Marrakech, Morocco

So here I am, sitting at my computer, and ready to share with you lovely people what little knowledge I have on some of my Travel Adventures. Let me start with, I LOVE traveling. I know this comes as no surprise to you, but I say I have little knowledge mainly because, even the most seasoned of travelers have more to learn, and there is not “one way” to do anything. What I enjoy and what works for me, may not work for you. So please keep that in mind while reading any of my blog posts.

Moving on…

Back in June 2015, I had the pleasure of going on a Girls Trip to Morocco. This was a place I honestly had never really given much thought to prior to the couple of hours before I booked my ticket. Long story short, we found a great deal on Expedia, paid for it, and then invited all the girls we knew. Seems pretty random, and it was.

Initially it was my friend April’s idea as she found the bargain.  I was merely just along for the ride and down for a new city, new culture, and to really push myself out of my comfort zone. I knew absolutely NOTHING about Morocco, or Marrakech… the most I knew of Morocco was that Casablanca was there, and it was also the title of a Movie I had seen once.

As the trip grew near we had formed a group of 6 that were confirmed to take this adventure with us. Some of us were friends prior and some were friends of those friends, but we had a really great group. One thing we learned about traveling in a group this size, it was easy to break up into smaller groups, which comes in handy when some of you want to do one thing and the other half want to do something else.

We began planning and had an exciting itinerary ahead of us! Five days including a Cooking tour, Atlas Mountains and Camel Riding Tour, Horseback Riding, Shopping and Henna all from the comfort of our Riad (Riad Misria) in Old Medina. We chose to stay in this area as we wanted to have a somewhat authentic experience, and almost every travel blog we read recommended that area. Our Riad was near the Ben Youssef and around the corner from the Souks, which seemed like a prime spot to be. As our trip grew closer, we realized that we had booked during Ramadan (a Holy month in the Islamic faith). When telling other people that portion of our trip, it seemed to turn them off from the idea of going. To be honest though, it was really neat to be their during Ramadan, and it did not hinder our experience in any way.

I think from here on it’d be easiest if I broke the trip down Chronologically as that may make more sense (and keep me from rambling on).

Day 1

To start the trip off, we all met up at the airport. We live in different cities so this was the most reasonable way to start the trip. We were all so excited about the adventure to come and our 6:15am flight out of Stansted Airport. After the four hour flight, we had arrived! We made it through customs and began to wait for our ride to the Riad. We waited… and waited… and waited… finally we gave them a call wondering where they were or if we missed them. Seems that they weren’t there and were now on their way. I’m not sure if it was communication problems on our end, or if they were just late, and since it’s been like a year and a half the details are a little fuzzy, but they did indeed finally come! The 6 of us loaded into the minibus and were on our way from the airport into the city.

For those of you who have not been, leaving the airport everything is really modern. We passed buildings that seemed pretty normal, and the streets were fine. After a few turns, things began to change really quickly. Building are now much older, lost of red sand colored buildings, streets were narrow and filled with people and bicycles. Watching the crowd from the window of our minibus as we were passing them (very closely on these VERY narrow streets) was when I suddenly realized that this was going to be a very different experience than any of my other travel endeavors.

When the bus stopped, a representative from the Riad met us and instructed us to gather our bags and follow him in a straight line to the Riad, as the bus could not fit down the street where we would be staying. As we made our way through the streets and people, it was so obvious that we stuck out like sore thumbs. As someone who is always told to blend in as much as possible, it was slightly uncomfortable knowing that there was no way to truly blend in here. Our Riad was quaint and quirky. Much smaller than the pictures on Expedia made it seem, but in a nice way, it was not disappointing.

Upon arrival, we were given a tour and a quick briefing by Youssef about the area, the Riad, and our stay. He even took the time to walk us into the Souks after we had settled in, so we would know the way. Each room was different with it’s own charm, there was a small pool on the ground level, and places to sun bathe on the roof. I would highly recommend our Riad, as it was a pleasant place to be for the duration of our stay.

Ben Youssef from the Roof of our Riad
Ben Youssef from the Roof of our Riad

The first day we mainly got our bearings in the city, found our way around the souks and soaked it all in as much as we could. Our first trip into the square was a bit overwhelming. As an American, my personal “bubble” is pretty large compared to many European standards of personal space. But in Morocco, they do not care about personal space. As with all cities, I expected people to try and get you to purchase things from them. What I did not expect was for them to walk right up to you, grab your hand, and try to write on you with Henna, or for Children to be tapping you on the shoulder asking you to please purchase tissues from them. It’s definitely something I wish I had been more prepared for. I did of course stop for the picture with a monkey on my shoulder… I also did have to pay them for taking it after, lol. Aside from that, when you go, get the Orange Juice they are selling! It was AMAZING! Choose the booth that is the least aggressive, just because. 😉

That evening we found a roof top restaurant to eat at, and the went back to rest before our big day the next day.

