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Rock the Casbah

Saturday, November 9, 2013 @ 06:07 pm from Morocco Morocco
Day 136

I went to bed pretty early last night so I wouldn't have any problems getting up early today. My flight to Tangier was at 12:15pm so I wasn't too rushed in the morning, but for some reason I wasn't able to check in online to my flight yesterday. I wanted to make sure I got to the airport a little early to make sure I got a good seat and to check my bag.

I had some pretty delicious muffins for breakfast. They were filled with jelly and had cinnamon crumbs on top. They were basically my breakfast and lunch since I wasn't sure when I'd eat once I got into Tangier.

I caught the bus to the Barcelona airport and arrived with plenty of time. I checked in just fine and hung out at the airport and read for a while before my flight boarded. Apparently I had nothing to worry about as far as getting a good seat went since the flight was about half empty.

I wasn't expecting it but they served a little sandwich and coffee along with the normal drinks. I got a window seat on the exit row which was pretty cool. There was a lot of leg room and the skies were clear for the most part so I got to watch Spain pass by below me. When we got to the Straight of Gibraltar I could see both Europe and Africa at the same time.

Everyone clapped when we landed (first time I've seen that in a while) and customs was a breeze. I withdrew the equivalent of around $200 in the local currency to last me the week. Everything's pretty cheap here it seems like so I think that should be fine. The weather was perfect when I arrived. It was fully sunny but not too hot or humid.

I got a taxi to my hotel (the Dar El Kasbah) for 150 MAD (about $18). The taxi driver didn't really follow any rules of the road. We were driving down two lane highways and he'd squeeze between the middle of two vehicles making his own third lane. After getting honked at numerous times we finally made it into the medina area where my hotel is. There were people, fruit vendors, spice shops and all kinds of other little restaurants and hole in the wall shops everywhere.

I checked into the hotel which is really nice. In the States I'd expect to pay anywhere around 90-120 USD for what I got for about $40 a night here. They also have a huge breakfast made fresh every morning (you have to let them know the night before if you're eating breakfast here so they know how much to make). I'm going to try it tomorrow since it's pretty cheap and looked delicious.

After I checked in I hung out in my room for a bit before deciding to go walk around for a little bit. The medina (or casbah) is right behind my hotel and looked crammed full of people doing their shopping. I was reading about it and experienced it today but people will come up to you around the medina and try to act as an unofficial "guide" where they ultimately lead you to a friend's carpet shop or something. They're pretty persistent so I think when I venture into the medina for real I'll just wear some headphones and pretend I can't hear them. It was a little overwhelming to tackle after a full day of traveling so I'll probably head into the craziness tomorrow. Today I walked around the area near the hotel a bit then headed down to check out the beach.

Along the way I saw a little restaurant selling cheap tajine so I made note if it and would eat there on my way back. The beach itself has a nice tree lined street and the beach itself is huge. I walked along there for a bit but then headed back to get some dinner. I went to the one place I saw earlier.

I wasn't sure the ordering process here (it seems like it's different in every country). I told the guy behind the counter what I wanted and he pointed to a table to sit down. He started making my chicken but I think I was supposed to sit down first. Oh well, it all worked out in the end. After a few language barrier issues when he asked what kind of salad I wanted (I thought he was just asking if I wanted a salad) it was all taken care of.

I ended up getting tajine chicken with a Moroccan salad (cucumber, tomato and onion) with some bread to soak up all the juices in the tajine. The tajine itself had chicken, hard boiled eggs, olives, onion, carrot and possibly tomato all cooked in a broth. All of the spices and food mix together and turn nice and soft so it's almost like eating a thick soup. Very very good with all the spices they use too. The entire meal only cost me about $5.50 too.

I wanted to pick up a few things to bring back to the hotel but the shops I saw earlier had shut down for the day so I just came back to the hotel.

My first impressions of Tangier... It's not quite as crazy as I thought it might be, but I've only just seen a little glimpse of it. I'm sure I'll be blown away when I actually enter the labyrinth of the medina with all of its zigzagging and narrow streets. It's interesting to have the heavy arabic influences here as well as the prayer towers coming alive and broadcasting prayers at random times of the day.
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Beach in Tangier
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Camels on the beach
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Tajine Chicken
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Panorama from rooftop of Dar El Kasbah hotel

Preparing for Morocco

Friday, November 8, 2013 @ 11:21 pm from Spain Spain
Day 135

I didn't really do much today. I had to switch rooms in the hostel so I hung out in the dining room working, reading and eating for the first half of the day. I went out after lunch to get some breakfast and lunch for tomorrow as well as some pasta and pasta sauce for dinner.

