Hazel and Ted's Journeys

Retired and loving to travel.
  • Day11

    Goodbye Morocco!

    September 30, 2017 in Morocco

    Had one of my famous "can't get to sleep" nights which was a pity as we were in the delightful suite and no need to get up! In the end, had about 4 hours - Sod's law! Did not get up to wave the rest of the group off therefore, as we had mostly done that last night, and Ted was also not feeling his best due to rumbling tummy syndrome. However, lucky us as we now have one last day in this delightful hotel which, as predicted by Ted, was the best of the 4 we stayed in. The ☀️ is shining and we have to make the most of it at this time of year. In addition, Ted has secured a late check out (6pm) - perfect, as we can now shower etc and have something to eat (if either of us fancy anything!) before we set off at 7. Apparently, although our transfer in from the airport was included, our transfer back is not ....... Now is perhaps the time to add a few more photos that I didn't have room for in previous footprints!Read more

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  • Day10

    The Marrakesh Express

    September 29, 2017 in Morocco

    An early start in order to get to Fes station in time for our return railway journey to Marrakesh. Again, our party had 5 1st class carriages for 6 people in each and at this stage of the holiday people were pretty sure who they did or did not want to spend the next 7 hours with! We were with our buddies, Jill and Joy, and then ended up also with Irene and Aziz (a bit like being with the teachers on a school trip!)
    Amazingly, the 7 hours did not seem too bad and we had some laughs and good conversation. The next door carriage were drinking wine (we had been asked to be discreet if anyone wanted any alcohol) and there was a flurry of excitement as the train guard asked Aziz to sort out these renegades as he is required to confiscate the 🍷🍷🍷🍷! Aziz cracked on that it was only cola - no one was fooled, let alone the guard, but peace reigned once more. Our trusty green bus was there at Marrakesh station to meet us and we transferred, once more, back to the Hotel Es Saadi.
    Most people, including us, were surprised to find they had a much better room than last time. In fact, we had a suite with 2 rooms and a large balcony overlooking the pool, 2 TVs, large platter of fresh fruit and a kitchen with Nespresso machine! Lovely and a great end to the holiday. Dinner at 8pm then it will be goodbye to the rest of the party who leave at 9 in the morning.
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  • Day9

    Imperial city of Meknes and Roman ruins

    September 28, 2017 in Morocco

    Off at 8.45 once more, pausing only at the hotel entrance to buy the photos from the "official" photographers who make their living following tourists around and snap us as we go. Bought 2 today-Ted looked too miserable in most of them 😂 Weather better today and indeed was very hot at the Roman ruins at midday as we dutifully followed our guide but first it was Meknes, which had once or twice been the capital and is thus an "imperial city". We visited the Moulay Ismael royal stables where 12000 horses were stabled and the huge granaries needed for everyone. Then another impressive gateway-the Bab El Mansour opposite a much smaller but copy of Marrakesh's main square. As said, the Roman ruins were very hot but the local guide was brilliant and we put up with the sweltering sun as we listened to his pearls of wisdom. Lunch then on the outside terrace if a hotel overlooking Volubilis but this time a platter of meats-not very appetising! We didn't get back til 5ish but had to first visit the ceramic factory. Again, lovely, good quality stuff but £120 for a fruit bowl was too much after the silver teapot and how would I get it home?! We then stopped at Carrefour right next to the hotel to buy provisions for tomorrow's 7 hour train journey back to Marrakesh. Time for a quick swim then shower and tea at the pool bar.Read more

