Details of my rather peculiar travel route
Right, so in my last entry I was in Nairobi, Kenya and I soon left and flew home to Jersey for two weeks. I then headed off to Lanzarote of all places with my friend Emma. I was a bit dubious about going there but in fairness it's not the horrific place I imagined it to be. And I only saw one inflatable crocodile that my brother had warned me about!
It turned into a lazy cheap holiday in the sun and I have to say I quite enjoyed doing nothing. We didn't get to see a terrific amount as the bus service is truly woeful there and does not take you to any of the main tourist sites so you have to either hire a car or go on expensive tours. Since we were both treating it as a budget holiday we did a bit of walking and hopped over to Fuerteventura for a day instead. We also went to the Teguese market which was quite good and very big.
Here's a couple of photos:
The scenery doesn't lend itself to photos with an amatuer like me in charge of the camera so that's your lot I'm afraid.
I then spent a week in Worthing with my Aunt which was great as we really got to know each other and I very much enjoyed her company. We did a fair bit including a visit to Wildbrooks where we saw this shaggy individual:
We had a look around the town centre and did a spot of shopping and walked along the promenade. We visited family and spent a lot of time chatting and she is a very, very good cook so I was well looked after.
After that I stopped off to see my Uncle in Poole for two days and he took me out and about. We went to the penninsula where we found this lovely pub.
We also visited Corfe Castle which is a lovely ruin.
Then it was time for Glastonbury which was celebrating it's 40th this year. Rather a drunken affair and happily it didn't rain but my god was it hot! Muse were very good, The Flaming Lips were spectacular and the new Arcadia area was cool too.
The photo is of my brother and I with friends engaged in traditional Glasto silliness.
Following the festival I had a bit of time to kill (2 weeks in fact) whilst I waited for Gideon to sort himself out ready to meet me for Morocco and India. So I bought a National Express coach pass in the hope that it would have a positive effect on the share price that is loosing me money. The pass was £139 ish and valid for two weeks. You could not use it to go to Stanstead or Oxford and although you can use it to get in and out of Scotland you're not able to move about in Scotland with it. But although I didn't do a huge amount of travelling with it, it paid for itself because I also effectively had two free nights accommodation going to Inverness and back to London.
So I spent a couple of days in London whilst I waited for my Indian visa and did a whole lot of walking. From this point on I must have walked for a minimum of 3 hours a day for the next month. It took a while for my feet to toughen but now I can go a good few hours without them hurting which is a huge improvement given that I normally sit down all day. So I visited St Jame's park which is quite nice, found myself wandering around Chelsea and Sloane Square and up and down Oxford St, Tottenham Court Road and Marble Arch. I did a bit of clothes shopping there and had a brainwave. I now only buy blue, white or cream clothes because given that you are very limited as to the amount you can fit in your backpack, it makes sense if everything is similarly coloured because I will always have matching clothes. Genius!
Once my visa was safely in my sweaty mitts, I set off for Inverness and spent a day there and found it to be very much to my liking, very peaceful and had a lovely atmosphere as I arrived. I don't know, it made me smile from the moment I got there. I found a wonderful B&B run by a lovely lady called Alison. The first thing she did was sit me down with a cup of tea and some biscuits. Perfect! I then went for a walk around the islands in the river which were very scenic. The next day I headed off to Urqhart Castle which is sited on the shore of Loch Ness and it really is a lovely ruin with a good information centre which came in very handy when the rain kicked off. It was nice too that when I got off of the bus, there were some pipers playing their bagpipes who later entered the castle to play in spite of the drizzle. A beautiful and atmospheric place.
The next day I headed off to Fort William and somehow got extremely lost in a housing estate and a car park. Eventually though I extracted myself and found my way to the foot of Ben Nevis. A very enjoyable walk.
I caught the bus to Glasgow where I had a few hours wait so out of consideration for my aching feet I went to the cinema to see Letters to Juliette which was rather amusing. Then the long ride back to London Victoria and I jumped on a coach to Stratford on Avon which is just gorgeous with so very many old houses. Then I had a call from Bard saying that he was coming to London for a few days so I headed back to Victoria to meet him and we had a lovely time visiting the Imperial War Museum (for 5 hours!) which has an excellent Holocaust exhibition and other good displays. We spent a day in Camden Town and visited Covent Garden and China Town as well as Hyde Park and St Jame's park as well as having a walk around Embankment.
Bard left and I headed up to Stanstead airport to meet Gideon. We stayed the night in an excellent B&B nearby and had a fantastic Thai meal there. The next day we flew to Agadir in Morocco. We got in quite late so headed out for food once we'd found ourselves a place to stay.
The next day we went for a walk around and along the beach but to be honest I didn't really like the place much so we headed off to Essaouira which is incredibly windy. We had a stroll round the souk for a few hours and really liked it. They specialise in marquetry work there and there was plenty to choose from and the prices were very good. We also bought a loaf of bread for 9 pence which amazed us both for days!
