Friday, March 31, 2017

Mixed Jerez

From Tetouan, we started our amazing race to Jerez, Spain. Several things worked against us.

1. We couldn't get started earlier because the guesthouse breakfast doesn't start until 8.The breakfast lady didn't show up for work until 8:15. It was worth waiting for since it was the best breakfast we had in all of Morocco.
2. We lose an hour to the time difference between Morocco and Spain.
3. If we don't catch the 14:30 bus in Algeciras, we would have to wait until 19:00. Pressure.

Right after breakfast, our journey began
1. We scooted downhill from the medina to the grand taxi stand.
2. There were four young men waiting already. The two of us squeezed in the front with the driver. It's the old style grand taxi. We immediately took off for Ceuta (the Spanish enclave in North Africa).
3. There were about million vehicles waiting in line to exit Morocco. But our "chauffeur" calmly drove towards the border in the wrong; that is, opposing lane, dropping us off 100 feet from the formalities booth. As pedestrians we didn't have to wait behind anyone except for putting up with the usual deliberate slow downs by border officials. Were they hoping for a bribe?! Not to mention the touts who swarm about, wanting to help you fill in your exit paperwork for a tip.
4. After getting our Morocco exit stamps, we walked - again in the lanes for oncoming traffic - to Ceuta, Spain. I was very happy and relieved to return to Spain.
5. On the Spain side, there were only about half million single file vehicles waiting to cross into Morocco, which means the taxi (or city bus) we need to take us to the ferry dock cannot get to us. We had to walk to the end of the line of vehicles where the taxis can turn around.
6. When the taxi finally got us to the ferry, we missed the 12:00 ferry by a few minutes.
7. The 13:00 ferry left exactly on time and arrived in Algeciras a few minutes after 14:00.
8. Disembarking, we pushed past everyone as discreetly as we could and sprinted for the bus station.
9. This time we made our connection by a few minutes thanks to GPS + offline maps. Once on the bus, we borrowed a phone to let our landlord know that we are coming on the 14:30 bus.
10. When we walked up to the apartment at 16:20, our landlord was waiting for us and showed us to the cutest studio apartment, our home for the next five nights.
11. After our landlord left, we stepped out onto our terrace. In the square below, a group of old flamenco hands were engaged in their art, while the fragrance of orange blossoms wafting up in the breeze....

Jerez, is not a single trick town. It is the center for
1. Flamenco
2. Carthusian horses
3. Sherry

As a result, Jerez is considered a rather prosperous town. At a population of ~200,000 , they have an IKEA!!! We based ourselves in Jerez because of its central location for the day trips we had planned. Unfortunately their tourist office is woefully inept at public transport and the bus station displays schedules for non-existent buses. It was most frustrating as they actually have a wonderful system of public transport. We were not lucky with the weather either....

In spite of everything, we loved Jerez. We are already talking about coming back for Semana Santa, the additional day trips we can make, squirreling away our landlord's email address, and keeping our Transportes de la Bahía de Cádiz tarjeta handy.

Fine views of Gibraltar on the ferry from Ceuta to Algeciras.
On the Ferry from Ceuta to Algeciras, Spain

Jerez goes all out for Easter Holy Week. The day we arrived, the viewing stands were going up.
Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

The Jerez Cathedral.
Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

As we had an apartment with a kitchen, we bought almost more fruits and vegetables than we could carry from the very busy Central Market.
Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

No fish bought of course; although 90% of the market is selling fish.

Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Walking out to the Cartuja Monastery, we spotted some Carthusian horses (we think).
Walking to Cartuja Monastery - Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Walking to Cartuja Monastery - Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Around Jerez it's always wheat fields in the foreground and windmills on the horizon.
Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Walking to Cartuja Monastery - Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Jerez is famous for its sherry wine ("sherry" is an English corruption of "jerez"); thus we bought a bottle of Tio Pepe sherry from the local Carrefour and had a drink before dinner with olives, cheese, and roasted peppers.
Tio Pepe, Olives and Cheese - Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Checkout line at our local Carrefour.
Carrefour Checkout - Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Using the Jerez Bus Station was frustrating as the Arrivals+Departures board was perpetually off and its clock eternally 2:17
P2110946

However, the adjacent Train Station was forever beautiful. ;-)
Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Our apartment had a terrace which we only used twice - the weather was terrible.
Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Old Town Jerez was pretty cool and we enjoyed strolling around in the evenings when it did not rain.
Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

On Monday evening, many of the churches were open and "showing" their Holy Week readiness.
Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Jerez de la Frontera, Spain











Monday, March 27, 2017

Picturesque Tetouan

From Fes, we started to make our way back to Spain following the same route as our first trip in 2000. This time we chose to overnight in Tetouan instead of Chefchaouen, which turned out to be an excellent choice. When our bus passed Chefchaouen, it looked to be at least three times bigger than I remembered; and being the #3 or #4 destination of all Morocco, all of the other international visitors on our bus got off there.

