Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Glorious Gibraltar and Marvellous Morocco ~ Part Two

Current mood:  busy

The next day (Wednesday November 12th) we were off to Morocco!  We had overslept the day before (we probably would have missed our trip to Spain even if it had run!), so were worried we'd oversleep and miss Morocco too.  The bus was supposed to be coming for us at 7.30am, so we got up at about 5.30 to give ourselves plenty of time.  David went and got us some breakfast, in the form of chocolate muffins and croissants (again!)  I had just finished washing and dressing, and was just about to apply my mascara (Yes, I had decided to take and use my mascara, despite the fact it was eight months old because I hadn't been able to get out shopping before the holiday), when David came to the door, shouting that our "nice Scottish tour guide (I've always liked the Scottish)" had arrived.  It was only 7am, so I wasn't best pleased, as you can imagine.  I shoved my mascara in my bag along with the little make-up compact that came with my travel bag...the one that Mum says I save weight in my luggage case by not using.  Just thought I'd add that in for a laugh!
Anyways, there we were on a pitch black dark bus, with me sitting behind my parents trying to apply my mascara without them seeing...with Mum keep turning around to "make sure I hadn't disappeared"!   Needless to say, I decided it wasn't worth the effort and gave up in the end.
Apparently, I fell asleep on the coach as we drove through Spain, which was quite annoying as I missed out on seeing a lot from the window.  Eventually, we reached the port of Tarifa.  David then decided he needed to go to the lavatory.  Everyone else had got their boarding cards...and we were still waiting for David to return.  He'd got all our passports too, just to make sure we couldn't go without him.
Luckily, he showed up at the very last minute, and we were able to board the ferry.  I made one last attempt to go to the ladies' to see if I could apply this darn mascara, but Mum wouldn't let me go without her, so I gave up, and just wore my sunglasses practically all day instead!  Luckily, it was a very sunny day in Morocco, so I didn't look too stupid...well, at least no more than usual!
The journey on the ferry took approximately an hour and a half...most of which I slept through again!  I KNEW I shouldn't have got up for "Intelligence" the night before!
When we arrived in Morocco, we were welcomed by our local guide, Rasheed.  Then we were marched to the tour bus by him, the "nice Scottish guide (I've always liked the Scottish)", and a third man who seemed to act as security guard to us all.  And oh my, did we ever need a security guard!  It was heartbreaking to see the poverty there; the suffering of both humans and animals.  I think what struck me most was the amount of starving stray dogs and cats everywhere.  They were so durty, like they couldn't even be bothered to wash themselves.
We drove for quite a while to the "Caves of Hercules".  The caves were filled with poor people trying to sell gorgeous hand-crafted souveneirs which nobody seemed to buy, as "they'd be cheaper in town".  Apart from that, they were mainly filled with mud.  Thick, slippery mud.  Mum and I very nearly fell flat on our faces in our canvas shoes.  It's hard to see in this photo, but I promise this photo shows shelves of beautiful trinkets in a very muddy cave!

By the time we'd cautiously made our way out of the cave, everyone else was taking the chance to have their photos taken with the camels outside.  It's been one of Mum's dreams to ride a camel since she was a little girl, and missed her chance at London Zoo.  But David went to the lavatory again...taking all the euros with him!
So we just had to stand there, as everyone got back on the coach.  By the time David got back, we really should have been getting back on the coach ourselves.  I told Mum to rush and get her ride, but she insisted I went first.  I realised she wouldn't go anyway unless I'd already gone, so I went ahead.
Well, the camels were kneeling on the ground as they do.  They all seemed to be well-treated and happy with water provided at all times and clean feet etc.  So I got up on the back of the camel I was directed to, with the aid of a large blue box.
Of course, it didn't occur to me that they got up on their back legs first, did it?  There was nothing to hold on to apart from the saddle blanket that covered his front hump, and I really felt like I was going to go over his head straight on to the hard ground below.  I'm surprised nobody has complained for health and safety reasons!

