Cliffs, Cats & Valencia

Before departing to Valencia

K and the Cliffs

Walking around hand in hand with K, I saw more of the countryside near Tangier city than I had dared to do alone. Also I got to practice my couple’s selfie techniques, on which I might still need to do some practicing.

 

One morning we ventured out on a dangerous climb down the face of a cliff. It all began the day before, as we took a taxi home after having walked far eastwards along the beach. From the car’s window I had seen a narrow snake of tiny steps curve up the cliff towards the stone plateau with the roman graves. There seemed to be cut a rough staircase into the stone towards the bottom of the cliff, ending near the boulevard next to the shore on which we were driving past.

Looking back I should never have told K about this. He hadn’t seen it himself, but as soon I had told him about it and wanted to show it to him, he of course wanted to descend them. Before we reached the stairs we had to walk carefully along sliding rock sides than seemed to decrease downwards as a slide leading to a free fall. I managed the first part but then it got really diagonal and I noticed some locals had used some cement to glue a few bricks on to the stone a bit further up the otherwise naked rock. This told me that the steepness must have been too much even for some locals.

Although this worried me I thought the stones where a step up from the sliding rock before and ventured on with optimism; yet only after about two meters I came to a place where the gap was twice as big and it seemed one of the glued on bricks had fallen.

At this point I got nervous and wanted to turn around, as the danger seemed too great to me. By then I had started a queue of young men behind us. Standing right behind me, K seemed unfazed with the danger of slipping of the cliff and just encouraged me to continue carefully.

In the end the wait became to long for three of the local boys waiting behind us. Before I could turn around they took my hands and helped me along the sliding rocks. With their help I managed to descend the sliding parts as well as the narrow steps later. Although I survived, I know this for certain: I’ll never do it again.

Then again it was quite an adventure, and there is no doubt it was the fastest way down to the boardwalk along the westward shore of Tangier. After resting a bit, watching the stunning waves and the outline of Spain behind them, K and I had a scenic walk exploring more of that side of the coast, which I hadn’t explored before.

I took a picture of K sitting on the boardwalk. After he had flown off again, I did a pencil sketch after it.

 

We continued strolling along until we came to a new small beach. Here it seemed more peaceful than on the big beach close to the city center, where we had walked the days before. Here on the new beach there were kids playing with tings they found in the water. Some boys around 12 at one point found some used condoms. It was a bit awkward to watch as they filled them with water and used them to hit each other.

Continuing even more west we followed a stony path along a new cliff side in a more orange colored stone. While walking we passed many people. They were either fishing, smoking or, in the case of kids and families, playing and resting.

When the path became too uneven for me to want to continue, we headed back towards our homestay. We walked up a very steep road. So steep I had to lean so far forward in order not to fall backwards, that I was practically horizontal. On the way up we found a café that was usually part of a hotel with a pool area. The hotel seemed closed, but still the café was open for some reason and from its terrace there was a gorgeous view of the beach and cliff side we had just visited.

 

Needless to say, spending time with K was wonderful. I started missing him the instant I saw him sit in the taxi about to go to the airport. As I slammed the car door beside him and waved goodbye, I could already feel a sting in my heart, realizing it might be two months before we would see each other again.

The Third Tangier Hostel with a View

After having said goodbye to K I just wondered about the medina on autopilot for a while. Trying not to get noticed as a tourist as a walked around without purpose.

 

After walking around the narrow colorful streets and feeling lost, I began realizing all I wanted right then and there was just a little Netflix and a nap. I decided to buy some fresh peas and oranges and head to my new hostel, were I had left my red backpack earlier.

The sun was still shinning though and Netflix didn’t feel so tempting after all, and so I packed a few snacks and some things to draw with and headed for the roof terrace. Once again, as with all the previous places I stayed in Tangier, the view was indeed delightful.

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View from my last Tangier Hostel’s roof terrace.

Still feeling vulnerable and uneasy, already nostalgic and having flash backs to good memories with K, I felt frustratingly powerless to the fact that I would not be able to just give him a hug if I wanted to. To cope with this I started drawing passionately, while I made conversation with a woman from my hostel, who turned out to be from Lithuania where I once did an Erasmus Exchange and studied a semester.

She was from the capital Vilnius, whereas I studied in the second biggest city Kaunas. After the first months in Kaunas I went to Vilnius almost every weekend since there were more to explore there, so I know Vilnius quite well too. We had some interesting talks and I slowly felt a bit calmer. As the dark came I felt ready for Netflix and more snacks and this way the day ended alright.

