Sunday, 13 January 2019

Sunday Smiles 2019.01.13


Greetings! I hope 2019 has been good to you so far and your day is going well. I want to share five random things that are making me smile today:

1. Nature in sunshine: We woke up to a light dusting of snow on the ground and a bright, sunny morning. I went for a walk to enjoy nature. Blue skies, sunshine, sparkling snow, and the lake view, they all bring me happy thoughts. The pink umbrellas at the beach are cute, too. A simple walk always clears my mind and warms my body. I came home feeling energized and upbeat for the rest of the day.

2. Five VIP birthdays: My brother, my sister-in-law, my nephew, my niece, and one of my longtime friends since grade six are celebrating another trip around the sun this month. I visualize their smiles or laughs and the images make me smile. I'm happy to have them in my life. They are very important people (VIP) to me. I'm wishing each of them a wonderful birthday and a fantastic year ahead.


3. My upcoming trip to Guatemala: I pack one carry-on suitcase with light clothing in it since the daily high temperature there is around 24C (75F), low 12C (54F). Light packing means less to pack, less to carry, less to remember, less to lose, and less to unpack.

I look forward to exploring some of the main attractions in Guatemala such as Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage site, Lake Atitlan, formed thousands of years ago in the crater of a massive volcano, and Guatemala's local villages and markets. Here's a photo of Guatemalan bills, 5, 10, and 20 quetzales:

Guatemalan bills

4. A frugal win: Speaking of money, we made reservations for our family outing in January and saved about 30% on the hotel room rate at time of booking, before taxes. The savings will go towards nice dining or future travel. Either way it will bring us more fun experiences. We plan to enjoy our time together, and be away from household chores for a couple of days. I bet the thought of no housework for a few days would make you smile, too.

5. A 'wide' challenge: I discovered the Toronto Public Library 2019 Reading Challenge on their web site. This is exciting and timely for me since one of my goals for 2019 is to read three books each month. I just finished Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (288 pages) and Holly Ringwall's The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart (400 pages). After I return from Guatemala, I plan to take on the Reading Challenge and see how widely I read this year.

What's making you smile today? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Wellness Post #1: A Fresh Start


Welcome to the first Wellness link up of 2019! I started this monthly link up last year with a fabulous group of blogger friends and now we're in year #2. My blogger friend, Leslie, and I worked together to come up with the new Wellness link-up graphic. A fresh start! Feel free to join in on the fun with your recent or past wellness-related posts every second Wednesday of the month.

THE OPTIONAL PROMPTS for our 2019 monthly Wellness link up are as follows:
  1. January 9: A Fresh Start
  2. February 13: Healthy Heart
  3. March 13: Indoor or Outdoor Fitness
  4. April 10: Healthy Mind
  5. May 8: The B.E.S.T. Care (BEST is for Breasts, Eyes, Skin, and Teeth)
  6. June 12: Mid-Year Review - How Am I Doing?
  7. July 10: Family
  8. August 14: Friends
  9. September 11: Sleep Hygiene
  10. October 9: Gratitude
  11. November 13: Healthy Holidays
  12. December 11: Year-End Review - What Went Well?
My post today has two main parts: (1) My Health goals for 2019 and (2) A Fresh Start where I combined fitness and fun in one outing, as fresh as winter flowers!

MY HEALTH GOALS FOR 2019

Last week, I posted my goals for 2019 here. I've started working on them and have been tracking my progress on a simple sheet. I'll provide a monthly update this year. My Health goals for 2019 include:
  • Meditate 15 minutes daily.
  • Find humour to smile or laugh daily.
  • Walk 45 minutes near nature 6x/ week.
  • Strength workouts 3x/ week.
  • Yoga 2x/ week.
  • Swim 1x/ week.

A FRESH START

Today I want to share my first 'fit and fun' outing of the year because fitness and fun can and should go together. We're more likely to stick to a fitness plan when we have fun doing it.

So I planned an outing to the Winter Flower Show at the Allan Gardens Conservatory. The show was on from December 2 to January 9. We had no snow on the ground which made walking outdoors easy.

