12 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit Nova Scotia in Canada

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


Though Canada’s east coast has been occupied and built up longer than most of Canada by outsiders who brought farming, building, and industry to the “New World”, there is still something raw, wild, and just beautiful about this part of the country.

Yes, a lot of that beauty is a result of human occupation, but there seems to be a symbiosis between the land and the people who live in it, and a respect for the roaring ocean that is always close by.

These 12 photos show some of my favourite parts of this stunning province, and showcase why it is worth the visit.

The boardwalks that take you from a gravel parking lot on the side of the road, through the sand dunes, and out onto the beach that is stunning if it is shrouded on fog or glowing under the blue sky!

The happy, multi-coloured buildings found everywhere you look — in cities, villages, and on farms!

Sleepy fishing villages with moss covered roofs in quiet coves.

Fishing nets, boats, traps, colourfully painted floats, and the fishermen themselves are full of character.

The lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove — it doesn’t matter how touristy it is, this will always be one of my favourite spots!

Short ferry rides that give you views of small villages along the water and shorten your drive time.

Stunning parks are found throughout the province, like this one in Halifax.

Weathered, historic buildings that have held their own through winter storms and bright sunshiny days.

It’s just so ridiculously beautiful — I mean, look at those colors!!

Everywhere you turn, you seem to be at the beach, which is almost more beautiful in the fog than it is in the sunshine.

I could stare at the rough and wild Atlantic Ocean that crashes against the shoreline for days.

The colourful buildings in the North End of Halifax that have so much character!

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Visit Nova Scotia in Canada
Visit Nova Scotia in Canada


13 Travel Quotes to Feed Your Wanderlust

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


Travel quotes to feed your wanderlust

I have always loved quotes — those one or two sentences that can shift your perspective, inspire you to say yes to an adventure, or pull you out of a funk. 

These are some of my favorite travel quotes by writers, travellers, fictional characters, and people who just had something inspiring to say. 

“Coming back to where you started is not the same as not leaving.”
— Terry Pratchett

“Never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay your welcome. Keep your mind open and suck in every experience. And if it hurts you know what? It’s probably worth it.”
—Richard from the movie The Beach

“Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.”
—Ernest Hemingway

“But I am a born pilgrim. Even when I am feeling really lazy or I’m missing home, I need take only one step to be carried away by the excitement of the journey... I realize that I will never reach my goal by staying in the same place all the time. I can speak to my soul only when the two of us are off exploring deserts or cities or mountains or roads. ”
— from Aleph by Paulo Coelho

“If adventures do not befall a lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.”
—Jane Austin

"If at some point you don't ask yourself 'What have I gotten myself into?' then you're not doing it right" 
—Roland Gau

Image Credit: Oliver Sjöström, Instagram: @ollivves, Website: https://ollivves.com/ 

“Travel is rebellion in its purest form. We follow our heart. We free ourselves of labels. We lose control willingly. We trade a role for reality. We love the unfamiliar. We trust strangers. We own only what we can carry. We search for better questions, not answers. We truly graduate. We, sometimes, choose never to come back.”
—Author Unknown

“The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them”
—Amelia E. Barr

“We travel because distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something inside our minds has changed, and that changes everything.”
—Jonah Lehrer

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”
—Amelia Earhart

“Twenty years from now you will more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
—Mark Twain

“May you never be too busy to stop and breathe under a palm tree.”
— Unknown




15 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit Lagos in Portugal

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


Lagos Portugal Algarve

Stretching 150 km along the southern coast of Portugal, the Algarve is arguably one of the most beautiful and varied coastlines in the world. 

You can find solitude on sandy islands, action-packed golden beaches with amazing nightlife, and the famous breathtaking cliff-backed shorelines that have taken over Instagram. There are also charming towns packed with cafes, restaurants, bars, shops, and lots of cobblestone streets to wander through when the sun goes down. 

If you are looking for resorts and nightlife, the east and center of the long coastline is where you should base. The west is a little quieter and more rugged. If you are looking for the best of both worlds, head to my favourite spot — Lagos.  

 

Why Lagos?

Lagos sits right on the coast with an old town that is surrounded by a 16th-century wall enclosing picturesque plazas, cobbled lanes, churches, charming restaurants, fantastic nightlife and more. Many of the hotels, guesthouses, hostels, and rental apartments are located outside of the old town but are easy to walk to. There are also a lot of grocery stores and markets if you are wanting to self-cater. 