I couldn't believe how tall he was, when he was standing up straight!  After a quick photo opportunity, he gently walked around in a small circle and knelt back down.  He seemed to know his routine pretty well.
By the time I got down, they were calling us back to the coach so, really due to David's lavatory excursion, Mum didn't get her camel ride.  I felt awful.  She did get her photo taken with the camel, but that was as far as it went.
Quite a decent picture of us together for our standards, I think?  If I hadn't been holding my hands so flat to my body like a Barbie doll or something!

Then back on to the coach for a ride into town.  Mum started moaning about how "I'd lost her the opportunity [to ride the camel] by taking the time for myself" (even though I'd told her to go first)...to which David replied, "There was plenty of time for you to go to the toilet if you'd wanted to - you wouldn't have wanted to use it anyway though.  It was a squatting one."  "I didn't want to go to the bl**dy toilet!"  Mum ranted.  "I wanted to ride a f***ing camel!"  I just tried to ignore my parents and pretend that I wasn't with them while they continued their argument, although I did feel sorry for Mum.
It was really hot by this point, so I took my hoodie off.  I was wearing a simple t-shirt underneath (a MLP t-shirt actually, with "Princess Sparkle" written across the front!).  We were told to not leave anything on the bus (apparantly, a lot of stuff gets stolen right off the coach o_0), so I did take my hoodie in my bag, but since it was a hot day, I didn't put it on again.
We were lead through a market which reminded us very much of our own Wembley market, except for all the uncovered meat buzzing with flies, and even more exotic fruit and vegetables than we see in the oriental aisles over here.  Mum made it clear that she wasn't impressed.  We walked down lots of rather narrow, dusty roads.  I took a couple of quick snaps to give you some idea of what I'm talking about.

At one point, we walked by a gang of boys of about my age who looked me up and down like a piece of meat.  Poor Mum couldn't keep up with the group, and kept getting accosted by very pushy salesmen who were waving everything from necklaces to mobile phones at her.  And, of course, what did Mum go and do, being the polite person she is (to everyone but her own family, of course!)?  She kept encouraging them by telling them she thought their sales goods were "really nice".   At one point, one of the necklace sellers walked backwards right in front of her down two streets, waving his jewellery in front of her nose!  Anyways, I turned around to check the necklace seller hadn't murdered her to see the gang of boys laughing at her for not walking fast enough.  I glared at them but, not realising I was even with Mum, they must have got the wrong idea and thought I was looking back AT them - big heads - so they started making rather rude, suggestive gestures at me.  Get a life, creeps!
First we went to a shop which sold fine arts.  Beautiful hand-made carpets primarily.  The man who owned the shop was even pushier than the street sellers.  "You like these carpets, yes please?  Is my English good, yes please?  We really try here you know, yes please?"  They sat us around this big room at the back of the top floor of the shop, and his assistant rolled all these carpets out in front of us.   "We are very proud of our hospitality here.  So first let's get you a drink of mint tea, yes please?  Sugar or no, please?"

