Porto is a treasure trove of culinary delights, not only because of its famous port wine. I tried not one, but two francesinhas. There are also less widely known local delicacies to discover, such as the sande de pernil.
Lisbon is the first place I’ve tried Portuguese food, and I’ve become a fan! Each region has its own specialties, and Lisbon offers a lion’s share of different kinds of seafood. It’s also where pastéis de nata were invented by the monks of Jerónimos Monastery.
The capital of Portugal, Lisbon is home to over 500,000 residents. It’s also home to many gorgeous sights if you don’t mind walking up and down the hills to see them. I felt at home: living in San Francisco makes me no stranger to frequent changes in altitude. Don’t worry: you’ll be rewarded for your efforts at any of the many miradouros (i.e., viewpoints).
Would I fly with them again?
I’m pretty lukewarm about it, but yeah, I would.
Marrakesh, the fourth largest city in Morocco, has a plethora of options when it comes to local cuisine. A word of caution: don’t get the “fresh” orange juice from Jemaa el-Fnaa Square. The fierce competition has forced prices down to rock bottom (4 dirhams), which also means the vendors are coming up with clever ways to reduce their costs (e.g., using powders or concentrates). Instead, go to a restaurant or juice bar: yes, you’ll pay at least 15 Dh, but at least you’ll be getting a higher quality product.
Almost a straight shot west from Marrakesh, Essaouira is an ocean-side city that is a key port of Morocco. As you might expect, there’s tons of seafood available here. The medina is also a smaller, more approachable, and laid back version of the one in Marrakesh. Here’s what I tried around this town.
In early October, I took a four-day, three-night Sahara Desert tour. Unfortunately, lunch was always at restaurants designed for tourists. No locals would eat at these places, and they served dishes of mediocre quality at best. But the prices were at least twice that of what you’d pay in Marrakesh. I’ll just leave this post here for future reference.
Most of what I got to see in Morocco involved the Sahara Desert, but I also spent a couple of days by the ocean in Essaouira and a few days inland in Marrakesh. I have mixed feelings about this country: if you think America is racist and sexist, you might be thankful that you don’t live in Morocco after you visit. But it is also a very different place if you’re looking to get away from the familiar.
Only after a quarter of a year away from my home country, I realize that there are certain things I took for granted. Here’s a short list of things that are true in the US of A.
Moroccan art and design is fascinating, including the architectural elements and tile mosaics (kellij). You can spot delightful patterns everywhere, even in the Sahara Desert.