My Favorite Things- Paris, France

The Eiffel Tower paris france

Bean and the Eiffel Tower

Whenever I am in France, I feel like I am home. I know I have said that before, and it is truly the way that I feel. I thought it was anywhere in France, but as I have discovered, it is really Paris. I hate to be cliché, but there IS something special about Paris that I just can’t explain.

For me, it happened the first time that I traveled abroad. My first overseas destination was Paris. I had no idea what to expect. I walked off the plane and for the first time in my life truly felt chez moi. Every time I am home, here are a few things that I love to experience.

Bakeries-
Bean and I love the bakeries. It isn’t just the smell of the fresh-baked bread that hits you walking down the street. It is the anticipation of a delicious treat that we wait for all day long. Bean loves goûter because she knows that she will be able to choose some beautiful and delicious confection. I like going with Bean because if I were left to myself, I would choose something simple like a pain au chocolat or croissant aux amandes. Bean is adventurous and daring. She doesn’t care if she is choosing a treat that should be eaten for dessert. She knows that what she is seeing is beautiful to the eyes, the mouth and the rest of her senses. She always chooses well.

Community garden at parc de la villette

Community Garden at Parc de la Villette

Community Gardens-
Since having a garden of our own, I am always excited to see community gardens popping up in big cities. I read that community gardens were arriving and becoming popular in Paris. We kept running into them on our walks throughout the city. We stopped and spoke to one lady during a garden open house of sorts. She was serving tea made from the herbs of the garden. She mentioned that every arrondissement has at least one community garden. I have seen them along the tram tracks, in front of the museum, along an old bridge, by schools. What is so delightful about them is that they can pop up anywhere.

Paris playground

Top Paris destination: Playgrounds

Playgrounds-
Play areas are big for me and Bean. I can sit and watch as Bean interacts with other children as I read a book. Bean can get a little of her endless supply of energy out as she tries crazy tricks. Play areas, like community gardens, are everywhere. The neighborhood in which we were staying had one or two on every block. Walking along the Seine, we found play areas constructed along the wall of the bridge. Some of the more popular parks have humongous areas for children, with huge slides, swings, climbing walls and more. Even with the abundance of playgrounds, there are some neighborhoods which block off streets on certain days so that the children can play together. Bean comes back to the house every day saying how many friends she has made. I come back to the house excited that she is speaking French.

Diversity, diversity, diversity-
Fancy parties in trendy arrondissements, next door neighbors with two wives, Chinese people speaking Mandarin with African children, Indian people who lived in our old neighborhood. Everything, and everyone that I would want to meet is right outside my doorstep. They may be from Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Korea or the Ivory Coast. They might be from Sweden, Romania, New Zealand or Brazil. All I need to do is go outside and say Bonjour. I know this can happen in practically any big city if I take the time to get involved. However, there is just something special about speaking French and having enjoying the joie de vivre of the French.

I am especially thoughtful of all the things that I love about France as Bean and I get ready to make a BIG jump to another country. We have enjoyed our time in France and will always come back every chance we get. Bean will continue to practice her French. I will work on mine as well. It is time for new adventures in foreign lands! I can hardly wait to get there.

Adventures in Daily Living

dafauski island south carolina

A South Carolina Sea Island

There are some days and some occasions when I look around me and feel happy to bursting. With a big smile on my face, I think to myself, “I live an amazing life. I do amazing things.” Usually it happens when I am traveling,meeting new people, and doing things I only imagined.

Sometimes, as life does, I must sit and wait for the next phase or excellent adventure to come my way. I am in a place I have been before, doing things I don’t really enjoy, trying to find that special spark to make the day bearable. I have read articles of people who advocate for adventures in daily life. Maybe I am a travel adventure junkie, because I feel that I need to look for daily excitement.

I was looking around me the other day. Hanging with friends and family. Riding the bus,doing my regular non glamorous routine. Once I returned to the house, a friend asked me about my bus ride. I looked at her in surprise. “What about it?,” I asked. She mentioned to me that I always ran into someone on the bus and have stories to share. I had to laugh because it’s true.

While on the bus, a lady with questionable mental faculties, wished everyone who stepped through the doors a good morning at the top of her voice. During the ride she sang, tried to play with the children who hid behind their alarmed parents, talked to tourist and was a complete spectacle for the entire bus ride. She did this all at the top of her voice,with no embarrassment or intimidation at all. She was an unforgettable character.

