This was our first major trip out of Switzerland: down the Rhone Valley, through Nougat and Avignon in France, along the east coast of Spain, through Barcelona, Sitges, Alicante, Granada, Malaga, Gibraltar, and then to Marrakech for Christmas.
In Granada we saw the Alhambra with its gorgeous mosaics, the Moorish influence of beautiful arches and bright colours. That afternoon we were driven west into the mountains to visit Puerto Lumbreras and see the cave dwellers. The cave we visited was huge. They had bedrooms with double brass beds, chairs and dressers, a well-equipped kitchen, a large reception room that was empty except for balance benches all around the periphery. We sat on these benches, which were a funny reminder of gym class in Canada. We thought that having chickens running around the living room was funny too.
The family of flamenco dancers came from every generation – little kids to fat old grannies whose dresses didn’t fit anymore – but the enthusiasm was wonderful. They danced to music on a record player, the volume tuned right up. Their chickens and dogs ran about, heedless of the stamping heels and the rush of the dancers.
That night we had unusual sleeping arrangements – over a stable. It was smelly and noisy, with mooing and shuffling in the hay all night, and it was also quite cold. Mr. Wilde arranged for us to save money on alternate nights, and this was an especially memorable one.
In Malaga we stayed in a hotel that was closed for the season and because there was no fresh water, we had coffee made with salt water. That night we went for a walk on the beach and encountered armed Spanish soldiers on patrol, who dispatched us back to our hotel.
Gibraltar was frightfully British, with high tea, posh restaurants, English bobbies, and lively stone walls with lots of cute, tame monkeys hopping all over the place.
From there we took a ferry to Tangiers, and suddenly everything was very different. It was hot! In the markets we saw snake charmers and tethered camels with one leg tied up; there were indescribable pungent smells of camels, dogs, spices, perfume, fruit, and urine in the street. The men wore djellabas and headscarves; the women were wrapped up and covered from head to foot. Vendors of rugs and leather goods all came right up to us and wanted us to haggle with them. Fruit vendors wanted to give us fruit from their carts. Most of the time we had a wonderful Moroccan guide named Mohammed, who wore a red fez and a long blue djellaba. He spoke beautiful French and was dignified and charming. We went all through the souks with him.
As a Christmas present to Mr. Wilde, we went to a service in a Coptic church in Marrakech with him. The regular parishioners must have been very surprised by the influx of irreverent teenagers from Canada!