Camels, Monkeys and Cobras… OH MY it’s Marrakech!

Dive in to adventure when reading about Marrakesh, Morocco!

FEBRUARY 2019 Marrakesh, Morocco

My husband and I chose to make the trip to Marrakech, Africa -new country, new continent along with new cultures and language.  Got to check this one off of our Bucket List!

We choose to take a cab as close as we could to our Riad- which was right off of the main square Jamaa el Fna (200 Durams or 20$). Jemaa el-Fna is a square and market place in Marrakesh’s medina quarter. It remains the main square of Marrakesh, used by locals and tourists. On our walk in to the Riad we took through the markets and saw everything from rugs, blankets to jewelry, traditional spices and Tajin dishes made in Morocco. 

Picture of the Medina, from the rooftop on our hotel!

 The name of our hotel was the Riad Le Rubis and cost us around 90$ a night. The location was great, we were very centrally located, but also right in the middle of the busy bustling streets that don’t stop until 1 or 2 in the morning.

Checked into hotel and headed over to dinner where we tried some traditional Moroccan dishes in Tajins. I chose a chicken lentil dish and husbands was couscous chicken with moroccan spices.


After dinner we walked around the Medina. Grabbed a FRESH mixed fruit juice and pomegranate juice squeezed right in front of us.   As we wondered around we ran into the Koutoubia Minaret- largest mosque in Marrakesh, and the gardens that surround it.  

Sunset Koutoubia Minaret – Largest Mosque in Marrakech

Day 2 in Marrakech  – Adventure time!  

We booked a tour through TripAdvisor that was camel rides and ATV rides in the Desert (not really).  We woke up and roamed around to find coffee and food. Found decent place at Cafe Laksour – had good coffee and made us an Omelet (which he literally walked across the street to buy the ingredients) and then headed out at 9 am for our tour. The food was pretty cheap only cost us 56 durams (Morroccan Money).

Once we were picked up for the tour guides we had to take a ride maybe 30-40 minutes out of the city.  The Camel and Quad Tour cost us around 100$ each.

The camels were a pretty amazing site to see, although we were not in the real Sahara Desert… (sad face) It was still a cool adventure, not many times in your life can you say that you have ridden and actual camel, and even more in Morocco! They took us out and around with the camels and then took us to a traditional Moroccan home where they showed us how to make the Mint tea and served us with YUMMY Moroccan pancakes!!

After the camels came the quad bikes…. at this point in the day it decided to rain and this was COLD rain. I wasn’t not the happiest person by the end but the excursion through small villages I would call them – was very much an eye opening experience.

Day 3 – Travel to the Ouzoud Falls

We planned to do another excursion because honestly one day is plenty when in the city of Marrakech to knock out the souvenirs or keepsakes you might want to barter or haggle for in the markets/souks and to see all of the the touristy highlights.   

Woke up and headed to the Medina area where the trip was to pick us up at 8 in which nothing really opens until later but the fruit stands were open!  We grabbed one for the road which was about 60 durams for 3 different fruits in one smoothie.    So delicious and fresh 🙂 

The trip was out of Marrakech about 3 hours to the waterfalls –Ouzoud falls! This tour cost us around 50 euros total. Ouzoud Falls are the highest waterfalls in Africa at 110 m high.

The tour also included a boat ride at the bottom of the falls where they took you all the way up to the bottom of the falls! I thought we were all going to get soaked! BUT the man driving the boat knew what he was doing! 🙂

On our walk up to the falls our guide showed us the Olive trees that many of the Berber (Native people of North Africa – Berber, barbarians) families own – marked with paint to show who owns which tree. He gave us some brief history on the trees and that it takes 7 years for a newly planted olive tree to produce any olives. CRAZY

Our guide told us that a home is made to house the entire family -the girls once married are sent away to live with the mans family, once a boy is born the family “adds” a new room on to the home (expecting him to become married). The Berbers are persistent on learning new languages and require the children to start to learn 4 languages in Kindergarten and by university age they must know 9 or they are not allowed to go on at that point.

On the other side of the falls there were MONKEYS, wild monkeys – everywhere! We bought a few peanuts and started to feed them and they would jump up on you to eat the peanuts out of your hands. We walked to the very top of the waterfall and at the top it was time for lunch. We were served a 3 course traditional Moroccan meal. CousCous with veggies, lamp Tajinn – all served with Moroccan style bread. Then for dessert, fresh oranges and bananas.