Another day I visited the gym with a friend. I prefer to get my exercise outdoors, but she offered and I accepted. We were hanging out in the jacuzzi when another lady joined us. After striking up a conversation, she told us she was an alien artist. “Excuse me,” I said,”did you say you were an alien artist?” She said that yes, I had heard her correctly. We all began talking about her creative process and various other topics. As we got out of the hot tub, she asked if we danced. I told her about some of my little attempts to learn how to be a better dancer, my wish to improve and my desire to go out dancing. She said “Let’s make a date!” We did!

I needed those two incidents to remind me that I can have adventures in daily living. I don’t always need to chase adventure on the open road. It is hard because I must be more aware of simple interactions. I must be open to receive what comes during my day. I must be patient. I need to open my mouth and talk to strangers. When I am thinking only about getting to the doctor’s appointment or the courthouse in search of the papers I need, that is difficult. I needed those incidents and others like them to help me to remember the time before I became a travel adventure junkie.

We met some of our favorite people when we rode the bus every day. Every day was an adventure because we didn’t know who we would see or what surprises they brought with them. Bean and I have had great fun going to festivals, museum special exhibits, and more. This all happened when we were living our daily life. If it happened then, it can happen now. Today, my eyes are open to the adventures in daily living.

Did you find yourself having an unexpected adventure this week? Tell me about it in the comments below! I like reading about you too.

The Shopping Minimalist

Aeroville Roissy France

The Mall in the Middle of Nowhere…Aeroville in France

I have a confession to make. I shop a lot. But I have a reason.

As a minimalist, I have very few clothes. Bean has very few clothes. The clothes we have are multi-purpose. We don’t have enough space in our suitcases to carry clothing for every activity; our clothes must work double or triple duty. Bean is a child. She doesn’t know that people dress to impress other people with their place in society by their clothes. Our clothes can mix and match, working in many situations. It is easy and works for us.

As much as I don’t worry about brands and where we buy our clothes, I had to take a moment to reflect. Why am I, as a minimalist, spending so much time in the stores and shopping? I want to show Bean a different side of life. I want her to see other things besides spending money in stores every day. What is going on? Am I becoming a recreational shopper?

Ultimately, I realize, it is our lifestyle. I decided to carry only seasonal clothing many months ago. As we have been traveling between different climates, it has been necessary to buy different clothes. When we were in southern France, it was cool and rainy for days at a time. We needed our jackets, sweaters, and tights. It was spring, but the weather was not warming up quite fast enough.

We then went to Morocco. It was also spring in Morocco, but the weather was significantly warmer. I made the decision that we could get rid of our fall/ winter clothes. The weather got hotter and hotter. It felt like summer time. We started our treks to the mall, the market and the discount stores. Because we are not familiar with the stores and what they sell, it is necessary to visit many stores to find what we need. Bean loves it. I am always interested in learning more about a country and its people,but shopping so much makes me uncomfortable.

We traveled back to France and unfortunately, it was still cool. We found a thrift store to buy simple jackets so we would not freeze when we took our walks. I was kicking myself mentally for thinking I could get rid of the jackets in Morocco and that the weather would be warmer when we returned to France. I was overly optimistic. I kept in mind the fact that we would need to shop again before leaving France since we were headed to Illinois and Texas. It is always HOT in Texas.

I have since relaxed and accepted the fact that we do need to shop. Minimalist or not, we can not travel naked. We would not get very far that way. I hope that in all of our trips to the mall and the market, I am showing Bean that we are not participating in recreational shopping. We have a purpose when we go to the stores. We are looking for sandals. We are looking for light summer dresses. We need to find shoes of a certain style, size and so that she will have a pair to wear that is interchangeable with all of her clothes for the next few months.

I suppose if we had a car, the trips to the mall would not be so frequent. We could do all of our shopping in one day. No need to spend a few days a week looking for things to wear. After we find things to wear,we then must shop for groceries. I am more comfortable with shopping for groceries because that is a necessity. We HAVE to eat. I know this should not necessarily be seen as recreational shopping, but maybe it is for Bean.

Bean loves to go to the stores. I make sure to be clear with explaining the purpose of our visit. Maybe when she is older, she will remember that we shopped with purpose. Maybe she will just remember the shopping trips and how much fun she had spending money. What ever happens, I am still a minimalist. A minimalist who doesn’t own much. A minimalist who considers her purchases. A minimalist who spends a lot of time at the mall.

