<-- Obi Wan Kenobi collection captured during a photograph of the *view*. This is the natural look. Others kick it up with bright colors and designs.
Before the crack of dawn, Smiley and Willie depart the riad to fly to London for the next part of their journey.
And then there were four...
It's time to leave the Riad Dar Gmira. A lovely and spacious 5 bedroom house with pool. The riad staff is a French-speaking family of five, two parents, two kids and a grandparent. The precocious nine year daughter will take you anywhere in the neighborhood for a pastry. Not getting lost costs an eclair... it's worth it! The 'petite guide' points out potential robbers and boys with bad hair. Just like the riad in Marrakech, the hospitality and genuine desire to please has been incredibly touching. With common rooms to gather, a riad is such a better alternative than a hotel for a group. Despite the early hour, the mother and grandmother rise early to make coffee and breakfast and kiss us goodbye. So sweet!
Trains, Planes, and Automobiles... more like cab, train, train, cab, cab, plane, plane, plane, automobile.
We leave the medina via cab and catch a train to Casablanca. It's a three hour trip in the train. Because of the inexpensive differential, we again go first class. We have an older train car and it's more compartmentalized. Without Smiley and Willie, we pick up a local in the six seat room. The restroom is less *rustic* than before. Bill makes the discovery that the flush sends the activity directly onto the tracks...toilet paper and all. One of our new habits is to carry toilet paper on us. Despite the Moroccan definition of 'sanitary', the trains are a great way to relax and see the scenery. I continue to marvel at the green countryside. Little towns, flocks of sheep, cactus crops, it's just a simplistic, gentle landscape.
In Casablanca, Jen asks a local if it's worth our time to pay a cab to drive us around for an hour until our flight. He responds 'no!' So, we take another train to the airport. For the four of us, it's 40 dirham ($5.00 each). It's a forty-five minute ride. We do get the opportunity to see some higher end architecture. If these are the homes along the train tracks, Casablanca is thriving. It definitely will be considered on a return trip. Unfortunately, their airport... not so much. Getting through customs took forever! When it was my turn, the bored official spent an unnecessary amount of time tracing the 'L' in Kathleen. Somewhere between my security scan and a 1/2 block, I lost my prescription sunglasses. (Come on Casablanca! I now get why Ingrid Bergman left.)I had plenty of time to observe if a fellow passenger was wearing them because our Easy Jet flight was delayed. Annoyingly, there were no assigned seats so people lined up an hour before boarding to avoid the dreaded middle seat. Without any indication of what was happening, passengers stood for 2 1/2 hours. After awhile despite various languages, a global understanding transcended in line. People left their carry-on to mark their place. No one was freaking out. There was a nice quiet patience. One guy even shared candy. This is the global peace I want! Anyway, when we got in the plane, Easy Jet announced 'being struck by lightening' was the reason for the delay. I appreciated the sincere apology but that kind of explanation is more than I need to know. The flight to Madrid, Spain is an hour and twenty and then we are out of Africa!
Jen's and my layover in Spain is now 12 hours. We check into the ME Madrid Hotel. There is nothing better than checking into a luxury hotel after being in a third world country. It's magnificent. The plush towels, the cleanliness, the wi-fi, the toilet paper... it's a wonderful transition back to Chicago living. Jen and I could have stayed in and ordered room service but when in Madrid....
We meet Bill and Roger for appetizers and drinks in The Penthouse of our hotel. Despite the rain, the view is enchanting. Being out of a Muslim country, it's wonderful to not have to scrounge for booze. It's plentiful! At a friend's recommendation, we walk to nearby Le Petit Madrid Bistro. Our hotel is located in a charming and vibrant neighborhood. Not quite a medina, it is still not our familiar grid system. We have a map. It's only a few blocks and we still get lost. An ongoing theme from Day 1. It's worth the backtrack, loop around, getting wet. The food is delicious and the wait staff is hot! Ooh-la-la! A perfect way to end our fantastic vacation abroad. We kiss Bill and Roger farewell. They will leave for home on Sunday. Jen and I leave in a few hours.
And then there were two....
Bonne Journee! Sweet home Chicago!