Except for the same three annoying touts, I liked everything about Tetouan. The medina is the most picturesque of those we visited; tidy, white washed with green trim, same as the colonial part of the city. Though small in size and our visit brief, we saw many people practicing traditional trades. No wonder they are on the UNESCO list. People are particularly friendly and hospitable, and speak more Spanish than French - good for me. I only wished we came here a day earlier from Fes.

Snagged some pretty good seats on the bus from Fes to Tetouan.
On the road from Fes to Tetouan, Morocco

More lush countryside with a combination of cash crops, feed crops, and grazing.
On the road from Fes to Tetouan, Morocco

Fava beans in foreground.
On the road from Fes to Tetouan, Morocco

It was market day in several of the towns we passed through.
On the road from Fes to Tetouan, Morocco

Tetouan, the White City, is very photogenic; this from our hotel rooftop terrace.
Tetouan, Morocco

Tetouan has a 20th-century Spanish section built right up to the old Moroccan medina. Both parts of town are very elegant.

First the Spanish buildings...This photo is where the Spanish buildings and the medina meet.
Tetouan, Morocco

Tetouan, Morocco

Tetouan, Morocco

Tetouan, Morocco

The Cinema Espanol.
Tetouan, Morocco

The Spanish Market.
Tetouan, Morocco

And now into the Medina!

Octagonal Minaret.

Tetouan, Morocco

Our hotel rooftop is a landmark [Hotel Dalia - with the 3 windows].
Tetouan, Morocco

Medina Gate at dusk.
Tetouan, Morocco

Quiet alley.
Tetouan, Morocco

The distinctive green shop doors.
Tetouan, Morocco

Tetouan, Morocco

And for residential as well.
Tetouan, Morocco

Tetouan, Morocco

Tetouan, Morocco

Snack and dinner.
Tetouan, Morocco

Tetouan, Morocco

And breakfast aftermath.
Breakfast Aftermath - Tetouan, Morocco

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Fes Medina

Fes boasts the largest medina in the world. One quarter of the city's one million population live in the medina. By now we consider ourselves old hands at medinas; nevertheless, I was overwhelmed though it was not as daunting as I remembered from our visit in 2000.

While there is not the constant threat of scooters as in Marrakech - Fes is hilly - there are hand carts and donkeys to watch out for, and I was rather annoyed by the large number of touts. There are endless interrogations on what do you want, this way, where are you going, I can be your guide, look at my such-such shop, eat at my restaurant, come see the tanneries. We managed two visits to Fes without the tanneries, just walking by all the live and dead (meat in the markets) animals makes me queasy enough.

To be fair, one can still see the many traditional (and modern) trades in Fes. There are a lot of people, especially older men, hard at work. It seemed this is the only place I see more of them hard at work rather than relaxing at cafes. Actually, the lack of better economic opportunity (how hard people have to work for how little they get) is almost too poignant for me. My only comfort is John said we wouldn't stay in the medina the next time we come to Fes.

We stayed just inside the medina's main gate, Bab Bou Jeloud, aka the Blue Gate.
Fes, Morocco

The hotel's rooftop terrace was peaceful with a very good view.
Night view from hotel rooftop terrace - Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocco

The hotel was also near The Water Clock and the Madrasa Bou Inania (school).
Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocco

We, and some Japanese tourists, managed to catch a glimpse inside the Kairaouine Mosque, when the doors opened for noon prayers.
Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocco

Wandering through the medina.
Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocco

Souk - Fes, Morocco

The metalsmith souk is a must-see stop on the guided tours.
Fes, Morocco

Automobile's are not allowed in the Medina, so mules and donkeys do the work.
Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocco

Soda Deliver - Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocci

I thought we snagged some tasty food in various medina stalls. SL was either not so impressed or habitually queasy. ;-)
Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocco

One evening we walked towards and through the Mellah (old Jewish Quarter) where the buildings have outward facing balconies rather than inside courtyards.
Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocco

20th-Century Post Office.
Fes, Morocco

The beautiful Jnane sbil Gardens.
Jnane sbil - Fes, Morocco

Jnane sbil - Fes, Morocco

In one residential part of the medina, the government is renovating buildings.
Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocco

Not to mention the new "Riverwalk".
Riverwalk - Fes, Morocco

New Riverwalk - Fes, Morocco

Near the "Riverwalk" there is a souk for dying synthetic clothing; not animal skins.
Medina - Fes, Morocco

The Andalusian Mosque in the eastern part of the Medina.
Fes, Morocco

Lastly, the hotel's "included" breakfast was pretty good.
Fes, Morocco

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