Hitherto, the photos in this series of posts have been dominated by the colour green. In this one they will be predominantly browns and greys, being manmade buildings.
For my full day with them, 18th June, Hazel and John wanted to take me to a local National Trust property, but of all days to close, it closed on a Friday. So instead they took me to Kirkstall, north-west of Leeds city centre, to see the ruined 12th century abbey there, and also Kirkstall Museum, in Abbey House, the old gatehouse of the abbey. We started with the latter.
The ground floor of the museum is a series of Victorian streets. Here is a selection of photos I took of the shops and houses.
This reminded me of the Somerset Rural Life Museum, where in normal times I am a volunteer. It has a similar display of washing out to dry.
Upstairs was mainly given over to a temporary exhibition, ‘Sounds of the City’ [of Leeds], which, as it seemed to me, was mainly given over to pop music, with groups I had mainly not heard of, did not excite my attention nearly as much. But I did rather enjoy this:
I may also have been rather biased in my observation, since this online visit seems very much more interesting than I found the physical one.
There was also a collection of (working) automatons, not part of the temporary exhibition, I think, of which here is one:
And here is another (the voices are those of staff on walkie-talkies):
I was interested to read this history:
Fortified by a coffee, we crossed the busy main road to the ruined Cistercian abbey.
I know it’s not good for the stone, but I do find vegetation growing in ruins very attractive.
There were informative panels everywhere.
I loved this tree.
I wondered out loud what stone the abbey was built in. John told me it was Millstone Grit. Further research tells me that it is the Bramley Fall variety of the grit – and that Westminster Bridge also is made of it.
We wondered whatever this curious thing was – and then realised it was just one table and bench set stacked on top of another!
Even more curious was I, at why this man needed five cameras (one is hidden). He introduced himself as Mark Vernon, ghost hunter. He invited me to look his website up on the internet. I have found a few references in local media, for instance this one. But no personal website – perhaps it’s an invisible ghost.
In the evening there was some football match on the TV. Hazel and I sat in another room, knitting and nattering. Every now and then, John reported the score. It didn’t seem that much was happening, as there were no goals. I think it was a match between England and Scotland.
Homeward bound the next day, to include one more visit.
After a good night’s sleep, I looked out of the window of my Berwick-on-Tweed B’n’B’ bedroom, to see this.
My destination today, Thursday 17th June, was Shipley, in West Yorkshire, where I was to spend two nights with an old school friend (another Hazel) and her husband. My planned stop-off en route was just a few miles away, Holy Island, Lindisfarne. According to published information, the causeway to it would not be safe until 10.40, so I had plenty of time to kill. Having checked out after a good breakfast, I walked over to look at the sea.
Where there were literally hundreds of swans. No one picture could capture them all, and many were sailing (?) round to the other side of the harbour wall. I wondered whether this was in reaction to the tide falling.
I arrived at the Lindisfarne causeway around 10.30, expecting to have to wait, but that was not the case, and it was clear from the numbers in the car park that others knew that the published timings were set to cover only the extremes of safety.
But I stopped in a layby to take photos of the causeway first. I had never driven across a floodable causeway before, and was curious.
Once parked – quite a palaver in order to pay – I followed the crowds into the ‘village’ so that I could pick up the anti-clockwise circular path I intended to take. I’ll admit now that I did not have the plan with me and relied on just a brief look at this board. As a result I walked much further than I intended. But it was a lovely warm day – the only one in the whole of my time away – and a lovely setting, so apart from worries about time, that didn’t matter at all.
At the harbour, the ruined priory was to my right. Time did not allow further investigation.
The castle had been in view for most of the time, and indeed could be seen from all nearly over the island.
Not only did time mean I could not visit this National Trust property, but I should have had to book in advance because of Covid restrictions.
Some way further on, a kestrel was hovering overhead, and I followed its subsequent flight with my camera. I confess to being quite pleased with this picture.
I took a backward look at the castle.
Coming near to the shore, I wondered what these curious bumps were. A zoom on my camera revealed all.
A spent a few minutes in the hide by this lake, but just before I got to it, …
I was thrilled not only to notice, but to get a photo of this stoat, as it stopped its scuttling for a second or two. (It could of course be a weasel; I did not see its definitive characteristic, the colour of the tip of its tail.)
At this point I turned inland, but I went further than I intended, missing somehow where I should have turned south.