"Feel the carpets, yes please!  Touch the carpets, yes please!  See what you like the best, yes please!"  Again, Mum started grinning like a lunatic, proclaiming how much she loved them.  So guess who got singled out of the group to "buy a carpet"?!  "Hello sir!" The "yes please" man cried. Then the tea arrived.  And before we knew it, we were all holding glasses of a strange hot green fizzing liquid filled with large leaves.  I almost puked at the smell, but at least I figured out the correct Moroccan way to hold the glass before anyone else.  "You have a very intelligent, very beautiful daughter, yes please." The shop owner told David, who looked like he was also about to vomit.  "So what is you favourite colour, yes please?" The man asked Mum.  When she didn't answer, he turned to me and asked the same question.  "The wife and daughter choose the colour and the husband pays, isn't that right, yes please?!"  We were informed that the carpets cost £300-350 each.  "They make great Christmas gift for whole family.  Yes please!!!"  We backed off towards the stairs, telling him we only had £50 on us.  The poor man was so desperate to sell the carpets that he offered to let us have one for £70.  But we just couldn't afford it, even though Mum did genuinely love them.  Somehow David managed to drink Mum's green fizzing tea as well as his own...and then mine too!  No wonder he looked sick!
When we got to the bottom of the stairs another team of men started trying to sell us hand-made wooden ornaments and jewellery...and many other things that I can't remember off-hand.  I would have taken photos, but I was worried that would have encouraged even pushy salesmen to try and force things on us.
But it seemed these men were more interested in BUYING stuff from us...or rather from my parents.  "Where are you from?" One of the men asked us.  We told him we were from England.  "What part of England?"  "London."  Mum answered. "Ah, my sister lives in Manchester - very rainy.  Is London like Manchester?"  We laughed and agreed it was.  "This is your family, sir?" The man asked David.  My father nodded.  "This is your daughter."  "Yes, both my daughters!" David joked.  "No, not really, is she?" The man said, indicating Mum.  "Your wife or your sister?"  "My wife."  "Oh, you look very alike.  You are so lucky to have such a beautiful daughter.  I will offer you fifty camels for her!"  We all laughed.  "No, she's worth at least fifty five!" David said.  "Fifty two." The man baragained, firmly.  SERIOUSLY.  Yes, honestly.  He was not joking.  He was TRULY trying to buy me for 50 camels.  I scarpered back to the coach group, and stayed as close to the guide as I could for the rest of the stay there.  God, how much longer did we stay in the shop, with that horrible man looking at me like I was just an object to be bought and sold; like the wooden ornaments all around me?  That seems to be how they treat women there though.  We hardly saw any women at all.  I think they must have all been indoors, working hard to make all these beautiful things.
It felt like forever.  Although I don't think it can have been that long until we were dashed off to our next stop: the pharmacy.  There we were given a talk and demonstration on all the different herbs they use for different ailments and simple cooking in Morocco.  The man who gave the talk (the owner of the pharmacy) seemed a genuinely nice guy, but he had two teenage assistants who I wasn't so sure about.  They looked like the kind of people who live in this street.  After each herb was discussed, the two boys would come and wave it under our noses, or rub it in our hands/on our wrists depending what it was.
At one point I thought this boy was going to stuff a whole handkerchief of this strange un-named substance up Mum's nose.  And he rubbed my arm so hard with white musk on my arm that I had a big scratch on it for the rest of my holiday!  We bought some white musk (used for keeping mosquitos and other pests away in Morocco), and rose hand lotion...  David also got some kind of "slimming powder" to put in his tea, which he "can use One...Two...Three...Four...Five times" (Imagine elaborate hand movements to go along with that line! )
When we got downstairs in the pharmacy - with the two assistants hot on our heels, quite obviously whispering about me  - we found another hand-carved wooden figurine seller with camel ornaments for sale.  They were cheaper than everywhere else though, so Mum bought a couple as souvenirs.
Apparently, while we were doing this, Rasheed had rushed off with the rest of the group.  Luckily, "the nice Scottish guide - I've always liked the Scottish" had stayed with us, and had a mobile phone on him so he could phone Rasheed up and tell him to come and get us.  The guide himself didn't know where to go, because "they have to change the route every time due to high crime levels".  Once Rasheed got back, we dashed to our last stop: a rather posh restaurant.  We took "the vegetarian option", although we still don't know what it was.

Some kind of very spicy soup with large lumps of not very well cooked vegetables in it, a plate of soggy salad, a dish of crunchy rice and more soggy salad and a very crusty loaf of bread.  Mum got mad that David and I were eating some of the bread, because she wanted us to sneak it in our bags for later.  She "couldn't eat it now in case she needed the loo before she got back to the hotel", as she told us loudly and clearly in front of everyone else in the group!  And just in case that hadn't made everyone feel suitably sick, she said to Matthew, one of the other men in our tour group, sitting on the table next to us, "What is that thing on the side of your plate?  It looks like a piece of dog poo!"  It was some kind of skewered burnt meat, which did look rather, um, like she described.  I can safely say that nobody ate their "dog poo" after Mum's comments.
Mum did enjoy the band who were playing at the restaurant.  She turned around and smiled at one of the musicians...and before we knew it, they were serenading her.  Of course, then they expected her to give them a large tip.  Oops!
Rasheed then dashed us back to the coach, despite having said we were going somewhere else before heading back to Gibraltar.