 

Restaurant Haffa and a Fried Fish Platter

The next days I went back to the places I had been with K. In ‘Le Salon Bleu’, a cute café that had a lovely roof terrace above the Kasbah area, I sad close to where K and I had sat not long ago and played Backgammon. If I looked towards were we had been, I could almost see a sort of transparent scene of us still being there, as if the memory was an existence that could be alive and keep me company. In this weird way I didn’t feel as alone.

Other than Le Salon Bleu I also went back to Restaurant Haffa, with its wonderful view over the shoreline west of the Tangier Medina.

On the day before my departure to Valencia, I went there and ordered a minced meat tagine, which turned out to be a dish with spicy meatballs in a tomato based sauce. The table to my right was occupied by a man and a woman who had just received a huge platter of fried seafood, containing several different fishes, calamari and shrimps.

As I studied the platter I made eye contact with them. I smiled at them and them at me. Then the man invited me to join them and the woman made motions to suggest me to scoop my table close to theirs. Seeing the size of their platter I didn’t feel as though I would be robbing them of their food, and they seemed nice.

The woman didn’t speak English or French, but the man spoke a little French. By way of sign language and a few words I gathered they were to get married in three days and I was invited to their party. This is very kind of them, and I thank them. ‘But I’m traveling on’, I explained, ‘For the next four months’. This was difficult to explain since especially the man was eager to see me at their wedding party.

By way of more sign language I attempted to describe how I’m travelling to work on my creativity and I showed them a few of my drawings. This helped and they responded well to the artworks. I decided to offer them a portrait sketch as a wedding gift and a thank you for the food. The man accepted but signaled that we should eat first.

So we focused on eating together. Since the fishes were fried whole it was a lot of pealing and separating. I was very slow; so slow that the kind lady started pealing shrimps and fish for me to eat. She also did this for the man and even fed him directly, which struck me as a bit weird, but it was also cute how they seemed so natural, as if they did this every time they ate and it was the most natural thing in the world.

They really seemed sweet to me and eating of the same platter all at once felt like it brought us closer. As the man said in French, when I still had reservations about taking from certain very good looking big fishes, ‘Please, feel free, like family’.

We ate and ate. My minced meat tagine came and we even had a go at sharing that too with some flat bread, but halfway through we had all had enough. The woman, and later also I, started to feed some of the many homeless cats with leftover fish. Tangier has many homeless cats and quite a few of the area’s cats had gathered around our two tables.

After we had all dried of our hands in some napkins, I commenced sketching a quick portrait of them and some of the view of the Tangier bay in the background. With some difficulty I had tried to explain in French that they should just relax and act as if I weren’t there.

The reason for this was that I had noticed on the few occasions I had sketched other people in Tangier, that they became very stiff. This in turn also made me a bit ill at ease, seeing as they looked slightly uncomfortable and that it felt to me like their expectations might be very high, as the context became very formal. So I tried to make them more relaxed. I think he understood it after a few attempts to describe my intention, and he translated something to his fiancé. Fortunately they seemed rather relaxed as they were laughing and making conversation while I drew.

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Wedding gift sketch.

Once I was done and showed it to them, they became very thankful and straight away the man wanted to connect on WhatsApp. This turned out to be a difficult task as the internet wasn’t stable at the restaurant.

It took about 20 minutes, during which I tried to mention several times that we could just wait until later when we were at our separate places, since we had each other numbers it should work then. I’m not sure he understood this point. Either way he seemed very determined to make sure it worked instantly. In the end he borrowed his fiancé’s phone to make a mobile internet hot spot and then it worked.

After this he began talking about how he was going to buy a car in a month and drive around Morocco with a friend and how I should come join them. Again I tried to explain that I had already planned a trip for the next four months.

He seemed very eager and kept insisting that there were many more things to see in Morocco and I didn’t have to go around Europe to see nice things to draw. When I asked if his soon to be wife was coming too, he just shook his head in silence. This was a bit weird to me.

It’s a shame, because they really seemed nice and open, but I got quite suspicious of him after this. Maybe this was due to having experienced in different ways how some people, like the pirate taxi driver, tried to scam me – or how other people aggressively tried to sell me things or ‘guide’ me to special places; combined with the fact I had read warnings about different elaborate scams people pull sometimes.

