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Barcelona in Three Days

 

We will be back! for sure. A quick tour of this beautiful region in Spain and three days is never enough to explore this city. I lost my cellphone to a pickpocket in Barcelona, but even that is negligible compared to the wonderful experience we had there.

We took the late night flight from Marrakech, so we arrived Barcelona’s  El Prat  at around 2 in the morning. Utilizing the not so comfy airport benches, we tried to catch some zzz’s while we waited for the car rental to open at 6:00  in the morning. It was uncomfortable, but it was one of those money saving efforts we did for this trip. We rented a car via Costco for 2 days which cost us 27 euros per day, saved us a hotel cost for a night and allowed us to visit other places in the Catalunia region at our own pace.

First stop so early in the morning was the beautiful city of  Tarragona.

The Castle of Altafulla or Castell dels Montserrat is a castle palace of the Tarragonès dating from 1059 . It is not open for public viewing.

Esglesia de Sant Marti d’ Altafulia is built between 1701 to 1705

Clear skies with a few clouds,a gorgeous view of  the Mediterranean sea from the Tarragona amphitheater ruins, a plate of black seafood paella and just walking aimlessly in the the alleys of the city square was our idea of a good time.

Tarragona Amphitheater

Tarraco Arena Placa

Pont del Diable

After devouring that delicious black seafood paella, we headed back to Barcelona to prepare for our most awaited activity of the night. We really worked hard to get tickets for this game and even cancelled our booking in Cadaques just to watch Messi and the FC Barcelona play against Atletico de Madrid at Camp Nou. Every night we checked the website for ticket availability. Finally got a couple of tickets  2 days before the match. This is when I lost my cellphone in the train (we took the train from our hotel so we didn’t have to worry about parking, etc) and DSLR battery died! Photos here are from the Iphone but I’m glad we decided to watch them.  Just being in the crowd of passionate soccer fans, joining them sing and cheer for Barca, hearing the curses and praises; that was a great once in a lifetime experience.

FC Barcelona vs Atletico de Madrid, Camp Nou

Second day in Barcelona was spent meeting up with Vince’s college classmate, Kaye who spoke Spanish and showed us around Barcelona. so grateful at how Kaye changed our experience of this city.When we had to cancel our Cadaques booking, she suggested we drive instead to Tarragona for the early part of the day. Had a great time here visiting bars, museum and just enjoying the city for the whole day.

Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St Eulalia or Barcelona Cathedral

We we were so lucky to witness these castellers  (human towers) in Barcelona while we explored the city and a free pass at the Museum of the History of Barcelona.

Must have, Chorizos!!!

and an aperitif of black vermouth at La Alcoba Azul

Las Ramblas

and the best tapas at Tapeo del Born 

We came here the next day for a second round, just because we loved it so much. Loved the Glazed beef cheek stew; aubergines with honey and lime, patatas bravas, Iberian pork ribs with honey and mustard, Fideua (black catalan cuttlefish pasta), bombeta de la barceloneta and catalan cream foam.

Palau de la Musica and Casa Mila

4 Gats

The Four Cats is a cafe in Barcelona which became popular meeting place for famous artists during the Modernist period. Artists like Picasso frequented this place in the late 1890s.

Last day in Spain was busy as we travelled  northeast of Barcelona to visit Game of Thrones filming locations in Girona, Spain.

Girona Cathedral

Mid-noon, we drove back  Barcelona and did a  a quick drive thru of other tourist spots. On our way back, we had to pass by Montserrat. (Vince’s must see, in honor of his high school Benedictine influence.) We got married also in the Philippines at the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat which was also founded by the Benedictine monks in 1895.

Montserrat Monastery

Sagrada Familia

Park Guell

We wanted to visit this insta famous creation of Guell and Gaudi, but it was already closed when got there. What we did was just drive around the neighborhood to get the local vibe. This  itinerary won’t be possible if we didn’t  rent a  car to take us around/

We started our Barcelona adventure with a view of the mediterranean, so we’ll end it in the same note.

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Four Days In Marrakesh

It was supposed to be just Barcelona and other parts of Northeastern Spain, but upon learning that the plane fare from Barcelona is the same price going to Seville,  we decided to add Marrakech  to our itinerary. It cost 231 euros for  2 people which included a 23 kg baggage allowance on the way back via Vuelling airlines. We arranged for a transport service to pick us up at the airport and bring us  to our riad  which cost 15 euros. Our flight was scheduled late in the afternoon  so we arrived in Marrakesh around 10:00 pm. Without this pre-arranged pick up, We’d probably get lost as our riad was located near Jemaa el-Fnaa. It was great to see it at night though, a nice way to start our Moroccan adventure.

