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Our retirement adventures

Morocco October 2014

18 October

Although we were awake, a fire alarm at about 8am and a stand outside the Gatwick North terminal Premier Inn hotel for about 10 minutes wasn’t on the agenda but all in all, the hotel seemed to cope very well with the disruption even handing out towels to visitors to protect themselves from the wind.  Manage to locate Elizabeth during the fire alarm evacuation.

On our return (only one fire engine sent and it appears to have been something in the hotel’s store room that caused the problem) a walk, for Richard, up to floor 7 managed to find muscles not used in vain for many a year. A Costa Coffee croissant and coffee for breakfast and then off to check in and a couple of hours in the BA Club Lounge pre our flight – after one phone left in security had been retrieved. A school party of (probably) 16 year olds had occupied many World Traveller Seats which is why we had to have Club Class on our outward journey.

The full plane was probably half occupied with children, including several in the Club class seats; obviously some parents have too much money so quiet it was not.

Hotel Le Caspien

Hotel Le Caspien

One family in particular with four noisy and disruptive children all, probably, under 13 accompanied by a nanny and a cook were particularly bad, sat opposite us, lived in Chelsea and had parents who totally ignored their children’s disruptive behaviour. All credit to the stewardess who coped admirably.

The food served was far superior to that served on our two previous BA journeys, here’s hoping our return is as good albeit not in Club Class.

Our dinner table by the pool

Our dinner table by the pool

Transfer to Le Caspien hotel worked well and we were soon settled in to our rooms, basic(ish) but we have been in worse. Dinner by the pool followed by a catch up on Internet and bed.

 

19 October

Meet the Ahmed, the BA rep, after a breakfast which I had been a bit dubious about pre arrival bearing in mind certain comments previously made on Trip Advisor but personally I had no issue with what was on offer.

Jardin Majorelle near entrance

Jardin Majorelle near entrance

Three tours organised for the next few days but we start with a walk to the Jardin Majorelle Gardens about a km away from the hotel and maybe because it was a Sunday but there were a lot of tourists around and also a lot of locals so getting pictures without people in was virtually impossible.  Perhaps another visit should be during the week.

Coloured pots at Jardine Majorelle

Coloured pots at Jardine Majorelle

Vibrant coloured pots everywhere with exotic plants from around the world.

Grab a coffee in a peaceful area followed by an attempt to get a taxi to “the big square”.

Along the way we were told by the taxi driver that the main souk was closed on Sunday so instead he would take us to a different area – El Badii (an area we wanted to go to anyway) and dropped us outside what was probably a relative’s emporium and charged us 100 dhms which on reflection was too much.

We didn’t go in relative’s emporium, instead wandered around until we found the area where the storks had their nests near the Palais Badii.

Stork nest

Stork nest

Drinks and food upstairs on a verandah at stork nest height with a table next to us occupied by a French family of four with two very well behaved children, so well behaved we had to complement them.

Moroccan tagine

Moroccan tagine

More wanderings in the mini souk area and found an Emporium with fixed prices and we now have a Tagine, let us hope we can get it back in one piece but as it only cost about 8 Euro, it doesn’t matter. (we did get it back.)

Rugs in a Marrakech Emporium

Rugs in a Marrakech Emporium

A fascinating emporium with carpets, metalwork, pottery and all sorts of other things on sale.  Not sure about the stock control on the thousands and thousands of rugs and carpets.

20 October

Take a Taxi to the main square after breakfast for a walk around main souk area, arriving quite early so it is not at all crowded. Lots of locals all trying to sell virtually everything you could think of.

Marrakesh souk

Marrakesh souk

Fascinating watching the workers in the little shacks making shoes, engineering ironwork, bread making and sewing just to name a few.

Dyed cloth

Dyed cloth

It would be quite easy to get lost here but keeping an eye on where the sun is helps and we manage to come out at virtually the same place as we went in after about a two hour wander.

The souk was so vibrant with so many cloth colours in evidence and by the time we came out, quite crowded.

Lunch downstairs in square as upstairs were not selling food until 12:30.

Vegetation in the Ourika Valley

Vegetation in the Ourika Valley

Back to hotel then off on the first of our booked tours – a half day tour to Ourika Valley in the lower Atlas mountains with a few stop offs on the way for photos.

We pass so much greenery it is difficult to imagine we are in Africa in a place where, just a few miles behind us, the temperature is in the mid 30s and the land is quite barren.

We stop at a Berber house and are shown how mint tea is prepared. It was fascinating why the first cup is kept, the 2nd poured away and then the first re-added to the pot.

Berber living room

Berber living room

The Berber house we stopped at houses 9 people in 2 generations, a donkey and a camel although we did not see around all the house, what we did see was very basic.

Onwards up the valley to an outdoors restaurant where settee are used by townies to eat dinner by the fast flowing river.

River-side dining

River-side dining

Soon it is over and we are back to our hotel and dinner.

