an chronicle of my adventures in Ifrane, Morocco and travels within the surrounding area

Friday, November 26, 2010

EUROTRIP







So what does one do with a ten day break from school while studying in Morocco? Well, like most of the international students at AUI, I decided a Eurotrip was most appropriate. Originally, the plan was to go see my long lost high school mate Leah in Z├╝rich, but due to Visa issues Leah's been exiled to London indefinitely, so off to the land of fish and chips I went!

While in London, I had a very anti-tourist experience. I spent most of my time eating all of the delicious vegetarian food offered all over the city


and cooking vegan delights with Leah on the daily. While my digestive system was less than excited about my choice to eat only vegetables, but my palate was satisfied for the first time in months. Leah introduced me to quite a few of her friends from the London couch-surfing community which one night led us to hear a really awesome Balkan band.

The rest of the time I spent riding the bus, making art in the window fog,


and observing London and the Londoners.

I did do a bit of sight-seeing, randomly stumbling across Herman Melleville's home one day


on my way to walk across the Thames and see Big Ben,


Parliament,


the always wonderful protest row outside parliament,

and Westminster Abbey (though it was Sunday so I couldn't go in),

then had a nice evening walk through Regent's Park.


I even met the Queen!


And by that I mean had a really awkward time trying to take a picture of myself with a postcard I didn't want to buy.

The next day Leah and I did some silly tourist things, having an embarrassing encounter with a guard in King's Cross when trying to find Platform 9 3/4,


and then trying repeatedly yet ultimately unsuccessfully to get pictures on Abbey Road,


though the delicious cheap Chinese food we started the day with

made it all worthwhile.

After a good stint in London with Leah, I headed to Amsterdam to meet up with a few of my friends from Morocco and explore what Holland had to offer.

I had heard tell of the bikes in Amsterdam, but until you hear the quiet of a bustling bike city in the evening, you really can't understand. I really enjoyed the personal touches many people made to their bikes, as well as the sheer number of bikes parked on any street, plaza,


or canal barrier.


There was also some incredibly impressive graffiti on a row of buildings we walked by.


A friend of a friend is studying abroad in the 'Dam and showed us around one night, and walked us through a part of the Red Light District on our way to somewhere else, and I had a really hard time with it. I think some of the rest of my crew wanted to go see the main part of the District, but walking past all of those windows knowing what was going on inside made me feel totally helpless.

The most moving experience I had while there was visiting the Anne Frank House. I obviously have no pictures, but that's not an experience I'll soon forget. Thanks to Otto Frank for all of his work and his willingness to open the house to the public to keep the story alive.

Overall, Amsterdam was a magical city, with all of the proper accoutrements for a carnival- bright lights,


delicious treats,


and great sights. Oh and let's not forget feminism!


We were lucky enough to get the last few seats a Harry Potter showing, which was quite an adventure into Dutch culture- evidently talking right up until the movie begins, yelling back at the screen, and clapping at any accomplishments are all acceptable and expected in the movie theaters.

Sadly, a stomach bug put me out of commission the day my friends went to the Van Gogh museum, and who wants to do a Heineken brewery tour with food poisoning? Despite my quick illness, though, Amsterdam was a great way to end by break, though I'd rather return sometime in the spring or summer when the sun is up longer than from 8am to 4:30pm.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chao-lloween


So I know I've said this before, but Chefchaoen is absolutely positively the greatest place I have yet seen in Morocco. Situated in the Rif Mountains about an hour south of Tangier, the city is a haven of blue paint, winding, hilly alleyways and breathtaking views. The blue paint which covers most of the town supposedly helps with the mosquitoes but may also be related to the city's history as a Jewish enclave.

The entire bus ride from Fes to Chefchaoen was inspiringly beautiful- I could hardly sleep for want to keep my eyes open.


When we finally arrived, the scenery just got better and better.



There were some extremely happy and healthy looking cats and dogs in Chaoen, which is very strange for Morocco. This one especially seemed happy, or at least very strategically housed.


As we followed the guides who offered to help us find a hotel up the winding alleys and walkways of the town, I really began to believe I was in a story book. When we arrived at the hotel and saw this tiny stairway and little blue wagon scene,

there was no longer a question in my mind- Chefchaoen must be the creation of Dr. Seuss.

After checking into the hotel and freshening up from the CLIMB up to our hotel, we headed down to the main square to have some tea and watch the sunset.


We found the perfect rooftop from which to do so, with a great view of the town on one side


and the mosque complex on the other.


We spent the rest of the night exploring the town and had some more rooftop fun on the terrace of our friends' hotel.

The next day was a cloudy, rainy one, but it turns out the mountains are still beautiful in the rain.


We decided since the weather wasn't too great for shopping in town we would take a taxi ride to Akchor, a nearby mountain town. Let me just say we made the correct decision. The entire trip to Akchor,




our time spent drinking tea in Akchor,




and the ride back


were punctuated by the sound of my camera clicking photos incessantly,

maybe having a little too much fun with the effects of the bumpy road. I couldn't stop trying to capture what my eyes were seeing.

When we got back to Chefchaoen, we began searching for something to eat, and stumbled upon a little hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop where we got the largest, most delicious sandwiches I have ever experienced all for just 8Dh ($1) each.


I kid you not, this sandwich rice, pasta, tuna, olives, peas, carrots, onions, and french fries on top.

After eating those sandwiches we were thoroughly exhausted and headed back to the hotel, watched a movie and headed to sleep. Our bus the next day was early and prohibited any more sight-seeing before heading back, but my attempts at channeling Ansel Adams continued for the rest of the trip home.









WHAT A TRIP IT WAS!