Through my childhood and teen years I spent a great deal of time in one particular small town in central Alberta. We took a brief trip back to my second "home" for some time to catch-up, hang out, and meet my cousin's very special new baby (who I am going to go ahead and call my nephew).
It's official: We love our new little cousin/nephew!!
We made it to a German Christmas Market a lot sooner than I ever could have anticipated. I can honestly say it lived up to all my expectations and then some. Leaving Germany was as tough for my tummy as it was for my Christmas spirit!
I could have spent many more weeks in Germany for the food alone. The markets will never leave you hungry. In fact, I'm not sure if I ever went very long without munchin' on something.
Potato pancakes with applesauce
Fried Mushrooms with a garlic sauce (My personal favourite).
"Spatzle mit sauerkraut und schwarzwalder speck" - Spatzle is a German "noodle", so this tasty concoction consists of Spatzle with sauerkraut and a type of Bacon. So delicious.
Goulash was one of many incredible homemade soups available at the markets.
Chocolate covered marshmallows - We made it through only 3 of the 23 flavours, one of many excellent reasons for a return trip.
Roasted & Flavoured Almonds. We tried Vanilla, Coconut, Regular caramelized, and Cinnamon - all too yummy!
Nutella Crepe - sorry about the photo. The photo had to wait for me to have a big bite (or several).
Lebkuchen - a gingerbread-like baked treat that is a German tradition.
There are so many more that were enjoyed, but went unphotographed.
On top of it all there was someone's very first candy cane
And that same someone's very second candy cane
Neither candy cane shown is peppermint which he later declared as being "too fizz" - an all-purpose statement for the very fizzy, spicy, staticky, tingly etc.
And, of course, there were the drinks, among them the local ALT beer,
and a mulled wine called Gluwhein (available in red or white)
We made sure to enjoy each and every market's Gluwhein - which has left us with a good sized collection of Christmas mugs to enjoy our morning coffee in, and what will now be a yearly December reminder that we need to go back!
We have spent a small fortune at a number of pharmacies in the past week - Homeopathic cough syrups & cold remedies, lozenges, fever reducers, saline sprays, blah, blah, blah... All I want for Christmas is health for my 2 babes. For Real.
If nothing else, we are getting into a good groove of chilling out and are adjusting to yet another new time zone. Our fourth full day in Alberta is coming to a close and we have barely left our jammies - quite a feat wouldn't you say?
We did venture out for dinner tonight, and I even browsed a couple shops this afternoon so I think I am beginning to come out of my shell though in reality I am always a happy homebody. This may surprise many, as we seemingly leave our home behind on a regular basis, but it's true. I LOVE to stay home - especially on a cold, wintry day.
What will tomorrow bring? Maybe I'll get dressed before noon. Maybe.
We finally arrived back at our home for a brief five nights. My plans to dive full-on into the festive season with decorating, creating, relaxing, and spending time with my husbands family were overcome with the sounds of hacking, sniffling, and the constant hum of the humidifier as the scents of vaporub and strepsils floated on the air. After a whole lot of traveling and time zone hopping, our bodies finally threw on the red light and illness hit all of us like a hammer.
One more flight for 2011 has brought us to Western Canada where we will spend the Christmas season with my family. It has all happened so quickly, in a flurry of flying, visiting, packing, & unpacking, that I can't believe there are only 10 days to go. All efforts have been put towards getting healthy. Hopefully it happens soon so our Christmas spirit's can come to life, and this state of constant exhaustion I seem to be in may lift. A baby who has spent the last 2 nights nursing every hour and a half is fully wearing me down and thoughts of formula bottles and full nights of sleep have begun filling my head.
It feels strange posting blogs from our trip now that we're back on Canadian soil, but I have so many, both in my head and down on paper, that I was never able to publish due to lack of time and internet availability. For my own records I can't bear to fully abandon them so bear with me as I continue to throw down entries from our last several weeks of travel. Of course, in order to avoid neglecting my favourite time of year, I may have to delay these posts a little bit longer, and bring them back to life in the new year through Travel Tuesday...
For now, I'm just going to go with the flow and find my routine of daily blogging once again.
Morocco was a tough time for all of us and yet, we loved it. We just couldn't seem to get healthy. Jim was sick the entire 2 and a half weeks, and lost a hearty 15 pounds to prove it. I had no voice for about a week, and an intense cough and sore throat for the rest of it, which left me pretty sleep deprived. Both boys had an allergic reaction to nappies we bought which were strongly perfumed, Levi went through times of feeling very tired and emotional, and Owen finally came down with a fever toward the end of our stay.
When you are feeling ill and traveling, everything rests on your accommodation. The ease in which you find rest and relaxation, your motivation and, most importantly, your ability to cope are all highly affected by that room you call "home", be it for a couple nights or several.
