The Great Nordic Adventure: Part 1

“If happiness is the goal – and it should be, then adventures should be top priority.” – Richard Branson

So…I’ve been a lot of places in Europe, but somehow in all my times there I’d never managed to venture north… well really far north. So, I knew that one of my biggest goals for this year abroad was to head up to some of the Scandinavian countries. And when one of my friends invited me to come adventuring with her, it was confirmed.


Our first day of our trip was mostly just a mess of transportation. We took a train down to Lille, where we hopped on a bus that took us to the Brussels airport. From there we took a flight to Copenhagen flying on Ryan Air.

Now, I’d never flown Ryan Air before. It’s definitely interesting. The prices are very good, which to me makes it worth it. Obviously, they try to charge you for anything else, however, so just be aware of that little conundrum. However, if you’re like me and can do a week with a backpack instead of checking a bag, and don’t need to buy any extra things on board…you’re good to go!

I got lucky actually because my friend and I were the first to get in line for the flight (and yes people do line up for the flight so they can get on first… starting as soon as they have the gate number). And then I got extra lucky because the flight attendant offered to put me in the exit row… all by myself. Extra leg room and a whole row to myself. I somehow have been blessed with this happening more than once on an airline. I don’t know what good thing I did in my life to deserve this, but I will take it every time.

We arrived in Copenhagen and had to find a train to the central station, right near where our hostel was. Thankfully it ended up being pretty easy. We were quickly becoming aware that Copenhagen had plenty of English everywhere, making it very easy, and definitely in our comfort zones for a travel destination.

Sure enough after a few minutes we arrived in the city center. My friend and I had fun noting all the American chains we don’t have in France like 7/11 and Dunkin’ Donuts. Definitely made us pretty happy since we are pretty homesick at this point.

We walked to our hostel a block away. We were staying in Urban House Hostel, which is a really awesome stay that I’d recommend to anyone. It’s clean and modern, and it’s really handy with its online check in system that helps make it more convenient. The location is fantastic too, so really unbeatable, plus a fun atmosphere with a bar and other cool things attached to it.

We dropped our stuff off and ran to get food. It was late, almost 9 at that point, so it really just was kind of a scramble to get any kind of food before places began to close. There was a Vietnamese place a block away called Bistro KiVi that looked decent. Honestly, we were hungry enough that it didn’t really matter to us what we ate, plus Asian food does tend to be a bit cheaper…which isn’t a bad thing in these more expensive Scandinavian countries.

So we decided to split a four course meal thing. It started with a crab soup, and then a plate with a variety of appetizers (prawns, spring rolls, and a cool lettuce wrapped thing that was delicious), then a plate of duck which was amazing, and lastly a little chocolate cake with coconut ice cream. We both were ravenous, and extremely happy to just enjoy some good food we didn’t have to cook.

After finishing up we headed back to the hostel for a night of rest. We were ready for a fun day of exploring ahead!

The Cat’s Out of the Bag: Why Ypres is Amazing

All right, I’ll admit the title is a bit deceptive. It’s mostly just that I couldn’t resist using a cat joke. See, Ypres is that town that was famed for throwing cats off the belfry. They still have a cat festival every year, though now they’re a bit more humane about it. So no cats were injured in the making of this blog post.

My morning began with classes. I went and helped out in one class at my first school and then went to teach another class at my second, talking about heath in America and the problem of Big Gulps….which Europeans don’t have so they think it’s crazy we have so much soda. Regardless, it makes for an interesting topic with which to practice English.

Then it was off to grab a sandwich and head to meet my family.

We met up outside of my high school. I let them drive through some of the main parts of my town to see a little bit of what it was like. However, the road we wanted to take wasn’t legal to turn right onto. My dad decided to do it anyways. And what do you know we got pulled over by the police

My father apologized and the man said we were lucky before pulling away. Just always follow traffic rules, kiddos. The moment you don’t is the moment you get caught.

Anyhow, there were no other problems as we drove towards Ypres, our destination for the day. We’d decided to venture back into Belgium, since I didn’t know of a lot to do in the French area.

We started off by walking around the town. We looked at the cathedral before going over to where the famed belfry is where they used to throw cats. Then we walked around some of the war memorials and saw one of the cemeteries.

We were all hungry so it seemed like a good time for lunch. My dad had read there was a place with burgers in town, so we stopped there. They were indeed quite tasty, plus fries and croquettes which are always amazing.