HOW I PREPARED:
  1. Choose a point of interest: The Winter Flower Show at the Allan Gardens Conservatory.
  2. Bring what I need: Comfortable clothing, walking shoes, my purse, and camera.
  3. Go at non-peak time when it's usually quieter at the Gardens.
WHAT I DID:
  1. Walk briskly for 20 minutes outdoors to arrive at the Conservatory.
  2. Walk in the gardens to view the flowers and took photos for about 1 hour.
  3. Choose a quiet spot in the gardens to meditate for 15 minutes.
WHAT FILLED UP MY SENSES:

1. Visual: Plants and flowers, mostly poinsettia for the holidays, were beautifully arranged at different heights, with different textures, colours, and shapes. They were a real visual treat as shown in my photos below.

Three reindeer among beautiful poinsettia

Heights, textures, shapes, and colours

2. Auditory: The soft sounds of a toy train circling the track built above a small pond, and the gurgling water at the Lena and the Swan fountain gave soothing effects. Both were nice spots for quiet meditation or contemplation.

A toy train circling above a small pond

Lena and the Swans fountain with koi fish

3. Olfactory: The mild smell of potting soil gave me a sense of closeness to earth and nature. The design of a house added to the feeling of comfort.

There is no place like home

4. Tactile: As I walked along the nice winding paths leading from one garden to another, I could feel the warm temperature in the gardens. I could touch and feel the textures of the plants and flowers.

Winding path in Allan Gardens

WHAT I GAINED:
  • Raised heart rate from the brisk walk outdoors,
  • An enjoyable quiet walk in the beautiful gardens,
  • Positive sensory experiences,
  • A sense of mental clarity and calmness,
  • A time for reflection and contemplation.

OVERALL RATING - I gave this outing 5 out of 5 points, one point for each of the following:
  • Affordability: Admission to the Conservatory is free.
  • Elements that support wellness: Walkability and tranquillity in the gardens.
  • Fun: Beautiful and colourful flower displays.
  • New experience: It was my first visit to the Winter Flower Show.
  • Uniqueness: The Winter Flower Show is once a year and its design is unique.

I was pleased with how well my first winter outing turned out. I left the gardens feeling energized, joyful, and peaceful. A fresh start indeed.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments.
Inlinkz Link Party

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Goals for 2019


Happy New Year 2019! It's so exciting to have a brand new year ahead of us and a fresh calendar to pencil in upcoming events and activities. Today I'm sharing my overall plan and goals for 2019.

My overall plan for the year is to create nice memories with my family and friends, to stay healthy, and to enjoy life. I group my specific goals in three categories: Family & Friends, Health, and Leisure.

MY GOALS FOR 2019:


FAMILY & FRIENDS
  • Do four fun family outings, tentatively in January, April, July, and August.
  • Go on a trip with my sister in March.
  • Visit a cousin who lives abroad, tentatively in June.
  • Get together with my family clan, approximately every two months.
  • Meet up with my friends as many times as possible throughout the year.

HEALTH
  • Meditate 15 minutes daily.
  • Find humour to smile or laugh daily.
  • Walk 45 minutes near nature 6x/ week.
  • Strength workouts 3x/ week.
  • Yoga 2x/ week.
  • Swim 1x/ week.

LEISURE
  • View three art exhibits/ month.
  • Blog weekly, except when I travel.
  • Read three books/ month.
  • Listen to three concerts/ month.
  • Learn French and Spanish, 15 minutes/ day for each language.
  • Watch three movies/ month.
  • Travel to explore five new-to-me countries this year.
  • Try at least one new food dish in each of the countries I visit.

I'm motivated to achieve my goals. I expect to accomplish more in some areas when I'm at home than when I travel. I'm open to try something new that is not on the list as well.

To track my progress, I'm using a simple sheet. It makes it easy for me to see at a glance how I'm doing and to share my monthly summary on my blog throughout the year.

Before I end this post, a friendly reminder that our first Wellness link-up of 2019 is on Wednesday, January 9. Feel free to join in on the fun and share your wellness-related post. I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Your turn...What are your goals for 2019?

