Tag Archives: morocco

Moorish Musings

View of the Alhambra from an Albaicin terraza

If I was ever going to live in Europe again, I would definitely think about southern Spain. Having just spent another glorious week there – in beautiful Granada, Andalucía – I’ve been struck once more by its fascinating history, vibrant culture, and wonderfully laid-back atmosphere.

This time, I stayed with my good friend Paula, a writer who has a house in the very heart of the Albaicín, the old Moorish quarter of Granada. A perfect fusion of Spanish and North African cultures, the Albaicín’s rabbit warren of narrow cobbled alleyways, whitewashed walls draped with pomegranates, and dramatic views of the mighty Alhambra palace quickly recaptured my heart.

The Albaicín is truly an assault on the senses. In addition to its visual beauty, a cacophony of sounds punctuates the day. Pealing church bells jangle away periodically across the city. Laughing schoolchildren clatter down the alleys, calling to each other excitedly in high-pitched Spanish. Battered scooters vroom about intermittently, as residents expertly navigate the maze of steep narrow paths. Then in the evening, stillness – a soporific calm that envelopes the soul, broken only by the low strum of a flamenco guitar or clarinet somewhere close by.

Piononos and coffee – yum!

Then there’s the food. This time, I tasted the delight that is one of Granada’s signature pastelesthe pionono: a thin layer of pastry rolled into a cylinder, infused with super-sweet syrup and topped with toasted cream. What a treat. It’s rich and indulgent, a guilty pleasure – just like Granada itself! Impossible to have just one, though…

And oh, the tapas! On a sunny Sunday afternoon, Paula and I sat in one of the Albaicín’s picturesque squares watching the world go by with ice-cold Alhambra beers. With every order came a plate of delicious tapas: prawns, white fish, risotto, lamb morsels, all beautifully cooked and presented. Even more amazing was the bill – the beers were a mere 2 Euros apiece and the tapas were free! God, I love this place.

This was a woefully short visit, but even as I boarded the plane to head back to Melbourne, I knew I would return. Soon. Very soon.

101 Amazing Adventures: Charity Trekking

Jeanie (third from left) and Russ (far right) celebrate the end of their Morocco adventure with fellow trekkers

Back in November, Big Earth producer Russ Malkin and I were part of an amazing adventure, trekking across the Sahara Desert near the Morocco/Algeria border. For eight days, we and about thirty other hardy souls crossed undulating orange sand dunes, parched plains and steep rocky crags on foot, camping by night in Bedouin tents under the Saharan stars.

Along the way, I filmed and photographed the adventure and some of my photos from the expedition feature in Russ’s new book, just released, Big Earth: 101 Amazing Adventures (it’s Adventure 91).

Apart from having a brilliant adventure, the purpose of the trek was to raise money for a good cause – in this case UNICEF.

This kind of trip, combining fundraising with adventure travel, is becoming increasingly popular – and I can honestly say it was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had. It ticked all the boxes of a real adventure – we were travelling well off the beaten track and really roughing it! And undertaking such a challenge for charity meant that when it got hard (and believe me, it was no walk in the park!) we were all compelled to keep going.

So grab a copy of 101 Amazing Adventures to be inspired for your own adventure: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Big-Earth-101-Amazing-Adventures/dp/0593066111.

And visit the UNICEF website http://www.unicef.org.uk/Fundraise/Get-active/Trekking/Namibia-trek/ to sign up for their next Africa trek in September (hurry, though, places are limited!). I promise you, it’s a life-changing experience that will stay with you forever.