.: My sister adventures – Morocco :.

As I can’t travel as much this days, because of little Emily, my sister has been exploring more than I am. The last trip was an unplanned one, as she happened to won a competition and with it a trip to Morocco. You can see all the tour details here. So I couldn’t resist but to share her experience 🙂

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#1 Which expectations did you had before you went?
Honestly not many, but that’s because I’ve stopped creating expectations in order not to get disappointed. You need to go with an open mind. But anyway, this time I felt it was going to be a great trip and it was! I can say it was the best trip ever! A big part of that was because we had a really good travel group.

#2 What did you knew about Morocco?
On the 1st day of the year I took the chance to do some research about Morocco and the places I was going to visit. I was completely excited and in love with Morocco. Really anxious to be able to see everything myself live. Regarding what I knew about Morocco, well I knew the language was arabic and french. I knew the typical food was tajines and cuscus. I knew that as a muslim country I wouldn’t be able to drink alchohol and eat pork and that the currency is Dirham.
#3 What was the best moment of your trip?
There were lots of good moments that is really hard to point just one. But I would say 2 highlights were the camel trip and the trip on moto 4 on the dunes. The sunrise over Erg Chebbi was also really incredible and unforgettable.
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#4 Any surprises?
There were 2 things that really surprised me. I didn’t had much expectation about the moto 4 tour and I even considered not doing it, but it was absolutely amazing! Driving on the dunes was dream-like. The feeling of freedom and total autonomy was amazing. Just us, the moto 4, the pedals and that amazing landscape around us.
The 2nd one was our guide Mbarek. He was really amazing! He always followed our silly ideas and he even invited us to his sister’s house. He was so welcoming and gave us an amazing tea with dried fruits and traditional sweets. And every time the car would stop he would come and open the door for me like a real gentlemen!
#5 I know you love food as much as I do, so tell me about the food?
Don’t even talk about the food! I think my souvenir from the trip was extra 2kg. I loved everything! From the tajines (vegetable and meet ones), to cuscus, the chicken, the bread with olive oil, the pizzas…. oh the pizzas are so good!
And then the breakfast crepes with jam. Everything was delicious! The dish that surprised me the most was the Tajine Meatballs which comes with poached eggs. Loved it! Then you had the amazing oranges… there’s no better oranges, even better than those in south portugal.
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#6 Would you go back?
I would go back right now! As soon as I’ve landed home I wanted to go back. I’m sure I’ll be back at some stage. I can say I was really happy in Morocco.
#7 What would you like people had told you before you went?
I wish Cajuda (our tour guide) hadn’t wrote on the travel book that we should take a backpacking as opposed to a trolley. In the end everyone had a trolley and I was restricted by the space in the bagpack so I couldn’t pack enough warm clothing, such as my polar PJ. In the end I was shivering the whole time in the tent.
#8 Any final tips?
Also I would say you that, for this tours you should pack something more dressy for the scenario where you’ll end up in a nice restaurant, such as we did. Also, even though it might sound obvious, you don’t need sun cream, it’s winter there too so not needed. If you’re travelling in winter time take some gloves and a really warm jacket and a scarf. It’s really cold at night especially in the desert. If you want to drink alchool take it with you, as very few places will sell it. Not all hotels have it.
Don’t forget your camera and lots of free space as you’ll take lots of photos
As for souvenirs, well I had the idea it was cheap and it’s not! They take advantage of tourists and increase the prices a lot. I haven’t seen anything cheap there. It’s all European prices. In the airport the prices are absurd!
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Any Dragon Ball fans out there, you’ll probably recognise this photo.

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Has anyone been in Morocco? Any experiences you would like to share?

 

.: 5 things I’ve learnt while travelling :.

Once you start travelling on a regular basis you’re bond to have things that start to go wrong. Either missing a flight or losing luggage.

From my end, although I’m proud to say that even when I was flying more than once a week I never lost a flight, not even when I was stuck in traffic, I have a few lessons myself.

#1 – Get to know basic travel sentences from the country you’re going to

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On my first flight to Germany, I checked on how to get from the airport to the office and I knew I had to go from the airport to the train terminal, and then get a train to my destination. I assumed that the trains would have as much information as in UK where you can clearly see all the stops so you know exactly which train to take. Not the case in Germany… I’ve asked the ticket office which platform I had to go, but once there, even knowing the time I wasn’t sure which train to take. On the platform it had the following information:

10:28 Ankunft

10:30 Abfahrt

So guess what I did… I didn’t got into the train because I thought it was 2 different trains and only the 10:30 was the one I was supposed to take. Well, for those of you that know German you’re already having a giggle, for those that don’t, it means 10:28 – time of arrival at the station and 10:30 time of departure. It was just one train! Result, had to wait extra 30m and was late in the office

#2 – Get to know the nearest embassy or consulate from where you’re travelling to in case something happens

Once, also in Germany, I lost my wallet. I was so tired I didn’t even notice it had fallen (probably in the taxi while I was paying) and with it, I lost my ID card (in Europe that’s all you need to travel). As I had a flight back to UK next day I had to go to the consulate to get an emergency passport done. Fortunately I knew where the consulate was, so I’ve managed to get it sorted otherwise would be stuck in the country until I could get a passport back.