Monday, 31 December 2018

December in a nutshell

Greetings! In December I was at home to enjoy the local cultural events and the holiday season with my family and friends. We had mostly cloudy days with temperatures hovering around freezing point. Our first light dusting of snow appeared on the ground on December 30 morning. On New Year's Eve, the light rain washed all the snow away.

Without further ado, here's my December in a nutshell (in alpha order):

ARTS:

In December, I saw many festive holiday displays in the city centre. All the banks, shops, and department stores put on their best holiday decorations. Whether it was a real tree or an artificial tree, they were all spectacular centrepieces.

Christmas tree in Eaton Centre

I viewed three art exhibits at the Power Plant, all with free admission: (1) La Canicula exhibit by Vivian Suter with Elisabeth Wild, (2) Beth Stuart's Length, Breadth, Thickness and Duration exhibit, and (3) Karla Black's solo exhibit. I was interested in Vivian Suter's exhibit and her story since she's from Guatemala, the country that I'll be visiting in January.

Vivian Suter's La Canicula exhibit

Beth Stuart's Dipper Chasuble

Elisabeth Wild's collage

Karla Black's installation

BLOGS:

In December I published nine blog posts, bringing the total this year to 91 posts. My heart and mind was full of gratitude when I wrote my Highlights of 2018. It's been an amazing, enriching, and fulfilling year.

The 2018 Wellness Wednesday blog link up that I started this year concluded on December 12. I'm planning to continue the Wellness series on the second Wednesday of each month in 2019. The link up is open to all wellness-related posts. Feel free to join me on the first Wellness post on Wednesday, January 9, 2019.

BOOKS:

I finished four thriller novels The Dime by Kathleen Kent, The Late Show by Michael Connelly, Before the Poison and When the Music's Over by Perter Robinson. The first two authors were new to me.

I'm currently reading On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, and The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland. When I reviewed the list of Stephen King's books, I realized that some of the movies I enjoyed, such as The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, were based on his stories.

Books borrowed from the library

CONCERTS:

I chose to attend three concerts in December, just enough to get me into the holiday mode without overdoing it. It was a delight to listen to the following fantastic concerts which were all free to the public:
  1. The Piano Festival at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music: Thirteen pianists played their solo pieces with incredible skills and grace. It was two hours long with one short intermission.
  2. The 'Tis the Season to Swing concert at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts: Steven Taetz Quartet performed thirteen songs, including six Christmas-themed songs, in one hour.
  3. The annual Christmas Concert at Toronto City Hall: Toronto Beaches Children's & Youth Chorus, Toronto Mass Choir, Pan Fantasy Steel band, and Tower Brass played holiday songs in about ninety minutes. The Mayor of Toronto, Mr. John Tory, came to express his holiday greetings as seen in the photo below.
Toronto Christmas Concert 2018

FAMILY AND FRIENDS:

For our family and friends who live far away, we exchanged our season's greetings by email and phone calls. Canada Post had a labour disruption that ended with a big backlog of mail and parcels so I sent out only a couple of greeting cards this year.

Before Christmas, I met two friends for coffee, one friend for a workout at the gym, and had lunch with another two of my girlfriends. After Christmas, my family clan had our holiday dinner on December 26. This year there were twenty-five of us in attendance. It was a lively and heart-warming party with a lot of food, board games, and fun conversations.

FITNESS:

I completed seven yoga classes, thirteen workouts in the gym, five swimming sessions, and ran five times. I also walked 45 minutes or more and meditated 15 minutes daily. We had no snow until December 30 so the grounds were dry and it was easy to get around. On December 28, the high temperature was 10C (50F), which is unusual at this time of the year for us.

An empty beach in December

LEARNING:

I took my French and Spanish online lessons daily using Duolingo. I'm also reading online travel guides to learn more about Guatemala which is my upcoming travel destination.

