Wednesday, 5 March 2014

4th March

Fortified by an excellent breakfast in our faded 1950’s grandeur hotel, we had another white knuckle ride out of Tangier.  Chris’s go karting skills came in especially handy on a roundabout where a white van cut across our bows – his response was typically Moroccan with blasts of his horn.

We drove to Chechaouen, a town fantastically situated in the Rif mountains and famous for its powder blue and white washed houses – a legacy of Jewish settlers several centuries ago. We chose to come via the coast and up the Oued Laou  gorge, which was a great suggestion by Chris.  The scenery became more and more rugged as we worked our way along the gorge, although we were amazed by the strength of the wind being channelled along the valley, as we struggled to open the car doors to snap our photos.

We arrived at Chechaouen just before lunch, and our sat nav system finally got us to a largish car park by the parador which was still short of where we needed to be, but we had run out of road.  Chris stayed with the car, while Hanna and I scurried off to find our hotel.  This we did – up a tiny alley way and our car, was in fact, perfectly parked for where we were staying. 
View from main square - Kasbah on right

Our hotel, Casa Hassan, is really unusual.  The rooms are based around a central enclosed courtyard and the whole effect is really charming.  Our room is long and thin and has a smallish bedroom separated from a day room by a carved and painted wooden screen and then the bathroom is beyond that.  Perfect for us.

Once we’d dumped our stuff in our rooms, we set off to explore.  We’re very close to the El-Hammam square which is at the heart of the old town where all the streets of the Medina converge.  On one side is the Kasbah (fortified centre of town) and the main mosque and the other sides are full of cafes shops and hotels.  There is a large fountain in the centre of the square (not currently working) with a huge Norfolk pine growing beside it.  We had what was supposed to be a light lunch (a small omelette for Hanna and what looked like small paninis for Chris and myself which were at least twice the size of the picture in the menu and came with chips too!)) in the top floor of a cafe with panoramic views over the square and mountains.  Once replete, we wandered around the narrow streets of the medina jam packed with shops and tempting goodies for sale.  We also found the old Jewish quarter with its striking blue and white washed houses – very photogenic!!!  I took masses of door shots.

Typical blue buildings
We walked up to the waterfalls on the north east edge of town, but weren’t that impressed.  I later read in the guide book that the views across the town were very good from the upper falls, so perhaps we should have persevered and walked a bit further?

We then walked around the edge of the battlements and eventually circled back to the main square.  The Kasbah was shut today but is apparently open from 8am tomorrow so may go and take a peek before we leave then.  Our guide book doesn’t rate it very highly, but I liked the look of what I could see of the garden, so would like to satisfy my curiosity.

We’ve had some nice down time in our rooms this afternoon.  I managed to catch up on some iplayer and Chris went for a Moorish style bath and had a deep clean (including getting his nipples rubbed raw by a loofah) and massage, which he described as being put on a rack and stretched until he almost snapped. 

After a drink in the parador we had dinner at the hotel restaurant as it was included in our deal.  The ambience was terrific – very authentic Moroccan and warm as there was a fire going which we were lucky enough to sit by.  We had the traditional harari soup to begin and then a kefta tagine for Hanna and Chris and I had the chicken and lemon tagine, which I honestly didn’t think was as tasty as the one I make up at home.  It was very tasty but just not quite as lemony and herby and rather more tomatoey.  After dinner, Hanna retired to her room whilst Chris and I headed back to the parador for a nightcap.

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