Marrakesh, Morocco: Adventure Day 1

Everyone slept in a bit this morning. We had no agenda for the day. It was nice not to be rushing out the door. We started some laundry before heading out to get some breakfast.

Walking through these streets is quite the experience. Once again, thanks to Ty’s maps.me app we’re not the bumbling tourists we could be.

People are selling things everywhere! Mopeds and motorcycles are zipping though. Men on bikes, or guys with donkeys and carts are coming by. You have to squish yourself against the sides of the walkway or they will run you over! Everywhere, is something to look at. It’s a sensory overload!

We made it out to the big square. It was just getting going for the day. Not all that busy. So we found ourselves a restaurant with a view of the square. We had the most amazing brunch, after a bit of confusion. Enjoyed the sunshine, and watching the chaos below.

After brunch, our big draw in the square was the snake charmers. They’re a huge scam from what Ty’s researched. So we prepped the kids prior to leaving the house. If someone comes up to you, what do you say? If they want to put a snake or something on you what do you say? My kids have handled the chaos well. They just start shouting, NO, NO, NO!

So after this prep, all we did was stand off to the side and watch the guys with these cobra snakes. We also snuck some photos.

We explored the markets a bit more before heading back to our house. We washed some more clothes, I blogged a bit, R actually took a nap, while Ty and L played some Uno on the rooftop deck. It was wonderful down time for us all!

We headed back into the main square for dinner. It was so much more intense at night! We found ourselves another restaurant with rooftop seating so we could watch the action. The food was good, however, it took forever, and we were just a bit exhausted by the end of the evening.

We had hoped to shop a bit on the way home, but it was so late, we went straight home, and put everyone to bed. We were to get up early in the morning. We had arranged a cooking class to learn some authentic Moroccan dishes.

Sahara Desert to Marrakesh, Morocco: Travel Day

Ty woke up bright an early in the desert, about 6am. He worked the rest of us up about 8am I had pulled all the covers over onto my side, trying to stay warm. Have I mentioned it was freezing!!

We had a good breakfast of rolls, yogurt, eggs, and these pancake/crepe things they make. With hot mint tea of course. Then we packed up, enjoyed a bit of the sunrise, then watched most of the group head out on camels.

Here are a few photos from inside our tent.

Then off we drove. We new we had about 7 hours of driving ahead of us. We also had a terrible experience with R’s car sickness on the way here, so we did our best to prepare. Knowing it was going to be daylight, we were hoping for better results.

We made it to a good lunch stop. It was a hotel near the big movie studios. It had a play area, that we had to buy a ticket for, so the kids could play. Weird, but it burned some of their energy so we went for it. We had been trying to get some plastic bags, for the car ride, but everywhere they give you these fabric bags instead. I finally asked the waiter, and he took a while but brought out this reusable plastic grocery bag for us to keep. It was thoughtful, but we keep thinking there must be a ban on typical American plastic bags here. Which is a good thing! We also gave R some Dramamine. Here’s a screen shot of the worst sections of the road.

(Ty and I keep calling these sections, the intestines!)

We made a stop at one of the passes. Then out of no where, this kid shows up and offers to sell us a box of dates. L was dying to spend this money he had, so the kid sold a box to L for 2 euros. A pretty good profit for him! Then the kid whips a lizard out of his pocket and sticks it on L’s shoulder. So then the rest of us had to have a photo with it as well. It was so chill!

The rest of the drive, though very long was uneventful. Oh well we did get suckered into buying some fake Moroccan geodes. There are all these guys along the road, holding up these brightly colored geodes, they’re incredible! So Ty saw a good one and pulled over. We thought we got a bargain with 4 for $50. Then the next stop, we found out the guy sold them for $10. I looked them up later, they’re homemade out of clay for like .75 cents! Oh well, we keep telling ourselves, they need the money more than we did!

We returned the rental car in Marrakesh and the nice employee, arranged a taxi for us, to get to our Air BnB. It’s tucked into a part of town you can’t drive to. So the guy with with key, met us on the side of the road, then we had to walk through the maze of streets to the house.

