Prepping for Morocco

When I was 20, I created a “30 Things To Do Before I Turn 30” and promptly lost it. whomp whomp I found it again this November and decided to cross a few things off before May.

At the top of the list was travel – Egypt, Morocco, Greece, the Scottish Highlands, Salem, MA… Though I couldn’t make all of those happen in 6 months, I booked a trip to Morocco! As you read this, I am in Marrakech.

If you’re anything like me, you like to do a bit of preparation before any major trips. I thought I’d share what I did to prepare, in case it is helpful for anyone else.

Booking the trip

This was the easiest part, surprisingly. I had been fascinated by the National Geographic Journeys for a while now and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try one out. They have two main levels of travel – casual and premium. Casual has more relaxed travel (read – no 5 star hotels!) while premium is a more luxury experience.

Since I am headed to Morocco for the sights, not for the hotels, I booked a casual journey. This is the exact journey I’m taking. It includes all hotels, some meals and all in country travel.

That just left booking my flights and securing travel insurance. I opted to have the National Geographic tour operators book my flights, since that would ensure an airport transfer to the hotel. Could I have saved a bit of money booking it myself? Probably. However, the rates were comparable to what I found on my own and the ease made the extra few dollars an easy choice.

Learning

I prefer to go into a trip having read something about the area. It means I have something to “remember” as I am on a tour and I’ve found I get less overwhelmed by all the new sights and sounds when I have some idea of what to expect. The added benefit is that I can enjoy more of what is around me since I’m not on sensory overload!

For this trip I read two memoirs about buying and renovating houses in Morocco. It’s important to note that both of these are outsiders representations of Morocco, not someone who is from the area. I attempted to find a Moroccan’s story, but couldn’t find any that would arrive in time.

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The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah

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A House in Fez by Suzanna Clarke

 

Packing

Packing for this trip was the most stressful part — by far! The tour company requested that we bring only a backpack and a small daypack. Having successfully traveled to Paris and London last spring in a carry-on made this slightly less nerve-wracking but I wasn’t sure the size difference between my Away carry-on and a backpack.

Continue reading “Prepping for Morocco”

Christmas 2012: Beauty Wishlist

Now that I’ve shared the books that I want and the books that I recommend, I thought I’d move on to some beauty products I’ve had my eye on all year.

Bioderma Crealine H20

1. Bioderma Crealine H20 (Travel Size):

Since I saw Lisa Eldridge talk about this product in her skin care favorites video, I knew I had to have it! I recently bought the full-size version for home and I’ve been loving it. It’s the only makeup remover I’ve ever tried that doesn’t’ feel greasy and leaves my skin feeling clean. It’s a godsend when I’m too sleepy to take off my makeup and just want to crawl into bed. Unfortunately, the full-size version is just too big to haul around on trips so I would love to have the mini version!

PINCEAU FOND DE TEINT ESTOMPE No7 Blending Foundation Brush

2. Chanel Blending Foundation Brush:

I’ve been on quite the Chanel beauty kick lately and this brush would be the perfect
way to apply my new foundation! It’s fluffy, dries quickly after cleaning and gives a really natural finish to the skin.

Urban Decay Naked Palette

3. Urban Decay Naked Palette:

This little palette has made the rounds on the blogosphere (and youtube) for over a year! The colors
are the perfect neutrals to make any eye color pop and with it you’d never need to buy eyeshadow again!

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4. Clinique Even Better Eyes:

I’ll admit my under eye circles are something of a doozy — without concealer I wake up looking like I had a hard night at the wrestling ring the night before. I’ve used the Clinque All About Eyes Serum since I was in middle school but their new product promises even better results. Santa, please?

Caudalie Serum

5. Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum:

Though I am still too young to go crazy over anti-aging serums, I would love to begin working a basic serum into my nighttime routine. This one promises to fade dark spots and keep them from coming back — music to this former acne sufferer’s ears!


Elizabeth Arden 8-Hour Cream

6. Elizabeth Arden 8-hour Cream:

This one is a cult-classic and I hear it’s definitely worth the hype! A moisturizer that smells divine, absorbs well and softens even the driest skin. It comes in lip, hand, body and face versions — gotta love multipurpose products!

