Not only was it the cheapest flight we could find from Sao Paolo but also the most convenient, as we had a 24 hours transit at Casablanca waiting another airplane. Diner, 4 stars hotel and breakfast offered by the flight company. So what for most people is a ‘no-go’ is for a low-cost backpacker a ‘can’t-refuse’. Another stamp on the passport an here we go for our “Blitz-visit”.
With a population of almost 5 million, Casablanca is the largest, most liberal and progressive of Morocco’s cities. Its past interactions with different cultures, -founded by Berber fishermen around the tenth century, used by the Phoenicians, Romans, Merenids, to be destroyed and rebuilt again by the Portuguese who abandoned it after an earthquake. Then rebuild again at the hand of a Moroccan sultan but plagued by Spanish traders who established trading bases there and to finally get occupied by the French in 1907-, taught this city to cope with change and evolution. Nothing in this city is truly endearing and that’s exactly the reason why you should visit it. You’ll get the right idea that nobody expects travelers as other cities already serve very well that purpose. Casablanca has a “medina” or walled old city of winding alleys, except here it’s smaller than most and quite run-down, with most shops devoted to day-to-day items that are of little interest to the tourist so do not expect immense labyrinthic medinas like Rabat, Fez or Marrakech have. It does not offer a walk through the High Atlas and neither overnight camel ride through wavy, deep reddish-orange dunes. It’s not as characteristic as the blue city of Chefchaouen. It’s the unpretentiousness together with modernity, Moresque and Art Deco architecture that are the true delight.
Wandering through the city a traveler gets to see the real Morocco and not the well prepared tourist theaters as in other towns. We haggle for some leather souvenirs without the typical scenes. At the Medina we try olives, dried fruits and spices without having to buy any. The unforgiving nature of time forces us to go back to the hotel, the airport and eventually home. Casablanca, it was nice to meet and greet and do not worry sooner or later we’ll be back!
- The Old Medina is nice cozy
- The Hassan II mosque, one of the biggest mosques in the world and just at the waterside. Unlike most mosques in Morocco, non-Muslims are allowed inside, but only on guided tours for 10€ a person.
- Mohammed V Boulevard, lined with buildings from the 1920s and 1940s, (2km from the Old Medina)
- Square of Mohamed V
After discovering Sao Paolo, Marcella and Antonio take us to Sorocaba where we are baptized to the Brazilian lifestyle. We first thought that we would go to the ‘Parque Natural Municipal da Agua Vermelha Joao Cancio Pereira’ or Sorocaba’s Contemporary Art Museum, the Catedral Metropolitana de Sorocaba, the museum of railroad or maybe even the spectacular ‘Jardim botánico Irmaos Vilas Boas’. But no no… at Marcella’s parents we are about to find out what’s Brasilian churrasco all about. Brasil, as many other nations, is proud of its food. While each has a different approach, Brazil and Argentina both claim to be South America’s barbeque champion. Despite the discussion of naming it churrasco or asado, the cuts and the accompaniments, some things are simply the same; the ogre-sized quantities of meat which is best appreciated at a laidback pace. We can easily state that the preparing and the cooking itself is 90% of the experience. Onions spiked on an épée are carefully turned above the vivid fire while an infinite assortment of sizzling meats are judiciously been looked after.
In the mean while the table fills up with all kind of vegetables cut rightfully by the experienced hand of the ‘avó’. With a ‘cerveja Skol’ in the hand a wood oven is lit for the grilled vegetables side dishes.
There is no sitting down at this bacchanal, so as we are talking the wooden cuttings board passes by with all kind of meats nicely cut. Another Skol later the same cutting board passes by with other meat and some grilled vegetables.
Maybe a sporadic fork searches its way to some grilled peppers but for as far as I know seems cutlery just an option. Whilst a new batch of meat is getting to its point, Marcella’s father gives me a private tour on the property explaining all the tricky parts of having and maintaining an orchid garden. With my limited Portuguese I can figure out that it must be very complicated. So here goes my tribute to a man with a passion for beauty and nature. ( Just a tiny selection of the photos I made…)
But before all the Skol, before being part of a Brazilian Churrasco, even before striking any match we went for a moment downtown to take a look at ‘Amabili‘, the patchwork shop of Marcella’s mother, a cute atelier where creativity has no frontiers and where colors brighten the grey city routine. Definitely a place to stop by and inhale some positive energy.
Thanks Antonio, Marcella and all the family for opening your hart and house.
It’s a long ride from Misiones, Argentina till the border. Once passed the border everything changes because this ain’t Argentina anymore… this is Brasil. A nation of superlatives if we talk distances. First we cross the plateau of Guarapuava. The altitudes here vary from 1200 to 900 meters. In this area the original vegetation (Tropical Forest and Araucaria Forest) almost no longer exists. In its place are plantations and pastures. Then the bus finds its way through the area of Ponta Gross, where the altitudes vary between 1200 and 300 meters. The relief is undulating and the vegetation is composed of Araucarias and fields. With the Araucaria Forest endlessly escorting us a long way through the plateau of Curitiba we climb again to altitudes between 1300 and 850 meters. A short stop at the state capital Curitiba and the ride continues leaving Paraná behind us and entering in the state of São Paulo. Although we have 861km behind us, we still have to cross the Serra Do Mar and do another another 417km. It’s this long ride that gives us the chance to get used to the idea that we are at the end of our particular Panamerican Highway journey. And how to end this travel better than a couple of relax days at our local friends Marcela and Antonio. After a 20 hours bus ride we arrive late in São Paulo so we stay the night there in a lovely high floor apartment with stunning night views of this colossal metropolis.
In a 12 million megalopolis as São Paulo pick your fights and only choose some of the things to do/see or do as us and just walk. Just walk this way and then that street and go right at this corner, cross Paulista Avenue at any pedestrian crossing and turn to the left at any other casual side street… loose and find yourself over and over again.
We simply love it. No stress with street maps or opening times of buildings. Suddenly we are walking in a street full of graffiti’s, stand before a church that once stood tall above all but now is overgrown by crystal skyscrapers or find ourselves gaping at the impresive São Paulo Metropolitan Cathedral. Or how about unexpectedly entering an underground bookstore astutely called: “Passagem Literaria Da Consolação”?
Nonetheless there are some things that a traveler must have done in São Paulo. Street markets are all over the city and offer an endless variety of products. Drink, at any time of the day, a Caipirinha in one of the overpopulated bars and feel the vibe of Brasil.
We try all tropical fruits we are able to as we might not find them again in other countries. Each corner offers something to try of São Paulo’s notorious street food, bites such as Coxinha, Pastel, Kibe, Mandioca Frita,… are cheap and keep us energized. It’s our perfect way to try a bit of everything! It’s our way to feel the essence of this vast city.