10 September 2007

Summer in Review "Part 1 - Lyon to Morocco"

I last left the adventures in the southern region of France, just before I was heading off for continent #3, Africa. The 3 weeks, with the 2 guys
NederBoyz
I met back in Verona in October '06, were packed with a few interesting events.

* A 3 day journey into the desert was filled with synchronized diving lessons
Syncro Diving
, some fun spinning around on playgrounds
Fun getting dizzy
, visiting the local petting zoo
Moroccan Petting Zoo
(WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT), the customary ride on the camels
Camel Ride
, and a lot of driving. One of our camels, Gert, went a bit crazy at one point and got loose in the camel caravan
Camel Caravan
we were riding in. After an exciting few minutes, David almost jumping off and nearly in tears, and Booy just a few inches short of getting his leg bit, we were back on track. Arriving at our oasis
Saraha Oasis
, we were later welcomed by the Sahara with 8 hours of constant rain. In the morning, I carried up the snowboard to take a ride down the massive mound of sand
Sandboarding
. Had it not been for our quick thinking guide that threw a wet mattress I would have ended up running into a concrete hole with 2ft rebar protruding from itself.


* We just returned from our 3 day desert trip and the boys and I went to the local football match
Football African Style
between Kawkab Marrakech and Olympique Safi. After narrowly getting involved in a fight just 5 rows behind us
Rumble in the Stands
and a rather poor match, we figured we could head over to the Hostel International place they stayed at the other day...turns out they were booked. We went into the center of town and after finding out 10+ hotels were booked on a Saturday night around 12am we were a bit worried. We found someone on the street that was willing to take us back to his house for 100 dirham each, but after about 20min of consideration we declined the offer. We wandered around a bit more and stumbled upon Hotel Central Palace
Hotel Central Palace
which we thought was full before, and were able to get it for a bargain of 50 dirham each. It had a wonderful rooftop terrace with a view of the D'Jemaa el-Fna.

* One thing to be aware of is the low sign postings. I failed to see this one
Dangerous Moroccan Road Signs
when I was sending a sms to our host.


We continued on our way to enjoy the wind swept Essaouira coast, the coastal metropolis of Casablanca, and the developing coast or Rabat. Of the 3, I think we all would agree that Essaouira was the most relaxing. We hung around a few days longer than we first planned for, making sure to get in some games of sand football.
Football on the Beach


We made our way back to Chefchaouen where the boys visited before I met up with them in Marrakech. It was a nice little town known for it's blue-rinsed houses.
True Blue City


We then made our way to the Tangier port to head off to Spain. We had heard conflicting stories about Tangier, some loved it, some hated it. We didn't stick around too long to get a definitive self evaluation of the town, but.... When we exited the taxi at the port, we were greeted by a very helpful man that wanted to offer us assistance on finding out correct ferry to take across to Spain. As the boys had come from Spain to get to Morocco they were going to do quite well on their own they told him. He persisted of course, as did we that we wouldn't be in any need of his help, but he followed us around the entire port and handed us yellow customs forms to help us in our journey. These are available to anyone for free of course when entering/exiting the country, he however, felt that they commanded a fee because he was the one that gave them to us. Even after he had given up in trying to get money from us, a fellow friend of his tried one final time to try and persuade us into giving him something for them, we kindly declined...again.

This leads us back to Europe, and the town of Tarifa, Spain, where I'll pick my story in "Part 2 - Tarifa to London".

16 April 2007

Another visit to France - Lyon

The train from Zurich to Lyon lasted about 5 hours. Along the way it passed through Luscerne, a town I've heard from a few people is a great place to visit. From the looks of it I wish I had a chance to stop there for a few days. The city is reminicient of Napa with all the vineyards on both sides of the train tracks, running up the mountain. Toss in a lake down at the bottom of the mountain and it becomes a great place to relax. An hour later there's about an hour stop in Geneva for a change of trains. I stopped by Claudes, my host from a month or so ago, just to drop a note in the mailbox to say a quick hello. He was out of town, nearing the end of a 2 week trip in China at the time so I had to try and find space in the mailbox to fit the note in. After arriving in Lyon I contacted Alain to meet up with him and eventually his girlfriend. The two of them were supposed to stop by for a visit in Mevege when I was there but with the poor weather they never made it.

Lyon is one of the few european cities with a great bicycle system that makes is almost free to get around the city. The only negative part of the systems is when you are returning late in the evening and have to find a station that has open spaces much further from your destination that you would like.

