Trekking for Kids and the Bayti Centre in Essaouira

kid, Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Olympus

In the summer of 2014, I decided to do another trek with Trekking for Kids (TFK) with whom I have trekked in Romania in 2012 and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2013.  When I learned TFK was going to go to the Camino de Santiago, something I’ve wanted to do since I learned about it, I knew I just had to go as it was the perfect combination of a trek and of service to improve the lives of children, something I am very passionate about.  The group of trekkers paid their own way and then raised funds for projects to be done at the center selected by TFK.

Trekking for Kids, TFK, trekking, Morocco, Essaouira

The group of Trekking for Kids trekkers before the first day of work – I was in GREAT company!

The service work was going to take place at a center for street and at-risk children in Essaouira on the Atlantic coast of Morocco – a town that surprised me and of which I am writing separately.  TFK decided to work with the Bayti Centre to improve the facilities where they work with the children to protect them against violence, to provide psychosocial rehabilitation, to reintegrate families, and other related activities.

Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Samsung Galaxy

TFK being welcomed by Bayti Centre staff

kid, Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Samsung Galaxy

A group shot with tons of kids is hard to pull off…

TFK selected a number of improvement projects like helping the exterior of the building be repaired and painted.  Another project was a kitchen renovation that facilitated the two kitchen staff to be able to work side by side in the small kitchen with two sinks, a new fridge, and a new stove as well as more shelving to better use the space.  New equipment for instruction (like a flat screen TV) and other items for the children were donated as well.  In summary, a series of projects that would enhance the facilities to create a better environment for Bayti to deliver its services and attend to the children of the streets of Essaouira.

Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Samsung Galaxy

The facade of the Bayti Centre after repairs but before painting

Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Samsung Galaxy

Finishing touches being applied on the repairs prior to the painting

Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Olympus

Painting the exterior – street level

Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Olympus

Building a wall garden requires woodworking skills!

kid, Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Olympus

One dirty (and happy) trekker after a day of work at the Centre!

Along with the works, we also got to take the children on outings and threw a party where we all got to enjoy food, games, and music much to the delight of the children.

kid, Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Olympus

Getting ready for one of the outings

kid, Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Canon EOS Rebel

Face painting in progress!

kid, Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Canon EOS Rebel

A fellow trekker doing the artwork!

kid, Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Olympus

Another great face paint job and a happy kid!

kid, Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Canon EOS Rebel

The end product of face painting!

kid, Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Olympus

One of the outings was to go to a park in the city for fun and games

kid, Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Olympus

The girl on the right sure knew the right technique for jump rope!

kid, Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Olympus

Precious little girl!

kid, Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Olympus

He was having fun at the park – and I was glad to be a part of it

kid, Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Samsung Galaxy

Fun and games at the pool park in one of the outings

kid, Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Canon EOS Rebel

More fun and games at the pool

A final word is to thank the amazing staff and volunteers who are the ones who truly made the world a better place for these children.  Je vous remercie, mes amis!

Bayti Centre, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, volunteerism, Samsung Galaxy

TFK trekkers with the staff and volunteers of the Bayti Centre

I look forward to another TFK trek in 2015!

Ideas for Paris Travel with Pre-Teen Kids

Paris, Arc de Triomphe, Paris, Eiffel Tower, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel, view

A friend asked me what to do in Paris as she was going with her kids for a week or so.  I do not have kids but I was one once and that, coupled with the fact that I have stayed at a Holiday Inn, fully makes me an expert at recommending stuff for kids.

My brain immediately thought “Paris Disney” but I really thought this would be a criminal offense when they have the opportunity to have a much more unique experience – and ilivetotravel is all about experiences.  Like chocolate and macarons.

chocolate, macarons, maison du chocolat, Paris, France, food, foodie, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

All sorts of good stuff can be found in Paris. And I am sure kids & adults alike will enjoy!

