Las Palmas to Marrakech. LPA -> RAK Hello Culture Shock and the Best Riad!

*note- yes this is from my trip in 2014.  I’ve been neglecting this for too long.*

Adiós Las Palmas and Hello Marrakech!

Ok.  It wasn’t that easy.  First, we had to arrange for a really early cab to the airport.  Second, we had left a deposit with the hostel workers for locks.  Well, we were able to turn back in our locks, but the hostels workers were nowhere to be found when we needed our money back.  UGH.  At least I knew we had an amazing riad to stay at in Marrakech.  But, c’est la vie.  We had a taxi to get and a flight to catch.

I was so excited about Morocco.  I’ve traveled throughout western Europe before, so while Spain was nice, I needed to see something new and different.  Don’t worry, this definitely was something new and different in a good way.

If I haven’t mentioned before about Ashley and flying, let me explain.  We had never traveled together before and I thought that since she has traveled, she would be good at it.  And by good at it, I mean a pleasant traveler.  Nope.  I’m pretty sure that she is worse to be on flights and long car rides than an infant because she can talk and articulate (over and over again) just how much she hates everything.  This is just to set you up for the next leg of our trip.

I had arranged through our super amazing riad, Riad Chi Chi, which I highly recommend, an airport transfer.  I knew nothing about Marrakech, expect what a few people I know that had lived there told me and what I read online.  I knew it was going to be a little bit of a culture shock and even the riad suggested that we use a transfer because it was difficult to find.

Two hours later, our flight landed and we were finally in Marrakech!  Just going through customs alone, I could the see this look rapidly take over Ashley.  For me, I was too excited to even entertain the feeling of culture shock.  Ashley, not so much.  She looked scared.  Exiting customs and changing money was stressing her out.  Then, we couldn’t find our riad transfer.  Eek.  That one moment, I did start to feel a little panic.  Only because I had zero internet, phone and clue as to what we would do.  But, we found him and off we were.  The drive into the medina, the old walled city of Marrakech, wasn’t long and was definitely something different to take in.  Ashley started her week long obsession with donkeys and this is where she took over my iphone to take a bunch of pictures because she didn’t have a camera.  Our driver parked just outside of the walls around Marrakech and started to lead us into the maze of the city and to our riad.

Oh Marrakech!

Inside the medina are tightly woven, winding alleys that seem to be meant for you to be constantly lost.  The city is bustling.  Packed.  People are everywhere.  There are no cars, but bicycles and motos threaten to knock you over.  Then, there are the men.  Culturally, the men in Morocco cat call.  We were dressed appropriately but that didn’t stop them.  And it seemed like every man that we passed had something to yell out at us.  It didn’t bother me.  Yes, I had to get used to it; however, I was warned ahead of time about this.  And let’s face it, after the incident in Spain, I wasn’t afraid of them.  I knew that they would say something to us as we walked by, but not get up and actually get in our faces or personal space.  Then, there was Ashley’s reaction.  Our guide walked us through the maze, down a cramped, dark and dank alley only to lead to two wooden doors and a dead end.  Ashley looked at me and I looked at her.  I think that we were both thinking the same thing.  Where the hell are we and what is behind that door?  

Riad Chi Chi Marrakech

Riad Chi Chi Marrakech

Oh sweet, gorgeous Riad Chi Chi! 

That’s right.  Down this scary dead end that looked like something two naive female travelers would meet their fate in any B horror movie, was the most amazing place.  The door opened to a beautiful white and tranquil mansion that was now a B&B.  This place would become our sanctuary for our time in the city of Marrakech.  Salah greeted us and as we filled out the paperwork, we were served traditional mint tea and cookies.  After being shown to our room, Ashley locked the door and looked at me.  She then said, “I’m not going back out there.  I’m not leaving this place.”  See, while the cat calling didn’t bother me so much, that was her breaking point of being in full blown culture shock.

We needed food and I was determined to get back out there and experience Marrakech.  After a little bit of a break, I convinced Ashley to head back out with me.  Salah gave us a cell phone to use and a map.  The phone was incase we got lost, we could call him and he would walk and find us.

But we had a map. 

Before we left, Ashley changed, thinking that if she looked homeless, no one would yell out at her.  HA! We made our way through the labyrinth that is the medina, trying to note the landmarks that were written on our map, so we could find our way back.  Slowly, Ashley eased up a bit.  I think she was starting to realize that everything was going to be just fine.  We sat outside on the edge of Jamaa el Fna Square and ate delicious food.  I had my first chicken tangine and Ashely had pastilla with chicken and cinnamon.  We people watched and longed for a cocktail  We deserved it.  The thing is, we couldn’t find any alcohol anywhere.  This guy handed us a flyer and it mentioned drinks.  We were in!  We found this cute little place with a roof top terrace bar- the only place that serves alcohol in the walled city.  After that, we decided to head back to our riad.