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Day 2

Today we had a cooking class planned! This was one of the things I was most excited for about our whole trip! Who doesn’t love food while traveling?

Our Tour was through “Cooking in Marrakech” but it doesn’t look like their website is still active. This was a highlight of the trip though! You go through the market with them to purchase the ingredients, then you cook a traditional Moroccan meal as a group, then eat it together. I highly recommend doing something like this any time you travel (even if it’s just a food tour). I believe this one was through Rouge Hostels (now looking online).

Cooking Class Spread
Cooking Class Spread

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After this we had planned to go Horseback riding. I won’t elaborate too much on this experience as it didn’t end well (for me at least). But I wouldn’t recommend the company solely based on our experience. Lets say I walked away with a nice big Bruise on my backside… that is not internet safe to post, lol. That’s not the only reason I would not recommend them, the customer service wasn’t there, and it just wasn’t what we thought we were getting when we booked.

Time to Ride
Time to Ride

Day 3

Now nice and sore from day 2’s horseback adventure, we had a Atlas Mountain and Berber Village tour through Camel 4×4. This is the top rated company for tours in Marrakech if you go to TripAdvisor, which is why we chose them. If you are looking for an amazing tour while in Marrakech… this is it! I’ve included the description of the tour below, as it is exactly what we did and is better described by the company rather than myself. But everything about this tour was perfect!

We will visit the two valleys , the first is the Ourika valley. We will stop for a visit at the local Berber village market where the locals gather  for their weekly shopping if its a day for the Market.
the Market open on ( Sunday , Monday , Tuesday , Thursday and Friday )
On the way if you want to experience a camel ride in the countryside , we offer an optional 20 minutes ride .

Then we  visit the Argan oil cooperative. It is a locally produced  oil found only in Morocco, and hand made by women . It is very labour intensive and the produce is a rich oil with amazing properties for skin, and delicious taste for cooking.

Then we will go off road to the second valley ( Asni valley). We admire the scenic route and stop at any locations you feel is worth it, especially if you want to take photos.

Once at the Berber village we stop for tea in a traditional family house.

This is followed by a delicious lunch ( soup, salad, couscous or tagine Berber, fruits ). This is also a great opportunity to meet some local Berber people and kids from the villages and have the possibility to give them some sweets, or maybe even some old clothes you may don’t want anymore and that you could bring with you to Morocco. You can also bring school stationery like pencils or paint, as it is always needed.

After lunch we will arrive in the second valley: Asni valley and we will stop to admire Toubkal mountains (4165m Altitude)
There is the possibility to go for a walk.

We did opt in for the Camel Ride, well except me and my black and blue bottom. I did however sit on one long enough to grab a photo, then promptly hopped off. It may seem odd that they asked us to bring things for the school kids, but it was actually really neat. So if you do this tour, try to find room in your luggage to bring some goodies. Seeing the kids faces light up is rewarding, and everyone can use a little more kindness in their lives.

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View from Berber Village Home

Day 4

This was the final full day of our tour. We broke up as a group, some people road four wheelers, others visited the Majorelle Garden, and we decided to get Spa treatments and go to the Hammam. We went to the Medina Spa Marrakech and got what was called the Supreme Beauty Package. This included the Hammam experience as well as a massage and a facial. I wouldn’t suggest this Hammam if you are shy or modest, as it goes right out the window once you arrive. Still I left their feeling much fresher than when I arrived, and I would still recommend the experience to people. After this we met all the other girls for Henna at the Henna Cafe! On the way there we were heckled a bit and told to get the “F” out of their country. They also called us Rich… which if they saw my bank account they may think otherwise, lol. None of it really felt threatening so I wouldn’t let that scare you. It more so just added a “interesting” story to the experience. That evening we went into the square again, as they were having their evening Ramadan celebrations. Since the sun was down, the fasting had ended for the day and they had a huge feast. Dinner was good, and it was nice seeing all the celebrations with the locals!

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We left early the next morning, bags full of pottery & souvenirs and hoping Ryan Air wasn’t going to try and weigh our heavy luggage that we were trying so hard to make look light. Though I enjoyed my Moroccan experience, I was so glad to be back in England, to the comfort of my own bed…and to display all my new pottery!

 

Costa Brava, España

Recently, I went on a “Girls Trip” to Spain. More specifically we went to Santa Susanna in Costa Brava. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, its an hour or so outside Barcelona.

I’ve been to Spain before, but it was only for a short weekend trip to Madrid. So I was really excited to go back for a longer trip, especially for one that involved the beach.

