July 7, 2023
¡Hola from Madrid!
Our hearts were heavy as we waved goodbye to our 12 new best friends today at the airport. We are so thankful to have spent time in some of the most beautiful places on Earth with some AWESOME kiddos!
Our last full day in Morocco was spent exploring the city center and markets. As well as celebrating Theo’s birthday!!! We woke him up with an incredible rendition of the birthday song and he was very excited to get the day going. We were greeted first thing with a traditional Moroccan breakfast of pancakes, bread, jam, and local honey! Accompanied by tea, orange juice, and coffee. Needless to say, we were ecstatic! After breakfast we loaded the van and headed into town to meet our guide Mohammed. He did a fabulous job of giving us a thorough walking tour of the city center and had some great jokes along the way. Afterwards, Mohammed brought us to the entrance of the market. Elizabeth and Charles were able to score some amazing finds with their bargaining skills including scarves, jackets, and more! Ellie and Louise were over the moon about our Moroccan pharmacy visit and left with tons of cosmetic goodies.
After our market morning, we made our way back to our riad for a delicious lunch of chicken kebabs and veggies. Afterwards, we had the chance to lay out by the pool. Landon was quick to get a game of star going and we all enjoyed racing each other to the other side! Annie had some hilarious hand stands in the shallow end while we all cooled off. Steven and Hicks were in a very serious game of chess nearby with a marble set they bought earlier that morning. We were captivated by their game! Shortly after our pool & chess session, we were treated to a cooking class. Our kids learned how to prepare traditional Moroccan meals such as tajin (vegetables and slow cooked meat) and pancakes! Hopefully they’ll be able to prepare these for you at home because they were rockstars in the kitchen. Gordon Ramsey, who? Mary even got the chance to practice some of her French with the chefs, as Morocco is a francophone country.
After eating a delicious dinner (everything tastes better when you make it yourself!), we settled down for moonup. Lillian and Nolte did an amazing job of leading us through one of our more thoughtful moonups while also keeping it lighthearted. Everyone did a great job of opening up a little bit more, and Lillian & Nolte led by perfect example.
The next day, we hopped on our plane to Madrid! Spain’s sprawling streets and busy sidewalks greeted us with open arms as we emerged from the metro into Puerta del Sol. We quickly ventured into the city and walked by local favorites such as the Royal Palace and Plaza Mayor. The kids got to dine on some fantastic churros while we meandered the “calles” (Spanish for “streets”) of Madrid. Eventually, we came upon our dinner spot- Takos Al Pastor. We feasted on some of the best tacos in Europe and everyone enjoyed some harisco sodas! After dinner, we held moonup in front of the royal palace. Possibly one of the coolest moonup spots ever! Of course, no Moondance trip is complete without an ice cream stop. We made our way back to the hostel but not before finding a great spot for ice cream!
We are so fortunate to have had the chance to get to know each and every one of our kids. They are funny, kind, and adventurous. Second session surely holds a special place in both of our hearts! We hope that they continue to be their authentic selves at home, and that they’ll keep in touch. We love you SPM 2A!!!
One last time,
Hobson + Kate
July 5, 2023
Hello from the peak of Toubkal!
Not actually, but the group is feeling like we are still on top of the world! Our bodies are incredibly tired, but our spirits are stronger than ever. Kate and I could not be prouder of the group as we took Northern Africa by storm. Everyone made it to the summit, the views were incredible, and the group energy was amazing.
Our airport day into Morocco was hectic but went without a hiccup. We said goodbye to our lovely Spanish guides at the airport and made our way through the massive Madrid terminals. Security proved to be our biggest roadblock as everyone had to take out items to be inspected. We made it through with plenty of time, though, and proceeded to use our preflight time to gorge on airport food. The girls went to Starbucks and the guys went to Burger King. Theo, Nolte, Landon, and Hicks had never tried Burger King before! Fast food restaurants are much cleaner and nicer in Europe, so it was a fair first experience. They all said it would be their last time eating at Burger King. I think they prefer lighter Spanish tapas now!
The flight was relaxing and funny. We all got to sit next to at least one or two members of our group. With the other Moondance group on the plane too, it turned into a social trip. We touched down in Morocco and it was close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Customs was scary at first, but we quickly realized we had nothing to worry about. The check point security guards thought a group of 14 Americans was funny and laughed at us through the gate.
