Spain, Morocco, Portugal · 17 Days · 44 Moments · June 2017

Iberian Voyager

13 July 2017

Since it was so hot in Madrid (more than 40 degrees), we chilled out at the hostel for a while. In the evening (ironically, the hottest part of the day), we decided to walk to the contemporary art gallery. We were DYING of heat. The experience was definitely not as enjoyable as it could've been because I felt so jumpy once we got inside and couldn't really take any of the art in. I did get to see some of Dali and Picasso's work in person, which was neat. We weren't allowed to take photos inside, unfortunately.
The twins and I spent the morning of our free day in Madrid shopping. There were so many unique stores that I really had to slow down with the shopping and pace myself...

12 July 2017

After a day of driving, we got to Madrid. It was certainly beautiful, but resembled many other big cities.
Our journey back to Spain featured a stop in Salamanca. We were only there for a total of 2 hours (including lunch). It wasn't as busy as any of the other cities but was stunning to get a glimpse of it. Our tour guide took us to the Playa Mayor, which is considered to be the nicest in all of Spain. We had some free time for lunch and had arroz negro - a black paella made with squid ink. It was delicious! Before we left, our tour guide pointed out the spaceman on the basilica. So neat!

11 July 2017

After the wine tasting, most of us stayed for the paid optional river boat cruise down the Duoro River. It was 50 minutes long and showed great views of the city's riverside.
In the early afternoon, we met up as a group across the large bridge to go visit the Croft winery where they make port wines. It wasn't very interesting to me and I wasn't that interested in the wine tasting either - it would be a great experience for someone who is keen on wine, though. I did try a new type of pink wine which wasn't too bad (they were all very sweet).
We headed to the half gothic/half baroque basilica in Porto. To be honest, the trip was worth it but it was quite the trek going up and and down many hills in the scorching heat.
In the shop where we bought the tickets to the Lello bookshop was a little artsy area. I had no idea whether it was an art gallery or a shop (or both) but it was very unique and had a musician playing. It felt eclectic and was honestly pretty random.
On our free day in Porto, the very first thing we did was visit the famous Lello bookshop! There was a relatively long line, but I don't think most people realized that they needed to buy the tickets in a nearby shop (I found out about halfway through the line). Luckily I was able to duck out, buy the tickets, and get back in time for entry. It cost 4€ to enter but you'd get refunded if you buy something in the store. I bought a bookmark that said Livraria Lello on it and a book of poems by a Portugese author. There was a variety of books in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and English. It was stunning at first glance - however, there were so many people that it almost made it an unpleasant experience. The stairs were gorgeous but so tight (people kept taking photos and stand in the middle so no one could walk through). I'm glad I got a chance to see it, but I think I would've enjoyed a quaint bookshop slightly more.

10 July 2017

After our stop in Sintra, we headed to Porto. We had a brief walking tour to orient ourselves in the city and learned some history as well. I was the one who pointed out the bookshop to the tour guide, then suddenly everyone thought it would be a good idea to go!
Here are some more photos from Sintra. Such a cute little town!
After wandering through Sintra for a bit, we arrived at the National Palace. This square was filled with music, birds fluttering, the smell of popcorn... It basically reminded me of Disney World (but authentically charming).
After leaving Lisbon, we stopped at a small Portuguese town called Sintra before heading for Porto. In the morning it was rather calm, but as soon as midday rolled around it was "tourist central". There were so many people on the tiny cobblestone sidewalks that people were being pushed into the road (no, not violently). We had some free time wandering around the place.

9 July 2017

Quick stop at a lemonade/orange juice stand while switching lines on the hop on/hop off bus. The sun was burning outside but this helped relieve the heat! These little carts were everywhere in Lisbon and all had different kinds of foods. The guy that worked there made the lemonade right in front of me. So neat!
For lunch in the Alfama district, we stopped at a tiny cafe called Medrosa d'Alfama for food. It was great - we all ordered goat cheese toast with tomato and basil. They served it with chips. I also ordered a unique drink called groselha (water with gooseberry syrup). It was a bit squishy inside but the atmosphere was great. They are playing MY type of music (The Smiths, etc.). I'd go back there!
On our free day in Lisbon, the twins and I went on a hop on/hop off bus. In between stops, we took a tuk tuk to the Alfama district (the oldest part) and the tour guide took us to a few scenic stops on the way. The tuk tuk was WELL worth the money and would be a great option if I were to go back to Lisbon. Unfortunately, since it was a Sunday, most markets and stores were closed. However, there were many small music festivals happening around the city which were great to see.

