Canceling a trip

We’re early-bird bookers. We like to plan our trips months ahead to make sure we book the cheapest flights and get the best deals on accommodation. It keeps us excited for the trip itself and we do our research about the place while we wait for the lucky day.

This one time, though, we impulsively booked a flight to Marrakech. I had been telling Joan for years that I want to see Morocco because I’m just lured by its postcard-ready beauty, the markets, and the cuisine.

When Ryanair offered direct flights from Berlin to Marrakech, we immediately gave in. I have been waiting for this moment for God knows how long, and we have been brainstorming about places to go to in autumn anyway because I already filed for vacation leave. November is one of those months that doesn’t seem to go well with most places. I know Germany is pretty awful this time of the year, when all the leaves have fallen and become mushy from all the rain and the days are just wet and cold, but not cold enough for snowfall, just cold enough for three layers of clothing. Morocco, on the other hand, is supposed to be really nice in November. And everything just seemed to have fallen into place…

Joan browsed some travel forums about Marrakech, adding a very important keyword: women.

We already knew about the men offering to help you find your way when you get lost in the maze of the souks and insisting for some cash in return. Or the snake-charmers that demand money if they catch you taking a photo of them. These aren’t things that could scare us, really, we know that in most cases it’s smarter to just ignore strangers that try to intimidate us.

Still, something did not seem right. My aunt and uncle had been to Morocco twice and they can only say positive things about the experience. A newly married woman wrote in a forum about how romantic the city is and that she will convince her husband to visit yearly. A solo male traveler talked about the fun he had haggling with the vendors and about how he could just walk around the souk all day and forget about the rest of the world. All of these experiences are tempting, to say the least. But what about…

Us?

What about the women that travel alone or with other women? With their sisters? Their girl friends? Their experiences had been so much different.

Catcalling. MARRIAGE PROPOSALS. groped. Harassment.

Although they all said that the overall experience in the city was really good, it still felt like walking into a trap. But we already prepared ourselves for the worst and just accepted the fact that we had to be more open and understanding and decided to just think about all the good memories we could get off this trip. And the things mentioned above? They said you’ll get used to it after a few days.

But as you must have already taken off the title of this post, we still canceled this trip. Sure, we were already dreading all the things I’ve mentioned above but these alone would not have stopped us from experiencing a new place. I am sure of it that we will be traveling to Morocco some other time, maybe with even more preparation and perhaps in a larger group, too. No, what really stopped us from taking this trip is the fact that we were given the opportunity to get a full refund on our flights, and we’re glad to not have to throw 250 € away had we really decided on not going just because we were born female.

It was when Ryanair decided to implement their new baggage policy. Everyone who made a booking before September 1st for a flight from November 1st onwards has the right to get a full refund on their booking should they not be in favor of this new policy (but only until September 14th, which is in the past by the time I publish this post). Yes, so they found yet another way to make life harder for their passengers. Starting November, everyone who wants to bring a small cabin luggage will have to pay extra for it and stand in line on the check-in counter and drop that bag off. You may only bring your handbag on board (thank God, whew), and it has to fit under the seat in front of you otherwise you will be charged 25 € at the gate. Of course, there is still priority booking but you pay more for that as well and the slots are limited.

So I guess I’ve finally come to a point in my life where I say I’m never flying Ryanair ever (again). I’m that person now. It’s too bad because they offer direct flights to really cool destinations and the convenient SXF-CGN line that brought me to Mum a couple of times but this is just not something I can tolerate. They gave us a full refund without much hassle and we also decided on another destination already and booked our flights with other airlines.

Good thing before all this rubbish started, we were able to visit some really great countries like Croatia and Romania, which we otherwise wouldn’t have reached if not for their direct flights from our city and for a really good deal, too.

Kraków & Auschwitz

After our week in Spain, I still had the whole weekend off so Joan and I were thinking about going out of town. My friend, Jannah, was on her way to Kraków at the time to spend a few nights so we thought, why not go there? I really like Poland and we’ve been to a few major cities like Poznan, Wroclaw, and of course, Warsaw, so we were due to go to Kraków anyway. Also, we had been meaning to go to Auschwitz for quite a while but this never materialised until now.

Believe me when I say I absolutely loved the city of Kraków. It’s probably even my favourite among the polish cities we’d been to so far. But for whatever reason, I forgot to take photos of the place… But it’s definitely worth visiting! The city has been through a lot, historically, but there’s something about the place that just gives you hope and can make you believe that you can rise again. While you’re there, have dinner at one of the restaurants in the old town, walk around the Jewish quarter (you’ll also find great places there to dine at too), and visit the museum in Oskar Schindler’s Factory.

I did take a few photos when we were at the concentration camps in Auschwitz, though. They are about an hour outside of Kraków so we took a day tour. Entrance was free of charge but you may have to wait for a time slot if you hadn’t booked a ticket online.

