About Us

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Allan and I had just completed our hike on the Portuguese Camino when we decided to explore the Andalusian region of Spain.  In order to do so we limited our time in Santiago and purchased train passes southeast. Our first stop would be in Madrid and then from there we would head south to Seville and Malaga …… and on a whim Morocco!

The Journey Continues…

Santiago to Madrid

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After deciding to shorten our time in Santiago we attempted to buy train tickets to Madrid on-line. Unfortunately the “Tourista Seats” were sold out necessitating us to leave earlier and purchase the “Preferente Seats” at the station for 20 euros more.

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We arrived at the train station by 6:45am and acquired two seats for the 9:05am departure while waiting patiently with a group of college kids who’d apparently been there all night. After a very pleasant 5 1/2 hour rail trip we made it to Madrid.

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From the depot we took a taxi to Hotel Vincci Via 66, a hotel that we’d booked through Expedia’s Flash Sale. A “Flash Sale” is where you have 10 minutes to decide on an undisclosed four star hotel room for 20% off. Being savvy but low on the “cafe con leche” we took the chance and hit the little green button that said “BOOK”!

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It was a good choice! The hotels location is city center in the heart of Madrid’s Broadway District and across the street from a theater performing “El Rey Leon” (The Lion King).

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This big touristy area was also where we witnessed a potential scam and pickpockets. While we were out and about a 12’ish year old child suddenly fell down and appeared to be crying and alone. Our first instinct was to help, but an Englishman in the crowd said “Watchout! This is a distraction! A scam!”….. and so it probably was. Fortunately we still had our wallets intact as the child got up uninjured and in good spirits.

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A Day in Madrid

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After our breakfast at the “Golden Arches” we headed down the sidewalk to catch the Hop on/ Hop off bus. Madrid being a bustling city has lots of museums, theaters, and restaurants to explore along with the usual fountains and statues.

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Our first stops was at the Botanical Gardens where we strolled around for an admission price of 3 euros. The Gardens were formal with the different floras and faunas separated by hedges. This was nice since we didn’t feel in the mood for another natural history museum. We did though feel inclined to purchase some cheap souvenirs, so as we crossed the street and in the shaded walkway of the grand boulevard there it was…. a trinket stand!! It was here that we liberated two hats for the folks back home.

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The Royal Palace was up next which is the official residence of the royal family and used for formal ceremonies. The Palace is the largest in Europe and is one of the top tourist attractions in Madrid with over 1,450,000 square feet and 3,418 room. The outside grounds were also pretty amazing. But even better yet was that the Palace was walking distance of our hotel, so after our visit we retreated back for a mid day siesta.

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Red Carpet Premier for “Chef”

Later that evening we walked toward the cinema where a large crowd was forming to see a movie, we thought. Nope! The crowd was there to see the stars of the movie “Chef” arriving for the red carpet premier. The scene was telecast on a jumbo screen above as the celebrities were interviewed. We were disappointed not to see Sofia Veragara or Robert Downey Jr. for that “selfie” photo.

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It was 9:00 pm, but we continued on as we made our way down the street buying ice cream in the 80 plus degree heat. Tapas sounded good and were! After more walking we headed up another shopping street where there were plenty of street lights, families enjoying the night, food, drink and what’s this? Young women wearing micro short skirts, 6-8″ high heels, tight blouses and leaning up against trees as cops walked by without a care. Evidently we had wandered north of Gran Via which is on the fringes of Madrid’s sex district. Prostitution is viewed with a different attitude because even though it’s not considered a legitimate profession, it is not illegal here.

Madrid to Sevilla

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When the sun sets at 10:00pm the morning comes too early and just like that we were off to Seville by train. We left from the Anoche train station, a mere 5 minute taxi ride from our hotel that we could’ve walked to. Also, knowing there were high speed trains leaving every hour or so we didn’t have any problems buying the cheaper “Tourista” tickets. The duration of the trip was 2 1/2 hours.

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After arriving at the station we took a taxi to our hotel Petit Palace Santa Cruz which is located in a very pretty neighborhood in Sevilles Old Town. This section of town is charming with its numerous winding streets, but also easy to get lost.

