Monday, December 03, 2007

At Last the Rest of Our Trip

So we left off when we were in Meknes, Meknes was beautiful, we went on a carriage ride around the city in a horse and buggy we had the opportunity to learn a little about the city where Denis's grandparents lived. We stayed in a hotel that was near the train station and while this is usually great, the town center and all the interesting bits were far away, but thankfully taxis are cheap and we made good use of them! The market was full of honey soaked delights and of course the spices, animals and fruit and veggies. After Meknes we moved on to Fes with the intentions of staying a few days, we finally found a cab, finally found our hostel and after the lady running the hostel had to chase some street kids demanding money from us off with her shoe we settled in. We found a licensed guide and went for a tour. THE thing to see in Fes is the tanneries and while they STANK, they were incredible. Although its free to visit - you are somewhat expected to buy after you look and while we had no intention since everything in those shops is WAY overpriced the man was not very happy and somewhat intimidating, we managed to leave without anything and went on to a textile co-operative which was much more inviting and less much less scary. It is amazing how they weave such beautiful pieces so quickly and so accurately, after trying traditional weaving in Japan I know how difficult it is and they were fast. We then took a walk up this hill that gave a beautiful view of the city, and it took us awhile to figure out what the plumes of black smoke were that dotted the whole city, we finally figured they were the pottery fires. But Fes was a little pushy, a little too in your face for us so we boarded a bus and left for Chefchaouen where we found a great hostel that was cheap and clean and nice and it was just what we were looking for. A serene place in the middle of nowhere, everyone is really relaxed except the guys trying to sell you hashish, weed, marijuana, 'smokes' - whatever they called it we weren't interested since I had read that some of the drug sellers were also police informants. Marijuana is under a Kings pardon and is legally grown in Chefchaouen, it is also legal for Moroccans to enjoy it but it is VERY illegal for foreigners although that is what they had been going there for for years! We did indulge in a hike through the fields, got very lost, wound up running down a very steep hillside covered in bushes and no paths and had to walk back to the was a much longer walk than we expected and we ran out of water...but you might think that getting lost in marijuana fields would be dangerous but everyone was very friendly and not the least bit concerned with us wondering through their fields of mary jane. The city is just beautiful, very clean and very white. They don't speak much french in this part of Morocco, more spanish but we met a very interesting business man who explained the natural medicinal plants good for all kinds of things from colds, to diarrhea, to "jiggy-jiggy" and showed us many rugs that are made by the berber women in the hills, we bought two rugs, they were just beautiful and he was hilarious. He told us all about his family and his wife and son, he loved to tell us how perfect we were - "not too fat, not too skinny, just right" and then kiss us on the head! He was so happy and so interesting, he had us dress in the traditional clothing and took pictures of us with our camera, offered us cup after cup of mint tea and we took a picture with him. It was a very memorable experience. We left Chefchaouen and went to Tangier so that we could board a bus for the 26 hour trip to France. We had heard all the stories of Tangier and upon arriving there and taking a taxi which screwed us, we found a hostel that wasn't disgusting, some places were charging more than we had paid anywhere for a bed but these places had shared bathrooms and and well I wouldn't have taken my shoes off there let alone my after some looking we found a place that was acceptable. We found a great local place and ate dinner there and bargained for a pair of sunglasses to replace my broken ones, ate some figs, and went to bed early since we had to be at the port at 4am...BAD IDEA. Tangier is scary at night. Luck was with us and some guy offered to take us to the port, more like he told us he was taking us cause it was dangerous and what were we going to do but trust we went down a shady alley, down some stairs past some gangs of men and to the port, although I'm sure my heart was about to burst we made it, gave him all the Moroccan money we had left which was around 2 euros and everyone was happy! We got in the most ridiculous line to get through customs and to make a long story short Moroccans are not good at waiting in line, they like to push and shove and cut in anywhere they can. But we finally made it onto the boat, after having to wait in line again to get off with the same results as the line in customs we got to the buses and the bus ride was not so bad.

We got off the bus in Bayonne, where a festival similar to the running of the bulls was happening so it was a little crazy there, we had some breakfast, and got on the next train to Orthez where Denis's aunt Biellou picked us up! We had a great time with Biellou, Francois, Vincent, and Robin. We also got to see to Raphael for a little bit which was really neat cause I had met Raphael when he came to Canada 9 years ago. We visited Lourdes for a day, drank the Holy Water that heals all that ails you and drove around rural southern France stopping at little towns to explore their treasures and stop for cafe or wine. We played boulle, ate great food, drank aperitifs and lots of wine and really enjoyed the company of family. Then we were off to Bordeaux to couchsurf with Sebastion. He was great with a great apartment in this old building, four flights up and with two adorable little kittens. He invited us out for drinks with his friends who all spoke english very well. The next day we walked around the old city streets and along the water, took a rest in the huge park in the middle of the city. We had plans to go to one of his friends house for a birthday party and had a great time, learned a new game of Werewolf, but had a not so good surprise when we got home. Sebastion had been robbed and along with some of his things our camera had been stolen. The next day we spent at the police station but everyone was okay, and Sebastion was so helpful. We lost some great pictures of Morocco, the tanneries, our friend the business man in Chefchaouen, the pictures of our family in Bayonne and we were very sorry to have lost them but at least no one was hurt. Things can be replaced and we'll always have the memories. We then took the train to Northern France and met with Helen and Michel in Quimper. And again we had great food, great wine and it was made even better because we got to spend it with great family. We went to the edge of Europe, the closest to Canada we had been in a long time. We saw the beautiful shores of northern France, although they are very different from the southern ones, not so many sandy beaches but equally beautiful. Denis went for a night swim with Michel and Deanne like he had when he visited France the first time 14 years ago. We made crepes that were delicious and a lot of fun to make. We went to a little medieval town that makes the best butter apple tart EVER, we went to watch the fishermen bring in their catch and cooked up a seafood feast. We returned to Paris and back to stay where we started with Bernard and Berengere and we finished our trip in the French style with a great fondue.

So that was our trip. Thank you to everyone we met and to our couchsurfing hosts and to our family who made us feel at home and were so generous and so inviting. Thank you very very much! Till next time!

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