Lots of trust and faith here. We were dropped off by the taxi driver near the old square as it can’t pass through the alleys and narrow roads. This guy from the riad picked us up from the drop off point and accompanied us to Riad Tasneem. It was  a good 10 minute walk.

We booked Riad Tasneem via Airbnb for 64 euros. I loved  the design of tiles on the walls.

Early morning view from the rooftop. The weather was perfect during our time here. Mostly cloudy with a few minutes of rain occasionally which  was just right, to cool us down. Locals said that in summer, it’s terribly warm.

We started Day 1 early to meet up with our tour group. We booked a 3 day tour to Merzouga  with Go Adventures Morocco.  Abdel is a sweet and attentive tour guide. The 3 day Merzouga semi private  tour is all inclusive (transportation, accomodation and meals) at $175 per person. He also provided us with scarves and a local sim card. Though our mobile company provided a free data roaming service, the local sim card was quite fast and efficient.

Ait Benhaddou

A UNESCO World Heritage site; it  is a village located between the old caravan route of Sahara and Marrakech. A lot of great movies were filmed here, Gladiator, Prince of Persia, Alexander, etc.  It was also featured as the city of Yunkai in the season 3 of Game of Thrones. Love the pop of vivid colors from the different merchandise sold by local artisans.

Gorges Du Dades

What a sight! The Gorges du Dades are a series of rugged gorges carved out by the Dades River in Morocco which originates in the High Atlas range of the Atlas Mountains.

We spent the night at at  Hotel La Gazelle which is located near the gorges.

A Berber Village

Day 2 commenced visiting a Berber Village. I am still glad we were  able to visit a Berber community on our way to Merzouga.  It was fascinating to see the people going about their daily routines. I think that the  Atlas Mountains  offer a rugged  and harsh setting for this tribe. It is truly admirable how they have survived through the years and how they have kept and continued with their traditions . Donkeys are still used to help with transport. Women spend  thousands of hours crafting and weaving beautiful rugs with their hands.

Erg Chebbi Dunes in Merzouga

This is my most favorite part of the entire trip. I can do this again. I don’t know if it is the novelty of the experience, but I had the grandest time. It just felt surreal.. From the time we arrived at the desert; it was already windy.. you can taste sand.. you can feel sand. The wind and the fine sand made a nice natural filter of the whole setting. Though we did not get the full effect of the setting sun because of this ‘filter’,  it felt like we were in some kind of an adventure movie that’s set in desert.

Our Fabulous Tour Groupmates.

At night, we slept inside a tent beside the Nasser Palace Hotel which is a 5 minute camel ride from the dunes.

Berber music filled the night and Vince did some attempts to capture the Milky Way .

On our 3rd day, we woke up early, head out to the desert to catch the sunrise. After a hearty breakfast, we prepared for a long drive back to Marrakech.

Last night in Marrakech was spent in ‘One Fine Stay’, a  riad booked thru Airbnb for $77. It was nice, clean and lovely.  While I love the traditional intricate and colorful theme that characterizes Moroccan influence, I love this riad’s minimalist ambiance.

Day 4 in Marrakech was spent exploring a tannery, museum,  souks in the Jemaa al Fnaa, shopping, eating and  drinking moroccan mint tea while carpet shopping.

A Tannery

We visited a tannery at the north end of the medina. Warning! It is not for the faint hearted. Overwhleming stench! that’s how I would describe it. I think it is worth visiting though. At the time of our visit, the tradesmen were soaking skins in various containers  filled with quicklime and water to begin the treatment process. I would have loved to see the part where the leather is  laid out on the ground to dry.  During the visit to the tannery, mint leaves were given out to counter the stench, It is so effective. BTW, he demanded a fee of 50 dirhams for the ‘short tour’. Sometimes I still think that most of my money was spent paying some wannabe tour guides instead of buying knick knacks to bring back home.

 

Marrakech Museum

The Souks

I wish we had more time to take explore Marrakech, I know we will be back again. Since we came back from our trip, Ive cooked tagine, made a moroccan mint tea, laced up my tea and rice with lots of turmeric. I still dream of the desert.

 

 

 

 

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Two Days in Ireland

Ireland was an afterthought; but when I realized that the plane fare  from England was very affordable, I took the chance so I can visit my favorite childhood playmate and cousin whom I haven’t seen for 18 years. I didn’t have a lot of expectations, but I felt that Ireland was familiar.  My favorite priest in my school age years was Irish and I grew up loving the music of U2, the Cranberries and the Corrs. I remember singing my heart out to Cranberries’ Zombie during my early teen age years.  Two days is not enough to form an opinion, but  I think Ireland is unpretentious, raw, bruised but innately strong. I would love to come back and explore some more.

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