I've been trying to finish the first Game of Thrones book before heading to Morocco but I don't think it'll happen. I've still got about 100 pages left so I'll probably take it with me to finish in Tangier. I'll probably grab another book from the hostel here to hold me over for the week.

After dinner I was drinking my wine and talking with some of the other travelers here. I went out and picked up a couple beers that were actually pretty good. They tasted like a Blue Moon. For 45 cents a can you can't really go wrong either. A bunch of them are planning on heading out but since I've got to get up and head to the airport kinda early tomorrow I declined.

I was trying to figure out how much the taxi from the airport to my hotel in Tangier will be but I haven't really figured it out yet. I'm assuming it'll be about 30 dollars or so but I guess we'll find out. The hotel offers a huge breakfast for about 5 euros which looked really good so I'll probably do that at least a few of the mornings.

I'm pretty excited to head to the African continent but at the same time I'm a little apprehensive about how the city might be. I'm not sure if it'll be overwhelming or not. I guess I'll find out tomorrow!

I can get used to these beach days

Thursday, November 7, 2013 @ 08:13 pm from Spain Spain
Day 134

Since one of the guys in my dorm room was a crazy loud snorer I put in some of my heavy duty ear plugs last night and slept like a champ. After breakfast I packed a sandwich for lunch and headed down to the beach again.

I got down there and found a spot in the shade on some grass overlooking the beach where I ate lunch and read for a while. For some reason there are flies all over Barcelona. No matter where I go to read or relax outside there are flies constantly landing on me.

Another thing I noticed today was all of the people trying to sell you crap (coconuts, beers, drinks, massages, blankets, etc) when you're relaxing by the beach. It's pretty annoying when you're trying to read or eat and people keep coming up to you asking if you want a massage or to buy a coke. Eventually I just put my headphones in and pretended like I couldn't hear them and eventually they'd move on.

I moved a few spots along the beach to read and alternate between sun and shade. By 3pm I started to head back to the hostel to shower and get some dinner cooking. I still had some chicken and a red pepper left over from last night so before showering I went out and got some more asparagus to make another good meal.

After dinner I've just been working on my computer. I had a few bugs to fix on ClearCheckbook and I also booked the hostels for the rest of my Europe trip! Rather than try to visit a bunch of places in Spain and make the last month of my travels a nightmare of trains and buses, I decided to spend my time in a few places.

After Morocco I fly back to Barcelona where I'll spend 2 nights. After that I'll head down to Valencia for a week. From there I'll take a train to Seville where I'll be for 10 nights. From there I can do easy day trips to several places. Next up I'll head to Cordoba for 6 nights before finally heading to Madrid for the remaining 5 nights of my trip.

I was thinking about trying to head over to Portugal but amazingly enough there are very few trains and buses that go there from Spain. I'd have to take night trains back and forth and rather than deal with that kind of nonsense I decided I'll save Portugal for another trip.

Beer by the beach

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 @ 09:06 pm from Spain Spain
Day 133

Not much to report today. I didn't set an alarm and woke up pretty late (9:45am). I got news that Callie isn't going to be able to make it to Morocco due to some medical reasons which is a shame. I ended up doing some last minute hotel booking and found an extremely highly rated hotel in Tangier for not much more than I pay for some hostels. I'll be staying there for the week instead of trying to head farther south to Marrakech.

After lunch I went down to the beach to have some beer and relax. It was a perfect day with no wind and hardly any clouds. I found a spot in the shade and read for a while before coming back to the hostel. On the way back I stopped and picked up some bread, cheese, wine and chorizo since a bunch of us were planning on going up to Montjuic to watch the sunset tonight.

Everyone ended up kinda doing their own thing so we didn't end up going up to the mountain for sunset so I just hung out at the hostel before getting hungry for dinner. The stuff I bought for the picnic didn't really sound like a full dinner so I went out and got some chicken, asparagus and a red pepper and made another concoction with all of that and the spice mix I'm still carrying around from Italy. I had some of the bread and wine and it ended up being a really nice dinner.

I talked with some of the people I was going to do the picnic with after eating and I think they're all planning on going out bar crawling. I'm not really feeling that so I'll just stay here tonight. The hostel is also completely filled up tonight since apparently a hostel around the corner shut down and there's a big football game here tonight.

