Casablanca – Day 2

Day Two in Casablanca – May 7, 2017

Our stay in the alternate hotel turned out to be good. The room was comfortable and only around the corner from the hotel we thought we had reserved. After packing up and taking our bags to the hotel, we contracted with a private taxi driver to be ale us around for a three hour tour of the city.

We went to a former old fort, which MuMu (our driver) said was famous. Then, we went to Rick’s Cafe. It was the recreated cafe from the movie, Casablanca, although the movie was filmed in Burbank, CA! Everyone wants to go there, but the menu is very pricey and the offerings not exactly authentic. So, bye, bye…

Our next stop was the Hassan II Mosque. Many streets were blocked off due to a 10k race this morning. We arrived to see quite an impressive structure. It sits right on the water and, supposedly, the floor is made of glass, so you can see the water below. We were not able to go inside, so we wandered around the building and grounds. It is quite beautiful and serene.

MuMu then took us to La Corniche, the beach front nearby. The private part is consumed by the Four Seasons Hotel and others like it. There is no beach per se, just a swimming pool and restaurants by the rocks and water. Further down, there is a public beach, with sand and a huge McDonalds. I can’t say that it was warm enough to go into the water, but there were a few brave souls getting wet.

Next, we went to the New Medina, which supposedly has more authentic Moroccan items than the Old Medina, where most things are made in China. We really didn’t see much of a difference. The only thing worth buying was a small bottle of Argan oil, a wonderful treatment for skin, nails and hair. The idea of schlepping more than that was unappealing.

Now we get to the good part… We met our tour guide and checked into our room. The building is very Moroccan and once we got to our room, I started laughing until I almost cried. Check out the pictures! Jim looks at home with the flounces, don’t you think?

We had our “Meet and Greet” at 6:00. We are a group of 13, five from Canada, four from Australia, one from Bahrain (but is from Hungary) and one from England, plus us. It should be a fun group. We then went to dinner together at a large restaurant, where we enjoyed getting to know each other. Aziz, our guide, is a sweetheart and has been doing this for a little over three years. He supports his parents, who live on a farm in the Atlas Mountains. They are Berber and are the native people of Morocco. Now, ready for bed, in our flouncy room…

We leave at 7:45 AM for the start of our adventure. More to come.

Madrid to Casablanca

From Madrid to Casablanca… – May 6, 2017

We arrived in Madrid early on May 5 and went to our hotel near the airport. We purposely decided that it made sense to be nearby, since we were flying out to Casablanca early on May 6. After a little rest, off we went via Metro closer to downtown. Since my jacket evaporated at the Guadalajara airport, it was time to find a light weight, inexpensive jacket for me, just in case. If I didn’t have one, I probably would need it. If I did have one, the likelihood is that I would never wear it. So, a stop at a local department store (you will hear more about it later) and I found just the thing for the rest of the trip.

There were lots of interesting kiosks nearby, stocked with some very unusual items. There was a kiosk that had a plethora of travel purses, always difficult to find without spending a lot of money. Here, they had cross-body bags, backpacks and a variety of others in lots of colors and only $15 Euros (or about $15 US). I should have bought a dozen (??), but instead just bought one. I thought that we might be able to return here on our way home, when we had another night at the same hotel, but it didn’t work out that way.

We returned to our hotel and stopped at one of the local tapas restaurants that looked so inviting. The food was great, the beer and service were amazing and since we were there earlier than the typical Spaniards eat dinner, we had the place to ourselves. They make their own beer and we had our first opportunity to sample Iberian ham and other unique tapas.

Back to our hotel to get a good night’s sleep before heading out to the airport for Casablanca. We got up early for breakfast and took the hotel shuttle to the Madrid airport. So easy, particularly when compared to the hour and a half it takes to check in with Volaris. Twenty minutes later, we were in the terminal and at our gate. It was amazing to see all the high end shops and restaurants. An easy 1-1/2 hours after departing, we were in Casablanca, and the difference was palpable. By the way, there were lots of Americans on the plane, taking similar tours of Morocco. We will see them at our various stops, most likely.

The Casablanca airport is bare bones. The thirty minute plus taxi ride revealed lots of open, flat land, with many apartment buildings in the works. I guess that civilization is creeping toward the airport, as it does everywhere.

Once at our confirmed hotel, we were told that we had no right room and the hotel was full. Swell! The doorman made some phone calls and he dragged our bags to another hotel around the corner. Somehow, our reservation for tomorrow night is okay, meaning a move again. No problem.

We slept okay, but jet lag crept in occasionally and I woke up wondering what to do when it was seven hours earlier body time! We were a little lazy today and finally got out and about at 1:00. We stopped at a little dive for some chicken brochettes and salad. Not great, but not bad, either.

We meandered to the Old Medina, the large market nearby. If you are looking for decorative caftans, slippers fit for a genie on a magic carpet (and lots of carpets, too), plus lots of leather, both in apparel and handbags, jewelry and so much more, you have found them. The folks are hustlers and will lower the prices until you relent. We were strong, so the only dent in my wallet was a pair of sunglasses. By the way, there are many levels of Muslim observance here. The women range from wearing head scarves and caftans, to only head scarves, to total Western attire. The men also range in dress. Very interesting.

We moved into Phase Two and after a quick clean up, went to the rooftop bar recommended, to get the full view of Casablanca. Normally, you would be there for the transition from day to night, but we decided to have a late dinner at Restaurant Zayna, a traditional Moroccan restaurant, specializing in couscous, salads and tagines. It was in an interesting neighborhood. Not touristy at all. And they shared the joy of cohetes (rocket fireworks) with us, so we didn’t feel like we were missing anything!

Breakfast in the morning, then off to see more sights. Good night!