We met our guide, Ahmad, outside baggage and piled into the van (which fortunately had AC). We had a two-hour drive to Riad Blednah, a Moroccan hotel situated outside the foot of the mountain range. We all were amazed with the colorful Moroccan interior, comfy floor cushions, and shiny lamps. We felt like we were in Aladdin. Dinner the first night was a traditional Moroccan dish. Landon was not afraid to try all the food and ended up having thirds! I think he prefers foreign food over American food now. After dinner, we held our nightly Moonup on the rooftop of the hotel and listened to the call to prayer. It was surreal as we surveyed the surrounding village from above. We made sure to get a good night’s sleep as we needed to leave early the next morning.
We ate a good breakfast of toast, eggs, and tea. With our stomachs full, we departed the hotel for our 10-mile trek to the basecamp of Toubkal. We watched as our pack mules went ahead of us. They are a little more accustomed to the Moroccan heat! We hiked for a while and kept the energy high until lunch. We stopped at an outdoor mountain restaurant that served food in the middle of the trail! Ellie was beside herself as they put a massive plate of pasta down for us to share. Vibrant plates of vegetables and some meat accompanied the pasta. It was here that Elizabeth became the designated food distributor for the Toubkal section of the trip. Since we ate family style, one person typically ended up piling food onto plates. She did it with a smile and made sure everyone had full plates.
Basecamp was one of the coolest parts of our journey. It was a massive mountain compound made of stone situated at the foot of the hiking trail. There were areas in front for pitching tents and bonfires, with access to the main building for the bunk rooms. High front porches overlooking the valley made it look more like a castle. You could hear the mules braying and observe flocks of mountain birds circling for food. There were multiple other international groups, so we got to interact with many different people. Charles was very social and respectable, striking up conversations with foreigners like he knew them previously. It was fun hearing different accents!
We had several hours of free time after we arrived because we made such good time. Mary, Lillian, and Annie started their own book club and put thin mattresses on the upper porches for the perfect reading spot. It proved to be a consistent spot for the group to hang out. In Morocco, teatime is right before dinner. We enjoyed some delicious Moroccan tea our first night and kettle popcorn. Theo took a liking to the local sugar cubes and made sure everyone’s tea was extra sweet before drinking. He was typically the tea pourer for the group, as well. Our first night sleeping in the bunk room was fun. It was a giant slumber party as we all slept in one big room.
We awoke at 5am to get an early start to the hike. Louise and Hicks were our leaders of the day for our big day. Louise bravely took the front of the line as we began our ascent. She set a solid pace as we began a steep incline. It was cold in the morning with the valley breeze, so everyone had multiple layers on until the sun came up.
We had a total of five stops on the way up to the top of the mountain for water and snacks. It was an absolute battle to get to each stop, but the group didn’t complain once. It was hard, but we had agreed beforehand that no one would complain once. At the fourth stop we could see the peak, so we had renewed energy after that. Steven and Hicks led us up the mountain on the final charge with their energy and determination. The group took the last few steps to the peak area where we threw our packs down and began celebrating. We had the peak to ourselves, so we played music and took pictures. We spent about an hour on top before heading back down to base camp.
The hike down was more difficult than the hike up. There were no serious injuries, but a lot of slipping on the rocks occurred. Steven had us all cracking up as he kept track of who was remaining from not falling on the way down. Despite being physically exhausted, the group’s energy remained high as we listened to Charles encourage everyone on the way down by quoting David Goggin’s. “Close, but no cigar” somehow became the catch phrase as we headed down the mountain. Every time someone asked how much farther we had, Hicks would respond with, “Close, but no cigar!”.
We spent the rest of the day napping at basecamp and eating good food. A nice night’s sleep ensued. The next morning was another breakfast of toast, eggs, and tea before heading out back to the mountain village. 10 miles went by quickly as we were anxious to get out of the sun. The group can really move when they want to, and Louise set a fast pace again as she took the lead. Mary was right behind her encouraging the whole way. We had a lovely picnic with vegetables and tea after our hike before we loaded into the van to head to our Marrakesh house.
The house turned out to be more of a mansion, and we loved exploring the grounds while watching the peacocks and roosters strut around. We are tired, but so happy to have fully completed our hiking! The sunset here is beautiful with many fiery colors. We are excited to experience more local culture and relax by the pool for our last few days. Much love from Morocco!
