Posts Tagged 'trip'

Winter shots

Lest you think I’ve abandoned ship, I’m coming back to you with a photographic representation of 2013 so far on the Iberian peninsula. The crisis is deepening, but life goes on.

Winter holidays were in Portugal. We ate incredibly well, thanks in no small part to places like Cervejaria Ramiro and the generally amazing seafood and sweets the country has to offer.

cervejaria ramiro

Lisboa continues to enchant me.


And there are so many other parts of the country to explore. We spent time in the hills and villages of the Serra da Estrela before heading back to España.

serra da estrela

This winter was cold and snowy, to my complete delight. There’s nothing like being in the Parador de Gredos during a good snowfall

parador de gredos

and exploring the surrounding area without even getting in the car.

gredos snow

Hiking trips in Madrid were frequently foiled by bad weather (not for lack of snow!), but trips elsewhere proved successful. The Sierra de Aralar was in full splendor before the rains of March set in (and we escaped the continent!).


A nearby Navarran village provided an unexpected lesson in cheese-making at the hands of an artisan.

cheese-making in navarra

We were also rewarded with a spectacular weekend in the Montaña Palentina, where we could see over the whole expanse of the Picos de Europa from the top of Peña Prieta

desde la cima de peña prieta

and even got a bit of culture with an excellent guided tour at the ruins of a Roman villa in Saldaña.

villa romana la olmeda

Here’s to spring.

Why I don’t tire of Asturias

Mountains: The central massif and the Naranjo de Bulnes from the Puerto de Pandébano in Picos de Europa.

Food: Fabada asturiana. And that’s not to fill this post with pictures of everything we ate.

Coast: Playa de Torimbia, west of Llanes.

These photos are from a four-day trip we took to Asturias at the beginning of the month.

The last of the beach days

This is Bolonia, a small town with a stunning beach and a fantastic view of Morocco on the Costa de la Luz. It was formerly a Roman settlement called Baelo Claudia, and has the ruins to prove it. We swam, explored the dunes, and ate fish there this month during a long weekend in Cádiz. We spent the rest of the time in Cádiz capital, where we were happy sleeping at Pensión España, breakfasting with churros and the locals at La Marina, and tapeando in the Barrio de la Viña, especially at El Faro.

Second impressions about Morocco


Morocco doesn’t deceive. It pleasantly surprises, reaffirms my belief in the fundamental goodness of humankind. It smiles, frequently. Laughs easily. Looks you in the eye when speaking. Is unhurried. Piles on motorbikes and weave through traffic, clad in sandals but not in helmets.

A glass of freshly squeezed orange juice is sold for what it’s worth — as little as 30 cents in Marrakesh and just one euro in a mountain hut. Toilets are uncomplicated — generally a pretty clean white hole and a bucket of water. Tea is the national drink. People both rise and go to bed early. This country knows what’s going on.

Discoveries made on this trip:

beachThe town of Moulay Bousselham. Perched on a steep embankment overlooking a gorgeous long sandy beach, the town has one main street and no banks. It’s spitting distance from a lake that’s famous for its flocks of migratory birds, and thus has a handful of places to stay and two campgrounds. We loved its market lane, where we found delicious rolled bread snacks and jackknife clams fresh from the Atlantic at a price unthinkable in Spain.

refugeRefuge du Toubkal (3,207 m / 10,521 ft). My experience in mountain huts is limited since I’m usually carrying a tent. But when you’re planning a significant ascent, huts offer a certain ease of mind. Almanzor’s Refugio Elola had been my most recent hut experience: surly caretaker, some not very nice holes in the ground for toilets, and too many rules. The Refuge du Toubkal was a welcome change. This hut seems to operate on the familiar Moroccan principle of organized chaos. At first glance things appear to be supremely disorganized and unregulated, but then everything sort of falls into place. toubkalThe bathrooms were clean, rooms were big with lots of natural light, and there was a sort of pervasive good mood about the place, which in no doubt stemmed from the smiley, singing Moroccan staff under the direction of Ibrahim, tall and dark with a killer smile and a firm handshake. When the mountains’ shadows extended across the hut’s roof, the guests (Spanish, Italian, English, German, French …) piled into the dining room to play games, chat, and drink tea. In those very close quarters, people were cordial, climbing stories were exchanged, and pretension dissolved into the thin air.

asilah-wallsIt’s the simple things in life that are best. On our first evening in Morocco, we sat down in front of a café facing the 15th-century walls of Asilah and ordered mint tea. Deciding we were hungry, one of our group slipped across the street and bought a couple loaves of bread from a vendor and some fresh goat’s cheese from a man with a cart. That impromptu picnic tasted so good that we talked about it for the rest of the week. Now I wonder if it was the food and drink that was so delicious, or the combination of the eating and drinking, the sun setting on the city’s walls, and the feeling of empowerment that accompanies the start of any adventure.


I explain my reasons for posting about Morocco in a blog about Spain in my previous Morocco post.

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