, pizza, salad, and pasta. Dad enjoyed his ravioli, Mom and Ethan shared a salad and pizza, and I loved my salmon filet with rice, a creamy sauce, and lots of lemon.

Ciao!

The Cusco Disaster

If you remember, in Cusco we had a sewer problem. Today, my family and I descended down into the sewers of Paris and experienced the same smell, though more acute. We were walking around in the underground sewer museum.

The sewer museum was built a long time ago and it still works today, though there have been a few additions. The original sewer system was designed and directed by a man of the name of Eugene Belgrand. He designed contraptions to keep the solid waste from clogging up the tunnels, including using the pressure of the water to push the sand and other buildup out of the way.

After we finished that, we took the metro to a shopping mall underneath the Louvre and looked around. I spent most of my time in the Apple store looking at iPads, iPods, and iPhones. When we finished with that, we left and went to spend some time in the Luxembourg Gardens before looking at the Pantheon.

That’s all for now, Folks!

 

Sewerman or Eau No!

In case you want to know what the Cusco Disaster smelled like, you can visit Paris’s Sewer Museum. Eau de no!

We were behind a school group of little fifth graders, and we caught up with them in the souvenir shop while they were watching a video: it started with a woman peeking into a drain and saying, in French and English, since they did the video twice, “Oh, no, I dropped my keys! What am I going to do?”

She ran to a phone booth. We expected her to come out as Superman, but the booth was clear and she just called… Sewerman!!!!!

He came and got her car keys for her, and she kissed him. In what genre would you put this film—comedy? Action? Sci-fi? Romance?

Our next stop was the mall around the inverted pyramid near the Louvre. Dad checked up on our Hertz rental before he and Ethan went to chill in the Apple store. Mom and I, meanwhile, paid a visit to the totally amazing store of Pylones—it is awesome! My favorite things were probably the porcupine toothpick holder (you put toothpicks in the holes in the porcupine’s back so it looks more porcupine-ish) and the pink and orange trashcan with a face painted on and plastic fins, like a fish.

We stopped at Jardin de Luxembourg on our way up to the Pantheon, where we saw murals of Joan of Arc and Saint Genevieve and the tombs of Pierre and Marie Curie, Louis Braille, and others.

After supper, we got ice cream at our favorite place, Amorino, and Dad and I shared a grande cup of cinnamon, chocolate Amorino, and banana flavors.

Ciao!

Concierge, Carnavalet, and Crepes, OR Desserts and Death

We actually went to four different tourist places today: Sainte-Chapelle, where we admired the stained-glass windows, the Concierge, where we read the names of over 2,500 French citizens, including the likes of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI, who had been killed by the guillotine after spending the night in the Concierge, Musée Carnavalet, where we went on a whim from Baroness Orczy’s I Will Repay, the second book the Scarlet Pimpernel series, and the towers of Notre Dame, where we went all the way to the top and pretended we were Quasimodo.

At Notre Dame, we also learned that the only gargoyles on the towers are the pipes that take the rainwater down from the roof, not all the other animals, which are chimera. One female chimera, who looked like a cat, was eating a stone deer. Yummy.

Speaking of yummy, we were originally going to visit an Italian restaurant for supper, but it was closed. So we went across two bridges to the second island, where we found a little restaurant with a table. So we sat. While we were perusing the menu, a group of four older American ladies came in and sat down next to us.

We ordered the set menu, and by the time we were done with our main courses (chicken curry for Dad and Ethan and mushroom risotto for Mom and me), they hadn’t even finished their salads. Our desserts finally arrived: chocolate-covered crepes for the three of them, and a chocolate cake in cream for me.

“That looks good!” all the ladies exclaimed.

“Yes, it does,” I said, half to myself. Mortifrying.

Everyone started laughing, while I stared at my plate red-faced. Oh, well—it was really, really good. Ethan and I finished quickly, and the ladies looked over and nearly screamed.

“You’re so fast!”

 

Ciao!

Today we went to…

…Notre Dame. Again. Notre Dame means ‘My Lady’ in French, and today we climbed up the towers today. We didn’t see a hunchback, but he could have been hiding. Or he could also be dead because the ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ was written in the 19th century.  Notre Dame is, this year, celebrating its 850th anniversary, so there are lots of building and bleachers out in front with which to admire the view.

As we ascended, we went around and around a central column, like the stairs on the cathedral on the hill overlooking the City of Paris. We kept on going up and finally arrived on a balcony that connects the north and south towers. We took pictures for a while before climbing the stairs up to the top of the south tower. From there, we walked around, took pictures, and then waited to be let down the stairs.

We eventually got out into sunlight again, and had walked about statues before returning home, back to our apartment on the banks of the Seine River.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Notre Dame

Notre Dame,
Is the claim to Fame,
Of Paris,
On the River Seine

Today we,
Up and went to see,
The church,
With big pink trees

Later then,
We went there again,
To hear,
One play an organ

In other un-rhyming words, today we went to Notre Dame. We went on a tour in the afternoon, and in the evening came back to hear a man play an organ.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Not Disney’s Notre Dame

At Notre Dame, our English-speaking guide was named Fredérique. She was one of the two English guides. The choice was simple: did you want to go up the bleachers with Fredérique, or did you want to stay on solid ground with the other woman? We chose Fredérique.

At the top of the bleachers, she talked for a long time about Notre Dame’s history. Notre Dame, which means ‘our lady,’ referring to the Virgin Mary, used to be painted in bright colors. During the French Revolution, the kings from the Old Testament, who were portrayed on the front of the building, had their stone heads cut off because the revolutionaries didn’t like kings. Later, twenty brightly painted heads were found under a bank.

On solid ground in front of the giant Gothic doors, Fredérique discussed all the symbolism, such as the square shape of the front of the building representing Creation and the circular window representing eternity, since it has no end or corner. Statues of the prophets, gargoyles, apostles, angels, devils, and saints, as well as Jesus, decorate the front of the cathedral. One of the most interesting was Saint Denis, the first patron saint of Paris. He was an evangelist in 200 A.D., and he was popular, which the Romans in Paris didn’t like. So they killed him, and legend has it that he walked over to his head, picked it up, cleaned it, and then walked over to the spot of a present-day church, where he died “for real.”

Inside the cathedral, Fredérique talked about the architecture while we admired the stained-glass windows. Once we were sufficiently rested, she took us over to a pillar and showed us the workers’ signatures on the stone. In this way, the boss could tell how many pieces of stone a man had shaped and/or affixed in a day.

