And check out the view we got from the rooftop terrace - WOW! See those mountains in the distance? That would be AFRICA.
After enjoying the evening in Tarifa, we went to bed excited for our huge adventure in the morning: riding a ferry across the Straight of Gibraltar to Tangier, Morocco. A place I've dreamed of going for a looooong time! When we woke up, we loaded up, drove down to the ferry terminal, bought our tickets (which were quite expensive - about 30 euros a person and we even had to pay for Fox - usually the places we go kids are free), went through Spanish customs (got an exit stamp in the passport, woohoo!), and boarded the FRS ferry.
We made it!
Unfortunately it was raining when we arrived and silly me didn't bring rain resistant shoes. My feet were soaked through and freezing within 10 seconds of stepping off the boat. But the rain was not even close to the most annoying thing we would encounter: immediately upon our exit we were barraged by person after person after person tagging along with us trying to sell us their services as tour guides. We had researched a lot about Tangier so we expected it, but foreknowledge did not lessen the experience. We turned all offers down, and down again, and again... and again, and headed towards Old Town to follow Rick Steves' recommendations.
A little about Tangier: "Artists, writers, and musicians have always loved Tangier. Delacroix and Matisse were drawn by its evocative light. The Beat generation, led by William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, sought the city's multicultural, otherworldly feel. From the 1920s through the 1950s, Tangier was an 'international city,' too strategic to give to any one nation, and jointly governed by as many as nine different powers including France, Spain, Britain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Morocco. The city was a tax-free zone since there was no single authority to collect the taxes, which created a booming free-for-all atmosphere, attracting playboy millionaires, bon vivants, globe-trotting scoundrels, con artists, and expat romantics. Tangier enjoyed a cosmopolitan golden age that in many ways shaped the city visitors seen today."
Us in front of Tangier right outside the ferry terminal. In Africa. Crazy.
See that man in the white robe walking by Jay in the photo below? Yeah, he decided to just join in on our walk, despite our protests. He seemed friendly enough, though he did have blood on the bottom of his robe... He was probably thinking he could pull one over on us wide-eyed naive tourists. Sorry, Charlie. This ain't our first rodeo. The members of our group have traveled in dozens of countries on five continents and even lived in Venezuela, the Philippines, England, and Germany. If he was looking for an easy mark, we weren't it.
While being swamped by offers for tour guides, we were told dozens of times how many streets there are in the old town (615 from one guy, 937 from another, 782 from a third, etc.) and how we were sure to get lost. In reality, you head down hill, you'll eventually get back to the dock. Easy as that.
Doors in the Jewish Quarter.
Back down by the dock, guide-free, we strolled along the oceanside promenade looking for magnets. No luck. Jaylie volunteered to run back up to the market in the Medina to the only shop we had seen magnets and get some for both families and we would head back towards the ferry.
Looking back on the Medina.
And, of course, our departure from Tangier couldn't be complete without another person haggling us at the dock to fill out our customs forms for us, for a price of course. He acted like he was the police or something so we handed over our papers. Nope, he wasn't the police, just someone filling out the papers we most definitely could have filled out on our own. 6 euros later... we were back on our way.
Moral of the story: I'm glad we went. I'll never go back. It wasn't particularly charming, atmospheric, or even "exotic" feeling. It was run-down, dirty, and full of unfriendly pushy conmen. If you want a good taste of Islamic culture, try Mostar, Bosnia or just stay in Spain and revel in the Moorish beauty to be found in Seville or Granada. But at least the doors were pretty!
Next stop: Arcos de la Fontera!