15 hours in Madrid

 

What I loved most about Madrid is how culturally authentic the city is. The city had a peaceful ambiance. Perhaps it was because we didn't have any expectations, but I found myself loving it more than I expected. Compared to Barcelona, Madrid had more locals who could not speak English. Personally, I found it refreshing to walk down the streets where our conversations couldn't be understood by others. The language barrier acting as a layer of privacy. 

We arrived at dawn when the early-morning joggers had just begun to tie their shoes for a run. All I had was my backpack and Google maps to take us to Park Retiro for the sunrise. Unfortunately for the both of us, we lacked a sense of direction and had taken a "sunrise shot on the wrong side of the horizon. Fortunately, we realized this before it was too late.

There are two main parts that you need to visit: The Crystal Palace and the Lake; where you will get a glimpse of the sun peeking from the Earth's horizon. 

Its time to see all its magic, and to remind ourselves of it when we have forgotten

It was not long before the sun rose and lit the city for a new day. We roamed the wide and clean streets toward Plaza Mayor and the Central Palace. Churros and bread stalls populated the Winter markets. 

We stumbled on a cultural dance in front of the Central Palace. The elderly sang and played their unique instruments while the youth danced with their little red dresses. Nothing could have beat the humble feeling of comfort and cultural pride I felt for them. One of the main reasons why I love traveling during the winter season in Europe is because of the warm festivities. The happiness and spirit would brighten the cold weather, bringing a special and beautiful comfort. 

We sadly only had one day in this beautiful city but we took every minute exploring parks, churches, and of course, food. I had my first oysters in Madrid! Interestingly enough, we found a botanical garden (which had few blooms) and also waited in line for the Museo del Prado. This museum is a MUST see. Inside has masterpieces such as Velazquez's Las Meninas, Boche's Garden of Earthly Delights, Goya's Saturn, and many more. I fully regret not going earlier. The museum was such a beauty architecturally both exterior and interior. 

If I had the chance, I would take an extra week to live in Madrid. The city vibes are so tranquil and for anyone who loves to live in solitude, Madrid has that space and spirit. Until next time! 

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Marrakesh: Moments to remember

 

Marrakesh was one of the most unique places I traveled to. First off, everything you see is very distinctive so it’s not difficult to tell that you're in Morocco. The red clay colored walls engulfs you as you navigate through the city. Rugs, silver lamps, and pashmina populate the streets which adds even more color to Morocco's palette. 

The people were extremely friendly. Although you need to watch out for those who try to find ways to ask for money, they still approach you in a friendly way. We were obviously tourists and I can't tell you how many times we were called Japanese. I noticed a lot of people would try to get to know you as a person before selling anything. They'd ask for your name and where you came from but always wished you safe travels in Morocco. 

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Palace Bahia

My favorite visit was Palace Bahia located in the heart of Marrakesh. It was a unique experience because its SO different from the city. The palace was so peaceful and every courtyard you enter, is completely different from each other. It is a detailed-obsessed photographer's haven. Entrance was only 5 Dirams so definitely worth every penny 

In Marrakesh, there are plenty of tourist excursions and I would highly recommend anyone who travel here to look into them. Mainly because there is only 'so-much' you can see in Marrakesh and so much MORE to see out of the city. We traveled to the Atlas Mountains and trekked up the mountains of snow. 

We sat down with a local Berber villager and her grand daughter after hiking through the mountains. The Berbers are indigenous to North Africa. Even with a language barrier, we shared peanuts, tea, and each other's comfort. There are moments when you can not think of a more raw and serene moment.

Along with the tour, we were able to ride on dromedaries (one-humped camels). Mine definitely had a slight temper and at one point, Kara's started to eat on my seat cover...

Our tight schedule forced us to do everything we could fit in two days. These two days will be remembered as the days where we climbed the atlas mountains, rode on one-humped camels, haggled like it was theatrical, and travled to Morocco.

Marrakesh is such a beautiful city and there is so much to see. Most who visit will spend 1-3 weeks here so make the time to stay longer if you have the chance.

Also, be sure to bring your bargaining game if you want to get a good steal of scarves or Berber ponchos!