Morocco? What?

Our trip to Morocco started off with a few small hiccups, but nothing too horrible. We had trouble booking a hotel, but were assured that there were plenty of rooms available at naval station Rota for us to use. We headed out later than we'd hoped, but were scheduled to arrive at around 1am to Rota... not too shabby. The ride there was long, but bearable... a good 6 hours. By time we got up to the gate we were most definitely ready to be out of the van and into our beds. What could possibly go wrong?!

Josh and Kevin set out to get a pass for the van so we could get on base. Adriana and I watched from the van with the kids, letting them stretch their little limbs after behaving so well for so long. This sure is taking a long time. This can't be good. They were chatting with the gate guards for at least 30 minutes before heading back... not looking even remotely pleased. Crap. Apparently, the US Naval base in Rota is guarded by some Spanish contractors who were told not to let anyone on unless they've got orders to be there. This is a load of horse manure, of course... but it's 1:30am and no one of worth can be contacted. FINE! We didn't want to stay here anyway!! They were at least kind enough to give us the names and locations of some off-base hotels. Back in the van we go. First hotel... closed for remodeling. Second hotel... closed for holidays. By this time it's been about an hour since we first arrived in Rota. We had passed plenty of drunken American sailors in tiny alleys in our quest for accomodations. We decided that it would be smarter to just keep heading for the port city of Tarifa (where our ferry to Morocco was waiting). Eliminate more driving in the morning, more hotels near the port. Sounds like a plan.

It was around 3:30am when we hit Tarifa. The first hotel the garmin directed us to was actually a campground in the middle of nowhere. The next hotels we saw were more like motels and the city was deserted. Tarifa itself seemed a little dirty and small so we continued east towards Algeciras... another coastal town with higher-end hotels. The reviews we had read online said Algeciras was "industrial" but at that point we didn't care as long as it had clean beds. At 4:15am we finally arrived in Algeciras. We picked a hotel Kev had remembered from his online booking escapades: Reina Cristina. It was beautiful... and had rooms available, which made it even more beautiful. It was pretty expensive, but we were in no position to complain nor to continue searching. The kids were crying and had been for at least 30 minutes. It's nearly 5am... we can finally sleep!

The next morning our alarm (aka Tristan) went off at 10:00am and woke us all up. We were not happy. Then we looked outside and saw the coast, the mountains, felt the sun, and realized we were about to travel to another continent! So we cheered up pretty quickly :) We had missed the hotel's breakfast so we took our time getting ready to have an early lunch. Found a nice pizza place and chowed down. It was around 1:30pm by time we finished and were ready to get our ferry tickets to Morocco. The travel agencies are lined up across the street from public parking for the ferrys and there are TONS of them. Most have hired drunken bums to grab bewildered tourists like ourselves and direct them to "the right place to get tickets". The extent of their English is as follows "tickets? Morocco? Come." the rest is a slurry of clumsy hand gestures and glances. Here's where my Spanish came in quite handy. Our bookie spoke Spanish with a bit of an Arabic accent, and FAST. I had a hard time understanding him, he didn't seem to have a hard time understanding me. Finally I understood. The ferry leaves at 2 (not enough time to get to the port and clear security), but the last one of the day is at 5:30pm so there is no point in getting tickets for today anyway. After a few "comos?" (what?) from me we settled on 9am tickets for the next day. None of us were too bothered with the prospect of casually meandering in a Spanish coastal town, stopping at coffee houses and cafeterias. Not at ALL. It was mostly relieving. We were tired and felt a little rushed. It would be nice to catch our bearings. The internets were wrong... Algeciras is beautiful and doesn't seem "industrial" at all.

That day in Algeciras was awesome. We found a great bar/cafe, walked a bit, laughed and visited, checked out the local parks and shops. Bars here aren't at all like bars in the states. They all serve delicious coffee, juices, some baked goods, alcohol (of course), and "tapas". We weren't able to try any tapas thanks to the little ones, but were all fine with that :) We had a hard time with the meal scheduling since Spaniards insist on eating dinner after 7pm. Every cafeteria is closed from 4-8, sometimes until 9 then they open back up until 11 or 12 for "dinner". We headed back to the hotel to preemptively bathe the kids and go down to the lobby to wait for the dinner buffet to open. All of us sipped on wine and coffee outside while the boys ran around for an hour and a half. By time 7:30 rolled around we were starving. The hotel dinner buffet was excellent. It was inexpensive and had a huge selection of Spanish deliciousness. We stuffed ourselves and headed off to bed so we'd be ready for our 9am ferry to Morocco!!

