Category: Itinerary Series

Itinerary Series: Morocco

A journey to Morocco requires the following characteristics in a traveler:

1.  The ability to keep your wits about you as your mind is assaulted with a flurry of sensory experiences.  Fragrant odors wafting from every street vendor and spice market, constant commentary from the street tout that will follow you relentlessly throughout town and high pressure sales pitches to buy ‘beautiful carpets’.

2.  A willingness to change your itinerary at some point or multiple points during your trip as dictated by your bowels.

3.  An appreciation for the stillness that will come, after you’ve watched the sunset over a Saharan dune and are relaxing under the starry sky.

Morocco is a country rich in culture and culinary experiences, not to mention fascinating shopping adventures.  We traveled to Morocco in 2007 using the 2 week itinerary below but I will recommend a shorter duration when traveling with children.  The experience will be amazing but perhaps a bit intense for long periods of time.  If I return with my daughter, I would go to Marrakesh and stay in a hotel in the Ville Nouvelle or Hivernage area that has a swimming pool.  It is still close enough to the medina that you could walk or take a quick taxi ride in to see the snake charmers and performers at the  Djemaa-el-Fna.  At night the stalls sell all types of food, but some fun ones for kids to see would include the goats heads.  Marrakesh has lots of culture and educational experiences but it also has waterparks and camel rides to keep the kids happy.  After Marrakesh, I would fly to Ouarzazate and arrange a camel trek and overnight in a tented camp in the desert.

For those who are interested in a 2 week itinerary, here it is:

Day 1- International flights from North America, often arrive in Casablanca.  If you can get one to Fes directly, I would recommend it.
Rent a Car in Casablanca ( airport ).  Drive to Fes. Stay at Dar Roumana in the Qarmosa Suite.  Fes is an ancient labyrinth where you can enjoy getting lost as you walk past interesting stalls and shops.  There are some good restaurants and you can visit a tannery to see where they dye the leather. 

Day 2
Transfer to Batha Hotel in Fes.  (Dar Roumana was beautiful but booked the other 2 nights.  Batha Hotel was very basic but had a swimming pool and a better location for walking at night.) Spend your time getting lost in the medina, shopping along the way and sampling some food.

Day 3-6
Drive from Fes to Merzouga.  Pass through the middle Altas mountains, stop in Ifrane, a town that looks like it should be in Switzerlimg_0663_editedand.  Continue on to drive through beautiful palmeries until you reach the desert.  Stay at Kasbah Derkaoua for 2 nights and spend one night in bivouac under stars in desert after a camel trek to get there.

Day 6
Drive through Todra Gorge and do some hiking.  Stay overnight  outside Ouazarzate at Chez Talout.  The dining terrace overlooked a palmerie, riverbed and village which we enjoyed walking through the next day.  

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Day 7

Drive from Ouazarzate to Marrakesh
1 night at Riad Nejma Lounge (this riad was a bit far away from the main tourist areas but nice place to stay).  Shop, dine and be entertained at Djemaa El-Fna, wander the medina, visit medersas and view mosques.

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Day 8
Transfer to Jnane Mogador in Marrakesh 2 nights

Day 10
Atlas Mountains – hiking and camping ( this part of our trip had to be cancelled due to gastrointestinal upset)

Day 12-14

Drive to the Atlantic coast, visit the town of Essaouira.  Continue on to Oualidia and stay at Hotel-Restaurant L’initiale.  Relax on the beach and enjoy meals of fresh seafood served by locals on the beach or at nearby restaurants.

Day 14- Drive back to Casablanca for return flight home.

Travel to Portugal: Itinerary Series

Portugal is a great option if you are looking for  a vacation that can combine independent travel with some resort and/or beach time.  Throughout the country you will find medieval castles, white-wash countryside villages, vineyards, outdoor adventure opportunities along with cosmopolitan cities that still maintain an old-world flare.  The Algarve region boasts some of the most picturesque beaches in the world set amidst ochre cliffs and myriad of relaxing resorts.  Although it maintains many historic and cultural sights, you will also find modern amusement parks, aquariums, playgrounds and more to give your vacation a balance that your children will be craving.  At a minimum, I would recommend this 15 day itinerary to cover Lisbon and the southern half of the country.  Accomodations are in the moderate price range but have been chosen to get the best experience for your money.

Day 1:  Arrive at Lisbon Airport via international flight.   Take a taxi to your accommodations.  We rented an apartment through www.travelingtolisbon.com.  Apartment 85 was great for our family in a good location with a beautiful terrace but there are many options to choose from.

