When we realized that all three of our children were spending part of their vacation with various friends in Casablanca (remember: not a fun city), Donn and I looked at each other and knew this was a golden opportunity not to be squandered just sitting round Rabat. A kid-free weekend! (Ok, it was Thursday and Friday nights, but close enough)

We decided to go to Al Hoceima, on the Mediterranean coast. I did a little research online, but wasn’t able to find a hotel. I called a friend on Wednesday night to see if we could borrow a guidebook. “Go to Chefchaouen,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite places in Morocco!” She’s been here 8 years; she ought to know. We were easily convinced.

I did some research on hotels and found one that looked great—Casa Perleta, in the old medina. I meant to write down the info, but what with one thing and another I didn’t, in between finding sleeping bags and enough toothpaste for 3 kids who’d be sleeping in different places and packing for ourselves and deciding what books to bring, while Elliot was making chocolate chip cookies to eat on the train and I was making curry for dinner and trying to keep the onions out of the cookies. So it came about that we were several hours down the road when Donn said to me, “Which hotel was it we decided on?” I said, “Casa Perlita, Perlata, something like that.” “Where is it?” he said. “Do you have the address or the phone number?” “Uh…no…actually,” I said.

No worries. We like adventures. We turned off the autoroute at Moulay Bousselham and headed down a small pockmarked road into the countryside. There had obviously been recent rain, and all the potholes were filled with water. We bumped along for a long time, heading inland towards the mountains. At one point we came to a town where there was a roundpoint, quite new, but no signs. We guessed that we should turn, but the man we asked told us no, go back. We did and came to a second roundpoint, this one even newer, but still with no signs. We turned right on a whim, feeling that it looked more promising although the road was barely one lane wide at that point. Miles later, we asked a small boy, and he confirmed that we were right.

We went on and on. Eventually we came to a small city set on a hill. As we crested it, we were greeted by the unmistakable smell of grilled meat and the sight of tagines smoking away. We pulled over and Donn went to talk to the friendly man grilling meat. Donn loves mischwi, Arab-style barbecue. He ordered a plate of grilled meat and I opted for a tagine.

We sat down at a dusty plastic table, and soon a woman came to wipe the dirt around a bit and set down two pieces of paper to serve as placemats, along with napkins and forks to hold them down. The tagine had been smoking away so it was soon set before me, the lid lifted off with a flourish to reveal meat and vegetables in a savory sauce with just a hint of spice. The grilled tomatoes were the best! Soon, Donn’s plate of grilled meat was set before him. I ordered a glass of sweet mint Moroccan tea to finish up with.

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It was a lot of food, but we ate heartily and did our best to finish. Everything was excellent, cooked to perfection, served with a smile. Our total bill was about $11.  Abdul was friendly, letting me photograph him, insisting that next time we pass this way, we come to his house for couscous.

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But now my family is calling me to watch a movie, so I’ll post this and continue it tomorrow.