Although we awoke at 7am we somehow managed to be too late to catch our 9 o'clock ferry. I blame it on the Spanish lifestyle... it's nigh impossible to force your body to rush through anything out here haha. Once again we weren't too horribly angry about the new circumstances... once we found out our tickets were still valid for the 1:30pm ferry. Perfect! Just enough time for coffee and a little walk ;) We got to the port at noon and it took a good 45 minutes to clear through security... probably because there was one guy checking everyone's passports... just ONE GUY. The ferry left a little after 2, which would give us about 3 hours to spend in Morocco if we were to catch the 6:30pm ferry back. Still fine with that... not much to do in Morocco anyway. The ferry ride lasted longer than advertised, but it was a beautiful ride. We got to see the Rock of Gibraltar, which was cool. It was after 4, which left us with maybe an hour. I was nervous we were going to miss the last ferry back and be stuck in Morocco for the night, none of us able to speak French or Arabic... very nervous.

We went to the customs counter on the boat to get our passports stamped and SURPRISE! Apparently Macedonians (like Adriana) need a visa to visit Morocco. We argued in broken Spanish, but finally gave in. We never set foot off the boat. Adriana told us to go on without her... we told her to shut up and never say anything like that again hahaha. Believe it or not we still got stamps for Morocco in our passports! :D Everything happens for a reason and it seems the universe was trying and trying to tell us not to go to Morocco, but we just wouldn't listen.

We landed safely back in Algeciras and went directly to the van in order to head back to Madrid. Our estimated time of arrival was 1am... dang! After all the waves on the ferry ride I don't think any of us were feeling too thrilled about being in the van again. We gotta do what we gotta do! Unfortunately it was Sunday and the only places guaranteed to be open are American chain restaurants. So... we went to McDonald's :P It was filling, but that food never makes me feel good. It's 9pm and our new estimated time of arrival is closer to 3am (if you include potty breaks and baby stops). UGH! The first 3 hours went by pretty smoothly. Adriana and I watched movies from the back seat and we're kids at heart so "Lilo and Stitch" actually does entertain us :) Eventually we were sick of movies and convinced Noah to take a nap like his brothers. Noah had been asleep maybe 30 minutes when we hit some random road construction which forced Josh to brake hard and that shook Noah awake. He started crying. We assumed he was just uncomfortable and tired. Adriana made him a little pillow and he leaned over on her lap.... SPLASH. He vomited mcnuggets all over her pants, the seat, and the floor. Again. I swear McDonald's + van + Noah = vomit. Maybe this time I'll remember!! We were in the middle of nowhere, no exits with open gas stations nearby so we sat there inhaling wretched puke fumes for 25 minutes. Adriana worked in a hospital as a nurses aid so this was nothing to her. She just kept telling Noah (and myself) it was ok. God bless her! We finally found a place to get cleaned up, which of course woke the babies up. They screamed through the entire cleaning process. Can't say I blame them! Car seats don't appear comfortable to me. I cuddled with Brennan, fed him, tried to calm him down. He was good. We were off again. We made decent time until we hit Madrid then it was the thickest fog I've ever seen. We had to drop down to 30mph so we wouldn't go flying off the road. It was patchy and unpredictable, but we made it home... it was 4:30am.

All in all, despite the weirdness of our trip, we all agree it was a success. We didn't make it to Morocco, but none of us feel like we should have gone... like God protected us from something bad happening. Who knows! All I know is we spent a lot of quality time together and saw a new place. That's good enough for us :)

Adriana has made such an impression on us that we've asked her to stay here and live with us. She doesn't want to go back to Macedonia, we need the help... it's a win-win! She whole-heartedly accepted and we're excited to finally be able to have someone we trust with our kids, a friend, an extra pair of hands, a good influence... she's wonderful and we're excited to have her! She claims we're saving her life, but she's going to improve our lives so much! She loves our kids and is great with them. I already feel stress melting away.

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