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Laureen

    Travel Around the World

    Morocco We Are Here

    The First Crazy 24 Hours

    Welcome to Morocco.  What a ride so far.  Fast paced, horn honking, traffic snarled, French speaking whirlwind.

    Rick’s American Cafe

    We knew Casablanca wasn’t going to be pretty.  Most tourists skip it.  But our flight came through here so we decided to take one day.  It’s actually

    Interior Hassan II Mosque

    always good for us to have a day to get settled before heading out on an adventure in any country.  And, now that  we’ve been through the past 24 hours we are glad we had some time.

    First, our flight landed 45 minutes EARLY.  Cool.  Or so we thought.  But we waited in the passport line for 45 minutes.  Then we got our bags.  Then we waited in the bag inspection line for 30 minutes before being pulled aside for a search.  They were looking for our kitchen knife, which we have taken through I don’t know how many airports in our checked bags over the past eleven months with nary a problem.  Apparently they don’t like knives in Morocco.  So bag searched – they pull out the knife, hold it, look at it, sniff it, taste it (jk 😉) and then decide it is just a kitchen knife and give it back to us.   Ah duh.

    Next we go to get a Sim card from a ditzy girl who

    The amazing interior of the mosque

    assures us the website where we load the minutes is in English.  Next we find a cash machine.  Then we spend thirty minutes trying to find the Qatar Air info desk to deal with an upcoming flight.  We are directed to multiple locations and never do find the office.  We give up.

    Next we go to get our rental car.  Another half an hour goes by.  Then we discover as we are getting ready to drive out of the lot that Morocco does not allow Google Maps.  Wait.  What?  Google Maps is our whole world.  Ugh.  So no Google Maps in Morocco.

    By the time we finally get on the highway heading the 15 miles to Casablanca it’s 4:05 pm on a Friday night.  Rush hour.  Ugh.  The highway was fine but as soon as we hit the city streets it was a frightening experience.  Traffic.  Taxis. Scooters. Pedestrians.  One way streets.  No street signs.  No Google Maps. Oh My.  We could see our hotel but we could not figure out how to get there.

    Finally, more than four hours after touching down we arrived at our hotel.

    Turns out the annual Casablanca Marathon is Sunday.  Very busy.  Oh la la!

    We eat at the hotel and fall into bed.

    Light and shadows

    This morning we realize the Sim Card from the ditzy girl at the airport is not working and that website she promised would be in English?  French.  Merci.

    Arne spent four hours online and walking to two different locations to try to get the phone operational.  He was, shall we say, pas amuse’ (not amused).

    We are really surprised how few people speak English.  Francais et Arabe.  Definitely more English speakers in Tunisia than Morocco – so far.

    The giant area for washing before prayers

    So it’s noon on Saturday before we head out to see the Hassan II Mosque, the one sight we were most interested in here in Casablanca. (Read more about it here http://www.fmh2.ma ) Our book said there was a 2:00pm tour, but turns out it was a 3:00pm tour so we got tickets and enjoyed the exquisite exterior.

    Lunch at Rick’s

    Since we had more than two hours to kill we decided to walk to Ricks Cafe for lunch.  I had said we weren’t going to go here because I thought it was too touristy, but we were hungry and it was close – or so we thought.  We spent the next hour walking around trying to find it (no google maps).  We went through some pretty questionable neighborhoods.  Finally we were back at the Mosque so we got a cab and it drove us to Rick’s – we had walked right by it not seen it.  Incroyable!

    But then we had a spectacular Moroccan meal with

    Walking through Casablanca looking for Rick’s

    outstanding service in a beautiful setting and voila! Happy peeps.  Really glad we went and it was not touristy at all.  Lovely. http://www.rickscafe.ma

    Lost in Casablanca

    Finally it was time for our tour of the inside of this spectacular mosque, the third largest mosque in the world, built in honor of the 60th birthday of King Hassan

    Exterior. The tallest minaret in the world.

    II in the mid 1980’s.  Our tour guide was wonderful, funny, educational and spoke excellent English.  The mosque is sublime.  Truly – there is no other word.  It is one of the most amazing buildings and architecture and craftsmanship I have ever seen.  I am so glad we went.

    And so there we are.  Our first 24 hours in Morocco.  It’s a good thing we had a day to work out some of the kinks. Short visit to Casablanca and in the morning we are off to Chefchaouen, Morocco’s famous blue city. Hopefully the marathon won’t keep us from leaving town! In Chefchaoen we will have three days to relax.  I am looking forward to that.

    The adventure continues!  Oui!

