Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Christmas in Casablanca Part 1

Firstly, thank you so much to everyone who sent us Christmas and New Year greetings. They were much appreciated!  I hope that you all have a wonderful 2013.

We flew out from Bordeaux with Royal Air Maroc on Tuesday 18 December 2012. We had an easy motorway drive of 90 minutes to a well organised airport.

Flying via Toulouse airport (a 30 minute hop) to drop off well over half of the passengers, it seemed, and pick up the same number; mostly Moroccans who obviously worked in the town and were returning home for a break. This plane below is a BA aircraft in strange and unattractive brown livery. Not one of their best ideas!!

We arrived in Casablanca to a busy airport. No sign of our  transfer driver - 2 phone calls and 45 minutes later he appeared.......

We had dinner on the plane and as it was quite late on arrival at the hotel, we just made ourselves at home and had a good night's sleep.  We woke up later  than planned, and ordered a continental breakfast in our room at no extra charge. It was delicious; the French patisserie skills have been well retained.  We then decided to take a 20 minute walk down to the seafront, where the main city attraction is the really stunning   Grand Mosque Hassan II. It is the seventh largest Mosque in the world see HERE. It is right on the shore, as you can see, but the beach is rocky!


The craftsmanship and design of the mosaic work is most beautiful.

Looking across the bay to the d'el Hank lighthouse. It's set away from the town  -the perspective makes it look as if it is amongst the houses!

An interesting hand painted tower seen on our walk back to the hotel. Note the traffic lights - all up in the air; makes it difficult for pedestrians to know when the traffic is about to stop!

We tried a Spanish restaurant for dinner the first evening. It was well recommended on Trip Advisor, and although the food was excellent, the décor was stark white, all hard surfaces and there was simply no atmosphere at all.  It was also fairly expensive to our minds and we decided that one visit was enough, despite its good rating! We did have to laugh, though, at the waiter trying to uncork our wine.  Holding the bottle upside down, she eventually managed to screw the opener in part way and then break the cork off.  After a long discussion with her boss, over by the till, she came back with a new bottle which she successfully opened, but also holding it upside down!  We had ordered  Shiraz and the very first bottle that was brought to us was  Syrah. With a head shake and a shrug of the shoulder, we were told it was the same!  [Note: I think most of Europe and the USA calls it Syrah while South Africa, Australia and Canada call it Shiraz.  We are used to South African Shiraz which (to me) does not taste like the French Syrah.  I guess the country makes a difference.]  We did eventually end up with the required Shiraz which was on the menu! For all that, the fish soup we both had, was delicious, and although my fish main course was pretty average, Nigel's steak was very tender and cooked to perfection.

The next day we were up in time to make it to  the breakfast room and we  were offered a typical Moroccan breakfast.  The baked eggs with bits of dried shredded lamb  were quite delicious, but we were not so sure about the 'crumpet' with syrup or the folded "crepe", which was decidedly chewy. There were plenty of rolls and croissants as well, so we did not go hungry!

Finding our way around Casablanca was not that easy.  Despite having an excellent street map of the town centre, very few street signs seemed to have survived from the French era!  Most had either faded completely or been removed! Here is one of the very few that we found.

It was wonderful to see tropical flowers around in mid-winter; this crane flower (Strelitzia reginae) brought back wonderful memories of South Africa, where we had them growing in our garden.

Also the hibiscus


As for the smells in the supermarket, around the spice counter it was quite mouth watering.


On the second day we visited the Cathedrale Sacre Coeur.  This was obviously a beautiful place to visit in earlier days; a Roman Catholic edifice, no doubt built under French auspices, set in what has become a completely Muslim country. The main building with stunning stained glass windows looks amazing from the outside, but it sadly it is now neglected, stripped bare of all fittings and a breeding space for pigeons.  We gather that they do have the odd exhibition here, but to us it just looked quite derelict.
 
The wonderful windows



At the back of the church, if you look closely at the top of the photo you can see some of the pigeons at rest!!


Hope you enjoyed this change from the Charente - more to follow, so stay tuned!!





 
See also - My Life Before Charente Updated 10/01/13

and my daily photo diary at http://photodiarydps.blogspot.fr/

107 comments:

  1. Welcome back!
    This sounds like an interesting trip....keen for the arrival of the next installment!

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    1. Thanks Fly, it was so nice and warm compared with France so the weather alone was enough for us to enjoy!

