From the Rock to the Kasbah

Jigsaw would really like Morocco, there are cats everywhere, mostly feral but contrary to what we’d expect, cats seem to be revered and we saw plenty of fussing, feeding and general kindness shown. Many just lazing around and being left to themselves, with dreamer paw twitches and whisker flinches. Some of the more entrepreneurial cats will watch your parked car for 2€! Yes we have been in Morocco, we took a boat across for the day from Tarifa to Tangier. Very different from the shock to the senses, Marrakesh, Tangier is very much about the port but has a Funky Old Medina to wander.

Strikingly different, Tangier is not a place full of Souks and hassling traders, large squares with snake charmers and food stalls of an evening, nor tourists. There’s very little of any of that, in fact it wouldn’t be that easy to come away with tourist tat. Tangier had a charm about it, lots of references to a heyday of a “Jet Set Playgound”, of course Ernest Hemmingway was here at a cafe, but also a place where the swings and merry-go-round were faded and rusty. Clearly not a wealthy place in the Medina (old town), the money from the port activity is obviously elsewhere, Tangier old town is shabby chic. Lots of dilapidated buildings and tired facades, such as the just about standing “Gran Teatro Cevantes” and art deco “Cinema Rif”. The very local “Socco Market” was a hubbub of fish, meat, veg and spice stalls which as veggies, was at times, hard to even look at, literally we didn’t know what we were seeing at times (urgh!) Close by were shops selling wizard outfits, stalls full of wizard slippers and technicolour dresses. Ray Charles and Charli Chaplin do a very good coffee at their hang out, Ray Charly!

After wandering the Kasbah we settled ourselves for a mint tea at Petit Socco, a tiny square, obviously the names a give away! It was adorned with Morocco flags, no doubt for the football. From there we watched the day to day world go by. H&S at its best, men pushing and pulling a cart of building rubble along the tiny streets, in flip flops. The wander up to Socco Grande (give you three guesses on that translation!) was a different affair. Home to the gloriously tiled Gran Mezquita and Cinema Rif and, just off it, St Andrew’s Church. From there its a wander down “Slipper Alley” and the back streets, taking in the folks selling items we’d have thrown in the bin, curb side, to make ends meet. Tiny shops selling only one product, maybe spices, or coloured yarns, or rugs, or hair cuts (lots of barbers) it was a different sensory experience at every turn. We arrived at the faded glory of Ernie’s “Gran Cafe de Paris” frequented with his pals and ‘artists’ including Tennessee Williams it is said 🙂 We didn’t go in, he wasn’t there that day. The Gran Teatro was a shock when we found it, all around it’s a massive building site, we hope it survives. There was a fun sign we saw for Jimmy’s, which reads differently depending on how you use the word ‘patronised’ 🙂

What else have we been up to? Before we returned the car we took a trip into Malaga. Quite a way but worth it for their Christmas Lights show. Different cultures and traditions, in the run up to Christmas, Malaga wasn’t at all about the retail side of “gifting”. We like that! It was packed with people and is, every night. It’s just fun and uplifting being part of the experiences. We’d definitely do it again, the Cathedral had a laser projection show, the back streets had lots of hanging decorations and the main pedestrianised area, a twice nightly spectacular light and sound show juxtaposed by various traditional music shows from the stage.

We’ve also been out towards Cadiz, the Barbate, Zahora and Zahara areas to Vejer de la Frontera which was even quieter than covid times. We found different vistas including the Saint of Virgin Olive Oil mosaic. We also found a different style of windmill that was used for flour milling, a traditional trade in the area, and spotted a great mural of Spanish Nigel with his horses. An old lady mopping her hallway reminded me of my Nan in Liverpool who was very fond of her red polished door step! We just managed to dodge a serious storm, another one!

Returning the car to Algeciras we decided to make a bit of effort to see if it had any pleasant areas (having negative’d it before) and we did find a great market and ‘locals cafe’ for breakfast (the coffee was so strong, an arabic influence we figure!) and actually, a pretty old town. In one of the churches we were concerned to see that the priest needs to go to Google at confession! Lots of crocheted trees which were wonderful, frog fountains (the frogs get everywhere it seems!) old architecture, tiled facades, tiled seats and two women having a chat, that reminded us fondly of Julia and Irish Mary!

When weather has permitted we’ve been out on the bikes. Only once have we turned back, when we were so high up we couldn’t see 10m in the mist. We’ve stumbled across a tiny Christmas Nativity Festival in Facinas; some abandoned gun emplacements and a derelict Battery; some very creative graffiti in derelict buildings; incredible views of the forests, the tree’s from above looking like a sea of green marshmallows; lots of freight boats in The Straight. Of course there have been a few cakes a long the way.

Christmas Day brought us a walk along the shoreline after opening our chocolate gifts from Nicks M&D and our Fizz from Liz. The furry one wasn’t at all bothered about her Christmas gift! We stumbled across an abandoned migrant boat (a lot try and cross the straight here and many don’t make it) It was half buried in the sand and we realised why lots of the fencing around there was down too. The remnants of ropes, the lifeline for many no doubt, hanging down from the makeshift marker flag. The majority of people in this world are chasing “a better life”, we all just have different start points. For those privileged in the society we know of, it’s a better car, a better house, a better job, but for so many, it’s just the ability to get on the bottom rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. A Christmas Day conversation between us that has really stuck.

Anyhow, we hope everyone is in good spirits and readily looking forward into 2023 and what it will bring. We pretty much know we’ll be in ‘The Can’ somewhere! Those mad English mutants with a travelling cat! Feliz Año Nuevo 2023!

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