You’re going to crave slow roasted chicken, beef, or lamb tajines on the rooftops overlooking Morocco, the fresh and perfectly seasoned roasted vegetables, and the happiness of knowing that while Calvin is blogging, he’s not eating, so there’s more to go around…
The warm, fresh bread that came out with every meal, the crisp glass bottle refreshments that felt so novel and for some reason, more delicious than fountain or plastic, and the unspoken permission the paper table “cloth” afforded you to get messy while you eat…
You’re going to crave this couscous: the meal made by our own group under the guidance of our gracious hosts, and the generous portions allowed to all.
You probably won’t crave french fries, but you’ll crave the various skewered meat pictured next to it.
You will definitely crave slow cooked tajines.
You’ll double crave this couscous skewered meat combination. At a certain point I had no idea what kind of meat I was eating, but it was so good, even if I was eating the pigeons I saw some kids outside clutching in their hands, I really wouldn’t have cared. I will crave pigeons if pigeons is what I ate. And you will too.
You already started craving the eggplant dish that comes in the Moroccan 6 dish appetizer at Cafe Souk 20 minutes after we finished eating it, so you’ll crave it again. Next time, we’ll order a 12 dish appetizer.
You’ll miss the fresh squeezed natural fruit juices; not too sweet, not too sour, but just right. And paired with smoking shisha on yet another rooftop watching the sunset to the sounds of the adhan. Yea, you’ll definitely crave it.
Is anyone even reading my captions? Or are you just looking at the food pictures?
You will crave all the food that we didn’t order on the menu because we only had 8 people to feed, and the idea of not knowing what you were gonna get or maybe what anything on the menu meant, but trusting that it would be an experience itself, whether it was delicious or not (mostly delicious, though).
You will crave this. Even though it looks like a sausage egg Mcmuffin without the egg and cheese, trust me. It’s not. And going to McDonald’s will not satiate your craving for this street vendor lamb wrapped in bread. Not by a long shot. On the other hand, there is a Moroccan food truck that I’ve been stalking in L.A, if you want to visit…
You will crave alternating biting out of the above mentioned lamb, and drinking this soup. (But you will not miss having to share it with 7 other people).
You will crave rice pudding, cheesecake, mango ice cream, and other desserts from the world’s oldest restaurant. You will definitely crave the rice pudding since I stole it and ate most of it. Sorry. ^_^;;
You will crave the slow roast pig from the world’s oldest restaurant, even though I was disappointed it didn’t come out a full pig with an apple in its mouth.
You will crave beer with Hemingway.
I don’t remember what this is but you will crave dipping bread in it.
I have been craving this meal in Barcelona since the minute it ended, and not just because of the stuffed sweet peppers and “what-dreams-are-made-of” champagne, but because the combination of new friends and new food at the beginning of a new adventure is a dish like none other (zing). Nope, sorry. I tried really hard to make this post about more than just food, but the reality is, I had a life changing experience on this trip, and it had a lot to do with cuisine.
I have an interesting relationship with food at home; its not that I’m picky about food, but I really don’t care to try new things at new restaurants because it’s mostly just expensive for the kind of taste I could guess at. Eating at a fancy schmancy restaurant and considering the “light hint” of anything or “subtle texture” of my food has never been my thing. I eat food that will nourish me, and that means I’m a meat and potatoes and bread and salad kinda girl. But hot damn.
I don’t know if I will carry this desire to try new foods back to the U.S, but this trip has definitely made me somewhat of a “foodie” (shudder). I feel like I will be that snob that goes to a “Spanish cuisine” restaurant and the person across from me will be all “I love tapas” and I’ll be all, “You’ve never had real tapas. I’ve been to Spain, I miss REAL Spanish food.” Sorry in advance.
You’re going to miss the freedom of wandering, the days that begun with nothing to expect, the trust in what’s around the corner, the feeling of wanderlust, the time when you were free to do anything that you wanted.
You’re going to miss rambling about the traffic-free streets of Las Ramblas, the unexpected good company of native Barcelonians, eating the jamóns of jamóns.
You’re going to miss scrambling for food at the market, the taste of sharing, the company of a new kind of family on Christmas Day.
You’re going to miss the endless series of plazas, the breakdancing lesson by sunset, the illusion of pregaming with Hemingway, the dinner at the oldest restaurant in the world.
You’re going to miss the thrill of making it to an overnight bus, meeting new friends who were willing to meet you at 6am in the morning, discovering entire neighborhoods to yourself in the middle of the night, the taste of melted chocolate con churros for breakfast.
