Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Tangiers!

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.

Tangiers

 

P1110498

 

To the Pillars of Hercules

Pillars of Hercules

Where AtlanticAndMedMeet

 

P1110511

 

P1110520

 

CapSpartel

 

P1110528

 

P1110530

 

P1110531

 

P1110533

 

P1110540

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 πŸ™‚

 

P1110541

 

P1110542

 

P1110548

The only little gold shop we passed our entire tour in Morocco:

P1110549

 

P1110550

 

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.

P1110551

 

P1110552

This is the view from our cabin of Tangiers. It was beautiful.

P1110565

December 28, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Morocco, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fez and On to Tangiers

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?

 

Fez door

 

BabAlBoujiloud

 

P1110461

 

P1110466

 

P1110464

 

 

 

P1110468

 

 

 

 

VegSoukFez

 

 

StreetVegSoukFez

 

P1110472

P1110473

 

My first shopping on the trip; a silk weaving factory, and the colors are irresistible!

SilkWeavingFez

P1110482

Gate

 

CarpentryFez

RoosterFez

 

NearTanningVatsFez

Another group dining experience, a lovely space, sort-of Moroccan food, Palais Mnebih feeds hundreds in a short time.GroupDiningFez

P1110487

P1110488

P1110490

P1110491

 

And on to Tangiers, where our ship is waiting for us at the dock!

AOTangiers

December 28, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Exercise, ExPat Life, Restaurant, Shopping, Travel, Values | , , , , | Leave a comment

Palais Medina and Spa in Fes, Morocco

We were delighted to get to our hotel in Fes, the Palais Medina and Spa Hotel. Our room was very comfortable, but my shoes were muddy from Volubilis, and I forgot to take a photo of the room because I really, really needed to wash my shoes off and hope they would dry by the next day as we hike around Fes. Β It was very large, very beautiful, had a seating area and a huge bathroom. The bed was marvelous.

 

The Hotel had some quirks. As we were about to board the elevator, others from our ship were getting off and saying “We are NOT going to stay here!” and we wondered what that was all about. On our floor, the hallway was so dimly lit that we struggled to figure out where the card went into the door. But the room was lovely, comfortable, quiet, and it had a wonderful view.

 

We hurried down to dinner, seeing a sign that said “group dining” we knew where to go.

 

(I didn’t take this photo; I lifted it from the hotel website, but it looks like the room we stayed in)

Screen Shot 2015-12-26 at 2.08.35 PM

 

From the elevator area into the lobby area:

PalaisSpaHotelFez

 

View at night from our balcony looking left

P1110440

 

View early in morning looking out

P1110441

More view. It really was a lovely room.

P1110442

This has to be one of the worst experiences of the tour, tied with trying to get through Charles DeGualle to catch our Atlanta flight. The dining room was chaos.

“Grab a place, quickly; they are already starting to take the food away!” one fellow passenger urged us. We found places with friends, then went to search the inevitable buffet. There were still plenty of salad-y things, but entree pickings were slim. People in this hotel were elbowing one another out of the way, as if they had never seen food before, and this food was not worth elbowing anyone out of the way. It was buffet food, and the message it sent me was “this hotel takes groups because we have to in order to stay afloat, but we hate groups.” Dinner was purely awful. I can’t even remember what we found to eat, but except for a pumpkin soup, it was not good and not memorable food except for being not-good.

You’d think it would be hard to screw up breakfast, but breakfast was worse. They had those two little coffee maker things, and long lines waiting for both tea and coffee. Worse – there were no coffee cups! Not one! After a while a few showed up, and what happened when fewer coffee cups than coffee drinkers were available showed us just how very thin the veneer of civilization is. This was our experience at this ultra-first-class hotel. Horrors!

Lesson learned: I did spot a restaurant separate from the group dining restaurant. Knowing now what I know, I would choose to pay for a good Moroccan meal at the private-dining restaurant. Morocco just isn’t that expensive, and Moroccan cuisine is delicious, worth paying for! I would never settle for a mediocre meal, paid for as part of our tour, just because it was paid for. Life is too short!

 

On the other hand, it was late, we had a long day, I still needed to make sure my shoes were cleaned, and we just wanted to grab a bite and go. This was a nice hotel, but not a stellar experience.

December 27, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Quality of Life Issues, Rants, Restaurant, Travel, Values | , , | Leave a comment

Rabat and Volubilis, On the Road in Morocco

Somehow the scheduled departure this morning is delayed due to problems getting the buses to the ship, and some sort of negotiations are going on. We leave for Rabat, getting there late morning, and it is pouring. We start at a Marinid Site, Chellah, and I walk down and take photos, listening to the guide, getting wetter and wetter, and then I think “Hmmm, I don’t really care that much” and head back up hill to the nice, dry bus.

 

I like taking photos, but trying to take photos with rain rain rain is not so easy. This is an overview of a structure at Chella, and if you look closely, you will see a stork on the top of the tower on the left. This site is covered in storks! I had to wonder, what makes this site so attractive to storks, and the guide said they had been coming here forever.
Chellah

 

ChellahDetail

 

StorkChellah

 

This marabout must be for a woman; it has a green door:

ChellahMarabout

We go to visit a mosque that never got built, and another mosque that someone built for some reason, and I don’t have any photos because it was POURING rain and I just stayed on the bus and read my book. Around noonish, we headed for the Golden Tulip, another place that is feeding hundreds, buffet style, forgettable food.

GoldenTulipRabat

 

GoldenTulipExterior

We make a photo stop at the Kasbah of the Udayas

KasbahOfTheOudayas

 

P1110397

And then a photo stop at the Udaya GateOudayaGate

 

P1110401

 

OudayaGateDetail

We are in a bit of a rush; we want to get to Volubilis, an ancient Roman site, before the sun goes down. When we get there, it is raining, and slick, and the sun is going down.

VolubilisDusk

 

P1110416

 

SunsetVolubilis

 

SunsetVolubilis

 

P1110431

 

P1110423

 

P1110435

 

It is very beautiful, and every time we have come here, to Volubilis, it has rained. AdventureMan liked this stop a lot more than I did.

December 27, 2015 Posted by | Beauty, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Morocco, Restaurant, Travel | , , | 5 Comments

El Jadida and Casablanca, Morocco

As we leave Marrakesh, I tell AdventureMan that we could easily drive here, and that gas prices are really good:

GasPrices

 

And AdventureMan reminds me that it is not the price per gallon, but the price per liter. Oh. That’s very different. The Moroccan countryside on our drive to El Jadida reminds me of Tunisia back in the late 1970’s when we lived there, full of little marabouts, or burial places of people who lived saintly lives. The guide explained if it is white, it is a man’s grave, if it has green or blue, it is a woman.

Marabout

 

Market days along the route:

P1110334

 

MarketDay

 

P1110331

 

 

 

P1110327

 

P1110330

 

We reach El Jadida, where we are visiting an old Portuguese cistern. It turns out to be very beautiful. It also starts raining cats and dogs, making it very hard to take a good photo in any unsheltered place. The rain is really coming down! We are soaked!

P1110340

 

P1110336

 

P1110342

 

Those are not blue skies; those are cloudy grey skies!

ElJadida

 

 

Light fixtures πŸ™‚

P1110341

 

P1110343

 

 

PortugueseCistern

 

P1110347

The old ramparts of the Portuguese fort:

ElJadidaRamparts

 

We stopped at a huge place where, once again, they were set up to serve groups. There must have been 500 – 600 people serving themselves. I saw ONE Moroccan dish. There were several Chinese dishes, an entire section of Italian entrees, all in all, a very bland selection of “international foods” which means you can find something to eat, but it won’t taste all that great. It is engineered to be nourishing and inoffensive. There were many many kinds of desserts, in tiny portions. This was a very not-special kind of place to eat.

P1110353

 

P1110354

 

P1110355



P1110356

 

P1110357

 

P1110359

 

The entry was built to be impressive:

P1110360

 

We were very close to Casablanca, and made a trip along the coastline to see one of the largest mosques in the world, the Hassan II mosque.

HusseinMosqueCasablanca

 

CasablancaShoreFromHassanIIMosque

 

P1110372

 

We made a brief stop so everyone could photograph “Rick’s Cafe.” which never existed except in the movie, but now has a restaurant of that name, in Casablanca, and draws in a lot of people who saw the movie.

Rick'sCafeCasablanca

December 27, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Travel, Weather | , , , | Leave a comment

On Our Own in the Souks of Marrakesh and the Jemaa el-Fna

Free at last!

We are as giddy as children let out of school as the groups head left and we head right, going deeper into our favorite territory, the souks (small shops) in the great city of Marrakesh.

Before we ever went to Marrakesh, many years ago, we read a book by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, author of Guests of the Sheikh, called A Street in Marrakesh, talking about how her family lived in the center of Marrakesh, among Moroccans, and the adjustments they made as they grew to learn more about their environment. You know how you can read a book and feel like you had lived it? We felt we had lived in Marrakesh.

When we visited with our son, we had a car and were driving all through Morocco. We had left Ouazazarte and driven over the Atlas Mountains, stopping here and there to buy fossils and “thunderballs” which are also called geodes. It was late, and dark when we got to Marrakesh, and we had to stop and ask directions at a gas station how to find our hotel. We knew we were near, and we didn’t know how to close the distance. This was before smart phones and Google Maps.

Our son and I watched AdventureMan from the car, and as we watched him ask the two men working there, one pointed left and one pointed right. We were dying laughing. And, actually, both were right, there was an obstacle between us and the hotel and you could go right – or you could go left. At that moment, a motorcycle drove up, listened to the question and offered to guide us to our hotel. This is the essence of Morocco to us; the kindness and the hospitality of the Moroccans.

I wish I could remember the name of the hotel, but our room was huge, and full of tile work. Our son had his own area, on a separate level in the same room, and his own TV. It was a far cry from a sterile, modern hotel; this was full of color and detail, tile and wood work.

The next day, we hired a private guide for a tour of Marrakesh, and had a wonderful time exploring all kinds of wonderful places.

So now, off we go, and the smells and the feel of the souks almost make us giddy; we are back in our element.

As we wander, we can hear roosters crowing, and, in the middle of the souks, we find a souk devoted to roosters. It is the middle of the afternoon, a quiet time of day, perfect for wandering.

MarrakechRoosterSouk

 

Me and my attraction to light fixtures πŸ™‚

 

MarrakechLamps

A mural of the Koutoubia mosque; one of the reasons we felt so secure in this souk is that if you get lost, you just look for the highest tower around, and that is the Koutoubia mosque, which takes you to Jemaa el-Fna.

MarrakechMural

P1110273

 

MarrakechWidowsWalk

 

HennaCafe

 

We walked to our content, and then settled in at late afternoon to a cafe with a terrace high over the Jemaa el-Fna, where we had our choice of tables and could watch the market come to life. As we sipped our mint tea, the other tables filled; Moroccan families, tourist couples, assorted characters. The day is gorgeous, we have a shaded location, life is sweet. We’ve soaked in the sights and the smells. We’ve done more than our 10,000 steps. We enjoyed this afternoon immensely.

CafeTerrace

 

P1110280

 

P1110278

 

P1110276

 

P1110275

P1110272

December 26, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Books, Cultural, Entertainment, Exercise, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Hot drinks, Morocco, NonFiction, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Underway on the Guadalquivir

 

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:

 

SunriseDeparture

 

Most of what we pass is countryside, low and fertile.

P1110204

 

Now and then we encounter another boat.

P1110201

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.

SunsetOverMed en route to Casablanca

 

And the next morning, we enter Casablanca!
ArrivingCasablanca

EarlyMorningCasablanca

 

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.

P1110228

 

Our entry visa into Morocco:

P1110242

December 26, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Cultural, ExPat Life, Morocco, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Trip Process

We are usually two trips out. By that, I mean that while we are getting close to one trip, we are usually planning the next trip. It just works out that way, and it gives us something to look forward to even when one trip is over . . . there is always the next trip.

While we were still planning our three week trip to the American Southwest and California Coast last March – April, AdventureMan shouted from his office to mine “Why do I keep getting these brochures from Viking Cruises?” I was shaking with laughter. “Because I signed you up!” I replied.

We are getting older. We tire more easily. It’s just the way life goes, and we need to focus on how we can continue doing what we love. We need to explore other strategies, other ways of doing things. So we decided to look at cruises to Istanbul and beyond, and after two hours of looking around, ended up choosing a Smithsonian trip to Spain and Morocco. For us, it is totally normal. We toss ideas back and forth, and all of a sudden, something will click.

AdventureMan was on the phone, booking the sea and land cruise within two hours of the start of the conversation. We knew we wanted a balcony and we also knew that flying business class would help us adjust to the jet lag involved, so we could hit the ground running.

And yes, we already have our next trip booked πŸ™‚

November 13, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, ExPat Life, Experiment, Family Issues, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , , | 2 Comments