It’s an experience like nothing else, these winding, back, side streets.

R was done going out for the night, so us girls stayed in, while the boys went out and got us some street sandwiches and fries.

We were all happy to be out of the car and snuggled into warm beds.

Ait Ben Haddou to Sahara Desert, Morocco: Adventure Day (Part 2)

We met our guide for the camel excursion in a local gas station and he drove us out of Zagora into the desert right to camp. We were a bit confused since we thought we were riding the camels to camp but he soon explained that when the camels arrived with the other group of people, about 20+ Spaniards, then we would ride the camels around the camp grounds.

This wasn’t exactly like what we had planned but we rolled with it. We liked the idea of riding on our own and not in a giant group at least. Also we were the first ones to camp so we got a private tea service. Mint tea is a BIG deal here! They also upgraded us to a 3 bed tent with a private bathroom. That was extremely nice!

The kids were thrilled to be able to play in the sand.

We watched the camels arrived, and then it was our turn! Time to check, riding camels in the Sahara off our bucket list. πŸͺβœ”οΈ

The kids then took turns leading our caravan back to camp.

We rode about for less than an hour but after we got off Ty’s and my inner thighs were killing us! I cant imagine how it would feel to do the 5 hour camel ride. 😳

We then gave he kids free rein to play in the sand. They went nuts until the sun set.

Try and take a nice photo, this is what happens…

The sun set and things got cold very quickly. We took the kids into the tent and gave them a very quick and cold rinse in the shower drizzle. Then we dressed in our warmest layers and went out to play UNO until dinner.

There were some musicians playing the drums and singing. They let the kids drum when they wanted. R danced her heart out, as long as no one was looking. She said it was her favorite part.

We met some very nice brothers from Barcelona who were traveling with their parents on break. They were wonderful to chat with and play a rounds of cards with till dinner. By now it was 8pm, the kids were starving and tired. It had been a very long day.

Dinner was served in the large tent. It was soup and bread, then some kebabs, a tagine of turkey and vegetables, with fruit for dessert. L didn’t make it past the kebabs before laying down to sleep. R slept through the tagine but woke for some fruit. We left dinner right after that and put the kids to bed fully clothed. It was freezing at this point. The beds had about 4 or 5 heavy blankets on them by there were no heaters. So about 9:30 Ty and I tucked ourselves into bed, fully dressed, coats, and hats on as well. The staff came to check on us, since we were missing the bonfire, more drumming and singing. But we were too tired, from the past few days of poor sleep.

Ty was able to go to sleep, however, I stayed up, snuggled under the covers, messaging family (wifi in the desert, how fancy!) and reading until the drumming stopped about 11:30pm. So I almost stayed up to ring in the New Year. ☺️

Ait Ben Hadou to Sahara Desert, Morocco: Adventure Day (Part 1)

Ait Ben Hadou is a famous Bedouin village, for the fact that something like 16 movies have been filmed there. Most recently for the Game of Thrones! It’s a beautiful ancient village, that about 15 families still live in, approximately 75 people. Five years ago a bridge was put in, so that when the rains flood, they can still leave. Before, they were unable to get across the river, until the rain subsided.

(You can see the sandbag bridge we used, that was all they had previously)

Within a year, they were able to install running water in their village. Before, they had to take donkeys five miles to the well. They’re now working on getting electricity, running electrical lines through their mud walls. It’s amazing the changes a few years can bring.

With our price of admission into the village we got a local guide. He was able to show us all around. Explain the different types of buildings, (castles vs homes), and he even showed us around his own home. His mom was busy weaving a new rug!

(You can see the movie poster from Gladiator hanging up in their ‘salon’, the fighting pits from that movie were filmed here.)

(This was incredible artwork they created using a magnifying glass to burn the images onto some kind of particle board)

(Just some guy selling an antique rifle!)

(Our guide had a 5.5 year old son as well. He understood L’s energy!)

