Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, cooking, make-up, travel, the joy of home ownership and the occasional rant!


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Chocolate Pecan Cupcakes! Oh yes I did!

It has been a while since I posted a recipe.  I do have a couple to share but will start with the cupcakes I made today!

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As always… a recipe caught my eye, but I changed it a lot.  Added, removed, increased, etc. until it bears no resemblance to the original version.

The recipe that I saw was for a cake with walnuts… I hate walnuts.  Also, didn’t want a cake, cupcakes keep and store easier in the freezer.  I also don’t use powdered sugar substitutes.

Up until last week I wasn’t using ANY sugar substitutes at all, but I discovered that saccharine is available in the pill form here.  My granny used to use it and as kids we would try it… never had an aftertaste for me.  So… I bought a bottle of Hermesetas tablets.  The only thing I’ve used it in so far has been ice cream I made last week (I will post about that later!) and this recipe.

I just dissolve a few tablets in about 1/8 tsp of boiling water and add to the recipe for a touch of sweetness. Each pill is equal to a teaspoon of sugar.  I am not adding the amount called for in the recipes as I don’t need it to be really sweet, but felt the ice cream could use a some, and then this recipe was an experiment to see if it would work.  It did.

So here is the recipe I came up with today for Chocolate Pecan Cupcakes.

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Chocolate Pecan Cupcakes – LCHF, Gluten Free, Sugar Free

Makes 6 large cupcakes (or one 8″ cake if you prefer.)

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup cream cheese

1/4 cup coconut oil

3 eggs

4 saccharine tablets dissolved in 1/8 tsp of boiling water (you can substitute whatever sweetener you want and increase to make this more of a regular sweetness level.)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 cup almond flour

1 tbsp coconut flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup cream

1/4 cup of chopped pecans (or any kind of nut you like) – completely optional BTW.

Topping: Lindt 85% Cocoa Chocolate bar – 6 pieces.

Instructions:

  1. Line a muffin tin with paper liners (or grease an 8″ cake pan in your preferred manner.)
  2. Measure all the dry ingredients together and stir, except for the nuts.
  3. Cream the coconut oil (I did not melt it first) and the cream cheese with an electric mixer, add the eggs one at a time, add the vanilla, and dissolved saccharine, and continue mixing on high.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and the cream about a third at a time, alternating between additions.  If the batter is too thick add a little more cream.  It should be thick but pourable like regular cake batter.
  5. Add the nuts and mix until combined.
  6. Divided batter between the six cupcake liners.
  7. Bake at 350F on the centre rack for 20-25 minutes.  They are done when a toothpick comes out clean. Ovens vary so it might take a few minutes more or less.
  8. Take them out of the oven and immediately place a piece of the Lindt chocolate on top of each cupcake, when it has melted spread it around.
  9. Let cool completely.

I like to freeze them once cool and eat them frozen!

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I am very pleased with how these turned out!  Ate one and the rest are in the freezer. Tomorrow I am making more ice cream and intend to have cake and ice cream!  Who said you have to give up treats when you are a diabetic who follows LCHF/HP??? Not this girl!

 

 


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It is June… again

What happened to May? I don’t remember it happening. Time flies by so fast and it gets faster and faster as it goes by.

Remember when you were a kid and waiting three whole sleeps seemed like years and years? There will come a time when you really wish time would move that slowly again.

I’m sitting at home right now waiting for my eyes to clear (nice thing about computers is you can set the zoom to 200%.) Had injections in both this morning – they were leaking again.

I had originally been scheduled for an injection in my left eye for June 12 and lasers in my right on June 9.  I woke up Tuesday morning last week and had no focus ability in my right eye.  I had been at the eye doctor’s on the prior Thursday and everything was fine, by Tuesday had sprung a very bad leak.  So they bumped up my injection to the next available date, for both eyes.  No lasers now.

I asked the doctor about the prognosis – I was wondering if I needed to make long-term contingency plans for having minimal sight left or blindness at some point.  He assured me that as long as I am controlling my diabetes and blood pressure that eventually the treatments will eliminate the constant leaks and that in 80% of patients the injections stop and the sight is improved.  Just hope I am not one of the other 20%.