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  2. Hello Diane:
    How absolutely wonderful all of this sounds and so very magical and exotic. We have long wished to go to North Africa, and Casablanca in particular, so you may imagine that we are totally riveted. What an experience you are having and we shall certainly look forward to more posts.

    How very sad about the Cathedral - and such a splendid looking building.

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    1. Jane and Lance it was a wonderful break but sadly the town is quite run down, few repairs since the French the left it. There is though the Mosque and a new tramway which has cost a fortune. Christmas Eve was 29C, so looking at the weather in France we knew we were in the right place. Yes the Cathedral is very sad, I was amazed though that the windows seemed to be pretty much intact. Diane

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  3. How sad to see the beautiful church deserted. Are Christian churches allowed to operate there? I would like the spice market which reminds me of when I lived in Istanbul.

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    1. Terra the church is very sad. I am sure if there were enough Christians in Casablanca the churches would survive, but as it is pretty much all Muslim there is little chance of it happening. Keep well Diane

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  4. What lovely and interesting place and amazing pictures, Im happy to see you again, Happy New Year!

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    1. Gloria it is an interesting place, quite different from what we really expected but we enjoyed the trip. Happy New Year to you as well Diane

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  5. How wonderful! I sent to Casablanca Years ago - you are bringing back wonderful memories - enjoy!!
    Mary x

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    1. Mary it is only a pleasure to bring back your memories for you if they are good :-) Take care Diane

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  6. Interesting place, not one that I would visit personally, but nice to view through your eyes! Nice to have you back on board with blogging, and wishing you and Nigel all the best for 2013.

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    1. I love to see any bits of the world I have not seen before, and as Nigel has a foot problem we can only look for short flights. This was perfect and the sun shone the whole time we were there. Happy New Year to you both as well, Diane

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  7. I'll look forward to it. I've never been to Casablanca.

    Absolutely stunning pics, Diane. I love the stained glass

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    1. Gaynor I was surprised that the window mostly seemed to be intact and they were quite gorgeous, so sad it is neglected. A great place to fly from France, warmer weather and a short flight :) Happy New Year to both of you, Diane and Nigel

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  8. You went to Casablanca for the holidays....I'm so envious!! It is really my dream to go there someday.

    Have a wonderful week,

    Jo

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    1. Jo it is not quite the romance of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman but we did enjoy our break. I think after the French left little had been done, and a lot of restoration is needed. Happy New Year, Diane

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  9. oh what fun! i can't wait to see more!

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    1. Jaz, glad you are enjoying the change in venue, more to follow. Happy New Year, Diane

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  10. I've always had a desire to see Casablanca..since that early Bogart movie. Sounds like a wonderful winter break for you two. And Diane, thanks again for the heads up. Hope things are working again on this end. Susan

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    1. Susan the romance of Bogart and Bergman has long past disappeared and the town, other than a couple of brand new and expensive projects, is quite run down. Having said that we enjoyed our stay and loved the Moroccan food. Prices though surprised us as they were much the same as Europe. Hope all keeps working :) Diane

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  11. Welcome Back Diane - and best wishes for 2013 to you and Nigel ...

    ... that Mosque looks absolutely stunning and I could just picture the smell of those spices ...

    regards

    Graham

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    1. Thanks Graham. The Mosque was amazing and I gather that it is stunning inside as well. We were there during payer time so we could not go in. You can only visit with an official guide 3 times per day, and it costs the equivalent of R100 each so not that cheap. Mmmmm those spices were unbelievable, I could have walked around the supermarket for hours just smelling :) Hope all is well with you Diane

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  12. Happy New Year! I enjoyed your travels to Casablanca. Some great photos here.

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    1. Thanks Joyful and a Happy New Year to you as well. Keep well Diane

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  13. Welcome back, Diane! Oh, going to Casablanca sounds so mysterious and fun! It must be beautiful there! What a shame about the church, so sad! Bet you had a great time there! Happy New Year! Pam

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    1. Thanks Pam, I have missed my blogging but time just never seems to be on side. I will not stop but I will probably space my blogs out a bit more. It was so nice to spend Christmas in the sun we enjoyed the break. The Cathedral is very sad, it could be so beautiful. Happy New Year to you as well Diane

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  14. Diane, it looks like you had a nice Christmas vacation in the sun! As usual, your pictures are wonderful. Happy New Year!

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    1. Happy New Year to you and all the family as well. A sunny Christmas was just perfect :) Take care Diane

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  15. True to form, you deliver yet another wonderful tour, this time from Casablanca.
    Absolutely loved this post and am really looking froward to the next installment.