Do you consider yourself a minimalist? How does shopping and minimalism look in your life? Are you able to resolve the apparently contradictory messages of the two ways of life? I would love to hear about it. Please leave me a comment below.

It is all about Perspective

Graffiti art nyc

Graffiti Art, NYC

A few months ago I was contacted by a minimalist and single mother who found us on the internet. She wanted some help in planning her upcoming world travels with her son. As she began to ask questions, there were many fears she had that kept coming into focus. We worked through so many questions and relieved a lot of fears. One thing I told her often was that her concern over particular issues would fade into insignificance once she was on the road.

As I travel and meet many people who are focused on world news, their jobs and communities, often I just listen. There was the lady who was convinced that the wars in the Middle East were created to wipe out Muslims like herself. The family who didn’t vote for Marie Le Pen, but were strongly for the conservative party. The senior citizens who protest against Donald Trump by marching in the streets. The parents who feel that the end of the world is upon us within the next three years. The young minority father who sees the injustices inflicted upon people with his skin color in every area of society. All of these people feel they have legitimate concerns. Many of them are active in sharing their views with others. It is who they are and what they do.

I consider myself a world citizen. I have for many years. I hear the concern of others about the issues that face them, but I feel removed from they seriousness they feel for whatever issue may be at hand. Yes, Donald Trump is not the best president. Yes, black people are and have been discriminated against in many ways. Yes, gun violence is at an all time high. Yes, something needs to be done to create more affordable healthcare in the USA. Yes, people are starving and the rain forest is disappearing in many parts of the world. If I focus on all of the things that are wrong with the world, I feel such sorrow. There were times when I felt guilty that I was not doing enough because I am not marching and picketing and boycotting. I felt incapable to act; as if anything that I did was not enough. All of the issues are important. What is the best issue to fight for?

Just as I told the young single mother, these issues fade into insignificance when I am on the road. As a traveler, I need to find a place to sleep for the night. I need to make sure Bean is keeping up with her schooling. I need to find a grocery store so that we can eat a healthy meal. I must find opportunities for us to interact with the local people. I don’t have time to be interested in Trump’s latest tweets. I don’t have time to look for slights due to my skin color. I don’t have to worry about whether gays and transgenders are taking over the world. It just isn’t that important to me.

My perspective. That is what is important to me. Deciding how I want to see the world. It is also important for me to show Bean the good things of the world. It is important for me to let her know that bad things do happen and bad people do exist and do bad things. It is our choice how we choose to fight against them. It is our choice how we choose to celebrate the beautiful life we have been given.

I choose to fight and celebrate by the way I choose to live. I live as a minimalist. I am taking a stand against mindless consumerism. I choose to live intentionally. I live as a traveler. I am taking a stand for a life as an open minded, world citizen. I choose to design my life according to my rules of the road. I live as a single parent. I am taking a stand to actively give my child the tools she needs to become a mature adult. I choose to show her that she can be and do whatever she wants in this world no matter her skin color, no matter her marital status, no matter any preconceived societal ideas of who and what she should be.

So yes, I am fighting. I am an activist. I am concerned about the state of the world. I no longer feel guilty that what I do and how I live my life may seem like escapism to some. My purpose in the world is to live with the knowledge that I have the choice to live how I please. My purpose is to inspire others to ignore the news that tells them the world is too bad for them to explore it on their own. My purpose is to encourage others to find their purpose. All of us may not care passionately about the same things. I choose to focus on my purpose. If I know what my purpose is, my perspective will always be correct.

Have you been reading MySPOClife.com and have questions about travel, minimalism or single parenting? Feel free to leave a question in the comments or contact me. Reaching out is all it takes to get an answer to a question for which you may not know the answer. That is my purpose.

Libraries are Important

Brooklyn Public Library

Brooklyn Public Library

One of the favorite destinations during our travels has been to the public library.It is one of those places that you know you can find wherever you are in the world…until you don’t find it. Being in the habit of visiting libraries as we travel, it came as a surprise when I was not able to find one in Morocco. It caused me to think about why I love libraries so much.