So here is what I tell my friend to do:

  • Jardin de Luxembourg – This, the second largest public park in Paris, was part of the Palace that sits right by it.  The Palace was built in the early 17th century and is now the French Senate.  The park has many statues and fountains.  Maybe your daughter can imagine how it must have felt in the 17th century being a princess walking around the gardens!  And your son may enjoy renting a sailboat to operate in the large fountain while you sit and watch people go by as you enjoy this garden!
  • The Pantheon – This is likely a quick visit.  Some of the most notable French figures are buried here but I don’t think that will impress the kids.  However, it was free (at least when I went years ago) and seeing a building with such a unique interior may be interesting for the kids for, at least, 10 minutes.  And you, the parent, get to see it!
  • Go up the Eiffel Tower.  I don’t know if the kids will be up to hiking up as far as they let you before you have to take the elevator to reach the top but I know you are fit and can climb it with no issue!  While the climb may be more work than the kids want to do, seeing the structure up close as you go up is neat.  But, in the end, it’s the view from the top that matters most so, whether you all climb it or not, go up!
  • Walk up the Arc de Triomphe. OK, if the kids didn’t want to climb the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe is another option available to help you burn the calories of all the delicious pastries you are likely going to be eating (I will be mad if you don’t!).  It is deceiving but it is like 14-16 stories high so it is not trivial.  The view is not as cool as the one from the Eiffel Tower but you can look down the Champs-Elysées from it and, on the other side, towards the modern arc-shaped building in the distance.  Oh, and please use the tunnels that go under the road – don’t attempt to cross the street to get to it!
  • Visit MontmartreIt is a great place to and walk the narrow and hilly streets (still making you exercise with this plan!).  To get up, you can climb the stairs but I will cut your kids some slack and suggest you all ride the little funicular.  Once you reach the top, you are rewarded with the massive Sacre Coeur church.  And guess what?  You can climb it to the top!  This one, I think your kids will definitely enjoy and great views of the city to boot!

    Montmartre, Paris, France, photo

    The narrow and hilly streets of Montmartre – explore!

  • I feel obliged to suggest a museum that may be good for kids.  But I had to do some research on this.  I found the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, or the Museum of Hunting and Nature (60, rue des Archives, in the third arrondissement).  It is supposed to be interesting for kids mixing animals (dead) and art.  Let me know how it is!
  • Pompidou Center (19, rue Beaubourg, in the fourth arrondissement) has a hands-on children’s area, not sure for what age exactly but it is free for kids so you can get to check out some art under the guise of taking them to a museum that has stuff for them (even if it turns out they are too old for what it has!).
  • Notre Dame is quite impressive even for kids but it may be a quicker visit with them.  On neighboring Ile St. Louis (the island in the river near Notre Dame), there is an ice cream place that is really good.  It’s called Berthillon (31 Rue St.-Louis-en-l’Ile).  Use that to reward the kids for letting you visit Notre Dame 🙂  And you can have one too.
  • Take a boat ride in the Seine.  Some of the boats offer fancy dinner cruises but there is a batobus (boat bus) that you can take to travel up and down the river –more fun than the metro (for the kids AND you!) and you can use this to see the city from a different perspective.
  • The Tuileries Garden (right by the Louvre Museum, at the base of the Champs-Elysées almost) is one of the most kid-friendly spots in Paris, and also one of the most beautiful.  There are trampolines, a merry go round, etc.    A large Egyptian obelisk is located outside on the west side of the park on the Place de la Concorde – could be a unique thing to see from ancient Egypt in Paris.

    Paris, obelisk, Place de la Concorde, Sacre Coeur, photo, France, travel

    A view towards the Place de la Concorde and the obelisk. Note Sacre Coeur in the background!

  • Go into the many places that have phenomenal pastries and other decadent things, like these.  For the kids, you know…
    • Ladurée – several across town (one near La Madeleine, another on the Champs Elysees, etc.)
    • Dalloyau – there is one at 2, pl Edmond Rostand, right across the Jardin de Luxembourg; there are other locations like 101, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
    • Angelina (226 rue de Rivoli, right across the Tuileries/Louvre; incredible hot chocolate).  As you can see, I have conveniently picked places close to the others I have recommended so you have NO excuse for missing these!
  • Visit where Raúl lived (24 rue de Tilsitt).  OK, it’s a boring building one short block from the Arc de Triomphe.  Thinking it over, it may not impress the kids – or you – so only go if you run out of things to do 🙂

    Paris, Arc de Triomphe, Paris, Eiffel Tower, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel, view

    Yea, the building I lived in was boring but this is the view from the rooftop terrace!

Enjoy Paris and be sure to let me know what the kids enjoyed – from this list or otherwise!