Once we took the 3 hour track back home it was time to again find food – and this time we decided to try the street food or market food in the Jamaa El-Fna. We just randomly chose one of the many that are being offered to you as you walk through the market. It was super delicious and all of the food was made right in front of us -we tried the Moroccan soup and a couple of Pastilla et Poulet, sausage on the grill and some bread with dipping sauces.  It was everything you could want from the streets of Marrakech.  We also only paid 120 durams for our entire meal!   THIS is definitely a must try as you are in Marrakesh and in the area, it is kind of a daunting experience with all of the overload of people pulling you one direction or the other, but once you sit down they take care of you and make sure you get what you need.

Day 4 – Smack a Cobra!  

On day four we woke up and had breakfast in our hotel, then we headed out to mail a couple of post cards at the post office (super easy to do -if you like to mail items from a new location, we just found the post office off of the Medina – bought stamps and put them in the international mail).

We made a stop in the Jamaa el Fna…  for the extremely large tourist trap of taking pictures with snakes and cobras.   It still got my heart racing and was an experience I can and will be talking about for the longest time.  My husband actually held a cobra as the man was holding a large cobra in my face and a snake was hanging around my neck.  OMG..   I freaked but smiled for the pictures.   

My husband was all about this and it was on his bucket list to “smack a cobra”. NOT so much on my list but I joined in on the picture and I was glad that I did. 🙂 A neat and different “to say that you did” experience!

After the Cobra charming… we started to roam the streets…finding some cool Moroccan souvenir! As we did this we ran into a cafe that played up the Beatles theme called Koulchi Zine. They had an amazing rooftop where we soaked in some rays and ordered pastilla… again 😉 a coke and a fruit juice for 180 Dirhams.

Something that kept popping up in our research was the Le Jardin Secret. It cost us like 50 Dirham each, and in both of our opinions… not really worth it. Don’t get me wrong, the garden was beautiful and was kept in great care, but it is just that… a garden. We took our time in the garden since we just spent money to walk through cacti and trees. At the top of the garden was a small little bar where you could get coffees and cakes, so we just relaxed and enjoyed the time taking in the beautiful morning. 🙂

TIP

Make sure to check out or even stay in the Guilere area ( we found this later in our trip). It is an updated and more modern area away from the busy area and hustle and bustle that is the Médina.  It is very relaxed – but can also catch you off guard if you are to wonder in a wrong area. 

While we were roaming through and getting lost in the streets I started looking for a leather back pack that I kept seeing. My husband made me haggle for the price my self and I would say I am pretty happy … the price of the bag was 300 and I got it for 220 ;).   These were my two take away from the crazy Souks!

TIP

It should only be 100 Dirham from downtown to airport  – On our way in we were “caught as a tourist” and paid 200 Diram, and on the way out we were quoted 100 Dirham ($10 difference) but we learned ;). We also showed early to our gate and we were glad that we did… check in was packed. BUT the security was empty and it was a breeze to make it through.

Things I couldn’t get enough of during our stay! Cats – Sunsets – Fruit and fruit juices – Camels – and Pastilla!

This was it for Marrakesh but not the end of our travels… We were catching a flight to Lisbon, Portugal next! 

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Christmas in Germany… Weihnachtsmarkt

When the weather turns cold here in Europe everyone knows its time for the Christkindlmarkt! Christmas in Europe is a very special time of the year, from all the decorations to the beautiful winter foliage – there is sure to be something for everyone!

I am sharing just a few of the Markets that I traveled to this year and in years past. After living over here in Europe and visiting for the last three years I have hit quite a few of them! You can never go wrong with choosing a market, wether they are in Germany or other places in Europe they always have the same things to look for and find that are the best parts of every Christmas market!

The best items to get at a German Christmas market or any markets across Europe are of course… the FOOD, a few handmade items and last but not least, the Gluwhein or the hot mulled wine!

