16 February 2020

Are There Canaries on the Canary Islands?

A white stone house on a volcanic hill.
An island in the Atlantic.

We're in the Canary Islands.
Somewhere southwest of Morocco.

The grapevines are planted low in little hollows in the lava.
Each hollow dug individually.
Waiting for moisture.

Can you imagine how much WORK it takes - for just ONE bottle of wine?

(And - the wine here is unexpectedly good -!)

We're on the island of Lanzarote.

Politically, the Canary Islands are part of Spain.
Geographically, they're part of Africa.

Columbus used one of these islands when he set off for America.

Who built this place, anyway?
It's pretty wild.

Volcanoes. Lots of them. Again and again.

Beaches are black sand.
Palm trees look like Dr. Seuss paintings.

The plants seem to thrive with the lava.
Especially cactus.

They're really surprisingly bizarre plants.

There are random volcanic islands strewn about the place.

This is the view from our rented house.

It's a pretty inspiring place altogether.
Awfully quiet, too.

Not a bad place for drawing and painting.

Meanwhile, this is the scene back in New Mexico.

Kilian and friends - skiing in Taos.
Or trying.

Here in the Canary Islands, no snow. A little windy. 
It makes sense. 

I mean - we ARE somewhere out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

The winds have a chance to gather speed - starting from about Bermuda. 
No wonder there aren't many trees. 

Great for hiking. 

Walking. Thinking. 

And eating fresh seafood. 

Cool white towns with a smattering of odd nationalities running good restaurants. 
We talked to Italians, Brazilians (Brazil is closer than you think-) and Polynesian French.

It's an international community.

We rented 3 different places while there. This one was our favorite, and overlooked the beach.

The best part: Great hiking trails!
Right along the beach, on the lava rocks.

Past tide pools and cactus plants.

Not my fault! Not my boat!

And the name?
Turns out the Canary Islands were named by the ancient Romans.
Canaria - from the Latin word for dog.

Not for the cute little birds.
Oh well.

This winter, we've been in the Canary Islands (1 month),
Morocco (1.5 months) and Portugal (1 month).
While in Morocco, we spent a month in Essaouira.

Then, after almost a month, we're off again.
Binter Canarias Airways to Casablanca.

No, I hadn't heard of them before either.
They weighed us each before we boarded. And our luggage.

It's a small airline. Small plane.

Life in lavaland - even without the canaries.

An old German saying: Everything has an end, only a sausage has 2.”

16 January 2020

Essaouira - on the Edge of Morocco

Morocco is SO full of cool colors. And - the DOORS -!

So - do you know the difference between a medina, a souk, a casbah, a riad?
I wasn't sure, although I've read the words many times.

So here it is:

The medina - is the old town.
It usually has a wall around it.

The wall around the medina in Essaouira. It used to be called "Mogador". Isn't that a great name?

Small restaurants within the medina.

Taxis here cost between 70 cents and a dollar.

Those huge stone gates? They're called "Babs".

You can use them for directions. 
Like telling a taxi, "Drop me off at the South Babs."

Cats - are everywhere in Morocco! One fellow said, "We should really call it Catablanca."

The souk - is the market. The bazaar.
Often covered.

The souk is usually within the medina.

You can buy EVERYTHING in the souk.

A casbah is a type of fortress.
A citadel. Might also be within the medina.
Or not.

This old casbah has a VERY large stork's nest on top of it!

And a riad - is a traditional house built around a courtyard, often a garden.
Recently, a lot of riads have been turned into hotels.

It's a popular thing: Come to Morocco, buy a riad.
Fix it up, and start a guesthouse.

There you go. Now you know, too.

We're in Essaouira. 
The western coast of Morocco.

It's crazy colorful here.

We hadn't planned to stay here so long.

In fact, we'd already bought tickets to SE Asia.

Turkish Airlines from Casablanca to Istanbul to Bangkok.
We've been traveling in Morocco for a while, and thought we were ready to move on.

Then - we arrived in Essaouira. 
We spent Christmas here with family.

And - it's really cool! 
Relaxed. Comfortable. Chill.
Perfect temperature. Plenty of places to rent.

Kite surfing.
Guys playing soccer on the beach.
Umbrellas over restaurant tables. 
History, culture and a colorful medina.

And camels.

So - we decided to stay here a while longer.
We've rented a super cool little rooftop apartment.

It's about $40 a night. But - the wine is more expensive here, when you can find it.

Just inside the medina.

It's very sunny - but not hot.
Just about perfect for long walks on the beach. 

It's a very long beach-!

There's a thriving fishing industry here.
Lots of boats. Lots of fish. Lots of sea birds.

The birds are loud! Almost as loud as the mosques -

And - good restaurants.

It's about 3 hours' drive west of Marrakech. 

Marrakech - in contrast - is a VERY busy place.
About a million people, but it feels like more.

Traffic in Marrakech is - challenging.
 Erik drove through it.

His comment: "You’re right. The driving here is reaaaally crazy." 
And this - from a guy who lives and drives - in Bangkok.

So, what's in Morocco beside sand? 

Awesome blue cities.

Ancient castles buried in palm fringed valleys. 
Old stone palaces. Roman ruins. 

Mountain peaks and wild gorges. 
Berber villages.

We stayed with a large Berber family up in the mountains - lots of mint tea and soup.

Incredible markets and souks where you can wander for hours.
Everything from carpets to camel heads. 

The medina in Fes has 9,000 alleyways. (and 40,000 dead ends) 
It helps to have a guide - we did. 
One who was born and raised in the souk itself.

Oasis after oasis. Just like in films.

Music. And - incredible fossils.

This - is a table in our room.

Rugs. Tiles.
Handicrafts. Art. 

Steps are tiled. Walls. Sinks. Tables. Floors. Fountains. Tiles everywhere.
Brass, copper, rugs, textiles, teapots, trays, coffee pots. Certainly an Aladdin's lamp in there somewhere.

The tanneries of Fes, what a sight! 

Built in the 11th century, where they still tan and dye leather. 
Cow, sheep, goat, and camel hides are tanned, and then dried in the sun. 

Did you know goat hides make the softest leather?

The view is impressive - and so is the smell. 
(They give you a spring of mint to smell when you enter. As if.)

So many of the places look like film sets. 
Apparently, the film companies think so, too. 

A lot of popular films are shot here. 

Stan adding to the local color. They all call him Ali Baba. Not sure exactly why.

Stan was looking for meteorites.
Morocco is a good place to find them.

Stan hunting for meteorites. With his pétanque magnet.

Did I mention the doors...?

The main languages in Morocco are Arabic and Berber. 
About 75% of the people are Berber. 

Here's what the Berber alphabet looks like. 

Berber alphabet

A lot of Morocco reminds me of New Mexico. 

And of Iran, where I lived 1977-79. 
The climate, the geography, the adobe buildings. 
Sunshine and deep blue skies.

Almost as cool as the doors....

Our route: 

Casablanca - Rabat - Meknes - Volubilis - Fes - Midelt - Erfoud - Merzouga - Ouarzazate - Ait Benhaddou - Marrakech - Sidi Kaouki - Essaouira

...and more Morocco - here.