MOVIES:

I watched two movies with my neighbours Crazy Rich Asians, Fahrenheit 11/9, and two animated shorts Weekends and Bilby. There was a re-run of Mission Impossible Fall Out that I decided not to go as I've seen it twice in November.

NEW YEAR'S PLAN:

We're ringing in the new year at home with comfort and relaxation. We had roasted chicken with wild rice and vegetables for dinner, ice cream and sweets for desserts. Now we're waiting for the fireworks, then greet the new year, and go to bed.

At year end, there's the usual tasks of closing current year's files and opening new year's files. I drafted my new goals for 2019, created a new goal tracking sheet, and a new budget sheet. My 2019 calendar now has a number of known appointments and confirmed events.

OVERALL:


December was a lovely month, with just the right amount of fitness, leisure, and social activities for me. I'm looking forward to having some fun this winter and enjoying 2019.

I want to thank all my blogger friends and readers for your comments, continued support, and connections in 2018. Wishing you a Healthy and Happy New Year!


Thursday, 27 December 2018

Highlights of 2018


At the beginning of 2018, I wrote my 18 FEASTs to enjoy in 2018. I've been using a simple sheet to track my activities and posting my monthly summaries on my blog throughout the year. I've reviewed all of them this week. Here are a few of my highlights:

FITNESS

I was consistent with my daily fitness routine that included walking close to nature, meditation, yoga, workouts in the gym, swimming, and running 5K. The pool was closed from the end of January to the end of August. I was eager to literally jump into the water with both feet when it was re-opened in September.

I felt healthy and upbeat throughout the year. Finishing the Scotiabank Waterfront 5K race in October with my family there was great fun.

ENTERTAINMENT

I listened to forty-five concerts and attended close to twenty summer festivals, all of them were free to the public. I also watched forty movies (most of them with my neighbours and some in-flight), and tried a dozen or so new-to-me restaurants and dishes like Cambodian beek lok lak, cold beetroot soup in Vilnius, Lithuania or beef tajine in Fez, Morocco.

ARTS

I viewed over forty art exhibits at home, saw plenty of amazing architecture, and visited several UNESCO World Heritage sites during my travels. It was wonderful to see art on King Street in my home city, street art in Santiago, Chile, Art Nouveau in Riga, Latvia, and the actual sights where Vincent van Gogh painted in Auvers-sur-Oise, France.

I felt encouraged to continue learning French and Spanish every day as I was able to converse in basic Spanish in Chile, and basic French in France and Morocco. I resumed reading books in October and finished twelve books by the end of the year.

SOCIAL

Although I stayed in touch with family, friends, and neighbours throughout the year, the highlights include meeting my Finnish friend in Tallinn, Estonia, and attending my cousin's wedding in Paris, France, just because it's more challenging to be together with my faraway family and friends.

On the blog, I celebrated my blog's 2nd birthday in October. My friend Donna kindly wrote a guest post for me in June, and my friend Sue generously let me participate on her blog as a guest writer in October.

TRAVELS

I reached my travel goals of the year with two family getaways, two fun-filled trips to see our friends within Canada (Ottawa and Quebec City), and four international trips that let me revisit France and explore six fascinating countries (Chile, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Morocco). The Countries Visited page on my blog has links to all my travel posts and is up-to-date.

OVERALL

2018 has been an amazing, enriching, and fulfilling year for me. As always, I'm grateful that I'm healthy, and my family and friends are all well. I'm also grateful that I've been able to enjoy the wonderful cultural events in my home city, and many fascinating sights in foreign countries. I tried to make the most of every day this year. I can say today that I made it and I did it my way :)

I want to thank my blogger friends and readers for your kind comments and connections in 2018. I wish you and yours a Healthy and Happy New Year 2019!

Sunday, 23 December 2018

A Stroll in Jardin Majorelle

Greetings! When I was in Marrakesh, Morocco last month, I went to visit Jardin Majorelle (or The Majorelle Garden) one afternoon. The garden made such a lovely impression that I want to document it with some of my photos on my blog.