Nearby beaches offer every type of activity imaginable, but you are also close to the rock backed nooks that you can climb down to if you are looking for a more secluded spot for the day. 

Getting there 

Portugal has fantastic train and bus networks that you can use to get all over the country. You can access Lagos from Lisbon by train, and there are also coastal trains that run back-and-forth along the cost if you would like to visit different towns and beaches during your stay. 

You can pre-buy your tickets on the Comboios de Portugal website. (TIP: The first-class ticket is usually only a few Euros more than the regular class. If you are looking for more space, a quieter car, and free wifi consider sitting in a first-class car.)

When to go

As with any location with a beach, as soon as summer hits locals and tourists alike flock to the sand and clear blue water of the Algarve. The summer months will find towns and beaches packed with people and temperatures soar. 

By October, the tourists clear out, but if you are (like me) okay with hitting the beach in around 20-degree weather (78-degrees Fahrenheit), then the fall and spring are lovely times to visit. You'll be sharing the town and beaches with locals, some expats, and the odd tourist, and prices will also be significantly lower. 

Watch out for

The beaches and towns along the Algarve are some of the busiest areas in Portugal in the summer months and the pickpockets know it. Keep your eye on your belongings, especially when laying on the beach.

Be careful if you decide to search out a cliff-backed beach, as the cliffs can often be unstable. And, make sure you are aware of ocean conditions — some areas can experience dangerous currents and winds.  

Surrounded by a historic wall, there are only a few paved roads that cars, and pedestrians, can use to access the town of Lagos through curved entryways. 

The streets of Lagos are paved with unique patterns laid out in cobblestones. Buildings are painted white, orange, pink, or blue, or are covered in stunning Portuguese tiles. 

Sun drenched streets make the tile-covered buildings in Lagos look even more beautiful. This shot was taken on my visit there in November when it was still hot enough to lay on the beach all day, but not hot enough to be packed with tourists. 

Cafes, restaurants, and charming souvenir shops spill out into the cobblestone pedestrian street in Lagos. 

One of the famous cliff-backed, secluded beaches, Praia do Camilo is a bit of a hike to get down to but is SO worth it. It is about a 40-minute walk from the heart of Lagos, but there are also local buses that will drop you off near this spot. 

A rock face at Praia do Camilo from the beach level. To the left is a passage through the thick cliff that gives you access to a smaller, more private beach on the other side. 

The homes that are located outside the city walls are colourful, covered in stunning flowers, and are often available for rent if you are looking for a base to have a longer stay in the area. 

Because of the year-round beautiful weather, even in November, these stunning flowers were in full bloom. 

There are hiking trails along the coast from Lagos heading west to a historic lighthouse. They take you past incredible views, to the top of staircases that lead you to secluded beaches, and go for miles. 

Near the lighthouse, there are caverns in the rock that can be accessed by boat. If you aren't interested in the hike, there are boats that leave from Lagos that will give you the ocean-side view of the cliffs. 

Looking east from the top of the cliffs near Lagos, you can see other whitewashed towns dappled along the coastline. 

The golden sand and stunning blue waters of the Praia Dona Ana, located just outside of central Lagos. 

I was surprised to see how many unique and colourful shells are washed up on the beach every day — most of them completely intact. The beaches of the Algarve are a beachcombers dream! 

Gotta love having a quiet, secluded spot to set up a selfie at sunset! Nothing better than getting that perfect shot for Instagram :) 

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Lagos Portugal Algarve
Lagos Portugal Algarve



15 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit Lisbon

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


Portugal's capital city, Lisbon is enchanting with its maze of steep cobblestone streets, stunning tiled buildings, sun-drenched squares, outdoor cafes, and beautiful historic sites. 

If you still need to be convinced that you should add this destination to your travel bucket list,  what makes this city even more appealing is that fact that it is one of the most affordable places to visit in Europe (you can get a coffee and a croissant for 1 Euro!). Plus, the location of the city gives you access both to mountains and water, its restaurants are packed with delicious local delicacies and amazing Portuguese wine, and the people are unbelievably welcoming.

What more could you want?! 

One of the easiest (and most fun) ways to get around the city is on one of the many streetcars that pass through the narrow historic streets that most cars can't (or aren't allowed) to travel down!

The Arco da Rua Augusta sits at one end of the huge main square (Praca do Comercio) facing the water. The square is bordered on two sides by lemon-yellow buildings and covered in cobblestones.

It was the place where anyone arriving to Lisbon by sea used to disembark, and it is always bustling, full of restaurants and cafes, and one of the best spots to watch the sunset. 

