Monthly Archives: October 2011

Last Week in Morocco

 

This time went bye so fast… Casablanca..Marrakesh..Fes.. Zagora.. The Sahara.. and the best was saved for last. The northern Morocco City of Chefchaoen..the blue city on the hill.

A long time ago..Queen Isabella of Spain kicked out the Jews and many of them came to Chefchaoen.  They built a blue city way up in the hills.  This place has been used as a tourist place for many years.

As soon as the taxi brought me up the hill from the bus station..I knew that I would stay there until I had to leave to go back to the UK.

The tourist area has a center..an open square with numerous open air cafes.  My hostel was right off the square.  I made many friends there.  Sarah from New Zealand.. She was so gentle and on her way to India to attend a food conference. Kyle a young vet from Australia.. We talked about our times in Afganistan.. My time there was so much easier than his.

Stephen..a 19 year old 6 ft. 7 in. student from Alabama. We spent a day looking for a Moroccan coat that would fit him. There were two young travellers from NYC.  They were kind enough to wake me up to catch my bus back to Casablanca.

Chefchaoen is amazing.. It has plenty of winding alleys with little stores selling rugs..art work and Moroccan clothes.  the charm of this place is the mix of foreign visitors and local people wearing traditional clothes…mostly with hoods.

We found a place to eat which no tourists went. Every day we went there and had beans..bean soup..fried fish and the best bread in the world.  The cost was either $.60 or $1.40. There are plenty of snails here.  They make soup with them and there are little carts surrounded by people eating snail soup…. Never tried it.

On the way back to Casablanca, just outside of Rabat..the capital, our bus broke a belt.  We sat for hours on the road waiting to be rescued. Finally another bus came.. Our luggage was transferred to the new bus.. This one had music and air conditioning.  After 3 years of travel, my first bus breakdown..

So Morocco was a good choice for my first African country.  Now off to So. Africa via Madrid, London and Paris.

My first month on this trip was incredible.

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Chefchaouen..Morocco

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Nice bus ride from Fes.. I Sat next to a young family…the father is from Spain..mom from Finland and the 4 month baby boy is named Anan. They were going to the same hostel and helped me find the way. They let me hold him for a liile while.

The scene of northern Morocco is different.  It reminds me of the Spanish countryside. When we got to this resort town up in the mountains I knew I was going to like it.  This place has over 200 hotels and has been used by the Spanish to escape the summer heat.

It is hilly here so I will get some exercise. I went out to dinner with some young travellers and ended up in a non-tourist place and enjoyed a big bowl of bean soup and great fresh bread.

Fez or Fes Morocco

The train trip from Marrakesh was very easy.  I listened to my podcasts and has a nice talk with some Moroccans.  I took a taxi with a couple of English Mr. Bean types to the Funky Hostel.  The place is okay, a bit noisy but easy to find the Medina down the road.  I took the first tour on the first nite.  We took a van around the city for less than $5.00.  They took us to the 2 large forts above the city,  the whole place is surrounded by a 20 Kilometer wall, restored by UNESCO.  The heart of this place is the old Medina built in the 800s.  You need to come visit this place to understand it.  It is full of twists and turns, little narrow passages and people selling everything.  Many of the shopkeepers are pretty agressive and want you to take a look at their stuff.

One bad thing happened on our van tour.  A girl from Lithuania had a cheap camera and a young boy tried to snatch it from her.  She had a band around her wrist and he failed at taking it.  He jumped over a wall and went down the rocks from us.  I am sure he got a sore butt, but the poor girl was freaked out.  This happened in the first hour of my visit to Fes.  The next day the same girl sat on a beautiful hassock that was filled with only air and she fell butt first to the floor.  I helped her up, but she was red with embarasement.

The next day we took a 6 hour guided walking tour through the Medina.  This was a good way to see many of the sites… the place where they tan the leather, make the rugs, make the pottery etc.  we had a beautiful very long lunch and eventually got back to the hostel very tired.  There are a bunch of old people from Europe and other parts who are being led on organized tours.  I hope never to join these groups.

My food has been good.  I have had bread with salads… some nice fried potato/chickpea “chips”.  I have also been drinking coke because I am thirsty here.  I did buy some gifts to bring back home and I enjoy seeing my grandkids on google plus and facebook.