You’re going to miss the lazy exploration of a long lost Arabian castle, the long climb up a neverending hill, the subsequent views that were worth every calorie burnt, the free tapas with every vino tinto.
You’re going to miss listening to the epic stories of La Mezquita with your backpacks on, the slow cooked pork shoulder, the mere 5 hours we spent in a hostel when we arrived after everyone else was asleep and left before everyone was awake.
You’re going to miss the fresh city feel of Sevillan streets, the games of vacation! with new friends who shared a love for internet meme references, the comparisons of Alhambra to Sevilla Cathedral, the lazy gardens and labyrinths of Alcázar, the realization of seeing a live flamenco show at its very origin.
You’re going to miss the hills of Andalucía, the easy entrance into Gibraltar, the feeling of walking through an entire country in 30 minutes, the monkeys trying to steal your bags, the overwhelming immensity of seeing 2 bodies of water at the same time, the breathlessness of being high in the sky.
You’re going to miss ferrying over into another continent, the sunsets over a country you’re saying goodbye to, the arrival into a strange new land, the fear of finding something that wasn’t on the map.
You’re going to miss the inevitable feeling of missing a train, the overnight in a city no tourists ever visit, the train station café that has no idea why you’re there, the relief of getting back on the right train.
You’re going to miss the taste of your first Moroccan whiskey, the lecture on Islam from a stranger you just met, the winding alleyways of the largest medina in the world, the cheaply delicious food stalls, the 4 hours lazy shisha session in a hidden café, the rooftop dinner while listening to the adhan, the argument over money, the epic bromancing over coma-inducing ice cream.
You’re going to miss the overnight train into Marrakech, the street theater of Djemaa El Fna, the inevitable comparisons of souks, the New Year’s Eve celebrations that worked out in the end.
You’re going to miss the haggling over taxi fares, the endless rounds of tasty tagines, smoking shisha over the adhan, the off-the-bone lamb, and running into Gerard Butler not once…
You’re going to miss most of all, each other; the company of different personalities searching for different things, doing something epic with your life, and yet still united by an inexplicable curiosity of wanderlust. You’ll look back and ask yourself: “how the hell did we do that?”
You’re going to miss it long after when we say goodbye…
…because I already was missing it when we said hello.
- At time of posting in NYC, it was -11 °C -
Humidity: 62% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear
A few minutes after crossing back in and out of Gibraltar, we took a relatively cheap (2.15 euros) 30min bus ride from La Linea de Concepcion (Spain’s border town by Gibraltar) to the Spanish port town of Algeciras.
There’s really nothing much to see here. But the whole point of this place is to take the ferry crossing into Morocco.
After your passports get exit stamps, head towards the ferry
Like that Beatles album cover, but more epic
Once you’re on the ship, you’re responsible for getting your Moroccan entry stamp at the information desk on the 3rd floor. They’ll give you forms to fill, and then you wait in line to get it stamped. Simple as that.
Afterwards, feel free to explore your boat:
Part of the beauty of taking the 6pm ferry is that you get stunning sunset views over Spain from the back of the ferry, which is quite fitting. So while you’re there taking it all in, give yourself pause to say goodbye to Spain:
Sunset over Spain
The ferry lasts about 2 hours in full, with about half an hour of it involving the ferry taking its sweet ass time to dock. So take your own time upstairs and don’t wait in the hanger standing around all that time like we did:
But once the doors open, follow the vehicles out…
…and then you’re in Tangiers, Morocco. For most of the people in our group, this was their first time in Africa.
From there, a free shuttle bus will take you from the ferry to the Ferry terminal, and every hour another free shuttle bus for ticket holders will take you to the bus terminal. So hold on to your ferry tickets and ignore the cabbies!
Unfortunately, Lonely Planet says that you can ask your shuttle bus driver to take you as far as the nearby train station after the bus stops at the bus station. For us, this was not the case. This driver kept insisting “this is finished. this is the end.”
So we ended up getting off the bus, dodged pushy taxi drivers and walked 15 minutes over to the train station.
So if you ever find yourself as lost as we were in Tangers, and it’s the middle of the night and you don’t feel like talking to anyone (they probably won’t understand you anyway unless you speak Moroccan Arabic or if you’re lucky, French), simply walk west from the bus station.
It will be on your right like a gleaming jewel; the brightest building of the night.
Morocco has this policy that train tickets in Morocco cannot be purchased outside the country. Therefore, we had to buy our tickets immediately upon arrival, which would have been risky for a group of 8 if this was high season or there was a pilgrimage going on.
