April 30, 2008

Warsaw bound

I'm not packed, my flat looks like a tip and I have not packed. I'm going to Warsaw tomorrow and I have loads to do, but it should be a great trip. I get to see K and N and the little baby and do some Warsaw shopping, see you all in a few days!

April 26, 2008

Marrakech photo flash part 3

Yorkshire accents

It was all I could think about. My city, the small one where every-one has a Yorkshire accent and we used to get annoyed about being stuck behind groups of school children in the summer. The one where we would go to Meltons Too on a Sunday for brunch or have drinks on a Friday night at the White Swan. The one where every-one understands me and I understand every-one. I would be a local, something that has alluded me for five years now. That feeling of belonging that sometimes feels like everything now that it is gone.

I came back to the city where I now live. The big one, where every word is exotic and sometimes I lose the words I want to say and end up smiling but frustrated. The one where the buildings and streets tell stories and the people remember things from the past all too well. This is the city that I chose, or the one that fate chose for me. This city is bright, and my feelings for it seem to be brightening too. As the sun shines stronger and stronger each day, I see possibilities clearer and clearer.

I find that my two cities are no longer vying for attention in my head, the small one has become quiet and the one where I live has become loud. Maybe Budapest was never the problem, it was just the lack of natural light that meant I was never able to see properly. As I prepare to go back to one of my favourite cities, I find that I will be very happy indeed to come back to the one that I found, or the one that found me.

April 23, 2008

Flowers in the window

It's raining outside but I got a lift home, so no complaining from me. D said that she will help me get my free chair upholstered, so I am very pleased about that. Things at work seem to be mega busy, but I like the kids that I work with and every-one seems well rested and ready to work. I have loads of bills to pay and have to get my tooth fixed as it cracked while I was in Marrakech so I will be experiencing a Hungarian dentist for the first time, which is a bit nerve wracking but has to be done.

I am off to Warsaw next week on a school trip, which seems a little strange. Going back to my old school, but with students and staff from my current one. I am always happy at the thought of touching down at Chopina airport, it makes me feel like going home and I get to stock up on kielbasa and Krupnik and practise my Polish. I hope that the staff realise that my language skills are pretty basic!

This first week back at school after the holidays has been tiring, but I feel like I have had a real break, a proper holiday. Everything is ticking along nicely as we make our final descent into the summer.

April 22, 2008

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

I have been back at work for a couple of days and with the sun shining brightly and summer clothes adorning my back, things are feeling pretty good. I wake up in the light and get home to a couple of hours of bright skies before bedtime and work starts again. The chair that is sitting in my spare room all battered and broken has not gone to be re-upholstered yet, I need to find some-one to help me first, as my Hungarian will certainly not manage that just yet.

The last few days have been really nice. Lunch at the Tapas bar, a walk through the WAMP, watching Critical Mass, it seems that Budapest and I have woken up at the same time. This weekend I have some exploring plans and am starting to feel like I am coming out of the darkness, in more ways than one.

April 16, 2008

Home to home

Nothing makes me happier than being in North Yorkshire. Maybe it is the pull of home that makes it such a safe and comfortable place to be, or maybe I find it such an uplifting experience specifically because I am only here once in a while. Only one way to find out the answer to that I suppose.

I find myself on the border of the end of the holidays once again. After a long, long wait for these holidays, Marrakech is all done and now Yorkshire is nearly done too. When I fly home tomorrow, it will be just a short stroll back into the chaos of the working week again. I am all packed, I have bought black pudding and tea bags and am all set for a sleep in my own bed in the solitude and street noise of Budapest.

This trip has made me determined in many ways, I have come to clearer decisions on where I want to be and what changes need to be made and I am very thankful for that. My head is clear and I am ready to start thinking about the next few months and next couple of years. I have a suitcase full of new things, beautiful mirrors from marrakech and long floaty skirts for the summer, which will be here soon. Two weeks today I am off to Warsaw for a few days on a school trip, so I am pleased that I will be able to see K and N. There is lots to look forward to now that the sun is out and shining bright.

April 13, 2008

Marrakchi Shopping Heaven

Although we shopped like whirling dervishes on that first day in Marrakech, the second day was much more successful in hammering our credit cards and testing our levels of endurance. After a good bit of guidebook research, I found that near the Saadian tombs there is a warehouse named the Centre Artisinal, a government run huge complex that houses all the local handicrafts at fixed prices under one roof. Basically it is like one big touristy supermarket. It sells all the stuff that you can buy in the souks, but without the hassle of haggling and at pretty good prices. N and I spent a couple of hours in there and I came out with handbags, wallets, slippers, bookmarks, two mirrors and a couple of other bits and had spent less than 75.00 quid.