 

21 October

Early start today for a trip to the coastal fishing village of Essaouira, about a 3 hour drive away.

We are so early, only cool water available for a shower, but surprisingly a few others at breakfast.

Collecting tourist paperwork on the way there are just the three of us and Mohammed, our guide/ driver for the day.

Soon we leave the suburbs with a main straight road ahead passing clumps of people waiting for overcrowded buses into Marrakech, half finished housing, old and modern transport.

modern apartment, unfinished apartment, traditional mode of transport

modern apartment, unfinished apartment, traditional mode of transport

Travelling by bus is cheap here, only a few Dihrams, as is fuel – about 9Dhm a litre ( about 60p ) but they are crowded.

The first town we get to before 9 and it is thronged with men just waiting to be selected for work, picking grapes. This must be quite humiliating for them as not all will be selected but it is probably all they know. The work, if they get any, is poorly paid as well but they do have to feed themselves somehow.

Many road checks by police and we get stopped early on and we understand it is a daily occurence. My name is on the tourist sheet collected earlier and the police mention me by name during the process but all is in order and we are soon on our way.

Apparently they are looking for foreigners who have crossed the country’s borders illegally and without proper “papers”. Now there is an idea for the UK with all it’s illegal immigrants but think of the traffic jams on the main roads if this was adopted.

As we progress away from the townships, the countryside becomes more barren and almost desert like with stones rather than sand in evidence.

Shepherd and his flock

Shepherd and his flock

Goats in trees

Goats in trees

Shepherds with small flocks of sheep are everywhere although what the sheep find to eat is anyone’s guess.

We are now reaching undulating terrain and, as we heard yesterday, the area is rich in Argan trees that, we are told, are only grown in Morocco and Mexico although it is possible they are alive in Australia.

Goats often climb the Argan trees but it appears these are a bit touristy as they were gone when we returned the same way later that day.

Fishing boat sir?  Any colour as long as it is blue.

Fishing boat sir? Any colour as long as it is blue.

Essaouira walled city

Essaouira walled city

Essaouira, a bustling seaside fishing town is reached soon afterwards and we stop near fish market where lots of boats are moored, fish caught and displayed and men bustle around trying to catch the eye of a potential buyer of their fish.

Mohammed is not allowed to be seen escorting us around the town so we have to sort of follow him or him follow us and in the walled city, we must not communicate with him.

Untidy fish seller

Untidy fish seller

Tidy fish seller

Tidy fish seller

Fisherman and his net

Fisherman and his net

First stop in our walk is the actual fish market which is sort of everywhere on the quay with some fish not evident in the UK on show.

One local has his fish bag inspected by an official who takes one piece to put behind a local stall – bribery or what!

A very hot (35C) day and shortly after I had taken the picture of the fisherman mending his net, an umbrella was put up to shield him from the sun.

Outside the walled city

Outside the walled city

Into the walled city and we follow a french tour party for a little way, stopping to buy a couple of items on the way.

Vendors in the walled city

Vendors in the walled city

Locate Mohammed after a while and we wend our way through more shopping streets selling more or less the same items.

Not only are there tourists but locals are shopping as well which probably brings the prices down a bit.

Anyone want a Fez?

Anyone want a Fez?

It has been suggested that we have lunch in a fish market restaurant but it is decided an alternative is preferred and opt for a non fish one nearby.

The only travellers in the desert

The only travellers in the desert

Back on the mini-bus towards Marrakech but not many fellow travelers, sheep, shepherds or people in evidence now – too hot.

Marrakech Mosque

Marrakech Mosque

Dinner poolside at the hotel again and then a horse drawn coach ride into town to look at the big square thronged with people, both locals and tourists.

Sadly not enough time to get out and wander but we get a feel for the atmosphere in our drive around the Palais Badii area, the Jewish quarter, (where the houses have balconies) and through the big square back towards our hotel.

22 October

Our last day and we opt for a brief look around the modern shopping centre prior to lunch and our return to hotel for pick up and our flight home.

Are satellites the new Mecca?

Are satellites the new Mecca?

Shopping Centre no different to anything in Europe and prices not too dissimilar to most of Europe.

Marrakech rooftops

Marrakech rooftops

Cafe Lobo was good for a drink but lunch was expensive.

Ahmed meets us at airport to advise that the Bank had rejected a €20 note I had given him for the tours as it was torn – how petty.

Still, the hotel had rejected a £10 note when I changed currency as it had been written on.

A much better flight back, no noisy kids, and a decent meal, for Economy class. Not long to wait at Gatwick for our car and we arrive back at Elizabeth’s at 2am the next day for a sleep before a drive to Heysham and our ferry home.

Morocco was just a different experience to what we are used to and it brought back so many memories of my visit some 45 years ago. Let us hope it is not another 45 years before a return visit!

Does this end our travels for 2014?

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