Here Comes the (Moroccan) Band

Moroccan music comes in many genres (ranging from Arab, Berber, Classical and Popular) and is surprisingly diverse. Every region in Morocco has its own type of music thus there

A good site reference for the various kinds of Moroccan music can be found at:

The music we heard today is called “Chaabi” (also known as “shaabi”) which means “popular” or “of the people” in Arabic. The music is pop music that has Arab, African and Western influences and is generally played at large celebrations and events such as weddings.

Here is a fun YouTube Video I found that demonstrates this energetic, rhythmic music.

(Note: I tried to embed the links so you can easily view them but it does not work well using an iPad. Thus you will have to copy and paste the link above into your browser. I will fix them when I return home. The video is worth seeing!)

The musicians use a variety of percussion instruments such as the bender which is a goatskin covered wooden drum, the daff which is a wooden-framed drum, covered entirely with stretched goatskin and played on both sides, the garagab which are metal clackers resembling double castanets (one holds two in each hand), the naggarah which are double kettle drums made of pottery, the taarija which is a kind of handheld drum that is either cone or vase shaped and made of pottery or metal. There are also the tan-tan and tbilat, which are kinds of bongo drums.

Our visit with the band was absolutely fabulous and fun! We had just finished our Moroccan cooking class and were hanging out in the large living room when we heard the loud pounding and thumping of the Moroccan band. They had parked their van outside the Home Base and entering playing loud, rhythmic Chaabi music. Instantly we all smiled and the music brought our energy to a new level. The bank comprised of five musicians all playing different kinds of drum, singing and one playing a variety of percussion instruments such as the “moroccan symbol” which was the axel of a car wheel and he played this by wearing it on his head and pounding it with sticks.

Here are some pictures of our day with the band:

Here is the musician playing the car axel on his head! It was very heavy and he joked around a lot by placing it on volunteers heads and playing it.

The volunteers learning how to dance in Morocco:

Me doing Moroccan dance:

Ken, the sole male volunteer, from Canada, dancing Moroccan:

Wearing the traditional hooded jelaba:


A Day at the Souq

Every Moroccan visit requires a visit to the local Medina and Souq. The Souq (market) is not only a shopping expedition but a cultural experience in itself. That is where tourists go to shop and to see the Moroccans shop. It is not for the faint-hearted nor those who do not like crowds. The Souq is extremely overwhelming and non-stop eye candy. The sights, the smells, the people watching are amazingly intense. You can literally find everything including the kitchen sink at the Souq (but apparently it takes Moroccan “know-how” to find good old fashioned body lotion!).

Bargaining is a necessity in the Souq. Generally you take the given price and deduct it by 50 or 60% and start from there. It is extremely helpful to speak French or else bargaining can be quite the challenge. The prices are extremely cheap in western standards and it is hard to get out of there without buying too much.

After three visits to the Souq, however, I’ve reached full capacity and do not plan to go back. I’ve had enough! But I did get several great things to bring back home to share with my family and friends. Here is a photo journey of my buying excursion at the Souq:

Andrea and Khadija (our office manager) entering the souq:

Looking the other direction of the medina towards the Ville Nouvelle (new French part of Rabat city):

The old walls of the Medina:

Entering the Souq:

The couscous:

The jelabas (robes with pointed hoods) and caftans (robes without hoods and usually a v neck adorned and decorated) which are the traditional dress in Morocco. In Rabat, you see about half women wearing these robes and half wearing western attire. About half wear the hijab (head scarf) in city and some don’t. It is a personal choice even though it is stated obligatory in Islam. In rural Morocco, you would see everyone wearing hijab and dressed in traditional clothing:

You can even find outfits for belly dancing:

There are lots of shops that sell “babouches” or Moroccan slippers:

And tons of places to buy scarves and blankets (my favorite addiction!):

Moroccan lamps and lanterns are everywhere as well as cats (not for sale!):

The presence of the mosque is all encompassing, especially when you hear the Call to Prayer:

Yet you still can find lots of shops that sell lingerie (exotic and traditional), counterfeit sunglasses and pursues (Chanel seems to be a favorite), traditional shoe repair shops, skinny jeans and t-shirts. We even saw a small shop with four tvs inside where children and men were gathered round and watching shows. Plus there is always the presence of Moroccan mint tea (a specialty and an event in itself).