City Life – Street Scenes of Stockholm

cafe, Stockholm, Sweden, summer, street scene, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

I wrote about Stockholm being a great city to visit in summer time (as probably any part of Sweden!).  As I said then, it is likely a charming city well-worth visiting any time of the year.  But summertime not only offers warmth and longer daylight hours.  It offers better opportunities to observe life happen as I hope the photos in this post show.

Enjoy and let me know which is your favorite scene!

Ancient Roman Ruins That Are Alive Today in Jerash, Jordan

Columns, temple, artemis, jerash, jordan, history, roman ruins, travel, photo

Yes, Jordan is more than Petra and if you have read some of my other posts on what I saw in Jordan, you are aware of that. But when it comes to historical sites of significance, it is worth noting that Jerash, in northwestern Jordan is quite important a historical place on its own right even if overshadowed by the more famous Petra.  However, Jerash struck me not only for its historical significance but also because it was ALIVE!!!

Jerash – the ancient Greco-Roman city

Before I tell you how it is alive, let’s explore the historical and architectural gem Jerash is.  Jerash (known as Gerasa in older times) was a city built originally in Greco-Roman times (estimated to have been established in the 4th century BC) and which, after a large earthquake in the 8th century and further destruction brought about by other earthquakes and wars, became a footnote of history until it was begun to be excavated in the early 19th century.  Even Emperor Hadrian himself visited Jerash in his days and there is a triumphal arch commemorating that visit.

Arch Hadrian Roman ruin Jordan Jerash history Canon EOS Rebel

Arch of Hadrian built to honor his visit
Arch Hadrian Roman ruins history Jerash Gerasa Jordan Canon EOS Rebel
Detail of the Arch of Hadrian

Among the many sites in Jerash to explore are the Forum, temples to Zeus and Artemis, the Cardo Maximus (column-lined road), the North and South theaters and many other ruins.
FOrum Roman rins Jerash Jordan history
View of the Forum at Jerash
Forum Roman ruins colonnade columns Jerash Jordan History Canon EOS Rebel
Detail of the colonnade of the Forum
Mosaic Roman ruins Byzantine church Jerash Jordan art design Canon EOS Rebel

Mosaic floor of one of the 3 contiguous Byzantine churches on the site

Cardo Maximus Roman Ruins Colonnade Columns history Jerash Jordan Canon EOS Rebel
Visitors walking down the Cardo Maximus, the north-south colonnaded street

Fallen column Roman ruin history Jerash Jordan Canon EOS Rebel

Jerash’s ruins did not survive powerful earthquakes and other ravages as this reminds us

Columns temple artemis jerash jordan history roman ruins

Beautiful columns in the Temple of Artemis

The place is alive

Oh, you think I am talking figuratively, aren’t you??  There is a column in the Temple of Artemis that is actually moving.  You can place your hand at its base and you will feel it moving.  Yes, indeed!  But that is not quite what I mean when I say Jerash is alive…

Moving column temple artemis Jerash Jordan Roan ruins

I hesitated for a second putting my hand in there. I let someone else go first…

There were also vegetation around (this being the greener part of Jordan) like the following which also contributes to making Jerash a site that is “alive”.  But that’s still not what I mean…

Fig tree in Jerash, Jordan Roman ruins Canon EOS Rebel

Fig tree along the path

But what I really meant about Jerash being alive was neither of the prior two photos.  The day we visited there were several groups of schoolchildren visiting and they enjoyed chanting in the large Roman theater – almost like competing to see who had the best chants – and running up the stands.

Jerash Jordan children Roman theater Canon EOS Rebel

Children enjoying and LIVING the ruins!

Jerash Jordan children Roman theater Canon EOS Rebel

Children enjoying and LIVING the ruins!

Jerash Jordan children Roman theater Canon EOS Rebel

Children climbing the stands of the theater

Jerash Jordan children Roman theater Canon EOS Rebel

Jerash Jordan children Roman theater Canon EOS Rebel

The smile so typical of every kid we ran into! A happy memory for us all

Though these ancient ruins were some of the most impressive I have seem, it was great to see a historic place so alive that day – it helped me connect more to the essence of Jordan via its children!

 

During this trip, I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board.  That notwithstanding, the stories I share were my real experiences and nothing else.  As they always are!

