Sunday, February 5, 2012

January 2012 -- a posting by Jill

Now it is February 2012...January 2012 has gone by so fast! I think back and January is almost a blur, it will be hard to remember all that has happened in the first month of the year!

I had very mixed emotions upon returning to Paris. I enjoyed my six weeks home SO much! There is something so comforting and right about returning to the place that is home-your family, friends, neighborhood and village. It just feels good!

Anyway, Mark and I with Kate in tow flew to Paris January 4th. We arrived early morning on the 5th and had about a day and a half before we flew to Madrid to take Kate to her study abroad adventure. She was excited but nervous and I tried really hard not to show or express how I was feeling...although I am terrible about suppressing my emotions so I probably wasn't very effective!

We were leaving our baby in a strange country, but as our day in Madrid unfolded and we settled Kate into her apartment, I realized how much like her father she really is...fearless!!! From schooling in NYC to studying abroad, Kate just goes for it!!! She doesn't bog herself down with what could go wrong, but with what could go right!!! She is confident enough to realize she can deal with "stuff" when it happens, not if it happens-just like Mark! I guess she comforts herself with the knowledge that Daddy will be there to pick her up when she falls, but she is strong enough to continue on with bandaged knees...I am proud of my baby girl (young woman)!

Mark and I spent two days and one night in Madrid. We were back in Paris for two days and then we were off to Italy. Mark had to spend one day in Savigliano and one day in Bologna. We arrived in Savigliano late Wednesday night. Upon arriving we have a call from the HSBC fraud department! It seems someone had compromised our U.S. account and was using our debit card! Thank God HSBC was on top of things and called us the same day charges were made-payments were stopped immediately!!! That taken care of, we had to find something to eat. It was 11pm and the hotel restaurant was closed. We weren't close enough to walk to the city center to an open pizzeria so the bartender went into the kitchen and made us a ham and brie cheese sandwich on toasted white bread. It was delicious with a glass of a nice Italian red wine!!!

Thursday night we traveled to Bologna, a three hour drive. One of Mark's HR staff, Raffaella, drove us. Again we arrived late...we had reservations for dinner at a restaurant near our hotel. The restaurant owner kept his establishment open late just to serve us dinner!!! The dinner was definitely worth the wait! I had an eggplant roll stuffed with pasta and cheese-very good!

After Mark finished work on Friday we had the entire weekend to explore and enjoy Bologna (I think of Oscar Meyer every time I write that!). I looked up a couple fun facts about is home to the oldest University in the Western world. The University of Bologna was founded in 1088! In terms of quality of life in Italy Bologna ranks as one of the top cities! Bolognese sauce, a meat based pasta sauce is a culinary tradition in Bologna.

Mark and I had a great time exploring Bologna. The architecture was beautiful and the food was great! I however spent the weekend sniffling, blowing and coughing my way around the city. The weather was damp and bone chilling cold... It was still fun! A couple comments about the food...we have not had good bread in any of the cities we have visited in Italy! Why is Italian bread so delicious in the U.S. but in Italy we find no "Italian" bread as we know it? Another thing I've come to understand about the food, it was all very good-nothing surprising in favors, just plain old good Italian food! Then I realized what makes a food yummo (a term I stole from Rachel Ray)! When your mouth is experiencing an explosion of unexpected delicious flavor-it is the unexpected flavor explosion that makes a food yummo...just my opinion!


It was nice returning home on Sunday night. I was exhausted and sick and had four days to recuperate before leaving for Casablanca, Morocco!

I will not assume that everyone knows Morocco is located in North Africa as I know of two people who were unaware!!! Anyway, Mark and I arrived in Casablanca Friday evening. An Alstom driver picks us up from the airport and drives us to our hotel on the beach! The drive was very interesting. We passed by many small farms, small markets and people riding bicycles. You would see entire families riding on these very small motorized bikes! A child would be in front of Dad who was driving, Mom would be hanging on to Dad and a small baby would be slung around the Momma's back! Of course there were no helmets...a different way of life! As we approached the city, traffic was horrible and the drive turned frightening! Oh my God it was the worst ride of my life! But we survived and made it to the hotel just after sunset! The hotel was beautiful and very Moroccan in color and design. We had a great room over looking a beautiful garden and the Atlantic Ocean. The weather was fantastic...mid 60s and very little wind! Perfect! We had a nice meal in a traditional Moroccan restaurant. The chef was supposedly the best chef in Morocco-I don't know, maybe! We discovered a very delicious local red wine and enjoyed a bottle with our first meal in Casablanca. Dinner started with a fish soup that was, yes I will say it...yummo! The unexpected flavor was the oyster in a half shell in the middle of the bowl soup! Tres bien! Then we had a lamb tangine and couscous. Tangine is a cooking method in a clay flat bottom pot with a funnel shaped lid that is used in the oven or grill. The evening ended with a belly dancer!!! How fun was that...

We woke early Saturday morning and took a long walk on the beach. It was a beautiful day with lots of sunshine and very little wind! The beach was full of men, young and old, playing soccer!  They were everywhere and we were constantly dodging the players as they would run and kick the ball all around us! We headed back to the hotel to shower and start the day. We thought we would walk to the grand Mosque, The King Hassan ll. We walked about an hour or so and still only saw it from a distance! we taxied back to the hotel, had a great lunch of grilled fish then sat on the terrace, in the sun, skyping family and friends! Dinner that night was at a restaurant on the water that was recommended by Mark's boss. It was a French restaurant, the atmosphere and foods were fantastic!

Sunday we had to move inland. Mark had to prepare for work on Monday! Inland Casablanca was very different from the beach! The city was not gorgeous by any means! It was under much construction and was very dirty. It was sort of intimidating with all the Muslim garbed men and woman. As we walked to the Medina, the fortressed old city full of shops and such was a little unnerving. It was very crowded and people were bumping into us...I just held on to Mark's hand as tight as I could and tried to enjoy the experience of a new culture, one that was so very different from our own! We had a late lunch at an outdoor restaurant and again had very delicious tangine, this time beef!  We also had a traditional Moroccan dessert and tea! While we were eating the call for prayer went out! Prayer towers are located all around the city and at certain times of day chanting starts, over loud speakers, calling Muslims to prayer. That was very interesting!


Monday night Mark, I and his team went on a short bus tour! We went back to the mosque that Mark and I tried to walk to but never made it! The King Hassan ll Mosque is beautiful! While we were watching the sun set and admiring the structure and enormousness of the mosque, the call to prayer went started. All the men went in one door( seemed like the main door), took their shoes off, went inside and knelt on the hard marble floor for prayer. The women entered a smaller side door...not sure where they went! After the mosque we went to the medina, the shopping area inside the walled in ancient city! We were told to leave our purses on the bus because of the pick pocketers and thieves (thought of Alladin)!

Rick's Cafe was next! For those of you who have seen the movie Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman know of Rick's Cafe, the American style restaurant in Casablanca. We had a very nice dinner and the evening was enjoyable! Home on Tuesday...YEAH!

The month ended with a visit from Kate!! She may have needed her Mom and Dad...We had a great time enjoying Paris and visiting with each other!:)

That was January in a nutshell! I will let you know what February revoir!

1 comment:

  1. Jill, I truly enjoyed this. Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience. Love Aunt Bebe