A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about tourist sites

Sites You Must See in Casablanca

(No, Not Rick's Cafe!)

Driving along the Corniche in Casablanca, it is striking how much the Atlantic Ocean beach front could be my Atlantic Ocean beachfront. Only on the opposite, western side of the shoreline. From now on, I will always keep Joseph in mind when I gaze at the ocean from the New Jersey coast where I live. Joseph is a Berber guide we met who told me to always remember I had a brother standing on the shore across the Atlantic. All the Moroccans we met were warm, friendly and became your friend for life. The people we met were the most endearing feature of the country.
But Casablanca is more than just a beach town. After driving around the Corniche, a quick stop at United Nations Square will give you a glimpse of a lovely garden and some local atmosphere. Bring a few coins to pose with the colorful water carriers in their traditional costumes. Don’t actually drink their water.
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Next, drive past the massive Royal Palace. The family is not usually here since they have many palaces all over the country. “It’s good to be King,” was a favorite saying of our guide. You are not allowed inside, but the property is impressive and the Imperial guards are worth seeing.
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I saved the best for last. The tourist site the city is most proud of is the Hassan II Mosque, standing like a gigantic white palace teetering on the water. Named after the former King and built to honor his 60th birthday, it is the second largest Mosque in the world and one of the few that allows non-Muslims inside. 5_000_craf..dt_this.jpg It is capped off by the tallest minaret in the world from which Muslims are called to prayers five times each day. Ten thousand craftsmen, twenty five hundred workers took six years to build this place of worship and once you are inside, you’ll see why. Hassan II is light-filled and gorgeous. The huge prayer hall is visually stunning and your eye doesn’t begin to know where to look first. The light from dozens of Murano chandeliers bounces off of sparkling marble floors that are kept immaculately clean. Intricate tilework fills the halls and when you see the thousands of tiny pieces of mosaic tile you begin to understand how it took so many people to construct this wonder. It was worth it. Carved_cel..es_open.jpg
The hall is stadium-sized and the entire ceiling opens electronically so that prayers can be said with nothing but sky overhead. Muslims wash frequently as part of their rituals and there are two hammans—men and women pray separately—which are surrounded by arch after arch and filled with 41 fountains. Do not leave Casablanca without a visit.Hamman.jpg

Posted by teethetrav 09:20 Archived in Morocco Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Casablanca, Morocco: A Beach Town on the Atlantic

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I have always fantasized about going to Morocco. Fueled by dreamy images of Humphrey Bogart and the incredible Ingrid Bergman, with a soundtrack by Crosby, Stills and Nash (www.youtube.com/watch?v=_byEUwCzj3A), and stories told by an exotic housemate I knew briefly in college, the country was high on my list of places to visit. Geographically, Morocco is in northern Africa and is a short journey by water from the southern tip of Spain. Many tourists take the European route across the Mediterranean and make a brief visit to the port city of Tangiers. They say they’ve been to Morocco and then call it a day. I wanted more.
I flew from New York’s JFK on a direct flight to Casablanca. Typically, I don’t use a tour guide, but since I was unfamiliar with the language and customs of Morocco, this time I did and it was the right choice. If you leave a comment on any of my Moroccan blogs (this is the first of a series), I will email you my guide’s contact information. Mohammed was a friend, teacher, protector, and one of the most gracious people I have met. He went beyond what you would expect from a guide and devoted himself whole-heartedly to sharing the joy and love he has for his country.

Morocco unpeeled itself slowly and each layer was full of surprises. Let’s start with Casablanca, which I visited first. As you know if you’ve followed my blog, I’m from the Jersey shore. I never imagined Casablanca was a beach town on the opposite side of the Atlantic! Replete with a sandy beaches, cool ocean breezes, rides for the children,and makeshift tents to block the sun, as soon as I saw it I was at home. It had an oh so familiar feel! Moroccan families day trip to the beaches here just as Americans on the east coast do. The major difference was that Moroccan women cover up way more than western woman do. As gravity starts to play havoc with my own body, I for one wouldn’t mind covering up more.

