I looked up from the table and over at a certain someone. He had done the same thing as me: knife and fork down, paper napkin placed politely over his plate, hand reached out for another piece of bread. Even without words, I knew exactly what he was thinking as those same thoughts were bouncing around my head too. I’m not sure I can finish the rest of it, I still hate cumin, and whose bright idea was it to come to Morocco?
That was the first tagine we ate at the start of our visit to Morocco and it was such a disaster, it almost became our last. Where were the intense spices and aromas which were supposed to assault our senses? Not in the bowl in front of us, that we were certain. A friend with Moroccan heritage had warned me that the best food was probably served in people’s homes as the country doesn’t traditionally have a huge dining out culture, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised by our shaky start.
For two people who have not yet mastered a decent doggy paddle, can barely float, and are just a tad uncomfortable in deep water, a certain someone and I have the most uncanny love of the beach. Lounging in the sun, a book in one hand and a drink in the other, with the sounds of waves lightly crashing in the background; we like a lot. Energetic watersports or hours spent underwater; we like less.
We’re the lazy kind of beach bums, but beach bums none the less, and will jump at any opportunity for some sand between our toes and a sniff of the salty sea air. Even if this means arriving at the wrong time of year… In our defence, you’d struggle to find perfect beach conditions in Essaouira any time of the year. This sleepy seaside town on Morocco’s coast looks ideal for a spot of sunbathing but the reality is, it’s just far too windy! But as Wellingtonians, we’re used to a little gust of wind so decided it just had to be added to our Morocco itinerary.
Food and travel; two things which are never far from my mind and two which are never mutually exclusive in my life. In my humble opinion, they go hand in hand – like salt and pepper, Bert and Ernie, or churros and chocolate. When we’re off on our jaunts abroad, I care about seeing the sights and visiting the attractions, I really do, but I almost care more about the food.
On the rare occasion we do some research, all those google searches and blog trawling will be about the food. Always. Because we all know that the main sights are religiously marked on those ever so helpful city maps but they never mark the best restaurants, cafes or hole in the wall joints do they? Never! The best, the most authentic, the signature dishes – I need to try them all because god forbid you all think we’ll eat any old thing from any old restaurant on any old street corner.
After spending close to two weeks in Morocco, I can confirm that there is only so much tagine and couscous a girl a can eat. If I’m being really honest, we kind of hit our quota for the Moroccan stew by about day three so had to get a little creative with our dinner choices, but there was one dish we were happy to eat all day, every day… a piping hot bowl of harira.
Harira is a traditional Moroccan soup which is popular during the winter months and after sundown during Ramadan; packed with flavour and ridiculously hearty, I can completely understand why it’s so well loved. Coming back to the brisk, near freezing temperatures of London was certainly a jolt back to reality so I thought I’d whip up my own version of a harira to keep those holiday memories alive and our bellies warm just that little bit longer!
A few years ago on my first trip to Hong Kong, I got my palm read at Wong Tai Sin Temple. I’m not at all superstitious but it was my first solo trip, I was in a new city, and it seemed like the thing to do there so why not? The romantic in me hoped that I would be enlightened, the realist in me doesn’t remember much of what she told me… Something about some kids and caring for my kidneys however none of it that led to the Oprah a-ha moment.
But there was one thing she said that’s stuck with me ever since – she told me that the thing I seek most in life is freedom. Whether she really saw it in my life line or thought it was a good bet given I was a single young woman off on an adventure, I’ll never know, but she was right.
I’ve always done my own thing, gone where I’ve wanted… I’ve always wanted to be free. Travel gives me the freedom to escape the mundane 9-5 life, the freedom to be completely anonymous, the freedom to talk to everyone or no one at all, and quite simply the freedom to explore. I’m lucky to have found someone who shares this love of travel and together we have travelled often, got lost on occasion, and always eaten well.