The title is using the airport codes, but it actually means “Valencia to Casablanca to Lagos.” What a trip! This is a long post, by the way.
Maria was kind enough to drop me off at the airport, so that helped out a lot since I didn’t have to take a bus and a train to get there. I arrived nice and early with plenty of time to check in and get some lunch. I was one of the first to check in too, so it was super fast and easy. Going through security is much easier in Spain as well, since you don’t have to take off your shoes, and they don’t seem to stop as many people as they do in the US or London to go through their bags.
After I checked in, I went to Starbucks to get a bottle of water and relaxed for a while in a comfy chair. I decided to find my gate before having lunch in case it was far away. That was quite funny because the gate was about 50 feet away. Valencia is a SMALL airport! I think they have 12-16 gates, if that? So I laughed to myself and went back to Starbucks for lunch. There were a couple restaurants in the airport, but nothing looked good to me. I was craving some fruit, so I bought a fruit salad and an orange loaf (which is very similar to the lemon loaf that is sold in the US, except this one doesn’t have icing. Mama Rose would like this orange loaf!)
After lunch, I went to the bathroom and noticed that all of the stalls except one were out of toilet paper. That seems to be one common problem in foreign countries: they are always short on toilet paper. So I decided to be smart and selfish and load up on a few small wads in case any future bathrooms didn’t have any. I already knew that Lagos very rarely has toilet paper, so I figured Casablanca was probably the same, especially if Valencia had this issue.
I was flying out of gate B6, and here are the four B gates! You can see all of them (B5-8) between the two pictures. When I first passed security, I saw a sign saying that they have A, B, C, and R gates, so I figured the airport was larger and I’d have to walk further. However, I realized that each group only has four gates! C1-4, B5-8, and A9-12. I’m not sure what R has, but it’s quite funny nonetheless. The flight was about 20 minutes late, but that was okay with me. I had a LONG layover in Casablanca ahead of me, so I didn’t mind waiting longer in Valencia. We got our exit stamp from the customs officer and then took a bus to reach the plane.
It was a beautiful sunny day out there on the tarmac/runway. Being so close to the plane, and not having to stand in the jet-way, reminded me of our Cessna flying trips. I had the urge to start packing up the baggage and doing the before-start checklist like Casey and I used to do.
I had a nice seat by the window in view of the propeller. I didn’t know they would give us a meal either, but I got a chicken sandwich! It actually wasn’t bad. The seasonings were vaguely reminiscent of Indian spices which I absolutely do not care for, but luckily it wasn’t very strong. The bread was a bit stale though so I didn’t eat the whole thing.
The flight was about two and a half hours, and I hardly took my eyes away from the window! I was just captivated by the scenery. First of all, it was fun to see the terrain change from the rugged mountainous regions of Spain, to the water in the Strait of Gibraltar, to Africa! I found this picture online. The text isn’t very clear, but you get the gist of what the area looks like. Secondly, it didn’t seem like our cruising altitude was very high, so I was anxious to see if we were going to climb higher or not. We never did, so the land and the water were very easy to see.
The terrain around Valencia is more flat and less mountainous, so I didn’t start taking pictures until we were further south and the land began to change. I was surprised to see such craggy hillsides and even snow on the mountains! There were also a couple of towns tucked away in very random spots. One was in a deep ravine, and the other was near a snowy mountaintop. I circled these areas so you can see them too. Quite funny spots for a town I would say.
The pictures above and below are the same mountain with a “standing lenticular cloud” above it. Casey loves to point out these solitary clouds that like to hover on top of a hill or a mountain.
And then we reached the coast. It’s interesting that the land is so steep right up to the end. By the way, many passengers were taking pictures too. I was surprised since not many people seem to take pictures on a plane in the US. But here, I heard a *click*click* every five minutes. Maybe that was because we were flying close enough to the ground where you could see everything!
I was deeply engaged while we flew over the ocean because I don’t particularly like flying over water. Of course, the flight itself feels the same whether you’re flying over land or water, but it’s just a mental thing for me. I couldn’t see much besides a few cargo ships, and I was anxiously waiting to catch the first glimpse of Africa. Here you can see the red mountains of Morocco! There were a ton of clouds too until we got further inland.
Overall, the landscape was very flat with farmland, besides being more rugged near the coast. Another thing that intrigued me was how the shape of farms greatly differs between countries. In the US, the crops are organized more into circles and squares. In Spain, the farms look like triangles and are packed so tightly together to use up every inch of space. In Morocco, the farms were in rectangular shapes, as you can kind of see in the photo below. The sun made it hard to take good pictures.
The sunset was just beautiful behind the clouds as we descended into Casablanca. The photo below is the actual town of Casablanca, but the airport is a few miles away. I wish I could have taken a better picture for you. It was neat to see how the city sprawled out into a sort of sunburst shape.
And here is the airport! I was looking forward to getting inside because I read good things about the airport online. They said it was one of the biggest international hubs in Africa with lots of shops and restaurants and wifi. Little did I know… but we’ll get to that.
