Morocco and Spain Trip Recap

"Travel Loot" Cedar Park, 2017
Photo info: SONY SLT-A77V, 35mm, f/4, 1/20 sec, ISO640
“Travel Loot” Cedar Park, 2017

こんばんは。How’s it going?

Well, I finally finished up with all my back posts of our trip! The photo above shows a few pieces of the loot haul, and in the dish is a small stone that I picked up from the water at Barceloneta beach. I don’t even know if it is imported or not, but the authenticity isn’t important. It’s the memory that it represents that gives it value. One of my favorite movie scenes explains what I mean.

Anyways, here are a couple lists I made about the trip.

Total miles traveled: 12,905

  • Plane: 11,273
  • Train: 921
  • Boat: 29
  • Bus/Taxi: 682

Highlights/Bucket List

  • First trip to Africa – That makes it four continents for me!
  • Crossing from Africa to Europe by ferry – The so-called Strait of Gibraltar have been one of those mythical things since I was a little kid
  • Touching the Mediterranean – Again, like something out of a dream. Isn’t this where the Greek gods/heroes used to play?

Top Food

  • Boquerones tapas (fried sardines)
  • Tagine
  • Papas bravas
  • Almejas tapas (clams)
  • Jamón bocadillos

Post Index

Since I posted my trip entries after-the-fact, here’s a list you can use to easily access each one:

Handy Notes

"Notes" Cedar Park, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4, 1/125 sec, ISO1600
“Notes” Cedar Park, 2017

こんばんは。

Today’s photo is of a little notebook that proved to be very handy during our trip. There were a few times in Morocco where I wasn’t able to communicate clearly when it really mattered. The most notable time was when we were trying to buy train tickets. It’s actually a fairly easy process to buy tickets in Morocco, but during Ramadan, the schedule is a little different and also I didn’t understand if there was a change of trains at some point.

So, before I headed to the ticket counter (there are also automated ticket machines), I wrote down the desired destination, date, number of tickets, and 1st class. I could just show that to the ticket agent and he wrote down the available trains that day. It was so much easier than trying to verbally communicate.

Google translate is amazing, but in cases like these, pencil and paper win the day!

I hope you had a nice Sunday!

またね~

Returning Home

"The Way Home" Casablanca, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/5.6, 1/4000 sec, ISO800
“The Way Home” Casablanca, 2017

Hello! This is the last day of our Eurafrica trip when we fly back home. 😞

Another long journey, today’s schedule takes us from Casablanca to Montreal, then on to Chicago and finally home to Austin. ✈

We opted to take a pre-arranged taxi from the hotel to the airport, which cost about $25 which was nice since the cab took us door-to-door. At the airport, Mariko finally found some Moroccan wine at the duty-free shop. I guess this was pretty much the only chance to buy some! Ever since she had some Moroccan wine at the Morocco area of EPCOT, she’s wanted a bottle or two. So I guess this was one of her quests for the trip!  And happily, the wine made it all the way back home safe and sound, even though they had to scan the wine in Montreal in some fancy contraption in customs.

By the way, for those traveling to the US, you actually pass through US customs at the Montreal airport. It was very convenient, and I was surprised to hear the Customs agent say, “Welcome home, Mr. Fujimoto,” while we were still in Canada! 🇨🇦 🇺🇸

Anyways, we arrived in Austin at about 22:00 and my brother was waiting at the gate for us. See, he had just flown in an hour earlier and would spend the next few days visiting us. It was nice to see him after the long journey!

Oh, when we were in O’Hare, Mariko had to get a Chicago Hot Dog. 🌭 It was pretty good! Welcome back to America, indeed!

"Chicago Airport Dog" Chicago, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2, 1/60 sec, ISO320
“Chicago Airport Dog” Chicago, 2017

Casablanca

"Hassan II Mosque" Casablanca, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/5.6, 1/950 sec, ISO200
“Hassan II Mosque” Casablanca, 2017

Today was another travel day. Since we booked cheap tickets, our flight plan took us back to Casablanca from Barcelona, then overnight at a hotel, and then fly out the next day… so, another long day with long miles!

