Chefchaouen, the blue pearl of north Morocco.

Chefchaouen is the perfect day or weekend trip on your travels in Morocco.

Famous for the blue painted buildings, more recently featured on French Montana’s ‘Famous’ videoclip

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNHkxOU7zz8 that was filmed in the souks and circular main road around the town sitting on the mountain side. The 33 year old  moroccan-american artist is from the Casablanca and often pays tribute to his love for Morocco.

Back to Chefchaouen, the town is easily navigable by foot, but not wheelchair users, or for those with mobility difficulties. Built on the mountain side, souk and town streets climb up and down through the mountain curves, offering exquisite views over the town and the landscape beyond.

Chefchaouen is one of the easier villages to travel through Morocco. It is small enough to walk through in a day, and big enough that you can find another photogenic corner to help you on your dream-scape of what life may be like in the town, or in-fact to those that grow up in the alleys and buildings, protected by the elements and near everything else.

Here are some of the photos from our visit, we arrived on a cloudy and rainy day, yet it was also wonderful to see the town in non-postcard conditions, a different, and what felt more genuine side of life there. Rain gently encouraged us to go into the local cafe, not the tourist ones, and to get lost around the back streets to a school, trying to find a way through to the main square.

Chefchaouen’s location is equally impressive nesting on the mountain feet, reminds you of the perspectives on life which is so easy to forget when bouncing about between places in a city.

You could say Chefchaouen becomes the little blue light, twilight, dream-scape of adventure.

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Driving around in Westfalen

Christmas in Germany, through the markets and shops, the streets decorated with pine trees, lights out letting the natural phenomena shed light as clouds, day and dusk allow.

Yet the most fascinating part in the journey is driving from place to place.

Unlike the English quintessential village feel, the countryside in Westfalia is a mix of wild growth areas and farmed fields, wind turbines and easyness, in the sense of a down to earth grounded kind.

Maclaren dumped in East London

We are aware London is the haven for money laundering and a gateway to tax free heavens, but is it becoming more like Dubai than we are aware of?

I walked out at 6am to unchain my bike to find a maclaren left on the curve of my street.

I live in a nice part of the east end near the wharf non excluding drug dealing and rowdiness vibes depending the time and night of the week.

Last night, there was a party of very affluent Chinese kids on one end of the street, and a joint smoking around the cars dub party at the other.

Seeing the Maclaren in the morning came as no surprise, either of the groups can afford to scrape enough to hire or buy one.

Yes alone the car was impounded, just as I returned at 9.30am, slowly gathering a small crowd of early risers and security guards.

The parking attendant was as surprised. In his whole career, he’d never seen anything like it.

That brought me to an article I had read about Dubai’s airport doubling up as a super expensive car cemetery. Hundreds of cars left in a rush, for one way flights out of the country, often for very dodgy reasons.

My question in all of this is simple. Why dodgy men have a thing about super expensive and fast cars, beyond the bling factor.

Is there a club of angry men that buys and dumps super expensive cars, like a society, encouraging others to do so? And if so, how do I shut this thing down?

I’m conscious that they are a bad example, for both groups that were partying last night on my road.

Cemetery walk, at the Victorian Tower Hamlets

The Tower Hamlets cemetery is one of the seven ‘magnificent’ Victorian resting places remaining in London. They were created to settle the dangerously overcrowded parish cemeteries. Dracula was filmed at Highgate Cemetery.

DSC_3093.JPGMy local, the The Tower Hamlets cemetery, is located in the back streets of the heart of the Eastend between Mile End and Bow Station. It has certainly gone to sleep and woken up to the sound of the Bow Bells for many years. Not surprisingly for an Eastend lock-in, it is open 24 hours a day.

In the past I have attended art events and film festivals,  including the Shuffle festival curated by Danny Boyle. My visit recently was made in search of a contemplating walking space away from the hectic pace of a Monday mid morning and in search of clean air and quietness.

What I like about this cemetery is it’s capacity to disorient you and draw you off track between the thick growing foliage, and fallen gravestones.