 

So, since I am keeping things under control everything should eventually stabilize.

It has been a nice Spring so far – warm and periodic rain.  Which means mowing the lawn every five to seven days.  Which is a pain.

My apple tree bloomed on ALL branches this year for the first time!  Each branch is a different variety.  It is called a 5-in-1 and all varieties are hardy to the climate up here. It is a dwarf stock so will stay small.  I pruned it quite well last Fall to keep it easy to reach.

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And lots of blossoms too. I did not see a single bee on it though, thankfully it was crawling with ants (and ladybugs) so they will have pollinated it. Should get lots of apples this year if the weather cooperates.

Plantings in the front are doing well too. I decided to cull out the Prairie Mallow as some of were massive and choking out other plants.  As I wanted to give the Hollyhocks a chance to colonize the west bed in front of the house I killed all but two of the Prairie Mallows. Yes, I am a horrible person.  But I let the Prairie Mallow keep the back corner of the backyard.

The perennials I planted last year (got from friends around town) are doing great!  Both clumps of day lilies started blooming this week, and two of the other things are growing well – still haven’t found out what they are called though.  My clematis plants are growing about a foot a day.

This was taken a week ago – the petunias are twice this size at least now. And I’ve been harvesting the herbs already; it is so nice to have a fresh herb omelette for breakfast!

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This is the final weekend of the last show of the season at Grande Prairie Live Theatre. It is the “family show” so the weekends are three matinees – two on Saturday and one on Sunday, and a Friday night show. “Robin Hood and the Heroes of Sherwood Forest” is the show.

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Next weekend I will be face painting in Dawson Creek, and Summer season will officially be kicking into full gear. I was ordering supplies last night to restock the essentials. When I have a crew of 10 working we go through a lot of rainbow cakes!

 

 


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The New Me – Documented

With my whole lifestyle change over the last couple of years I was wanting to get some proper, professional photographs of myself.  I wanted some headshots (I act occasionally and needed at least one proper one), some suitable for business use and promotion, and some just for my own satisfaction – to show how I’ve changed physically.

Other than school photos or those horrible family photo sessions, I had never had a professional photo shoot of myself for my own reasons.  I have photos taken by pros but I was an accidental subject, or the photos were for someone else’s use (for magazine profiles for example.)  I have some very nice photos – but they were of the “old” me.

So this past Sunday I finally had my photo shoot with MAJ Photography (her website is this link) in Grande Prairie. Maj had taken my photo before at different times and I knew she is great at portraits and getting natural looking shots of all sorts of people. I can’t recommend her highly enough.

This is one she took for a magazine feature about me in 2013.

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And this next one she took when we were both at a local event last December. I was wearing my new coat and asked her to take some photos of it for me.

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We finally got it coordinated and last Sunday was the day!

I had a mini-crisis trying to decide what to wear. Even with a closet full of new clothes I had a hard time choosing. I hadn’t actually realized HOW many tops I’d managed to acquire in the last eight months or so – since I got to my current size. I counted all of them while I was trying things on to pick out what I thought were the best. Keep in mind that there are a couple dozen $5 t-shirts from Michael’s, but I have probably around 70 tops. That includes turtlenecks for winter, sweaters, fleeces, blouses, tunics, and Aloha shirts… Some were my mom’s and now fit me so I kept them.  And some are oversized that I’ve kept for gardening and messing around with crafts, etc.

Anyhow… after a marathon session of trying on various things, I narrowed it down to eight tops I liked and thought looked really nice. I left the final choice to the photographer. When she got here she chose four of them – based on the backgrounds and contrast needed.

We were at it for four hours!  Started in my basement studio with two different backgrounds – the painted wall and my black backdrop. Then we went to a local park as it was a beautiful Spring day, in front of the Courthouse, then inside the Art Gallery in three different spots, then outside the Cultural Centre on the patio.  We were all over the place.