The road stretching next to the beach is known as the Corniche. There is an endless choice of small cafes, restaurants, as well as hotels, and small guest houses with pools.
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Most Moroccans are Muslim and therefore must pray five times a day. They take their religion very seriously; a topic I’ll blog more about in the future. There are two major religious sites in Casablanca. One is the enormous Mosque that was completed in 1993. I’ll share more about that in a blog to come. The other is on the beach and is called the Shrine of Sidi Abderrahmen. It is the tomb of Sidi Abderrahmen who is considered a saint and this site is quite holy and considered to be a healing place. Muslims make pilgrimages there to pray and to reflect on life. The water surrounding the site is what is supposed to have healing properties along with prayer. Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the tomb, but can visit the outside. It is something of a trudge through pools of water and wet sand, but you can view it from the boardwalk and it is quite spectacular.
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Posted by teethetrav 06:49 Archived in Morocco Tagged tourist_sites Comments (3)

MORE Things to Do at the Jersey Shore:

The Recovering Asbury Park

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The sixties were notable for many iconic events. Asbury Park’s decline was barely noticed, in spite of Bruce Springsteen (Greetings from Asbury Park was the album that made his career pop) Asbury fizzled out completely in the sixties.

Developers have come and gone, corrupt officials have come and gone, well-intentioned officials and developers have come and gone, and Asbury is still merely teetering on the brink of revival. Just when a comeback looked nearly foolproof, the economy tanked and well…you can figure out the rest.

But there are a few areas that have turned around. All along Mattison and Cookman Avenues shops and restaurants are doing well and have been for several seasons. The latest comeback area is the beach. Convention Hall is still going strong. Concerts are regularly scheduled there with decent and fairly well-know groups. Meatloaf was there last year and an upcoming weekend will feature Staind.
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Sadly, the old amusement building is a shell. The carousel, bumper cars, and original Tillie are long gone and there doesn’t seem to be any hope of renovation any time soon. But the news is not all bleak. There is a new water park for the kids as well as mini-golf. The water park is not for big kids or teens. It was designed for younger children and the daily rate is under $10 so it is striving to be family friendly.
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There are a number of places to eat along the beach, as well. You can sit outside facing the beach when the weather is nice and the view is spectacular. There are several good snack, sandwich, and drink places. I’ve been to Langosta Lounge several times. Their appetizers are delicious. The chef uses only fresh ingredients, as does the bartender. No mixes here, just fresh fruit and freshly squeezed fruit juices. My favorite is the Blood Orange Margarita, but the Asian Pear Margarita is also good. The house specialty is a Market Mojito with fresh muddled strawberries (I have no idea what that means, but I love the sound of it) and a “float of dark rum.” I’m not a rum drinker, but if I was, that sounds incredible. Doesn’t it?
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The best appetizer, as far as I’m concerned is the calamari which comes with three dipping sauces; each is original and mysterious. I’m usually good as figuring out ingredients so that I can steal recipes, but I have no idea what is in their Diablo sauce or their Brazilian vatapa. The Thai sweet chile lime sauce is the best of the three.
For something more substantial try the quesadillas or my favorite: the Mediterranean salad with homemade hummus, feta, roasted peppers and kalamata olives. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

Go to www.theasburyparkboardwalk.com for more events and concert schedules at the local venues.