Make sure to take a picture of yourself in front of the Christmas sign, the decorated trees and indulge in the sweet treats that are all around you! My favorites are definitely the crepes filled with Nutella and banana OR the tiny little pancakes called Poffers.. YUM! You are sure to always find a Wurst mit Brochen.. the german way to say a bratwurst with bread 🙂 DELICIOUS! Also they have a pizza type of cuisine called flammkuchen that is a small flat bread pizza with a white cream sauce on top then topped with tiny pieces of bacon, onion and cheese. These are what are traditional to German markets but other places – like hungry – might have other specialty items! One for example is the Kürtőskalács– a dough that has been wrapped around a large wooden stick to make a “chimney cake” desert. They are then cooked over an open fire, once cooked they are then doused with cinnamon and sugar!

There are so many stands that will sell you the traditional Christmas Market drink… Gluhwein, served in a souvenir mug (costs a pfland or deposit) but its yours to keep if you want! If you return it you get your deposit back. They also have Hot Schokolade, or a kinderpunsch if you aren’t into the alcoholic beverages. 🙂

Make sure to grab a few crucial photo ops while at the markets, and continue drinking your Gluwhein!

  • Photo of the holiday mug served at every market
  • Snap a pic of the live animal manger scenes that will make an appearance at most markets
  • Smile big in front of the biggest Christmas tree you can find!
  • Make sure to document which market you went to with a pic in front of the arch or sign & entrance.
  • Who can find the biggest Christmas carousel? Snap a pic in front of one that you find!
  • Snap a pic of your wurst sandwich find.. almost impossible to leave a market with out partaking in one of these as a snack.
  • A picture of your handmade ornament that was the most unique
  • A picture with your friends and family at the market!

This year my sister and I visited –

    Esslingen Christmas Market (my FAVE)
    Stuttgart Christmas Market
    Berlin Christmas Markets
  • Past years in Germany I have visited-
    • Wurzburg Market (smaller)
      Boblingen (smaller)
      ChocoArt Festival in Tubingen!
    In France I have only been to the Strasbourg Christmas market, which is one of the largest and oldest markets in all of Europe. It is truly a beautiful market and a beautiful fairytale like town that offers the Christmas feeling at every glance!

    My husband and I have also visited a few Christmas markets in Italy – Rome, Venice and Milan.

    Recently my sister and I have just traveled across the Eastern part of Europe where we got to experience the markets in Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and the Czech Republic! Equally could all be my favorites places to go and spend Christmas time. The decorations, the food and the merriment made for a truly enjoyable trip through Europe! My next post will have more on this trip that I just took with my sister. It was such an amazing experience and you don’t want to miss out on the inside scoop!


    Let’s Talk Europe… PARIS

    Strap on in and hold on tight…. this is a long one! 🙂

    You want to know more about Paris, right??  Well here is the insight from someone that has been there… twice.  The first trip was a romantic couple trip and the second time was a family trip with my parents.

    Since we live in Germany, we took a train from Stuttgart Train station directly to Paris Main Railway station.  It was about a 3.5 hour train ride, very comfortable and very reasonably priced tickets.  The price per ticket, each way, was 50 Euro.

    We stayed at the Mercure Hotel which was located super close to the Eiffel tower.  Everyday when we would walk out of our hotel, we would round the corner and there was the beauty of the Eiffel Tower.

    While we definitely enjoyed our selves with all the lights of the Eiffel tower and the wonderful food found in the Cafes, and of course all magnificent pastries and treats at the Boulangerie or patisseries here is our list of all the other activities to do while in Paris.