8 July 2017

We walked to dinner (about 3 km) along with the new people joining our tour for our first night in Lisbon. We got some up-close views of really cool street art and nice, colourful buildings. The restaurant was really good; I wish I took more photos of the food! It was tapas style and each dish was super tasty and unique.
We went from Seville to Lisbon, Portugal and didn't even have to cross a border! It was awesome! Before arriving at our hostel, we stopped in the Belem neighborhood. We went inside the cathedral and up a tall tower to get some good views of the city.

7 July 2017

After our free day in Seville, we had tapas for dinner then went to see a flamenco show. We weren't allowed to take pictures there but I took some photos along the way - Seville is beautiful at night!
Seville is no doubt a gorgeous city. The architecture looked borderline cartoonish in some areas because of the bright colours and the cleanliness of the city. Apparently it's a famous town for students to come of university exchanges. I definitely would come back to Seville one day. There is fabulous shopping, great architecture, a fun atmosphere with many young people, and the Spanish culture is so rich (flamenco in Seville is great). They do a great job of taking care of the city - we even saw them spraying disinfectant on the streets (at least, that's what our tour guide Michele said it was). 10/10 would recommend. ☺️

6 July 2017

Our first night in Seville, we had dinner at a tapas restaurant called Bodega something or other, and it was quite good. Afterwards, we got some Amaretto gelato and had a great time. We then went to a bar and had churro with chocolate and drinks. The staff was hilarious and we met some locals too. Afterwards, we went to the rooftop of our hostel, had some more drinks and chatted with the other hostel guests. It was a good night!

5 July 2017

Our last full day in Morocco, we visited the Roman ruins of the city of Volubilis and the large city of Meknes. There wasn't much to see or learn about in Volubilis that I didn't learn about when in Rome, however, it was interesting to learn that the Roman Empire stretched as far as what is modern-day Morocco.

4 July 2017

After the bus tour, we went on a tour of the legendary markets in Fes. The smells were almost too much to bear but it was a great adventure. I'm glad we stuck together as a group - a young girl was following one of the guys and eventually reached into his pocket and tried to steal his wallet. A bunch of us started screaming at her and his wallet was saved! We visited the tannery which was completely vile - they handed us mint to put under our noses, so at least that helped. We then went to a silk shop, natural pharmacy and rug shop. We then had a traditional Moroccan lunch.
This morning we started off with a tour bus taking us to the King of Morocco's palace. Afterwards, we went to the Jewish quarter.

3 July 2017

Dinner our first night in Fes! We had Moroccan salads to start, a tagine with chicken, and fruits for dessert.
We checked into our hotel here in Fes. There is a very nice pool and the interior is so beautiful! We also found a massive lounge on the second floor which was nice to take some photos in. It's almost 45 degrees so we've been trying to find ways to cool down.
This morning, Emma, Bek, and I went to take photos in the town of Asilah before leaving for Fes. Here are some of the best photos!

2 July 2017

We arrived in Asilah, Morocco at midday. It's a small, coastal town with lots of beautiful, winding paths, colours, and plants.

1 July 2017

At around 5 pm, we left for a tour to Alhambra (and Generalife). We trekked up a very steep hill and everyone was completely winded - but it was completely worth it. The grounds were absolutely stunning. I wish we could have gotten more time to simply take in the scenery but we had to get a move on. I'd definitely go back there. The atmosphere made me feel so zen and in tune with nature🌹. The gardens and the ceiling of Seven Heavens (shown in a photo) were my favourite. Apparently the designs on the walls spelled out Allah's 99 names from the Quran, the engravings had designs of plants so as to depict "paradise", and there bottom parts of the walls had mathematically-based designs.
This morning, Emma, Bek and I went for breakfast with our roommates Kayleigh and Kelly to a breakfast place that Michele recommended. Emma did my hair too!! It looks so good. We slept in a lot (the beds are so comfy)! I then had a frapuccino and a strawberry lemon muffin. We just walked around the area for a few hours afterward.

