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Oops! Forgot to post Spain and Morocco

May 13, 2020

This should have been posted December 15, 2019.

We enjoyed a couple of days exploring Gibraltar, visiting Saint Michael’s Cave which was converted from a hospital into an underground music venue and the Great Siege Tunnels that defended Gibraltar from the Spanish and French in the 18th century. Our boat was moored in Marina Alcaidesa just outside of Gibraltar and it was a short walk across the Gibraltar airport tarmac to get to the tiny nation.

Our five-day trip to the Canary Islands included two days of motoring, two days of high winds and challenging seas, and one day of textbook cruising. The high winds were 30 kts gusting to high 30’s and the seas consisted of two wave sets that would occasionally combine to form a steep following sea that would send us careening down the face, often overpowering the auto-pilot.

We opted to bypass the first few islands in the Canarys because the ARC 2019 (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) with its fleet of 300 boats was saturating all of the facilities. We found space in the marina at Santa Cruz on the island of Tenerife where the boat has stayed now for over a month. A key reason for getting to Tenerife was to meet with Sandie’s two cousins that were arriving separately; one on a cruise ship and one on a Mormon mission. Unfortunately, the cruise ship was diverted due to too many cruise ships in Santa Cruz and we missed seeing Darlene and Drew. But Rick and Ann arrived as planned and we enjoyed a two-day mini-family reunion.

Tenerife is probably the most beautiful of the Canary Islands. We rented a car and drove through pine forests on our way to Teide volcano that towers 12,198 feet above the Atlantic. We were fortunate to have excellent weather with unlimited visibility and temperatures on the peak just above freezing.

We flew to Gran Canary Island for several days and met up with our good friends Julie and Shane that have re-located with their kids to Las Palmas for a few years. There was a huge feast and family and friends were in attendance. Their beautiful apartment overlooks the beach and was perfectly positioned to watch the “Lighting of the Christmas Tree” and accompanying fireworks.

The next day we drove through the center of the island. The road was closed near the peak for a car rally and we ended up on a narrow dirt road that clung to the side of a cliff. The drive was unnerving but the views were spectacular with valleys reminiscent of the Grand Canyon. The next morning, we went down to the Marina in Las Palmas and joined in the fanfare as 200 ARC boats departed to cross the Atlantic.

Next, we flew to Casablanca, Morocco, to meet up with our daughter Jennifer. We enjoyed the company of our guide Abdu and driver Foad as we visited Rabat, Fes, the alpine village of Ifrane, Essaouira on the coast, Marrakech, and the Ourika Valley in the Atlas Mountains. Abdu was aware of Jennifer’s taste for wine and arranged two wonderful lunches at wineries complete with wine tasting. The food throughout Morocco was excellent. An amazing highlight was when Foad treated us to rabbit tagine at his cousin’s food stall in Marrakech.

On the drive to Essaouira we passed through the only region in the world capable of growing argon trees from which highly valued argon oil is derived. While there we saw “goats in trees”. The goats have learned to climb the argon trees to eat the fruit. The central nut passes through the digestive system in tact and is used for making oil. The process is a bit more commercialized today but the sight of goats balancing on branches is still a treat for the tourist.

We visited the tanery in the medina in Fes where the hides are still cured in pigeon shit and dyed in large clay vats. The smell was obnoxious, but the finished products were beautiful, supple, and odorless.

After our week-long tour we hung out in Casablanca for a few days and did a day trip to Tangier. We spent a couple of evenings at Rick’s Café made famous by the movie Casablanca with Bogart and Bergman. We were aware that the movie was not filmed in Morocco, but the ambiance of the place was captivating and there aren’t that many “gin joints” in Morocco.

We are back at the boat on Tenerife preparing to cross the Atlantic during the next weather window; hopefully this Saturday. Our next posting will be from the Caribbean.

Gibraltar & Tenerife

 

Gran Canary

 

Rabat & Fes

 

Marrakech & Ourika Valley 

 

Casablanca & Essaouira 

From → Travel

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