Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Travel Tuesday : Fes, Morocco

When we arrived in Fes -- after our looooong train journey -- we headed out to hail a Petit Taxi. The first driver wanted to charge us 50 Dh, which we laughed at and moved on. The second guy said 15, so we jumped in and he took us to the Bab Bou Meloud, the famous blue gate.

From there it was relatively easy to find Talaa Kebina, even if it was challenging to find the first riad we wanted to look at: the Dar Iman. I thought the mosaic work and painted doors were beautiful, but Wil hated it from the beginning. He didn’t like the terrace, the courtyard, and the immediate surroundings. So we moved on.

We checked our map and decided to try my first choice: Dar El Hana. We got lost a couple of times, and had to ask directions, but we found it and it’s gorgeous. More subdued, with a great big room and a lovely roof terrace. The room was, however, far more expensive – 890 Dh, but we talked her down to 700/night as we were staying nights. The owner is an Aussie expat named Josephine, and she’s lovely and thoughtful, giving us tea and water and telling us about Fes and how she came to be here.

Our room was huge, with an anteroom and desk and couch, as well as a large bedroom and shower. Beautiful floors and wooden details, and a very cute “secret window” looking out over the street from the bed.

our sneaky window 
the view from our sneaky window
Got settled a bit and then headed out to the town. We made a loop through our part of the medina, stopping to visit the shop of the man who helped us find our way. (Wil hated the brass mirrors, I failed to think of a place to put one. Eventually we would buy a beautiful carved bowl that still graces our dining table, ten years later.)

We ended up at Café Clock, a very cool “cross-cultural café” run by an expat Brit. It’s a converted riad, so there are lots of different seating areas and chill-out rooms, plus a great roof terrace. The food was good too – we split a falafel/tabbouleh/hummus plate and a “Fes tapas” plate with roasted beets, pickled carrots, little croutony things, an eggplanty pepper spread, some very soft goat cheese, a tomato and onion salad, and a couple of dates. Which made me sorta wish I had a date shake.

The next morning we wandered down to the tanneries. We just walked down, down, down past the shops and the mosques, eventually finding our way by following the donkeys laden with hides... and the unmistakable stink.

A nice man offered to show us a good view and took us through his shop and up onto his terrace. I was happy we had gone with him, since the place seemed simpler than the ones with the fancy covered terraces – we walked past trying hides. Yellow was that day's color… or perhaps the previous day’s as these were drying?

The dye pits are amazing. The whole scene looks (and, now that I think of it, IS) medieval. They were dyeing browns and reds, with men (they were all men) standing in the pits moving the hides from one pit to another. Amazing. We also saw the very stinky part, where they take the hides and tan them, using lots of pigeon poo and cow urine, apparently. The men drop hide after hide into a vat, turning them over and then mushing them down with a stick. Then they take them out and put them in the next vat of muck. It must take days to tan the leather…

After the hides are tanned, they're dyed in these big vats. 

 And after they've been dyed, they are carefully stretched out and touched up, if necessary, to ensure even color. Yellow is the most prestigious of the colors.

Anyway, after watching the tanners and dyers do their stuff, we headed back in to run the gauntlet through the shop. The first man had been nice, but he turned us over to another man who was less nice. Wil saw a good bag for the netbook and the haggling began. The seller started at 750 Dh. ($95) Wil countered with 200 Dh ($25). The seller dropped to 550, but Wil stood firm at 200. They asked our best price, and Wil stood firm. So we said thanks, goodbye, and then left. A few minutes later the man came after us, telling us he couldn’t make a profit, and asking our best price. Wil was a rock, and said “200… it’s all I can spend on a bag”. The man let us go, and I started to wonder if we had really gone too low. I man, a camel leather bag, pockets, buckles, etc…. But a few minutes later the little boy from the shop came running after us with the bag and said “OK! OK!”.

We wound our way around the narrow streets, marveling at the beams placed between buildings to keep them from falling.

We struggled to find our way back to our riad – we had to leave the medina to try and get our bearings at the city walls.

Perhaps we had been dazed by the smell of the tanneries? But we went back to the riad, stopping for food en route -- though these honey-dipped sweets, covered with bees, were too alarming for me to contemplate.

We spent most of the rest of the day relaxing on Josephine’s breezy roof terrace enjoying beverages from her icy fridge. Bliss.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Xmas Stitch-a-Long, part 1

Hi everyone!

It's been a busy and exciting three weeks. I got a new job, turned in my notice on my old job, and started the new job. Oh, and I still managed to do some stitching.