There were several Joan of Arc statues inside, as well as the Notre Dame. Notre Dame Cathedral was the place where it was decided that Joan of Arc’s reputation should be rehabilitated. It is also the location of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore on the cross. Napoleon gave it back to the church after he was crowned king in the cathedral. It had been M.I.A. because Notre Dame had been used as a temple of the goddess of reason during the French Revolution. Later on, the general public had seemed to have given up on the cathedral until Victor Hugo wrote Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was hugely popular and later made into a Disney movie, which I’ve seen.

2013-04-20_Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hunchback of Notre Dame- Disney version

Ciao!

Art Antics and Antiques

Today we went to the Louvre. The Louvre is a timeless art museum located on the banks of the Seine River in Paris. In it are well known pieces of art, including the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. As I already said, we went there today.

We met our guide under a small arc in the front courtyard of the museum. We went under I. M. Pei’s glass pyramid and started our tour. This wasn’t one of those ‘here are the facts about so-and-so, made in year such-and-such, and made by the great artist ______.’ This was a Louvre tour ‘dedicated’ to young teenagers, presenting a quest at the beginning of the tour, with smaller sub-quests.

Our guide, Laura, was something like Gandalf the Gray, a guide that knew its stuff. She took us through galleries upon galleries of art. She showed us the development of movement in statues, from one small step made by a bronze statue of Apollo (11). Then she showed us a statue of a man about to be flayed alive hanging by his hands, with all of his muscles stretched. He had picked up an enchanted lyre and had won in a contest in Apollo, and Apollo sentenced him to death by being flayed.

We continued, on, eventually seeing painting that showed stories, not just sculptures, and saw many, including Leonidas I at the Battle for Thermopylae. In any case, it was a fun tour that I think we all enjoyed.

That’s all for now, Folks!

With Laura and the Louvre

If you’ve read Life of Pi, or watched the new movie, you know that Piscine Patel came from the little French town of Pondicherry. We went to the Indian restaurant Krishna Bhavan for dinner tonight. The waitron who welcomed and served us knows French, Hindi, and English and comes from Pondicherry.

“She’s going in my post,” I told Dad. (She did!)

We toured the Louvre today. It was slightly like déjà vu after the British Museum in London. There were sphinxes, mummies, and multiple sarcophagus, as well as the Italian and Greek nude statues and paintings (the paintings were French, too). The sole mummy we saw was wrapped much better than the ones Dad and I saw in London, though, and we had a guide (the British Laura) to make things slightly more interesting.

Louvre Table-Holders

The Stone Men Who Used to Hold Up a Table (Or Something)

Our tour ended after three hours, and we hunted down the café, where Dad and I shared a chicken sandwich and a chocolate cake modeled after the Louvre Pyramid designed by I. M. Pei, which does not have 666 pieces of glass—it has 673: 603 that are rhombus-shaped and 70 that are triangular.

We walked around some more. I wanted to take a picture by a stone boar we’d seen earlier, which I thought would be representative of the museum since it was rather boar-ing. (Rather—after the tour it got more interesting because we could be on our own and wonder over some of the rather queer paintings and sculptures.) We couldn’t find the boar, so instead I posed next to a piece of stone that had a cow with its tongue sticking out on it.

Ciao!

We & Willamette Are Famous!

After touring the catacombs this morning in between tour groups and piles of bones, we returned home to rest and anticipate ice cream. Shortly thereafter we were on our way to Sacré-Cœur, or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. We weren’t able to climb to the top—instead, we just got to the bottom of the dome. Oh, well—there was still a good view of the Eiffel Tower.

Back on terra firma, we watched a man kick a soccer ball [football] while standing on a wide post on the staircase. Then he climbed the light post, still kicking the ball, and returned to his original position. After that he took off his vest, then his button-up shirt, and then his long-sleeved undershirt. And then he took off his tank top. That was the part of his act that got the most cheers.

We went to the gardens and fountain across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. There we took pictures and watched the skateboarders and rollerbladers. We returned to our flat to rest a short while before dinner, which was 15 and 30 centimeter sandwiches from Subway (Sub15 and Sub30). We ate in a park until around 8 p.m., only twenty minutes in, at which point we were kicked out. (The sun sets quite late here.) Dad extracted money from the ATM, and we went back down to the metro to go to the Eiffel Tower.

Sitting in the same gardens as earlier, we all got excited when first the big central fountain went on. We were even more thrilled when the guy with the tripod standing in the dead center moved out of our pictures. After that, the tower was lit up with its golden lights, and then the flashing lights started flashing.

I chose pistachio, coffee, and cinnamon flavors for my ice cream near our flat after the Tower. While waiting for Mom to finish ordering her ice cream, Dad pointed out the sign for one of the flavors:

FRAMBOISE

Willamette

That’s exciting, since we’re from the Willamette Valley like those raspberries!

Ciao!

French Staircases

Today we went to a major attraction in Paris. That major attraction was proved to be major by the large line that was already forming by the time that it opened. The attraction was the catacombs. The catacombs of Paris are large and extensive, and they used to serve as a quarry for limestone up until after the French Revolution.

Now, after climbing down flights upon flights of stairs, a visitor can see that there are bones galore stacked on top of each other for about six feet above the floor. There are what we think are femurs stacked for about two and a half feet, before a row of skulls, and then another set of femur stacks and another set of skulls. On the top are assorted bones, mainly mislaid skulls. There is an estimated 6,000,000 bones in all of the catacombs, unlike the catacombs in Rome, in which Eryn and I only saw a single bone.

Eventually, we left the catacombs and rode the rails to a basilica that overlooks the whole city. After going inside, we climbed up to the dome. From there, we could see the Eiffel Tower. When we got back down, we watched a guy play with a soccer ball, including making it spin on a stick, putting that in his mouth, and then climbing a lightpost.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Big Three

Today we were surprisingly busy: we saw Paris’s three key sights in the space of an hour. First, we saw Notre Dame right across the Seine from our flat. Then we went down the elevator that’s in our apartment building to the RATP station. Dad bought the tickets, and we rode the underground train to the Champs-Elysees station.

“You know what’s missing?” Dad asked as we got off the train.

“‘Mind the gap’?” I guessed.

“Yep.”

That’s true—of course, we wouldn’t know what avis la vide means if we saw it, but we could guess.

We climbed to the top of our second big monument, the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, counting the stairs (259, as my count went) as we went. At the top, we saw our third, final, and most recognizable Paris monument: the Eiffel Tower.

From the top, we saw, apart from the Tower, Notre Dame, the American church, Invalides, and an opera house, among others. Dad took more pictures when we got back to the bottom of the arch. Our next stop was Place de la Concorde, and Dad was thrilled to stand on the Concorde bridge because it reminded him of good, old (well, quite young relatively) USA.