    1. DO try the Escargot… you might like it 😉
      1. On our first night in Paris, we walked around and admired all the sights and sounds of the city and we were looking for a place to have dinner.  We came upon a lovely little cafe that offered escargot as a starter, it was super delicious…although my other half did not think the same.  The Escargot or snails, came out baked with a pesto sauce on the inside, being our first time we asked how we are to eat the snails.  We were told to place it on a piece of bread and enjoy 🙂
    2. The LOUVRE
      1. All we knew we wanted to see was the Mona Lisa, though it was worth it to see the iconic piece of art, we found that it is a packed place just full of people and they are all trying to do the same thing we did.  We got in, took our picture and then we got out!  BUT we took our time and looked around the rest of the Louvre and took in the rest of the beautiful art or artifacts from around the world that are decades and even centuries old.
      2. My tip – PRE PURCHASE your Louvre ticket for a “timed” entry, if you know what day you want to visit.  You can purchase the tickets HERE.  Otherwise you will be standing in the longest line you have ever seen for a really long time.
    3. Eiffel Tower
      1. During winter months you can ice skate on second floor, we didn’t get the chance but we saw all the kids enjoy the ice rink while we were there.
      2. Eat on the Eiffel Tower! There are several different restarts from the first floor all the way to the top floor. They offers an expereince unlike any other but make sure to book your dinner through the website, it can be pricey at the top, but some towards the bottom could fit in your budget.
      3. PRE PURCHASE TICKETS -One of the best places to purchase tickets is the official Eiffel Tower website, during tourist season, which is usually during the summer months, it can be hard to get in to visit the floors of the tower.
      4. **TIPS**
    4. Boat Tour Dinner on Seine River
      1. This was an activity we did on the second trip to Paris, it was one thing saw while I was in Paris the first trip, and decided that it would be a great way to show my parents around the area on the first night.
      2. We spent around $60 per person for a 2 hour boat ride that included a classic French cuisine dinner.  It also included one glass of wine for each person or a choice of drink. Anything else that you wanted to drink or eat would be extra.
      3. The tour started at the dock near the Louvre, and then it headed in the direction of the Eiffel Tower, great pictures from the river.  Then the boat turned around and started in the other direction, where it took us past Notre Dame and several beautiful bridges.  Once the boat had finished going around the river for two hours, we had finished our dinner.  This is a great activity for families with children or even for couples.
    5. Food Tour – St. Germain
      1. THIS was the most AMAZING food tour I have ever taken part in.  It was of course, a sweets tour.  The area of St. Germain is packed full of different bakeries and patisseries just waiting to be explored.  The area also has great history that is shared with you during the tour.  You meet with a local that shares a little slice of heaven with you in an area she knows very well.  I highly recommend trying out this experience!  You won’t walk away hungry 😉
      2. **TIP** Meet the Locals.com is a great website when looking for activities during travel, and are usually in every city you might visit anywhere.
      3. CHECK OUT THE FULL POST ON THE FOOD TOUR HERE!
    6. Moulin Rouge
      1. A cabaret show in Paris that dates back to 1885 and made the French cancan famous.  We booked our tickets in advance and we went to a late night showing. It was a surprise to me actually, my husband didn’t tell me where we were going until we arrived.  A great surprise it was!  I do not speak french and couldn’t understand what they were singing, but the show was still amazing.  I loved it, it is a must if you have time in Paris!
    7. Chocolate Tour
      1. Great little museum that is all about Chocolate!  The cost was 35 Euro a person and 3 Euro for the hot chocolate. We found out about the museum because we had to make a pit stop at a cafe and found a coupon for Choco Story at a cafe that was down the street, that got us half off. We did not plan the adventure until we got to this cafe and added it as a quick little stop, since we heard it was ALL YOU CAN EAT CHOCOLATE… don’t get too excited they aren’t ginormous bars, you are in Europe 😉  They were tiny little chocolate chips the size of quarters, but were all very delicious and came in flavors from Dark chocolate to white chocolate, and you really could eat as many as you wanted.  At the end of the museum, they had a workshop where you could watch a chocolatier make chocolate and you could also craft your own hot chocolate.
    8. Champs-Élysées
      1. Christmas Market -So… if you haven’t heard it already, i’m telling you now.  Christmas markets are one of the BEST things ever (in my opinion) and are all around Europe. What is not to love though? FOOD AND WINE!?!  Since we visited Paris once during Christmas and once during the summer months, we did actually get to see the Christmas market on/near Champs-Élysée. At the market we got to indulge in a variety of foods from all over the world, we tried frog legs cooked in truffle oil, crocodile bites and fried kangaroo.  We of course had all of the common Christmas market foods which are melted cheese on top of anything with Vin Chaud (hot wine). YUMMM  There are also many crepes (filled with nutella), waffles and other sweets.
      2. Champs-Élysée Shopping
        1. Champs-Élysée is one of the most recognizable avenues in the world, known for its cafes and many luxury shops.   Even though it is one of the most recognizable places, we aren’t shoppers so we really only were there to see the Arc de Triumph, since it is at the end of the avenue.
    9. Arc de Triomphe
      1. The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is yet another of famous monuments which is at the end of Champs-Élysée.  It is in the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, which is the junction of 5 large avenues, creating the star around the Arc de Triomphe and let me tell you.. it is CRAZY.  All the cars going around and around, don’t attempt to frogger across!  All you have to do to get to the Arc de Triomphe is find the tunnel that goes underground and you walk right to the monument. It is free to visit, but does cost to go on top, in our opinion it isn’t worth the money because you get a better view on top of the Eiffel Tower!IMG_6227
    10. Walk around a random district
      1. We did!  We walked around and jumped in and out of art stores, cheese shops, gelato stands and even found a shop that is owned by someone originally from Ohio, now living in Paris, who claimed to have some of the best brownies.  It is just always fun to find and talk with someone from the area and learn about their journeys.
    11. Notre-Dame de Paris
      1. Located on its own little separate “island” and also known as “Our Lady of Paris”. Here you will find more than 100 gargoyles, spread all over the Notre Dame Cathedral.
      2. How to get there?  You can either walk over the bridges to get to the Cathedral, or you can take the subway train and get off at St-Michel Notre Dame that will take you directly to the island.  Then you will walk up lots of stairs because the subway is so far down, then you will pop up from below and you will be a two minute walk away from the Cathedral.

