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!