Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Essence of Essouaria

Have I only been here 24 hours……..? (written last night….)

So by the time I wake up yesterday (!) morning, Pamela is online checking flight options and contemplating a very expensive one-way ticket via Senegal to get to LA, leaving that evening. Her option is to wait out the European airport closures, stick around the Casablanca airport, and not know how many days it will take to get a flight out. To me, it’s a no-brainer-book what’s available, but again, it’s no cheap deal. She decides to go ahead with it, which means we need to get going.

First I need to check w/Kristen if she and Randy are still going to Essouaria (chill beach town about 2 ½ hours west of Marrakech-site of the annual Gnaoua World Music Festival every June). See, we had planned on going Monday, after Marche Maroc Marrakech, and after Pamela (and Jenna) left for LA. I cancelled on Saturday after figuring Pamela was going to be stuck for an undetermined time, and I wasn’t about to abandon her. Now that she was leaving on a Sunday night flight (which required an 11am train from Marrakech to the Casablanca airport), I could join them in Essouaria, if they were still going. They make some arrangements and we’re on again.

Meanwhile, I accompany Pamela to the train station, to ensure she’s not just on the right one, but that she’s got the scoop on where she has to transfer trains to get to the airport. Another woman sitting next to her promised to make certain she made it. I left Pamela with a phone card and my number, and my fingers crossed, in hopes that all went well for her to make her flight. Thankfully she did call later, after she was checked in and boarding her flight to let me know all was in order, Hamdullah.

So I made it back to the riad, checked out and headed over to the Artisanat to meet up with Kristen, Randy, Tim and Brian so we could all share a taxi to Essouaria. Tim and Brian were accompanying a group from Build a Nest-they were heading to Tim’s site, about 45 minutes from Essa. We got checked into a riad of a guy that Tim knows and went to watch the infamous sunset from the seaside ramparts. Beautiful.

We made our way to a terrific little Italian restaurant that Tim recommended and had a wonderful meal, then to bed early. Full day planned for today-shopping!

And shop we did. Essouaria has this real “chill” vibe to it-relaxed, by the sea, unique medina, artsy, and shopping unique from other Moroccan medinas. Found some great artwork, unique clothing and shoes and bargained successfully. Checked out our transport options and got them lined up for Wed. early am departures (transport fills early, so daruri that you buy in advance).

Tonight we made our way to this really cool, “hip” restaurant-cannot describe the décor to do it justice. Just say that it was 50’s meet Modigliani meets bohemian design. Too fun. Amazing food. Fresh seabass…roasted peppers….assortment of fresh vegetable spreads for homemade bread….glass of white wine…color me happy.

Oh, and this riad we’re staying in? Wasn’t our first choice, but only 200DH/night (about $25-total, not per person). Same owner has a very zwin riad around the corner that we were supposed to move to today. Today he says it’s full. We figure he was keeping it open for someone w/more cash, so we’re staying here. Figure that’s ok, except that the toilet is on the 4th level of incredibly narrow steep stairs. Bummer. Oops, either Randy or Kristen, right before we leave for dinner tonight, opens the small closet door right by the front door…..only to discover that there’s a toilet there. Who knew? On the 1st floor, just as there ought to be. How come none of the 3 of us bothered to open that door before now? Geez. At least now we know!

Hoping for sunny skies tomorrow for beach-front walk, maybe a bit of reading on the beach, relaxing. This really feels like the vacation that it is. Seems like I’ve been here for days. Just what we all needed. Really understand now what everybody says about Essouaria-they’re right-it’s great!

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