Asilah, Tangier, and a return to Schengen! (Week 27 Recap, April 1, 2019)
I am writing this from Spain. After 100 days outside the Schengen Visa Zone, we’re back, baby. When we were getting ready to embark on this trip, we had visions of spending months split between Italy, France, and Spain. I had dreams of being fluent in three romance languages by the time we returned to the US. Then at some point Mike had the good sense to wonder if the trip we were envisioning was even legal. No, no it wasn’t. Turns out that Americans can travel within the so-called Schengen zone on a tourist visa (aka just by showing up with your passport) for only 90 days out of every 180, on a rolling basis. Three months out of every six. Ninety days in, ninety days out. This gave us pause.
We spent quite a long time trying to figure out how to legally evade this regulation. We scoured the internet. In the end, there was a promising method in France. It actually seemed doable -- for a person going to France. The trouble was, we had to start in Italy. I had the teaching gig in Rome and had to arrive October 1. We couldn’t get our acts together to pack up and pick up our whole lives any sooner. A French long term stay visa was out.
So we gave up on our initial vision of the trip. Instead, we’d abide by the Schengen rule, and we’d figure out 90 days outside of the visa zone to break up our trip. Schengen and the EU aren’t a perfect map, but they are pretty close. There are a handful of EU countries that are outside Schengen. The UK for example (still EU as of this writing!). So we boarded the Eurostar from Paris on December 27 after 87 days in the Schengen zone (or is it 88? Do you count the day you leave? I’m still not sure). We spent a little over a month in the UK. And on Feb 1 we left Europe altogether for Morocco.
This morning we boarded our long anticipated flight from Tangier to Madrid. I love Morocco. I am certain I’ll be back. I have a list of places to go and things to do that we did and that we missed. But boy was I ready to leave. I had of late found myself dreaming of things like to-go coffee, hard cheese, and readily available wine. Sidewalks.
We ended our time in Morocco on a high note. After feeling a bit like I’d overstayed my own welcome in Marrakech, we flew up to Tangier and then took a cab to the beachside town of Asilah. It was mid-week and off-season, so there was little going on, and it was perfect after the nonstop tourist-laden chaos of Marrakech. Instead of the intense reds, the dust, exhaust, the sensory overload, Asilah is all whitewash, blues, and seashore.
The town has some lovely restaurants and extensive street art that turns over every year during an annual street art festival. We ate well, and we played in the sand and the sea, despite the mild temps. WP loved it.
The first day at the beach she ran straight towards the calm, inviting ocean, yelling with glee -- and faceplanted on the wet sand, mouth open. She came up chewing sand and blood. She was not happy. We stayed at the beach for another hour or so, but she’d only touch the sand or water again for a moment at a time if we dangled her from a safe distance.
The next day we returned. I was determined that she get past her fear. We started with dry sand and gradually worked our way towards the water. And then it was like it fulfilled all her dashed dreams and disappointed expectations from the day before. She stomped through the shallow waves and burrowed in the sand and didn’t want to leave.
On Thursday morning we moved to Tangier. I wasn’t sure what to expect -- I’d vaguely heard the city was gritty and unappealing, and had the impression from all the description of it as a day trip destination from Spain that it was Morocco Lite. But I found it to be an interesting city in its own right, with a very different feel from anywhere else in Morocco we’d been (actually everywhere we went seemed to have a very different feel from everywhere else we’d been).
The highlight though was the hotel. Sometimes it is the lodging that makes a trip. This was the case in Tangier. We usually do apartments, but the riad set-up is excellent for traveling with a baby, because the intimate size and rooms-overlooking-courtyard set up means you can put the baby down for a nap or bedtime, and hang out in the courtyard or terrace while being sure to hear any screams or cries should they come. Of course this also means that other guests can hear your baby’s screams or cries, so if you have a screamer, this may be more stressful than freeing. For us though, it was nice not to be stuck in our living room while WP slept but instead to be in a common area with meals or wine available, or just conversation and a change of scenery.
So, anyway, we choose a riad in Tangier and it was amazing. La Tangerina is one of the more perfectly styled places we’ve ever stayed, so much so that we asked where they got their tablecloths and bed covers and went and bought them for ourselves. The view from the terrace was a soul-soothing vista of ocean and seagulls with Spain in the distance. The chicken tajine was spiced with cardamom and was perhaps the best we had in Morocco (I cannot count how many chicken tajines we had in Morocco over the course of 2+ months). We did a joint hamam while WP slept with the staff promising to go to her if she woke up early. We had booked a junior suite to give ourselves a little breathing room, but when we arrived WP flashed her sweetest smile they upgraded her (and by extension us) to a full suite with a little balcony. It couldn’t have been better.
The one mark on our time in Tangier was an ill fated decision I made to get a keratin hair treatment. I have been battling a halo of frizzy, tiny corkscrew curls around my face that have grown in where my hair fell out during pregnancy (this is a thing). They were super duper dry and while I kept thinking deep conditioner could do the trick, I eventually gave in to the idea that I needed something more drastic. I do keratin treatments about twice a year, and I’d put off the one I was due for, so I decided that rather than waste our precious time in Madrid sitting in a salon I’d see whether I could find a place in Tangier.
Remember, my Marrakech haircut at Salon CHRIS was great. BeZenSpa Tanger, however, let me down. And by that I mean burned my scalp and made me cry. I will spare you a long description of the different types of keratin treatments on the market and how and when I knew things were going sideways, and I will just say that I was there for almost four hours, and that was only after I told them “no more!”, and now my head hurts, and I’m pretty scared my hair will be stick straight for months. Except of course the new part that grows in which will give me a peculiar tiny afro with straight hair growing out of it. Oh, I don’t want to think about it. I only bring it up at all because I think the next few weeks of photos it’s going to look like I’ve been spending a lot of time blowing out my hair, which is actually something I have done less than 10 times in my entire life and never with good results, and I wanted to just say looks are deceiving.
And with that, I wrap up, because when WP wakes from her nap, we go explore Madrid. Schengen part 2, day 1. Andale!