A Long.. Long.... Long..... Long email from a friend...

Joined
Feb 4, 2006
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On a Big Island Down Under...
I was cleaning out my email folder that I let pile up over the years and come across this email from a friend of mine that I use to work with here in Australia. Back then he left his job to go a live and work in England and to do a lot of traveling through Europe for 5 years or so. After a bunch of years over there is has since return back home, but this email from him may be very long but I remember that when I first read it I had trouble staying seated on my chair... :rolleyes:...

If you have 10+ minutes to spare, it's worth a read. this guy has such a dry sense of humor you just couldn't describe.... Just have a read & decide for yourself....:biggrin:


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Hello

I hope you are all well & ready for Christmas & New Year. Now that it has been a couple of months since my last notoriously-long email I’m going to drown you with my last group email for the year about my travels to Spain, Morocco…and being one of the lucky 20,000 people to attend Led Zeppelin’s (alleged ‘one off’) reunion concert.

I went to Spain & Morocco at the end of September for a couple of weeks with a mate from Australia. The visit to Morocco was the main reason for the trip with a few days in Spain beforehand added on for flight arrivals, Tapas meals, Sangría, Siestas & relaxing.

We flew into Barcelona, spent a couple of days getting lost in the Gothic quarter alleyways, watched all the street theatre on La Ramblas, checked out food markets selling caged birds, live tortoises & crabs and tried to absorb all the city’s colour. Went to Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia (Cathedral), my mate seeing it for the very first time and wondering open-mouthed in shock at what the hell it actually was and how many drugs Gaudi was on when he designed it & me trying to absorb it all and wondering when or if they are ever going to finish it (current estimate is 2026). I think it is the coolest church anywhere…the Notre Dame, St Paul’s, St Peter’s & all those other famous churches having nothing on Gaudi’s masterpiece. It looks moss covered, alive and organic like it has grown out of the ground…it should be featured on a gardening show : perhaps instructions on how you too can grow your own La Sagrada Familia. I find Spain sooooo much more relaxed than France & Italy where I spent most of my time last year (…and being more relaxed than London goes without saying) and it’s a lot more fun! Everyone seems to be smiling & laughing a lot more, they don’t seem to have the ‘Thou-shalt-not-leave-the-house-unless-dressed-to-the-nines’ rule that 90% of Italians seem to have to obey and they don’t have the French people’s stuffy attitudes. And the deceptively alcoholic Sangría also helps…we spent our second day in a beachside café drinking Sangría, great weather, great company and great drinks before returning to the city centre to unexpectedly walk into the annual ‘Festes de la Merce’ festival : locals walking in a parade through the streets of the Gothic quarter with very large painted heads and bodies, people on stilts, flares and fireworks to shock my drunken mind awake and castellations – people (mainly kids) climbing up on one another performing headstands to make ‘castles’ 3 or 4 bodies high. I have absolutely no idea what the purpose of the festival was and still don’t (can anybody help?)…the Lonely Planet notes that it is the ‘city’s biggest party’ but what was surprising was the minimal lack of tourists…at times it seemed that we were the only foreigners there. We certainly didn’t know about the festival nor plan to attend so walking into town in the middle of it was the end to a Perfect Day.

The other city we visited in Spain was the Southern city of Granada nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountain range & home to the famous Islamic fortress the Alhambra. Beautiful town, fresh mountain air, labarynthian old Muslim quarter, a bizarre situation with our accommodation’s 65yo landlady where she made a pass at me which I brushed off (I had to - she was married), more Sangría, great food…..and….. snails….what the HELL is going on with Spanish snails!?? I’m not particularly adventurous with food & don’t normally order anything particularly exciting but a friend on this mailing list recently bragged about eating ‘Chilli fried Duck’s tongue’ in China and I’d decided that with the undoubtedly exotic food which would be on offer in Morocco I would try to outdo him on this trip so this quest, combined with trying to show off to my mate & fueled by a little too much Sangría led to my decision to order the relatively harmless entrée dish of snails at our dinner in Granada. I was thinking of French snails : 3 or 4 very large snails on a plate, no big deal right? Easy! Even an unadventurous eater like myself could survive 3 or 4 snails. However, instead of 3 or 4 very large snails I got a bowl filled with at least 40 odd small snails in some sort of mushroom flavoured soup. It was like something out of an Indiana Jones movie…me sitting there wide mouthed in shock staring at the bowl whilst my mate laughed, my grand plans of conquering the art of eating disgusting-sounding cuisine in tatters. It was all very embarrassing…I certainly didn’t want to eat that many snails yet I could hardly return the plate with most of them uneaten….and since the snails were so small it took me 5mins to actually get one out of the shell. The snails didn’t taste that bad (though the sickening texture of the snails made me feel queasy) but I figured that the difficulty of getting them out of the shell would serve as a good excuse for returning the plate as I was on a rate of eating 1 snail/5 minutes due to the difficulty of getting them out of their shells and had over 40 snails left in the bowl : eating them would take the rest of the night. But, alas, just when I was ready to call the waiter over my mate discovered the lost ‘Art of Extracting Spanish Snails From their Shells’ and decided to pile up a free plate with snails for me to cringe and wince through….the moral of this story is don’t order snails in Spain unless you really really really REALLY like them!

