Beautiful Belém

August 20, 2014, 2 comments

If you survive the tram ride.

Our second day in Lisbon, we decided step further afoot and explore outside of central Lisbon. After one of the most jam packed tram rides of my life, (I swear I thought I was going to pass out due to lack of oxygen), we arrived in the scenic neighborhood of Belém.

Belém sits along the Tagus River and is full of monuments to visit, plus some very famous pastries. (More on those later). We visited the Jerónimos Monastery, the Monument to the Discoveries, and the Belém Cultural Center.

Thankfully, the sun decided to join us that day, making the neighborhood that much lovelier.

xo, jill

A first look at Lisbon

August 19, 2014, no comments

She’s a pretty one.

After spending a couple of days in London with my sister, I met up with Mike in Lisbon. It was the beginning of an 8 day road trip through parts of Portugal and Spain with his parents.

Question: Do you know one of the worst times to get a nasty cold?
Answer: When you are on an 8 day road trip with your boyfriend and his parents.

So, yep. Unfortunately, I was sick for most of this trip and feeling quite miserable. It was a blessing to be able to fall asleep in the back of the car while Mike’s dad did all the driving. (Except, of course, when I got car sick… that felt like double punishment!)

These photos are from the first few days of the trip (pre-fever) when I was still feeling pretty good. Lisbon is a lovely city. During our trip the weather was a bit chilly and wet at times. I suspect that on a bright sunny day the buildings look even more enchanting.

We stayed at an excellent newly opened guesthouse in a convenient location. If you visit Lisbon, I highly recommend staying at MyRoom Lisboa. It’s run by a friendly young couple and is like staying at your friend’s expertly decorated apartment. Fair warning: Make sure you get the exact address because there is not a sign outside on the street, just a beautiful green door.

xo, jill

London: Sister Edition

August 18, 2014, no comments

Using all my restraint to not reference Winning London.

When my sister and I were planning her visit, we really wanted to squeeze in a side trip to another country. My goal was to find a place that would be: 1. new for the both of us 2. easy to connect to Lisbon (my next destination) 3. easy to connect to Amsterdam (her next destination). It turned out that the city that most closely fit the requirements was London. (I’ve been before but I was 16 so I was happy to visit again).


We stayed for three nights at St. Athan’s Hotel in the Bloomsbury neighborhood of Central London, which was the perfect location for us. We were able to easily get everywhere we wanted to go. We also went ahead and rode one of those silly double decker bus tours. It was the best way to relax, see the main sights, and get around town. Plus, now we have a new memory of Jana narrowly escaping pigeon droppings!

Luckily, the spring weather was gorgeous for most of our stay. When the chilly wet rain finally did creep in, we headed into the British Museum for a bit of respite.

Thanks to our mom, dad, aunt, and uncle for sending some special “sister spending money” our way. We indulged in some delicious meals on this trip and thought of you with every bite!

Again, here’s a collage of photos from Jana’s phone:


xo, jill

 

Essaouira: Sister Edition

August 13, 2014, 3 comments

She’s a magnet.

I couldn’t let my sister leave without experiencing Essaouira. I really think it’s a Moroccan classic, especially if you can’t make it to Fez or Tangier. It offers a look at old Morocco that is different from Marrakech. Plus, traveling around Morocco can be a little crazy. Essaouira feels like a well-deserved break.

I must say, walking the souks and alleys with my sister was much different than strolling around with Mike. I guess I didn’t realize how good Mike’s presence was for keeping the men away. My sister was bringing them in left and right. I felt a new found respect for women visiting Essaouira alone or in pairs. It’s a lot of work to just walk down the street. Although, attention single ladies interested in a Moroccan husband. Essaouira is the place! You will not believe how many women Mike and I met over the past year who met their partners in Essaouira. (I think it’s the water!)

Of course, no trip to Essaouira would be complete without sharing a few cat photos. I mean, really. It’s a combination of delight and torture.

Jana took most of the fun photos. Here’s a collage of photos from her phone.

After the fun at the beach it was time to hurry home. We had a flight to London to catch the next day!

xo, jill

PS Other posts on Essaouira here and here. Oh, and here!

Ouzoud Falls

August 8, 2014, one comment

The cascades.

When I realized so many friends and family members were interested in visiting Marrakech, I decided to save one tourist attraction to experience new with each person. I figured that otherwise I’d be sick of seeing the same old sights over and over. No one wants to explore with a fatigued sightseeing buddy.

When my sister visited in March, I took a personal day so we could check out Ouzoud Falls. The falls are about two hours away from Marrakech and make a nice day trip from the city. To make arrangements easier, we joined up with a tour group and headed to the falls in a mini-bus. Once we arrived, we hired a guide who led us on a hike from the top of the falls, down across the water, and back up the other side. On the way back up, we stopped for a tagine lunch and tea with a gorgeous view.

I know it’s blurry but I love this photo. 

“Berber Titanic” – Berber jokes never get old…except when they do.

Trips to the falls are easy to find. Every tour operator in Marrakech offers some sort of tour there. The best months to view the falls are March to June.

xo, jill

Majorelle Garden

August 7, 2014, no comments

A peaceful respite.

Well, there are a variety of reasons why I haven’t posted anything new for the past several weeks. First, life was just busy. Closing up a school year and packing up your life take time! Then, my priorities went to reconnecting with my family as is natural after a long absence. Finally, well, the amount of photos I have from the past few months is just overwhelming. A few of our weekend trips produced several hundreds of photographs! Yikes. I haven’t known where to begin. Luckily, I noticed an album of photos that had already been pared down.

These photos are from a trip to the Majorelle Garden all the way back in January. The garden is just a few blocks from where we were living. Mike and I often watched hot and sweaty tourists walking there while squinting at their maps from our breakfast table. When my friend Liz paid me a visit, I decided to join her and finally check it out for myself. I must say, it is a delight.

Entering the Majorelle Garden means walking into a peaceful shaded sanctuary. You are immediately transported away from the loud, hectic, and smelly streets of Marrakech. (Seriously, smelly. You have to walk past several horses to get to the entrance and heat + horse urine is intense.) It’s easy to forget that beyond the bamboo, bougainvillea, and high wall is a busy street (and our local grocery store!).

Although fairly small, the garden offers plenty to look at and enjoy. For plant lovers, it’s impossible to visit the garden and not experience extreme succulent envy. If flowers are more your thing and you’d like to see the bougainvillea in full bloom, October and April are the best months to visit. And if for some reason you find yourself at the garden but aren’t much into plants or flowers, the Berber Museum (25dhs) and Yves Saint Laurent exhibit (free) are worthwhile as well. I highly recommend paying a little extra to get the joint garden + museum ticket. I loved looking at the different Berber textiles, dresses, and jewelry (and I’m not a jewelry person whatsoever).

If you’re wondering why there would be an Yves Saint Laurent exhibit at the Majorelle Garden, it’s because without YSL and his partner, Pierre Bergé, the garden would now be an ugly hotel complex. YSL and Bergé “discovered” the gardens during a visit to Marrakech in the 1960s. It was the enchanting work of Jacques Majorelle, who had invested 40 years into developing the garden. Later, in 1980, YSL and Bergé learned the garden was to be demolished to make way for a new hotel. The couple bought the land instead. I think I speak on behalf of all the hot and sweaty tourists (and locals) when I say, “Thank you, kind sirs!”.


xo, jill

P.S. Just a note: Majorelle Garden is very popular. Arriving earlier in the day might help you avoid the large coach tours.

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