Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Algiers revisited

I had been in-transit and then my computer was on the fritz so now finally a chance to track back.

I had a nice time in Algiers. At first, I was concerned that there wasn't much to do.  To be sure, it doesn't have the frenetic energy of say Casablanca or Rabat, but I ended up really enjoying my time there.  As I mentioned, the architecture is without compare, and there were a nice amount of things to do to keep me occupied.  And for what its worth, Algiers made great people watching as Algerian girls are really beautiful.  A mix of French style and Arabic swarth makes my heart melt.

On Friday, I took a nice long walk down the boulevard overlooking the ocean, taking in the scene of the Bay of Algiers and all the stunning French architecture.  I sipped sweet mint tea from a park bench as I admired the scene.  I later hopped the surprisingly-nice metro (clean, efficient, quick) and visited the lovely Jarden d'Essai and wandered through the symmetrical French gardens with their reflecting pools, over through the swathes of banyan and other huge trees.  I stopped at the nice restaurant in the middle of the park for a decadent meal of poulet de l'estragon, a chicken in tarragon sauce with fries and a stuffed tomato.  I worked on my French grammar book as I sipped a post-prandial espresso.

I got some wrong advice that the Musee National des Beaux-Artes was closed on Friday so I headed back to my hotel for a mid-afternoon nap.  I spent the afternoon doing some work, before having my dinner at the hotel (included in the price at the Hotel Britanique, a surprisingly great value).  I did a lil walk back out after dinner for some mint tea and a delicious piece of baklawa at the Milk Bar, which I enjoyed while translating Tintin.

On Saturday, I returned over to the Jardin D'Essai area to check out the Musee National des Beaux-Artes, which also turned out to be a rather pleasant surprise.  I kept climbing up floors to get to the gallery, wondering if I would find anything in the museum but sure enough I found a few things.  First, I found cats that lived in the museum!  There were a whole slew of cats wandering around the galleries.

The galleries had a rather unexpectedly good collection.  There were a few Monet, Pissaro and Degas works.  More interestingly, there were a few sections of galleries on Algeria through a French romantic perspective that featured some excellent paintings of Algerian life and culture.  As I said, I did not expect much and so was quite pleasantly surprised.

But back to the cats!  As I was going to leave, there was a cat on the staircase that came over to me.  I sat down, and he climbed into my lap to let me pet him.  He sat on my lap and purred as I stroked his fur.  It was exactly what we both needed.

I left the cats and museum, and caught the funicular up the hill.  The cable car was incredibly packed, I was actually a lil concerned with the numbers.  But the climb was quick and I made my way up to the Martyrs' Monument on the hill top.  In the Martyrs Monument, there was a museum about Algerian history and fight against French colonialism.  It was interesting with lots of paintings, artifacts, maps and dioramas, but was a lil heavy handed and could have used a bit more context.  But I am glad I got to see it, and need to read up more on the colonial fight in Algiers.

I caught the cable car back down, and the metro back, and wandered around the city a bit before grabbing dinner at the hotel.  The dining hall was a bit busy, so I joined the table of a fellow.  We got to chatting, and he was quite nice and spoke English well.  After dinner, I made my walk over to Milk Bar for tea and an almond cookie sweet, and some more Tintin translation.

Saturday I walked around a little bit, and waited for Nadia, my hijabi taxista to pick me up.  She was supposed to get my at noon to take me to the airport by 1pm for my 3pm flight to Casablanca.  She called at 11:30am to say she would be there at 12:15pm.  No prob.  At 12:30pm, I started getting concerned. Since my French is more stilted on the phone, I had the front desk call Nadia--and she said she would be 10 minutes.  At 12:45, I was having kittens and wondering if I should ditch her.  Really, I was fuming.

But she arrived, dressed like an avenging angel in full white with white hijab, apologizing for the traffic.  I threw my stuff in the car, and she drove like a bat out of hell.  Literally.  Swerving like a Michela Andretti through traffic, offering thumbs up and little honks as she passed cars left and right and burning down the shoulder lane away from the traffic stall.  Yes, she was flying down the shoulder.  But it was an amazing site to see, and calmed my nerves knowing that I was in the hands of a real pro.  Amazingly, she got me there by 1pm within the two hour window and came with me to the counter to make sure I got checked-in to my flight correctly and without issue.  That is service.

B'slama Algeria.  Looking forward to my return in February (inshallah!)

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