Picking Up the Pieces Now that COVID Is Manageable

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May 3rd 2022
Published: May 11th 2022
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The Marrakech Airport, Marrakech, MoroccoThe Marrakech Airport, Marrakech, MoroccoThe Marrakech Airport, Marrakech, Morocco

During the Evacuation, There Were Lines and the Area Seemed Much Less Chaotic
During my time as a full-time RVer, 2010 – 2020 (during which time, I spent at least one week in all fifty states), I generally spent the seven days of the week with three days for “housekeeping” (laundry, oil changes, grocery shopping, selecting and captioning photos and writing the narrative for the blog), three days for tourism and one day for relocation to a new RV park. Given that 2022 will find every tour day filled with tourism and every non-tour day filled with “coffee on the plaza with the locals,” don’t expect much original narrative during the 2022 trip. My plan is to give my audience a daily, captioned, pictorial essay accompanied by the narrative of the day’s activities as supplied by the tour provider. Some tour operators have tendered interesting, meaningful descriptions whereas others have offered very little color. Like Joe Friday of Dragnetfame said, “Just the facts, ma’am!” Regardless, I hope you enjoy my offerings.

TUE, 03 MAY 2022 – Depart Phoenix, Arizona for Marrakech, Morocco – I was surprised (not) to learn that there is no non-stop flight from Phoenix to Marrakech, so I will be taking a total of three flights to reach my first
Cappuccino's, Marrakech, MoroccoCappuccino's, Marrakech, MoroccoCappuccino's, Marrakech, Morocco

Nice Patio Dining for Cheesecake!
overseas destination. Bug #1: Originally, I was to take a Delta flight from Phoenix to Seattle and then to Amsterdam, Netherlands. On the morning of my departure, I received a text that the second leg had been delayed such that I would have missed the third leg – Amsterdam to Marrakech. All of the text messages referenced Flight XXX, so I had no idea of where I was going.

Bug #2: When I reached the ticketing window, I was asked to produce the credit card I had used to purchase my flight. This was not a Delta requirement, but a Moroccan attempt to reduce credit card fraud. That particular card (with the last 4 digits of XXXX) was not in my pocket, so I got out of the line and dug through my now-unlocked suitcases as I mumbled, “I wish that would have been disclosed before I packed.”

Bug #3: With correct credit card in hand, I re-entered the line only to learn that my COVID test sample had been taken a few hours before the 48-hour limit. The Moroccan government requires a COVID test within 48 hours of boarding the aircraft of origin. Ole Uncle Larry, using
Hotel Imilchil,Marrakech, MoroccoHotel Imilchil,Marrakech, MoroccoHotel Imilchil,Marrakech, Morocco

Breakfast Was Poolside
what seemed like common sense, calculated that if the test results took from 24 to 48 hours, I would be within the guidelines. Wrong Sherlock Holmes! Fortunately, there is an on-site COVID test available in Terminal 4. Onward to the Skytrain, test taken, results obtained and back on the Skytrain to Terminal 3. With COVID results in hand, I got my boarding passes for Phoenix to DETROIT to Amsterdam to Marrakech. Much to my friend’s chagrin, I had arrived at the airport the recommended three hours ahead of departure and, after a not-so-smooth start, at the gate only 30 minutes before departure.

On the flight to Detroit, I was assigned a “B” seat in an exit row. I was okay with that – there was lots of leg room, the restroom was right in front of me and I could easily access the aisle without pestering the passenger to my right; however, there was no window in the emergency exit, and I believe this is the first time I have ever landed without a single clue as to how far we were from the ground! On the plus side, I was able to chat with the flight attendant (in
Cappuccino's, Marrakech, MoroccoCappuccino's, Marrakech, MoroccoCappuccino's, Marrakech, Morocco

A Daytime View of the Relaxed Atmosphere
the rear-facing “A” seat) during takeoff and landing. FYI – I had heard on the news, and confirmed with the flight attendant, that beginning only recently have flight attendants begun to receive pay for boarding and deplaning (why is it not either planing or deboarding!!!). Previously, the payroll clock started when the doors were secured and stopped when to doors opened. How crazy is that, and where was the flight attendants’ union for the last 50 years?

By the time I arrived at the gate for the Amsterdam flight, boarding was underway. I found my windowless “window” seat. I’m supposing that it’s a structural thing but there was no window in this part of the bulkhead, but only on the port side – the starboard side had a window. Go figure! I was seated next to two gentlemen from either Budapest or Bucharest (I forget which). Although each spoke more English that I did Hungarian, it was not enough for a conversation. And on into WED, 04 MAY 2022 – Whether from the inauspicious start or from the pure excitement that 2020 revisited was underway, I was unable to sleep during the flight. What can I say? A transoceanic flight and a redeye flight are what they are, and there’s not much glitzy or glamourous about either, but my flight went without gremlins, and I did win a couple of No-Limit-Hold’em; tournaments! FYI, I will say that my previous three long-duration flights on Hawaiian Airlines, TAP Portugal Airlines and British Airways (all in the last 4 years) were superior to my flight on Delta.

Delta outsourced the final leg of my Phoenix to Marrakech trip to Transavia Airlines C.V., (a low-cost Dutch airline subsidiary of KLM and, therefore, part of the Air France–KLM group). I had been slated for this flight all along, and the change of my interim stop from Seattle to Detroit had no impact whatsoever; however, that shorter layover in the US resulted in a longer (6-1/2-hour) layover in Amsterdam. By the time I arrived in Amsterdam, I was dog-ass tired, and none of the seating was conducive to napping. No, I guess Uncle Larry is either too vain or too old to take a nap on the floor, but I did become an expert at mounting and dismounting a mechanized sidewalk! Yes, I was very bored.

