A Travellerspoint blog

Marrakesh

Friday 11th Jan

sunny 22 °C
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.

Today was a big day! Africa day! We have managed to be on 4 continents in 6 days. Up nice and early for leaving at 8.20, although we gained an hour so it wasn't too bad, I was actually up to see the dawn which was crazy! We got a private tour to Marrakesh as it was cheaper for 6 people than everyone doing the bus tours. We docked at Casablanca and I was wanting to see the mosque so we went there first (with a quick photo stop at Rick's Bar, which is the bar from Casablanca if anyone doesn't know). It was lovely with all the ceramics and right by the water. Didn't get to see the inside as the tour was too late to wait for, but seeing the outside was enough.  

The drive to Marrakesh was about 3 hours. It was a very interesting drive. Casablanca is quite industrial and as you head out it is quite green for awhile, which I was quite surprised about, I was expecting it to be quite dry. As you headed south though the land got drier and redder. It was all fairly flat, although you could see mountains in the distance as you approached Marrakesh. There were little mud villages along the way which are apparently the homes of the 'Barbou' people I believe she called them. It is such a different culture and atmosphere there. During the drive I saw things like an old man riding a donkey which did not look like it should be able to support his weight, a couple of ladies carrying something on their heads which seemed so African, and a guy who would have been at most a teenager alone in the wild looking after, and even carrying, his sheep. You would never see this in Australia. The last one actually made me think of the book The Alchemist. I was disappointed I didn't manage to take a picture as we were driving too fast.  

Talking about driving, holy hell is it crazy! It was less 'road rules' than 'very rough guidelines as to what you should maybe consider doing on the road if it is convenient for you'. I am very surprised that I am alive, particularly when we had to cross the road and, as the guide says, the pedestrian crossings are really just road decorations. Basically the rule is, you walk out into the middle of the road, signalling the traffic to stop and hope like hell they notice. I just stood as close to the guide as possible everytime. Two situations I found amusing whilst seriously fearing for my life were when we were at lights on a four lanes in each direction road and the guy at the very right had his left indicator on and did, indeed, cross across the four lanes and turn left within the intersection, and the other time was when there were about 3 or 4 lanes of traffic in a two lane entrance to a roundabout and then 3 of these lanes apparently led to the single lane exit. In one word, crazy!  

Marrakesh was also crazy. We saw the oldest mosque of the city and then spent all the day in the square and at the markets. The square was pretty empty in the morning, particularly as we got there during lunchtime prayers, but apparently it gets packed at night. It got busier when we dropped by before we left, the food vendord had started to appear by then and the air was completely full of smoke. One thing that really hit me every time we went somewhere and came back to the sqouare was the smell! It is quite overwhelming, reminds me of the animal areas of the Royal Adelaide Show. During the day the square has lots of monkey tamers, snake charmers and fortune tellers. Also, orange juice carts. It is so cheap, like 0.50€ for a big glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Marrakesh apparently has tons of oranges grown there. We went to a cafe and got a drink in the afternoon so we could go to the upper balcony and have a look out over the square.  

Lunch was at a local restaurant. Alicia had made some comment on the bus ride about food and then became the picky one according to the guide who kept on checking with her about whether this place was ok and did we want to come back in an hour so she could hace couscous. It was quite funny. The food was amazing, I had a beef tagine and the meat was so soft. The sauce was delicious and great to dip the bread in which was actually a bread made from eucalyptus! It was all so cheap as well, €35 for 7 people!  

The afternoon was spent at the markets. They were full of ceramics and wood and metal works. We got taken to a shop where the guy gave us information on Moroccan spices and the local product, argon oil. If you believe what he says, it is pretty much the miracle cure for everything! I got a bottle of jasmine scented oil for my hair, as well as some beautiful rose scented hand cream.  

There is so much lovely stuff at the markets, including a beautiful filigree lamp, but unfortunately most of it would just be too difficult to take home again. I just got a lovely little ceramic pot which I could use for storing tea. We also went to a carpet area, which was really quite funny. The man decided to give us an introduction to the typesof carpets in morroco, and proceeded to get out about 50 carpets and lie them on the ground. Then he went through every single one and asked if we liked it or not. Fortunately, Karen and Fiona got stuck with having to reply and say no to them all.  

