header photo

Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Gotta slow down

We left home yesterday at 11am.  Our flight was delayed by 30 minutes, but no biggie as we had a 2-hour layover in Frankfurt.  So, we had some lunch and a bottle of wine figuring it might be the last we see of good wine for a couple of weeks as Morocco is a Muslim country where alcohol is frowned upon.  10 hours later we land in Frankfurt and followed the signs to gate B31.  Hmmm.  According to the signs we had to go outside the secure area to get there.  Despite the fact that B1-B20 are within the secure area we are already in.  This seems odd, but we follow the signs.   Moooo.  That’s us being well behaved cattle.  Moooo.  Ok, we continue to follow the signs.  We walk a half mile round the airport to board the tram to B gates.  Then we get in the security line and clear back into the secure area.  Only to find (you saw this coming, right?) that we were right back where we started.  Ok, good thing we had an hour to kill.  And we needed the exercise.  That’s what I’m telling myself.

Upon arriving in Marrakesh, we stood in line for immigration for about 45 minutes.  Melissa notices that all the immigration officers and police and airport staff are male.  Only the cleaning crews are female.  Ok, slightly irritated.  We finally make our way to the front of the line, and they won’t allow us as a couple to go through immigration – only one at a time.  Shuffle ensues as Dave always carries the paperwork and passports.  The immigration officer looks at Melissa with a bit of distain.  Types on his computer.  Looks at her.  Sighs again.  Types some more.  Better get used to it because zippy is not in the Moroccan vocabulary.

After making our way through immigration, an hour after we landed, our luggage was still not there.  Melissa heads to the restrooms.  Despite a half dozen attendants standing around outside, no toilet paper.  Ok, good thing Melissa always carries tissues in her pocket for just such occasions.  Pats herself on the back for being such an experienced traveler.  Only to find, no tissues in her pocket.  What!?  Doh.  Ok, get through that small fiasco, and wait another 15 minutes, and the luggage shows up.  Get in the x-ray luggage line, and finally we are out of the secure area. 

First stop was the ATM, as advice given us was to get dirhams at the airport.  Then off to find the rental car agency – Hertz.  We wait in line behind one guy for another 30 minutes.  Then another 20 minutes to process our paperwork.  Dave says, “should we get the insurance?”, and Melissa replies “no, Capital One has us covered as long as you pay for the car with that credit card.”.  Dave looks at the bill and thinks that there must be a mistake in the exchange rate as they are charging us $2000.  But no, that is just the damage deposit for refusing the insurance.  Ok.  Fine.  Then the Hertz guy points out across the parking lot to where our car is supposedly waiting.  We hike across what felt like a quarter mile of asphalt to where all the rental cars are.  No signs.  We have to ask a few people along the way if we are still headed in the right direction.  We stand around another 30 minutes while the Hertz attendant checks out another car and checks in another couple of cars dropping off.  Ok, Melissa better chill out, cuz otherwise the inefficiencies here are going to drive her bonkers.

Finally, our turn comes.  After a quick walk around, Dave hops in. Melissa is like “hey - that was quick, we are ready to go?”.  “No,” says Dave as he backs the car up a few feet, “the guy that delivered the car ran into the truck parked in front of us and we need to check for damage”.  Ah, third world countries.   Finally, we are ready to go!  Dave starts up the car again and backs out of the slot.  Only to turn the car off again because the oil warning light is on.  Doh.  Dave calls the attendant over, who looks at the warning light and says “no problem”.  Hmmm.  Well, ok, its their engine.  Just hope it doesn’t seize up on the ride over the Atlas Mountains.

Into Marrakesh we go.  Only to find that google maps isn’t working.  It will display our route to the hotel, but only in some weird mode called “preview” where it shows the route, and where we are on that route, but won’t actually generate turn by turn instructions.  Later research shows that google maps don’t actually give you turn by turn in all countries.  Presumably because they don’t trust the map accuracy.  Dang it.  We’ve traveled all over Central and South America where map accuracy was often poor, but alas, google doesn’t work right here in Morocco (where we found map accuracy to be quite good over the next few days).  Ok, go with it.  The hotel shows on the map and we navigate nearly all the way there.  We get to within about a quarter mile, when the locals start yelling at us to pull over.  We ignore them.  Cuz we had read all the warnings about the “friendly” locals in Morocco who will tell you they are helping you to get to where you want to go, only to lead you astray and then insist you owe them money for being your “tour guide”.  So we ignore all the yelling and gesturing.  The street gets narrower and narrower.  Soon there are few cars, and mostly pedestrians, motorbikes, and a few donkeys.  Yet more yelling and gesturing.  Finally, we roll down the window.  In perfect English a local explains that we can’t drive the car any further.  Dubious we venture on.  The streets get so narrow that Dave is now navigating (literally) a half an inch or so from obstacles on both sides.  Hmmm.  Maybe we have gone astray somehow.

A local insists that we call the hotel and he will talk to them.  He helps us to back out of the road we are on (turning around is impossible) and leads us to a side street where we can stop and call the hotel (Riad Miski).  They answer and after a short exchange between the local and the hotel, we agree on a meet up location.  We get there and the hotel owners meet us – Cecile and Emmanuel.  Apparently, we had driven much further than we should have – the hotel had given us directions to stop in front of a particular archway a quarter mile back.  But – without local knowledge – those instructions didn’t make sense. So, Dave tries to pay off our local “guide” for his help – he gives him 100 dirhams – about $10 US.  The guide complains that isn’t enough.   Cecile, who was in our car by then, tries to jump out as she is furious.  Unfortunately, the car’s child proof locks were engaged, and she couldn’t get out of the back seat to confront the guy.  But she starts yelling at him – at which point he backs off.  We then drove to the parking lot and unloaded the suitcases for the walk to the hotel.  Along the way, we run into our “guide” again, and Cecile reads him the riot act in French.  No idea what she said, other than the message was clear “you snake!”. 

The door at the end of this small alley is our hotel.

Once at the Riad (a large traditional house built around a central courtyard, often converted into a hotel), we decided we didn’t want to venture out.  It had been 20 hours door-to-door traveling.  Dinner was served at 7:30pm, so we just relaxed till dinner.  It was quite lovely – a tomato and garlic mix on top of blanched zucchini, eggplant mixed with spices on lettuce leaves, vegetable tagine, and an orange cream for dessert.  Melissa with her food allergies had been paranoid about coming here.  One European who runs food tours in Marrakesh, upon hearing about the allergies said, “do not come to Morocco, because they do not have a word here for allergies”.  But since our hosts are French, they understood and were meticulous about the food.  At dinner they brought bread specially cooked from rice flour for Melissa.  And at every meal thereafter – there was food cooked specifically for her – taking into account her allergies.  As a result, we ate every meal but one in Marrakesh at the Riad because the food was so good, and because we knew it was safe to eat.

Go Back