Exploring Marrakech—A feast for the senses

It's a cold, dreary Saturday here in Amsterdam, I'm peeking out the window to grey skies and the sound of fat raindrops hitting my window. It's hard to believe that one month ago, I was hopping in a taxi at 4am with adventure on my mind, making my way to warm, sunny Morocco. My destination was Marrakech, where I joined eleven other curious, creative freelance women from the Netherlands, France and South Africa. We met up for six days of exploring, eating, sharing and learning in the sunshine! 

Needless to say, since returning, I've often caught myself daydreaming of the colorful, flavorful moments we experienced—from visiting the gorgeous Jardin Marjorelle, to cooking traditional Moroccan tagine at our riad, exploring the chaotic medina. No trip to Morocco is complete without an awkward camel ride at sunset, right? We did that too! Our retreat was action packed so, I've got plenty of colorful photos and adventure stories share. Let's start by exploring the vibrant city of Marrakech...

The rooftop view during our lunch at Nomad 

The rooftop view during our lunch at Nomad 

With chilly November in mind, I set out on this journey for inspiration because, let's be honest, winter drains my spirit and escaping for sunshine helps these darker months pass by. As someone who loves to travel and has organized countless of excursions abroad, I was apprehensive to let someone else take the reigns. However, with my over-packed work schedule lately, it turned out to be a blessing. All I had to do was pack and show up, ready to embrace new experiences. In the end, I got out of my comfort zone and everything worked out perfectly thanks to House of Notoire

This was my first visit to the North African country and the best way I can describe Marrakech is a feast for the senses. My expectations we far exceeded—detailed, geometric wood carvings, curvy archways, and colorful, tiled patterns were everywhere we looked. Spicy, earthy scents filled the air as we explored the twisting pathways of the medina with our local guide. 

The medina is the medieval, walled city center of Marrakech and it's a wild beast of its own. Upon first sight, you immediately feel the crazy, at times overwhelming energy— walking the tight alleyways of this clay-walled labyrinth is a feast for the senses. It's bustling with locals, feral, aggressive catcallers, persuasive merchants, bicycles, wagons, children running chasing footballs, and scooters stretching past. I gotta say, the worst parts of this trip were the disgusting creeps on the street and the pandemonium of the Jamaa el Fna market square. I could have done without either but it's a small price to pay for the incredible time we had everywhere else.  

Our riad, Zam Zam, was a short wander through the media and offered a secluded oasis in the midst of the chaotic, dusty city. During the first evening, we laughed and conversed in the courtyard while the smell of smokey incense and sweet oranges filled the air. Some of my favorite memories of the retreat came from the little moments, chatting about our dreams and challenges and soaking up the sun on the rooftop while setting new goals for 2018.

Aside from the obvious opportunity to explore Marrakech (my first time!), my next intention was to engage with other young, female entrepreneurs. I was excited to get to know the other cool, creative ladies and hear their stories. If you've followed this blog for a while, then you know that expat life has never been an easy path for me. After eight years in Amsterdam, I'm finally feeling settled but I’ve paid the price to watch a lot of great friends come and go due to the transient, expat flow of Amsterdam. At times, I’ve experienced an aching void when it comes to connecting with lady friends, cool chicks are hard to find! Needless to say, the wild energy of our group clicked from the start. Plus, the meisjes were graciously patient with my Dutch which, was really flowing on this trip! We quickly bonded and it was evident after just a few short days that strong sisterhood was budding. We were so goofy and comfortable around one another that it made it easy to be open and especially vulnerable during our boss lady workshops. I left Marrakech with recharged energy, inspired mind, and a full heart knowing that there are eleven, fabulous new ladies friends and countless inside jokes that still bring us to tears (Issa honey thing, okrrrrr!)

I'll be back with more Marrakech stories next week . In the mean time, check out the lovely ladies behind House of Notoire, Creative Women Collective, Girls that Grub and Celmatique or take a peek at #honeysinmarrakech on Instagram. 

 

Autumn Apple Picking

As the seasons shift, we're heading into a cozier time of year here in Amsterdam. The cooler temperatures (and drizzly rain) make it a real challenge to get necessary sunshine and fresh air that I crave. Although we're constantly chasing the sunshine here in Amsterdam, autumn definitely feels like a frantic, last-minute dash to get outside and enjoy a bit of nature before the heavy winter settles in. Looking back at the golden rays and plush leaves in these photos, I don't even want to think about winter coming, yikes! 

You don't need to head far out of the city center before you're out in the Dutch countryside, an area filled with quaint little towns and endless farming land growing everything from tulips to onions, strawberries, pumpkins and more. It had been about five years since I last visited the Olmenhorst Orchard and it was time to go back for another round of apple and pear picking. So, my friend Oceane and I headed out to the countryside and lucky for us, autumn sunshine was just right...

As a freelance creative, I often spend a lot of time creating content for other people and while I'm fortunate to be busy, it's easy for me to get lost in the hustle and flow of work, work work. So, I've been attempting to make little adventures for myself to try different activities like, apple picking. In this case, our apple picking afternoon inspired us to invite a few friends to cook up a big autumn dinner! It was a delicious meal that perfectly fit the coziness of this new season. You can read more about creative challenges here in my article for the Creative Women Collective.

Curious for more? Visit this post on Instagram.