I have been reluctant to take my camera out of my bag because of what happened to the Lithuanian girl… On the whole I started to like this place and tomorrow I go to the blue city of Chefchaouen.  I need to get back to Casablanca in 6 days in order to get back to London for my trip to South Africa.  I have meet some Australians, New Zealanders, a couple of Americans and a beautiful girl from Korea who is going to school in Paris… she is off to Marrakesh… I have been telling everybody to stay at the Hotel Fantasia and take a trip to the desert to take a camel ride.

Not too much happening here… just relaxing… and talking with people… perhaps another Turkish Bath this afternoon.  It was sorta funny being in the Median when they killed Gadhafi.  All the TVs were turned up and the people seemed very happy to hear the news..  I was walking along one of the narrow passways through the Medina and said to my friend from Bristol England that the same thing could happen in Morocco.  I said “this place could blow up too”… I was surprised when an old bent over lady in a traditional dress with a hood turned around to me and looked me in the face and said… “it would be impossible to happen here”.  So my lesson is… watch what I say, you never know who is around you.  I do make some mistakes but I think that I am getting pretty good at buying food at stalls, and handling taxi drivers…etc.   But I always keep learning.

I will try to write about the blue city in a few days..

Marrakesh

So the Marrakesh Express is not as sexy as the CSNY song Marrakesh Express… It took a long time to get there and the scenery was fantastic.  I arrived at the station, got a $3.00 taxi ride to the Square… It is so crowded in the market area..the Medina… that cars can not go in, so I had to walk to my hostel.

The scene of the main square was incredible… thousands of people, drums, dancing and people on bikes scooters and motorcycles racing through the crowd.  I found my hostel after going through narrow streets filled with people selling everything.  the hostel is great.. rooms cheap, breakfast in the courtyard and a roof full of lounging sofas.  I met up with 5 Peruvian students who are in school in Salamanca, Spain.  they are down here on holiday.  They told me they were going into the desert to ride camels and spend the nite in the desert.  They invited me along, so I went.

The van ride to Zagora, which is in the south near the Algerian Border was long and dangerous.  It took us over some very high mountains with some deep canyons and limited guardrails.  It took about 6 hours to get there.  We were assigned a camel and I have learned that camel riding is not a pleasant experience.  with horses you can cushion yourself by using your stirups.  None on camels and your legs are spread too wide and it hurts the family jewels.  All the men were complaining.  The ride was at sunset and then into the dark.  After a very long time we got to the tents.

I had my google sky program and saw over 6 planets.  The sky was clear, no electrical lights here.  The guides had a fire and played drums and danced.  I had a long talk with one of the guides.  Their language skills are very good.  He told me that he had one year in school, did not know who the Beatles and Elvis Presley were.  His whole life is the desert.  I went to sleep and woke up the next morning at 5AM..  I was the first one up and it was still dark.  I walked up onto a sand dune and watched the sun come up over the desert.  Over 40 camels were near me and they sleep all nite and do not move.  After a breakfast of coffee and bread we rode the camels back to the van.  And returned to Marrakesh over the same hills and mountains.  this area is were they have made many movies, including Gladiator.

I will walk the Medina today and probably have another dinner of fish, shrimps, eggplant and bread for less that $3.00.  I am looking for another hat to wear and I need to get rid of some of my heavy clothes.  One of the people on a tour is from South Africa and he gave me information on what places to go when I am there in November.

Morocco, especially in the south, consists of people in small villages, limited school, people and donkeys carrying greens/reeds to feed the animals and beautiful moonscape views.  There are plenty of babies here. They are counting on tourism to bring them out of poverty.  It is going to take many years to change things.  Off to Fes tomorrow I think by train.  I hear that has an even bigger Medina.

Morocco

On the night I arrived in Casablanca, I was tired, but hungry, so I went out on the dark 
streets near Hotel Astrid and adjusted to the noise, traffic, shady characters and smells
of Casablanca.  I went to look for some veg food.  The good places had menus which I could
not understand.  I found a corner place and ordered a pita bread with olives, rice, potatoes,
onion and hot peppers.  I washed it down with sweet mint tea... I think it cost me about $.75.
It filled me up and I bought a container of orange juice to drink back at the hotel.

The next day I walked to the Medina... the old walled city near the port.  There are parts 

of this city which are incredible, some parts remind me of a bad dream.  there are mothers 

with babies sitting on the streets begging for money...trash all over the place, broken 

sidewalks, broken signs and so many people in the streets... I ran into a young guy who 
started to talk to me and wanted to be my guide.  He asked for a fee and I offered him $8.00.
He took me to a nice place where we had some coffee and then to the spice market.  I bought the 

best dates I have ever tasted in my life.