I'm trying to figure out how I want to spend the last month of my trip when I get back from Morocco. I'm debating whether I should spend more time in Barcelona before heading down to Valencia and then Seville. I'm pretty much of the mindset now that spending more time in one place is the way to go but I do want to see more of Spain than just Barcelona and Madrid (where I'm flying home from).

Gaudi's Park Guell

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 @ 07:54 pm from Spain Spain
Day 132

Since the internet was down most of yesterday and all night I stayed up late talking with some other travelers about all of our adventures, our favorite places, suggestions, etc. I ended up in bed around 12:30 and got up some time around 8:45.

I took the morning slow again. After eating the wifi was still down so I went out to a park nearby where I found the city of Barcelona has a free wifi hotspot. I checked some email then picked up some more bread for lunch and toast since the bread I had started to go bad.

After lunch I started the hike up to Park Guell. It's a giant park up on a big hill that Gaudi designed back in the early 1900's. A large portion of the park is free to enter but the area with some of the most iconic sculptures and buildings require an 8 euro fee which I didn't want to pay. The paid area was filled with other tourists and tour groups and the free area was pretty open.

I walked around and admired some of the crazy designs and read in the park for a bit. There were people trying to sell cheap souvenirs all over the place which was a bit of a shame since it seemed like there were more of them than there were actual visitors enjoying the park.

I hung out there for a couple hours before starting back to the hostel. The walk back was all downhill which was nice. I wanted some more asparagus or some green beans to go with dinner but it was siesta time so most of the markets were closed. I saw one big veggie market but they didn't have any green beans or asparagus.

For dinner I went out and got some kind of pizza bread and ate it with peas and corn. When I bought the pizza I was able to do it in Spanish, but there were no prices listed for anything. I was assuming it would be about 3 euros for the piece so I had that change ready. The lady said cinco (5) and for some reason my brain forgot all the Spanish I knew and I thought she said 3. After a quick confusion session I figured it out and went on my way. I was doing so well too!

I bought some wine so I'll probably drink some of it tonight and read some more. Tomorrow's weather looks like it'll be the best all week so I'm planning on doing another beach day.
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A “Do nothing” day in Barcelona

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 @ 12:45 pm from Spain Spain
Day 131

The forecast was calling for rain and overcast skies today so I wasn’t really planning on doing much. After eating breakfast I went out to the grocery to pick up a few things and then I got rained on so I came back to the hostel.

Rather than deal with crappy weather I just stayed at the hostel where I worked and read the majority of the day. One of the nice things about being in one place for more than a few days is you don’t really feel bad about not spending the entire day out exploring the city.

It’s weird how as a traveler you feel the need to constantly be out exploring even when back home you have days where you don’t really do anything and you don’t feel bad about it. When you’re in an exciting city half way across the world you also feel like you need to be out experiencing the culture and seeing the sights. Taking a day off is a strange feeling but it’s necessary.

For dinner I didn’t really feel like cooking tonight so I went out for a stuffed pita then bought a bottle of wine for the night. I read for a while then talked with some other travelers. The hostel made some tapas and several of us sat around a big table enjoying them. My favorite was some kind of potato cake made with eggs. Basically you cut up some potatoes into cubes, fry them, smash them and then scramble some eggs and mix it together and cook it over low heat. You can mix in chorizo, chicken or whatever else sounds good.

The internet died again at the hostel which is turning into quite the pain. I just ended up reading and talking with other travelers since the internet was down until this morning.

A long walk in Barcelona

Sunday, November 3, 2013 @ 08:02 pm from Spain Spain
Day 130

The weather was calling for a chance of rain all day but when I got up it was nice and sunny out. I ate breakfast and then hung out at the hostel until lunch. After eating I headed out to go see some of Gaudi's buildings in Barcelona. There are two of them not too far away so I headed over there.

Being a Sunday afternoon the streets were pretty empty which was nice. Most of the shops were closed for the day aside from the streetside cafes where people were eating. I went up Passeig de Gracia and saw Casa Batilo and La Pedrera. I think I liked Casa Batilo better since it was more colorful and a little more wildly decorated.

After checking those buildings out I was debating going up to Park Guell which has a lot more of Gaudi's designs but I figured it would be a madhouse on Sunday. Instead I headed west toward Plaza Espana and the National Palace. It was a bit of a walk to get there but Barcelona is really good about having tree lined pedestrian friendly streets.

