Sugar, Oh Honey Honey

Honey-Moon that is.

Both Neil and I are getting itchy feet again, and the uncertainty around my work situation has meant that we’ve had to keep our travel planning fairly limited in terms of destination and duration.

So what does one do when they can’t plan for a vacation in the immediate future? Plan for one in the not-so-immediate future instead. We booked the major airfare and a custom, private tour for the first part of our honeymoon over the weekend!

The plan is to fly out of Tofino either Sunday evening (March 30) or Monday Morning (March 31) back to Vancouver. The evening of the 31st, we hop on another plane to Morocco! We’ve got a 12-day itinerary with a private guide and A/C Land Rover at our disposal for the duration (I’ll post details after the jump). After that, we’ll make our way across the water to Spain, and hopefully spend the next 6 days recuperating while lounging in a villa near the Costa del Sol before flying from Malaga back to Vancouver on April 18th.

So, of course I have questions for the intrepid globetrotters out there:

Killing Time: Have any of you been in the British Airways executive lounge at Heathrow? Is it worth the price of admission? Both arrival and departure flights have 3 hour layovers there, and the Heathrow cattle-pen isn’t really all that awesome for just hanging out in.

Also under the killing time umbrella, we’ve arranged for extended leisure time in Fes and Marrakech – any suggestions for must-see and don’t-bother sites? Same question for Southern Spain – though nothing too taxing of course.

Planes, Trains, Automobiles: If you’ve travelled between Africa and Spain, how did you get from point A to point B? Our options seem to be Plane or Train/Ferry. Plane is slightly more expensive (by $75 each or so). Ferry ride is 6 to 9 hours.

Home, Sweet Home: Any advice for places to stay in southern Spain? Must be self-catering, so we can privately gorge on Serrano ham and Sangria. Neil definitely wants something beachy, but we both agree that we’d prefer to be a little off the beaten path so we’re hopefully not lumped in with the droves of packaged-tour pink Brits who flock to the area to soak up the sun.

Wardrobe Crisis: Again, in an effort to be as inoffensive as possible, I’m looking for suggestions on what to wear in Morocco. The country is primarily Muslim (with a few Berbers and even fewer Christians thrown in for good measure) so I must be mostly covered. Other than stocking up on long linen pants and skirts and a large hat for the sun, what would y’all suggest? Bonus query: recommendations for comfortable, non-sneaker footwear?

Watch your Language: Between us we probably have enough French (which is similar enough to Spanish) to get by in that department. However, we’d love to get some Arabic under our belt before we go. Is there anywhere in Vancouver we can take some conversational Arabic classes – or a good “book on tape” program anyone can recommend?

Shutterbugs: We’ll need a new digital camera before we go. Something with enough power and options to take effective night pictures (remote control, long shutter speed settings), but not fancy enough to be inconvenient to carry or attract unwanted attention from those who’d prefer to relieve us of it.

Thanks in advance for answers to those, or any questions I’ve not thought of yet! And of course, after the jump, our Moroccan itinerary:
——————————————————————-

Day 1 – Marrakech
-Transfers to airport, free time to explore the Jemaa el Fna

Day 2 – Marrakech
-Moroccan Cooking Lesson
-Horse-drawn carriage Garden Tour
-Lecture on Moroccan History, religion or architecture (we haven’t chosen which yet)

Day 3 – Casablanca
-Travel to and City tour of Casablanca
-Transfer to Rabat

Day 4 – Rabat, Meknes, Volubilis, Fes
-Visit the sites of Meknes (creation of Moulay Ismail), Roman ruins of Volubilis, and on to Fes (this day honestly sounds kind of lame, but these things are on the way to Fes, so why not see them while we’re there)

Day 5, 6 – Fes
-Full day tour of Fes and its famous mosques, medersas and souks (Day 5)
-Day to continue to explore Fes on our own (Day 6) – an activity highly recommended by the folks on the Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor forums

Day 7 – Fes, Erfoud, Megzouga
-Leave Fes and drive through the Middle Atlas Mountains, stopping at the Midelt Nature Reserve for lunch, and heading into the High Atlas, then to the Ziz valley, arriving at Erfoud.
-4×4 drive to the sand-dunes, then trade the Land Rovers for Camels and head into the desert for a sunset ride.
-Spend the night in a Berber camp, sleeping under the stars (this is why we want the ability to take low-light pictures)

Day 8 – Merzouga, Erfoud, Ouarzazate
-Back the way we came via camel/4×4 and onward through the High Atlas and Anti Atlas landscape – alternating desolation and oasis.

Day 9 – Ouarzazate, Marrakech
-Visit Kasbahs and Ait Benhaddou (filming location for Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, etc.)
-Back to Marrakech where we’re left to our own devices for the rest of the day

Day 10 – Marrakech
-Medina and Mosque tours in the morning
-Souk tours in the afternoon

Day 11 – Marrakech
-More horse-drawn carriage tours to the olive groves and subtropical botanical gardens, afternoon at leisure

Day 12 – Marrakech, departure
-Check out, find our way to Spain.

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7 thoughts on “Sugar, Oh Honey Honey

  1. Maktaaq

    No advice, but damn, I wish I could go travelling again!

    Maybe a little advice: slot in some time to buy local clothing. When I went to Ethiopia, I got decked out like the local ladies. The scarves were great on dusty roads, for keeping warm or for privacy – all these anti-Islam bigots here have no idea how useful these scarves are!

    But ooh, I am jealous! This sounds like a fun trip!

  2. Darren

    Awesome trip. Coincidentally, we’re considering living in Morocco for a couple of months, so I’ll be curious to hear how you get on and what your favourite town is.

    Out of curiosity, who did you book the tour through?

    My advice:

    1. Heathrow – Two conflicting pieces of advice:

    a) There’s a Hilton on the premises of the airport, and for some only mildly absurd fee you can use their gym facilities. This enables you to have a shower and freshen up. And, if you like, you can even walk on the treadmill for a bit to get life back into your limbs.

    b) You probably know this, but don’t under-esimate Heathrow. With the recent, heightened security, a three-hour layover may be just enough time to navigate that absurd airport and get to your next flight on time.

    2. Ferries – As a rule, Mediterranean ferries suck. Take the plane. The food, etc. you’ll buy on the ferry over six to nine hours will reduce your savings.

    3. Spain – No advice on location, as I’ve only been to Madrid and Barcelona. However, pick very carefully. The Brits are reportedly everywhere down there, vacationing and buying up property left, right and centre. And, as you seem to imply, the Brits on vacation suck.

    4. Wardrobe – This may be advice for Neil rather than you, but I can’t say enough about the durability, comfort, practicality and versatility of my goofy sandals here on Malta. I wear them everywhere, and you can just wash (or even hose them off) them when they get smelly. They’re not the nicest shoes to look at, and you wouldn’t catch me wearing them around Yaletown, but they kick ass:

    http://tinyurl.com/2poek5

  3. peechie Post author

    Maktaaq: Thanks – grand idea!

    Courtney: Most Excellent! Her first round of suggestions were great already!

    Darren: The tour was put together by GAP Adventures. We found a couple similar itineraries through an American company that has copious advertising on the Lonely Planet website, and some pretty good reviews on Trip Advisor. GAP was able to basically combine the two tours and take into consideration our wish-list customizations and put together that package for a very reasonable price. The wording on all tours we’ve seen across companies is identical for the options, so I’m assuming there is a collective of local vendors who are called upon to deliver the services.

    We are booking things collectively through a travel agent – she recommended getting a quote from GAP and dealt with the flights. Once we’re closer to the departure date she’ll also book the plane/ferry (so far the vote is 1 for, 1 against) to Spain and our home-base there.

  4. Mike

    For the languages, I’ve had a great time learning Persian with the “Pimsleur” mp3s. I downloaded a whole bunch of languages off bittorrent (isohunt.com). It just depends what kind of Arabic they speak in Morocco…. the Pimsleur has Eastern and Egyptian Arabic… it’s probably closer to Egyptian, but could be quite different again.

    Lonely Planet has a good Persian phrasebook that I’ve enjoyed using, and I see on their website they have a Moroccan Arabic one as well.

  5. skyec

    Like Canada, French is the second official language of Morocco (I’m sure you noticed that though). While my French is useless the people I was with when I went there were from Quebec and got us into all kinds of cool places with their French (Hercules caves, trip across a 2 mile deep beach on camels, and into all kinds of trouble).

    We spent most of our time in and around Tangier. We went to Fez for a couple days. You’ll want to see the Medina though you really need to have a guide as it truly is a medieval maze. Keep your whits about you as you’ll be targets for scams. That said, I bought a fantastic rug and leather jacket there. The palace was impressive but closed for tours.

    Oh, one very important thing. Marijuana grows naturally in many parts of the country but it is _very_ illegal to be caught with any. That said, I seem to remember driving through a Marijuana free zone with check points all around. Street peddlers would approach you attempting to sell you rocks of hash the size of a golf ball for almost nothing. This got me in a lot of trouble but that’s another story …

    I loved the food. Our best evening out was at a fancier place in Tangier where they had belly dancers. I can’t remember what any of the food was called but there were several courses, you sat on the floor/cushions and the entertainment was great.

    I only spent a few days in southern span but I remember that there was a cool old roman fort just outside Cadiz where you could walk through the old circus. I spent a couple days in Sevilla. If you get there see the Alcázar Palace (watch Lawrence of Arabia first as IIRC parts of it were filmed there). The Cathedral was amazing but was I ever tired by the time I got through it all. At the time they claimed it was the 3rd largest cathedral in the world but I just noticed that recent claims put it larger than St. Pauls and St. Peters based on cubic volume (whatever). If you get there the climb to the top was well worth it. We also went to Expo ’92 when we were there but I’m sure that’s long gone.

    I can’t offer any advice on transportation as we were sailing through the region. We went on bus tours and used cabs to get around on land. Plus this was 15 years ago so many things may have changed and my memory isn’t the best.

    I do remember that I really liked both sides but the only thing that started to get to me was the poverty though people were mostly friendly if your Canadian flag was clearly visible (and you make an effort to speak French or Spanish).

    I hope that helps and I hope you guys have a great time!

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