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The journey continues...

semi-overcast 39 °C

So to catch up, we headed to Boumaine Dades on Saturday, which is a town in the middle of massive canyons called the gorges of Dades. I guess the comparison would be the grand canyon, only the towns are at the bottom. You can see where the water used to flow and in many areas has been replaced by thousands of trees, gardens and other agriculture. The canyon rock is a reddish color so the contrast between the greenery and rock is beautiful. It isn't tourist season yet so had a very easy time getting a hotel, an one that impressed! We walk out onto our balcony to a view of canyon rock 20 meters away and it was about 300 meters tall. Also, the 4 of us were the only people staying at the hotel! The people who worked there were incredibly nice (like every other Moroccan) and after a friend of Taoufik's took us for a tour, we sat down to yet another fantastic meal of BBQ chicken, fries, salad, and fruit for dessert. That night, the boys sat out on the balcony with some drinks and I crashed ad I was exhausted!

The next morning we woke up and jumped in the car to start the 6 hour drive to Marrakech. It was a beautiful yet very windy drive (caused a little motion sickness). It's strange to drive so long seeing nothing, then it seems like out of nowhere a new town appears that's been there for hundreds of years. Definitely makes you think about how people live and what their culture is like! We stopped for lunch in a town and when we were leaving, I saw a boy about 8 years old sitting in a chair who waved at me, he was adorable... Just seemed so genuinely nice and when we were pulling away from the curb, he put his hand on his heart and extended it towards me, I almost cried and wanted to take him with us! That image will stick with me for sure...

We are now in Marrakech! It was 39 degrees today. Yes. 39 degrees. We got here 2 nights ago, toured around the city the first night, then yesterday we drove 2 hours to a town on the coast called Essaouira which has a lot of Portugese influence. It's right on the Atlantic ocean so they are known for their seafood, which of course we indulged in. Fresh shrimp, calamari, sardines, and other fish we couldn't translate into English, delicious! After that we walked around to see the ancient part of the city and the markets, then headed back to Marrakech for the night. All of us were tired so we got Pizza Hut and crashed at our apartment for the night. Oh! Forgot to mention, Taoufik's parents are paying for us to stay in Marrakech as a present, they have been so good to us, as have Taoufik and Medhi!

Today we got up and headed to an ancient garden, La Menara, which us still functioning. It's full of olive trees but originally the gardens were built in the 1200's by the king at the time and he built a massive irrigation system which is still functioning today for olive production. Apparently this system is considered very advanced, amazing to see! Then we went to another garden that Yves Saint Laurent had a lot of influence over (YSL had a home here) and it was breathtaking and also a welcomed break from the extreme heat. Us poor Canadians... We were sweaty up a storm while most people had pants on, and some even sweaters and/or jackets! Ah!

Now we are back at the apartment and are heading to one of the biggest open air markets in the world, which is here in Marrakech! So excited! Tomorrow we take off to head back to Rabat for the last few days before D and I take off again. I will be able to upload pictures at Taoufik's so stay tuned!

Laurie

Posted by lcmichael 10:32 Archived in Morocco Comments (2)

Rock the Kasbah

Our travels through Morocco

sunny 30 °C

Well, I apologize for not writing more in the past few days but apparently the Internet connection in the Sahara desert is not ideal, although believe it or not, we got some connection on Taoufik's IPad! I've got to make these entries more common so no one has to read a book every time I write!

These past few days have been incredible... Words can't really describe the things that we have seen or done. I've taken lots of pictures but even those can't quite do the experiences the justice they deserve. I can sure try though!

So we left early Friday morning and started out on the 10 hour journey to the edge of the Sahara desert to a town called Merzoega. Taoufik didn't tell us where we were staying so we assumed in tents - we were sorely mistaken! We got to a town about half hour from the desert and this man who works at the hotel took us there in his car. (it seems all Moroccans know each other here, doesn't seem to matter where you are in the country, they are so friendly to each other and greet each other as though they've known each other their whole lives. It reminds me of PEI a bit that way!) well this hotel... Amazing...

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 151

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 151

We are driving across the desert to see a village at the base of these massive sand dunes. The closer we get, the more the ground transitions from rocks and hard clay to sand... Really fine powder like sand.

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 163

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 163

We get settled in our rooms and Derek and I go to explore this hotel, it's almost sunset so the views are amazing! Then we meet up with Taoufik and Medhi to sit on the front patio and then make our way to the first dune where a table and chairs are set up. It's so strange looking out over sand dunes - you expect there to be an ocean just beyond the dune you can see but there is definitely no water! Just thousands of kilometers of desert... Then I fall backwards down the dune off my chair. Really made the moment. Hah.

