Three days in Torremolinos!!!
Trip Start Feb 02, 2011
7Trip End Feb 25, 2011
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Yesterday, we took an all day trip to Morocco to the city of Tangiers across the straits of Gibraltar, about 7 miles by ferry. It was about a 2 hour drive to Terifa the port city to catch the ferry. About half of our group went, it was an optional tour. The weather was perfect, blue sunny sky, very calm water and about 70 degrees. Our guide, Philipa, said we were very, very lucky to have such great weather. A lot of times it is very cool and windy making a difficult crossing.
First, we stopped to see the Rock of Gibraltar which is not actually an island which I thought it was. It is actually an isthmus and connected to the shore of Spain by a thin piece of land. Gibraltar is actually owned by England, not Spain.There are about 30,000 permanent residents there who are considered British citizens, not spanish. It has belonged to england for many centuriies - I cannot remember how they got it originally - but Spain has been trying to get it back ever since.
There is a colony of monkeys that lives on the very top of the rock, and legend has it that when the monkeys disappear, spain will get Gibrilatar back. A funny story, during WWII, Winston churchill sent a lot number of replacement monkeys to Gibraltar to make sure that the rock stayed in British hands.
The ferry ride across took about 45 minutes - it was passenger and car ferry and very comfortable. We were met in Tangiers by our local guide and bus. Tangiers is a very international city with many different areas where people from different countries live. The American part is called "Little CAlifornia" because the weather there is just like southern california. There is a large circular port with a very nice beach. The medina or old city is on flat ground just off the water and the palaces of the king and foreign compounds are spread about the hills.
After driving around the hills for awhile, we had a quick stop for a camel ride for those who wanted to (me of course) and then back down to the water for a walk around the medina,old city. The main language in Morrocco is arabic but french is the second most used. Most of the women still wear long gowns with veils over their hair but only saw a few in full burka (headdress with slits for eyes). about half of the men wear the traditional long robes (forget the name).
We had a wonderful lunch at a beautiful morroccan restaurant with red silk couches, waiters in local dress and even musical enterainment including morroccean dancing (not belly dancing - woman was fully dressed with a large straw hat that looked like a mexican sombrero). We had plates of olives, bread, veggie soup (Bob liked it - I did not - it had cinammon in it), chicken with couscous and honey cakes which are pieces of fried dough soaked in honey, followed by mint tea which I also did not like because it is very sweet.
Walking through the narrow streets of the medina or souk (shopping area) was a real experience - you are constantly hounded by men trying to sell you something - you learn just to not look at anyone and keep walking. we went through a food market and tried different kinds of olives,spices, nuts, breads, lotions, etc. I bought two jars of a wonderful rose lotion.
Of course we had the compulsory stop at a carpet store (up 4 narrow flights of stairs - whew!) - I bought a small morroccan rug which i might use as a wall hanging.- not the typical persian rug but thicker and with an almost contemporary design.
All for now. Bob, bless his heart, went out earlier today(the day after Morocco) to do the laundry at an apartment building down the street that Grand Circle uses for extended stays. the hotels here charge by the piece with about $4 to just wash a pair of socks. I completely conked out and took a nap. We took a day off from the official group activity which was to drive to a nearby city, Malaga, and look around and then have a home hosted lunch with a local family - both Grand Circle and OAT always include this.
The weather today is getting cooler and windier and rain is predicted for the next few days but we will have to wait and see.
Adios for now. Off to Seville tomorrow.
Bob's turn; To get to the Costa del Sol (sun coast) where we are now from the interior, we had to cross the Sierra Nevada (!) mountains, some 11,000 ft high with ski resorts, didn't expect that this far south. Also olive groves as far as the eye could see for miles in every direction. It is barely 10 miles across the straits of Gibraltar just about where the Mediterranean where we are meets the Atlantic but a completely different world from modern Spain. Tangiers Morrocco reminded me of Egypt and the arab dominated parts of Israel (West Bank) but the vendors here were among the most agressive and unpleasant I have ever encountered. Food here is very flavorful but not hot spicy. No need for bottled water. We did have a smooth crossing yesterday but today there is wind and whitecaps on the sea in front of our hotel and we are due for cooler and quite rainy days starting tuesday as we go from seville spain into portugal and continuing to the weekend in Lisbon and Oporto when I leave on sunday.