First, I love to read. I grew up in a family that did not watch T.V. Playing outdoors, using our imagination and reading was highly encouraged. I spent most of the summer on my bed, under my homemade tent, trying to read two books a day. I loved going to the library and roaming through the shelves looking for more books to read. Since Bean’s birth, we’ve spent loads of time at the library. She has come to love it as much as I have.

Here are a few reasons we love libraries:

1. Events-
I am amazed that many people don’t know what is going on at the public library. Libraries offer more than a quiet place to read and access to lots of free reading material. We have been to many fun and amazing events. We have seen previews of plays from the local theater, and free tickets to the real show. We have been introduced to birds of prey from the nature center, well known puppet shows, Latin American storytelling troupes, weekend long craft events celebrating our favorite stories, Lego building nights, movies, dress up and more. It was all free! These events took place in libraries all over the country. I am convinced, libraries are important and essential to every community.

2. Conversation Groups-
I am a language learner and Bean is as well. Libraries offer many opportunities to interact with other language learners. It is an opportunity to listen and learn or participate as you feel comfortable. There is no fee to join.There are varying levels of language learners in the same group. The more that you go back, the more you get to know the people in the group. They may turn into life long friends.

Libraries offer many classes for a variety of interest. This is what happens to interest Bean and I. I recently visited a library where every single meeting room was full. Each one was holding a class. People were connecting with each other and actively pursuing an area of interest. This, to me, is the purpose of the public library.

3. Museum Passes and more-
In Chicago, one of my favorite perks to having a library card was checking out a museum pass. All of the museums in Chicago were free when using the pass to that particular museum. Bean and I visited almost all of the museums in Chicago, just by owning a library card. I know not all cities have the funds to offer such an incentive, but they may offer something. One city offered the use of Tumblebooks through its card. I was thankful to have access to that subscription based website for free. There are many online educational websites that offer free access with a library card. Also, some magazine and movie streaming sites may also offer access with a library card. I don’t use everything that my library card can give me, but I like to know that it is there if I am interested.

4. Books-
Many libraries now have online library services. I am thrilled that not only can I go to a book sale, sponsored by the friends of the library, and buy a book for $1, but I can also go online and get a huge assortment of audio-books and e-books. This has proven to be an excellent way for me to continue reading as we travel without lugging heavy books around everywhere. I love the feel of holding a book in my hand. I love it just as much to check out ten books from the library that I can read and/or listen to on my phone. It helps Bean to continue improving her reading when English books are hard to find.

With all of the things there are to love about the library, it is hard to imagine what a disadvantage children face when they do not have access to one. I looked at the children in Morocco and thought about other children in other countries who have the same problem. Libraries are a part of Bean’s education. How is their education going to be affected by the lack of a public library? Even if we only used the library for reading books, where will these children get their reading material? At their schools? Maybe. Online? Maybe. I know that there are many children who have a love of reading much like my own. I am sure they will find a way to read whatever they get their hands on. I hope they do.

As for Bean and myself, we will continue to find libraries as we travel around the world. Other travelers may think we are wasting our time, but we think of libraries as one of our top travel destination locations! I did a small video about my views on libraries here. In a few days, you can see a few libraries we have visited. The videos are definitely NOT professional, but I put it up anyway because I felt it was important to share. I want to share our love of libraries and encourage others to love their library too. We are fortunate to have access to free, public libraries. What is the best thing you have experienced through the local library?

How Travel Has Changed Me

Rabat Morocco, zoo

The more I travel, the better I know myself. I have always been someone who writes in journals and does self reflections at the end of the year to know if I am making progress in what I want to do in my life. We have been travleling for a year! I am really proud of myself. I broke through many mental barriers in order to accomplish this. In doing so, I am stronger in my mind and my conviction that anything is possible. It has changed me in three remarkable ways.

1. I am more open-
I always thought I was an open minded person. I have always liked talking to people from other countries and backgrounds. In the past, I was guarded about people who may look like me or who held different religious views than mine. Traveling, those ideas have been challenged. I realize many of the prejudices that I held were taught by people who learned their prejudice from someone else. Some were truly well meaning. Some were ignorant. Some just didn’t know any better.

Travel has forced me to interact with so many people who are the exact type of person I was warned against. People from different economic backgrounds, people from different religions and different experiences have all crossed my path. I have learned that my prejudices hold no weight. Interacting with people on my journey teaches me more than listening to people who tell me what those people are like. I prefer the interaction. I am glad my mind has been truly opened.

