Posts Tagged ‘Morocco’

The woman who attached herself to food with a string

August 10, 2011

Part I

It made no sense to spend the night driving from Ouarzazate to Agadir, considering that we would have to go through the Tichka pass with which neither of us were familiar. Besides, Paul wanted to take pictures and I wanted one last glimpse of the desert before reaching the coast. But another night at the Ksar Ighnda was not an option, and so we packed our bags and found an older room at a riad about two miles from the center of town.

We had no set schedule. We were itinerants addicted to the unfamiliar. And as such, we had to impose customs on ourselves within the confines of our peripatetic lifestyle. Where once our children and the daily grind of work and home dictated the entire structure of our New Jersey existence, now we were living gratis. We had returned to innocence, like free-floating kids without a lick of responsibility. On this particular night, like every other, Paul took his thé à la menthe at the café or lobby alone, while I stayed back in the room to read or nap or simply linger on my own mindlessly, doing nothing, save stare at the architecture and decor of the four walls surrounding me. At 10ish, I would join him for dinner at whatever restaurant the hotel offered. But the longer I lingered in our tiny room, the more apparent it became that the Hotel Nord offered little more than a bed, a broken air conditioner, and two open windows that looked out over the N-9 in Tabounte, a noisy suburb. I was restless. And so, despite needing the order of my alone time, I decided to join Paul early.

When I arrived, he was talking with an American, a man about our age, with grayish sandy hair and a peculiar, vapid smile–the kind you might see on a glassy-eyed, cultish Jim Jones, or Claude Vorilhon. He was dressed inappropriately for tea, and too wealthy looking for a budget hotel. He was in the midst of going on and on about the company he owned, Southern Bio Technologies, LLC., which improved bean and other crop production technologies in Central and Southern Africa. I didn’t have the patience to find out what he was doing in Morocco, let alone Tabounte, so I assumed he was here on business and like us, couldn’t find a better hotel on such short notice. I remained on the periphery of the conversation. Paul was such a good listener and so, it wasn’t uncharacteristic of him to get stuck chatting with someone he had literally nothing in common with. He was a small town, county attorney—think Atticus in To Kill A Mockingbird—kindhearted and fair like Atticus too, who despite making a good living for himself and his family, had never voiced an interest in bean farming, that I know of. And yet, to his credit, he genuinely found something interesting in everyone.

But, I was burnt out on listening, or for that matter, talking. It seemed to me that most tourists were not used to the isolation of travel and so when they’d meet up with someone who spoke their language, they would incessantly ramble on about nothing— superficial, braggy stuff—where they’d been, what they owned, how they managed, “knock on wood,” to stay afloat during the economic downturn, how many kids they had in what Universities, where they were going next. If we’d mention our trip to the south of Spain, they too had been there, plus the Canaries, plus Portugal. If we mentioned we had four kids between us, two of whom were at State Universities, they had five: two in Harvard, one in Princeton, another at MIT. It got to the point where I simply didn’t care to meet or talk to anyone anymore as a method of self-preserverance. Where once a stranger was a lifeline, now he was a source of encumbrance.

Instead of socializing, I kept my head buried in a book. While in Morocco I felt as though I had no choice but to read everything by Paul Bowles, and the Spanish author Juan Goytisolo. Presently I was reading Makbara, by the latter. A chapter entitled, The Cemetery—but still catching tidbits of the American’s pontifications.

“SBT disseminates technologies to and educates thousands of bean farmers all across Africa for the purpose of transforming their subsistence farms into local, national and potentially international-selling cash crops…”

I was bored with him, until, “One of my favorite charities that SBT is involved in at the moment is assisting the little guy in his endeavor to forge a relationship with the big guy.”

“For what purpose?” I asked, placing my book on the bar. “What would the little guy want or even need from the big guy?” I already didn’t like his arrogant tone.

“So that they can buy more seeds, more readily, so as to handle the increasing demands of their crop.” He smiled.

“So basically you help make it impossible for local farmers to feed their families because suddenly they can’t afford the cost of their own crop?”

“No, my dear,” his odd smile remaining, “We are improving lives.”

