Have any of you ever left the kids with your parents, siblings or friends and headed out on a solo vacation with your partner? Ever since we became parents over a decade ago we have been stealing away for a day or two (and a few times even a week) to get some much needed time alone. We come back from these little trips refreshed and rested (physically and mentally) and ready to dive back into our very busy family life. I’ve written all about it over on the creative parenting blog Classic Play. Check it out and let me know your thoughts!
Whenever we get back from a trip people are always so curious as to what sort of souvenirs or items we bought while traveling around. We don’t usually do a lot of shopping on our family vacations (because we all know how much kids LOVE to shop) but we always try and bring back a few keepsakes for ourselves and gifts for friends and family (read here and here to find what we purchased in Japan).
And of course in Morocco we had to check out the world famous souks off the Jemaa El Fna Square in Marrakesh. The kids loved getting lost in the winding narrow alleyways full of interesting shops selling everything you could ever imagine.
I have to admit I’m not a big fan of bargaining and bartering about prices (although I am good at it!). I’m always scared of offending the shop owner and /or getting colossally ripped off. In any case, I’m pretty sure we we paid way too much for some of the things we purchased (you can always tell when they quickly agree to the first price you offer).
These babouche are by far my favorite purchase. They are so bright, colourful and actually quite comfortable. One shopkeeper told us that they are made out of camel leather and are hand-stitched The kids each picked out a pair for themselves and some pairs to bring back for good friends. We paid between 5€ and 7€ a pair ($6.50-$9). Quite a bargain for something so unique and typically Moroccan. Only downside is that they have a very pungent and distinctive smell. One of my kids suggested it could be what the inside of a goat’s bowel would smell like. Over the last months it has improved a bit but it’s still there (despite my constant spraying of Sandalwood perfume).
And of course we couldn’t come home without a tagine. I would have loved to bring back one of the beautifully hand painted larger ones that are available for purchase everywhere but we just didn’t have space in our luggage. So instead we picked out some of the smaller versions which are usually used for salt/pepper/cumin. The kids bought some to bring back to their teachers and I brought some to use here at home. We paid anywhere from 1€-3€ ($1.50-$4).
As soon as I saw a tiny shop which sold tassles of every kind I was like a kid in a candy shop. They had every size and colour imaginable and were available in everything from cotton to velvet to leather. I ended up buying three leather ones (€2/$2.50) which I’ll use for key chains or to hang on hand sewn purses and bags and a whole bunch of tiny little cotton ones in the loveliest colours (0.15€/20¢ each). I wish I’d bought so many more.
The souks of Marrakesh are famous for their leather goods. You can get beautiful purses of every style and colour (and quality). I found several purses which I loved and didn’t end up buying due to the “smell factor” that we had with the babouche slippers. The kids bought these sweet little 3-pocket leather wallets above (3€/$4 each) and a few leather bracelets (3 for €2/$2.50). There are many many styles of wallets, bracelets, purses and belts to choose from. Just be careful for quality and how the leather is dyed or painted.
You absolutely can’t go to Morocco and not buy their world famous Argan Oil. These oil is made from the kernals of the Argan Tree which is endemic to Morocco. It is used for both culinary and cosmetic purposes and is said to have many healing and medicinal purposes (aging, rheumatism, acne, scarring). We stopped at a Women’s Co-op in the Atlas mountains and bought a few little bottles to give it a try. I’ll let you know if it changes my life. I paid about €7/$9 for a small 40ml bottle.
I also picked up this gorgeous rag rug while we were traveling in the Atlas Mountains. I saw it hanging outside a tiny shop at the summit of one of the mountains we drove over on our travels and I knew it would be perfect in our home. I was tempted to buy the large version but lack of suitcase space made it so that I left with the smaller version (€10/$13). It looks perfect in my son’s lego corner of our livingroom.
All along the mountainous roads we came across men selling these crystallized rocks that they found in various mines and caves. My kids fell in love with them and ended up using some of their travel money to purchase some for themselves and friends. We were told they were all naturally coloured. In any case it’s quite impressive to open the dull black stones and find these beautifully coloured crystal insides. Everyone who comes to our house has to admire these stones before getting past the front hall. They cost between €2 and €4 ($2.50-$5.50).We also bought some painting pigments in one of the many spice shops. These vibrantly coloured powders just need to be mixed with lemon juice and are great for painting or dying cotton clothing (see here what the kids painted). These pigments are sold by the gram and we paid about €3/$4 total for all of them.
Have you ever been to Morocco and purchased anything special?
Time for another of my Traveling With Kids columns over on the fabulous creative parenting blog Classic Play. This time I write about our time spent in the city of Marrakesh during our recent trip to Morocco. Marrakesh is a charismatic city full of so much colour and culture. After our calm time in the Atlas Mountains it was quite a culture shock to arrive in this busy and charismatic city full of everything from monkey tamers, to donkey carriages to vendors selling everything under the sun. Pop on over to Classic Play to read (and see) more!
Have you ever been to Marrakesh? What was your favorite spot in the city to visit?
As some of you may know last month we spent a week visiting the beautiful country of Morocco (see my travel column about our time in the Atlas Mountains here). While in Marrakesh we spent quite a bit of time wandering through the maze of souks (markets) and admiring all the various stalls and shops selling leather purses and slippers, ceramic bowls, carpets, jewelry, antiques and pretty much anything else you could ever desire.
One of our favorite shops to visit were the spice shops. They were full of bottles upon bottles filled with every kind of spice and herb you could ever imagine. The aroma these shops give off can be smelled from far away and is almost intoxicating while you’re actually inside.