     

    
    
    
        		
        		            
                
                        		
            	            
        	
    Travel Around the World

    Traveling to Tunisia – Yes You Should

    Chapter Eleven Begins

    We would never have considered Tunisia as a destination if our friend Leslie wasn’t here.  We would have skipped right from Spain to Morocco without a second thought.

    Thankfully that is not what happened.

    The beautiful blue and white village of Sidi Bou Said

    Leslie has lived here for more than a year now working in the International School, and after

    Amazing tiles preserved from villas in the 2nd century

    our week with her we are so grateful we had the opportunity, through her generous hosting, to spend some time in this land of antiquities.

    What do you know about Tunisia?  This is not a test.  Because I knew next to nothing about it other than where it was on the map (and its okay if you don’t know that either – look between Libya and Algeria in North Africa on the Mediterranean sea).

    Of the 54 African countries, Tunisia falls #35 in size with about 63,000 square miles – very

    The daily market in La Marsa

    similar to the state of Florida.  During our week however, we only saw the area around the cities of Tunis and Carthage on the Mediterranean – about as far North in Africa you can be.  I can nearly throw a rock and hit Italy.  South from here however is so much more to see as the populated region of the north gives way to the more inhospitable but beautiful terrain of the Sahara Desert.

    A bride in the streets of Sid Bou Said

    I’m not going to pretend I am coming away from Tunisia with a perfectly clear understanding of all the ancient history of this area.  I wish.  But I am taking away a sense of wonder at all I have seen and witnessed of the long and fascinating history of human civilization here – some the most ancient I have had the pleasure to see.

    Africa is often referred to as the cradle of humanity and Tunisia clearly shows why. It’s estimated that the first people were in this area 200,000 years ago, when the region was much greener and wetter than it is today. But when talking about Tunisian history it’s

    The Tunis Medina

    Carthage that first comes to mind:

    • 1200 BC The Berbers are the strong tribe in the region
    • 1100 BC Phoenician seafarers arrive and create a port and begin trade routes
    • 814 BC Carthage is founded and quickly becomes a wealthy and powerful seat
    • 263-242BC The first Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage where Carthage loses some ground
    • 218-202BC The second Punic Wars where Carthage nearly topples Rome
    • 149-146BC Rome wipes Carthage off the map and Rome begins a 500 year rule
    • AD 439 The Vandals (from the region we know today as Germany and where the word vandalism comes from) rule the region for a short period.
    • 533 the Byzantine Empire ends the Vandal rule
    • 669 Muslim Arab armies become a solid power in the region and by 672 have planted the Islamic flag and claimed North Africa.

    The tiny train that runs from Tunis to La Marsa

    The sites we have seen while here in Carthage and Tunisia are primarily from the Roman area, when Rome used its slaves and wealth to build huge cities, entertaining centers with theaters and coliseums and Roman baths, often building these over the top of what the Berbers and Phoenicians and Carthaginians had laid in the centuries before.  Gotta hand it to those Romans, they knew how to build things that would last, and today Tunisia is home to eight Unesco World Heritage sites; four of Roman ruins, three Muslim cities and one natural bird migratory site.

    The amazing Roman ruins of Dougga

    For centuries after Islamic rule came to Tunisia the region was passed around with battles for the Punic Port and trading routes and the wealthy economy continuing amongst the Muslim countries.  The Ottoman Empire takes control in the 1500’s but in 1881 after Tunisia has declared bankruptcy, French troops take over the country, and unrest and violence continue until Tunisia is granted independence in 1956.  This period of course included the Second World War.  Tunisia played a significant role in the North Africa campaign during the Second

    Dougga Unesco Heritage site was fascinating

    World War. Carthage is home to the North Africa American Cemetery where 2841 of our boys are laid to rest from WWII.

    Since independence things have still been topsy-turvy – “President for Life” Bourguiba’s Islamist suppression and pro-Western modernization did not sit well with everyone. After 30 years a coup in 1987 brought a new leader to power. Ben Ali continued to keep parties blending politics and Islam away from the ballot box.  He has enjoyed a high level of national

    The clock is read right to left in Arabic

    approval until January 2011 when the Tunisian Revolution ousted him.  The 1959 constitution was repealed.  Since 2011 there have been three Presidents.  The current President, Beji Said Essebsi, is the first elected democratically.  In 2006 and 2015 terrorist attacks in Tunisia by Isis brought to the front the underlying displeasure of extremists.  Since 2015 tourism has dropped significantly in the country.  But today tourists are slowly coming back and Tunisia’s economy is once again on the mend.

    Historic Punic Port in Carthage

    This is about as abbreviated version as there possible could be of the history of this absolutely fascinating country.  A country still evolving – will be evolving for all time.

