Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Another Big Trip--Spainhttps://www.facebook.com/, Gibraltar, Portugal with a Dido into Africa--the End of the Journey

With nothing more than cancelling our reservations in Evora, Portugal, buying ferry tickets and to Morocco, and making a hotel reservation, we changed directions. We were off to Africa!

We hopped on the ferry in Algeciras, Spain, crossed the Straits of Gibraltar, and 
an hour later hopped off in Tangiers, Morocco.

Morocco
We wanted to take advantage of the 1 1/2 days we had to take in Morocco, so I used TripAdvisor to find a restaurant in Old Morocco--the Casbah.


When the hotel van let us out at an ancient wall, the driver simply gestured toward an archway. I looked at him questioningly and he nodded. Off we went into the Casbah.

It looks much like it did in its origins in1660. Many of the households have no interior running water and share access out in the public areas. There are no alley signs, so once we were in the maze of narrow pathways, we had no idea how to get to the restaurant I had selected online, or any other restaurant for that matter. 

When a teenager with English skills asked us if he could help us, we didn't immediately realize he was taking us on a tour we did not ask for. We wandered up and up and up, as the Casbah is on a hill. Following this young man, I saw as a lark, but Mike and Marin were a bit more leery of the situation.

I kept thinking how lost we'd be without him. Mike was thinking that there would be a demand for money at some point. Eventually, with a lot of prodding on Mike's part, the teenager took us to the restaurant I'd named. They were closed because dinnertime in Morocco starts after 8:00 pm. and we were there around 7:00 pm. Mike handed the teen a small tip, and we were on our own.

Still on the lookout for food we spied a balcony terrace serving food. That took us a story up from the busy alleys and we got a nice view of the activity below. Aside from tourists, it is generally the male population out and about the city.






Once we were finished with our meal of various tagine prepared stews, we miraculously found our way back out of the maze where we called our hotel for a pick-up.

Night view of Tangier's Casbah
The next day we had a prearranged private tour of the Casbah. We saw so much and learned so much through the guide.  If you don't have plumbing in your home, you go to the public baths. If you don't have an oven, you take your food to the neighborhood oven to have your bread baked, your pistachio nuts roasted, your chicken baked, your cake baked. He does it all for just a few cents.

We visited an old Synagogue in the middle of the Casbah. Our guide, a Muslim, said in many ways that all religions have gotten along with each other for centuries.



Handymen sit in the public square visually displaying
their specialty. Here's where you go if you need your
faucet fixed. 

Synagogue interior

Marin in front of mountains of olives.
There are markets for everything: olives, fresh fish, fruit, vegetables, and Rugs!

Yes, of course, we had the mandatory break of touring to see all the hand-crafted items made in the area. We drank tea while rugs were flipped out on the floor for our viewing pleasure. 


And, yes, we spent some money there. 

A Moroccan sunset. What an exotic and mysterious place!


After a fabulous Moroccan feast served by a Berber dressed in authentic attire of ornament-brimmed hat and curled-toe shoes that might have come off an elf from the North Pole, we returned to our hotel. We had a 4:30 am flight to catch the next morning to Lisbon, Portugal.


Lisboa (Lisbon)
When I think of Lisbon, Portugal, tiles and art come to mind. It is amazing how many facades in the city are entirely covered with beautiful tiles. Also, art is everywhere, including on the streets and alleys.







Street art.
Alley art.




There are very few five-century old buildings because Lisbon suffered a huge earthquake in 1755. One-third of the population was wiped out, as well as most of the cathedrals and other buildings.

The Lisbon Archeology Musseum has been left only partly repaired.  The elegant Gothic arches remain.

The Estrela Basillica was built in the late 1700's. Queen Maria I fulfilled her promise to build this beautiful church after she gave birth to a son.



The interior of the Basilica has an abundance of pink and yellow marble.

The Lisbon Cathedral's construction started in the 1100's, but has been rebuilt many times over the centuries. It is the oldest church in LIsbon.
No matter how many cathedrals, palaces, or other structures we visited, Maren
never tired of taking pictures!





Sintra

On our last day in Portugal we took the 30 minute trip to Sintra. This hilltop town has a long history of elaborate structures. At the very top of the hill is a castle built by the Moors. As spectacular as  that castle is, it is the mansions and palaces that attract the tourists. Sintra became a resort and vacation area for the rich at the beginning of the 20th century and these places are amazing!




National Palace dating back to the 1400's.
The two white towers  in the back are the kitchen chimneys.
The exterior is impressive, but it is the interior that dazzles the eye.
Below is the ceiling of the magpie room.

Every room has an ornate ceiling with it's individual identity.