Paul interjected, “my wife loves a good conspiracy.” The American laughed and invited us to his place for drinks, just across the N-9,

“I’d like you to meet my wife,” he said, looking at me in particular. “I think you’d both get along quite well.”

I assumed he meant he had a house. It’d been a while since I’d been in one and so I looked at Paul, he looked at me, and we agreed. I grabbed my book and a sweater and the three of us  headed away from the safety of hotel life into the dark, unfamiliar street.


Andalucía

April 16, 2010

So, I had to scrap the idea of going deeper into the heart of Morocco, due to time and lack of resources, but I sold the Audi and by God, I’m going to Spain this summer.

I am excited about two things: summer camp for the boys and mine and D’s voyage into the south of Spain. We’re going for two weeks, the kids and I. D will come with us for the first 10 days. And while the boys are in an intensive Spanish language summer camp for one week (all-inclusive with sports, pool, activities, crafts, flamenco classes, day trips in and around Marbella, huge buffet dinners of tortilla de patatas, jamon serrano, lomo con queso, and of course, Spanish language immersion classes), D and I will drive around the south of Spain for seven days. Aside from being extremely nervous about leaving my boys in camp for a week straight (despite my sister-in-law K praising her days as a kid in summer camp), I am looking forward to an adventure of my own, albeit a more modest one than the previous I had imagined. Oh Sheltering Sky! I must wait a little longer for you.

Here’s the itinerary:

Day 1
MADRID
Compostela Suites
This was the only hotel that slept two adults and two kids for a decent amount of money (90 €). I settled for clean and contemporary because Madrid is SERIOUSLY lacking in hotels with charm and old world ambience. This is one of those new long stay hotel-apartment places for business travelers and families. So, I’m not sure it will have all the amenities as a regular hotel. But it does have a pool! And it’s right by the airport, which is all we really need as we will be catching a train for the South the next morning. Hopefully worth the night. They do have a little cafeteria, but hotel breakfasts are usually overpriced. So, I think it’ll have to be  churros con chocolate and some fresh squeezed OJ on the train’s dining car instead.

  • Plaza Mayor
  • Sol
  • Plaza Santa Ana
  • Retiro

Day 2

MALAGA
Hostal Pedregalejo
Now that we’re taking the boys to the south with us to stay in the camp in Marbella, we decided to spend an extra night in Andalucia. We’ll take the train to Malaga, stay for the night, and the next morning, we’ll hit the road for Marbella. On the way from Malaga to Marbella, we’d like to stop in Mijas, one of the white villages of Spain,  for lunch.

Day 3

CÓRDOBA
Hotel Hacienda Posada de Vallina
From Marbella we will drive up to Cordoba. This will be our first night of “old world charm.” The hotel was supposedly constructed before the Mosque itself, and the builders stayed in this hotel while construction took place. Furthermore,  it is said that when Christopher Columbus stayed in Cordoba, he lived in room 204 of the hotel. I can’t even wrap my mind around that idea. For dinner, we made a reservation at El Churrasco on Calle Romero.

Day 4 and 5
GRANADA
Hotel Casa Capitel Nazari
I stayed in this lovely hotel two years ago with my boys. In fact, I’ve asked for the same room because I was so pleased with it. Hopefully, they will fulfill this request. Like the hotel in Cordoba, this one too is steeped in history. It’s an “ancient Renaissance Palace, built in 1503,” located right in the heart of the Albaicin. From our room I believe you can see the Alhambra.

Day 6, 7 and 8
VEJER de la FRONTERA
La Casa del Califa
When you click on this link, be sure to take the “virtual tour.” This hotel is amazing. It’s a collection of eight buildings, some of which have been in existence since the 10th century. There are vaults, catacombs, terraces and even an aljibe (an underground water cistern) dating from 700 AD, all of which are naturally exposed unto the design of the hotel, giving a traveler like me the chance to experience history and present day at once. For more about the history of this hotel and the region of Vejer, click aquí.

While staying in Vejer, we plan to visit Tarifa. What I like most about Tarifa are the beaches and the possible nightlife. Apparently it’s a very young, sporty town because of the wind surfing, with lots of fun restaurants, night clubs and tapas bars. And speaking of tapas bars, a must while in Tarifa is La Mandragora. I’ve read only good things about it and their menu looks divine.