BRIEF HISTORY:

Jardin Majorelle was the creation of French painter Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962), who spent forty years injecting his passion and creativity into this magical garden. He painted the garden walls, fountains, features and villa in a fresh and intense blue colour, for which he trademarked the name Majorelle Blue.

Famed designer Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, his longtime business partner and onetime life partner, bought Jardin Majorelle in 1980 and restored it. They transformed Majorelle's villa-studio into a museum open to the public, and dedicated to Berber culture.

Jardin Majorelle is one of the most visited sites in Morocco. It is a beautiful oasis in a bustling city. I hope my photos below show you why. Click to enlarge the pictures if you like.

JARDIN MAJORELLE MAIN FEATURES:

1. Fountain at the entrance: Before entering the garden itself, we see an enclosed space with a square fountain designed by renowned American decorator Bill Willis. I love everything about this fountain such as the light terracotta tile floor, the blue and green tiles around the fountain, the symmetrically arranged plants in terracotta pots, the soft sound of gurgling water, the hanging branches partially covers the door, and the curved walls that separate the garden from the bustling city outside.

Fountain at the entrance of Jardin Majorelle

2. Cacti: Although Jacques Majorelle collected many plants for his garden, he was especially interested in cacti. Out of respect for this passion, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé continued to expand the collection, which today includes about thirty members of the cactus family. Some have been imported from the southwest regions of the United States.

Cacti in Jardin Majorelle

Plants in Jardin Majorelle

3. Majorelle Blue square fountain: This fountain is located in front of the Berber Museum, which used to be Jacques Majorelle's villa-studio. It's painted in his trademark Majorelle blue paint. I love the lemon yellow planters that accentuate the surrounding greenery and together they compliment the vibrant blue fountain. Similar to the fountain at the garden entrance, the soft trickling sound of water at this fountain has a soothing effect.

Square fountain painted in Majorelle blue

4. Berber Museum: The Berber Museum was officially inaugurated on the ground floor of the villa-studio of Jacques Majorelle in December 2011. More than 600 objects were on display inside the museum to introduce visitors into the Moroccan world of the Berbers.

Berber Museum in Jardin Majorelle

5. Museum Bookshop: The museum bookshop has an extensive selection of works about Morocco, and Berber art in particular. It is also an art gallery featuring a wide variety of antique photographs, watercolours, drawings and engravings dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. I like the intricate design of the bookshop windows, painted in yellow, as seen behind the cascading plants below.

A view of Museum Bookshop windows

6. Galerie Love: This gallery exhibits the 'Love' posters that Yves Saint Laurent created starting in the 70s to 2005. He sent them every year as New Year's greetings to his friends and the clients of his fashion house. I love the colours that Yves Saint Laurent used in his collage to create the posters.

Yves Saint Laurent's "Love' posters in Galerie Love

Galerie Love in Jardin Majorelle

7. Boutique Majorelle: The on-site boutique offers a wide range of unique, high quality clothing and products, designed exclusively for the Jardin Majorelle. From my quick browsing, I noticed a silk and cotton clothing line, silver jewellery, silk scarves, hand-woven textiles, embroidered leather cushions, leather goods, artisan soaps, and traditional handmade preserves. The displays were beautiful.

Boutique Majorelle

Boutique Majorelle

8. Water lily pool: I love everything about this pool. The reflections in the water, the water lilies, the koi fish, the aquatic plants, the Asian lotus flowers, the blue borders, and the lush vegetation in the garden. It looks like a wonderful spot to reflect and contemplate.

Water lily pool in Jardin Majorelle

9. Palm trees: There are many varieties of palm trees in Jardin Majorelle. Some of them have been imported from the South Pacific, eastern Africa, India, the Mediterranean basin and the Canary Islands. Palm trees and olive trees are considered holy in Morocco. I like how the red pathway or the terracotta grounds contrast with the green bamboo and palm trees.

Palm trees in Jardin Majorelle

Bamboo and Palm trees in Jardin Majorelle

10. Yves St Laurent Memorial: Yves Saint Laurent died on June 1, 2008. Peter Bergé died on September 8, 2017. The memorial in Jardin Majorelle, in memory of Yves Saint Laurent, is composed of a Roman column which came from his Tangier home and was placed on a terracotta base. A plaque bearing the names of Yves Saint Laurent and Peter Bergé and two white marble benches allow visitors to pause and remember.

