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Marrakech

I had wanted to visit Marrakech for such a long time. ¬†I wanted to be in a country that was completely different to the UK, where the sun shone most of the time and Morocco seemed to offer something magical and spiritual too.I’m not a big fan of flying, but looking out of a plane and over clouds that hide an impending adventure is so exciting. ¬†Every now and then there’s a little gap and you desperately peek to catch a glimpse of something different below, or in my case across the clouds. ¬†I really don’t need to know how high up I am. ¬†Planes stay in the air by magic, right? ūüėČThe first thing that grabs you, on the descent to Marrakech, is the colour of the landscape. A patchwork of orange dry land next to patches of lush green foliage, very neatly organised. ¬†The architecture is so very different and from the air houses and cars look like they are part of a miniature land laid out beneath you.Unfortunately our awful English weather managed to follow us and as I disembarked from the plane and walked onto the tarmac, the skies were grey and full of rain. The majority of the buildings in Marrakech are a lovely terracotta colour and as I walked into my first orange building and into the arrivals area, waiting to go through passport control, I noticed beautifully decorated pillars covered in mosaic tiles and pretty patterns on glass work.

Marrakech airport is absolutely stunning. I am very interested in architecture and loved the 1970s feel and honeycomb design.

On the drive to the hotel the landscape was incredibly green and lush and looked gorgeous against the terracotta architecture. So different to home and very beautiful.

Driving through the Red City was very interesting. Both absolutely terrifying and incredibly hilarious at the same time. Seat belts are not obligatory, nor are helmets, which defied all logic as mopeds weaved in and out of the cars, constantly dicing with death and then there were the donkeys and carts and as you travelled nearer to the centre of the city, the horses and carriages. The most interesting and eclectic collection of traffic I have ever seen.

The journey to the hotel skirted the old city walls of Marrakech and I curiously pondered the random holes in the walls where local pigeons were taking shelter from the sunshine. The holes seem to follow no particular pattern at all and I believe they are used for supporting scaffolding when the wall needs repairs, but the birds make use of them at other times.

As the coach meandered through the traffic towards the hotel it was so interesting to look out of the windows and catch glimpses of the city and the sights to come over the next couple of days during my stay in Marrakech.

Thankfully the sunshine showed up in it’s full glory the next day and a trip to the old city beckoned. Jemaa el-Fnaa is a square and market place in Marrakesh’s medina quarter, the medina being the old walled city.The square was a taxi ride away from the hotel and I found the local taxis fascinating. They are all a rather bland beige colour and look like they have been transported from the 1970s. In fact, most of the local cars looked like are from the 70s and it was the exception to see something really modern. To use the Marrakech taxis you firstly choose a car based on size. The smaller the car the cheaper the service. Next you ask for a price for your destination and then you haggle. When your price is agreed that is exactly what you pay at the end of your journey. If there is a space in your taxi it is not uncommon for a random stranger to join you if they are going your way.

Once you accept that your taxi journey is going to be a little tense, due to the craziness of the traffic, you can sit back and enjoy the ride and take in the scenery of the local shops, people going about their day-to-day business, the horse drawn carriages negotiating the traffic, the terribly sad looking donkeys pulling their carts (although all donkeys look sad to be fair, but to see they are purely used as work animals adds to their general air of sadness), mopeds weaving in and out of the cars and animals and yet despite all this chaos, not once did I see any evidence of road rage. Maybe a hand or two gesticulating mildly, or a slightly puzzled frown, but the Moroccans really are happy people and seem to be always smiling and polite.

