It’s been quite a while since we’ve updated the blog and since then we’ve experienced six different cities, two countries, and two continents! I’m writing now from our gorgeous Moroccan hotel in Marrakesh. Yes, I said Morocco. We’d allocated nearly 2 and a half weeks for Spain and Portugal and since Ben and I tend to move quite quickly we decided to spare a few days for a spontaneous trip to Africa!
So where we’ve been:
Our visit in Barcelona wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable without our traditional Spanish lunch with Joan, a Catalonian artist who the Buchanans are family friends with. He took us to “the 7 doors” which has Barcelona’s best paella according to Joan and honestly it was the best paella, tapas, and iberico jamon we’d ever tasted. Joan even gave me a gorgeous tan leather handbag as an early birthday present that is perfect for traveling (you can see Ben and I carrying it in all the photos now!). It was very special to have Joan’s perspective on the city we’d reveled in and more importantly to have his company for the day. We said our goodbyes and Ben and I hopped on a train to Spain’s capital city.
We arrived in Madrid late that night, found Tom’s apartment (Keiren’s friend with whom we stayed), and headed out to catch a late night Flamenco show. The smokey bar was packed and the energy of the dancers was incredible. Their feet were on fire and it was the perfect introduction to Madrid. The next day Tom had class so Ben and I set off for a day of sight seeing and walked the entire city in one day. Madrid is famous for their art museums so we checked out the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia which boasts housing Picasso’s legendary Guernica. It was definitely our favorite museum because of its extensive Dali collection. We also visited the palace (very Buckingham-esque!), the cathedral, and many other remarkable buildings. Madrid is a grand city with gorgeous architecture everywhere you look – so although it isn’t known for one landmark in particular, walking the whole of the city exposes many unexpected delights. That night we headed to El Tigre, a bar Tom frequents for the free tapas with every caÃ±as (glass of beer) and since it is off the tourist beat. We had a yum dinner of tapas and a wonderful night out in Madrid 😉 ! The next day Ben and I headed to the Prado before spontaneously deciding to go to Toledo, an ancient city about 75 minutes south of Madrid. We loved wandering around the winding cobblestone streets that time had forgotten before heading back to Madrid for our last night with Tom. That night we had a delicious tapas dinner and since it was so cold and we had an early morning bus to Granada to catch we decided to head home after dinner. Tom was an excellent host and showed us an awesome time in Madrid. We can’t thank him enough for the three nights and wonderful memories and all the Don Simon 😉 !
The next morning we caught a bus to Granada. Five hours later we arrived in the gorgeous Andalucian city where we’d decided to spend my birthday! Mom and Dad surprised me with a special and thoughtful gift they’d given to Ben when they visited in November so it felt like they were there with us celebrating. (Thanks again you made my birthday incredible!) We stayed in a wonderful hotel in Plaza Nueva with a view of the Alhambra! That night we went to Kasbah, a tea and hookah bar before going out to an arabic dinner for my Australian birthday. The next morning (my actual birthday) we walked the entire city and explored the Albaicin (the old Jewish quarter) and then spent the afternoon at the Alhambra. It was a present in itself just to be in Granada let alone to walk around the majestic Alhambra. Ben and Siena were quite the conspirators while in India and he surprised me with this Hermes shawl I’d fallen in love with that Siena played off as a gift for a friend. That night we had a delicious tapas dinner. It will definitely be a birthday I remember forever.
The next morning we left Granada in the rain and took a bus to Cordoba for a few hours exploration on our way to our final destination of Sevilla. The sun was shinning and we visited its famous Mesquita – a Cathedral built on the ruins of a Mosque. Cordoba was a delightful town with the same white washed homes characteristic of Andulacia and we enjoyed walking around soaking up the sun before heading to Sevilla. That night we had dinner and strolled the streets of Sevilla. The next day we spent visiting the Alcazar, its famous Cathedral, Columbus’ tomb, the Giralda, and getting lost in the streets of the Barrio. After a full day we spent the evening strolling the streets through all the shops just like the locals, before having a wonderful tapas dinner. We’ve really been enjoying our time together exploring these cities.
So where we are now:
After two wonderful nights in Sevilla, we jumped on a bus to Tarifa, walked through town with an American couple we’d met doing the same thing, and boarded the 35 minute ferry (actually more like an hour with the weather) to Tanger. We arrived and walked the entire city, rocked the Kasbah, and sat down to a delicious lunch and our first Moroccan Mint Tea (divine!) at an outdoor cafe perfect for people watching and being people watched. This cafe was also accommodating to women and I didn’t feel uncomfortable there whereas all of the other cafes along the main drag were occupied by nearly 100% men. We’d decided to search for a recommendation from our Lonely Planet Guide book for dinner which ending up taking us 2 hours to find because of the lack of road signs! We then headed to the train station for our overnight trip to Marrakesh.
We woke up not very refreshed but excited nonetheless (poor Ben was up reading at about 2:30 in the morning since he couldn’t sleep) and caught a cab to Djema-el-fna square where our adorable hostel is. It has a gorgeous courtyard, wonderful staff, and a colorful room. I’m also really loving speaking French everywhere! We then spent the day walking around Ville Nouvelle, or the new city, then the Medina (which is where we are staying), checked out their famous Koutoubia Mosque, and relaxed before heading to the night markets for a cheap local dinner. It’s amazing how many stalls they set up for the night markets and how wonderful the whole area smells around 5:30 in the evening. It really comes alive with all the locals and tourists. We had free mint tea with our Tajine and chatted to a friendly French traveller next to us. There was even a total blackout during dinner and the square went completely dark. Don’t worry we didn’t skip out on the bill or anything like that…they brought out some generators and then power was restored about 30 minutes later while we were drinking the most extraordinary cinnamon tea for dessert while chatting to a Casablancan native. The tea is seriously to die for and they even give you this interesting (hard to describe) very moist, chocolate, coffee, spice cake meets grainy pudding. Check out the photos when we get them up. Everyone here is really friendly and welcoming – the man we chatted to over dessert insisted on treating us even when we’d already offered a dessert and tea to a little child.
Today we spent strolling the endless winding roads of the markets, visited a tannery and did a bit of souvenir shopping. Tonight we’ll head to the night markets again for a cheap and yum dinner (with cups of cinnamon tea) and a taste of the local delicacy – SHEEP’S HEAD! They burn the hair off and then boil it. Apparently the locals eat the entire head except for the eyes. We’ll let you know how it tastes…well maybe Ben will let you know how it tastes 😉 !
Sorry for the long post and we’ll get the photos up next time we have wireless – which to be honest might not be until we get home to LA.
Hope all is well and send us your news!
Au Revoir et un gros bisous! (Goodbye and a Big Kiss)