“didja know we’re riding on the marrakesh express…”– close, but as they say– no cigar!! it IS a train, though.

up verrry early, to sneak out of cadiz in darkness. the highway quiet and almost deserted, and escaping town marvellously easy– cadiz, expect to see me again sometime!! the run to tarifa, where the ferry is, easy as well, although i almost managed to have an accident in the parking lot.

the ferry is modern and pretty quick, but i have no access to the upper deck, as that requires some sort of a luxury ticket. we leave in early light and the coast is distant and grey, but finally tangiers becomes real through the windows. interesting and different– the architecture really hits one almost right away. they are making inroads towards becoming one with the rest of the world though, the taxi driver informed me on the way to the train station– “look at all the new subdivisions– come back in a little while and all this open space will be housing”. it is early, as morocco is on a different time zone– two hours before the time in spain, and that is a lucky thing, as the train leaves quite early in the morning.

the train station is vast and be-marbled, the floor a study in large stone tiles, and there are rooms for people to practise islam, with comfortable rugs– even the ferry had a tiny postage-stamp-sized one. the ticket to meknes (pronounced “meka-ness” by most i spoke to) is about 85 dirrham, or less than $10, although it takes several repetitions of the ticket vendor’s mumbled french for me to understand– he gives me a pitying look as well– sigh!!

but the train comes chuffing into the station on time– well, perhaps it didn’t actually chuff, as it looked as if they ran with electricity, power lines strung overtop of the rails– maybe the chuffing was in my brain. we left the train station quickly and on time as well, and i can attest that it DID go clickety-clack!! it was a fairly long run to meknes, but interesting. i saw plenty of what i think were salt operations, flooded areas where people scraped out banks of crystals with a tannish tinge. lots of herds of sheep as well, and donkeys with riders, horses or donkeys pulling wagons with automobile tires, big fields and areas of stone and small mountains, railroad workmen and rail parts here and there, rails stacked high, rail ties and forms for cement, bags of cement and workers with pails tossing it around, small stations where we stopped for a minute or five. trees and fields again, towns– the town itself seemingly spotless, but the areas on the verge full of plastic thrown away– bags and bottles, glass and pieces of small bush festooned like clotheslines with more bags. town architecture put together in such a different manner, a totally different flavor, and i blessed myself for being able to experience even so small a part of the country. towers and habitations, buildings and streets, all looking soft with the paint and materials used. hills came along and then we went up and slowly came down again. the ride was about 4-5 hours long and fairly comfortable.

received a recommendation from someone travelling along in the same car as to where to stay, and so got a ride from the owner into town– he was young, canadian-educated if i remember correctly, and quite the fast talker– nothing nefarious, he could just talk a blue streak!! was made comfortable, and given advice as to what to do and when. i had been thinking of visiting some local ruins– ancient roman stuff– in the late afternoon, but was councelled to go in the morning instead– well, for once i took the advice. so i sat and got comfortable and took a fine moroccan meal– the round bread loaf, and some salads and salsas, very tasty indeed, the actual meal one of cous cous. i liked it, but felt it to be only so so cous cous, was looking forward sometime in the far future (as this was just a short foray into unknown territory) to sitting down to a sumptuous meal somewhere. however, with the melon after the meal came the most heavenly grapes it has ever been my pleaure to feast upon– so good i ate even the ones that looked not so healthy.

after a little rest-up i took a tour of the medina (basically old town) with one of the family, and i found it to be somewhat run down in places, and charming in others. walls of a mere hundred or two hundred years’ age everywhere, and many older as well. got the full tour, with visits to the metalworkers and woodworkers, pottery etc– and of course, the cousin, the rug merchant. but many examples of great woodwork, tiles, plastering and painting to be seen in places, moments where someone really took some time and made something special.
i exited onto the an enormous square, bordered on one side by an old fort wall, complete with marvellous arched entranceways. the sqare was so vast that i could never get any shot that gave any indication of space at all, and it was full of people. there were some stall selling things and others were eateries– or perhaps coffee places would be more the correct term, places pretty much fully masculine, no women to be seen.

