Back to Spain we flew! Barcelona was gorgeously unreal, creatively genius, inspirational.
We loved seeing Antoni Gaudi’s many works of art and architecture throughout the city, with the icing on the cake being the Sagrada Familia, which is still under construction with the end date forecasted for 2026 (one hundred years after his death).
And of course the delicious tapas!!!
We spent 4 hours on 2 trains to get from Barcelona to Cuenca. This town is famous for its ‘hanging houses’. It reminded me of Ronda, Spain.
With it’s steep cobblestone streets, hanging houses, beautiful views of limestone cliffs and the town’s unique home made liquor, this is a perfect place to relax just an hour from Madrid. Salud!
Portugal charmed us with it’s medieval castles, brightly painted towns, delicious wine and port, morello cherry liquor (ginjinha) served in edible chocolate cups and fresh seafood.
This palace in Sintra looks like a fairytale but it’s construction actually began in the Middle Ages as a monastery. It’s current appearance is due to the work commissioned by King Ferdinand II. The inside rooms have been restored to how they were in 1910 when Queen Amelia stayed there before fleeing to Brazil.
The coastal town of Nazare hosts the Big Wave Surf Competition every winter between October and February. Some of the world’s largest waves have been surfed here, including Garrett McNamara’s of 78 feet! We saw it on a mellower day :).
We rented a car to have the freedom to visit some northern towns and cities. We ended our tour in beautiful Porto, where the Douro River flows into the sea and you can taste the best port in the world!
Travel Tip – the road map for Portugal can sometimes look like spaghetti and time can warp when the mists reveal castle turrets in the woods. We followed the advice given in Yann Martel’s novel The High Mountains of Portugal and when the road got to us, we drank wine!
Our four day and three night Tanzanian Safari was amazing beyond my highest expectations. We witnessed The Great Migration, saw a Black Rhino (on the brink of extinction, only 20 left in Ngorongoro Crater), survived meeting a Black Mamba (second largest venomous snake in the world), and were 10 feet away from several lions at different encounters.
These photos were all taken on my iPhone so you can just imagine what beautiful pictures Ian was able to take with his good camera and zoom lens. Due to resizing issues alll photos on this blog have been from my iPhone.
Zanzibar, an island rich in history for the old slave market and world renown spices. Now you can watch the locals gathering seaweed during low tide which they sell for cosmetic use.
We knew that the the tide goes so far out in Jambiani that you can only swim during parts of the day. Instead of a hindrance this became one of the highlights of our trip. Not only for the fun of walking out and seeing baby eels, reef fish and sea stars but for the amazing culture of this area as women and men harvested the seaweed and carried it in huge bags on their heads.
There is a lot more to Zanzibar island than it’s warm turquoise water and powder sugar sand. You can experience spice farms, witch doctors, a huge seafood BBQ market in Stone Town, crazy full moon parties in Paje, mangroves and an endangered species. Introducing the Zanzibar Red Colobus monkey, who can only live in Zanzibar where it can find the 60+ different plant species it needs to survive.
You can see these adorable primates (who only have 4 fingers and no thumb) in Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park. There are also Sykes monkeys living in harmony with the Red Colobus.
Travel Tip- you’ll be approached by many different people selling tours. We rented a kayak with snorkel gear for $10 an hour (total for two) and did our own ‘snorkel tour’. Another day we rented a scooter for $25 and drove all around including Jozani Park ($10 each entrance fee) and the Butterfly Center ($5 each). Another important Travel Tip- there are NO ATM machines on the East side of the island, so get your shillings in Stone Town before your taxi ride across. Yes, it’s shillings, and it takes 2,000 to equal one US dollar (as of this writing) so be prepared for a little heart attack when you get your first bill (we had a fancy lunch that cost 89,000).
You will probably learn some Swahili phrases from the exuberant locals, and if nothing else sticks you will still walk away with ‘Jambo!’ (Hello). This is shouted by smiling children on the beach, shop keepers sitting in the shade, and every person you pass on the street or strolling down the white sands.