It is so different to walk through a crowded marketplace with fish, live chickens about to 

meet their fate and hanging pieces of meat.  Everything is fresh, but it must be difficult 

to go and shop everyday in order to eat.. I took a couple of pixs but was reluctant to take 

out my smart phone in the middle of such crowds.

My guide took me to the train station and I bought a second class ticket on the train going 

to Marrakesh the next day.  Of course the train goes from another station in town.  I will 

have to take a taxi to this station.  I have the song Marrakesh Express on my android... 

Always wanted to see this for myself and now here I am.

In the afternoon I walked around the chief mosque of the city, it reminded me of the old 

Montgomery Wards building in Menands, NY.  It was very big and plain.  There are plenty of 

parks here with people sitting around.  People are getting around by taxi, motorbikes and 

plenty of walking.  I saw few busses,  police and animals.. No dogs here, just pigeons..

After plenty of difficulty I booked a room in Marrakesh..

Somewhat hard to find non-meat food here without speaking their lingo.  I gave in last nite 

and bought a yogurt with oranges.  It tasted so good. There is drinking here.. there are plenty
of places where mostly men go in and drink beer, play cards and watch football.  I see most 
people in western dress but there are plenty of traditional clothes.  Many ladies in full body
coverups. 

I have a large screen SAMSUNG HDTV on the wall of my room.  I get about 15 stations 

including Korean global tv in English, Aljazerra TV, plenty of Brazilan type novellas (soap 

operas) and a distrubing number of bloody war shows with autiomatic weapons, and killings.. 

And there are shows with religious sermons.  wish I could understand what they are talking 

about.  The televison is amazing in quality of the picture... Everybody has a cellphone and 

a sky dish here.

Off to Morocco, so I have to pack....

A few days on the southern coast of the UK

This was a nice beginning of my trip. My friend Stu hooked me up with a nice guesthouse.  It was in the middle of a tourist area and right up the street from the ocean.  Only one problem.. I was the only guest…

Stu took me on the bus to a coastal town of Christchurch.  we had a nice walk along the water.. A nice coffee and piece of cake at a typical tearoom.  And the English still love their dogs.  The dogs are everywhere.. Including on the busses.

Things are expensive here… It is very civilized here..very orderly.  Stu took me to Swanage where there was live blues being played in the pubs.  A great day and I got a warm pullover for a pound..$1.40.

and now off to Morocco… A taxi came to get me at 4:30 am to take me to the bus station. The ride to Heathrow took over 3 hrs. As there was a serious on the motorway.  so far so good with me..

After a very long day… I made it to Casablanca.. Morocco… A bit like Amman, Jordan. Off to bed and I explore this city in the am.

Across the Atlantic Again

So easy…a small jet down to JFK…a Delta 767 across the ocean and I am in the UK.
When I was waiting for my plane at JFK, the sky was purple and pink as the sun was setting down behind NYC… I could see the old Empire State Building from JFK… And there I saw for the first time the new World Trade Center Tower.  It was gleaming and the sun was hitting just right to make it sparkle like a diamond.

My seat mate did not want to talk..so I was alone with my window watching Long Island going bye…remembering all my trips there after storms… Of course the memory of TWA flight 800 was there.  I got to walk through the rebuilt remains of that jet.. As the city lights began to fade… I could make out a little cresent of lights… Amazing..I was looking down at Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown. I had such a good summer there and now I am off to next May.

UK customs was easy and I found the bus stop for Bournemouth and in 2 hrs. I was there.  It is cold here but I am sure I will have a great time..stay tuned

Just about to head out again.

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It was a great summer in Cape Cod.  Now it is time to start living out of my backpack and my new wheeled luggage..Retired my 10 year old luggage which I bought to take to NYC after 9/11.

I made out okay without a car.. My friends at Wellfleet helped me out

My summer had great weather and I had visits from family and friends.. I enjoyed some new neighbors at Maurices and at the end I had my friend from Sydney visit me for 3 weeks. We went to Nantucket..Newport..and took a tour of New England and the Adirondack Mountains.

Back to the Albany area for a few weeks and got some things in order and now I am ready to go round the world in the opposite direction than last time.

Hope all the people that I love will have a good 8 months without me. rjs