Deborah Lippman Happy Birthday

7. Deborah Lippmann Glitter Nail Polish in Happy Birthday:

I’ve loved this polish since it launched a few years ago but I still haven’t managed to get my hands on a bottle! It’s a great glitter with multi-colored dots — perfect for a birthday party or new years eve.

Check out my other gift guides:

Books on my list

Books I recommend

Apartment Tour: Part Two

Just like I promised, here’s part two of the tour of my new apartment.

Just off of the living room is my little dining room.

Table and chairs: estate sale with DIY seat cushions


Sideboard: Ethan Allen Sale (similar)
Silverplate tea set: estate sale (similar)
Wine rack: Pottery Barn (similar)

I’m in love with my great kitchen, so clean!

Next up is my bedroom. I wanted to be able to use the grey color scheme from my old room but with a more sophisticated flair. I think it turned out pretty great!
Prints: Etsy (1, 2)

Since I’m here to attend graduate school, a desk was a necessity. Unfortunately one bedroom apartments don’t offer too much in terms of office space! Here’s my little office nook for homework and such.

Here’s a view of my porch from the sidewalk.

…And another view so you can actually see the furniture!

So what do you think?

Similar posts:

Apartment Tour: Part One

Apartment Tour: Part One

Even though this blog primarily follows my literary adventures, I wanted to share what I’ve been working on for the past few weeks. When I returned from the NYU Publishing Institute in NYC I packed up a UHaul and moved to Chapel Hill, NC. Though it was a whirlwind of packing and unpacking, I’m a bit more settled now and I can’t wait to show of my new digs!

Alexandra’s apartment 1

I’ll start the tour with my front door. I love that it is all mine!
Door mat: Homegoods

My entryway is not very grand but I love my pew (similar), map of Paris (similar) and Kings & Queens of England print (similar).

My living room is the first thing you seen inside the front door.
Chairs and bench: Target (1, 2)
Coffee Table: Ethan Allen (1)
Candles: various (similar)

The Big Comfy Couch!
Couch: Ethan Allen* (1)
Throw: Pottery Barn (1)
Tray: Pottery Barn Outlet (similar)

This is just one of the bookshelves but my mom did such a great job arranging the books I had to show it off!

Alexandra's living room table

This is another one of our DIY projects — would you guess that the table is actually plywood?

Shopping Bag Art

Here’s the best part of the living room! I found a great DIY on pinterest and made it happen.

*Bought during closeout sale at very steep discount

Next up: the dining room, porch and bedroom!

Tuesday Tales

Spring break is already nearing its end and I feel as though I’ve hardly done anything! This week I’ve attempted to study studied a lot for my comps. I’ve made so many study guides (Women in …., Race in …., Publishing information for…) that I’m not sure I will have time to study them all! Unfortunately even after having put all of this work into studying I don’t think that I am at all prepared for this test.

When not studying I’ve spent my time searching for apartments at my potential graduate schools. I haven’t the foggiest how to go about an apartment search so it’s mostly me searching google and hoping for the best. I head to the Syracuse admitted students visit day at the end of this month and hope to see some apartments in person while I’m there. Fingers crossed that blundering about leads to some good results!

Unfortunately, apart from the studying and apartment hunting I haven’t really gotten a whole lot else accomplished. I had high hopes of reading a great deal for fun over my break but, as usual, I have more books in my bag than I have time to read.

Here are a few instagram pictures of what I’ve been doing this week:

Pedicures with mom to start off spring break!

Rainy day reading at Barnes & Noble.

A movie trip to see The Artist.

Cirque du Symphony at SkyPAC.

Apple Crisp from Rafferty’s.

Francophilia rediscovered

Despite my recent foray into life across the pond, my love for the French remains undiminished. Call me fickle or inconstant but I was sure my love of France had been eclipsed by England’s beauty…until today.

It all started over the summer when I saw Midnight in Paris. Whatever you may think about Woody Allen, the work is genius. The scenery, the representation of artistic greats and the costuming is beyond amazing.If you haven’t seen the film I highly suggest you rush to a theater before it disappears!

(Also as part of a semi-shameless plug, check out my post on Dormify about decorating your dorm room with Midnight in Paris as the inspiration)

Of course, with this as in all things, I was stubborn. I wanted to believe that my adoration stemmed from a love of Stein, Picasso and the beautiful music rather than from the city of love. Oh how wrong I was!