We walked.  And we walked.  We looked at the map.  We followed the markings.  Almost two hours later, we were just going in circles and lost.  I thought we could figure it out, but Ashley demanded that we call Salah.  But if everything was in Arabic, how the hell was I supposed to tell him where we were?  We walked back to the main square, found a big restaurant and used that as our landmark to call him.  He came and rescued us shortly after that.

chicken tangine

chicken tangine

DSC_2662

pastilla with chicken and cinnamon

Back safe in the zen of the riad, I needed wine.  We asked Salah and he graciously brought us a bottle of red wine. We sat in the courtyard going over our day, drinking wine by the mini dipping pool and using the wifi.  Because of course it didn’t work in our room LIKE EVERY PLACE ON THIS TRIP.

Day one in Marrakech was over and we were exhausted.  At this point, we had been on a very tight travel schedule and needed sleep and relaxation.  Bonne nuit Marrakech et à demain!

Definitely much needed wine

Definitely much needed wine

In the souks

In the souks

People watching in the square

People watching in the square

Exploring Las Palmas- Illegal biking, soccer, snorkeling, hostel fun and the never ending search for wifi

*note- yes, this is from my 2014 trip.  I’ve been neglecting this blog for too long*

The night before, after our exhausting day of travel, we saw that our hostel had free bikes to use and we wanted to be out and exploring Las Palmas.  There were only two, so we made a plan to wake up early, grab the bikes and ride along the beachfront promenade.  It was great in theory, until after riding along the promenade, someone one stopped us and told us in spanish that no bikes were allowed in that area.  We tried to ride on the streets, but after I fell into several cars on the narrow, rocky sidewalks, I was over it.  We walked the bikes back to the hostel and decided to just walk up the long promenade.

Urban Las Palmas Beach

Urban Las Palmas Beach

Las Palmas

Volcano on the edge of the city

Volcano on the edge of the city

Las Palmas is an urban beach.  It’s somewhat like South Beach.  It’s awesome!  During our long walk, we people watched, saw great public art, stuck our feet in the ocean and best of all, got to watch a men’s beach soccer game.  Ya, that!  Oh, and we also got to watch them strip down to their tiny euro mankinis and swim in the ocean. Let’s just say  we weren’t bored!

Not bored by these guys playing soccer on the beach!

Not bored by these guys playing soccer on the beach!

Highlight of the day!  JK

Highlight of the day! JK

After a cocktail and some tapas, we headed back to the hostel and decided that we were going to snorkel out to the reef.  Now, I’m not quite sure just how far this reef is from shore, but to me, it looked like 1/4 of mile.  No problem, right?  I’m a strong swimmer.  BWHAHAHAHA!  I grabbed just the mask and not the snorkel.  No Bueno.  I did learn a fun fact:  Ashley had never been snorkeling before this. How is she even from Florida?  

Well not too long into us snorkeling, I was dying without the actual snorkel.  This was the Atlantic Ocean and it was rough and FREEZING!  But I was determined to make it out to the reef.  After all, some people had passed us and told us where we might be able to see an octopus.  In between me having to come up for air way too often and Ashley excitedly pointing out fish, we made.  And there were rocks to stand on, thank God.  We swam around for awhile and then realized that the tide was coming in and we better book it to make it back to shore.  It was rough, both figuratively and literately.  Let’s just say that I will never go snorkeling without the snorkel again.

We headed back to the hostel and chilled for a little bit; however, the whole “we never have wifi anywhere we go on this whole trip” issue came up again.  We set out on a quest for wifi and ended with Ashley having to diffuse a crisis back home and me meeting the first of two people on this trip that had lived in my hometown of Vero Beach/Sebastian, Florida.  Crazy!

We ended up at this random bar that had free wifi and cheap drinks.  Perfect.  As we settled into our seats at the bar and connected to their wifi, we started chitchatting with the bartender/owner.  He was telling us his story about moving to Las Palmas and buying the bar and Florida came up in our conversation.  I cannot remember his name, but it was a really simple, short name like Jim.  Anyways, “Jim” asked us where were from and I told him originally from the Vero Beach/Sebastian area.

For those who don’t know, it’s a small beach town on the Atlantic coast of Florida.  About an hour south of Cocoa Beach and an hour north of West Palm Beach.   And one would think that it’s not everyday that you run into people that have lived there, but this happened twice to me on this trip and my trip to Costa Rica.  

Ok, back to Jim.  He starts telling me that he used to own a restaurant in Fort Pierce, but lived in Vero Beach.  I was blown away.  We started talking about the town and how much its changed since he had left.  Meanwhile, this kept me busy while Ashley was trying to solve her major crisis back home, which isn’t so easy when you are dependent on a bar’s free wifi and you need to call an airline, a bank and your mom to help.  After leaving this bar, we headed to the store for food and drinks and then back to the hostel for a much needed chill night.

Ashley's crisis calls!

Ashley’s crisis calls!

JIM!!

JIM!!

When we arrived, people we starting to gather on the deck, drink cocktails and get ready for sunset.  Overall, the evening was perfect.  We chatted with people form all over the place, took sunset pictures and listened to some music.  We were so tired and had to get up really, really early to catch our cab to the airport to head to our next destination- Marrakech!

