A Travellerspoint blog

Chefchaoen, Morocco

rain 68 °F

It is finally time to cross the straits of Gibraltar. We awoke early to the sound of a torrential downpour waiting til it subsided we rushed to the ferry forgetting my towel at the hostel. On the way there several of the sewers were backed up onto the streets and the promenades had holes in their roofs so we were soaked by the we boarded the ferry.

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Once we arrived it was a dash to the free bus to get to Tangier where our connection was located. After the driver gets about a quarter mile from the port, and with our luggage secure in the bowels of the bus, he pulls over and demands 50 dirham (about €5) from us to purchase tickets. Not really having an option we payed up.

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Once we got to Tangier, we immediately had people offering to help us with anything but they were only looking for money. Nice but greedy is how I would describe Moroccans. At the bus station we pushed pass the press of passengers and "ticket sellers" to get to the ticket offices. Here we finally purchase our tickets. I had asked the man if he took euros, to which he replied yes but then demanded an absurd exchange rate of one to one. I pulled out my phone and showed him it is 1 euro to 12 dirhams and we agreed on a 1 to 10 rate. So lost another euro on that.

While we waited we saw a man wearing an Oregon Ducks shirt and chatted with them. They live in southeast Portland and, together with a Japanese girl from Sapporo, we traveled onto our mutual destination. Once again we had an issue with the seats. The driver told us to sit wherever we wanted but at the next stop we all had to move as the seating was assigned. Ben was in full on culture shock by this point. The crowds, the yelling, no one following traffic lines or signals. I told him China was the same and hadn't seen any accidents there, so don't worry. Much to my chagrin there were two major accidents on our way to Chefchaoen. A head on collision and a car driven into a ditch.

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We parted ways with the Oregonions and the Japanese girl and opted to walk to the Medina (old town). Chefchaoen is famed for two things: the blue buildings and marijuana. Although illegal here in Morocco, it is a major crop here in the Rif mountains. Ben was offered some weed about seven times.

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The hostel we stayed at, Riad Baraka, is the best hostel I have ever stayed at. It is a converted 600 year old house that use to house a family per room. The owner is British and has been in Morocco for the last twenty years. Ben's culture shock continued when he was awoken by the Islamic call to prayer 6:30am.

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The food we had was made from the freshest ingredients. For breakfest we had the local bananas, kiwi and melons on yoghurt.

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Dinner was composed of fresh bread that was very similar to ciabatta. We also had a legume soup, chicken briouts (minced chicken wrapped in a filo dough like pastry) and basteeya (pigeon mixed with almonds, wrapped in dough and covered in powdered sugar).

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Chefchaoen being a small town, we ran into the Oregonians again at dinner.

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Posted by CulinarySojourn 13:46 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

Gibraltar, UK

sunny 82 °F

Our next stop on our world tour was the dreary country of Great Britian. Once boosting that the sun never set on their far flung lands, now they have only few outposts left to remind them. Here on the south end of Spain sits a mountain that flies the Queen's colours, cooks good English fair such as fish and chips and has monkeys.

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Having got a late start we headed to the bus station. To pay our €4.90 for the round trip ticket from Algeciras to La Lines, just a stone throw away from Gibraltar. Once here we had to pass though customs, really just a man counting the number of visitors, and wait for a plane to use the street as a runway.

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Once inside you can see the old defense lines used by the British to defend against French and Spanish troops as well as the tunnels carved into the rock. We made our way through the streets to the base of the cable car as it would be to hot to climb the mountain at this point.

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We opted for the one way up tickets and made our ascent within six minutes. Once we got to the top there were several of the natives waiting for us. There were about ten running around at the cable car station and we tried to keep out distance. However, one large male, that looked like he took supplements, decided he needed to get past us and shoulders past Ben. We were having a conversation and did not notice him approach so this Ben by surprise and nearly knocked him over.

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As we descended there are some sights to see on the mountain. The siege tunnels, various parts the Queen saw back in 1954 and more monkeys. We didn't want to pay anymore so we saw what we could for free and tried to head down the mountain as best we could. Some of the roads dead ended and we had to back track.

Famished from the descent, we wandered through town and opted to eat at the Star bar, the oldest bar in Gibraltar. Here we had a heavy meal of fish and chips and stewed beef in a beer gravy. We also had the best Coca Cola since the states. Spanish Coke is more like a Pepsi while the UK Coke was more like the American Coke but with less carbonation and less acidic.

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The one souvenir I get is the local currency. Despite being the UK, Gibraltar technically has the Gibraltar £. It has the same exchange rate and is interchangeable. Unfortunately, I couldn't get any of my change back as they insisted that I get euros back if I payed in euros. Other than hassling tourists, this endeaver ended in failure. On our way back to Spain, we saw a lot of Spaniards trying to smuggle the duty free merchandise across the border. One lady was trying to put ten packs of cigarettes down her spandax pants.

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Posted by CulinarySojourn 07:28 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Madrid, Spain

We decided to head to Madrid on the train. If you book early enough on the Renfe sight, you can save a significant amount of money. However, the website doesn't work well for payment if your not using an European card. I tried several times in the U.S. without any success. Once we got to the terminal, we were unsure of where to go. There were a lot of counters and so we decided to ask at information which took half an hour. We were then told to take a number, about 50 people were ahead of us, and wait til called. Tiring of this rather quickly, I wandered around til I found some British people who told me to just use one of the kiosks in front of the information desk. 5 minutes later we had our tickets and were ready to head off. The scenery was breathtaking, between every hill was the potential for an old village, church or castle. I tries to stay awake but for those that know me, I can't seem to on a moving vehicle.

