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Our 2020 Trip around Morocco

Navigating these pages: In the following itinerary, there are several columns describing the day. Text within brackets in the heading line explains the purpose of the link to the corresponding item. Clicking on a link in a column (where it exists) ...

Day(tour)
shows the ordinal number of the day of travel, and in parentheses, the day of the tour package.
Date
will take you to the corresponding photo album page for the day.
Track
will take you to the track for the day. This is a dedicated html page generated by GPS Visualizer. Not all days were tracked, and these days will have no link to open. The track itself is generated by the Pocket Earth app on my iPhone.
Time
shows the hours of travel for the day (not a link).
Blog
will take you to the corresponding diary entry, which is recorded later on this page.
Accomodation
Just to show we didn't sleep on the streets.
Document(s)
Maps and various travel documents
Steps
as recorded by my FitBit for the day.
Track
TBA

Within the diary entries, the date heading is a link to the photo page (as for the itinerary). The day of the week/ordinal number is a link back to the itinerary, and the day's title is a link to the track (as for the itinerary).

All dates and times are local times. This can give anomalous timings when travel across time zones is involved. Where a change of time zone is involved, offsets from UTC are given in parentheses. A single UTC offset indicates the local time for the day, and if multiple UTC offsets are given, these indicate the UTC zones travelled.

Note that the pages will change over time as I complete my editing of the diary. Note also that when this document refers to 'John', the author is assumed, unless stated otherwise.

WARNING! Content still being updated!

This itinerary has been constructed from Morocco and Authentic Andalusia itineraries. Not shown are connection transfers, since the RENFE booking site is yet to update with trips for Mar/Apr. ("Servicio temporalmente no disponible")!