We then headed off to Marrakesh which I liked a lot. The souks there are a complete maze and we were immediately lost but I really like that and felt quite safe throughout our two weeks in Morocco so was happy to just wander around the souks. But good grief, it was so hot. We saw thermometers reading 39 degrees c and take a look at this one which is actually in shade! Gideon saw a reading of 55 degrees in the sunshine.
There were some lovely old gates into the medina and the stalls in Djema el Fna sold the nicest orange juice I have ever had for about 27 pence a glass so we drank a fair bit of juice. Later in the evening the square really comes alive and we saw dancers and poor little trained monkeys as well as a snake charmer. Pretty amazing stuff.
The following day we headed off to the Marjorelle Gardens in the hope of enjoying some shade and they really are very lovely. We then walked back and had to have a lie down as neither of us were coping too well with the heat. That night Gideon's thermometer read between 36.5 and 37 degrees in our room at 22:10. Needless to say it was hard to sleep in that heat. After that we decided that we should have found somewhere with air-conditioning! We then headed off the Casablanca so as to cool off a bit. Unfortunately our coach broke down about and hour out of Marrakesh so we were stranded at the side of the road for nearly an hour without air-con but once we all went and stood outside in the shade of the coach it wasn't too bad. We arrived in Casa and of course went for another long walk. Gideon can be a very awkward person when he wants to be and this did prove to be an asset when dealing with hustlers in Casa. We found a fantastic little place on the street selling baguettes and had one each plus a soft drink each for just £1.87 which is just incredible.
The food in Morocco. Well, I didn't like my lamb tajine but I love the chicken tajines and had quite a few of them. The Salade Maroccaine which is basically onion, tomato, cucumber and green pepper is very refreshing and tastes lovely. We had some very tasty chicken rolls with subtle spices and salad. The cous cous is very nice but is not served in the way I am used too so when I ordered some expecting a side portion I was surprised to receive a great mountain of the stuff with a sizable portion of vegetables and a chicken quarter! I ate well that day I can tell you! We tried steaks and beef skewers and these were also very nice. One of the steaks was cooked or marinated in bay leaves and tasted delicious. Harissa soup is also good. So yes, a fairly limited choice but all rather nice. Ooh and the The de Menthe is good too.
Anyway, after dinner we headed off for another walk and found ourselves in a long, long road with stalls selling all manner of things although nothing touristy. I was a good experience to see a "normal" market. We then found our way to the Hassan II mosque which is a very impressive building indeed.
Satisfied that we had seen everything we wanted to in Casablanca we headed off to Tangier which I quite liked. It's set on a hillside and we took a stroll up to the punic tombs from which we had a great view of the Straight of Gibralter. We then headed into the souks and I don't think we managed to get as completely lost anywhere as we did there! We knew we should head downhill but that wasn't always possible and we did see a few lanes more than once! But it was great fun and we saw a lot. We then headed back to our hotel and had a rough night with the traffic passing by and all of the fumes coming into the room so the next morning we found a hostel round the corner to stay in and moved. We didn't do a huge amount that day because Gideon had an upset stomach and mine wasn't too clever either so it was more of a rest day. That night all hell broke loose on the streets at 3am with what seemed to be every car in Tangier hooting it's horn. A riot perhaps? Nope, a wedding it transpires. This is something we heard a few times. Cars just drive around hooting their horns like mad for half and hour or so, seemingly about 3 am is the preferred hour. I assume it's the richer people that have this strange procession as part of their wedding. But once you get used to the idea it is quite sweet.
The next morning we left Tangier behind and headed to Tetouan. We dumped our bags at the CTM office ready for our coach to Chefchouan later that day and spent a few hours there. Somehow a man managed to establish himself as a guide, I still can't work out how he did it. It was quite useful though because he took us round the souk and into the tanneries and then of course we found ourselves in a carpet shop so that we could look at the view from the roof. But in fairness we didn't feel very pressurised to buy anything (although the exit seemed to have mysteriously disappeared!!) and as soon as I told the owner that we didn't want a carpet he gracefully thanked us for our visit and let us go!! The guide also to us to a lovely Riad in the hope that we would have something to eat but we just weren't hungry (we were down to an evening meal only by this point, the heat killed our appetites completely) and again there was no real pressure to stay. He eventually dropped us at the Hassan II square as agreed.
Then it was time to catch our coach to Chefchouan.......
What can I say? I loved it completely! The buildings in the Medina are painted pale blue, at least on their lower half and the effect is just gorgeous, absolutely lovely and psychologically it just feels a bit cooler surrounded by sky blue. Oh it's a wonderful little place. Go there!! We walked around for some time admiring everything and stumbled across what has to be my favourite restaurant in the whole world. It's quite new and the waiter and chef are lovely and spent an age explaining how to make The de Menthe to us (my limited French slows the conversation a little) and telling us about the restaurant and he was happy for me to take photos. We had the place to ourselves which I found amazing because the prices were the same as you would pay in some grotty little restaurant and the food was really good. But it meant that I could snap photos without bothering anyone so I was happy!