The second day also saw the triumph of my French haggling to buy some scarves for N and me and then a huge red leather bag for N to use for work. The first shop with the scarves was great, the seller told me that they had a bad day, there were not many tourists and a replied that me and my friend were just poor teachers. It was all done with great humour and in the end we settled on a price, shook hands and he waved us goodbye. The leather shop had a young man in it who started to ask me where I had learned French and we chatted about Paris and the fact that I lived in Budapest. He gave me sad puppy dog eyes when I tried to barter him down, but I was pleased that he threw in a gold and orange pouffe for good measure that I had my eye on when a final price was agreed.

All in all, the whole haggling, shopping business was great fun and each of the sellers that we dealt with were friendly, smily and happy to have a go at meeting you half way. I came home with more than I really wanted or needed, but I loved all the things I got. I am already dreaming of a Christmas shopping trip to the Souks to get all my presents in one go. Actually, I am just dreaming of a chance to go back to Marrakech for any reason I can muster.

April 12, 2008

Marrakech photo flash

Here are a few photos that N has already downloaded., unlike me, so I have stolen a few for a Marrakech preview.

April 11, 2008

Casa Lalla

The Riad we stayed in we had chosen because it was supposedly run by a Michelin starrted chef who also ran the place as a small restaurant. About two weeks before we went to Marrakech, we found out that this has not been the case for about a year, and in fact the place was run by Annabel and Pierre, a couple from France. The place itself still fell within our hopes and expectations and the Riad is gorgeous on every level. We spent lots of time on the sun terrace, despite the sandstorms that plagued the city when we were there and our room was perfect.

One of the many fabulous parts of our holiday was getting to practise French with the people that we met, Taxi drivers, market stall owners and especially Annabel. I managed to have a little chat en Francais about where to get the best furniture and if it was possible to have stuff sent to England at any of the warehouses. My French is stilted, but better than I remember.

After reading the Cinnamon City book about a woman who buys and renovated a Riad in Marraekch, it was nice to see the Tadelakt and mosaics that she describes,and Morrocan architecture is really something to behold. I was glad in the end that we chose a Riad and not a hotel and we really were in the centre of the action right near the Jemma el Fna and the Riad had a great homely feel.

Four? For that Gourd?

Haggling in Marrakech is a part of the culture. We hired a guide on our first day as we had been told that the Souks can be overwhelming and we would almost certainly get lost. Ali (our guide) told us that for Marakchis, haggling is a form of communication, of conversation, interfacing. N and I were glad that we had some-one to show us around on the first day, but it made us wary of our haggling experiences and I would suggest that anyone going to Marrakech just tries to make their way around, ask the locals for directions as they are really helpful.

So, day one we had a guide, which basically meant that he manouvered us around the shops and stalls that are owned by his mates. One of these places was a massive carpet and rug shop that was inside a huge riad and seemed to contain room after room of wall to wall stacks of carpets. We were seated in a corner and plied with mint tea while a large Berber man clicked his fingers and a parade of Morrocan tribal rugs were wafted before us. He took a shine to N, even rubbing her back in a very inappropriate (her), but hilarious (me) manner.

Half an hour later we had been well and truly fleeced for two Kelim rugs, but the experience was priceless. It was intense on that first day being the backdrop for the obvious deals that our guide made with all his mates for commision on whatever we bought, but he was an interesting person and the reality is that we would never have found what he showed is without him. So, no guide next time, we are older and wiser, but definitely lots of shopping.

Boil for ten minutes then strain

One of the things that I particularly enjoyed in Marrakech was the mint tea. I tried my hardest to drink as much as I could and in the end was content with 5 cups or so a day. Some places serve it ready sugared with dried leaves, but my favourite was the stuff that was left for you to sugar yourself and with a glass stuffed full of fresh mint leaves. The smell could send me to heaven and the scent of mint with the feeling of sand will be my over-riding memory of Marrakech.

I have had at least four conversations being in and around Northallerton today about the Henna on my hands. While in the hairdressers (All my hair is cut off!), the hairdresser asked me if I had been to an Indian wedding, while the lady in the supermarket grabbed my hands and asked me what it was. Sian giggled when I met her for lunch as she has also been to Marrakech and knew that I was feeling a bit silly in the cold light of day with the spidery orange design on my hands. It was nice explaining that I had been to Marrakech, this information was always followed by a sigh of understandingas though that was all the explanation that was needed.

