Archive for October, 2009

Rabat

For sale

We left Chefchaouen on an early morning bus on Sunday, destination Rabat. Rabat is the Moroccan capital, and is on the Atlantic coast. The bus ride was five long hours, and the lack of air conditioning or openable windows, coupled with the puking baby sitting behind us, made it a stifling, smelly and sticky ride. We arrived in Rabat around lunchtime, and managed to navigate a ‘petit taxi’ (little blue taxis, not to be confused with the more expensive white Mercedes ‘grand taxis’) to a hotel near the medina. We checked in to our room, and then ventured out to explore the city.

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Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen

Today is our third full day in Chefchaouen, Morocco. What an experience! We’re starting to feel more comfortable and confident walking through town, but I must say that our first morning here brought with it the biggest feeling of “wow, we’re far from home” that I’ve felt so far. Meg and I went to breakfast on that first morning at a restaurant in the main square of the old city, and we both spent most of the meal in silence, looking around us and feeling more than a little lost. So many things felt different to us — while most people speak at least some English or French, the predominant language is Arabic. Being surrounded by a language so different than any we’re used to made us feel quite isolated. Add to that new food, new surroundings, and new interactions with people who sometimes offer help, sometimes offer goods for sale, sometimes ask for money, and sometimes just offer friendly greetings. I suppose confusion was the most predominant emotion, and I found myself wondering at first how we’d ended up here.

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Photos: Bilbao and Granada

Two new albums are up on our photos page, from Bilbao and Granada in Spain.

Bye-bye tenty

Sending it home :(

The decision was made to send our camping gear home. My eyes were a bit moist as we waved goodbye to the massive box at the post office in Bilbao. It will surely be missed. Mostly I think we will be grateful for not having to carry that extra weight around anymore. So far it has made life much easier in that I’m not straining any muscles trying to get my pack to close.

Fare thee well little tent and sleeping bags. Safe journey back to Canada, slowly on boats. We shall meet again one day.

The Journey
to Morocco

We made it! We woke up this morning to sun shining on white and blue buildings in Chefchaouen, Morocco. I don’t think it’s quite set in yet. Our journey yesterday was exhausting and full of obstacles, and we didn’t arrive at our hostel until well after dark. It was one of the best sleeps I’ve had in a while, which is good, because I think we’ll need our wits about us here. This is the story of our travels from Granada to Chefchouen.

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On the peak of Veleta

We managed to make it out for some hiking during our stay in Granada. We caught a morning bus up to the Sierra Nevada mountains, with the intention of hiking up Veleta peak, the second highest in the range. There is a large ski resort built on the same mountain, so the bus was able to drop us off about 4 km from the top, making the hike do-able in one day. On the bus, we met a handful of other travelers with the same plan, and decided to hike it together.

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La Alhambra

La Alhambra

Today we visited Spain’s number one tourist attraction – la Alhambra. At first, hearing that it was Spain’s number one tourist attraction was a turn off for us. Perhaps we have a slightly haughty view of ourselves, since we like to call ourselves travelers rather than tourists, but that’s just a surface way to deal with the negative connotations of the word. We are tourists in the places we visit, like it or not. And tourists visit tourist attractions. So we went.

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Walking around
in Granada

Textures of Granada

We arrived in Granada late in the evening, and after a bit of meandering through narrow pedestrian streets, we found our way to Oasis Hostel for the night. While this hostel doesn’t have private rooms (dorm style only), we were happy to discover that it was in a wonderful old building in the heart of the city, and was full of friendly and interesting staff and travelers. But the best surprise came in the morning, when we joined the free walking tour that leaves from the hostel every morning at 11 (plenty of time to eat breakfast first).

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Bilbao ka-pow

Bilbao elevator

The obvious draw to Bilbao is the Guggenheim. I’ll let Mark talk about his Guggenheim experience and I’ll try to speak of the rest of the city. It’s difficult in some ways to separate the two because it seems that so much of the city and its’ tourism now surrounds the museum. The city seems to be going through an interesting transition from old industrial port city to a modern metropolis. There are loads of new shiny buildings popping up amidst the old spanish colonial/neoclassical (?) buildings. Did the Guggenheim initiate this radical transition shift? Or was it the Calatrava bridge that did it? Is it making for a better city? They’ve got a groovy new Lord Foster metro system and a tram that runs over grass! The waterfront is great — parks on both sides of the rivers and plenty of pedestrian bridges. Even with all of this, I think our favourite part was the Old Quarter. It might have been a novelty because it’s our first city visited in Spain, but we loved the narrow, windy pedestrian streets you could get lost in and love being lost in. Also, more Basque tapas, or pinxos. So far the best tapas in Spain. We found one place we enjoyed so much we went back 3 times (It was called Zuga, in case you’re headed there).

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Photos:
Biarritz and Narrowboating

We’ve posted new photos on the photos page. Look for the Biarritz and St. Jean de Luz album, as well as the Narrowboating album, which we’d overlooked somehow. Better late than never; it’s up there now.

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