There was a little more time to walk around some of  the city and see a few more things.

After that we were getting cold so we headed towards Lille. As always, French places don’t open for dinner until eight or later usually, so we had to kill time until then.

Unfortunately it was quite cold in Lille, so while walking around the shops and squares was fun, it was not really pleasant.


We ended up in the FNAC which is a media store with books and movies and such. It made for a warm place to rest for a bit while we waited for the restaurant to open.

My friend had been recommended a place called La Campagne de Grappe, a local French restaurant that apparently was well liked by the locals. She passed on the advice to me, and I suggested eating there to my family.

So we headed there at eight and sat down to order some interesting dishes. I had the duck lasagna that was indeed quite delicious. Afterwards, for desserts my family had a selection that had several different types of local desserts while I had a roast pear that makes me salivate just thinking about it.

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Overall it was a good day. It was sad to know it was our last, but I said goodbye to my family and knew that this wasn’t the end. I would have more fantastic adventures awaiting me in the future.

If you missed other Christmas Adventure Posts here is a list so you can catch up:

Bourges and Brive-la-Guillarde

Near Bilbao






Seville, Santa Olalla del Cala, Merida

Merida, Evora, Lisbon


Two days of driving (nope not kidding)

Tournai, Mons, Aulne




Fries, Beers, Chocolates, and Waffles: A Belgian Adventure

So I don’t work Tuesdays. It’s my day off thanks to my schedule. So, since school had recommenced on a Tuesday, I had the day to do what I wanted. My family decided that since I live so close to the Belgian border, it might be nice to take advantage of that and head over to explore yet another country.

My dad basically said, “Let’s go over, have some fries, beers, chocolates…” he thought for a moment, “and waffles.”

He insisted four things were weird and we needed a fifth, but we all reassured him that four amazing things all sounded really good.

We started off by driving over to Tournai. Mostly it was just an opportunity to walk around the main square and admire how pretty the town was. We did go into the Cathedral there and walked past the bell tower (it was closed for lunch so we couldn’t go in). Though it was cold, it was at least sunny, so we enjoyed the sunshine and made the most of our adventure.

After a quick jaunt through Tournai we headed to Mons.

We walked to the main square and took some pictures, after which we decided to grab some food. We found a place that had fries and different sauces and grabbed a bunch of different beers to drink. We all thoroughly enjoyed it.

After that we had to go get our chocolate. We stopped by a store to pick up a mixed bag. And then we stopped in for waffles. My Belgian friend tells me these are sort of solely for tourists…but hey they are still fun, and I will never say no to waffles (yup call me Leslie Knope if you will).

We enjoyed the food and then decided it might be fun to walk around a little more, climbing up to a bell tower on the hill.

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With plenty of time left, we opted to head over to a brewery nearby and see if they were open and then the ruins of an abbey that was supposed to be impressive.

The brewery was closed sure enough, so we just headed to the Aulne Abbey… or what was left of it.

It looked like something out of a horror film. Ruins of an abbey in the snow. I admit I jumped a few times when I heard birds calling. Creepy for sure. It was closed for the season, but we were able to get some views over the fences.

My family drove me back to France. We stopped to grab some groceries and for another dinner at Flunch, because cheap and easy is nice sometimes.

After that it was back to my school to unpack and get ready for classes the next day. I had one more day with my family, and then the adventure would be over.

New Year’s Day in the Car… Nope I’m Not Kidding AND When to NEVER Drive in Paris: Our Journey Back North

I’m putting two days in one. Because I realized these are both going to be very short and with almost no photos, so hey here’s a combo of two posts. Couldn’t decide on a title so I used both.

So the only problem with going to Lisbon at the end of vacation, was that it left my family trying to get back up to Lille in two days. From Portugal. Basically 12 hour drives for two days. Yay. Who decided to go to Portugal again?

We were all tired and cranky and not happy about the drive. Even less so once we discovered that Europe is awesome because you cannot find anything open on New Years… seriously.

Most of the day was quite boring. Driving and trying to find a place to eat. We ended up at a Burger King that was open somehow. So burgers and a some ice cream treats, though I still will say I really miss American milkshakes. Europe doesn’t know how to make them.

We stopped just over the border in France and stayed in another B&B to keep things cheap. Over all, a very sad and boring day.