A great restaurant we dined at in Lyon as suggested by Alain
Food in lyon, Le Petit Frere. 13.5, 20 euros. Appertif, wine, starter, main, cheese, dessert.

15 April 2007

Return to Europe - Zurich

I'm going to try this time to keep a more frequent supply of information posted now that many people are getting the updates sent directly to their inboxes. Sign Up if you're not already.

After a long (5 week) visit back to the States I'm back in Europe. My original plan was to visit Mayrhofen, which is near Innsbruck in Austria. Plans changed however and I spent nearly a week in Zurich. The weather was fantastic, clear skies, temperatures above 20° every day.

Early in the week I spent most of the time around the lake relaxing. I walked down a good portion of the lake on the west side, past the Chinese Garden. I wandered through the city a bit as well of course.

On Wednesday there was a gathering of HC and CS members in the park. To every one's surprise, Tanja, my host from Monday evening, had arranged for a columnist from a local newspaper to show up and interview people for an article on Hospitality Club. I spent some time talking to the columnist, so much that she had reached her 3rd page of notes by the time we were done. This will probably be my European debut in the newspapers over here. I'm keeping in touch with a few people in Zurich to get a copy of the article when it's published.

Then on Friday, I ventured up to the top of the Uetliberg Mountain. The climb was only just shy of 470m but the route I took seemed to be the steepest way to go. The Sears Tower is 442m to the roof, and it seemed like climbing those stairs would have been just the same amount of effort.


To top it all off, here are the links to more photos from the previous weeks I've just added.

Surprise Return
White Sox Opener
Zurich

28 February 2007

Basler Fasnacht

A big Carnival celebration going on in Basel. It ranks on the Top 50 Festivals in Europe. Come and have a look at the 4 day extravaganza. It lasts from 4am Monday to 4am Thursday the 1st of March. Keep an eye out for an Orange Jacket, that's me.

LIVE VIDEO STREAMS (with audio)

Barfüsserplatz 1
Barfüsserplatz 2
Marktplatz / Rathaus
Greifengasse

16 February 2007

Après-Megeve

The time has passed rather quickly. It's already been over 5 months since I left for Europe. It seems like a long time to see a lot but there's so many things I've been thinking of doing still. There's only a few more weeks left here in Megeve, it all finishes up around April 20th.

A few places have been thrown around from travel talks with friends, Asia: Thailand, China, Japan; South America: Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Chile. I really want to make it to Cuba, a trip very few Americans can say they've done. But all those places are a far trip away from the vast array of opportunities I have so close to me here in Europe. I think this summer might go something like this...

Head to San Sebastian, Spain to meet up with Sabrina Harper who's at culinary school there. Make a few stops along the way to Covilhã, Portugal to visit Anna Hardaloupas who's been teaching there. Get a glimpse of Porto and Lisbon from there. That should take me to the middle, end of May, at which time Morocco would be next after a flight out of Madrid on EasyJet. The staff here at Stanford want to make that a place for a bit of a reunion and everyone so far seems to be on board with that.

By now, the start of summer will be just around the corner. Chancee will be finishing up her masters over in NY and will be going to Croatia to visit the family. I've got to try to convince her that driving all across Europe for the rest of the summer is the best idea. She's coming to Megeve in just a few days, Feb 20th, so I've been preparing my persuasive essay as of late. My host from Vienna, Darko, grew up just outside of Split in Croatia and he's said there's many hidden treasures to be found in the country.

From Croatia I'd want to head back to Slovenia as the 24hrs I spent there back in Oct just wasn't quite enough time. An eastern European tour from there, driving down through Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia on the way to Greece to catch some sun on the beaches there. Then shoot back up heading through Bulgaria and Romania. From there I'm not sure which way to head. Do I go further east and go towards Moldova, Ukraine, then Belarus or go back west a bit to Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic, the last two places I've visited already for a bit. Going the bit more western route, it would be a bit closer to visit Poland. After either of those routes the same Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia route would be up on the itinerary.

Of course, all of these plans don't encompass the idea of traveling around Europe and refereeing soccer tournaments. That's a whole different set of travel plans. Possibly something to do another year. There's many more years to come exploring the vast world. I've even been looking at a trip to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Australis from Antarctica rather than NZ or AUS. Click on the image to see a real un-edited photo of it!!