We started the day with a nice breakfast at Hotel Constanza, then took a taxi to the Barcelona airport. The security and customs process in that airport is pretty crazy, and almost everyone who finished customs took off running to their gate. It would have been kind of funny to see had we not been in a similar situation. But we made it to our flight with a few minutes to spare, and after a short hop over Spain and the strait, we were back in Morocco!

"Casa Port" Casablanca, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/1250 sec, ISO200
“Casa Port” Casablanca, 2017

After an hour train ride and short taxi right, we reached our hotel, the Melliber Appart Hotel in the afternoon and settled in. We were pleasantly surprised that our room had an amazing view of the Hassan II Mosque, which is the largest mosque in Morocco. It’s pretty impressive. There’s even a laser on top which shines straight to Mecca. Wow.

After a brief rest, Mariko and I took a walk to look for a market for some last-minute goodies, but we got kind of spooked when we saw a man threaten another man on a scooter with a huge kitchen knife. It was a bit unnerving! We were told that people were cranky in the afternoons because of the fasting, but this was a bit extreme. So we gave up the search for the market and headed to the mosque for a closer look. As you can imagine, it’s huge. As the day was ending, and Ramadan was nearing its close, hundreds of people were coming to pray. It was quite a sight to see.

"Cool Car" Casablanca, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/5.6, 1/340 sec, ISO200
“Cool Car” Casablanca, 2017
"Soccer" Casablanca, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/5.6, 1/500 sec, ISO200
“Soccer” Casablanca, 2017
"Mosque at Dusk" Casablanca, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2, 1/140 sec, ISO200
“Mosque at Dusk” Casablanca, 2017

Dinner was had at the hotel restaurant where we enjoyed beef steak, fish tagine, fried eggs with shredded beef, and a variety of salads. Plus mint tea! I missed the Moroccan mint tea!

Belly full once again, it was time for bed. 😴

"Mosque at Night" Casablanca, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/20 sec, ISO800
“Mosque at Night” Casablanca, 2017

Barcelona – Day 2

"La Sagrada Famila" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/5.6, 1/550 sec, ISO200
“La Sagrada Famila” Barcelona, 2017

Hello! On to day 2 in Barcelona.

One of the major sights we wanted to see is La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s amazing cathedral which has been under construction for well over a hundred years and won’t be completed for another 10 or so. As I mentioned before, I don’t care too much for cathedrals and churches, but this one is truly awe-inspiring. It’s got a modern take, is colorful and the design is intruiguing. That being said, my interest is purely about the design and construction, since I am not religious. Still, there’s enough here for the non-believer to be inspired by the human will to achieve. Amazing.

"La Sagrada Familia" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.2, 1/125 sec, ISO200
“La Sagrada Familia” Barcelona, 2017
"La Sagrada Selfie" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2, 1/120 sec, ISO200
“La Sagrada Selfie” Barcelona, 2017

Next up on the list was to do a bit of shopping – specifically to pick up a suitcase that we saw the night before so we could haul our loot back home. This included the food we would be buying from the Spanish supermarket, the paella pans, and non-breakable souvenirs. Plus our dirty laundy. I that gross to keep that with our canned goods? I wonder… oh well, too late now, right? 😛

"Barcelona Streets" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.5, 1/550 sec, ISO200
“Barcelona Streets” Barcelona, 2017

Anyways, we bought the suitcase, dropped it off at the hotel, and made our way to lunch, which was on the way to MACBA: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, or the Museum of Contemporary Art. For our third paella of the trip, we visited Paelleria. We learned that paella is not as crispy on the bottom as we always thought, but that it was moister. The first paella we got was moist and we thought it was odd. But after the second and third one, we figured that is the way it is supposed to be. Anyways, the paella at Paelleria was delicious, and we also had to order a few other tapas. And beer. And sangria. 🍺🍷

"Paella" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/25 sec, ISO800
“Paella” Barcelona, 2017
"Salad Tapas" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/40 sec, ISO800
“Salad Tapas” Barcelona, 2017

Next, it was on to the Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s housed in a beautiful building, and the exhibit on the first floor was photography-based which I enjoyed. The other exhibits, however, were too esoteric and I couldn’t find them interesting.