We got to Tangiers, Morocco the next day via Ferry, 3 hours to cross the 13km wide Strait of Gibraltar (we hugged the coast for most of the journey before sprinting across at the last minute). Tangiers, our introduction to Morocco is a mass of small white buildings shining in the sun & swarming with people & seagulls. We had an afternoon there before an overnight train trip & decided to check out Tangiers’ Medina (Medina = old traditional part of town : a mass of buildings & thin alleyways tightly squeezed mazelike between the town’s original walls). Walking into the Medina was an assault on the senses : people speaking/yelling in a variety of languages, fishmongers cutting up raw fish surrounded by flies, the blood washing down the gutter, pot & pan makers hammering away, cats everywhere searching for their next feed (the Moroccans keep cats to kill mice), smells that changed literally every metre from sewerage, to raw fish, to cooked meat, to sweet smelling pastries which would rival those in any cake store in Western Europe. It was very crowded, a tight squeeze, porters pushing carts along, donkeys being led along through very tight lanes and alleyways virtually none of which were wide enough for their volume of traffic let alone cars. The recent action movie ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ had a lot of scenes set & filmed in Tangiers. Whilst people may scoff at the unrealistic stunts and action scenes involving the main character Jason Bourne, ALL of the scenes including Bourne single-handedly beating up squads of bad guys/ breaking into CIA HQ/ strangling a 7 foot tall apelike bad guy with a teatowel & driving a police car backwards off a building are completely realistic when compared with the movie’s principle unrealistic scene – how Bourne was actually able to find his way around the Tangier’s Medina. It, along with every other Medina we visited in Morocco is a labyrinth, a black hole into which people enter but never come out. In 100 years time when every city in every country in the world is accessible by GPS/Satellite navigation the Arab World’s Medinas will still be black holes within those cities, no-go areas which are un-navigable.

I unintentionally solved the fact that we were lost in Tangiers by answering a local’s question of ‘where do you want to go’ thus accidentally hiring the services of a local student…that’s right, not a guide who would want money (as he assured us) but a student who wouldn’t want any money! ‘Mohammed’ as he called himself, machete scar on his neck, smashed up/rotten teeth & a ‘this-guy-is-very-dodgy’ greasy smile took us on a picturesque tour around the Tangiers’ Medina pointing out some ‘fascinating’ sights (all of which I forgot about within 20 minutes) and trying to take us to all his family’s/ extended family’s/friend’s/brother’s-girlfriend’s-cousin’s-pet cat’s-sister’s-owner’s-grandmother’s shops. This happened a lot in Morocco, everybody seems to be related to everybody else and tries to take you to their shop to buy something (thus presumably scoring them a commission of some sort). We heard every wild claim under the sun about the quality of the goods being sold, how they are being exported to fashionable shops in New York, how the Arabic carpets being sold would fetch wild prices if resold on ebay etc. etc. We got off rather lightly with ‘Mohammed’ – he only took us to 2 shops – one selling porcelain, the second selling spice products…I was reminded of KFC slogans & was tempted to ask the spice enthusiast lecturing us if he knew the answer to that question which has baffled generations of KFC fans – ‘Is it the herbs & spices or the way it’s cooked?’ but wanted to escape before he launched into another lecture. After further attempts to guide us into his ‘family’s’ shops Mohammed finished our guided tour of the Tangier’s Medina and guess what? Shock/horror! - He DID want some money for it!???

