I love train travel and so we continued the journey by train to Rabat. It was Mother’s Day so I was excited to find a tin of my favorite British chocs in the tiny shop at the station plus Digestive biscuits.
Made the journey even more enjoyable. We bought first class tickets as had seats assigned plus heard the aircon was better and there was no smoking in first class. The trains were lovely and comfortable although the air was not working very well. Smooth and easy 3 hour journey to the capital city.
Rabat was an entirely different experience again and reminded us in places of Paris with large boulevards and trees. We had rented a riad for a couple of nights as it had such rave reviews and was really lovely looking. It did not let us down in terms of being gorgeous but we (OK me) hadn’t realized that Sale is a town next to Rabat and kind of across an inlet of water.
They join together but Salat is like the deserted outpost and we were a bit discombobulated to find out there were no restaurants or any stores that we could find. We were in the Medina but there were barely any places open and no food. We wandered for about an hour and headed back worried as to where dinner would be. The owners quickly said they would cook for us and they rustled up a lovely tagine of turkey meatballs and salad. They also cooked for us the next night and it was one of the best meals we had there: meat and prune, long cooked tagine. Another one full of vegetables too. So it ended up being OK as we enjoyed eating in the riad.
But more than two nights may have had us itching for something a bit different! I can’t do justice to these pictures—it is lovely and the nicest family running it. The 300 year old riad has been in their family for 4 generations :
We spent a lovely day in the center of Rabat wandering around the Medina there with my former student which partially made up for not being at her wedding. I was glad to see her and catch up.
The next day we were up early and took the train back up to Tangier where we easily caught the ferry back to Tarifa. Very easy journey.
We hired a car and driver to take us to Fes from Tangier because we wanted to stop for a few hours in the Blue town of Chefchaouen before continuing onward and the train/bus situation was too long. We had rather a rickety taxi but he was a nice guy and it was lovely to see the countryside. I was surprised at how much agriculture there is in Morocco with sweeping landscapes of wheat and more grains plus orchards of citrus and olives. The smell of the small olive factories was very over powering in the small towns.
Chefchaouen is just as the guidebook photos show – delightfully picturesque. We wandered around the small blue streets, played with numerous kittens, and of course took loads of pictures. There are a lot of tourists and many come in for the day as we did. It would be nice to stay there and experience it later in the evening. Food was sure a lot cheaper than Tangier.
Given our “historic” hotel in Tangier we booked a place outside of the Medina in Fez and I’m really glad we did. We were in the Ibis, which is right next door to the train station and has some small local type restaurants around it. What made staying there so nice were the pool and the grounds. It was a little oasis in a teeming city. They had gorgeous rose gardens and all kinds of flowering plants. There were also peacocks and chickens in the garden and a goat next door! Even though this it a chain, I can recommend a stay here. Plus it had a bar so we were able to have a few drinks at the pool (most places do not serve alcohol).
The next day we hired a guide who took us around the Medina. You need a guide as this place is enormous and we would not have known what to look for or what to see without him. There are quite a few ancient sites within the Medina such as the world’s oldest university, which was started by a woman. The Medina is a UNESCO world heritage site and deserves to be. It’s crazy in places with tiny paths where you have to flatten yourself against walls because horses and donkeys laden with goods are coming by. I feared for my toes at times! Men pushing handcarts and people carrying large cages of birds cram past you. But the neat thing was everyone seemed friendly and they smiled and apologized if they bumped into you. It was a really nice environment and enjoyable experience, which the Medina in Tangier had not proved to be.
There are 250,000 people who live fully in this Median and that doubles during the day with people coming in. Everything needed to survive is created and made here. There are carpenters, metal workers, bakers, sewers, barbers – no one needs to leave. There are also schools and I was able to step in and visit two tiny one-room kindergarten classes.
They were so welcoming and the teachers eager to point out all the things they were learning from the posters around the room. Little room for play and no toys but the littles were laughing and singing. It was a fun day but I sure was glad to be back in that pool garden with a cold beer at the end of it!
Charlotte enjoyed the pool the best.
And I was thrilled to visit the world’s oldest university founded by a woman. Now deep inside the Medina!
I was so excited to see how close and easy it was to get to Morocco from our place in Spain and the excitement increased when I found out one of my former Dubai students was getting married just after we arrived. So we planned to get to Casablanca for the wedding. Best of plans can change as we all came down with heavy colds/chest infections the day after arriving in Barcelona. I haven’t had a cold in quite a few years but this one just wiped me out for a few weeks. So sadly we cancelled the wedding trip but then managed to find a time just last week to pop over for a week. It was very unplanned with no itinerary at all!
Tarifa port and yes that is Morocco in the background!
Our journey started by driving to Tarifa about an hour away and finding a car park to leave the car in for a week. The port one was full but we got a private one that cost about 10 euros a day so not too bad. We bought our ferry tickets and within an hour were boarding the nice ferry for an hour’s journey across the straights. It was only about half full and a relaxing journey. Coming back we were packed in with loads of bus tours but we still found seats thankfully. The only accommodation we had booked was our first two nights in Tangier. We walked out of the port, across the road and climbed up steep stairs to the Continental Hotel, which is apparently an old palace. It backs onto the Medina and overlooks the ocean. It’s an interesting place with gorgeous tiling in the dining area. The people who work there were very nice and let us change rooms to one slightly bigger but the rooms were not exactly luxurious and our shower never would drain easily which meant wet floors plus an unpleasant pong.
We headed out into the Medina for something to eat and were a bit taken aback at such high prices (they capture the tourists well) and the hawkers were pushy and it didn’t feel very relaxing at all. Not somewhere I have much desire to go back to.
The next day we hired a driver to take us all around the local area. Tangier has a new cornice, which looks as if it will be lively in summer. Maybe too lively given the number of discos they seemed to have! We went to the lighthouse where the two oceans meet and the Cave of Hercules amongst other bits. Then it was a pretty drive along the coast to Asilah, which is a small beach town with a pretty Medina and lots of good restaurants. If I came back I think that would be a nice spot to stay for a couple of days.