Tuesday, 25 March 2014

24th March

We said good-bye to Rabat and set off towards Tangier.  It was reasonably easy to get out of the capital city and we crossed the bridge into Salé, a huge conurbation said to be very anti the West.  We were looking for the exotic gardens just north of Salé, but managed to miss them so had to turn round and ask at a petrol station.  Coming from the opposite direction they were much more obvious so we parked up and went to investigate.  A uniformed guy came rushing up to us as we were peering through the gate and told us the gardens were shut but he would check if it was okay for us to to go round them anyway.  He disappeared for a while, but eventually for less than €2 each we were allowed in.  The gardens were created in the 1950’s by a Frenchman and then restored in 2005 and taken over by the State.

Some frisky terrapins!
We were advised to follow the red route which we dutifully did.  The gardens were quite narrow at the top, but widened significantly as we moved down them.  Initially we weren’t impressed at all as they looked rather overgrown and unkempt.  However, as we moved down they turned into a mini assault course with steps , winding paths, stepping stones over ponds and rope and slatted wood bridges.  There were some beautiful coral trees there and also some of the biggest bamboo I’ve ever seen.  In one area, there was a lovely double rill with lots of jasmine in flower growing over a pergola – the scent was wonderful.  We also saw a lot of terrapins and birds.  So, all in all, we thought the visit was worth it.

We then got onto the motorway for a while to save us some time and got off at Larache as wanted to visit the Roman remains at Lixus.  The instructions to find the Roman town varied from guide book to guide book, but a seemingly new road (partially collapsed in one place) didn’t seem right.  We followed it to some sentry boxes guarding the entrance to a golf resort but were turned away.  We tried virtually every road in the area but failed to find Lixus which was frustrating as the description of the amphitheatre, acropolis, temples and fish sauce factories sounded really interesting.  One guide book told us that Lixus was close to being designated a UNESCO world heritage site, so we just couldn’t understand why there were no signs to it.  Hanna had flippantly said much earlier that maybe the Golf Resort had “consumed” Lixus, and we decided later she was probably right.

Having abandoned Lixus, we drove onto to Tangier where there were huge flags on all the approach roads and a huge police presence with masses of road blocks.  We were pulled over just once where a policeman checked our insurance documents and then waved us on.  We parked up at the hotel and, this time,were given pretty grotty rooms.  At the hotel we discovered that the King was due in town which explained all the police and flags.  As we had to get up early the next day, we opted for an early dinner at a “posh” restaurant as had run out of the local money and needed to pay on a card.  Hanna directed us to a hotel recommended in her guide book and w plumped to eat and drink in the wine bar.  This was about 6pm and we found out that food wasn’t served until 8pm, so we had no choice but to kill a couple of bottles of wine before dinner with several plates of almonds and crisps.  The dinner was delicious and we all went for the lamb chops.
We then wandered back to the hotel and an early night.  At this point I realised that we had a persistent and loud, steady and very intrusive buzzing noise in our room, but did my best to ignore it.  However at 3pm, we were woken by loud voices in the next room and lots of doors slamming.  At 4pm, the television in the room the other side was switched on at which point I got up and kicked their wall in frustration before stuffing my ears full of loo paper.  I did manage to get some sleep but didn’t want to get up at 6.30am when the alarm went off!!

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