A view of the Praca do Comercio from the other side of the Arco da Rua Augusta. You can see straight through to the water beyond. The arch marks the beginning, or end, of the main pedestrian street that is lined with shops and high-end cafes that trickle out into the street. Once the sun begins to set, it is the place to see and be seen whether you are a visitor or a local out for an evening stroll. 

A view into the interior courtyard of the breathtakingly detailed Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. This monastery is a UNESCO world heritage site and was home to monks of the Order of St Jerome for four centuries before the order was dissolved in 1833. 

One of the most photographed historic sites in Portugal, the Torre de Belem (Belem Tower) is also a UNESCO world heritage site and is said to epitomize the Age of Discoveries

If they aren't covered in tiles, the buildings in Lisbon are painted in pastel hues that make the streets feel like they are always basked in a morning glow. 

Laundry hanging in the sunshine off of wrought iron balconies is a common sight throughout the city, as are doors that have a character all their own. 

The 360-degree views from the Castelo de Sao Jorge are impossible to capture in a single photograph. Built in the mid-11th-century, the castle allows you to take in the terracotta rooftops of the entire city — handy if you haven't gotten your bearings yet! 

A quirky attraction, this wrought-iron elevator (Elevador de Santa Justa) was built in 1902 by Gustave Eiffel's apprentice (the creator of the Eiffel Tower in Paris). It is Lisbon's only vertical street lift and you can ride it to the top for fantastic city views!

Freshly baked Portuguese tarts sit in bakery windows — but not for long! 

Restaurants and cafes spill out into the streets giving diners the chance to people watch while they eat and enjoy a little fresh air. 

Lisbon isn't all historic buildings and cobblestones! The Parque das Nacoes, located in the north-eastern part of the city, was built for Expo '98 and is full of modern architecture like the Gare do Oriente train station pictured above. 

The breathtaking Basilica da Estrela is huge and is decorated with complex patterns in pink and black marble. 

There are massive churches all over the city, some in the more ornate gothic-style, and others that are a little more austere like this one. 

Almost every single building facade in Lisbon is covered in tiles, a result of the art of tile-making being brought to the city by the Moors hundreds of years ago. It is a feast for the eyes to wander through the town center and take in all the different patterns and designs! 

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10 Travel Quotes That Will Inspire You To Explore The World

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , , ,


There's nothing like a good travel quote to inspire you to pack your bags and take off on an adventure!

I am a sucker for quotes of any kind, and you can usually find me with a pen in hand when I'm reading ready to underline a favourite quote or jot it down to reference later. It's amazing the power that one or two sentences can hold when you need a little inspiration. 

These are 10 of my faves — by authors, writers, and fellow explorers. 

Do you have a favourite quote? Share it with me in the comment section below! 

View of the Tuscan countryside from Cortona, Italy

"I would rather own a little and see the world than own the world and see a little."
—Alexander Sattler

Sunset from the island of Koh Phangan, Thailand 

"Don't tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you've traveled."
—Mohammed

Rooftops in Rome, Italy

"Blessed are the curious for they shall have adventures."
—Lovelle Drachman

Halong Bay, Vietnam at dusk

"So much of who we are is where we have been."
—William Langewiesche

Pink sunset and palm trees on Oahu, Hawaii

"Travel is never a matter of money but of courage."
—Paulo Coelho

View of the Atlantic Ocean from Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia, Canada

"The earth has music for those who listen."
—Shakespeare

The red beach on Santorini, Greece

"Do more things that make you forget to check your phone."
—Unknown

Tiled rooftops in Budapest, Hungary 

"I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine." 
—Caskie Stinnett

New York City from the top of 30 Rock

"I travel because I become uncomfortable being too comfortable." 
—Carew Papritz

The top of Mt Etna, the active volcano on the island of Sicily, Italy




8 Sights In New York City That Live Up To The Hype (+ Packing Tips)

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , , ,


Guys, I (seriously) love New York. 

I knew that I loved it before I had even set foot in it. 

And it wasn't just because of all the gorgeous photos on Instagram or my addiction to Sex and The City. No, it just seemed to contain all of the things that I love in a city: food, cafes, museums, art galleries, shopping, parks, libraries, history, fashion, culture, quirkiness… what more could you ask for?! 

I will admit though, when I finally did make the trip I was slightly nervous that this place that I had built up in my head wouldn't live up to the hype. But, my worry was for naught, because as soon as I stepped out of my yellow cab and almost got hit by a bike messenger while distracted by a black and white cookie in a bakery window, I knew that I belonged there. 