Day
(Cruise)
Date [Photos] Time Activity [Blog] Locations [Track] Accomodation Doc. Steps
0 12 Mar (Thursday) 1715(+11)-0030(+4) MEL-AUH EY0463 flight to Abu Dhabi Business Class 8523
1 13 Mar (Friday) 0245(+4)-0830(+1) AUH-CMN EY0613 flight to Casablanca Business Class 7424
2(1) 14 Mar (Saturday) Morocco Tour Casablanca Hotel Kenzi Basma, Casablanca 0314.txt 19127
3(2) 15 Mar (Sunday) Morocco Tour Casablanca-Rabat-Meknes Riad Ritaj or similar
4(3) 16 Mar (Monday) Morocco Tour Meknes-Volubis-Fes Riad Almakan or similar
5(4) 17 Mar (Tuesday) Morocco Tour Fes Riad Almakan or similar
6(5) 18 Mar (Wednesday) Morocco Tour Midelt Hotel Taddart or similar
7(6) 19 Mar (Thursday) Morocco Tour Sahara Desert Desert camp
8(7) 20 Mar (Friday) Morocco Tour Todra Gorge-Dades Valley-M'goun Valley Hotel Chems or similar
9(8) 21 Mar (Saturday) Morocco Tour Full day walk in the M'goun Valley Hotel Chems or similar
10(9) 22 Mar (Sunday) Morocco Tour Ait Benhaddou Riad Maktoub or similar
11(10) 23 Mar (Monday) Morocco Tour Ourigane Auberge Chez Momo or similar
12(11) 24 Mar (Tuesday) Morocco Tour Ourigane - Marrakech Riad Nesma or similar
13(12) 25 Mar (Wednesday) Morocco Tour Marrakech Riad Nesma or similar
14(13) 26 Mar (Thursday) Morocco Tour Marrakech Hotel Miramar or similar
15(14) 27 Mar (Friday) Morocco Tour Essaouira Hotel Miramar or similar
16(15) 28 Mar (Saturday) Morocco Tour Essaouira - Marrakech Riad Challa, Marrakech
17(16) 29 Mar (Sunday) train Marrakech to Tangier Marrakech to Tangier Continental Hotel, Tangier 0329.pdf
18 30 Mar (Monday) ferry Tangier to Algerciras Tangier to Algerciras Globales Reina Cristina, Algerciras 0330.pdf
19 31 Mar (Tuesday) Algerciras/Gibraltar Algerciras/Gibraltar Globales Reina Cristina, Algerciras 0330.pdf
20 01 Apr (Wednesday) Algerciras to Ronda Algerciras to Ronda Parador Hotel, Ronda 0401.pdf
21 02 Apr (Thursday) Ronda Ronda Parador Hotel, Ronda 0401.pdf
22 03 Apr (Friday) Ronda to Malaga Ronda to Malaga Malaga 0403.pdf
23(1) 04 Apr (Saturday) Malaga to Cortijo Rosario, Algamitas Start Cortijo Rosario, Algamitas Cortijo Rosario
24(2) 05 Apr (Sunday) Andalusia Tour Half-day guided walk through nearby hills and olive groves of Algamitas.Half-day guided walk through nearby hills and olive groves of Algamitas. Cortijo Rosario
25(3) 06 Apr (Monday) Andalusia Tour Marvel at beautiful Moorish and 'Mudejar' architecture and enjoy the gardens of Seville; overnight in Seville. Seville
26(4) 07 Apr (Tuesday) Andalusia Tour To the white Moorish villages of Andalusia; visit Olvera and Setenil; return to the Cortijo. Cortijo Rosario
27(5) 08 Apr (Wednesday) Andalusia Tour Free day: explore the countryside around the farmhouse or visit Ronda or Cordoba Cortijo Rosario
28(6) 09 Apr (Thursday) Andalusia Tour Full day in Granada. Visit to the Alhambra; free time to explore the city; overnight in Granada. Granada
29(7) 10 Apr (Friday) Andalusia Tour To the white village of Antequera; short walk in El Torcal Natural Reserve; transfer back to the Cortijo. Cortijo Rosario
30(8) 11 Apr (Saturday) Andalusia Tour End Cortijo Rosario, Algamitas. Parador de Malaga Gibralfaro 0411.pdf
31 12 Apr (Sunday) Malaga Parador de Malaga Gibralfaro 0411.pdf
32 13 Apr (Monday) Malaga to Zaragoza Hotel Sauce 0413.pdf
33 14 Apr (Tuesday) Zaragoza Hotel Sauce 0413.pdf
34 15 Apr (Wednesday) Zaragoza to Barcelona Wilson Boutique Hotel 0415.pdf
35 16 Apr (Thursday) Barcelona Basilica de la Sagrada Familia Wilson Boutique Hotel 0415.pdf 0416.pdf
36 17 Apr (Friday) Barcelona Wilson Boutique Hotel 0415.pdf
37 18 Apr (Saturday) Barcelona Wilson Boutique Hotel 0415.pdf
38 19 Apr (Sunday) 1045(+1)-1925(+4) BCN-AUH EY0050 flight Barcelona to Abu Dhabi Business Class
39 20 Apr (Monday) 2145(+4)-1705(+10) AUH-MEL EY0460 flight to Melbourne Business Class

Trip Blog

12 Mar 2020, Thursday (Day 0), leaving Melbourne

After a reasonable night's sleep, we awoke at the usual time of 6:50 as the alarm went off. John made the tea, while Barb stripped the bed and started the washing. As we had run things done as much as possible, we had our morning tea with slices of butterless bread, as there was no butter. Hmmm. Not my first choice!

Then the last minute packing things. Barb had organized a TODO list of these, so it was a simple matter of checking through them and ticking them off. We said goodbye to Jemima and David as they trundled off to school, and then a short pause while we had a simple breakfast before saying goodbye to the rest of the family (Beth, Tabitha and Diane) and then set off for the station.

Well, only John at this stage. Coincidentally it was much the same circumstance as last year when we left. John had a meeting at MIT, so he went in early for that, before Barb met him at 12:15 and we both walked from Elizabeth St down to Spencer St where we caught the airport bus. A bit of a wait at the airport for the checkin counter to open, then we repaired to the Etihad Lounge for a slightly late lunch - in style - and a leisurely relaxation while we waited for the gate to open.