April 10, 2008

The pinkest city in the world

I arrived home this morning after a mammoth journey which involved missed connections and staying up all night. In the cold, frosty English morning the feeling of sand and warm air on my face felt like it was a million miles away...or a few hundred at least. Marrakech was everything I imagined, exactly what I wanted and what I didn't know that I needed. Sitting here in my Yorkshire room with family all around me I worry that the details of the trip are already starting to blur a little as we di so much and saw so much.

I will only start by saying that Marrakech is a very intense city, it is dusty and vast and you can feel that you are lost byt taking even the smallest of steps into the souks. I loved taking photos, but there are so many to look through I will have to wait a few days before the serious sorting out begins. N and I had a wonderful time, we found Morrocans friendly and good humoured, we spent a small fortune, and ate tagines and cous cous as I imagined that we would. I drank as much mint tea as I could manage, but there is always more that could be done.

There were many highlights, the Nomadic carpet seller, the food, haggling in French, the sandstorms, the shopping. So many memories and each one of them perfect and complete, but starting to fade like my tan and the feeling of sand between my toes. At least I still have all my shopping to unpack and brightly henna'ed hands that don't seem to look as cool in Northallerton as they did in the Jemma el Fna.

April 05, 2008

Amnesty for the unwanted

Every six months or so each kerulet (district) has a little throwing away party. Basically people chuck their unwanted stuff onto the streets and every-one has a good root through before the authorites ride around and collect whats left. This is the picture of my street this morning. You see some amazing stuff and I love watching people sift through and find stuff that they might need.

The girls that have lived here for a while often mention the fabulous furniture that they acquired during the throw outs and ever since I have had in my mine that if I find something with potential I would grab it. Cue me walking back from the supermarket having spotted a ragged looking mahogany armchair that would look beautiful re-upholstered in dark red fabric. I nabbed it quick, to the bemused smiles of an old lady watching me and hoiked it up to my apartment where it stands dusty and sad and waiting to fulfil its chair potential once more. I will post before and after pics when the tranformation is complete.

Come fly with me

I have a couple of hours before my flight, and the suitcase is open and nearly packed. I fly to Manchester today and then catch my connecting flight to Marrakech from there. I am looking forward to the hot sun and great shopping, but more than that I am just really ready for a break from routine. I haven't had a holiday in a while where you go somewhere new and relax. I do a lot of travelling now that I live abroad, but lots of it is school trips, conferences, going to see friends and family, not that I am complaining! I am even less likely to complain after hearing on Friday that I am being sent to Athens on another conference!

So, my travelling life carries on this weekend, see you all in a few days.

April 04, 2008

Seems like you're always a million miles away...

There are only a few hours left of this term and I have lots and lots of things to make to do to make sure that we are all wrapped up and finished while being ready for the start at the end of April of the final term. So here I am working hard and listening to the Bluetones on my trusty Ipod, I always like to refer to obscure lyrics in my titles, but this is a song that flashes me back my days at University and the years in York that followed. I am thinking of Joanne and Hannah today, hannah especially as I followed the Bluetones with a song by Cast called 'History', which rocked my world, with its mad opening riff. Am I 32, or still 19?

Yesterday I thought I would get all organised to go to Marrakech, but ended up round and D's playing with her adorable baby E. So, I am off to the latest hot restaurant this evening for C's birthday 'Donnatellas Kitchen' only opened last week and is the cities current hotspot apparantly. So by the time I get home it will be one last wake-up and the day of travel will have arrived. After all that excitement the time is practically here!

Can I have one final request for any travel tips? Anyone been to Marrakech, what to look out for? What to avoid?

April 01, 2008

Fall back, Spring forward

The clocks went back this weekend, and I thought that my clever body might have adjusted straight away. I woke up at 6.00 on Sunday, which is my normal getting up time, even though my body thought it was 5.00. Even so, I have been dragging myself out of bed in the mornings that have followed and find that the cruelty of dark mornings so soon after the light had appeared is almost too much to bear.

I will be going home after work to try and get a little organised with my packing. This is only because I am still desperate to get myself to the Baths before I fly on Saturday and as I am going out for a meal for Cs birthday on Friday night if I am going to do washing that needs to be dry for packing, it should be sooner rather than later. Wierdness follows around the feeling that after weeks of looking forward to my holiday in Marrakech, in just a few short days I will be there for real.