Lying on my side, in underwear only, my ear rests on an old lady’s inner thigh. Every time she leans in to scrub my chest with her sandpaper loofah, her doughy breast bounces off my head. She, too, is in her underwear. My nostrils are overcome with almond oil and body odour.
If you sit in a terrace restaurant long enough--right before the sun sets --you can see, and hear, many changes. By day it is souk shop keepers,''for you free visit, free, only for you....where are you from?" It is also strange animals on display--it feels like a circus.
I was scared about visiting Morocco. As a blond, blue-eyed, solo girl, I heard stories and I naively believed them. In Portugal I met a woman from London, England who said a man wanted to trade her for a George Forman Grill! So far, no grills; no camels. I arrived in Casablanca late at night so I had a driver take me straight to my hotel ($40 if you prearrange). I saw two accidents on the way. Crowds of people standing and watching. One was a motorcycle accident with clothes strewn everywhere. I had to look away. Drivers are insane here.
I took a train to Fez the following morning. In the taxi, I'm ready to go, and a guy pops his head into the cab and yells at me: "ou?" As in, where are you going? My cabbie and this dude started screaming at one another; eventually my driver high-tails it out of there. This is Casablanca.
Fes--the city of Moroccan artists and gastronomy--was still busy and overwhelming, but charming. Shop keepers are a bit pesky, trying to get you to buy something, but they are harmless. I walked by one guy twice. "What, you don't like me? You don't like my store? Why?" He laughs.
Start in the old medina (meaning old walled city); Fes' medina has 14 gates. It is 16 kms around and there are 187 neighbouhoods, each has its own bakery, mosque, hammam (bathhouse), fountain and Koranic school.
Built into a giant rock mountain, Montsanto is called the most Portuguese village of Portugal located southeast of Porto -- about a four hour drive. Tiny streets curl up to a town. I parked the car and walked about 15 minutes through a rock trail--literally it went through giant boulders that leads to a 12th century castle
The week I arrived in Porto, colourful flower arches straddled the streets in preparation for Sao Juan Day. Also the start of summer solstice, on June 23 everyone eats salted barbecued sardines and caldo verde (cabbage and potato soup) followed by pastries.
Then, everyone takes to the streets hopping from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, all night, in search of a dance, a drink or chance to bop passerby's on the head with a plastic hammer.
Born in Newfoundland, with a Newfie ma, then moving to Nova Scotia, I ate my share of cod fish as a child. Salted cod, cod tongues.... If you're Portuguese, who historically sailed over to our Grand Banks to fish, then the same applies. Since arriving here, I've heard more than one person say: "did you know we have 1001 ways to serve cod?" In Mark Kurlansky's book, Cod: A Biography of The Fish That Changed the World, he talks about this incorrigible fish that was prized for its nutrition, made of 80% protein, and fortitude: it hung on until it was fished to almost death. The Newfoundland moratorium over 20 years ago was done, hoping, it would bring the fish back.
Arrived on June 10. It's Portugal Day and the town of Porto is shut down--except for cafes serving port (fortified sweet brandy wine) and pastries like famous custard tarts (pasteis de Belem). Curse my luck!
Arriving on little sleep, luckily, getting to my apartment was easy--a short half hour metro trip.
What a concept: a metro joining the airport to the city centre (psst, Toronto, that's a dig).
As a solo female traveller, potentially visiting Morocco, but most certainly Portugal (no worries there), I have begun sending out emails to web sites in hopes of finding a fellow traveller. Ideally, someone who likes to hike big mountains.