Maj was really fast getting the images to me! We did the shoot Sunday afternoon and I had the files by Tuesday afternoon.

I am beyond thrilled with how they turned out.  Maj sent me close to 40 shots to use and all are great, but I have my favourites.

These three are for using for promoting my make-up services.  I was sitting sideways in my make-up chair leaning over the back in the two.

This was a studio shot.

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The rest of these were taken at the park, in front of the Courthouse, in the Art Gallery and on the Cultural Centre patio.  I love the natural light – and my beautiful blouse from Morocco looks great with my leggings and boots.  This is a bit of overkill with multiple shots but I love them all and couldn’t narrow it down any further.

The fact that I actually got down and sat on the floor is a testament to Maj’s skill, as I don’t get down that low for just anyone!  Getting up involved railings and a lot of leverage.

I think this is my favourite – I am adjusting to how I look as it is still so new to me. Losing 200 pounds is a lot of difference.

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Getting old sucks

Honestly, when you get over 50 it is like your warranty has expired and everything just starts falling apart.

I was having some vision issues with my left eye over the last couple of weeks so I called the ophthalmologist’s office and they fit me in immediately (always a bad sign IMO) to check it out.

It is bleeding in there again – so they are scheduling me for more injections.  Sigh.  The eye was fine in the scans they did in February.  The last injection in my left eye was in October… so the treatment only cleared it up for six months.

I had been under the impression that once the Lucentis cleared up the blood that was clouding up the inside of the eyeball that it would be fine as long as I kept my blood sugar controlled.  Apparently not.  The damage was done and the blood vessels were compromised so it can keep happening.

So the rest of my life I’ll be having retina scans regularly.  Yay.  And injections in my eyeballs. Oh joy.  But better than going blind.

But at least they are able to “fix” it!  Modern medical marvels and all that.

I’m a wreck really.

I didn’t mention it in my Moroccan trip blog posts, but fell off the stairs in the hotel in Fes and sprained my ankle. I was NOT going to miss anything on that trip and as I could bear weight, I continued to do everything.  Our guide got me an ankle brace, which kept it steady. Most of the doctors in our tour group told me to go for an x-ray, but I figured since that ankle already had a plate and seven screws in it, it would hold together until I got home.

It did… but was uncomfortable and swollen every evening. I slept with it elevated and thankfully had taken my pain pills with me. I had fallen in early March and had a severely bruised hip – my doctor told me to stay ahead of the pain. (I mentioned I’m a wreck, right?)

On the way home my leg was so bad after the flight from Casablanca to Amsterdam that I upgraded to First Class for the rest of the trip.  I had to overnight in Amsterdam and my leg was so swollen I couldn’t get my slacks off… I wasn’t going to manage a 9-hour flight with my leg hanging down.

Saw my doctor and got x-rays done – no bone or metal damage, just a severe sprain.  So I spent that week laying on my recliner, ankle up, wrapped and iced. Took three days for the swelling to disappear.  I saw the doctor last week for a follow-up – I’m keeping it wrapped and being careful.  If it is still sore next week I need to see him again.

Lately every single x-ray I have had, has shown degeneration that was not a result of the reason I was getting the x-ray.  My doctor scared the heck out of me after an x-ray of my back, telling my I had Degenerative Disk Disease – which is just wear and tear on my spine.  My hip, knees, ankles, shoulders, hands too… I’m just a hot mess.

Guess spending all of my life carrying up to 200 pounds of extra weight put a lot of stress on my skeletal structure.  Losing the excess has helped so much with my knees in particular, which were always a problem for me, even as a child.

It was a beautiful day yesterday so I went for a nice long walk with a friend.  I should really do that way more often!  And I finally got back to the gym this week too – after being unable to go due to the hip injury, being on vacation and then the sprained ankle! I’m hoping to be back to my regular routine next week.

It is almost time to mow the lawn too… if it dries up a bit more today I may do it tomorrow.  Actual gardening and planting won’t be for at least another month, but I’ve cleaned out the beds and pruned back the perennials.