Once we reached the station, we bought our tickets from Tangiers to Fez about 5 minutes before departure and got on the train as it blew its whistle: JUST IN TIME. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves that moment…
It’s a symbol of arbitrary lines. A country within a country. The U.K. owned Gibraltar lies in a small sliver of southern Spain where for a moment, you can hop over to a different country and back by simply walking over some line and flashing a passport. No queues. No stamps. Not even a guard at customs.
Gibraltar recalls a history of being forward bases for various military invasions from the Arabian takeover of Spain to a British stronghold during World War II. The main attraction of Gibraltar is its “Rock.” A 450+ m high piece of elevated land, it is where the Atlantic Ocean ends and the Mediterranean Sea begins. At the Rock, you can find a natural grotto, a nature reserve, and a dolphin cove, all of which you have to pay lots for.
Getting into Gibraltar is probably easier than getting into the NY Public Library. Within the span of 3 minutes, you walk down where you have to walk, you show your passport whenever you have to show it, and then you’re officially no longer in Spain. Keep in mind that since Gibraltar is a U.K. territory, the euro is no longer favorable: the sterling pound rules the land here.
How to get into Gibraltar:
Walk down to passport control
and then before you you know it, it's 'Welcome to Gibraltar'
Gibraltar is walkable. It’s 1.5km from the border, through an airport runway, past the main square, through the high-end boutique shops of Main Street, past the Southern Gate, and to the lower cable car station that takes you up to the top of The Rock.
Inside the cable car up to the top of the Rock
The cable car takes about 5 minutes to reach the top and costs about 8 sterling pounds for a roundtrip. When the doors open, you are immediately welcomed by stupendous views of Africa, Spain, and the oceans, as well as the native populace of The Rock: the photogenic (and photo-hogging) macaque monkeys. These cousins of ours aren’t shy: they do their best to “interact” with visiting tourists, including grabbing hair and stealing bags. But it’s probably the closest you can get to have one of them hop on your back:
One of the little ones attempt to steal Jane's bag
Once you have your wits about you and you can successfully defend yourself against the curious monkeys, the Rock is yours:
View from the north point
View from the south point
The entirety of the top of The Rock can be fully explored within 30 minutes. From there you can either head down to the nature reserve, the grotto, or check out the dolphin cove if you’re willing to front the cash. Otherwise, feel free to do some last minute shopping on Main St. and head back into Spain.
Don’t be surprised if they give you a tough time at customs:
That was a joke.
- At time of posting in Gibraltar, it was 20 °C -
Humidity: 88% | Wind Speed: 12km/hr | Cloud Cover: few clouds
See that guy lurking in the corner? That’s my illness…following me to Sevilla.
I got sick Night 1 in Barcelona from sleeping with wet hair*, and then proceeded to beast my way through a freezing but unfortunately (or fortunately? can’t decide), not white, Christmas in Madrid**, then a 6am tour in Granada, a 9am reservation for Alhambra, and then a gorgeous nighttime (still the same day) tour of the Mezquita-Catedral in Cordoba.
My attention only goes so far, and between thinking about being sick and being awed by things I’ve only seen on Google images, the awesome won. But then I passed out in Sevilla and I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it (out of my bed). I considered staying behind and trusting everyone to bring back pictures, but then again…
I studied the Seville Cathedral in art history and there was no way I was missing the flying buttresses. So I went.
Someone once gave me a piece of their mind advice when I was in my younger, more…whiny days; “the way you do one thing in life is the way you do everything.”
I never want to set the tone for myself that skipping out is okay. Of course, you need to make judgement calls when it comes to your health, but in this case, I decided to man up and go, and it was worth it.
*Ladies. I know backpacking is all about bare bones packing, but what this really means is thinking about what is essential to you as a traveler, and being pragmatic about it. They are “your essentials,” and the “your” in that phrase is just as important as the “essentials” part.
So what’s important to Calvin (hair wax? important, towel? not important) is different than what is important to me (hair wax? not important, towel? IMPORTANT). But one thing that most backpackers might roll their eyes at that I must ask you to reconsider is a blow dryer. If you’re like me and it takes your hair longer than 2 hours to dry naturally, it will be unpleasant if your itinerary involves cold weather and moving fast. This is less of a vanity and more of a health thing for me, since having your hair freeze into icicles is…not healthy. They make plenty of teeny tiny hair dryers, which I will be picking up soon.
**It was more of a bluish, purple Christmas.
- At time of posting in Sevilla / San Pablo, it was 15 °C -
Humidity: 54% | Wind Speed: 2km/hr | Cloud Cover: n/a