I just couldn’t help but to get a bit suspicious at the weird way he insisted on checking the connection between us on WhatsApp; and then the weird invitation to join a road trip with him and his friend but without his wife. They were probably just very kind open people. Sadly being careful and suspicious became a condition for me while travelling alone in Morocco.

Leaving Tangier

As I left my Hostel on the day of my departure to Valencia, I first went to check on some cats I had seen a few days earlier. Just a stone’s throw up the narrow road from the hostel entrance, there was a cardboard box. Inside this box I found three tiny cute kittens and a mom-cat. The mother was always meowing – I had even heard this from my dorm room in the Hostel.

Wanting to pet the tiny kittens, I first tried to sit at observe them. I never succeeded in petting them, since the mother was very protective. She would lash out with her claws – but not really to attack, more warn me if I got too close.

 

On the second day I visited the cardboard home, the mom seemed very tame. While still protecting her kittens, she came closer after a while in order to get cuddled. Only for brief amounts of time though; soon after a stroke over the fur on her arched back, she would start meowing again and walk around in what seemed like a stressed state.

Wanting to help somehow, I thought maybe she needed food, but I could see other people had put leftovers out for her on a step beside the box. So I really didn’t know how to help her; if it had been in Copenhagen I would have been tempted to bring them all home with me.

The Last Tagine in Tangier

On the day I was leaving Tangier I had one last fish tagine in the street restaurant on the place ninth of April. After having dined there several times, I found out that the fish tagine was my favorite – it had fresh sardines cooked on top of potatoes and peppers in a tomato based sauce.

By then I was quite familiar with the two servers. As mentioned in my last post I had even sketched them. I had also introduced K to them – as my husband since the slim server J once flirted with me, asking if I was single, and I was quick to declare myself married.

When I was halfway done with my tagine, I noticed how I would soon have to take a taxi to be in the airport three hours in advance, as the airplane company had sent me an email about. They explained I should be there then due to extra security measures at the airport.

After scanning the roundabout for taxis and not finding any available, I asked the server that acted more as a guard, whom I still didn’t know the name of, to help me get a taxi. He accepted the request with great resolve; reacting like it was an important mission. Initially he ran off, maybe in an attempt to catch a certain taxi, and then he returned and started to make some phone calls.

While I chatted with a kind lady, the serious server was still on the phone. When I looked his way, he would give me a fast nod and a wave with his phone, to ensure me that a taxi was on its way. Although a bit worried about getting delayed, I focused on talking with the lady, whom I later learned was a Dane as well. She was very nice and had studied photo journalism but now worked with helping disabled people in Denmark.

Even though the conversation with her was interesting, I was beginning to stress slightly about the time. Eventually I tried to provoke a change of events by getting up and pointing at passing taxis. Once again the server ensured me that a car was coming soon.

After about 25 minutes a taxi arrived and I made sure that the price was the local price of 100 dirhams to the airport. Luckily the taxi driver agreed quickly, after getting a stern nod from the serious server. As I then began to say goodbye to the two waiters, I was quite moved by their compassion towards me. Thin J shook my hand calmly and asked heartedly if I might be back? ‘Maybe in a year or so, when I can afford it’, I said. ‘Ohh’, he exclaimed with a slight sigh and added that by that time he wouldn’t be there.

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Server J.

The serious server helped put my bag in the back seat of the car, and after he had slammed the door I stretched out my hand through the rolled down window to say my farewells. He shook it with a firm grip and energetic shake, as if I was an old pal. He even did a twist on the hand grip, changing the hand position to the stance that people use for arm wrestling.

The movements reminded me of cool hip hop dudes in movies, and I felt moved by how it seemed he accepted me as a kind of ‘homie’ to him. With a broad smile I waved goodbye one last time to both of them and the Danish lady, whom I had just happened to share half a meal with.

The taxi driver was kind, talkative and curious as to how I knew his friend; the serious server. Luckily he spoke good French and so I was able to explain that I had been eating at the restaurant quite often during my roughly two weeks in Tangier.

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The serious server.

I also added that I was travelling to do art and that I had even done a drawing of his friend, all while I searching for the drawing on my phone in order to show it to him. The taxi driver laughed as he saw the sketch, seeming very entertained and gave me a thumps up. ‘Super’ he said. As we arrived at the airport and I gave him the 100 dirhams. He just thanked me, wished me all the best and of he went. All in all a much better taxi experience than the drive after my first arrival in Tangier.