I’ve begun reading Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard. The book details Ms. Bard’s experiences abroad, from studying in Scotland during her junior year through her time as a graduate student in London and onto meeting her husband and moving to Paris. The romance is like something out of a romantic comedy (emphasis on the comedy). The French seem in turn more relaxed and more uptight than I’d ever seen them.

The insights offered into the French mystique make me want to a) start wearing silk scarves b) bike everywhere c) learn to love French cuisine and d) watch French films. Obviously this is one to read!

Off to watch Amelie,

Alexandra

An Irish Spring Break

After leaving for Ireland bright and early one Saturday morning, there was no stopping! Arriving in the early afternoon, I had just enough time to grab a quick bite before I rushed off to a group tour. Unfortunately since we were so rushed lunch consisted of a few bites of whatever Starbucks had. What started out as a “walking tour” of the city quickly devolved into a history lecture since our tour guide was a wannabe professor. We learned a lot about the political tensions that built Dublin but not a whole lot about the landscape we were walking through.

After the tour, I went back to the four courts hostel for a two hour nap before dinner–traveling is so exhausting! Dinner was lovely, if American in flavor, we found an Eddie Rocket’s. Eddie Rocket’s is a little bit like Johnny Rocket’s in the States, complete with burgers, onion rings and milkshakes. After a long day of walking in the rain a little greasy comfort food was exactly what the doctor ordered. Elizabeth, Rebecca and I quickly realized that we’re not very adventuresome when it comes to food—the week after Ireland we got McDonalds in Spain! (more on that to come)

On Sunday I went to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College. I’m a complete book nerd so I was right at home looking at the manuscript exhibit for about an hour. Toward the end of the tour, you go through the Old Library where books with beautiful bindings fill the walls from floor to ceiling. My friends made fun of me for inhaling the scent of the place! I was in library heaven. Unfortunately, we eventually had to come out of that place and make our way back to the hostel to change for the class dinner and pub-crawl.

The dinner was lovely and we all ate far more than we should’ve—what? It was on Kenyon’s dime! The musical pub crawl was less than stellar so we skipped out as soon as our professor went home to bed. In our defense, we did go on our own musical exploration of Dublin. The pub we ended up in had great music and a wonderful atmosphere.

Monday afternoon I took the train from Dublin to Galway. Galway is a beautiful little town and the B&B we stayed at was precious! Each morning we were there, breakfast was amazing! The first day I had a traditional Irish breakfast, the second porridge with raisins, the third potato waffles and the last day a combination of all three! There wasn’t much to do on the first night there since it was raining, but I quickly settled into the very comfortable beds and tried to rest up for Tuesday.

The next morning the bus left at 9am for hiking on the Burren. Though it was raining all the way up, the hike was still gorgeous. I’ve never been much of an outdoor-loving girl, but this year has converted me to a definite hike fanatic. There was no rest for the weary as we went straight from the Burren to the Cliffs of Moher. Another beautiful natural site and another climb. Logan and I were a little too damp, cold and sniffly to climb all the way to the top in the rain so we opted for a little retail therapy in the museum’s gift shop.

Wednesday would’ve been a day to rest, but one of the girls on the program found great horseback riding nearby. We all piled into the bus at 9:15 for a second long day of the great outdoors. The horses weren’t used to new riders and a few of us in the group got a bit scared, myself included, but it was our first sunny day in Ireland so we tried to make the most of the great weather.

That night, I went out to the Spanish Arch Hotel for a little traditional Irish music. The band, Alale, was absolutely amazing! I’ve never seen anything like it. Check them out at my YouTube video:

The next day we went on a trip to the Aran Islands and for the first time on the Ireland trip, it was sunny! . Most of the group took bike rides around the island but we decided to explore on foot instead. The coastline was beautiful and I had a lovely time wandering out to the seal beach with some friends and then lunching along the seaside


(We bought matching Aran Island sweaters)

After the jam packed weekend, I took the bus back to Dublin for a little R&R. Our last night in Dublin, Rebecca, Elizabeth and I decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner out. We’d been so frugal the whole time in Ireland that we had  a lot of our food stipend left-over for the meal. Walking around the city, dining in style, eating cupcakes and watching silly Irish television was a great end to my Ireland adventure.