The ocean view from our hostel

The ocean view from our hostel

Sunset

Sunset

Day 2 in Las Palmas

Day 2 in Las Palmas

Trying out Jamberry Nail Wraps!

I was sent a few samples of Jamberry from the ever awesome Ashley.  Now, if you know me, you know that I’m not big on manicures.  After years of working in bars, nail polish never stayed on my nails and they were always short and jagged.  I eventually gave up.  On a few special occasions here and there, I would get a manicure, but it’s just not my thing.  However, I was really intrigued by the idea of a nail wrap and Jamberry looked cool.  Samples were sent (and then sat for a while because of the holidays) but a few weeks ago I finally made the girls, ages 10 and 12, try them.

Jamberry Samples

My Jamberry Samples

 

 

Jamberry Packaging

Cute Jamberry Samples Packaging

 

Both girls applied the Jamberry Nail Wraps to alternate fingers and then painted the other ones.  It was on a Friday afternoon.  They were excited.  Having been living in Costa Rica for the last four years, this was something new and amazing for them.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get photos of the 10 year old’s nails, but I did with the 12 year old.  Remember, the results you see are after four days, over a weekend and worn by a very active girl.

Jamberry Nail Wraps

Before (Day One)- Jamberry Nail Wraps are the patterned ones!

 

 

Nail Wraps

Before

 

I think there were two things that they loved: the application and the ability to mix and match.

And, overall, they liked them.  By day four, they were peeling a bit, but I think that the 12 year old is rough with her hands.  She said that she would use them again and was excited when I told her that you can get custom ones.

Jamberry Nail Wraps Try

After (Day Four) – You can see one peeling, but it’s not bad after four days of playing in the woods and skateboarding!

 

 

Try Jamberry

After- Here you can see that it stayed on perfectly. It’s all about the application!

 

I would highly recommend trying out Jamberry Nail Wraps and here are my reasons:

My 5 year old- She loves getting her nails painted, but does not have the patience to wait for them to dry.  And they have a kid line!

They are perfect for getting that high-end custom look, without the tedious amount of detail work done at a nail salon.

You can mix and match. This makes it funky and fun!

The ability to have custom ones made is so unique and really adds another element to getting your nails done.

My only advice is that it does take practice to make them perfect.  I think that was the issue the girls had with some of them peeling.

I hope you head on over to Ashley’s page and try them out for yourself.  Also, contact her if you are interested in hosting an online party.  I am and it will be happening Monday, February 2nd – February 9th.  Check it out here!

Madrid to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria MAD->LPA (AKA-Where the eff is our hostel)

After our gigantic fight the night before, we were looking to put everything behind us and ready to move forward to this trip.  We spent our last hours in Madrid packing all of Ashley’s stuff and waiting for her landlord to come and check her out of her apartment.  We then found our way over to Kai and Betty’s apartment, so that we could get the keys.  They were going to Norway and letting us stay there our last night of our trip.  Have I told you how much I just adore them.  We wanted to leave the bulk of Ashley’s stuff there so that both of us were only taking one backpack for the rest of our trip.

After getting the keys, wishing them to have a safe trip, thanking them for letting us stay and me begging for any Norway pictures that could resemble anything Frozen for baby girl, we were ready to go. But, we a little bit of time before we needed to be at the airport.  We took up Kai’s advice and went to eat at near his place.  OMG!  It’s like the Chipotle of Spain, but with these giant vats of margaritas!  It was so delicious.  Then, we were off to the airport!

Tierra !!!!

Tierra !!!

 

Now, we were flying Ryanair (which everyone knows that it can be difficult).  We get to the airport, find our terminal and the Ryan air line was ridiculously long.  We stood in it for a little bit, while I tried to figure out if we even needed to because we weren’t checking bags.  We even learned some sweet Ryanair tips for travel via the Irish guys behind us.  I thought we needed a stamp.  It’s a Ryanair thing, but after speaking to one of employees, we realized that we didn’t need one because we were fly to the Canary Islands and that was still part of Spain.  We weren’t leaving the country.  But, he questioned the size of my bag.  So after getting out of line, measuring my bag, we were ready to go.  Except for the security check.  I had brought a kindle.  I never use it and it’s technically my sons, so I forgot that it was in the hidden compartment of my backpack.  While going through security, they kept telling me that there was “something square” in my bag that needed to come out.  That was Ashley’s interpretation of what they were saying.  I was getting anxious because everything I was pulling out of my bag wasn’t it.  I couldn’t think of anything square that I had with me.  Alas, I finally remembered that I had the kindle, pulled it out and we made it through security.

The flight was the beginning of the end with learning to deal with Ashley and how she handles flying and car rides.  No Bueno!  The flight was about 3 hours long (and a time change) and let’s just say that she was miserable most of the time.  This is also a recurring theme during our trip.  

You have to keep in mind that the Canary Islands are off the coast of Africa.  They have the same landscape, which means that you’re not flying into a Caribbean Island.  It’s not “tropical.”  As our flight was landing I was excited, but I think Ashely was thinking tropical and not the more desert-ish island.  However, once we landed with clear directions from our hostels, she started to warm up.  We landed around 7pm.