    Well… that is all I have for right now on one of the most beautiful places in the world that always leaves you wanting more.  It has a little bit of everything in this town, rich history, fashion for days and food that makes your eyes pop!  I hope this can help you get the courage to get out there and visit Paris! 🙂

     

    1. **Travel Tip**
      • Before you head home, grab a few souvenirs that are true to Paris or even France.  A few things to look into grabbing as souvenirs from Paris – cheese, wine, chocolate, art, fashionable clothing, perfume, post cards and of course tons and tons of pictures!

     

    Paris Food Tour.. DO IT and thank me later

    Sweet Treats Tour in PARIS.. OMG I was in HEAVEN!

    We started our food tour in St. Germaine, a beautiful little area that is filled with things to do and plenty to eat!  Before we stared we mosied around the area and found an awesome/amazing second hand store that was totally ALL vintage!  Hats, fanny packs, jackets, dresses, you name it… they were all vintage and they were all amazing.  We also came across an art showing that was filled with artists selling their different types of art up and down the streets.

    Finally it was time we met up with our tour guide and her love of food was just like mine, we started talking about macaroons and how they are so incredibly perfect, that’s when she told me that I would be extremely happy with the choice of the first stop… the whole time I was thinking, how can I get this job and be a food tour guide?? But if I were… I’d gain 50lbs! HA She said that’s why she didn’t take part in eating the wonderful treats anymore 😉

    Soo…first stop, my fave, MACAROONS.  Lauderee was the name of the Macaroon store and they have been making macaroons for years. These treats are so incredibly delicious, they are crunchy on the outside, while a soft brownie like cookie is waiting under that crispy shell, then to elevate it even more, its filled with the most delicious cream fillings you’ve ever tried. I chose the chocolate, because I can’t ever not choose chocolate, my downfall.  My father had lemon, mother had almond one and my husband had a caramel macroon.  I got to try them all and they were all super delicious!

    The next stop was at a Henri La Roux, it was a carmels shop. Not just ANY carmales, but these were “melt in your mouth” caramels that had any flavor you could dream.  I had the rose caramel and let me tell you, I could have happily devoured 10 more of those.  Some of the other choices were Salted Carmel, lemon and melon.

    Our third stop, was an unexpected dream come true.  It was called Popelini.  Popelini creates these wonderful cream puffs that again, have creative flavors!   Once the tour was over.. we went back and bought a whole box! THAT is how good these things were.  There was a rum flavor, pistache, rose, mango, nutella and so many more!  YUMMM

    Next on the tour was a place called Meert Patisserie.   This place was beautiful on the inside and had an amazing treat just waiting for us.  When I was told we were getting waffles I envisioned this thick fluffy waffle drenched with butter and syrup… nope… BUT Meert’s been long time famous for these unique version of the gaufre, a delicate waffle that is native to Holland, Belgium and northern France.  Meert’s version, recipe a long time secret, is an amazing mixture of a cream center with a vanilla or cinnamon twist in between a soft waffle outer crust.

