Josh and I finished part one of our Amsterdam trip (we are returning on the 26th for 2 more days) with a canal boat tour, then made our way to the airport by train. The Schiphol airport was as close to deserted as I have ever seen, which was nice, but our flight to Casablanca was somehow pretty full. I have to pause here and say a word about the food on Royal Air Maroc, it is quite remarkable. Remarkable in the sense that is bar none the worst airline food around. And that is saying something. It seems they inherited a bunch of frozen dinners from other airlines leftover from the 70s, and are reheating them until they run out. Their fleet of aircraft is likewise from the same era, so perhaps they got a deal on both together. Once we arrived in Casablanca, I negotiated through the highly chaotic scene at the cell phone service booth (these places always have tons of people screaming and waving their arms) and walked away with all the cell phone service, texting, and (most importantly) unlimited internet we will need on our road trip here. After that we went to pick up our rental car, another adventure since the guy was not at the booth. I had to call a number and he seemed kind of pissed that he had to come give us the car we reserved. Then he tried to change the price, then told us we had to pay cash (we refused), then gave us a car that had no gas in the tank and told us that was normal. My advice to those of you wanting to rent a car in Morocco in the future: go with one of the big name companies only, even though they cost a lot more. In any event, we remained cool as cucumbers, gassed up the car, and made it to our hotel in the center of Rabat. Tomorrow we will explore Rabat a little before moving on to Meknes.
Today we got up and noticed that it was blissfully not raining, so we took a walk to the Nieuewmarket and had breakfast, then walked down to the newly restored Rijksmuseum. It was closed to the public for something like 10 years while they did the renovation, and I had never been before, so it seemed like a good bet. And I have to say, the place was fantastic. The explanations and context for the work were very well done, and really served to reel the viewer in. The Vermeers and Rembrandts were described in a much more interesting way to me than ever before. The only negative thing was that the museum was a little over crowded, and it was hard to get a closeup look at many of the paintings. One of my all time favorite rooms was the library (see pics below), which like the rest of the museum had been lovingly restored. After that we met Huw for lunch and a lovely walk back to the center by way of the Pijps neighborhood, a couple of parks and markets. It started to rain again near the end of our walk, so we hurried back to the hotel. And after a short nap, we went out to meet the gang for a pretty good Indonesian meal and many beers at Spijker bar until just a short while ago. I am now beat and heading to bed.
From AMS 14
Although somewhat in need of sleep after our very short flight from NYC (only about 6 hours, we had a hell of a tailwind and at one point were close to breaking the speed of sound), and despite the rain, Josh and I went exploring a bit in Amsterdam this morning. Because this is Josh’s first time in Amsterdam (my 20th or so), he naturally wanted to do some of the main touristy things. We started at the oldest building in Amsterdam, the Oude Kirk, that happened to be very close to our hotel. Then Josh wanted to go to one of the must-see sights for any Jew visiting Amsterdam, and honestly, I hadn’t been to the Anne Frank House since my first visit in 1989, so I figured why not. A lot has actually changed since then, they have expanded the museum with a swanky new building right next door to the house, and there were a number of things about the living quarters themselves that I had quite forgotten, such as them never letting light in, and feeling quite claustrophobic. Add to that all the documents and testimonies, and the whole experience was quite moving all over again. After that, we wandered over to the oldest wooden house in Amsterdam, that sits on a beautiful mediaeval courtyard, and had a strange little chat with two women minding the church there. First she spoke to me in French, then English, then seemed surprised that I was American, and stared at me for several long, unblinking minutes after informing her that despite not being a Christian, I was indeed interested in seeing her church.
I know. It has been so long since I have posted, you assumed I was dead or kidnapped. But no, just super busy with work and life. But that time has come again, I am leaving with my old travel buddy (and cousin) Josh, our plane takes off in just a few short hours. We will first head to Amsterdam for a couple of days, then back to Morocco where we will visit a few places that are new to both of us (Rabat, Meknes, Volubilis) before heading to Marrakech, where my work project continues. I will of course be blogging the whole adventure, so stay tuned.