the people in the space of the square were varied though, and so were their amusements. i saw a huge group of people in a circle, and looking inside i discovered an elder gentleman, who was relating something– could have been poetry, or perhaps a story, my arabic is so nonexistent as to be useless– quite the typical tourist, i.

but next morning was going to be very busy, so i was soon to sleep. left early in the morning, ruins-bound. volubilis (which means “morning glory”) is situated up in the hills above meknes, about 40 minutes away in the ubiquitous mercedes taxi, and i took a tour with joe pesci– well, no, it wasn’t joe himself, but someone who looked just like him, and if you listened carefully, you could fool yourself into thinking it was him talking too. however, that was about as impressive as it got– he never really got too deep into his stuff, relating mostly things i already knew. as for me, i was cranky about the light– it was quite flat and featureless, and i was having major problems with taking my photos– what a whiney butthead i can be at times!! however, we continued on to the end, and i am sure that we were both happy to see the last of each other– and then i went and shot some decent, if not spectacular, photos.

to do this i had to use all my photographer’s knowledge and wiles, which included bribing the guard to shoo some people who had ensconsed themselves on the steps of a temple, as if it were a pic-a-nic area. a low trick, i admit, but…. well, i have no real excuse!!

well, this little blurb is running on and on, so i am going to give the quickie description of the rest of the day. it wasn’t particularly unpleasant, just more of an endurance race, as i went back to the train depot, waiting for the train that arrived late, and it was quite full going back, the weather warm and the air dense. i saw much the same thing on the way back, which is more a fault of too much travelling in too short a time, rather than there being nothing to see. now time was against me, as the two hour difference made things difficult, but i got back to tangiers early enough to catch a not too late ferry– BUT!!– it was from the other line, and so i had to wait an extra hour, and then this ferry sat yet another hour before leaving the dock. after midnight in spain when i got back, and no room at the inn (found out the next morning that there had been, big mistake!!), so i had to find other lodgings, in a comfortable if noisy place– whew!! was i tired!! but by the next morning i would once again be back in barcelona…..



sumptuous and full of fine detailing, these earrings have a grace and refinement reaching back to spanish treasure and sailing galleons, while retaining an almost modernist approach to design.

weight– 11 grams 18K gold

dimensions– 1.5″X11/16″X3/32″, 38mmX17mmX2.5mm


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there are precious few places in this world where i could honestly say that i would truly love to live– i spent time in santa fe in the 70s, a halcyon age there, before the blight of it being overrun by the modern carpetbagger. and of course, if summer lasted all year long in vancouver, i could be pursuaded to stay there. now of course, i live in cozumel in mexico, a place of superb light and excellent energy, fuelled by the interaction of island and ocean and sun– and the occasional hurricane. i love living here, and felt that way immediately when i first visited the place sometime in the last millennium. but cadiz– well, it is a splendid place, bursting at the seams with artistic light and artistic subject– i felt that same old familiar feeling.

cadiz is one of the oldest, if not THE oldest city in europe, and is situated at the end of a long peninsula of land, making it easy to defend i would suppose. my hotel was easy to find though, despite the crowded streets going every which way. after checking in i went to a small place next door and had a cuppa coffee and a glass of gaspacho– wonderful gaspacho!! and a super tasty salad. my room overlooked this little restaurant, and it would become a familiar haunt for my daily coffee consumption– the service was very friendly, but not particularly sharp, so often i would have to venture inside to get another cup, pay the bill, or ask the occasional question.

being on a peninsula, the city is afforded a lot of shoreline, and great morning light in which to shoot photos– i took advantage of it every day i spent there, tramping around all the narrow alley-like streets in search of something new. lots and lots of churches and cathedrals too, but many are so crowded that the shooting can be of a difficult nature. for instance, the cupolas seen above are difficult to see from the other side of the structure, but there was something quite magical about seeing them, sprouting like mushrooms in the early morning mists.

the facade is in a not so roomy square, and flanked by the iglesia de santiago on one side– hard to find good light to shoot it before the massive hordes descend, hun-like, upon the site. still, space being what it is in cadiz, this square is amongst the largest. it echoes a bunch if you get there early enough.

