Archive for May, 2012


We’ve been to Africa twice before, visiting Egypt & South Africa. They were completely different experiences to say the least, and completely different worlds. I still rate Cape Town as one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful city I’ve ever visited. I’d be interested to know which cities in the world people think are more, but that’s always up for debate, and a matter of opinion. Since moving to the EU, I said I wanted to visit Morocco, but never pulled the trigger. Then after speaking with my cousin, and finding out she also wanted to see Morocco, I then had no excuse and had to do it. Some tickets came up, I booked them, and that was that. We decided on Marrakech simply because we wanted to fly direct, and have never heard much great about Casablanca. And we’re off…

Landing in Marrakech, connected with my cousin and her husband, and off to the hotel….sorry, the Riad. Unless staying outside the Medina, you are most likely to stay in a Riad, which is a private home that has been converted into a hotel, which can have anywhere from 4-20 rooms usually. Our choice mainly was done because a spa was connected to it, and we wanted to experience that before we left. The Riad was located in a maze of alleyways and streets that thankfully were made easier by a guide from the hotel who met us at the perimeter to grab our bags. So after following him, and checking in, we wanted to go for a stroll and get some dinner. The medina is not that large, but you can get lost quite easily. We found our way to the main market/square, where every night most locals get their dinner, and shop after shop is trying to convince you to eat at their place of business. We eventually sat down at one, just so we didn’t have to listen to them anymore. We tried all the local food, which was good, but in the end, WAY overpriced and quite honestly a rip off. They came up with prices out of thin air and then begged for tips afterward…not my type of scene. Was glad to get out of there.

Day 2 we wanted to see as much as we could, do some shopping, drink some beers, eat some local food, and relax. We did it all. I’m going to explain what we did in pictures instead of script since I don’t know the history behind most things in Morocco. One thing I can say is that we ended the night at dinner at a local restaurant that was on top of a roof, and it was fantastic. Once again, a local guide lead us back to our hotel since Marrakech is an eerie place at night, especially in the Medina.

Our flight was late home on Sunday, so we definitely wanted to have a hamman, a spa, before we left. The facilities next to the Riad were well-known in the area, so we figured it must be good. IT WAS. I had a scrub with local muds that pretty much ripped a whole layer of skin off, but pretty sure it was good for me and it felt fantastic. I also got a massage in a wet steam room, which was a bit strange to get used to, but by the end I was relaxed and felt extremely clean. I think relaxed for about 45 minutes in a cold, calm room with Annemarie while we sipped on local tea and ate cookies.

We then pushed off, but not after getting our customary magnet for the country visited, and picking up a Moroccan lamp for our future daughters room. Our house is going to look like a time warp once we settle somewhere for more than 5 years.

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If you didn’t the theme of this blog, it’s pretty much to conquer the world from an aspect of seeing it all. That includes the countries no one wants to go to, and the places that some people don’t believe are actually countries (e.g. San Marino). The countries of mini-Europe are not very easy to get to, any of them really. We have already crossed the borders of Vatican City, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein & San Marino. We still needed to hit Monaco, and eventually Andorra…a few blog posts from now. Now, Monaco isn’t THAT hard to get to since a train stops there, and a major one at that, but it doesn’t have an airport…but does have a heliport. Actually out of all the mini-EU, only Luxembourg actually has an airport, but you rarely see any other airlines flying there except LuxAir, and they don’t have the largest network per se. Vatican City you walk to, Liechtenstein you take a bus from Switzerland, Andorra you have to drive from either Toulouse or Barcelona, both which are 2.5 hours away….so I guess Monaco is one of the easiest.

What most of Monaco is….old high rises

Anyway, we based ourselves out of Nice for the weekend, since overall, there really isn’t much to see or do in Monaco (apologies to the few people that I know live there, but there isn’t). It’s the playground of the tax evaders of the world, or if you are of  Monégasque blood, which very few are. It’s a tiny little piece of land in southeastern France which borders with Italy, and while a very pretty area, it’s polluted by high-rises and no real character. Most workers there are either from France or Italy, since let’s be honest, if you live in Monaco, you probably don’t work much, or at least not a job that the majority of the public would ever witness. Everything is expensive there just because….no other reason really. The same lunch I had in Monaco that took €100 out of my pocket would’ve cost less than half only 3 miles away…no joke. People pay the premium just to say they ate a certain place, or simply, ate a meal in Monaco. I pretty much laughed the whole time I was there, since you’d think that people who really don’t have a financial care in the world, would be laid back, but it’s not the case. They all look stressed, worried about keeping up with the masses, and wasting their days driving around…the country. That being said, I won’t say I didn’t enjoy looking at every other driving down the road which happened to be a Ferarri, or dropping my jaw looking at Yachts from places like Gibraltar, Isle of Man and Guernsey. It really is a bubble that attracts the wealthiest of the wealthy, but I don’t see the returns, other than the tax aspect of course.

