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I was not going to post a blog about Rhodes but this just too funny not to share. We have been in old town Rhodes for the last couple of weeks and have loved it. We are definitely outside of tourist season but the quiet is welcoming. We are staying right in old town in a quaint little apartment. Some amenities are missing but it has everything we need. We sleep upstairs in a loft which somehow makes me feel a bit hippieish. Because it is quiet, we have been fortunate enough to get to know some of the locals. What a warm and friendly people the Greeks are. We have rented a car here and have gone off exploring the island. Need I say there are lots of ruins. In Lindos we climbed to the acropolis. Some parts were actually built in the 10th century BC. It boggles my mind to think of all the people who climbed the same stairs I did.

On Wednesday our wandering will come to an end and the rest of out time in Europe will be spent with family. I can’t think of a more perfect ending to our trip.

Today Claude and I decided to wander into old town and finish up a few things. As we walked along the sea wall, I noticed a huge naval vessel in dock. I wanted a closer look so we walked up and through an old stone archway to a bluff overlooking the Aegean Sea and the vessel. What a surprise trying to walk back and found that we had been locked in. Talk about security. We were stranded on a rock bluff with sheer sides dropping down to the ocean. No way out. Claude, in his wisdom, thought we could scale the walls down. Not a chance. I wasn’t going to spend my last day being severely injured! We finally found a young man about 30 feet down fishing. We got his attention and he called 911 for us. We were freed about 45 minutes later to much laughter all around.

We have loved all our travels. Hard to pick a favourite as each experience was so different but definitely love Greece. I don’t plan any more blogs as we will be celebrating the holidays with our kids and really looking forward to that. We plan to be home about the third week in January so will touch base then.

Hope you all have the most wonderful Christmas and all the best for 2019.

See you soon

A fun day

We are in Athens at the moment. After leaving Morocco we blitzed Rome. Had a wonderful time and it truly is a magnificent city. Certainly different from Morocco! We had a fabulous apartment, just a 5 minute walk from the coliseum. Our host left us well stocked with fresh fruit, yogurt, pastries, coffee and a bottle of bubbly. We did our own thing but did do a guided tour of the Vatican as there is so much to see there. ( so much money as well!). Some of you know this, but we were told that if you stopped for 5 seconds in front of every piece of art work 24/7 it would take you 12 years to complete this. For all of you that know Claude and I well, he did his best. Me not so much. We were in walking distance from everything and Rome is such a walkable city. I felt like I was back on the Camino! We did a day trip to Pompei. What incredible sights.

now we are in Athens and I am pretty much done with roman ruins and art work. Again we have a nice apartment where we can see the acropolis from our balcony. We did the historical stuff last visit and this time we have thoroughly enjoyed roaming the streets. Yesterday we browsed through the main market. Some of you might be a bit squeamish to see rabbits and lamb heads for sale . I bought some souzouk which is a spicy sausage. Yummy! Even if I didn’t know how it should be cooked. Today we went to visit “the poet”. Stavros Melissinos is a renowned poet with works translated to English French Italian and German and is on American universities curriculum, AND he is a sandal maker. He has made sandals for John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Sophie Loren, Anthony Quinn and Lily Tomlinson to name a few. We found his shop and had a delightful visit. You pick the style you want and then they custom fit your foot. I chose the same style as Lily Tomlinson and I must say, I like having a man at my feet! My long skinny feet are happy. From here we are off to Rhodes before heading off to visit Sandra (Hilary’s mom) in England before heading to Scotland for Christmas with Eric, Hilary and family. Then it’s off to the Artic circle for New Years with Marc. Definitely on the downward slope as I am starting to look at flights home. Hard to believe we left home last August!