He left someone behind again in his rush, and everyone was shouting in panic, thinking this woman had been attacked.  Rasheed's assistant actually went to the and looked down each road to check it was safe before we were allowed to turn a corner.  They wouldn't even let us go and get a postcard at the end, because that would have meant letting us go out of sight for a few moments.  It was an experience, and something to say you've done, but rather unnerving to say the least.
Oh, and I FINALLY figured out why all these horrid men had been looking at me strangely.  All right, I was being stupid, wasn't I?  I guess it just didn't occur to me that I should be wearing more than a t-shirt in a place like Morocco.    Women do not go walking around with bare arms or legs in Morocco.  There was another woman on our tour with bare arms too, and I now realise she was getting the same looks.  Oops.
Just a couple of quick pictures I took before we got back on the coach.  These photos probably give you more idea of Morocco on the day we were there than the more specific photos I took.

We almost got crushed when we arrived back in Spain by a rush of tourists trying to get off the ferry.  Perhaps they were all feeling as desperate to set their feet on safer lands as we were after a day in Morocco.  I just cannot get the image of all these stray cats lined up along the bank looking after the ferry.  It was almost like they hoped they could somehow hop aboard and find a better place to live.
I took a couple of photos as we passed through Spain (No, I didn't fall asleep on the way back!), but I couldn't really get a good clear picture with us rushing along the road the way we were.  It should give you an idea of the scenery from the coach though.

Suddenly, there was a huge commotion, but Mum and I could not figure out what everyone was going on about, because they were all talking above each other.  "Look!" David said to Mum.  "Look at what?" She asked.  He just continued to point at something in the distance.  When he FINALLY told her that everyone had been looking at a stork's nest on top of a building we had just passed, we were fuming.  If he knew what they were looking at, why couldn't he have told us in time?!
At some point along the way, someone in our group asked "the nice Scottish guide - I've always liked the Scottish" where he was from.  His answer?  BELFAST!  Gosh, you should have seen Mum's face.   Of course, I was mad that I hadn't been able to tell his nationality from his accent.  He had been living in Gibraltar since 1976 though, so maybe that played a part in it.
The following morning, we had to leave the Rock Hotel behind for the final time.  Mum was sad to have to leave the rubber ducks there, because she collects rubber ducks (now there's an interesting fact you didn't know, eh?) and hasn't got one like this.  Anyone know where I can get her one for Christmas?  They sold them at the Rock Hotel but they were £10 each!!!  And I'm pretty sure they don't cost that much elsewhere.

Oh, and you know I was complaining about their being no spare pillows, and me having to use a shower robe instead?  Well, Mum was just checking we hadn't left anything in the wardrobe, by sliding the door the other way...and voila!  Look what was inside!

(She's grinning because she's just found some posh shoe polish that she can nick for somebody for Christmas, by the way.  That's what the little white thing in her hand is, in case you were wondering. )
We walked down through the Botanic Gardens to the place where you could catch the Cable Car up the Rock.

On the way, I spotted a couple of Gibraltar fire engines, and figured I'd snap some pictures for my nephew.  Now, of course, I find the photos are too big to send via e-mail, so Emma, if you're reading this, please show these to Allan for me...

We got some spectacular views from the cable car, and from the very top of the Rock.  Once again, the apes chased us for our bags...  Mum laughed at me when I shouted "No!" as one ran towards me.  I notice she gave her bag to David to look after though, presumably so that she could blame him when everything got lost!
I thought this one was going to jump down on our heads, and try to get our bags that way...

