Searching for Patterns in Morocco

I’d been dreaming of visiting Morocco for the past few years, so when my husband and I were planning our next travel adventure I knew where I wanted to go.

Searching for Patterns in Morocco and Finding So Much More | shannonmcnab.com

It’s probably no surprise that my main motivation for traveling to Morocco was to get inspired by all the patterns it has to offer. And it DEFINITELY didn’t disappoint!

There were even instances where I was so overwhelmed by the color and artistry we saw that I completely forgot to take photos. Luckily, I still remembered to pull out my camera often enough to capture a few magnificent shots.

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

What I did not expect was to completely fall in love with the country and it’s culture.

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to a lot of amazing places, but I can say without a doubt that Morocco is the single greatest country I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting.


It’s hard to articulate what made Morocco so special, but I’ll do my best. First off, this was a trip of firsts for me: first time in Africa and outside the Western world.

Also, I found the Moroccan people to be among the most welcoming I’ve ever met. Nearly everyone we interacted with from our tour director (who was the BEST I had ever seen) to the shop keepers to the children playing soccer in the streets, were warm and friendly.

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

Prior to our trip, we did have some friends and family who voiced their apprehension about us travelling to a developing nation that was predominantly Muslim (99% of Moroccans follow Islam). And while I appreciated their concerns, I found their worries completely misplaced.

Of course, some of the street vendors can be VERY pushy which takes some getting used to, but there was never a moment in Morocco where I felt unwelcome or unsafe. On the contrary, nearly everyone we encountered seemed genuinely happy to greet us, even the camels.

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

Some of my favorite memories from the trip were moments not originally planned on our itinerary. One in particular that made a deep impression on me was visiting a family’s home in a Ksar near Erfoud (just west of the Sahara desert).

In America, there’s a lot of focus on buying new gadgets to make life “easier” and working long hours to make a living, yet we often feel lonely and disconnected. But in Morocco, there’s a much larger emphasis on the importance of community.

This contrast was never more apparent to me than while standing on this family’s rooftop and literally seeing their entire community built around them (ironically snapping photos of it with my multiple gadgets: a dSLR and iPhone).

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

Then there were the quintessential Moroccan experiences that made the trip exceptional. Like our 90 minute camel ride to a desert camp where we spent the night in the middle of the Sahara desert.

It was an otherworldly experience riding along the dunes where as far as you can see there’s nothing but golden sand.

Then all of a sudden, a little oasis comes into view.

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

Morocco felt familiar and foreign all at the same time and to me, it’s that clash that made it so unique to my past travels. I was also in awe of the ever changing landscapes (did you know Morocco has forests and even a winter ski town? I didn’t, I stupidly thought it was all sand).

Oh and I haven’t even mentioned the food yet! The food all throughout Morocco was incredibly healthy and delicious. Each meal was usually accompanied by cooked salads and olives, and ended with mint tea (which was divine). Just writing about it is making my mouth water!

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

Also on previous trips, when it was nearing the end of vacation, I felt exhausted and ready to return home. But not in Morocco. Although I was exhausted from the all the travel, I wasn’t ready to leave.

I could have easily stayed for several more weeks … or months.


By now, I think you get the idea that Morocco now has a special place in my heart. And if it’s a place that is on your must-see list (as I really think it SHOULD be), I heartily suggest you make it your next destination. And not only for its beautiful patterns, but also for its beautiful culture and people!

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

When Two Obsessions Collide: Patterns & Disney

When I first started blogging (at my old site scottygirldesign.com), my husband and I were living in San Diego and we had annual passports at Disneyland. 

Visiting the parks was a frequent topic on my blog, but I didn't want to just do trip reports like everyone else on the internet at the time. When you're a local and can go to Disneyland several times each month, rehashing the same attraction or character photos each week just didn't sound like fun to me.

When Two Obsessions Collide: My Disney Pattern Project | shannonmcnab.com

I wanted to focus on writing something different, something utilizing my unique perspective as a designer. In my own words from an August 2009 blogpost:

I have long since wanted to do a project dedicated to Disneyland. Maybe I could take closeup photographs of small details that most people don't notice. Oh wait, Andy Castro already does that! Instead, I'm going to combine my love of Disney with another love: patterns.

So I've decided I would start cataloging all the patterns that Disneyland has. I know it is a big task, but I love uncovering all the little details of Disney that most people take for granted and pass by without a second glance.

For the next few months, anytime I went to Disneyland, I kept my eye out for and snapped pictures of all the patterns I found around me at the parks. I posted my favorites to the blog and called the series the Disneyland Pattern Project. Here's just a few patterns I was able to collect:

Patterns found at the Emporium on Main Street U.S.A in Disneyland

Patterns found at the Emporium on Main Street U.S.A in Disneyland

Patterns found at the China Closet on Main Street U.S.A in Disneyland

Patterns found at the China Closet on Main Street U.S.A in Disneyland

Patterns found at the Muppets 3D Theater in Disney's California Adventure

Patterns found at the Muppets 3D Theater in Disney's California Adventure

The only problem?? We ended up moving to San Francisco in January 2010. Having an 8+ hour drive to get to Disneyland meant I was no longer able to continue the series. And that's a shame because it would be an incredibly cool project to continue especially as it's something that would never be complete as the parks continually change over the years.
 

Revisiting my Disney Pattern Project

My husband and I leave for a long-awaited vacation to Walt Disney World in a few weeks and I have been looking forward to this trip all year long! Not only because I'm a huge Disney parks fan and am looking forward to the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot, but because I've been dreaming about revisiting this old series during our vacation.