  • Day trip Tangier and Asilah
  • Walking through the Town
  • Wine and Tapas

Day 8 and onward…
MARBELLA to VALLECAS
Back to Marbella to pick up the kids and head back to Madrid. Once in Madrid, we will say goodbye to D and stay on another week with my in-laws in Vallecas. The kids will be taking classes for the following week only in the morning, and then in the afternoons, we’ll have lunch with the abuelitos and then maybe go to the Retiro or the zoo. I think after all that, I’ll be ready to come home!

From Spain to Morocco…

June 22, 2009

So…my little dream may come true after all. The one I’ve had since 1991. D and I have been tossing around the idea of going to Morocco next summer. I’ll fly to Madrid with my kids to stay with my in-laws for a few weeks. D will fly over at a later date and together, we will take the trek down to Granada by train and then over into Morocco. There’s still a few holes in the plan, missing hotels etc. But basically, this is the beginning of a great adventure. Check back for updates and added plans:

Madrid – Granada – Algeciras– Tanger – Fes – Merzouga – Marrakech – Tangers – Algeciras– Madrid

Day 1
Madrid
• August 18, 2010
Hotel

Day 2
Madrid to Granada (5.5 hours, train)
• August 19, 2010 

Hotel Casa Morisca Cuesta de la Victoria, 9
18010 – Granada España
tel. +34 958 221100 / -609 817859
fax +34 958 215796
info@hotelcasamorisca.com  — 1 double bed with sitting room and 15th. century coloured wooden ceiling and jacuzzi-bath. [Price: 198 € – 150€ ]
• Los Baños Arabes
• Flamenco show

Day 3
Granada to Algeciras (3.5 hours, bus) –
Algeciras to Tangiers (30 minutes, ferry) –
Tangiers to Fes (5 hours, train)
• August 20, 2010
Ryad Laaroussa (Green Room, 220 Euros), 3 Derb Bechara, Fes-Medina, Morocco. Tel.: +212 6 74 18 76 39
contact@riad-laaroussa.com

Day 4
Fes to Merzouga (10 hours, 4×4)
• August 21, 2010
Hôtel Kasbah Kanz Erremal | Adresse : B.P:12 Merzouga 52202- Maroc 
Tel: (00212)35578482 | Fax: (00212)35577265 | GSM: (00212)66039178 | Email: info@kanzerremal.com,

Day 5
Merzouga
• August 22, 2010
Hôtel Kasbah Kanz Erremal | Adresse : B.P:12 Merzouga 52202- Maroc 
Tel: (00212)35578482 | Fax: (00212)35577265 | GSM: (00212)66039178 | Email: info@kanzerremal.com
• Camel rides
• Pool
• Hike to desert

Day 6
Merzouga to Marrakech (12 hours, 4×4)
• August 23, 2010
Hotel Riyad el Cadi, 86/87 Derb Moulay Abdelkader
Dabachi
B.P. 101
40000 Marrakech-MédinaTel.: +212 524 378 655
Tel.: +212 524 378 098
Fax: +212 524 378 478 INFO@RIYADELCADI.COM

Day 7
Marrakech
• August 24, 2010
Hotel Riyad el Cadi, 86/87 Derb Moulay Abdelkader
Dabachi
B.P. 101
40000 Marrakech-MédinaTel.: +212 524 378 655
Tel.: +212 524 378 098
Fax: +212 524 378 478 INFO@RIYADELCADI.COM. You cannot reach this riad by car. You need to get there via a ten minute walk. Here’s a cute video on the arrival.
• Medina
• Majorelle Garden (Jardin Majorelle)
• Jemaa el Fna
• Les Bains de Marrakech
• Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret

Day 8
Marrakech to Tangiers (11 hours, train)
• August 25, 2010

• Hotel –or-
• Tangiers to Algeciras (30 minutes, ferry)
• Hotel

Day 9
Algeciras to Madrid (5.5 hours, train)
• August 26, 2010
Home/Hotel

Day 10
Madrid
• August 27, 2010

• Plaza Mayor
• Puerta del Sol

Day 11
Madrid to Philadelphia
• August 28, 2010

• Home