Did you know the Spanish word for pomegranate is “grenade?” I didn’t know that either, but pomegranate is one of my favorite fruits. When I was a little girl, my mother would buy me a pomegranate now and again (these were not common where I grew up) because of the legend of Persephone. I was heavy into Greek and Roman mythology and she encouraged my explorations.
Grenada in named for the pomegranates. They grow everywhere in Grenada, and were in full fruit when we visited. After some of the rainy touring days we had, Grenada shone forth in warm sunshine and blue skies with perfect clouds for photo-taking. We toured the town, and then (dramatic pause) (hushed voice) we visited the Alhambra.
What I have loved about this journey is the intermingling of Arabic in the Spanish; Guadalquivir River “wadi al kebir”, Alhambra “al hamra”, and it really is very red. And it really is very beautiful, so very beautiful in glorious detail. I’m going to bore you with more photos than you ever wished to see because . . . well, I hate to be rude, but . . . it’s my blog. I love each and every photo.
This is our group, gathering around our guide to enter the Alhambra.
If this were a fabric, I would have a dress made of it. I loved the intricate intersection, and the blending of the blue and cream and brown.
This is my favorite photo, for any number of reasons, cats, light and shadow, intricate tracery on columns, etc. but it is also a reminder of a very strange occurrence. I had just finished taking this shot, hunched down for a low angle, when a young woman in a group of four came along and shoved others, and then me, out of the way. Literally, she took my arm and started to move me and said “we’re taking a group photo now.”
Normally, I tend to defer, but her arrogance, and her disregard for the feeling of others prickled me, and so I pulled my arm away and looked at her cooly, and said “as soon as I am done with my photo, I will move and you can take your shot. Or you can shoot it from another angle.” I don’t know why I did that, I am surprised at myself. I don’t like to cause trouble. But who has the right to shove others out of the way???
That is the memory this photo brings back.
Please look at this photo, not that it is anything special but because there are people in it. I want you to appreciate how really, really, very hard it was to take some of these photos without people in them. I had to wait and wait, sometimes, (gasp!) I even got separated from my group for a short time, in the interest of getting an unimpeded shot. We were there at a lovely time of the year, perfect weather, and we thought there would not be too many tourists. We were astonished, in Seville, in Cordoba, in Grenada just how many tourists there were.
And here is where AHI Travel did something really right. This is the last day of the tour, tomorrow we all disembark and head for the Malaga airport and from there, to places scattered around the world. Just a short walk from the Alhambra is a beautiful hotel, beautifully situated, the Alhambra Palace. We’ve made note of it because we intend to come back to Grenada, and we want to stay in this hotel. This is where we ate lunch.
Our group had a closed in verandah with a beautiful view. Lunch was served in courses, and each was carefully prepared, and delicious. Very very clever way to end the tours on a high note 🙂
The room was beautiful. The table service was beautiful.
The view was beautiful.
After the meal, we got back on the bus to head back for the ship. Once on board, we had a Smithsonian meeting and then another lecture and then dinner, and something happened that has not happened to me for a long time, I had to pack at the last minute. Our suitcases had to be outside our door before we went to bed so they could be loaded to go, very early the next morning, to the airport.
I was coming down with something. I felt hot and feverish, and my nose was running. All my life, I have had nightmares about last minute packing. I hate doing last-minute anything, I am a planner, I like having a certain amount of control over my life, even though it is an illusion, it is an illusion I work hard to maintain. How did this happen to me? How is it that I am packing at the last minute, feverish and anxious?
It all got done. Fortunately, there are a limited number of places you can put things. For some reason, I am not able to download all our boarding passes, so we have only the first ones and will have to get the rest at the airport. I know where my passport is (I never have found the one I lost somewhere in my office) and my tickets and somehow we are finished and all is well by bedtime. I just hate that feeling of being rushed; when I am rushed, I make mistakes.
Every now and then something good happens. There is a huge line in Malaga, but our new friends also have tickets that put us in another line, and we get through quickly, with no problems. We say goodbye, we’ve exchanged e-mail addresses, and we go our separate ways. We have time to relax.
We arrive in Paris barely on time, and it is a Sunday morning with long lines at security, and there is no way out, we have to stand in line. We watch one very elderly man, unsteady, but with a great sense of humor, cope as he has to go through the full-body scan. Even though it is a few days before the bombing, security is tight. The airport is a nightmare. We have no idea where our next gate is, and we are almost running, as it is already our boarding time and we are not there. We have to go down this hall and that, then down to some gate where we catch a bus, then from that bus to somewhere else where we get to our plane with five or ten minutes to spare. That is cutting it way to close for me, but I know by now that I am coming down with one of the world’s worst colds and I sleep all the way from Paris to Atlanta, waking up now and ten to drink some Pomegranate Pizazz with honey to make the cold go away.