I believe somewhere in that talk of illness I mentioned that we did, in fact, love Morocco? This had a lot to do with our accommodation, since there were many days where our adventures out were quite brief. At every place we stayed we encountered amazing, helpful people, and a clean, comfortable spot to kick back, rest our heads, and let our kids play freely.
In Chefchaouen we stayed at a little family owned guesthouse called Casa Annasr. When we arrived by bus and realised it was directly across the road from the bus station we tensed up a bit. In our experience, being adjacent to a bus station does not a lovely accommodation make. This was the exception. Our hosts were extremely friendly and helpful, sharing their computer with us, making us a pot of mint tea whenever we passed by, and were great to just sit and talk to. Levi had a great time kicking a ball around with their kids, we had an amazing breakfast every morning, and our room was very clean and comfortable enough that every day we spent the hottest part of the day (from around 1 to 4pm) relaxing and playing there.
In Meknes we stayed at a Riad called Riad Felloussia. As things were getting progressively worse in the health department, this place was very timely. The breakfast here was another crazy smorg of goodness, another spotlessly clean place, very friendly staff, internet access (though unpredictable) was available in the riad, Levi and Owen both had their own beds which meant more sleep for all, our shower was awesome, and we could sit on the rooftop overlooking the main square and take it all in - the music of the snake charmers, the crowds of people, the calls to prayer - and to top it all off, it was so easy to experience and enjoy the medina as we were staying right in it.
In Fes we stayed at Dar Fes Medina. This was the place where we broke. It rained A LOT, Jim was at his absolute worst, and when little Owen started in with a fever and began acting very different from his usual self, we packed it up and headed back to Tangier for a night and then across the border to Spain. Again, despite how horribly we felt, the wonderful people and how comfortable we felt at this riad enabled us to enjoy our time in Fes even though we were pretty much at our lowest point. Fes was our biggest disappointment due to all the plans we had to let go of - visiting the tanneries, and day tripping to the nearby mountains among them. Nevertheless, my memories of trying to supress my coughs through the long nights so I wouldn't wake one of the sleeping boys, or worrying about Jim as his weight dropped and appetite followed, are happily topped by my memories of colouring at the tables in the breakfast room, watching Levi show Owen how to crawl along the beautiful tiled floors of the common area, and sitting down to a big silver platter of biscuits and mint tea.
Through it all, we were amazed at Levi's ability to stay healthy despite his lack of nutrition (basically yoghurt, bananas, and french fries were all he would eat - chuck in the occasional pizza and cheeseburger). We voiced this fateful thought as we arrived in Tangier for our last Moroccan night. Just a few hours later (3am) our "healthy" little boy awoke scared and crying as he vomited his way through the next hour. Not cool.
The Moroccan people were amazing - so protective and loving toward children. Adults and children alike were constantly coming up to give Levi and Owen a cuddle and a kiss on the cheek.
At first I was okay with it - Levi had loved the attention of similar affections in Italy, so I continued to be of the mind that it was very sweet.
As it seemed to be rampant flu season throughout Morocco, we took to carrying Owen in our carrier to lessen the snuggles he received though he, as Levi once did, seemed quite happy with all the attention.
Levi preferring the freedom of his own two feet was subject to a lot of lovin´ and as he became more aware, and more prepared, he also became on guard to the point where every person who came within a short distance of him caused him to shout and run. Clearly he was not a fan of this space invasion.
It came from an honest and sweet place, but as he didn´t like it, I too started to feel bothered by it. It even got to where he would shout at every person who said hello.
This posed a slight problem because I didn´t want to teach him to accept what he wasn´t comfortable with, but I also didn´t want him to rudely shout at anyone who said hi. But how on earth can a 2 year old discern who is coming in for a kiss or a chat??
This attitude of Levi´s toward strangers has carried on into Spain, though it seems to be gradually waning as the locals in Spain seem to be a little more careful in their approach.
We never did find a solution. We would just quickly pick up our annoyed little boy, send an apologetic glance toward the offender and be on our way. As it is in their culture and to be expected there is not much more you can do, though at times I had wished there were.
I´m sure a child´s reaction changes according to their age, but also their ability to react properly to the situation and read people´s intentions.
Throughout our stay Levi generally was quite thrilled with the attentions from other children, and with each accommodation as he became familiar he became equally comfortable with the owners, and staff.
Adjusting to cultural differences is all part of the game, though this particular difference was tougher than most, and one I don´t think we ever fully adapted to.
Thanks for all the great comments I´ve been receiving on my blog posts, and thanks just for stopping in to check up. My time at internet cafes is very limited, so I have been unable to respond to comments but believe me I read and appreciate them all!
One thing I´m wondering...How on earth I´m going to find the time to read all the posts from the blogs I love, that I haven´t been able to read up to this point???
I´m in for some late nights!
I felt that this needed to be shared. If not only to gain possible answers for anyone in the know (please seriously, what is being advertised?), then to simply give you a chuckle and let your mind wander through the possibilities...