"Museum of Contemporary Art" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/1250 sec, ISO200
“Museum of Contemporary Art” Barcelona, 2017
"Relax Time" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.5, 1/150 sec, ISO200
“Relax Time” Barcelona, 2017
"Art Installation" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/11, 1/4 sec, ISO800
“Art Installation” Barcelona, 2017

After MACBA, we strolled to the nearby art supply store to check it out, then caught a taxi to Barceloneta Beach for another one the highlights of our trip: touching the Mediterranean Sea. I was so stoked to dip my feet in! The water was cool, but not too cold, and very clear even though it was a pretty crowded beach. Maybe it is silly, but walking barefoot in the waters was something I was looking forward to the whole trip! 🌊

"Mediterranean Waters" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/5.6, 1/400 sec, ISO200
“Mediterranean Waters” Barcelona, 2017

Near the beach were a lot of really nice-looking restaurants, and by this time, we were getting pretty hungry. We checked Yelp and found a restaurant that looked good, but when we got there, it didn’t seem like our kind of place. So, we tried a nearby restaurant which normally you need a reservation for, but we got lucky (and we were early) so we got a table. The menu at Somorrostro was pretty fancy seafood, and we took advantage of our last night in Barcelona to have a nice, upscale feast. We had skipjack with pistachio and sour cream, black rice with smoked sardine and rabbit, shrimp taco with spring onion and avocado, zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese, and octopus with potato and chorizo. Plus beer, cava, and water, of course! It was kind of funny, but lots of the agua that the kids ordered at the different tapas bars come in uniquely fancy bottles. Never saw the same glass water bottle twice!

"Cold One" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/12 sec, ISO800
“Cold One” Barcelona, 2017
"Fancy Tapas" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/40 sec, ISO800
“Fancy Tapas” Barcelona, 2017
"Pulpo" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/15 sec, ISO800
“Pulpo” Barcelona, 2017

We were pretty tired after dinner, but of course we had to have our second dinner, and that would mean taking a taxi back to Tapa Tapa (thanks, Bay!) for drinks and tapas. 😄

"Refreshments" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/60 sec, ISO640
“Refreshments” Barcelona, 2017

A relatively early return to the hotel so we could pack up, and then we called it a day!  Barcelona 🇪🇸

Barcelona – Day 1

"The Streets" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4.5, 1/125 sec, ISO200
“The Streets” Barcelona, 2017

Hi! Well, as you may have figured out, we love to eat on our travels. In fact, eating and drinking is one of the main activities that we look forward to and plan for. So, without further ado, let’s get started with brunch:

"Brunch" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/3.6, 1/150 sec, ISO200
“Brunch” Barcelona, 2017
"Hot Chocolate" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4.5, 1/150 sec, ISO200
“Hot Chocolate” Barcelona, 2017
"Eggs Benedict" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4, 1/140 sec, ISO200
“Eggs Benedict” Barcelona, 2017

Just around the corner from our hotel is Alsur Café, where we sat outside and enjoyed coffee, hot chocolate, a smoothie, avocado-bacon waffles, eggs Benedict, and another waffle sandwich of what I don’t remember. I do remember, however, that it was all excellent. A good start to the day!

"Alsur Cafe" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/5.6, 1/400 sec, ISO200
“Alsur Cafe” Barcelona, 2017

Our tickets for the Picasso Museum were for 14:00 so we had some time to stroll around Barcelona and do a little shopping.