2. I am more assertive-
All my life, I have been prone to observe rather than participate. I have been passive about confronting people who demand that work be completed in an inefficient manner. I have stayed silent when confronted verbally. I prefer to look as if I agree and do my own thing.

Since traveling, especially since we stayed in the homes of so many families, I have found my voice. My voice no longer consist of only my journal and a pen. My voice is my spoken word. And it has power!

Before being continually on the road, our vacations helped me to speak out a bit more. I found myself being the one to speak when a fight broke out on the subway. I was the one who spoke up to the crazy man talking loudly in the post office line. I was the one who said the plan for my classroom would not be effective and I wanted a different room. But those were rare occasions. Afterwards I would think to myself “Where did that come from?” Those words seemed to pop out of my mouth from an unknown place.

Now, I have been pushed by the universe to stand up for myself and others on many occasions. Instead of saying, “It’s not my problem”. I think of the one who is watching, Bean. I want Bean to speak up against injustice, even if it is only an impatient person cutting in front of all the exhausted moms and children in an extremely long customs line.

Time after time, I have been presented with situations where I could have kept my head down and ignored what was being said to me, what was being done to us or others and I have chosen to take that time to speak. Speaking up has been empowering. If I can speak, I can encourage others to speak. I can make a small change in the world for the better. I am thankful I have a voice and, finally, I use my voice.

3. I am more flexible-
I am a person of lists; who is on time; who keeps her promises. I can be stiff and proper, concerned with what image I am presenting to the world. Traveling has helped me to knock that perfectionist off her throne in my head.

Traveling, I lose control of outside forces. My plane may be late. My train may be late. I may lose internet access, even though it was working a minute ago. Airbnb hosts may forget to give me the access code so that I can get into the apartment I rented. Visa paperwork that takes months to complete, museums being closed when the website says they are open, the list goes on and I adjust!

I have learned to go with the flow. I relax into the moment and explore my options. I know that the moment will pass and I will be able to enjoy new experiences in time. I have no need to get upset at what happens outside of me, because it will pass.

Traveling has taught me much. It has changed me much. The most important thing that it has taught me is that I have a lot more to learn. I welcome that opportunity. If I feel that I know everything about certain subjects, travel teaches me that the world is my school. As long as I am willing to learn, I will continue to learn. I accept the way travel changes me and rejoice that I will continue to grow!

Happy Father’s Day

Things have been busy here, but the strangest thing is being without internet. We have been on an island in the middle of many bodies of water, great and small. It took a boat to get us here. I had hoped the house where we are staying would have internet access, but I suppose that is too much to ask when you are island living.

Before the day is over, or the internet connection disappears, I MUST wish all dads a Happy Father’s Day. Dads are important to the lives of their children. There are many types of dads, we all know this. Whether you are basking in the glow of being a Super Dad, or hanging your head because you aren’t in the lives of your child(ren) much, remember we all have room for improvement. If the memory of your father leaves you smiling or cringing, take the best lesson you can from it! Happy Father’s Day 2017!

France in Photos

community gardens paris

Community Gardens are now everywhere in Paris!

We are traveling to a new location. Here are a few photos from France to show you how busy we have been.

Museum of Natural History Paris

Bean loved the Museum of Natural History in Paris

Parc de la Villette in Paris

We walk so much I enjoy resting at Parc de la Villette in Paris

Zumba for kids, paris

Bean LOVES her Zumba for Kids class.

rock climbing seine

Rock climbing and obstacle course for kids along the Seine river in Paris.

Of course, there is always more. I just get tired of taking pictures! Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel. I am committed to posting new videos every week. I am trying to present the full picture of what and why we do what we do! I hope you enjoy it!

Our Workaway Experience

I write j'ecris

I write therefore I am

This week, we have been on the road a year! It has been great. In many ways, I am surprised that time passed so quickly. I feel like we have had a lifetime of experiences in 12 short months. I chose to spend time with family, during our Great American Road Trip. For most of our remaining travel, our time was spent with host families.

I discovered workaway.info a few years ago when I was watching a video on YouTube about volunteer vacations. I have always fantasized about volunteering wherever I wanted in the world. It would give me a chance to do something important and interact with different cultures at the same time. To me, it is ridiculous for companies to make you pay for a volunteer experience. Why would I pay money to help someone when people need help everywhere all the time? Workaway.info seemed like the perfect combination. Families needing a little help and a desire for cultural exchange open their home to travelers.