I then spent a dream-like week wandering by all of the places I'd seen in movies and TV shows, taking in iconic sights, and trying to eat as much amazing food as possible (plus drinking allllll the coffee).

Whether you are embarking on your first trip to this epic city, or heading back for the fifth time, here are some popular spots that are definitely worth visiting. Even if you have to wait in line or fight the crowd, they're worth it — trust me.  

1. Top of The Rock

  • 30 Rockefeller Plaza
  • Open daily, 8 am – midnight
  • Admission: $34/adult, $28/child (tickets available to pre-purchase online)

You'll notice that the Empire State Building is not on this list, but the Top of The Rock, the top of 30 Rock(efeller Plaza), is.

Why, you ask? 

Because if you ride up the 70 floors to the top of this iconic art-deco tower, you get an incredible unobstructed view of the Manhattan skyline that includes the Empire State Building — it's seriously breathtaking. And then, look the other direction, and you have an incredible view over Central Park (best Instagram photos ever).

The view is spread over three different levels, both indoors and outdoors, with the top level being completely open with no glass to obstruct it (pretty darn cool). The platforms are wide and have lots of space to pose for photos or just hang out. 

Added bonuses include that the admission is cheaper than the Empire State Building, it tends to be a lot less crowded, there is a Starbucks on the main floor to chill out in if you have to wait for your turn to ride the elevator up, and there are lots of shops in the surrounding buildings. Also, in the winter there is a skating rink out front, and the Radio City Music Hall is located just across the street! 

2. Grand Central Station

  • 89 E. 42nd Street (at Park Avenue)
  • Open daily, 5:30 am – 2 am
  • Admission: Free

There's just something about train stations.

People are either just starting an adventure, or arriving home from one — I use the term "adventure" loosely here, I realize that for many, this is just the way they get to and from work. Anyway, I just really loved this iconic building. 

Grand Central is one of those places that seems extra magical because of it's starring role in countless movies and TV shows. That iconic clock, the teal coloured ceiling (that has the constellations painted on it), the cocktail lounge — it's exactly the way you remember it. 

You'll also find a great information counter with maps and tourist publications here, as well as a marketplace with more than 60 shops, and tons of restaurants and eateries in the concourse. 

3. NY Public Library (Stephen A. Schwarzman Building)

  • 476 Fifth Avenue (42nd St and Fifth Ave)
  • Open, Sun 1 pm – 5 pm; Mon, Thu – Sat 10 am – 6 pm; Tue & Wed 10 am – 8 pm
  • Admission: Free

Book lovers, be prepared to completely lose your shit. This library is EPIC. 

(Also, Sex and The City fans, this is the location of Carrie and Big's first attempt at a wedding where he stood her up and the bird headpiece thingy happened, as did the flower hitting on the street out front — you know what I mean.)

The building it is housed in is huge, historic, and made of marble with giant columns, elaborate staircases, and two fierce lions guarding the front door.

Highlights include the breathtaking Rose Main Reading Room and the Map Division that contains more than 431,000 maps! If you are looking for a souvenir to take home, I would swing by the gift shop which is filled with (you guessed it) unique books and stationary. 

4. Bryant Park

  • 42nd St. between Fifth and Sixth Aves. 
  • Open daily, 7 am – 10 pm (January – April & October – December); 7 am – 11 pm (May); Mon – Fri 7 am – midnight; Sat & Sun 7 am – 11 pm (June to September)
  • Admission: Free

Located behind the public library (above), this park is everything that you want in a city park — a perfect escape from the chaos.

It has a large green lawn in the middle that is used for picnics and outdoor film screenings in the summer, manicured flower beds lining wide pathways, tables and chairs for relaxing under the trees, mini cafes, restaurants, and bars so you can dine al fresco, a carousel, a giant fountain, and the lovely Bryant Park Cafe. This cafe is where my travel buddy and I spent a delightful few hours people watching and enjoying a few pints in the sunshine. 

The park also hosts regular events like workout classes, street performers, and dance parties. 

5. 9/11 Memorial

  • 180 Greenwich Street
  • Open daily, 7:30 am – 9 pm
  • Admission: Free

I wasn't really sure what to expect when visiting this memorial, but what I wasn't prepared for was how emotional I would be. 

There was a lot of construction in the area when I arrived at the station, and so had to take a bit of a detour when I got out of the subway. But the minute I walked into the square, and up to the massive footprints of the former twin towers, I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. 