(Vendors were trying to push scarves on us when they learned we were going to the Sahara. But dang how cute is this?!)

We left Ait Ben Hadou and drive about two more hours to Zagora. We met our guide for our camel ride. We were going to ride out into the desert and stay in tents for the night!!

This is photo heavy enough though so I’ll end this here…

Brussels, Belgium to Ait Ben Hadou, Morocco: Travel Day

Ty has been eager to get to Morocco for a couple of years. So we planned 9 days of exploring in Morocco this year.

Leaving Brussels was relatively smooth.

Security was a breeze. Why can’t we get family lanes in the US?! We enjoyed a snack break in the lounge before getting on our flight.

Ryan Air is very bare bones. You don’t get any drinks or food unless you buy it. They don’t even have pockets on the back of their seats. But it was just 3 hours long, and we had electronics and snacks, so we were just fine.

We got through customs, with some weird flirting over pens. I’m still confused by it, but who argues with a customs official!

Ty checked us in for the rental car, and here’s where the day starts going down hill. The desk agent sends us out the doors, up the stairs, and to the tower. Well we go out the doors, up the stairs, and there is no tower. Just a giant, wal-mart size parking lot. With no rental car signs, or employees in sight! We walked from one end of the giant parking lot to the other. Across to the other corner, in the blinding hot sun, before we finally found someone who knew where we should go. It was INSANE! How is this a large well established city?!

We were able to get out of the city with minimal fuss. Thank goodness for Ty’s maps.me app. It’s a marriage saver! (One of our worst fights, may have been Ty driving and me trying to follow some Mapquest print outs in El Salvador. Nothing like trying to tell your driver, turn after 3000 yards. πŸ™„)

There were these interesting lanes in the city. A full size lane, a half size lane next to it with a bike/motorcycle lane sharing it. I tried to get a picture to capture this.

It is so different here, definitely a good culture shock.

Our destination was estimated about 3.5 hours outside of Marrakech. So we anticipated a long drive, hoping to keep most of it, prior to the sun setting. After about an hour, R was getting a little car sick, so we found ourselves a cafe/hotel. Right as we pull into the parking lot, she starts getting sick. But she’s a good puke and rally kiddo.

We got back on the road as soon, as we ate, and the kids started listening to an audiobook. The scenery was beautiful, but the buildings are very basic. Mostly mud structures along the road. Sunset was later than we expected, about 7pm.

Then we hit road construction. These roads were so bad, rough sections, lanes would go from two to one, with no warning. There are no lights, no paint, and limited signage. Giant trucks would come zooming around a corner, into our lanes. We were also climbing a pass, so the road, was very squiggly. It was basically, a nightmare situation for someone who gets car sick. I was not as prepared as I should have been. We had one air sickness bag from the airport which didn’t work out so well. Poor R was covered in it, after that second ‘event’. So we had to strip her down to her pants, and try and clean up the car as best we could with a few wet wipes. By the third ‘event’, we were scrambling to find any spare bags we had.

Leaving the restaurant maps.me estimated about two hours left of driving. However, when we hit the construction we drove for another hour without our ‘estimate of arrival’ changing at all. πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ So what was going to be a 3.5 hour drive became a 5+ hour drive. Poor R, just kept asking when we were going to arrive, and I had to keep saying about 2 more hours. It was a long, long evening.

(This was a screen shot from the worst of our route!)

We were so thankful to arrive at our hotel! L thankfully fell asleep about an hour before we arrived. So Ty carried him in and put him right to bed. R, we had to wash off in the shower, because she was covered in vomit. Only after we had showered her did we realize they forgot the towels. I tried to dry her off with one of Ty’s t-shirts. Then we bundled her into bed. The room was quite cold, since they don’t have the heat on until you arrive. She went to sleep with her scarf and hat on her head.

My surprise was a rock hard bed. It was the hardest bed I have ever slept on. It was one step above a park service bunk. But we were exhausted, and it felt good to lay flat. That’s about the best I can say. πŸ˜‰

Morocco, you will be an adventure!