Yves Saint Laurent Memorial in Jardin Majorelle

11. Bamboo: The little bamboo forest inside the garden provides pleasant green shades and a sense of tranquillity. There is a canal running through the garden with Majorelle blue borders. The reflections of the bamboo in the water add to the calming effect of the garden.

Bamboo in Jardin Majorelle

12. Pavilion: The pavilion was designed by Jacques Majorelle, who painted there. My photo below captures the steps leading to the Pavilion and the surrounding plants.

Steps leading to the Pavillion in Jardin Majorelle

Jardin Majorelle is an enchanting garden and very nice oasis in Marrakesh. I love its beauty and tranquillity. I love when I explore a new point of interest and it turns out to be a captivating discovery.

What do you think?

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Winter fun list


Greetings! I was reviewing my Autumn fun list update #2 that I posted here, to see if all of my items were checked off by today, the last day of Autumn in my calendar.

Since my last progress update on November 21, I watched three more movies (Little Italy, Crazy Rich Asians, and Fahrenheit 11/9), had two coffee meet-ups and three lunches with my friends. So yes, my Autumn Fun List is all done! Time to embrace winter and one way to do that is to have a winter fun list :)

MY WINTER FUN LIST (from 2018.12.21 to 2019.03.19):

1. Enjoy my family holiday party: There are usually 20-25 people at our annual holiday party on December 26 (Boxing Day). We coordinate our menu items so each family unit knows what to bring for food and drinks. It's a guaranteed lively and fun event.

2. Start the New Year 2019 at home: I like a relaxing start to the new year, something like wake up at home on New Year's day, have breakfast, and take it easy all day.

3. Visit the Winter Flower Show: This show is on from December 2 to January 9. I look forward to seeing the beautiful flower displays that will brighten up any wintry day.

4. Explore Guatemala in January: I booked this trip last month, now I'm looking forward to exploring Guatemala for the first time. A new adventure awaits!

5. Attend the Icefest event in February: This is a one-day event that showcases incredible ice sculptures and live ice carving demonstrations.

6. Check out the Ice Breakers 2019 winter exhibition: The five winners of the Ice Breakers 2019 International Design Competition will be installed outdoors and on display from January 19 to February 24, with the theme “Signal Transmission”.

7. Photograph snow-covered objects: I'd love to do this on a calm and sunny morning when the snow is clean and fresh. I hope to share some nice pictures on my blog.

8. Book a trip in the Spring with my sister: We travel well together, and had a great time exploring Central Europe. I look forward to enjoying new travel experiences and creating new memories with my sister again.

Stay tuned for my progress update about a month from now. Wishing you a healthy and joyful holiday season!

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Postcard from Casablanca, Morocco

Greetings! Last month I took a trip to visit Morocco. My itinerary included Rabat, Volubilis, Fez, Marrakesh, and Casablanca. You might like to read my posts on Rabat and Volubilis here, on Fez here, and on Marrakesh here.


 They're fascinating cities.

Today I'm sharing the top six sights that I've visited in Casablanca. I had included Casablanca in my trip itinerary since it was easier for me to book my flights home from this city.

Casablanca's Mohamed V International airport is about forty minutes by car from the city centre, in off-peak hours. If you're flying out from this airport, allow enough time to get there.



QUICK FACTS:
  • Casablanca is located about 90 km (56 miles) south west of the Moroccan capital of Rabat and bordering the Atlantic Ocean. 
  • Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco, with a population of almost 4 million and also boasts the world's largest artificial port. 
  • Casablanca is also the most liberal and progressive of Morocco's cities. Many young Moroccans speak to each other exclusively in French. 
  • Casablanca main colour is white. Unlike Marrakesh and Fez, there are high rise buildings in Casablanca.