Mom, Ethan, and Dad had ice cream from a man whose family has been making ice cream for three generations (he’s the third). He asked us where we were from, naturally, and Mom replied, “The United States.”

“What part?”

“Oregon.”

“Oh, really? In Salem?”

I was rather surprised that this man knew anything about Oregon, but he said that some of his relatives live in Rhode Island.

“The smallest state, but the most corrupt—that’s what they say.”

 

Within two hours, we were standing at the base of the Eiffel Tower, debating whether to take the stairs or the elevator. We chose the elevator and went straight up to the top, where we admired the breath-taking view through the chain-link fence with holes larger than my head but still small enough to dissuade would-be committers of suicide.

Mom and I rode the elevator all the way down, but Dad and Ethan took the stairs from the middle. It took them about half an hour.

We ate supper at a vegetarian restaurant, and I enjoyed palm hearts for the first time in a month. Yes! Then we had ice cream while admiring Notre Dame, the river Seine, and the fire-jugglers. I had my favorite combo: chocolate, banana, and cinnamon. It was the first time I’ve had that combination since Valparaiso, Chile—two-and-a-half months ago. *swoon*

Ciao!

What’s a Lens?

My sister is different. She may be absolutely brilliant in math and science, but when it comes to photography equipment, she is sometimes absolutely clueless. A prime example of that is when my father is taking a picture of Eryn and I in front of some interesting scenery (the Eiffel Tower) and he told us to look at the lens, my sister asked, ‘What is the lens???’ I answered her question, and she said, ‘Oh yes…I knew that!’

Today we went to the Arc de Triomphe, which is on the western end of the most expensive street in the world; Champs Elysses. We climbed up the spiral staircase on one side, took some pictures from the top, and climbed down the other side. On the other end of the 1.9 kilometers of Champs Elysses, we popped out of the metro system at the Plaza de Concorde. On the south end of the plaza is La Seine, the river that runs through the central of Paris.

We then went to the Eiffel Tower. After waiting in line for a while, we bought our tickets and worked our way through another line for the elevator halfway up. After we got out of the legs and about halfway up, we switched elevators to one that had four skylights and rode up. When we got off, we were on the top of the Eiffel Tower. We oohed and aahed for a while before taking the straight elevator down. My father and I took the stairs down one of the legs, while my sister and mother took the elevator. They arrived at the bottom before us.

About that time, my father started taking more pictures and Eryn asked the aforementioned question.

That’s all for now, Folks!

La Rive Gauche

130416 23934 FR Paris, RER train from CDG airport, Eryn, SusanAfter a short flight from Fes, we arrived in Paris where we will stay a week before heading out to the French countryside to stay in a village. We are installed on the Left Bank, on the southern shore of the Seine, in the 5th Arrondissement, just across from Notre Dame cathedral. It is a great location, if a bit tourist-infested. The costs of things has been a bit sobering after Morocco. $50 for the half-hour train ride from the airport, for example; whereas in Fes, a half hour in a taxi ran about 15-18 dirhams, or $2. Oh well.

Lots to see and do here, and the weather seems to be cooperating.

For more details, check out Eryn’s and Ethan’s Notes.

From Fez to France

We woke up (ridiculously early) this morning in balmy Fez, Morocco. On our way out of the medina with our luggage we actually saw a dog. And not just one—three!

Once at the post office, Majid met us and we piled into his van. We arrived at Fez’s small international airport half an hour later. About two hours later, we boarded our Paris-bound flight. After that I don’t remember much, since I slept for most of the flight, but I do remember crossing the Mediterranean.

Now we’re in Europe, where it’s safe to drink tap water and it’s okay to flush toilet paper down the toilet. (I also have some slight knowledge of the French Revolution, thanks to The Scarlet Pimpernel.)

At four p.m. (two in the afternoon by Fassi standards), we were outside our apartment, which is on the Seine about a hundred meters from Notre Dame. Our landlord is Italian, but he spoke in English. Our experience at dinner was totally different: six different languages were spoken: Japanese, Afrikaans, English, Italian, Spanish, and French. On our way home, we stopped at a chocolate shop. Then we stopped to check out the gelateria, which happens to be three stories down from our living room. Yes!

Ciao!

The Holy Hand Grenade; When in Paris

In this case, unlike in the case of Arthur and his company of brave knights trying to vanquish the rabbit in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, the ‘holy hand grenade was actually a fruit. It might not have been holy, but it fit in one’s hand and was called a grenade.

Today, we woke up early in Fez and hopped into the van with Majeed and all of our stuff. We went to the Fez airport, checked in, went through passport control and security, and waited in the departure lounge for our plane to arrive, empty, and then start to fill with passengers for the flight to Paris, with us being four of those passengers.

Eventually, we saw the orange tail of the EasyJet aircraft destined to take us to Paris without harm. We eventually arrived in Paris after several hours of flight time, some of it occupied by a screaming toddler in the seat right in front of us. When we got to the CDG airport on the northwestern corner of Paris, we hopped on the metro and rode it to the stop nearest our flat. Excusez-moi, apartments.

Later, when we went shopping for some things, mainly stores and Orange shops, we found a supermarket, and, in the fruit and veggie section, there was a fruit that said ‘Grenade’ from ‘Uran.’ We think that that means that those are grenades from Iran, but you can never be too sure.

The Holy Fruit Grenade of Uran

The Holy Fruit Grenade of Uran

That’s all for now, Folks!

Adeiu, Alami and Africa!

Tomorrow we get to wake up really, really early (what fun) to fly to Paris. So, while we’ll still be in the land of French and escargot, at least we’ll be away from couscous and tagine. You may be interested to know that we didn’t have couscous or tagine today: instead, for supper we went to Café Clock for the ninth and final time. Ethan had falafel (what else?), as did Dad, while Mom enjoyed her plate of tapas and I had a chickpea burger. For dessert, Mom and I split a chocolate soufflé while Ethan devoured his orange-almond cake.

 

We’ve been in Morocco since March 22—it’s been twenty-four days. A relatively short time (especially compared to South Africa), but I think it was enough. Our landlord, Alami, thinks the opposite and told Dad this morning, while they were out working on mail and Ethan and Mom were at physical torture, that there was plenty we didn’t do. That’s true: while we did just about everything inside the medina, we didn’t do much in Fez outside of it because it would have been too far to walk, and the taxis only legally fit three passengers.

But we got to ride some lovely, cud-chewing camels, so it all worked out in the end, didn’t it?

Ciao!

