susys running away to sea

"The rigors (sic) of an expeditionary lifestyle"

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Come with me to the Casbah

What's your first reaction, when a complete stranger suggests rushing off for a long weekend in Morocco?

Well, of course I went ... I'd never been, the flights were pretty cheap, S sounded fun, interesting, a once and former backpacker from Oz, young enough to be my son, and appeared to have safely buried his axe collection. We exchanged quite a few emails and met up on the eve of the flight to have dinner in a public place. After all, there always was the slight possibility he might have recoiled in horror..

... but neither of us did, and spent a pleasant evening shouting over the noise of a Covent Garden restaurant. You know how it is - some people you just get on with.

I'd kind of invited myself to his place for the night (bunking on a platonic couch), as we were flying from Gatwick, and it's a pain to get there from the Eastern Counties for same day flying. In the taxi, nearly at his flat, he remarks how lightly I travel. Yep, it's something I pride myself on - but glancing down at the taxi floor, it strikes me I started the day with more than the tiny red overnight bag. Oh f**k, done it again - I see the little suitcase on wheels tucked behind the restaurant door in Covent Garden. The taxi driver is deeply upset at having to charge us so much to return, grab the bag, and drive back to Hackney...

Then off to Gatwick early the next morning. We're talking so much on the train, S wonders whether we've forgotten to get off at the right station - bit of an anxious time, as the train gallops further and further south, and oh the relief, when the next stop is the Gatwick stop. We grab ALL our luggage and jump out quickly. Up to the terminals, queue, then find the right queue, and having cut it all a bit fine, are through passport control, strip search control, and on to the not-very-full plane. Flying over patchwork greens and the South Downs of Blighty (have to explain that one to an Aussie), then out in the sunshine across the blue sea, over the west coast of France, across Spain and the Straits of Gibraltar, then greens, ochres and browns and oases of Morocco. We're heading for Marrakesh - spotting bits of the snow peaked Atlas mountains, then descending - irrigated orange trees, palms, brown buildings, new Lego buildings, snakey roads, the runway and down.. The airport is very modern - they're still building it for the millions of tourists needed for the country's economy.

We haven't booked anywhere to stay, so pick a riad at random from the guide book - the taxi drivers speak French, but that doesn't mean they're actually going to take you to where you've chosen, if it isn't one of the new hotels. We're dropped at a corner in the old, ramparted town, where he says we now have to walk up a wide alleyway full of small rundown shopfronts - very close by, 2, 300 metres... Oh, and he charges extra for my case ....


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