DSC_3091.JPGI love how the place smells fresh in contrast to the rest of the wonderfully diverse smells in the Eastend. I love how it is equally shared by hooded youth, trendy dog walkers, old cockneys and the odd walker, like myself, just taking the green goth-icky scenery in.

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The cemetery is now a nature reserve looked after by a friendly society, looking out for the wildlife residing in the woods. They hold bat watching events in true Gothic style.

This reminds me of references of the tours at Highgate cemetery, that coincidentally I discovered that on occasions were run by well acclaimed author Audrey Niffernegger who’s one familiar book is Her Fearful Symmetry, a ghost story, is also based in the cemetery surrounding area. Ghostly enough, only two weeks after learning that she gives site seeing trips around the cemetery, one if her books found its way in front of me on a very rare visit to an Eastend charity shop. Good enough reason to write this, right?

There is an uncanny beauty in the ‘Magnificent Seven’. I have not heard of other cities’ stories of overflowing burials, to the extend of contaminating water and grounds.

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Victorian Eastend couldn’t have been a happy place, non-the-less for the very unpleasant presence of many evil and opportunist men, without forgetting Jack the Ripper, who roamed the streets freely only a mile or so down the road.

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Being able to walk through a place that hosted so much pain once, to soothe the pain of city living in the 21st century is a gift that I rest assured was not planned originally.

I can’t say enough, thank you.

 

 

It’s Carnaval again

For anyone finding themselves in Trinidad for carnival this time of the year, there is one thing you will be doing for sure: drinking all day, and some more.
Even without the alcohol, Trini carnival is a mind boggling experience. You would have passed the long queues at arrivals at Port of Spain International without being fleeced by some dodgy border official, through to the non descriptive arrivals hall, maybe welcomed by the sound of steel pan, if you are lucky.
Finding yourself in Port of Spain or Arima or San Fernando, in the morning, among the peeps taking the slow moving vibes about their business, requires a couple of cheeky doubles on your way to your business of visiting mas camps, passing steel pan yards, buying tickets for all inclusive fetes in town.

The fetes would have been happening for over a month prior and mas camps are just making small size adjustments, with hours before bands hitting the road.

J’ouvert, the morning of carnival. Fear the blue devils blowing fires and hustling you with their tricks. Start 1am at St James. Dress in your worse, you will land somewhere around downtown even worse for wear, at sunrise or well after. The only things you need: drink, money to buy more drink, and someone to give you a ride home to your nearest friendly friend’s breakfast welcome and bed. Just don’t follow some guys up to Laventille, there are other places to drive through for that waterfall sobering bath.

With Jouvert done you are well on your way through the Trini carnival experience. If you can, climb up the hills of Paramin for their local jab jab Moko Jumbies J’ouvert. It is really out of this world walking between the village corners for yet another jab performance literally crawling down or up the steepest roads and paths you will ever see. If not grown up in the north coast, only drive in a jeep and with a local driver. Family cars driven by tourists abandon all hope. Taxi maxi, privately hired is another respectable method of arrival. I fell in love at jab in Paramin.

North Coast is not too far if you want to wash the petrol and paint off your skin with a sea bath. Just don’t drink and drive.

Carnival Monday and Tuesday are kiddies and adults days respectively. I don’t think there is much difference other than the kiddies go through town from what I remember whereas adults move faster to the Savannah and St Anne’s. Unquestionably you will see the best, biggest, most elegantly handcrafted pieces of mas on those days. For medium and large costumes the sheer weight of them on the masqueraders is a notable achievement in itself. When I first went to Trini Peter Minshal was the winning name of masquerade. Incredibly really talented artists have made Trinidad their home. Chris Ofili and Peter Doig are some among those.

I always thought of Ash Wednesday as an anti climax, not for one cause I stayed in the North Coast were thousands of people descent to hang out en mass by any sound system audible from anytime 8am onwards, to also whine and drink.

Then a fight kicks off, and another, so less people hang around and it all becomes sort of local again. Handed back to the really slow paced sunny humid sweet tasting bake n shark self. For the small but safe surf, head to Las Cuevas.