Sunday, June 10, 2007
Tangier, Morocco and Tarifa, Spain
I arrived in Tarifa, Spain early on Saturday morning, checked in to my hostel, and went to talk to the tourist agency about a day trip to Morocco. I ended up heading out two hours later after my hot chocolate and reading (Mere Christianity at the moment, which is something I should have read years ago--like when I was an agnostic). The ferry there only took 40 minutes or so, and it was full of not-that-fun looking people with the red FRS stickers stuck on their tops identifying them as fellow tour group members.
We arrived, boarded a bus, and had a "panoramic tour" of Tangier, never stopping to take photos until we arrived at a dusty dirt spot on the side of the road where we were heavily pressured to ride a camel for a photo op for the bargain price of one euro. So of course being the photo snapper that I am, I obliged. Poor camel didn´t seem too happy.
Afterwards we were shown a few homes belonging to government officials but were told that photos were forbidden. We then walked through some streets and were harassed to death over the next few hours to buy things no one would want. It was really exhausting, and it all seemed worse because it seems the company and guide (FRS) were almost undoubtedly in cahoots with the whole deal. For example, we were escorted to stores that were clearly marked up sky high and forced to sit through what amounted to an informercial on rugs. At another store we had to sit through a 20 minute demonstration on various herbs and creams that supposedly accomplish everything from curing acne to stopping snoring. Who knew?
The only real highlight besides knowing that I was on a continent I had never visited before was lunch. Yes, trust me to find the food redeeming. The restaurant was beautiful with tapestries, pillows, music, and sort of what you would picture a a Moroccan restaurant to look like(whether or not it was even remotely authentic I do not know). The first dish was a soup loaded with yummy smelling cinnamon, followed by beef on skewers, and a main dish of chicken in fluffy couscous. I love all of the spices plus they smell so good. And of course, we had plenty of bread and dessert--a Moroccan version of baklava. Afterwards we were trotted through streets so we could be harassed some more by what were probably FRS´s employees. Most of us were very glad to get back on the ferry.
Even though the tour was a joke, I am glad I went. You can see Africa from the beaches here in Tarifa, and it would have driven me crazy not to at least go check it out for 8 hours and a tour group was the only safe way to do it. On the bright side, Tarifa is a great beach town full of kites, Quicksilver, and quirky restaurants. It´s nicknamed the Hawaii of Spain. I have spent the day with a neat girl from Toronto who is working in Switzerland for the next year.
And I am still surprised by the diet here which seems to include no fiber....so what is the solution?? Fiber cookies! Seriously, they are everywhere from gas stations to kiosks. And they only contain like 2 grams of fiber as if that is a big deal, and naturally many of them are covered in chocolate. I hardly ever notice anything like that in our grocery stores (although admittedly I am usually just a perimeter type shopper with maybe one aisle), so it just seems funny to me. I have also found that no restaurants have anything other than whole milk--and that enough of it mixed with coffee and sugar is pretty good stuff, which is saying a lot since I have never like coffee...I guess cafe con leche just sounds exciting enough to try it. Several of the town I have visited have candy stands on what seems like almost every block. Each one has drawers and drawers of candy with lots of gummy type stuff, marshmallows, and stuff like that. I imagine children love it especially thrown in with the fact an ice cream stand is on any corner that does not have the candy stands or pastry shops.
As much fun as I am having, I am excited about spending the rest of the summer with family and friends. I leave in five days!
p.s. I am thankful for the sunscreen that makes it possible for me to enjoy the beaches for hours. And I am thankful for tapas, which allow me to try lots of things for less money.