Flying in to Las Palmas!

Flying in to Las Palmas!

Clear Directions.  Hahahaha!

We boarded the only bus into the city, it’s an urban beach, and got off were it ended.  We had accidentally, taken the bus that only takes you halfway.  So, we boarded another bus to get to the city center.  When that bus ride ended, we were super confused and lost.   I said, “Let’s just take a cab.”  We gave him the address of the hostel and figured, on good faith, that he would get us there.  Nope.  Not even close.  Two hours of walking later, starving, with Ashley completely ignoring me asking for her to speak spanish to someone in one of the many restaurants that we passed for directions and then getting mad if I attempted to ask in my broken spanish and it being completely dark, we found our hostel.  And it looked closed.  There were no lights on in the windows.  We knocked and no one came to the door.  At this point, we were so exhausted and hungry that we didn’t know what to do.  I peeked in the mail slot and saw people in there, but still no one came to the door.  A couple that was walking by on the promenade, who must have sensed our struggle, pointed out the weird doorbell.  We rang it and nothing. Nothing.  At this point, feeling very defeated and starving, some people exited the hostel.  We came in and found the staff, and by staff, I mean the young girls that stay there for free in exchange to help run the place and have no effing clue what’s going on.  They told us that they were fully booked.  I had reservations.  After what seemed like forever, they admitted that they had a mix-up and were going to show us to our room.  It should also be noted that their wifi was broken, because that’s a reoccurring theme on our trip.  Now, I booked a room for just us two.  HAHAHA!  They lead us up to our room, which was an awesome room, and then the informed us that the electricity wasn’t working in our room.  WTF!  So as they found the guy to help us at least get an extension cord to charge stuff and a flashlight to take a shower, because we had been traveling all day, we realized that there was someone else’s stuff in the room.  Cell phone, clothes, etc..  All just laying right out on the bed.  At this point, we didn’t know what to do.  There was a futon and we figured out that we were going to have to share it.  The maintenance guy came up, tested some outlets and brought us and extension cord and a lamp.  Whatever.   At this point, neither one of really cared.  It was 10 pm, we were exhausted and starving.  It was in this moment that we met the roommate.  This girl comes storming up the steps, speaking angry spanish to the maintenance guy and started flipping some other switches on the wall.  All which worked!  Yep, there was no problem with electricity, you just had to find the one hidden switch that turned everything on in the room.  We were thrilled.  Our new roommate not so much.  

She stormed back downstairs and we got ready to go find food.  As we left on this quest, we said hola to the roommate that was sitting on the porch common area and she completely ignored us.  Great.   We ended up at some restaurant, completely over ordered, drank wine and decided that we just wanted to go to bed.  Back to the hostel we went, where the roommate actually came up to the room and introduced herself and was nice.  I think she had liquid courage.  

 

Bienvenidos Las Palmas, Gran Canaria!

At least we caught sunset!

At least we caught sunset!

 

Las Palmas!

Las Palmas!

 

Volcano!

Volcano!

 

Awesome artwork everywhere

Awesome artwork everywhere

 

YUM-MY

YUM-MY

 

We definitely ordered too much food!

We definitely ordered too much food!


 

 

Beginning of the Trip and our Day One! MCO->MIA->MAD (Orlando->Miami->Madrid)

At 5 am, July 30th, I frantically woke up.  I had to be at the Orlando airport at 12:30 pm (which was about an 1 hour and 45 minutes away) and in true Nikki fashion, I hadn’t packed yet.  This is a running theme for all my trips.  With the assistance of both my husband and my 4yo, I quickly packed up all my stuff.  I was only taking one backpack, so it wasn’t that hard.  However, I did forget my glasses, which would have been really nice to have during our camel ride. (That story will come later)  It might seem odd for me to have flown from Orlando to Miami and then to Madrid, but my BFF lives right near the airport in Orlando, so I could leave my car with her and not have to pay parking fees.  

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

I arrived at the airport around 12:30 and security was a breeze.  Now all I had to do was wait.  So, of course, I parked myself at the bar and drank two VERY expensive margaritas.  I was ready.  Ready to embark on this 13 day journey.  Ready to be a part from family, because we had worked out a two time a day Skype schedule so that it would be like I wasn’t even gone.  If I only knew then what I know now about finding wifi.  I flew American Airlines.  The flight to Miami was fine.  It was when I got to Miami that things started to go south.

