Archives for September 2014

More Baby Kitties of Essaouira


Back in April, Mike and I boarded a bus with friends for another trip to Essaouira. It’s hard to stay away from that little seaside town. (This was my fourth and final visit.) We tried to do things a bit differently this time and stayed outside of the medina. Our hotel was newer and across the street from the beach. It was a much quieter hotel room but I still recommend a riad in the medina for a first visit.

Essaouira, MoroccoOur main mission was to help Ritchie show her cousin around which seemed to entail a lot of shopping. We also managed to squeeze in a nap on the beach, Thai food, and all the main sights. It was another lovely beachside weekend spent with friends.

Of course, being that we were in Essaouria, all of my photos ended up looking like this:

Essaouira, Morocco Essaouira, MoroccoPossibly my favorite cat photo ever.
Essaouira, Morocco

Essaouira, Morocco Essaouira, Morocco Jail Cat

Essaouira, Morocco Essaouira, MoroccoThis guy pretty much refused all my efforts to focus. Oh well.

The cats are cute but I do regret not getting any photos of our group!

xo, jill

PS My first Baby Kitties of Essaouira post is here!

Cordoba, Spain

Wrapping it up.

Once we reached Granada, I went to bed. I was feeling so tired and so sick. It’s hard to fight a cold while traveling because you never truly get to rest. Mike and his parents went out to explore while I took a deep restorative nap. Oh that nap. It felt like such a luxury. When I woke up I felt like I had finally turned a corner on the travel cold that would not quit. Dinner that night was at my favorite restaurant in Granada, Paprika. My mom and I had a meal there in October that I was still thinking about (apricot tofu with peanut sauce). It did not disappoint the second time around.

The next morning Mike and his parents visited Alhambra while I extending my rest time into the morning hours. I think the desk employee at our hostel was personally offended that I wasn’t visiting Alhambra as well. As much as I tried to explain, “I know! It’s amazing! I went in October and loved it! But I’m feeling really sick now…” he could not fathom why I’d sit out. (Alhambra post 1, post 2, and post 3.)

Because I had already been to Granada and wasn’t feeling well, I didn’t take any photos around the city. I was not an enthusiastic photographer on this trip. Thank you, travel cold. So let’s move on to the next stop… Cordoba.

Cordoba, Spain Cordoba, Spain Cordoba, Spain Cordoba, SpainWhen we arrived at our hostel, no one was home. Turns out, we were the only guests in the entire place. The manager was out and about doing whatever so it took us awhile to track him down. We stayed in the teeny tiniest room and avoided taking showers in the really stinky water. Hostels: you win some, you lose some.

Cordoba holds a special place in history having served as a former Roman capital, an Arab state capital, and a Caliphate. It was a pretty important place and still has the architecture to prove it. The biggest tourist attraction in Cordoba is the Mezquita. Originally built in 786 as a mosque, it was transformed into a church after the Christian Reconquista in 1236. It is definitely a must see for the region. Tip: There’s free entry between 8:30am – 9:20am for individual tourists but not groups.

Cordoba, Spain Cordoba, Spain Cordoba, Spain Cordoba, Spain Cordoba, SpainOther than visit the Mezquita, we mainly walked the alleyways and popped into bars and cafes to avoid the rain. In a town this pretty, just taking in the buildings around you is enough.

Cordoba, Spain Cordoba, Spain Cordoba, SpainAfter our brief stay in Cordoba, we headed over to Seville, our last stop. Again, because I had previously visited and wasn’t feeling well, I didn’t take any photos. (Seville post 1, post 2, and post 3). The most memorable part of this visit was experiencing the thrill of foiling a pickpocket. I suddenly had a funny feeling in my stomach and turned around to check on Mike’s mom. A woman posing as a tourist with a map out had walked up behind her. The pickpocket had folded her map over Linda’s backpack and was unzipping it under the privacy of the map. When I called out to her the pickpocket backed off and pretended to read a poster, but Linda’s backpack was completely unzipped and hanging open. Luckily, there was nothing more than a jacket inside. Lesson learned! Be alert for fake tourists using their maps to rob you!

Early the next morning Mike and I flew back to Marrakech (not so) ready to begin the spring term.

xo, jill

***Big thanks to Mike’s parents for all their generosity on this trip.

Ronda, Spain

Help me, Ronda!*

After leaving Portugal, we headed over for one night in Cadiz. I wasn’t feeling great and didn’t manage to take any photos. It was a nice city, but no match for my cold. Maybe next time?

The next day we continued on our way to Granada. Along the way Mike suggested we stop in the little town of Ronda. I’m glad he did. I had zero expectations and was very pleasantly surprised. It might have been one of my favorite stops the entire trip. If I could do it again, I would skip Cadiz and stay overnight in Ronda. (But that could be the head cold talking…)

Rhonda, Spain Rhonda, SpainOne of the main draws to Ronda is the bridge situation. My photographs don’t do it justice so you really need to click this link. That’s the Puente Nuevo, completed in 1791. There’s no way this acrophobe could ever work on a project like that. Just looking at it was enough to make me feel woozy.

