Not long after climbing Toubkal in Morocco, I take a train to visit Marrakech, one of the most famous cities in Morocco.
The night I'm scheduled to leave Casablanca, I get dropped off at the station only to find out that I missed the last train for the evening. Fortunately, a friend of mine takes me in and I don't have to spend the night stranded at the station.
I arrive in Marrakech the next day around 5pm.
I had booked a night at one of the most popular hostels in the city center, and as I make my way through the Medina (old city), I realize how fortunate I am for missing my train the night before. It's difficult enough finding my hostel through the winding tunnels during the day. Navigating the narrow streets at 1:00am would have been a challenge.
The place is a reminder that "cheap hostel" in no way implies "cheap living."
I am blown away by this place. Outside, I was ducking my head to avoid the low ceiling of an old tunnel, and I had to pass the unassuming entrance twice before recognizing the door. Now, stepping through, I find myself in a five story oasis. Poolside room, rooftop terrace, cafe, bar, and even a spa.
Marrakech is a popular destination in Morocco. I meet a lot of travelers here, and get to explore the city with a real estate developer from Columbia, a consultant from London, a wanderer from Wales, and more.
In addition, one of the editors of Fair Observer puts me in touch with an entrepreneur in the city. We have lunch on my first day, and she gives me a fun an exciting welcome.
The rooftop is a great place to watch the sunset.
The Jamaa el Fna Square is famous, and it's a five minute walk from my hostel. This is where you find snake charmers, performers, monkeys, and goods being sold.
A look at the excitement from a rooftop restaurant.
Every city in Morocco has a Medina like this, but Marrakech is especially flashy.
After a couple days in the city I go back to Rabat, the capital of Morocco, and prepare for a week-long "vacation" in Las Palmas.
Las Palmas is a Spanish island off the coast of Morocco. A friend I made in Casablanca found an exciting opportunity to spend several days in a house five minutes from the beach, with surf lessons included every day. Sign me up.
I am experiencing some money troubles and procrastinating buying my plane ticket. As a result, the date I am supposed to leave gets booked and I have to leave a day earlier than scheduled.
The flight from Casablanca to Las Palmas takes just under 3 hours. This beauty is an ATR 72. Designed in 1988, she tops out at 316mph.
On my first day on Las Palmas I realize I've found heaven on Earth. The warm sun and cool breeze is a welcome contrast to the daily heat and frigid evenings common in Morocco.
The hostel I check into is within sight of the beach, and the receptionist on duty is MIA. Surfing.
This only confirms my view that I'm in heaven.
The next day my friend Chaimaa meets up with me (the day I was supposed to arrive). We check into the house we will be staying in for the rest of the week.
Not long after, we pile into a bus with a few others staying with us and hit the beach for our first surf lessons.
I stand up on my first attempt. I feel confident and eager to learn more. Unfortunately, my first day will end up being my best day, as an injury two days later limits my surfing the rest of the week.
After one of our sessions, Eduardo - the owner of the surf school - takes four of us to Agaete on the other side of the island. First stop is a coast-side seafood joint. Mountains rear nearby.
Unbelievable views in the Agaete Valley.
We make new friends at the surf house, and enjoy going out together.
Spanish food is amazing and Las Palmas lives up to the standard. We stop in a hole-in-the-wall bar for tapas one night and I have a transcendental experience.
Fortunately Chaimaa is a great cook. Omelets for breakfast become one of the best meals of the day. Nutella on bread is my idea.
One day Chaimaa convinces Eduardo to acquire a tajine pot for us. We ran to the grocery store and buy every vegetable there is, then I spend the afternoon watching Chaimaa prepare a traditional Moroccan dish.
Eduardo has a friend with a rooftop apartment, and we take the tajine there to finish it off on the grill. Five of us gather to enjoy wine, the sunset, and one of the best meals I have all week.
After seven blissful days we say goodbye to Las Palmas. I arrive back in Casablanca and pack my bags for France.