At this point, I had arranged for Ashley to meet me at the Madrid airport.  Little did I know that my flight would be delayed for hours, most of which was on the plane, which left me with no way to reach her and let her know.  The first delay was because of lightning.  If anyone knows me, then you know that I’m deathly afraid of it.  I’ve been know to hide in windowless rooms during lightning storms.  I was glad that for this delay we were still in the airport and not on the plane.  Then, they announced that the bathrooms were broken on our plane, so we had to change gates and planes.  Another delay.  Finally, we were all on board, when we had to sit there for at least another hour because there was a severe storm in our flight path.  Ok.  I get it.  Safety first, right?  We take off and after a few hours, when the lights were off and almost everyone was asleep, we were hit with some severe turbulence and then hail.  Did you read that?  HAIL!!!!!!  Now, let me set the scene.  On my flight was a group of about 20 Jewish people going to Israel.  Remember that this was during the time when the USA banned flying there, so they had to fly out of the USA to Europe and catch a flight from there.  So picture this:  Our plane hits a lot of severe turbulence and then it starts to hail.  An Orthodox Hasidic Jewish Rabbi, head-to-toe in full religious garb, gets up and starts praying over each of the rows that the Jewish group were sitting.  The only thing I could think of was Final Destination.  I mean if the Rabbi is up praying, he must know something.  Alas, we arrived, many hours late, but safely in Madrid on July 31st around 1pm.

Now, Ashley had been waiting for me for hours and when I finally linked to the airport’s wifi, I’m getting these hectic messages from her to hurry up.  I was so stressed and tired that I went to passport control, got my stamp and walked back out the wrong way.  Facepalm.  I had to then re enter passport control, get another stamp and then take the airport metro to get to baggage claim to get out of the building where she was waiting.  Let’s just say it wasn’t a fast process.

During this time, I had been making plans to meet up with Betty, but I had no way to tell her that my flight had been delayed.  She later told me that she thought I was blowing her off.  NEVER!

I finally met up with Ashley who greeted me very stressed out because she needed to go to the bank and cash her last paycheck.  I didn’t quite see what the big deal was; however, after two banks, one long line and TONS of walking, I realized that banking in Spain is a lot different.  We stopped at one point and had my first real tapas and caña!  Bienvenida España!  At this point, we headed to her apartment, opened a bottle of wine and started to get ready for the rest of our day.

Our first bottle of wine at Ashley's apt.

Our first bottle of wine at Ashley’s apt.

Our plan was to meet up with Betty and Kai at the Museo del Prado and we were in luck, because it was free that last hour of the day.  After a little bit of a search, we found Betty, then we were on quest for wifi (you will see that this is running theme during this trip) so that we could tell Kai where to meet us.

map to the Prado

map to the Prado

Let’s just say that I’m not sure that Ashely has ever been in a museum and she isn’t an “art” person.  At first she was a little over it, but I was impressed that she slowly came around to liking some of artwork.  Kai and I were the leaders in discussing all of the works, their history and meanings, while Ashley and Betty listened and pointed out all the weird looking baby Jesus’,  other characteristics and just a making good jokes about the paintings.  It was great!  I think Ashley warmed up to museums.  I see her going to another one sometime in her life.

Her favorite part of the museum, the doors

Her favorite part of the museum, the doors

Ashley getting excited over hot policía

Ashley getting excited over hot policía

 

Sunsetting in the streets of Madrid

Sunsetting in the streets of Madrid

 

We then walked through the streets of Madrid, heading in the general direction of where we were meeting her friends for dinner.  In true Spanish culture, even at 9 pm, we were the only ones in the restaurant.  They eat late there.  We met up with Natalie and two of Ashley’s other friends.  The food was delicious, the wine was amazing and the conversations were awesome.  I even tried Bull Tail.  It was good!  One of my favorite Kai quotes came out of this dinner.  We were talking about my fear of lightning and drunk-ish Kai says, “I’m afraid too.  Because I’m always the tallest thing around.”  LOVE

Betty cooking her steak.  Yummy!

Betty cooking her steak. Yummy!

 

These two!  Betty and Kai might not look thrilled, but they were!

These two! Betty and Kai might not look thrilled, but they were!

Dinner moved to drinks to more drinks and more drinks.  Bar hopping over there isn’t the same as over here.  They actually have bars that close at midnight and then right down the street, that bar is just opening at midnight.  I think it was around that time that Kai left because he had work in morning and Betty stayed with us.  We went and danced, drank some more and then as we were leaving that place to go to the burlesque bar, which was just now opening up at 2 am, we met these really drunk guys that wanted to talk to Ashley.  Funny thing, Ashley can speak decent spanish and her friend Natalie can speak perfect spanish.  Some how with my horrible broken french, italian and spanish, every time Ashley didn’t understand him, he would turn to me and start speaking in spanish as if I knew what he was saying.  I would just string together words from four different languages and he seemed to understand me.  I actually know that if I’m at a certain, and it’s only a very small window of drunkenness, that all my language skills come back.  This theory has been put to test, succeeded and will also apply later to dancing.