I have saved money for years. I believe in having security and a safety cushion to fall into should the need arise. I want to keep my cushion while Bean and I travel. I could have rented many apartments in different regions throughout France this year. However, I know myself. I am like everyone. It would become difficult to leave the house and interact with people in the neighborhood if I rented an apartment. We get into a routine and find it hard to break. Bean often has more opportunities to speak with children, but my options would be a bit more limited since I need to watch Bean. Adults are out at night and I am sitting at home because Bean is in the bed.

For many of my expectations, workaway.info was great.
1. Language learning- My goal in traveling throughout France was to improve my French. I also wanted Bean to begin speaking French. I have a decent level of French,but my self-criticism hinders me from being confident. I often clam up and make many mistakes when I KNOW what to say. Staying with french speaking hosts helped me to increase my confidence and to slow down and just speak.

For Bean, she has been exposed to french since she was a baby. She was never expected to speak it. This year, interacting with other children who can not speak English and adults who are not inclined to, she was forced to learn. She has made leaps and bounds with the language. I am so proud of her.

2. Social interaction- We definitely have had the opportunity to interact. I wanted to expand my knowledge and circle of french people.I have been able to meet and interact with people from many walks of life and experiences. This has been both positive and eye-opening. I understand much more about the french, french politics, and the way of life from living with so many people with widely varying backgrounds. I could not have found this by staying on my own.

3. Exploration- We have been to more regions in France than many french people have themselves; which is amusing. When we tell people where we have been, they are surprised. My knowledge and appreciation for the different regions of France has grown. It is a small country in comparison to the United States, but there is so much beauty here. Each region has its own specialty. This alone makes for great exploration.

4. Volunteering- Every situation is different. There are some families that want a strict 4 or 5 hours a day of work; there are others who just want conversation. The families vary, just like a nine to five job. It became important for me to understand what I wanted from the workaway experience so that I could choose the right place. In almost every location, I was able to do work meaningful work.

Travel by workaway isn’t perfect by any means. I have shared a few stories in other blog posts. Some of my feelings are simply because I am an older traveler with experience. For younger travelers, they often take whatever comes, tend not to complain and don’t expect anything more. I know that there are people out in the world who are intentionally dishonest, cruel and rude. That is not something I want to support. Workaway does not do much to help in those situations, especially if with disagreements between hosts and travelers. Young travelers tend to be forgiving. They often do not leave negative feedback when negative feedback is necessary. They often leave no feedback at all. Therefore, other travelers do not know the truth of what they are getting into.

Because of overly generous feedback, we found filthy hosts and rude hosts. Other workawayers who shared their experiences, mentioned hosts who demanded five hours of work and then basically said “Leave us alone and don’t bother us.” Others stated they had to sleep in a tent and use the bathroom in an outhouse while completing really abominable dirty jobs, not what they had discussed or expected.

I know sometimes certain impressions of situations are completely cultural. There are some individuals who are able to successfully facilitate a cultural exchange. There are some that do not. I am not saying that I will never use workaway again, but I have learned many things about myself. When traveling, I will probably choose organizations over families to volunteer. I found that many families, while admiring the way we live, were also intimidated. How could I, a single mother, travel in the way that I did? It didn’t matter that I explained how I saved my money. It put me in a different class than the young people they normally hosted and they did not know how to relate to me. Unintentionally, I intimidated people and that is not something I try to do.

After trying to be accommodating and adjusting to the rhythms of other people’s houses, I find it best that Bean and I rent apartments and get active in the neighborhood. It should be just as easy to find volunteer opportunities and places to interact as it was through workaway.info. I would not say that Workaway.info was either a success or a failure. I’ll say we are even.

Have you ever tried a volunteer vacation? Have you stayed with a host family through a cultural exchange program? I would enjoy hearing about your experiences. Please, leave me a comment!

Visiting a Moroccan Hammam- Myspoclife’s Favorite Moroccan Things cont.

This is a Spa style Hammam.

Have you ever heard of a Hammam? Neither had I. When visiting Morocco a few years ago, the number one thing on my list was getting to the desert. The first host we stayed with in Morocco was the first person who told me about a hammam. It is, to put it simply, a public bath. She said that she went to one every couple of days because her drain system in her house was not that good. I looked it up and got excited to try it out. There was supposed to be a lot of interaction among the women. You can be scrubbed head to toe. Most people said they never felt so clean. However, at the last-minute, our host changed her mind and said that she couldn’t take us. She recommended a salon hammam instead of the traditional hammam. That was fine with me because I was now determined to go and see what it was all about.