Posted by teethetrav 06:28 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Capri: A Day Trip on the Amalfi Coast

Everything you have heard or read about the Amalfi coast is true. The views are stunning, the traffic is appalling, the cuisine in southern Italy is unforgettable, and the drive through the hills gives new meaning to breath-taking. You hold your breath because you are sure you are never going to survive the trip.
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There have been many words written about the coast, but just off the coast is the island of Capri. Famous for being famous, Capri is definitely worth seeing, but I think it’s a day trip, not a place to stay. It’s also not a place for the feeble. Nor is any of the Amalfi coast for that matter. You must be in decent physical shape, because everything is a climb and there is little you can do to circumvent that. Forget the Italian stilettos; wear your walking shoes, bring lots of water, and be prepared to trudge up and down hills all over the coast.
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Capri is a short ferry ride from Sorrento, which was my base. The ride was cool and the scenery from the water is spectacular. The water was a deep, sapphire blue and dared you to dive in. Capri was a touristy, but pretty place. The higher up you go, the better the views. The crowds do not, however, thin out. There are stores galore and you buy everything Italian; from sandals to exquisites tiles. The namesake perfume Capri is a delicious-smelling scent that can’t be found anywhere else. Lemoncello flows freely and the seafood is fresh and delicious. Ferries run frequently, so you can linger by the port and watch the boats and the tourists come and go while sitting outside and sipping your favorite drink.
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Posted by teethetrav 11:26 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Long Branch, New Jersey

What to do at the Jersey Shore

Long Branch, New Jersey is an historic seashore city. From the 1860’s through the First World War, it was also the most glamorous town on the Jersey coast. During Long Branch’s early years as a resort town, it was like the Riviera of the east coast. Society names such as the Astors and Fisks, and famous, albeit notorious names such as Diamond Jim Brady and Lily Langtree summered here. First Lady Mary Lincoln visited in 1861, but it was in 1869 that Long Branch NJ had it’s first presidential visit by President Grant. The President continued to visit every summer that he was president.

By 1870, Monmouth Racetrack opened and is still open today. Soon after the track, came casinos. Long Branch was in its glory days. Seven other presidents followed Grant and visited the city. Chester A. Arthur, Rutherford Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson and James Garfield were frequent summer visitors. After an attempt was made on James Garfield’s life, he was brought to Long Branch in the hope of a recovery aided by the sea air. Indeed, a railroad spur from the main line to his house was built to make him more comfortable in his travels. Woodrow Wilson built a spectacular mansion modeled after Versailles which stands now as the centerpiece of Monmouth University.

Sadly, one of the only remaining structures of Long Branch’s former elegance is the St. James Episcopal Church. Built in 1879, it is where all seven presidents worshipped. It has since been renamed Church of the Presidents and is located at 1260 Ocean Avenue.

Long Branch, NJ is now attempting a rebirth. Visitors to Long Branch NJ will enjoy the beach, the new Pier Village, as well as Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park, a 33-acre county park with facilities for swimming, boating and picnicking. Some of the small summer bungalows have been replaced with high-rise condos, which has been a controversy locally because many of the homeowners did not sell willingly.

There is also a large selection of outstanding new restaurants as well as a lively nightlife at places like Le Avenue. But old timers know the best places to go are all the old favorites, such as Max’s. Max’s is not at its original location, which burned along with the boardwalk and amusement park many years ago, but is now one block from the beach and is still owned by the same family. There are signed pictures strewn across the walls of all the celebrities who have dined here; Bruce Springsteen being everyone’s favorite son, of course. For those in the know, there is no other hot dog on the Jersey shore. A crisp, sizzling dog sitting in a steamed bun loaded down with sauer kraut, relish and spicy mustard…mmm, oh my gosh. Max’s closes for the winter months and by March you just start lusting after a hot dog.

Down the street is the original Windmill. Now a chain, it’s famous for its grilled burgers. My favorite is, and has always been, the California burger on a hard roll smothered with ketchup and onion rings on the side. Heaven.

For dessert, a few blocks away, the best treat in town is Strollo’s Italian Ices. Lemon. Perfect. Cool, refreshing and tasting like summer.

Sure, there are other great restaurants where you can sit down and have a cocktail and a quiet, expensive meai. But Max’s, the Windmill, and Strollo’s are classic Jersey shore summer favorites.

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Posted by teethetrav 17:00 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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