    I have felt safe the entire time I have been here.  Stepping on my soap box for just a second, I honestly feel safer here than I do in many places in the United States.  So

    One of the most beautiful sites in Carthage is the historic Roman baths

    why would you not travel to Tunisia, but you would consider returning to Las Vegas? There are dangers everywhere you go.  Traveling in itself has risks – but that should not stop you from exploring this fascinating planet and the incredible country of Tunisia – with some of the best antiquities the world has to offer.

    Few tourists makes a visit to Tunisia uncrowded and fabulous

    Traveling to Tunisia – yes you should.

    (Note – historical dates and data taken from Lonely Planet Tunisia 2012 and Wikipedia)

     

     

    Eat and Drink  --  Travel Around the World

    Barcelona Cooking Class – Eat Local

    Chapter Ten Final Days

    When in Barcelona – eat! And if you can – cook!  Because the Catalan cuisine is simple, seasonal, fresh and fabulous and a day cooking in a Spanish kitchen makes for a great memory.

    I researched many options for cooking classes in

    Frutes de boca

    Barcelona. There were a lot. But I chose the Barcelona Kitchen, the cooking school housed in the Mercado de la Boqueria, for its class choices and menu.

    Since I’ve been in Spain for two months and

    Seafood so fresh it’s still moving.

    traveled through multiple regions, I’ve tasted a variety of regional dishes as well as regional takes on national favorites. In Catalonia, the region where Barcelona is the largest city, food is celebrated every day and regional pride in the local Catalan cuisine is evident everywhere you go.

    Catalan cuisine is not about heavily spiced or sauced dishes.  Rather it is about the best, freshest and

    Fresh picked today

    most local ingredients. Right now in October that means frutas de boca (fruits of the forest) which includes a variety of mushrooms, snails, nuts and seeds. October is also bountiful in tomatoes, squash, fruit, greens, root vegetables, peppers, potatoes, onions, figs, and much more.  Combine these ingredients with seasonal fish, shellfish, meat, fowl, and the unforgettably delicious Iberian jamon (ham) and you have yourself the makings of a special feast.

    Stock simmering.

    Add a little Spanish wine and as the Catalonians say Bon Profit! Muy Bien!

    My class, led by Lena, began with a tour and shopping trip for our ingredients through the Mercado de la Boqueria, Barcelona’s famous and fabulous market. Here we learned about many of the products and producers from eggs to olive oil and saffron to cuttlefish.

    Making the Crema Catlana

    Back in the kitchen we set to work for three solid hours cooking and preparing five of Catalan’s favorite dishes; Tortilla – egg and potatoe omelette like pie (the national dish of Spain that sustained me daily on the Camino), Seafood Paella (the only

    Finished Paella

    way Catalans eat Paella is seafood), Pa amb Tomàquet – Catalan Tomato Bread, Gazpacho – cold tomato soup, and Crema Catalana – a delicious dessert similar to creme brûlée but better!

    I was surprised at the amount of time the tortilla takes to make but I loved it. I also really enjoyed making the Paella from scratch including the stock which simmered and reduced on the stove for more than an hour. It was rich and delicious.

    The beautiful Gazpacho

    The Gazpacho was incredible, easy and fast. Unlike our chunky style at home this cold tomato soup was creamy and smooth using the food processor and adding lots of olive oil to emulsify it. Perfecto!

    Our class enjoying the feast

    As usual, I loved learning from a local and cooking this incredible cuisine.  Spain has been many things to me over the past two months, including delicious!

    Our time in this sweet country is ending and we move on now to Chapter Eleven – Tunisia, Morocco, Namibia and South Africa. But Spain will always hold something very special for us and we will definitely be back.

    Muchos Gracias Mi Amigos.  Fabulous!

    Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday

    Human Acts by Han Kang

    Human Acts by Han Kang ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Astonishing. This is the only word I have about the true story that’s unfolds in Han Kang’s Human Acts.

    Astonishing that this brutal massacre happened in our recent history(1980).

    Astonishing that so little has been said or written about these crimes against humanity.

    Astonishing that the South Korean government still to this day will not acknowledge the truth about it.

    Astonishing that I spent four weeks in South Korea a couple of years ago and yet until Reading this book I had never heard of the mass killings, slaughter and human rights atrocities that occurred in the city of Gwanju in May 1980.

    North Korea is certainly a topic in our daily news and I have in the past recommended the amazing book The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnston which sheds some light on life in that hermit country. But to be more informed, enlightened and astonished please read Human Acts.   South Korea has its own skeletons in the closet and we should all be aware. Shameful.