They weren't as bad as they could have been though, because they'd just been fed their daily fruit and vegetables.

We wandered around and watched the wildlife for a while - we saw a bird of prey gliding across the sea, but we're not entirely sure what it was.  David was urging us to leave the entire time, although Mum and I didn't really know why at the time...
When it did come to going back to the Cable Car station, David decided to "take a shortcut".  A dangerous cut, more like.  He had us stepping over all kinds of cracks and crevices, and walking down these near-vertical stairs.  Mum didn't like it at all.  "Give me my bag - I need to look after it!" she told him, before she began the long journey.

Even I could hardly believe we'd made it down all those stairs.  We're not exactly the kind of people who do a lot of climbing here in Grottsville.

When we got back down to the bottom of the Rock, we discovered the reason why David had been rushing us.  "Is it all right if I go back to the stamp shop?" He asked, although he wasn't really asking, if you know what I mean.  He was just letting us know that was where we were to waste a large chunk of our last day in Gibraltar.
And yes, he spent yet more time walking up and down with that pack of soldier stamps.  In the end, he bought it...with no discount, of course.  Idiot. 
In fact, we missed the changing of the guard because David spent so long in that blasted shop!  Wouldn't it have been better to spend the time watching the real thing than buying a load of stamps featuring scenes of the event?  I did get a photo of the guard anyway...probably not as good as the pictures on David's stamps, but he hasn't even shown those to us, so I definitely can't scan them in to show them on here!

We went inside a little cathedral, and then sat outside to eat our final stolen muffins and croissants.  Then we tried to figure out what to do with our last couple of hours before we had to go back to the hotel (who still had our suitcases in their luggage room) to catch our bus to the airport.  Eventually, we decided to go to the museum.
There wasn't much worth noting there, but it was interesting enough and we passed an hour or so.  There was a fifteen minute video which we were supposed to watch before entering the actual museum...so we stepped through the door as directed, and found we were in such a dark room that we really couldn't see ANYTHING.  Somebody else had entered through another door, although I couldn't tell you if they were male or female, or if there was one or a hundred and one of them!  I just saw a fleeting image of a silhouette as the door opposite closed behind them...  We struggled to find chairs to sit .. the film started.  We managed to find a row of them which we thought were at the front.  Mum sat at the end, with me in the middle and David at the en...er, where WAS David?  "Oof!  Ow..." came a cry in the dark!  "There's no bl**dy seat here!" David said...and I could sense his voice coming from the floor.  I reached to the side of me as I heard him getting up, and could feel that he was right; indeed, there was the back of a chair, but no seat there!  "Can you move up one seat?" David said.  So Mum tried, thinking there was a whole row of seats to the side of her...and almost fell on the floor herself!  In fact, there were only three chairs per row, including the seatless one.  So David sat behind us...  When the film started, we were also able to see that we were actually in the second row back anyway, so in theory we could have all sat in a row anyway.  Utterly crazy.
We stayed a bit too long in the museum, considering we had to catch a bus back to the hotel before we could get the bus to the airport.  One bus sailed straight past us...

...and the next one was so crowded that we couldn't get on.
While my parents got more and more stressed, I decided to occupy myself taking a photo on this sunny afternoon.  I guess it struck me as funny being able to stand there in a t-shirt in the middle of November.
All right, so there wasn't exactly a nearby palm tree for photo opportunities, but this would do, right?

And then it turned out I'd cut the tree out of the picture anyway.  Oh well, I'm sure you can see what I was aiming at...  "Sun, (fake) palm trees, and fun" and all that jazz?

...Oh, there's the bus!  This one was crowded too, but the driver let us on anyway.  We couldn't even find anything to hold on to, but Mum was all right.  "Would you like to sit down, Madam?" A man asked her.  "Oh, thank you."  Mum said.  "I know I'm getting old now, don't I?!" She laughed.  "Who mentioned your age?" The man replied.
And, sure enough, these seats were not reserved for elderly passengers, as the sign behind Mum clearly states in this photo.

