Back in Spain

Spain was a dream, and a much needed rest after three months in Morocco.

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After a short ferry ride over the straight of Gibraltar, we found ourselves in the windy city of Tarifa. Maybe it was the re-entry buzz, but I found Tarifa to be no less magical than Santiago’s description in The Alchemist.

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting, he thought, as he looked again at the position of the sun, and he hurried his pace. He had suddenly remembered that, in Tarifa, there was an old woman who interpreted dreams.” -The Alchemist

The air smelled of sea breeze and fresh laundry, wind-surfers dotted the crystal blue water with a rainbow of kites, and Spanish kindness and culture assured us that everything was right in the world again.

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Like Santiago, I walked the quaint streets and viewed Africa in the distance from atop the ancient city walls.

A week passed in what seemed like an instant, and we traveled up to Sierra Elviera, Grenada for anther workaway experience.

We volunteered at a community called the Fundación Escuela de Solidaridad for two weeks, living in a community house with volunteers from Argentina, France, Italy, Spain, and the States. The Fundación is home to struggling families and single parents, and helps them get back on their feet. The best part were the volunteers we befriended, and how the majority of people spoke only Spanish or just a little English so it great to get out of my comfort zone and have to speak Spanish everyday.

Finally, we settled at last for a month in Almuñécar, a beautiful city on the Costa Del Sol. We rested, walked, caught up on school and work, visited the beach, and just enjoyed all the simple joys of life in Spain. Next, Italy. 🙂

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Kat on the beach

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hiking on the coast

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Santa Semana processions under our flat

The Sahara Desert

People in the Dunes of the Sahara Desert in Morocco

Our experience in Morocco for the last three months would never have been the same without Mr. Harim and the British Language Academy. For the majority of our stay in this country we have been living in the basement dorm of the English school and volunteering as workawayers and guest speakers. Everyday in the evenings we talk with the students in groups about everything from food, to Moroccan culture, to Islam, to women’s rights. Hearing a young Moroccan perspective on these topics has been interesting, educational, and eye-opening.

Mr. Harim is the founder of the British Language Academy schools in Casablanca, Berrechid, Fez, and soon El Jadida, Morocco. He is one of the most generous and kind people I’ve met, and his dream for the schools is inspiring. If you are ever in Morocco, volunteering at this school is a life changing experience I would highly recommend.

With his help we have visited other places in Morocco such as El Jadida, Casablanca, The Atlas Mountains, Fez, Essaouira, and most recently: the Sahara Desert.

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All our Workaway friends in the desert


The Sahara Desert

We arrived at desert camp after a two-hour bumpy camel ride through the golden dunes of the Sahara.

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Friendly camels

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Our tiny oasis, tents at the base of a giant sand dune

Sunset in the Sahara

We stopped half-way on our camel ride to watch the sun set.

As in Moroccan culture, we were greeted upon arrival with sweet mint tea and nuts. Desert life is very laid back. We explored the nearby dunes, gazed at the stars, talked, sang, and laughed for hours. For dinner we ate a savory vegetable tajine together. Later, we danced to the beat of the Berber drums and the light of a crackling fire, as a million stars shined brightly above our heads.

Berber musicians in the Sahara desert

Berber musicians

Night in the desert is very cold, so around eleven we feel asleep under four blankets apeice in the tent. The next moring, we woke early and climbed to the top of a multi-hundred foot dune to watch the sunrise. The treck was exhuasting to say the least, as climbing up a mountain of sand is not easy, but the veiw of hundreds of miles of dunes surrounding us illuminated by the early morning sun made the climb worth it. Finally, we sprinted and jumped down the cool, orange sand back to camp, and rode our camels back to base camp on the edge of the desert.

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Lauren and her Berber style turban

People in the Dunes of the Sahara Desert in Morocco

Friends in the Dunes

The desert trip was the culminating event of our stay in Morocco, and one of the coolest things I’ve experienced in my life. Now we have about a week left on our visa, and are preparing to head back to Spain on the 24th. I’m so thankful for our time here and all the experiences and people who have made it so memorable.

Thanks for reading and happy travels 🙂 xx -Iz

1/20/17 – Morocco: The Atlas Mountains

Morocco, mountain travel

I felt the chilly mountain air brush against my face as I stepped off the bus. It was two a.m. and we had just arrived at a Berber homestay in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. I looked over my shoulder only to find myself staring into a snowy mountain range illuminated with the glowing light of sky filled with stars. I’ve never felt so awake at two a.m. in my entire life.