    And All the Rest  --  Travel Around the World

    Beyond the Camino – The Adventure Continues

    What’s Next?

    For the last few days I’ve been trying to process my feelings about completing the Camino de Santiago Adventure. It’s a big task. Not sure I can do it in just a few days. In fact not sure I can do it at all.

    Our Camino journey is just one incredible adventure on our Grand Adventure world tour. We are so lucky to be leading this life and sometimes, like now, it’s good to stop and really absorb our own reality.

    (Note – many people are asking where we go next. Check the end of this blog for upcoming adventure details)

    What have we learned?  I think we learned some valuable things, but we also reconfirmed things we already knew. For instance –

    We learned how amazing the human body is. Even in our Fabulous Fifties our bodies did not fail us. It was about day 12 when one morning I got up to get ready to go and my body acknowledged it. I think that morning my body said “Oh – I get it. You intend to do this long walk EVERY day. Okay now I understand. I can do that. Let’s go.”

    We reconfirmed our mental need to have a day off or a do nothing day from time to time. These days I believe make living a full-time travel life possible. Otherwise the mental fatigue of the Grand Adventure really takes a toll.  After awhile in this travel life you don’t feel the need to see and do every monument and tourism hotspot. Just enjoying putting your feet up and relaxing becomes a cherished and fabulous day.

    (Note – did you know you can click on any photo in our blogs and Pin directly to Pinterest? Give it a try!)

    We learned what an amazing and wide range of people it is who tackle a Camino walk. We met some fascinating people from all over the world, many who will live in our memories forever. I can’t think of any other experience we have ever had where it included so many people from so many cultures speaking so many languages but all sharing the same goal. That was a wonderful and inspiring lesson- one our world leaders should learn.  We are all in this together.

    And yet we reconfirmed how much we enjoy each other’s company and most of our time was spent just us on the trail doing what we do best – being together. After almost 35 years of marriage we got that down.

    While news of natural disasters unfolded in our online news services we were blessed with great weather, spectacular scenery, countless sunrises and sunsets and vast and varietal geography reminding us what a remarkable planet this is and how we need to nourish and care for it. And we need to do it now.

    While I spent time taking and editing photos or writing and editing blogs – Arne spent time tracking and calculating data. And boy did he collect a lot of data to share;

    41 days

    489 mile

    1,355,229 steps

    224 walking hours (37 walking days and four rest days)

    2 days of rain 39 dry days

    55 Euro per day lodging and 45 euro per day food

    47,400 Feet elevation gain overall

    Longest day 19.5 miles. Shortest day 5 miles.  Average miles per day 13.2. Average elevation per day 1280 Feet.

    Cheapest lodging g $24 Euro. Most expensive $100 euro.

    Not everyone can or wants to do a walking adventure like the Camino.  But if you have considered it I have this piece of advice – do it sooner rather than later.  Do it your way and don’t let others tell you what’s best. But most of all – do it.  Don’t spend your life thinking about it and regret later that you didn’t get to it.

    We will continue to process within ourselves this experience and what this milestone means. But in the meantime, our Grand Adventure goes on.  We have planes to catch and new adventures ahead.

    We fly to Barcelona for a week before saying goodbye to Europe as our Schengen days have run out.  We have been in Spain almost two months- the longest we have spent in any country since leaving the USA.

    (Note – other than Reading Wednesday I’m going to take a week off from blogging while in Barcelona.  Watch for a blog from Tunisia next)

    So where to next? Here is the plan;

    One week in Tunisia to visit our friend Leslie and then a month in Morocco where we will be joined by our friends Steve and Sarah. Morocco has long been on my list and I can’t wait!

    On our 35th wedding Anniversary on November 27th we arrive for  a 12 day Adventure tour in Namibia before heading to South Africa for Christmas.

    On New Years Eve we fly to Sri Lanka for three weeks, then a quick five days in India and a week in Bangladesh visiting our friend Natalie before flying to the Maldives for almost a month.  We plan to relax and do nothing here.

    Next it’s a week in Guam (by way of Singapore) visiting our niece Bekah and her husband Davy.  Then three weeks in Australia and then three weeks in Bali and Lombok where we will be joined by our friends John and Carole.

    This brings us to the end of April at which time we plan to take a 26 day re-positioning cruise back to the USA for a two-month visit before heading off again. We look forward to seeing friends and family then.

    So there you have it.  Lots of great adventures and blogs on the horizon! As usual, thank you for your continued interest and support.  We are humbled and blessed and grateful each and everyday.