The next day wasn’t much better. We bought some things at a grocery store for a picnic lunch. Well…picnic as in we all shoved food in our mouth at a picnic table in a rest stop, while shivering and wishing we were back in the car. Portugal and Spain had been amazing, but they did not prepare us for the cold and rainy French weather.

On top of that, we managed to hit the worst possible traffic you can hit. Essentially, imagine all French people returning to their homes after two weeks of Christmas vacation… on a Monday afternoon. Going through Paris. I’ll show you what our GPS looked like. It was a mess of accident and traffic symbols, trying to warn us around the mess that was Paris.


Yes, so most of our time that day was spent simply sitting in the car waiting for cars to move so we could go on our way.

We ended up stopping at a Flunch for dinner, before heading to a B&B in Tourcoing for the night. I had determined that I actually didn’t have class yet, so it was possible for me to stay another night with my family even though school was starting back up. So with that in mind, we settled in for the night, all tired and glad to be done with the insane amounts of driving.

New Year’s in Lisbon

Well, Lisbon was our choice for a New Year’s Eve stay. After all, big city would probably be a good place to spend the holiday right?

We started off the day with breakfast at our hotel before heading down to a walking tour of the city. We selected Lisbon Chill-Out Free Tour. Well, my dad did. It was a bit of a conflict for us to be honest.


See I love Sandeman’s tours. I’ve done four now, and every single one has been amazing. Sandeman has a Lisbon tour… but my dad did research and said Lisbon Chill-Out Free Tour was there first and Sandeman kind of encroached on their space.

That’s always the question isn’t it? Do you support local? Do you go with the big name brand?

I tend to be the kind of girl who will buy local coffee over Starbucks… well that is until PSL season. But I admit I usually try to give some favoritism to local shops and restaurants and businesses over chains. However, I cannot deny there are times (like with PSL seasons) that chains and big brands can be nice. After all, you go to a local coffee shop your coffee might be terrible. You go to Starbucks you already know what to expect. It might not be great, but it’s good. And it’s in your comfort zone.


Selecting walking tours can be hard. I’ve had local tours that have been great. I really enjoyed mine in Bratislava. And then I’ve had ones like in Budapest and Rome that I really disliked where the guides were really uninteresting to listen to and didn’t give me much as a whole on the tour. So yes, there is something comforting in knowing what you’re getting and selecting a place like Sandemans.

I’ll say this, in my experience local tours teach you a bit more about the culture of the place which can be great. The people are from the country you’re visiting and they know more about the place itself. However, something like Sandemans usually has a native English speaker, which can lend itself more easily to having a good sense of humor, telling stories in a really creative and interesting way. So it’s really up to you and what you prefer.


Chill Out Tours did a very good job overall. The guide was reasonably entertaining and did a good job giving an overview of the city. We had fun and enjoyed ourselves.

Afterwards we decided to hop on a tram and head over to Belem, a suburb of Lisbon with a beautiful monastery and a famous pastry shop.

We stopped at the Pasteis de Belem first, a bakery famed for being the first to make these delicious pastries. For any going, you’ll see a huge line outside. If you want to sit down you can head inside past the line and there are lots of tables. I’m guessing it’s more crowded in tourist season, but still could be worth a try. We got in and sat down together. We shared a few of the pastries together and some coffees and then we felt ready to hit up the monastery, the Jeronimos Monastery.

Sure enough, the building was beautiful. Absolutely amazing to see. If you’re getting pastries anyways, be sure to go see this place.

I don’t know that I thought the inside was all that special. But the outside and the cathedral are both quite impressive.

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Then we made a snap decision to try to get to the aquarium…which was on the opposite side of town. So we hopped on a tram and then off and onto a metro and then we ran to the aquarium to make sure we had enough time to see everything before it closed.

I don’t know that it’s the most amazing aquarium I’ve ever been to, but it’s definitely nice. It had different exhibits for the different oceans. Otters and penguins definitely stood out as some of my favorites, though there were some cool deep see crabs, and beautiful jelly fish, and other cool things. I could spend hours just staring at fun animals. There’s so much beauty in nature.

After the aquarium we headed back towards our hotel. We dropped off things and then went to find dinner.

