Spain continued

Loved Sevilla . Such a beautiful town . Yesterday we drove to Cordoba   A quick stop at a cute town called Carmona – we had lunch at a hotel where they filmed game of thrones  -with beautiful views of the valley . Made it to Córdoba -another enchanting little town. Staying at a cute hotel with the nicest staff ever and great breakfast . We walked and walked and walked and got lost many times today and just had the best time . Saw the remnants of a synagogue from before 1492 and there is a statue of Maimonides near the synagogue. Tomorrow we drive to Madrid for our last three days in Spain -I’ve already bought tickets for the Prado !

Sevilla

On the road again . The drive from Granada to Sevilla was about 3 hours . We made a quick stop in a beautiful little town called Antequera about halfway through our drive . We wandered around for a bit and discovered probably the most ornate church I’ve ever seen .  The town is built into the hills and all the buildings are white . Not sure that Harold didn’t strip the gears of our car as he tried not to slide down the hill where we parked !!!! Burnt rubber smell -ugh!!!!

We  drove into Seville and only got lost a couple of times by missing turns -not bad . Our hotel is right in the center of the city and really beautiful. “ Luckily “for us the air air conditioning in  our amazing room was broken and we were moved to an even more amazing huge suite . The TV in the living room is 84 inches !  It’s hard to leave the hotel bu5 of course Harold  needs his pastry fix ….Seville is a fantastic and charming city . We have walked and walked and walked   This afternoon we took a tour of “ Jewish “ Seville . A bit of an oxymoron because there haven’t been Jews here since before 1492. However we saw areas we would never have discovered on our own and our guide was funny,engaging and very knowledgeable. Great experience! Then we stopped for wine and Tapas ! Wonderful having wine in the middle of the afternoon . The weather is sunny and 80 degrees  -perfect . I finally took off my three jackets !

A hellish day……

So yesterday was one of those days you never want to re live . We got up very early in our cold and windy blue town and headed back through the mountain roads towards Tangier’s .  We also stopped at a grocery store to pick up some cheese and bread anticipating no stops for meals . Three long and winding hours later we arrived . Stopped for a quick last mint tea and tried to get into the synagogue but the guard said NO.  He was not allowed to let anyone in . Harold even tried to bribe him but he wouldn’t budge . Back into the van and it was at least another hour to the port . The guide dropped us off with our luggage and off he went . We arrived at the ticket counter of the ferry company we had booked to find that all it’s ferries that day were cancelled .  Luckily (????) there are other Ferry companies and after much confusion and stress we managed to book a ride out on another ferry about an hour later . The ferry left quite late but at least we left !!! We crossed the straights of Gibraltar and saw the “Rock”.  Amazing sight . Three hours later we arrived at the port in Algaciras. Took a taxi to Avis car rental.  We were supposed to get a van but their idea of a van and our idea of a van are quite different. However, we managed to squish everything in . And off we went for another 4hour drive  to Granada , with a stick shift , in the dark , through the mountains . I might just mention here that we started offf headed in the wrong direction and had to back track . Finally made it to our hotel around 10:00PM   OMG talk about being exhausted . But needed to decompress so we headed out and found a cute bar around the corner from our hotel and had tapas and listened to a guitarist and singers. People got up and danced.  So much fun.  And then the waitress offered me a shotof caramel vodka   Soooo good !!!!

I’m going to run on into today . We got up early and took a taxi to the Alhambra. Magnificent !!! The architecture and painting are like a dream.  After touring the palace we stopped for a quick bite of breakfast and I had toast with tomato and cheese -sooo good. Then we toured the gardens which are awesome as well. Totally breathtaking. We decided to walk back (downhill) and we just walked the city for the entire day . The weather was cool , ok so I was wearing long sleeves, a vest and two jackets -but it was sunny 😎 the city is great , lively , lots of restaurants, lots of people about and very energetic . At about 3:00PM we stopped for a snack at a bar . Both Harold  and I ordered Alhambra beer and they gave us a plate of French fries in hot sauce with that ! As we were sitting at the bar I noticed the waitress making a delicious looking coffee drink . I asked her what it was – condensed milk , espresso and a huge shot of brandy.  Well I decided to have that  too – delicious but I could hardly walk ! Harold also had gelato , churros and hot chocolate . Also managed to buy two pair of sandals and some jeans and walk through a sudden rain storm ! Today was a great day   Tomorrow we head to Seville for three days .

