Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sooo much water!!!

Its Brian here.

These keybords are a pain, and my brain seems to be less adaptable than Leannas so I am forgoing some punctuation.

Yep, the lady got her mule. We had a great day hiking and riding in the hills above Dades gorge. It was beautiful and restful and tiring too. We stopped under a lone tree next to some nomad caves and our guide Mohammed made tea. We were well away from it all.

The next day Leanna was well into a head and throat cold and we did a fairly relatively short three hour bus ride to Ouzarzate. But forst we had to get to he bus stop, which consisted of sitting in the shqde for about an hour by our hotel until a minibus came along. We had a good chat with Mohammed who gave us a copy of the 2010 Michelin Routard guide for Morocco... super since we left our Lonely Planet in our hotel room in Er Rachidia.

We had a relaxed evening in Ouzarzate and bought some good cold drugs for L. Then the next day, yesterday, we did another loooong day on the bus. First we headed over through the Atlas montains to Marrakech. Beautiful scenery!! We bought some Argan herbal soaps fro, a womens cooperative. When we got to the Marrakech bus station a guy guessed where we were headed and led us to the next bus. The ticket seller tried to grossly overcharge and the gave us about the right price when we asked where the general ticket office was. The the guy who led us to he bus asked us for money and I gave him the two Driham I had in my pocket. He threw them down insulted. We were lezss than impressed with each other at this point. leanna fished out some more Dirham and he left fiarly satisfied. This was sooooo different from most of our interactions in Morocco where people have been very generous of spirit.

The next bus took about three hours to Essouaria on the Atlantic coast. Its a beautiful city with an intact fortress and friendly folk. The oceqn is so big after being in so much dryness!!!! Its more touristy than most of where we have been so there is more of a divide between visitors and Moroccans. This morning I went for an early walk out of the tourist zone for a cup of the excellent coffee served in so many road side cafes. The touristy stuff is fun, but so is watching people walking to work and seeing the garbage pick up system in action.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Hello from the Dadès Gorge, where the rocks are high and the river is low. And the tea is sweet and the views are glorious. I could go on.
So since I've last written we've travelled 14 hours in 3 busses, spent a night in Errachidia and gotten cozy in the gorge. We have a few highlights to share with you.
The day almost didn't happen, since we missed the delicate meeting 'time' that is so elusive in these parts (2 minutes sometimes means 20). Brian says that in Ghana, they say 'any moment from now' which seems to carry well here as well. But once we did meet up with our guide, Mohammed, we were traipsed throughout an entire labyrinthine Ksour - traditional village - in the company of two lovely french octogenarians. We had tea in the courtyard of a weaver woman who dressed me and the french lady in the traditional white cloth covering that the older women wear out. From head to toe, I was swathed, with only one opening at my left eye. I was veeerrry mysterious for about 2 minutes - long enough to have some photos taken and to nearly wilt with the heat. We went out again at night and explored some more with Mohammed - he took us to underground baths - 115 stairs down, hot, humid and pitch black. Except for our headlamp which only served to illuminate scuttling critters...EEK! But both B and I went in for a dip. No sooner than we emerged back into the street were we dry. That's the desert for ya! We had a beautiful time with our guide - if you find yourself hankerin' for a trip to the desert, have we got the hookups for you!

MINI HILARIOUS HIGHLIGHT: 'Do you know Celine Dion? Do you have her address? I love her.'

Folks, this is the best way to catch interaction with the regular people. Other bus riders are also just working their way to a destination, they don't have ulterior motives for chatting with you. I commented to a gentleman at the bus station that I liked his scarf, he told me it was from Agadir and I said 'dommage, too bad cause we aren't going there'. He replied by taking off the scarf and putting it in my hands. PEOPLE this is SO KIND. He refused any kind of exchange, much to my dismay. He later made sure Brian didn't get left in the bathroom at a rest stop. People are just generous and curious and kind. Of course there are people who are used to tourists and are skeptical or whatever, but these instances of kindness fill me up to brimming with appreciation for this country. I almost needed to have a moment. Fortunately for all those on the bus, I resisted. Thanks Brian.

We're staying in a pretty chi-chi place as far as our budget goes, overlooking the Gorge, a beautiful room (albeit with some creative plumbing), and the mountains at our doorstep. This place is pretty much built for tourists and we've seen more in the last two days than since we left Spain. Luckily for us, the mountain was empty! We were accompanied by a guide named....Mohammed! We took tea with nomads in a cave and we pleasured in the wind and expansive vista. We returned through a village and ate figs off a tree and saw GARDENS!!!! Tomatoes, cabbages, carrots - very similar to our veggies and flowers.

This is the best honeymoon EVER. Tomorrow I get to ride a mule - can it GET any better?!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Long awaited photos!

We've finally sorted out a card reader! So for your viewing pleasure, we're including some photos that represent our trip to date...and sorry, but so far no photo of Brian doing the 'Leanna walk' yet. We'll get working on that!

1st photo: Yours truly. We took this on our beach day in the outskirts of Algeciras.

2nd photo: The Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona, still in construction. And totally magnificent.

3rd photo: Our reflection in a nutty mirrored construction. Barcelona.

