With Laura and the kids well-looked after in Ipswich, I took the opportunity to do some work related travel. My trip started at noon with a train ride to London from Ipswich, underground to Paddington, Heathrow express to airport, flight to Casa Blanca, then a three hour drive to my hotel in Meknes. I got in about 2:30am, and had a 9 am meeting, so was shattered. However, Geoff, the expat geology manager picked me up and we had a beautiful local breakfast called Cersk or something (two fried eggs with fried, dried salt lamb, bread, olives and olive oil, plus lots of strong Moroccan coffee). We then drove to the project site. The countryside is beautiful with rolling hills of wheat, olives and vineyards and the weather gorgeous. In the afternoon, he took me to a jeweller / antique dealer in the old town of Meknes pictured below. I bought Laura some earrings, and an antique Fatimah door knocker. Geoff kept the dealer honest, by checking for metal composition with his NITON gun. (I wish I could take the NITON to Bali).
Dinner was garlic snails, ostrich steaks and beautiful moroccan red wine. The next day, Geoff organised a guide to pick me up and take me to the nearby roman ruins called Volubilis. This was the highlight of my trip as its almost as good as Pompeii, but far less touristy. Photo below is me in the ancient brothel. I know it looks like I'm swinging free, alas, its just a rock carving from the women's section of the brothel.
We then drove the three hours back to Casa Blanca. I'd chosen Casa over Rabat as I thought that was the place to see, knowing nothing about Morocco. However, there's nothing much to see, don't go here. This is about it, a really big, modern mosque, picturesquely jutting out into the ocean. The rest of the place is a slum. I did have the most delicious lamb tagine I've ever had though.
Next day I flew back to London and then to Oslo. I stayed at the airport overnight and then flew to Kirkenes, which is far north Norway in the arctic circle and near the Russian and Finish borders. I was hoping to eat some whale for dinner, but it wasn't on the menu, so I settled for reindeer. Kirkenes was freezing, had 24 hr daylight, and was very rugged looking. Fjords were quite nice, but not the spectacular ones like in the middle of Norway.
Kirkenes grew around the iron ore mine, which is one hundred years old this year. It was the focus of intense battles during world war 2, as the Nazis secured it for its iron ore, and for the fact its the northern most ice free port. The mine is owned by an Australian company and thus there has been an influx of Aussie miners into the town. According to the locals, this is not the first time Aussies have bombed the town, as during WW2, the australian airforce had the job of bombing out the Nazis.
Next day I flew back to Oslo and had some time to spend in the city. The best thing is the mordernish opera house which is, I suppose, designed to resemble an iceberg. You can walk all over the surface. The next day, a walk to the train station, a flight to london, heathrow express to paddington, underground to Liverpool St, train to ipswich, car ride to constable road.