Next up was Marrakech, upon arrival we had to deal with the only people in Morocco more ruthless than Arabic carpet sellers – Taxi Drivers. Used Car Salesmen & Politicians the world over could learn something from Middle Eastern Taxi drivers – their enthusiastic battling with one another to get you to use their taxi, the Academy-Award acting performance given when they claim there is no way they could take you to your destination for less than double the price suggested by the Lonely Planet guide, the sad, forlorn, doe-eyed look in their eyes when they claim that they have a family to support, the look of pain and personal hurt when you ignore their taxi for another. And that’s not to mention their other qualities - their innate mathematical genius in being able to calculate the cost of taxi hire vs time & distance in their head (without the use of a meter) then multiplying the total by 2 or 3 upon reaching the destination, their inability in remembering directions in their hometown hence having to do picturesque yet time-consuming tours of their city, their ability to survive the taxi’s exhaust fumes emanating from beneath the dashboard whilst we were nearly passing out & their universal characteristic of somehow never having the right denomination note in change to give you thus with your limited amount of change you end up paying more than the actual fare.

Marrakech was great, though (in my opinion) ‘Morocco Lite’ compared to the other cities we visited. Palm trees, desert sand & red walled ramparts surrounding a surprisingly modern town. 1200yo Mosques 100m away from paved malls with ATMs. A place where expensive package tours go, rarely stray from their enclosed hotel pool, then perhaps venture out from their hotel & visit the Medina the afternoon before they leave so they can tell their friends back home they visited Morocco. But it was nice all the same & a gentle training course before the onslaught of Fes, a city we visited later. We still got hassled by every salesman or woman who saw us, from the Henna Tattoo ladies rushing after you and Henna-Tattooing people’s hand whilst they attempt to run away and then asking money for it (I felt like getting ‘I DO NOT WANT A HENNA TATTOO’ Henna-Tattooed on my forehead), the ‘rare’ mineral & rocks merchants who yell out the medical benefits of their products which range from (allegedly) curing baldness, the ability to make the purchaser incredibly attractive to the opposite sex & also products having potent aphrodisiac qualities ‘twice as powerful as Viagra’ - such yelled-out-claims the Arab World’s answer to spam email.

This trip was different to most of the other trips I’ve done, the others have been more about going to specific places to see specific things whereas Morocco (for me) was more about turning up to a place and walking around absorbing it all in and on this point it was far more interesting than most of the European locations I’ve visited, the Arabic World is far more alien to me than (obviously) anything in Europe but also the Asian countries I’ve been to. We went to Morocco in the middle of the Holy month of Ramadan where practicing Muslims must fast during daylight hours. Initially I thought it would be inconvenient as services/opening hours etc. are reduced but it was a real education – the Muslims had a specific time when they were allowed to eat in the evening (usually around 6pm) which when it arrived everyone (literally) ran off as if the school bell had sounded in order to have their (well deserved) dinner - even the Medina streets were deserted. A lot of the population seem to be awake during half of the night to eat and drink before and after daylight hours and to take part in prayers.....there were a lot of people (families etc.) chatting in the streets, kids playing etc. in the middle of the night…we heard calls to prayer broadcast by the Mosques in the bigger cities (an ultra cool sound in my opinion) and when we visited the small town of Chefchaouen later on in our trip there was a guy walking through the streets beating a massive drum, like some escapee from a marching band. As a consequence of their extended nightlife during Ramadan a lot of the shop keepers seemed or actually were asleep in their shops or helped out at the neighbouring shop - everyone taking turns to catch a nap somewhere....a bit like the working for the government in Australia.

The most exciting city we visited was Fes, a maelstrom of smells, noise, people and 9400(!!???) alleyways…., the largest continuous car-free urban zone in the world & probably the most intimidating place I’ve ever been. The ‘main’ streets of the Medina are about a car width wide, filled with so many people walking back & forth (sometimes with carts and/or even (trying to) drag their donkeys through the chaos) that you get swept along with the crowd rather than walk of your own free will. The rest of the thousands of streets and alleyways are all a lot thinner, down to only 1m wide. I thought Venice last year was the biggest maze in the World but Fes is like a floor plan of Venice, multiplied by 100 then folded, torn, screwed up then marinated in brown sludge, it’s the black hole that all the other black holes are scared of…God knows how anybody ever finds their way around in it…Osama Bin Laden could be living in the middle of the Fes Medina and nobody would know, I wouldn’t be surprised if Elvis is alive and living in there. I walked around the Fes Medina for a day by myself following a sign-posted tour route set up by the Moroccan Tourist Authority…and still got lost, spent the afternoon doing laps of a 5km round portion of one of the tour routes wondering if I would ever find my way out. I could have paid one of the local kids some money to guide me out of there but where is the challenge in that?