also remarkable was the open air market, which has just recently been rebuilt and opened, completely impressing me. it is modern, but still with a touch of old rome in it. so much to see, and everything looking its’ fresh and tasty best– colorfully aranged to show itself off to advantage– a true assault on the senses. i wanted to shoot some photos, but everything i saw could be seen in your basic book on photography, so what i got ended up on the cutting room floor.

so– i explored the town, i walked to the old fort– el castillo de santa catalina, which they are restoring. there was a newly wed couple in there under the gun of a short napoleonic photographer, seemingly lashing them with a mental whip to get what he wanted from them– they in turn would shoot daggers from their eyes at him on occasion. there were some huge rubber trees there closeby as well– enormous things, two of them covering a huge area with their leafy umbrellas. an old spa was on the shore as well, and a large expanse of beach with frolicsome people and sunbathers. i explored the musee cadiz, a marvellous old place, full of paintings and a great sculpture, “la gades”— “gades” being a more original spelling or pronunciation of the name of the city. not only beautiful, but the finish on the piece was evocative and inspirational.on the top floor of the museum was a room containing perhaps twenty old “sets” for marionette shows, and i am truly pissed at myself for not shooting any of them, they were so marvellous.

well, i have spoken of so many things i liked in cadiz, but i haven’t yet mentioned my favorite– the night sky. the color of this sky at night is hard to believe, and i dredged my mind for some adjective that wasn’t trite or overused, but i have to say i couldn’t find anything. “like finely crushed lapis lazuli” was about the best i could come up with, but i would sit and marvel over that sky time and time and time again, it was the most difficult thing i had to leave behind in cadiz when i drove out early one morning– next stop– morocco– will see you there!!



out of barcelona. the city has a great metro system, and it delivers one right into the train station, a busy place thronging with people. people going everywhere, people sitting on luggage. people– everything from greying businessmen to women in purdah, sandals to shoes with turned-up toes, the highest of heels to the more fashionable shoes that run all the way up the calf, but have almost no soles. half an hour before the train is due to arrive the line forms to go through the scanner and ticket check, and then there it comes down the track. i am in a sleeper unit, with sortuv bunk beds not quite designed for someone of my height. after a weak gin and tonic i am off to get some logs sawn.

well, almost– there seems to be some kind of a fight going on out in the corridor, shouting and perhaps some blows thrown, someone arguing over a room and a ticket, yelling and screaming, the echoes of which linger. my sleep is not the stuff of which dreams are made.

the sun comes up and reveals hills with lots of trees and almost no undergrowth– olive trees, i estimate, and the way they are arranged is interesting. they cover the hills, sometimes in nice neat lines and at other times they just cover the hills, arranged any which way, as if the planters were having a difficult time. finally, we slowly pull into the station in granada. what seems like a longish taxi ride and i am at the hotel, but my room not yet available, so i drop off my pack and take a walk, in craven search of a cuppa coffee– MUST HAVE COFFEE!!

if i haven’t mentioned it yet, the coffee in most places in europe excellent, far superior to what i have been used to in the states (and of course, mexico, which seems to be “the land o’ nescafe”), and i go over my usual limits almost every day, both in amount and the hours at which i will partake. what the hell, i’m on vacation, right? the only place open has outdoor tables, but it is cold and i stay inside at first. it is a casino of sorts, but an ersatz one at best– one plays machines for everything, and no doubt it would make a great movie set at some time, but luckily enough i stay out in the cafe portion and sip a couple of cups of great joe before beginning to wander around the town.

and a gorgeous place it is, too– the light is good and the sun, after a cool beginning, is bringing a warmth to its’ stones. much to be seen and experienced, and i spend the day looking around and exploring the streets. granada is not so narrow as barcelona, in the way that the “streets” pass between buildings, and so there seems to be more light. still and all, without my trusty map it would have been easy as pie to get lost. i buy a croissant, expecting it to taste like the great french ones i have had in the distant past, but it is a disappointment. gotta go to france i suppose, well, if i HAVE to guess i could do it.

in the later afternoon i take the bus ride out to the alhambra– the ancient moorish fort that hangs like a reddish cloud above granada. i have a ticket for entrance to the main part at around 7:00, but i come an hour early to explore the other parts, the ones you don’t have to wait for.