Bruges, Belgium: Adventure Day

So we typically like 3 days in a city, anything after that we usually have too much down time. Knowing this, Ty found us cheap train tickets to Bruges, for the day. It’s apparently the “Venice of Belgium” πŸ™‚ To us, it’s what we think Amsterdam will look like. It was beautiful, everywhere you turned!

We took the morning a bit slow. The boys played some epic Uno, while I got some laundry done, and R has been obsessed with these French Donald Duck comic books that are in the apartment. We left the apartment about 9, and the train took almost 2 hours, which one station change. The odd thing was, at no point did anyone ever check our tickets. Honor system I suppose…

Bruges is a beautiful town. It was fun just to walk around and see the buildings.

Photo overload! We came across another small Christmas Market. Lunch was a few bratwurst, a hamburger, and a hot dog. Before we walked to a playground. I managed to get myself a beer from a local brewery! It was very good, and strong.

Our final sightseeing item was the windmills that used to surround the town. There are now just 4 left. We were all pretty tired by this point. We’d been walking for hours. But we plugged on, and we’re rewarded by watching a barge coming down the canal and a drawbridge lifting up.

European excitement right there!

The windmills were beautiful.

We saw all the windmills and trudged our way back to the train station. It was lovely but our legs were tuckered out!

We were tired and the train was extremely full so we had the kids piled on our laps. But we made it back to Brussels uneventfully. Grabbed some last minute groceries at the market and some burgers and nuggets at the to-go shop. (I’m so ready for some vegetables!) It was a welcome sight to get back to our apartment!

We all walked over 11 miles, and again we are so impressed with how well the kiddos are doing! Everyone earned foot massages with bedtime tonight. πŸ˜‰

Brussels, Belgium: Adventure Day 2

So we spent a bit of a chilly night in the apartment. I slept in my down vest for part of the night. Ty quickly realized we had no hot water, which is everything for this place! No hot water means, no heat in the radiators. So it was about 30 degrees outside and we had no heat…

I’m sitting at the table, wrapped in a comforter, with my hat on, while having my morning tea. Just a wee bit freezing!!

Ty messaged the host for a bit, also messed with the water heater a bit. But nothing was working. So we bundled up and headed out for adventure for the day. It was also quite cold outside today. A damp, foggy cold.

We took the train to the Atomium museum. It was so foggy we could only see parts of it at a time. Also, strangely enough, it was extremely busy! The line to buy tickets was about 30 minutes long. Then there was another longer line to get into the building. So we weighed, waiting in line for over an hour to have limited visibility, vs. maybe never being back here again. We decided to leave and have waffles instead. πŸ™‚ But we took a few photos first of course!

The subway system here is very impressive. Clean and for Ty, easy to navigate. I enjoy that almost every stop has some sort of artistic element to it. This stop had these beautiful sculptures along the walls.

We hopped off the subway for a playground lunch stop.

Then we made the best discovery, it was a Christmas Market!!!

We walked through all the streets that had booths set up. We managed to find ourselves a few ornaments. That’s our usual go-to souvenir. Then we came across the carousels. Europe has carousels like no where else we’ve ever seen. They’re usually wooden, creative creations, just incredibly put together, and maintained. The kids finally chose their rides, R wanted the crane, and L wanted the flying man. Both were incredible! I’ll try and post a video, so you can see all the options.

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I got myself a hot mulled wine, then the kids enjoyed a teeny, tiny city playground. We then went in search of some ‘real’ food. Pasta, a raclette sandwich, and a hot dog, before we treated ourselves to a churro.

It’d be fabulous to end the post here, however it’s real life. We’re now exhausted, it’s late, and we still have to walk home. Thankfully, the subway stop is right in the Market, so we take off from there. But the walk home from our stop was still about a mile from our apartment. R was toast, she was so exhausted, and her little feet were killing her. L though, is a machine. He has so much energy it is incredible! He was racing around, and playing games, while I was pulling R along. We did manage to walk through some beautiful areas though.