Tomorrow we get to wake up really, really early (what fun) to fly to Paris. So, while we’ll still be in the land of French and escargot, at least we’ll be away from couscous and tagine. You may be interested to know that we didn’t have couscous or tagine today: instead, for supper we went to Café Clock for the ninth and final time. Ethan had falafel (what else?), as did Dad, while Mom enjoyed her plate of tapas and I had a chickpea burger. For dessert, Mom and I split a chocolate soufflé while Ethan devoured his orange-almond cake.

 

We’ve been in Morocco since March 22—it’s been twenty-four days. A relatively short time (especially compared to South Africa), but I think it was enough. Our landlord, Alami, thinks the opposite and told Dad this morning, while they were out working on mail and Ethan and Mom were at physical torture, that there was plenty we didn’t do. That’s true: while we did just about everything inside the medina, we didn’t do much in Fez outside of it because it would have been too far to walk, and the taxis only legally fit three passengers.

But we got to ride some lovely, cud-chewing camels, so it all worked out in the end, didn’t it?

Ciao!

Visual Volcanic Vapor, Veil, and Valley

Tonight, when we were sitting on the rooftop balcony of the Clock Café, my father and I looked out towards the west, towards the sunset, and saw an interesting hill and cloud formation. There was a purple-ish hill in the front, and then a purple-ish cloud in the background, with light orange and white wisps of cloud vapor in between.

That created the look of a large volcano caldera, with the wisps of vapor steaming up from the lava. My father commented on how it was tilted towards us, but when my sister and mother looked, they couldn’t see anything that resembled a round mountain a couple of minutes later.

Today, we mostly stayed home, though my mother and I went to her last PT. When we got back, my sister was the only one home and my father and Alami were at the PO trying to ship our packages home. When my father got back, he told the story of all the complications that were needed to be gone through in order to ship a package to the US. We then sat around some more before I went outside and played with my friends one last time, said goodbye, and then went with my family to dinner at the Clock Café.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Morocco Memories

Colors of Fez — The city, especially the Medina area, is filled with colorful things to see (and buy!) Embroidery, woven fabrics of silk or wool, leather slippers and jackets, porcelain and pottery, spices, and tiles.

Landscape — Morocco is not just kilometers of red, sandy desert. We saw many acres of green pastures and pine or cedar forests with snow.

Cooking Class — Eryn and I took the all-day Moroccan cooking class at Café Clock, just a one minute walk from where we stayed for three weeks in the Medina. We had a wonderful time getting acquainted with our four classmates, all from the US. And the food we made was much more flavorful than what we had sampled at area restaurants. The lentil soup and date rolls were delicious! Souad, our entertaining and knowledgeable instructor, told many stories and shared interesting facts about food, shopping, and life in this country

Fruit — One of our guides told us that Moroccans name their seasons by which fruits are ripe. We visited during orange and strawberry season. Yum!! We often enjoyed fresh oranges or strawberries for breakfast and just-squeezed OJ with dinner.

Donuts — OK, donuts don’t seem very Moroccan, but two street vendors in the Medina made and sold these amazing treats which we greedily consumed on at least two occasions. We learned during our month in this country that the locals love their desserts! We tried many varieties of yummy, sugary creations. The only down side is that chocolate is not often an ingredient in their tasty snacks and after-meal treats.

Cast off — Finally, after 8 weeks my arm was free of a cast!! Recovery of strength, movement, and flexibility is a slow process, but fortunately I see improvement each day. I experienced three weeks of physical therapy at a large medical clinic and the therapist taught me stretches and exercises I can do for the rest of our trip. I am not doing pushups yet. Maybe that will happen in France.

Peru Favorites

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Reaching the summit and then the base of Huayna Picchu at Machu Picchu — This was quite the hike! In the picture Huayna Picchu is the tall steep peek in the background. The trail includes over a thousand stone steps, steel cables in spots for assistance, and at the summit one wooden ladder to climb. And I did the whole thing, even with a cast on my arm. Doing the hike wasn’t necessarily fun, but finishing it was great.

Visiting my brother in Arequipa — Richard researches earthquakes in Peru and it was fun to learn more about his project. And he was very gracious to be our tour guide and translator while in this city.

Chocolate Cooking Class in Cusco — The kids and I took this class at the Chocolate Museum. It was fun to learn more about cacao, but even more fun to make chocolate candies with a wide selection of “mix-ins.” My favorite additions were chili powder, nuts, coconut, and coffee nibs.

Colorful clothing of women living in mountain villages — Each geographic area has a unique hat and often a specific wool jacket or sweater as well. Red was a common hat color.

Many, many flowers in plazas or gardens and along mountain roads — We were very fortunate to visit this country in spring when the flowers are more abundant.

Pockets of People

Tonight, when we were walking home from dinner, there were sections of the walking-only road that were very congested, and others that had very few people on them comparatively. I say comparatively because when my mother and I go to her PT early in the morning, there is almost no-one out there, save a few early-risers.

Anyway, the people came in pockets, and they came every 10 meters or so. For those of you using the imperial system, that is about 32’ 9.703125” using www.metric-conversions.org. So, in other words, the pockets of people were about 30 feet apart.

Today we went almost nowhere. My father and I went out and got doughnuts late in the day, and then I played soccer out in the alleyway with some of my friends. Then, I went inside and got ready to go, did some stuff on my kindle, and then we left to Tommy’s, and on the way home, we encountered the pockets of people.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Fez in Morocco (Poem Version)

Food includes couscous, and, in the extreme,

Everybody’s favorite—the good old tagine

Zis is the life,” say foreigners here

It is the truth—if you don’t drink beer

Now muezzin is singing—it’s seven o’clock

My brother is thinking ‘Now I wanna rock’

Our dinnertime has come, so we go outside

Ready for some food—more vegetables fried

On time comes our meal. Guess what it is?

Couscous for three—the tagine is his

Chef comes over to break up a fight

Of waitron and waitron… oh, well, good night

 

Ciao!

Best of Our Time in Chile

Colors in Valparaiso — This town is saturated with color, which I love. We hiked colorful stairs up the hillside neighborhoods, admired vivid murals along walkways, and observed many blue/red/yellow/green/pink/purple houses from lookout points.

Eating Ice Cream in a Plaza – We especially enjoyed this pastime in Valparaiso and San Pedro de Atacama. The ice cream was usually yummy and watching the many locals and tourists was never dull. On the weekends the plaza we frequented most in Valparaiso had a fair atmosphere – street jugglers, face painting, roller bladers, trinkets for sale, popcorn, and cotton candy. And an abundance of dogs meandered by.

Street Life in Valdivia — Each day food, entertainment, craft, and tourist-service vendors line the river-front roadway towards the outdoor fish/produce/meat market. We tried the blue cotton candy and the traditional peach drink along the street and several times purchased yummy cherries and blueberries at the open-air market.