Bureaucracy at Tangier Airport

As mentioned earlier, I had received an email telling me to show up at the airport three hours in advance. Because of the taxi driver’s dramatically speedy driving, I managed to arrive just about that time. After an initial security check to access the airport itself, I tried to go through security with my printed out ticket – the digital boarding pass I usually use on an app on my phone did not work for Tangier airport. However the guard before the security check before the gates told me to go to a check-in desk for a stamp.

Ok. I went to a check-in desk, but here I’m told I have to wait until the check-in desk for the Valencia flight opens some undefined time later. Okay. So I waited and bought a coffee. Why did they tell me to come that early, if they don’t even open the check-in desk in advance to meet the extra security? I drank my coffee and later observed the Valencia check-in desk open and people starting to queue up with their trolley bags.

Although I didn’t have such a bag that had to be checked-in, I still needed to stand in line while everybody got their bags checked-in, just to get my stamp. Upon asking I was told the stamp had something to do with immigration. After I was finally let past the check before security, that fortunetly went smoothly, I was soon after on to passport control.

In advance I had filled in a similar paper to the one I had to fill in upon arrival. This time under the section ‘occupation’ I put ‘Barista in a coffee shop’. More specific than last time and maybe it helped; in any case the police officer checking my passport didn’t ask what a barista was.

He just sat there checking the passport and note for about ten minutes before he let me pass. As I turned the corner around my passport controller’s little glass hut, another officer stood in the doorway leading to the area with the gates, checking all the passports again. Why once more?

Well this time the check went much faster and I was let through not long after. At this point I still had about an hour until boarding, so I bought a water and passed the time sending semi-frustrated updates to K about the bureaucracy of Tangier airport – which he had of cause experienced himself a few days earlier.

Valencia

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Valencia seen from the air.

The flight was wonderfully trouble-free. It only took a little over an hour. As I arrived on the other side of a much faster passport control, I walked straight past the baggage carousels and wrote O – my couch surfing host while in Valencia.

He had been kind enough to write, that he would meet me at the airport, so I was just writing to figure out where to meet him, as I couldn’t see him near the front of the arrivals area. He responded quickly that I should find a taxi area close by.

Soon after, as I’m scanning trough rows of taxis surrounding me, being slightly confused, O spots me and introduces himself. He looks just as his photos and I relax as he has a calm and pleasant air about him. Also O had very good references on couch surfing.

As we drive home to O’s apartment, he explained how it is located only a 12 minute metro ride from the center of Valencia. Since I don’t speak Spanish and he didn’t speak English, we used google translate to talk. In conversation he seemed even kinder and also very knowledgeable about Valencia and Spain in general.

One Dog and Three Cats

At O’s apartment what faced me first was the quite overwhelming welcoming from his three fat cats and one old dog. They all turned out to be very tame and cute. Every single one of them wanted to say hello as we arrived. Like all the places I stayed in Tangier, there also was a roof terrace in O’s building. Here the pets would go up to stretch their legs.

 

As O was about to show me my very own room, one of the cats ran past us fast as lighting. The cat had blonde fur and blue eyes and it continued straight to the curtain in front of the window in the bedroom, and started pissing up against it.

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The blonde pissing cat.

O motioned to scare the cat away quickly with a laud, ‘Shhuuchhhs!’, which successfully made the cat run away, leaving only the fountain shaped shadow on the curtain. O grabs a spray to wash out the stench. He apologized and explained that this was a thing the blonde male cat has begun doing sometimes to mark its territory.

Later that evening, while O cooked us some food, I made some attempts to sketch his cats. They kept moving around though, and my focus on drawing wasn’t all there either, so the drawings didn’t turn out that well.

I have debated with myself whether I should share them with you all, dear readers, when I didn’t feel proud of them. In the end I came to the conclusion that as my journey’s purpose is not to excel in every drawing, but to journey towards more creative output, then even the drawings that aren’t to my liking are part of the creativity travel, and so I will share them with you!

 

As O finished dinner, we sat and dined and talked for hours. It turned out O used to study philosophy and we then started talking about life and art – all by help of google translate still; and more specifically via a google translation app with a ‘conversation mode’. With this we could just take turns talking into the phone and then it would translate – although most often it couldn’t really translate all that correctly. Still most of the time we caught the jests of what each other wanted to say and this way we made interesting conversation.