The other important event was Alicia finding true love. It comes in the most unexpected of places, a man working wood using his feet. He saw a princess and the connection was obvious, regardless of the 30 or 40 years age difference, it was the love of a lifetime. Alas, it burned too bright and it could not continue (past about 2 minutes). But he gave her a wooden pendant so she may have something to hold on to and remember this moment of love by. What does he have though? Nothing but the memory. But for him, I think, that is enough.  

The drive back I slept a bit as it was dark. However, sleep was difficult as I changed my seat from the drive in, where I discovered the seat belt just came undone when I stood up so was pretty much useless, to a seat with no seat belt all together. This made it a slightly worrying journey back...  

I am left slightly undecided about Morocco, it was very overwhelming! I am definitely not aggressive and pushy enough to survive there. But it was still a very interesting and enjoyable day, it is great too see the large variety of people and religions there. But exhausting as well!  

Back at the boat and so full! But the dinner is so nice I can never say no! It was a beef tortellini soup, and a truffle flavoured pumpkin risotto. Nothing overly exciting happened in terms of the pjama game, I apologise to all the avid fans.

Dawn at Morocco

Dawn at Morocco

Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca

Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca

Detail of the minaret of Hassan II Mosque

Detail of the minaret of Hassan II Mosque

Olives at the markets in Marrakesh

Olives at the markets in Marrakesh

Metal lanterns at the markets in Marrakesh.

Metal lanterns at the markets in Marrakesh.

The main square of Marrakesh.

The main square of Marrakesh.

Posted by Claire.Miller 09:18 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

At Sea

Thursday 10th Jan

Our first sea day today, which was good as still getting over my cold. Breakfast in bed again, with the addition of hot chocolate which is amazingly thick. In case you were wondering, the pillow was quite nice, moulded itself to my head and I suppose it was the right temperature, what temperature is the right temperature I really couldn't say, but I slept well. Spent the day doing not much. Wrote some blog, went to a quiz, sat out in the sun for lunch, had an afternoon nap, went to see the nightly show which was quite funny with music and dancing and acrobatics, and just generally relaxed. Dinner was just lovely; scallop salad, basil and pine nut lasagne which was so creamy (no tomato in a lasagne, I was like how crazy!), and a chocolate mouse with coconut icecream which wasn't all that great but the lasagne made up for it. Played a couple of games of Canasta but the boat started to get quite rocky so went to bed.  

So what you are all wondering about I am sure is the pjama game. Well I will put you out of your misery with the results from day two. Today I folded my pjamas and put the on the end of my bed. They still took them, refolded them and out them under my pillow, which took me ages to find. But that, of course, was not enough. I got back that night and got a slightly different pjama person with the addition of my scarf as either a head or a hat, I am not really sure. It was rather brilliant.

The Pjama Game

The Pjama Game

Posted by Claire.Miller 03:25 Comments (0)

Barcelona

Wednesday 9th Jan

sunny 14 °C
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.

Late start this morning, woke up at 9.40 and breakfast in bed at 9.45. Freshly squeezed orange juice, pot of tea, honey yoghurt and croissants, living the dream. Unfortunately though, I also managed to pick up a cold, probably from the flight. Wouldn't let it stop me eating though! I ate more than I would in a week today!  

Got to Barcelona at 1pm. Walked up the main street, Le Rambla I believe, and looked at the markets. It is truly a beautiful city. I love the feel of walking up the main street with all the trees and little vendors ane cafes along the edge. It is a lovely way to design a main area having the big promenade in the middle of the street. The markets are also brilliant, it would be amazing to be able to get all your produce from there all the time.  

Of course we saw all the crazy curved Gaudi architecture. Only had 4 hours there so didn't have time to go into any of his houses. It would be very strange to live in a house like his with all the curves, impossible to furnish too! We did go into his cathedral though. Apparently the current plan is to have it finished by 2026. It has such a different feel to any other cathedral. It is very light and simple. What is beautiful about it is the eay that the colours of the stained glass project onto the inside. The light and relatively unadorned stone realy allows the colours to shine. Saw some beautiful champagne glasses in the gift shop, but unfortunately they were €30 each and I just couldn't justify it to myself, particularly with the whole likely breakage in transit thing.  

