When writing this blog I always contemplate my approach. Generally, I am an optimistic person. I look for the positive when relaying stories or experiences from our travels. Travel life however, is much more than this. We sometimes feel spoiled and guilty when pessimistic thoughts creep in. Who wants to read negative laden content? Our trip to Morocco could easily be seen as the glass half empty rather than half full depending on how you choose to view it. In the paragraphs below I will illustrate the good thoughts versus the bad thoughts or the flip side. It is a long rant so if you are not in the mood skip to the photos below.
Several people had suggested we add Morocco to our list of countries. It would be our first visit to Africa. The timing fit and we confirmed a workaway stint at a school for 4-6 year olds and booked flights from London. We became increasingly worried as we had no response when asking for additional details for our stay. Two days prior to our departure we received a short email indicating they could no longer host us with no further explanation given. We were very disappointed as we had really looked forward to the experience of giving back to children rather than merely visiting as tourists. We debated whether we should still go to Morocco or not but decided; what the heck, we have the tickets, let's go.
Backtracking to England, we wrapped up our England/Scotland trip with a drive through the Lake District on our way back to the airport in Luton. This was a perfect way to end our ten day road trip where just about everything had gone well. No flip side.
Arriving in Luton, our first task was to fill up our rental car. The first petrol station, as they call it here, was closed for refilling. The next would not accept our Mastercard. We gave up and returned the car half empty, expecting an additional fee. On the flip side, we received great service from the rental agent and were charged the going rate and no extras fees.
Luton airport is under construction. Today's inconvenience will be beneficial for folks down the road. We get it. Airport wi-fi was okay. We picked up food at a reasonable price for our Ryan Air flight. The ticket was cheap. On the flip side you feel a bit like cattle being moved from one place to the next. Due to the airport construction, there was no seating at the gate. Line up and wait. The window seat had no window. What can you do. The flight was full. A turbulent landing in Marrakech was thrilling to say the least as the pilot slammed the 737 into the tarmac with a loud bang. I know, not his fault it was windy.
The airport in Marrakech is modern and welcoming. On the flip side if you take a bathroom break after your flight you will be at the back of the slow moving customs line. Flip side again - you do not have to wait at the luggage carousel. Our sunny destination was not so sunny. It was raining. We had booked a transfer and our driver was calm and reassuring as we headed towards our Riad (hotel).
We had read a bit about Marrakech and kind of knew what to expect. It was thrilling to drive through the narrow streets inside the walls of the Medina district. Scooters, mopeds and people everywhere. It was one of those drives where you ask yourself; what have we done, where are they taking us? When the driver finally stopped, we were greeted by our host and led down a narrow alleyway to the riad. We had stayed in a riad in Dubai and had some expectations. Our host was very talkative and we were welcomed with a pot of Moroccan mint tea. On the flip side our room was on the lower level of the riad. It was cozy but very simple. The mattress hard as a rock, only in Oman had we encountered a harder mattress. A single sheet, no kettle, no TV (not that we need one). One small window facing the courtyard.
Breakfast was included, something to look forward to. On the flip side it consists mostly of sugar coated buns, bitter strong coffee and jams. Our host tries hard, speaks a mix of French and English and his attitude makes all the difference. We found a way to incorporate oatmeal into the breakfast mix and I am a happy camper. A key travel survival ingredient. I do not fancy going more than a day or two without it.
Travelling like we do can be exotic, rewarding, fun and everything you had ever hoped and imagined it would be. However, there is a flip side. The constant need to plan ahead sometimes wrecks the whole being in the moment vibe. Trying to plan our next move. Trying to make the money stretch. Trying to balance visits with friends and family and new experiences. Di is a master of Skyscanner. Combine this with Expedia and Airbnb, she knows every trick. One of the stressors in Morocco was the uncertainty regarding our next move. We had thought we would be here for about a month for the workaway. Now we are here we were not so sure.
Our short hikes in Scotland were amazing. We will never forgot them but on the flip side we have both come down with colds. Di's cold is far worse than mine, read - chest cold, coughing like mad, interrupted sleep and rattling, catching your breath kind of cold. Between Di's coughing and a baby crying in another room I am sure everyone in the riad was cursing us.
Marrakech is an amazing place and we remind ourselves how lucky we are to be able to experience it. The markets and the souks are unlike anything we have visited thus far. The locals are friendly and smiling. The vendors in the souks are not as pushy as we have seen in other parts of the world. It has a nice laid back feel yet hectic in parts. Yes, there is a flip side. You have to adjust to some of the customs and in the first 48 hours it can be overwhelming until you get the hang it. On the main square a menu is stuck in your face at every turn by restaurant staff and street vendors. You know this will happen but if you are not in the mood it can be very annoying. It is however part of the experience and fairly easy to find another place to dine. Prices are incredible low. Down to $5 dollars for your dinner and the food is very tasty. The narrow streets are dusty, noisy and the exhaust from the scooters and mopeds leave you dizzy at times. This is cool for photos, interesting to witness and yet it takes time to adjust. In the souks we are amazed at the colourful fabrics and pottery. If our suitcases were larger we wouldn't mind a few souvenirs but we are not here to shop.
We have solved the puzzle of what to do for the next ten days until we head back to Denmark again on November 15th. We looked into our crystal ball (Skyscanner) and followed the directions. Monday we fly to Lisbon, Portugal and will spend four nights. With any luck we will meet up with Marie and Patrick, our workaway hosts from Southern France. We stayed with them for five weeks in March and it turns out they are in Lisbon on vacation. Skyscanner then suggested Rome as our next destination for another four nights. It will be a hectic wrap up to a two month whirl wind trip around non-Schengen Europe. We look forward to spending time with Emma in Copenhagen and to Mik and Courtney's visit from Canada for Christmas. Time to connect with friends and family again and to slow down a bit.
Stay tuned for a more from Morocco. I have a post with monochrome images coming up. Yesterday we visited the photography museum and today we are headed out (in the sun finally) to see the ruins and the mosque.