I should not have gone into these dunes.
Starting to worry about time, I was feeling rather hot and beginning to feel hungry, and the castle and the priory seemed a long way off, but at least they were landmarks. I was definitely going south now.
I enjoyed, nevertheless, the lovely heathland flowers.
As I eventually emerged onto the road I saw both these lovely poppies and two people. “Is it far to the car park?” I asked, not really sure where I was. “Not very far at all’ they said – and I was very pleased that in fact it was barely 100 yards further on.
I can remember very little of the long drive to West Yorkshire. I just recall that I was very pleased to refresh myself before joining my hosts for an evening meal.
This stay at the Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown-on-Spey, and the visits either side of it, had been deferred from almost exactly the same dates in 2020, because, of course, of Covid-19. I had been intending to use the hotel’s full information resources, in the form of both human advice and enormous amounts of written material, to plan each day’s activity. But this time, the wildlife hotel had a ‘celebrity week’ on for four of my five full days based there, which was a real bonus, especially since these are usually a good deal more expensive, but this one was free. David Lindo, the ‘Urban Birder’ of BBC 1’s The One Show, was meant to be there, but he was stuck in Spain because of quarantine problems, so Nigel Marven, wildlife producer and presenter, who had already been ‘the celebrity’ a few weeks earlier, was asked to step in and replace David.
Each morning and afternoon, there was a choice of outings with Nigel or with other local experts, for which one booked in advance, numbers being limited on each. On a normal celebrity week, the group would be transported in a mini van, but at this period we had to make our own way to the meeting point, no sharing with anyone with whom one was not in a ‘bubble’ or household. On this, my first full day, Friday 11th June, I opted for Roseisle in the morning and Burghead in the afternoon, each with Nigel. The former is in Burghead Bay, on the southern side of the Moray Firth, about a hour from Grantown, and Burghead itself is on a point at the eastern end of its eponymous bay, about 35 miles to the east and a bit north of Inverness.
About twelve of us gathered here,
and walked a few yards to here.
We saw nothing of wildlife interest, and started walking gently along the coastline, alternating between forest and beach.
Sometimes – often – I take pictures just because the image pleases me.
Nigel found a dog whelk egg case
This yellowhammer was a very long way off, and just wouldn’t move for us a to get better view.
We moved on to Burghead.
This was my first impression.
And this my second. It was not a particularly warm afternoon, and I felt cold just looking at these women.
Clearly still an active fishing village.
I was fascinated by this clearly Latin name. I’ve since found that it means ‘Law [yet] to be made [and should be]’. The boat carrying it was obviously not a new one, and I wondered what message the name was meant to be sending. Were the boat more recent, I would link its name with the Brexit deal.
A grey seal appeared.
Its surroundings reflecting a red van back up on the quayside.
We leant looking out to the other side of the Moray Firth for a while but saw nothing of interest. I was just enjoying myself being outdoors in clean air.
A short walk brought us to the other side of the point,
where a Fulmar was the only thing of wildlife interest that we saw. Not bad though.
Our leaders gave up, and added the bonus of a visit to Lochindorb, only a little way off the route back to the hotel. (Indeed, I had been here two years ago on my previous visit to Grantown. It rained then.) The waves show how windy it was. And it was very cold!
This sandpiper was hanging around.
And after about 20 minutes freezing in the cold, we realised why. Just a few feet in front of us was this chick. A quick photo, and off we scuttled.
It had been a strange day for me socially. After fifteen months of almost solitary confinement – I exaggerate a little but I’ve certainly not been used to doing things in largish groups – I was still very wary, and the whole experience seemed very weird. But a bizarre reminder of ‘normality’ at the same time.
After another excellent dinner – food at the Grant Arms Hotel is really good – I had a quiet evening in front of the telly in my room and looking at my photos. My more comforting, current, normal, normality.
It was so wonderful to be travelling again, and so weird to be mixing ‘naturally’ (almost) with people again. I could scarcely believe my holiday was happening as I set off, having not stayed away overnight since early March 2020, and now I’m back I can scarcely believe it has indeed happened. It is lovely to relive it through my photos, and here beginneth the recital of 13 days’ travel, roughly up the left-hand side of England, the right-hand side of Scotland, and vice versa on the way back. The first couple of days were comprised of close-packed visits to friends.
