15 June 2020

Lockdown Luck on a Boat in France




France opens its borders today with other European countries. 

For 3 months, everything has been closed down with the virus. 
Restaurants. Bars. Cafés. Schools. Businesses. Post Offices. 




We're still on the boat in the south of France. 
We spent the entire lockdown and quarantine period here. 

Drinking the odd glass of wine. 
Enjoying the excellent wildflowers-!




But: We were in Portugal right before the virus hit. Spent a month there. 
Traveled back from Morocco through Spain by train, just as they recognized the severity of the virus. 

By chance, we returned to France and the boat a week or two early. 




In retrospect, we were super lucky. 
We got back to France just under the wire. 
Before they closed the borders. 




Lockdown was strict here! 

We weren't allowed to leave home (the boat) for 2 months. 
Only to the supermarket or pharmacy. With a signed form.


We took the boat out "for a walk", but - they made us go back. Oh well. Worth a try!


However, we were allowed to take 1 walk a day. 
No further than 1 km from home.  
No longer than 1 hour. 
We made good use of that. 




Also with the proper documentation, of course. 
Fines were hefty and without question. Even prison.




In essence, we had the canal completely to ourselves all spring. 

No boats. No visitors. No fishermen. No hikers. No bicycles.

It really IS a very agricultural village, especially when the visitors aren't here. 

Mostly wine. A few olives.




We got to watch the vineyards leaf out.

Identify unusual birds.
Even saw fish in a much clearer canal. 
(Did you hear they now  have dangerous alligator turtles along the canal?)

It's been a pretty slow existence.


Ducks laid a number of eggs on a few of the empty boats. 


Stan played a lot of guitar. Finished a new CD. 
Here's a link - different from his usual music: 

My art desk stayed busy. 




I also kept a Quarantine Journal - a drawing a day - 
hundreds of little drawings.






Then: coming off the lockdown felt so strange! 

We're out of practice talking to other people. 
No one knows quite how to act. Where to stand. 
We began with canal side visits. 

Now, restaurants and bars are open. 
It feels like life is returning to normal. 




We didn't miss being on the grid. 
Not having a freezer or a microwave. 
(Or a TV or electricity-)

Our small under-the-counter fridge worked fine.

I did miss having a garden - 
But it's surprising how little you really need. 
(Glad we had decent wi-fi-)




We were very lucky - we had a darn good place to enjoy a spring quarantine. 

Hope you were lucky, too -!

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've been in Morocco over a month already. 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. 
Really.

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.