The cruise was my first ever. Barcelona had been so amazing that I couldn’t imagine anything comparing. We took off and began our trip south. I immediately was taken aback by the rockiness of the boat. But even worse than the rockiness was that we were headed straight for an oncoming cold front. Little droplets of the ocean would hang onto the bitter cold wind and sting my face. Steve and I would have to gear up to cross the outdoor walkway to the restaurants. Every time was a bundle up, hunch down, run to the other side. It was SO cold. But the excitement was tangible. We were headed for the Strait of Gibraltar.
It was evening and little lights glistened off of the ocean along each side of the boat in the distance. So crazy being between two different continents, Africa and Europe, and seeing both at once. I was so excited that the next morning was port…both of our first times in Africa. We docked in Casablanca, Morocco. No question, Morocco has always been on my bucket list. We decided to do a group excursion tour and at first I was kind of disappointed to be stuck on a bus with a group of strangers, but after driving down one street in Casablanca, I was relieved. Casablanca is crazy busy traffic with seemingly no order in the streets whatsoever. If I had to drive in that I would curl up into the fetal position and cry. So yay for a tour bus with strangers.
We took a few stops, the capital palace where the king of Morocco lives, Roman Ruins, a spice market, gardens, and the mosque but the major highlight was stopping at a local restaurant. It was an experience I will remember forever! It was down this tiny alleyway with carts of fresh bread lining the streets, towels, colorful flags and old buildings. While the food wasn’t my favorite, I would do the whole experience again in a heartbeat! I feel like we got a huge taste of the beautiful culture! I really would love to go back to Morocco. I would never drive on my own, but next time around I might hire a local driver.
Next stop was Las Palmas, one of the Canary Islands. This time we rented a car. We drive along the coast to the sand dunes on the beach. It was amazing! Rolling mountains of sand all leading to the blue ocean. It really was unusually breathtaking. And then we are in a little fisherman’s village, Puerto de Mogan. It was colorful and so charming. The air smelled of fish and bougainvillea crawled up the white buildings.
Tenerife was the next island. We drove to the black sand beach, sat on the wall that overlooked the ocean and listened to a musician playing classical music. It was so peaceful and putting Hayes’ name in the black sand with white rocks seemed beautifully appropriate.
Our favorite stop was the next day, Madeira, Portugal. We got off the port to a city that lined the cliffs along the beach. We immediately found a taxi driver that took us everywhere we needed to go. He spent the whole day with us, driving, stopping and waiting. Find yourself a Carlos if you go to Madeira! He was awesome! A few of the highlights…we took the gondola up to the top of the village, we did the sleds down the streets, we went up to the top of the deep green gorgeous cliff mountains, went to a restaurant and ate with the locals and sat on the beach surrounded by cliffs. As we walked back to port we were able to see the festival parades and market. It was a perfect day.
Our last stop was Alicante, along the eastern coast of Spain. We walked clear to the top of the mountain, not exaggerating, all the way to the castle that overlooked the village. It was a beautiful view and while we were up there we could see a bull ring in the distance. Seeing a bull ring was the last of our bucket list so we made the trek down the mountain, through the city to the edge where we found the ring. A local saw us looking at the outside of the arena and found us someone that worked there and let us in to take our own tour. It was really cool. Steve was in heaven. But the most special part of the day was noticing a little figurine in the dirt under a bush along the street. Most people would never have noticed this but there it was, a miniature elephant that had clearly been dropped unwanted by the original owner. It was such a magical #HayesHint.
Looking back on the cruise portion of our trip, I will be honest and say that I am not sure that I would do a cruise again. We were on Norwegian Cruise and I hate saying it, but I was extremely unimpressed with the rooms, the food, and all the added costs. But I will say, I would never have been able to see so many amazing places without going on a cruise. So, while I prefer staying on solid ground, the adventure was so worth it! I am curious about your thoughts on a cruise. Have you been on one? Did you like it?