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So to get oriented to Seville we took another ubiquitous hop on/ hop off bus. This time we had a choice between the “green bus” or the “red bus” companies that appeared to have a very amicable rivalry. Without much thought and a quick game rock – paper – scissors, we went with the “green bus” and hopped on an apparently “delapatated” bus.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that we were the only people on this green bus and questioned our choice, but felt committed after paying. So we stayed and patiently waited as we inhaled exhaust fumes and sneered at the tourists on that “shiny red bus”. On the bright side the bus wasn’t crowded. By the way the head phones didn’t work and when they did we heard multiple languages at once….or maybe that was the effect of the carbon monoxide poisoning?

A Day in Sevilla

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We had a great day in Seville starting with borrowing some bikes from the hotel after breakfast. The bike seats could not be adjusted and were set low, real low, which was perfect for Marla. I looked like he had stolen a kid’s bike. It was great fun anyway and we traced the route of our Green Bus tour.

We rode along the river reconnecting with some bike skills that had been on a ten year hiatus. The river offered nice views of Seville landmarks including several bridges.

After passing underneath one medieval bridge we noticed a couple of folks practicing their rock climbing techniques on the stone walls. Ah, to be young and strong. Meanwhile our posteriors were bruised from the crappy seats and the absence of riding for so long.

The ride did give us the idea of a possible bike tour of Italy in the future. We continued our ad hoc bike tour of the old town riding through the narrow streets, sidewalks and crowded alleyways. No one yelled at us, but they probably should have after a couple close calls with some dining tables.

3CEE6EA8-45DF-44F2-80DF-A1D8FB2332C1There are dozens of horse carriage rides offered by the cathedral and thankfully the horses were not spooked by our amateur cycling skills, or charges could have been filed. We did discover a few places to visit later. Our ride was also more informative than the crappy Green Bus tour from the day before. We gleefully plotted an illicit boarding of the Red Bus using our red headphones and a Red Bus tour map. Perhaps we will try that ploy in Malaga.

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Most importantly we found a Mexican restaurant with nachos! Our cravings were answered. The English menu interpreter had some fun, describing our chicken nachos as ” the same f@@king nachos as above but with chicken…” . We took a picture of that.

Later in the evening we hiked around the maze of streets ” getting lost” on purpose. After pastry and coffee we headed home yet it was still light outside at 9:30 PM . There was now a stage set up in the plaza we would have to cross to get to our street. As we approached we could see a feather boa on stage. What? A stage hand informed us that a Cabaret was scheduled at 10PM. We gave a polite promise to return, but called it a night.

Bikes, nachos and boas, ah….Seville!

Alcazar de Sevilla

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After trekking around Seville on bikes and in buses we decided to check out the long line at the Alcazar of Seville. There were advance tickets available that ranged in price up to €55, but we just purchased a simple entrance fee for €8.50 which granted us access to the palace as well as the surrounding gardens.

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What is this magical place? First of all, the upper floors serve as the Royal family’s official Seville residence and is the oldest European Royal Palace still in use. The Palace was originally built for King Peter of Castile after the Christian conquest in 914AD.

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The Alcazar is constructed on top of the destroyed Abbadid Muslim residential fortress and is a beautiful blend of Spanish / Moorish architecture with amazing tile work throughout.

The meticulously landscaped palace grounds had wandering peacocks and were equally impressive.

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The Alcazar of Seville was also used as a movie set for Lawrence of Arabia in 1962….

…. and more recently Game of Thrones since this original posting.

Seville to Malaga

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We were exhausted today but looked forward to a sea port village. So we caught a train and traveled southeast to Malaga, a beautiful coastal city.  We prefer this mode of travel because typically there are no extensive security checks.  The trip was great as we sat on the train and marveled at the efficiency of rail travel. Quick, effortless, smooth tracks with an abundance of leg room. We also had plenty of space for our overhead bags…… and of course, the views were amazing!

After arriving in Malaga we checked into our budget accommodation Hotel Sur at a cost of 60 euros a night. The location was perfect with everything being within a 10 minute walk. The room was fine with the exception of no view.

We then headed off to explore the coastal side of town. We first took a stroll down Paseo de Los Curas, which is a tropical tree lined path. This walk took us toward the seaport where the cruise ships dock. The port had an abundance of shops and restaurants . Eventually we came to a light house and a wonderful playa called Malagueta. On the beach there were several outdoor cafés grilling sardines, which is a specialty in the area.

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Venturing into the old town latter that evening, we came across an old art house cinema. There was a sign saying the theater is home to Malaga’s annual film festival. Next to the theater you could see Roman ruins. We stayed and watched a film in Arabic with Spanish subtitles.