We ended up at Cocheria Alentejana. It was completely full. However, we managed to get a table. Because we were willing to eat outside. It wasn’t cold really. A little chilly towards the end. However, when we arrived it was decent, so we decided it would be worth it. I ordered a garlic shrimp stew. I have no pictures sadly because the waitress stirred it up for me and plopped the first serving down on my plate while I stared at her with my phone raised, ready for my usual Instagram pic. In spite of my disappointment, the dish was good. It was incredibly rich and filling. We also had green wine which I really enjoyed, and then a pumpkin cake thing for dessert which was delicious…but then again I love all things pumpkin. Danny had lemon sherbet…served in a lemon. It was adorable.

The atmosphere outside was amazing. People walking through the streets. A band marching by. Everywhere we looked it felt like a celebration.

After that we dropped tired Danny off at the hotel, and my mom and dad and I went over to a landing overlooking the city to try to watch fireworks. We did, and we watched people pop corks out of champagne and kiss each other. It was a nice way to ring in the New Year.


So here’s to a New Year. Especially one full of more travels. More blog posts to come that’s for sure!

Off to Portugal

So we started our morning by going back into Merida to see a few things. We hadn’t realized the museum in town wasn’t covered on our ticket, so we decided to skip it and went to the Alcazaba (basically fortress) in town instead. We enjoyed looking out at the city, seeing the Roman bridge looking beautiful in the morning light. The fortress itself was cool too. Walls you could climb up on, and this awesome tunnel that led into the depths of the fortress with a pool of goldfish at the bottom. All in all very fun.

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Our last stop in Merida was to an aqueduct on the outskirts of town. It wasn’t Pont du Gard by any means, but it was very fun with its ruined state. And besides, the storks from town had all built nests along it which was very cool to see.

Once wed finished with pictures we set out on our drive to our next country. My family decided to be a bit crazy in our travels and visit… 6 countries. Insanity I tell you. So the next on the list was Portugal.

We stopped in Evora for lunch. Since the weather was beautiful we settled for having a picnic outside. It was sunny and lovely and there was even a random peacock strutting about trying to get some of our food.


After our picnic was over, we went and wandered around the town a bit. There was a Roman temple that we wanted to see, and otherwise we just enjoyed the sunshine and pretty architecture of churches and other buildings.

Once we were satisfied that we’d seen enough of Evora for the day we set off on the road again, stopping to see some megalithic structures nearby known as the Almendres Cromlech. Most people know of Stonehenge, but some people might not be aware that there are lots of other monoliths, dolmens, and groups of menhirs all over Europe that are similar in terms of their size and debatable function. For any who find this really fascinating, I’d recommend seeing Carnac in France. There are so many stones it’s amazing.

However, these ones were also quite interesting. It’s impressive to look at the massive size of these rocks and imagine ancient peoples finding them and erecting them in these strange formations.

We took a few photos with the menhirs and then were on our way again, off towards Lisbon.

Of course, we arrived in Lisbon in afternoon traffic, so it was difficult to get to our hotel, and even more difficult finding parking. Nonetheless we did settle in at the Pensao Londres which had a classic old hotel feel with a good location.

We dropped our things off and relaxed a bit before setting off for dinner that evening. We ate at the Bota Alta, which had delicious foods that we all enjoyed. My brother and I both had stuffed meat (think cordon bleu) and my dad had a more traditional cod dish, which my mom just had a steak. All of it was delicious and we appreciated having a nice filling meal before setting off to walk around the city a bit.

We had hoped to find pastries, but the problem is the Portuguese eat late enough that most bakeries are closed after you’re done with dinner. So we just settled for seeing a little of the city. My favorite was running across the oldest bookshop in the world, which is something that had me squealing in delight. If there had been a book I really wanted there in English I would have bought it for sure to appease my happy book collecting self. However, nothing really stuck out.


We walked back up an incredible number of steps to get back up to our hotel. Be warned that Lisbon is a very hilly city. You will walk up and down a lot to see anything.


Well, a good night’s rest would do us good for the coming day.

Seville, Santa Olalla del Cala, and Merida- See as much of Spain as you can

So the next day we started off by getting up early to go find some coffee and pastries. We then decided to go see some more of Seville before taking off. We started off by seeing a part of the university that used to be an old tobacco factory. It was very beautiful.


Then there was the Plaza de España. You might recognize it from Star Wars. It’s a beautiful square regardless of any film attachments you may or may not have, so be sure to visit if you’re in town.

