My Photography

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Marrakech- Terres D'Amanar

I was going through my pictures on Picasa this week and realized there was an entire album full of pictures that I meant to post about and never did! It's almost embarrassing how old these are—they're from our trip to Marrakech last March when we visited Terres D'Amanar.

Terres D'Amanar is a difficult place to explain. Basically it's an adventure park with ziplines, treetop obstacle courses, hikes and the like. I had heard of it long ago, and when in and around Marrakech Othman and I had considered going there more than once, but never quite made it. Despite the descriptions I'd heard I wasn't and our perusal of its website, we still weren't sure exactly what we would find there, but I was determined that that trip would see us visiting this fabled place in Oukaimden's foothills.

We woke up earlier than we might have otherwise on Saturday the 22nd of March, and headed towards the mountains. I love the drive from Marrakech to Oukaimden—the flat, hot, semi-arid desert landscape is much more heavily populated than seems likely, and feels like it will stretch forever around the road. You drive for 20 or 30 minutes once having left Marrakech, enter a small town, and when you emerge on the other side you're suddenly in a green valley, with hills and mountains stretching up and forward, blocking out the sky. It's an incredibly sharp and breathtaking transition.

We then headed into the Ourika valley and kept our eyes peeled for a sign indicating where to turn off the main road. Once we did see it I could hardly believe it wasn't misplaced—the road it told us to turn on wasn't much more than a mud path almost entirely made of potholes, wide enough for no more than one car. But turn we did, and followed it up and around, up and around.

Knowing Terres D'Amanar to be quite expensive, and a popular attraction for schools and tourists (mostly Moroccan) alike, at first I was surprised to see that the road was in such a state of disrepair. But then I remembered that in this country a pot-holed road isn't going to stop anyone, and if it isn't going to stop anyone then no one is going to bother fixing it. It's one of those Catch-22s that made me wish the King would decide to visit there, because anytime the King is passing through somewhere not only does the trash get cleaned up and flags get put out everywhere, but entire roads get repaved!

The road seemed like it would never end, and the cars (and even the tractor above) that we met coming the other way made me convinced we'd all die as we edged around each other extremely close to one precipice or another. Nevertheless, the views on journey were stunning. 

Finally, once I had almost given up hope of ever reaching there, we saw an entrance gate, made our business known and passed through. This guy was there to greet us, and we found our way to the parking lot. 

At the ticket booth we considered our options and decided on a course that included five ziplines over huge drops into valleys far below and two long suspended bridges to cross. The next group would leave in an hour or so, and we had some time to kill. I wandered around and took some pictures.

When the group before ours was making the last leg of their course we were able to watch and snap some pictures (we of course were not going to take a camera or phone with us on a zipline so have no pictures of ourselves doing it). Othman has a pretty strong fear of heights and was looking a bit pale, but I felt nothing but excitement. I told him the bridges looked easy-peasy but the ziplines were probably going to scare me. He nodded silently and didn't say much at all.

After a 3 minute training introduction and suiting up with harnesses and helmets we were off to the first suspension bridge along with four other 20-something Moroccans. Our harnesses got strapped onto the wire cables and we were off, stepping gingerly on the wooden slats with WIDE spaces between each. I. Was. Terrified. Halfway across going at a snail's pace (and it was LONG) my hands started cramping because I was holding on so tight. One of the Moroccans ahead thought it'd be fun to bounce up and down and make the entire bridge jerk around, and with wide eyes I held on for dear life. Interestingly, Othman, with his vertigo (and the view below was gorgeous but very far down) was just fine behind me. Once we reached solid ground again I asked him how on earth he had stayed so calm, and it turned out to be the engineer in himhaving inspected the harness and the bridge and deeming us to be safe, he had no fears. Take a look here for a short video that shows the scary bridge (the picture below is the second one) and gives you an idea of what its like.

That done, it was zipline time, and oh how fun that was! Flying through the cold mountain air with nothing but wind and birds in your ears was magical, and the views were just lovely. Five ziplines of different lengths and in different areas certainly were not enough.

