In Madrid!!! My program is officially over and the group has split. Most people went back home but a few are staying in Europe to explore. My mom and my best friend are both here and I have a brand new, beautiful Nikon D3100 that I’m learning to use. I don’t have wi-fi most of the time so my blogging will probably be pretty scarce this week, but I’ll do my best to answer messages and keep you all updated.
Madrid is beautiful! So different from Cadiz, Sevilla, and Granada but really charming in its own way. Going to the Prado Museum tomorrow. That makes four things can cross off my 100 Places to see Before I die bucket list. I’ll post some pictures when I can! Hope you’ve all had a great weekend :)
Seriously, this city is a dream. I absolutely love it here, much more than Sevilla. It’s this strange mix of Spanish and Arabic and I love it. Today we walked around the historic center some and explored one of the two remaining Arab neighborhoods in the city.
We went to the Royal Chapel where Ferdinand and Isabel are buried, though we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside that building. Honestly, it was cool, but the actual effigies are laying above eye level so you can’t really see them. We went down into the crypt and peered in and you can see the coffins of Ferdinand, Isabel, their daughter, Queen Juana, her husband Philip the Handsome, and their young son, Miguel. It’s weird because they’ve been dead for the better part of 500 years, yet they’re so incredibly close to where we were standing. The room where they kept the treasure and personal items was the best. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that all of these famous historical figures were in fact real people that used mundane things like combs and mirrors too. Isabel’s crown is on display, as is her scepter, a couple of her gowns, and her personal rosary and other devotional objects. I thought that whole exhibit was really interesting and I’m kind of bummed they were so strict about the picture thing.
After that, we went into the Cathedral and let me just say, it was one (if not the) most beautiful place I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. It was the complete opposite of the cathedral in Sevilla; it was bright and well lit and spacious and beautiful. I didn’t even know where to look because the space was so glorious in every way. The main altar was something I couldn’t even fathom. Honestly, I don’t have word to describe the experience nor can I adequately capture it in photos. It’s moments like those and witnessing places and creations like those that make me sure that there must be some God out there that inspires people to create things that are so incredibly beautiful.
I did some shopping and a lot of walking and now I’m back in the hotel, fed and happy but extreme tired. I wanted to go out tonight, but seeing as we have to be up at 7am tomorrow, I doubt that’s going to happen. I’ll post some pictures later!
Have I mentioned how much I LOVE this city?!
So I went to Morocco yesterday and I really have to say it was one of the most intense experienced of my life thus far. Cadiz is about an hour and a half away from Tarifa, one of three port cities that has ferries to Africa. We left here at 7am and got to Tarifa at around 8:45. We ran to the travel agency and bought tickets for the 9am ferry we were planning on taking but SURPRISE, we missed it and had to wait for the 10am one.
Let me just say that the ferry ride over made for some great pictures and some awful seasickness. I almost died. I felt so sick, the bartender came over to the table I was sitting at and put a plastic bag on it. He was chuckling the whole time. I didn’t puke just to not give that dickface the satisfaction, but it was awful. Thankfully, it was only about 40 minutes long so I survived and didn’t lose my breakfast.
We got to Tangier and even before we had left the ferry station, we were being accosted by men trying to be our guides. We were a group of 8, with 5 girls and 3 guys, so it’s not like we were completely helpless, but it was really strange and not fun to have people following you and not taking no for an answer. Two of the girls in the group wanted to just walk around the city with no guide and I told them they were insane. One of them had taken Arabic for two semesters, so she thought she was an expert on all things Arabic, but no one understood her! That dumb broad didn’t know Muslims had to pray five times a day and that you can’t buy beer there. Her accent sucked and she refused to let us get a guide until I essentially told them to go suck it. We don’t speak Arabic, we don’t speak French, and none of us know how to navigate this city, especially not areas like the Medina, which is full of tiny winding streets. I was not about to run around with no direction, so I got the group to agree to get a guide.
Before we had a guide, things got pretty heated with one of the men we turned down. He started following us and yelling all sorts of curse words at us in 4 languages, calling us cheap jews, etc. One of the guys in our group is actually Jewish and he was really upset about it. The guy would not leave us alone until we got to the office of tourism and it was just kind of scary.
We didn’t want to just pick a random man off the street, so we went to the office of tourism by the port and asked the woman there if she had a guide she could recommend. By chance, one of the men around was someone she knew personally and she highly recommended him. I looked at his ID card and his guide card and he seemed legit enough so we agreed to hire him. One thing that made us feel much better was the fact that he told us we should pay him later, only after we were satisfied and ready to get back on the ferry to Spain. No downpayment. His name was Salah and he was an AMAZING guide. He told us all about the history of the city, pointed out important landmarks, helped us shop, took us to an AMAZING restaurant, and just generally took care of everything the whole time we were there.
Salah first took us to eat, because we were starving. The restaurant was called Kasbah Restaurant and I had one of the best meals I can remember ever having in my life. It was incredibly clean and everyone was very friendly and the prices very reasonable. We didn’t haggle it but it was all fantastic. After that, he took us all around the Kasbah, Medina, Souk, and the Market. Tangier is a really interesting city because of its history of colonialism, so we got to see a lot of old Jewish houses, a defunct Portuguese cathedral, the old American embassy, etc.
Most of the women on the street were covered, but not all. In general though, we really stood out. One of the girls in our group, who is 29, married, has a son, and came back to college, especially got a lot of attention. She’s pretty and voluptuous and the men in Morocco went NUTS for her. She got more marriage proposals than I’ve ever heard of. They kept asking one of our guys, who was usually with her, how many camels he wanted for his wife haha. I got a few too. At one point, I was taking a picture with one of the guys and I guess they noticed I wasn’t wearing a ring, so they asked him how many camels he wanted for his sister. They were pretty close to agreeing on a price, so I pulled him away before this dude actually thought I would marry him if he agreed to pay a dowry of some number of camels (I didn’t hear the actual number), 100K dirham (10K euros), and 30 oz of gold (Gold is valued at 30 euros a gram there) for me. The negotiations were pretty serious hahaha.
I really liked the city. I thought it was beautiful and different and I kind of felt like a boss because I was kind of a cultural expert. I dont’ speak Arabic, but even our guide was incredibly impressed by how aware I was of the culture, religion, etc.
I did a good amount of shopping too! I got a really gorgeous blue kaftan with gold embroidery all down the front, a silk and cashmere, embroidered blue veil/scarf, some authentic Moroccan tea glasses, and two silver bracelets. In general, I’m pretty sure I was the most proficient at haggling. I halved most of the prices and never paid more than 1 or 2 euros above that. Still kind of a rip off, but Tangier is a port city and prices tend to be higher than they would be more inland.
I think the highlight of my trip though was hearing the call to prayer for 5pm prayers. I can’t really explain it, but it was an amazing feeling. It was so new and so different and I just felt really glad that I’d experienced everything I had that day. Was it tough? Yes. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Was this my last time in Morocco? No way.
#38: Cambridge University
#39: Santorini/Thira, Greece
#40: Tower Bridge
#41: Monastery of San Lorenzo/El Escorial, Spain
Courtyard of the Evangelists
Pantheon of the Kings
#42: Ski Dubai, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, UAE
The one of the biggest indoor skiing facilities in the world and the only one in the Middle East.
#43: Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
#44: The Eiffel Tower