The plaza was packed full of people in costumes. At first I didn't know what was going on and figured it might be a late Halloween party or something but then I started seeing signs for a comicon style event. I was pretty shocked at how many people were actually waiting to get into the big convention center.

From there I walked south through some really nice gardens and fountains to a great view at the steps of the National Palace. The palace is pretty close to Montjuic where I was taking photos the other day and had a similar, although not as elevated, view. I took some photos then walked around a bit more with the intention of seeing the Telefonica tower.

It's a pretty crazy looking tower and I didn't realize I was so close to it the other day when I was up on Montjuic. It was only a short walk from the palace so I went over and took some photos. At first I thought you could go up to the top but after looking at it more I realized it's just a crazy looking tower without any kind of viewing deck up there.

The area with the tower is where the 1992 Summer Olympics were held and now it's a big open area where people were playing frisbee or lounging around enjoying the weather. The weather was starting to look a little shaky so I decided to head back into town.

I took some cross streets that brought me through some nice small streets filled with tapas bars and cafes and finally dumped out on the busy tourist street La Rambla. It was packed with tourists so I cut over into the Gothic quarter and cut around until making it back to the hostel. All said and done I walked around 9.5 miles today. I wasn't really expecting that long of a walk but it felt good to be out in the nice weather. Back at the hostel I read for a little while before getting overtaken with hunger.

I'm not sure if it's because my breakfasts and lunches aren't substantial enough or if it's all the walking I'm doing, but I've been getting really hungry at night so I eat dinner early, but then when it's time for bed I'm hungry again. I wanted to keep that from happening so I made a huge dinner with chicken, pasta, asparagus and bread. It turned out really good and I'm really digging the asparagus/pasta combination lately.
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Casa Batilo in Barcelona
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La Pedrera (Casa Mila)
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Telefonica Tower
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National Palace

Another beach day

Saturday, November 2, 2013 @ 07:41 pm from Spain Spain
Day 129

I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do today and figured since it was Saturday and a nice day all of the main tourist sites would be packed. What better excuse to spend another day at the beach? I changed into some shorts and made the little journey down to the shore.

I went a little farther north than where I was yesterday and saw an area where bicyclists were playing some sort of hockey game. It was pretty impressive to see them using sticks to hit a ball around all while staying on their bikes. It was some sort of tournament that attracted quite a few onlookers.

After watching that for a bit I found some steps by the sand and read for a while. After a few hours I decided it was time to get a beer. There are a lot of little huts along the beach that are filled with people so I figured the beers had to be cheap. Nope. I checked it out and a beer was 7 euros. Instead of paying crazy prices I walked south to where I was yesterday and went into a little market and bought two beers for 2.20 euros total. I found a wifi hotspot and drank the beers while watching the ocean.

After finishing the beers I read for a little while longer before it started to cool down and I came back to the hostel. This morning before going to the beach I ran out and did some grocery shopping and picked up some chicken for dinner. I had some broccoli and half a red pepper that some people didn't want so I mixed all of that together and cooked it with some garlic and the spice mix I've been carrying around since Italy. It came out really good.

Relaxing by the beach in Barcelona

Friday, November 1, 2013 @ 11:20 pm from Spain Spain
Day 128

The Halloween party at the hostel was pretty good last night. They had some free snacks and gave everyone a free shot. I had bought a liter of beer at the grocery for 1.35 euros and drank that at the party. Some people were playing card games so I joined in for a few rounds. By the time it got to midnight I decided to head up and try to get some sleep. I had done quite a bit of walking during the day and then when you add in the booze I was pretty tired.

I didn't set an alarm this morning and was pretty shocked when I actually slept in until around 9:45. Unfortunately when I woke up the internet was down so I couldn't check email, weather or any of my normal morning routine. I had some toast and then hung around in the hostel until after lunch. Internet was still down so I figured I'd go to the beach and read for the afternoon to get some fresh air and check out that part of town.

As soon as I was leaving the internet started working again so I took a few minutes to very quickly answer a few emails before setting out. I walked down a really nice palm tree lined pedestrian area past the Arc de Triomf toward the Barcelona Zoo. Near there I cut around the train station and followed the big promenade near the marina to the beach.

Along the way there were a row of street vendors selling random food. I saw some 3 for €5 empanadas so I got one with chicken, one with beef and one with bacon and cheese. They were all really good but I think I liked the bacon and cheese one the best. I had finished them by the time I got to the beach.

