You’re going to crave slow roasted chicken, beef, or lamb tajines on the rooftops overlooking Morocco, the fresh and perfectly seasoned roasted vegetables, and the happiness of knowing that while Calvin is blogging, he’s not eating, so there’s more to go around…
The warm, fresh bread that came out with every meal, the crisp glass bottle refreshments that felt so novel and for some reason, more delicious than fountain or plastic, and the unspoken permission the paper table “cloth” afforded you to get messy while you eat…
You’re going to crave this couscous: the meal made by our own group under the guidance of our gracious hosts, and the generous portions allowed to all.
You probably won’t crave french fries, but you’ll crave the various skewered meat pictured next to it.
You will definitely crave slow cooked tajines.
You’ll double crave this couscous skewered meat combination. At a certain point I had no idea what kind of meat I was eating, but it was so good, even if I was eating the pigeons I saw some kids outside clutching in their hands, I really wouldn’t have cared. I will crave pigeons if pigeons is what I ate. And you will too.
You already started craving the eggplant dish that comes in the Moroccan 6 dish appetizer at Cafe Souk 20 minutes after we finished eating it, so you’ll crave it again. Next time, we’ll order a 12 dish appetizer.
You’ll miss the fresh squeezed natural fruit juices; not too sweet, not too sour, but just right. And paired with smoking shisha on yet another rooftop watching the sunset to the sounds of the adhan. Yea, you’ll definitely crave it.
Is anyone even reading my captions? Or are you just looking at the food pictures?
You will crave all the food that we didn’t order on the menu because we only had 8 people to feed, and the idea of not knowing what you were gonna get or maybe what anything on the menu meant, but trusting that it would be an experience itself, whether it was delicious or not (mostly delicious, though).
You will crave this. Even though it looks like a sausage egg Mcmuffin without the egg and cheese, trust me. It’s not. And going to McDonald’s will not satiate your craving for this street vendor lamb wrapped in bread. Not by a long shot. On the other hand, there is a Moroccan food truck that I’ve been stalking in L.A, if you want to visit…
You will crave alternating biting out of the above mentioned lamb, and drinking this soup. (But you will not miss having to share it with 7 other people).
You will crave rice pudding, cheesecake, mango ice cream, and other desserts from the world’s oldest restaurant. You will definitely crave the rice pudding since I stole it and ate most of it. Sorry. ^_^;;
You will crave the slow roast pig from the world’s oldest restaurant, even though I was disappointed it didn’t come out a full pig with an apple in its mouth.
You will crave beer with Hemingway.
I don’t remember what this is but you will crave dipping bread in it.
I have been craving this meal in Barcelona since the minute it ended, and not just because of the stuffed sweet peppers and “what-dreams-are-made-of” champagne, but because the combination of new friends and new food at the beginning of a new adventure is a dish like none other (zing). Nope, sorry. I tried really hard to make this post about more than just food, but the reality is, I had a life changing experience on this trip, and it had a lot to do with cuisine.
I have an interesting relationship with food at home; its not that I’m picky about food, but I really don’t care to try new things at new restaurants because it’s mostly just expensive for the kind of taste I could guess at. Eating at a fancy schmancy restaurant and considering the “light hint” of anything or “subtle texture” of my food has never been my thing. I eat food that will nourish me, and that means I’m a meat and potatoes and bread and salad kinda girl. But hot damn.
I don’t know if I will carry this desire to try new foods back to the U.S, but this trip has definitely made me somewhat of a “foodie” (shudder). I feel like I will be that snob that goes to a “Spanish cuisine” restaurant and the person across from me will be all “I love tapas” and I’ll be all, “You’ve never had real tapas. I’ve been to Spain, I miss REAL Spanish food.” Sorry in advance.
They say that 1st time is happenstance, 2nd time is coincidence…
Let it be known that after our first run-in — and now definitely after this second coincidental run-in, Gerard Butler now reads this blog, and I quote from June (left in photo):
“It was funny how he mentioned he had read The Monsoon Diaries, because he kept saying how he usually doesn’t look into these things that mention him. I also mentioned your North Korea trip to him, and he seemed interested [in following up]. Maybe you’ll have another famous follower? He also complimented you…something along the lines of you seem to be very confident.”
Melissa (right in photo):
“Gerard said that you’re very charismatic.”
So the Spartan King from 300 who took on Xerxes and his one million Persian soldiers with a battalion of 300 Spartans, just complimented me on my confidence and charisma…I think I might work up some of both to make a visit to Scotland and ask him to monsoon with me. Perhaps Gerard could be the next travel partner on my 2nd trip to North Korea?
The full account, through June’s words:
“I thought saying good bye to Marrakesh, Morocco, was when my noteworthy adventure would end. Stepping out of the taxi and taking in the beautiful entrance of the Menara Airport in Marrakesh, I was preparing for the long flights ahead. No more breathtaking sites, no more freedom to stroll around winding streets, and no more interacting with locals. After a long arduous wait for our boarding passes, Melissa and I finally made it to our gate. As we were waiting we noticed a familiar face trying to board our flight. It was Gerard Butler! I looked to Melissa for confirmation as I stared at her in disbelief. It was amazing enough that the first time we ran into him was just a couple of days earlier, but this was unreal.