First stop from Somerset, on Monday 7th June, was Stafford, in time for lunch with Ellie, a former probation service colleague, and her two cats. Here she is with Skimble, who passes most of his time on the ironing board.
The following morning, I left quite early, to have coffee with Stan, with whom I used to make music when I lived in Staffordshire.
I was delighted to learn that his son, for a long time himself a professional musician in the Netherlands, was shortly getting married. This in fact happened three days ago, while I was on the road, nearly home, and I was very happy yesterday to watch a video of the music- (and musician-) packed event, which took place in the Anglican church in The Hague. The couple will shortly be coming to the UK for a church blessing here.
I had had the mad idea of meeting up with Peter, to have lunch with him in the Manchester area. Thank goodness he was not going to be free. Time and traffic constraints would have meant that I would have to have cancelled at no notice my diversion eastwards to visit 97-year-old Brian in Mytholmroyd, near Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.
I stopped for a bite of lunch by my car high on the moors, about 15 minutes’ away from Brian’s, on the Halifax road. This photo does no justice to the beauty of the area, but I could not park where I would have liked to.
I had known Brian and his family when we both lived in Reading, Berkshire, in the 1970s. They had, as it were, adopted me when I moved into Quaker circles there. I used to make music with their daughter, Hazel, until she moved on marriage to Hebden Bridge, many years before her parents followed her. Sadly Hazel had been called away on urgent family business just before my arrival, but her husband, Jim, was on hand to welcome me, and took this photo, possibly the first of Brian and me together since we had a narrowboat holiday together, with his late wife and another friend, in the 1980s.
There followed a long drive all the way to Langholm in Dumfriesshire. I stopped briefly at the Tebay Service area,
and was pleased to find that the rather heavy traffic I had encountered thitherto thinned considerably from then on.
I checked into to the Eskdale Hotel for two nights at around 6 pm.
Tom and Ally, brother and sister-in-law of my London friend, Mary, joined me for dinner there.
I spent the next day with them. Tom writes a blog every day(!) and I asked first if we could just have a wander around the town so that I would be able to envisage the various places he mentions in it. As ever I snapped away, and here are some of the photos I took.
They have local birds to die for:
I think this is ‘just’ a Lady’s smock/cuckoo flower, but if Mr Tootlepedal disagrees, perhaps he would say so in the comments. (I’m not sure why I took it.)
And a sneaky peak at Tom and Ally’s garden, of which more anon.
Having visited the ancient Anti-Atlas on Thursday, on Friday 13th March, our last complete day, we were off to the High Atlas mountains. These were much younger – formed by uplift over only the last 60 to 10 million years! We only went into the ‘foothills’, but they seemed pretty high to me, and they were certainly beautiful.
But first we stood in the garden of our temporary home, as some had heard the Black-crowned Tchagra. Sadly, we didn’t manage to see it at this time, but I took a picture of a Common Bulbul, (they’re everywhere), possibly the one which sang outside our windows every morning.
Our first stop revealed some extraordinary folding, caused, as for the Anti-Atlas, by the crashing of the African plate into the Eurasian one. (That is still going on – the Alps are still getting higher. My 2007 OU geology course taught me that the Mediterranean will in due course disappear!)
The next stop involved a short upward stroll.
The next, a longer stroll along a nearly dried-up river bed, in Paradise Valley. First a few steps downstream.
And then upstream, the flow having transferred to the other side of the road by going under it, and then apparently either diverting under the geological feature or just drying up, the rest of our walk being alongside a dry river bed.
There followed a long, climbing, drive to our lunch place.
We ate our packed lunch in the Café Restaurant Le Miel. (Again they were happy for us just to buy drinks.) We were meant to wonder at the Cascades of Imouzzer. But they have not had the slight trickle of water for at least two years. (Here is a 3-minute video I found on YouTube about the Imouzzer region, made in 2015 when there were still trickles of water over the Cascades.)
Having eaten, we were driven up to much nearer them, for botanical reasons, but it gave a chance to look at the rocks more closely. From this angle, to me they look like a bearded old man, sitting with his wide sleeves dangling, his hands resting on his knees.
Two flowers were particularly sought.
We moved on to this rather unprepossessing spot, at 1300 metres altitude, (whose whereabouts we were told never to reveal, even were we able, because hordes of twitchers would drive away the bird we had come to see).