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Coliseum 
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Sistine Chapel 
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View of the acropolis from our balcony 
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The sandal maker

 

Last of Morocco

We spent a few days in Todra Gorge in the Atlas mountains with some very unique experiences. Driving through the valley we spotted mud brick villages perched on the hillsides. The first day Claude and I split up to do two different hikes. Claude headed up a mountain to visit a Berber family which still live in caves. Mohammed the grandfather served him tea. Multigenerational family but none of the children attended school but tended the goats and sheep. I have to say that most of what we have seen here is like being transportback in time. Most things are labour intensive and done by hand. They do have electricity In most places but the shepherding goes back to biblical times. They live in caves and tend their flocks. No schooling for most and the berbers believe that they are free men with no boundaries. More and more are moving into the villages but there are still lots living the nomadic life. But I digress. I did a different hike with a guide and learned more about village life. We watched women washing clothes in the river. Pictures were not allowed. I did this on Remembrance Day. Our local guide had not heard of this so after an explanation we played taps on the phone and had a moment of silence. Hassan seemed quite impressed with the concept.

we continued on to Ait Benhaddou where we visited a Grand Kasbah, declared a world heritage site. This was an important stop for caravans transporting salt across the Sahara. We then crossed the Tizi n’Tichka pass (2260 meters) to Toubkal National Park. At the end of the road we loaded our luggage onto a mule and walked about an hour uphill to our home stay called a Gite in the village of Aroumd. It was chilly when the sun went down and the Gite was heated by a wood fire in the eating area. I actually could see my breath in the bathroom after my shower but was warm and snuggly under a few blankets. Claude and I took a stroll around the village and had mint tea with a local. This man spoke French fluently and been part of a search and rescue team in the Swiss Alps.  Before leaving for Essaouira the next day, Claude and I did a 4hour hike up the local mountain. We made it passed snow level and had absolutely stunning views.

I loved Essaouira. We are back on the Atlantic coast. Great seafood and a lovely seaside walk. It would be easy to spend days here just soaking up the Moroccan life. Lots of local artists here. Paintings, wood work from the Thuya tree, carpets,ceramics and so much more.

We are now in Marrakech which is almost cultural shock after the mountains and the desert. Their Medina is called Djemaa el Fna which means the assembly of the dead. Criminals were hung here a long time ago. It is filled with stalls selling fresh fruit, water and juice. It’s the evening it bustles with snake charmers, storytellers, musicians, healers and Chleu (dancing boys). We had dinner from a food stall which served us skewers of delicious food. Outside the Medina the big city culture hits. Starbucks, MacDonalds and big shopping malls. Oh well, I guess it’s just preparing us for Rome tomorrow. We have absolutely loved Morocco and everything we have done here.

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Check out the footwear 
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Kasbah
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Berber child living in a cave
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Mountain hike
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Sardine ball Tajine Yummy!

 

 

Sahara Desert

Towards Midelt we passed thru some spectacular scenery from lush valleys growing olives, dates and pomegranates to  rocky landscapes and cedar and pine forests. We stopped to see some Barbary apes which is North Africa’s only monkey. Very cute.

after leaving Midelt we drove toward the Sahara. We passed through varied landscape through the Atlas Mountains until we turned a corner and there was the mighty Sahara right in front of us. We reached the end of the road, a small settlement called Merzouga, about 20kms from the Algerian border. We mounted our camels for a ride to our desert camp. Not so comfortable but amazing animals.  Upon reaching our camp, we climbed one of the tall Erg Chebbi dunes to watch the sunset. These dunes are a vast sea of shifting wind swept sand formed into picturesque undulating crests and valleys. The vista of red sand and incredibly blue sky was stunning. And then the stars! We had a hearty Berber feast and then a drum concert around the fire before retiring to our tent for the night. It gets very cold at night in he desert but we were snug and warm.

The next morning we mounted our camels in the dark and watched the sun rise as we made our way back to Merzouga. We have now made our way to Todra Gorge which is in the foothills of the Atlas Valley. Last night we were served supper by a delightful young Berber. He started as a shepherd of goats and sheep when he was ten. In the summer he stayed in a tent and winter he lived in a cave. His mom would bring him food daily. He has never been to school but speaks Berber, Arabic, French and English. He only knows basic written skills. Needless to sat he is very happy to be living and working in the hotel. His turban ( not sure if that is the right word) is 17 meters long. We are here for another night and he says he is going to show Claude how to wrap it tonight. Wait for the pictures. Lol

Today we are going for a hike through the mountains to see some Berber caves and then lunch in a traditional Berber house. The local food has been delicious.

