Sunday, January 28, 2018

American Horned Lark

A bit of a charge around the periphery of London starting at Staines Reservoir where the American Horned Lark was showing really well along the bank of the South Basin.  Despite the bird having been present on and off for a couple of months, there was still a good crowd assembled there.

A Black-necked Grebe was seen distantly bobbing away in the south-east corner of the south basin.  There were also a few Goldeneye on both sides of the causeway.

I then headed up into Hertfordshire to the small village of Bramfield that as it's centrepiece is the fine 13th century St Andrews Church.  It was here where the Hawfinch had been a regular sighting.  After a short wait, a group of four flew into trees beyond the church.  They weren't close in by any means, but the views were just fine.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Morocco - Meknes

The final stop was Meknes.  A bustling city with the feel of Marrakech but without the throng of tourists milling around.

Much like Marrakech, the city is centred around a square lined with typical market stalls and canvas covered restaurants.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Morocco - Volubilis

The next stop was a three hour drive back south to an old Roman city at Volubilis just outside the city of Meknes.  The day was warm and sunny, and the site was empty of visitors.  It's remarkable how far and wide the Romans conquered, and North Africa was a real stronghold for them at the periphery of their Empire.

Volubilis is a very well maintained Roman city despite earthquakes and looting that had cast many of the buildings asunder over the centuries.

Many mosaics were found throughout the city and I'm sure there a plenty more yet to be discovered.

The Basilica and the Capitoline Temple are still standing and look domineering against a sparsely populated backdrop.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Morocco - Chefchaouen

A three and a half hour drive directly to the north of Fes is the charming 'blue-city' of Chefchaouen.  The drive meandered through primitive villages fragmented within the green countryside where an abundance of local produce are cultivated and harvested.

The road winds up to the top of a hill, and the city appears into view, gleaming brightly against a rugged and solemn backdrop.

The city is set steeply against the lower slopes of the adjacent hillside before plateauing onto a main thoroughfare where tourists are drawn to lines of open-air dining areas and street-sided shops.

The riad was set up high on the hillside providing a great view of the city, that also presented a physical challenge walking around the beautiful blue narrow streets.

The blue hues of the facades were splashed across all of the houses.  Many theories abound as to why the buildings has been fashioned in this way, I would like to think that it was an extreme case of keeping up with the Jones's.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Morocco - Fes

This was my second trip to Morocco - the first was back in 2010 which was a defining moment in my life.  It was great to return and savour the familar sights, sounds, and smells of this stunning country.

The first trip was to Marrakech and it's surrounds.  This trip took on four different sites starting in Fes, all wonderfully disparate, all charmingly Moroccan.

Fes is a bustling market town with the old souk coursing through its' centre from the blue gate across to the bus terminus.  You never get used to the vibe of these towns. So much activity with locals busy shopping for the essentials while lines of textile, food, metal and glasswork proprietors vie for business.  It feels chaotic, it is chaotic, but it's been like this for centuries.  Put your clocks back folks, it's 1000AD.

One scene that is ubiquitously captured when featuring the city of Fes are the vats of dye at Chouara Tannery.  It's a challenge to find as the narrow windy streets can bring on insanity after a couple of wrong turns.  The reward however is the view from the top floor of a working riad, a palette of colour, and an unrefined stench that permeates through the tightly clustered buildings that surround this scene of antiquated industry.  It is a wonderful view.

There was an opportunity to view the city by heading out of town and to the hills.  The views were great out towards the hills to the north, and to the south, Fes spread across the indigenous landscape.

The Blue Gate serves as the main entrance to the souk.

There were many cafes located around the city to procure a traditional mint tea, many with rooftop gardens with ornate decor serving traditional foods.

The area around Bab Boujloud is a hive of activity with open air markets and locals just hanging out and shooting the breeze.