After the church caught the metro back to the bottom of La Rambla. Trains were about 3 minutes apart yet it was still standing room only even in the early afternoon, it doesn't feel like a busy city though. Had to change trains to get there. Honest to god, I do not understand how we were in the same station, we went up and down escaltors and walked to France and back to change platforms. Finally we made it back and it was time for lunch (at like 4 in the afternoon). Being in Spain there was really no question of what to get, tapas and paella! We ordered the small paella and it was too much! God knows how anyone would ever eat a large. Apparently everything is massive though as our Sangria glasses could honestly have happily fit a small fish to live. It was all amazing though! The only disappointment was no time, or room in my tummy, for churros.  

Sunset from the ship was beautiful, however unfortunately it set behind some cranes so no awesome photos. Dinner was a seafood bisque soup, john dory pasta, a rainbow trout salad, and lemon sorbet. All were quite amazing. We ordered a new pillow to try tonight. Yes, they may have a pillow menu if you don't like your pillow. The pillow we ordered apparently is meant to regulate the temperature so it is always the right temperature for sleeping. One other thing that started today was my new game that I am playing with a member of staff (don't actually know which one) called "what will you do with my pjamas today". After forgetting to take my pjamas out the bathroom today they got folded and put on the table when the staff did the morning tidy of the room. I then put them next to my bed before leaving for Barcelona. Coming back after dinner I found the had put them on my bed in the shape of a person. And so the game begins...

Casa Batlló (Gaudí)

Casa Batlló (Gaudí)

Windows in the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia (Gaudi's Church)

Windows in the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia (Gaudi's Church)

Reflections from the window in the Basilica of Sagrada Familia (Gaudi's church)

Reflections from the window in the Basilica of Sagrada Familia (Gaudi's church)

Our paella on La Rambla

Our paella on La Rambla

Posted by Claire.Miller 13:24 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Genoa

Tuesday 8th Jan

semi-overcast 11 °C

I had no internet access on the ship so this will be lots of days going up in a row. Sorry to everyone who has been checking.

After my last entry we left the hotel to go to the ship (MSC Divina). Talk about first class treatment. We got escorted up to check-in, for security you know, all those crazy fans of mine can't be trusted! Walked down the blue carpet to the desk where drinks and snacks where served while all the admin was sorted. Both Alicia and I felt that we weren't really the clientele they were probably used to. Then up to the yacht club area where there is a swarovski staircase up to the cabins, apparently each step is worth £30,000... It totally makes you feel like dressing in a ballgown and walking down it, ultimate princess staircase.  

We met our butler, Larysa, on the way to our cabin. I don't think she will take very nicely to being called Jeeves (or Jeevette) unfortunately. In our cabin waiting for us is a complimentary bottle of champagne and fruit basket. I could get used to this kind of life! As soon as the escort guy left we may have done a victory dance and then gone through our cabin pretty much just saying holy shit.  

Found the others back down at one of the two bars exclusively for yacht club members. Had a couple of glasses of champagne, cos you know, it is free and all! Plus a nice salad nicoise for lunch entree. Went up to then outside bar to have a hot pasta lunch before a tour around the ship. Five days later the tour finished.... Took a fair amount of time being on the larger side of giant.  

Had to do an emergency drill which involved going down 9 flights of stairs. As you go down each flight you are thinking "damn, when this is over here is another flight I have to go back up!", there are elevators but you know that everyone will be catching them back up so it will be a sardine situation. The drill was made longer by the how to use your lifejacket demonstration which had to be said in about 6 languages. The worst part was, it made us miss high tea!  

Spent the afternoon trying not to fall asleep, think I might have gotten a little overexcited. So unlike me (In my defence though, Alicia was just as bad). Although I of course blamed jet lag. After appetisers at the bar, prosciutto if course, we were escorted down to the yacht club restaurant, Le Muse, for dinner by Larysa. Unfortunately, the restaurant was overly warm and I had great difficulty staying awake. The menu at this place changes daily and you can have as many courses as you want, again, because it is free, why not! I went for cream of tomato soup, slow cooked pork, and the cheese platter. All washed down nicely with a glass of chianti. Then straight to bed and out like a light.

