Daily Wanderlust: The leather of Fez, Morocco

Morocco is  a whirlwind of sights, sounds, smells. From the souks to the orange juice stands, the medinas are a constant attack of the senses until you are able to escape to a riad.

Honestly, it was not my favorite place in my travels. It was very hard to be a solo female throughout most of the country.

But, there were definitely moments of supreme awe. When I was visiting Fez, about half-way through my time in the country, I was approached by a “free” guide. For most of my time in Morocco, I waved off these men. But, for some reason, his persistence wore me down and  I him let whisk me through the dusty maze of the Fez medina.

We spent a day together, drinking the delicious mint tea, exploring local pharmacies, the tannery, and even an artist “enclave” of rundown, dimly lit rooms where leather was dyed and hung out to dry in the hot desert sun.

Newly dyed leather hangs from a railing in Fez, Morocco.

 

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: the Fez tannery

During my time in Morocco, I hired a guide. Even though I swore I wouldn’t. I just got so worn down, tired of pretending to not hear the calls, tired of being on guard.

When in Fez, and I met Sayid, I succumbed and let him take me around the old medina of Fez, which dates back to 793 AD or something crazy like that.

He took me to all over town, including to the coolest overlook in the city, a bath, and even to the leather tannery.The tannery dates back nearly 1,000 years and still processes hides of animals using traditional techniques.

Here, vats are filled with pigeon poop and veggie dyes to prepare the skin for leather production. On a hot summer day, you can smell it across the medina.

 

Destinations

Escape of the Week: Chefchaouen, Morocco

Morocco’s Chefchaouen is as unique as it is beautiful. Tucked between peaks of the marijuana-laden Rif Mountains, the village crawls (often times, steeply) up a hillside and treats visitors to the land of one-thousand welcomes.

But, there is more to the town than the warm hospitality and Moroccan culinary delicacies like the delightfully colorful and flavorful Berber dishes of tagine, raisin-topped couscous, and cup fulls of sweet mint tea  — there is the city itself which easily reaches its way into the hearts of travelers from every corner of the world.

Located in the northwest of the country, Chefchaouen is quite possibly the most photogenic place I have ever visited. Here, buildings are two-tone, powder blue on the bottom, white on the top.

Accents on buildings are an array of turquoise and aqua.

In some areas, even the white looks blue, thanks to the intense coloring and reflection of the bright azure shades.

Some say the blue is painted on the white-washed buildings to keep the mosquitoes and flies out; others reason the painted walls are rooted in the Jewish history of the town.

Look familiar?

Aside from the walls (and marijuana/hash/kief), Chefchaouen is also known for its shopping.

It’s nearly impossible to not stop and stare at the bright pops of leather goods, hand-woven rugs, clothing and more on display.

You never know what you will find.

There is definitely something extremely magical and surreal about wandering through the medina of Chefchaouen. The bursts of vines hanging overhead. The quaint cafes serving food that is just as colorful as the shop displays. The fresh air. The welcomes. The blue tint of the skin by day and the stars sparkling overhead at night. Unlike Marrakesh, Fez and other  major cities, Chefchaouen bursts with a character and a true beauty I’ve never seen before.

Getting there:

From Tangier, hop on the bus to Chefchaouen. Take note: Chefchaouen is built on a hill. For those carting large luggage, particularly luggage with wheels, you would do better to take a cab from the bus stop up to the medina. For those who opt to walk, god speed. It just looks vicious.

Destinations

The Adventures of D — A Retrospect

Oh, my little blog. It’s been around since before I decided to take my career break and travel. It’s been around since I one sleepless October night in Atlanta when, around midnight, the words to the start of my story I wanted to share just popped into my head. Then, I was up. Out of bed. Laptop open. WordPress blog created.

And the rest is history.

Now, nearly two years later, I certainly have shared. At times, I’ve shared too much. At times, I haven’t shared enough.

Regardless, this ride has been the highlight of my life, taking me through moments, through happy, through sad, that have left me wanting more … and ready to start the next chapter in “The Adventures of D.”

So, when Jason from Jason’s Travels, asked if he could nominate me for this fun little project, My 7 Links, put on by Trip Base, of course I said “yes.” I mean … I get to relive some of my favorite posts!

Without further adieu, My 7 Links:

The Most Beautiful Post:

I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers

It’s not a beautiful photo essay. But it is an example of the beauty and generosity that still exists in this world. It is also one of the many reasons I fell in love with Croatia.

The Most Popular Post:

How to barter like a pro

I spent a good amount of time in Turkey during my trip, where negotiating is a part of the package. It constantly awed me that people could go in to a restaurant and negotiate the cost of their meal. While that wasn’t for me so much, it was fun to go back and forth with the shopkeepers at the Grand Bazaar and elsewhere.

The Most Controversial Post:

My 30-Life-Crisis … Solved?

It wasn’t controversial in the sense it started a heated debate, but to my family and friends, this post was controversial because I was throwing away a comfortable life for the unknown. I was … LIVING instead of deciding to just go through the motions.

The Most Helpful Post:

Airport Sleeping 101

Oh, the beauty of backpacking and being on a budget. There were a few times when I had stop-overs that, while they were 12 or so hours, were overnight. Rather then haul my 40 kilo backpack and my tired self to a hostel in the city, I opted to just crash out on the floor … or a bench … in the airport. This post gives tips on how to make the best of airport sleeping.

The Post Whose Success Surprised Me:

Dude, don’t be a Hostel Dick

Yes, it’s meant to be funny. I just didn’t realize this post with these tips would be one of my most popular posts of all time. In all seriousness though, every backpacker who stays in hostels should read this.

The Post That Didn’t Get the Attention I Feel it Deserved:

The Best of … Madrid

It’s got some pretty good tips in the post and in the comments for anyone headed to Madrid.

The Post I Am Most Proud Of:

Love, Life and Loss … on the Road

By far, this was the hardest post I have ever written. It took every ounce of me to pull myself together to write this.

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And now comes the fun part. Here are the five bloggers I want to do this on their site, too. These folks are some of the best out there! Be sure to check their sites for the My 7 Links project soon!

Adam from The Travels of Adam

Anna from Frill Seeker Diary

Candice from Candice Does the World

Lindsay AKA Hogga from The Traveller

Margo from The Travel Belles

30 Life Crisis Africa Americas Blog Croatia Morocco Rwanda Spain Travel Travel Tips Turkey

Escape of the Week: Walls of Chauen

Perhaps one of the most stunningly colored cities I have ever visited, Chefchauen, Morocco, provided me with a photo opp around every winding road, narrow alley and blue-walled building.

The entire medina is a refreshing bright blue stacked with white half-way up nearly every building’s wall. And then there are gorgeous splatters of color — souks with bright magenta leather sandals, electric turquoise wallets; scarves lining the walls; rich table cloths draped under plates of deep green salads and pink watermelon.

The day I spent wandering this city was my first in Morocco. I arrived via ferry from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco, hopped a cab to the bus station and then hopped a locals bus (think rickety tin box with windows I thought would pop out) to Chefchauen.

I had heard about the magic of this city. How it enchants. Mesmerizes. It did just that for me as well.

I love this photo because the sun beaming in is just so, making every color just pop.

Africa Destinations Morocco

‘Round the World Music (The List)

Once traveling has been completed, there are few things more precious than the memories of the experience. I am always giddy when something unexpected triggers a magical moment of Delicious Travel Recall. It can be something as little as sitting outside on a breezy warm night grasping a cup of hot beverage that takes me back to Jose’s front porch in Merida; or the smell of a hookah wafting in the night air that takes me back to Granada; or the meowing of street cats outside my window that takes me back Turkey; or catching a futbol game on television that takes me back to Morocco …

But, more consistently, it is the music.

Within the first few bars, I am whisked away to the moment in time I heard the song … wistfully taken back to the thoughts, the feelings, the warm in the pit of my stomach that quickly takes over my entire body in this brief and amazing bliss.

Now, whenever a song comes on that triggers these fantastical moments of travel joy, I tell my little memory to whomever is in within yelling-at-the-top-of-my-lungs distance.

And, now … a sampling of my RTW soundtrack and little stories to illustrate why each song “rocks” in it’s own little way.  I’ve included links so you can check out the tunes. Enjoy!

1. O.A.R.

This band has longevity with me. It came with me on my first backpacking adventure to Europe in 2002; it returned when I was in Croatia for my 30th; and (so as not to break tradition), they were also loaded onto my iPod for this past Adventure. The band got plenty of play time when I walked about in London.

2. Dropkick Murphys – “I’m Shipping Up to Boston

This is my Ireland Experience in a song. It takes me back to being driven by Abbey through Ireland’s stunning countryside, dotted with old stone castles and vast expanses of farmland, B-Lee, Emily and I intow, headed to Galway to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

3. Milow – “Ayo Technology

The first time I heard this song was the morning after I fell in love with Madrid. Standing in a little store on the outskirts of Plaza de Mayor. This tune came on and I fell in love with it. After a week in Spain, I downloaded the song and, the version I had clocking in at 8 minutes, was the perfect metro song. I would listen to it on repeat as I walked from Anthony’s to the train, on the train, and then walking to my next destination.

4. Rocky Horror – Time Warp

Madrid. With Anthony and Emma. Sitting in her living room and finding videoes on You Tube that took us to other moments in time. We found this, and damnit, we did the Time Warp.

5. Lil Wayne – “Knockout” 

Before I left on my trip, a friend in Atlanta made me a mix for my Walk Abouts. When I took my little walking tour of Berlin (taking the subway to a stop outside the main part of the city and walking back to my hostel in the city), this little ditty came up. I imagine walking down a little side street speckled with naked, spiny-branched trees, and marveling at the Communist-era buildings mixed in with very geometric and artistic, more modern architecture. And eating a pretzel. I was in Germany.

6. Rihanna – “Rude Boy

I don’t know how Bryan, Nicole and I got on the topic of popular music in the US while in Amsterdam [insert comment here], but somehow this song came up. I had never heard of it so Nicole sang it to me. Later, we heard it while sipping hot chocolate in a coffee shop.

