Ok, I’m going to start this all of by reminding everyone that I used to be a diplomat’s brat and spent about 20 years travelling up and down the world, so contrary, I guess, to what most people will imagine, I would happily burn my passport and never leave the country. Nevertheless the thought of disappointing my little siblings was too great a feat to overcome, so Man-thing and I packed up our goodies and presents, and said goodbye to the cats as we marched off to the airport for a holiday. This is a little overview of what we got up to!
At the airport I munched on some butternut and bell pepper couscous to prepare myself for the immense amount of the stuff I thought I’d be consuming, which was a good thing because although the Emirates vegan fare was tasty, it was always sided with bread (which I didn’t want to munch) and came in smallish portions (at least for a heffalump like myself who enjoys maxi sized portions of vegetables). Still, I couldn’t take a picture of what was totally amazing: a large cooked brown mushroom cap, and an actual chocolate mousse slice. Usually, as a vegan in South Africa, one has to contend oneself with the idea that there will never ever be any dessert option, so this was just awesome.When we got to Casablanca we had another two hours road trip (after a x 2 8-hour long series of flights), so we were feeling rather delicate and boring and took long naps for the first day. Man-thing was pretty overjoyed to start his holiday with what would become a love affair with pain au chocolat, and I indulged in way too many Nespresso coffees. The next day we took a trip to the embassy and saw the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, which is just across the road. The architecture was absolutely breathtaking and detailed, and it really made me miss our time in Europe, simply because in South Africa one doesn’t get that sense of architectural gravitas. There is also a fantastic park next to my family’s house which is pretty much like a forest, and we went there a few times to give the kids some exercise (and ourselves after all the bread!). The best part, apart from the wide open breezy paths and wonderful fresh air, was the sheer amount of cats! ❤ I could barely contain my squees seeing them lounging around everywhere – pure paradise! A day or so after we got to Rabat we all squished in the car and packed off to Marrakesh for a two-day trip. It was pretty drizzly and cold on the way there, and we were greeted with more rain, but it’s super pretty with long walkways in the middle of the roads lined with trees and what not, and it’s all painted this pinkish colour. If it weren’t for the weather and my super summery garb we would’ve been marching up and down getting a better feel for the sights, but it’s definitely somewhere a tourist can find something to do.Also, it seems to be strawberry season in Morocco, and on the side of the road you can buy huge bags of huge strawberries for super cheap, so I had a wild time with those, as well as the complimentary fruit basket in the hotel. Fruit FTW!
Since I’m not a big fan of travel these days I don’t have to stress too much about what I’m going to feed myself with on the road, but the hotel breakfast was really sad for a vegan. The theme of bread for munching was continued as it was the only real thing of substance, sided with prunes, stuffed with roasted peppers, and other odds and ends. I was hoping at the very least for a pot of baked beans or something generic, but ah well. The morning after we got to Marrakesh we made our way to the Medina, which is something I think everyone needs to take a calming pill for, especially if they are dorky introverts who love their personal space. The Medina is pretty much a walled mini city or vendor district, and is stacked with stalls and people and lots of movement. The stalls or shops are pretty repetitive, in that every second one boasts the same djebelles, leather shoes, wall ornaments or lighting fixtures, but it’s still very pretty to look at. Nevertheless we were constantly hounded by the vendors and the minute they catch a whiff of English or French they are all over you and will not let up until you lose your cool or buy something. I wasn’t too happy to see these poor munchies out in the sun, but luckily I hadn’t seen turtle soup on any menus in town, so I’m assuming this is the Marrakesh equivalent of buying goldfish to keep children quiet. Whilst we were in Marrakech we also visited the Majorelle Gardens, former home of Yves Saint-Laurent. Firstly, if you’re poverty-stricken it’s better just to skip it altogether, since it’s 100 or so Dirhams to get in and see the museum. The museum is tiny, and although there are pretty clothes and some interesting items in there, it’s not really earth-shattering. Maybe I’m just spoilt, but the gardens were nevertheless lovely, the house garish, and all in all there isn’t much to do or much room to move about and soak it all in (thanks to the hordes of tourists). End result? Visit the overpriced, overstuffed restaurant where you will become even poorer but get some pretty good café Americano. I ordered the Moroccan salad, which is a delicious mishmash of different stuff like lentils, chickpeas, eggplant, beetroot, and some other treats. I hadn’t had protein in what felt like forever so this was pure heaven!At some point for dinner we went to the new mall, which was largely empty and full of random shops, and stopped over at La Table du Marché. They had an amazing salad bar where you could stuff huge bowls with whatever you desired, so I went with everything I had been hankering after – broccoli, lentils, chickpeas, and more lentils. It’s quite crazy how quickly one notices the protein gap when travelling about, so we went to the supermarket at some point to get cans of beans for me since I was getting twitchy. Still, this salad was probably one of the best meals of the trip!When we got back to Rabat Man-thing and I took a solo trip to the Chellah, a fortified necropolis. This really was a beautiful spot to just relax and find a sense of peace to ease out the high-pitched churn of human noises that still rang in our heads after the medina. On top of pretty much every high surface at the Chellah were these large nests with massive white storks soaring about or hunkering down for a nap. Their wingspan is terrifying, and I was surprised that they weren’t swooping down every few seconds to make a snack of the dozens of resident cats. My one gripe as someone who bothered to study history is that the Chellah, just like most historical spots in Rabat, Volubilis and Marrakesh, lacks any explanatory signs in English. Everything is in French and Arabic, which is ridiculous considering there are world heritage sites and UNESCO sites scattered here and there. Man-thing and I like to make our merry way all lonesome-like when we travel, so tour guides are not a viable alternative, which means that we only really understood the depth of what we saw when we returned back home to the iPad, since we can only guess so much based on our combined knowledge. Kitties!! There were so many beautiful, super duper friendly cats at the Chellah that we were very torn about leaving them there, but most seem happy enough, although those closer to the minaret at the bottom were more scraggly than those at the entrance. Still, cat-human ratio was purrfect! At some point we also took a trip downtown with V and my sister to have a coffee atop a hotel for the view, and to get a better feel for the city. This is still in the swanky side of town, and I love how there’s wall art scattered around the city. In that way it reminds me a little of Iceland, which was also rather accepting of (beautiful) wall art/graffiti. There was also a massive church, which I was not expecting, that was conducting a service in loud French in the charismatic style, so I was totally baffled and equally impressed by the architecture. The holiday, despite the amount of sightseeing we did, was essentially about seeing my family and spending time with the kids especially. We forgot how much energy they have, and how spontaneous they can be, so even Man-thing got in a round of hopscotch!