Afterwards it was off to the Cathedral. We had to figure out the confusing entry system, which took a while. Apparently if you have reserved tickets or are with a group you go in one entrance, and the rest go in another. The signs are very unclear, so just be warned it might take a little bit to figure out.

We went inside the cathedral, enjoying its huge size and beautiful decorations. My brother had already been there, so he told us some things he’d learned on his tour years before. My favorite was the story of the picture of Saint Anthony that was stolen years earlier and then eventually found. Apparently Saint Anthony is the patron saint of lost things. We also saw Christopher Columbus’s grave and we climbed up the huge bell tower to enjoy a view of the city. Over all, it was a very fun visit. I highly encourage seeing it if you’re in Seville.

After that we grabbed our things from the hotel and headed on our way.

We stopped in Santa Olalla del Cala which had a beautiful castle on the hill. As we’ve often found traveling in Europe, the roads to it were not well marked. So we ended up driving down a steep rocky road before realizing it was a dead end and having to drive back up. Finally we found the right road and parked to go see the castle.


It was closed. As far as I can tell it’s not open to the public, but who knows. Maybe it is during the summer. Regardless it was fun to see. I will never tire of seeing castles. They are truly amazing.

After that we continued on our way until we reached Merida.

My father had booked a Casa Rural. We’d done this before, and really enjoyed it. Basically it’s sort of B and B like, where you stay in someone’s home in the country. It’s nice to get away from the big commercial hotels for a while and enjoy some real hospitality from the people of the country you’re in. Sure enough, our hosts welcomed us in and showed us up to our lovely rooms.

After we had dropped our stuff off we set off by car to the center of Merida where there were a variety of Roman ruins.

Merida is especially famous for the Roman theater which is surprisingly intact. I’ve seen lots of Roman ruins over the years traveling through Europe, but I have to admit the theater was quite impressive considering how old it is. We wandered through that and the amphitheater there before setting out to see other things. The ticket we bought allows you to see several of the Roman things in town, which is a good deal. So if you’re sticking around Merida be sure to check it out.

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We headed down to see the temple next, which is open to the public. And then we walked down to the river and enjoyed the Roman bridge there.


It was cold, however, so we went to Burger King to grab some drinks before our restaurant was open. I have to say, I’ve never seen a dirtier Burger King in my life. Apparently people in the town didn’t understand that you needed to bus your own dishes. So the tables were littered with trash. Just a cultural difference I suppose. Although hey, I’ve seen people being inconsiderate all over the world, so it’s one thing that I’d say is sadly universal.

After that we walked around the main square a little and the little Christmas market and then headed to our restaurant. It was called La Taberna de Sole and featured a lot of meat dishes. I had lamb chops essentially. They weren’t necessarily my favorite, but I made do. Something about eating meat off the bone often makes me feel kind of uncomfortable. Times I think I could become a vegetarian. However, dessert more than made up for it for me. I had hazelnut ice cream. It was absolutely delicious. My father had a sort of dessert soup as well and that was equally amazing. So yes, overall quite good and would definitely recommend.

We headed back to our hotel for the night after that. Over all, a very good day exploring!

See you in Seville

After our Morocco adventures our family made our way to Seville. Along the way, my father decided it would be fun to stop in the town of Jerez and tour a sherry bodega, something the region was famed for, and therefore a good stopping spot along the road.

However, we arrived to find that the bodega we’d wanted to visit was apparently closed for Christmas hours… even though there were no signs and the website didn’t say anything. This seems to be so much of life traveling. Go someplace and find out it’s closed.

We considered visiting the Spanish riding school, but weren’t sure how much we’d actually be able to see since it wasn’t a day they were putting on a show. So my father instead proposed visiting a fancy manor house.

On our drive towards it, however, we noticed that the Tio Pepe bodega appeared to be open. There were people going in through the gate. So while it wasn’t the one my father had proposed visiting, it still would be a means of seeing the sherry making process and tasting some of the famed product.


We decided it would be worth a try.

There was an English tour not too long after we’d arrived. They started us on a cute little train, taking us around different parts of the complex to show off what they’d built. Then we took a walk through the actual bodegas before they stopped to show us a really cheesy documentary. In my opinion they could have cut that in half at least, if not left it out entirely. Seeing the actual bodega was far more interesting.

