Fes Leather Tannery.

Our Travelationship in Review: May 2016

By: Heather

May could not have been more opposite of April. We went from laid back and slow to go, go, go. We admit it was a bit weird to get back into the swing of being on the move. We had been idle for two months and didn’t think the inactivity would affect us as much as it did. However, the stillness allowed us to re-evaluate our methods and re-energize our perspectives. We enjoyed housesitting and are looking forward to more caretaking in the next year.

For our second year, we had agreed to approach the blog and our daily events in a less stressed and frenzied way. And we have to say – So far so good! By actively prioritizing our travel and our relationship before the blog we have been able to minimize some of our daily stress. Of course, we still have arguments, and we only wrote one post for the month, but overall things are progressing much smoother.

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Not sure if all of our mental changes contributed to our feelings of time slowing down, but May felt much longer than 31 days. Most of our time has flown by, but May seemed never to end. It’s not a complaint by any means but more like a weird observation we noticed especially from the 20th on.

We spent most of our time in Spain and Morocco and pretty much loved everything we saw and ate. We both knew we were going to like Morocco, but we both left feeling impressed by our experience. It’s unfortunate I was sick for a fair amount of time, and it caused us to alter our plans, but my illness didn’t take away from the entire adventure.

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The Stops

Spain: Madrid (2x), Toledo
Morocco: Fes, Meknes, Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, Chefchaouen, Tangier, Marrakech, Essaouira
Botswana: Gaborone, Francistown

The Great

The food in Morocco! The spices! The freshness! Everything from the hand squeezed juices to the slowly simmered tagines were deelish. We even found a taco/quesadilla place in Marrakech to somewhat fulfill our Mexican food cravings. Oh and the pastries cake slices were divine. I think we had at least one sort of almond, citrus or other nutty pie pieces a day.

Spice market Marrakech.

Spice market Marrakech.

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Matt was finally able to get a great tasting burger from La Cantina in Essaouira, Morocco. We ended up eating there twice because Matt was so in love with their food. They also served baked potatoes, so I was in food heaven too.

Burger from La Cantina in Essaouira, Morocco.

Burger from La Cantina in Essaouira, Morocco.

While we were researching responsible desert treks, we learned about an organization called SPANA. The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad was started by two British travelers to help protect working animals in Morocco and educate local people on how to better treat and raise animals. We were able to visit 2 of their locations, 1 in Tangier and 1 in Marrakech, and were impressed with their work. In Marrakech one of the local vets, Dr. Boubker, spent some time showing us around and explaining to us how SPANA works throughout the country to improve the quality of life for working animals and their owners. We hope to get a full post written soon to share more about this organization. In the meantime, if you want to learn more, please visit their website at SPANA.

One of the super sweet donkeys rehabilitating at SPANA.

One of the super sweet donkeys rehabilitating at SPANA.

Moulay Idriss, just outside of Meknes between Fas and Errbat, houses the ruins of an ancient Berber and Roman city called Volubilis. The location was known as the capital of the kingdom of Mauretania and is an absolute must see when in Morocco. Volubilis is 1 of 8 UNESCO heritage sites in the country and out of the eight is the most uniquely distinct. The highlights of the remnants are the beautiful original mosaic tiles still visible in quite a few of the building locations. The rainstorm during our visit couldn’t deter us from enjoying this site.

Just one of the spectacular mosaics at Volubilis.

Just one of the spectacular mosaics at Volubilis.

Essaouira, aka the wind city of Africa, was lovely. We spent three days in the city and every moment was filled with color, vibrancy, and interest. Located on the seacoast, Essaouira is a fishing town made famous by surfers, kite surfers, and several movies and TV shows. Some of you might recognize their ramparts as the land of the Unsullied in Game of Thrones. During our stay in Essaouira and Marrakech, we saw the filming for Bollywood movie, Jagga Jasoos with Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor.

The harbor in Essaouira.

The harbor in Essaouira.

The ramparts from the land of the Unsullied in Game of Thrones.

The ramparts from the land of the Unsullied in Game of Thrones.

A still from "Jagga Jasoos" with Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor.

A still from “Jagga Jasoos” with Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor.

The architecture, doors, windows, colorful markets and interesting people of Morocco kept us in awe. We particularly liked the architecture of Medersa Ben Youssef an old university located in Marrakech. Morocco turned out to be better than we anticipated. We both look forward to returning and exploring more of the country.

An internal entry way at Medersa Ben Youssef.

An internal entry way at Medersa Ben Youssef.

We are all about meeting locals but tend to look at AirBnB as a last resort. We love the concept of AirBnB, but before we utilize their services more, we need to educate ourselves more about the controversy regarding how AirBnB may skew rental prices for locals. As home renters ourselves we don’t want to be part of the increasing rent problems. Recently, local tenants in areas dense with AirBnB hosts have argued the daily rentals are causing permanent rent charges to increase. The higher rents then force people to move because they can no longer afford to live in the neighborhood. As far as we know, no one has proven or disproven the argument. And until we learn more we choose to utilize AirBnB sparingly. If you know more about this subject, please let us know in the comments or by contacting us directly.

