Upcoming Travel Destination – Spain Morocco Portugal
In a few days, Eddie and I will be on our way to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco for a fifteen-day guided tour. It’s our first visit to these countries and we’re excited to be sharing this experience with our good friends Phil and Karen. Phil, aka Chef, is a bona fide retired Chef. He and Karen are lovely and gracious visitors. We fondly remember being with them on the beautiful Grand Stand at Myrtle Beach, S.C. Chef and Karen brought coconuts for us to drink on the beach, complete with fancy straws and umbrellas. They even brought a battery powered drill to make holes in the coconuts!
A few years ago, when I was in Mexico, I decided to put Spain at the top of my list of travel destinations. Remnants of mysterious and ancient civilizations, rich and colorful Spanish influences, and stunningly beautiful geography combine to make Mexico City and Querétaro two of the most beautiful and romantic places I’d visited. I wrote about these in a previous blog post, “Mexico – A Magical Inland Visit”. Spain, I determined, was sure to have these dreamy qualities. Travel literature describes Spain using these descriptions: fiery, passionate, dazzling and magnificent! The three countries of Spain, Portugal, and Morocco share a long and complex history and are often seen together on travel itineraries. Visiting these three countries together will make this trip an epic adventure!
Our initial vision was to rent a car, and explore on our own. This would surly offer a more relaxed, serendipitous, and off-piste adventure. I read Lizann Lightfoot’s book about Rota, Spain. While reading this book, I began to think of adding Morocco to the itinerary. According to Lizann, travelers to Spain should definitely include a guided visit to Morocco. After a few speaker phone discussions with Chef and Karen, we agreed that this time, our first time to this area, we would take a guided travel tour to Spain, Morocco and Portugal.
We started our search at Vacations To Go. After putting in our preferences the site gave us a list of major tour companies and prices. From there, we started reviewing the itineraries to see the differences. There was not much difference between Gate 1, Globus, and Trafalger but we eventually selected one of these that offered ferry crossings, the first crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Spain to North Africa and another crossing through the Straights of Gibraltar, which connects the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean. Vacations To Go also provides a Deal Tracker page where you can track the best deals. Leading up to our selection, we signed up for automated messages.
Check the optional excursions of travel tours carefully. Even guided trips offer additional excursions for an extra cost. These could easily add another $1,000 or more to the cost of the trip, depending on how many you take. With a guided tour, you already have plenty of guided time allotted on the schedule and sometimes it’s good to have some time on your own. The serendipitous experiences are the often the best.
Read or listen to audio books and scan travel literature about the places you’ll visit to get a sense of their history and culture. I read fiction and nonfiction depending on what catches my eye during my research. For the trip to Spain, Portugal and Morocco, I listened to or read the following books. There is also a fascinating article in Smithsonian Magazine, Sep 2009, about the donkeys in Fez, Morocco and how they are used as the only means of transportation in the city. The article refers to the donkeys as “little pistons, that keep the medina humming”.
Audio Book, The History of Spain, Land on a Crossroad by Joyce E. Salisbury, published by The Great Courses.
Welcome to Rota: The Unofficial Guide to getting Settled, and Enjoying the Culture, Food , and Travel Opportunities of Southern Spain by Lizann Lightfoot
A Short History of Portugal by H. Morse Stephens
The Last Storytellers: Tales from the Heart of Morocco by Richard Hamilton
Morocco Stories, Travel Tales Collections by Gary Roelofs
Learn to say the basic greetings in the language of the country you’re visiting. It often gets a conversion going.
Even though I’m far from being able to speak Spanish, it gives me a better appreciation for the culture to Google the meaning and pronunciation of words. These are a few of the places that I Googled for this trip.
Greeting in Spain (Hello) (Hola)
Madrid – Cibeles Fountain, Gran Vía, Paseo de la Castellana and Puerta del Sol; Seville, Spain – Plaza de España
Greeting in Morocco (Peace Be Unto You) (As-Salaam-Alaikum)
Marrakesh – Bahia Palace, Djemaa el-Fna Square, souks, Berber village; Fez
Greeting in Portugal (Hello) (Olá)
Lisbon – Belém Tower, Alfama district, fado, Hieronymite Monastery, bairros, Golden Triangle of Queluz, Cascais and Estoril.
As always, I’ll have my iPhone X on hand. This time, I’ll carry the Pixter Super Fisheye and Wide Angle Pro to use with my iPhone. I also always take my Cannon PowerShot SX600 HS, a very nice “point and shoot” camera. I haven’t yet made the jump from these to a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera. I’ll be a beginner with these more sophisticated cameras in May on Photography Expedition to Jordan with Great Escape Publishing. Whew! We’ll see how that goes.