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Yes! This was more like it. This was the Morocco my friend and I were anticipating when we were crossing the Strait of Gibraltar.

Fes, one of Morocco’s four “imperial cities,” is an absolutely charming place—so long as you don’t mind the heat, the smell, the donkeys. It features Morocco’s, indeed the world’s largest medina; a labyrinthine maze of cobble-stone alleyways, narrow roads and souks. And, lucky us, we were staying in an absolutely gorgeous riad smack dab in the center of the place.

We were only staying in the city for two days, so opted for an official guide to show us around. It was well worth it! In fact, I’d say it was probably one of the best decisions we have made thus far. (I really don’t know how we would have managed to see half the sites were we left to our own devices.)

In a little over a half a day, we visited one of Morocco’s most beautiful madrasas,  which, much to our surprise, was modeled on Granada’s Alhambra. We also visited the University of Al-Karaouine, founded in 859 AD and an important center of theological study to this day.

However, without doubt, our most memorable moment came when we visited one of Fes’ many tanneries. I shall be forever grateful to the manager, who wisely suggested we take a generous handful of mint leaves with us during our tour. (The smell was beyond comprehension and, I later learned, due to the large vats of all-natural ammonia solution, made from a rich mixture of pigeon excrement and cow urine.)

Among the many leather goods on offer were the ubiquitous Moroccan slippers, which continue to mystify me. Despite the manager’s insistence to the contrary, the shoes simply do not fit properly. Regardless of one’s size, one’s heels are invariably left unprotected by the unusually short soles. Très bizarre.

Of course, as we did in Chefchaouen, we located a nearby hotel’s bar to unwind. On order: Fes’ own Spéciale Flag. Heavenly.

As much as we would have liked to stay in Fes for a day or two more (if for no other reason than to bask in the extraordinary hospitality of our guest house), we had to press on to Marrakech. And so, after two remarkable days in the heart of old Morocco, we boarded a train (at 2 a.m.!) to Marrakech. All aboard that train…

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My brother and I spent the weekend in Las Vegas. Neither of us is richer for it (I’m a terrible gambler and my brother had terrible luck), but we had a fantastic time all the same.

We stayed at The Venetian. Like so many megaliths along The Strip, this one had a “theme.” You guessed it: Venice. (It even had a canal!)

What struck me most peculiar about this Venice, however, was the smell of bitter orange – the Venetian’s signature scent, if my olfactory nerves are still firing correctly. While I’ve never been to the actual Venice, I suspect it doesn’t smell at all like oranges, bitter or otherwise.

All the same, despite that cloying odour every time I entered the building, stepped into an elevator or washed my hair, I have no complaints about our stay.

Because we’re both foodies (which is a polite way of saying my brother and I really like to eat), we were both pretty excited about the seemingly-endless number of restaurants located at our hotel and its conjoined twin, The Palazzo. I particularly enjoyed our meals at Joachim Splichal‘s Pinot Brasserie and David Burke‘s eponymous joint. Both offered impeccable service and top-notch food, in the French and American traditions respectively.

We also chose to take in Cirque du Soleil‘s tribute to the Beatles, Love. Thank goodness we did. It was, without doubt, one of the most incredible things either of us had ever seen.

The costumes, the artistry, the acrobatics, the music!

We were so blown away by the spectacle, we saw it a second time. It was that good.

Oh sure, we gambled, too. I mostly stuck to the penny slots – losing the complimentary credits afforded to me by the hotel in a record-setting time.

We also watched a lot of football. Which, I know, seems like a waste of time considering we were in Las Vegas. It was, however, the NFL’s divisional play-offs. (How were we to know three of the four games would be blow-outs and the fourth a surprising yet unsatisfying upset?) Moreover, there was something strangely exciting about watching sports in a city in which you could bet on every play, every point. (It was also a great excuse to sample a variety of American micro-brews; Fat Tire being my favourite.)

Sadly, we left a good many things on our to-see/do list come Sunday night, including a trip to the Hoover Dam. On the plus side, WestJet offers direct flights from Winnipeg, which means my brother and I will undoubtedly find ourselves back there soon enough to clear up some of that unfinished business – and likely catch Cirque’s Love for a third time.

If, only a few weeks ago, you would have told me I would be spending my final Saturday in Ottawa having a beer with George Wendt, I probably would have scoffed at the suggestion. And yet, there I was, doing just that at Beau’s Octoberfest in Vankleek Hill, about an hour east of the city.

On tap were Beau’s famous Lug Tread Lagered Ale and their seasonal Festivale Ale.  The guest of honour was none other than George Wendt, who was kind enough to pose for photographs with fellow beer aficionados like me.

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Ottawa-area restaurants, like my favourite, the Whalesbone, also set up stations and were serving up tasty morsels.  Those who did eat told me the food was delicious.  (I was on a liquid diet.)

It was a fantastic way to spend an afternoon, in the company of close friends, celebrating the Ottawa valley’s finest food and drink.

Best of all, when I look back on these last few days in Ottawa, I’ll have one heck of story: I shared a cold one with Norm from Cheers.