Essaouira!

Top on my list of things to do in Morocco was a day-trip to Essaouira, a coastal town about two hours away from Marrakesh.  From my research it was a must-see and I figured a quick visit to the sea would be a great change of scenery.

We rose early to make our Supratour Bus just as the clouds were gathering over Marrakesh, turning darker by the minute.  They were intense and clearly weren’t there for show.  Oh, no.  The bottom was about to fall out and we couldn’t be more relieved to be driving away in the opposite direction from where they were coming.

Our ride to Essauoira on the Supratour bus was quite comfortable, despite the assigned seat debacle that had both locals and tourists confused. Nonetheless, the gray clouds were thinning as we distanced ourselves from our home base and the scenery was beautiful while we were awake.  It was one of those bus rides where our tiredness would overcome our every intention to keep our eyes open and observe the surroundings or catch up on some reading.  Every once in a while we would catch a glimpse of the desert, what appeared to be whole towns under construction or a pair of trees where goats stood on high limbs, like oranges waiting to be picked, as a small gatherings of tourists waited their turn for photos.

As we approached Essaouira, the Atlantic Ocean grew larger and larger until we could see the sprawling sandy beach and the waves breaking on the shore.  Essaouira is a beautiful coastal town, with white-washed buildings and blue painted doors and shudders. The city was strikingly different to Marrakesh. I would call it the cool, laid-back younger sibling. Just chill.  As I guess you would expect any coastal city to be.

Essaouira-1

We took to their medina first, noticing the breathing room to explore without the near death experiences from passing mopeds and the constant vying for our attention from vendors. For once, we were able to browse the goods without having to put up with the hustle.  After we made our way over to the marina, where the aroma of fish took over our senses.

Essaouira-2

We found the true chaos, but it wasn’t directed towards us.  They couldn’t even be bothered with David and me. The fishermen fresh off their morning trip to sea were busy trying to sell their catch to the locals for their dinners.

Essaouira-3

It was exciting to watch the craziness ensue, but we grew hungry. Fast.  But before seeking out lunch, we took a slight detour to the Portuguese Ramparts to get those coveted coastal views of the city.

Essaouira-8

For lunch, we followed the guides and headed straight for the seafood stalls, where you pick out your fish that was just caught and they grill it up for you on the spot. Man did we eat well! We had a lobster, sea bass and shrimp. I grabbed a fresh pressed orange-grapefruit juice and life was good.  In those moments between the delicious bites and the beautiful ocean view, we had just about everything we needed.

Girl Talk in Varazdin

I’m sitting at a café, enjoying a cappuccino and switching between writing and reading Chelsea Handler’s Uganda Be Kidding Me.  Right now, Chelsea and friends have just finished their African safari and she is prepping us for her next adventure.  I know I should be reading something with a little more substance but I still feel like I’m on vacation, so I’m going to continue to read this trash. This is my first real moment to relax.  Since I’ve arrived, we’ve been going but I can’t complain.  I’m wired that way.  I love to be rushing from one activity to the next; it gets me excited about life.  However, this is not the purpose of this trip.  I’m finding myself making mental lists and scheduling one activity after another- first I’ll go to the gym, then I’ll shower and eat, after I’ll go explore this new city and have a coffee, etc.   Then I remind myself that I need to slow down and be in the moment; it’s perfectly fine if have absolutely no plans today or tomorrow.  I thought winding down would be easier but it’s proven to be more difficult than I expected, especially given the pleasure I get from scheduling my day down to the minute.  My gut is telling me that I’ll eventually adjust.

Waiting for my warm beverage with Chelsea.

Waiting for my warm beverage with Chelsea.

This morning, I gave myself a pass and scheduled an appointment.  A few days ago, I met the daughter of the apartment owner, Iva.  She’s  in her early twenties and has blown me away with her maturity and worldliness. And goodness, she is smart.  I can’t imagine being that composed at her age.  I have to step up my game when I’m with her; I don’t want to embarrass both my family and country.  She was so kind and took me around town to give me the lay of the land and shared some insights on Varazdin, which was incredibly helpful.  Being me, I was listening very intently but became somewhat distracted by her beautiful nails.  You could tell that they hadn’t been manicured recently, yet they were still so shiny, without any chips.  I was mesmerized.  I was a little ashamed to ask but the bourgie girl in me had to know where she got her nails done.  Not only did she tell me, she took me to the salon so I could schedule my very own appointment.  I was in beauty heaven.

So this morning, at 9:05, I was scrambling out of the apartment to get to my appointment by 9:15.  I hate feeling rushed to get anywhere, especially since I’m not supposed to be scheduling appointments this month, but I have a true weakness when it comes to nails.  I can only blame my mother for spoiling me as a child with regular mani/pedis.  I arrived at the Beauty Box on time and was greeted by Mirna, this tall, exotic Croatian woman, and I was in my element.  I was also greeted by the owner, Ines, who was busy working away with another client.  The four of us women began talking and they asked me questions about myself like “What’s your occupation? “, “Why would you visit our small town?” and questions about the States, like “What does Starbucks really taste like?”, it was fun.  We laughed and talked about getting married and ugly engagement rings. Ines described a ring with a gold band that had green leaves on it, leaves as green as grass on the engagement ring. I would say that it is probably one of the ugliest engagement rings I’ve ever heard described, that poor engaged girl.  Being there, chatting it up and joking with these women, felt like I was being welcomed into Varazdin.

And my nails! Oh, they look amazing.  I got to forgo those annoyingly work appropriate colors and did something a little bit wild; a blend of pinks and pale orange.  Or, as Ines called them, Skittle nails, which is a completely fair statement.  They do look like Skittles, but only the good flavors, like Strawberry Starfruit and Mango Tangelo.  The best part about this mani is probably the system that they use here.  Maybe I’ve been living under a rock but I’ve never seen a manicure like this.  Somebody please inform me if I’m behind in times.  Alessandro-International’s  Striplac  is the name of the system that she used, and I’m now obsessed with it.  The overall process is fairly simple and I’ve fallen in love with it so much so, that I’m researching purchasing this product to use at home.  From everything I’ve read, it last for forever, it doesn’t chip, your nails are crazy shiny, it comes in an insane amount of colors and you don’t have to use acetone to remove it, they simply peel off. God bless the German woman who invented it.  It’s almost too good to be true, hence the research and trial.  Fingers crossed that it goes well.

Pretending to read my book but I'm really just admiring my shiny nails.

Pretending to read my book but I’m really just admiring my shiny nails.

I realize that pink painted nails probably sound silly and frivolous, but hey, it made this girl happy.  And as I sit here now, admiring my hands and hunting down how I can get my hands on Alessandro-International products, I know that a manicure can sometimes be more than a manicure.  The practice of pampering yourself proved to be universal today; most women like to treat themselves every once in a while. Whether it’s because they have slight addiction, like myself, or they needed something that can make them feel a little more pretty that day.  The bond that comes from sharing in and acknowledging the importance of this practice crosses all language barriers.  As I have witnessed today, a manicure connected me to people that I may not have spoken to or who may not have spoken to me.  It gave all of us the opportunity to let our guards down, get to know each other and lay the ground work for a friendship.  That is the power of a manicure.