  • Day8

    The Artisans of Fes

    September 27, 2017 in Morocco

    Fes is one of Morocco's oldest cities founded in about 809AD. The present King's wife is from Fes and, as there is yet another Royal Palace here, the King is often here. So we started off looking at the grand gateway of the Palace then followed Aziz and his two local helpers through the, at times, very narrows streets of the city. UNESCO has made it a World Heritage site and helps to fortify any crumbling buildings as structures within the Medina cannot be changed. At times we were instructed to keep well into the right or left of a street by the shout of "Ballac" or that's what it sounded like, as a laden mule would come bowling through at a fast pace and one was in danger of being flattened!! Today was all about visiting the various artisan workshops where a demonstration was given then a chance to buy the wares. First stop was in the bronze/silver metal work shop where it was revealed that 37 workers from this firm had partaken in working on the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. We were shown some beautiful plates of all sizes (to suit all purses!) and some silver teapots, the latter being subjected to a battering from a strong file to show how it would not be damaged or tarnish because it was a good quality silver (not plated!) teapot. I, of course, fell for this and bought one along with matching plate to put it on. Second up was the inside of a traditional Berber house which happened to be a carpet factory. My worst fears were confirmed when, after a demo of the most beautiful carpets, mint tea all round and an invitation to use the "facilities", no-one was up for making a purchase, unlike the flurry of sales at the metal workers. The owners of the factory and their underlings desperately tried to worm their way into our hearts, bringing out more and more carpets, thinner ones, cheaper ones etc until we were in danger of drowning in carpets and Ted and I had to make an exit to escape the embarrassment. On then to the tannery! Here we gratefully accepted a large sprig of mint to waft under our noses before climbing up about 3 floors of the leather wares shop to reach the viewing platform above the very smelly tanneries below. Thank goodness someone in the group also had a pot of Vick to help out. Then it was purses, bags, jackets, slippers, belts, or boots-whatever anyone wanted to haggle for and eventually buy or not buy. Last stop was the silk shop with a weaving demo and scarves and pashminas for sale. Some had lost the will to live by this time and were getting a little shirty when pressed by the shop owners to buy but it's all part of the culture. We had also seen the dyers street where material was being actively dyed and Aziz took us to the bakery and we all had a piece of bread. Time, at last, to go back to the bus and wend our weary way out to the pool and a spot of lunch. This "5 star" hotel is a bit hit and miss service wise so a few problems for some as about 20 people all descended on the unsuspecting pool bar staff! However, snoozettes by the pool were then in order for a couple of hours before it was time to get ready for the evening meal and show out.

    We gathered in the hotel foyer at 7.45pm and were transported to the Jewish quarter where we had started the day for our meal and evening entertainment. It was a most beautiful building inside with a stage for the "turns"! My appetite is not the best at the moment and I felt neither Ted or I did it justice really. Starter was cooked vegetable salad which was very nice and varied followed by 2 main courses, yes 2, and BOTH chicken. The first was the sweet one cooked in the thin pastry that we had in Rabat and the second was the chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons which we had also somewhere else. Dessert was fresh bananas, peaches and grapes and then some almondy biscuits. The restaurant had now filled up with Australians and other tourists although we had all the front tables. A local band played all through the meal (traditional Arabic music) then another band came on. We were particularly amused by the man who appeared to be playing a large pair of kitchen scissors and were desperate for him to do a solo but unfortunately he did not have the chance to do so! So on to the, shall we say mature, belly dancer who was very good and dragged the older men then the younger women up onto the stage to put them through their paces. Ted beat a hasty retreat (remembering his Marrakesh experience!) and watched from the back! A magician with a dove came on and did some good tricks especially with a glass of water folliwed by a younger and more scantily clad belly dancer/fire eater - equally at home with both skills it turned out. About 10.30 pm we filed out dutifully to the coach and so to bed! Alarm set for another 8.45 am start.
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  • Day7

    Lunch in Chefchaouen then on to Fes

    September 26, 2017 in Morocco

    Lunch was again a set menu with huge plates of salad followed by a tasty chicken tagine then yoghurt with nuts and honey. So many salads and vegetables are not doing our digestive systems any favours so I partook of the first course sparsely, as did a few others who are suffering in varying degrees with Moroccan "belly"! The restaurant waiters were very hardworking and eager to please and it was a typical local place serving typical local dishes. We wandered on some more through the delightful "blue" streets before the call to prayer halted Aziz's pearls of wisdom in the main square. There was only time to have 20 mins or so to ourselves to soak up the atmosphere but it was hot and we were all anxious to get to our next destination of Fes-a mere 3 and a half hours further on so .... back to the bus. We didn't arrive in Fes until past 6.30 pm so only time for a quick wash and brush up before the buffet dinner.Read more

  • Day7

    Destination Chefchaouen!

    September 26, 2017 in Morocco

    So an earlyish start to Fes but calling at The Blue City of Morocco, Chefchaouen. This is one of the most visited cities in the world apparently, said to be a cultural melting pot with blends of Jewish, Islamic, Moroccan and Spanish influences evident in the city. Two and a half hours by bus then met by a "local" guide who led us through the city ("lovely jubbly" being his favourite phrase!) but who was quickly but quietly "set aside" by Aziz who did all the talking! Didn't stop our friendly local guide from gathering in a goodly amount of tips as he said goodbye at the lunch restaurant!Read more

  • Day6

    On to Tangiers!

