Thursday, 2 December 2010
FIVE STOPS THREE COUNTRYS AND A COLONY
Two years, two long bloody years with no foreign travel. Somewhere somehow two years salary disappears bills,mortgage and other mundane aspects of the daily grind which unfortunately we have to pay for.
The two year hiatus is over, a trip is planned - Morocco, Gibraltar, Spain and Portugal.
For fiance it's relaxation time, how she purposed to relax is beyond the scope of this entry or any other entry for that matter. It was her idea you see to go overland
from Marrakesh to Faro - Portugal making the travel plan as we go, using trains, buses, taxis and the odd ship!
For myself however relaxation was never on the agenda, knowing full well and with a dearth of travel behind me, a five stop three country and a colony for good measure was going to be anything but relaxation. What do you do in times like this - think of the food of course!
Morocco had to be the biggest let down of the trip by far! Of course plenty of time was spent immersed amongst the labyrinth like souks which fan in all directions from the Djemaa Al-Fna, but still full from a filling but mundane hotel breakfast we somehow managed to miss the fun of local eating on the first full day. Tajine's were consumed on the trip but not anything like i was hoping for! The problem must lie with the massive influx of tourists? Every Tom,Dick and Abdul was offering Tajine or other local speciality's. Whilst I'm fully aware that some Tajine's go to the community Hammans to be cooked slowly in the residual heat, also being made by expert hands, we on the other hand must have consumed the tourist quota!
The one missing link on our behalf was not trying the market stands that appear on the Djemaa Al-Fla as dusk approaches, we were there but Photography was also very high on the agenda. On reflection this probably would have fulfilled the foodie obligation of seeking authentic good food, so sadly, a missed opportunity but in this day and age only a short hop on a cheap flight we will be sure to sample the Djemaa again.
Of course Morocco isn't all about Tagine's, Brochettes and Shawarma were devoured with gutso and fiance's sweet tooth took a bit of abuse with the vast array of sweet delights and pastries, perhaps a legacy of the French but certainly ingrained in society.
Next stop on the Marrakesh express,- Rabat the capital, a charming leafy city with wide boulevards, tree lined streets, a less bustling Medina and the odd pick pocket.
While only a fleeting visit, miles were walked amongst these charming streets. Food wise most Moroccan staples could be found on offer but whether or not it was the moment or the toast was really that good, what we ate in the cafe on Rue Ghazza was truly memorable. Fresh French bread with butter and local orange marmalade, with good strong coffee!
I have as yet managed to place what part was so special, but i imagine it was the combination of the four. (Cafe is opposite Hotel Splendid Rue Ghazza)
For our second journey on Morocco's limited but excellent rail network we travelled straight through to Tangier just in time for the 1400hrs sailing to Tarifa Andalusia, our end destination to be Gibraltar.
Gibraltar was to be our home away from home for four nights, however i wouldn't recommend turning up looking for a hotel as there is only seven. We were lucky to find a room in the Cheapest hotel on the rock - The Cannon.
A good little hotel with friendly staff. Rooms start at £42 a double with shared bathroom rising to 50+ with own bathroom.
Just round the corner on Main street you will find The Horseshoe pub with the ever entertaining Abdul managing the bar - just don't tell him your age, it could end up a rich topic of conversation!
Restaurants are one a penny throughout the rock, as are pubs serving food but most follow the standard pattern of British pub grub with Spanish staples on the menu! Amusingly most pubs appear to have a serious sachet fetish! You name it they have it in a sachet!
With a start in La Linea across the border we headed up to Seville by bus. Four hours later with a good look at the Andalusian countryside and a stop in every village, Seville greeted us with a downpour and a mist you could set a Stephen king horror to!
Weather aside what a delightful city steeped in culture and the most amazing food.
Seville is one of the homes to Spanish Tapas and what a great time was had bar hopping and grazing. Most tapas are simple and with a very basic grasp of Spanish most bar menus are relatively simple to decipher.
Tapas are not the only delight of Seville with several Bodegas dotted around the city where great sherry from Jerez and neighbouring producers that can be drank alongside small plates of hearty food.
But as always ulterior motives play at least some part in most travel plans and all was revealed on the second day - Jamon Iberico bellota!
As some of the best Ham in the world is produced in Andalusia this had to be the place to sample and buy, but i will leave that for another post along with the authentic Tortilla Espanola i have been trying to perfect!
Last stage was a through bus to Faro - Portugal, which was not without incident!
E U borders are not normally that interesting unless Obama and the rest of NATO are in town.
Before we could even say Portugal we were hauled into a makeshift Immigration post complete with concrete barriers strewn across the four lane motorway. Police,Immigration and several mean looking albeit not long out of diapers GNR officers were all over the bus!
With in minutes we were turned back to Spain due too an American backpacking kid not having his passport. The miserable shit of a driver was going to leave him on the side of the Motorway in the middle of nowhere, but sensed an on board mutiny, so agreed to drop him to a local town!
Back over the border and through the same tedious, mundane fiasco yet again. The GNR kindergarten cops going through every millimeter of every bag en route to Lisbon.
Now interestingly there was only four or five passengers disembarking in Faro, and our bags were left alone. Now if you wanted to disrupt a gathering with heightened security would you take a direct route? I certainly would not. While i realise Portuguese Police might not be the best in the land, the whole fiasco was kind of complete Bullshit. Why check all bags but four? To top off the fiasco some clown from Bomb squad boarded the bus, not sure what he was trying to find but i doubt he could even find the Bunsen burner in second year Chemistry!
Eventually arriving after a two hour delay to our last stop Faro. A bed for three nights at the Residential Dandy, strange name, even stranger place but all the same very quaint with a very helpful and cheerful owner.
A nice place to while away a day or two with plenty of restaurants offering the same fish and seafood dishes at not so cheap prices!
We did most of our eating in a French run place two streets back from The Dandy which was homely with a good little crowd of staff!
An interesting little trip that Spain has managed to put a culinary spark back in this mans life!!