We struggled to muster up the courage to talk to Gerard and to make sure we don’t make a spectacle. I debated within myself if it would have been an intrusion of his privacy, but reasoned that if it were any other person I had happened to met earlier, I would have said hi again at the very least. I turned to say hi. It was possibly one of the most awkward greetings I have ever done, but at least I was able to mention how I thought it was such a coincidence that we ran into each other again. After the awkward start of the conversation, he was kind enough to mention that he had remembered our group, particularly because of the post on The Monsoon Diaries. He divulged the fact that he indeed did manage to look at that entry personally. His manager had done the search and shared the link to him. Gerard mentioned that he usually doesn’t look into these things, but he had scrolled through that entry and had seen the activities our group was doing such as cooking and site-seeing. It is difficult to imagine a busy man like him taking time to do that, but I was glad to hear that he was impressed by it.
We chatted with Gerard until we were the last people to board our flight. He was kind enough to even talk to others who had approached him. As we were about to board the plane, Melissa and I asked if we could take another photo to document this coincidence. And voila. I was glad that we had the time to chat. To Gerard, good luck with your premier for Coriolanus and hope your endeavors with surfing remain accident free!
The next part of the never-ending trip: the flight from Marrakesh to Madrid was delayed by about 40 minutes, which caused Melissa and me to miss our connecting flight to JFK. As an inexperienced flyer, I worried about missing the flight. Were we going to be stranded? Did I need to buy another plane ticket? Thankfully, other passengers aboard reassured me that the flight company would arrange a hotel for me to stay in overnight to catch the next flight out without any cost. As we landed, Melissa and I had parted ways. I had to go to the customer service desk to get my other boarding pass as well as figure out what my options to get home were. The wait was over one hour long, but the service to get me a place to stay and food to eat was quick. I was a bit worried that my lack of the Spanish language would get me lost, but many of the people I stopped for help were able to show me the way despite the language barrier.”
And so I spent the night in my own room in a nice hotel before having to go home for no additional cost. Privacy at last. Not a bad way to spend my last night abroad.
- At time of posting in New York City, Central Park, it was -2 °C -
Humidity: 44% | Wind Speed: 10km/hr | Cloud Cover: broken clouds
You’re going to miss the freedom of wandering, the days that begun with nothing to expect, the trust in what’s around the corner, the feeling of wanderlust, the time when you were free to do anything that you wanted.
You’re going to miss rambling about the traffic-free streets of Las Ramblas, the unexpected good company of native Barcelonians, eating the jamóns of jamóns.
You’re going to miss scrambling for food at the market, the taste of sharing, the company of a new kind of family on Christmas Day.
You’re going to miss the endless series of plazas, the breakdancing lesson by sunset, the illusion of pregaming with Hemingway, the dinner at the oldest restaurant in the world.
You’re going to miss the thrill of making it to an overnight bus, meeting new friends who were willing to meet you at 6am in the morning, discovering entire neighborhoods to yourself in the middle of the night, the taste of melted chocolate con churros for breakfast.
You’re going to miss the lazy exploration of a long lost Arabian castle, the long climb up a neverending hill, the subsequent views that were worth every calorie burnt, the free tapas with every vino tinto.
You’re going to miss listening to the epic stories of La Mezquita with your backpacks on, the slow cooked pork shoulder, the mere 5 hours we spent in a hostel when we arrived after everyone else was asleep and left before everyone was awake.
You’re going to miss the fresh city feel of Sevillan streets, the games of vacation! with new friends who shared a love for internet meme references, the comparisons of Alhambra to Sevilla Cathedral, the lazy gardens and labyrinths of Alcázar, the realization of seeing a live flamenco show at its very origin.
You’re going to miss the hills of Andalucía, the easy entrance into Gibraltar, the feeling of walking through an entire country in 30 minutes, the monkeys trying to steal your bags, the overwhelming immensity of seeing 2 bodies of water at the same time, the breathlessness of being high in the sky.
You’re going to miss ferrying over into another continent, the sunsets over a country you’re saying goodbye to, the arrival into a strange new land, the fear of finding something that wasn’t on the map.
You’re going to miss the inevitable feeling of missing a train, the overnight in a city no tourists ever visit, the train station café that has no idea why you’re there, the relief of getting back on the right train.
You’re going to miss the taste of your first Moroccan whiskey, the lecture on Islam from a stranger you just met, the winding alleyways of the largest medina in the world, the cheaply delicious food stalls, the 4 hours lazy shisha session in a hidden café, the rooftop dinner while listening to the adhan, the argument over money, the epic bromancing over coma-inducing ice cream.
You’re going to miss the overnight train into Marrakech, the street theater of Djemaa El Fna, the inevitable comparisons of souks, the New Year’s Eve celebrations that worked out in the end.
You’re going to miss the haggling over taxi fares, the endless rounds of tasty tagines, smoking shisha over the adhan, the off-the-bone lamb, and running into Gerard Butler not once…
You’re going to miss most of all, each other; the company of different personalities searching for different things, doing something epic with your life, and yet still united by an inexplicable curiosity of wanderlust. You’ll look back and ask yourself: “how the hell did we do that?”
