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Author: kathleencs

Joined: 10/6/2010
Posts: 15
Trips Taken: 9
Traveler Since: 2010

January 03, 2013

We are traveling in March and would like some info on this optional tour. Is it worth the money and time to go. Would appreciate any help with this.

Author: gobuckeyes

Joined: 7/7/2010
Posts: 158
Trips Taken: 13
Traveler Since: 2005

January 03, 2013

I'm just trying to be helpful here:

1.  Morocco is a great country to visit and is totally different than Spain & Portugal. I did the OAT Morocco trip and would highly recommend the OAT trip (however, Tangier was not part of that trip). A couple red flags though:

a) I did visit Tangier on a couple cruise ship stops and the Kasbah is just a dumpy residential/shopping area. It was really nothing special.

b) GCT's photo of the Moroccan tour shows 3 women sitting on a bench at a carpet store. Sitting through a 2 hour sales pitch to buy carpet is not my idea of a highlight on an optional tour. 

2. You might check out the "travelers reviews" on the GCT web page for the tour to see if anyone has any 1st hand comments of the Moroccan optional tour.  

3. Basically I'd suggest getting some input from your tour guide as to exactly what the Moroccan itinerary consists of vs what alternate activities you can do on your own in Torremolinos (and/or the surrounding area) before making your final decision.  

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 970
Trips Taken: 11
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

January 03, 2013

We paid a brief visit to Mijas when we were in Torremolinos on the Costa del Sol trip in 2000.  It's a lovely little town, all white.  There are buses, and there used to be a train.  It would be something to spend a day on.

Author: luisa

Joined: 3/13/2010
Posts: 535
Trips Taken: 8
Countries Visited:

Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Canada, Mexico, Spain, France, Monoco, Croatia, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji

Traveler Since: 2006

January 03, 2013

Mijas is lovely, it was an included tour in the no-longer-available Costa del Sol trip. There were some nice restauants and small shops with unusual jewelry.

Some people in our group took a day trip Gibraltar. One couple rented a car and two women took a bus from Torremolinos.

I made the OAT Morooco trip and loved it but don't know if I'd want to spend a day in Tangier. Perhaps the reviews will help.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 414
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2002

January 04, 2013

In January 2009 we were in Torremolinos for three weeks of the Classic Costa del Sol tour. We took an overnight excursion to Tangiers. It was certainly not the same as the optional tour offered on the current Spain and Portugal tour, but, for what it's worth, the following is an excerpt from my journal covering the two days in tangiers:

 About a two hour bus ride from Torremolinos, beyond Gibraltar, is the village of Tarifa. I’m not sure what else Tarifa is noted for, but it is the point in Spain that is closest to Africa. That makes it a perfect port from which to take a ferry to Tangiers, and Morocco. It takes about 40 minutes to cross the Strait of Gibraltar.
 Although it is an automobile ferry, and might have accommodated our bus, the bus did not go with us. We rode the ferry as passengers and were met by another bus in Tangiers. The passenger accommodations were kind of like an airplane except much larger and more comfortable. Incidentally, we normally spell the name of the city T-A-N-G-I-E-R-S. In Spanish they leave out the I and the S. It becomes T-A-N-G-E-R, like the new outlet mall in Washington (Pennsylvania). But it is still pronounced Tan – GEER, not TANG – er, as the people around here prefer to call the mall.
 Tangiers has a population of about 700,000 and is, I believe, the fourth largest city in Morocco. Rabat, Casablanca, and Fes are larger. It is at the far northwest corner of Africa. It is outside the Strait of Gibraltar, so it actually faces the Atlantic Ocean rather than the Mediterranean Sea. The population is largely Arabic and Berber, and the religion is almost all Islam. But there is a strong Spanish influence, and a surprisingly strong English influence in the city. It was, for many years, an international city, not belonging to any one country but administered by a consortium of several European countries.
 You no doubt have heard the expression, “Come with me to the Kasbah.” Most of us probably have the wrong image in mind when we hear the word, Kasbah. The Kasbah is a hilltop fortress that was the dwelling place for the more elite members of the society of the city. Every North African city has a Kasbah. It is still occupied by families, now perhaps not quite so elite. If you had to live in the city of Tangiers, however, you’d probably want to live in the Kasbah.
 As we were waiting our turn to tour a local bakery, some neighborhood residents lined up to entertain us. As with children everywhere, they were very curious, and almost terminally cute. They are trained in the ways of tourists. When the picture taking was over the hands came out for some coins. But they were polite and not at all forceful about it, unlike some of the adult vendors we later encountered.
 The baker bakes bread and other pastries in an open, wood-fired oven. We stood at a level about five steps below the street level. He was in the pit in front of the oven from which he does his work. The routine seems to be like this: The lady of the house prepares her dough at home and brings it to him. He bakes it and then the lady returns later in the day to pick it up. The baker does not prepare any dough himself. All he does is bake it.
 As tourists, we had to be entertained by the local snake charmer. I don’t think I would turn my back on the cobra the way the charmer did, but the cobra was rather docile. Of course it was rather chilly when we were there, so the snake was not very active. The charmer had to harass the snake a lot to get him (or her; only another cobra would know for sure) to spread his hood.
 Our friend, Marty, got to wear the cobra around his neck. Well, I’m not sure it really was the cobra, but it surely was a snake.
 Our tour guide had a helper. He would run ahead to get things prepared and then bring up the rear to see that everybody stayed together. We never learned his name, and Mary called him “the Gofer.” As we were handing out the tips and getting on the bus, I asked Antonio, our Program Director, about the fellow. Antonio’s reply was, “Oh, he’s the gofer.”
 Our trip to Morocco was an overnight trip, and we checked into our hotel about noon. I’ll have more to say about the hotel later. But in late afternoon we went southwest along the Atlantic to the village of Asilah. We did a walking tour of the town and visited a few scenic spots.
 Then we went for a home hosted dinner. I don’t recall the name of our host. He was definitely upper-middle class for that area. It might surprise some retired school teachers, but his job was high school chemistry teacher. His income put him in the top 20%, or so, economically. We were served a delicious meal by the gentleman. It was prepared by his wife, but his wife and son did not join us until after the meal was over. I don’t recall exactly what we ate, but it was all very good.
 We entered the house through a locked gate into a small courtyard, and then through another locked door into the dining room. But we did not eat in the dining room. We left our coats and shoes in the dining room and went into the living room to gather around a small, round table for the meal. The whole house was tiled, floors and walls, and I assume ceilings, but I really didn’t notice. But the living room had a rug on the tile floor, and I assume that is why we removed our shoes.
 The wife and son did not talk, but she had an album of their wedding pictures which she showed us. It was an elaborate wedding. As part of her wedding attire she was covered in henna tattoos. She had them on her hands and arms, her feet and legs, and her face. They said they last about a month.
 As part of our tour we went to Cape Spartel. It is the extreme northwestern corner of the African continent. Mary and I like to take pictures of lighthouses, and I think that was our first African lighthouse.
 The central square in Tangiers was the entrance to the Medina. If the Kasbah is the protected dwelling place, the Medina is the somewhat less protected market place. We went there to observe the souk (suq), or market, and to have lunch.
 One of our first stops was the spice merchant. We saw the spices and some of the pottery associated with spices. It was all for sale, but we didn’t buy. One shop that appealed a lot to me was the olive market. They had a lot of different varieties of olives and hundreds of pounds of each. The butcher shop was a lot less appealing, but just as interesting. While the Souk is a tourist attraction, it is the primary source of food and other materials for the people who live in the center of Tangiers. In the suburbs they have shopping malls and supermarkets that we would all feel more comfortable with.
 We were greeted at our hotel by a very small band – two members. And they were not too melodic. But their uniforms were impressive. Our tour bus got right close (about 5 feet) to the front door of the hotel. At lunch in the hotel we were entertained by a slightly larger and slightly more melodic band. The violin player held his instrument in his lap as he was playing. If they have been playing since they were children, they have had a lot of practice.
 Our other Moroccan lunch was at a restaurant in the Souk. It was a very comfortable location and the food was quite good. We were even entertained by a belly dancer. She was not the exact image that comes to mind when you think of belly dancer, but she was what we got and she was talented. The band at that restaurant was even larger and significantly more melodic. In fact, those guys were pretty good.
 
