We woke up at 8AM to have plenty of time to get to the meeting point in Praça dos Restauradores to explore Sintra through a TAP stopover free tour, with more time in Bairro Alto later. First we had a quick bite to eat at a cafe on the square. After a tasty breakfast, we met our guide Henrique at the Tourism Office on the Praça dos Restauradores for a 1015AM departure. There were only 3 other people with us on the van, making it a much smaller group than we expected. Our driver and guide provided information in both English and Portuguese (for the Brazilians on the tour) as we made our way to the coast on a main Lisbon highway. This free stopover tour was literally the ONLY good thing about TAP airlines. We made our way first to the resort beach town of Cascais (pronounced Cashcaish) and had a quick stop at the inspiration for the James Bond movie Casino Royale. We then drove another few minutes and parked outside the Cascais fort, which was now turned in to an artists’ village of sorts with a fancy hotel in the middle. We had a brief walk around the….
Lisbon, named by Ulysses, means friendly bay (Alisubbo) and NOT good air as we previously thought – and we were very warmly greeted in to the embrace of this city, much like reuniting with an old friend. Everyone here was nice, including the immigration agents, the Uber driver, the airport information staff – everyone but the Enterprise desk agent who we asked for help looking for the uber pickup point. He pretended like they didn’t exist at the airport and was a total dick. That’s what happens when you ask someone in a technologically irrelevant profession for help finding his replacement. Soon after we were in an Uber that cost 10 Euros and whisked us to a within a block of the pedestrian area in Baixa that we were staying in less than 30 minutes. We were in to our Air BnB by 630PM.The place was great – right in the middle of the pedestrian Baixa area, which is the heart of Lisbon – and within easy walking distance to every other neighborhood including Bairro Alto where we spent most of our time. The place also had a hipster, funky decor – with the bed upstairs in a loft style….
Our journey to Casablanca began at 9AM on our final long bus ride with Gate 1, which took us about 3 hours with one small stop to complete. There was absolutely nothing to see along the route until the city of Casablanca emerged. We first went through the fancy California district and eventually made it to the corniche for a pizza lunch at La Tropicana (some of the blander fare we had encountered). We took a quick stroll on the boardwalk after lunch and then got back in the bus for a 3 hour city tour. We started by driving by Rick’s Cafe, the one used in theory in the movie Casablanca (the real restaurant was a set in Hollywood). It had been purchased by an expat American and turned in to the restaurant with the same namesake. Casablanca was Morocco’s economic capital full of expats and the place where business was done. As such, it was the most modern of all the cities we had visited thus far. If you blinked you might have thought it was Santa Monica. Our first stop was the Hassan II mosque, the largest mosque in Africa and 5th largest in the world. It….
Our final full day in Marrakesh we spent catching up on sleep and relaxing at the hotel until the late afternoon hit and we were ready to take on Marrakesh by night. Having slept great for the first time in 2 days, and after a full morning of rest, we decided to hit Marrakesh by night and made for the main square, Jmaa al Fnaa, at 4PM. We walked and it was pleasant and easy, especially now that the rain had stopped. The merchants, restaurateurs, and street performers had just started the evening festivities. Our plan was to walk around and do some shopping first, then go back to the square and people watch. We had arranged our final Marrakesh dinner at 830PM at an upscale Riad near our hotel called The Red House. Since we basically were lame the two previous nights, staying in our room, it was mandatory for to experience Marrakesh by night at least once. The square was a lot better than the previous day and people weren’t nearly as aggressive (possibly because there were just a lot more people and tourists to choose from). I didn’t get henna attacked and we hardly got hassled. It….
From the road to Ourzazate, we reached Marrakesh by day around 5PM and made a quick tour of the city by bus before reaching our hotel, Le Meredien N’Fis. This 5 star resort made up for our lackluster hotel in Ourzazate, and we were rewarded with a pleasant 3 night stay in the red city of Marrakesh. We finally had the time to relax, recover, and be in one place for a while. This blog is about Marrakesh by day, and the next one will be Marrakesh by night. We quickly drove by the main square (Jmaa al Fna) and the Koutoubia Tower, which would be a landmark for our wanderings throughout Marrakesh over the next few days. When we arrived at the Le Meridien, we were ready to relax – and that’s exactly what we did in Marrakesh by day. I messaged Aunt Leslie to see what she recommended we do and whether she had a guide she recommended (after the fabulous recommendation of Khlafa in Fez), and she voiced the wise warning of Marrakesh being a tourist trap. We took that to hard and didn’t try to do too much, focusing on rest and exploring at our own….