Our little Maison en Terre in Taroudant. Cool walls, warm terrace, glowing lights, snug rooms. Simple and elegant. Thanks, Catherine (designer)!

And now for the closing piece de resistance: Catherine’s garden just outside town, complete with dogs, cats, goats, chickens, a peacock, finches and a tortoise. Oh, and a stunning view of the Atlas too.

And a sunset to follow

catherine's garden 1

catherine's garden 2

Post script: two days later we were in a taxi with Samir, on the 4 hour drive to Marrakech airport. He was a lovely friendly Berber from the mountains, main man taxi driver in Taroudant, and blessedly good at his job. After a dawn drive back through the mountains and the foggy plain, he dropped us at the airport; we paid and thanked him and said goodbye. So that was that. Except that a couple of days later he texted Lilli to make sure we had got home alright.

Inshallah, as Samir said when we parted, we’ll be back.

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boxing day 1

Quite easy to guess where we are off to – the High Atlas Mountains which rear up behind Taroudant, and of which I have dreamed since my first visit to them in 2013. That time it was the north side, up from Marrakech. Here in sheltered Taroudant it’s the south, the sun picking out every detail of the landscape on this most spectacularly sunny day. I’m in heaven, in spite of vertiginous drops at the side of the road, and hair-raising hairpin bends all along the route, sometimes with a lorry swinging round them….but mountains are my element, a feeling, or some kind of memory, that I shared with my mother. Don’t ask why.

So here are some of my photos, firstly of the 2 1/2 hour drive up in our landlady Catherine’s rattly old jeep.

We were on our way to Catherine’s Moroccan friend Said’s sister’s husband’s ruin in a village high up in the mountains. Here is this enchanting house, where we picnicked and painted, and ate a lovely tagine prepared for us by the neighbours

After the picnic we walked around the village, which was really an assortment of houses threaded through the trees and rocks and remains of other houses in woods leading down to a valley. Across the valley was a house that looked straight out of Tuscany; French owners I was told. A different world.

People everywhere our side; no photos of them because they didn’t want that, but were friendly and, I guess, fascinated by our appearance in such a remote place. (Any photos of people, incidentally, are Catherine and Said).

We had to tear ourselves away from this magical spot in order to get out of the mountains by sunset. The light all the way down was blazing, the colours vivid and full of contrast, and again, people everywhere in the landscape – tending livestock, picking fruit, coming home from school, just standing there….

And here is our wonderful landlady Catherine who drove us safely all the way up and all the way down.

boxing day 43

What a day. You would have loved it, Mum. This post is for you.

 

We just happened to see this notice on a rather nondescript door (actually that of the Catholic Church) and decided to go. We had, like the rest of the world, heard about the murder, a few days before we got here, of the two Scandinavian young women just over the mountains from here. People had expressed their devastation that this should happen in their country, and a young woman had come up to us n a cafe and said ‘n’ayez pas peur ‘. We certainly weren’t afraid, but wanted to be at the Manifestation to be held outside the city walls at sunset. Took a taxi simply to find the place and ahead of us was this lorry :

A good start. And it was indeed a heartwarming event.

Manifesto

As the sun went down behind the ancient walls I was reminded yet again of our common humanity and that the lorry was right: Love is the way.

So, we arrived in Taroudant after several hours on buses and were met by our French host Catherine together with friend Said. They showed us round, including the best fishmonger in the fish market , where to buy avocados ( off a giant barrow load) and whizzed us through the souks to the main square which is the beating heart of town. Eat at the Yassmin cafe, they advised, so a couple of hours later we did. Tagines there are cooked to order so we waited and watched the life of the Place, and at the very moment our food arrived, the police did too, wrestling a man into a back room of the cafe. All eyes on the Place ( lots) turned towards the Yassmin. Meanwhile we were a couple of mouthfuls into our tagines when rain seemed to come from a cloudless sky above, straight onto our plates.

All sorts of things ensued: we explained we couldn’t eat the food as we had no idea what had landed in them; the patron fairly reluctantly removed them though he said they had no more food, and then a police officer arrived to ask if we wanted to press charges on the person in the top terrace of the cafe who had, it appeared, spilt a bottle of water which had run down the awning into our plates. All eyes on the Place now turned towards us. No of course we didn’t want to press charges: we just wanted some food! This arrived eventually (a small plate to share). End of story, but quite a dramatic first day in Taroudant.

We told Catherine the next day and she said that the French would say we were like White Wolves (Louves Blanches), or as Lilli said, sticking out like a sore thumb. More elegant in French. ….

Here is a photo of the Yassmin- top terrace – bottle of water; table at the bottom – ours. Just to set the scene.

And ps, the man arrested was nothing to do with the water. We heard he was high on drugs and spent the night cooling off in a police cell.

It was some time in October , on a cold night and after a couple of glasses of wine, that we found ourselves not only planning but booking a trip to Taroudant, on the South side of the High Atlas Mts. but not in a straightforward way, no it seemed a good idea at the time to fly from Bristol to Malaga and make our way down by bus, boat and train. Which is what we did. Here we are looking a bit shell shocked having a picnic on some steps in Tarifa, from where the ferry to Africa departs.

Arrival in Tangier an hour or so later.

Arrival in Marrakech Station a couple of days later

Through the mountains to Agadir by bus

And another bus to Taroudant.

Doing WordPress on my phone is driving me mad so I’ll be back later

Mainly because Morocco is not Christmassy at all, though we did spot a tree with helpful bits of cotton wool on it

And this might come in handy too, if only we were here for New Year (we’re not)

But what we HAVE had is a lovely little Riad to stay in, in the centre of Taroudant

And weather in the ’20’s

And some adventures.

More later …

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Tutor: Kathryn John

At Dove Studios, Butleigh

Course times: 10am – 4pm

When was the last time you sat down and wrote with ink and paper? Scribbled out a misspelled word or found spots of leaked ink upon your fingers from a malfunctioning pen?

KJ for blog 1 Markmaking

At a time when our lives and lists, stories and notes have become part of a digital world we will spend a weekend together getting back in touch with the flow of the handwritten word. We will explore using experimental processes to get us moving and making marks.

KJ for blog 3 Sgraffito with charcoal rubbed in

With full permission to get it wrong, to make a mess, we will return to the joy of what it is to write with our whole bodies and not just the tips of our fingers. Using handmade vegetable, oak gall and berry inks and a variety…

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