In this case, I had to go to the police to report the loss of my wallet and with it my travel documents. Also, as soon as I’ve noticed about the missing wallet, I’ve cancelled all my cards immediately. It was quite a stressful evening and day, but in the end managed to get back home with a temporary passport. The UK border control hated me for a month until I had my documents back again (it really looked dodgy!)

#3 – Always keep clothing in your hand-luggage

In case your main luggage gets lost. To be honest I’ve started to try to fly mostly with hand-luggage as possible as I can. The last thing you want is to arrive to your destination and they’ve lost your clothing! This happened to my other half while he was travelling to Switzerland. The luggage was delivered to him only a few days latter, so fortunately he had some clothing in the flat.

#4 – Always keep a charger in your hand-luggage and remember the country you’re travelling to

To be honest there’s two parts on this one. It’s always good to keep chargers in your hand-luggage. You don’t want to find you’ll run out of battery as well as any connector plugs you need for the country you’re travelling to. There’s some universal chargers which are brilliant and cater for a lot of countries. The other aspect is, always check how you’ll connect to the internet while you’re at your destination. Roaming can be very expensive and to be honest I can’t survive without google maps anymore!!! For instance, when we went to Japan we had to order a special data card, as foreigners can’t get a sim card. So don’t forget to check what’s available and what suits your needs. You might want to disconnect from any social media and travel simple, that’s an option too.

#5 – Travel Insurance, because you never really know!

This is even far more important if you are flying to an unsafe place. Fortunately I never had to use travel insurance but was pretty close. In the first case, I had a boat accident in Angola and I still don’t know how we’ve managed to survive without major bruises! Pretty much it was a small boat with an engine on the back. Normally the boats would have 2 people, one next to the engine and another at the front that would ensure there were no other boats at sight, as the guy back there won’t be able to see it. I was sitting at the back and suddenly just saw a bigger boat in front of us. Just closed my eyes and then bang. The other boat was damaged and so was ours (our little wooden sits broke). We were all pretty shocked. I thought I was going to die in those long seconds. Fortunately the other boat was not the same model as ours, it managed to cover for most of the impact so we didn’t turn into the water or were projected I don’t know where!

If I had ended up in the hospital (well… hospital is quite a major statement there) I would want to fly back home as soon as possible to get proper care and that can be pretty expensive!

Case number 2, I went to Japan while I was pregnant, so if anything would happen to me I would like to know I would have protection that would cover for the costs. It’s really important to check before-hand what the travel insurance would or would not cover. It’s a lot of effort, but it’s worth it!

I’m sure if I would dig out from my brain I would find loads more examples, like double check which hotel you’ve booked when there are several from the same brand in the same city (yap done that!). Any stories you would like to share?

.: Hatfield House :.

Ah don’t even remember when I’ve started writing this post! I would say a couple of weeks back. Anyway, one of our last breaks before baby’s arrival was a visit into the Hatfield House. I have to say I had no expectations whatsoever, but loved it! It’s one of the most beautiful houses I’ve visited in UK.

Hatfield House is part of the Treasure Houses of England. All of them are so beautiful, still have loads to explore.

Tip: Did you know that in any treasure house you can transform your ticket in an annual pass for free?

 

The first room you see is this one, absolutely stunning

 

And the most amazing queen on the frame. Gotta love gingers!

I just loved the quietness of the house and the different corners, like this one. Can imagine myself sitting here and just enjoying the view outside, reading a book or maybe if inspiration would come, write a book

 

My newish minimalistic side says this is too much decoration, as the room itself needs no further adorning, but hey, this is how it used to be

This room, with the golden room reminded me of the Vatican, with corridors full of gold

Couldn’t resist a bw photo!

Another impressive room

 

This was certainly a fav and transported me all the way to Downton Abbey

This is such an amazing floor, the tiles really work here

The estate includes it’s own chapel

Then we moved to the kitchen area

 

Beautiful isn’t it? Then we went outside to explore the gardens. We didn’t explore much as it was really quite hot and pregnant me was just boiling

Here’s a bit of Game of Thrones moment or maybe Lord of the Rings

Beautiful house don’t you think? What’s your favourite English House? Any favourite?

