Coasting in Essaouira, getting lost in Meknes

I stayed three nights in the port city along the Atlantic Coast, Essaouira (pronounced esa-wera). Alyssa and Andy left for Marrakech (then on to Italy) after two but I wanted to soak up a little more sun in this lovely little town. We spent our time walking the beach, eating kebabs, wandering around the markets and sitting on our hotel’s rooftop terrace soaking in the view. On the third day, after parting with my travel companions (who are greatly missed already!), I finally had grilled calamari to satisfy my seafood craving.

Afterwords I took a final stroll along the beach, where I used the “f” word for the first time while traveling. I felt a little hesistant to use it but as a solo female traveler I felt like I had no other choice. A young man fell into stride with me and after a few minutes, when it was obvious when I wasn’t going to shake him with my usual tactics, I resorted to using the word: “You know,” I said, “my fiancee would be very jealous if he knew I was talking to you.” Doubtful that this blatant lie would actually work, I was astonished to watch him peel off faster than he had approached! It was like I had discovered a secret word that enabled some sort of forcefield around me. I was untouchable. Just to check its efficacy in a new city, I used this “f” word on another young gentleman who took a liking to me today as I wandered through the fruit and spices market in Meknes. As soon as I uttered the word, he nodded and fell back, wishing me a good day. Brilliant.

Yesterday morning I left Essaouira for Marrakech, where I was catching a train up to Meknes (one of the three imperial cities of Morocco, located near the Middle Atlas mountains). The bus broke down halfway to Marrakech so we had to swap buses, making us about an hour late. I still had about an hour before my train departed for Marrakech, so I decided to brave the public transportation to visit the famous Koutoubia Mosque. I had a lot of locals helping me along the way and I made it there and back on the bus with 10 minutes to spare! The one take-away from this quick excursion is that I could use some basic French lessons to get around the next time I’m in a French-speaking country. C’est la vie.

The train ride to Meknes (about 7 hours) went smoothly until a bunch of screaming children got on my car about halfway through the ride. Then about two hours from Meknes I was awakened by two train stewards who were urgently speaking in French to me. When it was obvious I wasn’t understanding their instructions, they said “change, change” over and over. My heart fell because I thought they were telling me that I had to transfer trains at the next stop and it was already very late. Instead, they told me to gather my things and explained that since I was “alone” I was being moved to first class – what luck! The difference between first and second class was quite remarkable…I hope to stumble upon the same fortune on my return trip.

Today I have been exploring Meknes slowly. Every time¬† I try to follow Lonely Planet’s walking tour through the souks (markets) and around the medina (the walls of the old city) I get lost. Perhaps it is time to venture out again and continue on my way. At least I have the “f” card in my back pocket now.



“No money, no honey” – and other curiosities in Marrakech

Yesterday we arrived safely in Marrakech. It didn’t take us long to find a guest hotel off the main square, called the Djemaa El-Fna. This is where many tourists (as well as locals, from what I observed) gather to eat at the many food stalls offering kebabs, lentil soup, goat head, snails and many other regional dishes. There are also carts heaped over nine feet high with dried apricots, sesame-covered peanuts, salted almonds, figs, dates and pumpkin seeds, to name a few. This is where many young men working for vendors will try and lure foreigners to their food stalls by repeating funny little catch phrases like “Stall number seven takes you to heaven” and “No money, no honey” (presumably to the male tourists?). Scattered throughout this square are also some very stereotypical spectacles, such as snake charmers (yes, the real thing, though I am doubtful they still have venom) and unyielding donkey carts. There is an incredible experience of sights, sounds, tastes and smells in Marrakech that makes this stop on our itinerary nothing short of sensory overload.

Today we ventured into the souks (shops specializing in goods ranging from textiles and herbs to metal work and leather products) to find out what deals were to be made. Before delving too far into the labyrinth of goods and the vendors eager to give us the “good price” of the day, we stopped for breakfast at a little nook of a restaurant. I had a warm flatbread (much like the roti I had in Malaysia) drizzled with honey and folded in three – it was delicious! We each had fresh squeezed orange juice as well, which was incredibly refreshing. My bill totaled 10 Dirham, about $1.20. Our shopping adventures took us to a leather shop for wallets and a fabric dying area where I found what I was hoping to find: beautiful wool yarn. I’m not sure how I will make it home with everything; I may just have to check an extra bag or mail a few things home.

This afternoon we toured tombs and a palace. Much of the artwork and architecture is very similar to that of La Alhambra in Granada. Tomorrow we are heading to a port town on the Atlantic coast. More to come!

Breaking up with Midtown

It’s been fun, really. Some of my best memories in Detroit were made with you. It was you who introduced me to Friday Night Live! and Dally in the Alley. You gave me my favorite pair of earrings and made me the best chai latte I’ve ever had. It’s just that, well, it’s time. I’m moving out. It’s not you, it’s me….

What’s that? You want the truth? I suppose after two years of our on and off again relationship, that is what you deserve. I mean, you were my first sublet in the city. You offered me my first part-time job when I needed money and my first one-bedroom apartment when I needed a place to stay. Sure the hot and cold faucets are reversed and one of my doors is mounted upside down but I think these details are kind of endearing.

What I’m saying is I think you have a lot to offer. I’m just ready to see different neighborhoods. I want a yard in the back and trees lining my street out front. I want a kitchen large enough to maneuver in without having to turn sideways to reach the sink. I want a porch and windows opening to more than one cardinal direction. I want to control my own heat. I want even floors, an attic, a basement. Quite frankly, I’m tired of the blaring horns of firetrucks, ambulances and police cars up and down Woodward and I’m done with the glow of the golden arches illuminating my bedroom at all hours of the night.

That said, there’s a lot I’m going to miss. In Midtown I never had to go far for amazing vegan ice cream, a delicious bubble tea or that irresistible sea salt chocolate chip cookie. Your savory pizza, brews and rooftop seating are the envy of other neighborhoods and your restaurants with their lentil burgers, sweet potato fries and mac-n-cheese will not cease to entice both the locals and visitors alike. Please don’t take it personally…apartment living just isn’t for me. You’ll be fine. You will make many young professionals, Wayne State and CCS students very happy. Don’t worry,¬† I’m not going far and I’ll be back often to visit (I mean, I can’t go all winter without tuning up my bike). Oh, and one more thing – this doesn’t change my soccer allegiance one bit.

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