Chefchaouen

We are in the mountains at this quaint town which is painted blue !!! We are staying at our first real riad . Very ornate -more like a B&B or an inn. The rooms are small and face an innner courtyard . While it is unbelievably sunny here it is very cold and crazily windy -probably 40 miles per hour at least !!!! Last night after we came back from dinner there was a fire roaring in the main guest area and it was needed !!! I’m so glad we have a heater in our room . Breakfast was lovely and plentiful with good strong coffee. We had planned to hike and take along a picnic  lunch but the weather didn’t cooperate so we settled for walking the town . It’s amazing since everything is painted blue . The streets are cobblestoned and hillier that San Francisco !!! First we walked through the farmer’s market and in this instance it is the Berber women (not the men )who bring fresh fruit and vegetables to sell . With this cold weather everyone vies for the best spot in the sun . People here shop every day for fresh produce and baked goods .  The tiny stores sell leathers and rugs and scarves and soaps . We meandered through the streets and stores all day . One of the bakeries is owned by a man who moved here from Belgium two years ago to get away “from it all”   He bakes three cakes every day and that’s what he sells . Oddly enough he has an 8 year old daughter here with him , yet he has a wife and 4 other children still in Belgium . I wish had gotten more of his story !!!

Tonight is our last night in Morocco. Tomorrow we leave very early for Tangier and we are taking the ferry to Gibraltar and will begin touring southern Spain on our own ( ie: no guide ) . So,with harold driving and GPS we will embark on a new adventure ! First stop Granada !!!

Our Sahara desert adventure

Soooo we’ve spent three LONG days in the car and spent 15 hours at our tent hotel in the Sahara and we slept for about 6 of them !!! So we left from Skoura and drove and drove and drove through more mountains . Lots of traffic and construction again . We drove to a place called  Erfoud, which is on the outskirts of the Sahara . We visited a Jewish Berber cemetery and synagogue . All of the Berber Jews have moved to Israel but they still make pilgrimages here . They have built a new synagogue and social hall with kosher kitchen which they use when they come to visit . I think the berbers who  here were mostly illiterate  tribes- people must have done much better for themselves in Israel !!!  We had lunch at a cute little restaurant called Pizzeria-off the beaten tourist track and we loved it .

Then we transferred our back packs to a 4X4 Jeep and waved good bye to our guide and driver and headed to the desert with a new “desert “ guide who spoke Arabic and Spanish . Not sure how we ended up with a non English speaking g guide but….. anyway we laughed a lot and tried to communicate  and we managed to teach him Some Yiddish as well . Not sure how that will go over with his next American tourists . At first we couldn’t figure out why we needed a 4X4 because the highway was pretty straight forward but after about 20 minutes he turned sharply right I to a sand dune and off we went racing up and down the dunes !!! Yes , its part of the the shtick  to add to the excitement but it was fun !!! We drove through the dunes for another hour and finally reached our destination -Two HUGE sleeping tents  and attached bathrooms. We had a bed that was larger than a king size bed  and not onlydid it have a heated mattress but at least 10 pounds of blankets on top . We had a sitting area with a couch and two chairs and then through a flap in the wall was a very large bathroom -2 sinks , separate toilet room , shower stall and separate tub. Ok so the water pressure was non existent but still pretty cool . And then  I saw this HUGE BUG crawling across the floor and went screaming out of the tent for Hussein  our care giver there -I called him MOM  he told me not to worry (yeah right) they are harmless beetles and won’t climb into the bed !!!! Big breath!!!!  We then sat outside and took in the views while Hussein brought us tea and lemonade and cookies . Then lo and behold we see a Bedouin leading camels towards out tents  -itcould have been a scene out of Lawrence of Arabia !!! Okay it was show time !!! I was so scared -I just couldn’t imagine myself getting up on a camel , let alone riding it through the desert . But … the driver got his camels to kneel down and I hoisted myself on and started screaming immediate as the camel clumsily righted himself to a standing position . I’m not sure how I stayed on but I did !!! And they lumber they don’t just walk easily and the sand is slippery so while the camel is going forward you are going in all directions at once !!! Finally got the hang of it and it was really fun to be riding a camel through the sand dunes   We stopped at the bottom of a huge dune , got off the camels and clawed our way on all fours up the side of the dune . We had to reach the top to watch the sunset . Spectacular and awe inspiring !!! Then I sat down and slid back down the sand dune to the camels – now that was fun !!!!the ride back to camp was easier -a bit more attuned to the rhythm.

We arrived to find a sumptuous feast awaiting us and dove right in . Then an astronomer arrived and gave us a talk on the stars and constellations and he had a huge telescope which we could see the craters in the moon ! There is also an app which helps you find the constellations in the sky . He was funny and engaging and very interesting . And there’s more … after he left there  was a band from Mali and the Sudan who performed with indigenous musical instruments and chants . They were great and we sang along and danced with them around a fire . Then , finally to bed because we were up again at 6:00AM for a sunrise camel ride . It was COLD but a totally different and wonderful experience seeing the sun rise in the quiet of the dunes . It really makes you think that mirlacles can happen !!! From the grey of dawn to this huge yellow ball rising out of the horizon and coloring the earth with glorious pinks and blues -breath taking !

