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Well this was the most exotic trip I may ever go on (although some people act like I went to Ohio rather than Morocco). I had wanted to combine Morocco with Portugal years ago but that never happened and since fares on Iberia were pretty good to Madrid, this seemed like the time to do it. Tom was the traveling guinea pig again, not expecting to go to Spain much less Morocco. Flights went smoothly except for Easyjet (for the Madrid-Marrakech portions) dicking me around with my carry-on and making me pay more to check the bag than for the actual flight. The Marrakech airport was the kind where you get left off on the tarmac and our riad Dar Tasnime had arranged for someone to pick us up so that made life easy, can't imagine trying to find our place in all the twists and turns of Marrakech. Just driving in amongst the people, scooters, donkeys and markets on the street was crazy.
We had a nice place for 79€ including a breakfast of various breads, juice and tea. Not a real hotel where someone's around to answer questions at a front desk at any point but a nice space and you definitely felt like you were in Morocco. There was a mosque close to us and you'd hear the call to prayer early in the morning (and throughout the day). We rested a bit and headed out to the more modern part of town which is where the bars are. Tried a couple spots then came back to hit the big nightly market, Djemaa el Fna. Tourists and locals alike all looking for something to eat, watching snake charmers and musicians, getting fresh squeezed OJ and great tea, shopping, etc. We went for the lamb and the sheep's head/parts. When in Rome... It was okay, no need to have it again. The tea with the meal was awesome as was the solo tea stand (full food report here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/693062?tag=boards;topic-693062). You have to be hard assed with everyone wanting you to eat at their place, buy their stuff, kids wanting you to give them money but it wasn't so bad. Tom got a kick out of me yelling "get out of here" after the 12th attempt at getting money from me and I laughed when a kid imitated his American accent yelling "Allez!".
Next nite was a swanky meal at the Palais Jad Mahal in a ritzier part of town, after trying to get a drink at one of the many bars in the even ritzier Hotel la Mamounia but we were denied! Damn, not even allowed in the doorway (we didn't look *that * bad). We ate in almost darkness at PJM, brightened by ladies with candles balanced on their heads then belly dancers at the end of the meal. Went around the corner to Comptoire for more (but less pretentious) swankiness and belly dancing. This area is where the rich people hang out. Back in the other new part of town, we saw a bad cover band at Sugar Bar and weirdness all around at Africa Chic. Tom thinks the "ladies" were up to something.
Saw a bunch of sights around the city like the Palais el Badi, Jardins Majorelle, and met a Travbuddy guy Hassan who brought us to Palais de la Bahia, Marrakech Museum and some other markets where he found me some Moroccan rock, such as it is. Loved all of the tile on the buildings but you'd never say it was a pretty city; 90% of the buildings are a fleshy pink color, streets jammed, carriages for tourists with horses carrying their own shit (better than on the ground I guess), etc.. After being warned about getting kidnapped and "explosive diarrhea", I'm glad to report there were no repercussions of any kind. A very interesting three nights.
Arrived in Madrid late Thurs. afternoon and got to our "real" Hotel Sieteislas in a great location, with sex shops and street walkers adding some pizzazz. Not seedy feeling at all, these gals were hanging right off the main drag. Kind of nice to be in a big modern hotel without guys yelling by the kiosk outside our window or getting ready to pray. We started by knocking off a bunch of places on my list beginning with the legendary Bar Cock, est. 1921. 8PM is when the doors open so only a couple others were there, very uncool time to go out in Madrid. Had a nice bartender make us a classic sidecar and Manhattan then to the Gin Club for gin martinis as big as your head, then a great dinner at Las Tres Manolas and stumbling upon a cool place Ernie's, more walking to long time rock bar La Via Lactea/Milky Way then the excellent Louie Louie. Which was pretty quiet but they played excellent garage rock in a cool space. A lot for our first nite.
Tom couldn't keep up with me anymore so I left him the next morning to check out the soccer stadium while I record shopped. Got lots of helpful hints from Nacho at Commercial Records and nice guys at Bangladesh and Babel in another part of town. Went to the famous Prado Museum and saw great stuff at the Thyssen. That nite we got early tapas at El Mercado de la Reina by our hotel then saw a show at Excalibur in the south part of town with Motociclone. Decent show but damn, those Spaniards smoke a lot. Then back to the happening Malasaña part of town where tons of kids were hanging out by the subway and people were selling beers on the street. Madrid may have New York beat as the city that never sleeps (heck, Marrakech has Boston beat in that regard). We stopped by another garagey bar, Groovy, cool place but jammed with youngsters.
Sat. was a walk to the ritzy part of town, Salamanca, then thru the pretty El Retiro park, then to the La Latina section to meet Tom for tapas. That night's entertainment was a nice dinner down the street at In Situ then to long time rock club the Wurlitzer Ballroom, just a two min walk from our hotel. We caught locals The Reducers and Barcelona band The Capaces, which was the best show we saw. Sun. morning the constant going out was getting to me but I got myself to the El Rastro flea market and wandered around the various streets filled with clothes, furniture and junk.
Got Tom then we took the 30 min train trip to Toledo, the walled city that was once the capitol. Beautiful place, wish I'd set aside more time for that since wandering around the maze of streets took a long time (combined with a stop for our not so great lunch), so we never even got to a museum or inside a church. After relaxing for a bit back at the hotel, we hit a couple of swanky bars (including Ølsen whose sister restaurant we went to in Buenos Aires), then the casual Acme then saw a French screamo band at the Wurlitzer and talked to the guy running their label who gave me some music for the station, then another bar Costello around the
Mon. was more wandering around the city, stuffing my face with pastries, stopping by the beautiful food market, ending with a nice meal at El Senador (food report here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/700766?tag=boards;topic-700766)/ We made a quick stop to the Bajos De Arguelles metal complex which was quiet on a Mon. nite and unfortunately, the bar Lemmy (and TNT) was closed but we stopped at a Viking looking Ragnarok. Then one final cocktail at the fancy Del Diego and back to Boston the next day. All in all, a great trip.