The Koutoubia Mosque greets you as you arrive at Jemaa el-Fnaa, beautiful Moroccan architecture set against a gorgeous blue sky.Heading towards the square the road is lined with horses and their beautiful carriages, waiting to take tourists on tours of the city. ¬†Locals dressed in traditional Berber costumes invite you to buy water from them, there are also the snake charmers and rows of stalls piled high with oranges selling fresh orange juice.The souks are so atmospheric and you feel like you have stepped back in time. Interestingly the souks and square felt very safe and I thought that there would be a problem with over enthusiastic sellers and possible pick-pockets. Nonetheless it is still very sensible to make sure that you don’t wear flashy jewellery and keep a close eye on your bag and possessions. The water sellers and snake charmers do encourage you to have your photo taken with them, but they want money from you as this is how they earn a living.The souks are a maze of never-ending alleyways selling slippers, leather goods, traditional Moroccan lanterns, food, rugs, spices, wooden carved goods, in fact the range of merchandise is huge. You are constantly invited to take a closer look at the goods for sale, but my advice would be to keep moving. As soon as you show an interest you are inviting a sale to be made and while I never felt uncomfortable it seemed unnecessary to get involved in a situation that could potentially prove difficult to extract yourself from if ultimately you didn’t actually want to buy anything. The rule is to walk on the right side of each alley way and with the mopeds and sometimes donkeys and carts also making their way through the narrow alleys you stand a better chance of being safe.Something I didn’t expect to see were the kitties of the medina. Lots of stray cats wander around the souks completely unphased by all the humans, stopping to take a snooze in the sunshine, or play in a cardboard box. Obviously boxes and the fun cats have with them is universal. ¬†They all look a bit grubby and unloved but they provide quite a valuable service to the city as they keep rodents at bay.With photo opportunities in abundance, wandering around the souks is very interesting.While the maze of alleys seems never ending, I though it was easy to spot when you had walked too far as the scenery changes. ¬†A little more rustic and a little more raw. ¬†One local was selling fresh rabbits. ¬†He was sitting on the side of the road with these little rabbits next to him, their paws bound and sadly some of them were still alive albeit barely. ¬†It really was like stepping into another world that time seemed to have forgotten.All morning there were the most delicious smells of cooking food floating through the air, so lunchtime was traditional tagine served in an open air cafe. The furniture was basic and the food delicious. To start a gorgeous chopped tomato salad and fresh bread, followed by traditional chicken tagine. It was great to watch the world pass by and sit in the warm sunshine. The owner was so hospitable and although he only spoke French and my own knowledge of French is extremely basic, we managed a conversation where he asked what I was going to see next while sipping on mint tea which is lovely and sweet and refreshing.Heading back into the souks, the destination was the spice market. Alleyways were chosen according to a rough feeling that they may be the right way as there really were no apparent directions. Personally I’m not sure that you could get that lost. Yes it did look like an absolute maze of narrow pathways looking very similar. All of them crammed with little shops stacked as high as the roof with their different products on display, but I was sure you would pop out somewhere eventually back into the main square.

The spice market was in an open courtyard selling baskets, rugs and surrounded by natural pharmacy stores. Spices were piled high and baskets were full of pot pourri. It was lovely to walk around in the sunshine as most of the alleyways are covered with makeshift wooden slatted roofs where the sun shines through in any gaps it can find. Looking for piles of colourful spices to photograph there is the constant invitation to step into the shops. Outside one of them was a small cage containing tiny tortoises and sitting on top a couple of small chamelions, one of which was called Lady Gaga, but then again, me and my lovely travelling companion were referred to as the Spice Girls too ūüôāThere are many alley ways around Jemaa el-Fnaa square with more shops and doorways leading to magical riads. The opportunities to explore are immense and when you have finished Jemma el-Fnaa square is a great place to sit and people watch.