"Barcelona Streets" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/5.6, 1/170 sec, ISO200
“Barcelona Streets” Barcelona, 2017

We made it to the museum and enjoyed the drawings and paintings. The collection is mainly of his earlier work so if you are expecting to see a great expanse of his production, you may be disappointed. But, I thought it was good, and worth the visit.

The rest of the day was spent wandering the streets of Barcelona and shopping. Eventually, we landed at our first restaurant, Ciudad Condal. Yet another fun and delicious meal, and even Koa is expanding his palette! He’s becoming a fish-lover. In fact, when we were eating clams in Granada, he had the whole plate in front of him and was powering through those little suckers!

"Ciudad Condal" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2, 1/45 sec, ISO800
“Ciudad Condal” Barcelona, 2017
"Fancy Drinks" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.5, 1/25 sec, ISO800
“Fancy Drinks” Barcelona, 2017
"Razor Clams" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.5, 1/60 sec, ISO800
“Razor Clams” Barcelona, 2017
"Oh Yum" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2, 1/30 sec, ISO800
“Oh Yum” Barcelona, 2017

As became our tradition in Spain, we have two dinners… and in Barcelona, that meant going back to Tapa Tapa. I would have wanted to try another place, but Bay is crazy about Tapa Tapa for some reason! Well, he was the main driver for this vacation, so we let him indulge. 😄

"Meat and Fish" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.5, 1/75 sec, ISO200
“Meat and Fish” Barcelona, 2017
"Ready for Us" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.5, 1/60 sec, ISO320
“Ready for Us” Barcelona, 2017

And that did it for day 1 in Barcelona! Same old, same old, huh? Sightseeing and eating. Life is good!

Bus to Barcelona

"Sunset from the Bus" Spain, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.2, 1/140 sec, ISO200
“Sunset from the Bus” Spain, 2017

Today was a day spent in transit. We took the ALSA bus from Granada to Barcelona, which left at 10:00 and arrived in Barcelona at 00:15, or quarter-past midnight. Yes, 14 hours on a bus! 🚌 But, our preference of traveling by train was impossible since tickets were sold out. The other choice (which wasn’t extraordinarily expensive) was to take a plane from Malaga to Barcelona, but that would involve buying another bus ticket from Granada to Malaga. Plus the transit from between the bus stations/airport/hotel.

So, we sucked it up and prepared for the long bus ride, which would only involve taxi from hotel to bus station, the bus ride itself, then either an 18-minute walk or taxi ride to our hotel in Barcelona. It actually wasn’t too bad because it was a big bus and there was spotty Wi-Fi or slow cell speeds. Plus it was the cheapest of the transit options at about €70 per ticket.

The bus stopped at several places (including a lunch place) along the way to Valencia, where we had a break to pick up some food and switch buses. From Valencia, it was a non-stop haul into Barcelona Nord bus station. We arrived at around midnight, then took a taxi to Hotel Constanza, where we’d be staying the next couple days.

Check-in at the hotel was quick and the room was nice. Koa decided to call it a night, but Bay, Mariko, and I were excited to be in Barcelona so we decided to head out on foot to look for… tapas!

Before going, we asked the hotel staff where we should go, but they told us that most places’ kitchens would be closing soon (it was almost 01:00) so we just decided to head to one of the main streets to check it out. After encountering a couple places that were closing, we found Tapa Tapa, which was open until 00:200. They didn’t have a full menu available but the tapas they did have were yummy, the beer was cold, and the cava was refreshing.