Day Two in Malaga

We walked down the block for the morning meal having real fried eggs on our breakfast sandwiches. Most cafés throw everything in a panini cooker to avoid frying an item on the grill. Our hotel is located about 100 feet from the Tourist Information center in Plaza de La Marina and the main street Paseo de Los Curas following the harbor.

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Located even closer to us was a bicycle rental shop and that’s where today’s adventure began. We rented ” Dutch style” city bikes that were perfect for Malaga. These bikes actually fit us too. No more cramped limbs flailing along the bike paths in a comical manner. We  now had style and grace.

We hit the road towards the beach, and promptly went the wrong way for only about 1 mile. The young lady at the bike shop had indicated that the cool beaches were on the right and that was wrong. After a brief tour of the cargo shipping facilities of Malaga, I asked a man for directions. I stopped a jogger who unfortunately was not wearing his eyeglasses to read the map and a woman came to the rescue. So we ended up touring Malaga’s shipping docks again from the opposite direction before heading towards the cool beaches.

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Indeed the beaches were very cool. Small cafés dotted the boardwalk with plenty of thatched pulupa style beach umbrellas scattered along the coast. We rode about 4 miles enjoying the view of the Mediterranean and the comfort of our new rides.

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The Picasso beach seemed quiet and the day was much less crowded than Sunday. We often lose track of the day of the week on vacation, and today was Monday . A cabana worker let us choose our shade and took our 6 euros. It was well worth it. The views got more interesting as wearing tops are optional here. The young and old, the big and small had their tops off. Some we would have paid 6 euros to keep their tops on. And these were just the men. The ladies were an assortment of boob types, similar to reading National Geographic magazine. The Browns did not go native on this day.

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After a hour or so we were getting overexposed to sun and boobs, well one of us was, so we biked onward. With the sea on our right hand side we pedaled on until the bike path ended. At the end we bought a snack and then headed back. The pedaling was easy and once again we shared thoughts about a bike tour for next year. That is right, after two days on rental bikes we wanted more. Part of this stems from our disappointment in the Portuguese Camino. We really wanted to hike more, and felt a little cheated. The Camino Frances had so many great trails, the Portuguese Camino did not. Also the car dodging on the roads was dangerous and not relaxing. We understand that the Camino Norte is better.

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We returned the bikes and following Spanish custom, took a nap/siesta. Afterwards we headed to the cinema and then hiked up to the top of La Alcazaba for some amazing views of the harbor while the sun set. A surprise among the city scape was a bull ring nestled in a group of high rise apartment buildings. The bull fights are shown on the sports channel, and the bull does not do well at the end. This would be such an outrage in the states. You can imagine the protests and boycotts . I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but it part of the culture along with topless beaches.

An Afternoon with Pablo

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Malaga is the capital city of this Andalusian area of southern Spain. It’s known for many things such as its beautiful beaches along the Mediterranean, monuments such as the Alcazaba Arab Citadel and its historic city center. But Malaga is probably best known as the birth place of the painter Pablo Picasso.

So to pay homage to this great painter we visited the Museo Picasso Malaga where we spent an informative afternoon learning of his collective works.

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Afterwards we wandered over to the Plaza de Merced to visit Pablo’s childhood home, which is now the Picasso Foundation. Pablo lived here until age 14 before his family moved to Barcelona, returning during the summers.

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The traditional Spanish Siesta is practiced in Malaga with the late afternoon closing of small shops, cafes and bars. So in order to stay in rhythm with our fellow Spaniards, we have learned to nap. A highly enjoyable and underrated experience.

Having fully rested we then ventured out in the evening to watch the city come alive with street musicians, eat at almond stands, listen to an occasional protestor and avoid a clown or two!

Toilet Fun in Europe

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Part of the fun in Europe is the variety of water closets. There are knobs to pull, twist and push to make it flush. Sometimes there is a secret panel on the wall disguised as abstract art to push, or a chain from above to pull ( the monestary had one of this type), and the trains may have a button to stomp on.

Men will find that peeing in a train WC will be way more accurate opposed to air travel.

Only once have we encountered the famous hole-in-the-floor, with non-skid foot grips. Many of the WC’s are floor to ceiling stalls offering privacy and a soothing environment for spiritual reflection.