Being mermaids (I think?) on the poles in the street

Being mermaids (I think?) on the poles in the street

For those of you who know Ashely and I, it was only a matter of time before we got into a huge blow out.  If you picked our first night in Madrid, then Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!  While waiting outside of the burlesque club, we started arguing and of course it escalated into a ginormous fight at 4 am in the streets of Madrid.  We ended up storming off back to her apartment, leaving Betty and Natalie to go in to the club, and we carried out our argument through the desolate streets of Madrid.  We were both tired.  We were both dealing with different issues, but in the end, we were fighting over the same thing.  We were just unable to make the connection.  And really, I’m glad we got that fight over with earlier rather than later.  However, on the walk back to Ashley’s apartment, we cut through a park.  Yes, I know.  Two drunk girls that are fighting should never cut through a park at 4:30 am.  As we were walking (and arguing) a guy walked passed us with his penis hanging out of his pants.  That’s right, his penis.  Instantly, we stopped fighting and became acutely aware that he was now backing up to walk past us again, only this time, he was jacking off.  Seriously?  So what do two women do?  We search our purses and find the only weapon: pens.  We each grasped a pen in a Scream style grip and vowed that if he comes near us, we are going for his boys.  At this point, we realized that Betty and Natalie are coming to the apartment and in true drunk girl logic, Ashely goes up to her apartment to use the wifi to try and tell them to NOT go through the park and I, once again in true drunk girl fashion, decide to stand on the park bench, pen in hand, to protect them if he comes back.  He didn’t.  The girls made it safely and we walked Natalie home and then, Betty and I crashed in Ashely’s room.

Welcome to Madrid!  And Welcome to the next 13 days with someone that you just go into a huge argument.  Let the adventure begin!

This is going to be a long trip.

 

 



	

You can call this post “Preface to Spain, Morocco and Traveling with Ashley.”

Ok, I know it’s been over a month since I’ve been back, but it’s taken time to sort through all my pictures.  Like over 3000 pics.  (And the whole family, work, etc… thing)

First, I need to thank Trevolta for creating the platform to help travelers connect with people around the world to fulfill their travel dreams. Secondly, I want to thank our backers (I hope you got your postcards and if there was a funny, extra message on your postcard, it was from my friend who graciously mailed them for me).  And last, but definitely not the least, I have to thank CMUK Shoes.   You guys rock.  I’ve seen how, as a crowdfunding start-up, you have given back to the community.  And I loved the shoes and shirt.  I have about 1000 pics of me in them.  Your shoes have been on a camel ride, have caught Sahara Desert sand in them, walked the promenade in the Canary Islands and trekked through the hectic streets of Marrakesh.  I hope that over the next two weeks, when I give a daily recount of our journey, your shoes, shirt and brand will be honored and inspire others to pick your awesome shoes over others.

This trip inspired me to start my own 100 Strangers Project.  Which I did; however, I found my photographic voice.  I am a mix of the 100 Strangers Project, Humans of New York and me.   I feel immensely blessed to have been inspired by both of these people, but I have an even greater sense of renewal knowing that I rediscovered that 19 year old girl, wide-eyed and in love with film and travel photography.  I will post the start of my 100 Strangers Project, but I hope that everyone can look at the pictures overall and see my presence in them.

It should be noted, that I stuck true to my One Year, One Lens challenge.  I did it!  Every picture taken, besides with my iphone, is solely with my 50mm lens.  That is why I don’t have a large amount of sweeping landscape or architecture shots.  It was difficult at times, especially when we asked some people to take Ashley and I’s pic together and then trying to explain that they are the zoom.   Trust me, it became a joke on day two of the camel trek.

I will be making 13 days of blog posts depicting our 13 days of travel.  Also, I will be uploading, not only our regular travel pics, but the separate albums for: Street Art, 100 Strangers and Ashley’s Photobombs (Yeah, that became a thing).

It was a learning experience.  I have enjoyed sharing and recanting all of our stories with my family.  In these moments (happening right now), when we categorize people by their color or religion, I hope to show my kids that everyone is different.  That please, DO NOT EVER judge someone because of their beliefs or the way they dress.  I was in a country in Africa and I neither contracted ebola nor MERS.  I was in a country that was mainly Islamic and I never felt uncomfortable or in danger.  In fact, I felt more UNSAFE in Spain than I ever did in Morocco.  In a heartbeat, I would take a family vacation to Morocco.  It, was by far, my most difficult, yet favorite part.  This trip was a trip of a lifetime.  It was an exciting, exhausting, frustrating, amazing, beautiful and one in a lifetime journey and I hope that over the next 13 days, you fall in love with it the way that I have.

Here is a small preview of what I will be sharing over the next two weeks!

 

Awesome Madrid Street Art

Awesome Madrid Street Art

 

Las palmas!

Las palmas!

 

Sunset Las Palmas

Sunset Las Palmas

 

Marrakech from an awesome view!

Marrakech from an awesome view!

 

It's not everyday that you see a snake handler just chilling with a snake and smoking

It’s not everyday that you see a snake handler just chilling with a snake and smoking.  100 Strangers

 

AHHHH!  Jemma el-Fnaa.  The square in Marrakech at night.

AHHHH! Jemma el-Fnaa. The square in Marrakech at night.

 

Oh Sevilla, I heart you!

Oh Sevilla, I heart you!

 

Cordoba = I wish I spent more time here

Cordoba = I wish I spent more time here

 

wanderlust

I suffer from wanderlust, from seeking adventure and from daydreaming about far away places, people and smells that make-up the intoxicating dizziness that accompanies getting lost.