I especially liked the nicer shops found under the covered part of the souq as seen here:

The architecture inside the Medina was gorgeous as well. There were interesting doors, beautifully tiled terra-cotta roofs in greens and reds, and lots of pretty tiled fountains such as here:

Me taking a breather:

After a couple hours at the souq, the third visit, I bought five blankets, six pillow cases, a scarf and a “hand of fatima” amulet. The gorgeous silk blankets (which are enormous—fits a queen size bed) below costed me about 200 dirhams which is about $15! Who will be the lucky recipient?

And the colorful silk pillow cases ran about $5 each:

I could make a steal selling these at the Pottery Barn!

No more visits to the Souq….I’m “souq-ed” out!

Coming next….the role of women in Morocco and Islam followed by “experiences on the road as an ESL teacher in Rabat”


My Home Away From Home in Hay Riad Rabat

So where do you stay when you volunteer with Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS) in Rabat, Morocco? Good question! No, we do not stay in some kind of crazy mud hut. I was pleasantly surprised to find that our home away from home, known as the “Home Base” is quite lovely. It is located in the nice, posh neighborhood of “Hay Riad” where all the ex-pats and embassies are located. It is quite a different experience than being in the medina, that is for sure! Instead of ancient, white-washed buildings, the neighborhood is lined in majestic palm trees and enormous, mediterranean mansions all huge, all with gorgeous, lush and tropical gardens and security guards.

Here are some pictures of the Home Base:

Our street:

View down the street:

Entrance to our residence:

The Home Base common area and dining room:

A tagine:


The Home Base garden:

The Home Base at night:

View from outdoor terrace into my room:

I must admit it was not at all what I was expecting. After staying in the old medina area my first night in Rabat, I was very surprised that this neighborhood exists. But as Rabat is the capital city of Morocco, of course there has to be a place for all the embassies and wealthy people to live.

Here are some pictures around the Hay Riad neighborhood:

Some of the gorgeous homes nearby:

Our home base used to be an embassy which opened for CCS in 2007. It is a large building that can accommodate up to thirty volunteers (there are about four bunk beds per room) however we are quite fortunate now as there are only ten of us here, meaning I only share a room with one other volunteer.

The rent cost is huge, especially in Moroccan standards. It costs about $3,500 a month which explains some of the high costs involved in short-term volunteering for CCS.

Our residence has a beautiful, tropical garden and yard space filled with hibiscus flowers, birds of paradise, roses, palm trees and of course turtles! (There are several ones living in the backyard so you have to be careful not to step on them!).

The main living space downstairs is lovely and has a traditional moroccan “coach” that is L-shaped, and the room is lined with large windows. There are also several “poufs” or moroccan ottomans around so you can easily kick back and relax.

We are served all our meals at the home base, which are homemade by two Moroccan ladies. Breakfast usually consists of french baguette or Moroccan crepes, fruit, hard-boiled eggs, coffee and juice. Lunch is served at one pm after we return from our volunteer work and is always traditional moroccan food such as tangines, couscous, lots of vegetables, soups and lentils. Dinner is then served at seven pm and is usually the same types of meals served as lunch (but of course different each meal and each day). The food has been quite delicious so I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

The nearby local grocery store is called Acima, and there are three in Rabat. You can buy all Moroccan spices such as in this picture:

And my beloved harissa, my favorite morccan spicy sauce (in red):

Plus there is a gorgeous nearby patisserie, french bakery:

Our general routine has been wake up (today I woke up unexpectedly at 5:17 am to the sounds of the muezzin (call to prayer) which could be heard through closed doors AND my earplugs! I of course went back to sleep!). After breakfast, we leave for our three volunteer placements: The Children’s Hospital, The school for street children and the Women’s Association (My placement where I teach English). We work for a few hours and then come back for a late lunch.

