Iceland’s popularity is higher than ever and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. And why should it? The small island nation in the North Atlantic is the most breathtaking place I have ever seen, full stop. Volcanoes, dramatic cliffs, crashing waves, geysers, majestic waterfalls, gorgeous glacial lagoons, the cutest sheep and horses, the midnight sun, friendly people and awesome vodka are just a few of the reasons I fell in love with this country.
It’s been a year and a half since I visited Iceland, and my post “11 day Iceland itinerary: Part One” is the most popular page on my site. The number of comments and emails I’m receiving about it continue to grow, so this is the perfect time for me to update all of you on how the itinerary worked out for us.
Ever since I visited Bosnia, Montenegro and Croatia in 2013, I’ve been fascinated with Yugoslavia. I’m constantly reading memoirs, historical books and articles about the former Communist state and have spent countless hours dreaming about returning and spending more time in the region. Aside from our self-tour of Novi Beograd, we were planning to visit Yugoslav leader Tito’s grave. I wanted to know what other significant places we could see in Belgrade so I googled “Belgrade Communist sites” and came across the website for Belgrade Walking Tours, who offer a three and a half hour “Communist tour” for only 10EUR.
One of my favourite things to do in Europe is take the train, no matter how long or short the journey. Book me onto an 8-hour flight and my mind fills with anxiety, but a train ride of the same length fills me with excitement; the satisfaction of slowly passing through countryside, crossing borders the old fashioned way, and staying firmly on the ground. The train from Budapest bound for Belgrade was nearly empty for the entire trip. We stopped at the Hungarian border, had our passports stamped, moved on for a few short minutes, and stopped again on the Serbian side of the border in Subotica. The border police seemed a little more tired, a little more weary, their faces a little more lined. Moments after we pulled into the station, the sky grew dark and exploded with rain. I grasped the deliciousness of the symbolism in that moment.
Morocco – the name of this North African country conjures up images of ancient cities, bustling markets, mysterious men in djellabas disappearing down side streets in ancient medinas, convoys of camels trekking through the vast desert, and any other number of exotic clichés that also happen to be true.
My husband Dave and I were first inspired to visit Morocco after a trip to Spain in 2011 where we visited the Alcazar in Seville and the Alhambra in Granada, two very important and intriguing Moorish sites. Sometime in 2013 we found an amazing deal on flights to Lisbon, one of our favourite cities in the world. We knew that there were lots of short, direct flights to Morocco from Portugal, so we booked the flight without a second thought and set to planning for February 2014 to celebrate Dave’s 30th birthday. We are fairly seasoned travel planners, but we soon realized that planning a trip around Morocco, a country 22 times smaller than our own, was a little more challenging than expected. I’ve gathered up all of the information from our trip and am now sharing our 14-day Morocco itinerary with you, to hopefully make your planning and decision making process a little bit easier! I have linked to our detailed posts about each destination throughout.
Three hundred and fifty days after our last month away in Europe, Dave and I were packing our bags again, going through the familiar motions and making the drive down the same stretch of highway to the airport, ready to embark on another month on the continent we love so much. This time, though, the trip carried serious significance. This would be the biggest trip of my life to date. This would be the one where I would finally achieve my goal, the purpose of my life for the past four and a half years; to travel to at least 30 countries before I turned 30 years old.
After three easy flights we touched down in Budapest, a city I’ve wanted to visit for years. We took the bus and then the metro into the historic centre. The second we emerged from the station I was stunned by the gorgeousness all around me. It’s common to be smitten with a place when you first see it, but this feeling held steady for our whole four days in Budapest, from the grandest buildings to flower pots lining the streets, from the great Danube and its bridges to multiple neon signs in the shape of teeth. Continue reading Budapest: Journey to 30 Part I→
Even though I have a goal to travel to 30 countries by the time I turn 30, and I have been to many famous places, up until this year I had never been to one of the most famous cities of all: London. Combining London with a trip to Morocco might not spring to mind immediately, but when Dave and I had the choice of either a 13-hour or 24-hour layover, we decided to try the longer one and squeeze in as much of London as we could. Continue reading My 24-hour London layover→
After a spectacular but short visit to the Sahara Desert, Dave and I hopped into the familiar backseat of the Land Cruiser and hit the rocky road once again, destined for Marrakech. We left a different way than we came and were out of the dunes within 15 minutes. The soft sand quickly became horribly hard and bumpy. I began to feel like I was on the brink of insanity. I could feel my brain bouncing around, knocking against the inside of my skull. In that moment it was almost unbearable. I felt like screaming and jumping out of the window. I have major respect for Mohammed and all of the other drivers who are able to make that drive more than once in their lifetimes and to do it with such skill. According to the Sahara Services website, we were driving along an old Dakar Rally route. It seemed like there was more Mohammed wanted to say at many points during our drives together but he just couldn’t find the right words in English, and our grasp of French is minimal.
The route from M’Hamid to the dunes of Erg Chigaga is rocky, the vast landscape stretching endlessly beyond. The air was dry and already hot at 9 am. Dave and I silently bounced around in the back seat of the Land Cruiser, anticipation building. The view of the flat desert was unbroken aside from sporadic glimpses of nomads, slowly passing through with their donkeys and camels in tow. Their journeys seemed endless, out there in the middle of nowhere. I couldn’t help but wonder where they were coming from and where they were going. They weren’t coming from anywhere and they weren’t traveling to any specific destination – their lives were about the journey.
Ten days after arriving in Morocco, after visiting sublime Chefchaouen, the capital city Rabat, dreamy Marrakech and a feverish stay in Fes, all while struggling with minor illnesses that slowed us down significantly, the biggest day of all had come. Uncertain if we would be able to make it or not, we were doing it. We were going to the Moroccan Sahara.
On the morning of our third day in Marrakech I woke up after sleeping for almost 12 hours straight. I felt terrible. The owner of our riad knew I hadn’t been feeling well and when I asked about seeing a doctor, he gave us the address of the Clinique Internationale de Marrakech. We caught a taxi at the small post office near our riad. The clinic was only 15 minutes away, but it felt like we were in the car for three times as long.
I told the man behind the counter that I needed to see a doctor for an ear infection. He asked me for my passport, glanced at it, stuck it in his shirt pocket, and one minute later I was being escorted to an examination room. He didn’t ask me anything else or get me to sign any forms. My Canadian passport was good enough to get me in. I felt extreme guilt as I walked by the packed waiting room, full of individuals and families, waiting to see doctors or for their loved ones.