Detours

Trip Start Jun 22, 2010
1
5
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Trip End Jul 19, 2010


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Where I stayed
Hostal Guadalupe

Flag of Morocco  ,
Saturday, July 10, 2010

Detours, to most travelers, are usually regarded with some trepidation. After all, if you've spent weeks pouring over the AAA map (or mapquest) trying every possible combination and permutation of routes to determine the one, perfect, line on the map, a glaring orange sign ahead usually doesn’t bear good news.  That big, bright display is normally a sign of other troubles such as increased traffic, road construction, and/or missing planned sights along the way.  ("Or maybe you don’t want to see the world’s largest ball of string?" asked Clark Griswold.)

Detours in all parts of life are relatively common, but the big orange sign isn’t always around to tell you when you’ve been sent on one.  Sometimes they’re easy to see, as in “I know I declared I was a Computer Science major, but now I think I want a Communications degree instead.”  Others are more subtle, as in “Should I have the tuna salad or the ham sandwich for lunch?”  (Turns out you should have picked the ham when the tuna gives you food poisoning several hours later.)  Detours don’t always lead to more traffic and headaches either, as in “I think I’ll move to New York and go to work for Six Flags,” or “I think I’ll move to Seattle and teach at Lawton.”  If you’ll allow me to combine a couple of clichés, we’re all creatures of habit but variety is the spice of life.  Our detour on this trip (so far) was a relatively minor one, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

After the cruise dropped us back in Dover, we spent the day with Elizabeth’s friend Raul, his fiancé, and his wonderful parents.  They are all so incredibly friendly and hospitable, greeting Elizabeth as if a day hadn’t passed since their last meeting (instead of several years), and instantly welcoming me into the fold.  It felt a bit odd to be back on solid ground after 12 days of sea legs, so I’m pretty sure I looked drunk as I staggered against a sea swell that wasn’t really there.  The hospitality was much appreciated as we shifted our minds towards the next leg of this adventure – Spain!

Our plan for the second half of our trip included five days in Spain.  I’ve never been, but Elizabeth had traveled to San Sebastian on the northern coast on a trip to visit Raul’s father’s hometown several years ago and loved it.  San Sebastian would have been a preferred destination for our few days, but the first detour occurred when we realized that Pamplona lies only 20 minutes away.  Since this week contains the running of the bulls, San Sebastian is fully booked.  If not the north, then how about the south?  For a number of reasons, including ease of transport and cost, we decided on the Costa del Sol.  (That’s “coast of the sun” for those of you who speak Spanish as well as I do…very poorly!)  We found a lovely sea-side resort called Torremolinos that is just west of Malaga, a major city on the Mediterranean. 

We arrived at the Malaga airport literally moments after underdog Spain had beaten favored Germany in the semifinals of the World Cup.  As soon as they opened the cabin door you could hear the horns honking in the distance.  The taxi ride into town was, um, “unique,” as we wove through streets filled with exuberant fans.  And this was just the semi-finals!  What if they actually win the whole enchilada, a true world series held every four years?!  (As I write this, first kick is little more than three hours away.  The air horns, vuvuzaleas, and cannon shots(!) have already been going on for hours.) 

Our home in Torremolinos was a beautiful little bed & breakfast called “Hostal Guadalupe” across the street from the beach.  (“La Playa.”  See, I’m picking it up already!)  I surprised Elizabeth by booking the “attic” room, which featured a private deck overlooking the Mediterranean.  As is our habit, we booked three out of the five nights of our Spanish adventure and left the other two to chance.  “Let’s see where we wind up” is our little version of a pre-planned detour.  In this case, we enjoyed the Guadalupe so much we decided to extend and spend the whole time based out of Torremolinos.  A beautiful beach-front room, close to a train station for a day trip into Malaga proper, and super-friendly (and English speaking!) staff.

I should mention that this entire region of Spain is somewhat of a British ex-pat hangout, so we were a bit worried about actually getting an “authentic” Spanish experience here.  To be sure, there are plenty of fish 'n chips joints and pubs along the beach, but our host Roberto was happy to point out a couple of restaurants where the natives like to eat.  Of course we also took time for a brief visit to Eli’s favorite non-local spot, IKEA!  (Yes, they sell Swedish meatballs here too!)

One benefit of being a playground for the Brits is the availability of day-trip “excursions” around the region.  Seville, Cordoba, Cadiz, and Gibraltar are all within easy reach.  Never being terribly fond of anything too easy to reach, we instead opted for something completely different.  Like a completely different continent.  “I’ve always wanted to go to Morocco,” said Elizabeth.   And thus a detour was born.