I had made a brief, hurried visit to Marrakech in 2020. Marrakech was the departure airport for the evacuation flight, organized by the U.S. State Department, that got me out of Morocco the day before the Moroccan government closed its borders to reduce the spread of the COVID virus. I anticipated a less hectic, more enjoyable visit this time around. Most tour providers offer pre-tour and post-tour accommodations, for an additional fee; however, most do not identify the location or name of the hotel. In the case of Nomadic Tours, El Andalous Hotel in Marrakech was clearly identified as the group’s meeting point so I opted to book my pre-tour nights there to minimize my need to relocate. Since the group will be housed in El Andalous Hotel for the first night of the tour, I remember specifically asking via the “Special Requests” (or whatever) box that my room be assimilated into the bank of rooms reserved by Nomadic Tours for the Morocco Encompassed tour so I didn’t have to relocate. Lazy, yes, but it makes sense to me.

Bug #4: By the time I had arrived in Marrakech, I was ready to find the El Andalous Hotel for another sampling of Moroccan cuisine and a couple of days of “time zone readjustment.” I arrived only to learned that the email I had received was not a reservation but merely an affirmation that a room was available for the dates I had requested. I don’t speak French, but when I saw the heading “DETAILS DE RESERVATION:” above my Votre Nom, Date d’arrivee, etc., I thought it was acknowledgement of my completed reservation. Why a request made in English resulted in a reply in French puzzles me to this day. El Andalous Hotel had no availability until Saturday – the same day I will spend the night as a guest of Nomadic Tours. A couple of nearby alternatives were suggested by the desk clerk, and a second taxi was employed. Both suggestions were at capacity as was a third sought out by the driver. Fortunately, the fourth attempt was successful – Hotel Imilchil. Unfortunately, (although the hotel does serve breakfast) I was told that there was no place to eat except a snack at Cappuccino, a coffee house across the street. The only “food” I saw being prepared was pizza but was not in the mood. I ordered a nice “from the bar” Moroccan fruit punch (FYI, alcoholic beverages are not plentiful in Muslim countries) and a slice of outstanding cheesecake. That, along with some almonds I brought for “airplane food” constituted my first Moroccan dinner in 2022. As Lawrence Welk so famously said, “A-wondaful, a-wondaful!” I returned to the hotel, went to bed and fell asleep almost immediately, to the sounds of pleasant, relaxing but “this ain’t country folks” music emanating from the coffee house. As Lawrence Welk so famously said, “A-wondaful, a-wondaful!”

Overnight - Hotel Imilchil, Marrakech, Morocco

THU, MAY 05, 2022 found me awakening to a bright beautiful, balmy day. As I type, it is 3:02 PM and 82 degrees F. The balcony door is open, and the drapes are being noiselessly agitated by the gentle breeze. Stop it, Larry! Since breakfast was served until 11 AM, I was in no hurry to make my way to the restaurant – except for coffee. Transferring planes in Detroit and Amsterdam found my short-sleeved dress shirt and cargo shorts quite out of place, but in the Marrakech airport and at the hotel(ssss), not so much. I brought a cup of coffee to the room to help get the blood flowing. Breakfast was an interesting adventure. A small boat of (what looked like) honey had arrived with my coffee, and I was then served what appeared to be flatbread, two pastries, a bowl of butter and a round green object that resembled an egg. I made my way through the starches by buttering the pastries and by dipping the flatbread in the unused what-turned-out-to-be honey before investigating the round green object. By now, since Easter was in the rearview (and it isn’t a big deal in Morocco anyway), I had convinced myself that the round green object might actually be brown and had decided it probably was a boiled brown egg. Hoping this wasn’t a yoke on Larry, I gave it a rap on my empty bread plate. It was exactly what I expected, a boiled brown egg.

Mid-afternoon, I made my way back to Cappuccino’s, planning to make a couple trips for my “dinner” so as to distribute the tasty offerings and avoid a sugar spike. Instead, and much to my delight, I was offered a full-blown menu (including breakfast offerings). Apparently, in the late evening the kitchen closes and only snacks are offered – thus the information I had received from the hotel desk clerk. Fortunately, the menu was in French instead of Arabic. In the pasta column, I found Saumon Frais (what I thought was XXX salmon – I later learned from Google Translates it is Fresh Salmon). Given my failure in French with the hotel reservation, I asked the server. He confirmed my suspicion and offered three options for the accompanying pasta. I chose spaghetti and was delighted. A light creamy white sauce was loaded up with chunks of salmon and then tossed in the spaghetti. This is one I’ll try at home. Back at the hotel, I succumbed to a nap; however, this was a power nap that kept me up until 2 AM. This scenario will not work on the tour!

Overnight - Hotel Imilchil, Marrakech, Morocco:

FRI, MAY 06, 2022 found me sleeping in until 10 AM. I went to breakfast but only had coffee. I guess the salmon and pasta was still with me. Late afternoon, I was back at Cappuccino’s – this time for salmon pizza. It resembled the brick oven pizza served in the United States, but I had not seen a brick oven in the open-air kitchen. It was tasty but not as much as the pasta. That dish was a winner! I wanted to be well-rested for relocation day and for meeting my travelling companions. Shortly after I retired, the people upstairs decided some furniture needed to be slid across the tile floor to a different location. Eventually, they were satisfied, and I fell to sleep.

Overnight - Hotel Imilchil Hotel, Marrakech, Morocco


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