    Here is to a happy and healthy new year!

    Red

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    1. Boye By Red glad you enjoyed the break away from France, we had a great time. A very Happy New Year to you as well. Take care Diane

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  16. Casablanca has such a romantic image but like so many places it seems to have greatly changed. I'm sure it was nice to enjoy the warmth and sun. I'm looking forward to the rest of your adventure. Karen (Back Road Journal)

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    1. Karen you are right it has changed, mainly it appears quite run down other than a couple of new very expensive projects of which the Mosque is one. Great holiday though. Happy New Year to you Diane

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  17. Fantastic Diane!! You can almost feel the heat off the photos :-)(which I need) .. Such a shame about the Cathederal, but as you say it is a Muslim country now .. such a beautiful looking building too.

    I don't think I could eat eggs with shredded lamb, but if you say it was delicious, I would give it a try. Thanks for sharing and looking forward to the next post , take care xoxo

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    1. Anne there is nothing better to my mind that sunshine regardless of the time of year, I hate the cold! Yes very sad about the cathedral as it is a beautiful building. Take care and keep well Diane xx

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  18. The mosaics on the mosque are hypnotic. Sure hope the sea doesn't eat that building away. How nice to enjoy flowers and hopefully mild weather during your winter holiday.

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    1. Gaelyn, interesting point especially as there is a glass floor inside where you can see the sea bed! Christmas in the sun is my idea of a perfect Christmas, it was 29C on Christmas Eve. Keep well Diane

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  19. Thanks for the visit to Casablanca. It's on my list to visit, though I don't know when I might get there. Your pictures were great.

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    1. Carol it was a last minute thing for us. We had hoped to go to somewhere in the sun in February, but we could not find anywhere without travelling a long distance. Casablanca was an easy flight from Bordeaux and we managed to get a special price over Christmas so suddenly we were on our way! Hope you make it one day. Diane

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  20. It does sound like a nice break from an European winter. We call the crane flower a bird of paradise flower. The mosque is a stunning building and so too the church. It is a shame they don't maintain it from a historical and tourist point of view. Syrah and Shiraz are both made from the syrah grape. I think they call it Syrah in USA.

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    1. Diane thanks for pointing the the fact that the wines are much the same and from the same grape. I think most of Europe and the USA calls it Syrah while South Africa, Australia and Canada call it Shiraz. We are used to South African Shiraz which (to me) does not taste like the French Syrah. I guess the country makes a difference. The menu did say Shiraz which we did in fact get second time around. Yes we also used to call it bird of paradise as well. Re the Cathedral, there is someone at the entrance with a pot of small change, so presumably he expects to get a tip if you visit. We did not give anything as there was no sign of what it was for or why. It could well have been a guy off the street collecting for his own pocket! Keep well Diane

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    2. The French wines are not as heavy and fruity as the Australian wines even though they are made from the same grape variety,

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    3. I find the French wines drier than the Australian and South African wines. I will not drink French red for that reason!

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  21. Hi Dianne,why ever would the girl hold the wine upside down to open it? He he,must be bad luck to open it upright! What lovely places you get to visit. Of all the pictures you showed here I would have loved most to be in that spice market,can't begin to imagine what it smells like! xoxo

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    1. Hi Liesl and a Happy New Year to you. That spice market was wonderful, the smells were amazing. Keep well Diane

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  22. Hooray for you both - you got to have another Christmas in the warmth. Up at my Folks' place it was warm with very high humidity but I still managed to roast a chicken for us, and made roasted potatoes from potatoes that Dad dug up that morning!

    I'm looking forward to reading about the rest of your Xmas holiday, Michelle XXX

    (now I'll pop over to your other blog to read the new episode - your Familys' journey is so exciting and interesting to me)

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    1. Michelle a very Happy New Year to you and may it be a very healthy one. It was so nice to spend Christmas day in the sun again, I have spent Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere for too long to enjoy cold, wet and snow in the Northern Hemisphere! Keep well and take care Diane Hugs xx

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  23. Bonne année à vous Diane !
    Merci pour ce voyage à Casablanca.C'est agréable de voir des fleurs au milieu de l'hiver!