    It’s truly a FABULOUS life. Buen Camino

     

     

    Travel Around the World

    My Favorite Things

    Second Half – My Camino

    Location: Camino

    The Camino odyssey is almost over. One more sleep. I’m conflicted about it coming to an end. What an amazing experience. I want to remember all the special moments and my favorite things of this journey.  There are so many and my brain is overfull!

    You might remember I wrote a blog discussing my favorite things from the first half of the journey. So here today, with only one day to go, are some special memories from the second half.

    Leon Cathedral

    Leon – by the time we hit Leon our bodies were in the groove and we were feeling great but we still enjoyed a day off in this town. The ancient city and the wonderful food and wine of Spain made Leon

    Puenta de Orbigo

    a great memory

    Possibly my favorite historic site of the whole Camino was the spectacular Puente de Orbigo bridge with its 19 arches that inspired the story of Don Quixote.

    I loved the little town of Rabanal del Camino where

    Sunrise over Rabanal

    we went to vespers in a crumbling ancient church and then watched the sunrise the next morning over the village as we hiked up to Cruz de Ferro.

    Cruz de Ferro

    Cruz de Ferro was a touching moment. Monumental in reaching it, and emotional too. A quiet and spiritual place for many pilgrims.

    The incredible

    Astorga left and Ponferrada right

    cathedral in Astorga and the castle in Ponferrada both were unforgettably beautiful and ancient.

    We didn’t need a day off

    Villafranca

    physically but are glad we took an extra day in the great valley village of Villafranca where I soaked my feet in the Rio Burbia on a gorgeous sunny day.  We also had a fabulous and memorable authentic Spanish meal here.

    Ever since our very cold and wet crossing of the

    Moonset in the Galician Mountains

    Pyrenees on Day Two we have been prepared to get wet crossing the final mountain range into Galicia.  But Mother Nature has been so kind to us and our ponchos have stayed in the pack.  Our two day crossing of the Galacian Mountains could not have been more spectacular.

    Portomarin medieval town undeewater

    The historic village of Portomarin and the story of how they moved the town and flooded the valley for a reservoir during the 1960’s was fascinating.  Because of Spain’s drought the reservoir was empty and the remains of the medieval village visible.  One of the craziest things I’ve ever seen.

    Traversing Spain on foot gives a unique opportunity to live and breathe the unique and varied cultures of this country. Learning about the indigenous Basque people as well as the surprising ancient Celtic history of Galicia has been just fascinating.

    The same goes for the variety of scenery and topography we have conquered and enjoyed.  Mountains to plains, forests and seas, Spain is a wealth of beauty blessed by Mother Nature.

    We have also learned so much about the vast

    Grapes – one of Spain’s biggest crops.

    Spanish agricultural life, and it has been a unique and beautiful time to walk through Spain, as corn and grapes and wheat and beets and nuts and so much more are harvested from this rich land.

    And so our journey ends. Tomorrow we arrive in Santiago. I’m not sure how I feel about it coming to an end. I know I will need a few days to process it – and then I promise to share some final thoughts. But until then, one more day. #onemoreday

    Buen Camino!

    477 miles walked. 12 miles to go.

    Travel Around the World

    Sunrise Sunset – 41 Days The Camino

    My Camino

    Ô, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth.

    We came prepared to withstand all weather and for our preparedness we were blessed by the sun.

    Sunset from Acebo Day 29

    The poncho has been out only twice in forty-one days and nights. The coat only during early morning chill. Our days have been golden and except for two, dry.

    Sunrise in Ventosa Day 11

    Our journey has taken us over mountains, across rivers, and through rolling plains and vineyards. Past ancient cathedrals and over roads and bridges traversed by thousands before us over the ages.

    Sunrise Puente La Reina Day 5

    Moon set leaving Viduedo Day 36

    Calzadilla de Los Hermanillos sunrise Day 23

    And the sun shone. We watched it rise in all its glory, brightening our path and showing us “the way”. We watched it set in a pink halo, kissing the earth at the end of another miraculous day.  And on one most incredible morning high on a mountain we watched the harvest moon set and the sun rise simultaneously. Glory hallelujah.

    Sunset in Linares Day 34

    Sunrise over Villafranca Day 33

    Sunrise. Sunset. 41 days and nights on the Camino de Santiago. Our time is waning. The days are getting shorter. Fall is in full swing. It was summer when we started – now a different season as we make our way west, closer and closer to Santiago de Compostela. A handful more walks.  Our goal in sight.  Our walk of a lifetime – a memory to cherish.

    Three days to go

    Miles walked 447.  42 to go.

    Buen Camino!