All in all I think we walked about 9 miles. The best part was, when we got back to the apartment, Ty messed with the water heater and he got it back on! So we had heat for the night, and it felt wonderful.

Brussels, Belgium: Adventure Day

Another day of everyone awake by 6am. Oh well, it’s better than when L woke us all up by 2:30am. The nice thing about vacation is we all just take our time getting up. Reading books in bed, snuggling under covers, maybe watching a travel show. I love vacation mornings like this!

Ty is our amazing trip organizer. I did help research places to go in city, however he’s the one that makes that happen. He downloads each city in maps.me (this is an amazing app, that doesn’t use data!) then he marks each location we want to visit and then he becomes our navigator extraordinaire. I’m usually in charge of snacks, layers of clothes, and child well-being. We make a good team! πŸ™‚

This morning we headed out, extremely bundled up because we knew we weren’t really going to be inside today. We had all the layers on (I was wearing 7 layers on my top!) but it made for a comfortable day.

Near the Grand Palace we came across two guys juggling in the crosswalk for money. L loved this idea! He decided he wanted to come up with an act to make some money. So he found himself a stick and started doing some moves with it. Then he convinced R to sing with him. So she was singing Oh Tannenbaum in German while he was tossing this stick around. πŸ™‚ It was wonderful. However, we were the only people to give him money. He decided it was due to the fact he only had a stick. He was determined to get something more useful when we went back to the apartment. Love this kids entrepreneurial spirit!

We walked through a few beautiful churches, the Notre-Dame du Sablon.

Then we walked to the Notre-Dame de la Chapelle. I don’t have any pictures from there, but they had this wonderful exhibit/find and seek activity for kids. It was just a brochure I grabbed at the front, Bruegel, The Great Escape. Ten characters from the famous Flemish painter, Pieter Bruegel the Elder escaped from his paintings and were scattered around the chapel. They had a sheet of the characters to be located. Then a copy of the painting they escaped from an a description of the artwork. It was such a fun way to explore the church, looking for details. Also, a wonderful way to learn more about Bruegels paintings and to explain to the kids, the characters and why they look like they do. It’s always wonderful when we come across gems like this unexpectedly.

From here we walked to the world famous, Peeing Boy statue. πŸ™‚ Ty scoffed at me for wanting to see it, but to me it’s like the Mona Lisa. It will be smaller and less impressive than expected, but you still have to go see it. Funny, how these random things become famous!

This was also the first time we hit the tourist district! So many people here. The statue is also surrounded by waffle shops, and tourist trinkets. Therefore we had to partake in both!! These waffles are incredible, taste and cost! But we went all out with fruit, sauce, and fresh cream.

I’ve been talking about finding a new scarf this trip. So my kids decided they needed these scarves. They’re hilarious but so soft. But hey when in Europe why not! L seems to think his is like a stuffed animal, he kept mentioning how he was going to sleep with his. Which he did!

R has been posing in photos since she was little. It continues to crack me up! Meanwhile L’s ‘smile’ face, totally scrunches up his eyes. I LOVE them!

The kids of course got hot, when we did a playground stop, so look who ended up with the scarves. πŸ˜‰

After binging on super sugary waffles, it make perfect sense to go to the local Chocolate Museum. Why not?! The displays were a bit lacking, and could use some maintenance. However, the demonstration on how they create their famous pralines, was very entertaining, and delicious!

We walked around the Grand Place a bit, while making our way home.

Making several playground stops along the way of course. Big cities have them so often, you just never know when you’ll discover them. Our kiddos even got to play with a few locals. R felt stuck on the teeter-toter because she didn’t know how to tell them to stop. πŸ™‚

We had walked about 8 miles by this point, it was a long day so we were all moving a bit slow. Ready to be home.

The apartment however, smelled like grey water, and was freezing. We snuggled under blankets, while Ty messaged the host. I think he figured out the grey water smell, but the heat still hasn’t kicked on. We at least found a space heater for the kids room.

