Monday, July 23, 2007

Spain and Morocco so far!

We arrived in Barcelona and after taking the bus to Bacelona and then the metro to our hostel and not really having any problems Spain started out very good! Barcelona is by far my favourite city...I LOVED it there, it has this crazy energy and the whole city feels so alive and it combines all the best bits of life, a beautiful beach, amazing architecture, friendly people, good food, great bars, street music, great weather and SANGRIA! We had a great time wandering the streets looking at all of Gaudi's creations, people watching on Las Ramblas and boy did we see a lot - street performers, old, naked, completely tattooed men, markets full of every fruit, vegetable and animal you can think of, and many people sipping giant glasses of Sangria at the sidewalk cafes. We also we in town for the Jazz festival and got to see a great show in a cool little jazz bar, ate our first tapas and wandered aimlessly. After we left Barcelona we headed to Valencia a little farther south along the coast, where the 32 America's Cup sailing race was taking place, so after one day of seeing the sights, which actually turned into sleeping in the park cause it was 42 degrees outside and too hot to do anything - our first SIESTA - we spent the next day watching the race, which we didn't think could be that exciting but it actually was, we had great seats in front of a giant screen and it was a very close race that New Zealand pulled out! After Valencia we took an overnight train to Granada where Denis's cousin Annabelle was waiting with breakfast for us! Annabelle was awesome, she is a great cook and showed us around Granada which has Moorish roots as it was once ruled by the Arabs. There is a beautiful palace there, the Alhambra it has beautiful architecture, amazing views and even more pretty gardens. We also took a day trip with Annabelle to a small town a couple of hours outside of Granada with cave houses and a gorgeous chapel. We then went to a small city called Ronda, which was full of tourist by day but very peaceful at night. There is an amazing bridge which connects the two parts of Ronda separated by the gorge that runs through the city. It also has one of the oldest bull rings in Spain and though we missed the bull fight festival here we toured the ring and the museum. It was a great place to relax and watch the sunset for a couple of days. We met up with a friend of Annabelle's, Rashida and Chris, who let us stay with them for a few days in Seville. Rashida and Chris took us to lots of cool local places for food and drinks and even showed us a bar where you have your own beer tap on your table so you get to refill your own glass as you eat tapas! We also went to see a bull fight which was an experience although perhaps not one that you need to see more than once. We also toured the sights in Seville but everyday it was over 40 degrees so it was more about the night life! Next we were off to Salamanca expecting to hang out in a cool, quirky university town but it was really touristy, maybe because university was just finishing, we did however stumble upon many weddings and got to witness a traditional wedding dance and found a jazz show in a square that was really good! We then travelled to San Sebastion, the famous beach town, for what we planned as a beach day before our Running with the Bulls, but the weather had different plans and it was rainy and cold all morning and just plain cold during the rest of the day. So we packed up and headed to Pamplona for the craziness that is the San Fermin festival. We put on our white clothes, bought our required belt and bandanna and were ready. We were there in time to catch the parade that happens after the bull fight where all the spectators come into the ring and then parade out singing their songs and dancing away. But it really is an utter drunk festival, the whole city was full of garbage and smelt of alcohol while everyone partied all night before they attempted to run with the bulls. Although Denis and I drank a bottle of wine, watched the craziness and then walked around trying to find a spot warm enough to sleep fr a few hours before we had to take our positions, mine as a spectator and Denis's as a runner. He ran, and didn't get injured, except for a few scrapes and bruises from colliding with people and walls. The best part is in the bull ring after all the bulls have made it in, they let one bull out at a time, in what seems like bull-revenge time, because mostly the bull just tosses people that are too slow or too stupid to get out of its way. We headed to Barcelona that night to catch our plane to Marrekesh!

From the moment we landed in Morocco you could tell it was different from anywhere we had been so far. It was hot, though we were thankful for this after being cold for the last three days in northern Spain. The bus from the airport to the central square, Djemaa-el-Fna, was full of sights I'd never seen before and more mobilettes (bicycles/scooters) than anywhere! Everyone was carrying something on their bike, fruit, piles of things, stacked flats of eggs, anything and everything - it was crazy! We got to the square, found our hotel which was a little pricey but was very quiet and on a very interesting street and was a splurge well worth it. We went to explore the markets which are a huge maze, saw many crazy things like the dentist on the street who has piles of teeth on a little desk in front of him, and that night we experienced all the magic of the square, storytellers, musicians, monkeys and snake charmers although we quickly learnt that Marrekesh is for the entertainment of the Moroccan tourists and not so much for the foreign ones. We ate at the food stalls that magical appear around dinner time and disappear before morning, had our laundry done (very exciting) and watch the magic from roof top terraces while sipping mint tea. We spent the next day walking around the city only to discover that it was 50 degrees and promptly went back to the hotel to have a cold shower and siesta. We then went on a tour to the desert. We spent a day in a van, stopping to take pictures of the berber villages that look like they are just carved out of the sand, and finally arrived in Zagora to board our camels for a two hour ride to our desert camp. The ride was not so comfortable but it was an experience, the camp was great, the food was great and the guides we had played some traditional music and sang for us under the stars. The next day we had breakfast of mint tea, fresh cream, jam and bread and then boarded our camels and bus back to Marrekesh. We left the next day to Essaoura. We spent two nights here exploring the port and the beach which is very nice but EXTREMELY windy. There are cool sand dunes at the far end of the beach and we walked out to them but then the wind picked up and the walk back was a little less pleasant. The city is very interesting, lots of little alleyways full of shops and the Portuguese harbour. Next we went to the city where Denis's mom was born, El-Jadida. It was our favourite place so far in Morocco. We really just felt like everyone else. There weren't many foreigners but there was a great street vibe and we tried all sorts of food for 1 dirham (about 10 cents). I also got my hands hennaed and it was very interesting watching the lady paint so quickly and intricately. We spent the next day on the beach and then headed to Casablanca. There is a beautiful mosque here, but not much else, it is just a big city, so we left the next day for Rabat. In Rabat, we stayed at the youth hostel which was very nice and friendly. We walked through the markets, went to the Tour de Hassan II which was suppose to be the largest minaret in the world but he died before it was completed so it is just unfinished, we also saw the Royal Palace and an ancient Roman ruins site. We are now in Meknes, then we will visit Fes, Chefchaouen, Tangier and then go back to France for our last week and a half before we go back home!

Hope everyone is well...let us know what is new!

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