 

.: Looking ahead :.

First of all, happy new year! Hope everyone managed to make the most of the holidays.

I’ve started 2017 the best way possible, in bed! For the first time since baby was born had 5h sleep in a row, so was quite pleased. I’m already back to the same rubbish nights of not sleeping more than 3h in a row.

Anyway, even though I like to make goals along the way as opposed to wait for a new year, I also like to take advantage of the opportunity to look into the previous year (as I did here). and also to plan ahead what I’m planning to do.

I’m keeping it quite simple this year in terms of goals, pretty much just have 1 which is to win the reflux battle so baby and I can sleep more and enjoy more each other.

I’m also looking forward to travel again, as I did quite a big pause. Last time I went on a plane was April when we did our trip to Japan.

The first trip I’m going to do is an obvious choice, going to spend 3 weeks in Portugal so I can see my family and my friends. It’s been pretty much a year since I’ve managed to go back there. So really looking forward to the first trip. It will also be the first time I’m flying with baby Em, so if anyone has any tips about flying with babies please let me know!

You can check some tips here from Snotty Noses

You can check some tips here from Snotty Noses

Apart from going back to Portugal, planning a revisit to Barcelona. I really loved the city when I was there almost 10 years ago. Loved the food markets, the gothic side of the city, it’s just so unique!

Would also love to be back into Japan or maybe visit some friends in San Francisco

Picture from Lonely Planet

Picture from Lonely Planet

UK wise would also be nice to go back to Scotland and Lake District.

I won’t be travelling that much most likely, but will need to make the most of every single moment I manage.

Any plans for this year?

.: Looking back 2016 :.

It’s that time of the year where everyone looks back and does some reflections. Even though I like to reassess what I’ve been doing throughout the year, especially when we’re talking about resolutions, but I find I also like this time of the year for that.

I still have an old notebook where we both do yearly resolutions and plan the trips we want to do and stuff we want to buy for the year. It’s been quite a tradition since we’ve started to live together (pretty much almost 10 years ago) and this year we’ll definitely carry on.

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2016 will be a year I won’t forget. Not because a lot of celebs seem to have died (yap, it was quite something), but because my life was changed forever. In the first week of January I discovered I was pregnant. I just couldn’t believe it! My work life was an absolute mess and I ended up working crazy hours under stress for a good 6 months, then I’ve decided I couldn’t be doing that, so started to take it easy.

It was the year I’ve started meditation, even though I haven’t been back pretty much after she was born and also started pregnancy yoga. 2017 will start with Mom & Baby yoga, really looking forward to that!

Baby Em was born in September and ever since I haven’t done anything but baby (she’s having a nap now, hope she doesn’t wake up for a bit).

Travel wise, the number of trips was quite reduced due to the pregnancy but it was the year I finally did my dream trip to Japan. I’m jumping ahead a bit…

First, I started the year by going to Bordeaux just with my sister. It felt a bit rubbish to go to a wine paradise and not be able to drink anything! Still I loved the weekend, it was fab to have some sister time, just the two of us and no one else. I love my sis loads! Next time we do something like this it will be the 3 of us 🙂

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March we went to Lisbon and it was my last time in Portugal for the year. It’s been almost a year and I miss it loads!

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Then April was the time for our dream trip, Japan. For 10 years we had been talking about going and back in 2015 I’ve decided I couldn’t wait any longer so booked the trip. I’m so glad I did! It’s my most memorable trip ever, the sense of peace and quiet is something I’ll always carry with me. And then the food, ahhh alll the food! (Again, couldn’t even touch any sushi and fresh tuna….. or sake for the matter)

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Really looking forward to be back!

In May we went to Wales, which to me was quite an important weekend. It was the weekend I’ve started to finally relax and understand that I had to take better care of me and the baby

June I had my sister over for a kind of a “baby shower”, so we both went together for a lovely afternoon tea

Also in June went back to Bristol for a weekend away. After working 2 years and a bit in Bristol I have to say I was really missing the city. Aside from London it’s the only place in UK I can imagine myself living

In July I did a ladies weekend in Bath, just with my girl friends! It was so nice 😀

End of July we did our last weekend away just to relax before baby was born.

I’ve spent August around my area and eating and relaxing a lot. Then in September baby Em was born. Looking forward to be on a plane again, which will be in February for a visit to the rest of the family in Portugal.

Yes indeed 2016 was quite a memorable year! Looking forward to 2017, which I hope will bring me more sleep and more smiles 🙂

Any lessons from 2016? Any major plans for 2017?

.: Last night in Japan :.