At the gate lounge, we met up with David and Sue, and then dialled up Nathan for a brief chat before they called us for loading. So here we are now, waiting for push back, and sipping on our glasses of champagne (Piper Heidsieck, if you don't mind). Time to do my first blog entry for the trip!

I watched two Harry Potter movies for the rest of the trip, with several hours of sleep thrown in in between. We landed in Abu Dhabi, where inspite of having 'priority' boarding passes, we had to herd through the regular security gates because they didn't open the appropriate queue ("Tough" I hear you all say). But there was time for a bit of breakfast (? at 1am local time) and a coffee (accompanied by some very interesting "arabic sweets"), before boarding a new flight for Casablanca.

Another two Harry Potter movies took me to the end of "Deathly Hallows, Pt 2", so I have now seen all the HP movies! I didn't get any more sleep though, but as it was a shorter flight (8 hours versus 13), some reading filled in the gaps adequately.

13 Mar 2020, Friday (Day 1), arriving Casablanca

We landed in Casablanca before 8am local time, and before we had even collected our luggage, were greeted by David and Sue with the news that the Spanish border was closed, and that no ferries or flights from Morocco were operating. So bang goes the second half of our trip. And things were not looking too rosey for our Morocco tour, either. I guess we will find our more in the evening tomorrow, when we meet our tour guide. But we found the driver to take us to the hotel, and in the process met Peter and Karen (who are doing the tour starting Tuesday), and Catherine, who is on our tour. We shared the bus with Catherine on our way to the hotel, and quickly struck up a friendship. She very much seems to fit in with our ethos!

An hour's drive from the airport to our hotel gave us plenty of time to talk and catch up, but we had even more time when we got to the hotel because our rooms were not ready. No problemo, we repaired to the bar/restaurant, and consumed several cups of coffee while the conversations continued. Sometime after 10 we got into our rooms, but showers were limited as there were only enough clean towels for one per room! After sprucing up, the Morgans and Hurst decided to go for a bit of a walk, so we walked over to the nearby Sacre Coeur cathedral, only to find it all fenced off and inaccessible. John managed to take some photos nevertheless, with a long-time coming GPS signal, and then we walked on to explore the nearby parks, town buildings, town squares and tram lines.

About 1pm we saw an interesting hoarding advertising some "pastillas" for 50-100MAD (Moroccan Dirhams), about $10-20 each, so we stopped for lunch there, and all had a "Moroccan Chicken" pastilla (Pastille Morocaine au Poulet). Although sprinkled with icing sugar, we all agreed that they were quite delicious, and would keep an eye out for other varieties around as we came across them.

From lunch we moved on to the Medina, the old market around, a place abounding in small stall holdings with heaps of cheap junk, viz., shoes, T-shirts, watches, trinkets and souvenirs. We resisted the temptation to buy anything, and kept our hands firmly on our wallets. Another cultural artifact were the numbers of touts around, latching onto tourists, and encouraging them to visit this or that shop, this or that show, and the like. Again, we had to resist, firmaly and vigorously.

Back to the hotel for afternoon tea, which was not successful, as ours were in paper cups which tainted the tea rather unpleasantly. Barb tried in vain to get some china cups, but the housekeeping woman wasn't having any of it. We agreed to meet for dinner at 6 in the hotel restaurant.

At 6, we all gathered, Donna, Jim, David, Sue, Barb, John and Catherine, and ordered from the menu. John started with a very nice Moroccan soup, tomato based with lots of chick peas, and dates and slices of lemon on the side. It was very nice! Donna had it as well, and agreed with my assessment. That was followed by a tajine, chicken for Barb, beef for John, both very tasty with meat and onions and spices, all cooked in a tajine and delivered hot to the table. John washed it all down with two bottles of Flag Speciale (don't panic, they were only 240ml each!), a local beer, quite refreshing, but really little more than a moderate strength lager.