TOP SIX SIGHTS IN CASABLANCA (Click to enlarge the pictures):

1. The Hassan II Mosque - Standing partly over the water, the enormous Hassan II Mosque, designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau, was completed in 1993. It has a 210 meters (690 feet) minaret topped with lasers directed toward Mecca. It's the largest mosque in Morocco and the third largest in the world.

Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco

Fountain at Hassan II Mosque

The mosque has room for 25,000 worshippers inside, and a further 80,000 can be accommodated in the mosque's courtyard, which boasts a retractable roof. Astonishingly intricate decoration covers every centimeter of its surface. It is one of the two main mosques in Morocco open to non-Muslims who can visit the mosque on guided tours. One interesting tidbit: The Mosque's doors are made of Canadian titanium! Everything else is made of local Moroccan materials.

Doors at Hassan II Mosque

Ceilings and columns at Hassan II Mosque

Mosaic tile at Hassan II Mosque

2. The Corniche is a beachfront neighbourhood on the ocean, west of the Hassan II Mosque. Along the Boulevard de l'Ocean Atlantique are many newer, fancier hotels, and many western fast food chains. The best option is to walk up and down the street, and enjoy Moroccan tapas at one of the many ocean-view cafes. In the photo below, you can see the lighthouse in the distance.

Ocean view from Hassan II Mosque

A beach in Casablanca, Morocco

3. Place Mohammed V is the central plaza of Casablanca. It is home to many of the city's important official buildings, including the main post office, Palace of Justice, Prefecture, French consulate, and the main Bank of Morocco. In the photo below, if you zoom in to the signage of the Palace of Justice, under the roof, you see it is written in Arabic and Berber languages.

Place Mohammed V, Casablanca, Morocco

4. The Notre Dame de Lourdes is a church built in 1954-1956 by the French architect Gaston Zimmer. The church exterior includes a massive concrete ‘hood’ which towers over the doorways and is completed with a small crucifix attached at its highest point.

The Notre-Dame de Lourdes

It's the beautiful stained glass windows inside the church that capture everyone's attention. The open, airy interiors are lit up by the beams of light that filter through these stained glass windows which cover an entire wall of more than 800 square meters. The stained glass was created by French stained glass artist, Gabriel Loire.

Stained glass windows, Notre-Dame de Lourdes

Stained glass windows, Notre-Dame de Lourdes

Mother and Child stained glass

Unusual Devil stained glass

5. Rick's Café - If you’ve heard about Casablanca, it’s probably because of Casablanca, the Academy-award movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in 1942. A replica of Rick's Café as seen in the movie was created ten years later in Casablanca's Old Town, within a 20 minute walk of the Hassan II Mosque and in the walls of the Old Medina bordering the ocean.

Rick's Café, Casablanca

My tour guide advised that the food is good at Rick's Café. Reservations and dress code are required for dinner. Alternatively, come here just for drinks at the bar, and soak up the 1940's Casablanca atmosphere.

6. Central Market - Casablanca's bustling central market is right in the city centre. It's where locals come to buy and sell. You'll find everything here from lamps, silver, spices, to Morocco's famous slippers. Be vigilante of your belongings and surroundings. If you're seriously interested in buying something, be prepared to haggle and disengage the negotiations amicably.

Moroccan silverware

Moroccan curry and Tagine mix

Moroccan beans and nuts

Moroccan jewelry boxes and wallets

IN CONCLUSION:

Casablanca is a busy city. It's well-connected to other cities and towns in Morocco by air, train, or bus so it's a convenient gateway. Its location by the Atlantic Ocean is a big draw in nice weather. In the city centre, I saw many Art Deco buildings which, if restored, would add more charms to the city.

I was glad that I had spent more time in Rabat, Volubilis, Fez, and Marrakesh. I found the layouts of these imperial cities more appealing than Casablanca, and their Medinas and ancient buildings or ruins a lot more fascinating than the Medina in Casablanca.

This is the last stop of my trip in Morocco. I've immensely enjoyed exploring this exotic country for the first time. It's a captivating destination. I've learned a lot from the places I've visited. I hope you enjoy my posts and photos.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments.