A Travellerspoint blog

February 2015

Place from a different time

Ait Ben Hadou by way of Ouarzazate

sunny 10 °C

From Marrakech we made our way over the Atlas mountains to Ouarzazate to organise a trip into the Sahara. Unfortunately it was bit more expensive than last time around and we probably would have been better making out way down to M'Hamid to negotiate from there, as it is the actual starting point. We did a pretty good deal though and made the trip to Ouarzazate worthwhile by taking a day to go out to Ait Ben Hadou. We made our way to the local bus station to get a Grand Taxi (a bit like the micros in Latin America) and found some great beans for breakfast as well as a cheap ride out there.
Ait Ben Hadou is a gorgeous old mud brick town just outside Ouarzazate. It's World Heritage listed and looks almost exactly like it did when it was built. Parts of around 40 films have been shot there including Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia.
We had heard that if you crossed into the town via the stepping stones over the river it was free to enter. This didn't turn out to be true any more but crossing over the stepping stones was great fun and you can't complain when the entry is only 10 Dirhams. It also means that you make your way up through to town to reach the hill and old granary on top which was a lot nicer than just scooting straight up there. The views were almost as nice as the town itself.
We wandered out to the main road to flag down one of the Grand Taxis on its route back, but in the end a taxi driver dropping off a man further up the road was keen for a return trip and only cost us 10 Dirhams more.
We made it back in plenty of time to get our 4pm bus down to M'Hamid to begin our Saharan adventure.

Posted by Addy21 01:21 Archived in Morocco Tagged ait_ben_hadou Comments (1)

Rocking the Kasbah in Morocco


sunny 19 °C

We flew into Marrakech and it was just as I remembered. After a few wrong turns we even found the Hotel des Amis where I stayed on my last trip to Morocco with Rina, Gretel, ABC and Tony. It was just as cheap too! We were just off Jemaa el Fna and right in the heart of the fun.
We headed into the night markets for some dinner and quickly tracked down the amazing lentil soup which I'd been dreaming about since my last visit. We enjoyed our first tajine of the trip and washed it all down with the almost obligatory mint tea.
Marrakech felt very familiar to me and it was fun wandering through the winding streets of the souks again. This time we also visited the Palais de Bahia and the Palais de Badii as well as the Sardinnian tombs. All of them were just beautiful. The Palais de Bahia was one room after the next of beautiful mosaic work and carvings. Every room made you want to stop and stare.
The Palaisde Badii was enormous, it was a huge old mud brick fort/palace with the lovely symmetry of Moroccan architecture.
The Sardinian tombs were again beautifully decorated with the main room almost giving off a greenish light because of all the tile work. Of the three it was probably the least impressive though, but at 10 Dirhams each, they were all well worth it.

Posted by Addy21 01:07 Archived in Morocco Tagged marrakech palais_de_badii palais_de_bahia sardinnian_tombs Comments (1)

London pit stop

Plays, football and dinosaurs

overcast 8 °C

We only had a couple of days in London so we decided to take in a few of the free sites and take it easy. After the bus drop us off at 5am instead of 9am we were a little slow to get going but we checked the half price ticket offers and found a great deal to see Shakespeare in Love.
We had a nap and then spent the day walking through Hyde Park to the Natural History Museum and after a long queue (rainy Saturday) spent a pleasant few hours discovering our inner child before heading for the show.
On the way we came across a half price ticket booth with tickets to the next days Arsenal v Hull City match, and though a little pricey, decided why the hell not! Suddenly our cheap and quiet few days turned into an entertainment extravaganza. The play was great, and the Noel Cowel theatre was beautiful. We had truly terrible seats, apparently partially obscured view means having to lean over the balcony to look almost directly down at the stage from the side and Matt was not having fun with his vertigo. We both agreed it was well worth it though, the play was great and though we'll probably opt for better seats next time, had no complaints.
The next day we headed out to pick up our Arsenal tickets and made our way to the Emirates Stadium. The atmosphere was great. Almost every seat was full and the songs and chants were almost constant. Matt was very excited to see some of his favourite players take the field. We probably took more photos of the game than almost anything else we've seen. : ) Arsenal won 2-0 to top the night off and while totally freezing, it was a great fun night.
We were off at midnight to get the tube and bus out to the airport and off to Morocco the next morning bright and early.

Posted by Addy21 00:57 Archived in England Tagged london natural_history_museum arsenal Comments (0)

The Amsterdam wrap up

Van Gogh....finally

overcast 4 °C

The next day, and our final day in Amsterdam, we had to return the bikes. Getting back into Amsterdam proved almost as tricky as riding out. This time we also had our bags which made it a bit more tiring. We were definitely helped by daylight and a realisation that the quite large roads that seemed to be on the maps were sometimes quite narrow bikelanes. It still wasn't simple though.

