Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Went To Rick's Cafe, Here's Looking At You, Etc., Then Marrakesh

So, Casablanca right? While I was relieved and excited to be in the country, Casablanca is not really the place to be. Sure, it has its own awesome movie, but that's about it. It doesn't seem to have a whole lot to offer for tourists, it's more of a business hub. So we only allotted a few hours this morning to see it. Zoom!

Morocco really felt like a trip reboot for us. Everything had changed with that plane ride over here: the food, the people, the climate. It's hard to believe we are only two countries away from Senegal.

My nonexistent French ability was slowly moving along. It's funny what you're reduced to when you know next to zero of a language but you have a need to communicate. Let's see.. I know je ne sais quoi, and laissez les bon temps roulez from my interest in Mardi Gras... Je suis Charlie from that terrorist attack? So maybe I can string quoi and temps together to ask "what time?" Why the hell not? And from that time we went to Brussels I know that mannekin pis means "little man pee" so I can probably just proclaim "Je suis pis!" if I ever need the taxi to stop in a hurry.

As far as numbers go, I know 3 is trois from ménage à trois, and 2 is deux from that time a bus driver yelled at me when I was trying to buy two tickets in Belgium. I know 9 is neuf from the time I tried to walk into a grocery store in Senegal at 8:30 and they yelled at me because they weren't open yet. Really getting yelled at is a pretty effective form of learning it turns out.

The view from the hotel window.

One of the few things there is to see in Casablanca is the Hassan II Mosque. It is the largest in Morocco and 7th largest in the world.

We popped over to the train station to get our tickets ahead of time so that we could be certain which train we'd be on. I thought the station was really cool. The whole French Africa thing is new to me but I'm starting to like it. I feel like it makes everything seem extra exotic with French and Arabic written all over the place.

It was so easy to buy tickets here... sometimes in Europe it can be a real hassle. Remember how horrible the train was that we took out of Bulgaria? Shudder.

We were kind of cutting it close but I really wanted to eat lunch at Rick's Cafe. I mean how can I go to Casablanca and not do that?

There was some confusion as to whether this was legitimately from the movie but the "founded in 2004" sign finished that argument. I think it's just a "inspired by" the movie type thing. It was a great place though.

An interesting menu item was the Obama family chili con carne. You don't see that every day now do you?

After ordering I asked if I could poke around on the second floor a bit. I read that there was more to see up there.

This awesome little room had Casablanca playing on repeat.

I ordered the "lamb shank, sesame caramelized prunes, and saffron rice". It was so good.

We made it back to the train station with plenty of time to spare.

The train ride was perfect. There was a French guy in our train car that I talked with most of the way. He was an acupuncturist visiting friends. He told me to be careful of pickpockets in Marrakesh, which I thought was funny because a few countries in Europe, France included, also seem to have a healthy share of that type of petty crime as well. He agreed.

Then, as easy as that, we were in Marrakesh, Morocco. We nixed plans to visit Fes when we realized we would lose a whole day in travel. Oh well. A fun geopolitical fact is that dotted line between Morocco and Western Sahara. Morocco claims Western Sahara but the international community disagrees.

The Le Méridien N'Fis had a pretty sweet lobby.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of the fez-capped porter lugging my bags around. It was night and we were tired, but we were also hungry. Time to take care of that.

Evan is more of a "wing it" sort of traveler and I suppose I'm more of a "guidebook dork" so I think we both had to make the occasional compromise. I felt like we'd been winging it quite a bit the last couple days though, so guidebook wisdom probably deserved a turn. With a mixture of phone GPS and guidebook map we made it to Al Fassia but they were all booked up. We made a reservation for tomorrow and continued on our journey. 

We made it to another top book pick, Plats Haj Boujemaa which is sort of a grill joint. I was tired and didn't super care what I ordered so I just got the "mix". It was solid.

The bread in Morocco is fantastic. This particular piece is probably the best I had in the whole country. I don't think it was sweet but definitely had some cinnamon or similar spice going on. It was so good. They also brought out a few little appetizer dishes to the table while we waited on our order. My favorite was the little dish of spicy olives.

Beggar street cats seems to be a common theme in Africa.

Some even turn to biker gang crime.

We stopped at the fancy Grand Café de la Poste for a bit before heading home. I continue to think it's funny when Evan and I roll into these really swanky places with our dusty hiking adventure clothes on and no one ever says anything.

Not only does KFC DELIVER in Morocco...

...but their meals come with hamburger buns instead of biscuits. It's INSANITY!

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