Which we did, at a great distance:
Finally we moved to perhaps the most beautiful spot of the whole week (though that’s a difficult pick), high, high, high, at 1550 metres, in the (still only) foothills of the High Atlas. First our attention was drawn to several examples of the Moroccan Day Gecko.
And in due course to this dwarf iris, the Barbary nut (the tubers used to be eaten).
How’s this for a rockery garden? All natural of course.
And for the rest of the time, at this our last stop, we just enjoyed the views, and a slight, cooling breeze.
On the next day, Saturday, 14th March, we did not need to leave the Atlas Kasbah for Agadir Airport until late afternoon. Half the group had a cooking lesson in the kitchens, and the others went out with Philip and James, to review the first morning’s sightings, and to see some more. (They saw a Black-crowned Tchagra at last.) I did neither. I had not yet managed even to read the hotel’s own information folder, and really wished to do so, nor had I had a chance to wet the new swimsuit I had bought a few days before coming away. So, having achieved the former, I was then obliged to spend time here.
With its views outwards
For a long while I had the whole pool to myself. (In the event the water was too cold for me actually to wet the swimsuit.)
We ate the tagine our colleagues had prepared in the morning at lunchtime, and the afternoon whiled itself away. In due course we said a reluctant goodbye to those who had been looking after us so well, the more so for knowing what we were going back to.
I had a window seat again on the plane.
I feel so blessed that I was able to take that holiday, for which I had been longing for months, before the clampdown enforced on us by this horrible virus, Covid-19. As I said in the first post in this series, Morocco had already banned flights to and from 25 countries the day before we left. (We ten travellers knew about France, but not about how many countries the ban extended to. Our leaders did. Philip was looking at his screen constantly for news.) Two days after our return they added the UK and others to the list.
Now the Atlas Kasbah is shut down, like pretty well the whole world. Here on my own, thankfully with the company of my felines, I’m grateful for the telephone, and all the media, which allow me to be in touch with friends and family and the wider world. I have this extraordinary sensation of fellow-suffering, not just with those I know, in the UK, family on both coasts of the US, friends in France, the company both employed and holidaying which I so enjoyed in Morocco, but also with every single one of the world’s 7,800,000,000 people. Every single one of us is having to contend with the same fears and concerns and ignorance about the future, most of our fellows without even the resources that we have in the first world. I’m going to avoid a cliché, but this is something we do all, every single one of us, face together.
It was a gentler day on Thursday 12th March. ‘Oh good’, thought I as I started this post, ‘Fewer photos to share.’ Fail!
It was back in the minibus today, as we headed off, making several stops as ever, to the Anti-Atlas mountains. An odd name, given by a couple of British geologists in the 19th century. The rock formation is extremely old, dating back 300 million years, linked with the Appalachian Mountains, but coming to the surface only some 80 million years ago as a result of the collisions of the African and European plates, and heavily weathered since.
Throughout the week, we saw far more than I was able to capture on ‘film’, but this time at our first stop I took:
Our next stop was for a drink at Ait Baha. ‘Ait’ means ‘tribe’ or ‘family’ in Berber, and appears in many town names. This one is best-known for shoe-making, and we wondered round a co-operative, some people buying. There was no aggressive hard-selling. I think this actually made one all the more likely to buy. The guilt I felt for not doing so would have been absent had I been pestered. (I would have bought if any of these lovely slippers and shoes had had supportive insteps.)
Moving on we saw, among other things:
We were heading for the hilltop village of Laatik, and its agadir. An agadir was originally a defensive grain store, but expanded its purpose to the storage of anything precious owned by villagers. Each family had one large cupboard/room in the agadir. This building was at least 600 years old, but there was apparently a more famous and larger one elsewhere dating back some 900 years. We were greeted by its guardian, though Mohamed gave most of the explanations.
It was intended that we should eat our packed lunch in that corridor, but in the event we had to beat a hasty retreat. Locals objected to our presence, for fear that we were bringing the coronavirus with us. At that point (I was keeping a very close eye on the national and international situation) only 2 cases had been declared in Morocco, each of those Moroccan residents in northern Italy, who had returned to Morocco for a visit. I don’t blame those local people in the least for wanting to be rid of us.