Landon: Hey guys, hope you are doing well. The trip is wrapping up nicely and I’ve definitely had a great time. Thank you for putting in the effort and money to let me go on this adventure. Love you all and looking forward to seeing you again.
Theo: Hi Parents, I’m having a great time, and I’m experiencing the wonderful Spain and Moroccan cultures in an incredible, new way. Thank you for sending me on this fantastic trip. I love you. See you soon.
Steven: Hi Mom and Dad, the trip has been great so far! Thank you so much for sending me on this trip it’s been eye opening. I’m experiencing so many new things. Can’t wait to see you guys in two days. Also hi Mr. and Mrs. Lanier!!!
Charles _ hey guys. This trip has been so much fun. Thank you so much for sending me on this trip and this has been some of the best weeks of my life. I’ve learned so much about the Moroccan culture and spoke so much Spanish so now I’m fluent. I’ve tried a bunch of veggies so I’m healthy now. See y’all in two days
Louise: Hi mom and dad I miss you so much I am having the best time. Spain was so cool especially surfing which was so fun and the views while hiking were so pretty. Now we are in Morocco and it’s so fun we hiked and went to the markets and did a cooking class and got tan so yay it’s so fun love you see you in 2 days and thank you so much for sending me here.
Mary Eleanor: Hey y’all!! We are having the best time in Marrakech right now. Just finished dinner and I’m having so much fun. Thank y’all so much for sending me on Moondance. It’s amazing here❤️👸🏼👩🏼✈️😶🌫️🤭😵💫🤑
Lillian: Hello everyone!! I miss y’all sooo much. My group is good. Anyways, I LOVE Spain. It is gorgeous. I talked to Irene (our guide) a lot about life, and she is so wise. I will tell y’all more when I see y’all soon! Thank you so much for sending me on this trip!!!!
Ellie: Hey y’all- I miss y’all so much. Can’t wait to see y’all and play at Delaware. Tell my dukey baby I miss him So Much omg. I am soooooo tan like boss tan. Thank you so much for sending me on this trip I’m so greatful and thankful for this experience. See u soon!!
Nolte: What’s poppin. I’ve had a great time over the past two weeks and can’t wait to come home. We went to the markets today and it was super cool. I’m super excited to see y’all in three days. Thank you for sending me on Moondance!!!
Hicks: Hi mom and dad! Thank you so much for letting me come on this trip. I have had a ton of fun with Steven and the whole group! The Spanish and Moroccan culture is spectacular and something I am so grateful I could experience it. Goodbye and I love you!
Annie: Hey guys! This is the coolest trip I have ever been on. I have had so much fun and am extremely grateful that I could experience it. Morocco is amazing and I’m pretty sure dad was supposed to live here. Between the mountains, melon (I’ve literally had the BEST watermelon and honeydew ever:), the dates, and great food and culture. I love and miss you all so much and miss Charlie and Baker. I can’t wait to see you all in person to tell you about it!! Ily
Elizabeth- Yoooooo! I’m having an absolute blast in Spain and Morocco. I’ve experienced some of the best and most unimaginable things. I swear this is actually one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced. Thank you so much for encouraging and allowing me to go on these trips. I love you all so much, Happy late birthday Dad and Annabelle. I can’t wait to tell y’all all about it!
June 29, 2023
Hey Moondance family! Greetings from the charming northern Spanish town of Llanes. There are roughly 4,000 people living here year-round and it is located in one of the few areas of Spain where it is possible to surf. We are excited to hit the water and continue to grow as a group!
We had a full 3 days of hiking throughout the Picos de Europa. Our mental limits were tested along with our physical limits as we trekked over 15 miles throughout the Spanish countryside. All in all, everyone completed the full journey, and we had some amazing views.
I will start at the airport day!
Our leaders, Kate and Hobson, had an early morning in the airport as everyone began to arrive in Madrid. Theo’s plane was slightly late but otherwise there were no hiccups. We introduced everyone to our trekking guides and loaded the vans for our five-hour journey up north to our first stop. Due to long flights and a hefty time zone change, everyone slept most of the car ride. As we entered the national park, everyone woke up to admire the mountain tops that we would be climbing for the next few days. Our driver, Dario, dropped us at our first hostel in a small mountain village consisting of 50 locals. We have made a collective effort to speak more Spanish while being here, so we said “gracias” and “hasta luego” to our driver.
