Friday, June 21, 2013

Spain and Morocco

Benjamin and I just spent two weeks in Spain and Morocco. I have 583 pictures. There have been a few souls brave enough to come over and sit though all of them, and all my stories, but that's a little much for a blog. So enjoy these few, and if you really want the joy, laughter, and excitement behind them, come on over and we'll do it over a glass of wine.

We took a plane from the Springs to DFW, and then one from there to Madrid. After arriving in Madrid we found our way to the Atocha Railway station by Metro, and from there took the Renfe Ave train (high speed train) to Malaga, a five hour drive away by car, three hours on the Ave.

Malaga is where my best friend from college, Spring, lives with her family. And actually, her family is my family in a really roundabout way - my great great grandfather and her husband's great great grandfather were half brothers. I don't know what that makes us, but we're related somehow...

She picked us up, took us back to their place, and in the evening we went back out to walk around downtown Malaga, a lovely city on the Mediterranean coast.

The next day, after dropping her kids at school, we headed to Mijas, a quaint white town up in the hills.

Donkey rides are big in Mijas. I guess the tourists used to stop all the workers to take pictures of the donkeys, so they turned it into a money-maker. This man is waiting for someone to want a ride. 


The bull ring in Mijas. 

After Mijas we enjoyed the Mediterranean for a few hours. 

The following day Benjamin and I took the Ave to the city of Seville. 

And saw the gorgeous Plaza de Espana. 

Do you know what movie this was in?

It was a Star Wars movie...

We walked around town a bit. Benjamin decided to be funny and join in with this group of students.

The  cathedral in Seville was Benjamin's first. I had no idea how fulfilling it was going to be to "introduce him to the world," and cathedrals were a big part of that for me. I'm fascinated by them. The cathedral in Seville started out as a mosque before it was taken over and completed as a cathedral. It houses half of Christopher Columbus' remains.

I kept saying, "Benjamin, touch it. Touch the walls! Do you know how hard this was to build? How long it took? How long it's been here? Touch it!" I think he thought his mother was going a little overboard, but I can't help it. I run my hands along the cathedral walls, thinking about the artisans and builders who created these amazing structures.

The next day Spring, Benjamin, and I headed to Morocco. We drove a couple hours to the Spanish town of Tarifa to take a 45 minute ferry ride across the Straight of Gibraltar to the continent of Africa.

This man was selling snails he'd collected that morning. Minus a few escapees, from the looks of it. 

 Headed to Africa with Europe in the background.

First glimpse of Tangier. 

The view from our hotel window. 

A couple lounge areas in the hotel.

 The afternoon we arrived we took a driving tour of the city and outskirts.

 This is the gate to someone's residence. Someone wealthy.

 We stopped for a camel ride. The man who owned them was SO funny. He kept yelling things in English that he'd probably heard many people say before. "Oh my god!" "Go, camel, go!" "I looooove camels!" It was hilarious. And every time he took our picture he would say, "Camel cheese!"

 Benjamin couldn't hold onto his camera and camel at the same time, and fell off at one point. There was really no end to the laughing while on these big beasts. 

I am so in love with Arabic decor. Spain was nice, but Morocco was amazing. I need to go back, for a couple weeks next time, and see more of the country. Rabat, Casablanca, Fez, the desert - they will call to me for a long time to come, I'm sure.

The door placement in this country is really random...

Our second day in Morocco was spent driving two hours down wind-y mountain roads to the "blue" town of Chefchouen. Poor Benjamin was sick this day, most likely from the food the night before, and could hardly walk. But we were two hours from our hotel, on a tour, with another couple, and he dealt with it like a trooper.

This was our tour guide through the town. 

Just a few photos of the town. Our guide said they paint everything blue because it's a soothing color.

We came across some men building a doorway arch. Would personally love to hire them for my place...but I think a door like this would look a little out of place on my little cottage. 

Weaving room. 

Cell phones are everywhere. 

I think Benjamin counted around 70 stray cats during our trip. 

 We had lunch on the roof of a cute restaurant. Benjamin promptly laid down and fell asleep. We shared the rooftop with a group of a dozen or so Americans, and when Spring asked them where they were from, they said Colorado. She asked how they all knew each other, and they were a bit evasive until I told them I was from Manitou, and then they started laughing. They were all students from the Air Force Academy spending a few months in Rabat learning the language. Small world.

On our final day in Morocco we took a taxi to the small seaside town of Asilah for the morning.

Asilah is known for it's murals. They have a festival every year, where people come from all over to paint new murals on the city walls. The murals in my photos are from last years' festival.

We headed back to Malaga that afternoon. 

A view of Africa from Spain. 

A postcard view of the area. 

We carried a lot of bags back from Morocco. I did sooo much shopping there, and STILL wish I could have done more! But that purple suitcase was already 45 lbs, and the other one I brought to Spain empty went home full!

I SO enjoyed being with Spring again. After our return from Morocco she made mint tea and a breakfast of fresh fig, yogurt, honey, and walnuts. Yum!

 Before catching our train back to Madrid we quickly toured the moorish castle in Malaga.

View of Malaga (including the city's bull ring) from the castle.
Speaking of bulls in Malaga, one escaped downtown yesterday. Watch the excitement unfold here, as it charges a car and then a pedestrian before a bunch of guys took it down.

We took an afternoon train back to Madrid. The next day we toured the city a bit.

Street performer. I still have no idea how he was staying up there...

We had tapas and olives in the Mercado market. 

 Paused at 0 km, where all roads in Spain begin...

Our last day in Spain Benjamin and I took a train to Toledo, famous for it's gold, iron, sword-making, and Don Quixote.
The train station.

All the swords for the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies were made in Toledo, as well as the ones from the movie Thor with Brad Pitt. There were also King Arthur swords everywhere, and Don Quixote figures (which all looked different. Is he fat or skinny? I have no idea).

The Jewish section of town was subtly marked. 

We found the cutest little meat/cheese place with the most adorable couple running it. I'd gone in because there was a sign outside that said "sandwiches + drink for 3.95 Euro. That's about $12 total. As opposed to many restaurants where one meal cost upwards of $18. The couple spoke no English, but there is always a way to communicate what you want.

 They gave us samples of their meats and cheeses, and we ended up with two sandwiches and they were amazing.

 Our second cathedral.

With Don Quixote. He's kinda cute, dontcha think?

Our final view of Spain. 

We spent our first evening back in the States in Dallas, visiting friends we used to see on a weekly basis. It was a good end to the trip. 

Of course, there are so many stories that go along with these pictures. It's hard to do a trip like this justice on a blog, but at least this gives a taste of our time abroad.
And really, that's all traveling does - gives you a taste of things.

For to travel is to fall for an elusive lover - 
who smells of foreign spices, 
speaks with an alluring accent, 
attracts you with exotic features,
and tastes of tantalizing flavors.
Who takes you to new places,
makes you feel things you've never felt,
And touches you in ways that change you forever.
It leaves you longing for more, 
for you come home with
nothing tangible to hold onto,
making you want to experience it again and again and again... 
It is why wanderlust is so strong.