this time i am definitely NOT disappointed– not by half!! the light is a little weak for great photos, but i love the place– just the topiary alone is enough to drop one’s jaw. perfectly manicured and some wonderful shaping involved. then comes the walls of the musee de beaux artes.the facade of this building is wonderful, the blocks of stone cut separately, and then textured with a point chisel– very nice indeed!! after a quick tour of the whole site, it is time to stand in line to get into the major part of the alhambra. lots of waiting here, and much later than planned to enter, but absolutely marvellous inside– all the graceful arches, that wonderful moorish designing one thinks about after having seen all those old movies, only better, more well-done.

much great stucco work to be seen, lots of carven wood panels and ceramic tiles of all sorts, impressive vistas– courtyard after courtyard, all wonderful, simply wonderful. all too soon it is over, and the bus ride back a little chilly and darkening– the remedy? some hot thai coconut soup, of course, and a few thai dishes to go with it, mouthwatering stuff. and a decision– go back to the alhambra in the morning and try for some more tickets!!

chilly, but successful, and into the alhambra i go again, this time bathed in much nicer light. got to see a bunch of the place i had missed the night before, including several magnificent reflecting pools, which i shot over and over again– some surrounded by topiaries, and others with archways and the like– words fail to properly describe them.

by the time i get out of the gate once more i am dazzled and on overload– it was just too darn fine for words!! the alhambra is supposed to be one of the very best of these ancient forts, but i have heard that the one in co’rdoba– the mesquite (sp?)– is considered by many to be the best. i shall have to save it for the next time, as it is on to the little town of tarifa the next day– and, for that matter, the next blog as well– will see you there!!



well, this is bound to be a bit of a ramble to write, plus most likely a little longish, as i am going to be adding to it during my trip in spain and morocco, will have to wait til i add photos– after my return to cozumel on the 8th of october.

we began by taking an overnight flight to barcelona, a longish affair, and not much sleep– the seat was so small you had to go to the bathroom to change your mind– but finally we arrived, and had no more than a modicum of trouble finding our friends deborah and pablo’s place.

barcelona is a marellous city, full of great architecture and wonderful food. i have always been a huge fan of the architect gaudí, and i had the opportunity to spend an early morning around “la sagrada familia”, one of his major works. his designing neither began the church, nor will it be all the edifice will become (there are yet many years of work left to be done, and they are changing some details as things go along), but it is in great part his design, and the energy contained within and without it seems to crackle and spark. i also viewed some of his other works, but during the aftenoon hours, when the light was lesser and the crowds more dense, so i shall have to return to “the scenes of these crimes” upon my return to barcelona.

also to be seen was the work of doménech, another modernist. his “palau de musical de cataluna”, a sortuv opera house, is a wonder in itself, having a large free-hanging stained glass ceiling (which i crave to see in the daylight, with the light coming in. i went to see a flamenco opera there, a combination of these two stylings– very entertaining, if a little difficult to have a great view of the stage at times. the flamenco dancers themselves were of a couple of different stylings, she– sinuous flowing arm motions and a marvellous way of flourishing the skirt of the dress she was wearing, he– not in the expected tight “suit of lights”, but rather several different loose suits, his arm movements more stacatto and sudden and dramatic. luvley, i sez!! doménech’s work is also to be seen at other places around town, and i shall elaborate upon this later perhaps

great shopping to be had as well– i’m not speaking so much about products as i am about food, the open market i found (mercad de cataluna, if i remember correctly) with the varied stalls holding veggies or cheeses and meats, or fish of all different types and stripes– ahhh, i remember that even the individual heads of lettuce looked like exhibit pieces. and the olives and the oil– makes me salivate thinking about them, insert image of homer simpson here with tongue lolling– allogghegahhhhmmmfthp!!

well, i have made an executive decision here, and i am going to publish this piece now, without imagery– i can always add it in later on. next i shall write about the travels and sights to be found around granada– but that, my friends, will come another day. hope all is well back in realityland– i’m pinchin’ myself here, just knowing i am in spain– toodles!!