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Our last stop was for tasting. We’d opted to just have two glasses and skip any food or such which cost extra. I ended up being glad we only did two as they filled the glasses quite full. The sherry wasn’t really to my taste. However, I tend to like pretty sweet things and the strength of the alcohol really wasn’t up my alley. For some, I’m sure it would have been wonderful.


Needless to say two glasses of sherry on an empty stomach had me kind of tipsy. I’m not a big alcohol drinking, so I admit my limits are pretty low. I basically downed the water my mom offered me and started eating cookies I had left over in my purse. I then had to go walk through the gift-shop in that state. And the gift shop at Tio Pepe is a lot of glass bottles… thankfully no disasters ensued.

Thankfully we left not too long after, and I was able to eat some lunch. We had a picnic in the park in town, munching on bread and cheese and olives in the gorgeous afternoon sun.


After a short break we were back in the car and on the road to Seville.

We arrived in the late afternoon, finding a place in the parking garage and then walking into the center of town where our hotel was. We checked into our hotel and then went to walk around some and find something to eat.

The city was beautiful. All lit up for the holidays with purple lights everywhere. The streets were filled with people and there were flamenco dancers and other fun street entertainment.

We walked across the river and enjoyed the views of the city. However, with some low-blood sugars in the family and people just becoming more hangry by the second, it became apparent it was time to find food, which was why we settled for heading to La Azotea for food.

It ended up being one of our favorite restaurants of the entire trip. We arrived right when it opened, had a seat and within minutes the whole place was full. And it became apparent why.

We picked several different dishes, and they all ended up being amazing. We started with a salad…I honestly forget what was on it.  We devoured it before I could get a picture, so sadly no photo evidence exists. The next was our favorite though. Rice paper wantons with shrimp and cheese. They were incredible. Then came the artichoke hearts, which were yummy, but not quite to the same level. And then a plate with cod in a sauce that was also quite delicious.

However, it was decided that the wontons were amazing. So we ordered another plate of those. Everything on the menu looked good, but it was hard to resist this particularly delicious dish.

After that we walked a little more. My brother wanted churros but the place we’d seen earlier was closing. The joy of Spanish meal times means that you can’t do anything after you’ve had dinner usually.

After that it was back to the hotel for sleeping. We were excited for the next full day ahead!

New Destinations: A Day in Morocco

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
Lewis Carroll

So you’ll see on my about section that I have mostly traveled around Europe. With the exception of Canada and Mexico, most of my country count is European. My only real goals for travel have been to see as much as I can, especially to see that which I haven’t yet seen.

Of course, getting to another continent was definitely a must. So when the opportunity came to go to Morocco, even for a day, I was glad to take it.


We thought about staying longer, but the reality was our trip was short and it would have been more expensive and more complicated to take the car over to Africa, so our family decided to just take the ferry over for a quick day adventure, and then go back to Spain for the evening.

My father initially talked about doing things on our own, but after talking with hotel staff, he found out it was almost a better deal to go with a tour group, and would maybe make it easier to see some of the things we wanted to see. So with that in mind, we booked a trip with a tour group to go get a taste of Tangier, Morocco.

I have done a few trips with tour groups. My orchestra in high school did a European tour playing in three different countries. And when I studied abroad I did three different excursions with our program to different parts of France and Switzerland. It’s certainly a different experience and there are (as with all things) both positives and negatives. So to give you an idea here’s a little blurb on traveling with a group vs. going solo.


The benefits of tour groups:

Everything is arranged. No stress trying to figure out transport, or meals, or dealing with a foreign language. It’s all done for you.

You get to meet new people! Now if you’re going with your high school orchestra, or with your church, or with your study abroad program, that’s less of a plus. However, for something like this it’s a fun way to connect with others.

You get information you might not know otherwise. It’s nice to have someone point out what something interesting looking is when you go by it. It’s also nice to have someone who can answer questions if you have them. Definitely helps!

The problems with a tour group:

You have to move at someone else’s pace. This can be frustrating if you’d like more time certain places or more likely, if you want to see as much as you can.

You can’t do what you want. See an amazing looking restaurant? Too bad you already have plans to eat somewhere else. Notice a cool stop on the road, can’t pull the bus over and get out to look.

Other people can be annoying. Hey, while meeting people is great, keep in mind you might meet some special snowflakes. My favorite on this tour was the vegan couple who made a fuss at the restaurant we ate at, which was definitely a bit annoying. And with a tour, you’re stuck with those snowflakes for the rest of the day (or week or however long the tour is).