    September 25, 2017 in Morocco

    9am start with a 3 hour drive to Tangiers-too many delays with the train apparently! Visited the Caves of Hercules and the lighthouse at Spartel Cape on the way to lunch. This was another set meal with salad, a Moroccan chicken dish in a filo pastry case with icing sugar and cinnamon which made it sweet, followed by water melon. After this we did a walking sight seeing tour of Tangiers through the Kasbah, saw the grand banyan tree in Mendoubia Gardens and the Grand Socco. On then to the hotel which is a bit remote on top of a hill across the bay from the Port. Ted and I took our own cases up to the room instead of waiting for the porters so that we could be first out on the deserted but lovely poolside. In fact the whole hotel appears to be a little deserted! Just our group filtering out to have a swim and a sunbathe in the last dying rays.Read more

  • Day5

    Rabat

    September 24, 2017 in Morocco

    Rabat is the capital of Morocco where the Parliament sits and the King's Palace is. After a bit of a disappointing breakfast here at The Farah Hotel we set forth at 10 am for an interesting tour of the places of interest. Firstly, was the unfinished tower and mausoleum of Hassan II and Mohammed V who died in the 90s and 60s respectively. We took pictures of the guards, some on horseback and those who guard the tomb. Following this was a walk in the Medina to the Casbah down the picturesque, if fraught with dangerous potholes,
    cobbled alleyways. There are numerous cats, looking thin and scraggy, whom the locals feed. Cats are preferred to dogs as pets as they are thought to be much cleaner creatures. We had a view of the beach and river estuary with Rabat on one side and Sale on the other. The temperature was steadily climbing and there was a welcome breeze here overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Now it was time to call in at a local cafe and partake of mint tea and locally made almond biscuits which were delicious although the guy collecting the money didn't necessarily have change and didn't really feel he should give you any anyway! After this we walked past where scenes of Mission Impossible 6 and Black Hawk down were filmed and then onto the grounds of the Royal Palace. Lunch was at a local restaurant and Ted partook of the meatballs (recommended dish) and I had the less appetising chicken tagine. Return to the hotel now and free time allotted to us for good behaviour so Ted and I sat by the rooftop pool. We were soon joined by several agreeable members of the group and spent a pleasant afternoon in the sun with a swim. Dinner at the hotel's Italian restaurant tonight.
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  • Day4

    Casablanca

    September 23, 2017 in Morocco

    An early start! Cases outside the door by 7.15, breakfast, then off to the station to catch the 8.20 to Casablanca. Fabulous station building remembered from the Michael Portillo programme. Old fashioned train in compartments for 6 and into Casablanca by just after 12.30pm. Landscape on the way barren but punctuated by irrigated areas of greenery. The 3 major industries are Tourism, Agriculture and Phosphate exportation in that order. Unable to see the mounds of white phosphate as they were obscured by mist but a lot of it is on the way to Casablanca.
    Casablanca is a very modern and smart city with 5 million people. King of Saudi Arabia has his holiday home there and there are lots of very prosperous residences with swimming pools in the way to The Corniche-the promenade really-where we had our lunch at a hotel. Various types of fried fish for all with salad and fruit. We had stopped at the "heart" of the city (Mohammed V Square) with its fantastic fountains, for photos but after lunch went to visit the iconic Hassan II Mosque which is absolutely huge, built over the sea and occupies 9 hectares. We had a comprehensive tour and talk of the mosque and ablutions! Rick's cafe ( not the original!) scene if the film Casablanca was photographed from the bus then it was on to Rabat for a two night stay.
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  • Day3

    Evening at the Medina

    September 22, 2017 in Morocco

    To say I was bothered about the snakes would be an understatement! !!🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍
    However, as Irene the Tour Manager, has a similar aversion, I stuck close to her and only saw what could have been one of the little blighters from a distance whilst more robust members of the group paid good money to put them round their necks! How could they?! However, the sights, sounds and smells of the main square were fantastically Moorish, inviting, romantic and thrilling otherwise with story tellers, street hawkers, actors, Mendi painters and countless other people gathering as dusk settled. The typical Moroccan restaurant served up typically Moroccan food (with alcohol!) and both the "musician" and the belly dancer took a fancy to Ted! Back to the hotel with alarms set for an early start to Casablanca!Read more

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