Quinoa – This is a staple food in Chile and we enjoyed it in salads, guacamole dip, and soups and as a side dish. It is a great source of protein and grown abundantly in the high plains. I was inspired to find online quinoa recipes to try when we get home. Ethan said he would love to have quinoa salad in his school lunch next year.

New Animal Sightings — We observed viscachas, vicunas and guanacos, which are three varieties of animals that we had not seen on this trip or prior adventures. Viscachas look a lot like rabbits and the other two mammals remind me of llamas.

Argentina Favorites

Buenos Aires – Central District — The main or government section of town is very interesting because of the fountains, ironwork on balconies of old and new buildings, political posters or signs, and many dog walkers since a major part of the population lives in apartment buildings. One dog walker we observed had 12 dogs on leashes.

San Telmo area of Buenos Aires — This is the area where we stayed and is the oldest neighborhood. I loved the cobblestone streets, outdoor restaurants, and smaller plazas.

Ice Cream — Argentinian ice cream is delicious and we made sure we had some of this calcium-rich food each day!! I think my broken arm was an indication that I need to eat more. 🙂 My favorite flavors included a variety of chocolates, blackberry with cream, and lemon mousse. Each town we visited had a variety of ice cream shops and most made their own flavor creations. We had a good time sampling flavors from the different vendors.

Chocolate — Bariloche is the chocolate town in Argentina. In just two blocks there were over 12 chocolate shops that catered to locals and tourists. One store even sold chocolate cell phones and cameras We sampled goodies from two shops and decided that this would be a great place to retire!

Fresh Orange Juice — A glass of fresh squeezed OJ is one of my favorite drinks. All restaurants we patronized offered this selection on their menus and we were even brave enough to purchase this fresh drink from a couple of street vendors after watching them squeeze the oranges. Muy delicioso!

Mountains, Lakes and Rivers — Even though I have vivid and painful memories of the Andes mountains in Argentina because of my broken arm, the area is very beautiful! My favorite river was Rio Azul, with very blue waters, as you might guess from the name.

Food in Fez Makes Me Ready for France

In a couple days we’ll be in France, which is a good thing since I don’t think I can stand couscous and vegetable tagine (vegetables cooked in a funny-looking pot)all day, every day, much longer.

In other news, we decided to go to Borj Nord today after pancakes and scrambled eggs at Café Clock. Mom decided we would take the shortcut up the hill, so we did. The hill was actually a lot steeper than it looked like from the medina, and Mom was worried we would fall down the cliff into the bus terminal’s trash.

We didn’t.

Instead, we arrived at the front door of Borj Nord, now a museum, at 12:08. We were informed that it closes at noon.

So.

That’s how it goes.

 

We wandered around, admiring the view and taking pictures and talking about Lake Okeechobee, for a while before we returned to the medina and resumed our normal hiding-from-the-sun-inside-our-house lives until supper, which was—you guessed it!—couscous.

Ciao!

Dizzying Dumps

Today we went to the Café Clock for breakfast. Three of us had the Ricotta Pancakes while my mother had scrambled eggs. We then immediately left and didn’t stop at home so that we could get to a fort on a nearby hill as soon as possible.

We first weaved our way through crowd filled streets, crossed a major one, and then started up a dirt path. We went up, headed towards the fort that was at the top of our field of vision. We kept going up until the trail ended except for a small ledge that extended about a foot before dropping off down onto some partially burned garbage some 50 feet below.

We walked along the edge, clambered up an easy slope, hopped over a small fence, and were right down the road from where we wanted to be. We walked up the road, into the place, and then found out that it was 8 minutes too late to go in, as it closed at 1200 hrs, and it was 1208 hrs. Too bad. We looked around for a while on top before descending a different way.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Trio of Trips

That is my mother’s suggested title for today’s post, and Eryn says that she (Mother) is getting illiterate. I don’t know. I just work here. Today we, excuse me, I went on three trips out of our house in Fez. The ferst one was one going to Mother’s physical torture this morning, the second one was out on a shopping expedition to get food and sweets, and the last and final one was to dinner at Le 44.

For the PT, my mother and I went, and while she hissed, I did schoolwork. Then, I went with my mother to Marjane to get some chocolate bars for deserts before hopping in a third taxi and heading back to the ancient Medina, where we stay.

For food, we went out and bought sweets, bread, eggs, oranges, and several other things that are around the house after going down to see if the doughnut place was closed. Sadly, it was, so we had to make do with sweets.

For dinner, we went to Le 44 and sat up on the roof terrace, at the farthest away possible table from the kitchen. My father says that the waitron used to be overweight, but with tourists that sit up on the roof, he has gotten skinnier.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Forty-Four on a Fassi Friday

After Mom and Ethan returned from their appointment with physical torture and the supermarket Marjane, we worked on schoolwork, pictures, and the like—sound familiar? (See yesterday’s post.)

Eventually we went outside, hoping for donuts, but all the donut shops were close because it’s Friday and Morocco is a Muslim country. So back up the hill we trudged. We bought sweets near Thami’s, as well as eggs, oranges, and spicy bread, and returned home.

For supper, we went to Le 44. Mom and I shared salad, carrot soup, and spicy spaghetti. My dessert consisted of seven bites of chocolate cake stolen from Ethan and Mom.

Ciao!

Today in 100 Words

Well, it may be a good thing that we’re not doing much these last few Fassi days since it means that (a) Dad doesn’t take more pictures and (b) he can work on deleting, editing, and uploading the pictures we already have. On the other hand, Ethan and I have more time to do schoolwork—yay.

I did leave the house today: once to buy breakfast food with Mom and once to eat at Thami’s for the fourth time. Mom and I shared the vegetable couscous and vegetable tagine. Now we’re eating dark chocolate and listening to John Denver.

Ciao!

Rock Management

For those of you who don’t know what rock management is, it is when a manager asks an employee to get them a rock, and is never satisfied with the rock that is brought to him. That is about what happened today to my father and I at the Post Maroc office today.

When we arrived, we pressed the button for a slip and it rolled out. When our number was buzzed, it stayed on for a split second before being replaced by another number held by someone else. The security guard then made us his personal project and started looking at boxes for us. The first one was too small, and the second one was too big. We finally decided on the first one. And we hope it will work.

The rest of the day was mostly filled with schoolwork, naps, car shopping, laundry, and other such things that happen on such a down day.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Buying, Bargaining, and Brass

This morning, my mother and sister went to PT, while my father and I stayed home and did techy stuff. When the women in my family came back, we sat around for a little bit before heading out on a shopping expedition. We left our house and walked down the street, turned right, then right, and then walked down the hill on the way to some stores that we had been to before.