Not only does the cold not go away – I very generously shared it with AdventureMan. We both felt so bad we were sleeping all the time and didn’t even notice the jet lag 🙂 so by the time we were well again, we were also sleeping on Pensacola time. As soon as we were well, we got the super-strong flu shots to protect ourselves from anything worse than we’ve just had. 🙂
We’ve never been to Tangiers before, and although we have had a couple sprinkles, it looks as though we may have a great day to see Tangiers. Tonight is our next-to-last night on board, we are meeting friends for dinner tonight in the big dining room where they are serving duck (!) and life is sweet.
We start with a drive through Tangiers, on our way out to The Pillars of Hercules and Cap Spartel, where the Atlantic Ocean crashes into the Mediterranean Sea.
Pillars of Hercules
This shop was really special to me; I found a pair of hand made silver earrings for my daughter-in-law. I only had 270 Moroccan Dirhams on me, and the earrings were D540. The store-keeper said 270 was impossible, surely I had dollars or euros to make up the difference? Yes, but I really wanted those earrings for 270 Dirhams. So I walked away, walked back up the street to the store where the guide had taken the Smithsonian group, and then, ten minutes later, we were following the guide back past this shop and I heard a voice calling loudly “Madame! Madame! I want you to have the earrings!” and I said “But I only have 270 Dirhams and we are going now!” and she said “Take them, take them!” and I stuck them in my purse and quickly paid her and that was that. They are beautiful earrings 🙂
The only little gold shop we passed our entire tour in Morocco:
The American legation. Interesting, the tour was supposed to be over, but our Smithsonian guide said we were supposed to see this, and the guide didn’t want to take us there, but the Smithsonian guy insisted. So then we went through what I call the “real” souks, where instead of all the hawkers, there are real people buying food and clothing and daily necessities. If the Smithsonian guide hadn’t insisted, we would have missed a really cool part of Tangiers.
This is the view from our cabin of Tangiers. It was beautiful.
We walked a thousand miles today, or so it seems, through the narrow streets of Fez. There was no going off on our own; Fez is complicated. The last time we were here, we hired a private guide who could take us through the souks and to other sites in Fez. This time, we were 40 people following a sign held up saying “Turquoise.”
I was behind an otherwise perfectly nice man who was using an i-Pad to take photos. As we went through the narrow streets with bread bakers, cookie sellers, date sellers, etc. from time to time he would stop, totally blocking traffic, and take his photo, and then start again. There were places he could step out of line and take a photo, but he evidently didn’t want to give up his place in the long narrow line. For the first fifteen or twenty times he did it, I just wanted to clobber him, then I found a way to get ahead of him and it was no longer my problem.
The leather dying souks that were so colorful and stinky were closed for remodeling! Whoda thunk it?
My first shopping on the trip; a silk weaving factory, and the colors are irresistible!
And on to Tangiers, where our ship is waiting for us at the dock!
I can be a pain in the neck when I don’t get my way. When we booked, we had been told our room would be at the Sofitel Marrakech, and I was excited. When we got our final package, we found we were going to the Meridian N’Fis, not the same kind of hotel at all.
“Oh, but it is one of the finest rooms!” we were assured, and they explained that it just was too cumbersome to have some of the guests in one hotel and some in another. Umm. OK.
We hopped in a cab from the Jamaa El-Fna; it was easy. The cab ride cost a dollar. We could have walked, but we didn’t know where the hotel was, and it was maybe a mile away. Our guide had called and said we would be arriving separately (our guide, Antonio, was superb) so they were expecting us. They gave us an orientation, and showed us to our room.
Entrance to the hotel:
Passage to our room:
Gardens and pool:
Gorgeous serene spa:
Lovely seating areas:
Hallway to bar, lounge and restaurant:
You can see, it is a lovely hotel, modern, clean, has some atmosphere. Here is our room. It is spacious, the bathroom is large, and we have our own sitting area with complimentary wine and fruit, and our own patio outside. It’s lovely.
You can see it is very modern and very clean. We also discovered it is across from a mall, which, when we visited, reminded us greatly of Qatar and Kuwait, and we wondered if Gulf money was invested in creating the mall. It had a Carrefour, and many modern stores. It was fun wandering around with the Moroccan shoppers. The hotel is only a short distance from the oldest and newest shopping areas in town.
I tried to be a good sport. (I am betting AdventureMan would roll his eyes; I was quiet, and disappointed, and not very happy.) I would never stay here in a million years if I were not part of a group. It is western. It is Morocco-lite. I remember with great nostalgia the homey hotel we stayed in years ago, with its wonderful tiny restaurant and genuine food, tiled walls and beautifully worked wood and I wish we were staying somewhere “more Moroccan.”
The bed is wonderful. The bath is wonderful. The promised Wi-Fi is non-existent.