Lost in cities you never knew existed.  Lost in things that, just yesterday, seemed impossible.  Lost in my own mind.  Locked up and shut out to world that is in reach, but completely, head over heals in sync with the world’s deepest corners and depths.

I try to form words that could possibly explain this feeling, this phenomenon, but there isn’t a phrase in any language that can come close to describing it.

This.

The vivid, eyes wide open dreams are infinite and their hold on me is so vast that time and space could never measure its grasp.

I try to close my eyes.  I try to breathe deep.  I try to find that moment of silence but the weight of everything and anything that is at all possible pushes so hard against my chest that I am forced to live, awaken and be mindful of my mind, which is haunted and my soul which is yearning for wanderlust, for daydreaming, for adventure and for experiencing the far away places, people and smells.

 

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Thoughts on my latest trip- Spain, Morocco & Friendship

First, let’s just get this out out of the way, I neither contracted nor brought back ebola or MERS.   I had a desert the size of the United States between me and where the ebola epidemic is.  As for MERS, that’s in a country that is over 3,000 miles away.

This is just a small summary of my trip.  This weekend, I will go through the over 1,000 pictures on my camera and the 900 + on my iphone and start making a detailed blog post for each of the 13 days of the trip.  It will will be humorous to say the least.

Things about this trip:

I found out just how dependent I am on not just my phone, but easily accessible wifi.

I found out the I could still stick with my one lens, one year plan.

I found out that I was completely capable of packing light and not having any issues with it.

I found out that the human body, my human body, can withstand a pain that may have been worse than childbirth.  I’m talking about you scorpion.

I found out that even though I have never written a review about a hotel, place, etc.. this trip has prompted me to want to leave a bunch of glowing reviews and one crappy one.

I found out why they say you should always take a trip with someone before you marry them to see how you travel together and that this applies to friendship too.

About Friendship:

Ashley and I have never traveled together.  We are so similar.  We are both two of the most stubborn, difficult, always have to be right, bitchy attitude people that I know and at times I wanted to strangle her and vice verse.  While we had our arguments and bickered like old married people, it was on the plane ride home that I realized that I would probably want strangle anyone that I spent 13 days with 24/7 in sometimes difficult and uncomfortable situations.  I have never had such a crazy, hectic and condensed trip and neither has she.  It can put strain on any relationship and I thought I would just want to be rid of her by the end.  However, I was sad to leave her.  I missed her.  There are many things in life that cement friendships forever and this trip was ours.  A sentence that I thought I would never say, ” I would travel with Ashley again.”

The only two things that I wish I would have done: Rented bikes in Sevilla and had churros and chocolate!

I can’t wait to get started this weekend and regale you with tales of distance lands, humorous situations, the never ending search for wifi and how everyday we had a new problem to overcome.

*about 1/2 of the iphone pics were taken by Ashley*

First Day!

First Day!

Las Palmas

Las Palmas

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Marrakech

Marrakech

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Cobra

Cobra

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Our rides

Our rides

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Best tour guide!

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Flamenco

Flamenco

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Sevilla

Sevilla

Cordoba

Cordoba

 

7 days until my epic trip to Spain and Morocco!

7 DAYS!!! But, first I have some questions to answer, some funny anecdotes to tell and other randomness.

Questions:

Let’s get this out of the way.  There are couple of questions that come up when I told people I was going on this trip. (Why I even need to clarify this, I don’t know, but it’s nice just put it out there)

1.  How can you leave your kids for 13 days?

A: Well, for me and me only, I need the break.  I need the adventure.  I know that some parents have trouble leaving their kids, and I do too.  This time is the worst for me because the 4yo actually is aware that I’m leaving, so it’s more difficult.  However, we will Skype twice a day and the promise of a surprise when I come back is something she is looking forward too.  It’s only 13 days and while I love my kids, I am the type of person who has to do things for myself too.  I’m human, not a robot that now that I have a child, my whole entire life is solely devoted to them.  If that’s you, I’m fine with that.  You do you and I’ll be me and all is good in the world.

2. What about your husband?  Or a family vacation instead?

A: Great question!  We moved last year and my husband changed jobs, so he doesn’t have vacation hours yet.  As for a summer family vacation, it’s difficult because the 10y0 is with his mom for 7 weeks during the summer.  So, it’s just my husband, the 4yo and me for most of the summer.  And let’s face, the 4yo is on vacation everyday of her life.  Not to mention that we have a pool, we live one mile from the river and nine miles from the beach.  It’s not like we are stuck in some hell hole!

3. How can you afford this?

A: NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!  But, this trip has been 2 years in the making and while you might put value on other things in life, I put a lot of value in traveling.

And I saved the best for last!

4. I was actually asked this.  Like seriously! I guess it was more like a declaration, than a question.  I can’t believe your husband is letting you go without him.  And I can’t believe he’s letting you go to Africa without a male escort.

