We decided to opt out of the Gate 1 optional tour in Fez and instead did our own thing with our guide, Khlafa, who my Aunt Leslie recommended to us a few days earlier and we arranged the night before. Annoyingly, the Marriott did not get the memo about cancelling our wake-up call, and even though we had a 10AM pick up to the old city of Fez with Khlafa, we were awoken at 7AM for no apparent reason other than ineptitude – twice. But once I was up, I was up. So I managed to join Brendan for breakfast for once and did really enjoy the cold buffet selection of yogurts and wet and dry fruits. Khlafa, true to his word, met us in the lobby at 10AM and we grabbed a taxi outside the hotel to get to the Fez old city (Fez al Bali). Khlafa offered us a generous friends and family rate of 50 Euros ($60 USD or so) prior to the tour, which sounded great to us, and we paid him after. He was worth every penny and we were very glad to have a guide as the day wore on. We reached the Fez….
We had a 9AM start to head to Fez via the olive region, Southern California landscape, and abandoned Roman city Volubilis (Oulily). After a lavish breakfast at our Rabat hotel, we got our luggage situation sorted out and on the bus. Gate 1 had a very orderly system of having us put the luggage outside of our hotel room doors 45 minutes prior to our “go” time so that it was carried down and waiting for us just outside the bus for loading. We then discovered that we played a crucial part in the process – prior to boarding, we identified our bags and asked the bus driver to load it for us, ensuring that we saw our bags make it on to the bus. We thought it was unnecessary and inefficient at first, but as the trip got on, we appreciated it more (especially as we accumulated more souvenirs). We drove straight to Volubilis, just past the city of Meknes. Volubilis was the ruins of a Roman city named after one of the native flowers, the morning glory. You can’t find it on the map because the Amazighs and Arabs call it Walily or Oulili, which means Oleander – one….
We started to settle in to Rabat after a few hours sleep on our first day and our orientation meeting with Gate 1 Travel and our guide M’hamed after a 28 hour hour journey. We decided to head out for a local Moroccan dinner before getting a nice long sleep at Le Diwan Rabat (which by the way was a fairly decent hotel despite the smoking room mixup). We used TripAdvisor to find La Koutoubia, about a 5 block walk from our hotel in a side street off Avenue Moulay Abdelazziz. This was our first taste of authentic Moroccan cuisine, and it didn’t disappoint. While it was a little quiet (it was a Wednesday night after all) with only a few other patrons in the main restaurant area (mostly foreign), it did appear there was another room in the back filled with a group of Moroccans, which gave us hope. The waiter for very attentive and helped us translate a mostly French menu in to English. We ended up with the fish and the chicken tagine. Pastilla is a Spanish word but uniquely Moroccan – it’s a pastry filo-like dough stuffed with meat and spices. My chicken tagine was amazing….
Brendan and I left from DEN Airport early Tuesday, flying to Casablanca, Morocco mid-day on Wednesday after a 28 hour journey with 3 flights, 3 carriers and 3 continents. We had booked our 14 day Morocco and Portugal stopover on July 1, more than 90 days in advance. The only hitch we had came about a week prior to our trip, when TAP Air Portugal cancelled our flight from Lisbon to Casablanca on the outbound, and rebooked us on an illogical itinerary departing from Lisbon prior to arriving to Lisbon. I had to call and, ultimately, there was nothing they could do to preserve the semblance of our original itinerary – so they removed the segment of LIS to CMN so that the itinerary wouldn’t be canceled for no-show, and asked us to submit a complaint/refund request for the new tickets we were forced to purchase on Royal Air Maroc from LIS-CMN. This cost us $260 out of pocket. We submitted the complaint to TAP a few days later, but the verdict is still out on whether they will reimburse us (we’re not hopeful). It was luckily the only real issue on our outbound journey flying to Casablanca. Tuesday morning….
Our final full day in Vancouver started with a leisurely breakfast and a “go” time to Granville Market of 945AM, our latest morning on the trip. We had already explored the overview of Granville Market as part of our Vancouver city tour on our first full day (blog here). We already briefly walked through the market previously, but now we had several hours to enjoy it at a more leisurely pace. We sampled some chocolate and some cheeses as our appetite grew, but we of course wanted to stay hungry for dim-sum afterwards (our final chance to try it in Vancouver). After Granville Market itself which we thoroughly enjoyed, the second best part was just browsing the art galleries and shops on the outside, as well as the thrill of finding free, open WiFi at the Cats Socialhouse (which we also thought was a cat cafe, but wasn’t – turns out there’s one in Gastown though!). I bought a pair of chic blue plaid leather gloves from a boutique, and Brendan bought some First Nation orca whale magnets. While we didn’t find any art, we would spend the afternoon in Gastown continuing the search. The harbor was lovely as well,….