We had a “garden” view. I asked the conceirge where the rooms were that had the view of the Atlas mountains, and he said only a few rooms, at the top of the hotel had a view, and only on a very clear day. It must have been these rooms:
The food in the dining room is pretty good. In fact, we ate pretty well. Breakfast featured one woman making thin, flaky Moroccan pastries, worth waiting in line for.
As we left the hotel for El Jadida, there were souvenir vendors at the bus. Our fellow travelers who had stayed with the group were a little shopping-starved, and these vendors did great business. The prices seemed reasonable, too, as shoppers snapped up silver bangles, earrings, clothing and shawls. As the buses began to pull out, the most popular vendor hopped on her motorcycle to head for the next stop. I admired her entrepreneurship.
Before we even get underway, we hear the big engines start to rumble. AdventureMan wants to sleep a little longer, but I am exited and want to watch us cast off and head down the Quadalquivir, which is Spanish for the Arabic Wadi El Kebir, or big waterway. Or valley. I always think of wadis as dry, a place to potty under the bridge when you live in a country with few public conveniences, but the Guadalquivir is big, and deep, as wide as the Neckar River when we lived in Heidelberg.
The sun is coming up as we depart:
Most of what we pass is countryside, low and fertile.
Now and then we encounter another boat.
We meet and chat with other passengers as we watch the countryside go by. Soon, there is a lecture (none are mandatory, but all are interesting) about the context of the voyage, which is called Passage of the Moors. We get a lot of information from different lecturers, some of it repetitive, which is good, because when you hear it more than once, it might stick. There are lectures for the whole boat, and lectures for separate groups, and as we are in a gathering of the Smithsonian group, we pass Cadiz, en route for Casablanca. My heart grieves; I had dearly wanted to see Cadiz, but instead we had the wonderful day seeing Seville on our own, hopping on and off the bus and visiting the two museums.
This is an oddity. This is a small ship, and does educational trips, but educational trips for grown-ups. There is not one single child on board the ship, nor are there things for a child to do. There is a swimming pool, but it is outside, and unfilled; the weather is probably too cool. There is a spa, and there are lounges and a library, there is a lot to do – if you are an adult. (You can find the ship by Googling Voyages to Antiquity)
I skip the afternoon lecture to sit out on our balcony, which is large, and has beautiful wood fixtures, deck chairs, and a nice table. I read, I watch the waves go by, and wish I had a fishing pole. We are on the sunset side of the ship, so I get to take a photo of the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea.
We dock, and for a while watch other ships come in, watch dock life in Casablanca, and pack for our day and overnight in one of our favorite cities in the world, Marrakech. The ship we are watching coming in is a sister ship to the ship that went aground in Italy not too long ago, a much bigger ship than we are on.
Our entry visa into Morocco:
An old friend from high school posted this on FaceBook today, and I found it so moving and so true that I had to repost it here:
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbours running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
and even then you carried the anthem under
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough
go home blacks
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
or the insults are easier
than your child body
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.
“HOME,” by Somali poet Warsan Shire
AdventureMan and I are planners. We are headed out on a great adventure, and the first thing I did was pull my shiny new passport out of it’s place, put it on my desk and work on other things. Actually, I was looking for something else when I pulled the passport out, and still had it in my hand as I searched for the wallet I couldn’t find, and as I was looking, I thought “this is stupid, I could put the passport down and lose it” so I took it back and put it back on the desk.
Then followed a morning of trying to figure out which bags would be the best combination for this trip, what to take as carry-ons, what to take for a handbag, what to use as baggage, what clothing, what needs washing, let’s go ahead and change the beds while we are doing laundry, and oh, my hair needs washing and at ten a.m. I realized I didn’t know where my passport was. It wasn’t on the desk. For six hours I hunted everyplace I had been, like, just how stupid to you have to be to lose your passport in your own home?
I spent another six hours the next day, and then last night made an appointment in New Orleans, the nearest passport agency, to get an emergency expedited replacement. I keep thinking that once we get the new passport, the old one is sure to show up, isn’t that the way things go? On the other hand, I can’t afford to count on finding it when I won’t be able to go on the trip if I don’t have a passport.
I’ve been beating myself up. I can’t believe this has happened to me, but every now and then, things like this happen to everyone. It’s not like death, or war, or famine, or those brave refugees just trying to find a safe place where no bullets are flying and no one is trying to tell them that the way they practice their religion is just not right. It’s a luxury, but one I need if we’re going to do this trip.
So instead of mocking me, or making me feel worse, AdventureMan reminds me that there is an Ethiopian restaurant in New Orleans, not too far from the passport agency, and we might as well laisser les bon temps rouler while we are in the fair city. We’ll get up really early, be on time for our appointment, have a nice lunch and a leisurely drive back to Pensacola. He always knows how to turn a negative into a positive.
And pretty cool that we can take a day trip to New Orleans, take care of business, have a nice lunch and be back home for dinner.