4th photo: THE shoes. Sevilla.

5th: in the Alcazar, Sevilla. Note the shoes.

6th: The medina in Oujda

7th: Tea with the fellas

8th: 7 hour bus ride through scrub desert. Occasional glimpses of nomadic camps. Amazing. And frankly, a little boring after the fourth hour.
9th: The date palm oasis that is Figuig. This is taken from the hotel terrace.
And finally, the breakfast of champions. Yes that's freshly squeezed orange juice, yes that's fig jam, yes the olive oil is olivey. YES! Jealous yet?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Figuig: Land of Fi...Dates

Just in case the title isn't clear, Figuig is a date palm oasis - not a fig factory.

It is amazing here. We bussed in from Oujda, taking us 7 hours into the desert, to the easternmost corner of Morocco. It's everything my imagination told me it would be but BETTER!

Last night we were walking around Oujda looking for a place to eat when some fellas approached us with a 'bon soir'. Usually, as a lone woman traveller I quickly bon soir back, keep my head down and keep walking. But with the awesome company that is Brian, we actually talked back enough to get invited to tea. It turns out both of these guys are from Figuig (I know, I thought they were pulling my leg too...but nope, truly they're from here.)

Momo and Abdel proceeded to walk us around town, warn us of bad guys, and set us up with Momo's cousin who lives in Figuig. Momo also invited us over to his house (on a Sunday night at 10pm) for cous cous (since Brian's in a state of anticipation, not having eaten ANY cous cous since we left home). Anyways, point is, Momo volunteered his mom for this hospitality. We graciously declined. But we did leave with a mitful of phone numbers and a feeling of really being welcomed to this part of the country.

THEN on today's bus ride in I had the good fortune of sitting beside a woman. She's about my age, a teacher, and is a member of the association des droits humains (human rights). She shared her story with me and all I can tell you is that I am so lucky to have heard it. She has invited us to stay with her on our way from Figuig to the Draa Valley. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is the kind of place where you are invited into people's homes.

So tonight, the menu is cous cous. I will have a happy belly and special man-friend-husband on my hands :)

Friday, September 17, 2010


Last night we happened into an auditorio on a side street, on one of our 'let's get lost' walks. (really, it's a strategy for finding cool places to eat and see). We stopped because we could hear singing, strumming and stomping coming from inside the courtyard - who wouldn't stop? It was like a Sevillan calling card: Yes! Flamenco is here! Come on in!

And holy moly was it ever beautiful and intense! I've seen flamenco in a theatre before, and it was great, but I was far away, and it looked so perfect that it was hard to see the human behind it. Last night was so different - we were in a tiny courtyard with a recessed alcove-stage, three rows away from the action.

In a nutshell, flamenco last night felt like witnessing a group therapy session. A singer, a guitarist, a female and a male dancer. They would periodically olé eachother, as if to say 'yeah, that was a good one', or 'you sing it, sister'. The dancer would frown and stomp and the musical entourage would olé, 'You stomp it out, girl. Just stomp that man right out of your life'. Then the dancer would smile and they'd all smile with her. Relief! Olé! 'It's all good, so glad you worked it out'.
It was a rollercoaster. A truly beautiful experience.

And now for today - bussing to the port (we were told by the barman who served us coffee this morning that Algeciras is really nothing special, that we should go instead to we'll see how that works out. Brian commented that maybe we should start asking people things more often, it seems that they have useful things to say. Sounds good to me!)

Hasta la proxima!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Flan, Shoes and Cathedrals

Well ladies and gents, I found them.

My spanish shoes. I was just walking around, innocently minding my own business when Brian and I came upon the Camper store. THERE'S A CAMPER STORE!
It's full of...beautiful shoes. And, well, as I'm sure you can all imagine, it was love at first sight.

Following my conquest, we walked into the Alcazar, which is what it says on the map. Not exactly sure what the story is there, but it's a beautiful part of the city with a giant cathedral, fountains, plazas and yellow & pink buildings. But not cheesy yellow and pink - perfect yellow and pink.

We also found a small tapas bar with an inner courtyard and ate some more great food. I'm happy to report that the gazpacho here DOES taste like the gazpacho I make at home...except that it's puréed to a pulp. I'm on the hunt for the best flan, so needless to say we eat lots of dessert.

So aside from eating and walking, we don't really do much! It's perfect! Brian has mastered the art of mimicking my walk - it's not exactly flattering, but it's a little bit hilarious in its likeness. We were walking to find café con leche this morning, and he stopped me in the street, jutted his head out in front of him and commenced walking at triple speed, arms swinging.
Yep, that's me.

Okay, up, up and away we go!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Hello fellow humans,

We left Barcelona wanting more - a good state to leave it in. We didn't make it to the castle, thanks for the tip, Dad, but we did make it into the Montjuic park. Barcelona was just super awesome. It´s a little bit confusing between the Catalán and Spanish being spoken, but we made out just fine.

