Hello Morocco – 9/9/2014

I did comment on the tough driving in Spain, but oh how I jumped the gun. In retrospect it was a probably a good idea because it helped me prepare for what is the unabashed chaos of Moroccan motoring. Signage means nothing, lane markers even less and meshed into the motorbikes, buses, trucks, donkey carts and taxis is a constant flow of pedestrians. ‘just a little extra excitement in our day.

Food in the south of Spain was wonderful and the street show that accompanied the alfresco beverage breaks in Granada was the best!

While refueling on our way to Gibraltar, the convenience mart at the station was offering a liter of Spanish olives for the same price (€1.79) as a small bag of Lay’s chips. I should have opted for the olives.

Gibraltar was a mix. This British protectorate is very compact and very densely populated. Short of using the Google to find out, I’ll assume they’re mostly retired folks from the motherland. Other than tourism, I didn’t see a lot else to drive the economy. Update: Laurel informs me only 17% of the population is 65 and over. I have no idea what all these people do for a living.

Laurel's special guide
Laurel’s special Tangier guide

The Rock is a spectacular piece of geology/geography. After a tram ride up, we hiked the six, sunny, hot kilometers back down and the views on the trail are wonderful. Beyond that, it was colonies of Barbary macaques, the small apes that are quite adept at mugging tourists for food and a rather amateurish collection of “exhibits.” The mugging part is quite true. As we exited the tram, an ape leapt onto the back of lady a few feet in front of me and relieved her of a plastic-wrapped mint. Obviously, she was terrified for a few seconds; the critter left as quickly as it arrived. Not cool.

With Tangier being just a 30-minute ferry ride from Spain, it’s a popular spot for tourists on day trips—what I believe Rick Steves’ refers to as “cultural voyeurism.” We made a quick pass through the medina here and now it’s onto the drive to the relatively small town of Chefchaouen, best known for its blue walls and buildings.

Another travel day “ruined.”

SevillaLaurel has a fondness for ruins of the Roman variety. We’ve hit many of the biggies; Rome, Pompeii, Arles, but also several smaller, less-known empirical remnants. Leaving Zagreb a couple of years ago, we zigzagged over a series of two-lane suburban roads until, just across from the Croat equivalent of a 7-11, was this cool little collection ancient foundations, ovens & gristmills. Friday, just north of Sevilla, we added Italica to our list of ruin sites. Nice mosaics, huge amphitheater, all under an incredibly blue Andalusian sky.

The exit from Sevilla was interesting.  I’ve driven in busy big city traffic in a lot of the world, but getting out of this little burb was the toughest I’ve been through and the GPS seems to have gotten quite unable to differentiate between a corner and a traffic circle. The trip into Cordoba wasn’t a lot better. Maybe I’m not cut out for Spanish motoring.

Can’t we all just get along?

It’s hard to believe we’ve been on the road for over a week. We’re on our second day in Sevilla in the Andalucía region of Spain.

DSCN0336Sevilla is filled with reminders of how, at some points in the past, people of different religious ideologies really did get along. Granted, at times blood was spilled, tribes were banished, etc., etc. Our Thursday visit to the Seville Cathedral provided a pretty cool look at a structure that began as a mosque in the 1184 and was consecrated as a cathedral in 1248 and after a few hundred years of build-out, grew into the behemoth it is today—third-largest gothic structure in the world. Lots of wealth concentrated in one place. See, things really haven’t changed.

Monday of this week began with a quick drive from Lisbon to very picturesque and incredibly tourist-laden town of Sintra. Sintra is palaces, gardens, castles, but mostly very steep hills. We walked for miles and I’m pretty sure 95% of the slopes were in the up direction. At the end of the day, the dogs were shot; another reminder we’re just not as young…

On Tuesday’s drive to Faro, on Portugal’s south coast, we got peek at just how many giga-hectors of grapes and olive trees there are in this Indiana-size country.

Dining on Euro+ 2014 has been fantastic and thus far, very economical. A modest tapas dinner around tenish fits the L&R lifestyle very nicely.

Off to Cordoba! Pictures are partially up-to-date. Link is above (next to the search thing).

Noted:

Two cameras, two toothbrushes, razor, iPhone, iPad all charged up. Lithium Ion heaven.

Bus trip from Faro to Sevilla was not nearly as comfortable, or fun, as last year’s shotgun-riding dash from Riga to Tallinn.

365 Ways

Of the thirty or so diners in our restaurant of choice Sunday evening, I think there were only two not speaking Portuguese. This was definitely a local ‘family’ spot and most certainly our kind of travel eatery.

Evening in LisbonOrdering was accomplished with lots of gesturing and pointing and not too many words The result was a delightful grilled cod drizzled with olive oil for two, accompanied by a mix onions, fingerling potatoes, broccoli and a chilled carafe of vinho verde, a young local wine with just a hint of bubbles.

This completed another fine day in Lisbon, including a quick trip to cemetery, a trolley ride to St. George castle and a stroll around the Ribeira district (Laurel snagged some river bank sand for her collection).

Tomorrow we pick up the car and head just west of Lisbon to Sintra.

Portuguese will tell you there are 365 ways to fix cod; one for each day of the year. Tonight, we sampled one of them.