Headed back to camp and a huge breakfast  and we were on our way again for another  9 hour  car ride to Fez . More mountain roads and we hit a rain storm , snow storm , freezing windy weather and then when we arrived in Fez it’s 70 !!!

tomorrow we explore the Médina !!!

 

 

Day 8 Morocco

BLong day . We stated early and travelled through the Atlas Mountains on our way to the desert. Road construction , all the way , made a long and winding. drive even longer !!!! 6hours later we stopped for lunch (not at our destination yet ) and a walk through the Kasbah -much like a shouk . We also crossed a river which was mostly dry . There want a lot of snow this year in the mountains but whatever there was hasn’t melted yet to start filling the river beds . We literally walked in The river bed and across stones (some water ) to get tothe other side . Back in the car towards our destination ? Another stop at a MOVIE STUDIO . Yes in Morocco . Game of thrones , Gladiator and Kundun just to name a few have been filmed there. The sets are still up and it was a trip to fantasy land . They make between 3-8 movies there a year …Back in the car again and finally arrived in Skoura where we stay for the night . This is PRE DESERT . Before you start another long drive to the desert !!! Met some lovely Canadian women who are touring with a group called Wild Women !!

we are up at crack of dawn to head out again for our desert adventure. Five more hours of driving

Last day in Spain

absolutely loved Madrid ! Lots of walking ,So many beautiful buildings ,and the food is amazing . We visited the Prado which is an amazing museum . Works of Goya and Velasquez and we ended with the 15 century works of   Hieronymus Bosch . His work is really bizarre . We also visited the la Reina  Sofía modern art museum to see Picasso’s La  Guernica . Tomorrow we are off to London for a few days to see our daughter ! I’m blogged out  –thanks for following our adventures

Day 7 Morocco

This morning we went on a spectacular 2 1/2 hour walk through the mountains . Our guide Mohammed was Berber and guided us up and down the mountains paths . His family has lived here for generations . He works for the hotel and the hotel spent a year teaching him  English before they hired him to guide tourists . He was very frendly and engaging . He has 5 daughters! No sons ! While we hiked he told us about his life . His oldest daughter is married and the others are in school . Public school in his village only goes til 6th grade . The middle and high schools are in anothe village and if you can’t afford to send them there by bus then 6 th grade is all you get . Also the school day is only 4 hours long . He is able to send his daughters to school because someone from Marrakech is paying for the girls transportation .  they will not go to college because it’s just not feasible on his salary . We hiked to his village and he invited us to his home for tea . His home has been in his family for generations. There are 11 people living in 3 rooms . The kitchen has no fridge  or stove . There is a tiny sink and a few utensils . There is a sleeping room for the girls and a room where he and his wife and brother and his wife sleep . His brother and his wife and kids live there and his sister lives there too . We did not see any toilet or running water. His wife washes clothes in the river . He loves Americans and says they are the most generous people . Also his clothes had been given to him by tourists and even his second had phone was given to him . He said his worst tourists are the Russians .

We came back to a sumptuous lunch and it really makes you thankful for the life we lead . Lucky to have met him And spend a few hours in his company .  Harold went off on another adventure this afternoon . The hotel was very explicit in telling him where NOT to go and of course that’s where he went . They sent a search party out for him. I went for a massage this afternoon and it was a much tamer time !!!

Tomorow we are headed to the Sahara and camel riding and sleeping in a tent . Let’s see how we survive this one !!!

Day 7 Morocco

Sad to leave the wonderful hotel in Marrakech-truly a fabulous stay . We headed to the mountains but first we stopped at anamazung NGO . It’s called  Fiers eat Forts -Proud and Strong – started by a wonderful woman called Madou. She is originally from Holland  but has lived in Morocco for many years . She had started an orphanage in Marrakech many years ago when her husband was a banker here . However , in the 80’s King Hassan 11 decided to throw out all the foreigners so they moved to France . While they were exiled her husband died but she always wanted to come back . She returned to a small village northeast of Marrakech in the mountains where the Berbers live . Many if not most of the people are illiterate and many of the women are prostiutes and /or are abused by the men . The children are left to their own devices and wander the street in rags begging for food . They are abused and uncared for .  Madou started a Center for some of these kids . It’s a most unbelievable place. it’s a school and a dorm and a farm . There are large gardens and play areas., a beautiful  modern kitchen where some of the children can learn a skill . We met a young woman whose father had so severely abused her that she cannot even look at a man . She is very emotionally troubled   They have children here  who they found wandering by themselves in the mountains who had no language skills and had never eaten a hot meal or interacted with other adults . Madou has created a warm , calm and nurturing environment for these kids and tries to gain their trust so that they can be taught how to learn and trust adults and get along in the world . It’s a real uphill climb but she has some amazing people working with her and they really love these kids and are trying to give them a better life .

