Saturday, March 15, 2014

Paris....where Van Gogh lived.

Paris, mai oui!

We loved it. Our little apartment in St. Michel, just a half a block from the Seine and one between Notre Dame and the Louvre.

We loved the food: Tipoly's Lebanese Moussaka Manouch, the chocolate shops, the macaroons flavored with lavendar, mint, lime, chocolate, raspberry and more. We loved dinner at the Restaurant on our corner where Yata had grilled duck breast with a honey pear sauce and I had the Sea Bass with Beuree Blanc (white butter, lightly toasted). They served wine in little ceramic pitchers that you then poured into your wine glass to share. Then in Montmarte the Creperie Lepic that served, beside Yata's gluten free savory crepe and regular dessert chocolate crepe, the best salad Montmartoise; red green bib lettuce with bacon, wonderful waxy yellow potato slices, boiled egg and toasted walnuts. Not sure what the dressing was, it was subtle. Oh, they also serve on top of the salad, a soft cooked egg. So the yoke can serve as some of the dressing.
Yata in Monmarte

Speaking of the Creperie Lepic, we were in Montmarte the village/neighborhood of VanGogh, Utrillo, Renoir and others. I was sitting in the window seat drawing the view, a high contrast light and shadow on the slightly curved streets buildings. When I had nearly finished, the waiter informed me that the building on the right (in my drawing) on the fourth floor had once housed Vincent VanGogh and his brother Theo. It gave me chills of delight when he told me that. Montmarte is a still very fun, charming area and were were so glad we went there. Again we also got some great photos. We finished the day by taking the metro from there to the Eiffel tower, arriving just in time to see it lit. Fabulous!
D'Orsay Museum
Cezanne Stillife
There are so many museums in Paris it is just mind boggling. But we did want to make it to the Louvre, the D'Orsay and L'Orangerie. We also went to the Pompadou Center (Modern Art with a unique architectural design as well; all the heating and cooling pipes are on the outside of the space instead of inside...,making people originally wonder when the building's constructions was going to be finished.)
Michelangelo's Prisoner

Venus de Milo
thought the Louvre would take us days but we went fairly early and spent about five hours there. We put a pretty good dent in it. So we didn't go back. I especially like the Venus de Milo and Michealangelo's Prisoner Sculptures. The D'Orsay is in a former station that was very well converted into a museum along the Seine. Great Impressionist collection. L'Orangerie is a museum that was built to house Monet's waterlilies that are a series, fifty feet wide and about 8 feet high.  In the lower level a great collection of Renoir and others. That was the only rainy day while we were there so after that we walked along the Seine at Rivoli which is lined with shops and a covered sidewalk to have lunch, a traditional Onion Soup and assorted crepes.  Soup is always so satisfying on a cool rainy day. 

We also went to Versaille, on a short train route, Louis XIV's 'over the top' palace and gardens.  We walked through the garden to the Grand and Petite Trianon, Marie Antoinette's smaller homes.  I wouldn't recommend this visit in the winter.  All the statues are covered and the fountains are dry.

We found the old Shakepeare bookshop where they stamp all their books with there logo of Shakespeare and the note: Kilometer Zero, Paris.  Yata bought my birthday gift there, a John Constable, Oil Sketches: from the Victoria and Albert Museum.  He was one of the first plein air painters of note.

We were lucky to return home to the first warmer weather of the winter.  Although we also returned to plumbing problems in Durand due to the prolonged cold. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


as learned from Samila at Villa Gonatouki in Essouira, Morocco February 2014
J. Accola

1 whole chicken
olive oil
angel hair pasta, one pound
1 cup of golden raisins
1 cup of almonds
1 red onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 cup cilantro
1 cup parsley
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground tumeric
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
pinch of saffron
powdered sugar and cinnamon to garnish

Prepare angel hair pasta by breaking up into 1in. Pcs.
Drizzle pasta with olive oil
Prepare steam bath
Set noodles over steam and cover.
Steam for about 10-12 min.
Remove, sprinkle with salt mix and return to steamer for another 12”
Remove and add golden raisins
Sprinkle with water, mix and put back on steamer another 12” or until soft.

Chicken and Veggies:
Cut up chicken and remove skin and any excess fat.
Saute in olive oil: red onion, garlic, chopped cilantro and parsley
Sprinkle with spices: ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, tumeric, salt
Add chicken pieces and cook until well cooked. Add broth with saffron added.

Use toasted almonds or: boil raw almonds and remove skins. Toast in oil, dry on paper towel. Chop.

Remove chicken from bone, add back to chicken onion broth. Top noodles with mixture.. Pour excess broth over all. Top with almonds. Garnish with ground cinnamon and suger along edge of dish.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Valley of 1000 Casbahs

The Sahara, a small most Western finger of it which reaches into eastern Morocco is a favorite tourist destination for visitors to Morocco. We booked a three day, two night tour with our guide Abdul who drove us first into the High Atlas Mountains where we stayed overnight one night in a venerable chalet-like hotel up in the mountains. The next morning we woke to drive down into the Valley of the Dades and got some great photos of an old casbah (sort of an ancient castle) in the morning light. 

The day before on the way up the mountain we stopped at a famous casbah where many Hollywood films have been shot. In fact there was filming going on while we were there, a new one called the Queen of the Desert to feature Nicole Kidman. We didn't see her but we did take some photos with some of the extras.

Abdul, our guide with the film extras
Yata had the opportunity to share some tunes with a Berber musician.  His instrument was similar to a banjo. 
But on to the desert. We drove most of the day, stopping at the Anti Atlas mountains to shop for fossils. This is the area from which many fossil, especially ammonites come.

We arrived at the the camel loading area in time to get saddled up and out into the dunes to witness sunset from on top of a high dune, then onto the traditional nomadic tent camp for dinner and cot
sleeping. The camels were pretty comfortable and mild mannered. Mine was a bit of a complainer but she didn't buck me off. It was amazingly cold. I needed three heavy wool blankets to stay warm! Up at about 5:30 so we could get back on camel to see the sunrise from the dunes. Dramatic and striking.

Then back to Marrakech for one more night at the Riad Shaden. We had booked a bus to Marrakech and got to the station to board and realized we had chosen the wrong busline. One of the dirtiest buses we've ever been on. When we got to Essouira our host Bruno helped us book new tickets on the SupraTour bus which was great.

Essouira, on the Atlantic Coast is another old Moroccan city known for it's consistent winds so it attracts windsurfers. We booked a wonderful room at Villa Gonatouki operated by a French family and felt pampered for three days. They had a great chef Samila and she gave me an informal cooking lesson one day. We made Safa, a pasta dish with chicken and olives, etc. We also made an eggplant caviar and a dessert smoothie with cooked carrots and fruits. Fabulous meal. We wished we had stayed there longer. The villa was actually eight kilometers south of the city so we only went into town one day but it was small enough to see most of the old city along the ramparts. I did a little sketching in one of the town sqares. Lots of photography too.

Then one night in Casablanca to catch the plane to Paris.