Here is a picture of our CCS bus:

After lunch, we have cultural activities and learning. Yesterday, we did a city tour (which I will discuss more later) and today we are having a two hour lecture on Women in Islam.

Then we typically have a little downtime which can be spent shopping, resting, reading or talking with the other volunteers, followed by dinner at 7 PM and a bit of down time before bed. It is an exhausting day, especially given the jet-lag and cultural immersion (it is difficult in itself being in another country and speaking another language, ie. french, all day).

Everyone is wonderful at the Home Base. All the volunteers are very interesting people. About half are from the US, three from Canada and one woman is from New Zealand. Our Director, Mohammed is fabulous and a super funny guy. He worked in the Peace Corps for several years and now works for CCS. He is extremely knowledgeable and we’ve had several fascinating conversations.

The biggest surprise of all has been our discover (of course from past volunteers) of the one restaurant in Hay Riad that serves alcohol! I totally forgot the rules about being in a Muslim country! Muslims are not allowed to drink thus finding booze can be tricky. We are lucky that Morocco is more “liberal” and “modern” than other Islamic countries as you are able to find alcohol. All hotels serve it and the one french “tapas” bar we found serves alcohol but only after 8 PM. We have been there almost every night so far!

Here is the one and only place to get booze in our neighborhood:

An important point to remember: This neighborhood is NOT TYPICAL Rabat. This is the wealthy area. Most Moroccans live in homes styled after medina area or in old apartment buildings. I will show more pictures of other neighborhoods later. I wanted to show you where we are staying and also that there are nice areas in Morocco! Most people wouldn’t believe that there is money everywhere, of course, along with lots of poverty.

More later!

Morocco TRAVEL BY REGION Volunteering Abroad

My First Visit to a Mosque

The highlight of my visit to Casablanca (Casa) was by far my visit to the Hassan II Mosque. I met my guide, Anis (pronounced and named after the spice) who again spoke French and had a fabulous one on one tour of the mosque, which is the third largest mosque in the world (after Mecca and Medina).

The mosque was built from 1986 to 1993, and required over 10,000 artisans and 12,500 workers to complete the work. They worked day and night, non-stop.

The minaret (the tower) is the largest in the world (200 m above sea level) and is quite impressive.

Here are some more shots of the outside of the mosque and the minaret:

The colors of the mosque symbolize the colors of Islam: Green and White. Green symbolized peace and white represents universalism.

I was in awe with the immense beauty of the mosque and it’s exquisite detail:

This is my favorite picture…the sun just happened to capture me and lighten my soul:

The inside of the mosque holds a capacity of 25,000 people and the outside courtyard area holds up to 80,000 people.

This is the ONLY mosque in all of Morocco that allows tourists inside (due to ancient French law, not due to religious reasons).

The official religion of the Moroccan kingdom is Islam (Sunite Malekile) and there are about 70% practicing Muslims. In the Islam religion, there are five official daily prayers at: Dawn, Mid-morning, Mid-Afternoon, Sunset and Night. Each day a minute is added to the prayer time to reflect the change in the rising and setting of the sun. The call of prayer can be heard throughout Morocco and the first time I heard it, I was mesmerized. It is loud and melodic, calling all Muslims to come to prayer. An amazing event to experience!

The inside of the mosque is constructed with all Moroccan materials. The ceiling is made with Moroccan cedar that is sculptured and then painted in beautiful colors and images.

Here is a picture of the elaborately decorated ceiling:

The mosque has three levels. The bottom floor level contains the fountains of water for purification. Men and women each have a separate door to enter and separate rooms that contain 41 marble fountains full of water where Muslims wash every external part of their body before they are allowed to enter the mosque.

Women and men are completely separate in a mosque. Women are allowed only on the second level and there is a capacity of up to 5,000 women. Here is a picture of where the women stay:

Here is a picture of the “jalousie” or “moucharabia”, an intricately carved door made out of cedar where women can “hide” and not be seen:

Other interesting facts about the mosque:

1. The ceiling completely opens up so you can see and have contact with the sky which is extremely important for Muslims.