So there’s some quick thoughts for those debating which route to go while traveling. I’d say in some places a tour group can be worth it, while in others it might be nicer to explore on your own. But it depends what you’re comfortable with as a traveler, if you’re alone, if you’re someone who needs to take it slower, or any number of other factors. Do your research and find what is right for you.


We met up with our group at the back of the ferry before being shuttled off and onto a tour bus. We all settled in and our guide began our driving tour.

Our first half took us around some of Tangier and then out into the country around as well. We drove to a lighthouse by the sea and took some pictures there. It was so beautiful. Sunny blue skies and clear water.

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Next, we drove to a spot where we could try riding camels. I was terrified by the thought, but I knew if I didn’t try I’d likely regret it. So, reluctantly, I climbed on with my mother and tried to hold on for dear life as the beast rose to its feet. It felt so precarious perched atop its hump, clinging to the saddle. The guide led us a short distance so we could see what it was like and then pulled us back over to where we’d come from. The camel went down again, nearly tipping us off. I was relieved to be back on my own two feet, but it was an experience I will never forget.


We drove on to the Hercules Caves, an interesting section of sea caves that has an opening towards the ocean that looks almost like a face. It was very interesting inside, and it was admittedly something we wouldn’t have been able to visit on our own without our rental car.


Next we drove back towards Tangier. We stopped at a site that was an old Phoenician burial site. Apparently normally they see the palace or something on the tour, but it was closed on the day we went. So something else it was.


After that we began the walking portion of the tour. We headed towards our lunch destination, stopping along the way to see other things. By the time we reached the restaurant we were very hungry.

The place had a traditional feel with rugs and pretty decorations. There was a band performing, though they mixed Christmas music into their normal repertoire.

The first course was a soup with a tomato broth and noodles in it. The second was a kebab with mystery meat (but who cared because it tasted good). Then was a plate with chicken and couscous and finally baklava for dessert, but not before having a mint tea that Morocco is so famous for drinking. The baklava was heavenly, and I thoroughly enjoyed the tea as well.

After filling up on our delicious lunch we headed back towards the market area. We wandered through it, seeing the various interesting shops. We stopped in a textile one where myself, my mother, and my brother all bought scarves (though my brother’s was for his girlfriend). And then we continued on and saw a spice shop where were shown all kinds of herbal remedies. It was very interesting.


Mom helped in a demonstration on how to wear a scarf on your head.

Then we had some free time. We thought about trying to go wander to something more interesting, but unfortunately we didn’t have much time. So we stuck in the market area mostly, though we did get a little lost at some points.

After a fun day of adventure we at last headed back to catch our ferry home. It was dark and late, and we were all pretty exhausted. Once we were back in Spain we went to grab food. We settled for pizza since we were all pretty worn out. After that it was to bed for us, hoping for more exciting adventures in the morning.


The main thing I’ll say is you can find fun and adventure anywhere you go, however you choose to do it. Keep exploring.


Beware of the Monkeys: Gibraltar

“Everything is improved by the judicious application of primates.”
Chris Roberson

The next day our family headed on our way further south. We made a stop along the ocean to walk along the beach and enjoy the lovely sunshine. However, our real destination for the day was Gibraltar.

I really didn’t know much about the place overall. My mother kept talking about it though, and the apes especially. And that definitely caught my attention.

“We might see…like actual wild monkeys?” I’d asked my father.

“More than likely,” he said. “They’re usually pretty easy to spot. Like to hang out around areas with lots of tourists in hopes of food and such. They’re pretty used to people from what I’ve heard.”

Well that sounded pretty exciting. My family has a favorite story of when my grandmother and grandfather lived in the Philippines. Apparently my grandfather came running in yelling one day that he’d caught a monkey. He led my startled grandmother outside to a trashbin where he opened the lid and out came a startled “meow”. Or at least that’s sort of how my grandmother tells it.

So I had fun joking with my brother about fulfilling the family legacy of catching a monkey (jokingly of course, I’d never harm a living thing). And it was all good fun.

We arrived at the border of Gibraltar. The family decided to leave our car in Spain and walk over instead. My father had read this was simpler, so we opted to try that.

We then headed through customs, and walked into another country. Our walk took us across a tarmac, which still seems strange thinking back. And with that we were in Gibraltar.