Bean and I booked an appointment for the hammam and spa. We waited impatiently for the day to come and showed up on time. It was our first experience at a spa. The lady walked us to the hammam/spa style room. There was a changing area and we stripped down to our birthday suites. After that we entered the hot sauna like room with the woman who would be scrubbing us. There were two tables were there just for us. I am not sure of the material, but it could be of granite or marble. We each stretched out on our tables.

Bean sat in her little corner giggling and giggling as the lady prepared to give her a bath. We were fortunate to have someone who loved children. She treated Bean with kindness and gave her a gentle scrubbing along with a hundred little kisses on her forehead. Bean didn’t even complain when the lady washed her hair. I have to struggle to get that done. If only there were a hammam everywhere we went.

My turn was not so gentle. The lady turned me on my back and got started by covering me in black soap. Then, I was scrubbed within an inch of my life. It was perfect. I feel like the lady was trying to scrub all the brown off of my body she scrubbed so hard. This went on for a delicious eternity. Lather, scrub, rinse. It was relaxing, in a way,but not so much that you would fall asleep. Bean thought the funniest thing was when the lady gave me a coffee/henna “massage” and hit me all over the back of my bottom. She wanted to try that out herself. We left smiling and feeling as light as air. We felt brand new.

traditional moroccan hammam

This is a traditional hammam in Morocco!

The next hammam we went to was the traditional hammam…or the neighborhood hammam. This is the one that all the local ladies go to and spend time beautifying their body and sharing gossip. We stuck out like sore thumbs here because we didn’t have anyone make our appointment and we were probably the only Americans they had ever seen. This one costs much less than the salon hammam, even though whole salon experience was around $10. We walked in and I did my best to let them know what I wanted. They spoke more Arabic than French, but somehow we managed to communicate.

The traditional hammam is different from the salon hammam in that there is more space and more people. It is truly a public bath house. The changing area is very large and you can leave your things with the ladies hanging out around the counter. We did as we stripped down to our birthday suits again. I am not in the habit of taking a public bath. I have never used shared or open showers at a gym or anywhere before. Travel changes you. I walked around like I have done this all my life. I also didn’t want Bean to feel self-conscious and thereby not enjoy the experience as much as she should.

We walked into the bathing area and someone pointed to an area that we could use. Bean was curious about everything she saw. The scrubbing lady soon came and began her work. We paid her to scrub us, but she was not as accommodating as the salon lady. She did her job without enthusiasm, humor or gentleness. This time Bean got a proper scrubbing. It was good for her. The lady showed her the dead skin on the scrubbing glove. Bean was able to see that she should do more than sing when she is in the shower.

Moroccan Berber Hammam

Moroccan Berber Hammam with holes for hot and cold water.

This particular hammam did not have the good vibes of other traditional hammams I have read about. The ladies all seemed to focus only on what they were doing and walled themselves off from everyone else with huge buckets of hot water. When they needed refills of water, they would walk to the faucets of hot and cold water and fill them up without looking at anyone. We did get a few looks. Mostly the bathers ignored us. One lady shared her soap. She and her baby were bathing and scrubbing across from us. When we were ready to go, she came and kissed Bean on the forehead and wished us “Good Health”. It was a good experience. I was determined to go to a traditional hammam and now that I have been, I will stick with the salon/spa experiences in the future. The people working there make you feel special and I certainly like to be pampered.

One last thing about Morocco. It is child friendly. Well, in the sense that children have the freedom to run and play. However, they did not have libraries,bookstores and playgrounds like we are used to. In order to find a play ground or play area, it is necessary to go to the mall. I am not sure why that was, but maybe it is due to the heat of the summer time and much of the year. During our entire stay, I only saw one outdoor playground…and we walked everywhere! Bean had her birthday in Morocco, so I did take her to one of the Chuck E. Cheese style play areas. She had a good time, until she went to cash in her tickets and discovered that she need to have lots more to win a cheap plastic prize!

Since we have made new friends and acquaintances, I look forward to our next visit to Morocco where we can make new discoveries and find more favorite things to do in Morocco.