With all the travelling around and playing (though not nearly enough for my siblings’ tastes), I was more than happy to make use of their big kitchen to bash together some staple foods (which made my dad’s eyes roll quite loudly). For breakfast I usually had oats with cauliflower and occasionally carrots cooked in, and topped or sided with a fruit and lots of coffee, and for dinner I was happy to munch down on more cauliflower cooked with harrisa paste and other veggies and beans. The amount of bread or starch that Moroccans eat is staggering, since it’s brioche everywhere, paninis, tagine, and other goodies, so I was more than happy to have veggies as my mainstay. Nevertheless I got some awesome vegan soy yoghurts to slurp on, and since they are so ridiculously expensive in South Africa I may have overdone it, but no regrets! We were pretty chuffed to be in Morocco for my dad’s birthday, so the three of us left V and the kids at home and set off for a day trip to Volubilis. It really turned out to be a day-long affair purely because it took about 3 hours to get there and another 3 back, so we didn’t spend as much time at the Roman ruins as we’d have liked, but it was still well worth it. We passed the Moulay Idriss on our way and that’s definitely something I’d stop by if ever we went again – a beautiful little patch of town nestled in between scenic fogged-up mountains. Cats! Seriously, even in what feels like the middle of nowhere there are super sweet local cats waiting to greet you. ❤ As I said before, none of the signs were in English so we relied on imagination to fill in the gaps, and needed no better tour guides than those of the fluffy variety. There were also some workers at the site who were bashing away, so we pretended they were hardcore archaeologists, even though they were a bit too rough for that :pThere were also more nesting storks atop pillars and ruins, and they really do add some life to the remains of the city. The mosaics were also very well preserved, all things considered, and really gave a sense of filling in the gaps of culture and fashion, as it were. A day or so after our fieldtrip my dad’s driver dropped off this absolute feast made by his wife: a huge tagine (one vegan one for me and a meaty one for everyone else) which was just divine and so soft and flavourful. There was also the most banging onion marmalade dish which I begged the recipe for, so I’m hoping to recreate that at home because it was possibly the most magical thing I’ve eaten in years. These pictures don’t give you an idea of scale but these were huge bowls and we feasted on it for days!
On one of our last days Man-thing and I took a trip to the Kasbah of the Udayas, on the other side of town. It’s free to go in and out and then you get scammed out of an INSANE amount of money by informal tour guides who start off by looking helpful and saying “just up that way” and end up walking around with you and then getting a “donation”, the amount of which they state with a straight face that in hindsight I should have punched. I get agitated quite quickly when I’m out of my comfort zone, but we nevertheless left him at the gate and went back, at a slower pace, to look over the narrow, blue-splashed walkways littered with cats and then to gaze out over the ocean.Considering it’s a UNESCO site it really is littered though, and there’s trash all along the parapets, which makes for sadness. Where the residents live though it’s very tidy and quaint, which each making an effort to decorate their patch. Some of the cats are owned and others not, and those that have families are very distinguishable.
And finally we went to the marina for lunch on our last day, and had, in typical Moroccan style, pizza :p I’m proud to have only eaten pizza twice on this trip, since usually it’s the only vegan option for me in South Africa (minus cheese), but it doesn’t make up for the sheer amount of bread I had to eat on the airplane on the way back to make up for the hunger pangs.
The one thing I don’t regret at all is the tofu and zucchini sandwich (on the left) with an amazing, super soft and just plain gorgeous bar/slice thing, which I can’t even figure out. It looks like a crumble top but isn’t actually, and has blueberries or something in it and was just pure decadence. Again, a lack of dessert that I don’t make was what totally made this a really wonderful touch by Emirates, even though it meant I was eating starch and more starch, with not a speck of fibre in sight. At some point (for breakfast? Too many planes) I got mashed potato with mushrooms and spinach, which was tasty, and then another meal of steamed veggies and some dips and crackers. That was pretty amazing (just in terms of getting more veggies!) but I was left so hungry from lack of protein that I had to eat the stupid breadroll I’d saved. Man-thing got a chicken chickpea salad as a starter, so I don’t see why I couldn’t get some ‘peas too. Bah!Anyway, that was it! A lot of adventure and up and down packed into a few days, but was definitely great to see my family again. Nevertheless we were SO happy to get home and see our cats again, who were very confused at first at our presence. We have since been rewarded with lots of paw-pumping and feathers strewn across the garden, so they’re also probably happy we’re back 😀 Best of all, smoothies! Steamed veggies! More veggies! 😀
Are you a travel nut or do you like to explore closer to home?
What places are on your bucket list and why?
Have a great Sunday!