 


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My Moroccan Adventure: Final Post

Morocco was a place I had always wanted to see.  I was looking through my high school yearbook and saw that I had said I would be in Morocco! So I decided I had better get on that so, if there is a 50 year reunion, I could say, “Yes, I went to Morocco.  Why? Didn’t you become Prime Minister?”

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This was my second tour with Insight Vacations and I would go with them again. This tour covered pretty much everything about Morocco and we got to see the highlights, geography and many historic locations.  Our guide was knowledgeable, multilingual and very conscientious.  He also arranged extra things that weren’t part of the planned itinerary – like the camel ride and tour in Essaouira, which I REALLY appreciated as they turned out to be my personal favourites!

This tour was Insight Vacations Best of Morocco and this was the itinerary:

Tour Map Insight

There were a few things that could have used more attention: like assisting us in and out of the bus as that last step was difficult and most of us weren’t, ahem, spring chickens. But most of those things were minor compared to the overall trip.

I am a planner. Ahead of time I thought about what I wanted to buy myself while there and made a list. I wanted to get myself a tunic or kaftan, I wanted a ceramic tile to frame, I wanted a fossil and I wanted an ornament suitable for my Christmas tree.  I got all of those and a few more.  And I kept it all within my spending limit too!

Here are the purchases I planned for:

The blouse I bought at the hotel gift shop in Marrakech – my most expensive purchase at 1200 Dirham (about $250) but it is gorgeous and so finely made!  The tile was purchased at the ceramic cooperative we visited in Fes and I am going to have it framed to hang in my entry.  The little “fossil” dish is probably a fake – but it is still a souvenir from Erfoud! And the red tassel is, I think, a bookmark. I bought it at the airport in Casablanca when I was leaving – I had 57 dirham left that I wasn’t able to exchange (they only had Canadian $20s) it cost 56!  That will be my Christmas ornament.

The other items I bought:

A little stone camel to remember my camel ride!  A wooden bead and needlework bracelet that matches my blouse.  A ceramic bowl that I bought with the tile (it is microwave, dishwasher and oven safe.) And an original watercolour painting of the Dades Valley I found in a gallery in Essaouira.

I also bought this wooden box when we stopped at the Argon oil cooperative – it is very cool!  Spin the top and four compartments swing open.

When mom and I travelled she always would buy a wooden item – we have some sort of wood from most places we visited.  A mahogany trunk, inlaid wood boxes, urns, small carvings, Tiki idols, etc.  So this continues that tradition.

My biggest goal was to get photos of the exotic places and things of Morocco and I managed that to my great satisfaction!  I used my 15-year-old Sony Cybershot.  I carried the camera in my pocket all the time and snapped my shots quickly.  It also took some great photos through the bus windows while we were moving.  I can’t be bothered with “fancy” cameras.  I did have a bit of a scare though – the sand on the Sahara was blowing and got into the shutter mechanism.  I used the blow dryer in the bathroom to blow out any loose sand and played with the shutter a bit as it was sticking.  But it got back to normal after a bit, thank goodness!

Of all the photos I took I think these are my favourites:

My flights were booked at the time I booked the tour.  I requested special meals from the selection offered and not one… NOT ONE… of the six flights had the meals.  They didn’t even have a vegetarian option available.  On the way there I packed myself food (I’m used to not being able to eat the offered meals) but on the way back that wasn’t an easy option.  I did buy cheese and nuts at the airports.

On the way home I had to stay overnight in Amsterdam and was having issues with my ankle and leg, so I checked into upgrading when I got to the gate.  As they were overbooked in Economy it was less than half the usual price!  So I flew home First Class!

Look – a padded seat belt!  Did you know you get an entire overhead luggage compartment to yourself and can bring more luggage?  Still wasn’t able to eat most of the food offered at the meals but managed some fish, and I was able to eat the snacks, and the purser found a veggie tray for me!  And I had my cheese and nuts to supplement.

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Somewhere over Canada… and the Calgary descent.