Our leaders found a lovely spot a few kilometres away on the way down for us to eat, including even a natural bench for those of us who couldn’t crouch on the ground. I was happy to be in the open air and not in that corridor.
We were then allowed 30 minutes to wander around at our will. I concentrated mainly on (those cactuses that weren’t cactuses, but) euphorbias. Hélène had told us the previous day that their local name was ‘Mother-in-law’s seat’. Some ‘humour’ is universal.
There were some beautiful trees as well.
Once we had moved on in the minibus, at last I managed to get a decent picture of a Barbary Ground Squirrel.
The sky had started clouding over as we had left the agadir, and we actually caught a glimpse of a shower in the distance at one point in the afternoon. This was the only hint of precipitation we saw all week.
Back to Ait Baha for afternoon refreshment. The kestrel was still there, but now on the windowsill.
The traditional method of building houses in Morocco is to plan for a next storey, should it prove desirable and affordable. So these houses are only unfinished in the sense that they may or may not grow in the future. Meanwhile, the floor of that next storey, with window spaces all ready, serves as a roof terrace.
These very modern apartment blocks on the outskirts of ever-expanding Agadir make no such provision.
Once we were back on the main dual carriageway towards Agadir, I was thrilled to see a woman in colourful dress driving a large colourful tractor, coming in the opposite direction. Unfortunately I had no time to capture the image.
Always good when our temporary hilltop home comes into sight.
Wednesday 11th March was mammals day. For that we visited the Souss Massa National Park, and learnt something of its conservation work. We went in four 4x4s, so that each of us had a window. They put me in the front seat of the vehicle driven by Mohammed in case I needed to communicate urgently with the driver. (I didn’t.)
The Park was set up in 1991 in recognition of the area’s importance as a breeding ground for certain birds, including the Northern Bald Ibis. To quote Wikipedia, “Souss-Massa also holds captive-breeding programmes for four threatened North African ungulates: scimitar oryx, addax, dama gazelle [not on our target list] and dorcas gazelle, … The reintroduction of the North African ostrich – which is extinct north of the Sahara – is also underway.” With the exception of the Dama Gazelle, we saw all of these. The Rokein Special Reserve, where goats are kept out and as a result the vegetation is more lush, is where the conservation work is done and where we saw the mammals (and the ostriches).
We had our packed lunch standing in a shelter, and among other things, watched a sea mist…
… rolling in.
but, although we drove through a little mist as we left, it came to nothing. The drought continues.
After a stop at a local pottery and café, where I had a much-craved ice-cream, we were driven to the mouth of the Oued (River) Souss, and stood on a bridge to see what we could see, hoping for flamingos.
For our final stop, we were driven over the bridge, and further downstream to a rather unprepossessing spot, where we could see a two-poled pylon in the far distance.
Immediately to our left was a telegraph pole.
A final look round revealed a Little Egret …
and some Sanderlings. Or so Mohammed said, and he was very good at his wildlife.
Before dinner, it was Hélène’s turn to invite us into the salon of the Atlas Kasbah. She opened her big wooden box, which like all Moroccan brides (she is French) she received on her wedding day. It was full of traditional health and beauty items, and she explained the purpose of every one. A question at the end (from me) about covering her hair at the school where she teaches (she doesn’t, though the fact that it is a French school may have something to do with it?) led to an immense amount of information about the role of women in Morocco – considerably more liberated than in many other Moslem countries.
Today was to be half urban, with a morning visit to ‘mini Marrakech’, a town full of character called Taroudant. We were briefed that its souk was a serious market for local people, where tourists just got in the way, and we should not try to haggle. The stated price was the price to be paid.
But I wasn’t sure I should be joining the party. I, who never have tummy upsets, spent half the night…. well, let’s just say I didn’t get much sleep. (I think I had just eaten far more than my system was used to processing the day before.) Five minutes before we were due to leave, having dared have, and feeling like having, no breakfast, I decided to take the risk, with fingers very crossed. I just about got away with it…
On our way to Taroudant, we passed many polytunnels, growing oranges, bananas and salad. Once there, it was our driver and sometime guide, Mohamed, who showed us round the first attraction, the ‘Hotel of Peace’, once the palace of the local rulers, but now a hotel, which has clearly seen better days.
Mohammed then drove and led us to and through the souk, where we had strict instructions to be able to see one of our three leaders at all times. A wonderful array of foodstuffs. Some bought, I didn’t.
