Hello! Today the sun was scorching so we woke up as early as we could to beat the heat.
We had a delicious breakfast at our riad, Riad Abaca Badra, of bread, crepes, omelet, homemade strawberry jam, prune jam, croissants, fresh orange juice, mint tea, and coffee.
I highly recommend Riad Abaca Badra. Our hosts Dominique and Gilles were friendly, gracious, and helpful for whatever we needed. From a warm welcome with cookies and mint tea, to helping secure train tickets, and helping fix my camera using a tiny hex wrench, our stay was excellent! Highly recommended.
After breakfast, we headed out into the sunny day (it would reach 108 F) to visit Jardin Majorelle. The grounds were beautiful (although smaller than we expected) and the Berber museum was interesting, especially because we would be visiting a Berber camp in eastern Morocco the next day.
After the gardens, we walked to the center of Gueliz, or the new town, stopping one at Cafe Mochi for some organic juice and Wi-Fi. 😀
We walked a bit more to the mall to stop for some local groceries to bring back to the States, then stopped at McDonald’s for a McFlurry.
Next, it was a taxi ride to the opposite side of the Medina to shop at the pottery souk. At this point, the heat was getting the best of us, so we returned to our Riad for some rest.
After dark, we walked to the main square, Jemaa El Fna and found food stall #14, which Mariko read served calamari that was really good. Dominique had earlier warned us that seafood in the square at this time of year was iffy, but we decided to eat there anyways. We had calamari, fish, fries, bread and eggplant dip. It was pretty good, but not so special. Lots of fun though, and not expensive. There were even cute cats looking for a meal.
We did a little shopping in the square and then it started to rain. That felt great! We walked back to the riad and called it a night.
We touched down in Casablanca and are on our way to Marrakech! See you then!
Update 2017-07-03: Hi, I wanted to write a little more about our first day in Morocco, and taking the ONCF trains. I hope it may be helpful to some traveling by train from Casablanca to Marrakech. FYI, we traveled in Morocco June, 2017.
We arrived in Casablanca by Air Canada Rouge about 8 AM, proceeded through customs, exchanged some money, and then looked for the train station.
The train station at Mohammed V International Airport is one floor below the baggage claim area. Just look for the sign and take the escalator. You will then see a couple of ticket machines, and probably an attendant who will help you buy the ticket. They work for ONCF (the train company), so not to worry that they will ask for a tip. Beyond the machines is a ticket window if you’d rather deal with an agent there, but it might be closed.
When buying the ticket, have cash on hand because even though there is a VISA/MasterCard icon on the machine, it probably won’t work. (You can exchange money up by baggage claim) We actually tried to give the attendant our credit card on two separate occasions, but were told “cash only”. However, I was able to use my credit card at the station in Rabat, so YMMV.
I recommend spending the few extra dollars to upgrade to a first-class seat. This will buy you a more comfortable compartment with (most likely) air conditioning and assigned seats.
When I bought the ticket at the airport, I actually forgot to tell them “First Class”, and they couldn’t change the ticket at that time but told me that I could upgrade while on the train.
On the ticket itself, you will see all the information laid out nicely, but what you don’t see on the top ticket in the photo below is the Seat (Place), Compartment (Compart), and Car (Voiture). Second-class seats are on a first-come first-serve basis. On first-class tickets with assigned seats, there will be a number for each. Notice on our ticket from Marakkech to Rabat Ville, it shows the seat information.
Also, you can see the “2 classe” and “1 classe” in the top-right corner of the tickets indicating which you have bought. Finally, in the bottom left is the total price in dirhams. So, it was 552 dirhams for four 2nd-class tickes, plus 160 dirhams (IIRC) for the upgrade to first-class, which works out to be 170 dirhams per person, or $17 a ticket. (Marrakech to Rabat Ville was about $19.50 per ticket)
One thing to note is that the Changement section shows where you will have to switch trains. For the train to Marrakech, we had to switch at L’Oasis station, then use the underground walkway to get to the other platform. On each train, an employee will go from car to car checking tickets. He told us where to change, or you can ask if you are unsure. And you can see the train number on your ticket to match with the platform signs.
Just to make sure, at L’Oasis I asked the attendant at the ticket window which platform to go to (it’s a small station; there are only two platforms) After a 20 minute wait, our train arrived and we hopped onto the first-class car.
Once on the train, find your seat and enjoy the long ride to Marrakech!
As I mentioned before, we upgraded our seats to first-class while onboard. The train was pretty empty, so we just found an empty compartment and stretched out. When the ticket checker came by, we upgraded with cash (was about $4 per ticket) and he marked our tickets.
Lastly, I recommend having a pen and paper to write down exactly what you want so that there are no misunderstandings. Please take a look at my other blog post here for more info.
I hope this helps someone! Have a great time in Morocco!