The meal was accompanied by much conversation, particularly about the coronavirus and its implications for us. We were by now quite resigned to missing Spain, but there was still a big question mark over what would happen with the Moroccan part of the trip. I have to say that the spirit was nevertheless quite bouyant, and nobody expressed any real bitterness about proceedings.

Given that most of us (Donna and Jim excepted) had had little sleep over the last 36 hours, the dinner petered out fairly early, and we retired at about 9pm. We certainly collapsed into bed without so much as an 'open computer' command.

14 Mar 2020, Saturday (Day 2), Casablanca

The night was not entirely successful! I lay awake from 1:30am until after 4, when I fitfully dozed off. Surprisingly, I awoke at 6:50, exactly the time our alarm at home is set to go off! Pure coincidence? Given the amount of jet lag I was suffering, I suppose it must have been. Whatever.

We went down to breakfast at 7:30 as we were desperate for a cup of tea not in a paper cup! We enjoyed several cups before the others arrived, and we switched to breakfast mode, and cups of coffee instead. breakfast dragged on until about 9:30 when we decided we could not face another cup of coffee!

Jim and Donna decided to hire a taxi for the day and cruise around to see the sights. Morgans and Hursts decided to head towards the esplanade, and walk along the foreshore to the lighthouse. We invited Catherine to accompany us, and she assimilated with our group very well. OUr track took us to a point halfway along the foreshore, and we were able to enjoy the sea air and the sweeping views. By now the sun had burnt off the early morning mists, and it was a perfect day (weatherwise).

Just as we got to the lighthouse point (which in itself was not very photogenic or inspiring), we passed a cafe, which looked enticing. It was about 12:30 by now, and thoughts of lunch crossed our collective minds. But the cafe did not serve lunch unti 3:15pm (!), and the breakfast menu did not excite, as it was really too similar to the breakfast we had finished a few hours ago. So we settled for smoothies all round - John had a chocolate and peanut smoothie, all the others had mango, banana, and passionfruit ones. Most yummy, and leaving us not really needing lunch at all.

Our trip back along the foreshore took us past the huge great mosque, the Hassan II Mosque, which we photographed extensively! We are due to visit the interior of the mosque at the start of our tour tomorrow, but just the outside was gob-smacking enough, with all the rich moorish decorations over every surface and aspect.

From the mosque we made our way back to the hotel, and bought some small patisserie to substitute for lunch. Barb and I shared a pastilla square, filled with olives, and quite tasty. Then for a bit of a quiet time before our tour briefing in the evening at 6pm.

But "quiet" it was not to be. Barb had a phone call from David to say that the tour was called off, and that they were trying to book a flight home on the morrow. David said that Peregrine were contacting all the tour guests to let them know. Barb and I decided not to do anything until the meeting, which was just as well, as a) we did not get that call, and b) Jim and Donna called by to say that the tour was still going ahead, and David had misunderstood the purpose of the phone call. THe start of much confusion had begun.

At 6pm we met the tour guide, Mohammed, who said that the tour was definitely going ahead. Poor Sue was in a bit of a panic, as they had just spent $5000 on replacement tickets, and they couldn't get hold of Etihad to cancel. The briefing did go on a bit, but it somewhat bouyed our spirits hearing about all the interesting things we were to see and do, and the fact that we were at last getting to the cutting edge of the purpose of our trip!

Dinner was not very exciting - the restaurant downstairs was closed, and we went instead to another restaurant space within the hotel, where they were serving a buffet. I had thought it was part of the tour package, but no, we had to pay for it - considerably more than we paid for last night's dinner, and it was not nearly as good. Add to that that there were several other tour groups all doing the same thing, and as our group had taken 2 hours for the briefing, the other groups had clearly had a head start on us. So the food ran out a bit, and we were left as (almost) the last to finish. Also add in the fact that Sue and David were not there because they were trying to sort out their cancellation hassles, nor was Catherine, as she was in a different tour group, and the mood was not nearly as jolly as the previous night. And so to bed.