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Here I am venturing out into the Ocean… might I add it was not very warm.
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Hotel Pool

We stayed at an Apartment on the beach. It was part of the Hotel Thalassa and it was lovely. The apartment itself was nothing special, but you could not beat the location. We spent 2 days soaking up the Sun on the beach, and souvenir shopping.

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The Sunrise from the Beach on the last morning

The final day was spent in Barcelona before our evening flight. I wish we would have had more time in Barcelona to truly sightsee, but I guess that just calls for another visit! We did get to do the HOHO Bus. We only made it about half through the Red Line, then decided to take the Metro to the Sagrada Familia.

The buses Audio tour was a bit lacking sadly. I’ve used the buses in so many cities and typically LOVE them! They’re such a great way to see the city and get around. We didn’t see the whole tour though, so who knows, maybe it gets better further in the route.

From there, it was time to head to the airport and wait for our flight.

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Sagrada Familia… and ironically, our HOHO Bus

It was the perfect relaxing vacation! Plus we got it pretty affordably through Groupon. Though the Groupon bit was a bit of a hassle in the long run. Long story short, it was beautiful, I had fun, and I’d go back!

Until next time <3

 

The Land of Fire and Ice – Iceland

So this past weekend we had the amazing opportunity to travel to Reykjavik Iceland!

Iceland is one of those destinations I always thought would be really neat to go to, but didn’t think I would actually every get there (at least not any time soon). However, through work I was able to go and take my husband!

Day 1 – We flew in late Thursday night, got checked in to our hotel and stepped out to find late night dinner. We wound up at a Pizzaria near our hotel (I have no clue what it was called sadly) and had amazing food and beer.

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Walking home from the Pizzaria we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights! Little did we know our Northern Lights tour would be cancelled for the remainder of our trip due to weather. I’m so glad I was able to capture this picture!

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Day 2 – We did a half day City Tour as well as Whale Watching. I’d highly recommend the Whale Watching! So much fun and we saw Minke Whales and Dolphins. We also happened to see some Puffins!! I booked the tour through viator.com and found it to be pretty affordable.

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Chuck Norris Grill, delicious Lunch option!
Chuck Norris Grill, delicious Lunch option!
Puffin!
Puffin!
Dolphin about to dive under our boat.
Dolphin about to dive under our boat.

Day 3 – We did the Golden Circle tour. We booked this through Reykjavik Excursions. It was from 9am to 5pm, a full day almost, but worth it as you got to see multiple sights! It was rainy while we were there, so we were wet the majority of the trip. However, it was nice to get out of the city and see the more scenic sides of Iceland.

Super fresh Bloody Mary
Super fresh Bloody Mary
At the Geyser
At the Geyser

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Gulfoss
Gulfoss

That night we ventured into the City for some beer and to see the nightlife. We only made it to about midnight until we decided to find some Icelandic HotDogs and call it a night.

Day 4 – Today was all about Relaxing! We went to the Blue Lagoon first thing in the morning. You see the pictures online and think wow these have to be edited or something, that water can not be that blue! Friends, let me tell ya, it is! It looks exactly like all the pictures. I wish we could have spent the whole day there.

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After the Blue Lagoon, we napped… seriously, for about 3 hours. I guess we were tired from the relaxing morning in the lagoon.

Day 5 – Our LAST day in Iceland. We opted to spend this day walking the city and looking for souvenirs. We walked and walked, took a few pictures, and walked some more. That evening we jumped on our plane and headed back to the UK.

I LOVED Iceland, in fact I’ve already decided that we WILL be returning eventually! There is so much more to see! Maybe next time we will rent a car and explore that way.

Until next time..

<3 Amanda

Welcome to my Blog… About Me

Welcome! This is the part where I get to talk about myself, and you get to read it.

My name is Amanda in case you haven’t caught on to that yet. Nice to meet you!

I’m a Dog Lover (well all animal lover really), Travel Enthusiast, Wife, Student, Friend, Sister… etc etc. Like many of you, I wear many hats.

Family Road Trip
Family Road Trip

I’m a Texan by birth but I live in the UK currently with my husband and my Chocolate Labrador named Penny. We LOVE to travel, and do so often. We are lucky to live in an area that allows us to travel so much so cheaply!

Me and Penny at Loch Ness
Me and Penny at Loch Ness

Aside from travel, I do the typical day to day things. Such as work, cook, walk Penny, watch Netflix… you know, normal things. I love trying new recipes! Nothing too crazy though as I hate spending hours and hours in the kitchen for only 20 minutes of eating.

No one said you had to like Guiness in Dublin
No one said you had to like Guiness in Dublin

So basically this blog is about me, our travels, my dog, life in general. I hope you enjoy it, and find it somewhat entertaining in the least.

 

<3 Amanda