And the tile work is beyond description.





Years later, when the rich began building the mansions, they really created estates of wonder. We found Quinta da Regaleira enchanting.

Quinta da Regaleira constructed from 1904-1910.


Perhaps as impressive as the buildings are the gardens and paths that weave up the hill of this estate.






And then there are the mysterious initiation wells. This was never used as a water well, rather it spirals down 8 stories. Used as some sort of initiation ceremony, Tarot and Masons are words associated with these underground towers.  Fascinating.





And so our journey was over--19 days, 66.7 miles covered by foot. Our eyes were opened to many new places, cultures, etc. I hope these trips with grandchildren inspire them to be global citizens.

Still smiling and heading home!






Sunday, November 19, 2017

Another Big Trip--Spainhttps://www.facebook.com/, Gibraltar, Portugal with a Dido into Africa, Part IV


We headed south from Toledo to our next airbnb in the unknown Ibros in the Jaén Province. This was an opportunity to be out of the touristy towns and we were able to see a perhaps a more authentic lifestyle for many Spaniards. Our apartment was again a challenge to drive to, and parking became a pain Mike learned to live with.

We were across the street from the town center: the Church.  From our apartment we could watch the comings and goings of the community. Down the street were a handful of bars/restaurants that filled up with the entire town on a Saturday night.

Because we had a car, we spent our two days there exploring two larger, more historic towns: Baeza and Ubeda.

These are towns are part of UNESCO's world heritage center. This area was once ruled by the Moors, but by the 1500's the Christians had taken over and this places in the Jaén Province are primarily Renaissance architecture.














These were relaxing days where we dropped the desire to see most famous sights of the larger towns and cities. One afternoon we sat in the sun in the central plaza of Ubeda and ate tapas and Marin and I painted.

Our subject matter. 




Marin would try any tapas presented. Here she is
eating a raw anchovy.
And we watched the sun go down and the tower we painted light up.







The next morning we loaded up the car an took off for Granada. I had read up a bit about the city of Jaén and convinced Mike and Marin that a sashay off the highway to see the Jaén Cathedral.

It was built on the sight of of mosque, and took a couple of centuries to complete due to earthquakes and other damaging incidents. It was finally consecrated in the early 1700's.






From there, we went through miles and miles of olive orchards.

Olive trees as far as the eye can see.

We stopped to looked more closely. Even a very old tree can be pruned and will continue to produce olives.
















By mid afternoon we were in Granada. Where Mike was more than happy to return our rental car!


Granada

We were once again in a very modern apartment in a centuries old structure. We were right around the corner from the Granada Cathedral, and there was no entrance fee.









The biggest tourist attraction in Granada is Alhambra: an Arabic fortress dating back to the 800's when it was constructed on top of Roman ruins. Over time more buildings were added to the complex and it became the royal court of Ferdinand and Isabella. We could not get tickets, even reading tips on how to fool the system. 

Street performers: this too a bit to figure out 
how he did this. 

Fray Luis wrote over 45 books in the 
1500.

We enjoyed a relaxing day of walking and shopping. Marin was anxious to get gifts for her family and friends. And there were plenty of shops willing to sell!



Oh, the smells!







Another car rental and we were off to Gibraltar.

Gibraltar

Gibraltar is so small, yet historically important. Sitting at the juncture of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, it has been a stronghold for Britain since 1714. Spain has not forgotten that it once was part of Spain and they don't make it easy to get there. We had to return our car to Algeciras,  Spain. Take a cab to the Spain/Gibraltar border and walk into Gibraltar. 

This 3 square mile rock is called an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. The British have put in hundreds of tunnels over the years to hide men, hospitals, guns, trucks and more. The rock also has natural caves. There are about 30,000 residents. The big attractions are the the macaques (tailless monkeys), St. Michael Caves, and the remnants of a Moorish Castle.

We got out of a cab and started the walk to the Rock.

St. Michael's caves were a hospital in WWII, and now host
events such as musical concerts and weddings. 

This photo captures the sea traffic behind the monkey 
The Morrish Castle remains
A 21st Century kid in a 16th Century setting.l
We enjoyed the change from old Spain to old Britain. Our Airbnb was a Georgian Era (1714-1830) museum. We had delicious meals while there since the cuisine was more familiar to American food
We had one dinner outside, overlooking the marina. Within minutes, a tremendous thunderstorm moved in with incredible winds. It was a thrilling natural event which seemed to ground us after all the structural and historical emphasis we'd focused on for days.




With the travel difficulties that arose getting to our next destination in the middle of Portugal, we spent an evening all working on our devises to figure out an alternative. Within an hour, we were getting ferry tickets to Morocco. Why not?!