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Getting ready for the desert ride
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Camel ride
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Mighty sand dunes
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Sunset in the desert 
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Camp bed
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Camp entertainment 

 

 

Midelt

so today we left the bustling city of Fes and are now in Midelt which is a big agricultural area. We are staying in a guesthouse in the mid Atlas Mountains. Who would have thought Morocco would have snow. We stopped on the way for a picnic.

We visited a Berber family home today. It was a sad visit although the people were so gracious. They are the nomads of Morocco and do not recognize any country boundaries. They are so very poor. They wash their clothes in the river and basically live in a one room house. The winters get bitterly cold and they have no heat. Most times their roof leaks. They invited us into their homes and served us tea, bread and nuts. We have no idea how privileged we are.

Tomorrow we take a camel ride into the Sahara and camp in the desert. There will be no electricity and definitely no wifi. Will let you know how all that works out. Have to tell you though, we are living the dream!

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Snow in the Atlas Mountains 
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November picnic lunch
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Inside a Berber house
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Town we passed through which looked like we were in the Alps

 

 

Pictures

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Dinner at Aisha’s

 

 

 

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Claude and I with Assous in his traditional garb
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Médina in Fes. Narrow streets, no cars but you had to watch out for donkeys 

 

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Snake charmer 
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Cook in the camel burger medina
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Dye vats for the leathers

 

Fascinating Morocco

I am going to try this blog and see what happens. Wifi here is the worst ever. It took about 10 minitower download 3 short emails.

Monday morning we headed off by train from Casablanca to Rabat. Rabat is the administrative city of Morocco and hosts their parliament. The visit here was a bit curtailed as we experienced our second day of rain since starting the Camino on Sept. 1st. We took a cab up to the Kasbah des Oudalas. We walked around in the rain and explored the old city. We warmed up with mint tea and some Moroccan biscuits. Lots of almonds used here. We walked thru the Médina but really didn’t spend a lot of time due the rain. After lunch we jumped back on the train and headed to Meknes. We arrived late afternoon so Claude and I, along with a couple of Austrailian’s broke from our group and headed out to dinner. After walking for a long time thru short streets and black dark alleys we found the most delightful place called Aisha. This was owned by a brother and sister team and it felt like we were sitting in their living room. There were ten of us in the whole place. We sat on sofas with low tables in front of us. No room to move in between. We went with their recommendation and had the best meal.

The next morning we explored Meknes. Meknes is the wine region of Morocco. We are allowed to consume alcohol in certain restaurants and in private. Meknes is an imperial city, which means it has a palace.  The palace here is now in ruins but is quite a spectacular visit. It has an aqueduct that rivals Versaille which was needed to water the sultans 2,000 horses which were stabled in the palace. The palace was constructed by 44, 000 slaves. The Médina was a hub of activity and we had a camel burger for lunch. Delicious! Locals buy their meat from the butcher and then bring it to these little stands to have it cooked. We sat in the back where there was room for 6 people. Claude got stuck in the back corner. Smoky!

We then boarded a mini bus for a one hour ride to Volubilis. This is the site of a huge Roman archeological site. They have so far uncovered 22acres. World heritage has listed Volubilis as a provincial Roman capital. This area is very agriculturally fertile with huge olive groves. We carried on to Fes.  Fes is suppose to be the spiritual and cultural heart of Morocco. It is also known for its ceramics and today we watched how they were created. Everything is done by hand and very labor intensive. They also make silk scarves out of the agave plant. In Mexico tequila and here scarves!we also went to the area where they do the tanning. They use camel, goats and sheep. Going in they gave us mint leaves to hold at our noses. The stench was overwhelming. The first step in the tanning was to soak the skins in a mixture of limestone and pigeon poop for 25 days. This whitens the skins. After that only natural ingredients were used.  ie pomegranate for red etc. The men are hip deep in these vats turning the hides. I never could find out how the guy for the white was picked. Bet he’s not married though!

The Médina in Fes is the largest in the world at over 750 acres. Tomorrow we are off to the Atlas Mountains and staying in a Berber house.

We are having the most amazing time and loving every minute

Heard that Trump lost the house. Not much else news so don’t forget to email us

Pictures  are not uploading so I’ll send this now and try the pics another time

Supper at Aisha’s

Claude and I with Hassan in his local dress

Camel burger

Narrow street in the Fès Médina

Tanning vats