So I have a confession to make.... I booked this tour to Morocco having done zero research and knowing nothing about anything, but for some reason, I always felt like I had to visit - I was drawn to it. The fact that I booked a food adventure tour, just made it all the more appealing, as I love food, and had this crazy idea that combining travel and food would be a good match! How wrong was I? It was a fantastic match!! Absolutely perfect!!
However, it's not all about food so during the past week and a bit, I have learned so much more than what's for breakfast, lunch or dinner - I have learned that this wholly Muslim country does not typically enjoy happy hours - although you can find some places where having a drink is permitted for tourists only, and it is generally not encouraged as it is in the western world I am used to! For me, not being able to drink is no longer a big deal, although there are times - especially when you have a great meal - where you can imagine yourself enjoying it even more with a nice glass of wine, beer or something similar. It's more about the culture and the people rather than trying to find comfort in our western ways. I think when you come to a country that is so faith orientated, you really have to get an understanding of the people, the culture and how it all goes together to make it what it is when we visit! And Morocco is amazing!
We started in Casablanca - and from day one, you just get that it is very French in its foundations - the language, the food, the architecture - ( you could almost be forgiven for thinking that you might be in New Orleans in some parts of the city!) it all has a French feel and vibe to it - which is totally amazing! I love the Intrepid travel tours as they always immerse you into the local culture by staying in local hotels, eating at local restaurants and using local guides throughout. To me, you don't really experience the true city if you are staying at the Hilton, and eating at Burger King because the street food scares you! We catch local transport - buses and trains, local cabs - so you can really feel like your visit is going to give you the best take away of the city you are in!
In a country so devout in faith, it did seem a little strange that one of our first visits was to a winery! We had a back of cellar tour with the owner - who was originally from France, but came to Morocco to start the winery for an obviously eager market - mostly tourism driven, but still an opportunity to show his family's skills with the vines. We tasted wines, and then went onto stay at a small village called Mouly Idris- just outside of Mekenes.for me, this was my most favorite place of the trip - such a simple village - fantastic hosts - all the homes built on a hill and accessible only by foot or donkey - and the view from the top of all those 1000 steps was to die for!! As a traveller, I see a village like this, and think of how happy people are - just being. There is no stress about jobs or time - everything happens when it should - the rules are very simple and the serenity is immense. Ahh and the food!!
Throughout the tour we quickly realized that the portions in Morocco are not small - they seem to cater for a feast at any opportunity, and you automatically get served a myriad of nibbles to start your meal - marinated olives at any opportunity, locally baked bread, tomato salad, lentils, it just never ends and it is all fresh off the tree and right to your plate! How does one improve that equation?? Simply put - you cannot beat it. We sampled and tasted our way through tagines, cous cous classes, tangier ( slowly cooked beef), spices, pastries, honey biscuits so drenched in honey that the bees are all over them at the stall trying to get their honey back!! We ate street food, we never questioned the food choices offered and we're all open to new things - which is why I think I loved Morocco so much!! I guess it does help if you are with like minded people, so the fact that we were a group of 7 including the guide - who were eager to eat at any given time, and be open to anything was just awesome!! And with all of those steps, you feel like you earned the right to eat so much as kind of a reward! We visited Fez, Mekenes, Casablanca, Essaouira and then back to Marrakech - great hotels, good people, lots of laughs- a lot of cats in Morocco for some reason??? At least this time there were no electric fences to walk into, no tents to pitch or take down, and no getting dirty every day! Morocco was as amazing as people told me, I am sorry it took me so long to get here and work it out for myself. I mean, where else can you drive down a highway, turn your head and see a dozen goats climbed up into a tree - just standing on branches...only in Morocco! Part of traveling that I love , is talking to local people and hearing their stories- you can't get that if you don't get down with the locals - for me it's one of the joys of being a traveller!!
Now, with a full belly, I head off to Italy to eat my way through that country.....
Here I go again!