06/19/13
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Moroccan Cooking Class

On June 19, 2013, Ivan, Lil Dave and I woke up early at 8:30 am.  We had the free breakfast on the terrace and then packed everything up.

We stored our luggage with the riad.  We had a lovely stay at Riad Andalla.

Lil Dave headed out to meet up with Reggie the monkey.  Ivan and I walked to the post office at 9:30 am.  We were waiting for a pickup for a cooking class.  It came at 9:45 am and the van had two British people inside already.

The van stopped two other times to pick up two other couples and then were driven to Faim d’Epices.  If I knew that we’d be in the car for awhile, I would have taken a nap.

We were greeted by Michel at Faim d’Epices.  He’s part owner of the cooking class.

Faim d'Epices cooking stations

The décor was quite nice and we each had our own cooking station which is always great in cooking classes.  Ivan and I both think that cooking demonstrations aren’t very good since  we like the hands-on approach.

A Moroccan lady named Nezha showed us how to make the bread from scratch.  The counter was high so I had to tiptoe a bit (since I’m really short) to see her demonstration since the table she was doing it on was slightly lower.  I was hoping we’d remember everything she taught us, since we’d be making our own bread after the Spice Workshop.

Michel did the Spice Workshop.  He’s really funny and likeable.  The group had to put on blacked out sunglasses and try to guess the spices by smell alone.  Some were pretty obvious like ginger, but some were hard like mixes of two different things which was actually a trick question.

Michel doing the Spice Workshop

He told us how to tell if saffron was real or not.  Ivan and I thought the Spice Workshop was a little too long.

Lots of Spices to guess with a blind smell

The workshop was interesting, but it could have been cut down some.

It was time to make our own bread.

Making Moroccan bread

Good thing, Nezha was there to help us out.  She’s very nice and a great teacher.  Our breads were left under a tea towel to rise for awhile.

It was time to learn how to make a fish tajine.  Nezha showed us how to make a sauce and then chop up vegetables and how to place the ingredients into the tajine (earthenware pot).

Ivan's ready to eat.. but our fish tajine must cook first!

Everybody in the group put their ingredients into the tajine and now our tajines were ready to start cooking.  It takes about 45 minutes to cook.

Nezha showed us how to cook the bread by frying it in a pan.

Nezha cooking up vegetables

She also showed us how to make three Moroccan salads (appetizers).

Three Moroccan salads

Next, we got to fry our own bread at our cooking stations.  Michel helped us out – letting us know if it was cooked enough or not.

Cooking the side of the bread

Nezha showed us how to make crepes.  The Moroccan crepes are much thicker than French crepes and square.  We got to practice folding the crepes.  Nezha cooked two up and the group got try to them.  The crepes were yummy.

We had some free time since our tajines were still cooking.  Outside, there’s a huge backyard with lots of vegetables and flowers.  The cooking class grows all their vegetables right in their garden.

Ivan's fish tajine

It was now time to eat the food we cooked.  We sat outside in the backyard.  Everybody brought out their fish tajine and bread to the table.

Ivan with all our food

Our fish tajine was good, but slightly overcooked.  The best salad was the one with the roasted red and green peppers.

Each couple in the group got a recipe book in a long test tube to take home as a souvenir.

The Faim d’Epices cooking class was wonderful.  Ivan thought it was a great mixture of demonstration and hands-on cooking.  We highly recommend taking this cooking class to learn how to make Moroccan food and eat your tasty creations.

Ivan and I were dropped off in Jemaa el-Fna square.  Ivan went to get the luggage while I picked out some postcards and souvenirs.

We got a taxi to RIU Tikida Garden.   It’s a lovely all-inclusive hotel with lots of trees throughout the grounds.  The internet didn’t really work in our room, so we headed to the pool to use it.  I worked on the blog.

The dining room was all booked up for the night, so we went to the buffet for dinner.  Ivan and I had fish, Moroccan salads and harissa soup.  Lil Dave had a few bananas and took some back for his secret banana storage… which I still haven’t found.

After dinner, we went to see the entertainment.  It was lots of Moroccan dancing and music.

There was flashing lights on the dance floor right before one of the acts and a 2 year old girl started dancing around.  Her parents didn’t grab her when the belly dancer came out like most normal parents would.  Good thing the belly dancer was good natured… because she just smiled and laughed that the little girl was dancing near her.

Belly dancer & little girl on the dance floor

Ivan and I are sure she toned down her performance.  She did shake her boobs a bit.. but didn’t seem to shake her hips a lot like most belly dancers we’ve seen in Morocco.

The last Moroccan song went on too long.. it was the same beat over and over and over again which was doing our heads in.