My Moroccan Adventure was a once in a lifetime experience!  I am so glad I had the opportunity to go and to see it.  It is a lovely country and people were very welcoming.

My next trip is booked for 2018! A Transatlantic Cruise.  Then… I think, Ireland the year after.

 


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My Moroccan Adventure: The Overall Review, Part 2

If you have followed my blog or read back, you know I eat Low Carb High Fat to control my Type 2 Diabetes.  So I was spending a lot of time thinking about how I was going to manage eating on this tour.  I love North African and Middle Eastern food so I was planning to at least taste everything, regardless, and just monitor and adjust my medication accordingly.

I was really looking forward to tasting REAL Moroccan food, in Morocco.

Well…

I lost 10 pounds on this tour.  I am seriously considering putting out a diet plan based on it – “The Olive, Cheese and Powdered Egg” diet.

I was so disappointed.

I have a few theories:

  1. Everywhere we ate was cooking bland for the tourists who they think can’t handle spice/flavour
  2. My taste buds are ageing faster than I thought and I need MORE spice
  3. My expectations were too high and it is that bland

But… many of my travel companions also expressed the same disappointment in the food and flavours we were getting.  We all were expecting it to be spicier.

We had to ask for salt and pepper everywhere.  They did not put it on the tables.  And everything NEEDED salt, lots of salt.  I found that a little strange.

Two of the special dinners were in themed Moroccan restaurants and were promoted as “authentic” meals.  They were enjoyable evenings, but the food wasn’t what I was expecting.

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At both of these dinners they started with what our guide called a “cook’s salad” which at one consisted of nine small bowls of different things – olives, pickles, dips of different types, cucumber pieces, etc. that you would eat with the local bread that was on the table. The other restaurant served a similar course but on a huge platter with a slightly different selection of items.  I ate what I could from those selections – mainly olives.

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The main course at both was a Tangine.  I was expecting so much more flavour.   I picked out the meat and olives to try when I could. The meat (I only tried chicken and lamb due to my beef allergy) tended to be tough. The flavours weren’t awful, but there was so little of them.

If you aren’t aware, a tangine is a ceramic cooking dish – a flat dish with a cone-shaped top as seen in the photo below – the dishes prepared in it are called the same.

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I loved the olives – which was a very good thing as I pretty much ate them at every meal.

The meal in the Marrakech optional night out was more extensive and also served a couscous dish as the third course which was fairly decent according to the others.

The dessert that night was enjoyed by my table companions – a huge flaky pastry with icing.  In Fes dessert was fresh fruit.

Marrakesh dinner (3)

The hotel breakfast buffets blend together as they essentially were all the same.  There were a couple of variations though.

They all had machines that produced coffee… espresso, a double espresso, a cafe au lait, and cafe american.  You had to get your own.  And if you asked for cream they gave you hot milk.  Apparently there is NO cream in Morocco – I asked everywhere.  None.  I even asked our guide if he could find me some decaf coffee and cream – nope.  I wonder what they do with the cream they produce?  I should research that.

Now, that isn’t to say that the cafe au lait wasn’t good – it was!  I had many of them.  But I really wanted cream!

Breakfast was the meal I considered my most important – it was included each day of the tour so I knew I could eat well to carry me through the day in case I wasn’t able to partake of other offerings.  Due to the selections offered – which were many, no issue at all with the amount of selection offered to everyone  – I was stuck with sliced cheeses (all very bland), assorted olives (served at every meal in Morocco) and eggs.  And a couple of times sliced cucumbers or stewed peppers, and sometimes a plain yoghurt.

Now, those eggs.  That was … interesting.  The one hotel only served them hard-boiled in the shell, hot; the others had scrambled powdered eggs – you can tell because of the texture and the fact that the curds and liquid have separated (shudder); and thankfully three of the hotels had omelette stations where they made omelettes to order out of real eggs and you could ask for them fried too if you wanted.

One hotel served pork. I was very surprised as it is a Muslim country. But they had shaved parma ham on the salad table at dinner and pork sausages and bacon at breakfast.  I did not partake of the bacon – it appeared to have been boiled.