Rounding off our trip of Morocco was a stay of a few days in the gentle Mountain town of Chefchaouen the only place we went to in Morocco that I’d call ‘relaxing’, the few tourists there mainly consisting of Hippie Westerners, drug addict written all over their bodies (why they would want to write such an obvious word over every inch of their exposed skin is beyond me) who stay in Chefchaouen to sample the local specialty produce – ‘Kif’ (Marijuana) – I got offered it 27 times in 3 days to the point where the dealers knew me by sight and since they had (eventually) worked out I wasn’t interested then tried to steer me into their ‘family’s’ shops (insert groan) – and then finally we finished our Morocco trip in Casablanca.

When I tell people I’ve been to Casablanca they often express interest asking what it was like, expecting an exotic stylish city to match the famous movie of the same name….it isn’t….it’s a complete $**thole, the most disgusting & unappealing place we went to.. dirt, smog & trash everywhere…the local authorities obviously ‘frankly don’t give a damn’ about cleaning it up – if they did clean it up some of the city would be amazing : especially the beautiful beaches which are currently surrounded by lifeless grey concrete buildings. Casablanca did have one saving grace which we discovered, a discovery of such shockingly epic proportions that we are surely in line to receive some sort of Nobel award next year for our discoveries: we found a beachside McDonalds restaurant that was a) clean (!!???), b) serving edible food(!!!???) and c) shockingly appearing to be the ‘place to hang out’ for all the local ‘in/trendy’ kids(!!!!!!!?????) Yes, rather than being the local haven of salmonella and populated by couples wearing matching 7XL size ‘I Love Melbourne’ T-Shirts the Casablanca beachside McDonalds was one of the cleanest restaurants I’ve ever been to!?? We sat out by the beach for a few hours (there really wasn’t much else to do as all the other beachside restaurants/cafes were closed for the holy month of Ramadan). When 6pm hit Maccas started serving up the soup to celebrate the finish of the day’s fasting to any Muslims walking in & that’s when all the hip young kids started turning up : well dressed, Westernised Moroccans in their late teens/early ‘20s hitting the local Maccas to pick up. The place got quite crowded & abuzz, groups of guys eyeing off giggling groups of girls on the other side of the restaurant, music being played quite loud…McDonalds : the Moroccan equivalent of a stylish Western bar…..very bizarre!

So after 2 weeks of exotic Morocco I returned to the grey and cold of London, same job, new flat, new friends, Australian friends escaping home to beat the cold (4:30pm sunsets and below zero at nights now), friends back home having their company name changed to avoid receiving emails from me (nice try guys but I do have my sources – thanks Mr Flynn!) but I’m still here in London and I still love it.