The names of those that lost their lives are carved into the edge of the memorials, and it seems never-ending. It is one of the most moving memorials I have ever visited, and whether you are American or not, it is worth visiting to really understand the scope of the loss that the city, and it's people, suffered. 

There is also a museum on site, which I chose not to visit because I felt like it would be too overwhelming for me (I was pretty overwhelmed by the memorial itself). The line to enter tends to be pretty long, so if you are planning on visiting, you can pre-buy tickets on the website here.  

6. The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

  • 1000 Fifth Ave at 82nd St
  • Open daily, Sun – Thu 10 am – 5:30 pm; Fri & Sat 10 am – 9 pm
  • Admission: Free (but admission donations are appreciated)

If you’ve never been to New York before, The Met might seem like it’s just another museum in the long list of museums and art galleries that are on must-see lists for the city.

But it is not just like the others, ohhhhhhh no my friend, it is not. (Read 10 Reasons Why You'll Love The Met).

First of all, it is absolutely giant, covering more than two million square feet! The space is filled with treasures spanning from the beginning of time all the way to the present day, all organized in light, airy spaces that perfectly suit the artifacts that are being presented. 

It is delightfully overwhelming, and you could spend an entire day in the museum (I did) and not even come close to seeing the entire collection. It is seriously up there in the top three museums I have ever been to in the world. 

7. Times Square

  • Broadway at 7th Ave.
  • Always open!
  • Admission: Free

There is no photo that I have ever seen that actually gives any sense of the size, feeling, and chaos that is Times Square. The traffic, the street performers, the buzz of the crowd, the giant neon signs — it's better than what you could imagine. 

And the difference between this place from day to night is like night and day (see what I did there…). It's still fun to wander around at either time, but there is a magical transformation that happens once the sun goes down and the famous neon signs light up the massive space. 

There are lots of shops and street vendors if you are in the mood to spend some dollars, and Broadway is nearby if you want to catch a show, or wander past famous theatres like the New Amsterdam or the Lyceum. 

8. The High Line

  • Runs from Gansevoort St (Meatpacking District) to West 34th St, between 10th and 12th Aves
  • Open daily, 7 am – 7 am (Dec – Mar); 7 am – 10 pm (April – May); 7 am – 11 pm (June – Sept); 7 am – 10 pm (Oct – Nov)
  • Admission: Free

This completely unique public park built is built on a historic freight rail line that is elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It was built in the 1930s, and ran through the (then unsavoury) Meat Packing District and Chelsea. These areas of Manhattan were industrial in the early 1900s, and the historic stone buildings, now full of lofts and cafes, were once home to slaughterhouses and warehouses. 

It is now covered in flowers, trees, shrubs, benches, tables, playgrounds for kids, viewing areas and pathways. It lifts you up off of the busy streets and places you in a quiet oasis surrounded by interesting historic buildings, beautiful greenery, and fantastic artwork.

There are permanent large-scale works and smaller temporary displays all along the attraction, and you will also find food stalls and coffee bars, and some incredible views of the city streets. 

It is definitely worth visiting, and a great alternative to taking the subway when moving between areas of the city (the Chelsea Market is located only a few minutes walk away from the park's south end!)

Packing Tips

  • Bring comfortable shoes! You are going to be walking A LOT, and this is not the time to break in a brand new pair or show off your high heel collection.
  • Layer. The temperature of the city seems to change depending on if you are on a narrow street surrounded by high rises or laying in the sun in Central Park. Plus, you will inevitably be as far away from your hotel as possible when there is a shift in the weather. 
  • Bring a bag that helps you keep your hands free. You never know when you might want to jump on a bicycle, have to get on a crowded subway car, or take photos from the Top of The Rock! You want to make sure you can have all your belongings in a safe place so you can focus on the experience rather than losing something. 
  • No, not everyone looks like they stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine. My favourite part about people watching in NYC was realizing that everyone seems to have their own individual style. While I am sure there are pockets of the city where people all dress similarly, the only consistent thing that I noticed was people who looked comfortable in what they had on. So, don't worry about having the most fashionable wardrobe, just do you!

This post contains a sponsored link.

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Adventure Tales: Camel Trekking in The Sahara Desert

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


We had been traveling for what felt like hours on a winding road cut into the Atlas Mountains. The stop at the ancient city of Ait Benhaddou had been incredible, but the heat seemed to have followed us into the over-sized minivan that we were crammed into, and I could feel the gritty red sand we had trekked over mixing with the sweat in my sandals. I didn't think I would ever stop sweating. The only thing keeping me going was picturing what would be waiting for me when we finally reached our destination — camels.