Our ship the MSC Divina in Genoa port

Our ship the MSC Divina in Genoa port

Our welcome to the cabin

Our welcome to the cabin

The Swarovski staircase on the MSC Divina

The Swarovski staircase on the MSC Divina

Posted by Claire.Miller 13:08 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Adelaide to Genoa

sunny 2 °C
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.

Ciao everybody! We start on day number two in Europe as I was too tired to do anything involving thought to start writing this yesterday! So a bit of an update of the trip so far.

The first flight was not too bad, just watched movies the whole time pretty much. Food was not great, usually singapore is pretty decent, well as decent as plane food can get anyway. We couldn't see Alicia's parents when we got on the plane but managed to see the silver lining that if they missed it we would make the sacrifice and take their room on the ship. When we got to Milan though they had made it... Fortunately...

Singpore was hell pretty much, we figured that we should not sleep as then we would sleep on the plane, but 8 hours is a damn long time! Had some nice thai food to eat and some hot chocolate from starbucks. Went for the large, didn't think about the whole American company thing, and ended up with like a buckets worth! How you would ever drink that much hot chocolate is beyond me. A few hours in we decided to try going to the movie theatre in the airport, as it would be a good place to have a little nap and waste time. The movie that was on was John Carter. Absolutely no idea what was happening in that movie. Probably didn't help that we got in half an hour late, but it was very weird! Also didn't help that the chairs were really uncomfortable and the aircon was at about 5 degrees so no napping there. Played a game of monopoly to waste time, I don't think Alicia was impressed by my method of buying absolutely everything and then mortgaging it so I could buy even more.

The Singapore to Milan flight was horrible. Alicia managed to sleep most of the way. I spent most of the time sending evil thoughts to Karen and Gary in business class. Well evil thoughts interspersed with "I'm going to be highly pissed if I die before I even get to Europe" whenever we went through a patch of turbulence. Which was a lot. And damn Alicia just went on sleeping. I think it was better when she was sleeping though, as at the end when she woke up I got physically abused by her airplane socks.

Because we are just that cool the trip from Milan to Genoa was by private car. Apparently it was cheaper than the train as we had 6 people. Only took a couple of hours, got to the hotel at about 11am and thankfully got to go straight into our rooms and shower! Took me a little bit to work out that the C meant hot (hey, I was really tired ok!). Problem was though, the showers have a tendency to vary temperature in a cycle so you could stand in til it was too hot/cold and then you had to step out for a couple of seconds, get back in, try and tolerate the opposite extreme, really nice for a couple of seconds... And then you had to step out again. Went to lunch just down the road, had a lovely gnocchi and pesto with some white wine, plus lots of breadsticks! Walked around the city after lunch, it was a bit cold but once you'd walked a bit it was tolerable. Next stop was a wine bar a hundred or so metres from the hotel. Got a cocktail which turned out to be nothing but alcohol. Had half of it and went sleep time now! So back to the hotel and tried to stay awake til Alica came back as I would need to open the door. Once she got home it was in bed and out of it by 8.30pm!

This morning we got woken at 6.30 as the every lovely Karen decided to text Alicia. Shower whcih seemed to have an even shorter cycle than yesterday and then down to have breakfast with Karen and Gary. A nice freeshly squeezed orange juice and croissant with jam, pretty much all you need in life! Walked down to the port to see the ship which got here this morning. There is only one phrase that can describe it: bloody massive! Like if I walk halfway down the ship each day I will be fitter than ever! Not that that's really saying much. Walked back up to the hotel and here we are!

Lots of love to all! Thankyou for actually reading of anyone does!
Claire

Alicia and I looking amazing after our 8 hour flight in Singapore

Alicia and I looking amazing after our 8 hour flight in Singapore

The mist on the drive to Genoa

The mist on the drive to Genoa

Posted by Claire.Miller 09:50 Archived in Italy Comments (2)

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