Oddly it’s rare to find paper towels as air dryers are the norm. Most are in working order.

Sometimes you may have to hunt for the light switch. Many lights are motion activated, but you have no way of knowing until you wave your arms around and dance a jig, before continuing the search for the switch. Once I gave up looking, and dancing, before giving it a shot in the dark. Other times I’ve left the door open for enough ambient light without regard for the strangers passing by.

When you have to go…

Beach Day in Malaga

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Today was another beach day in Malaga. We rented bikes and noticed they all had celebrity names on them rather than numbers. Our bikes were called Beyoncé and Bob Marley.  Both were painted in John Deer tractor green. Bob Marley is in the Rock an Roll Hall of Fame, and Beyoncé? Well, bless her little heart as they say in the South.

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We headed for a beach resort that we had passed two days prior. The sign stated that in was established in 1918 and that is what we called it as we could not pronounce the name. Once at 1918 up close it appeared that no upkeep had been done since 1950. It must have been splendid in its time. Now, it was a funky old resort for the locals.

We took a pit stop and a keen eye observed that a photo shoot was taking place on the rocks near the shore. A topless photo shoot. However by this time we had seen enough strawberries, water melons and all the fruit in between at the topless beaches so we pedaled back to Picasso Beach. We again paid our 3 euros apiece and settled into our palupa to avoid the sun with our white skin. This is still a good way to get some Mediterranean sun, a lot of sun. At this time going native seemed appropriate and just convenient. When in Spain…… The swim was refreshing and the salinity of the water made it easy to float like a cork.

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Picasso had a beach side cafe serving grilled sardines. We had to have them after smelling them cooking at the outdoor BBQ’s along the beach. They were great with a grilled pepper salad. Time went by quickly before we had to return Beyoncé and Bob Marley.

Later we went to check the location of the bus terminal for the next day’s adventure to Nerja Caves. We over shot the bus terminal after seeing ” Estation” on the side of the next building. We went in it discover a full blown mall over the train station.

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The cathedral was peeking out of the city scape in the setting sun and with renewed energy we decided to walk to the art house cinema to see what was playing. The cinema is located not far from the cathedral and the Alacabaza ruins. We noticed several cats around the ruins with bobbed tails. This needs investigating on another post. There are many cats roaming throughout the city including a hotel that was being remodeled down the street from our own hotel.

With some time to kill before the movie we decided to try the coffee and cake across the walkway. It was one of the best chocolate cakes we have ever had. It had a hint of orange in it and was only 3.50 euros each.

Absolutely, a purrrr-fect day!

Escape to Nerja

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Yesterday we plotted our escape route to the town of Nerja. Today we traced our path back by first walking about a mile to the Estacion de Autobuses. Then after a quick breakfast at the station, we bought our tickets and boarded the 09:15am bus and arrived like clock work 1 1/2 hours later.

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Our destination of Nerja is a small beach town east of Malaga. We came here to explore the “Cueva de Nerja”, which is a large underground cave that resembles that of the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.  The caves were discovered in 1959 by a group of 5 boys who stumbled on a sinkhole known as La Mina. They were looking for bats but instead found strange rocks and a couple of skeletons. When the young adventurers told people what they had found, few believed them. In 1960 a man made entrance was created to accommodate visitors and the boys served as tour guides.  Then in 2005 Cueva de Nerja was declared an archeological zone with the eventual discovery of cave drawings in 2012. This newly discovered prehistoric art is believed to date back about 42,000 years and attributed to the Neanderthals.

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After we paid our entrance fee we got our explorer spirit on to enter this well maintained site and walk along the pathways and stairs to see the forming calcite deposits.We took a lot of pictures but unfortunately with prohibition of flash photography the pictures didn’t turn out well. And since this is an ongoing archaeological site only about a third of the cave was open to the public.

Our ride back to Malaga was not without amusement. On our bus there was this dysfunctional family of six who were quite boisterous and apparently unable to agree on anything. Were they not cognizant of the other passengers? The father was so animated with his arms flailing all about and mother stood with her arms crossed and stanched face. The teenage daughter imitated her mother and teenage son was doing some kind of boxing maneuver. And not to forget there was also an unsupervised toddler and small baby. We weren’t sure whether to feel sorry for this apparent vacation gone astray, or to stare in disbelieve at their obnoxious display of whatever this was. So when the bus driver pulled over at a “non designated” bus stop, there was an audible sigh of relief and then applause as the family vacated.   The father then quickly gathered their bags from underneath the coach. Ahhhh great!  Then ……… what???? …… the family put their bags back on the bus and their theatrics started all over again! Thankfully the family did get off at “another stop” and as the bus pulled away we couldn’t help but be transfixed as we stared at the fathers still continued wild gesturing!.