 

Author: mewslp

Joined: 5/15/2011
Posts: 44
Trips Taken: 14
Traveler Since: 2002

January 04, 2013

 We were Peace Corps Volunteers in Tangier in 1971-73, so we will always regard it with affection.  We have returned twice, most recently in 2009, always traveling independently. Tangier has changed dramatically with more pedestrianized streets, cleaner beaches, etc. but retains its charm (for us).  We've always pitied people who visit Tangier for a day or two and equate it with a visit to Morocco; we've likened it to going to Tiajuana and thinking you've seen Mexico.  Many are turned off by the persistent merchants and this is a feature of all of Morocco, but only a minor annoyance in terms of all the beauty and culture there is to experience. They are a very hospitable people and you should have no fears beyond the normal cautions of travel anywhere.  Bottom line:  I'm ambivalent - you'll find much of interest in even a short time, but I feel you shouldn't decide whether to visit Morocco for a longer trip on the basis of a short visit to Tangier.

Author: mctz666

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 44
Trips Taken: 6
Traveler Since: 2004

January 04, 2013

GCT's "Spain and Portugal" remains one of my favorite trips with GCT.

I did not take the Morocco excursion, because the round trip transporation from Torremolinos would be close to 6 hours. (Each way is about 2 hours bus plus 45-min ferry.)  It would have been a long day.

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 970
Trips Taken: 11
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

January 04, 2013

Trying to think where else we went from Torremolinos in 2000.  It was just that year, we actually left here on Dec. 30, 1999.

Gibralter was an included day trip, I believe.  I know we had lunch there, but mostly I remember that it SNOWED on the way!  Not much, but the bus driver had never seen it before, let alone driven in it.  And the PD had only seen it once, in Paris.

Mijas, as I said, was lovely.  And the municipal authorities, we were told, had kept it from becoming too commercialized.  Of course, with all the golf courses they do get a lot of tourists but they keep it under control.

There was the overnight trip to Morocco, but my friend and I had to cancel because we were sick.  There was an epidemic of contagious bronchitis in Torremolinos while we were there, which most of us came down with.  We had booked a third week, so she went then but I decided not to.  Don't remember why.

Since when we went was an extended stay, we had a lot of free time to poke around.  A lot of Americans were there spending the entire winter.  And had for years.  Wish they still had that trip.

 

Author: shatzi

Joined: 3/10/2010
Posts: 59
Trips Taken: 6
Traveler Since: 2009

January 05, 2013

We took this trip 3 months ago and am very happy we did take the optional tour.  We take Grand Circle tours because of the educational and cultural aspects.  I believe Tangier was exactly that. 

I do not remember the bus ride being overly long or boring. Our local guide gave us a bus tour of Tangier.  You could feel his pride in his country as he expained everything.  What seemed very normal to him was far from what we as Americans are accustom to.  Lunch was at a local hotel and I did have some reservations about it, but proved me so wrong.  Our meal was very cultural, and fantastic. Our GCT tour director explained each course to us. After this great lunch we went to the shops in which I believe was called the Medina.  Once again, ahead of time the GCT director had explained what to expect and prepared us for a real learning experience.  These are hard working people living daily life.  We did go to a carpet dealer who explained the making of the rugs.  I found this very interesting and yes, educational.  The sales pitch was there, of course, and once again, this is their way of life. We were kept together as a group and the local tour director had his "helper" bringing up the rear to keep us together and, I believe, to keep some constant salespeople at bay. 

Should you spend the money and take the optional tour?  If you want to learn and immerse yourself in a little bit of another culture, take it.  It you prefer to do the touristy thing  in Torremolinos, by all means do it. I will probably not go back to Tangier, but am so glad I had the chance to be there to experience its people and their way of life.

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 230
Trips Taken: 13
Traveler Since: 2007

January 05, 2013

We returned from the Spain and Portugal trip this past May, and although we felt the trip itself was disappointing, we took the optional trip to Morocco, as did every other person in our group.  We would offer that the optional trip to Morocco was well worth the money, and we would highly recommend it, in what we felt was an otherwise disappointing trip. 

