"" Writer's Wanderings: The African Spain, Puerto de Ceuta

Thursday, May 11, 2023

The African Spain, Puerto de Ceuta


A short spot of sun

So I was wrong. Cartagena would not be our last stop in Spain. I forgot that our itinerary had changed. When we booked this cruise it was specifically to be able to visit Gibraltar Island (the British one not the one in Lake Erie). Originally it was to stop there and we even had our excursion secured. About three weeks before we were to start on our marathon travel adventure, Holland America informed us that there would be a change. We would not stop at Gibraltar but instead visit Puerto de Ceuta in Spanish Morocco. Spanish Morocco? Who knew?

Gibraltar is out there somewhere.

It was a little late to cancel the cruise so we soldiered on. I learned a little more history along the way. There was a time when Morocco was a part of France and Spain. When they won independence, there were several spots in the country that opted to remain with Spain. Ceuta was one of them.

Ceuta is a peninsula that extends into the Mediterranean right near the Straight of Gibraltar. Pay attention because this will be important later. When we arrived, the area was swathed in a thick mist.

 Okay, call it fog. We had booked an excursion that was to leave at noon. It was to be a panoramic tour of sorts where they would take us up to the high points at either side of the peninsula so we could view the surrounding area and see over the border to Morocco.

Another itinerary change. For some reason they changed the excursion from noon to eight in the morning. Little time for any of the fog, or mist, to lift. Yup, you guessed it. That's pretty much all we saw from the high points. Our guide kept apologizing and did a wonderful job pointing out what we would see if it weren't foggy.

"Over there we could see Gibraltar," she said, "but I'm sorry. It's not there this morning."

As we passed through town, we stopped for a short stroll. It was an opportunity for a restroom break if anyone needed it. We got fifteen minutes for "coffee and a toilet, if you need." Bob and I walked down the main street a bit and discovered a statue. "It's Samson!" I exclaimed. "Why would they have this here?" The area is 45% Muslim. 

When we got back to our guide I showed her the picture and she explained that it was actually Hercules. Part of the Greek mythological story of Hercules and his twelve labors. The mountain of Atlas stood in his way and rather than go over it, he used his strength to split it creating an opening between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the Straight of Gibraltar. The statue depicting that mythological act shows Hercules between two pillars, each representing the sides of the mountain when it split. Look at the picture and you can understand why I thought it was Samson. Honest mistake.

A mountain that I think was actually in Morocco, was said to be a lady resting on her back. There was some legend I didn't quite get about her wanting to sunbathe in the nude and her father covered her up as she lay on the mountaintop. It may have gotten lost in translation. It took me a while to see the face and the rather large bosom. I didn't see it until I studied the picture I took. Her nose is pointing up. I thought she was on her side when I first saw her. Oh well. 

Parque Maritimo del Mediterraneo

We also saw the outside of an old convent, a chapel that we couldn't enter because the keeper of the keys was with his mother who was in a hospital, and finally a park that was a huge place full of swimming pools or lagoons. A few brave souls were "sunbathing" without much sun and a couple were in the water doing laps. The whole park was really beautiful and with what I believe our guide said were over 1300 lounge chairs, each with assigned numbers so you didn't have to fight over who claimed which one. There were even chairs for the "+65". I heard someone in the group mention that they had chairs for all of us. Chuckles all the way around.

While we didn't get to see the panoramic views, the tour was interesting thanks to the humor and information that she shared with us. I think the city was happy to have the tourists. While there wasn't much of a walk between the ship and the main street of town, they provided a small shuttle.

There has been no problem getting in a daily dose of 10,000 or more steps even aboard ship. The Niew Statendam is big enough that we can get a thousand just going to breakfast and back, that's if we remember to turn right out of our room. I'm trying hard not to use all those steps as an excuse to overindulge but the Belgium chocolate still left in the bag on the desk keeps calling me by name.

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