2. Le Mihrab: Is like the alter in a church where the IMAM (leader of prayer) heads the prayer. It is of course facing Mecca.

3. There are four positions of prayer, called in french, Les genuflections. First, you face Mecca and greet by lowering your head to show humility. Second, you place your hands on your knees. Third, you slightly flex your knees. Fourth, you lay on the ground on your knees with your forehead touching the ground.

4. Muslims only use right hand to greet and eat. Left hand if for doing the “other” dirty stuff involved with being a human (i.e. blowing nose, using bathroom, etc).

5. Muslims are called to prayer five times per day as mentioned above. However, Moroccans are the most modern Muslims in the world thus it is not obligatory that you go to the mosque five times a day to pray.

6. There are varying degrees of how religious a person is. Just like in the States.

7. Not all women where the hijab (veil). Many more women are dressing western nowadays.

What I discovered is that Islam is a very fascinating religion. Obviously it is a religion that is very misunderstood thus I look forward to sharing what I find.


An Afternoon in Casablanca

After my experience in the Rabat medina, I was utterly exhausted yet for some reason, I kept on going like the Energizer Bunny. I couldn’t stop. I was mesmerized by what I’d seen and the Casbah was only a short walk away. The sun was beginning to set and cast a beautiful rainbow of pinks, reds and oranges against the whitewashed buildings of Rabat, and the Casbah’s grand presence was overwhelmingly alluring. So, instead of going back and relaxing I crossed the busy street, jay-walking, following the well-versed Moroccans and headed over to see one of Rabat’s oldest parts of the city.

The Casbah is a lovely, tranquil place to wander. There are beautiful, hidden alleyways and whitewashed buildings with varying hues of blues. It is mostly residential now and apparently many rich foreigners are buying up the picturesque homes. At the end, you enter and enormous open space which affords a spectacular view of the river and the sea. It is gorgeous and I could have spent an hour there just relaxing if it wasn’t for the hordes of teenage Moroccan men who were obviously on the prowl. I couldn’t help laughing that a young man who could practically be my child was harassing me in french and giving me looks! If only they knew I was almost 40!

Here are some photos of the Casbah:
View approaching the Casbah from across the street:

View looking down in central Rabat:

Inside the whitewashed walls of the Casbah:

The view of the ocean and Rabat from the Casbah:

I returned to the hotel at seven o’clock, extremely tired yet knew that I had to stay up. That is the number one rule of jet lag. You must remain awake all day long and if you sleep during the day, you are finished! So, despite the fatigue, I grabbed my glass of wine that I saved from my Air France flight to Rabat and headed upstairs to the Riad’s rooftop terrace. The view was spectacular and there was little noise except a couple of nearby chickens. I savored my wine and then headed downstairs for a delicious Moroccan meal of Chicken tagine with a seventy-year-old couple from Boston who were traveling with their thirteen-year-old grandson. It was their grandson’s first trip out of the US and he was in for quite an adventure (which included a trip to the Sahara desert for a camel ride, a hike in the Atlas Mountains and visit to Berber villages and a journey to magnificent Fez). Wow! The dinner was delightful and I enjoyed my first glass of Moroccan Red Wine. It was so ironic to be drinking wine in a Muslim country yet I was soon to discover that Morocco is much more modern than any other Islamic country in the world. The Muslims of course are forbidden to drink alcohol yet it is widely available for tourists and the large sum of ex-pats that live in Rabat and Casablanca.

View from the terrace:

The call to prayer could be heard five times a day from the minaret (tower) off in the distance (starting at 5 am and ending at dusk):

And the chickens could be heard at the neighboring residences:

It was lights out by 9:30 PM. I was proud of myself for making it so long! What a wild and crazy day! The United States, an eight hour flight, a visit to Paris for a cup of cafe creme, a flight to Rabat, a visit in search of body lotion to a souq and my first Moroccan meal! I’m tired just remembering all the things I did in a twenty-four hour period….nuts!

I slept hard for four hours, then was up for two (when I decided to write on my blog) then back asleep again until 7:30am. Not bad for my first night in Morocco!

