As our remaining time in Spain quickly comes to a close, not only are we working to cross things off our ever-growing to-do list of cleaning and packing tasks, but I've also got a small but (equally?) important list of things I'd like to see and do one last time around Madrid. One of those things was a day trip to Ávila, a small town northwest of Madrid that we visited during our first fall in Spain (November 2015, actually, which sounds like forever ago now!). Three of the best day trips from Madrid are, in our opinion, Segovia, Toledo, and Ávila, and while we've been to the first two multiple times, for one reason or another, we'd never returned to Ávila.
Last Friday we made a long overdue trip to a tiny village on the Black Sea not far at all from where we're living for the summer. If you take a direct road route, it's about nine miles, but while we're learning, we aren't all that familiar with how buses and everything work here, and took a rather roundabout way, which meant it took us about 45 minutes to get there. Our coworkers have been visiting the seaside town of Kilyos all summer long, almost since the day we all arrived, but since the temperatures haven't really gotten above the low 80's (not complaining though!), I didn't really want to go to the trouble - to me that's not warm enough to get in the water, especially since you have to pay to use the beach here.
When I was deciding which towns to visit along the French coast on the day that we planned to make a loop from Nice to Menton and back (and stopping in lots of places along the way), it didn't even cross my mind to go to Italy. I guess if I had really thought about it, I knew that Italy was nearby, and we could theoretically go, but I don't think I realized we were really that close, so when I read some blogs suggesting that visitors go just to say they'd been (if they never had before) or to stop by just for the pasta, my interest was slightly piqued, if only just for the second reason (carbs - they always get me).
We arrived in Vaison-la-Romaine on Monday evening, the third day of our French road trip, but we didn't get out and do anything besides eat dinner. The next morning, though, we walked through the extensive weekly market that included fresh produce and items such as meat, cheese, baked goods, and also some products like clothing and leather goods. It was one of the larger markets we came across during our road trip, and after walking past all of the stalls at least once, we decided we couldn't pass up some of the baked goods. We got a Saint Genix, a pastry that I believe was filled with red pralines. It looked amazing, but was really disappointing. I think what we tried was a variation on the Saint Genix, and the original is actually a brioche filled with red pralines, which we would have preferred. We also tried an almond pastry, which we liked much better than the Saint Genix.
Most Saturdays for us look fairly similar: we sleep in a little bit, make breakfast together (usually one of these recipes), clean up, maybe read or play a game and then realize it's time to start making lunch already so we do that, leave the house in the early afternoon to run some errands or visit a park, then maybe have dinner with friends in the evening or eat else leftovers as we're typically sick of being in the kitchen after all that cooking. They're pretty low-key days, but nice days, and I'd be lying if I said that major changes to those plans don't usually disappoint me.
After spending a day and a half in Fes (see more here), we took the train back to Rabat to finish out the last day and a half of our trip. We opted for first-class tickets again (now, don't be thinking "OH who do they think they are now?!" Refer back to our Fes post for our reasoning on that, but basically, it afforded us a bit more space and guaranteed seats for a few more euros...so we 'splurged.') and had another good experience. Danny ended up sitting next to a (friendly, English-speaking) military cadet for a majority of the journey...and you'll see more of him before too long :)
As any good Everett trip begins, this trip was inspired by a Rick Steves show we watched about a year and a half ago, the one where Rick visits Gibraltar (a British Territory in the south of Spain) and then takes the ferry to Tangier (Morocco). Excuse my general ignorance here, but at the time I was thinking...Morocco? Africa? So close to Spain? I've never been one to dream of going to Africa, but what I was seeing of Morocco intrigued me. This wasn't savannas and villages and giraffes (Ignorance, I know! You were warned). It looked more Middle Eastern in style, and all of a sudden, it was on my list. While we lived in Spain, I had to visit Morocco.
After not having visited Barcelona (while living in Spain) long enough for it to get embarrassing, we finally made it there! It was getting to the point where at least two people said something to me along the lines of, "You know, Barcelona is somewhere you really should visit...it's kind of a big deal to Spain...and the world...it would be a shame to miss out seeing how close you are in Madrid...etc etc," and other people just raised their eyebrows and thought it when we told them how long we'd been here AND hadn't made it to B-Town. So, like I mentioned in our Zaragoza post (see it here!), we snagged some fancy Black Friday train deals and made our way to Madrid's more-visited, more-laidback stepsister, Barcelona.