And now for the edge of your seat, exciting part of our journey, Tangier, Morocco. My first word of advice is to spend the extra money to procure a private guide. We contacted Said Tours and could not have been more pleased with Said (Si-eed) and his guides. Mustapha, our guide was attentive, well informed and very concerned about our safety. Please keep in mind that this is a different country with different attitudes and just remember to be patient and respectful and your trip will be memorable. We started with the ferry ride across the Gibraltar Straight and landed in Tangier after about a 40-minute ride. The most exciting part for me was the thought of stepping onto another continent! When we arrived, there was a band playing and we were handed traditional green tea, a biscuit (cookie) and a rose. Apparently, we had landed during Tangier's annual tourism week and how lucky were we! Mustapha, started our journey with a driving tour and we drove past the King's palace, we roamed the caves, rode a dromedary and next, we were taken on a walking tour and we "rocked the Kasba". We stopped for lunch at the Dar Lidam inside the Kasba, where the food was fabulous and the view from the rooftop was spectacular. The markets in the Kasba are filled with a delightful array of tempting and colorful produce. The "edge of your seat" part I mentioned earlier was exploring the maze that was the Kasba and you should not attempt this alone. Mustapha, our guide, stepped in several times to circumvent the local salesmen and to prevent us from getting lost in all those narrow cobblestone pathways. All in all, Tangier was exotic, exciting and the history of the town is complicated, yet simply mesmerizing.
While on our tour of Tangier, we met a couple from New Jersey, USA, who insisted that we must take a detour to the city of Ronda on our way to Granada. We did decide to make the detour, and we were so glad that we did. Ronda was about 40 minutes to the north off our driving tour, but the beautiful countryside was worth the drive and once we got to the city, all the buzz about this place began to make sense. The city of Ronda was built on the side of a cliff and the views are simply breathtaking off the Puente Nuevo or New Bridge. There are no words to describe this place and pictures do not do it justice. You simply must go and view it for yourself!
On to Granada, which was probably my least favorite Spanish city because there seemed to be a restlessness there. A beautiful city, but it did not seem to be respected by its inhabitants because graffiti covered every building, both old and new. This was to me a sign that no one is watching over the care of the city. However, the Alhambra is located here and it is a must see. The Alhambra was a palace and fortress built on Roman ruins, by a Moorish Emir in the 13th century, but became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella. This was the court where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition in 1492. Again, purchase your tickets in advance because these tours fill up quickly. The tomb of Ferdinand and Isabella is located here in Granada in La Capilla Real or the Royal Chapel. No pictures are allowed to be taken in this chapel, but still worth the look! We did stay at another Marriot Autograph Collection hotel called AC Palacio de Santa Paula which was a monastery that was completed in the beginning of the 16th century around 1540. The rooms overlooked a large squared patio with a fountain in the center and holds seating for the restaurant around the peripheral. There is also a chapel in the back which has been turned into a beautiful event venue.
After our stay in Granada, we hopped the train trip back to Madrid and our last night we returned to the AC Palacio del Retiro. For Saturday night we had scheduled a Flamenco show/ dinner at the Corral de Moreria on Calle de la Moreria, 17, 28005 and the show and dinner did not disappoint! The dancers were fabulous, and dinner was so delicious! Even my traveling partner who thought flamenco was only danced by the ladies, was thoroughly impressed with the male rendition of the flamenco!
Lovely Spain, I have longed to see you for a lifetime and you did not disappoint!
Here's hoping that you begin your own EarthQuest today! Perhaps to Espana.
AC Palacio del Retiro hotel - http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/madre-hotel-palacio-del-retiro-autograph-collection/
Mama Bistro: Calle Mateos Gago, 9B, 41004 Sevilla, Spain
Hotel in Tarifa - http://www.diezyseis.es/
Hotel and tapa bar in Tarifa - http://www.misiana.com/en
Flamenco in Madrid - http://www.corraldelamoreria.com/flamencomadrid.html
Puente Nuevo in Ronda-http://www.turismoderonda.es/es/
Hotel Palacio de Santa Paula-http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/grxpa-hotel-palacio-de-santa-paula-autograph-collection/