First, we went to a scarf shop that Eryn had been to previously, and my mother bought a scarf, after bargaining of course. After we left that specific shop, we walked down the street to the brass shop that we had gone to on our second day in Fez. We looked around in both outlets of the shop, and then compared different models. If this sounds like car dealings, I have, by the way, been looking at cars as well today.

We looked at the three different sizes, outlawed one, and continued on the last two. We decided to only get the small one, and we bought it for roughly the correct price. My father then went to an ATM to extract the amount of money needed for the purchase, and we were on our way. On our way home, we bought delicious doughnuts. Yum.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Horses, Holidays, and Hawaiians

We got up early this morning and walked bare-footed across tile flooring on the roof of the hotel and watched the sun rise above the horizon. Then we went back to sleep. We did things that did or did not need to be done, and then, in the middle of the afternoon, we saddled up on our camels and rode away. We rode for about an hour on the dunes of the Sahara desert before arriving at a camp. My father and I climbed up a nearby dune, and my sister and mother followed soon thereafter, and we watched the sunset from the summit.

We then went down and ate dinner, and after dinner, Amy, Autumn, and Andrew went with Eryn and I to the top of the dune again and we sat up there while everyone else sat by the fire and listened to drumming. The three As were Americans from Italy on holiday, but soon they will move to Oahu on Hawaii. Later, we went down, got into our tent, got into our beds, and went to sleep.

The Next Day…

We woke up this morning and rode camels away after watching the sunrise from the large dune near camp. We rode back to the hotel and cleaned up to eat. Then, Eryn and I hung out with Amy, Autumn, and Andrew (ages 11, 16, and 14, respectively) and the pregnant cat. We then left in the car with Majeed.

Later, when we stopped to look over the edge, men with horses trying to get us to ride apparated on site, bring with them horses, and laying siege to us in our car. When we got back to the car, another man had appeared with his portable store, so there was a shop outside our window. That reminded us of yesterday, when we were at a lake, and out of nowhere,  8 guys appeared with wares, trying to sell us stuff.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Falafel and Faux Nuts in Fez

I escorted Mom to the clinic this morning, where she received her typical round of torture (this time sans crying). We rode a red taxi back to the house, where Mom started laundry because it was sunny. The cleaning lady arrived at 14:00, and we left to buy a scarf and a lamp. Mom used her newfound bargaining skills to negotiate the scarf’s price down to 100 dirham (still US$10), and we set off down the hill to the lamp shop.

The parental units finally decided on a lamp and a price, and Dad, the shop helper, and I set off to get money from an ATM. I thought we would be going to the one by the donuts, but I was, unfortunately, mistaken. Once we’d bought the lamp, we left it in the care of the shop. We hope we’ll see it in several months, since they’re mailing it to us.

Ethan decided to lead the way to the donuts, and off we went.

“Haven’t I been here before?” I remarked dryly as we arrived back in the coppersmiths’ square, which was next to the shop. Somehow we found our way to the donut street, and Dad decided it was down the street. It was 16:30, and we’d told the cleaning lady we’d be back by 16:00. Mom and I went back home, and Dad and Ethan went downhill.

We passed the donut shop.

“Should I tell them?” Mom asked.

“No.”

“Well, I think we should, just to be nice.”

“I’m not into this ‘nice’ thing.”

“I’m going to call them anyway. Hello? Yes, we just passed the donut shop. Okay. Bye-bye.”

After we returned safe and sound, Dad and Ethan arrived with four delicious, greasy, sugarcoated donuts.

At about 19:00, we ventured into the streets for supper at Café Clock. Mom, Dad, and I ordered falafel while Ethan chose a cheese sandwich, which he shared with Dad. (He had part of Dad’s falafel, meaning that Ethan’s been to Café Clock for supper four times and has had falafel four times.)

Ciao!

Fine to be Back in Fez

We’re back in Fez!

We arrived after ten hours of driving across Morocco (ugh) in Majid’s van. All eighteen of us at the camp woke up at 5:50 a.m. to watch the sunrise from the top of the dune. By 7, we were back at the hotel. It felt wonderful to have a warm shower.

Ethan and I had breakfast (banana, egg, cheese, bread, orange juice) and then went out to lounge by the pool. We left after Mom and Dad had breakfast.

During the ride, I alternated between sleeping, snacking, staring out the window, and reading Long Walk to Freedom [And an Even Longer Book] by Nelson Mandela.

At about 5:30 p.m., we passed through the little town of Ifrane. Majid calls Ifrane, a university town, the best town in Africa. It was very European, between the German-style architecture and cold springtime weather. (Not as cold as Switzerland, where we’ll be in a month, though—the daytime highs are 10F.) I’m surprised people could stand the cold enough to be out and about in Ifrane’s green, well-manicured parks—but then again, I haven’t been in real cold in eleven months.

Ciao!

The As and the Es

Today we rode for forty minutes (advertised as two hours) to a camp in the desert. We rode on camels—I was on Bob Marley, Mom topped Jimi Hendrix, Dad rode Ali Baba, and Ethan sat upon Shakira. We’d gotten scarves at a shop in town earlier before going to a lake, where eight men set up shop right in front of our car, selling stone camels, wannabe fossils, and other trinkets and baubles.

The man who walked with our camels said that there would be nine guests in the camp, but in the end there were eighteen: four Moroccans, two Frenchwomen, three Spaniards, and nine Americans. The family of five came with three kids: Autumn, 16, Andrew, 14, and Amy, 11. They’ve been living in Naples, Italy, for three years and are currently on spring break. In two months, on June 15, they move to Hawaii.

After supper (rice with eggplant salad and tagine with mystery meat), the five kids climbed the dune. From the top, we could see the lights of the two nearby towns, which made us realize how close we were to civilization.

Eventually, we went back down to where the thirteen adults (plus “musicians”) were listening to the men who walked with our camels play the drums. Shortly thereafter we went to bed in the cold tents.

Ciao!

Monkey Madness

Our driver today at first called the monkeys ‘crazy monkeys,’ but by the time that we left the place with the monkeys, he was calling them chimpanzees, which also didn’t sound right. Barbary Macaques is the correct name of the monkey, and it is also the type found on the rocks in Gibraltar where we had gone in 2004. This time, however, we saw them on the side of the road while going through the Middle Atlas Mountains while driving south from Fez to the Sahara, where we are now.

