Morocco

Morocco : The Blue City

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Chefchaouen is known as the blue city because as the name suggests, the walls, paths, doors and buildings are painted in beautiful shades of blue. Interestingly, there’s actually a practical reason for this because the blue keeps the town cool in the summer; it works as a natural form of air conditioning and scares away the mosquitoes too. The city is amazingly picturesque and its unique colour makes it an enchanting place to visit.

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Chefchaouen itself is quite small but it’s easy to get lost in the maze of pretty, houses and pathways. A lot of the buildings are actually shops selling traditional Moroccan fabrics, leather goods or jewellery so you can see brightly coloured cloths, woven baskets and pretty blankets decorating many of the alleyways too. Its a dreamy, magical destination and I loved it, especially with the abundance of dried figs, dates and pastries to be found on every corner… yum.

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Not only are the winding streets perfect for photography; they’re ideal for shopping too. The handmade items are all beautifully crafted and unbelievably affordable. Strangely, I would liken shopping in Morocco to shopping in IKEA; you end up buying things you never thought you’d need. Its common to enter IKEA looking for a cupboard and leave with a 2 ft toy snake, some jelly moulds and a washing basket in the shape of a frog. In a similar vein, I arrived in Morocco with the intention of buying jewellery and I left with a king-size bed quilt and a decorative leather camel (I also got some jewellery in case you were concerned). The greatest thing is that its acceptable, even encouraged, to haggle for the best price. I generally started at a quarter of the price I wanted to pay and worked my way up. Some negotiations were more successful than others but my biggest triumph was a silver ring for the equivalent of 8 Euros – so far it hasn’t turned my finger green so I’m very pleased!

I loved Morocco more than anywhere I’ve ever travelled. It was colourful, warm, vibrant and the availability of delicious tea was beyond my wildest dreams. I’d love to return in the future to see Marrakesh and the mountain regions too. Until then I’ll be staring wistfully at my photos, reliving my camel ride and desperately searching for a place to display my impractical but wonderful souvenirs…

P.s If you want to recreate the Moroccan tea yourself, try green tea, mint leaves and a teaspoon of honey. Delicious!

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Morocco: Camel riding and sea views

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This weekend I visited Morocco for the first time. I have always wanted to travel there and it seems that dreams do come true! Living in Spain this year means that a journey to Morocco is only a boat trip away and I managed to discover the northern cities of Tangiers, Chefchaouen and Tatouan in just 3 days – amazing.

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The first stop of the trip was a visit to Cap Spartel, the point at which the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean. There was a stunning viewpoint with a lighthouse and a cluster of market stalls selling traditional Moroccan items. We arrived at about 10am so the sun was bright and the air was cool and fresh. It was beautiful.

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Next was a camel ride on the beach. This experience has been added to my list of life highlights, joining the likes of TukTuk riding in Lisbon, Latin dancing with US marines in Costa Rica and morning beach swims in Greece as my favourite travelling moments.

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The camels were both incredibly unstable and predictably smelly but they were also surprisingly soft. I got to ride up and down the beach at a slow (and wobbly) pace, taking in the scenic views. It wasn’t all as glamorous as the picture looks – the way the camel stood up involved terrifying jerky movements whilst the dismount consisted of the camel suddenly dropping to his knees throwing me forward like a sack of unwanted potatoes. However, the whole thing was unforgettable and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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The next part of the trip was Chefchaouen, aka the blue city. More on that in the next few days…Untitled

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As I type, I’m sat home alone in my apartment waiting for the plumber to show up. This is proof that the year abroad isn’t always as ideal as my Instagram posts might suggest…

Our hot water stopped working yesterday and since phoning Antonio the Plumber (with whom I am on first name terms) I’ve been housebound, in eager anticipation of a hot shower and clean hair. My flatmates are in Madrid and Cáceres respectively, so I have no option other than to man the apartment until Antonio’s return.

Fortunately, I’ve put all this waiting to good use and started planning some future adventures with the intention of never spending an entire weekend inside these four walls again. With spring approaching, I can look forward to discovering more Spanish destinations and venturing further afield to surrounding countries.

So, without further ado, here’s my Spring travel itinerary (because if I publish this to my blog then it’s more likely to actually happen.)

  1. Salamanca – I plan to do a weekend break in this city later this month. I’ve seen some beautiful pictures of the main square and been told by many Spaniards that it’s a must-see destination. It’s also got a huge student population and with the inhabitants of my current town being either school-age or over 40 (and literally nowhere in between) I think it’s about time I interacted with some fellow youths.
  2. Lisbon – Living so close to the Portuguese border I can’t not visit Lisbon. When I travelled to Lagos in October I was not disappointed and Lisbon is known for being the best Portuguese city. It also has trams. I love trams!
  3. Morocco – I have wanted to visit Morocco for about five years now. With southern Spain’s proximity to Africa I simply need to take a bus and a ferry to get there – which is a lot cheaper than flying from England. The ‘blue city’ of Chefchaouen looks breathtaking and I can’t wait to take 1028441239 photos.
  4. Granada – Before I came to Spain, Granada was my number one on my travel hitlist. I’ve seen numerous photos of the Alhambra and I’m desperate see it in person. In fact, I’m thinking of ticking this one off the list for my 21st birthday in May. It would make a wonderful contrast to the previous six revision/exam filled birthdays that I’ve celebrated. It should be gloriously sunny there too.
  5. Cadiz – For a bit of beach action I’m thinking of heading to Cadiz. Cadiz apparently boasts narrow streets and spacious plazas with plenty to see and do. The city has an old town, a modern area AND a magnificent coast. This means I can sightsee, shop and sunbathe all in one weekend – amazing!

Any advice regarding places to stay or things to do in these locations would be great. Alternative recommendations are also welcome; I have approximately nineteen weekends left in Spain and I want to see as much as possible!Untitled