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 171

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 171

Dinner that night was, yet again, incredible. There was a woman around 60 years old at the table next to us, we found out later she's from Australia and had been at the hotel for a month already! Doing some soul searching possibly? We finished dinner and took our wine to the dunes, back to the table and sat under the stars while locals came to play hand drums at the hotel (I called a few people and they got to hear it in the background). Taoufik and Medhi went down to the hotel to hang out while D and I stayed lying on the dunes, just taking this new reality in! Then it was off to bed.

The next morning we have breakfast and go into the closest town to hang there until we are ready to venture into the desert for the night - by camel! There was a cool store with tons of Moroccan decor (Tracy, I may have bought you something there for your house!), and then ate a local specialty of this pizza-like dish, but had a crust on the bottom and top. Inside was ground beef, onions and spices, so good! Tasted like my Sittie's mini pizzas she makes with onions, ground beef and a spice mixture called zatar (sp?). The similarities between Moroccan food and Lebanese is neat to see!

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 223

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 223



So we buy head wraps for the desert before taking off. These are literally the best invention for the desert or any really hot weather. I now understand why they wear them! The scorching sun and blowing sand can really do a number on you... Then it's back to the hotel and what's outside? Camels! Ah! We get our things for the night and go jump on a camel, they are huge! When they stand up it feels like you are going to face plant but luckily no embarrassing moment for any of us.

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 238

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 238

Medhi is on the last camel in our group and we nicknamed his camel "lazy eyes" because he seemed a little slow... Plus his eyes were crazy! Probably why he was last in line... Poor camel! We start on our venture an hour into the desert... Wow. I've never done anything like this before... Some dunes are 500 meters high! And we are surrounded!

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 260

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 260

We get to our camp site for the night and climb a 300 meter dune to watch the sun setting, took us about half hour to climb and I thought I was going to die I was so tired! We hung there for a while and then slid down the steep side right to our camp, so cool! Then we sat around with the other travelers from Poland and Czech Republic, had dinner which was a puree vegetable soup with couscous in it and a massive dish of roasted vegetables and chicken. Moroccans usually eat from the same dish with their hands so I was loving it!

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 303

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 303

The rest of the evening consisted of awkward english translations of jokes by the Czech and Moroccan guys... We learned translating jokes into another language leads to misinterpretation, a lot of explaining, and in conclusion should not be done unless very fluent in the language!

The 4 of us opted to sleep under the stars that night, which was cool but resulted in minimal sleep, which was fine though! I'd do it again in a second. The next morning we woke up, hopped on our camels and went back to the hotel to wash up and eat breakfast to get ready to take off to the next destination, Boumaine Dades.

That is for another post though! In Marrakech right now and are currently driving to a coastal town, Essaouira.

Will write more soon!

Laurie

Posted by lcmichael 04:19 Archived in Morocco Comments (1)

Expect Warm Weather

We are in Morocco!

sunny 25 °C

If you ever have the chance to come to Morocco with someone from this country, DO IT!

First I will recap the last few days. We headed out on Monday to Rotterdam and The Hague - it was so cool. Rotterdam is a really neat city with a lot going on, we ate Indonesian food in this restaurant overlooking a busy part of town and loved every minute of the food and people watching. We didn't stay long because we wanted as much time as possible in The Hague so we jumped on a train and headed there for the next 4 hours. It is a gorgeous city with lots of old and modern architecture which mesh really well together, the brick streets are windy and narrow in the older parts with tons of cafes and shopping, and of course all the government buildings like the judicial courts, etc. We wandered for the afternoon, got a Turkish donair, sat in a park, then caught a train back to Breda and a bus close to Miriam and Jurgen's house. The rest of the night consisted of me uploading tons of pictures and all of us watching tv, then packing our bags to take off the next day!

So we made it to Morocco yesterday - Taoufik and 2 of his friends drove the 3 hours from Rabat to get us in Tangier! So great to see Taoufik! We drove back to Rabat and got to Taoufik's house where his mother had prepared an amazing dinner of pureed vegetable soup with shrimp in it, beef, shrimp in a tomato sauce, lots of bread (they eat it every meal), all kinds of cheese, fruit, yogurt... Talking about it makes me full! Here they eat breakfast at 9 or 10 am, lunch at 1 pm, dinner at 6 pm and another meal at 9 or 10 pm. We are learning quickly to take small portions if possible! Derek and I crashed after the late meal and woke up to a huge breakfast spread of crepes, another type of crepe which is like a pastry, cheese, bread, breakfast cakes, fresh squeezed orange juice, Moroccan coffee, and different sauces for the crepes (melted butter mixed with honey was my favorite!). Also, it's traditional here to put sauce on your crepe, roll it up and eat it with your hands - not arguing that!

