Archive for Casablanca

02 Oct 2012

The dusty charm of Casablanca

2 Comments Casablanca, Morocco


We have had our first taste of Morocco, a charming taxi driver, who has left the meter off and charged us the grand sum of 50 dirhams when the going rate should be less than 30. We know we are being conned but still his offer of 50 dirhams is better than his first offer of 1 million euros and what's the point in squabbling over a couple of dollars.



We are staying inside the old Medina, where the streets are mainly dirt and after recent rains have turned to mud in parts. You can taste the dust and the light has a uniquely Moroccan quality. Old women sit at ancient Singer sewing machines on the sides of the road, smiling big toothless grins. Every kind of vegetable imaginable is available from makeshift carts. Fish are scaled and chopped right in the street. Motorbikes, bicycles, carts and people galore fill the streets of the Medina. Satellite dishes command the rooftops, facing skywards like sunflowers.




The man at the desk at our hotel tells us there are no rooms available. Fully booked. It's his idea of a joke, no doubt played on many a weary traveller. And then finds us a room.


Paul sleeps soundly while Gill wakens to the slightest of noises; an agonising call to prayer, street noises, people chatting, misfiring engines, ships horns blasting, cats meowing … Paul's snoring.



We visit the Hassan II Mosque and depending on who you talk to it is either the third or seventh largest in the world. We visit twice, once at night and once during the day. Even Alpacas have to wear a shawl to cover their shoulders. The Mosque is beautiful and can accommodate 25,000 worshippers inside during Ramadan and a further 80,000 outside. It has a scale and presence that photos cannot do justice to and it's location on the edge of the Atlantic adds to its beauty.

We bypass Rick's Cafe and the endless reruns of Casablanca, playing again and again, and instead find a traditional Moroccan restaurant and eat a divine tagine of beef and almonds and prunes and apricots. All in all a good first couple of days.


17 Oct 2009

Pisco Sour – Makes You Happy

Comments Off on Pisco Sour – Makes You Happy Casablanca, Chile, Valparaiso

Everybody in Chile drinks Pisco Sour. It rocks! Pisco Sour is the national drink of Chile. Come to think of it, it is the national drink of Peru. The Chilenos claim they invented it, but we all know that can’t be true!

Take a tall shot of Pisco (a strong liquor distilled from grapes)
Squeeze in some lemon juice
Add some powdered sugar
Shake well.
Pour it into a tall glass.
Whisk an egg white and spoon carefully over the top.
A dash of Angostura bitters, and voila – PISCO SOUR.

One Pisco Sour – you are smiling, a broad ear-to-ear smile
Two Pisco Sours – everyone is looking good, really good
Three Pisco Sours – you are dancing … with a streetlight
Four or Five Pisco Sours – you’ll wake up next to someone you’ll swear you’ve never seen before – best stick to three.

Pepo our Chileno man about Valparaiso, not to mention Rock Star and all round good guy rented a shiny red car and drove us out to Casablanca (wine-territory). On the way he scared us (and himself) half to death with his driving; managed to get stopped and fined by the police for going through a stop sign, and finally got us to our lunch destination in one piece – a little shaky but unharmed.

You put the wine in here

Pepo contemplating the long afternoon ahead

We found ourselves at Morande Winery, out on a sunny terrace, with a cluster of empty wine glasses lined up in front of us. At other tables the locals were hopping into Pisco Sours before the wine. We opted to go straight for the wine and the mini-degustation menu – five courses and five excellent wines.

Making a start on the wines

Dish number two – three types of fish in a Pinot-Noir confit
with fried aubergine – superb!

Afterwards Pepo hurtled us down to a small seaside village, with just a few open decked restaurants, a tiny picturesque bay full of grey Pelicans, young boys on body boards, and the local fishermen about to head out to haul in their nightly catch.

The gringo – Paul – saves the day

We have been in Valparaiso for a week, hoping on and off Valparaiso’s many ascensors and exploring the city. Ascensors – funicular cars that make getting around the steep hills a little more bearable – they are old, dating back to the 1880s and creaky and just a little bit freaky.

Ascensors – the easiest way up and down

It is an interesting city – like no other I have been in. It is large, colourful, a bit run-down, and a bit seedy in parts. Walk down the wrong street, at the wrong time of night, and you might just run into trouble. The architecture is amazing – colourful corrugated iron dwellings, perched precariously into the side of the steep hills. From a distance it looks a little like San Francisco; get a bit closer, however, and it perhaps is more like how I imagine San Francisco in the 1940s. Less than 10 kilometres down the road is Vina Del Mar, full of modern day high-rise buildings, garish beach front hotels and casinos – it is neat and efficient and nowhere near as interesting.

It was our last night and Bart held a party (for his French-Chilean girlfriend, Marcela, who is leaving for France) at his very funky upstairs pad with unmatched views across the harbour. It was a small group, about 15 of us, with a private chef preparing an assortment of courses, including a Parrilla (grill) out on the deck. The Pisco Sours were flowing until well into the wee hours. Pepo pulled out his guitar. There was singing and dancing … thump, thump, thump … it is now Saturday morning and I am staring bleary eyed at a pile of unpacked clothes and contemplating the long bus ride to Pucon.

Here’s a small gallery of pics from our week in Valparaiso – go on click here – you know you want to!