Photo Essay – Colors of Jordan

Desert road Jordan

Before my trip to Jordan, I had this mental image that Jordan was mostly a desert. I knew Jordan faced the Gulf of Aqaba and the Dead Sea and I recalled from my quick visit to Petra (on a day trip from Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt), that Petra would have some reddish color to it. But it’s like, if I thought how Jordan would look like, I would have said “fairly mono-chromatic”.

OK, I exaggerate a little.  But the range of vivid colors I encountered during my visit became quite apparent once I was home walking through each of the 3,000+ pictures I took during my 9 days there (yes, quite a few were duplicates as I tried different settings and angles for a given “scene”; so far I am down to around 2,000).  What I found out is that that desert color was a perfect background for all the others colors to pop.  And pop they did!

So, I have decided to share where I found color that caught my eye that will, hopefully, give you a glimpse into Jordan!  When you are done, I would love to hear back from you on which of these photos you like the most (photos are numbered for ease of reference!).

I found color in the landscapes in Jordan…

Much as I had experienced back in 1998, I got to see the colors typically associated with deserts.  But on this trip, I also saw the color of canyons and gorges.  White, sand, red – all colors represented in the landscape around me as I hope the following pictures show…

Desert road Jordan

1. On the way to Mt. Nebo from Mardaba – sand color everywhere except the asphalt

Sand dune Wadi Rum Jordan

2. Shifting sands in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan

Wadi between Dana and Feynan, Jordan Olympus

3. Canyon we hiked through from Dana to Feynan – great mix of white and red with specks of green on the mountains around us

Canyon walls in Petra Jordan with Canon Rebel

4. Colorful canyon walls in Petra, Jordan!

Colorful canyon walls in Petra, Jordan Canon Rebel

5. More colorful canyon walls in Petra, Jordan

Colorful rocks in Wadi Mujib, Jordan Olympus camera

6. Colorful rocks in the waters of Wadi Mujib, Jordan

Colorful rocks in Wadi Mujib, Jordan Olympus camera

7. Colorful rocks in the walls Wadi Mujib, Jordan

I found color in the markets of Jordan…

Jewelry sold by folks around Petra, Jordan

8. Jewelry sold by folks around Petra

Camels with color in Jordan

9. Who knew camels would be so colorful!

Arab headscarves in Jordan Canon Rebel

10. Headscarves in the traditional colors worn by many around Jordan

Fruits in the fruit stands in the market in Amman, Jordan Canon Rebel

11. Fruits in the fruit stands in the market in Amman, Jordan

Colorful market roof in the Amman, Jordan market Canon Rebel

12. Colorful market roof in the Amman, Jordan market

I found color in the architecture – old and new – in Jordan…

Ruins column Jerash Roman Jordan

13.  Color of old ruins in the Greco-Roman town of Jerash, Jordan

Ruins Jerash column blue sky Jordan

14.  A still-standing column in Jerash makes a great contrast with the perfectly blue sky

King Abdullah Mosque blue Amman, Jordan

15.  The blues of the dome of King Abdullah’s Mosque (the Blue Mosque) of Amman and the blue of the sky

Inside view of the dome of King Abdullah's Mosque in Amman, Jordan (blue mosque)

16.  Inside view of the dome of King Abdullah’s Mosque (built in the 1980s)

Petra's Treasury in Jordan

17.  The unforgettable Treasury at Petra, Jordan

I found great blues in the waters around Jordan…

Blue sky and Dead Sea

18. A sea and a sky both drapped in great blue!

Beautiful blues in the waters of the Gulf of Aqaba, Olympus

19.  Beautiful blues in the waters of the Gulf of Aqaba

I found color in sunsets over the Dead Sea…

Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan, Canon EOS Rebel

20.  Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan

Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan, Olympus

21.  Double sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan

Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan, Canon EOS Rebel

22.  Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan

I found color in Jordanian artisans’ art…

Raw material for creation of mosaic art in workshop in Jordan

23.  The raw materials that will create beautiful mosaics are colorful on their own…

Mosaic art Jordan

24. Mosaic art: not only the great colors but also the shapes draw me

Art handicraft craft Jordan

25.  Beautiful art in this colorful vase

And I found a colorful people in Jordan!

Schoolchildren in Jerash, Jordan

26.  Schoolchildren visiting the ruins of Jerash – singing and showing their pride in their country – a colorful bunch!

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Thank you to the Jordan Tourism Board for showing me all the colors in Jordan.

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