Author: shatzi

Joined: 3/10/2010
Posts: 59
Trips Taken: 6
Traveler Since: 2009

January 06, 2013

I feel badly some feel Spain and Portual was not a worth while trip. For us, it was definitely a fantastic trip.  The history, culture and beauty of these countries are outstanding.  This trip was just a tease because you leave wanting to experience more. As in beauty.....it is in the eye of the beholder. I also feel our tour director, Eduardo, had an immense inpact on our experience.

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 230
Trips Taken: 13
Traveler Since: 2007

January 06, 2013

 Although the region has a great deal to offer culturally, the itinerary failed to do justice to those aspects, which is why we felt the trip was disappointing.  In many instances, insufficient time was spent at certain locations, while time was wasted in questionable experiences when other experiences would have enhanced the trip.  We felt the included tours were sparse, and rushed.  We feel that Grand Circle did not do justice to the cultural aspects of the regions.  True, they did take us to see a lot of things, but rushing through venues just to say that they took us there is, in our humble opinions worse than not going through them at all.  However, we did feel, as we said, that the trip to Morocco was well worth it.  And this is not to be taken as a knock on our program directors.  They did everything possible that anyone could expect from a program director.  We could go on, but this is not the place to do that.

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 970
Trips Taken: 11
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

January 07, 2013

That's one reason why the now discontinued Costa del Sol trip was so great.  It was an extended stay, which meant that we were staying in Torremolinos for two weeks with an option for a third week while we traveled around Andalucia and other places.  Most were day trips, but Sevilla and Morocco were overnights.  We were not rushed and had a lot of time to spend in each place we visited. 

And some free days in Torremolinos when we could explore on our own.  We went looking for the synagogue one day  -  and found it closed.  It's only open once a week for Shabbat service.  We were sitting in a square about halfway up the stairs listening to a group of musicians from Peru play their music one day.  We bought food in the markets, but nothing to cook, since we were all afraid of the stoves at the Barranquilla, just take out.  Some people went back to Mijas on the train because they liked it so much. 

I really wish they hadn't discontinued it.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 414
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2002

January 07, 2013

Pauline, the Classic Costa del Sol trip is the only one of the nine GCT trips I have taken that I would really like to repeat. And that is for all of the reason you just stated.

Author: kathleencs

Joined: 10/6/2010
Posts: 15
Trips Taken: 9
Traveler Since: 2010

January 08, 2013

Thank you for all the information

Author: gobuckeyes

Joined: 7/7/2010
Posts: 158
Trips Taken: 13
Traveler Since: 2005

January 09, 2013

captainlarry (posted)...Our friend, Marty, got to wear the cobra around his neck. Well, I’m not sure it really was the cobra, but it surely was a snake.

I do know that in Marrakech the snake charmers had some nonpoisonous water snakes for the photo ops. Needless to say, you do not want a poisonous snake around your neck regardless of how docile it may appear to be.

 

P. S. I don't even want a nonpoisonous snake on me, they can still bite.

 

Author: franniepat

Joined: 3/11/2010
Posts: 50
Trips Taken: 10
Countries Visited:

Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Costa Rica, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Mexico, Alaska, Canada, Western US parks.

Traveler Since: 2008

January 26, 2013

I think the Costa del Sol would be a great place to offer an extended stay with the added activity of daily Spanish lessons during part of the weekdays! Have seen this type of trip offered in Ecuador.

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 970
Trips Taken: 11
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

January 27, 2013

That would really be lovely!  And Spanish lessons would be a great addition to it.  After all, the way to learn a language, or refresh one's knowledge, is to live where that language is spoken.  I find that my knowledge starts to come back when I'm surrounded by people speaking it.  I had to make up a foreign language requirement in order to graduate when I transferred from one college to another.  And the only way to do it was to take courses all summer.  We studied it every day all week, ate lunch together, and were not allowed to speak any English.  At the end of that, I was fluent.  But as the saying goes  -  if you don't use it, you lose it.

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