We got in the car with Majeed early this morning after breakfast, and then got into his car and drove away. After driving for a while, we got out at a monkey stop and walked around for a bit, but didn’t see any monkeys. I amused myself by punching out the ice in little bird baths by some picnic tables, before we were in the car again. Majeed had just turned the key in the ignition before he saw monkeys coming towards us. We stayed for a while and fed crackers to the monkeys and watched them nibble on them. After a while, the crowds started to arrive and a monkey hopped onto our car, and we stayed for a bit longer before the monkey got off and we left.

A bit later, we looked out the window, and right outside was a snow bank. We got out to see the snow and take pictures, and I threw a snowball. Later, we stopped to look at the beautiful scenery, with storks in the foreground and snowy mountains in the background, with a green wet field in the front.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Swimming Monkeys and Snow Near the Sahara

We’re in the Sahara Desert now, after ten hours of driving. We left Fez with Majid in his van at 6:30 this morning. That meant that the parental units got up at 4:45, while I was aroused an hour later. Breakfast was a quick meal of oranges, boiled eggs, bread, and milk, and afterwards Ethan washed the dishes.

After two stops, we stopped to see what Majid called the “crazy monkeys.” It was freezing cold—literally—and after about ten minutes Majid decided that the monkeys weren’t going to come out because it was too cold.

Of course, shortly after he said that, the monkeys arrived. They’re Barbary macaques, which used to be found in Tunisia, but that population has gone extinct. Now they’re found in only two places: the Atlas Mountains in Algeria and Morocco and Gibraltar. We saw them when we were in Spain about nine years ago. The 300 or so Barbary macaques in Gibraltar were introduced (no one knows quite how—maybe they swam?) and are thriving, while their African counterparts are becoming more endangered by the day. The macaques in Gibraltar make up the only population of primates in Europe that is not caged in.

Up we went til we were at about 6,000 feet. By then, the snow patches were several inches deep. It has been 54 weeks since I’ve last seen real snow—and we were on our way to the desert.

Ciao!

Couscous and Cake

Tonight we’re celebrating Mom’s birthday. (I won’t tell you how old she will be tomorrow.) We get to eat cake and ice cream! This is after a supper of couscous and tagine at Thami’s. We planned on going to Scorpion du Desert, but it was too loud. We’d forgotten that Saturday nights are music nights.

We would have gone to Café Clock, but we went there for breakfast. For a while, there was a leak coming from the floor above us. After our Cusco Catastrophe, we were immediately on edge, but it turns out it was “just water”—not cleaning solution as we had thought.

After breakfast and working on pictures, we went to the Bata Museum which had lots of old clothes and paintings and rugs and locks and keys. It was in a building surrounding a garden. Once we were done there, we left to a larger garden, which was well-maintained. Dad tried to extract money from the ATM next to the man who sells snails, but it wasn’t working, so we went down the street to another one. On the way up, we bought deep-fried, crispy, thin donuts, which were coated in sugar.

Delicioso.

Ciao!

Gardens Galore

Today we went to gardens. Well, one of them was officially a garden while the other one was debatable, as it was also a park. The first one had an attached museum that we also saw. In the museum there were old clothes, old clothes, and old weapons and instruments.

The first garden was small and not very well maintained. There were overgrow hedges and bees by the dozen. However, the fruit trees had heavy branches, laden with ripe fruit. The oranges were ripe and everything was in bloom.

The second garden was much better cared for; the fountains were running, the hedges were trimmed, and the flowers were all in rows. Sounds a lot like French garden. Not surprising considering that Morocco was a French colony, so at least it isn’t too much of a surprise. We will be able to enjoy gardens like that in the rain in France. FUN!*

That’s all for now, Folks!

*Not

No Hissing Today

On other days when there has been PT, my mother has hissed her way through the time, in an effort not to scream, cry, or in any other way embarrass herself overly. Today, however, her PT was relatively devoid of any hissing, though there was the occasional squeak from her physical therapist.

I went with my mother to her PT this morning after waking up early and having a not-warm-enough shower. After eating a small breakfast, my mother and I went out. On our way home, we swung by Marjane and got some groceries, ice cream, and cake.

When we got back, we let ourselves into the house and went around doing regular tasks, and when the rest of the family got home, we sat around some more. Eventually, I went out and played with Mohammed and his friends with a ball, while the rest of my family went on a shopping expedition. Later, we went to dinner at Le 44 and then came home and ate a chocolate bar.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Djellaba on Jerry

A djellaba is a Yoda-like robe worn by both men and women while outside in Morocco. Here in Fez, it is not uncommon to see a woman walking down the street in a fuzzy felt djellaba that is black with pink polka dots.

Dad and I went out shopping this morning while Mom and Ethan were at P.T. Dad has been mentioning getting a djellaba, and Mom is against the idea (“Where would you wear it? And when?”), so it seemed like the perfect time.

We walked down the street a ways, looking for a good-looking shop where we could seek shelter from the cold rain. While we were being given the typical spiel by the owner, Dad’s phone rang: Mom and Ethan were back, it was raining, and they didn’t have a key.

They called back a few minutes later: Ethan had a key in his pocket.

Meanwhile, Dad had been convinced to try on a thin cotton djellaba. This one was white, and Dad called it “too see-through.” The next two were thick and woolen and dark, and these were modeled with more enthusiasm.

1300405 23925 MA Fes, djellaba, Jerry

Jerry Models a Cotton Djellaba

We left without buying one, though, with Dad saying, “My wife doesn’t like this, but we’ll think about it.”

So…

 

 

Ciao!

Male Meat

My father read in a guide book that the people in Morocco believe that male sheep meat is more tender than female sheep meat. To prove that their meat is take from rams, the owners of butcheries have ram legs that have one testicle hanging off the end, to prove its sex.

We have seen several of those male sheep legs hanging from the knee from a rail above the counter at a butcher’s, and had always wondered what they were. Know we know, and it is an interesting tidbit of information that might be useful to pass on in stories, as it might be funny, interesting, or gross to different people.

Another thing that is sometimes displayed in meat shops is the decapitated head of a camel, complete with wet and bloody hair on the lowest bit and something throaty hanging down by a small amount of tissue. Not exactly my favorite sight.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Strawberries and Souad

Mom and I took a cooking class at Café Clock today. Our group of seven had Americans and only Americans: two older women traveling together from California whose names were Mary and Katherine, Linda from Tucson, Arizona, whose husband had declined to attend the class (although he came to eat), a man named Mike from Minneapolis, and the two of us. Our leader was Souad, who ran us through the menu. We chose a soup, a salad, and a main course before coming to the desserts.

“Where’s the chocolate?” I asked. Souad, who was sitting next to me, eagerly suggested making chocolate-dipped strawberries along with the date rolls. That was fine with me!