Ivan and I headed back to the room after the show and watched some of tv series The Sketch Show before going to sleep.

06/6/13
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Florence

Ivan, Lil Dave and I woke up early on June 6, 2013.  We left the hotel at 9 am and then walked to the train station.

The train left at 9:25 am headed to Florence.  The train was 11 minutes late and arrived at 11:02 am.

We stored our luggage in the storage at the train station.

We walked around the market since we had time to spare before Ivan’s family and D showed up.  The stalls were selling leather belts, journals, Italian masks, and souvenirs.

Ivan’s family and D were on a tour that Ivan booked.  They didn’t like their tour guide since he kept making up stories and he was crazy.  I bet he was actually pretty interesting.  I’m sure it’s better than a boring monotone tour guide who makes you want to fall asleep.

Ivan checked out a few of the restaurants to find something good.  Our group ended up at Trattoria pizzeria da i matti.  It was really pretty inside.

Inside Trattoria pizzeria da i matti

Ivan and I shared a tuna and onion pizza and a spicy penne arrabiata.  The food was tasty.

Neal and D wanted to head back to the cruise ship.  We walked around the markets with Denise and Ken.

Florence & religious souvenirs

Ivan and I bought some souvenirs.

We checked out the church Santa Maria del Fiore which is free to enter.  It wasn’t that big inside.

Apse artwork

Ivan and I had gelato at Grom.  Ivan’s parents went back to their tour.

Ivan wanted to go see the David statue replica at Piazzale Michelangelo to meet up with his parents.  I was feeling hot and sick since I had a sore throat.  I stayed in a park while Ivan went to find them and take pictures.  He said he would be back in 30 minutes.

I relaxed on the grass in the park.  I saw a few kids playing and lots of people relaxing in the park.

I walked around to take pictures of a cool bridge and then headed back to the park.

I was ducking under a chain to get on the sidewalk and I hurt my ankle when my right foot went down.  I screamed loudly since it really hurt.  One guy who was passing by said Are you ok?  I said I’m fine.  I was just trying to play it off.  So, I rushed off and started taking pictures of a statue.  It actually really, really hurt bad.  I was mad at this point since it was almost an hour and there was no sign of Ivan.

I walked around to find a place to buy water.  I came across CLET’s studio.  The guy who makes the funny things on street signs.

Heart sign by CLET

I guess he lives here in Florence.  I thought Ivan was going to come back soon so I didn’t bother going into a café to grab a water.

He came back a few minutes later.  Neal told Ivan via email later that they were going to see the replica of the David statue at a different square and not the Piazzale Michelangelo.  It was a long steep way up, so that’s why it took awhile.  Plus, Ivan was waiting for them and then he ran to the other square.  Ivan told me he saw Clet’s studio too.

Later, we checked in to Artevita Bed & Breakfast which is a lovely place.  Our room had a balcony with a beautiful view.

Ivan on the balcony

We were looking forward to having breakfast on the balcony tomorrow.

That night, we took a fun Pizza & Gelato making class.

Ready to make a pizza!

The main teacher was Davide and he was friendly.

The Pizza & Gelato making class

Davide showed us how to make gelato.  Everybody didn’t get to make their own gelato since there was only one machine. It was cool learning about it though.

The other teacher Julio wasn’t very nice. He got mad at me and Ivan since we were talking during his demonstration on how to roll out the dough and put the toppings on. He was like a school teacher. We got to roll out the dough and put the tomato sauce and our toppings like salami, basil and olive oil.  We had wine while we were making our pizzas.  We were told to customize our pizzas.

Davide put my pizza in the oven.  Later, I was waiting for my pizza.  I was asking Julio if he moved any of the pizzas since mine was in a certain spot.  He said yes.  I asked him if he could ask Davide about which one was mine.  Ivan told me later that I was being way too loud and everybody heard me.  Julio didn’t seem to care that I wasn’t sure which pizza was mine. Somebody said You should have customized it.  I put 3 salamis on it, but so did somebody else.  I asked him if he could ask Davide which pizza was mine since he was keeping track, but he didn’t seem to care and didn’t ask him.  Davide was talking to somebody.  I don’t like Julio since he ignored me.  Even if you don’t like somebody, you should treat everybody the same in your cooking class.  I think Davide should be the only teacher since he’s really friendly.

Ivan’s pizza turned out better than mine.  Mine was tasty with salami on it.

Salami Pizza by Jen

Davide retrieved the gelato from the machine.

Davide taking out the chocolate gelato

Soon after, we got to try the chocolate gelato which was delicious.  Everybody got a diploma and a recipe book at the end.

Ivan is proud for getting his diploma

It was a really fun class.

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