7. Shakira – “Waka Waka

While attending World Environment Day and gorilla naming ceremony, one of the babies was bestowed with the name “Waka Waka.” I hear this song and close my eyes to remember driving down bumpy, barely paved roads,  Anna at my side, staring out at the huts and shards of glass lining fence walls.

8. Ani DiFranco – “Every State Line

I had just left Peter in Granada and was on a bus to Tarifa. I was feeling so lonely, so anxious about departing for Morocco in two days time … I leaned my head against the window of the bus with my eyes fixed to the gorgeous green hills and let myself soak into Ani’s lyrics.

9. David Berkley – “Hurricane

I was really nervous the night before I was taking the ferry over to Tangier. I needed to get some sleep and wanted to listen to something to lull me into dreams. This song was the first one that came to mind. I hear this and I remember being on the bottom bunk, head nestled into my pillow, trying to fall asleep while knowing the other roommates had been downing shots of tequila and were sure to wake me … soon.

10. Cee Lo Green – “What Part of Forever

When I was “working” at the hostel in Kusadasi, Turkey, I downloaded the “Twilight Saga: Eclipse” soundtrack. This song’s upbeat (and uplifting) everything took me out of the fear I was feeling … and later stood for the relief that encompassed my body when I boarded the Fez Bus and got the hell out of town.

11. Yolanda Be Cool and D-Cup – “We No Speak Americano

I heard it for the first time while dancing around a fire pit, flips flung into a pile at the outdoor nightclub in Olympos. Then, again it popped up while standing outside another “nightclub” in Goreme. And, again in Bulgaria. And more, and more, and more. I became obsessed and started to crave its infectious little beat.

12. Stromae –  “Alors on Dance” 

This debuted the same time in Turkey, but it wasn’t until hanging with a bunch of backpackers in Budva, Montenegro that this song took over. We sang it on the bus. We listened to it at the hostel. We talked about it always being in our heads.

13. Florence & The Machine – “Kiss With a Fist

Post-iPod, I had to download new music. I downloaded this and the first time I heard it, I was sitting on a bus, deep in the mountains of  Serbia, en route to Sarajevo. It instantly took my attention while immigration examined my passport.

14. Glee Cast – “Defying Gravity

This song is beautiful and bittersweet. When I first really began to accept my grandma was dying, I sat on the decaying Olympic stairs outside Hostel SA in Sarajevo, put in my headphones (thankful for my new iTouch), turned on this song, buried my head in my legs, and cried buckets of tears.

15. Jon Lejoie – “Show Me Your Genitals

I was lucky to have a travel friend like Katie. She knew I was sad after we left Mostar. While we were on the bus, driving through the Bosnian mountains on the way to Brela, Croatia, she played me this song to cheer me up. It produced the best laugh I had in a while. Note: These lyrics are NSFW or for anyone who is easily offended.

16. MGMT – “Kids

I’m sitting in Fiesta Siesta’s cavernous stone bar, talking with Simon. This song comes on. I always feel so uplifted and happy when I hear this now.

17. Jonell Mosser – “Stop in the Name of Love

Towards the end of my trip, Katie, David and I headed to Solta. The first night there, Katie gifted me with some of her music library. For hours, she and I sat outside, drinking red wine and taking in the Adriatic’s light wind, and listened to some of her favorite music, one ear bud each. This was one of the songs she played — a truly beautiful take on the classic.

18. Mumford & Sons – “Little Lion Man

Zadar was one of my last stops on my trip. I met up with Katie in Trogir and together we traveled up to Zadar. The first night in our dorm, I was laying in bed trying to sleep and this jam perked up my ears. Immediately, I fell in love with the band. Now, any song by them makes me think of Croatia. And summer. And hope.

19. Eminem and Rihanna – “Love the Way You Lie

After Katie and I parted, I had a few more days until my flight home. I didn’t want to stay in Zadar, so I took the bus back to Trogir to go and explore. On the way, our bus broke down. For an hour, I sat on a hot bench at a bus stop while we waited for a new bus to pick us up. A French girl, with headphones on, sang this. To this day, I remember feeling so gross, dripping sweat, and looking over in disbelief at the girl, bopping around on the side of the road, caught up in the music.

20. Citizen Cope – “Sideways

I had never heard this song in my life, but Katie had put it on my iTouch. When I found out my grandma was doing worse, I struggled to find a song to allow me to go numb and cathartic. Each song that came on, I quickly skipped. And, then this song came on. And the guitar, the voice, all of it, instantly spoke to me. When Grandma passed away, it became the only song on my playlist. Until I arrived back in America, it was the only song I would listen to.

What about you? What songs take you back to memories … and what are those memories?

Africa Europe Travel Tips

How to barter like a pro

I’ve spent some time now in Morocco and Turkey, two places where the prices you see/hear are merely suggestions. If you are feeling unadventurous, go ahead and pay the ridiculously inflated prices. But, the only way to get the good deals on the scarves, shoes, pants, carpets, lanterns, etc., etc.,  is to talk talk talk and barter your way to those goodies you know you want to cram into your backpack.

Africa Blog Morocco Travel Travel Tips Turkey