15 Mar 2020, Sunday (Day 3), Casablanca: "Baby, there's just trouble around here with you"

Another night of sleeplessness, worrying about the rapidly deteriorating circumstances. Barb and I breakfasted at 7:15 in a repeat of the morning tea followed by breakfast scenario, but were not joined by the others because of some confusion over where we were supposed to be - in the ground floor restaurant, or the first floor "restaurant" (it was a little basic). Whether the confusion was because of something that Peregrine had said, or because of some protocol by the hotel, or because the two had not talked to each other, we never found out. An ominous portent, as it turned out.

At 8:20 we assembled in the lobby with our bags all packed, and (re)charged by the fact that things were about to happen. We boarded the bus and set off for the mosque. We had a few minutes to wander around and take photos, and readmire the impressiveness of the place, before assembling at the entrance to be ushered in for a tour of the interior. Wow! As gob-smacking as the exterior is, the inside was ever more amazing!!

We duly made our way back to the bus at the appointed hour of 10:15, only to be greeted with Mohammed's bombshell of "the tour is suspended". Note that he said "suspended", not "cancelled", and thereby hangs a tale. He suggested that we move across to the nearby cafe, where he would shout us all a coffee or tea, and discuss our options. He spent a lot of the time on his phone, talking to the local Peregrine office, and then relaying information to us. His choice was a) we abandon the tour, and he would take us to the airport staright away, where we could wait for flights out, or b) we continue the tour, but that at the end of it, Peregrine would not be responsible for getting us out of the country. The baseline seemed to be that the Moroccan government was not keen for tours to proceed, but nor were they prepared to help anyone leave the country. We were expected to remain in Casablanca until we could fly out. Early attempts to find flights indicated that there were no spare seats out of Casablanca in the next few days, and that the borders would be shut on Tuesday.

We were between a rock and a hard place. Peregrine clearly did not want to help us at all, and Mohammed was at his wits end as to what to do. It was obvious that his training did not include how to deal with such unusual cicumstances. Most of us reacted that if getting out of the country was so difficult, we might as well continue the tour. But Peregrine was not at all keen on this option (no doubt under prompting from the gorvernment).

The upshot of all this was that we reluctantly headed back to the hotel Kenzi Basma, where Mohammed had organized for most of us to return to our previous rooms. We agreed to meet at 4pm to discuss where things were heading. One bright spot was that Kaye Morgan on our behalf had managed to book tickets on QATAR to fly out on Friday and back to Australia via Doha.

We lunched at a small sandwich bar just around the corner. John had a couple of fish samosa-like things, and Barb had a chicken and cheese sandwich. Simple but welcome fare in the light of developments.

The meeting at 4pm was quite inconsequential. There was little extra information, and that which we did have was not encouraging. Geoff the ambassador chimed in with the cheering announcement that QATAR had cancelled all its flights forthwith, and our one remaining hope was dashed. We were rather flattened. Geoff threw in a tiny morcel of hope - he suggested that if Britain organized a charter flight to evacuate its citizens, then Australians might be able to cadge a lift on that. We can but hope.

With all this disappointment, we decided that we needed something to cheer us up, and so booked a table at a local seafood restaurant "Oystrea" for 6:30pm. The Morgans and Hursts walked there (with some minor detours not on our map), while the Robinsons caught a taxi. The meal itself was great, and we enjoyed jokes and repartee about our dire circumstances as we waited for our meals. John had fish soup, and then shared a big plate of fish paella with Barb, before a dessert of a rather large creme brulee (delicious!), while Barb plumped for a chocolate pudding (very rich!) All this washed down with two bottles of Moroccan rose. We sang Happy Birthday to the birthday girls, and for a moment, forget about the chaos around us.

16 Mar 2020, Monday (Day 4), Casablanca

Another fretful night, and ironically, we awoke late and had to scurry to breakfast, there to be met by Geoff and the news that he and Joanne had secured seats on the last flight out tonight on Air France. That seemed to dash our one remaining glimmer of hope, and it left us very, very flattened.