The next day we spent the morning at Majorelle Garden. Created by painter Jaques Majorelle and later owned by Yves Saint Laurent, these gardens are very beautiful. ¬†An oasis of tranquility surrounding a house painted in the most gorgeous shade of blue. ¬†Paths full of plants lead you around the garden and in the full sun the shadows, made by the plants, proved just as interesting as the plants themselves.I stayed at a the¬†Rui Tikida Gardens Hotel¬†in Marrakech. ¬†It’s a very nice modern hotel with buffet meals and lovely clean rooms and facilities. ¬†One thing very noticeable is the smoking culture. ¬†Unlike here in the UK where smoking is not permitted in public places, you can smoke pretty much anywhere in Morocco as I noticed from the ashtray in the hotel lift. ¬†Thankfully the restaurant in the hotel was no smoking but I am unaware of the policy for smoking in restaurants generally.I absolutely fell in love with Marrakech and wish I had been able to stay for longer. There was so much to see and it would have been heavenly just spending a day lying in the beautifully warm sunshine.

A big thank you to my lovely travelling companion Emma. It most definitely wouldn’t have been the same without you xx

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March…

March has been such a busy month that I thought I would blog a mixture of Instagram and DSLR images to show you what I have been doing, or what has inspired me and caught my attention.

First is Spring, when it finally gets here, of course! The daffodils are making an entrance and it’s lovely to see bright bursts of yellow here and there.As you will see, from previous blog posts in March, I have started to list some of my new interior products for the home on Etsy. It’s also my intention to sell these items through local craft shows and local retailers.This is just the start of a long term project and I have two new sets of images which will be photographed during April. ¬†One being a travel inspired set of images and another based around a bohemian topic.

Being a photographer and also an artist with products to sell, it has become apparent that I have some skills which can be shared, so I am currently writing a photography course for crafters and artists. ¬†This course will be about using the camera you have and being shown tips and tricks to best photograph your products. ¬†The first course will be run at the end of April/beginning of May.Next is a personal project where I am starting to re-decorate my own home. ¬†First is my youngest daughter’s bedroom. ¬†She chose a stars and stripes theme which was very different to the sugary pink colours she already had. ¬†It still isn’t finished, but I am making as much as I can from wall art, bunting, cushions etc. ¬†I will even be painting some furniture.Being a huge fan of Pinterest, it was interesting to see all the beautiful hand decorated eggs which ultimately inspired me to create my own.I find that most events now are becoming opportunities to try a new creative project, even down to making original packaging for Easter gifts.

Easter …Living by the sea I often enjoy taking photographs at the beach, even on cold and wintry days.Even barren branches overlooking the sea make lovely black and white images.My next adventure takes me to an exotic destination where I will be creating a set of travel inspired images for my interiors range.Finally, a pretty pink tea set, just because I liked it xx

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Enjoying the small things…

Following my last blog post about Instagram, I though I would start a weekly publication of my iPhone snappings.

Instagram photos are shared in a simple photo stream for friends to see and you can follow your friends’ photos too.  My Instagram name is @_marina and you are welcome to follow me.

You will be able to see what is capturing my interest as the present time, or work that I am involved in and little moments from my personal life.

I hope you enjoy them x

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Fast, beautiful and fun photo sharing

 

I love taking photographs and if you follow me on Twitter you will see that my feed is peppered with photographs published through Instagram, a really fun iPhone app.

“Snap a photo with your iPhone, choose a filter to transform the look and feel, send to Facebook, Twitter or Flickr ‚Äď it‚Äôs all as easy as pie. ¬†It‚Äôs photo sharing, reinvented.”

As much as I would love to carry my big camera around all the time, it’s not always practical or convenient and it’s fun to shoot in a different way. ¬†When I use my phone all I can do is point and shoot, no other options are available to me.

Instagram photos are shared in a simple photo stream for friends to see and you can follow your friends’ photos too. ¬†My Instagram name is @_marina, a name given to me by a little girl when I was taking her photo. ¬†Instagram seemed the perfect place to adopt a different persona and the photos here are different from my blog photos. ¬†They are recording moments from my personal life, capturing things I see that interest me and also creating images that have special meaning, all shared in an instant.

You are welcome to follow me on Instagram and as with all the best things in life, Instagram is free x