     

     

    Now for the Éclairs!  When you think Paris, I’m sure an Éclair pops in your head, right?  No…just me? Ha!  Anyways, these were the most amazingly decorated, hand made concoctions you’ve ever seen! Located at E’clair De Genie. 🙂

     

    At this point we were STUFFED!  So many sweet treats but every bite being worth it, and eye opening to all the places that are hiding in Paris.  Make sure to either pop into a few of these places or take the tour, either way it is definitely worth it and show you what Paris and France or known for, the sweet sweet confectionary creations. IMG_2017

    Falling head over heals for this…. Kale salad!

    #KALEyeahhh!! This salad hits the spot on a beautiful fall day when you are craving something juicy, light and filling!

    The highlights of this salad are the Kale, the Apples & Cranberries as well as the crunchy pecans! Oh and the dressing… don’t forget the dressing!! With the sweet and crunchy aspects in the salad you get a full flavor impact from the dressing that plays on the sweet with the balsamic vinegar and the Dijon mustard brings the sharp and strong flavor to balance out all the sweet. Yummm!

    The salad:

    • Two handfuls of Kale
    • Tablespoon of chopped pecans
    • 1/4 of an Apple (sliced thin)
    • Tablespoon of chopped dried Cranberries (dried and no sugar added)
    • Tablespoon chopped red onion
    • Handful of cherry tomatoes (sliced)
    • 1/4 cup cooked quinoa
    • 4oz Grilled Chicken

    Toss all together in a bowl and then toss again once you add the dressing 🙂

    The Dressing: (makes two servings)

    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 3 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
    • 2 tsp Dijon Mustard
    • 1tsp honey
    • Couple shakes of Mrs. Dash (garlic and herb)

    Berlin Germany…Girls TRRRIIIPPPP!

    Berlin is an awesome city! Full of new things around every corner and home to many festivals!

    At the beginning of September myself and a group of girls decided we wanted to go to Lollapalooza, which was conveniently taking place in Berlin! We purchased our tickets for the festival and then found super CHEAP train tickets with the flix bus train.  Our trains only cost us 70 euro each ROUNDTRIP. Yes it was packed and yes it was old but.. it was 70 euro!

    We arrived in Berlin about 2pm – we checked into our hotel which was literally right round the corner, Meininger Hotel and it somewhat setup as a hotel/hostel. Great location as far as close to the train to get in and get out of Berlin, but a little far off from everything else.  BUT like I said, it was a train station so we just hopped on the local transportation to get place to place.

    On Friday night we went out to search for the rooftop Monkey Bar, such a super CUTE bar that has one of the best views of the city.  My pictures do not do it justice at all!  The cocktails were super yummy and creative!  There was also a restaurant upstairs called Neni that looked amazing and yummy, we didn’t get a chance to try because they were booked (so make reservations) – maybe next time i’ll get the chance to try it out! 🙂

    After our drinks on top of the world… hehe – we headed out for dinner at L’Osteria which had a great selection of wine and beer.  Great service and served us delicious dishes of Italian…from Bruschetta, pizza, pastas and seafood dishes.

    IMG_7429

    We called it a night because we knew the next few days were going to be rough!  HA

    We woke up the next day, grabbed a lite breakfast and then headed out for the festival that was taking place in the Olympia Stadium (pretty neat to be where the 1936 Summer Olympics took place).

    The next two days were filled with yummy food trucks and music that would make you dance for hours!  Our festival tickets only cost 140 euro for two days packed full of artists from around the world!  If you are ever over in Europe for a long period of time make sure to check one out!

    On Sunday morning we woke up early so we could go visit a few sights and find breakfast. 🙂  We walked over to a place called House of Small Wonder… OMG.. the BEST breakfast I have had in Europe thus far! They had eggs Benedict, croissant bench toast and creamy eggs with a cheesy gratin. I guarantee you can’t be disappointed if you make a stop here. AND had “insta worthy” pictures. 🙂

    Then we made our way over to the Berlin Wall memorial to catch up on a bit of the history in Berlin. It was a sobering little adventure but a must do when you are in the area.

    Then it was time to call it quits in Berlin… for now 😉 I’ll be back to Berlin for New Years with more adventures and more recommendations!

    Make sure to check back and catch the update!