At one point I felt faint, I hadn’t slept much, I hadn’t eaten anything, and it was very, very, hot. I slid down to sit on a very low step, cushioned by some items that looked like boiler covers, but turned out to be donkey saddles for sale!
We left Taroudant, and arrived for a late packed lunch at a restaurant (where they were happy that we just bought drinks) at the Oasis of Tioute. They certainly know how to do cool in the midday sun.
We went for a short walk, (well, they tell me it was short) meeting Mohamed and the minibus at the other end.
We made a short stop to have a guided tour round the Argana Tiout (I can find no website) women’s co-operative, where they made and sold argan oil products. I stayed in the minibus, and just popped into the shop to buy some of their oil – cooking, not cosmetic version, which I was told would substitute nicely for the olive oil I put into my (breadmaker) bread. We shall see!
On the Monday (9th March), we took our first trip out in the minibus, with several stops along the Atlantic coast, to the north of Agadir. The first stop was at Cap Rhir, mainly to look at vegetation, though we saw fauna of interest too…
I got the giggles at this. Philip, Don and Alison take photos of the lizard, a young shepherd boy on his donkey looks on in puzzlement, and his sheep follow.
And the ovines catch us up.
Believe it or not, these two plants are both from the euphorbia family. The cactusy-looking one is not a cactus!
This is a Moroccan Lizard-toed Gecko, or three-quarters of one. Philip had picked it up, but it escaped, leaving its tail behind to wriggle and distract the predator.
Philip was mortified, saying that this had never happened to him before.
We moved further north to Oued (River) Tamri, in search of the endangered Northern Bald Ibis. The total world population (in the wild) is only about 800, and near here was a known breeding site. When we stopped in the car park, alongside the vehicles of some surfers, we knew we would see some of the birds, as one of our number had spotted some high on a cliff to our right.
They flew around a bit.
A Marsh Harrier came to join the party. Well, not really, but it was good to see it.
After eating a very copious packed lunch provided by the lodge, we walked further along the dunes to the mouth of the oued.
We enjoyed walking along the sand, with its fresh breeze and wonderful surfing waves, and were reluctant to leave, but our next stop was explicitly for us to enjoy even more some sea action.
Our route back to the hotel took us into Agadir, and we climbed and climbed, to our puzzlement. It turned out we were being taken to the Kasbah (fort), which was very severely damaged in the 1960 earthquake, especially inside.
The views explained the setting.
Before our evening meal, we were invited into the salon of the Atlas Kasbah, which in a Moroccan home is a room near the entrance used only for entertaining guests. According to Moroccan tradition these can (and do) turn up completely unannounced, have the right to stay for up to three days, and it would be the height of bad manners to ask how long they were intending to stay. They sleep in the salon.
We stayed for about an hour, to be introduced by Hassan to the very elaborate traditional tea making ceremony. Ibrahim – or Hussein, I never did manage to tell them apart, as both were so charmingly smiley – assisted.
With some time to spare before lunch on the Sunday, I wandered round the award-winning Atlas Kasbah ecolodge. This was the brainchild and baby of Hassan and Hélène, our lovely hosts, and was opened in 2009. Here is a little more of its story.
One storey up was the roof terrace. Three of my companion couples had rooms in the corner towers.
Going down to the ground floor I took a peek unto the salon (French is the alternative language to Berber in Morocco), where if you enter you must remove your shoes.
Wandering outside, I found this lady, who had multiple roles in the establishment, making bread – heavenly to eat – in the traditional oven.
She turned it over and around every few seconds with her stick. It took a couple of minutes to cook one flat bread.
My last discovery was another roof terrace, this time covered, where I was told we would be having lunch shortly. Food for the week was Moroccan, copious and, I suspect, a little westernised. For instance, every time we came back from an excursion, we were greeted with a small glass of herb tea, only slightly sweetened, whereas the locals would have taken five times the amount of sugar.
After lunch we were to go for another walk, and I took this photo from the terrace in our intended direction, towards and into the older parts of the local village.
We set off. I just could not stop taking photos of our so photogenic home.
As I said to Philip, as we sat on a low wall waiting for the others to catch us up at one point, I felt it was good to start our week getting our local bearings, and not being isolated from the realities of Moroccan rural poverty. (I also felt it was good to get it over at the beginning of the week.)