You’re going to miss it long after when we say goodbye…
…because I already was missing it when we said hello.
- At time of posting in NYC, it was -11 °C -
Humidity: 62% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear
In Portugal I harnessed the sun in the palm of my hand…
…while I dream of desserts from my last hour in Marrakech:
We awake from these dreams, while we wait for the sun while overlooking Lisboa, the city of 7 hills:
We also notice the low-lying clouds of Portugal…
…and the Cristo Rei arising above, facing Lisboa.
And then the Sun came:
The rest of Lisbon at sunrise (these views are courtesy of our overnight stay at Lisbon’s TheHOUSE, which is probably the best and most personable boutique B&B’s I have ever stayed at out of over 40 countries I’ve been to)
Panorama of Lisbon
Breakfast on the terrace!
For the rest of the day we decided to take the “Tram 28” of Lisbon, which is an old vintage tram that conveniently takes you to all the main historic neighborhoods of Lisbon starting from the city center and up through the narrow maze of streets towards St. George Castle. The whole ride costs about 2.85 euros and takes around 30-45min depending on traffic (i.e. parked cars blocking your way).
I highly recommend that you read up on what you’re about to see BEFORE you get on the tram. Because I was so unprepared (hey we only had 12 hours here!), I didn’t know which neighborhoods where a big deal until looking them up afterwards. I would have gotten a lot more out of that 45min tram ride if I had known what was outside my window.
Well, at least it was pretty.
Inside the tram
By the time we got off the tram, Go was having a horrible coughing fit. I whipped out a flashlight and looked down her throat, putting my feeble 2nd-year-med-student skills to the test. Determining inflammation and possible infection, we ended up heading to the local pharmacy to grab some antibiotics, which despite our not having foreign health insurance on hand, cost a measely 7 euros for something that worked pretty fast.
We then ended our trip with a few more obligatory sightseeing at the last minute and headed back to the airport.
And unceremoniously, we accepted the inevitable fact that the trip was about to end. And here I am, back in NYC, not sure what to make of the last 11 days.
- At time of posting in New York City, Central Park, it was -6 °C -
Humidity: 39% | Wind Speed: 7km/hr | Cloud Cover: n/a
Calvin is kicking kicked my ass in the blogging department!!
But BOY do I have some great excuses for that!
I brought the wrong charger to my netbook. Whoops.
Calvin travels with all the force of a great Monsoon. Zzzz, so tired.
I’m sick. Sleeping in trains, train stations, and cold places in general is not a healthy lifestyle choice. I advise everyone to not be homeless*. Brr.
But, to make up for it, I wrote a lot in my journal, so I will be uploading those later. For now, you can read Calvin’s hardcore, full speed, blistering mega travel entries, and then reminisce with me later at a leisurely pace as I recall and muse over our travels.
Then, we will have an epic blogging battle that culminates in a “winner take all square off” where the readers choose who will win the coveted ownership of Monsoon Diaries, while we all know its just to see who is more popular among readers*.
Usually I would resort to these titles to grab your attention, but if you look at the picture above, you’ll see it’s more than a gimmick. It’s for real: 5 minutes ago we ran into Gerard Butler in the maze of souks within the Marrakech medina.
Being born, raised and having lived in Manhattan for the last 25 years, I’ve never spotted a celebrity. 2 days in Marrakesh and we run into Gerald Butler browsing through the labyrinth of one of the most difficult places on Earth to navigate. Although I’m not one for star-hunting like someone else (ahem, you can tell from their faces), I admit running into a celebrity walking around a medina just like we were — without an entourage — is pretty cool and chalks up somewhat a first for our blog. Man to man, I should have b-boy “served” him, haha.
Our last few hours in Marrakech:
Learning how to cook a couscous dinner
Eating it afterwards
We also put on a music show for the hostel, singing “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz in 4 part harmony:
The next morning we hit up Mechoui Alley for some unreal off-the-bone lamb:
The view from our lamb brunch
We also stopped by Koutoubia Mosque, which architecture influenced the Giralda Tower in Seville. Unfortunately, the mosque is off-limits to non-Muslims so I did my best from outside:
Koustobia Mosque just got served.
Afterwards we did a bit of obligatory shopping (no pictures needed for that, trust me) before packing up and heading out for one final dinner at Terrace les Espices by sunset:
And with that, it’s finally a group goodbye: Yiru and Jane left for NYC yesterday, Seulbee and Calvin Lin now heads to Casablanca, June and Melissa will stay behind in Marrakech for 2 more days, and Go and myself will head to Lisbon for a 12 hour layover.
I’ll effuse more sappiness and cheese when I head home, but I’ll end this entry with one final group picture of us together… with Gerard Butler.
THIS...IS...MOROCCO! Sorry, bad joke Gerard.
EDIT: A few days later we would run into him again…
- At time of posting in Marrakech, it was 15 °C -
Humidity: 44% | Wind Speed: 5km/hr | Cloud Cover: n/a