Friday, February 27, 2009

Marrakesh: My Arrival

It's 8pm and I'm determined not to get scammed into taking a "free" tour of the city. I defiantly walk through Marrakesh trying to find my hostel. My backpack paints a large red bulls eye on my back and suddenly every kid aged 13-18 wants to help "my friend" (me) find my hostel. After much trial and error, I find out that the only way to escape my assailants is to completely ignore them. Even looking at them adds another few blocks onto their pursuit. In an effort to reach out to me, they try to guess my ethnicity. So far Spanish is in the lead.

While Marrakesh has some main streets, I quickly find out the majority of the city consists of winding alleyways that branch off into multiple other winding alleyways. About 1 in 10 streets are labeled. I think I'm doing well in keeping my sense of direction... that is until I find myself at the exact same spot that the cab dropped me off at an hour and a half ago. Feeling rather defeated, I let Jamal give me a "free" tour. As it turns out finding my hostel involved at least 30 turns through alleyways, and the signage on the front of the hostel left a little to be desired (see below). I no longer feel so bad.

The Riad Amazn's impeccable signage

The Scenic Route

6:30am here and you can hear the first call to prayer filling the city streets. Five flights, four different airlines, three days of traveling, and I've made it to Marrakesh. My accidental choice of the scenic route (due to my earlier missed flight) has given me some unexpected results. A four hour layover in Lisbon, Portugal has given me the unique opportunity to possibly miss two flights in two days. Nervously, I decide to roll the dice, leave the airport, and explore the city. Beautiful scenery, a vibrant atmosphere and many Canadian tuxedos and Euro-mullets make me wish I had more than an hour to visit.

A barrel of Port being walked up the stairs

The scenery

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Northern Lights and Missed Flights

Good news or bad news? Ok, bad...

My incorrect guesses with the Frankfurt subway system had me arriving to the Frankfurt airport with only one hour till departure as I ran up to the information counter. The man pointed in the direction of the parking garage and kindly told me that the Ryan Air check in counter was about 1.5 hours in that direction. Wrong airport. Rookie mistake. First ever missed flight. For shame August, for shame. I will have to again impose myself on my kind German hosts and fly out tomorrow. My pride and credit card are bruised.

Ok, good news...

While performing my elegant backpack laden ballet of running from phone, to the internet terminal, to airline ticket counters, I got a surprise statement. The man at the ticket counter told me that I would need a visa if I was to fly into London on my way to Marrakesh. Why I asked, stating that I possessed a US passport. "Oh", he said, "I thought you were Moroccan." My annoyingly itchy and ugly beard is paying out dividends!

Other good news...

Beautiful shimmering light green clouds slowly danced for our flight. On the Seattle to London leg, I witnessed my first Northern lights. The amazing show over the Hudson Bay was proclaimed by the pilots to be the best they'd ever seen.

Monday, February 23, 2009