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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.

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.

 

monday-1After 2 days in Santa Fe we are now more acclimatized and ready for the next bit. Which is: packing stuff and food, loading the van, doing our ‘chores’ and setting off for Aztec: a four hour journey on the pretty empty ‘scenic route’. But first: breakfast in the courtyard: our habitual table in the foreground (that’s Jaki in the green chair), and an art lesson happening for the resident students. It was a great place to land, and It is true to say that they pretty much adored us here by the time we were leaving, had probably overheard quite a few of our conversations in the courtyard (the wall have ears here) and appreciated our years of acquired community spirit. Perhaps every youth hostel should have some Grannies.

monday-2But on with the journey: here are Freddie and Jaki in the back of the car while the others pick up supplies.

monday-2aWe’re off!

monday-12Approaching Abiquiu (where Georgia O’Keefe had a house.

monday-5The subject of many of her paintings

monday-7We stop to picnic overlooking the lake near Ghost Ranch (another of her pads- she knew how to pick them). Unfortunately, a hasty move, coupled with the fact that we were parked on a slope the wrong way, led to this!

monday-6Luckily not a total disaster as only 6 eggs and a couple of bottles of beer were beyond redemption. But we’ll park the other way round in future, and not open the back door before instructed (you live and learn, it is hoped). So we found a picnic table and the feast was laid out. But have a look at the sky in the photo before last…..storms here are upon you very fast indeed, and we had barely finished eating when a biblical wind was lashing us and we ran for it, stuffing everything into bags and boxes and even pockets. You live and learn part 2. So on we drove, through the storm.  Great to have Diana Griffiths with us, not just for the obvious reasons (we love her) but she knows the whole area very well and so can point out places of extra special interest that we might have missed. She even pointed out some cattle that she had helped herd…. So thanks to her we stopped at this wonderful place:

monday-8Echo Amphitheatre, seen through the car windows. A stunningly beautiful rock formation: here’s another picture (it stopped raining and we got out:

monday-8aAnd on we went, turning west into Jicarilla Apache country. The rocks, to me, had a peculiarly Apache look.

monday-9After this it was up onto the high plains with huge views so huge that a camera cannot do justice to them. So I stopped taking pictures. Jaki started to teach us a song she has written for us, which fittingly starts with ‘Up in the high plains..’ And on and on we went. Jaki was heard to say, in the back ‘I haven’t any more ‘awe’ energy’. No, we agreed, we were awed out – I expect you are too – and arrived a couple of hours later, exhausted, at our destination north of Aztec. I’ll save that for the next post.

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