Spain, Morocco, and Portugal

Planning a trip is always a mix of stress and excitement. I actually enjoy the process of learning all about the place I’m about to visit, long before I ever get there. If I visit other countries, I try to make an effort to learn basic conversational vocabulary and history. It helps me dive into the place rather than just glance at it through a window, as it were, as I pass by. Guide books, maps, and blogs are especially helpful to become acquainted with your destination. I rely heavily upon TripAdvisor for hotel and restaurant recommendations, because the plethora of reviews that are provided are very thorough. Blogs serve as a journal entry of an individual’s journey and give a first hand account of their experience. You can get a better sense of what an average day of travel is like in that particular place and what sort of atmosphere to expect.

All that to say, I haven’t done any of that for our quickly approaching trip to Spain. We are leaving on Monday, 5 days from today. I’ve pretty much left all the planning up to Phillip, because he’s so knowledgeable of Spain having lived there for a couple years. Problem is, he hadn’t really started planning until this week. This is our first major trip together, so we are learning. As soon as I realized just how loose his plans were earlier this week, I warned him that I might panic at least twice during our trip. He promptly bought a calling card to call Amy, his sister who lives in Spain. He wrote up a rough itinerary (which was bouncing around in his head, but he just hadn’t really hashed it all out) and got to work. The problem is that he knows the country so well that he doesn’t think we have to do much research until we are there. This makes me nervous, so I am going to do research along the lines of his rough itinerary. My first task was looking into side trips.

First side trip: Morocco. Morocco is a hop, skip and a jump from Spain via ferry or plane. A short Rian Air flight from Sevilla to Marrakech, Morocco for two was about $160. There are three main cities in Morocco that get the most air time: Casablanca, Fes and Marrakech. From what I read, Marrakech sounds like an exciting city full of shopping and food! The Medina, the city center, is a giant street market called a Souk. This is what Wiki had to say:

Marrakech has the largest traditional market (souk) in Morocco and also has one of the busiest squares in Africa and the world, Djemaa el Fna.[4] The square bustles with acrobats, story-tellers, water sellers, dancers and musicians. By night food stalls open in the square turning it into a huge busy open-air restaurant.

This time of year Marrakech is about 88° F, so it’s gonna be hot. My priority is finding a hotel that has a decent pool and is near the city center. TripAdvisor had a listing of around 350 hotels in Marrakech, so I read through the reviews of the top hotels and narrowed my search down a little based on price. So far, the only way to book the hotel is to send your inquiry to the hotel on their website and then hope they get back to you. That or call Morocco. Whoa. That just sounds crazy. I’ll probably confirm arrangements before we head out. It seems that the best thing to do in Marrakech is soak in the surroundings of the busy square. The shops that line the streets look amazing with all the Moroccan style lanterns, brightly colored fabric and spices! I’m going to need to exercise some shopping restraint, but I’m going to take pictures to my hearts content! So far my impression is that Marrakech is safe for tourists and is a frequented spot by Brits and the French, so my initial fear is gone. I’m super excited to visit Morocco.

Second side trip that I’m looking into is Porta, Portugal. We were planning on cutting through the top portion of Portugal to get to the north of Spain to visit a friend and guess what happens to be in the north of Portugal? Port wine! Apparently there is a valley of wine in the north that is a must see and a new destination for wine lovers. This region has steadily grown in popularity over the past 10-20 years. I’m going to have to exercise some shopping restraint, yet again.

So these are my two projects for now. I’ll probably look into more Spanish destinations as we drive around Spain. We’ll have lots of car time as we are driving from Madrid toValdepeñas, a town 1 hour south of Madrid where Phillip’s sister lives, to Granada, a few hours south of there. Then from Granada to Sevilla (insert side trip to Morocco) and on to the white hill towns of the south. This will include a trip to Jerez de la Frontera, the home of Sherry! According to Spanish law, it must come from this region to be called Sherry. From there, we’ll drive back up toward Madrid and head West to Portugal, hitting up towns along the way. From the north of Spain we’ll head East toward the Pyrenees mountains and the border to France. We’ll make our way to Barcelona where we are arranging for a photography session in the city. Then finally we’ll head back to Madrid.

As we plan out our trip, a month now doesn’t seem long enough. The crazy thing is that Phillip’s aunt and uncle did this same trip in two weeks! So it’s possible. We’ll be climbing along the way and visiting with friends. We’ll be hanging out with Phillip’s sister and brother-in-law for the first week, which is going to be great! I’m looking forward to practicing my Spanish. :)

I can’t wait for the endless coffees, food and the sights of Spain! I’ll be sure to post pictures via Instagram and Facebook along the way. If you’d like to follow along, follow me on Instagram @TuMediaNaranja.

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