A: BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Moving on…

I have quite the knack for hurting myself either right before my trips or during.  Before my last Italy trip, I spilled hot wax on my hand and severely burned it.  Then a few days later, I stepped on rusty nail that went right through my foot.  During my trip to Costa Rica, I bruised my side from jumping awkwardly off a rope swing.  And then there was that whole running through jungle thorn bushes during the earthquake, cutting my face and arms.  Now, I’ve managed to cut the ball of my foot open while paddle boarding Sunday. Of course I did.

Now, if you know Ashley and I, you will probably want to keep track of us.  I just told her yesterday that I think we should try to break a Guinness World Record while there. Which one, who cares!  We will also be filming our Amazing Race video.  And who can forget, having an epic adventure with Kai and Betty.

And this should go without saying, I love and thank my husband from the bottom of my heart for letting me be me and having this much needed adventure.  Not everyone understands, but I love that you get me.  You are my rock, my heart and my soul.  And when I get back, we can starting counting down til our trip!  xoxo

7 Days!!!!!

Ashley and I!

Ashley and I!

This girl!

This girl!

Kai and Ashley!  I have a feeling this will be his face when we hangout again.  lol

Kai and Ashley! I have a feeling this will be his face when we hangout again. lol

Halloween!

Halloween!

BBBT!

BBBT!

Reigning photobooth champs!

Reigning photobooth champs!

Gator Nation is Everywhere!

Gator Nation is Everywhere!

Another BBBT!

Another BBBT!

Serious Corn Maze Map Reading

Serious Corn Maze Map Reading

My paralyzing fear of lightning and my parents lightning tree of death!

Here are some facts:

Florida is the lightning capital of the USA, not the world.  We are second in the world behind Rwanda.  And just to make things worse, the area of Central Florida, specifically between Tampa and Titusville is called Lightning Alley.

Here’s my story…

I grew up in Florida.  I was all to familiar with lightning and never gave it a second thought.  I knew the rules:

  • Just because it’s sunny out, doesn’t mean a storm isn’t brewing and it could still lightning before the storm even showed itself
  • If you hear thunder, then you have to get out of the pool/ocean
  • Sometimes, with severe storms, the a/c, TV and computers all have to be turned off
  • You know that however many Mississippi’s you can count between a lightning strike and thunder is approximately how many miles away the storm is  (Who came up with this system???)
  • And if your a driving during a storm, the car was the safest place to be because it was grounded by its rubber tires

A brief history with lightning before the big event!

The earliest that I can remember being afraid that I would get struck by lightning was when I was either in second or third grade.  My great-grandparents were supposed to be picking me up from school and I was waiting outside in a storm.  I was carrying my Dark Crystal old school metal lunch box and I can remember then being afraid of lightning striking me while holding a metal death box.

Next, when we moved into our new house (my parents still current home) there was one night where there was a crazy storm.  I was about 10 years old and couldn’t sleep.  (I guess my insomnia started early!)  I was watching the rain and wind from outside my bedroom window, when I saw a tee across the street from me get hit by lightning and catch on fire.

Also around that same age, there was a rumor going around my elementary school that lightning had struck through the window and the electrical sockets.  I don’t know if this is true, but still scary.

When I was in my 20s and my ex and I moved into a new house, the previous owners had told us that the house was struck by lightning before and sure enough, that house was struck two more times while I lived there.

Now, here’s the story of how I almost died.

I was visiting my parents for the weekend.  It was sunny out, but we knew that afternoon, Florida rain would be coming soon.  I was about to hop in the shower when I forgot something in my room.  My old bedroom was our old garage that was converted for me when my brother was born.  So, to get to my room, you had to walk through the kitchen and then step down into the laundry room and there was were the door to my room was.  As I was just stepping down into the laundry room, lightning struck the oak tree outside, which then hit the metal fence and that made the lightning bust all of the water pipes.  Lighting was shooting out of the water heater right were I was standing, bouncing off the dryer and flying everywhere. It also busted out of the electrical sockets in the kitchen.  Luckily, I was able to jump back up on the step in the laundry room because it was starting to leak electrically charged water.  I was also VERY lucky that I forgot something so that I wasn’t in the shower right when this happened!

I have renamed my parents oak tree The Lightning Tree of Death, because it has been hit my lightning two more times, the last one, hitting my mom’s truck knocking out all her electrical systems.

See The Lightning Tree of Death in the front?!

See The Lightning Tree of Death in the front?!

 

The dark part is where lightning hit it.

The dark part is where lightning hit it.

More lightning damage!

More lightning damage!

Again, lightning damage!

Again, lightning damage!

I can recall several times driving in horrible storms where I have freaked over all the lighting, going so far as pulling over under the overpass on the 408 because I just couldn’t drive in it anymore.

When I was in Italy, there was a day where it started lightning and I’m pretty sure no one has ran down 5 levels of scaffolding so fast.

The arch we restored and I was at the very top when the lightning started!

The arch we restored and I was at the very top when the lightning started!

 

And then there was incident last night.  While driving in a storm, lightning struck a transformer right as we were driving by and sparks were flying everywhere and hitting our care.

Moral of the story, if you are ever caught in a lightning storm with me, we will probably get struck!