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 008

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 008


Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 031

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 031


Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 036

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 036


Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 056

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 056

After the gigantic breakfast, Taoufik and his friend took us on a tour of the city. It is BEAUTIFUL here... Right on the Atlantic ocean too. We saw fortresses, tombs of prior kings, the beach... Wow! It reminds me a little of what Greece would look like or some parts of Spain... White buildings, some with blue accents, amazing. I can't put pictures up because Taoufik has an IPad so will happen when we get to S.E. Asia.

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 072

Lauries pictures Morocco 2011 072

We got back from our day and Taoufik's mother had prepared another feast of a huge salad (eggs, lettuce, beets, carrots, rice, potatoes, beans, tuna) and a massive fish which she stuffed with rice, green olives and spices. So we ate the fish right off the bones! The head was still on and had these huge teeth that looked like they could do some harm. Needless to say... Yet another amazing meal... Now I am lazing on the bed trying to digest for the next meal at 9 pm... Ah! Derek and Taoufik went for a beer together so I guess that's their way of digesting!

Also, Taoufik surprised us last night with big travel plans for the next week. We are leaving tomorrow to travel for 6 days around the country! And guess where we will be this time tomorrow... Sleeping in the desert for the next 3 nights - doing camel treks, 4 wheeling through the sand dunes, so excited! This place is about 12 hours away so we are leaving at 6 am, ugh... But I can't wait!

Will have Internet as we go!

Until next time,

Laurie

Posted by lcmichael 11:16 Archived in Morocco Comments (1)

Pass the dutchie... to Belgium.

sunny 20 °C

Laurie and Derek

Laurie and Derek

Day 4 in Holland and it's been so much fun! Saturday we went to celebrate Queen's Day (Koninginnedag) in Amsterdam with Miriam and Jurgen and it was crazy. We took the bus from their house to the train station in Breda (said like Braida)There were 800,000 people in the city and this national holiday is celebrated all over the country so there were many more people elsewhere. We dressed up in orange (the national color) and ate, drank (I need to start liking beer - a vodka and 7up was about $10 Canadian!) and walked around the whole day. There was SO much garbage on the streets though, I guess the city excuses this day for keeping the streets clean and lets people do whatever they want! I would not like to be cleaning that up today... gross! At around 7pm we caught the train back to the Breda station and got home around 10pm, ate bbq'd hot dogs, drank sangria and went to bed. Great ending to an amazing day.

Today we woke up and Miriam and Jurgen took us to Brugge (northern Belgium) for the day. Oh my goodness. It was absolutely gorgeous there. Such a beautiful city. We did all the cliched Belguim things - had a beer (they have over 760 kinds in Belgium!), ate fries with mayonnaise, and had a chocolate waffle (it really is as good as they say). Then we went on a canal tour and were blown away by the history there... buildings which are 1000 years old... traditions which still go on today... I always find it pretty overwhelming to imagine how old some parts of the world are when Canada is really just a baby!

We just got home, stocked up with Belgium beer (I am loving the flavored beer - and my family and friends will love the fact that I finished my first ever beer today!) and are going to laze around, have some drinks and snacks and watch Modern Family (thinking of you Tracy!).

Tomorrow Derek and I are planning on going to Rotterdam and Den Haag (or as us English say it, the Hague - where Derek's father was born) and are going to explore. We're looking forward to see the area where the Bondt family came from, it's always important to know your roots and where you come from! Then on Tuesday we're leaving in the morning to check out Brussels before we leave for Morocco. Then we will fly into Tangier where our friend Taoufik is picking us up and we will head back to his hometown, Rabat. There are some issues further south with terrorism but I am keeping a close eye on travel advisories by the Canadian Government and at this point, we're still ok to travel there! (Don't worry mom and dad!)

Will write more soon and hoping to get some pictures up tonight or tomorrow so keep an eye out.

Laurie

Posted by lcmichael 12:15 Archived in Netherlands Comments (1)

The Dutch Chronical

We're in Holland!

sunny

Well, we made it to Holland last night about 10pm their time. Such an easy trip so far. Flew from Charlottetown - Halifax - London - Frankfurt and then caught the train and transfered about 3 times before we made it to Breda, Holland. The train going through Germany was so beautiful... so happy with our decision to buy a Eurail pass! Miriam (Derek's aunt) picked us up and we came back to their home about 10kms away. Had some coffee/tea and then Derek and I pretty much blacked out for the next 12 hours, woke up at 12:30pm today! Now we were just having another coffee/tea and heading to see a castle. Tomorrow we will be going to Amsterdam for Queen's Day (a national holiday - like Canada Day)!

Write more soon!

Laurie

Posted by lcmichael 04:49 Archived in Netherlands Comments (1)

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