P1100828

P1100783

It was eerie to walk around the place that was the venue for such horror. Every now and again we’d found some people stopping to silently pray, some even getting emotional.

P1100812

España Verde – Santander & Basque Country

This year’s trip to Spain brought us to the green northern coast. Santander, in the beautiful region of Cantabria was our starting point, then making our way to the east, exploring the Spanish part of Basque Country.

Santander

A quiet little city on the Atlantic coast, home to some beautiful beaches and charming little plazas. We arrived rather late due to some delays and only had one night to stay. We used the time walking around town and going to the beach. It was a Sunday so it was pretty quiet and the shops were closed but we found the local people spending their free time by the beach. The weather wasn’t exactly suitable for swimming except for a few very brave ones, but it was nonetheless a good day to be there.

Unfortunately, we had to leave before we got to see more because we had quite a drive ahead of us going to our campsite (which is close to San Sebastián) and a tent to assemble and we did not want to get there so late.

Campsite

We booked our plot at the lovely Camping Itxaspe site. The staff was very helpful and we got everything we needed. From there, we had a great view of the ocean and nature – everything was so green! It was so satisfying to be able to breathe such fresh air and I think it’s something I will pursue in the coming years – traveling to places with the purest of air to breathe! It was still a bit cold in the region since summer hasn’t really kicked in yet and it was probably even too early for some to come over with their tents (all the others came with their caravans) but we came prepared and though the nights were a bit cold, it was still possible to get some good night’s sleep.

The campsite is in a Geopark area and very close to some Flysch cliffs and the beach.

Vitoria-Gasteiz

European Green Capital back in 2012, and rightfully so because it’s clearly their favourite colour (and also mine). The air was just as fresh in this city as that on the countryside and I am still amazed by how this is even possible and wonder why not all cities do the same.

P1100638

P1100634P1100657

Bosque Pintado de Oma

After our visit to Vitoria-Gasteiz, we still had some time (and energy) for a 6km trek through the painted forest of Oma. This was a recommendation by a classmate from my Spanish class and it did not disappoint. It was quite a walk going up and down hills but it was all worth it once the worst was over an we finally came to the climax which was the painted forest itself. It looked so trippy and it was so strange to find such art in the middle of the woods.

Donostia-San Sebastián

I heard from people about how gorgeous this city is – and it’s absolutely true! Though we had the worst weather conditions here during our whole visit to the Basque Country, it still did not stop us from exploring a little bit. We did have heavy rain, though, that just did not seem to want to stop and, when it did, it was extremely windy. We dared to go to the beach, which was right in the city, during this time but it was really uncomfortable walking around when you feel like you will be blown away at anytime.

IMG_4398

But the overall experience in this city was great because we had dinner reservations at one of the cider houses outside of town but close by. We went to Alorrenea Cider House and drank a good amount of this local specialty which we poured ourselves, straight from the barrel. People who know me know that I am a huge fan of apple cider and I try all the ciders that the world has to offer, so this really has been a unique experience. Alongside we had a four-course meal including a steak fresh off the grill. The whole experience only costs 31,-€ each, and I say only because they really served a lot of food and an unlimited amount of cider. Though we did have a car, we made sure to come by taxi and the personnel at the restaurant were also so kind to call a taxi to take us back to the city (only 15 minutes away) because if you do everything right in this house, then there’s no way you should drive after drinking.

We left San Sebastián with a broken heart the next morning and would have loved to stay but we wanted to find out if our tent was still standing after that storm. Though the campsite is close to the city, we were happy to find our little home still intact. Apparently, the place was not affected by the storm at all.

Gaztelugatxe

I guess this was the place we were excited about the most. It’s famous for being a filming venue for Game of Thrones where, with the help of some editing, the home of Khaleesi stood, best known as Dragonstone. The castle shown in the HBO series did not really exist but the infamous steps going up the “castle” were very much real and so was the huge rock resting on the Atlantic – waves crashing and all. This, again, was quite the trek, even more difficult than the one at the painted forest of Oma (due to construction works we had to take a longer, more challenging route), but people did not seem to care. And, mind you, a LOT of tourists come by to see this.

Bilbao

Our last stop was the largest city in Basque Country – Bilbao. Also famous for its pintxos, we knew we had to find the best place if we were to break our diet anyway. In this region, there was not much of a choice for low-carb alternatives because the cuisine itself meant small-portions-of-food-on-top-of-a-small-piece-of-bread. We found Café Iruña and it did not disappoint, but you have to experience it for yourself to know what I mean. We went to the Guggenheim Museum, which in itself was already a masterpiece of architecture.

We also only had one night to stay here before we left Spain altogether. This, I can say, was really too short of a holiday because the whole region is just so beautiful and we would really love to come back for all the places we’ve missed and maybe even see some places again. The green part of Spain is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and I’m just in love with it. ❤