So now we're in Sevilla, south and inland. It is hot, hot & hot out here. We arrived last night to 43 degrees - HOLY MOLY! And I guess this is just the beginning of what the remainder of our trip will be, gotta acclimatize.
We're staying in the more touristy neighbourhood in central Sevilla, so everything's a little more expensive, and a little more english-ready. Our servers last night definitely became more friendly after we attempted our Spanish with them - for sure the way to go.

Today's my first tired day, so we're just going to take 'er easy...wander, sit, drink coffee...what a beautiful life!

We haven't seen much of the city yet, so this will be fun. The Spanish spoken here spouts out like a fountain, so fast, and rippling. It takes lots of ears to eavesdrop ;)

Was trying to upload photos, but sorry folks, too confusing for me right now!
We're here for another two nights, then we're planning a trip to the south - Algeciras? To hang out on the beach for another day, and then take the ferry to Morocco...WOOOOHOOOOO!!!

Keep dry out there, thanks for the emails, comments and updates!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Melon Soup

We found the best restaurant last night.

And we ate melon soup - is this a thing? Have YOU had melon soup before? I'm going to make it when we get home, you can come over for dinner that night.

We sit on terraces when we can, to watch people and to maximize this beautiful outside time. But yesterday afternoon we found ourselves at the tail end of the lunch time (around 4pm...if you miss lunch, you are waiting until the restaurants open back up at 9pm), sitting inside a bustling traditional resto. The waiters were rambunctious, noisy, yell-y...and hilarious. THIS is what you miss if you sit out on the terrace.
Just letting you know.

But the restaurant last night - we were on the terrace, and placed our dinner order at around 10:30pm - tail end of dinner on a Sunday night, I think. And the servers were pleased, I think, that we loved their food, and that we spoke terrible terrible Spanish (here it's very easy to get away with speaking english always). We were gifted at the end of the meal with two glasses of house muscatel. Straight out of their barrel. (seriously - many restaurants just have barrels of wine. Forget bottles.)

It was delightful.

We heart Spain. We're gonna live here for a year. Like, maybe in a few. Better find a marketable skill.

Hasta la proxima, amigos!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Landed, all four feet on the ground

TOP TEN THINGS WE´RE LOOKING FORWARD TO: *established in the Calgary airport
1) Not working
2) Good FOOD
3) Pleasant surprises
4) Riding a mule!
5) Being hot
6) Feeling relaxed and zenned
7) Interesting conversations
8) Quality loving time
9) More FOOD
10) Going home to Baloney (aka. Thelonious)
11) And other things*

*for those of you who witnessed our marriage, you might recognise number 11 from Brian´s vows. It´s like the best catch-all for the end of a list.

Welcome to sunny, hot, and beautiful (though occasionally smelly) Barcelona! (sounds like bar'th'elona round here). We arrived after a happily uneventful 18 hour trip, took the metro into town and walked up to our guesthouse without any trouble at all - remarkable!
We were met at the guesthouse by Jordi, a very dry-humoured Catalan who wished us at the very least, a very happy honeymoon. He really looked skeptical about the rest of the 'lifetime' thing.

Jordi also gave us tips on the best places to go for food. YES! It has begun. So last night, after a nap, we headed out for our first tour of the town in la Gracia district. It was a national Catalan holiday, so the streets were lively, and that neighbourhood is a more local neighbourhood. It was great, we sat in the plaza Virreina (Jordi explained that that´s the lady equivalent to the we have that word? Vicequeen doesn´t really resonate...). And we walked and walked. We also had our first disagreement about the nature of maps and directions. Turns out Brian´s sense of direction is just a little more efficient than mine.


Who´d a thunk?

Anyways, this is just a note to say 'hola', we've arrived safely and we're headed to the beach!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

3 more days till lift-off!

Destination: Barcelona, Sevilla, Many-places-in-Morocco, and Paris.
Duration: One month.
Purpose: To really test out this marriage.
Key Players: Brian and Leanna of the Hills.

It's true - we're off in three short days. It's been a life-marathon up until this point between my goal to finish my Major Project, and Brian's necessity of preparing his workplace for his departure and its future. I think we're pretty close to being able to leave with our work done. Well, for those of you who are counting, I've still got to finish chapter 5 and 6 when I get back. BUT the lit review is done which makes chapters 1-4 fini! HAH! I'm the boss of THAT!

Anyways, I've decided to keep up the blogging even though we'll be on our honeymoon - not sure why it feels like a faux-pas, but I'm ploughing ahead regardless.

We chose Spain and Morocco for our honeymoon because
1) my gracious Dad gave us airmile points which opened up the world to us,
2) Morocco is on Brian's top list of places to visit,
and 3) I love Spain.
We'll get to practice Spanish, and French to our hearts' content. OH BUT we're also stopping off in Paris on the way back. Why? Because we're spoiled. Simple.

Excitingly, Brian and I have never really traveled like this together before. Even more interestingly, I have never traveled with anyone at all for longer than a week. Which makes this another good opportunity for me to practice sharing. (I mean, it's true, we do live together...we share a lot of the refrigerator...and some books...and the shoe closet...but I have an inkling this might be different).

So, it's looking like another pretty super adventure in this here lifetime of mine - I'm glad you're tuned in for the ride :)

Hasta pronto! A bientôt!