There were 16 of us all together. A young trio of Australian hipsters, two girls from Uruguay that I instantly bonded with, one woman from Brazil, a quiet Japanese man, one woman from Hong Kong, a family from Amsterdam that kept to themselves, and Rachel, an Italian woman who had just moved to Morocco.

We all unstuck ourselves from our seats when we stopped at a small outpost to buy water before heading into the desert. We had to carry all that we needed for the afternoon, evening, night and next morning, as there would be none waiting for us at the camp. I bought two litres and then jumped back into the hot van, hoping that it wouldn't take too much longer to get to, what our driver called, our "desert ships."

After about 10 minutes, we stopped. Looking out the window, I felt my pulse quicken in excitement, as right beside us was a caravan of camels, laying in the sand, saddles on, waiting for us. Riding a camel in the desert had been something that I had dreamed of doing for as long as I could remember, and suddenly that dream was only a few feet away!

Bedouin guides, their heads swathed in fabric, helped us attach our bags and water to the saddles and then motioned us on (they didn't speak English). I jumped on, the hugest grin on my face, excited to begin this adventure. Just as I was settling into a comfortable position, one of the guides grabbed the rope around my camel's neck and clicked his tongue causing my camel to shoot upwards, almost throwing me off of him in the process.

Once we were all on our standing camels (I named mine Charlie), the guide broke us into 3 groups and each took position in front of our lines. Then, with little fanfare, we began our camel trek into the Sahara desert.

I spent the three hour trek taking countless photos, testing my balance by attempting to sit cross-legged on my moving camel (no, I did not fall off, but it was close), and trying to remember every detail of the view and the rush of being atop a camel in the Sahara.

Saharatents.jpg

Just when my butt was starting to go numb, the tents came into view between the dunes. Modest looking from the outside, the interiors were lined with beautiful Moroccan rugs. Small mattresses were pushed against the walls with a few low tables set near them — our beds and dining room for the night. A small "bathroom" (a room with a hole in the ground, a bowl with warm, stagnant water for washing, and a dirty mirror in it) was about 100 metres from the camp. 

The sun was starting to set by the time we got settled and one of the guides yelled, "Sahara, Sahara!" to get our attention and gather us all together. We took our seats on the ground of one of the tents around the tables and were served a simple, but delicious meal of a spicy soup, couscous, and roasted chicken with vegetables cooked in a tagine.

Hot, tired, but elated from the adrenaline rush that comes with being completely out of your comfort zone, we chatted with each other about our impressions of the day, where we had been, and where we were planning to go next. Once our plates were empty, we were ushered out of the tent and found carpets out in the sand surrounding a large bonfire. There were plates of watermelon laid out for us and some of our guides were sitting on one of the carpets with instruments.

One of them got up, smiled, and said "Television Naturale!" before sitting down and starting to drum. We sat down, mesmerized. The drumming got louder and louder as the others joined in and then they started to sing. It was beautiful. I laid back on the carpet and was rewarded with a sky full of stars. The only light for miles was from our bonfire and I could see stars in the sky that I had never seen before.

After about an hour, the drumming stopped, and slowly we all started heading back to the tents. Not wanting to waste water washing up, I brushed my teeth with the minimal amount, and flopped onto one of the mattresses fully clothed. It was too hot to use any sort of blanket and tt was too hot to sleep, so my tent-mates and I stayed up talking well into the wee hours. 

I awoke early, just as the sun was rising, and took a swig of the hot water in the bottle next to my bed. It seemed like it had only gotten hotter, and when I stumbled out of the tent, the air was still and heavy. Not a breeze. Not even a warm one. It was almost stuffy if that’s possible. Like walking into a warm room that’s been closed up for years.

"You sleep well?" asked one of the guides who spoke a bit of English.

"It was hot," I answered.

"It is the desert," he said matter-of-factly and walked away.

Well, he had me there...

We sat on the dunes drinking sweet tea and eating bread with cheese until the sun rose and it was time to get back on our camels and head back to civilization, hot showers and ice cold water.

The tour I took included transportation, the tour of Ait Benhaddou, dinner, the camel trek, and the tent accommodations. I did not pre-book, just asked one of the men working at my riad for a recommendation and he took me to a travel agency that he knew in Marrakesh. The whole thing cost me $80 CAD.

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