But we had little time to be too morose. Mohammed appeared and told us to bring our passports, and he would drive us to various airline offices. We piled on the bus, and the first stop was QATAR, but it was clearly shut, so on we went to Air France. There was a queue of people outside that office, so we piled off the bus and joined the queue.

It was freezing in that queue. Barb and I only had T-shirts on due to the haste in which we left, and the wind down the alleyway where we were waiting was quite chilly. The queue also moved very slowly, to the point where Sue and Barb resorted to sharing Sue's jacket to keep out the cold! Eventually we got into the office (they were only admitting two at a time, as each were processed), where we managed to book two tickets. We were a bit gob-smacked when the agent said that our Mastercard didn't work, so we asked him to try again. Four times he had to try before it worked, and we could breathe more easily!

As it turned out, our tickets were stand-by, so we had to be at the airport to stand-by on the off-chance we could get on the 2 scheduled flights. Mohammed organized a trip to the airport, so a quick dash back to the hotel to pack and collect our bags, and then off to the airport.

Not that that was much of a resolve. We had many more nervous moments, exacerbated by standing around for 7 hours (no seats to wait on), with rumours and gossip rampaging around the assembled hordes. At the two handouts of the stand-by boarding passes, those hordes pressed in upon us, in clear contravention of all corona advice. At 7pm, when it became clear that we had missed out on the stand-by, they announced that an extra flight was being put on at 7pm tomorrow, and that they would issue boarding passes for all those still waiting. After more waiting around, we were able to collect those boarding passes (accompanied by much cheering) and headed off to the Atlas Hotel (nearby to the airport), that Mohammed had been able to organize for us at relatively short notice.

At the Atlas Hotel - which is as close as we are going to get to the Atlas Mountains - we settled in, and quickly repaired to the bar. They had the local ale, Flag Speciale, on tap, so 2 by 2, as couples arrived, we bought 2 ales, each of which came in a very nice thistle shaped glass, toasted a hassle-free trip home, and settled down to enjoy, accompanied by some both complementary and complimentary bowls of peanuts and popcorn. We were the first couple, followed by John and Kaye, then David and Sue, then Donna and Jim. It was only when Jim ordered his beer that we discovered that the bar only had 6 of the nice thistle glasses!

We enjoyed the beers too much, because when we went to get dinner just after 10, we were told that the kitchen had closed. We had all thought that the front desk had said it was open until 10:30. Bummer! And so there was nothing else to do but go to bed.

17 Mar 2020, Tuesday (Day 5), Casablanca-Paris

18 Mar 2020, Wednesday (Day 6), Paris-Dubai

A very early start to the day. We had to be at the airport by 7am, so it meant a 6am start, a quick shower, meet with David and Sue, and find our way to the rail shuttle to the airport. We had a slight hassle finding food, as most of the shops were shut, either because it was too early, or (more likely) because of the corona virus. Fearing that we would not find any shops open in the sterile areas, we bought some food from Relais, but there wasn't a great deal of choice (several shelves were empty). We settled for a jar of "terrine campagne et cepes", some wooden spoons, two bottles of chocolate milk, some rice crackers coated with chocolate (!), and deux croissants.

Unfortunately, when we went to go through the security scans, they would not allow the bottles through, so we just sat down and started to eat what we had. I must say the terrine was quite nice, even with wooden spoons, and an interesting mixture of haut and bas cuisine.

The rest of the boarding procedure went smoothly enough, and we were soon in the departure lounge - where we discovered that there was another Relais food shop open, and we need not have panicked. Boarding took place slightly early, and we actually pushed back from the terminal 10 minutes early. The plane (an A380) was very empty, and each of us had a row of seats to ourselves, so we spead out!

The flight was a bit over 6 hours, and apart from lunch (which was also served early, about 11:30 Paris time), I occupied myself by sprawling out across several seats and nodding off for an hour or two, and followed that with watching "The DaVinci Code" on the movie channel. That movie took me right up to landing time, and so here we are now in Dubai airport, just finished a most welcome coffee, and catching up on emails and blogs and the like. Tell you more tomorrow.

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