After our eventful day of cave dwelling we took an evening walk in the old town of Malaga and ran smack into what looked like a beauty contest. The sign said “Linda y Guapo de Malaga”. The contest was being held in front of the Teatro Romano Ruins with a camera crew, lighting and audience. We took a few pics and graciously moved on.

Malaga to Casa Blanca

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Our travel to Morocco will be by an organized tour that we had set up several days prior. Our meet up point is only a five minute walk from our hotel. So in order to be on time for the tour, we got up early to eat at a cafe opening at 6:00 am. This would allow us plenty of time to get to the tours meet up point. The cafe was supposed to be open….nope! We then tried McDonald’s across the street….nope!  So, we went to the designated hotel and sat in the darken lobby eating trail mix for an hour. Catherine arrived sharing her tale of lost luggage, poor accommodations and a taxi ride. She was the first Yank for the trip that we met. She was from Colorado and used to live about 5 miles away from us in Orange County. Robert and Carmella from Texas arrived shortly thereafter.

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The tour bus arrived and we cheered as it was a big modern coach, not some shuttle van. We tend to hold the bar low on our travel adventures and we are seldom disappointed. In our early travels when things or places did not go as planned, we would often shrug and say ” It’s Mexico, or France (or where ever) “.

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Our tour guide to get us to Morocco was a woman named McGoo. Easy to remember. We picked up a few more people and headed to the ferry crossing in Tariff. On the way there McGoo got off the bus to avoid the twisty roads. We think she took a taxi. She then joined us at the ferry terminal. Ok, it’s Morocco! Almost.

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The rock of Gibraltar was on our left and the ferry ride took about an hour.  After our passports were checked for the forth time we had lunch. We selected pizza from the cafe on the ferry and were surprised to find tuna fish on it. It’s Morocco!

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At the dock we disembarked, showed our passports again and exchanged our money from Euros to Dirhams at 11 to 1. We felt wealthy if only for a moment.

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The bus cruised through Tangier and about 2 hours later we had a forgetful meal in Larache. It was crappy and took too long. One member of the tour group tried to take a walk in her shorts and got whistled at. It could only get better and did.

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After two more hours we stopped at Rabat to view the Mohamed V Mausoleum….

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….and the Hassan Tower. The royal family was due to visit so the Mausoleum was closed. We got back on the bus for Casablanca arriving around 800PM. Dinner was served and we all thought that it was just spaghetti adjusting our bread intake for that. The main course was then presented to full bellies. We ate it and went to bed around 1100 in a coma.

Waking up in Morocco

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Even though our room in Casa Blanca was located on the 9th floor, you could still hear the city life below. At first we thought that a window had been left open because the sound of traffic was loud as we drifted off to sleep. So when morning came it was no surprise that we were awoken to the call of prayer. It was at 5:00am and there was no more traffic leaving the streets quiet and void of people. The only sound you heard was the singing of prayer resonating from the Minaret.

Casa Blanca to Marrakech

In the morning we gathered together with our bus mates looking like lost souls in a foreign land and laughed over breakfast about the various conditions and mishaps of our hotel. This tour was unusual because our group was broke in two with the option to upgrade and go first class or stay economy. We were in the “budget” group. Our tour mates in first class evidently had no issues and were well rested.

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Before leaving Casa Blanca we had the opportunity to visit the Mosque of Hassan II. Today the inside was closed but we were able to explore this beautiful Mosque from the outside except for a few barricaded areas. The Mosque of Hassan ll is huge and second only in size to the Great Mosque of Mecca.

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Then after about a four hour bus ride we arrived at our hotel in Marrakech only to be whisked away to Djamaa El Fna Square for a presentation by local Herbalists. A Herbalist is a trained person in the use of plants and other natural substances to improve health.

At the Herbal Shop our group was gathered in a small room where there were shelves filled with jars containing colorful Moroccan herbs. We were shown everything from spices to cook with to remedies for hemorrhoids. Some people in our group purchased the demonstrated items, while a few others left the room and paid 20 dirham for a massage with fragrant oils.