Most of the meats were tough at the hotel meals – mostly chicken and lamb in tangines.  I may also have tried goat but I don’t know for sure.  The dinner buffets were awkward for me as they had a lot of beef (I’m allergic) and there were a lot of sauces that I had to avoid due to potential inclusion of beef stock, etc.  And the mixed salads usually were combinations of fruit and vegetables and I don’t eat fruit, and the dressings were unknown ingredients.

One hotel had fresh calamari and roast lamb at the dinner buffet – I had both.  The calamari was lovely.

The dessert selections were epic – I could only watch as others enjoyed those. Pastries, cakes, fruit, etc.

Our guide was very conscientious about making sure there were options for me.  At the lunches where we stopped while on the road, he would have the restaurants make me a small tangine of vegetables and chicken kababs if the main course was beef.  There was always so much more than I could manage.

We were served mint tea several times – it varied from okay to very nice.

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The best was the tea made from scratch for us by the Imam’s wife when we visited them.

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A group of us had lunch at poolside on our own at the hotel in Marrakech, we all had the Caesar Salad which was excellent.  It was nothing like what we call a Caesar Salad here in North America though.  It was butter lettuce, cherry tomatoes, shaved parmesan, fresh anchovies and a very subtle and light dressing that did not coat everything.

The best meal I had in Morocco?  On our free evening in Marrakech my seatmate and I went out and found a Lebanese restaurant – it was fantastic, well seasoned and super good!  The hummus was to die for!  Restaurant Mandaloun was the name of it.

Best meal of the trip?  Holiday Inn Express – Schiphol, on my way home I had an overnight stay in Amsterdam.  Yes, Holiday Inn Express serves dinner – who knew?  I got there after 7 p.m. and there were only two other people in the dining room (aka “great room”).  They had a limited menu written on a table top blackboard.  There was a Dorado (aka Mahi-Mahi) fillet – so I went with that and asked for all vegetables, no starch.  The chef delivered the plate to the table himself – he had grilled up a whole bunch of different fresh vegetables for me.  OMG – the fish was crispy grilled on both sides and well-seasoned, the vegetables were perfect and there was also a small bowl of house made spicy pickles.  And I didn’t have to ask for salt!  I was very happy and told the chef it was the best meal of my trip.

I’ve got one more post after this, just to wrap up the overall review and my trip home!

 

 

 

 

 

 


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My Moroccan Adventure: The Overall Review, Part 1

Tour Map Insight

My tour was Insight Vacation’s Best of Morocco.  I booked it last May 2016 – the date was the only guaranteed departure – March 24, 2017.  This was an “11-Day Tour” but these are always counted including the day you leave home and the day you arrive home, so really it is only a 9-day tour.

And I arrived in Casablanca late afternoon Saturday, March 25th and left Casablanca on the morning of April 3rd… so, taking off March 25th too… that leaves an 8-Day tour, really. As the rest of those 11 days were in transit.

The visits to Fes and Marrakech were two-nights each which gave us time for nice tours, time to relax and enjoy local activities.  The one-night stay in Essaouira was good as we arrived early in the day so had time for a tour, roaming on our own, dinner out, etc.

But the nights in Erfoud and Ouarzazate were in and out.  We did the optional excursion to the Sahara (and camel ride!) to watch the sunset in Erfoud but that was right after we got there after 5 p.m. and we didn’t get back to the hotel and dinner until late – around 10 p.m. and had to leave early the next morning.

And Ouarzazate was pure in and out without any additional activity or tour.  It looked like a nice place too.  Quite modern and clean – being the movie capital of Morocco.

It would have been great if we had been able to stay two-nights in every spot – to give us time to see the area.  Seeing as we spent all that time getting there.

Also the bus trip from Fes to Erfoud was all-day, 8-hours and that was a bit much to handle.  We had several stops, and lunch on the way, but it was still a very long time to be on a bus with your legs unable to stretch!  That day I was in the front seat and there was NO spot for your feet.