Even though it’s “close” by continental standards, it’s still an all-day affair to get from Torremolinos to Tangier.  There are two varieties of excursions, the standard picks up at 5:20 AM and sends you over on the slow boat.  The “de luxe” picks up at 7:15 and takes the fast boat across.   Not being a morning person, I suggested the “de luxe.” 

The morning drive down the coast was beautiful, the semi-arid mountains and dramatic seascapes reminding me a bit of southern California.  A glimpse of a hazy Gibraltar in the distance reminded me to check my investments with Prudential, and after a nearly three hour drive we arrived at the port of Tariffa.  Once it got going, the fast boat really was fast.  Merely 45 minutes to move from one continent to another.  14 kilometers at the narrowest point, the Straits of Gibraltar divide to land masses that might as well be worlds apart.  It’s easy to see how the Moorish influence came over to Spain, and even easier to see how European colonialism took root in Africa.  So close, yet so far away.

This was Elizabeth’s first trip to Africa, and she has now set foot on all the continents save one – Antarctica

(Ed. Note: As I go wash my face and brush my teeth, Elizabeth gets the writing bug and steps in.)



We were herded from the air-conditioned motor coach to the ferry, then from the ferry to our Moroccan air-conditioned motor coach. Our Moroccan guide, Said, took a bus full of us English speaking guests on the quickest tour of Tangier. We drove up a hill passing some elaborate gated homes facing the water front, mosques, pedestrians. We were instructed that once the coach stops, we had the option of getting out and getting a ride on a camel, for 1 Euro. About 3 coaches pulled up at the same time. The tourists, guided by their camera lens shot away. We choose to stand back as this ‘fantasyland’ attraction was something we did in Dubai.

On with the tour, down the hill to the Kasbah. (The Clash playing in my head the entire time. – Ed) Our guide ushered us through the narrow, winding cobblestone streets. Occasionally stopping to tell us about what we were seeing. For us, being herded in a large group tour was less than adventurous. Sighing, we follow Said, feeling watched, we took a harder look at our surroundings. We were being followed, watched, and photographed. A Moroccan, trying to earn a buck took pictures of our group, which he later tried to sell. Men jumped in front of us as we walked down the narrow paths trying to sell bracelets, bags, tea pots, you name it. They were like flies swarming in. If we stayed in one place too long to hear Said speak about what we were saying we’d get stung. Not wanting to let any of us leave empty handed the sellers were insistent on selling us something. Lunch was in a tourist restaurant with Moroccan music and food. But once we stepped back on the cobblestone again, the paparazzi (the Moroccan sellers) were swarming and ready for a sell. We were guided through the small walkways that were several stories tall. Along the way we stopped in a carpet shop for a demonstration (infomercial), a pharmacy (Moroccans have a spice cure for just about everything,) and a snake charmer demonstration. Elizabeth was not thrilled with the day’s itinerary but non the less, she had a Moroccan experience.

(Elizabeth gets sleepy, and Brandon takes over the typing duties…)



For a quick four hour tour of Tangier, it was rather entertaining.  My only point of African comparison was a trip to Cairo last year, and while the cultures are different at heart there were some similarities.  The feeling of history, really of “ancientness.”  (Not even sure that’s a word, but what the heck.)  The vendors on the street were selling photographs, hats, and little wooden camels today, but the same kind of guys were selling spice and cloth hundreds and thousands of years ago.  We would love to go back sometime for a more thorough exploration of the country and its’ people.  Both of us have worked with peers from Morocco at Disney, all of them very kind people.  Perhaps a personal tour guide?

If getting there is half the fun, then I assume that the actual visit is the other half, which leaves no fun remaining for the trip home.  The three hour bus ride and one hour ferry trip had to be repeated in reverse, which got us back to base camp around 9:30.  Fortunately this is exactly when the nightlife starts to pick up in Spain, and is considered the “early” seating for dinner.  We frequented two restaurants in Torremolios, both had fantastic tapas and wine cheaper than water. Plus, we need our beauty rest because the World Cup finals are coming up.  But that’s a story for a different time…
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Comments

valm on

You 2 are awesome!! Looks like an amazing trip!!
Have fun, and thanks for sharing so much. I'm traveling vicariously through you.
Hi and best wishes to Raul.

Joci on

Ah, yes. Nothing like a trip to IKEA for an authentic Spanish experience...Wait a minute - I thought you were in Russia - what the heck are you doing in Tangiers?

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