We had hoped, perhaps naively, that in daylight and with a bit more knowledge it would only take the hour google suggested. No such luck, so we arrived at the Van Gogh museum facing another ridiculously long queue. Matt went to wait in the queue while I road the bikes one by one to return them. I'm not sure who had it worst, I was buggered by the time I got back to the queue (after riding, power walking, riding and power walking back again) but Matt was a popsicle. Luckily, it was only about a 15 minute wait by the time I joined Matt in the queue and he was finally able to get some warmth back.

The museum was lovely. There were lots of beautiful works by Van Gogh, but unfortunately not as many of his famous works as we had thought. We spent a few hourslarge_DSC00600.jpg strolling through, then looking at the time decided we were better off waiting in the warmth of the museum with our bags safely stowed in the museum coat check than braving the cold for longer than necessary. I was very much over the cold by this stage.

We had our final walk through Amsterdam on our way back to get the tram out to the bus and headed for London.

Posted by Addy21 00:35 Archived in Netherlands Tagged bikes amsterdam museum van gogh Comments (0)

New Year's Eve in the Dam


overcast -10 °C

New Year's Eve was great fun. We went in early to hire some bikes as all the public transport grounds to a halt at 8pm on New Year's and our bus didn't start up again until 7am the next morning. We took our leftover bottles of champagne from Christmas and some Heineken's with us. We chained our bikes up near the museum area so we'd be on the right track getting home and headed off. We wandered around a couple of pretty squares and canals and made our way over the check out the Skinny Bridge, which was very pretty particularly with all the lights.

We stopped at a lovely park bench beside the canal to have some picnic dinner and share our first bottle of champagne. It was lovely looking out over the water with the light reflected and all the gorgeous buildings and bridges up and down the canal. If it hadn't been totally freezing we probably would have stayed even longer. Once we were almost numb from sitting still outside we headed to our second coffee shop to soak up some of the warmth.
After my second failed attempt and Matt getting another lovely buzz (lucky bugger) we hit the streets for a stroll. It was all really beautiful, we had a couple of Heinekens at Rembrandtpleins which seemed to have stalls going for New Years, but ultimately the bone chilling cold was too much and we decided to find a pub. We headed back towards Neuemarkt as there seemed to have been quite a few nice spots there the night before. As it happened we came across the same little pub, and just as we walked in two girls on stools at the window were getting up to leave. We got a great spot!
We had a few hours to kill before the fireworks so we set ourselves up at the window and ordered some beers. We had a lovely few hours watching people walk buy and enjoying our Amstels and each other's company. There was also a slightly mean spirited piece of me that quite enjoyed being snug and warm watching a much colder world go by. We enjoyed it so much that we almost missed the fireworks. Luckily Matt checked his watch at 11.50pm and we hurried down to the Oosterdock just in time. If we'd realised earlier we would have made our way much closer but as it was we wandered down and found a great spot on a pontoon jutting out into the water just as the fireworks started. The official ones were by far the most spectacular but there were fireworks going off everywhere as hotels and other businesses set off their own at the same time. We had a blast.
After the fireworks we headed back into the city and being concious of the fact that we had to ride home decided shortly after to head back to the bikes. What ensued was a comedy of errors. We set off with our google map directions which were great until we got to our first bike path and what looked on the map like a medium sized park. You see, google maps didn't seem to make any clear distinction between roads and bike paths, and as bike paths have their own street names I suppose that's reasonable. The problem was we were looking for roads that didn't exist and when we did make it to the park, expecting a large road to be circling it to the right we came to a very dark looking woods with no roads or street lamps, just bike paths disappearing into the dark. We were convinced we'd come the wrong way and subsequently road around in circles until a very lovely Dutch girl stopped us arguing on a corner to point us in the right direction. We ended up following the main roads and the big signs to Uithoorn, and when we got close, we flagged down a couple of fellow cyclers, who couldn't have been more than 16, to point us in the right direction. As it turned out luck was on our side and they were heading in the same direction. They took pity on us (by now it was probably around 4:30am) and escorted us to our door. They got us home via obscure bikepaths we never would have found on our own and at 5am we finally crawled into bed. It was an adventure all right. We may have been a bit ambitious thinking we could ride 20kms at 1am, drunk, to a place we'd only ever seen from a bus window.

Needless to say, New Year's Day we spent relaxing, watching TV, staying warm and eating.

Posted by Addy21 00:26 Archived in Netherlands Tagged amsterdam new fireworks eve year's Comments (0)

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