16 to 20 November 16 November Today I took a quick flight from Paris to Casablanca with the US partner to meet with local team in Morocco and also go to the client site.
We drove from the airport, with a car that was set up my local PwC team, to our hotel. Which seemed to take forever since traffic is a bit of a mess going into town. We stayed at the Hotel Kenzi Tower, which is the tallest tower in Casablanca and had a great view.
View from hotel to Mosquee Hassan II.
We met with the local team and then had dinner at the restaurant at the top of the Kensi Tower hotel. It was amazing to see all of Casablanca lit up at night.
Today, Jer traveled to meet me in Casablanca. And boy did he have some issues….
This day started just like any other going to the airport via public transportation. Left the house around 09:45 headed to the train thinking I would get there around 10:45 for my 12:25 flight and since I just had a carry on that was more than enough time to arrive.
After getting to the stop where you can switch and catch a train out to CDG, I had the feeling something was up. They were making an announcement and between having my headphones in and it being fully in French I didn’t hear the entire thing. So I got onto the RER B and headed out towards CDG. Once we got a little outside the city I popped up Citymapper and tried to see if I could tell what the announcement was about. Since the situation was just happening it did not have much information and usually when something happens causing a delay it is fixed relatively quickly and you only end up stopping a few times on the tracks while arriving eventually where you need to just a little late. A little late didn’t concern me very much at this point since I had built in some extra time. Well at this point I should have started to get concerned. Eventually at Gare d’Aulnay-sous-Bois the train stopped and said “train termine” and now I was very confused and starting to get concerned about time. Because of all the previous stops in between and going slowly it was now approaching 11:00 and we were only about 2/3 of the way to CDG. Now me and a few hundred of my closest friends were stranded on the platform without much information although we slowly began to figure out that for one reason or another a train was on the tracks a few kilometers ahead and wasn’t moving. After watching 2 additional trains come and empty out and time getting less and less for me I decided with 2 others that it was time to try to get an Uber and get to the airport ASAP. After exiting the gare while trying to book the Uber, but having to wait for longer than usual we figured out why because there were hundreds of others outside trying to get on the bus or a taxi.
Finally a driver picked up our fare and after not being able to find where he was in all the mess we finally got into our Uber around 11:20 or just more than an hour before my flight was scheduled to depart. Considering it shouldn’t have been that far to the airport anyway I was not as concerned as again I probably should have been. Well it all just kept getting worse as the cluster of all of these people having to get off in this smaller town created havoc on the roads as well. As time kept going and we still weren’t at the airport I was now officially freaking out. Before I go any further on the way I was trying to keep myself somewhat calm by looking at what happened on the RER B, and we came to find out that it was possible that someone was struck by the train which is why the issues were so much worse. Now back to the freaking out, no lie the Uber pulled up to the departures area exactly at 12:00. I quickly said bon voyage to my fellow passengers and sprinted into the terminal.
At this point I had pretty much resigned myself to missing my flight, but a quick glimpse at the short line at customs and border patrol got me thinking maybe there was a chance. As I ran my way through the weaving barriers I had someone flag me down. I was thinking oh great maybe they would help me rush through, but nope they wanted to weigh my carry on items!! Just as a quick FYI AirFrance has begun to weigh carry on items to limit you specifically to the 12 kilos that it has always said in your ticket agreement. I was completely caught off-guard by this process and was course over by a kilo or so, but after some pleading with the gentleman and telling him my flight left in 15 minutes he said “Next time below 12?”, and I said absolutely and was on my way. Quickly clearing customs and onto the tram to my specific gate area. This is now where I had to get through security and luckily I found another very nice person who let me through the Access #1 (First Class and Priority) line which had no one in it. I am now at a dead sprint down about 10 gates trying to get to mine around 12:10 hoping that they hadn’t closed the door 15 minutes before like they say they are supposed to. If you hadn’t noticed the theme of “luck” as this story has gone on I will add another piece of luck to it. As I come running up to the gate I see that they are just starting to board as the flight was a few minutes delayed! As I breath a sigh of relief and erase all the worries about trying to figure out how I was going to explain this to the partner who insisted I come to Morocco for dinner tonight I quickly get a cafe, water, and sandwich for the 3 hour flight and make my way on board. Oh what a morning…..
Once I arrived at the airport in Casablanca I cleared customs with just a short wait and went down to the gare and purchased my train ticket into the city. Since French is spoken it was very easy to purchase a ticket and all I had to do was wait about 20 minutes for the next train to depart. Another nice thing is that Euros go very far here in Morocco so my first class train ticket was only 6 Euro!!
After about 30 minutes on the train we arrived at the main station in the center of Casablanca, Casa Voyageurs. I knew that upon arrival I would need to switch to a tram which would take me towards the hotel which was just a little ways outside the city center. Unfortunately I assumed that at said tram I would be able to buy a ticket with our card. After walking to the tram stop outside the station I noticed that it was cash only (actually just coins even) for tram tickets. Of course just arriving I did not have any local currency so first I needed to find a ATM to get said local currency, then I needed to get change for the bills that I was able to get from the ATM. I ended up getting a water from the cafe on the corner and was able to get enough coins in return to get my tram ticket. After a quick 15 minute tram ride followed by a 15 minute walk I arrived at Hotel Kenzi Tower. Kasey was out seeing some of the sites when I arrived but had left my name so I was able to head up to the room and relax from an already long day of traveling.