Rhonda, Spain Rhonda, Spain Rhonda, Spain Rhonda, Spain Rhonda, SpainPop culture is another reason why tourists are drawn to Ronda. Heavyweights like Hemingway, Welles, and Rilke all spent a significant amount of time in the town.

Rhonda, Spain Rhonda, Spain Rhonda, SpainPersonally, I was most interested in the Museo Lara but time prevented us from visiting. The museum consists of the private collection of Juan Antonio Lara Jurado. He began collecting at age 10 and carries on today… in his 70s. Apparently, he collects basically everything one could possibly collect and keeps expanding the museum part of his mansion and shrinking his personal living quarters. I need to witness this devotion. If you are ever in Ronda, please visit this museum for me. I need a full report. (Really.)

Rhonda, Spain Rhonda, SpainOnce back in the car, we continued on the road to Granada.

xo, jill

* Sorry, couldn’t stop myself!

Lagos, Portugal

A quiet off-season.

After four nights in Lisbon, we piled in the car and drove down to oceanside Lagos in the Algarve. On a previous trip, Mike traveled solo through the Algarve and was eager to experience it again. When we arrived, it was easy to see why Mike enjoyed the region so much. It’s gorgeous.
Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal
Mike’s parents were able to snag us a great deal on ocean view rooms. It’s never a bad morning when you wake up to this view:
Lagos, PortugalWe headed into town in search of dinner. Because it was the off-season (early spring), many of the bars and restaurants were closed down. We enjoyed a quiet meal and then headed towards the water. It was too chilly to take a swim (even for Mike!), so we walked along the cliffside path back towards our hotel. We ended up losing the race with the sun and walked the remaining mile or so in the dark.

Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal Lagos, PortugalThe cliffs and grottos of Lagos reminded me so much of the Great Ocean Road in Australia. Boat rides along the rocks are offered for about 10 euros. Mike took a tour on his previous trip and I really wish we could have done one too. Unfortunately, the prospect of being splashed with cold ocean water was absolutely not appealing. Maybe next time.

xo, jill

Pena National Palace

Second stop in Sintra.

As I said before, our time in Sintra felt like one of those old Choose Your Own Adventure paperbacks. After finishing The Adventures of the 9th Century Moorish Castle, we traveled further along the bus route to Pena Palace. It was time for The Tale of the 19th Century Portuguese Palace. 

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal

Pena National Palace is one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal and a very popular spot with tourists. I mean, look at it. The color alone is enough to get my attention. According to Wikipedia, the palace is one of the best examples of 19th Romanticism in the world. That’s pretty impressive. This is also where I wish I knew much more about architecture.

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal

The palace was constructed by Ferdinand II during the mid 19th century. His aim was to build a summer residence for the royal family. Well done. Personally, I think I would be quite happy spending a summer or two in the palace. Currently, the palace is used as a venue for state occasions by the government.

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal

In addition to visiting several rooms in the palace, visitors are also welcome to stroll throughout the surrounding Pena Park. This would have been lovely on a warm summer’s day, but not so enticing on a chilly late March afternoon.

Sintra, PortugalIt was walking back to the train station that I started to notice I really wasn’t feeling well. I just could not get warm. However, it took me being bundled up in our hotel room later that evening to realize I had the chills… and a dreaded fever. I spent the evening trying to speed along my recovery by watching Blue Bloods cozy in bed. It didn’t work!

xo, jill

The Castle of the Moors

First stop in Sintra.

On our last day in Lisbon, we ventured even further out and took the train to Sintra. This little day trip is very popular and highly recommended. The pleasant walk from the train station allows the first few peeks at the lovely and picturesque town.

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, PortugalBeing in Sintra felt like a real life Choose Your Own Adventure fairytale. By studying our map we determined our choices for the day were: The Adventures of the 9th Century Moorish Castle or The Tale of the 19th Century Portuguese Palace. We settled the question by getting off the bus (take the 434 bus loop from the town center, worth it!) at the first stop, the Moorish Castle.

Sintra, Portugal

Pena Palace  /  Moorish Castle

The Castle of the Moors was first constructed between the 8th and 9th centuries. At that time, the Iberian Peninsula was largely under Muslim rule. The castle served as one of the primary military points in the area. Through the years the castle was remodeled, expanded, and damaged by battle and earthquake. By the mid 19th century, parts of the castle were in ruins when Ferdinand II called for its restoration. Several projects over the years continued to restore the castle and now it is one of several lovely tourist attractions in the area.

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, PortugalVisitors are welcome to explore the area freely. However, word of warning, if you are scared of heights beware. You can get right up next to the walls’ edge. Seeing the village below only amplifies the height of the castle.

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, PortugalNearing the end of our visit, we stopped for refreshments in the garden. This little cat caught my attention. Don’t you just love that tail?

Sintra, Portugal

Next, we hopped back on the bus and headed for Pena Palace.

xo, jill

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