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Staying warm with friends

I heard the others laughing and breaking into excited conversation as they too saw the gorgeous scene.

We walked into the house and I chatted with my friends Salma and Shaema for some time. Then,  the Berber family that hosted us for the night carried into the room a delicious dinner of cous cous. We ate around a gigantic shared clay dish, and then ran to the roof to see the stars and mountains again.

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Dinner!

The view was impossible to be captured on camera. Sparking snowy peaks, the glow of the moon, and a million stars over our heads. Words can’t describe it. Soon after, I was asleep sandwiched between all three of my sisters on a bed inside the house at around four am.

The next morning we woke up early, quickly bundled up in all the layers we had and ate a Moroccan breakfast of msamen, which is a type of fried pancake, and bread with cheese, honey, olive oil, and sweet tea.

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my Moroccan breakfast

After breakfast we traveled for another few hours through the Atlas mountains to a ski resort called Oukaimeden. Bus travel with Moroccans is no ordinary experience. Five hours through the mountains we clenched our teeth and gripped our seats as the bus raced around sharp turns. Meanwhile Arabic pop music played in the background at full volume. Surprisingly none of the Moroccans actually seemed to notice the crazy driving. There was dancing in the aisles, singing, and a lot of laughter of course.

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the ski hill

The skiing ended up not being what we anticipated, but more of a giant ice-covered sledding hill. My family separated from the group to go on a hike. The view from the top of the mountain was unreal. Miles of steep, blue mountain slopes spread out before our eyes, and jagged, snow-cloaked peak lined the horizon. I stood motionless, entranced by the dramatic beauty of a scene unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

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It was soon time to go, we hiked back down the mountain to find our friends and shortly after drove to Marrakesh to experience the Jamaa El Fena square and medina at night. The square was a cultural experience, but also loud and chaotic so we explored the back alleys of the medina and found a quite Hammam spa, with a restaurant upstairs. We spent three hours sipping wine, which is pretty much a forbidden luxury in Muslim Morocco, and eating a nice tajine dinner.

On the way home I gazed at the twinkling stars that blanketed the sky outside my window, a stunning finale to an amazing trip.

What We Did in France

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With backpacks in Chartres, France

After Denmark we flew through France by train. Our travel though France was a bit unusual to how we usually travel… We didn’t plan anything ahead, and stayed in cities for only one night, and we slept in hotels. Despite the short visit, it was great getting a quick taste of France and we will definitely have to come back to see the rest of the country.

We first entered France through Lillie Flanders after crossing Belgium. The most interesting part of travelling this way, by trains, was seeing the landscape and architecture change as we progressed west through Europe. The change was very visible upon entering France. The pointed roofs and brick houses of Belgium and Denmark were replaced by tall buildings with narrow windows and beautiful carved decorations that lined every street. We wandered around for a while, searching for a cheap hotel and checking out some Gothic cathedrals along the way.  As night aproached and hunger grew we were aquainted with French food for the first time (and French prices) and decided to have a hotel room picnic that night.

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Old and new in Lillie

The next day we took a one way train to Paris and spent the day walking around to see as much as possible. Despite the cloudy day, the city was beautiful. There was something interesting on every corner.

A news stand and street photo in Paris

People doing things in Paris

As a history nerd, seeing the Arc de Triomphe was my favorite. The Arc commemorates all who fought or died for France during the French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, and both World Wars.

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The Arc

We also saw the well-known Café des Deux Moulins. The cafe is famous for being where Amelie, from the classic French movie under the same name, worked in the film.

people in the Café des Deux Moulins in Paris, france

Café des Deux Moulins

That evening we traveled to Chartres, France. This city was my favorite of all that we visited. We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning, and had a delicious bagel sandwich for breakfast in the square. The city was empty of tourists which made for a very peaceful day people watching and exploring.

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Look at the deliciousness!

After breakfast we looked around the cute streets of the old city, and saw the stunning Gothic architecture of the Notre Dam.

Gothic structure of the Notre Dam in Fance

Notre Dam in Chartres, France

That’s all for France. Next stop is Spain!