While Jer was traveling, the US partner and I met with local management and the local PwC team and then finished up work for the day. The local PwC team arranged for the driver to take us around the city to show us the sites.
We stopped at the bazaar (which was incredibly intimidating) then onto the mosque, which was absolutely beautiful. The details are amazing.
We then drove along the coast to watch the sun set into the Atlantic.
Then we met Jer and we went to the top of Kensi Towers to have a drink before dinner. We then got in a little red taxi, which was an experience, to say the least. The cab driver was great but the car was just about falling apart. The engine hummed like it was brand new, but looking at the car, it looks like it has been around for 30 years.
We decided, that when in Casablanca, you need to go to Rick’s Café for dinner (any Humphery Bogart fans?). While the Rick’s Café we ate at didn’t exist until after the movie, it was still awesome.
Casablanca playing on repeat in the background.
After dinner, we had one more drinks at penthouse bar to look at the city all lit up.
Today the US partner went back home to Philadelphia, while Jer and I traveled on in Morocco for the weekend. We took a taxi to train station to head to Marrakech. However, Jer forgot his sunglasses. So the hotel called our cab driver who then turned around and raced back to the hotel and then to the train (and yes this was in the same type of beat up red car as the night before).
We did not book tickets in advance and that was a huge mistake. We could not get into first class (the tickets are like 8 Euros each) and we ended up standing in second class for the entire 3 and a half hour train ride with thousands of our closest friends in un-air-conditioned cabins. A thousand might be exaggerating, but the train was filled to the brim with people.
Needless to say, once we got off the train in Marrakesh I was overjoyed, but was desperately in need of a shower.
We had pre-arranged to get picked up at train station and taken into old city Marrakech. The streets are so narrow that at a point, you just have to get out and walk through the cobblestone/dirt winding lanes. At this point, we were met by an employee of our Riad, Riad Star, who walked us the rest of the way to the hotel. If we would have done this ourselves, we would have gotten lost for sure.
We then had some welcome snacks and tea, which was delicious.
After we got settled in the room. We took a walk through the souks and to Jemaa el-Fna. Here, we grabbed a quick lunchat Medina Saveurs not far from the hotel, while watching the people at work in the souks. The city certainly has a hum to it.
Trying to take it all in during lunch.
After we finished eating we did some “window” shopping through the souks to figure out what we really wanted to buy tomorrow.
Back at our Riad, we decided to enjoy the rooftop terrace with some mint tea. That night for dinner we had lamb that was prepared perfectly by the Riad.
Rooftop view over the entire city.
This morning, we had a wonderfully prepared breakfast at the Riad. You can tell that they got all the food fresh from the souks that day or the night before (or maybe even first thing this morning).
We then started our day at the Marrakech Museum, which was not far from our hotel. This was a great way to understand more about the culture. There were also absolutely beautiful elements of architectural design.
Art exhibit inside the museum.
Then Jer took us on a walk, a walk in which I thought we were going to be in trouble. We were walking where we thought we could go, but were then all of a sudden told we couldn’t go a certain way because there was a mosque. Jer being mister popularity, was talking with a local that said he could show us the way to… something. I did not hear. We were then passed from one guy to the next until we were at a leather shop. And it was not a store front, but like where they skin and the tan the leather. I was not a fan of the smell or anything about what just happened. So with that, we said thanks and left. However, we were again turned around when we were walking straight back by someone saying we couldn’t go that way because of something with a mosque and had a hard time getting back to the Riad. Let’s just say by the end of this, my heart was in my ears and my stomach in my throat.
We made it back to Riad for some tea on rooftop to have my anxiety levels decrease.
We then went back out for lunch where we stopped at Cafe des Epices. Again the food did not disappoint, or the view.
After lunch on our way back to the Riad, we found some things we wanted for shopping, ceramics, metal work, spices. All must haves, of course.
We then spent the rest of the day back to Riad for more tea and rooftop relaxing followed by an amazing dinner again, this time on rooftop or the Riad, which was a vegetable tagine.
Finally able to see the mountains in the distance.
This morning we had yet another wonderful breakfast at the Riad. We also booked hammams and massages. You may be asking yourself, what is a hammam. Well it is like sitting in a super hot room with 95% humidity for 20 minutes then being washed down with special soap and tool to get ALL the dead skin off by a women who specializes in these techniques. I will say, the experience was a little weird but my skin has never been so soft. Along with the hammam we also got a massage, but since the room was so small I laid outside while Jer got his massage and vice versa.
After our wonderfully relaxing morning followed by packing and some snacks, we headed to the airport, through arranged transportation at the Riad. I must say, that the level of customer service at Riad Star was unmatched to anything we had experienced anywhere else.
We got to the, very tiny, Marrakech airport for our three hour flight back to Orly, which ended up being delayed and we got back in Paris around 11pm.
Looking forward to a few days of downtime before heading back to the US for the Boring/Swank wedding! – Kasey