Lisbon, Portugal & The Ugly Truth of Travel
Friday, June 08, 2018

Lisbon, Portugal & The Ugly Truth of Travel

After Marrakech, our next destination was Lisbon, Portugal. Europe's underdog, as it is labelled now as the 'most underrated city'. I can understand why - it's one of the most picturesque and colourful cities I have been to, and each building has it's own flair that made me think of what the decision maker was experiencing at the time, to publish their feelings on an entire building to make up the beauty of Lisbon. 

It's also super cheap compared to other main cities like Paris (or Nice, where I am currently... and starving) and has so much to do and see.. including a short trip to the most Western point of Europe. 

But you know what is lacking from the guidebooks and recommendation lists for this whimsical destination?

A sweat towel. 

Man, Lisbon has as many steep hills as they do Pastel de Natas. In some cases, it almost feels like a vertical climb. When you travel like me, there are two important aspects to note: a) We want to see as much as we can with our own eyes and really feel the city. For this, we travel on foot. And b) We are also looking to save every cent so Ubers and taxis are a no-go zone. 

It made me think of all the beautiful women on Instagram taking photos with the colourful buildings, in their dressed-to-the-nines ensembles and unrealistic shoes and thinking "HOW?" It's freezing in the morning, striking hot at midday and you're a sweaty MESS of a human by the end of the day. 

But I also think that's something I love about travel. The love for exploring overrides the pressure of looking a certain way and pretending you have your shit together. Travel is messy, sweaty, late, tiring, hangry, budgeting and feeling like an elephant exploring the streets of a new city as you consume everything in sight in no less than two bites. You give in the expectations of how you should be and completely submit yourself to the wonderful miracle of seeing the world as a child again. 
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Marrakech, Morocco & Following Your Own Path
Monday, June 04, 2018

Marrakech, Morocco & Following Your Own Path

I recently witnessed a long-lived dream of mine come to life. Visiting Marrakech, Morocco. 

I had wanted to visit this city after watching a video on Youtube about it years ago. From having never heard of it, to putting it at the top of my list in a matter of 20 minutes. We booked our trip for five days as I read there was so much to do and see in the city and we needed every minute. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I loved Marrakech however it wasn't exactly what I thought it was going to be. Every video I watched, blog I read and travel guide I researched would talk about the endless shopping mazes of the Souks, the vibrant and energetic hours spent at Jemaa El-Fna and essential but never-ending list of museums and palaces we needed to visit. 

When we got to Marrakech, I realised that a lot of the top 5 things to do were not aligned with what I found to be top five. And then I realised that I am not the kind of person who follows the crowd.. in fact, if there is a crowd I tend to walk the other way. So why did I insist on creating an itinerary completely following the norm? I realised I am happiest when I do things in my own way, and when I do it with love and not for the acceptance of others, for the likes or for the need to fit in. I also remembered on this trip how happy I feel when I don't really give a damn what anybody thinks of me. I find myself constantly teetering between a place where I feel like an absolute badass and I don't hear any opinions of me - good or bad. This is when I am feel free and infinite. But then I find myself falling back into a place where I DO care, but don't realise I care and this is when I am the most stressed and cautious with every step I take, even if it's a step I want to take. 

I guess I need to find a way to stay permanently in the state of a badass - and I can feel this coming to fruition as I continue on my solo trip around the world. 
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5 Unique Things to do in Marrakech, Morocco
Friday, June 01, 2018

5 Unique Things to do in Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech is a city completely catered for tourists. So when doing my research prior to this trip, I was starting to find that most of the recommendations online were essentially the same. However, I know for my style of travel, I like to go to places that are unique, different... or sometimes I just need quiet! 

Here are 5 things I found to do in Marrakech that don't have long lines or a long headache... 

1/ Musee du Parfum 
Musee du Parfum is tucked away 'off-the'beaten path'. To get to this museum, the journey saw us sharing tight alleyways with motorcycles, local women carrying groceries from the market and teenage boys finishing school and waiting to break their fast. With barely another tourist in sight, we did receive a lot of attention with a lot of locals offering their help, advice and asking if we'd like to visit the Leather Market. With each polite decline, we set off to find Musee du Parfum. 

The small and quaint museum gives a brief snapshot of the essential oils sourced and commonly used in Morocco, the benefits of these oils for health and wellness in addition to their scent, and a quick snapshot of the breakdown of making a perfume. The last room in this museum allows you to create your own perfume using the knowledge you have just learnt and your mastermind for creativity (at an additional price.)

2/ Cafe Clock
Cafe Clock is a beautifully designed cafe, with a modern twist on traditional Moroccan food. We came to this cafe on the last night, to be honest, needing a break from the tajine and cous cous we were endlessly consuming! Apart from their delicious food, they have incredible service (not pushy at all!), tables indoors or outdoors on the rooftop, and a reasonable price point for a modern restaurant. They also give you cloaks if you are outside on a cold night! 

They also have events on almost every night - from live music sessions to story telling sessions from locals. For a look at what's on when, they post regularly on their Facebook page

3/ Seven Waterfalls Hike at Ourika Valley
This was by far my favourite activity we did during our time in Marrakech. At a starting point with no signs at all, tucked away behind stalls at Setti Fadma (you are at the right place if there are a lot of cars parked along the side of the road, but you have gone too far if you hit the soccer field). There are seven waterfalls along the hike, some small, some grand but each as beautiful as mother nature can offer. However, it was the hike itself that was absolutely breathtaking. 

Feeling so high you might just be able to touch the clouds, views over the Berber villages and a backdrop of the Atlas Mountains, it's hard not to feel incredibly grateful for every moment that has led you to being on top of mountains in the middle of nowhere in Marrakech, Morocco. Even if you only have a few days in Marrakech, I would recommend without hesitation for you to do this. 

You can drive to Ourika Valley, or take a tour guide. I also found a blog post by The Hostel Girl that shows how you can access the hike by public transport. 

4/ Visit a Hyper-Market (HyperMarche)
One of my favourite things to do in any city I travel to, is to visit their grocery stores. When you're visiting a city for just a few days, it's hard to settle in and really live like a local, but when you visit their grocery stores, you can see what they see, what their daily options are, the prices, what's popular etc. I'm not sure if a hypermarket is a concept solely in Morocco, but it is basically a supermarket... stadium size!!

We visited a Hyper-Market walking from Jardin Marjorelle to our Riad, and there was about three display fridges full of yoghurt... just yoghurt. It was incredible. They are also very big supporters of La Viche Qui Rir fromage (The Laughing Cow cheese). It's so interesting to see what's promoted the most, seeing what's in other people's shopping carts and imagining yourself picking out things for your own Moroccan pantry. 

5/ Avoid food in Jemaa El-Fna
Contrary to every blog, vlog and recommendation; we were told by our Riad owner (Riad Nirvana) that at all costs, avoid eating at Jemaa El-Fna as the food isn't fresh, isn't that tasty and they tend to give you more than you ordered then demand you pay for it. Instead, she recommended a couple of restaurants near the Saadian Tombs - Zeitoun Cafe and our favourite for their cheap prices and friendly and fast service, Cafe Alhambra. Eat in this area first, then walk to Jema El-Fnaa (about 10 minutes away). 

We visited Marrakech during Ramadan so when we went to have dinner, we were able to witness the locals come out to play after dark - from little girls gossiping and giggling, to teenage boys playing soccer to mothers enjoying a glorious Marrakech evening.

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