In the market, Souad showed us our chicken B.D. (Before Death) She also showed us some breads, hair conditioner, and herbs before we bought chicken, spicy bread, strawberries, cilantro, fava beans, and peas. Then we retreated to the upstairs kitchen.

Several times while we were cooking, people came through the cinema and up the stairs to where we were, looking for the rooftop tables. Souad always directed them up the stairs. The real way to get to the terrace was just going up the stairs that everyone else used.

We made a lentil soup, smoked eggplant salad, herbed chicken, and sticky date rolls before coming to my part.

Souad poured some vegetable oil in a pot and then added baker’s dark chocolate. I stirred as she placed the strawberries and sesame seeds and almonds next to me. Then, I dipped the strawberries in the chocolate and dropped them on wax paper, sprinkling them with sesame and almond. Eventually, everything was either setting or cooking, so Souad talked about the culture.

The soup was served with couscous bread, the spicy bread, and a scoop of the (now cold) eggplant salad. Along with our (rather tough) chicken, bread was served.

The crowning glory was, of course, the dessert platter. The strawberries were the best.

Ciao!

Clock Cafe with Chocolate Cake

Today was mostly spent indispensable while we listened to the pitter-patter of rain drops in great multitude upon the roof of our Dar in Fez. As in India, this is a hot country and the rain always seems to find us. I still have a sneaking suspicion that we take rain wherever we go, something interesting in light of the episode of ‘I Dream of Jeanne, My Master the Rainmaker,’ that we watched this evening.

In any case, in between droplets, my mother and father went out for PT, while Eryn and I stayed home. Eventually, after the parents had come home, we all went to the Clock Café. Eryn and Mother shared a chocolate pudding souffle, while I had an orange and almond cake. Both were good, and when we finished, my sister and mother signed up for cooking classes tomorrow morning.

In the end, we left the Café, and my mother and I went out to get supplies for dinner. When we got home, we did some stuff for a while before getting ready for supper. After a supper of soup, bread, and strawberries, my parents and I ate the remainder of some ice cream that we had, and then we worked upstairs on finishing up what left we had to do to go to bed, including writing this post.

That’s all for now, Folks!

I Dream of Mice and Men

After Mom and Dad returned from P.T., we eventually we decided we were going to go to a garden. I grabbed my rain and down jackets, umbrella, and shoes and was ready to leave when the rain started pounding on our roof.

So much for that.

Instead, we went to Café Clock where we had lattes and hot chocolate, and Mom and I shared a chocolate pudding soufflé. All of us had the soufflé, actually—Dad, rightfully so, since he paid for it, but Ethan stole his delicious bites away after he’d eaten his slices of orange-almond cake. The soufflé was served with whipped cream this time, not sour cream, which had been served with the soufflé last time.

Back home, I read Of Mice and Men, as well as the poem by Robert Burns that inspired the title (To a Mouse). Supper, which was soup, bread, and strawberries, was eventually announced.

Mom, Dad, and Ethan had chocolate palm-oil ice cream. Mom and I washed the dishes before heading upstairs to watch I Dream of Jeannie.

Ciao!

Souk Sales

Today we went back to the leather souk that we had gone to with our guide for our walking tour a few days back, and this time we seriously looked at the products. My father and a looked at ‘poofs’ which are like small beanbags, while my mother and sister looked at slippers and shoes. Eventually, when we were about to leave, I convinced my family to at least look at the leather jackets, even if we weren’t going to buy any.

When we got to the jacket floor, I looked through some styles and picked the one that I like the most; a black leather jacket with 5 pockets, 4 on the outside and a small one on the inside. I poked around at some other things while my mother tried on a red jacket, decided it wasn’t what she wanted, and then found one that she wanted that was also red. We didn’t feel like buying, but we just wanted to know the prices, and it was a lot.

The guy at the counter convinced my father to state a price, and they agreed to it and now our family’s wardrobe now has the accoutrements of two new leather jackets from Fez, Morocco.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Tannery and Thami’s

For supper, we ate at Thami’s again. We were enjoying the meal of couscous, tagine, and Moroccan salad (cucumber, tomato, parsley). After a hard day of shopping, we were beat.

Dad only paid for two leather jackets and four table runners, but the bargaining process at the tannery was long. We’d returned to the tannery with the “cute” man and were planning on buying a belt or slippers or something—we were totally against buying a jacket.

When we finally did pay for the jackets, Mom’s red jacket’s sleeves had been altered (which took twice as long as planned) so they weren’t too long. Ethan’s black biker jacket is still a little big on him, but he’ll grow.

At Thami’s, we watched cats climb the tree and jump onto the canopy several times. Eventually, the subject turned to Ethan getting up early.

“I hear it every morning—stomp, stomp, stomp,” Dad said.

“You’re lucky I don’t wear my flip-flops,” Ethan replied, “since then you would hear slap, slap, slap.”

A man came to clear our dishes, since we were done, as I said, “Yeah, I’ll slap you.” I balled my hand up in a fist right as the man cleared my dishes.

Mortified is an understatement.

Ciao!

Needing to Phorget at Physical Torture

80 days to go!

 

I went with Mom to her Physical Torture today. She cried at several times and at one point begged for me to read to her to take her mind off the pain. I’m not sure she would have been interested in what I was reading—reading about the US’s economy in the 1920s for school isn’t all that interesting.

On our way home, we stopped by Marjane (the local super-sized grocery store) building for haircuts. My hair is now blessedly straight, but as soon as I get under the water of the shower tomorrow, my joy will be gone…

Back at the flat, it was raining. From the time we got home from PT to the time we left for supper, we did just about nothing except schoolwork, push-ups, and working on Crete (that would be Dad).

For supper, I had Thai chicken. Between the ginger and coconut milk, it definitely reminded me of Thailand.

Ciao!

A Post about FOOD!

Salad: The traditional Moroccan salad, we think, is chopped up tomato, cucumber, and onion with some sort of sauce. However, we have had other types that are more about six different tapas that are shared around the table.

Bread: The traditional bread here is buns 1 inch tall and about 6-10 inches wide. The bread comes in different varieties; with grains on the top, white bread, and whole wheat, but in essence, it is mostly the same thing.

Fruits and Veggies: Mostly the same as home, though they do like to give eggplant a bit of a smoky taste when cooked.

Meals: The meals are good and cooked, and the curries are delicious. There are many varieties of tapas and falafel like things that someone can try.

Escargot: I decided to leave a section entirely for snails because there are stalls along with the street with vats full of live snails, crawling over each other in the futile quest of getting out and saving themselves.

That’s all for now, Folks!