Just a quick update from Southern Morocco. The trip has been fantastic, only a couple more days to go. Christmas was very very different, we stayed with a Berber family up in the mountains (having arrived there by mule). Had a great hike further up the mountain (2,300m). Christmas dinner was a chicken couscous. The trip has been even better than I expected, and I have also taken hundreds of photos so will be busy getting those sorted and posting some here at some stage. We are going horse riding on the beach this afternoon and head up to Marakesh tomorrow afternoon. I've bought one carpet so far, some ceramics and some very fancy slippers. I would buy lots more but it just won't fit in my pack!!!
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
I'm heading off to Morocco later today. I'll be back very late on 31 December 2007. I'm not sure that I will get a chance to update this blog during the trip. So, I'll take this opportunity to say
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR
to you all.
Im looking forward to getting out of London again. I need my fix of places without so many people! Plus its been really cold lately, the frost the other morning was a beauty, for a minute I thought it had snowed! The new mittens have been a godsend - thanks Mum!
I am travelling with Intrepid which will be a first for me. Here's the itinerary of the trip.
Day 1 Casablanca (16 December)
Wander amid faded French architecture and enjoy the colour and chaos of the souqs in this romantic city.
Day 2 Meknes (17 Dec)
Take a stroll through Rabat's serene Old Quarter en route to Meknes, capital of Morocco's last golden age and site of Sultan Moulay Ismail's version of Versailles.
Days 3-4 Fes (18-19 Dec)
Travel back to the days of the Roman Empire on a guided tour at the ruins of Volubilis. In medieval Fes, wander the labyrinthine alleys of the medina and listen to the call to prayer overlooking the Old Town at sunset.
Day 5 Midelt (20 Dec)
Journey through the cedar forests of the Middle Atlas to the town of Midelt to learn about farming life in the area. Along the way, visit a handicraft workshop run by Franciscan nuns - a great place to pick up a souvenir.
Day 6 The Sahara (21 Dec)
After a camel ride into the desert, feast by an open fire in the company of locals. Fall asleep tonight in this desert camp, surrounded by a shifting sea of sand dunes.
Days 7-8 Todra Gorge (22-23 Dec)
Wake early and watch the sunrise over the desert before heading to massive Todra Gorge. For the energetic, there is the option of trekking into the gorge the next day, for spectacular views and boundless photo opportunities. Otherwise, take a walk through the pretty palmeraies or just chill out with a glass of mint tea.
Day 9 Ait Benhaddou (24 Dec)
Pass through Morocco's film capital, Ouarzazate, on the way to the ancient fortified city of Ait Benhaddou. Explore the streets of this clay kasbah at a relaxed pace, and finish off the day with a meal of the best couscous in the country.
Day 10 Imlil (25 Dec)
Perched on a rocky outcrop, remote Armed near the village of Imlil offers panoramic views as well as a chance to experience traditional Berber culture.
Days 11-12 Essaouira (26 -27 Dec)
With its whitewashed houses and colourful fishing boats, Essaouira is a gem. Get acquainted with the town's fascinating history on a guided walking tour, then there's free time to wander along the beach and dine on fresh seafood.
Days 13-15 Marrakesh (28-30 Dec)
Let your senses guide the way through the tantalising spice market and dine al fresco at a foodstall in Djemaa el-Fna, or escape the buzz of the city in the shaded rooms of the Palais de la Bahia, a superb example of Muslim architecture.
31 Dec - fly home and see if I can get through customs at Heathrow before the new year!
This week has seen Christmas parties galore - although I must admit, for others it seems! Where I work, there was nothing organised for our department and then when someone finally did offer, there was no date that suited everyone so nothing happened.
However, other organisations have been more active and, according to last night's Evening Standard, "a record £120 million is being spent on London's Christmas office parties in just two nights. Hotels, restaurants, clubs and bars were full to capacity last night and will be again tonight. Venues such as aircraft hangars and stately homes were booked months in advance, with magnums of champagne, top DJs and even circus entertainers laid on."
Maggie Eyre and I ventured out on Thursday night and got right in amongst the various organisations who really treated their staff at Christmas time. We ventured down to the famous Beach Blanket Babylon, a restaurant and cocktail bar. It is very opulant, and is described by View London as "a seriously chic venue dripping with style and distinctive decor." Just the place for Maggie and I to have a couple of Christmas drinks. Check it out on the website for some idea of what I am talking about. I don't think Auckland has anything like it (well I didn't find it) http://www.beachblanket.co.uk/
The place was packed. Armed with our first champagne cocktail (£24 for two), we soon mingled in, esablishing there was two work groups there (as well as a large number of independent people like us). Sainsbury's group (supermarkets) were on the sedate side, and the tax team from Accenture (ex Arther Anderson, a firm of international accountants) were on the plush, baroque side. We soon established that there was a kiwi amongst them who turned out to be our friend Avon's niece....
It was a lovely place to call in for a few drinks and christmas cheer, and interesting to see all the glamorous people having a good time and spending up large. Some very beautiful people, very well dressed and refined. Or so you would have thought. However, a trip to the toilets spoiled that image completely. I timed my trip very badly and walked in to something that was absolutely disgusting. One person (long gone) had lost whatever they had in their stomach, leaving their wine glass in amongst the mess as well. The other person in another area of the toilet, well let's just say, it was the wrong time of the month for them. The poor staff arrived just after me, armed with heavy rubber gloves and cleaning equipment. I have never seen anything like it - revolting! I certainly felt very sorry for the poor staff in establishments such as this who have to clean up the mess left by the supposedly "beautiful people"
So, my christmas toast this year goes to all those who have to clean up after Christmas parties. I hope you get an opportunity to enjoy christmas some time soon!