At the shop above we bought little plastic sacks filled with freshly ground cumin (did you know in Morocco they put salt and cumin on the dining table instead of salt and pepper?), Moroccan 35 spice, the most intense yellow tumeric I’ve ever seen, Moroccan curry and the most amazing and pungent smelling cinnamon ever. Since returning home I’ve tried all my spices and they are absolutely amazing. They add so much flavour to any dish.
But the most intriguing items we bought in one of these little spice shops were the coloured powdered pigments. At first we had no idea what all the jars full of coloured water were but the kind shop owner Mohammed explained that these are pigments used for painting and dying clothing. As a lover of bright colours and anything creative I decided to buy some to experiment with back home on a rainy day. As luck would have it, the week after we arrived home we had a stay-at-home day and these pigments were the perfect activity to stay warm in front of the fireplace.
Mohammed told us to mix small amounts of the pigment powders with lemon juice. I think the kids had just as much fun doing this than the actual painting. The colours turned out so vibrant and reminiscent of the colours we saw everywhere in Morocco.
The paint has quite a different texture to normal paints and actually dries with a beautiful smooth and almost shiny finish.
It’s not often that these big kids of mine have time to sit down and paint for a morning like we did so often in the past. I have to admit that I loved every single minute of it.
One of the things I love about the place I live is the fact that we’re so close to so many beautiful areas. We can hop in the car and be in the centre of Milan in less than an hour (depending on traffic of course). We can arrive at the Swiss border within 45 minutes and to the beautiful city of Lugano in a little over an hour. The Mediterranean Sea is a beautiful relaxing drive of less than two hours as well. It’s wonderful to be able to wake up on a Saturday morning, look out the window and decide what kind of landscape we’re in the mood to visit that day.
As I mentioned here a few months ago, this year we’ve decided to explore and discover as many new and lovely places as we can in the region of Piemonte. We are actually only minutes to the border of Lombardia and Piemonte (I do my grocery shopping there) and have actually seen very little of it over the 12 years that we’ve lived here.
Last Saturday morning we decided we wanted to do a nice little hike but weren’t in the mood to be in the car for very long. We looked at a map and decided on the town of Gattinara which is a mere 30 minutes from our doorstep.
We all packed into the car and off we went to find some beautiful spot to take a stroll. We arrived in the town and noticed there were signs that led up to a famous antique tower. We followed the steep road up into the hills and vineyards and found just what we were looking for.
We parked the car, visited around the tower for a few minutes then headed off on foot among the rolling hills covered in vineyards (which apparently are some of the best around). Along one of the dirt roads we decided to follow a sign for the abandoned castle of San Lorenzo. The weather was still a bit foggy (which it often is in Piemonte) and we slowly made our way up through the woods.
The castle of San Lorenzo (XII-XIII) is in ruins but well kept and great fun for the kids to explore and climb around. The sun broke through the clouds just in time for our picnic and we sat at a lovely old stone table in a little clearing in a wooded area. The view we had on the abandoned castle was just perfect.
After lunch we strolled around the castle grounds and enjoyed the first sun we had seen in days. In the middle of the ruins the kids found the ultimate climbing tree. So while they climbed we sat back and enjoyed the views over the region and the Sesia River.
Although it’s always a bit difficult to get the kids motivated to leave the house on week-end mornings they are always so happy when we are visiting these places. They love the walks through the woods, vineyards, hills and towns and they adore hearing about the history behind all these places.
Yet another great day out discovering Piemonte.
Today on the blog Classic Play you can check out my first write-up on our recent trip to Morocco. This column is about our time spent in the Atlas Mountains (my write up of our time in Marrakesh will be coming up in a few weeks time). This area of Morocco is so stunning and really gives you a taste of the “real Morocco”. We met the friendliest and most welcoming people, ate the most delicious food and went on the most gorgeous hikes/treks. Can you tell we fell in love with the area? I’d recommend to anyone visiting Morocco to rent a car and head this way. So pop on over and take a look!
Anne from the lovely travel blog Pret A Voyager interviewed me about my travel experiences and it’s up on her blog today. Pop on over to take a peek (there are lots of photos too!).
Hello! We’re just back from an amazing trip to Morocco in North Africa. We got to explore some lovely areas in the Atlas Mountains and in the city of Marrakesh and had the most perfect weather the entire time. We’re all feeling relaxed and re-charged and are even a little bronzed.
The kids were so happy and enthusiastic about everything we did, the places we saw and the people we met. They have all decided that we should visit Morocco every year for the February break (I guess we should start saving now).
They loved the hikes in the mountains, the day-long camel trek, all the new Moroccan foods they tried, the fact they could practice their French, the little kids they got to know and just the fact that the five of us were together experiencing all these new and exciting things together.
Time for another Traveling With Kids post over on the fantastic creative parenting blog Classic Play. This time I write about a city trip we did to Berlin a few years ago. We really fell in love with Berlin and had the most amazing 4 days there. We visited lots of monuments and museums, took a bus tour, ate the famous currywurst and spent hours strolling around interesting little neighbourhoods. Pop on over to Classic Play to read more about our trip.
My newest Traveling With Kids column is over on Classic Play! today. This time I decided to get down to the nitty gritty of traveling with kids. Meaning, I interviewed the kids and asked their opinions and experiences in regards to travel. They gave me some well thought out philosophical anecdotes on traveling. And they also gave me a story which revolves around toilets (there was an 8 year old boy involved!). I loved hearing how different our kids memories are of our travels compared to ours. Some little stories they tell I had completely forgotten about. So pop on over and let me know what you think. And if you have some stories about your kid’s views on travel I’d love to hear them!