And to end the series…

Our last night in Japan was actually back in Tokyo, because we had book round trip from London – Tokyo. Now here’s a funny story on our last day… after leaving the shinkansen (bullet train) all we had to do pretty much was to cross the street and we would reach our hotel. But he decided to run with the luggage and we’ve ended up breaking a wheel. Let’s just say it was quite a warm day, so having a piece of metal frictioning on the floor… let’s just say I was fearing our luggage would go on fire!

Once we’ve finally approached the hotel, the guys were absolutely amazing with us, and they’ve helped us with our broken (and heavy!) luggage. How to make an entrance in style!

Although we’ve stayed all our journey in AirBnB so we could explore life as locals and be closer to the centre, on our last night I wanted the convenience of being both close to the shinkansen (for our return from Kyoto), but also on a central line to go straight to the airport the next morning. The perfect choice was the Prince Sakura Tokyo from Marriott.

Photos below from the official website

There was also a private garden inside the hotel, which we’ve ended up not exploring

We were really exhausted by the time we’ve reached our room, but we had now an important mission…. find a bag so we could swap before flying back home next morning.

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View from the lift

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We went outside to try to find our bag, which eventually we did in a small market place. But I’ve started to get worst from my morning sickness (I had the story with that too, but I won’t dig in details because it was too embarrassing! Let’s just say I was really glad he knew a few words in Japanese such as pregnant and help)

Back in the hotel room I had a basked of fruits waiting for me. It came in brilliant timing! Fruits has been my survival food ever since I’ve became pregnant (while I’m writing this post at more than 38 weeks I can tell you it still is as I still have the “morning sickness”)

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Rather than exploring more of Tokyo, we’ve decided to stay in the room and rest before our dinner with our friend. Obviously the meeting point was the  Hachiko Statue again

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We’ve explored really nice neighbourhoods (I didn’t had the camera with me 😦 )

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His photo

We also went up to a tower to enjoy an amazing free view over Shibuya

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His Photo

Then we’ve ended up the evening in this amazing sake place. It felt like going inside a rabbit hole, with a tiny door

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And the guys had lots of sake. I could just smell it and all I can say is the smell was divine!

Next morning it was time to go back home. Oh what a journey!!!

Have you been in Japan? Any thoughts you would like to share?

.: Exploring Kyoto – final round :.

Hard to believe after months I’ve finally managed to check all my photos from Japan. It was really good to revisit them, it made my wish to come back even stronger!

I only had the chance to visit Tokyo and Kyoto – which means a good excuse to be back and explore the mountains and other cities – but I have to say it was the best trip I’ve ever done. Not only because I loved all the places, but because it was a full journey: a journey on my mind discovering peace like never before, a journey through Japan’s amazing cuisine, and then all the history around it.

Food-wise we’ve discover not only their cuisine is amazing: not just sushi, but the ramen, yakitori, any rice dishes, all of it! Funnily enough the only thing I avoid is tempura which was introduced by the Portuguese (I avoid fried stuff) – but they also master anything else. I swear I had the best donuts in my life there! We found an amazing cafe at the Kyoto station where we would have a 2nd breakfast almost daily (we were still jet lagged, so we would wake up and have breakfast before 06a.m)

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(I found really amazing the contrast between the gigantic Kyoto station and the rest of the city! we’ve got lost a few times in there and I think there are around 3 shopping malls inside. Yap!)

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Even street food was also quite amazing

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I love gyoza!!!

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One of the most famous places in Kyoto is the Bamboo Grove, which is set in the pretty village of Arashiyama. Again totally recommended that you go early in the morning to avoid the crowds, plus the morning light really transforms this place

Even at the time we went, we’ve already struggled to get photos without any people on the frame.

Then we went back to central Kyoto to explore the neighbourhoods

And more temples in the afternoon. This was one of my favourite, especially closer to the end of the day, where it was really peaceful (Chion-in)

Next morning our mission was to visit the famous red doors (Fushimi Inari Taisha). Whereas we’ve managed to arrive before the crowds, it was actually raining cats & dogs

Here’s the funny bit. I thought these was just a long corridor, what I hadn’t realised was it’s a whole mountain to climb full of red doors!!! I didn’t made it to the top, as I was struggling with all the stairs (the perks of pregnancy I guess). It’s more than 1h up! Because it was raining so much, I was struggling to hold the umbrella and the camera at the same time!

It’s a place I have to go back too, because I felt I hadn’t explored enough of it. After that we went to another really famous place, the Golden Temple     (Kinkaku-ji)

Again it was still raining quite a lot, and this is where I’ve really struggled to make the most of my 28mm lens. Yap, because I gave him my zoom lens, I’ve spend all our journey using nothing else but the 28mm.

And back to Kyoto centre

I really miss it! This journey will always be special in our hearts, because it was my dream trip and because it was the last trip we’ve done together before baby arrives 🙂