Day 1-5:  Sightseeing in Lisbon.  Take time to wander through the various neighborhoods.  The Alfama district is difficult to navigate with a stroller as there are lots of steps, so I recommend a backpack carrier for your small children.  The Oceanarium at Parque das Nacoes is a highlight for all ages.  Try to be there on a Tuesday or Saturday, so that you can go to the flea market ‘Feira da Ladra’ in Alfama

Day 5:  Take taxi back to airport to pick up Rental car.   Drive 90 minutes to the village of Estremoz.  Stay at Monte dos Pensamentos (www.secretplaces.com) in an apartment that will sleep four.  They also have a baby cot available if needed.  Tel # 011-351-268-333-166.  Relax at the pool, wander the property to see various farm animals and vegetation.  Visit the village or pre-arrange a tour of the local vineyard- J. Portugal Ramos-vinhos.

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Day 6: Drive to Vila Vicosa and tour the castle and village.  We stayed overnight at www.pensaopolicarpo.com tel # 011-35-266-702-424.  It was a basic hotel at a good price in a great location.  They are able to provide extra beds and baby cots but may not be suitable for large families.

Day 7: Tour the town of Evora.  Take your children to the park.  Visit the standing stones, Almendres Cromlech on your drive south.  Drive to Lagos ( 218 km ) via toll highways for the quickest route.

Day 7-14:  Stay at www.clubeportomos.com tel # 011-351-282-790-550 in Lagos in the Algarve region.  Take day trips to Sagres, Lagos Zoo and/or Zoo Marine theme park.  Take a boat trip to see the grottos and sea caves.  Walk the historic part of town ( lots of children’s toy and clothing shops) and kids can take a spin on the carousel.  The beaches are beautiful and there are cliff top hiking trails from the resort all the way to town.  There is also an indoor pool, gym, sauna and jacuzzi and games room for rainy days at this resort.

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Day 14:  Drive via toll highway back to Sintra.  Allow approximately 5 hours for the drive.  Stay at www.casadovalle.com tel # 011 (+351) 91 937 1622.  There is a set of 2 adjoining rooms that can be rented for larger families.  They also have a crib available.  Tour castles  (Palacio da Pena and Castelo dos Mouros are the 2 most impressive), gardens, walking trails.

Day 15:  More time in Sintra.   Try to arrange flight departing in the late evening or stay another night in Sintra.  Drive to the airport to drop off rental car. (30 minutes)

I hope you enjoy your trip and can find this blog entry useful.  Everybody has different interests, however I think this can give you a starting point.  Please check out the websites for each destination to see if it looks like a fit for your family.  For background information on this series, please see Introduction: Itinerary Series.


Introduction: Itinerary Series

Travel is ninety percent anticipation and ten percent recollection. – Edward Strecter.

This will be my first entry in a series of ‘Itineraries’ that I will share on my blog.  Over the years, I have spent countless hours researching destinations in order to create the perfect trip for my husband, friends or family.  It is always a lot of work, but one of my favorite parts of travel.  In theory, it would sometimes be nice to just hop on a plane and wait to see what treasures we will find and experiences we will have.  If I was planning a year to wander the world, I might actually consider this option.  In reality, we always have a limited supply of time and money, so I want to make sure we make the most out of what we have.  I don’t want to waste time, searching for a place to stay or backtracking because we missed a major landmark or a beautiful piece of scenery.  I also like to avoid tension on the road, when we take a wrong turn ( which will inevitably happen anyway and always still turns out to be a good experience in the long run).  I don’t want to exchange words with my husband when neither of us understand the subway system or how to find a taxi in a foreign land.  So… I plan.  I google, I read forums, I stake out the travel section at our local book store.  I don’t stop until I have maps memorized, found places to stay that will enhance our cultural experience without breaking the bank and figured out the easiest way to get from point A to B.  Now that we are traveling with a child, the planning becomes even more intense.   I make sure that we can take a stroller everywhere we need to go, that there will be places to stop for diaper changes, meals and naps, and that there will be activities that she will enjoy as much as we do.  Then I ensure that there will be a way for us to continue our holiday after she has gone to bed that night by indulging in some good food and a regional bottle of wine.

I love this part of travel, the anticipation and planning, but realize that many people do not.  For that reason, I am going to start a series, that will detail past itineraries and include recommendations for traveling with children.  These are meant to be used as a guide when planning your trip, however, please keep in mind that some details may have changed since the time of writing.  I always suggest booking in advance and where possible, I will provide website addresses to do so.  Enjoy!


 

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