Monday, June 29, 2015

Madrid 2014 - Dinner at a local Tahone

We arrived in Madrid quite late in the evening, however being Spring the sky was still bright. After the long drive from the airport we were all famished and it was time to eat. Dinner was served in a traditional Spanish restaurant. This being one of the meals included in the tour, we were not expecting much. However it did come with Sangria which was most welcome.

The restaurant has a long name - La Tahona de Alburquerque. At the front is a Tapas bar with lots of Jamon hanging from the ceiling. At the back is a dining area which is quite cozily appointed.

The dinner was quite simple. It started with a  Noodle Soup with Ham (Sopa de jamón y fideo). Looking a bit like Maggie mee - it however tasted great.

Main course was Pork Medallions with French Fries. Again the look is deceiving. The pork was very flavourful and tender. The Spanish do know how to cook their pork.

Dessert was a mixed fruit comport. Nothing special but it was fresh and refreshing.

This was a good start to our Spanish adventure, especially with the generous servings of Sangria to put us in the right mood.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Madrid 2014 - Barajas International Airport Madrid

After our sojourn in Marrakesh, we had to backtrack to Casablanca and fly to Madrid. Though the Spanish Capital is well-known and its football clubs are legendary, I really did not know what to expect. We arrived at the Barajas International Airport - which is designed by renown British Architect Richard Rodgers. It is an impressive high-tech complex with acres of steel and glass. The soaring wavy roof is beautiful and a technical tour de force.

Among the high-tech architects, Richard Rodgers along with his former partner Renzo Piano is one of the most humanist. Here you get a sense that all the technology is being deployed to serve the user, and to make the user feel comfortable. The use of colours on the main steel structures, and the wooden ceiling adds warmth and comfort to the building.

Even the luggage pick-up area which is normally the most overlooked area in an airport is given a high soaring roof and interesting high-tech design.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Morocco 2014 - Marrakesh Airport

For the next leg of our tour we were flying to Madrid. Arriving at the airport - the architecture was one of the big surprises of our visit to Marrakesh. This is an ultra-modern airport with a very iconic design.

Not only is the design very striking, the details are also very well thought-out and executed. Like the skylights in the roof which let in the light but shielded away the heat.

Morocco has been quite an adventure, and it was sad to leave. It is one of those places which I will definitely revisit - and hopefully soon.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Morocco 2014 - Dinner in a Private Palace

For our last night in Marrakesh we were taken to a private palace for dinner. Many of these old palaces or Riad are well hidden within the narrow streets and alleys of the Souks - and unless a local leads the way you will never be able to find the place. 

The entrance to the palace is a bit nondescript, but the minute you enter you are faced with a magnificent 2-storey main dining area with overlooking balconies. This was probably a former courtyard which has been covered over - but it was done meticulously with a beautiful roof and ceiling. Every corner of the building is covered with intricate Moroccan art and design.

The dinner started with some Mezze and Moroccan flatbread. There was Hummus, olives, Babaghanoush, Kibbeh, etc.served with mint tea.

The main course was Chicken and Eggplant Tagine. The chicken was nice and tender, but it was the eggplant Tagine that stood out - really flavourful with nice balance of Moroccan spices.

The dinner finished with a fruit platter - which was a bit disappointing. Some Moroccan sweets would have been much better.

Throughout the dinner we were entertained  by 2 musicians, and there was even a belly dancer to perform for us between courses. Good food, good music and great ambiance - one really couldn't ask for more.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Morocco 2014 - Majorelle Garden

The Majorelle Garden is one of the most popular attractions in Marrakesh. It is a private botanical garden created by French painter Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s. It took him 40 years to complete the garden. The garden was open to the public since 1947, and in 1980 was bought by Yves Saint-Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge. After Yves died in 2008, his ashes were scattered in the garden.

The fame of Majorelle Garden surpassed that of Jacques Majorelle's paintings. His passion for botany propelled him to to bring plants from all over the world to embellish the garden. There are exotic species of bamboo, cacti, palm trees, agave, weeping willows, ferns, bougainvilleas, etc. It truly is a magnificent garden most worthy of a visit.

Jacques also commissioned architects to design his studios and other buildings in the garden. He painted them in striking blue and yellow colours, which accentuated the green and emerald hues of the plants.

The exotic plants and flowers are beautiful and captivating.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Morocco 2014 - Bahia Palace

The Bahia Palace was built by Grand Vizier Si Moussa in the 1860s to house his 4 wives and 24 concubines. No expenses were spared and top craftsmen and artisans were brought in to build the palace over 14 years. You can imagine the beauty and opulence of the palace from all that work - every square inch of the building is covered with intricate woodwork, marquetry, mosaic, woven silk panels and hand-painted patterns. Unfortunately the beauty of the Palace did not escape the gaze of the French. When Morocco was occupied by the French in 1912, they installed the Residents-General in the Palace.

Bahia Palace is built in a garden compound of 8 hectares in size. As the palace was built haphazardly over a long period of time - there is no overall masterplan. There are over 150 rooms in total, and most of these are arranged around courtyards which provide natural light and ventilation to the large complex. Due to the arrangement of the spaces around these beautiful courtyards, you never feel that any parts of the building are out of place.

One of the inner courtyards - where the white walls with blue decorative lines are very distinctive.

The rooms in the Palace are beautiful and opulent. The craftsmanship that went into the decorations is simply breathtaking.