30 June 2017

After the walking tour, we went to a tapas bar called the Minotaur (or something like that). Whenever you order a drink, you get free food. We ate so much but what was notably delicious was a drink called mosto (fermented juice without alcohol). I would've taken more photos of what we ate but my phone was dying. After a really fun dinner, we walked over to another bar (I just had water), chatted a bit, then went back to the hostel.
We did a walking tour through Grenada led by Michele. I have to admit, I really like this city! It goes to a really high elevation, so there is lots of climbing up steps and ramps involved, but it's definitely worth it. I saw this adorable, sad little dog at the very top point with his owner (she looked like a gypsy). After seeing him, I really started to miss Monty (and Mia). But wandering through the streets was definitely interesting, there are so many unique spots.
We checked in to our hostel here in Grenada called The White Nest. So far, it's the best one we've been to. The decor is adorable, the bathroom is spacious, and I like the whole vibe of it. There's lounges with books and they play awesome music in the main common area.
En route through the region of Andalusia to Granada! We took the Topdeck bus for 6+ hours and finally reached our destination, with a few stops in between. The scenery was extremely gorgeous with the surrounding mountains, and we even took tunnels through a few of them. Michele (our tour guide, an Italian dude) was playing funny movies on the way there so the drive passed pretty quickly. Everyone was all gross from the pub crawl that happened last night, but I enjoyed the ride to Granada.
After the hospital, we were starving and went to the first restaurant we saw at the Plaça de la Reina. The food was scrumptious although really pricey. We got patatas bravas, garlic prawns, and of course, seafood paella to share. 🥘😋 We had a lot of fun and the waiter was super cute and funny - the whole restaurant probably thought we were just crazy tourists! We then stopped to get gelato on the way back to the hostel. I has a flavor with the name Grenada in it and it has berries... Don't know exactly what it was but it was super good. We sat in the old square. I still can't get over the whole ground and streets there are covered with beautiful tiles!
After the siesta, Emma, Bek and I went to the hospital to get our respective ailments checked out. The staff was super friendly trying to help out out, and translating between Spanish/English was super hilarious. The walk there was super lengthy and confusing so we just took a cab back. I probably had more fun there then just walking through the city. 😂

29 June 2017

Going to take a siesta. Water is my best friend!!
After breakfast with my roommates, I met up with Bec and Emma. We went to the Central market to get some food and juice. I was feeling really hot after that so I went back to the room for a while. I wanted to just take a nap and stay on the room for the rest of the day but decided against it. We then headed to the beach which was totally worth it - even for the short amount of time that we were there! We took a tram located outside of the Old City (we had to walk a bit). We got some ice cream while there and since one of the twins couldn't swim, neither did. I put my legs/feet in the water for a bit which was SO nice (my first time in the Mediterranean Sea) and then we headed back.
I went with my roommates to breakfast in a nearby square - La Plaça de la Reina. I had eggs benedict and they came served with avocadoes and a salad. It was alright but the egg was overcooked and the food was a bit cold. Certainly can't compare it to Jack's in Waterloo. 😉 I also got freshly squeezed juice made from Valencia oranges but it was so expensive - a small glass for €4.50.
Today is a full free day in Valencia. I woke up early (before any of my roommates) and went to take a walk and take some photos around the city centre. The streets were mostly full of people going to work and street performers setting up their places. In my opinion, everything was better at around 8:30 am than in midday because it wasn't very hot and the streets weren't too busy.
First morning in Valencia. Last night we arrived to our rooms, got settled, then went for dinner at a nearby restaurant. We were served some "entrees" (which were actually appetizers) including salad, calamari and patatas bravas (a glorified name for delicious potato wedges with white garlic sauce and some kind of red sauce). We then had authentic paella which was delicious and everyone got sangria. Then there was a weird looking decanter that look like an erlenmeyer flask and everyone passed it around and poured it in their mouths as a joke... I cannot say I did it very gracefully. 😂 After dessert, we went for a walking tour of Old Valencia then went back to the room. The room by the way, is AWFUL. I could write a whole post complaining about everything that's wrong with it but at least we're only here for one more night. Today we get a free day here and tonight there is a pub crawl which starts at 10:30 pm.

28 June 2017

At Cavas Freixenet trying some sparkling Spanish wine!
We had a free morning today in Barcelona! Last night we had some tapas and (free) white wine, but mostly just chilled, showered, and went to bed at a decent time. Emma and Bec (twins from Australia) and I walked around some shops today and went to La Boqueria - that area is my favourite in Barcelona aside from Montjuïc (which we visited briefly on a bus tour yesterday). There was this super cute shoe store call Güell and I wanted to buy everything 😂. The shops here are so nice; there are some smaller, more expensive ones but seem worth it. I had a long, rough day settling in yesterday but had a shower, a surprisingly good night's sleep, and was feeling alright today. I am coughing even worse than yesterday so that sucks... We are on the tour bus going to a small town that I don't know the name of. Most people are going to the Cava Cave excursion but I didn't really want to go and neither did Bec and Emma. Overall, things are going pretty well except that stressful day yesterday.

26 June 2017

On the flight to Barcelona. Liftoff was pretty delayed because of other flight delays, then there was some kind of "mechanical difficulty"... I'm glad we're finally up in the air. The flight isn't full so the person who was supposed to sit beside me left - two whole seats for me! I just ate some overlooked airline pasta. Yum... 🤢I'll probably watch some Better Call Saul and then fall asleep. We're supposed to land after 9 am in Barcelona. I'll write more then. Later ✌🏼