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    1. Merci Lucie. soleil et de fleurs étaient fantastiques pour Noël! Nous avons aimé notre vacances. Restez bien. Diane

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  24. What an amazing place to spend Christmas! My mother-in-law was born in Casablanca and I've always thought that was the coolest thing :)

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    1. Sara Louise Christmas in the sun is the perfect day for me :) Looks like you had a wonderful day and that food..... Keep well Diane

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    1. Thanks Pam, glad you enjoyed the break from the Charente. Take care Diane

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  26. Loved this visit to Casablanca - a lot of it, particularly the Moorish architecture, looked familiar to me now we live in southern Spain. We're surrounded by the influence of the Arabs from centuries ago. And tropical plants, of course. Such a wonderful place to spend Christmas. Thanks for sharing, Axxx

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    1. Hi Annie, I am glad that you enjoyed this post. It was so nice to have a hot and sunny Christmas, since leaving South Africa I have forgotten how good they are :) Keep well and Happy New Year, Diane

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  27. Thanks for sharing your Christmas vacation with us. Looks like an interesting place. Can't wait to see part 2 of your trip.

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    1. Horst I am delighted that everyone is enjoying the break from the Charente. It was interesting and an eye opener in many respects. Keep well Diane

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  28. Happy New Year and welcome back to some very different weather!

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    1. Sarah you are right, this is quite a shock after Casablanca, but then it is cooling down there as well now. Keep well Diane

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  29. Love all the details of the building. I only knew Casablanca from a song hehehe..

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    1. Rose the only songs I know are the ones from the film Casablanca, I must see if there is some other ones that I do not know about. Take care Diane

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  30. Hi Diane!
    Magnificent trip you took to Casablanca!
    I love the hibiscus photos very much!
    I enjoyed taking this trip through your lovely pictures!
    Well done, and have a great WE!

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    1. Noushka it was a lovely break and something quite different. It was so nice to have a warm Christmas once again :) Keep well Diane

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  31. Hi Diane .. looks like you relaxed and just quietly enjoyed what was around ... I'd love to visit Morocco sometime .. and as you mention above - warmth! The Mosque ceramics are extraordinary aren't they ... just beautiful Moorish work ...

    Strelitzia too - SA flowers just lovely ... have just had a bouquet of SA flowers - proteas and fynbos ... lovely present to receive - then I had bought narcissi, daffs and some yellow and red tulips .. so the flat is full of flowers!!

    Wonderful to see your photos and giving us your tour around .. cheers Hilary

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    1. Hilary it was a very different Christmas to the norm but we enjoyed it. That Mosque is just amazing. I took many photos of it on my camera and then when we returned to the hotel we discovered that the disc had given up the ghost, I lost 92 photos that day!! Thankfully Nigel had taken a few as well so not quite all was lost.

      I envy you the proteas and fynbos, they dry so well also so you can have them for ages. Keep well Diane

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  32. I've been only once in Casablanca back in 1979 and I hardly remember it so it is great seeing these photos.

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    1. JM I suspect you saw it at its best. It is quite run down now other than a couple of expensive projects. Diane

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  33. My dear friend Diane
    Before all, I want to thank you for your wishes and to wish you a happy and blessed time for you and Nigel!
    What a great surprise trip to Casablanca!
    Great pictures, as if I was there!
    I have good news. I became grandmother! Born the little Magda!
    Many greetings and kisses

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    1. Congratulations Grandma, you must be thrilled to have a little Magda in the family :))) Take care and enjoy the little one. Diane xx

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  34. Your pictures are stunning…am so jealous of your warm weather vacation :)

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    1. labergerebasque it was wonderful having sun over the whole Christmas period :))) Diane

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  35. Amazing mosque. Syrah or Shiraz, it's the same grape, the differences come from terroir and the winemaker's approach to crafting wines. The Australians call theirs Shiraz for marketing purposes and to make it stand out in the American market. Doesn't make a difference in France since the grape varietal doesn't show up on the label.

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    1. Michel that Mosque is something else, I gather inside there is a glass floor where one can see the sea bed! I can drink the South African Shiraz with no problem but don't ask me to drink the French Syrah, my mouth feels like it has been filled with blotting paper! Keep well Diane

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  36. You must have had a wonderful trip. Your photo's tell the story.Casablanca must be very special.

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    1. Riet not a place we would go again, but we enjoyed our holiday and it was an experience. take care Diane

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  37. I love the wonderful pictures. I would love to go to Casablanca some day. It is nice that you were able to get away. Nice to see you are back though.

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    1. Words Of Deliciousness it is not quite romantic city of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman days, but we did enjoy the break. The people were friendly and several just said 'Welcome to Casablanca' while we were out walking - we obviously looked like tourists :-) Diane

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  38. Happy New Year Diane. How lovely to have a change of scene over Christmas and find a bit of sunshine. I've never been to North Africa so it's interesting to see the pictures of your visit.