The boys forgot that there would be no air conditioning where we were hiking, so they spent the first night with the windows closed in their bunk room. When they awoke the next morning, they realized their mistake while sitting in their own makeshift sauna. After laughs, rehydrating, and breakfast, our group was ready to begin its hiking journey.
Our first day was roughly 7 miles of trekking through flat mountain terrain. The area is well known for its goat farming. This quickly became clear to us as the goats curiously followed our group, hoping for some snacks. Landon made friends/enemies with a particularly hungry goat who tried to eat his sandwich during our first lunch break. The encounter resulted in lots of laughs and our guide chasing the goat away with a walking stick. Hicks, Steven, and Hobson made bold choices to try the local dried beef for their lunch sandwich and were thoroughly impressed.
Our first leaders of the day, Steven, and Lillian, helped us keep pace as they used the guides’ map to lead us to our next destination. We arrived in a slightly larger mountain town of 200 people and spent the remainder of the day playing hacky sack and cards. Steven and Lillian led us through a powerful first moonup where we discussed past hardships and how those would affect us during our time together. Everyone had great answers and thoughts.
The next day proved to be more difficult as we began the incline. Our day was greeted by cows and horses walking around the trail. Elizabeth and Theo, our two leaders of the day, took their places at the front/back of the marching line as we trekked through cow pastures. Theo impressed everyone with his positive attitude and hiking abilities. He is the only camper on this trip who is doing Moondance for the first time, and he was acting like a true veteran! At this time of year, the cows are very protective of their calves, so Elizabeth bravely helped the guides ensure that everyone kept a respectable distance.
We got to our last and favorite hostel located amongst massive cow pastures situated near an old vacation home for the Spanish Royal family! It was a unique stay as we found ourselves surrounded by clouds on the mountain top. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying the views. We watched the sunset fade behind the mountain range as we played hacky sack in a field. Charles has been unanimously voted the best hacky sack player of the group. He has spent countless hours picking up the sack and encouraging others to keep trying. Theo and Elizabeth led a moonup surrounded by cows as we finished the night in preparation for the following day’s hike.
We began our morning earlier than usual to beat the hot sun. The weather was cloudless and sunny, making for a beautiful but hot day. Our leaders of the day, Hicks, and Mary, cheered on the group as we began our ascent to the summit basecamp. At our first water break, we were amazed to find wild horses waiting for us (probably hoping for a snack). They calmly approached us and Mary confidently took the lead as she showed us how to pet the horses. Lillian, Mary, and Kate had the water break of a lifetime as one horse really took a liking to them.
The day was hot and only getting hotter, so we picked up the pace to beat the sun. Hicks became the designated spokesperson for applying sunscreen and leader of positivity as he encouraged the group during our hardest day yet. Ellie was set on getting a tan and chose to spend water breaks basking in the Spanish sun. The guides thought she was crazy, but at least she was using sunscreen! We reached basecamp and prepared for our ascent to the summit. A grueling series of switchbacks on loose rock took us roughly 45 minutes to complete. Nolte was an inspiration to us all as he led the group walking up the summit. He cheered everyone on as some people struggled during the final push.
The views were amazing, and the group felt closer after enjoying/struggling together the whole day. We relaxed for a little and then quickly began our descent to get out of the sun. Annie kept the group energized as we descended. She made sure to talk to every person in the group, constantly checking in on others and ensuring everyone had enough water. Our guides were impressed with her leadership skills.
Ellie and Louise led the group in cheer and positivity as they sang camp songs the whole way down the mountain. In the middle of such a hot day, the group was grateful to have their energy to lean on. I think everyone had “A rig of bamboo” stuck in their head after echoing Ellie & Louise’s multiple renditions.
We took the gondola down the mountain to our vans where we had our driver and friend, Dario, waiting for us. A two-hour drive through the North of Spain led us to the seaside town of Llanes, where we await our next adventure. We are all tired, tan, and proud of our accomplishments! The group has really started coming together and we are excited to see that continue. Surfs up and hasta luego!
Kate and Hobson
June 25, 2023
Hello Spain + Morocco Families!
We heard from our leaders that the group has landed safely in Madrid and is off to their first adventure! The trip is off to a great start, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventure.
Please remember our leaders and students will be unplugged during their trips but we will be posting up to three trip updates throughout the next couple of weeks! This will allow you to follow along with the trip and the students will also give a special shout out mid-way through! You can also follow us on Instagram, @moondanceadventures, to see more of what we are up to this summer!