We landed and took a bus to the main building. I filled out my landing card on the plane but didn’t need it because I never passed through customs. I didn’t know which terminal I was in or which terminal I needed to go to, so I just followed the crowd and went to customs. The officer said that I didn’t need to pass because my flight to Lagos was in the same terminal I was in – the international terminal. I just needed to turn around and go through security to get to the main area. I was secretly disappointed because I wanted a stamp in my passport from Morocco!
I turned around and found the dinky international entrance. Going through security was even more lax than in Spain! They let me keep my water bottle and I didn’t even need to take my laptop out of my tote. He just looked at my passport and boarding pass and that was it. Super relaxed. I went up the escalator to find a long rectangular terminal with duty-free shops coming out of your ears! There was one restaurant/bar and the rest were souvenir shops or duty-free shops. I walked around the whole thing looking for food and finally found an incredibly small “fast food” area. It looked like a small food court that you would find in a mall, except the food did not look appealing. They had sandwiches, pizza (at least what they call pizza), and probably their local food of chicken and rice or something. I immediately was unimpressed though and turned around to find something else. I went back to the singular restaurant/bar which looked like they had better food, but I didn’t like the vibe in there, so I decided to buy a bunch of snacks instead. I know, not the best dinner, but it was still something. They had two Hudson News stores where I went for snacks. You probably don’t know this store by name, but they are in virtually every airport in the US. You might recognize the blue bag below.
While walking through the airport, I discovered that they had an airport hotel called Fly Hotel where you can rent a room by the hour. I had a six hour layover ahead, so I decided to check out the hotel and possibly get a room. It had to be more comfortable than sitting in the chairs by the gates. The front desk clerk was surprised to see me, and he said that in the seven years he’s been working there, he’s never seen someone like me at the hotel. I’m not entirely sure what that meant, but I assume he meant a young Caucasian woman by herself. Maybe he only sees Africans and not many Europeans at that hotel. Who knows. The rate was reasonable, so I got a room and set up dinner.
In the meantime, I could not connect to the wifi at all! So much for what I read online… The airport had two wifi choices and both would not work. There was a business center at the hotel with two computers but the clerk said that they didn’t have internet. He was nice enough to give me a hotspot from his phone though so I could text my family and let them know that I arrived safely. Casey sent me a picture from his phone that showed where I was in the world. As you can probably gather by now, I was incredibly disappointed by this airport. The articles online made it sound a bit better than what it actually was. Sigh.
After I ate, I tried to get some sleep but it was just too noisy. (The dark photo above shows my shoes against the light coming through the door.) People were talking loudly, slamming doors, and children were running back and forth. I’m not sure what was going on out there. I didn’t end up sleeping at all, but it was definitely nicer to lay down than just sit in a chair for hours on end, so it was worth it to me to get the room after all. My mom is probably horrified by the looks of the room!Granted, it’s not up to her standards in the least, but it was decent and well-kept. Keep in mind that my standards are lower now after having lived in Nigeria, so I wasn’t expecting a hotel room like we’d get in the US. The room was very small and didn’t have a bathroom, but it was comfortable enough to relax.
I decided to check out around 10 PM since my flight boarded at 11:45 PM. I wanted to have enough time to find the gate. I also had to go to the bathroom so it was a good time to leave anyway. Just like in Valencia, the gate was not far away, so I sat down and people-watched for an hour. I took a couple photos of the insignificant terminal. You can see the Hudson News store now which probably looks familiar. As I said before, there wasn’t much good food but there were way too many duty-free shops, so if you wanted to buy anything BUT food, you were set.
The other passengers and I waited and waited and waited for our flight. It was about 20 minutes late again, oddly enough. I flew with Royal Air Maroc which I think is affiliated with Iberia and/or Turkish Air, but I don’t know if their flights are always a bit delayed. Anyway, they finally started boarding and we had to take another bus to get to the plane. It was rather cold at night since it was now after midnight on Friday morning. It did have a neat, eerie vibe though climbing up the stairs and boarding the plane in the middle of the night with dew in the air and spotlights all around. I wanted to take more pictures but the Nigerians were quite pushy. They are some of the most anxious people to board a plane and get off a plane that you will ever meet.
Upon boarding, they gave us these little flight kits with socks and an eye mask. I was also impressed that there was a lot of leg room! And the seatbacks felt like they went back further. I don’t know if it was the type of plane or whether it was just an old design, but I was quite comfy already even without moving my seat back further. VERY fortunately, it was not a full flight, so there was an empty middle seat between me and a Nigerian man. I had the window again.