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    1. Thanks Kit and I hope that 2013 is all that you wish for yourselves with a healthy and prosperous year. Glad you enjoyed the photos, it is a very different place to Cape Town! Keep well Diane

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  39. Hello Diane,
    What a great trip you've made!! Wonderful to see all these fantastic shots of you. You must have be a great time there. Lovely with the sun!!

    Many greetings,
    Marco

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    1. Thanks Marco for the visit, yes the sun at Christmas was a big bonus :) Diane

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  40. I love to page through your photos and read your descriptions of the places you are visiting. This sounds like a wonderful holiday. Your photos are, as always, wonderful. Have a great day, Diane. Blessings...Mary

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    1. Thanks Mary. It was something quite different for us and certainly Christmas day was an adventure :) Take care Diane

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  41. Glad you had a good trip and weather!

    I've flown in/out of Casablanca--spent most of my time in Morocco in Marrakech, Fez, Rabat, etc. Interesting country and I loved it.

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    1. Freda we would also like to see Marrakech some time but don't know when that may be. Keep watching more to come on Casablanca. Stay well Diane

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  42. It sounds as if you had a lovel holiday. Casablanca does look like an interesitng place to see. Lots of beautiful ornate buildings. It was lovely to see it through your pictures.
    Happy New Year to you :))

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    1. Ellie it was a good holiday and something quite different. Keep well Diane

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  43. Très bonne année à toi aussi.
    Le Maroc est un très beau pays que j'ai eu beaucoup de plaisir à visiter.
    Tu me rappelles beaucoup de souvenirs.
    See soon

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    1. Je suis heureux de vous apporter de bons souvenirs. Bonne journée Diane

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  44. beautiful photos.. and the place seems amazing..


    megha
    http://meghafashionista.blogspot.com

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    1. Megha thanks so much for your visit. Keep well Diane

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  45. I enjoyed the tour – the mosque looks spectacular and those intricate tiles – they are stunning. It was a little “dépaysement” I am sure and a nice change.

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    1. Vagabonde it was something quite different to our usual Christmas and we did enjoy bein in the sun! Keep well Diane

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  46. How wonderful it would be to be there NOW!!
    I enjoyed your Cassablanca trip photos!
    welcome back and all the best for 2013 to you and yours!
    anni

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    1. anni, I think it is much cooler there now than when we were there, we had the best of the weather :) Diane

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  47. I was just checking in after a long absence and I see you have your Adventure Shoes on! What a great trip this must have been. I'll be back to follow the rest of it!

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    1. Good to hear from you again Deb, Glad you enjoyed this post, lots still to come.... Diane

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  48. Very cool blog. Interesting posts. ;)
    Nice atmosphere guests with you here on the blog. ;]
    Yours. Have a nice day. !

    Follow me on facebook fanpage
    I'm very concerned about this, please. :)
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/In-another-light/413836138693856

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    1. Patrycja Photography thanks for the visit and glad you enjoyed our trip to Casablanca. Have a good week Diane

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  49. Great photographs and wonderful descriptions. Sad about the church -- it must have been quite stunning in its heyday. Were there many western tourists? The lack of western language signs makes me wonder...

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    1. The Broad, it was sad about the church. The shell is still beautiful, just a pity that the inside is empty and a breeding ground for pigeons! We did not see many tourists around but I am sure there must be plenty in the summer months. Having said that though, I think a lot of people go to Marrakesh, and there is a new Sol Kerzner Hotel at Mazagan Beach. The latter though I would think would be more like going to Vegas than to Morocco! People in the street though recognised us as tourists and many said 'Welcome to Casablanca'. Diane

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  50. What an amazing trip. I would think you would need to be very adventurous to visit a country like this. The most interesting photo...the spices. I would just love to stand in that spot and see those spices!

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    1. Lavender Dreamer, we went there because it was warm at Christmas and a short flight. The spices were quite fantastic. I could have just stood in the supermarket all day taking in all the different aromas :) Diane

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    2. It's always interesting to see what's local in the supermarkets when you travel! Sweet hugs!

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  51. What a wonderful place to visit. Thanks so much for taking us along.
    Kristy

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  52. glad to see pictures of casablanca thru your post here, the mosque is beautiful, so is the church, pity that it has been abandoned.

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    1. Lena the church is very sad as the shell is beautiful. All the fountains around it are also broken and not working, such a shame. Diane

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