Today was some sort of government holiday so a lot of the shops were closed down and people were out enjoying the amazing weather. It felt a lot like walking around the Manhattan Beach area of LA. People at beach side cafes enjoying drinks and food as well as tons of people out walking the big wide sidewalks along the beach.

I stopped a few times to read some of my Game of Thrones book. There were a few open wifi hotspots provided by the city of Barcelona so I stopped a few times to quickly use it. It was a bit too chilly to want to get out and walk through the sand barefoot but there were a lot of people chilling on the beach and even a few crazy people in the water swimming.

I walked up and down most of the big stretch of beach and all said and done ended up walking a little over 6 miles round trip from the hostel. It started to cool down a bit so I came back to the hostel and showered. I found an onion and a chili pepper in the free food section so I quietly stowed them away in my bag to use for dinner. I ended up using those plus some garlic and pasta for dinner. It turned out pretty good and filled me up nicely.

It's Friday night and the big groups of partiers are starting to show up unfortunately. That, plus the internet still being down since I returned from the beach made me decide to head up to the room to read a bit and watch some shows I had downloaded to my computer earlier in the week.

They seem to have fixed the internet problem so I'm trying to quickly upload all my photos and blog post as well as answer emails in case it goes down again.
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Beach in Barcelona
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Port Olympic

Montjuic and Sagrada Familia

Thursday, October 31, 2013 @ 07:21 pm from Spain Spain
Day 127

Today I wanted to do some more exploring of Barcelona so I walked up to Montjuic castle which had great views of the entire city. It was about a 3 mile walk there and took about an hour which wasn't too bad. The entire hill side is one giant park with great views of the ocean and the city.

I brought lunch and ate it while looking over the city and then walked around the castle a bit more. It wasn't too busy up there until I left when a bunch of school groups all seemed to show up around the same time. I was trying to figure out what to do next and saw the Sagrada Familia out in the distance so I decided to check it out later.

On the way back I stopped in the Boqueria market and got a calzone that I'd eat for dinner and dropped it off at the hostel on my way to the Sagrada Familia. I wasn't planning on going in the church but instead wanted to see the exterior today. It was about a 15 minute walk from the hostel through some cool busy streets.

Unfortunately the church was under some heavy construction and was covered in scaffolding, netting and construction equipment. I'm thinking about going in later in the week but don't want to pay 12 euros if the interior is going to be all covered like the exterior is.

Back at the hostel I read for a bit and played around on the computer before heating up the calzone for dinner. The hostel is having a Halloween party tonight at 8 so I'll check it out and see what it's like. with a couple hours to go it seems like it might be a good turnout so I'll hang around and see.

My photos are taking a while to upload so I'll add them to the post later tonight or tomorrow morning.
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Enjoying some Italian wine out of a plastic cup on the old city walls in Lucca. #lucca #europetrip2013
Trdelnik. A hollow cinnamon roll that's heated over coals. #prague #europetrip2013 #trdelnik
Cheaters way to the top via train. #snowdonia #europetrip2013
Huge rose bouquet and memorial at the Alexandra Gardens. #cardiff #europetrip2013
Drinking whisky on the River Ouse in York. #europetrip2013
Canals in Amsterdam. #amsterdam #europetrip2013
Why did it take me so long to get to Italy? Warm weather. Mountains. Amazing architecture. Great food and wine. This is great. #lucca #italy #europetrip2013
Christmas lights all over Seville! #navidad #sevilla #europetrip2013 #christmas
Rekorderlig hard cider on the beach overlooking Brighton pier. #brighton #rekorderlig #europetrip2013
Bumming off some McDonald's WiFi in Gent, Belgium. #gent #belgium #europetrip2013

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Where I've been:

Good Evening… Planet Earth
All the countries I visited on this trip (in yellow).

What's this about?

Traveling is something I've loved doing for as long as I can remember. I've been lucky enough to travel out of the US a few times but never longer than 2 weeks at a time. I decided that I should go see the world and experience all it has to offer. I booked a one-way ticket to Dublin, Ireland to depart on June 26, 2013. After I get to Europe I'll let serendipity take hold and see where I end up. No schedules and no itinerary… just go with the flow. That's as close to a plan as I'm making.

Who am I?

My name's Brandon O'Brien and I'm a travelholic. Before this journey I've been to 11 countries and put over 17,500 miles on various motorcycle trips through the USA and Canada. I'm a self-employed web developer so I'm fortunate enough to be able to work anywhere there's an internet connection. That's what truly made this experience possible.

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