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    Trials and Tribulations of Tapas to Tajine

    June 12th, 2008 by mary

    Valencia to Granada

    My brother and mother were coming out to visit us and we were going to take them on a two week whirlwind circuit through Spain, Morocco, and Paris. It all sounded good but started off with a missed flight. After a half day delay everyone was happily reunited in Valencia. The second problem was lost baggage. I knew John looked like he was traveling a little light. Of course the airline had no clue where the bag was or when it’d get to Valencia or whether or not they could forward it to Granada before we left the country. All we could do was file a claim, hope against hope, and dress John in our extra clothes. Then we were off in the rental car on our long drive to Granada. Directions was the next challenge. It was 8:30pm when we got to Granada but thanks to MapQuest it was 11pm when we found the hotel though it was only 5 minutes from the freeway exit. Our printed instructions basically told us the hotel was right in front of us. The problem was the 200foot vertical cliff separating our bumper and the hotel lobby.

    Granada, the Alhambra and TAPAS!

    Our first sight seeing was the palace of Alhambra positioned on a hilltop over Granada. We had a picturesque day exploring the Andalucian style of living. Granada itself is a scenic city with an attractive old town.

    But our strongest and most cherished memory are the tapas. It took us a couple of tries before hitting upon a gem of a place. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, you must eat at Bodega Castaneda. They serve the type of food that makes you giddy and is complete with festive, friendly ambience making it hard not to eat into the night.The last night in Granada, and Spain, was topped off by receiving John’s lost backpack. Now he could finally change his underwear.

    Fez, Morocco

    In Algeciras we took the ferry across to Tangier in Morocco. We had a couple of hours to waste away in the medina before picking up the next rental car. We drove directly to Fes, arriving in the dark. During the day a guide took us through the medina but quickly lost interest in us when he realized we weren’t the souvenir crazy type of tourists.

    Back Roads of Morocco

    During our two day drive to the Sahara we took a touristique scenic route that was only supposed to add 1 hour to our drive but ended up being a 7hr loop, half of which was on windy piste roads. I say loop because we actually arrived back at our starting point without trying to. We were happy to put our heads down that night even if it was hostel style living with in room sink and shower.

    Back in the Sahara

    The dunes of the Sahara appeared as a thin line of yellow in the horizon and quickly crescendoed to mountains of sand as far as the eye could see. The first evening’s 1.5hr camel ride was fun with the wind ushering us forward. When it started raining all the berber guides yelled in jubilation. It only rains 20 days each year in the dunes so each time is worth celebrating. I joined in the festivities by busting out my umbrella. A girl scout’s motto is ‘Be Prepared.’

    Before sunrise we toiled up Erg Chebbi, fighting against the cold and harsh wind threatening to toss us over the dark side of the massive dune. Sand was blasting us in the face but we endured to see the sunrise over the Sahara. We were signed up for a two night desert camel trek so we got back onto the hump and rode off toward the Algerian border. By this second day our rumps were tender but it was the sun beating down that really wore us down. After lunch Steve had to walk because his camel, though bound with roped feet, ran away over the dunes. We had dinner with a berber family before mom tossed in the towel and opted to be transported by a four wheeled vehicle back to the hotel. The remaining three of us rode back to camp in the pitch dark gripping onto our camels as we couldn’t see the terrain any more.

    Morocco’s Many Landscapes

    The next day, we rode for another couple hours to meet mom back at the hotel and continue our drive to the Todras and Dades Gorges and top it all off with a visit to the famed Ait Benhaddou kasbah outside of Ouarzazate.

    But wait! there’s one MORE day in Morocco

    We were ready to leave Morocco by now and a short walk through Marrakech’s medina was enough to satiate our curiosity. Thinking we were at the airport an hour too early to check in we settled into the cushy seats and let time passed. An hour and a half before our flight we make our way to the counter only to find out that Morocco had moved it’s clock an hour forward three days ago. Funny how no one mentioned that though we had on numerous occasions reason for them to. This meant the flight was within half an hour and check-in was closed. There was nothing we could do but cough up more money to change to the next day’s flight. It was more than we paid for the original tickets. Well, we made use of the extra night and day in Marrakech by buying crappy souvenirs. Take that! Of course our flight the following day was delayed by 2hrs. But at least we were leaving Morocco.

    Home Sweet Paris

    We took in the normal sites like Notre Dame, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, the Marais, and watched the French Open on the big screen in front of Hotel de Ville since we were foiled at every turn when we tried to get tickets. Food, of course, was a highlight. The French know how to roast their duck. Gelato was good and the chocolate is quite possibly the best in the world, though your wallet will ache from the indulgence while your belly sings.


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