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After our groups money had been “liberated” from their pockets, we were led into the Squares local market place.

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Bartering  is a way of life here, so when Allan spotted a watch vendor with a really nice “Rolex”, the game was on!! First he checked the condition of the prized item. Allan didn’t want to appear too eager as the shop keeper shook the watch to get it started and assured him that was normal. After some back and forth…..and walking away…… the desired item was purchased for 650 dirhams or about 60 euros. By the way this “Rolex” was better quality than the “Rolex” he purchased in New York from the “briefcase” of a very nice man.

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As we headed back to the bus we stopped to buddy up with a couple of monkeys and face certain death with poison serpents. All this for about two euros each!

We ended our night sharing a meal with our new Australian friends at a restaurant serving Tagine, a Moroccan specialty similar to stew and served in clay pots. We had a choice of either lamb, chicken or beef as our main protein and I ordered the beef. The restaurant didn’t serve alcohol do to religious reasons, so after dinner our Aussie friends continued on to a British Pub while we called it a night.

Marrakech to Fez

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Breakfast in Marrakech was the usual “Western Style” buffet with a couple of twists. There was the ubiquitous sliced ham and cheese with a fruit platter, but also delicious home made flat bread. A lady was making them fresh off  a gridle. The flat bread was similar to a thick flour tortilla. If you put the sliced cheese between two flatbreads, allakazaam, a quesadilla!

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The group was off to Fez, but not before we spotted some camels on the side of the road. In California, there are people selling oranges on street corners, or flowers or often holding up signs begging for money. In Marrakech camel rides! Heck yeah, what a country.

The bus stopped and we had fun taking pictures of cute baby camels and big ones while trying to avoid getting bitten, or spat upon. It was great fun, and a challenge. The camel wrangler could not break our 100 dirham note, about ten bucks. Others got a small ride and photo op for ten dirham.

We took photos and I will say on the behalf of the camels they did not spit, and were reasonably manner around us bunch of hooting and hollering yokels. The camels should have bit a few. Their long necks would reach around like a serpent aiming for a bite while you petted their humps. You had to stay on your toes. Hence the phrase, “camel toe”.  There were fits of laughter as people wobbled willy-nilly atop these ungainly beasts. We looked and sounded like spazzes to both Moroccain and otherwise. It was a good time, and all on the side of the road.

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The next stop was at the Saadian tombs of Ahmed El Mansour which are located on the south side of the Kasbah Mosque in Marrakech. They contain 3 tombs with internment of about 60 members of the Saadian dynasty (1578-1603). The tombs were rediscovered in 1917 by a French pilot who found them sealed off and covered with underbrush. The renovated tombs display elaborate mosaics and intricate ceilings.

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There were also a lot of carved cedar and stucco work in addition to a very nice garden.

After our Lawrence of Arabia adventure we took the long road to Fez. We read books, enjoyed talking, took photos and naps.

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On a side note Marrakech looks very similar to Palm Springs in topography and building style. We passed some very affluent neighborhoods.

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At lunch we got our promised shopping, at a mall complete with a food court. We ate Kabobs while our guide Kareem ate at KFC. The Marijane mall also had a Pizza Hut which seems to be mysteriously popular in Moroco as are the Golden Arches and Home of the McArabia.

As we took a walk about the mall we noticed a room with the door slightly ajar. Outside there were a row of shoes. A quick glance inside we saw a rug. Evidently we had come across a prayer room incorporated into the mall for the Muslim shoppers.

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In the late afternoon we arrived tired and hungry at Hotel Sofia. A dinner was provided and all we remember was that it was good, before we crashed for the night.

Adventures in Fez

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It was at the Royal Palace of Fez (Dar el Makhzen) that we were introduced to our amazing guide Mohammed. His English was excellent and knowledge of the area unsurpassed as he explained the historical facts of the Palace as well as the history of Fez. We learned that Fez is the third largest city in Morocco with over one million people and has a history dating back to the 8th century. It’s also one of the four Imperial cities (historical capital cities) with the others being Marrakesh, Meknes and Rabat which is the current capital.