We are going to take it really easy during our trip (no crazy schedule planning for us), so I know I'll have plenty of time to slow down and search for all the fun patterns Disney World has to offer. I'm planning on posting some of the patterns I find during our trip on Instagram. If you'd like to see them too, be sure to follow me or simply search for the hashtag #disneyworldpatterns.


Weekend Getaway: Monterey, CA

The timing of our trip to Monterey could not have been better: it was the first weekend of my break from work and just one day after Jeff's birthday.

And although I originally planned to keep it a secret from him until we left that Friday, I decided to tell him a few weeks early since Jeff's never been too keen on surprises (especially when it involves a few hours of driving).

Weekend Getaway: Monterey, CA | shannonmcnab.com
Weekend Getaway: Monterey, CA | shannonmcnab.com
Weekend Getaway: Monterey, CA | shannonmcnab.com
Weekend Getaway: Monterey, CA | shannonmcnab.com

Our focus for our weekend away was to spend some quality time together and relax as much as possible. Because of that, we kept our schedule pretty open and stayed in one small area, Cannery Row, where we could easily get around on foot. The result was that we never felt rushed – as can often happen on vacations, especially short ones.

Of course the main tourist highlight of our trip was spending Saturday at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, mostly because Jeff had never been (he loved it, as I expected).

If you want to visit the aquarium, I recommend getting your tickets before you arrive so you don't have to wait in the long queue for the ticket counter. They have a separate line for pre-sold ticket holders that is MUCH shorter! Also, make sure you give yourself at least a half day to visit, or a full day if you want to catch a video at the auditorium or watch the scheduled feedings.

Weekend Getaway: Monterey, CA | shannonmcnab.com
Weekend Getaway: Monterey, CA | shannonmcnab.com
Weekend Getaway: Monterey, CA | shannonmcnab.com

My favorite part of the aquarium has always been the jellyfish exhibit, especially because – you guessed it – I LOVE photographing them! Taking great photos of the underwater wildlife can be challenging, but here's a few bits of advice that work for me:

  • Be patient and courteous. This goes for both the animals you're trying to capture and the visitors around you. Photographing around other people can be difficult, but if you wait a few minutes in one spot, you can often find a few seconds when there's no one else around you. And although it can be difficult to capture an animal who's constantly moving, if you wait long enough, you just might get lucky. Oh, and don't use your flash in an aquarium, EVER!

  • Keep snapping. I took at least 70-80 shots of just jellyfish and of those, only about 20 were in focus. And of those 20, only about 3 were really stellar and worthy of being color corrected (my absolute favorite one is below). So when in doubt, just keep shooting.

  • Try continuous shoot mode. If your camera has this feature, try it out! It's a great way to quickly capture a subject's subtle movements, and works particularly well for slow moving creatures like jellyfish. That also means you're not constantly pressing down the shutter which helps minimize camera shake.

Weekend Getaway: Monterey, CA | shannonmcnab.com
Weekend Getaway: Monterey, CA | shannonmcnab.com
Weekend Getaway: Monterey, CA | shannonmcnab.com

Of course we didn't spend all our time at the aquarium, we spent a lot of time eating and shopping too. Here are a few of our favorite finds:

Cannery Row Brewing Company

We stopped into the Cannery Row Brewing Company for lunch on the way back to our hotel for a little siesta. The restaurant is large and inviting, with a covered outdoor patio that was perfect for the warm weekend weather. Jeff was impressed with their very large beer selection and I taken with their balance of bar room favorites (ie. fried foods) with lighter menu options.

Weekend Getaway: Monterey, CA | shannonmcnab.com

Trailside Cafe & Coffee House

On Sunday morning, we opted for brunch before heading back to the city and Trailsides Cafe was the closest brunch spot from our hotel. I was surprised that you order at the counter and not from the table, but since there was only 2 families ahead of us, it didn't take that long to be helped.

Nor did our food; it came within 10 minutes of ordering. Although Jeff felt his pancakes were nothing special (he's spoiled by the pancake place we frequent at home), I really loved my banana pecan french toast.

Weekend Getaway: Monterey, CA | shannonmcnab.com
http://trailsidecafecv.com

Cannery Row Antique Mall

While antique shopping certainly isn't everyone's cup of tea, I really love searching for vintage treasures. And the Cannery Row Antique Mall is HUGE; it's two full floors and probably the biggest antique store I've been into! There were lots of things that caught my eye, but most of them were furniture which we sadly didn't have the space for in our car. However, I did score a 1957 Disneyland puzzle featuring the Fantasyland Skyway (remember riding that?!?).

Oh, but one word of caution, if you do plan on checking it out, make sure you feed plenty of quarters into the meter. We made the mistake of severely underestimating how much time we'd spend inside and ended up with a $35 parking ticket – YIKES!

Weekend Getaway: Monterey, CA | shannonmcnab.com

Hula's Island Grill

While I didn't get any great photos of this quirky restaurant, I wish I did so you could see the kitschy awesomeness that is Hula's Island Grill! Jeff and I are big fans of tiki bars (you might recall my special love for Trader Sam's), so it was a no brainer that we had to come here.

It's been over a month since we were there and Jeff is still raving about their Zombie cocktail. For me, I fell head over heels for their Luau pork. If you're into drinking strong rum cocktails, I'd definitely recommend stopping by!