Amongst the almost daily tour announcements of mega popular bands visiting London was one announcement back in September for the ‘Ahmet Ertegun’ tribute concert, some guy who founded Atlantic records with the big news was that 300-million-record-selling Led Zeppelin would reform to headline it. Anyone interested in going had to register at the website & a lottery would be held on the 1st of October whereby passcodes allowing the purchase of up to 2 tix would be sent out to lucky winners. I registered…as did 25million other people (one paper even quotes 87million which I don’t believe but like to quote)…it took me 3 days as the website couldn’t handle the volume of interest. October came & went, I didn’t hear anything & assumed I wasn’t going. I got an email from the website in late Nov, ignored it for 24hrs assuming it was an ad to buy the new Zeppelin compilation but when I opened it had that blood-draining-from-my-face sensation when I realised I’d won a passcode to buy tix. HOW ON EARTH DID I WIN THE LED ZEP TICKET LOTTERY??!!! The only thing I can think of is that it’s a reward for putting up with Eric, the Lionel Richie loving roommate in my old hostel for 6 weeks of endless ‘Say you, say me’ repeats. So I went! Took a mate James, a fellow music junkie, tix cost £140 each (= $350Aust??!!) but it was worth it….even if the concert turned out to be rubbish I could at least brag about seeing them. It turns out I won the ticket passcode from the 3rd ticket ballot, the 2nd & 3rd ballots held because not all the tix were bought from the first ballots/people couldn’t make the new postphoned-for-2-weeks concert date/places made available following the organisers cancelling the tix of winners who tried to sell passcodes on ebay. There was a lot of effort put into minimising scalping of tix : we had to turn up 24hrs before the concert with receipts/photo ids/credit card used in the purchase & sign forms stating that we would turn up & have a wristband attached there & then & if it was tampered with or lost we were history. I felt very guilty winning : there were diehard fans at the venue 24hrs beforehand trying to find a way to get tix, people who’d flown over from the US to try their luck, people who had the Led Zep symbols tattooed on their arms, bids on Ebay for $10,000US!!?? I suppose I could have sold off the second ticket (though the purchaser would have to turn up to the concert with me in order to get in) but I’d feel ultra sleazy if I did. So since it was so bloody difficult to get tix it was the hottest concert for the decade, perhaps the ‘most popular gig in history’ to quote one paper. Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Marilyn Manson, Jeremy Clarkson, all of the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, members of Oasis, the Foo Fighters, Genesis, the Presley family, home-video star Paris Hilton, editors of music magazines I read religiously (but not the journalists) all turned up…..and me ;-) It was all a bit of a dream & 1 week on still seems a bit unreal. I was more excited about the concert than any other I’ve ever been to, mainly because I couldn’t believe I lucky enough to be going….20,000 winners out of 25million (though probably closer to 10,000winners given that most people bought 2 tix). The actual concert exceeded all my expectations, Robert Plant sings just as good as he does on record 25 years ago, white haired Jimmy Page (the guitarist) still has more balls than most musicians half his age & despite the Spinal-Tap corniness of playing the famous twin neck guitar during ‘Stairway to Heaven’ & violin bow during (the 25minute long) ‘Dazed & Confused’ everything sounded so unbelievably good that everybody ignored what they would have undoubtedly laughed at had it turned into a shambles. Such rariety of tickets guarantees an incredible audience response and I was half deaf by the end of the concert from the cheering alone. Awesome! The whole extravaganza was filmed and is coming out on DVD and the concert is (undoubtedly) the precursor to a reunion tour so if you’re interested my advice would be to camp outside the ticket agency when the concerts are announced as they’ll all sell out in ten seconds flat!

I now have a flickr.com photo account and I’m very gradually putting up my photos from the last year (only Spain/Morocco at the moment). My user name is Beyond07 so if you’re interested search for Beyond07 under ‘people’ (rather than ‘groups’ or ‘photos’ which won’t work) & it will come up with some pictures.

If you’ve got this far I hope you all are well & I wish you a safe & Happy Christmas & New Year! I’m off on Thursday to -5 degree temps in Eastern Europe to see a proper White Christmas as London isn’t cold enough to guarantee one. See you in the New Year!

Cheers
 
Last edited:
Joined
Apr 15, 2006
Messages
469
That was a great read...wonderfully worded. I enjoyed looking at the Flickr photos too.
 
Joined
Feb 4, 2006
Messages
6,894
Location
On a Big Island Down Under...
I'm glad you all enjoyed the read, and had a big a laugh as I did when I first read it...

And NJDJ, glad you liked the photos Brenton posted on Flickr.
If I remember all he had with him the whole time was a Nikon D70 & 18-70 f/3.5-45.
I think he did a pretty good job with it...
 
Joined
Aug 12, 2005
Messages
2,228
Location
Broussard, LA, USA
I've got 17 emails just like that one on my email account. They are from a couple from Houston Texas who take long road trips around the world. Every year they seem to have some grandchild graduate highschool and they take them on a dream trip to wherever hte child wants to go. I like them and their emails. They have some great adventures.
 
Joined
Feb 4, 2006
Messages
6,894
Location
On a Big Island Down Under...
TED...
Thanks Ted, glad you enjoyed the read...

CHRIS..
I guess you know how these old funny emails can bring a smile to your face even reading them over again over a period of time...

That's why I kept this email and open every now and again to have a good laugh...
 

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