April had been one busy month. Three weeks of it were spent touring the Kingdom of Morocco and beautiful Lisbon, Portugal.
This would be the first time we joined a large tour group. You know the ones who get shuttled from one spot to another in air-conditioned bus?
There are some countries that are best suited for the tour group way and I believe in my heart of hearts Morocco is one of them. There are so many beautiful spots to see, and places to go to are far from each other. We have seen and experienced so much in our 11 days there.
You would have to read my narrative about the trip in my other blog to get the most of the experience, because in that blog I tend to post a lot of photos.
Among the cities we visited were Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech, Erfoud, Ouarzazate, Essaouira.
Some notes about the trip:
THE FOOD: Moroccan food is not new to me; in fact there is a very nice Moroccan restaurant near where I live and we’ve been there and ate the food. But I learned in Morocco when you order tagine, any kind of tagine, it DOES NOT come with couscous like it does anywhere in the United States I assume, because it does in California. And when you are craving for couscous, wait until Friday. We’ve been told few times that they only served couscous on Fridays. And this from different restaurants and different cities.
THE CITIES: If you only take a photo of the street and no landmark, you’d guess the photo is from anywhere else but Morocco. However, Morocco is modern and the infrastructure in the cities is modern. You’d really think you are somewhere else. Also, aside from Casablanca, which is the biggest city, the cities are very clean. Everywhere else is clean. When we mentioned this to our tour manager, who was with us the entire way, he told us that there are street cleaners all day long, in 3 shifts, no wonder it is so clean.
THE SHOPPING: We did very little shopping even though we went to souks in every city we went to. The vendors are not pushy and the selection of rugs, ceramics, etc is incredible. I simply did not have any shopping money when I was there.
ARCHITECTURE: I love tiles and tilework and this is one country that is abundant with that. My eyes feasted on incredible tiles in riads, schools, old buildings, mosques, etc.
THE ROADS: Wide city roads with mini park in between the roads. I really like that feel when people have open space in the middle of the road for rest and relaxation and for kids to play in.
THE RUINS: I was blindsided when I saw the ruins here. Who would have thought that I would see ruins here? But they are magnificent particularly in Volubilis. Incredible.
THE MOUNTAINS: The mountains are so beautiful and another special bonus for me. I did not really pay attention to the itinerary thus I was again blindsided by the mountains. Some parts of the scenery reminded me so much of California and the agricultural lands and the orchards are nice to look at.
THE DESERT: What else can you say about the Sahara? It’s huge, it’s incredible. I would do this trip again just to be able to see the desert again and marvel at the different hues of the sand.
THE TOUR GROUP: There are 36 of us, all from US and Canada. I’m guessing the age ranges from 35-70. We did not mingle as one large group, but we were all cordial. Everyone is respectful and friendly and kind. We eventually found a small circle of people we regularly go to dinner with. What a fun group. I also liked our tour manager so much; he’s awesome and all the local tour guides we had.
After the tour was over, my husband and a couple that traveled with us in Morocco as well flew to Lisbon to spend a few days there? They opted to stay for 2 days and we had 3 1/2 days there.
It was their first time in Lisbon and on the first day we tried to show them around as much as we could. On the second day, we explored the city on our own. They went walking around and were pleased with how their day went. We opted to take the Hop On Hop Off bus to sightsee. The reason behind this choice is we wanted to see the sights we missed on our first visit in the city in 2014 and we accomplished that goal. There was an impressive looking church that we spotted late in the day in 2014 and we knew that we could not stop there because it was late. This time we especially stopped there first to see the interior. We were not disappointed; even though it wasn’t as glistening in gilded designs as the other churches. The ticket we purchased for the bus tour enabled us to take the historic #28 tram around the city. Oh boy, this was one wonderful trip. The tram is used by locals, but popular with tourists as well. We also walked where we used to stay and I was disappointed that the restaurant where we used to eat breakfast no longer exists. I was told by a wait staff in next door restaurant that the restaurant business is tough and staying open is difficult to accomplish. We met up with our friends for dinner and a short walk around before stopping for a little nightcap.
They left the following day to spend a couple of days in Barcelona; we went walking around the neighborhood some more and also signed up for a half day tour of Sintra. That is one incredible experience as well.
On our last day in Lisbon, we went for another round of exploration on foot and made sure that we had paella negra for lunch. In the afternoon, we caught our plane to Casablanca where we stayed for one night.
In Casablanca, we arrived late in the afternoon. We were staying in a riad near the airport. The shuttle was late. We had been waiting outside the airport for a long time, until a local asked if he could help. The hubs told him we were waiting for the shuttle. After inquiring what hotel, etc, the kind local dialed the number and told them where we are and that we were waiting for a ride.
The riad is cute; the owners – French and Moroccan couple – were very friendly, and so were their cats and dog. The room is nice too, but we were there for a very short time. Only a few hours to sleep before we got up at 3:30 am the following morning and banged the door to get someone take us to the airport.
I don’t know if this covers the entire month of April, but it is one incredible month. I think I would love to start booking travels in April when the weather is so fine and the flowers are abloom.