And here are a couple photos of the inflight dinner! I was thankful that they served a meal since I was still a bit hungry. They had beef with orzo pasta, a roll, yogurt, some vegetable, and dessert. The beef was decent with a good sauce. I think the vegetable was artichokes but I didn’t like the smell, so I didn’t try it. I always eat the bread. The dessert was like an angel food cake with a pistachio, honey, and citrus filling, and it was quite good. I didn’t eat the yogurt either because I was full enough. I usually enjoy the inflight meals. They have a certain not-high-quality yet comforting aspect like school lunches probably have, where the food isn’t very good but you eat it and you’re satisfied anyway because you are reminded of the present moment and past memories: my moment being that of traveling and having a new adventure or experience on yet another flight. Does that make sense?
The flight was uneventful and I was able to sleep for a few hours. The descent into Lagos was breathtaking actually and I am so disappointed that I couldn’t take pictures for you. It was still dark and the moon was out, so the lights reflected in the window and it was just not bright enough to take pictures. I’ll try to describe it to you though. There were little moving spots of light which I finally realized were cars. There were quite a few cars out so early in the morning! It was probably 4 AM at the time. Then as we got closer to the city, I could see little areas of houses with twinkling lights reflected in the thin layer of clouds above them. Each little area of houses looked like it’s own galaxy with moving swirls of light and clouds. It almost looked like the Northern Lights except these lights were orange and yellow and white instead of green and pink. I’m probably not describing it well enough for you to visualize it too, but take my word for it that it was a beautiful descent into the city. I have to say that Lagos is prettier at night because all you see are lights instead of the smog and heavy traffic and overpopulated shantytowns. But I digress.
We landed, I went through the health screening where they take your temperature with a thermometer gun, I passed customs, and then waited for my bag. It usually takes forever to get luggage, but it wasn’t too bad this time. Casey was already there waiting for me after baggage claim, since he’s not allowed into the baggage area. It was such a happy sight to see him after all that traveling! We walked outside to our taxi and drove off to the hotel. I already posted this picture but it’s a good one, so let’s post it again.
There’s the Murtala Muhammed Airport Lagos that we know so well. They redid the entrance out front so there is a fountain with four dolphins now. It was still early in the morning around 6 AM so traffic wasn’t bad on our way to the hotel. The sun was still rising as well.
Casey was sweet and made me oats for breakfast with his hotplate. That is one of the best purchases he’s made since he eats oats every morning. I haven’t had them in a long time, since I eat cereal all of the time, so they tasted quite good for a change.
I brought Casey a treat from Spain called barquillos rellenos de turrón, which are very very thin wafer cookies rolled into a cylinder and could be filled with something. In our case, they are filled with a vanilla-almond cream. You can buy these kind of cookies in the US too, but I can’t remember what they’re called in English. He was very pleased!
I was still a bit tired, so I took a nap for a few hours and then he wanted to play ping pong when I woke up :) I’ve never been to this hotel before, and this is Casey’s first time here too. It’s pretty nice actually. They have three buildings with rooms, a pool, a ping pong table, and a gym.
Casey took me on a tour around the grounds and I saw this by the kitchen. There are probably a hundred red onions on the top two shelves, and then there are huge yams at the bottom. You may or may not remember that there are only red and white onions in Lagos; they don’t have yellow onions here. Just some food for thought.
We kept walking and went into the gym. I would venture to guess that some of the funniest signs in the world are in Lagos. It is a completely backwards country as you can clearly tell by this contradictory sign. “No jogging on the treadmills” huh?? What are we supposed to do? Casey jumped to be in the photo. Funny guy.
This reminds me of a picture that Casey sent me a few months ago. He was staying at a different hotel, and he came across this sign on the door to the laundry room. Isn’t that hilarious? It makes complete sense right…
Anyway, back to the gym. They have three treadmills and a couple ellipticals, and a few other things. They have a sign that talks about what regular exercise is all about. It’s a rather small gym, but I suppose you can still get a decent workout here if you really wanted one.
We decided to ride bikes to a nearby food joint called Munchies for a small lunch. Casey has two bikes here in Lagos: an electric bike and a regular bike. He usually rides the electric bike but he let me use it instead while he rode the manual one. It was a quick ride to the end of the street where we popped inside for a meat pie! These are basically like calzones or empanadas, with a pie crust-like exterior and a ground beef and vegetable interior. I like the flavor though because they have some spice to it as well as carrots and onions. We bought two small cartons of vanilla and strawberry ice cream and came back to the hotel to relax.
Arik Air pays a set amount for meals at the hotels so, since we did not spend our daily stipend on food that day, we decided to order a bunch of drinks instead to use up the money. That is why you see all those drinks laying on the bed. It works out well this way because sometimes Casey will order food but not have enough money left over for drinks, so this way he can save some drinks in the fridge for later. To sum up my first day, we treated ourselves to a nice Domino’s Pizza for dinner! And it was delivered! My favorite combo of pepperoni and mushroom. Yum!!
Well that was my whole trip and day one in Lagos in a nutshell! Casey worked today so I had all day to write. He will probably work more this week, so I’ll be able to fill you in on some of our other outings. Hope you enjoyed this post! Until next time!