Our walk took us up to the trolleys where we would be able to catch a ride to the top of the hill. Even though it was the off season, the line was very long. It looks like they only have two trolleys working at a time, each with a limited number of people on board. So for any heading to Gibraltar, just know you might have to wait a while to catch one to the top. Maybe they find a way to speed up the process at other times of the year, but not during December. Also, it’s not cheap, so definitely investigate other options if you can.

At the very least, the views were beautiful. And we enjoyed our slow ascent up to the top of the rock.

We’d thought to bring a picnic with us. It seemed logical, as it was an open outdoor area, so we could probably eat and admire the views while we did so. So with a baguette sticking out of our bag, we headed off.

Now we’d seen signs warning us not to feed the monkeys. What we didn’t plan for was the monkeys trying to feed themselves.


The moment we stepped off the trolley, there were little hands grabbing at our grocery bag. You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. Almost the second we were off of that trolley, there was a swarm of monkeys around us, grabbing at our grocery bag, staring up at us with their deceptively cute little faces.


My dad pulled the bag away from them, using his height to keep it out of reach, but it was already too late, and the other passengers had clearly gotten the impression that the monkeys would attack you. They took off fleeing. I think some people were probably scarred for life, and I’d like to sincerely apologize to them. So if you were in Gibraltar in December of 2016 and are now reading a blog that sounds vaguely familiar… I am so so so sorry.

For the rest of you, I can say that I felt something on my leg next. And I looked down and sure enough there was a little monkey grabbing at my pant leg, staring up into my face with a “please give me food expression”. So yes, I have now officially been grabbed by a monkey. Of all the things to be grabbed by, not all that bad I suppose. But I was sort of scared he would climb up me, and we still needed to get our food to a safe place, because more and more monkeys were coming.


We took off up the steps and towards the inside part of a restaurant. Surely, we’d be safe there! There was a sign on the door saying we weren’t allowed to bring outside food in, but looking around it appeared we’d escaped. There were no monkeys in sight in the narrow hallway leading to the restaurant. But it didn’t keep us from feeling like we might be attacked at any moment.

My dad put the baguette that had been sticking out of the bag out of sight. It was already slightly damaged anyways, so it didn’t hurt to break it further and stick it down. My mother put her backpack under her coat hoping to fool the monkeys, and with those measures in place, we set back out.


The monkeys were still lingering. One even wandered inside the restaurant while we watched. I just imagine the poor staff having to deal with that.

We had to guard our belongings closely, but they had begun dispersing in hopes of getting their next meal from the next trolley coming up. We watched as they lay in wait. One snuck up from behind and nearly snatched our picnic, but my dad had a good hold on the bag. I think more people were traumatized again. Sorry fellow tourists.

The lesson is, don’t bring food with you. At all. It’s a bad idea. Hold onto your belongings. And just be warned these little guys are fast and sneaky.

After feeling safer we began to take in the beautiful views. We snapped some pictures, and then headed down along the rock, watching all of the monkeys as we did. There were even babies playing in the trees! They were so cute and small and they kept fighting with each other.


They were truly fascinating creatures. We watched as some of them hopped onto passing cabs and then rode for a bit before hopping off again. They were a wonder to watch, unafraid of humans so close enough to get a good look at.

We walked further down the hill and finally found an area with very few monkeys. I stood watch as the family started pulling out food. We had a very quick picnic, always looking all around us, worrying that at any moment monkeys might appear and steal our food.

After our very speedy picnic we headed on down the rock, admiring the beautiful views. We walked back through the town and over the tarmac again and through customs once more. We found our car and headed off towards our hotel.

We stopped in Tarifa for the night. We stayed in La Missiona, a nice hotel in the middle of town. Since we’d arrived in the evening after our full day in Gibraltar, we decided to get food first. We went ahead and just ate at the restaurant attached to the hotel, which actually had surprisingly delicious food. My mom and I had fish and chips and my dad and brother were more adventurous with some fun tuna dishes.

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After dinner we took a walk and grabbed some pastries from a local shop. The town had been having an even with fake snow for children to play in. The fake snow turned out to be foam (like soapy foam), but we walked over to where the event was going on to see what it had looked like. Mostly we just worked off our dinner and enjoyed the town by night.

Then it was back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. After all, the next day we were going to leave the continent. Morocco was waiting.