My first time traveling abroad will forever be engrained in my memory. I always wanted to travel internationally, but I often had this nagging fear of leaving my comfort zone to travel to a foreign environment. Yet recently, I decided to take a leap of Faith and visit three countries within a seven-day period: England (London), Morocco and Spainrecently, I decided to take a leap of Faith and visit three countries within a seven-day period: England (London), Morocco and Spain. As a first-time international traveler, visiting multiple countries within a week seemed a little overwhelming, but getting the opportunity to learn many things about travel and culture was well worth the experience. While visiting each country, I was able to mingle with some of the locals, and capture beautiful historical sites and attractions. Truly, each country has its own uniqueness that one can come to appreciate with an open heart and an open mind.
London was the first stop on my traveler’s list. For one night, I stayed at the Qbic London City Hotel , which is located near many local restaurants and shops of the Aldgate area in East London.
Here, you can access the Metro of London, which takes travelers across various areas of the city where they can visit the Buckingham Place, The Green Park, the London Eye and Westminster Abbey. To me, London is somewhat similar to New York but with less emphasis on taxi cabs and more on metro or bus travel, such as the double-decker bus. Once you arrive at the heart of downtown London, many attractions are walking distance, so I advise travelers to wear comfortable walking shoes and clothing.
Generally, London is known for its distinctive architecture, with large cathedrals and royal palaces dating back many centuries ago. Although I didn’t have enough time to get an interior view of some of the main attractions like the Westminster Abbey, I was able to take some great photos that capture the very essence of their historical value. Because there are so many things to see, I recommend planning a visit to London that extends beyond a day trip—which will give you enough time to explore all of the tourist areas. Definitely, it is best to seek local tourist guides to help you plan your trip for sightseeing.
My next stop was the Medina (city) of Marrakech, Morocco, which is located in North Africa. I stayed at a local riad (a Moroccan-style hotel) for about five days in Marrakech—known for its dry heat, desert lands, bustling shopping areas (known as the ‘souks’), hot mint tea, flavorful Moroccan dishes, and beautiful hotels and gardens. Many of the locals are bilingual (speaking both French and English), but it best to familiarize yourself with the French language to read certain signs, menus, directions, etc., and to communicate with those who do not speak English very well.
During my stay in Marrakech, I was able to visit several awesome places that truly show the beauty of Morocco. One great place to visit is the Bahia Palace, which costs about 70 DH ($7 USD). The Bahia palace is a historical attraction that dates back to the late 1800s. The palace reminds me of a maze full of many rooms with artistic carvings, colorful marble floors, paintings and glass windows/ceilings. Many tourists visit the palace to check out the art and architecture, as well as take great Instagram photos.
There is also the Jardin Majorelle gardens and the YSL museum. The Jardin Majorelle gardens is filled with colorful gazebos and water lily ponds, as well as beautiful flowers, palm trees and cactuses. Unfortunately, at the time of my visit I was unable to visit the YSL museum, which would have been a great addition to my experience. However, I was able to visit the YSL bookstore to check out an awesome collection of books, jewelry and well-crafted handbags.
Another great place to visit is the Agafay Luxury Desert Camp. The Agafay Desert Camp sit in the middle of miles and miles of desert lands in Marrakech. The camp offers several tents with bedding for visitors looking for an overnight stay; as well as food, a swimming pool and camel rides. For me the camel ride was the best and most adventurous part of the camp experience.
Lastly, the most alluring place to visit in Morocco is ‘Blue City,’ better known as Chefchaouen. This is a beautiful city full of color, with each riad covered in different shades of blue. Blue is my favorite color so I was immediately drawn to the area. In Chefchaouen, there are many ‘souks’ that tourists can visit to purchase local spices, soaps and oils, and gifts of clothing and jewelry for loved ones back home. My favorite part of the visit was getting to know some of the the locals who seemed very eager to serve as guides to help you travel throughout the city.
Even with a full five days in Morocco, there are still plenty of places I was unable to visit. I would definitely visit Morocco again to pick up where I left off in my journey.
My last stop was Barcelona, Spain. I stayed at the Renaissance Barcelona Fira Hotel, located in Barcelona’s Plaza Europa Square which is about 15 minutes away from the Barcelona – El Prat (BCN) airport and walking distance from the Metro of Barcelona. Barcelona is a very lively city, housing many Spanish-speaking people with different cultural backgrounds, nice restaurants and fun things to do. I recommend tourists take Barcelona’s metro or tour bus to see different attractions, like the Loyola University Museum of Art, or go shopping along Barcelona’s busy fashion district known as ‘Passeig de Gracia.’ If you are into to high fashion or designer clothing, you will absolutely love Passeig de Gracia!
In all, I really enjoyed my short time in Spain. I would love to plan another visit to Barcelona to explore other popular attractions that I missed during my stay.
As a first-time international traveler, I learned that it is important to thoroughly plan out your trips to manage your time wisely. If you’re someone who loves to sightsee and try different activities, seek information about how to travel around the cities, the costs and visiting hours of popular attractions, and what good restaurants you should try. Even with one week available for travel, it was difficult to experience some of the main attractions and local food shops, especially in areas likes London and Spain where I spent the least amount of time. As stated previously, I would definitely re-visit England (London), Morocco and Spain to gain a more in-depth perspective of the great things each country has to offer.