Perhaps he had noticed all her obvious disabilities, caused by Crazy Disease?  Who knows?
We were about five minutes late back to the hotel, and our hearts sank when we saw the bus was nowhere in sight.  We hurried to get our cases out of the luggage room, stood by the door, and waited.
Why do we have so much luggage for a four night holiday?  Don't ask me!

In the end, I decided to walk across the road and try to take another "sunny November afternoon" picture.  At least I got the "fake palm tree" in the photo this time!  But I still look awful.

David agreed to try and take a photo for me...  Are you ready for this?  The very last photo of me in Gibraltar.  It's got to be good, hasn't it?  Well, it is.  Not.  Well, maybe in a hilarious kind of way.  Oh shoot.  Just look upon it and get your laughter out the way, will you?

Yes, I know.  But I promise there was an even WORSE one, where I'm pointing my toe like a ballerina.  Maybe I'll have to use that one as a profile picture just so that everyone can have another laugh.  I like to brighten up your days, you know?!
Sometime later the bus arrived, and the driver apologised for being late, and quickly drove us back to the airport.  After craeting havoc in the shop, knocking a load of books on the floor, we proceeded to check-in.
David floated through security (doesn't he always?), but they decided to pick on Mum and I.  First, Mum came through the gate - no bleeps or other worrying sounds - but they decided to do a full body search.  They didn't make her strip fortunately, but they still made her feel uncomfortable feeling through all her clothes.  I told her it's probably because of all the baggy clothes she wears - maybe they think she's got bombs strapped under there.
Then this man asked to look in my bag.  He pulled EVERYTHING out - searched the cases of my camera and binoculars, looked in every compartment of my purse, shook out each individual tissue that I had neatly folded in the bottom, screwed up the carrier bag I carry everywhere (also neatly folded) in case I ever need one for anything, got my hoodie and shook it vigorously, went through my first aid kit, checking the packet of feminine hygiene products and everything...then as the final insult, got the padlock off of my diary and went through every page, and my tidy little (FLAT) pencil case (with three pens inside) within my diary.  What the heck could I have hidden in there?!  I'm SO glad they didn't do that in Iceland, when I had Pinkie Pie with me.  They probably would have chopped her into small pieces.
I was so embarrassed after all of that, and since they'd searched through everything anyway, I decided to take some photos of the two rides at the airport.  There wasn't long to wait until we boarded the plane, so people couldn't sit round giving me funny looks, and surely the security guards couldn't think I was planting a bomb out of the bag they'd just searched so thoroughly!

Then the time came to get on the plane and bid farewell to Gibraltar.  Mum moaned about how it was not wise to get on a plane on the 13th...so I took a couple of little picture of her about to board the plane of doom, so that she would be able to laugh at them later.

Sadly, she still can't stand to even look at them.  And no, we didn't have a bad journey (Well, apart from the fact she went temporarily deaf again).  They served some mushroom pate sandwiches, which were lovely.  Hmm, I can still taste them now...especially since I had to eat Mum's too, because she couldn't bring herself to eat anything on the plane!
When we arrived back in the UK - yes, we did get back safely.  You have not been reading a blog written by my ghost! - David got the wrong bus to the wrong long-term car park (not the "Summer Special" one), and the bus driver decided to "help us" by dumping us about half a mile up the road, me with no coat, in the shockingly cold weather of a bitter English evening.  Oh well, we managed to get back to the car eventually, and found the house safe and sound (although VERY cold for the first few hours!), which was the other thing that had been worrying us all the way back.
So, I guess that just about concludes my Glorious Gibraltar and Marvellous Morocco blog.  Thanks for reading - I hope that you have enjoyed your virtual travels.   Tune in tomorrow for a blog on some of the things that have been happening since we got back to Grottsville!
Best wishes,
Desirée Skylark  xxx

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