Saturday, April 22, 2006

Huh, what'd you know?

Icelanders are not nearly as tall, blond, and skinny as I'd been led to believe.

Nice when stereotypes are disproven, isn't it?

I hasten to add that not being as tall, blond and skinny as we'd all thought doesn't mean that many of them are any less beautiful. But every single person we saw below the age or 30 or so was so cool and hip (but not trendy, obviously; they're way too cool to care what the current trends are) that it hurt us, as mere mortals, to be among them in the bars of Reykjavik.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Two things

1: Although digital cameras are certainly handy, I have to say that I don't like having to go to my computer to look at the pictures. I want actual, physical pictures, which I can keep in a box, sort through on a rainy afternoon, leave fingerprints on, actually frame and display (Shocking thing to do with photographs, I know). I know that digital cameras make it easier to share your photos with other people, but then what? Great for other people, but what about me?!

And, yes, I know I can get them printed, but given that I can just barely remember to bring my camera when I travel, what're the chances that I'll actually go and get them printed up?

2: I told my boss that I will not be renewing my contract after it ends this year. I thought I had 'til August, but it turns out that my actual work permit ends in mid-July, so I'll be unemployed by August. I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Find another job, obviously. But if I don't manage to get one by mid-July, can I still stay in Ireland for the 60 or 90 days that normal tourists are allowed? I don't know. Also, I found out that I very likely qualify for a highly-skilled migrant visa to the UK. It'll allow me to live and work in the UK without needing a work permit and job offer from any specific employer. The UK wants to attract skilled migrants (the unskilled ones they can get from the new, poorer EU states) and the visa program works on a points system: x number of points for college degrees, y number of points for age (the younger, the better). If your points add up to above a certain number, you're in. I'm not sure how long it takes to get one, and I'm not sure if I can apply from outside my home country. It's an idea, though.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Marrakesh trip report, part the last

Oh, who am I kidding? There's no way I'm going to write a day-by-day trip report. I can barely summon up the energy to write a paragraph. Plus, I'm never sure who the hell is interested in lengthy, detailed vacation reports. I mean, it's basically an indulgence for the writer, isn't it? Like, oooh, look what I did. I guess it's useful if you're planning to go to the same place(s) and can therefore learn something useful. Anyway, so no long trip report. Instead, I'll just show you the pictures, which will be something completely different, coming from me, huh?
This is the Place Djemaa el Fna, the main square. Although it's not at all square-shaped. These are mainly the food stalls in the middle.

This is the centre courtyard of the Musee de Marrakesh, which is an old building they'd renovated in the '90's. I think it used to be some big house. I didn't pay enough attention to the explanatory pictures. They did it up really nicely, though. That huge chandelier thingy is all metal and meticulously filigreed. It's crazy. It must be really heavy.

They'd put couches and chairs around, and it was actually really nice to just sit in the cool, shaded courtyard, listen to the fountains bubbling and stare in awe at the tile and plasterwork.

Speaking of tilework: this is the fountain at the entrance to the Ensemble Artisanal in the medina. The Ensemble Artisanal is the government-run craft shops, where there are price stickers on everything, and no one hassles you to buy things. It's a relief after the endless hard sell in the souks.

The centre courtyard of the Medersa Ben Yusef, an old, old Koranic school. Those little arched windows are from the dorm rooms, where they used to pile as many students as they could into.

Fish in one of the ponds at the Jardin Majorelle, a botanical garden, full of palms, cacti and other palnts Majorelle had collected and brought to Marrakesh. Gorgeous, gorgeous colours everywhere.

Lily pond and the Musee de l'art Islamique at the Jardin Majorelle. That blue they use everywhere in the garden is crazy gorgeous.

If we'd manage to catch it at a less busy time, the garden would be a great place to just sit and spend a quiet afternoon in. Even so, we managed to spend a couple hours there admiring everything.

Outside the city: we took a day to go up to the Atlas mountains to walk around and see what's up. To split the cost of the cab up to the mountains, Thierry, our riad owner, asked around to see if any of the other guests wanted to make the trip. Dominique, a French woman in Marrakesh for the week by herself, agreed to come with us. Her level of English was about our level of French, so you can imagine how well that turned out. The most embarrassing bit was when we realized we'd have to use our Moroccan guide to translate between us, because he, of course, spoke Arabic, French and English (and probably Berber, too). But actually, we got along pretty well, and spent a couple of very pleasant evenings at the riad with her and Abdeghani (I'm sure I'm spelling his name wrong), Thierry's Moroccan second-in-command. It was actually the first time in forever that I felt comfortable enough to practice some French.

But here are some pictures of our trip out to the Ourika Valley in the High Atlas.

This is why Marrakesh is called the Red City. Their buildings and walls are a distinctive red/pink colour. And why not? They're just taking their cue from the mountains around the city.

It turns out the Boy had never actually seen a snow-covered mountain before. Isn't that silly?

And what use is mountain scenery without some waterfalls?