Although I have never studied philosophy myself I have always found it very interesting to discuss, as I always enjoy asking questions about things that many people find obviously certain. When I find people who are willing to discuss these things with me I easily connect with them. Many of my best friends are also people I can discuss such subjects with.

Also, people who know me well will already know this, but I might as well be straightforward with you, dear readers, and admit that I’ve dated a few philosophy students in my time and as mentioned in the previous post, my beloved K has also studied philosophy. So there is really no hiding my appreciation of philosophy and the people immersed in it.

Needless to say I already felt perfectly at home and at ease that first night. I’m very grateful that couch surfing and kind people like O exist , so I can visit a town and actually get to know a local – and not to forget, save money for my travel budget to make sure it lasts until May.

Animals

In comparison with the mommy cat I checked on a few times while in Tangier, the cats in O’s apartment live a luxury existence. A fast way to see this is simply by looking at the three cats themselves. They are all very well fed, or the put it plainly: they are fat. With the exception of the blonde cat who marks his territory.

However the two other cats are almost in Garfield-scale. One grey striped female cat looks positively pregnant. The third cat is a castrated male, white with black spots, and he is most often hiding somewhere, somehow squeezing himself into a corner or lifting himself onto a surface.

 

The cats are very social and will, like the dog, go where there are people to sit close by or crawl up and rub themselves against your legs, shoulder or even face. Compared to the starving and desperate street cats I saw every day in Tangier, this apartment must be cat heaven for those cats used to living on the street.

The first night as I was about to sleep in my bed, two of the cats had snuck into the bed and both looked at me as I walked in with expressions of, ‘What? Don’t you want us here?’

Since I was afraid the blonde cat would piss in the bed I had to sleep in, I made them leave, which they seemed semi-prepared for. I was a bit startled later, as I was about to fall asleep, when I heard somebody pushing on my door. Soon after I realized it was one of the cats trying to break in. I put in my earphones and listened to some Bach Cello Sonatas. Not long after I fell asleep.

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Me with one of the cute fat cats.

Visiting the City of Valencia

O had explained the night before, that he had a lot of work the next days, so he would leave early and come home late, but he had given me a key so I could just come and go as I pleased.

After a lovely long night’s sleep, I ventured out into the living room and as soon as I had made a bit of noise all the animals were there to greet me with their eagerness to get caressed. A nice start to my first day in Valencia. After arriving with the metro I walked and walked and amongst other things visited the ‘Museo de Belles Artes’ where I did a fast sketch after an ancient painting of Maria Magdalena. The museum mainly had Christian alter art, but that was also very interesting.

 

My first impressions of Valencia were that the city is big, cultural and full of history. Scattered around the city are what seems to be legitimate roman ruins and some dramatic towers that must have been part of town walls – though now some towers just stand by themselves.

There are quite a few parks and green areas. The biggest park seems to be a dried out river, since there are lots of bridges across it and it’s full of sport arenas and football fields. Generally Valencia seems to have a lot of fitness machines scattered about. Also there is a lot of cool graffiti around the parts I’ve walked through so far.

 

I haven’t even seen close to all of the central parts of the city, but I like what I have seen. There is so much history and culture everywhere. Just these first days I’ve been to six different museums, including one on ceramics, one on silk and one on ethnology. Due to all this museum-crawling, so to speak, I’ve also been exhausted by all the new impressions, but equally exited as well. I look forward to exploring more of the city!

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Me in a mirror in the Ceramics Museum’s beautiful Barok building.

Epilog: We’re Going to Ibiza!

In between my explorations of Valencia though, I’ve decided to embark on a short trip to Ibiza from today and three nights ahead.

I stumbled upon some cheap airplane tickets and due to my lucky accommodation at O’s apartment, I have saved money on hostels in Valencia – which means I can afford a minor getaway within the major getaway that is the art travels.

I’ve heard the island is supposed to be a huge party island for young jetsetters. Although I’m not a party person myself, I’m curious to observe from an anthropological point of view, whether this is true or not.

Also I just hope to see some beautiful coasts – and hopefully swim a bit in a pool or maybe even the sea, if it’s warm enough.

Next week I’ll be able to tell you about my trip to Ibiza and share some more experiences from Valencia!

So long, dear readers!

Yours

Cille

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