Some warm baths/shower then we struggled to get out of the house for dinner. We had been in the restaurant for about 2 minutes before L’s eyes started to close. I took him back to the apartment while R and Ty went in search of a quicker dinner. Burgers and fries again, but it tasted good. We were all happily snug in bed by 9pm. Let’s blame it on jet lag, the extensive walking, and the lack of good sleep for the past week.

Frankfurt, Germany to Brussels, Belgium: Travel Day

We’re off to Brussels! We woke up at 6am so we had plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast and packing, while trying to keep our kids voices quiet in the hotel, this morning. We’re all looking forward to having an apartment in Brussels so we can have more room, and not be so noise conscious.

The train was comfortable and had wifi. It did rock quite a bit so we didn’t want anyone reading or watching any shows. I typically have no issues with motion sickness but even that train had me feeling a bit uneasy. So after some card games, and lots of hot wheels playing, the kids settled down to listen to a Laura Ingles audiobook.

We arrived in Brussels around noon, and immediately loved the city. It’s very large, but unlike Frankfurt, there is lots to see, and it’s a beautiful city.

We ate some, not as good as American, bagels sandwiches for lunch. The bagels, were more like bread in texture. However, Belgiums win for toppings, Ty had chicken, with Brie, and apples. I had prosciutto, with lettuce, hard parmesan, and soft sun-dried tomato’s, drizzled in balsamic! 🀀

We walked on to our Airbnb rental, where with minimal confusion on how to meet the host, we were let into our apartment. (I swear Airbnb, no matter how wonderful it is to stay in a house vs. a hotel, the initial meet up to get into the rental is never flawless.)

The temperature in Brussels is around mid-30s so we added on the extra layers and headed out to find the Senckenberg Museum, their natural history museum. I hate to say it, but we’re becoming museum snobs. We love a good natural history museum. There’s something for everyone in our family to enjoy. However, this one fell a bit short. The exhibits were a bit sparse, oddly arranged, so the visitors had to clump up, and frankly, the museum smelled. It was an odd mixture of glue/body odor/dust. However, on the bright side, spending a few hours learning and being warm inside a museum, is never a bad thing. We always walk away having learned something new.

We closed the museum down at 6:30 and walked back towards our apartment. There’s this beautiful little square just down the street from us, so we stopped there for dinner and groceries. It was supposed to be this amazing burger place, again we’re spoiled American’s, we know good burgers! These were decent.

Seems like I’ve been complaining a bit on this post, but we’re still having a great trip. I think it’s just worthwhile to point out that every moment of this trip isn’t all sunshine and roses, but thankfully it’s all super minor.

Frankfurt, Germany: Adventure Day 3 Christmas Day

After having L and R awake from 12:30am – 2, we were all a little loopy Christmas morning. But the kids were overjoyed that Santa brought them such a haul. They have complained before that Santa doesn’t bring them any big toys. But we explained Santa knows we only have limited room in our suitcases. πŸ˜‰

Our morning destination was the zoo, since that was guaranteed to be open. It was a cold morning but we bundled up and just enjoyed the walk. Stopping at a playground along the way.

We also passed this beautiful WWII memorial cemetery. It was a good chance to start explaining it a bit to the kids.

They’re always trying to entice the birds to land on them πŸ™‚

The zoo was neat, a good time filler before our movie in the afternoon.

We managed to find a Middle Eastern restaurant that was open and we had some amazing food for lunch. Then we were off to Mary Poppins Returns.

We walked back to the hotel and relaxed a bit before heading out to a nearby Indian restaurant. Everywhere we’ve eaten has been so delicious.

It was another day where we all walked over 9 miles. Ty and I have been so impressed with the kids. This is our first trip in years not bringing a stroller. We haven’t even needed to use a carrier. The kids are whining about it either! They mention that their feet are sore, but heck so are mine! They’ve definitely exceeded our expectations.