February 26, 2007

Tate Modern and Tate Britain

The Tate Modern has a wonderful Member's Room - perfect view of St Paul's Cathedral. However, Lucrecia and I did not enjoy the Gilbert and George exhibit at all. To save the day, we took the Tate Boat to the Tate Britain and did enjoy the Hogarth exhibit. What a contrast! (pictures courtesy of the Tate website).

February 21, 2007

AWC Day Trip to Longleat

It took a long time to get to Longleat, so our leader provided sandwiches and chips for us before we arrived so we did not have to "waste time" at Longleat eating lunch. We started with a guided tour of the fabulous Longleat house. Then another member and I took the safari boat, viewing an elderly chimp and sea lions (50 pence per bucket to feed them). There were a lot more activities for children. Then we got back on the coach and drove through the safari park to see giraffes, tigers, lions etc. Then it was a quick trip back to the shop (after learning about some bargains we had missed, some of us had to buy the 2006 Hudsons for £2 and some very nice costume jewelry at £5) before heading back to London.

February 18, 2007

Marrakech Day 3

We started our morning by walking to the Jardin Majorelle. This was a pleasant garden with many cacti.

We then entered the medina and walked round and round the souqs. Numerous children would insist on guiding us but only part way, and then be annoyed at the apparently insufficient tip Kris offered (although they always took it eventually). We exited and realized we were completely lost. A nice young man saw that we looked puzzled and got us started again in the right direction of the Djemma El-Fna (no tip requested). This time we kept the sun to the right (we might still be there had it been dark or a cloudy day) and finally made it to the square.
Using the Koutoubia Minaret as our landmark, we made it safely back to the hotel. Dinner consisted of olives, Moroccan wine (Carrie) and beer (Kris) in the beautiful Sofitel garden.

February 17, 2007

Marrakech Day 2

In the morning, we checked out the lobby / gardens of the Meridien and then walked to the Menara Gardens. The olive trees and Atlas mountains were pretty, but the reflecting pools needed a good cleaning (although there were jumping fish).

In the afternoon, Carrie checked out the hotel Hammam treatment and was thoroughly scrubbed and exfoliated. This was followed by an argan oil massage. Goats climb the argan trees to eat the berries (picture courtesy of Tamri website). Their manure contains the indigestible hard kernels that are collected by local women who, through a difficult process, extract the precious oil. Kris opted for a jasmine oil massage.

In the evening, we used the Lonely Planet guide to seek food in the Vieux Nouvelle (Gueliz). We ate a panini in a hip new restaurant, bought assorted baklava from the recommended patisserie and ate ice-cream for dessert at the recommend Olivers.

February 16, 2007

Marrakech Day 1

We woke up to a terrific view from our hotel balcony. The winter weather in Marrakech is perfect – sunny and warm during the day (70 DegF) and cool at night (50 DegF). We stayed in the touristy Hotel Andalous which is equidistant from Old Town (walled Medina), Menara Gardens, and New Town (Gueliz). Although the old town is a maze of tiny alleyways, our hotel was situated in an area of broad boulevards and gardens. Marrakech caters to the French and the grand boulevards reminded us of Paris.

After breakfast, we set off in the direction of the old City to visit the Cyber Park. The Cyber Park is a large garden of olive trees, orange trees and palms. This park was created about 300 years ago but is called Cyber Park because most of the major high-tech firms (e.g., Sony, Nokia) are current sponsors. Maroc Telecom provides wi-fi access in the modern building at the park entrance.

After visiting Cyber Park, we crossed the street to see the Ensemble Artisanal. This area was filled with a variety of Moroccan crafts shops with people actually working on their crafts. It was very interesting to see how many of the items were made.

In the afternoon, we hired a guide to show us the Old City. We started at the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa which was founded as a centre of Quaranic learning in the 14th century. By the 16th century, hundreds of students lived in 130 dorm rooms. The school closed for a variety of reasons in 1962. The architecture is ornate and incredibly beautiful. We then were taken to the Mnebhi Palace and Musee de Marrakech.

After a refreshing mint tea, we visited a variety of shops in the souqs – a maze of streets and shops in the medina. Our guide gave tips on what to look for when buying while the shop owners demonstrated their wares – wood boxes, leather shoes, fabrics and dyes, herbs, oils, wrought iron, etc.

We ended the tour at the Djemaa El-Fna or main square. After admiring the cobras, dancers, and other entertainment – we ate dinner high up on a terraced restaurant. We enjoyed our omelette (Kris) and lamb couscous (Carrie) and the sights below. We tossed scraps of egg and lamb to a begging cat waiting on the ledge. A beautiful end to a great day.

February 05, 2007

AWC Trip to St. Albans

We met at the West Hampstead Thameslink Train station and travelled only 22 minutes to the charming town of St. Albans. We were met by a Blue Badge guide for our day tour.
St Albans sits on the site of what was once the 3rd largest Roman City in the United Kingdom, Verulamium. We saw one mosaic floor but we need to return to spend time in the museum. The grounds are now a beautiful park.

People used to come to St Albans when on a pilgrimage. We walked through the Cathedral, viewed the Abbey Gatehouse (1365), and took pictures of the Clocktower as well as the "oldest continuously inhabited pub in the UK" named "Ye Olde Fighting Cocks".

The Wed / Sat St. Albans open air market and typical high street shops were not so special, but I loved the small and expensive boutiques. Also, the station area was questionable but there was frequent bus service between the town and the station. We had a lovely day and I look forward to bringing Kris back to see St. Albans.