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A Surprise Getaway to Paris and Morocco

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Chris  had told me to request the days for vacation so the only thing I knew was how long we were going to be gone. It was two days before Christmas and I knew our flight was that day, I was to leave work early to come home for “the big reveal” as we called it. I had no idea what I was going to be packing. Were we headed to the Alps on a skiing adventure? To somewhere warm in South America? Maybe Exuma for some sailing? I had been giddy for weeks on end. It was torturous not knowing where we were going but also exhilarating. I know it might have driven some people mad, but I was loving it. There’s nothing better than a good surprise. (photo source)

The day of our departure I arrived home from the office and Chris sat me down on the couch. He handed me two wrapped gifts. Opening the gifts I found two travel guides, one of Paris and one of Morocco. Then came the tears. I was overjoyed. I was finally getting the chance to go to Paris; Morocco was somewhere I had dreamed of going since I was a child– 5 days in Paris followed by 10 days in  Morocco.  I was handed a glass of champagne and told to start packing (and was only allowed my carry-on suitcase). I somehow managed to get outfits that I knew I could pull off in Paris packed alongside what I would need for traveling through Marrakech, surfing in Agadir and hiking the Atlas Mountains. (photo sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)

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We arrived at the airport with time to spare then boarded our flight without any issues. We called family to say we were on the flight and to wish everyone the best for the holidays, we’d return with stories to share from our adventure and see everyone soon. We were ready to go. After sitting on the plane for some time, still at the gate, the pilot came on over the loudspeaker to inform us that we were going to have to deplane. There was something wrong with a fuel line or some other maintenance issue that they would fix and then we’d be boarded again and on our way. This didn’t sound good.

Long story short, after hours and hours of delays the flight was cancelled until the next day. Then that rescheduled flight was cancelled. We were able to get a new flight through another airline but had lost two of our days in Paris. We arrived in Paris on Christmas eve day and had less than 72 hours to make the absolute most of our time in the city. We strolled, we ate, we saw as many sites as we could, sipped on plenty of french wine. My first time in Paris was as memorable as I’d hoped it to be. I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t. While Chris slept I sat with the French windows open looking at the beautiful view of the rows of town homes and apartments, the city lights, eating bread and cheese and sipping on french wine. To me the city was more perfect than I had ever imagined it could be.

We stayed at the Hotel Duminy Vendôme. Per usual, we hardly spent any time whatsoever at the hotel so it served our needs just fine. The options are endless in Paris when it comes to hotels. The luxury is limitless but you can certainly also find options that don’t hit the wallet so hard.  When I was in Paris this past October with girlfriends we went the AirBnB route which was fantastic. Having your own little pied a terre while in Paris can’t be beat and is what I’ll do for accommodations when back in the city of lights in the future. hotel-duminy-vendome-paris-facade-011

The next stage of our adventure was taking us to Morocco. I couldn’t believe that I was on my way to a place I had always dreamed of visiting. When we landed we were met by our guide who would be escorting us through the country for the next 10 days. We spent 3 days exploring Marrakech to start and stayed in a traditional riad where we were the only guests. There are incredible options in Marrakech and staying in a riad is the way to go if you’re looking for a more authentic Moroccan experience. If you prefer a larger hotel, such as the Four Seasons, you certainly have the option. Staying in a traditional riad in my opinion gives you more of a sense of what it might be like to live as a local so that would be my suggestion. The prices are surprisingly very affordable. Various options can be found here. They are fully staffed just as any other hotel would be. Le Jardin d’Abdou is a beautiful and tranquil choice.

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After exploring the souks (Moroccan markets), historic sites, drinking plenty of Moroccan mint tea and eating our way through the city it was time to depart for the coast. We were headed for 4 days of surfing in Agadir. Chris knows how to surf and it was something I had always wanted to learn. Agadir is a very popular locale for surfers from the south of France in the winter months so we thought it would be a great place for me to learn (Morocco in general is a popular destination for Parisians in the winter we also learned). Unfortunately I wasn’t as much of a natural at surfing as I thought I’d be. Natural abilities aside, it could also be attributed to the fact that the instructor and I were completely incapable of communicating. We had been assured that I’d be given an english speaking instructor but alas, Jacques only spoke french, so the only thing I really got out of the lessons was “oui” if I was doing something sort of correctly and “no” whenever I fell off the board.

Then there was the issue of my unfamiliarity with wearing a wetsuit. I didn’t realize that the one I had been given was a size or more too big. Not until after my lips starting turning blue and my shivering became out of control did I realize that the water making it’s way under the wetsuit wasn’t supposed to be getting in at all. I spent the rest of the trip with a respiratory infection that we treated with some meds we picked up roadside (looking back it might not have been the most sound decision we’ve ever made). There was no way I was going to let what felt like pneumonia get in the way  of my dream trip. (photo sources: 1, 2,  3, 4)

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The Riad Villa Blanche is certainly a perfect place to stay in Agadir. A little extra comfort after a long day of lessons would be welcomed I assure you.

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Leaving Agadir, my surfing skills not much more improved than prior to arriving in Morocco, we set out for the Atlas Mountains. Our one regret from this trip is that we didn’t spend more time in this region. Had we known how much we were going to love it we probably would have done a day less of surfing and instead gotten in some more hiking and exploring of the mountain range. Our guide explained to us how the residents of Marrakech will flock to the mountains in the summer months. It is simply too hot to go to the beaches in summer, which is why people surf there in December instead, and everyone heads for the hills. The local villagers in the mountains are mostly of the Berber tribe. Their jewelry, weaving skills and food are famous around the world. If you are planning to purchase something special to bring home with you from a trip to Morocco I would suggest buying something from the Berbers. To be assured the item is authentic buy it from one of their villages in the hills.

We stayed at the Kasbah Du Toubkal in the village of Imlil. The only other guests were two other Americans. We all dined together that night and it being as small of a world as it is, the other female guest was the blogger Erica Domesek of P.S. I Made This… who I was a huge fan of. Of all the places to meet, a random Kasbah in the hills of the Atlas Mountains. Chris and I hiked the day after arriving and it was beautiful, although my lungs didn’t necessarily agree. I was still fighting the sickness from my wetsuit mishap so the hike was a little harder on me than it would have been otherwise. A guide is definitely a necessity if you’re planning to hike and it’s certainly not a walk in the park. Be prepared to scale various 20 foot wooden ladders up some flat faces of sheer rock in order to keep climbing.

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Although the trip didn’t necessarily go off without a hitch, it was my favorite vacation that we’ve gone on. Partly due to the surprise of it all but also because I got to two places in one trip that I had longed to visit for as long as I’ve loved to travel. Every girl dreams of getting to Paris. The last thing I wanted to be is another cliché when it comes to Paris but c’est la vie. I loved it, I do love it, I want to go back one hundred more times. And Morocco, it’s hard for me to find the words. It is such a beautiful, complex and intriguing country. I am so thankful that we had the opportunity to explore different regions while we were there. Having had the chance to see city, beach and mountains brought forward the beauty of the country that much more. Morocco was my first experience in a dominantly Muslim country, my first time hearing the call to prayer, covering up a little more than usual in public so as not to offend anyone, learning what I could of arabic to be polite. We visited two countries where we didn’t speak the language, didn’t understand all of the customs. I’ve never been more blissfully uncomfortable if that can be such a a thing. We were forced out of our comfort zones the entire trip and I loved every minute of it.

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