Sunday, July 21, 2019

Morocco 2019 - Day 7 (7/20/2019) - Tangier

We couldn't sleep in too much this morning because we were to be picked up for a driving tour at 10am.  Breakfast at the Grand Hôtel Villa de France was different from the previous two hotels in that it was a breakfast buffet, as opposed to a spread brought out to your table.  The buffet had some similar options as the other breakfasts (bread, yogurt, fruits, eggs), as well as some others (more cheeses, cereal, and some meat options that I didn't even consider).  After eating we walked down to the hotel driveway (5 minutes early), and our driver was already there waiting for us in a white SUV.

We initially didn't realize that the driver was just the driver, and not the tour guide, until he stopped a couple of kilometers away to pick up the guide, Mohamed.  They first took us back through central Tangier, with a brief stop at the Grande Mosquée de Tanger.  We then headed westward through the wealthy neighborhood nicknamed California (after the hippies and famous people that took homes there in the 1960s and 1970s), and then onward into the Réserve du Cap Spartel.  All the while the guide explained the things we were seeing and gave us a few nuggets of Moroccan history and culture (one interesting fact - the plentiful flags that we saw all around the city indicated that the king might be in the area); he also answered all the questions we peppered him with.

We stopped for about 15 minutes to take in a view from a high point in the nature reserve (and so that Mohamed could grab a quick breakfast - he was sleep deprived due to his one-month-old), but unfortunately could not see across to Spain due to the fog and haze over the Strait of Gibraltar.  Our next stop was the Phare Cap Spartel (Caper Spartel Lighthouse), and then we continued on to the Hercules Caves.  We spent about 25 minutes at the caves, which were bigger than Fran and I expected.  We also appreciated the recent (within the last few years) renovations that they had made to the area to clean it up and make it more accessible to tourists.  After the caves we had them drop us off back at the hotel, where we thanked, tipped, and bid them farewell (at least temporarily...).  By then it was around 12:15, so the tour lasted a little over the scheduled 2 hours.  I will remark that it's is probably pretty reasonable (in terms of driving, parking, and other logistics) to drive and see those two sights without a guide, but it was nice to have someone explain things to us that we wouldn't have known or learned otherwise; plus my shoulder appreciated not having to drive.

We spent barely enough time at the hotel to grab a snack before heading back out again.  We first stopped at St. Andrew's Church, where the kind caretaker showed us around.  Although the church is an Anglican church, it has influences from other religions, including Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism; and despite its small size it had a rich history tracing through the two world wars.  Also, the new pastor of the Church was a Nigerian.  We next walked up along the western edge of the medina and to the Kasbah Museum, with a stop along the way for a bottle of water and a delicious cup of fresh mango-orange juice.  We walked through the museum for perhaps half an hour before continuing on into the medina and wandering around aimlessly for a while.  Fran finally found a stand selling some fresh Moroccan honey, of which she bought a jar (after sampling three).  Another noteworthy event was a turn into a meat market and then a fish market; while it was interesting to see, we didn't waste any time getting out of there for fear of slipping and falling on the wet floor into some fish guts.

By about 2:30 or 3pm, we were starting to get over the medina, so we decided to walk over to the Tanja Marina Bay walkway.  We leisurely strolled down the walkway, first admiring some men (and a boy) showing off their gymnastic abilities on the beach, and later getting some ice cream (easily the best we had in Morocco, in Fran's opinion) at a cafe called Venezia Ice.  From there we made our way back toward the western side of the medina and found the small Syrian cafe/restaurant (Abou Tayssir) to have dinner.  Side note - during the walk we ran into our morning guide Mohamed with a group of clients, and briefly interrupted to say hello.  The owner of the restaurant welcomed us and offered us a full vegetarian spread including pita, hummus, baba ghanouj, a couple other spreads I don't know, tabouleh, heart-shaped felafels, and stuffed grape leaves; he also conversed with us briefly.  The food was delicious, but we didn't have enough room to finish it all.  We thanked the cook with a generous tip, and then walked back to the hotel, stopping again for one last bottle of water.

We were back at the hotel before 7pm.  Fran had a swim before we wound down and called it an early night, anticipating a 2am rise to begin the journey home.



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