We have arrived in Africa!


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Breakfast at café outside train station at Casablanca.

Breakfast at café outside train station at Casablanca.

We left Montreal on a balmy late winter day.  It must have been -4c, at least.  The plane to Casablanca was actually going to leave on time, early even, until they realized there was one passenger missing on the plane.  Of course, with new security regulations being in place, we had to wait while the missing passenger’s luggage was being removed from the cargo hold.  One hour late leaving, but that was fine anyway.  The seat in the Royal Air Maroc plane was actually very roomy with plenty of leg room.  We were given a pillow, blanket, sleeping mask, flight socks and ear buds for the entertainment system, all free of charge.  Dinner was pasta or fish, white wine and some very good mint tea.

A little side note about the mint tea here, it’s not like peppermint tea we have at home to soothe our stomach.  It’s more like a mild green tea mixed with fresh mint.  In Morocco, they serve it very sweet. I asked for mine unsweetened today and just added my own sugar to taste.  Quite refreshing!

We didn’t end up getting that much sleep on the plane. Sure the lights were low and the plane was quiet after dinner.  But for some reason, I woke up after about 2 hours and started staring at the tv screen of a passenger across from me.  The movie he was watching was Gravity, which seemed to capture my interest to the point where I couldn’t just close my eyes and get back to sleep.  There I was watching the movie, almost in its entirety without hearing the sound. I suppose I could have turned my own copy of the movie on, but that seemed like too much trouble.  Anyway, I really enjoyed the Movie and will have to watch it again if it’s showing on the return plane ride, even if I do know how it ends.

We arrived in Casablanca just as the sun was rising. We saw the coast line and then a surprising amount of green fields.  Why do we always think Africa is golden and dry? After all, Morocco is well known for its agricultural products like oranges.

Once we got to the airport, we exchanged some Euros for Dirhams and found the commuter train to Casa des Voyageurs to catch the train to Fes.  We found everyone to be so friendly and helpful but I sure am glad we speak French! Once we got to the main station, we got our tickets for the 9:15am train.  Ariane wanted a coffee and breakfast badly,so we headed across the street to a nice outdoor cafe.  The sun was shining and the food was tasty.  We had plenty of time to catch our train as my watch read 7:50am.  When we got to the station, we could only find the listing for the 10:15 train. Confused, we were told we missed the 9:15. It would seem my watch was set at the wrong time or I simply forgot how to tell time due to lack of sleep.

Anyway, we took the 10:15am train, in spite of a recommendation that we wait for the 11:15 express train that would be less crowded.  Boy, what a long and hot mistake that was! The small train cubicles were very much like the ones in Vietnam, but we were sitting with 4 strangers, Ariane roasting alive in her Lululemon sweatshirt, too afraid to remove it to show her bare arms, for fear she might be stoned by the locals.  We dozed as the train moved slowly towards our destinations.  Ariane had a terrible migraine and my back was feeling the many hours of immobility.

After over 4 hours, we arrived in Fes, a lovely city with a rich cultural past.  We headed for our hotel and showered and changed.  by 4pm we were ready for a late lunch. We took a short walk to a small cafe where we ate a wonderful meal of Moroccan salad (very similar to a fresh salsa) and chicken tajine, a savoury stew served with lots of bread. Of course the beverage of choice was mint tea.

it’s currently 7:45pm and I am sitting in bed writing this while listening to the sounds of the call to prayer. Ariane just mentioned how romantic that sounds.  After lunch, we headed back to our hotel and share a half bottle of local red wine with spiced olives and peanuts.  It’s time to get some much needed sleep as we want to get an early start to visit the old Medina tomorrow morning.  By the way, the temperature today must have been into the 30c range.  Quite a shock to our Nordic bodies.  One girl on he train said the upside would be that we would get a good tan.  That is not what we came here for we replied.  She seemed surprised that we came for the culture, not the heat.

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