Todra Gorge and Eco-auberge Festival

Leaving our desert adventure for a mountain one we took about three or four hours – driving here is not like back home – 80km could take an hour …or two and a half. It depends on how many villages one has to go through (pedestrians, donkeys, bikes all have right of way here) and how well tarred the roads are as well as how many gendarme stops there are.  So far we’ve been stopped twice but as soon as they hear you are not local they send you on your way and have always been very polite.

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Ali and Sara’s Desert Palace

From Midelt we head to Merzouga through the Ziz Valley.  Morocco is full of surprises and the Ziz Valley is one of them – a slash of green palm trees in the otherwise ochre and rust landscape.  We stop to admire this beautiful valley and …a nomad comes down from his shelter above – Bonjour, You are welcome he says.

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Moulay Idriss, Meknes and the ‘Teacher’

Moulay Idriss is perched on top of a hill and is considered a holy city. Although tiny and unassuming in appearance it has great importance to Muslims and many undertake pilgrimages here.  It was here that Moulay Idriss arrived in 789, bringing with him the religion of Islam, and starting a new dynasty.  In addition to founding the town named after him, he also initiated construction of Fez. The mausoleum of Idris is only open to Muslims but there are plenty of café’s and people selling wares along its winding narrow roads. We drive through slowly admiring the views but keep going.  We still want to see the City of Meknes.

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Fes – Volubilis’s Roman ruins

Our first morning in Fes began with a roof top breakfast of fresh fruit, homemade bread, French toast and boiled eggs with the most aromatic spices I have ever come across– who would have thought that cumin went so well with boiled eggs! It seemed strange to be going to see Roman ruins in Morocco and yet just after breakfast there was Reda, our driver from the previous day waiting to take us to see Volubilis – a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Roman ruins from 3 BC. Reda turned out to be our almost constant companion during our three days in Fes. Having studied psychology, English and philosophy at college as well as being a proud Fesi, with great knowledge of and love for his home place we could not have asked for a better guide.

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Fes – Riad Laaroussa

Our train from Casablanca arrived 40 minutes late.  We scanned the hall for a board with our name and seeing none debated what to do. Just as we are about to email the Riad and make our way towards the taxi’s outside a gentleman walks up to us “I’ve been here all the time” he says reassuringly, ‘Welcome to Fez” – he leads us to the taxi and we drive along the streets of Fez reaching a packed village centre, the car crawls along, our driver passes pleasantries with people walking past, everyone seems to know one another.  Eventually we reach what looks like a dead end with two arches way too small for a car.  An old man is reclining in what looks like nothing more than a deep, square shaped, home-made wheel barrow. Our car stops and the old man jumps up surprisingly sprightly and with unexpected strength he hoists our bags into the ‘wheelbarrow’ and with a few words in Arabic to our driver who tells us to follow the old man, we find ourselves being  lead towards one archway magnificently decorated in blue mosaics.

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Casablanca – “…Here’s looking at you, kid.”

As a South African, this is a trip long overdue. I have been to Europe and the States but never beyond the borders of South Africa to explore more of my own continent!

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Where you travel to is less important than who you travel with…

As in life, when travelling it is not so much where you travel to, so much as who you travel with.  Without a doubt my favorite traveling companion is my husband Pierre. Not merely because Pierre is so thorough in his research and planning that it’s like having my own personal travel agent ….. though I admit I do love this fact 🙂 Rather  you want someone who will be able to fully embrace the adventure while accepting the less glamorous parts of travelling.

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Voila! The Rouxs at large in Paris

One advantage Europe most certainly has for me over the US is its shorter flight time….though one is always grateful to finally get off the danged plane.

And relieved when you see your luggage has likewise made it safely off 🙂 we were especially glad to be reunited with our toothbrushes. On every other longhaul overnight they give you a little toothbrush together with your eye mask & ear phones….so I hadnt bothered packing ours in the carry on. Of course, Air Frances onboard packet did not include a toothbrush….pretty yuck after 10 to 12 hours of travel a couple of “meals” & a glass of wine.

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Monet’s Garden and a Perfect Parisian evening

Feeling a distinct cheese hangover I dose myself up and we make our way to the train station & set out to the Province of Normandy, en route (it’s about a 40 odd minute train ride) I use the backpack as a cushion and with the soothing motion of the train am soon snoozing. I wake up with ‘Tri-way’ imprinted on my cheek but feeling far more chipper.

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The Louvre, Amelie, the Eiffel Tower & breaking the ‘law’

There are no fat people in Paris…

ok, they’re not all rail skinny and there are some with broader beams, a couple of matronly looking ladies..but the only obese people I’ve seen have been American tourists!

I’m not sure if it’s because with such efficient public transport people use cars less, or the reasonable portions they serve, or genetic but definitely the Parisians as a group are normal weight folk..(look, Gerard Depardieu doesn’t count, remember ..he was so miff about the government raising taxes on the rich he applied for Russian citizenship! )

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