Well, I finally finished up with all my back posts of our trip! The photo above shows a few pieces of the loot haul, and in the dish is a small stone that I picked up from the water at Barceloneta beach. I don’t even know if it is imported or not, but the authenticity isn’t important. It’s the memory that it represents that gives it value. One of my favorite movie scenes explains what I mean.
Anyways, here are a couple lists I made about the trip.
Total miles traveled: 12,905
First trip to Africa – That makes it four continents for me!
Crossing from Africa to Europe by ferry – The so-called Strait of Gibraltar have been one of those mythical things since I was a little kid
Touching the Mediterranean – Again, like something out of a dream. Isn’t this where the Greek gods/heroes used to play?
Boquerones tapas (fried sardines)
Almejas tapas (clams)
Since I posted my trip entries after-the-fact, here’s a list you can use to easily access each one:
Today was another travel day. Since we booked cheap tickets, our flight plan took us back to Casablanca from Barcelona, then overnight at a hotel, and then fly out the next day… so, another long day with long miles!
We started the day with a nice breakfast at Hotel Constanza, then took a taxi to the Barcelona airport. The security and customs process in that airport is pretty crazy, and almost everyone who finished customs took off running to their gate. It would have been kind of funny to see had we not been in a similar situation. But we made it to our flight with a few minutes to spare, and after a short hop over Spain and the strait, we were back in Morocco!
After an hour train ride and short taxi right, we reached our hotel, the Melliber Appart Hotel in the afternoon and settled in. We were pleasantly surprised that our room had an amazing view of the Hassan II Mosque, which is the largest mosque in Morocco. It’s pretty impressive. There’s even a laser on top which shines straight to Mecca. Wow.
After a brief rest, Mariko and I took a walk to look for a market for some last-minute goodies, but we got kind of spooked when we saw a man threaten another man on a scooter with a huge kitchen knife. It was a bit unnerving! We were told that people were cranky in the afternoons because of the fasting, but this was a bit extreme. So we gave up the search for the market and headed to the mosque for a closer look. As you can imagine, it’s huge. As the day was ending, and Ramadan was nearing its close, hundreds of people were coming to pray. It was quite a sight to see.
Dinner was had at the hotel restaurant where we enjoyed beef steak, fish tagine, fried eggs with shredded beef, and a variety of salads. Plus mint tea! I missed the Moroccan mint tea!
We departed the ferry and took our first steps in Spain! 🇪🇸 It was the first trip to Europe for Mariko and the kids, so it was pretty special. And getting our passports stamped was cool! 😄
It was a short walk to the train station, where we bought tickets to Granada. How fun and novel to be able to communicate well with the person behind the ticket counter! Anyways, the train wound its way through some stunning Spanish countryside and mountains, stopping in some truly picturesque towns. It would have been nice to stay for a night! Honestly, that part of Spain reminded me a lot of California.
The train station in Granada is currently under renovation, so no trains can leave/arrive there at this time. Everyone who had a ticket to Granada had to exit the train at Antequera and transfer to buses that drove us to the station. It was all seamless and there were train staff and signs directing everyone to the buses.
After an hour or two on the road, we arrived in Granada and walked to our hotel, the Five Senses Hotel and Spa. I can’t say enough about how helpful the hotel staff was at the Five Senses. They secured tickets and tour of The Alhambra for us on short notice (totally my fault), were able to recommend some great tapas restaurants, helped arrange our bus transportation to Barcelona, and printed out our tickets for our upcoming museum tours. So helpful and friendly!
So, now that we were settled in Granada, it was time for tapas! Our first stop was Los Diamantes, which is known for their seafood. Along with beer and sangria, we enjoyed almejas (clams), pulpo (octopus), and boquerones (fried anchovies). It was all delicious!
After that, we went next door to La Gran Taberna for some jamon tapas and beer. The food here seemed to be old-school authentic and I was completely satisfied.
The streets in Granada are so fun. There’s a ton to see, and just people-watching is interesting. I really loved it.
After some gelato, it was back to the hotel for some well-deserved rest. What a long day! Waking up in Morocco, traveling by car, ferry, train, and bus, then finishing the day at tapas bars in Granada. Certainly one of the most memorable of my life. 😀 🇲🇦 🚖 🚆 🚌 🇪🇸
Today we woke up early and had a taxi waiting to take us to Tangier Med port to catch the ferry. As previously mentioned, we had our hotel arrange for a taxi at a set price who would meet us at a set time (7:15 AM). This may seem like a normal thing, but Morocco-time is not predictable! So, it was nice to have the opportunity to use a trusted service.
There are basically two ferry routes between Tangier and Spain. One route is between Tangier Port and Tarifa. The other is between Tangier Med and Algeciras. We opted for the second option because we knew we’d have to catch the train from Algeciras to Granada. If we went from Tangier to Tarifa, we’d have to take a bus from Tarifa to Algeciras, then a taxi from the bus terminal to the train station.
On the other hand, the ferry from Tangier Med goes straight to Algeciras, and it is only a 15-minute walk from the dock to the train station. The only problem was that Tangier Med is about a 40-minute drive from Tangier. Being that our hotel was actually on the way to Tangier Med, it seemed like that route was the way to go. Our pre-arranged taxi cost 250 dirhams, or $25 US, which is pretty typical. Not bad for 4 people + luggage. Another option that I read about, was to take the bus from Tangier Ville train station to Tangier Med port, which only cost about $0.70 per person. However, we’d have to take a taxi to the bus, and then be tied to the schedule/speed of the driver. We opted to pay $25 for the no-hassle “door-to-door” service.