From Madrid to Casablanca…

We arrived in Madrid early on May 5 and went to our hotel near the airport. We purposely decided that it made sense to be nearby, since we were flying out to Casablanca early on May 6. After a little rest, off we went via Metro closer to downtown. Since my jacket evaporated at the Guadalajara Airport, it was time to find a light weight, inexpensive jacket for me, just in case. If I didn’t have one, I probably would need it. If I did have one, the likelihood is that I would never wear it. So, a stop at the local department store, El Corte Ingl├ęs (you will hear more about it later) and I found just the thing for the rest of the trip.

There were lots of interesting kiosks nearby, stocked with some very unusual items. One kiosk had a plethora of travel purses, always difficult to find without spending a lot of money. Here, they had cross-body bags, backpacks and a variety of others styles in lots of colors and only $15 Euros (or about $15 US). I should have bought a dozen (??), but instead just bought one. I thought that we might be able to return here on our way home, when we had another night at the same hotel, but it didn’t work out that way.

Making beer
Tapas of the day

We returned to our hotel and stopped at one of the local tapas restaurants that looked so inviting. The food was great, the beer and service were amazing and since we were there earlier than the typical Spaniards eat dinner, we had the place to ourselves. They make their own beer and we had our first opportunity to sample Iberian ham and other unique tapas.

Tomato and cheese toast
Caramelized onion & cheese

Back to our hotel to get a good night’s sleep before heading out to the airport for Casablanca. We got up early for breakfast and took the hotel shuttle to the Madrid airport. So easy, particularly when compared to the hour and a half it takes to check in with Volaris. Twenty minutes later, we were in the terminal and at our gate. It was amazing to see all the high end shops and restaurants. An easy 1-1/2 hours after departing, we were in Casablanca, and the difference was palpable. By the way, there were lots of Americans on the plane, taking similar tours of Morocco. We will see them at our various stops, most likely.

The Casablanca airport is bare bones. The thirty minute plus taxi ride revealed lots of open, flat land, with many apartment buildings in the works. I guess that civilization is creeping toward the airport, as it does everywhere.

Once at our confirmed hotel, we were told that we didn’t have a room, despite our confirmation from Expedia, and that the hotel was full. Swell! The doorman made some phone calls and he dragged our bags to another hotel around the corner. Somehow, our reservation for tomorrow night is okay, meaning a move again. No problem.

We slept okay, but jet lag crept in occasionally and I woke up wondering what to do when it was seven hours earlier body time! We were a little lazy today and finally got out and about at 1:00. We stopped at a little dive for some chicken brochettes and salad. Not great, but not bad, either.

We meandered to the Old Medina, the large market nearby. If you are looking for decorative caftans, slippers fit for a genie on a magic carpet (and lots of carpets, too), plus lots of leather, both in apparel and handbags, jewelry and so much more, you have found them. The folks are hustlers and will lower the prices until you relent. We were strong, so the only dent in my wallet was a pair of sunglasses. By the way, there are many levels of Muslim observance here. The women range from wearing head scarves and caftans, to only head scarves, to total Western attire. The men also range in dress. Very interesting.

We moved into Phase Two and after a quick clean up, went to the rooftop bar recommended, to get the full view of Casablanca. Normally, you would be there for the transition from day to night, but we decided to have a late dinner at Restaurant Zayna, a traditional Moroccan restaurant, specializing in couscous, salads and tagines. It was in an interesting neighborhood. Not touristy at all. And they shared the joy of cohetes (rocket fireworks) with us, so we didn’t feel like we were missing anything!

Breakfast in the morning, then off to see more sights. Good night!

 

Getting ready for our trip to Spain and Morocco – May 3

Leaving Ajijic is always difficult, because we love it here so much. However, May is the hottest month, which is still better than most places in the world. Even at its worst, it is only in the low 90’s, low humidity, but sunny every day. When the rainy season starts in mid-June, it cools down and rains at night, so the days are glorious.

Many full-timers here go away in May, to avoid both the heat and the noise of the cohetes (rockets) that are set off for several Mexican holidays in May. We live a little outside of the village of Ajijic, so we don’t hear them as much. I have lived in El Centro for most of my almost 13 years and believe me, the noise is something you don’t acclimate to easily.

Jim has lived in Ajijic for less than a year and loves it even more than I do. This trip is a wonderful opportunity for us to share an adventure. Off to Miami first, then on to Madrid later in the day, arriving the next day. Once we arrive, we immediately go to Casablanca to begin our Moroccan portion of the trip, but we will be returning on May 15 for five days to really enjoy the sights, sounds and people of Madrid. You will be able to follow us on this trip as I catalog the amazing places we hope to visit.

Although we are two weeks away from leaving, today we went through all the travel bottles of shampoo and body lotion and hair products. Oy vey! Time to simplify and throw away the half-filled ones we won’t use. We tried the blow up neck pillows and noticed that I have a multitude of shoe bags and packing envelopes. Good thing! I love using those things, because you just put tops in one envelope, bottoms in another, and when you arrive, you take them out and stick them into a drawer or the closet. Easy, peasy!

Checking on meds, like pills for diarrhea or maybe a head cold, make travel easier than trying to find them while away. And, deciding what extras to take, like a dual voltage hair dryer, may be unnecessary. Still, it is better than chancing that there won’t be one available, especially in Morocco. Of course, I will need my magnifying mirror, that’s for sure! You can bet that none of the hotels will have one. I even checked Pinterest for all the light packing blogs. Wearing the same things over and over is no problem. However, I still don’t see the reasoning for packing only what will fit into a carry-on bag! Check that puppy!!!

Starting my blog earlier than the actual trip itself may be helpful for some of you contemplating a big trip soon. The planning and organizing are the most difficult, but essential prior to leaving on your spectacular vacation. Maybe it will be helpful for you, as well.