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Once we arrived, we had to walk to the other side of the city to reach our hostel. This allows us a chance to see the sights and get a feeling for the city. One issue is that the Spanish tend to give multiple names for one street, changing it every few kilometres. This can make it rather difficult to find the correct route. A friendly British girl did give us directions when we were looking at a bus map which helped.

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The first site we went to was the Egyptian temple that was gifted to the Spanish government. This was in appreciation for helping excavate the area which would be covered by the daming of the Nile River. Since it would have been submerged anyways, it was taken apart rock by rock and reassembled here.

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After this was the Spanish royal palace. Each room was opulant, almost garish by todays standards. It is also quite hot inside although the Royal Armoury was quite a bit cooler. Unfortunately there were guards in every room to prevent you from taking photographs.

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We also went to the Naval Museum which is on military property and requires a photo ID to enter. This museum shows the evolution of the Spanish navy, the geographical extent of Spanish explorations, the first known map of America and an armoury showing the weapons of the natives encountered by the Spanish. Unfortunately, the signs were not translated into English.

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Looking for something quick we ducked into Museo De Jamon. This place offered excellent bocadillos (baguette with meat and/or cheese) for rather cheap.

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Madrid was rather hard to find Spanish food in other than sandwiches. We found more western fast food outlets here than in Barcelona. However, they did change some aspects to appeal to Spanish tastes. Most McDonalds were McCafe and Dunkin Doughnuts became Dunkin Coffee. We did find another market that was fantastic as they sold items tapas style so were able to eat a wide range of food. We had sangria, salted cod, another sandwich, olive skewers and more.

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This stood out as quite exotic. It is surumi, a fish paste, that is then sent through a meat grinder and served on toasted bread.

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And finaly, the obligatory cat photo. Once again there were dogs (none nuetured) everywhere but not a single cat.

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Posted by CulinarySojourn 11:32 Comments (0)

Barcelona, Spain

sunny 82 °F
View Around the world in however long it takes. on CulinarySojourn's travel map.

We have finally finished the oceanic portion of our adventure and are 10% completed. One of the best parts of cruising is the attention you receive from the staff as they make sure everything is to your liking. Sometimes this borders on being fussy but they are well meaning. On the last day they pretty much throw you out as fast as possible. We wake up at 6:30 to shower, pack and shovel the last bits of free food into our mouths before we disembark at 8am. From here it is a few miles through parking lots, shipping containers and a long bridge before we get into the city. The best feature of Barcelona is the ease of which you can walk around. We didn't encounter a press of cars and many streets were devoted solely for pedestrians making it easy to admire the architecture.

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Of course there is also the famous architect, Gaudi, who has placed his stamp on the city with several building designs as well as the cathedral that is still being worked on despite being started in 1882. It is a the most visited site in Spain.

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Here is an example of some of his other work.

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After this we decided to get some some food and decided on the most iconic of Spain's dishes, paella. Ben choose a simple meat one while I went for a seafood paella with squid ink. Unfortunately, the server removed it from the hot pan before I was able to take a picture of it. We also had a small starter of toasted bread with crushed tomatoes and a local thin sausage called fuet, which is simply pork, salt, pepper and paprika then stuffed and air dried.

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We then made our way to the local market where we were to stuffed to eat anything else other than some freshly squeezed juices. I had pomegranate while Ben ordered a orange and papaya. While mine was refreshing, Ben's was thick and bitter.

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We only had 24 hours in Barcelona but I think that we managed to see most of it. I will definatly come back. Finally, there was not a single cat that I could find other than this one.

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Posted by CulinarySojourn 00:21 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Palma de Majorca, Spain

sunny 82 °F
View Around the world in however long it takes. on CulinarySojourn's travel map.

The island of Majorca is our last stop on the cruise ship before they kick us off. The city received its name from the Romans due to all of the palm trees in the region. Unfortunately, the ship docked on the opposite side of the harbour from the central plaza and required a few miles of walking. Having stayed out late the night before on the ship, we accidently slept in later than planned and had to rush through the day to see everything.

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Our initial stop was the Bellvor Castle situated on the hill between the ship and the urban center, but we did not find the one cross street we needed to turn at until we headed back. A lot of the signs to guide you to sights are only in one place and if you miss it your out of luck.

As with all medieval towns the central area is dominated by the cathedral. In addition, there is a palace that is still used by the Spanish government and is off limits. As this island was controlled by the Muslims for centuries, the architecture was much different than that of Cadiz and Lisbon.

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There were a variety of street performers in the main square ranging from musicians, invisible men and this levitation trick.

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As we headed back towards the ship and the castle we found several old windmills and some of the locals lounging around.

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Intrigued by a local supermarket, we decided to check out the meat and seafood departments for any local specialties. Where Americans tend to not want to see where our food comes from, Europeans and others are used to the eyes, tongue, feet, etc still attached. These smoked legs of ham are either sold complete or the butcher can slice some right off the leg for you. Unfortunately, the staff took offense to us taking pictures and we had to leave.

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After the market we hiked up the mountain to get a nice view of the town and harbor from the local fort. After meandering down the hill through shrubs and cacti, we returned to the ship.

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Posted by CulinarySojourn 14:36 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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