A ferry to another continent
15.06.2015 - 16.06.2015
The FRS Iberia ferry leaves from Tarifa, Spain, to Tangier, Morocco every other hour on the hour and you arrive in Africa 35 minutes after leaving Spain. Their website is fantastic and you can easily book and reserve tickets on line. Before we left Florida, we decided that it would be a shame to be so close and not make the effort to see Morocco, even if it was only for a day. But because we were staying two hours from the nearest ferry, I didn't want it to be a 14 hour round trip filled with aching feet and exhausted, hostile children. This is where well-researched trip planning comes in handy. I used Expedia to reserve a hotel that I could cancel if we decided we were packing too much adventure into our trip.
Tarifa is a cute little port town just off the A2, complete with a plaza and a great castle. Parking at the ferry building is (after validation) 12 euro, and there is a cafe inside for croissant and coffee while you wait. We were taking the 11 o'clock ferry which, because of the time change brought us to Tangier at 10 o'clock. I had reserved a room at the Continental Hotel, which overlooks the harbor and is a beautiful old grand lady of a monument to history and architecture. William Burroughs stayed here and would sit out on the terrace waiting for all his Beat friends to arrive - Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg - by ferry. At 75 dollars for a huge four bed room with views over the water, why would you stay anywhere else? Plus it's nestled at the base of the Kasbah just below the Petit Souq, so you can walk everywhere.
Tangier is a great city for wanderers. I love being places that feel absolutely nothing like home. People look different and sound different. Everything smells like mint and cilantro, fresh bread baking, and unfamiliar spices. In some parts, the streets are so narrow, the sun doesn't reach down to the street and you are left in shadow. On others, like the circle surrounding the Grand Souk, horns blaze, taxis jockey for position, and you race across the street, children in tow, hoping for the best. Food stalls each sell one thing - fruit or meat or olives or bread, and people take pride in the wares they've made or cultivated.
Tangier is easy to navigate when your husband speaks Arabic. I took full advantage. After we left the Petit Souk, we hiked up to the Kasbah, stopping for lunch at a cafe along the way. Vegetable tagine and more mint tea (because I was determined to drink as much as I could before It was no longer available at my beck and call). This isn't a place where I'd drink the tap water, but I think if you open your eyes and use good judgment, you shouldn't get sick. Or maybe after Mexico and Lebanon I have the immune system of a super hero, I don't know.
At the Kasbah, Husband started chatting with a guy who ended up giving us a tour of the neighborhood. I know, they're all over Tangier - everyone wants to give you a tour. But I am almost positive we never would have found our way out of that place without him so it worked out in the end. Though I am not particularly interested in seeing where Paul Bowles lived or Matisse painted, I did enjoy the experience of being led around so I could drink in the 600 year old architecture and the unique tiling that mark the Moroccon style. And my kids sat on the porch where the Clash wrote Rocking the Casbah, so it was entertaining.
After a brief respite at the hotel, we ventured back out. The rain had stopped and the long stretch of golden sand beach we could see from our window was beckoning. As the day wears on, more and more people come out. The beach was enjoyed by groups of young men playing soccer, families with small kids, us, and a camel.
A stop for more mint tea (and Adams second ice cream of the day), then we headed back to the Grand Souk. Everyone was out, grateful that the sun had returned. Men with carts were selling all manner of street food and I was happy to sample it all. I don't know what it all was, but there was some kind of savory custard and then a hot brioche dipped in sugar. Heaven. Finally we located the Cafe Paris, where Jason Bourne did something with a cell phone in the third Bourne movie. Husband was very excited and I took lots of pictures. He did, after all, buy me a new tagine!