I’d get into the stuff we saw while there, but I already did. There is a small “old town” area, but small is really describing it as large, since it’s tiny. I think it would be a fun place for the Gran Prix no doubt, but I was glad we didn’t camp out there for two nights as we would’ve had bored after a few hours. There’s much more to see and do in Nice, but this trip wasn’t about Nice, or the nice bistro’s we ate at, or the boardwalk along the coastline, or the vibrant feel of the city, nope.

Monaco train station…actually pretty impressive

If you can’t tell, I was completely underwhelmed with Monaco, and while I might go back to visit a few people I know that live there, I wouldn’t reco it to many people unless it’s on your bucket list or you are like us, trying to see everything in the world that we can.

In an effort to get my blog up to date, I’m going to do some short synopsis posts of our recent trips since life is about to change drastically in July with the arrival of our first child. The majority of the places we visited over the last 3 months don’t need long overviews anyway, as they were all quite small and pack a quick punch, rather than a 12 rounder. Again, I found a cheap plane ticket, so I figured we might as well take advantage of it….and off to Serbia we went. Not a country where probably 99% of the world would visit, but for any true traveler wanting to see everything the world has to offer, Belgrade is a must city to see.

old streets of Skadarlija

We headed in for a short weekend, which wasn’t too bad as Belgrade, the capital, is not that big. The old town area is quite nice, but is surrounded still of the destruction from the wars and violence in the past few decades. The ride into town is not memorable, and once again made me think “where the hell did I bring my wife this weekend?” But once you get into the city, especially the old town area, things start to turn. We stayed at a nice place right on the edge, called Townhouse 27, and used that as our homebase. The hotel was kind of a shock, as there are not many modern things in Belgrade, but this place was fitted with B&O components in each room, including a TV I had never seen before and the heaviest remote known to man, but let’s say the quality was high (it was). The first day we got there quite late, but we ventured out into town to find the main street where most of the shopping is. It was pretty dead, so we hit a small spot for dinner, and then crashed for the night.

The fortress entrance

Next morning we were up and on our way. Got lucky with great weather, and started on Knez Mihajlova that was dead the night before. Not so much now, with all the shops open, cafe’s packed and street performers everywhere. The street really connects all parts of Belgrade, as from one end is a bustling square, to the other end where the Kalemegdan Fortress is. This area alone will allow you to see most of the main focal points of Belgrade. We also found that the locals like to snack, and snack a lot, on popcorn. There are popcorn stands everywhere, making old style popcorn and filling bag after bag. It’s cheap, it’s salty, and really good. It really looked like the whole town was headed to the movies at times. So we grabbed some popcorn, and headed over to the fortress. It’s huge, and sits right on the Danube, albeit not the prettiest part of the river, or the best view all around. The fortress is pretty intact for being so old, as it was built in 535 AD. They also had some tanks and weapons on display on the perimeter of the fortress which were from the World Wars, which I had no idea Serbia was even involved. You also get to see the monument to “the Victor” while there, which stands on the corner of the fortress, and is the protector of Belgrade. If there was a place to find tourists in this town, it was around this monument.

“The Victor”

From there we actually made the trek to St. Sava Church, which is the largest Eastern Orthodox Church in the world. At present time, it’s under mass rehabilitation still on the interior, but should be done quite soon, and will be quite a sight. They don’t make them like this anymore, believe me. We then walked around the rest of the day, as the weather was great, and everyone seemed to be enjoying the day, since all the parks were flooded and the shops were buzzing. We then wanted to end the trip with a great dinner, and read about this place called Public, and it lived up to the hype and the reco. It is shoved back on a tiny, quiet street with a view over the river, is well let’s face it, not much of a view, but it didn’t matter. Had a great meal, with some local wine that was quite peppery, but that’s ok by me.

St. Sava Church

All in all, I’ll be honest, I probably won’t be back to Serbia, but glad we hit Belgrade and saw what it had to offer. From the church to the fortress, to eating popcorn all day, I think it was a weekend well spent.