One of my first rules of traveling, of writing, of eating, of sleeping, of everything: make use of the time that you’ve got. I love having a full time job and a home base, but a full time job in the US means that I don’t have very many vacation days to use.
Which brings me to my weekend trips. I take a lot of weekend trips and I sometimes wonder if it’s even worth the effort to go through the time and energy it takes to plan a trip to a new place if I’m only going to be there for 72 hours or so.But for now, weekends are what I have. I save many of my precious vacation days for Christmas so that I can fly back from New York to Los Angeles to spend time with my family over the holidays, so I don’t have very many days left after that.
And so, a couple of weekends ago, I decided to take advantage of a long holiday weekend + 1 vacation day so that I could spend 72 hours in a completely new city: Fez, Morocco.
I feel like I fit a crazy amount into 72 hours, but even so, I also slept a lot and read on the rooftop, I had leisurely breakfasts and dinners, and I didn’t feel like I was rushing around from place to place.
I’m grateful that I had the sense to ask my hotel about hiring a tour guide for me (and guys, it was so inexpensive: $25 for a private tour guide for 5 hours). The Fez medina is essentially a maze and I think that if I had tried to wander around un-escorted, I would have spent most of my time miserably lost. My guide was fantastic – he grew up in Fez and knew every person we came across, even people running past us on the streets.And the streets — so narrow and such tall walls. I would have been lost forever. Many of the streets seemed like they didn’t even have names, and if they did, I obviously wouldn’t have been able to understand them.
People were leading their donkeys around dropping off deliveries; women — and only women — were grocery shopping; there was a man selling live snails from a basket in the market and he offered me a handful of them for a discount, which was generous, but I took a raincheck.
There are different souks (markets) for various things: copper, food, textiles, leather. My guide took me to the tannery, which smells so strongly of urine and animal hides that you’re immediately handed a sprig of mint when you enter, so that you can hold it to your nose as you wander through. I was also taken to the factory where those famous, beautiful rugs are woven, and I met the two ladies weaving upstairs. The man working there tried to get me to haggle with him, but I am probably the world’s worst haggler (one time in Central America I was even haggling against myself accidentally. Jackie travels.)
My guide loves to take photos, apparently, so he asked me to pose several times throughout the tour and took some photos of me with my camera, which was very nice of him. I don’t usually have many photos of myself when I’m traveling alone.He’s traveled a lot as a tour guide and so we talked about our favorite places we’ve ever seen. He told me that he’s a huge fan of the US (mostly Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon), but I think he was only saying that because I’m American. We also both raved about Switzerland, because you really can’t beat Switzerland.
And he was so energetic and excited about everything, even though he must give these tours all the time. He kept stopping abruptly to go, “JACKIE! LOOK AT THESE STREETS! HAVE YOU EVER SEEN STREETS THESE NARROW?” or “HERE, HAVE A TASTE OF THIS! HAVE YOU EVER TASTED ANYTHING LIKE IT?” and then he’d grab something from a nearby vendor and hand it to me, and I ate it without asking any questions, which is probably why I had stomach problems for a week after I returned.
It was a quick glimpse of a complex country, a place that obviously requires much more than just 72 hours to fully understand and appreciate. But 72 hours was what I had to work with. And I’ve found that the hours feel longer if you fill them right.