Martina and I had not been for some while, so took the opportunity to go across to Tangier together with Vincy and Suzanne, the two new members of the Dar Cilla team who will be assisting Martina this summer.
It was a very relaxed and fun way of getting to know each other better, and at the same time being able to show them exactly how such a day goes for our Dar Cilla guests. Although we give our guests a detailed printed description, there is nothing better than being able to bring over the most important points from your own personal experience. Most of our guests are well travelled people, and we can sometimes sense that they think we go in to too much detail – but we can almost guarantee that on return they say “We were so grateful for the tips you gave us – if we hadn’t gone straight to the queue to get our passports stamped on getting on to the boat we could well have stood in line all the way across – decidedly unpleasant if the crossing is a bit rough”.
We were lucky, there was only a very light breeze. The subsequent three days the harbour was closed as the wind was ‘storm force’. Many of our guests book with us because they have read the excellent review of a day in Tangier organised by us with our private guide – and it is a great disappointment if due to ‘weather conditions beyond our control’ they are unable to go –especially if they have come from Canada or the USA . We of course need to make sure that not only can they get to Tangier, but that they can get back as they usually then have a flight to catch. That is why we always ask them to book for not less than three days, to give us the chance of changing the day if unavoidable.
Of course Said was waiting for us on arrival (we have now worked together with him for more than seven years and know how utterly reliable he is). He is very knowledgeable and very open minded. All your questions are welcome. He immediately went off with Vincy and Suzanne, as we want them to know how he does the tour with our Dar Cilla guests so they too can speak with the voice of experience. We met up with them for lunch and (as we had expected) both were so enthusiastic – they had also loved the camel ride and had super-endearing photos of the baby camels. As usual we had an excellent lunch at ‘Mohamed’s’ - the fish (turbot) was superb and the strawberries in honey and warm nuts were delicious.
While Vincy and Suzanne were with Said, Martina and I had taken the opportunity to get to know two other guides who are friends of Said, and who had studied with him – there are moments when Said is pre-booked with our guests, and we have to disappoint guests who ask us on arrival if they can go to Tangier with him for the day. It would be very exceptional were we to suggest that guests join up with other Dar Cilla guests on the tour, and only if they are all truly happy with this would we do it, as we offer private tours. Likewise Said does not put you together with other people (which many other guides do !). It is truly exclusive, personal service. We liked the friends of Said, and have agreed that if he is already booked we would suggest to our guests to work with one of them – they do the tour in exactly the same way as Said does it, also with private transport and visiting the restaurants we enjoy to recommend to our guests. No, they do not drag you into the carpet shop of their family ...!
Martina and I went with our two new friends/guides to some places we had not been before (and I need more than two hands to count the number of times we have been to Tangier – and also much further south on our annual adventure tours in 4 x 4 cars with drivers).
Tangier is changing fast. There is a lot of investment and our impression is that it is improving greatly. On arrival the old city wall on your right has been exposed (tatty old buildings that surrounded it have gone ) and it is a joy to sit on the terrace of the Continental Hotel and look over the harbour (there are plans for modern hotels there, Saudi investment, but time will tell if these materialize and whether the impression is positive).
The Hotel Continental itself retains its delightful air of outdated colonial glory, but what a World Position this hotel now has, what a view it commands ... and Jimmy is still there with his dust- filled treasure trove. He has an incredible memory, if you have ever been before he will remember where you were from.
From there we went to the new Tangier Boulevard, where there are modern restaurants which also command splendid views –delightful for a coffee (or a meal). From there to the Kasbah, a visit to a superb little art gallery (yes, I indulged, and bought a very unique and different artist’s interpretation of the hand of Fatima for Martina’s birthday). There are new boutiques and restaurants in the Kasbah, all very attractive. From there back to the centre of the Medina, for lunch (as described above)and then a slow meander through the Souk, where most of the shopkeepers now recognize us (and absolutely everybody knows Said .... and I want to add that I think every cat recognizes him too as he is a cat lover and always stops to stroke them). We couldn’t resist purchasing a caftan, scarves, earrings , marinated lemons, a local cheese, some argan oil, some pastries , and shoes at a fraction of the price they are here (in Spain or the Netherlands).
Said took us right back through customs (no waiting in queues, no doubt as to where we should go, which paper we should hand over) and we strolled onto the ferry (no need to get passports stamped on board on the return journey) and relaxed with a coffee. We spent the entire journey comparing photos and eulogizing over our experiences. Yet again, it was an absolutely great day and one we can all recommend.
Vincy and Suzanne remarked that it had all been much easier and gone much more smoothly than they had anticipated. We had to point out that much of that is due to the pre-planning, ferry tickets booked by Said, and the very smooth organisation on the other side from the moment you arrive and Said is waiting for you.
Martina and I have invested a lot of time in getting this day together so every one enjoys it to the maximum, and our efforts are certainly paying off. It is something very unique we are happy to be able to offer to Dar Cilla guests.