Breakfast was served on the terrace. I was served a traditional Moroccan meal that included Moroccan crepes, mint bread, coffee and four wonderful, homemade condiments to put on the crepes.

Here is a picture of my meal: From left to right, the condiments are Honey, Strawberry jam, Apricot Jam, and best of all, olive tapenade! (I initially thought it was some kind of date jam but was pleasantly surprised):

Me looking very tired:

The morning view of Rabat:

I was really looking forward to the day ahead. I had hired a driver, Mohammed (same driver that picked me up at the airport) to take me to Casablanca (aka “Casa”) where I would meet a french-speaking guide and receive a city tour. Thank goodness I speak French because French is the second language of Morocco thus most Moroccans speak Arabic and French. English is rare.

The drive to Casa is about an hour south of Rabat, following the Atlantic Ocean. There is not much along the way except farms and countryside. Mohammed was very proud to inform me about the government’s great improvement plans to the infrastructure. A third lane is currently being added to the autoroute linking Rabat to Morocco.

I was still feeling jet-lagged yet Mohammed could not stop talking to me so I used the opportunity to learn more about Morocco. Some of the interesting things Mohammed told me include:

1. The name Mohammed is the most popular male name in Morocco and is given to the oldest son. Means “The Prophet”.

2. Fatima: Is the most popular female name. It means “Daughter of Mohammed”.

3. The government in Morocco does not give unemployment benefits. So if you don’t work, you are out of luck.

4. Average cost of petrol: 11 Dirhams/1 Euro per litre of gas.

5. In Morocco, now about 50% of women work. The generation before was only 1-2%.

6. Population of Casa city center is 5 million.

7. Rick’s Cafe is a HOAX! Movie Casablanca was fllmed completely in Hollywood studio. Producer had never been to Casa. There is a fabricated Rick’s Cafe in Casa. Tourist deal.

8. Casa hosts the first McDonalds in all of Africa. It opened on December 18th, 1994 (funny fact here: that is my guides birthday AND my husbands birthday…December 18th!).
Here is a photo of McDo:

We had lunch outside at a posh Parisien style cafe overlooking the beach in Casa:

Besides the public beaches, you can also go to one of the four main outdoor pools for the day:

I also saw this cafe which made me laugh because I am originally from the town of Excelsior in Minnesota:

Coming up in my next post….. My next stop was to the only mosque in Morocco that allows visitors inside.


Searching for Body Lotion in a Moroccan Medina

The flight to Rabat was uneventful except for all the crying babies who kept me awake. I was really looking forward to sleeping the entire way yet it wasn’t in the cards.

As we made our approach, I looked out the window longingly at the beautiful countryside and array of colors. There were greens, earth tones, yellows and the brilliant blue sea. It was gorgeous. The landscape was such a contrast to brown, barren Minnesota! It was like eye candy and I gobbled it up.

We landed safely and I was relieved to finally be here in Africa after such a long journey. For some reason, I didn’t have much luck with customs and was questioned for at least ten minutes about what I was going to be doing in Morocco. It was becoming a pattern. I was stopped in Minneapolis and had the pat down due to an oversize tube of toothpaste, my beloved face lotion was seized at the Paris airport and now I was being grilled over and over again about my volunteer work in Morocco. I think he must have been simply messing with me. I looked tired and was easy bait.

My “chauffeur” met me outside the arrivals gate and we headed to his old white Mercedes car where I practically collapsed into the seat. It was very warm and I was sweltering. Probably due to my Nordic blood.

I was thankful to know French. Yes, it has been eighteen years since I lived in France but suddenly and magically it all came back and it was pouring out. My driver, Mohammed, was full of information and facts about Morocco. I wasn’t in the mood to chat but it helped me stay awake and everything he had to say was of course very interesting.

We arrived at the hotel in less than thirty minutes. I was staying at a Riad, or private historical mansion, in the center of Rabat. The windy, whitewashed walls of the medina were like a maze that somehow lead to the green sign stating RIAD DAR KERIFA. Atlas, we arrived!