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Muhammad also talked of the Alaouite dynasty, or Alawite dynasty(Arabic: سلالة العلويين الفيلاليين‎, Sulālat al-ʿAlawiyyīn al-Fīlālīyn), which is the current Moroccan royal family. The name Alaouite comes from the ‘Alī of ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, Muhammad’s son-in-law.  The Alaouite family claim descent from Muhammad through his daughter Fāṭimah az-Zahrah and her husband ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib.  We also talked about the “First Lady’s“ quarters and that the Moroccan Kings wife is not considered a queen.

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Next we were wisked off to the Medina Marketplace in Fez also known as Fes El-Bali. The Marketplace dates back about 1200 years with an area of approximately 30 square kilometers and is composed of a labyrinth of small streets and alley ways…..about 9,000 of them .

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Although the shopping for trinkets is fun, you don’t want to get lost in this maze. For this reason our shopping excursion came with a guide…..actually two guides. The first guide lead from the front guiding you through the streets and the second guide was at the back to herd in the stragglers. After an hour in the Marketplace it was truly amazing that our group was still together.

On this particular trip our guardian angel was a mute guide at the back whom was unable to speak but communicated exceptionally well.

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At one point we wanted to return to a shop and buy some beautiful wooden boxes for our daughters. Our mute guide brought us back to the shop, waited as we purchased the items and then effortlessly took us back to our group. There was also another couple who wanted coffee, so he took them to where the coffee was being served and gave them about 10 minutes before gathering them back up.

Amongst the hunt for treasures there were numerous craftsmen as well as merchants selling rugs, bronze, dresses, and leather. The most interesting of these places was definitely the leather.

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The leather shop is located above the leather tannery and as we walked in were immediately handed mint leaves to counteract the odor of the tannery. Then we were guided through the shop and up to the terrace.

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And from the shops terrace we could view the various dyes separated by stone at the Chouara Tannery, which is the largest and oldest of the three ancient tanneries in the Medina Marketplace. The tanneries, also referred to as a leather bazaar or souq, involves a manual process that has remained unchanged for nearly 1,000 years. This time tested method of tanning uses animal hides such as cows, sheep, goats and camels soaked in vessels that contain a mixture of cow urine, quicklime, water, and salt.

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Amongst the flurry of merchants we also found this weaver fascinating at this fabric shop.

Along with the many shops, there were hundreds of street peddlers that follow you until you break. Allan submitted with the purchase of a bunch of coin purses. It’s their livelihood and they’re quite good at it.

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With our time coming to an end in Morocco our group set off for one final culinary experience that was hosted in a large ornate building with Bedouin style seating.

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The theme of the evening was a Moroccan style wedding with music, dancers and a little magic. As the entertainment commenced we were served a variety of Moroccan dishes family style.

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The finale of the evening was the “Bride” being carried and twirled on a small platform. The “Bride” was one of our fellow travelers.

Last Day in Malaga

We had plans to visit the Rock of Gibraltar, the British territory that served as an outpost during WW11. Some also call it the “Monkey Rock” known for its free roaming apes. And although Gibraltar is only 3 hours south of Malaga, after the grueling drive yesterday we were too exhausted.

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Instead we decided to pack and that’s when we discovered the 1,000 dirham that we’d stashed . Our problem was that the Moroccan dirham is a closed currency and you’re not supposed to remove this money from Morocco. We were unknowing criminals. We asked our concierge about exchange and he told us he couldn’t. He also said that the banks probably won’t exchange it either and if they did we wouldn’t get much. He then suggested we keep it as a souvenir.

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Since we just wanted to unload the dirham we proceeded to the bank. What could happen? At the bank the teller informed us that she couldn’t exchange it. We then asked about a Bureau of Exchange? The bank teller simply shrugged her shoulders and gave us directions to a vague location.

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At this point we were pretty sure the Moroccan Secret Service weren’t on to us, so we headed back to the our hotel for WiFi and google “Bureau of Exchange” in Malaga. We found one within a 10 minute walk and they exchanged our 1,000 dirhams for 80 euros, without any Moroccan Police involvement. This was a good day!

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With prison not in our immediate future, we were able to enjoy the remainder of the day. We spent our freedom exploring the inside of the Castillo de Gilbralfaro which was built in 929AD located at the top of the hill and the Alcazaba located below built between 1057 and 1063. These are both Moorish fortresses that are physically connected and constructed atop some Roman ruins for defense against pirates. The Alcazaba portion is considered to be the best preserved Moorish fortress in Spain.

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The evening concluded with friends from our Moroccan adventure at our new favorite tapas bar……

……. and a very talented street performer!