As we left them to drive to our next luxury hotel one can’t help appreciating how lucky we are to live the lives that we do . We are determined to help her help these children . We checked into our hotel and tomorrow we are hiking and relaxing .

 

 

Day 6 Morocco

I woke up in a panic this morning realizing I had “ forgotten “ to write my blog !!! We had a beautiful and interesting day . We started at the Yves St Laurent house and museum . This is a must see for anyone coming to Morocco. So far its been the highlight of my trip here . It’s also a good idea to go with  a guide because at 9:00 AM the line is sneaking around the block . But … we just sailed in !!!! The bright blue YSL color just bursts upon you as you walk in . Plants  in yellow , blue and orange pots against the blue back drop and the various greens of the cacti-immediately catch your eye and transport you to another world . It makes cactus look lush !!!  We actually did line up to see the Berber museum , which is on the grounds , which opens at 10:00. Very interesting and the Berber clothing and trinkets look much like the Aztec and South American artifacts. We then walked the grounds and just breathed in the beauty and the color and the symmetry  . What he created is amazing . There is also a museum of his fashions and when he came to Morocco he started designing in color and pattern rather than just black and white . The fashions and picture of Catherine Deneuve , his best friend and muse are riveting . Not only did he love her but the camera loved her . It was gut wrenching to leave .

The next part of our day (lunch) was a bit bizarre . First we stopped at a wonderful chocolate shop to buy a hostess gift because we thought we were having lunch at the home of a Jewish family . Well…..we went to where we thought our lunch was and no one answered the door – our poor guide was mortified and was frantically Calling to see what was wrong . So it turns  out that he was given the wrong address . We trudged down the four flights of stairs and initially he couldn’t find the place we were supposed to go to . 30 minutes later we finally arrived and what a shock . Yes , we were at the home of  an orthodox Jewish family BUT their business is hosting other orthodox families for meals while they travel . I don’t know who was more shocked when we showed up (in our jeans and t shirts ) them or us ….  anyway the woman Gloria was gracious and invited us in . The apartment is a kitchen and two rooms set up with long tables.  We found out later they don’t live here -just run their restaurant from here .  There was another  orthodox couple there from Long Island and immediately you could see them turn up their noses . The man from Long Island immediately started to lecture us about his views of Morocco. He had been born here and lived through a terrible famine as a young child  his family moved to Israel when he was 13  he is very prejudiced and hateful of anyone not Jewish . His wife is American and a “ proud “.Trump supporter because he has done SOOOO much good for the Jewish people . She painted the entire Democratic Party as anti Semitic . I finally could not sit quietly and politely  by and I let it rip ….. the woman was so taken aback that she turned white and said she didn’t want to talk politics anymore   I can’t imagine why !!! I’m still appalled when I think about the conversation , then Gloria’s husband came in and yelled at Harod because he wasn’t wearing  a kippa. So,he did put one on . There was a lot of food and it was quite good . The rest of the lunch passed quietly as the hosts did not speak English  They are fluent inArabic, French and Hebrew. So we spoke a bit . The husband was responsible for restoring the synagogue and the cemetery.  That is his passion .They have 8 children-none live in Morocco. They feel that within 10 years there won’t be any Jews here . After lunch the men prayed and we watched . Finally time to leave and Gloria gave our hostess gift the the other American couple -as we were watching . Totally bizarre . And needless to say not want we were expecting . But an experience non the less .

After taking a deep breath we then proceeded to the synagogue and then to the cemetery. There are over 27.000 graves and it was so sad that there were mass graves of Children that died in 1959 from a cholera outbreak . An Arab family has taken care of the cementary for  3 generations . They live on the cemetery grounds. The son took us around and while we were there the head of the Jewish community of Marrakech came to pay homage to his family . He’s about our age and all his kids have left as well . But he didn’t miss an opportunity to ask us for an donation . We then went  to see an ancient grove of olive trees and a reservoir where they used to train the navy swimmers .

Finally back to the hotel around 6:30 and some relaxation .

Today we are off to an NGO Proud and Strong and then to the mountains to stay at Richard Branson’s famous hotel !!!!