Here is a photo of the entrance of the hotel:

The inside of the hotel was like a hidden treasure. One would never know from the outside that there was a gorgeous mansion inside! I was instantly impressed. Here are some pictures of the inside of the raid:

The architecture and furnishings were all traditional Moroccan:

Even the light fixtures were spectacular:

I unpacked my stuff and took a quick shower. There is something about being on a plane and traveling for hours that just makes you feel disgusting. The shower felt fabulous and gave me that much needed second wind and energy to go on my next quest: In search of body lotion in the Moroccan Medina.

I left the hotel and immediately got lost. There were many Moroccans in their traditional attire, the jellaba (hooded robe) and caftans (decorated robes):

The old medina was amazing, like nothing I’d ever experienced. It felt like being in some kind of crazy maze full of endless twists and turns against whitewashed ancient buildings. I somehow managed to find the “souq” or the market. I looked around and realized that I was the only foreigner in sight. But I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. Nothing like what I experienced in India. Thus I was able to fully take in the unbelievably overwhelming experience of searching for American Body Lotion in a Moroccan Medina. Ok, I’m at a souq which is an enormous open air market where they sell pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. No big deal, huh? It would be no problem at all to find the lotion and head back to my peaceful, relaxing hotel for a glass of wine. Right! I should have known better! I was in a foreign country, North Africa, to say the least! My mission to find some lotion was absolute madness.

I saw EVERYTHING that is for sure. I saw turtles for sale, ladies underwear fancily displayed (hilarious given I am in a Muslim country), fruit stands packed with dates, olives and figs, jean shops, electronic shops and stuff I couldn’t even guess what it was. It was the most crazy place I’ve ever been. There was shouting, there was chanting, there was clapping….there was absolutely every sales tactic employed to get a sale. It was the most incredible market I’d ever seen! Yet, the lotion was no where to be found.

After two and a half hours of searching frantically, I finally gave in to the pressure of getting a little help. A nice Moroccan man asked if I need his assistance. Yes, this is a no no for sure. I knew he’d probably want money but I was so utterly exhausted and I was lost. He walked me to a place where I purchased some crazy “milk lotion” and then showed me my way back to the riad. He was a friendly guy yet was missing several bottom teeth so I was a little weary but quite frankly too tired to deal with the situation. Finally when I found the way out of the medina and said my farewell, he surprisingly walked away, of course after a request for a small donation, which I gently refused. I was angry with myself for accepting some help but then again, at least I found my lotion!

In the coming week, I know that I’ll definitely be back for more experiences in the souq. Hopefully this time I won’t be so tired and weary! It a place that one could spend hours in. A place of wonder that makes me remember why I travel and see the world.

Here are some of my favorite pictures of the market:
Ok, this first one was the beginning where I freaked out because everything looked like it came from a garage sale. But trust me, it got much better:

Now we are talking:

Pet turtles for sale (they bring good luck in Morocco!):

Now the beautiful, fresh dried fruits, olives and figs:

More wonderful things:

Moroccan beauty supplies (for making homemade facials):

Anything is possible to buy (except lotion!)

I returned to the hotel, beyond exhausted, and headed up to the lovely terrace affording a gorgeous sunset view of Rabat. I had a glass of red french wine (which I grabbed from the Air France flight) and listened to the call for prayer from the nearby mosque. This is quite a country!



I’ll Always Have Paris

The flight to Paris was uneventful. I was jam packed like a sardine in a tin can yet somehow I was able to relax and manage to get a couple hours of sleep (thanks to my over the counter sleeping pill). Thus the flight passed by quickly and before I knew it we were making our final descent into Charles de Gualle airpot. I checked my physical status and was happy that I didn’t feel completely miserable like I normally due with so little sleep. It was six am in Paris and eleven pm at home. But like any smart traveler, I had already changed my watch to local time and tried to erase the old Minnesota time out of my head. That is the only way you can survive jet lag. To forget it!

As we were descending, I rechecked my itinerary and was surprised to discover that my next flight to Rabat was not leaving for six hours! I had originally thought my layover was only four hours so I was delightfully surprised to learn that I had six whole hours which opened the door for a little adventure: I could hop the RER train to Paris, mon amour, and take a short but sweet trip down memory lane before catching my next flight!