After dinner we strolled around the souks and squares which were illuminated and looked magical. We nearly skipped Chefchaoun and headed straight for Fes and I am so grateful that we didn't go with our original plan. I was looking forwards to heading out early the next morning when it was really quite and getting some more photos.
That night was horrible though because there were fleas in our beds, I could feel them landing on me and ended up with several bites. Then there was another wedding with early morning hooting followed by about half an hour of singing from the mosques and then the early morning call to prayer. It was actually quite lovely, the singing that is and it was very odd to hear it in such a quiet place. Normally I when I have heard the call to prayer there are cars tearing around or people yapping in the streets but in Chefchouan it was near total silence so I was able to enjoy the song.
Despite the poor night's sleep we did manage to get up at a reasonable hour and head out and the happily the streets were extremely quiet, probably also because it was a Friday. I managed to bag another load of photos and we found our way down to the river where people were washing clothes and carpets.
Sadly we had pre-booked our bus ticket to Fes and so had to leave. I could easily have spent more time there. So a fond and reluctand fairwell to Chefchouan and hello to Fes.
Well this time we said to hell with the expense and found a hotel with air-conditioning which turned out to be a blessing because somehow or another I caught a bad cold. Probably the sodding fleas gave it to me! The lobby of the hotel and the dining room were pretty amazing, covered in mosaic and zelij work. A touch chaotic and all set of by a whopping great chandelier, it was impressive non the less. And not bad at £37 a night for the pair of us. The next day we left our bags at the hotel and armed with our toothbrushes we headed of to Meknes for two days. The first day we went to Volubilis which is a Roman town that has become a ruin over the years, what with people nicking bits of it to build their own monuments. But you can still get a good idea of the layout and some bits are in good condition. There is an amazing amount of detail there, I'd love to have seen it when it was intact, it must have been gorgeous. There are some lovely mosaics there which have survived well, it's just a shame that they have been left to fade in the sun. All together, a place well worth a visit.
The following day we headed off to the medina and I have to say, it is an impressive place is Meknes. We visited the mausoleum of Moulay Ismail as well as the museum Dar el Jamai where our guide gave us a very entertaining narrative about the palace. The walls in these buildings really are sumptuous and must have taken an age to carve. The hareem was very grand indeed and Gideon was treated to a few smirks here!
We then went underground and visited the so called "Christian slave prisons" which probably were not cells but used for storage. I loved these, not only because they were lovely and cool but because they were so spacious and the simple arches grouped together produced so many different views. Also we had them entirely to ourselves for nearly all of our visit. And I love being underground so I got my monies worth and went down every corridor! There are vents in the roof at intervals which created lovely pools of light. I've tried to capture the lovely effect, if you can see past the haziness of the image I hope you will see how pretty it looked.
We then headed off into the souks and had a nose around. Can't say I was too keen on the butchers there, rather unpleasant smelling and stuff like goats heads on display and bits that I can't even identify. A big difference to shopping at our local supermarket.
Another thing that was really nice about this part of Meknes is the huge amount of space, it is nothing like the alleyways of the souks or the chaos of the roads in the new town.
Ooh, and I bought some amber in the spice market. If you get a chance to have a sniff do so, it has a wonderful smell and apparently lasts for years. You wrap it in cotton wool and put it in your wardrobe and your clothes will smell of it - at least this is what I have been told, I'll find out I suppose! I later bought some more amber in Fes and some musk as well which is not as sweet and so is a touch more manly. The jasmine and sandalwood are also very nice and I could smell all four despite my horrendous cold.
Our last stop was Fes again and we headed off into the souks full of trepidation. Our guidebook made it sound like carnage but in fairness the book was seven years out of date so perhaps things have changed. We found it no worse for hassle anywhere else and easy enough to navigate compared to other places, perhaps because it is sat on a steep hill which helps to maintain bearings. I did manage to have a really good haggle over some strings of beads for my mum in one shop but in another where I bought a load of ceramics it was really difficult to get the price down and I only managed to knock 50Dh off of the original price of 350Dh. But it was good fun shopping in Fes and I did buy quite a lot and literally spent my last dirham on our second day there!
We also visited the Batha museum which was a nice building but which also seemed to show a lot of wedding attire.
So on our last day it was back into the souks because unfortunately the gardens that Gideon wanted to visit were closed which is a real shame because peering through the gates, they looked fantastic. Most of the gardens that we saw in Morocco were probably nice once but they seem to have been neglected for a while but these gardens looked to be well cared for so we should like to have spent a few hours there. But the souk is a great place so we had another good old nose around. Then we headed back to the hotel to pick up our bags and to repack mine which was a bit of a mission I can tell you!
So that was our two weeks in Morocco. I'm home for a couple of days and then we head off to India next week, hopefully on Friday once Gideon finally sorts out his visa. So I expect to be posting some tiger pictures which I hope you will like and some snaps of the Himalayas which is where we plan to head to so as to try and avoid the 40 degree plus temperatures and high humidity of the monsoon season.
Take care and have fun whatever you are up to xxx