tangier & asilah
It was the best trip of my life.
Pip and I left on Friday morning to drive down to Tarifa and catch the fast ferry (35 minutes) to Tangier. We got there in plenty of time to have coffee and toast at the aptly named Carpe Diem café, and then made our way to the port across the street. Arriving at the port in Tangier was the beginning of a four-day adventure that was nothing I could have imagined …
The first step was to change some money and find a taxi to the hotel. That taxi ride was slightly unnerving as we had no idea where we were going … and neither did the taxi driver (he kept asking people for directions). At one point he even stopped to pick up a hitchhiker. Hitching rides with taxis is apparently a common practice there. We were left in a square which, had we known it, was less than a five-minute walk to the hotel. We also later found out that we could have been dropped off in front of the hotel and that our 5 euro taxi ride should have only cost 2 euros … live and learn. As soon as we got out of the taxi two small boys were immediately at our side offering directions to the hotel. We tried to ignore them but as we were lost we finally let them guide us … and one of them then asked us for 5 euros! Well, we weren’t that “fresh off the boat” and so Pip gave him 20 cents. Man, you should have seen the theatrics the kid put on about that, but he eventually went away … and we were at our hotel!
Talk about an oasis. Charming and tastefully decorated, the Tangerina Hotel is perfectly situated in the Kasbah and within walking distance of everywhere we wanted to go. Our room was delightful and the breakfast (included in the price) was both delicious and sumptuous. When we got stranded in Tangier on Sunday and had to find another hotel we learned how special the Tangerina really is. Even a nearby (and more expensive) hotel was extremely tacky and unwelcoming, which made the honest seediness of the Continental Hotel, where we eventually ended up, easier to deal with. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
That first day was spent walking around the Medina (Kasbah), happily getting lost while wandering through the maze of small streets and alleyways. The views and street scenes were truly a feast for the eyes, but what we found equally enticing were the sounds and especially the smells … Tangier smells wonderful! I think we finally narrowed it down to a combination of baking bread and spices. Anyhow, it was something that we both wished we could take home with us. By nightfall we were so tired out that a room service snack, a bottle of wine and a film on DVD was a perfect ending to a very interesting day.
On Saturday we had breakfast on the rooftop terrace of the hotel (the view from our table is the first pic above) and then wandered a bit more around the Kasbah before heading out to Asilah for the day. I’d heard so much about this little “blue village” that I was really looking forward to seeing it. It’s a slow and friendly place with a colourful Medina that caters mostly to Moroccan tourists. During the month of August, artists from around the globe come to Asilah and paint wonderful murals on the white walls throughout the medina. Pip and I honed our bartering skills while were were there … it’s actually a lot of fun once you get into it. Lunch was at a Spanish-style restaurant that served excellent seafood.
Last day in Tangier (or so we thought). Because it was so windy, breakfast was served in the diningroom and patio, after which Pip and I packed up our bags and left them in the reception area while we went out for one last walk (or so we thought) around town. We came across a couple of markets we hadn’t seen before and also made our way down to the beach. But it was so windy that we eventually headed back to the Kasbah and decided to try the Hamadi restaurant again for lunch. After that (as most of you already know) we picked up our bags, taxied to the port and were told that no fast ferries were going that day due to high winds. Which led to “the further adventures…” of having to find another hotel for the night (the Tangerina was fully booked) as well as finding a way to spend the evening that wouldn’t require sitting in our room. I suspect the Continental Hotel was once quite splendid in its day (it’s also located next to Jimmy’s ) but while the terrace, entrance and salon areas are still quite grand, the rooms are rather poky and dingy – especially after the Tangerina.
So we took another stroll around the Medina, remarking on how “familiar and at home” everything seemed. We even stopped and chatted with shopkeepers, no longer unsure as to how they would respond to us. And on the way back to the Continental picked up some take-away snacks and mineral water at a nearby kiosk and spent the rest of the evening in the smaller downstairs salon (with WIFI). Then Pip found an old Reader’s Digest and read it aloud, which had us both in stitches. And finally it was time for bed. And we all know what happened on the BIG ferry the following day …
But that extra night in town, staying at a seedy portside hotel, did actually feel a bit adventurous. And the rest of the weekend couldn’t have been better. So many amazing sights (and wonderful smells). The people were very friendly and we didn’t get hassled nearly as much as we though we would, based on what we’d been told. And so now we’re thinking of doing a whole week sometime and going to Fez, Casablanca and Marrakech. Except next time we’ll fly – no more ferries for us!