Once at the port, we checked in at our ferry company’s check-in counter (FRS), then proceeded to security. The entire terminal was pretty much devoid of people, so we breezed through customs and then had 15-minutes to kill at the waiting area until the shuttle bus picked us up and took us to the actual ferry.
There are a few different ferry operators that run between Tanger Med and Algeciras, and we opted for FRS because we were able to buy our tickets online using our credit card. One of the staff ladies at the hotel said they were the most expensive, but not too bad. She also told us she preferred the Tanger Med port over Tangier because it was less crowded. Anyways, each ferry ticket cost us 230 dirhams, or $23 US. As crossing from Africa to Europe by ferry was one of the things Bay and I really wanted to do, I think this is a reasonable price to pay for a “life experience”. 😄
I’m not sure if it gets a lot busier at Tanger Med, but we could have just bought the tickets there since there were no people at all. But we didn’t know that beforehand… and it was nice to have reservations just for the peace of mind.
When we arrived at the ship, we were led aboard by a staff member, through the vehicle deck, where I spotted a lone BMW F650 GS – the same model as mine! Someone was having a nice intercontinental bike journey. 🏍
Once aboard, we made our way to the snack bar. It immediately felt like we had left Morocco because the air-conditioning was strong, the ship was super-clean, and the staff spoke Spanish. I was actually able to use my 2-years of high school Spanish classes!
I immediately put my skills to use by ordering a cerveza. 😛 After a week of traveling in a dry country, the beer tasted so good. Since it was only 10 AM, it really was a beer-for-breakfast moment. 🍺
The journey across the strait took about an hour and a half, I think, and was uneventful. Clear skies, blue waters, and a nice rest were a welcome change from the heat of Morocco.
And when we got close to the port city of Algeciras, a small miracle happened. I got a text message from T-mobile saying “Welcome to Spain. Enjoy free unlimited texting and data at 2G speeds.” Woohoo!
Today we caught the train from Fes Station bound for Tangier. In the previous post, I mentioned buying first-class tickets to enjoy the air-conditioned cars. But unfortunately, our train’s a/c wasn’t working consistently, so it was hot! And btw, Fes was a lovely 40° C/104° F! Ugh… 😣
We finally reached the northern port city of Tangier in the afternoon, and headed to our hotel, the awesome Mnar Castle Apartment Hotel. As you can see from the photo below, we had a nice view of Europe across the strait! It was great to see the sunset from our balcony. I have to say, the staff at the hotel was great, and super helpful with their advice on ferries, and secured a taxi for the next morning. What a relief to know that it was all taken care of!
We didn’t really have time to explore the city because we arrived late, so we just took advantage of the apartment’s washing machine to do our week’s worth of laundry. Everything dried out nicely in the warm Moroccan breeze. 🍃
After a dinner at the hotel restaurant of tuna pizza, beef tagine, and pastille (Bay loves that), it’s time to get some rest.
Today was another day of travel, but first, we enjoyed another yummy breakfast at Riad Meftaha before heading out to catch our train.
The journey to Fes was long, but pretty comfortable because we bought first-class tickets for the train. I recommend always paying the extra money which will get you assigned seats in air-conditioned compartments. And it is only a few dollars more than a second-class ticket. Well worth it in my opinion, especially in the summer!
We arrived in Fes in the afternoon, and unfortunately, there was a problem with the room we had booked at our Riad, but we were offered a room at another Riad (same owners) which turned out great. The hosts at Riad Tahra were friendly and helpful, and when they found out we were only in Fes for half a day, they recommended we hire a guide to take us to the main sights in the Medina, and we agreed to do so.
The guide was an older gentleman and was part of the official tourism group, and the price was set at 250 dirhams (about $25). The Medina in Fes is a UNESCO World Heritage Center and a real maze of winding streets and endless shops. So, the guide was invaluable! Not only did he take us to the top sights (with great explanations and information), but he shielded us from the more aggressive vendors. It was such a pleasant tour that I’d say it was one of the highlights of the trip for me.
After the 3-hour tour, we returned to the Riad to rest, shower (Mariko had a massage and hammam), and have dinner of delicious beef tagine, pastille, and couscous dish.
Even though we only stayed a half-day in Fes, it was a wonderful experience!
Today we left Marrakech by train and headed up to the capital of Morocco, Rabat. After checking into Riad Meftaha, we had an early dinner at Dar Naji.
It’s Ramadan, so only a few places were open before sundown, but Dar Naji was ready for us non-Muslim tourists with a special fixed menu of salad, bread, tagine (beef or chicken) fresh fruit, and of course mint tea. All delicious!
After the sun went down, the restaurant filled with locals ending their daily fasts, and it was like a party atmosphere!
The kids wanted to just relax the rest of the night back at the Riad (and enjoy the Wi-Fi) but Mariko and I strolled around the empty Medina. It was eerily quiet, but really cool. I took plenty of photos! 😀
We finished our evening with a coffee and cake at La Couronne Doree before heading back to the Riad.