I know that most people would think I’m absolutely nuts for leaving the airport with no sleep for only a brief visit to Paris, but then again those who think I’m crazy don’t understand how much I adore Paris and love it with all my heart. For you see, Paris is a very special place for me. I spent part of my Junior Year of college abroad living in Paris at the ripe, perfect age of twenty-one and I’ll never ever forget what an amazing, life-changing experience it was. For me, Paris represents an amazing self-discovery and transformation in my life. It was a time of dramatic growth that probably transformed me more than anything else I’d ever done up to that point. My time spent in Paris was like a dream. The world was my oyster. Everything was in front of me.

As I walked through customs and headed out the doors of the Paris airport, my heart speed. I could not believe that I was really doing this. I was going to a see Paris again!It had been ten long years since I’d last been to Paris, and eighteen long years (scary) since I lived there. Thus despite my fear (of somehow missing my next flight) and fatigue (yes it really was two in the morning for me), the temptation and curiosity sucked me in, and before I knew it, I was out of the airport doors and headed towards that all too familiar RER train line that would lead me to back to the city of light and the city of love.

In my opinion, Paris is one of the most beautiful, fantastic and romantic cities in the world. I could spend years there and never bore of its splendor, elegance and unexpected discoveries. It is an amazing place that is always changing yet someone remains a little bit the same. The history, the architecture, the gardens, the cafes, the restaurants and the magnificent monuments, all draw in millions of tourist a year. You could spend your entire life in Paris and still not see it all. There is so much to see and explore, the options are endless. I know for a fact that I will dream about Paris as long as I will live and hope to someday spend more time there, perhaps when my husband and I are old and gray.

I easily found the RER (regional train. similar to the metro) line and purchased my billet (ticket) for 7,8 Euros (around ten bucks) and waited for the familiar looking train to approach. It looked just as I’d remember. White with red and blue, old and creaky. It amazed me how nothing had changed. In fact I’m sure the train was the same eighteen years ago.

I boarded the train, chose my spot by the window and heard the familiar buzz of the doors shutting. I was dead tired but happy all the same! In thirty five minutes I’d be in the heart of Paris, hopefully at an outdoor cafe, sipping a delicious, inviting cup of cafe au lait with hopefully a fresh pain au chocolat in my tummy.

As the Parisian landscape passed me by, the sweet memories from eighteen years ago, when I was a young, carefree twenty-one year old woman, flashed through my mind. I was stunned to think that it was almost half my life ago that I was here. How could that be possible? How could life have really gone so fast? Like the sudden passing of the scenery, my life seemed to have passed me by. It felt like an eternity ago since I lived in Paris, yet it also felt like only yesterday, all at the same time.

My heart began to beat rapidly in excitement and anticipation as the train approached my familiar haunts. Chatelet-les-Halles, Notre Dame, Luxembourg, and finally St. Michel, where I decided to get off. I took the escalator up, noticing that the metro station was just as old, dirty and decrepit as it was then, arrived up at the doors headed out to Paris. A huge smile spread across my face as I opened the door and walked out onto the street. I was at the Notre Dame and Hotel du Ville, two beloved, famous Parisian landmarks that are in the center of the escargot (what they call Paris, as it is shaped like an escargot). I took one step out and stopped, marveling at my beloved Paris, in all her glory.

Was it worth the trip? (I only had an hour to have a quick cafe, take some photos and soak it all it). Indeed! As I love to say, Paris, je t’aime! I will always have Paris.

Here are some shots of my beloved Paris, in the springtime:
Notre Dame:

View from Notre Dame:

Even on a dreary day, Paris is spectacular:

Ok, this is a funny, unexpected shot. I found an outdoor cafe with heaters and ordered up a delightful cafe au lait. I asked the waiter to take my picture and before I knew it, he sat right next to me, grabbed my shoulder and took this hilarious photo of the two of us! I couldn’t stop laughing. He got me!

Me, looking terribly tired but happy as a clam to be having my beloved cafe au lait with a view of the world passing by: