Thursday, 27 September 2012

Good-Bye Morocco


We have had two lovely relaxing days in the Mazagan Beach Resort, on Tuesday we decided to get the  courtesy coach to the nearby city of El Jadida - hmm that was an education, the courtesy coach dropped us outside the old Portugese city so we had a look around there it was very old, and marked as a world heritage site, but sadly it did not appear that there was any restoration work happening, there were people living all through it and they have no concept of putting rubbish in bins (in fact the whole El Jadida city, that we saw, was like this).

We then spent the next half an hour or so looking for a toilet - the lack of public toilets in both Spain and Morocco is pitiful, but (in spite of the fact I don't agree with having Macdonalds, KFC, Starbucks in these places, they are great for toilets :D), but none of these chains have made it to El Jadida, yet.

The smell of this city is dreadful, it is a fishing port so think hot, smelly, rotting fish, fruit, etc. We had four hours to kill before the shuttle came back to get us, we wandered around, and found a cafe selling fresh fruit juice, so decided to sit for a while, we ordered orange juice. Whilst we were sitting there with our juice, I watched them make another juice for someone else - the poured a big glass of tap water in with the juice!!! OMG I had already had a couple of mouthfuls of mine, thinking that their oranges didn't taste as good as the southern hemisphere ones, so I didn't have anymore. Thankfully the shuttle was on time and we headed back to the resort and laxed on the beach and by the pool :)

Hmmmm don't think their water is too good, I haven't ventured too far in the last 24 hours but feeling a bit better today. Just about to head to the airport in Casablanca and start the long haul home.

The trip has been fabulous, we have learnt a lot and have thoroughly enjoyed the contrast between the two countries.

cya at home x

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Goodbye Marrakech

 Yesterday we spent the morning at the Riad's pool and garden - a courtesy coach takes you to their garden and large pool 15 mins away from the Riad itself, weird, but really nice, you can spend the whole day there, they serve you drinks and lunch. But we headed back because I had booked to take a cooking class, they have a cooking school at the Riad, it was really good and we had Morrocan Salad and chicken Tagine that I had prepared for dinner that night.



Today it was time to say good-bye to Marrakech the people were lovely, very talented, most of the ones we came across could speak at least three languages: Arabic, French and English. The photo above is of the square next to the Souk where they have buskers and food stalls every night and a million people. We never felt unsafe, they don't drink alcohol so there were no drunk people around, just happy sociable crowds. Below is our lovely Riad, it was exceptional both in style and the staff were absolutely superb, we couldn't have asked for better.

 The drive to El Jadida (near Casablanca) was interesting, to say the least, our driver (after stopping to get money from his boss for fuel, stopping to get fuel, stopping at some hick town to get coffee) took the back roads we are sure, they were really narrow and it was nerve wracking at times, but he seemed a nice chap and pointed out interesting things along the way. We had to make a pit stop and he tried to stop at a nice toilet (ummmm er, it was ok) Luckily we weren't travelling this way :)



Our room at the Mazagan Beach Resort (view from the room below). This place has a totally different feel altogether, it is a huge resort, kinda like Millbrook but on steroids and with a beach, we are just a number and hardly anyone here speaks English, it is all arabic or french :(



The temperature here is a lot cooler around 27 degrees so we spent the afternoon on the lovely beach and worked on our tans :) before adjourning to the pool for cocktails before dinner, lol. (the pool is really warm, like a bath)

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Heading for the Hills

Yesterday we took the hop-on-hop-off bus around Marrakech. It’s a funny city, in that all the buildings (except for the flash hotels) look reasonably similar and all very plain and basic on the outside, it is the inside that is decorated. So from the bus it all looks a bit boring. In the heat of the day we come back to our Riad for lunch and yesterday we had a Hammam, the traditional spa treatment here at the Hammam (http://www.lamaisonarabe.com/en/hammam.html) in the Riad. It was lovely, you go into a room that is all marble with marble benches in it and it is heated to, I reckon, 50 degrees, you lie down and they spray you with water and rub oil on you, then black mud stuff, then they wash you off, that takes about 45 minutes (meanwhile you are totally sweating up a storm), then you go to another room where they serve you verbena tea and water, then you go for a 30 minute massage – delicious. After the visit, I sweated like a pig for about two hours (so now I am free of toxins :D).

We then wandered into the Souk and Square to look at it at night.

 Today, we went for a trip to the Atlas Mountains and amongst the Berber tribes (the people that make carpets). There are four different varieties of Berber, according to where they live.


We stopped off for a camel ride – very touristy, but so funny cos Trevor went to take a picture of an old lady with her four sheep and she went totally ballistic, hitting our young camel boy with a stick, yelling and shouting, then hitting Trevor with the stick as well, lol.

 We then headed up the mountains and visited an Argan Oil co-operative, this is a government initiative and it employs Berber women who are divorced and have no other form of income. This was in a ski town here are pics of the resort and its café’s!!!


The Berber homes are made from mud and they change colour depending on the type of mud in the area they are built, here it shows three different colour villages neighbouring each other.



 Because it was Saturday here, the children finish school at 12 noon and when they see a tourist vehicle (we were in a Toyota landcruiser) they come running for lollies. We were told this the day before so we were prepared. We also brought along pens, crayons, paper etc to give to the schools, but we got to the village school too late today so our guide will give it to them on the next trip.



We had lunch in a traditional Berber home, it was delicious.

On the way back, fortunately it was market day in the region, and we called in and had a look at the local market – amazing, noise, smell, people etc.




 It was forecast to be 41 degrees in Marrakech today, so a good day to head to the Mountains where it was cooler and a nice 28-32 degrees.


Saturday, 22 September 2012

Marrakech



Our Riad is beautiful, exceptional service and in a way similar to the Hotel in Seville, where it is three or four 'houses' joined together to create the whole Riad, we are very well looked after here, our every wish is catered for. They make up your room twice a day and it is beautifully cool and soothing after the madness outside.

Yesterday when we arrived we hit the streets and headed straight for the Souk.

It is an assault on the senses, smells, sounds (didn't want to taste, anything) and sights all 'in your face'. We looked at carpets and negotiated to buy two, one for the table and one for the floor, I enjoyed a mint tea with the Rug man and Trevor did the bargaining, it took a while, they thrive on this and the man was very pleasant, finally we arrived at a price that we were all happy with and they packaged it up for us.

We thought we had the exchange rate right, but was relieved when we got back to the Riad to check that we did indeed, phew, could have been more expensive than we thought lol.

Ironically, this Riad has the best internet speed and connection out of all the places we have been so far!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Alhambra and Seville




Today we were up early and off to the Alhambra Palace. We opted for a guided tour which by-passed the queues and gave us some more info on the area. The palaces were more in ruins than I expected but was still good to see them and you could certainly see how magnificent they once were, most of the damage was caused by Napoleon.

After we left the palace we were off to Seville, our last stop in Spain. Once again finding our hotel was interesting. We had a wonderful porter with lots of energy. You have no idea what this hotel is like, seriously it is a five minute walk through tunnels and courtyards to get to your room – very cool, and an oasis in the centre of the city.



We went, with some relief, to drop the car off, it is quite tiring concentrating all the time – especially negotiating what they call streets here (we would never drive on them at home, all they are is a very narrow lane, with most only going one way and the GPS doesn’t differentiate which way!!). Although I don’t think you would ever consider drive here without a GPS. The motorways are fantastic and you don’t feel like you have driven for four hours.

We spent the evening wandering around Seville, took a one hour horse and carriage ride around, it was lovely. The next day we wandered around the central city, getting lost in all the alleyways, it’s a really nice area. I went to the Cathedral and Trevor wandered around, went for a swim and a beer.





That’s our time in Spain, we were up at 4am this morning to catch a flight to Madrid and then onto Marrakech. The whole time we were in Spain, we never felt unsafe, the metro systems were clean and easy to use, Spaniards dress neater and better than we do, generally they are polite and we never saw thieves or had anyone dodgy approach us.

Arrived in Marrakech, 34 degrees and 23% humidity, and the rest of the time we are here it is forecast to get hotter i.e. on Sunday 41 (OMG!) but more about Marrakech tomorrow.  Adious :)

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Granada

After the stress of the bullfight, we had a nice drink and dinner in the centre of Madrid.

Today we left Madrid and travelled to Granada, off to the Alhambra Palace tomorrow and on to Seville, where we have to surrender our wee car.


Bull Fight


 Hmmm Bullfighting, we had no idea of what was involved ……. We certainly do now! Here is a website that pretty much explains it in layman’s terms.

I was ready to leave after the first fight, near the start of the fight the bull charged and rammed into the horse – I couldn’t watch but Trev said this horse was ok, so I continued to watch, the horse seemed to have some kind of armour on and didn’t seem to be uneasy or frightened, even though he was blindfolded.


We didn’t realise that they killed the bull I couldn’t watch that part, but it is amazing how quickly we get desensitised to violence and cruelty! We stayed on. There were two rounds of three fights on the second to last fight it was a particularly difficult bull and, I think, that once the matador has lost his killing sword he has to use a sword that has a kinda of stopper thing near the tip end of it so it only goes in so far to the bull (about 3 inches or so) he kept stabbing it into the particular part behind the bull’s horns but the bull would not die (he must have done it about 15 times) the crowd was booing and jeering him, the bull charged him and rammed him, ripping the backside out of his pants, he seemed ok but limping, he got up and had another several goes at killing the bull, the bull charged him again and this time threw him into the air (I wasn’t watching at this point), the other matadors came out to distract the bull and carried the injured matador off. 

Obviously the Bull won and the crowd cheered and chanted Toro, Toro, they then tried to tire the bull out until he collapsed, all the while the crowd was booing. They then brought some steers out to try and herd the bull back into the pen, but he wasn’t having a bar of it. Eventually another matador came out with a short knife and tried to kill it, it took several goes and the crowd was going mental booing and jeering and throwing their seat pads down into the ring, eventually the bull died – that was the end of the night, obviously the don’t want to fight any more rounds once one of the matadors has been injured. 

Because the internet is dodgy where we are staying - here is the website of the bull ring (Las Ventas) it will be in spanish (if you don't have google translate) and it shows pictures!! But the translation is that he is ok, phew we had no idea until we could get online at the next hotel.

That will be the first and last time we go to a bull fight!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Amongst the Mob

Yesterday was 34 degrees. The previous night we decided we would do the hop-on-hop-off bus around Madrid to get familiar with the city so purchased some tickets.  We sussed the metro out (as we felt it best not to drive :D) and got to the centre of the city to find out the bus wasn’t running because there was a major protest happening, people had come from all around Spain to the protest. We got back on the metro and decided to go a couple of stops away and get out of the crowds – ha this is what we got at that stop. They were either wearing red, green or orange and all had signs, whistles and loud speakers, we watched it later on BBC news - it wasn't agressive but a bit disconcerting being amongst that many people.


Managed to find an information centre and asked about the bus they told us they should be running again at about 2pm.  Best we find a café and eat. The thing in the contraption (with the hoof on the end of it) to Trevor’s right is a leg of pork all the café’s and bars have them, it is aged and they serve it with bread.

 We got the bus and stayed on it for most of the afternoon, until it got too hot and we had to get off and find a drink spot.


Today is another hot one and we are off to the flea market, onto the metro again, it is such a great way to travel. The flea market is massive and there must be 100,000 people there.



Just by chance we happen to be staying in the Remuera of Madrid!! (Actually Remmers would not be this flash). So funny it is very, very upmarket shopping etc, the cars and people are very sophisticated and dress immaculately (you should see how they dress their kids) – here is us slopping around in our jandals – so funny, hence we don’t spend much time in the area but get the metro to the more basic areas, lol. Off to a Bull fight now, and tomorrow hit the road again to Granada.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Madrid


Since we were late to Leon last night we spent a couple of hours wandering around the centre this morning, it is very old and some beautiful buildings and such a nice vibe there.

We hit the road at 11:30 and headed to Segovia on our way to Madrid.



Took a couple of wrong turns but managed to find it ok. It is a walled city and we had a wander around especially to look at the Acquaduct, so amazing and also went through the Alcazar there, the armory was pretty cool. 

Had an icecream in the sun and headed to Madrid.

Arrived in Madrid at 7pm 31 degrees!! But we have noticed that Segovia and Madrid’s heat is not humid, its more like ours – so whilst its hot it is very bearable. Will probably stay here for three nights, getting sick of all the driving and just need to stay put for a couple of days, we loved Leon and Segovia, so hopefully Madrid isn’t too much hustle and bustle.

Off to Leon

Today we woke to rain again and we were up, packed and on the road by 8:30am heading to Leon. We wanted to go to the massive caves near there so decided to go on the way to Leon, rather than going through Leon and on to the caves. Hmm Miss GPS had us way up in the mountains, very remote, got to a little village where the front door of the houses opened onto the road. There were a mother and son (elderly) leaning outside their house and we stopped - absolutely no English and our Spanish is non-existent, I showed them a picture of the cave in our guidebook and I managed to understand that we were to keep going along the road, we eventually found it (and discovered that we had taken a very remote road instead of the more mainish one).

This photo doesn’t show how mountainous and narrow it really is (this was the main road into the cave. We got to the cave at 2pm and they didn’t speak English either but managed to convey that the next trip to the cave was 4:30!! Bugger, there was absolutely nothing to do there except eat and sit around – okay that’s not too bad.

It was totally worth it though.



We got out of the cave at 6pm and high-tailed it to Leon. We had booked the hotel the day before online and put the address into Miss GPS – OMG the centre of Leon is totally amazing but for pedestrian traffic only … really. After an hour of searching and trying to drive up lanes the wrong way, we asked at another hotel and he directed us there. We had to walk it, eventually we found it. In order for us to access their car park, we had to walk back to our car, and drive it for about 15 minutes on the outer edge of the city and back around into the car park (this is to circuit the centre and all the one-way roads) needless to say we were tired and frazzled now - it was now 9pm!! But it was totally worth it.


 View from the gorgeous wee balcony in our room.