Travels in Tarifa, Spain
By Nancy Hartman of What’s Cooking America
Destino – Tarifa, Spain:
Europe’s “Low-Country” – We left Ronda, and drove to Tarifa, Spain where we spent the next two nights in this festive city. Tarifa is a small town in the province of Cádiz, Andalusia, on the southernmost coast of Spain. The town is located on the Costa de la Luz coast across the Straits of Gibraltar facing Morocco. At exactly 36 degrees latitude, it is the southernmost point of the European continent, situated south of both African capital cities of Tunis and Algiers. Tarifa is sometimes credited with being the origin of the word tariff, since it was the first port in history to charge merchants for the use of its docks, but other sources point to the Arabic word ta’rïf, as the origin.
What Is A Carnival? We arrived in Tarifa on the eve of my 50th birthday. We entered town and began following a parade that was traveling down main street. Our first thought was, how great a parade! Then, great, this is going to be a slow drive through town. We were following GPS directions from “The Queen” our somewhat English-accented guide that led us from one destination to another with an appreciated amount of accuracy. We reached the street that led to our hotel and found barricades blocking the way – our street was closed!
The Puerto de Tarifa was to our right and we pulled into the parking lot. Fortunately, my daughter was travelling with us (who speaks fluent Spanish) and she spoke with the parking attendant and discovered that we had arrived on Carnival weekend!
Overlooking the town of Tarifa, plus Africa in the distance.
Carnival – A Surprise Birthday Party! Carnival is held every year before Lent and dates vary according to the date of Easter. Originating from the Bacchus festivals of the Romans, carnival has become the festival of overindulging in drink, food and every other pleasure before the 40 days of fasting begins.
Arriving in Tarifa during carnival time was pretty exciting, as I was also here celebrating my 50th birthday and the whole city was in full fiesta mode. The realization of the magnitude of the Carnival hit when we followed the walking instructions from the port to our hotel. We discovered that our hotel sat on the main square where the festival is held. It was around 6 p.m. and the street was already closed. There was already a small festival contingency gathering around the main stage where they were testing the sound system by playing a Bruno Mars’ song over and over.
We checked in to our cute little boutique hotel called, the Misiana. We were joyously informed by the desk clerk that it is carnival time! He informed us that the festivities start at 11 p.m. and would wind down around 5 a.m. He hoped that it was not too much of an inconvenience for us. What choice did we have, we embraced the party and made plans to attempt sleep as we had an early ferry to Morocco the following morning.
My Mom reserved the Junior Suite at our hotel so we would have a central place for our group to gather during our two-night stay in Tarifia. The suite ended up being the top floor of the boutique hotel, which half of the floor was the hotel room and the other half a lovely terrace overlooking the square, African coast, the Atlantic, and the city of Tarifa. It was a pretty amazing act of serendipity, although Mom claims to have planned it all for my Birthday.
My daughter and I wandered out to the square around 10:30 p.m. as the party was picking up and we danced and met many wonderful people of all ages. The little ones were dancing on the stage, and the family and friend groups were all dressed in their themed costumes that their group had previously decided on. Grandparents were smiling and swaying as the parents handed the cans of shaving cream to the kids who began spraying one another. It was really a diverse group and so much fun to join in on the event. We did cut the evening short at 11:30 p.m. to try and catch our sleep before the 8:00 a.m. ferry to Morocco in the morning.
Check out the video we took of the carnival: http://youtu.be/OwgRQpIaHlg
What Does Night Have To Do With Sleep? Well – the carnival rolled all night and sleeping was a challenge! We did manage to catch a bit of sleep before the alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. I could still hear the rowdies from the party yelling in the street, but as the dawn neared things quieted down. We made our way to the cafeteria next to the hotel to have breakfast before our trip to Morocco. In the cafeteria, there they were, the dregs of the Carnival crowded into the small cafeteria, costume make-up melting down their faces, wide-eyed stares, and all enjoying Churros con Chocolate (Spanish doughnuts that are served with a warm thick dipping chocolate).
Comida: Churros are coil-shaped, fritter-like pastries that are eaten plain or covered with cinnamon and sugar. When prepared, they should be crisp and have a lovely golden-brown color, crunchy on the outside, and soft on the inside. This pastry can be enjoyed any time of the day as long as it is made fresh. Throughout most of Spain they are either straight, curled, or spirally twisted. However, in Andalucía in Southern Spain, the churro is sold in spirals or wheels, which are then cut into manageable portions after frying. Traditionally, churros are consumed for breakfast or as a snack in Spain, as chocolate and churros is a common breakfast for Spaniards, but churros are also available throughout the day and into the night. According to the Spanish people, churros and chocolate are an especially good remedy for hangovers. It seemed to be working because the last of the revelers were passively enjoying their churros and chocolate, barely giving us notice.
Off to Morocco: After breakfast we walked to the port to catch our morning ferry to Tangier, Morocco.
Categories:Travels in Spain