At the last check-in I was nearly finished with the odd little cherry blossom cross stitch set.

I'm happy to report that I finished the stitching AND the ink all rinsed out just fine. I even found a ready-made frame, so it's all framed and ready to go for Christmas!

Then the next project I wanted to work on was this kitschy Christmas banner from an old Edna Looney kit:

I love these old felt-and-sequins sort of kits. Maybe I just enjoy building up layers of felt? The "bits" part of the kit had gone missing, which meant I didn't have the sequins or beads, though I did have the feathers for the beard. But I cobbled together a few things and voila!

I'm especially pleased with my adaptations of the pattern. I decided to attach the holly leaves by stitching veins rather than stitching around the shapes, and I found some cute tiny red jingle bells to serve as holly berries:

I also found some black "gems" and a red "gem" to replace the missing ones from the kit. The red one was bigger than the original piece in the kit, so I just used it without a background:

In other Christmas news... Many years ago I bought a couple of dozen spools of craft ribbon in a 90% off after Christmas sale with the idea of weaving them together and making a table runner. That took a couple of years to happen, but I did eventually make the table runner. (I'd show you but it's still packed away with the Christmas decorations!) But of course there was a lot of ribbon left over.

I had been wanting to make some Christmas bunting using the old ribbons, so finally made the time to design the project, gather supplies, and even start sewing. First I stitched the ribbons to the blue flannel backing fabric:

Then I cut those into 8-inch rows, stitched the edges to keep everything together, and then cut them into flags:

Finally I zig-zag edged the flags. Next step will be to make the letters, which requires a trip to the fabric store to choose the fabric for them (a bright blue metallic, perhaps?) and then I'll stitch on the felt snowflakes and the letters, and bind them to a ribbon for hanging.

That's still a lot of work between now and Christmas, but I'm hoping to have it done before our next check in on December 15!

Now, I'm sure my fellow stitchers have been just as busy on their projects -- I think a few will be doing their own happy dances this time! Check out their work on the links below:

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, Sue, Constanze, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, Cindy, LindaHeidi, Jackie, Hayley, Megan, Deborah, Mary MargaretRenee, Jenny, Carmela, Jocelyn, SharonDaisy, Anne, and Connie.

See you on December 15th for our next check-in!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Adventure 41/50 : Cape Flattery Trail

The Makah people -- a name given them by neighboring tribes, which means, in Salish, "people generous with food" -- see their land as "the beginning of the world". And if you look at the map of where the Makah reservation is, you can see why:

The very tip -- "the northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States" -- is Cape Flattery.

For our anniversary -- given we just returned from Japan -- we decided to stay closer to home. We love holing up in a cabin and hanging out for a few days, so we went to Neah Bah and stayed at the Hobuck Beach Resort.

view from cabin 15
Nice, well-appointed cabins, just steps from the beach. And it's a glorious beach.

One day we drove out to the trailhead for Cape Flattery. 

On a blustery Friday morning in November there was plenty of parking at the trailhead, so we hung up our Makah recreation permit ($10, available in town, valid for a calendar year) and headed out.

Everywhere we went on the Olympic Peninsula was saw these big chairs. I don't know why.

The trail was deserted and relatively gentle, though there were a couple of short stretches that were a little steep or "rooty".

I always love "built" trails, with raised boardwalks.

The boardwalks, of local cedar, were in great condition, if so narrow that I wouldn't have wanted to pass another hiker.

A few stretches were also these "log circles" sunk into the earth. You can see that the ground was pretty muddy in places, hence the boardwalks.

As we got closer to the end of the trail, we went down some stairs to a few different built platforms.

We went to the farthest platform first, of course. To get up on it required a little ladder -- maybe difficult for some to go up or down, but sturdy. And the platforms were sturdy, too.

And the view? Postcard lovely. 

 Off the coast is Tatoosh Island, where a lighthouse stands. 

We stood for a long time on the platform enjoying the solitude and the sounds of the seabirds and waves.

I love seeing the sea caves being carved by the surf. Apparently this cape is "riddled with sea caves".

Eventually we turned back to explore some more, stopping at each platform. Each one had different, glorious views.

Eventually we turned back up the trail. Did I mention how much I love a raised boardwalk?

We stopped for one last glimpse of "the beginning of the world", before heading up to the trailhead.

We saw a few people heading down, but the trail was still really quiet. And at only 2.4 reasonably gentle miles round trip, it's a perfect little hike.