Also the bus had no toilet – it wasn’t an issue for me personally, but several of the other passengers who were prone to motion sickness really could have used somewhere to, um… well, we had to do one unscheduled stop for someone.  Not sure why there was no toilet – it is actually mentioned in the brochure that there are no toilets on the buses in Morocco.

The hotels we stayed at were, with one exception, modern, comfortable, even luxurious. But the only one to have in-room coffee/tea/kettle was the Moevenpick in Casablanca.  I found that annoying as I couldn’t make myself a good cup of tea in my room on the rest of the trip.  They only had “hot” water in the dining rooms, not boiling.  I asked at the one in Fes if I could get a kettle to make tea and they told me to call housekeeping and they would bring me hot water – um, that wouldn’t be boiling water by the time it got to my room.

As a single booking all but one of my rooms had king or queen sized beds!  That was fun! The one in Marrakech had two doubles, which was fine – one was my lounging on top of the blankets to watch TV bed, the other was the sleeping bed.

In Marrakech I had a balcony on the top floor and in Essaouira I had a patio open onto the courtyard.

The one in Erfoud I found way too contrived for the tourist market – my room smelled like a camel barn, the floors were uneven slabs of stone and I tripped repeatedly in my room on the floor and the rough thick rugs scattered about. It was built of “traditional building materials” which obviously included mud mixed with manure.  I grew up on a farm – I know manure when I smell it.

And trying to find my room was a nightmare, I swear it was about a kilometre walk to the room across the pool, courtyard, through alleys… I actually got lost after dinner and had to find my way back to reception to get one of the staff to lead me to it.

I was so annoyed with the whole place I didn’t take any photos of the room – I really should have… the bed was almost a hammock as the mattress was so dipped in the middle, the “rustic” decor was beyond believable.  But I was too bloody tired.  I did sleep really well in that bed though.

The only plus was the shower room – yes, ROOM.  With a wooden door.  When you are covered with all the sand of the Sahara and camel snot, you need a very long shower. I was a little iffy about standing on the tile so I put a towel down on the floor. But lord, what a mess – the door was just a wooden door made out of planks – not water tight. The vanity counter was a slab of fossil embedded stone – nothing would stand up as it was so uneven.

If I hadn’t been so tired I might, maybe, have enjoyed the rustic-ness of it, but…  It was a suite – living room, dining area (there was a bowl of wrapped fruit on the table which I didn’t touch,) separate bedroom, bathroom the size of my living room at home that was three rooms in itself – the shower, the toilet and bidet, and the sink area that you could enter from both the living room and bedroom.  Ground level windows that were open onto common areas where there were people late into the evening that I heard every word they said – couldn’t understand them, but I heard them.

It was also the only hotel with an old-fashioned key – all the others were mag locks.  This one was really old style and the door was scary – I could NOT get the damn thing open. Took me about 7 minutes to finally get it open (and frankly, a good kick would have opened it) and then another 10 to get the freakin’ key out of the lock!  Then, no deadbolt or security lock inside the door.  I did not feel secure there at all.

The hotels we stayed in on the tour were:

Casablanca – Moevenpick Hotel

Fes – Palais Medina & Spa

Erfoud – Xaluca Kasbah Hotel

Ouarzazate – Le Berber Palace

Marrakech – Atlas Medina & Spa

Essaouira – Atlas Essaouira & Spa Hotel

Except as noted above, they all had high points – the kettle, complimentary bottled water and luxurious fittings in the Moevenpick, the Berber Palace was gorgeous (and had pork at dinner and breakfast,) the Atlas Marrakech was stunning and I was awed at how fast and well my laundry was done, and the courtyard patio attached to my room at the Atlas Essaouira was wonderful.

On my way home I had to stay overnight in Amsterdam – at the Holiday Inn Express -Schiphol.  It wins best shower of the trip… was lovely, shiny, walk-in with safety rails.  I think my shower lasted about half an hour…

Best shower of the trip Holiday Inn Express Amsterdam.JPG

I’ll cover more tour related things, and the food, in the next part as this one is getting a little long.