"Cava" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2, 1/150 sec, ISO200
“Cava” Barcelona, 2017
"The Big Beer" Barcelona, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2, 1/120 sec, ISO200
“The Big Beer” Barcelona, 2017

After that, it was back to the hotel to turn in. (and of course, Koa was still up watching Youtube videos)

Day in Granada

"The Alhambra" Granada, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/16, 1/160 sec, ISO200
“The Alhambra” Granada, 2017

We spent the entire day in the city of Granada, starting with a leisurely 5-minute walk to the Catedral de Granada. It was pretty spectacular inside, and there’s even a free audio tour to enjoy. I’m not really much for churches or cathedrals, but you have to be impressed by how much effort and devotion goes into these monuments. It’s amazing.

"Catedral de Granada" Granada, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2, 1/250 sec, ISO1600
“Catedral de Granada” Granada, 2017

Next up was lunch, since we didn’t have anything to eat yet. Near the cathedral, we found El Pescaito de Carmela and enjoyed some coffee, seafood, and paella. Delicious!

"Calamares" Granada, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2, 1/250 sec, ISO2500
“Calamares” Granada, 2017
"Boquerones" Granada, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2, 1/250 sec, ISO1250
“Boquerones” Granada, 2017
"Cafe" Granada, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2, 1/250 sec, ISO1250
“Cafe” Granada, 2017

After lunch we headed back to our hotel to meet our tour company which picked us up around 13:30 and took us up to the tour office that is next to The Alhambra. I had procrastinated on this part of planning, so failed to buy tickets online beforehand for the “must-see” attraction in Granada, but luckily back in Morocco I sent an email to our hotel to see if they could find any tickets for us. They came through and booked us for the English tour! It cost about €52 per ticket, and included hotel pickup/dropoff, entry tickets to The Alhambra, and an English tour guide. A stand-alone ticket would cost €18.70, so for our visit to one of the top attractions in Europe, it was a no-brainer to go for the tour.

Our guide spoke good English, was funny, and had a ton of interesting information. For instance, we found out about the origin of the dollar symbol. The grounds were spectacular, and very well-maintained. I’d totally recommend the tour to anyone.

"The Alhambra" Granada, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/6.4, 1/950 sec, ISO200
“The Alhambra” Granada, 2017
"The Alhambra" Granada, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/16, 1/125 sec, ISO200
“The Alhambra” Granada, 2017
"The Alhambra" Granada, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/16, 1/240 sec, ISO200
“The Alhambra” Granada, 2017

After the tour, we returned to the hotel and Mariko had a pedicure/massage, then it was time for an evening stroll and dinner. We ended up exploring the area near the cathedral again, and visited two tapas bars, the first Los Giardinos where we enjoyed pizza, pasta, and potatoes while sitting outdoors and people-watching. The cold beer was just what the doctor ordered!

"Early Dinner" Granada, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4, 1/140 sec, ISO200
“Early Dinner” Granada, 2017
"Cold One" Granada, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4, 1/125 sec, ISO200
“Cold One” Granada, 2017

Next we wandered to Plaza de bib Rambla for some shopping and more tapas! This time we stopped and ate outside at Gran Cafe Bib Rambla. We ordered a nice pitcher of sangria, and I also enjoyed my first gazpacho. Mariko and the kids think it’s gross, but I thought it was good! But, not something I’d order again. I’d much rather have some savory tapas than the veggie smoothie. We also got jamon and queso, and some other yummies that I cannot remember. We enjoyed the pleasant evening weather while sipping on cold drinks… it was heaven!

"Queso, Jamon, and Gazpacho" Granada, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2, 1/60 sec, ISO500
“Queso, Jamon, and Gazpacho” Granada, 2017
"Holy Sangria" Granada, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2, 1/60 sec, ISO640
“Holy Sangria” Granada, 2017
"Plaza de Bib-Rambla" Granada, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.5, 1/150 sec, ISO200
“Plaza de Bib-Rambla” Granada, 2017

After that, we decided to go back to the hotel, but not before a dessert of helado (ice cream) at Golosita Italiana. What a great day in Granada!

"Helado" Granada, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2, 1/60 sec, ISO640
“Helado” Granada, 2017