With that said, we found ourselves in Toledo, Spain during their busiest religious event, Corpus Christi Day. We could not find a reasonable and open room anywhere and turned to AirBnB for a room. Our hosts, Patricia, Roberto and their two children, were wonderful. Their home was comfortable, and our private room and bathroom were huge. Patricia was full of helpful information and easy going. The family took the time to drive us around to show us the most incredible views of Toledo. Also, Roberto is a painter, and their home was filled with stunning art. If you find yourself in Toledo or are in need of some beautiful artwork, check out their website.

Toledo Spain from the outer bank of the Tagus River.

Toledo Spain from the outer bank of the Tagus River.

The centerpiece of the Corpus Cristi celebration.

The centerpiece of the Corpus Cristi celebration.

Spending time with our friend, Rafa, in Madrid. We met Rafa in Kigali, Rwanda where he was volunteering at Les Enfants de Dieu at the same time as us. Luckily, we arrived into Madrid the night of the Football Championship League match against 2 Madrid teams. Matt was able to experience the game with the locals and had a great evening. We also spent a day walking around viewing some colorful street art and stuffing our faces with paella and the best Chinese food we have had in quite some time. If you ever find yourself in Madrid needing some Spanish/English tutoring contact Rafa at HobbyLanguages.

This month we met Cate from NYC while we were in Chefchaouen. Our travels coincided to Tangier, and we shared a taxi and a couple of days of exploring Tangier together.

The Blue City, Chefchaouen, Morocco.

The Blue City, Chefchaouen, Morocco.

The Not So Great

While in Fes, we witnessed a donkey, which had fallen on the slippery pavement. The owner had taken most, but not all, of its load off its back and was trying to get the donkey to stand up. The poor animal was in shock and as far as we could tell no broken legs, but not sure of ribs or any other bones. The owner was yelling, hitting and dragging the donkey by his ears to get him to stand up. We should have done more to help. I yelled at the guy to stop but of course, he did not know what I was saying. Our guide hustled us to move forward quickly. We should not have listened to him and should have stayed to help the donkey. We later were told the abusive behavior was not typical for Fes or Morocco. Not sure we 100% agree with what we were told, but we still feel ashamed we did not do more to help.

I was sick for a good two weeks of our time in Morocco. I seemed to have picked up an intestinal bacteria infection, which rendered me room bound for a few days. My being sick led to us canceling our desert trek, which was a huge disappointment. On the upside, we liked Morocco a lot and look forward to returning. Next time a desert trek in a dune buggy will be our first stop.

Travelationship review May 2016.

BTW, we weren’t able to find a responsible camel trek provider during our short search. When we return, we will opt to “trek” the desert via dune buggies or quad motorbikes.

Our continued bad luck with luggage damage. We have both had to replace our roller luggage recently and Matt’s first time checking his new luggage it arrived with the entire top corner bashed inward. The airline advised us they only fix wheel issues and proceeded to “fix” the corner by hammering the edge outward using the end of a stapler. We will have to wait and see if the luggage will hold up or not.

We were so on the go in May we had no time to write any posts. We have so much to catch you all up on and tons of photos to share. Hopefully, mid to late June and July will allow us more downtime.

The Oops!, WTF?, LOLs – Lessons learned, head scratchers & hilarities

Oops! Let’s not do that again lessons

Apparently, we didn’t learn a damn thing this month because we can’t think of anything to write.

WTF? Did that really just happen?

Iglesia Patolica in Madrid, Spain. I am not even sure how to describe the “Duck Church”. The location is a small two-room operation consisting of a man who believes his God is a duck. His family also has connections to working with Charlie Chaplin and shares stories of Mr. Chaplin’s political beliefs. His sermons are in Spanish and last around 45 minutes followed by a charming 6-minute video of his grandfather and great uncle as performance clowns from the late 1800’s. The entire experience was quite silly, but the 6-minute video made up for previous 45 minutes.

Inside at Iglesia Patolica in Madrid, Spain.

Inside at Iglesia Patolica in Madrid, Spain.

While in Essaouira Matt got taken out by a kid on a bike. As the kid rounded the corner, his bike handlebar got caught in the Matt’s pants pocket. The bike stopped, the kid hit the ground, and Matt and his Canon 5Ds went down pretty hard. Luckily all were ok, and Matt came away with just a scrape on his side.

LOLs our laugh out loud hilarious moments

Matt read about Hammams upon our arrival to Morocco. He was adamant that we try one as he said it was part of an authentic Moroccan experience. Moroccans typically visit their local hammam at least once a week as part of a cleaning ritual. The more I read about the experience, the more I was dreading it, as many of the accounts made the whole thing sound torturous; particularly when they spoke of the rough gloves scraping your dead skin away. My impending dread only seemed to delight Matt, as he was constantly talking about it just to see me squirm. In the end, it really wasn’t that bad, and Matt got a little dose of karma when he got some soap in his eye.

The Posts

The Features

Instagram

Door on Tv_doorsandwindows

Our Ears and Eyes

Heather

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Matt

Bad Luck and Trouble” by Lee Child
Morning Star” by Pierce Brown
Golden Son” by Pierce Brown
Podcasts: The Adam Carolla Show and The Nerdist

Up Next

We are in Botswana for the first part of June and headed to Namibia for the end of the month. For July and beyond we are hoping to find a few house sits or volunteer opportunities to occupy us through mid-September.

Looking out over the Atlantic Ocean, Essaouira.

Looking out over the Atlantic Ocean, Essaouira.

Have any suggestions on where we should go next? Let us know in the comments!

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