All in all, despite the bumpy ride up, the rather high price and the surprises we had on the course itself, we will most definitely be returning to Terres D'Amanar! Having done the Parcours Arien, next time I want to try the Accro Park which promises to be a totally different experience. Along with horseback riding, kids areas, restaurants, hiking and more, this place offers something for everyone and it definitely worth a visit.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A late birthday report

This week has been one of the busiest in a while (I guess that happens the week after vacation) so I'm only uploading these pictures of Othman's birthday now! When he got home on the 19th he had this view:

Having the week off I had all sorts of time to prepare a great birthday evening for him! Many times he's gotten me elaborate many-item gifts, but I usually opt for one bigger thing for him. Maybe it's because he's so hard to shop for! One way or another this year I wanted to out-do him, and had the time to for once. I think I succeeded, even if quite a few of the gifts were just little jokes, they put a smile on his face!

He has had an ridiculous workload and amount of stress at his job for the past couple months, and I knew his day at work wasn't going to be the most celebratory. I wanted to make sure the time he spent at home was full of love and surprises!

I made his gift opening a game and he had to match the description with the correct gift before he could open them, and though it took a few tries he did better than I expected!

For his cake I made my go-to chocolate cake recipe I've posted about before, which is one we didn't feel tooooo bad about eating too much of!

We went out for a really nice Chinese dinner that night and just enjoyed a quiet evening in each other's company.

That weekend we went out to a French Creperie with his family and a couple of good family friends. His mom surprised both of us with this AMAZING cake that she made and decorated!! It definitely beat mine beauty-wise! 

I loved the little turtle family she made, and the pond is just the cutest touch. I couldn't eat the cake but from the little bit I tasted it was delicious! The owner of the restaurant and its chef were duly impressed and even asked Othman's mom if she had a bakery of her own!

We were all successful in making Othman's birthday great, now here's to making his last year of twenty-hood even better!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy 14th to my sis, happy Thanksgiving to everyone else

Today my baby sister turns 14. I'm both amazed at how quickly she's growing up, amused at how she is similar to I was at that age, and proud of who she's turning into. She told me she liked Othman's picture birthday post and that I should do more posts with less blahblah and more photos, so I'm taking this opportunity to do so!

These pictures give you a good idea of who Tessie is. She's a goof who's confident and has an attitude, and who is totally lovable and oh-so-sweet. Happy bday lil sis, love you!! 


...then some time passed and some growing up happened, and she turned into....


Somehow those faces stayed pretty similar! Today is Thanksgiving in the US and she got a fantastic birthday present-- our biggest brother arrived home on a surprise visit, when he was supposed to be in Amsterdam! There was one other year that her birthday fell on Thanksgiving and he wasn't around, and he was never really forgiven for that. Hopefully this makes up for it!

Here they are together, back in the day!

I wish I could have hopped on that plane with him to be home today (even if it was -8 Fahrenheit/-22 Celsius there this morning...), but being far makes me even more thankful for my family and my sibs! So I'll let Tessie's and Maria's joint artistry close this post. Today, don't forget to...

and to...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Happy birthday to my love

Warning: this is a picture heavy post!! 

Today is my lovely husband's birthday, and for this special day I wanted to focus on the two of us throughout the years... we've traveled to three continents together, had two weddings, and shared so many adventures and smiles. These pictures can say it better than I can, so without further ado, here is the hubby I love so much, 2010-2014, who keeps getting older, but not looking older!

2010: France, Mayotte, Morocco, USA


2011: Morocco


2012: Morroco, USA, Morocco

2013: Morocco, USA, France

2014: Morocco

Happiest of birthdays to you lovey, and here's hoping that the next four years together are just as wonderful and wonder-filled as the last four. Je t'aime.

(Looking through this I've realized this post could alternatively be called "Othman's hair--how long is it now??" Hehehe.)