On the Beat’s Path: Retrace the Beat Generation’s favorite haunts in Tangier & Mexico with vayama’s cheap airfares.
By Florin R. Ferrs
(World traveler, cheap airfare expert and occasional beat.)
There are better hotels in Tangier than the El Muniria, but Naked Lunch wasn’t written in one of them. Luxury sheets and a Jacuzzi do not make up for the wonderful view of the Pillars of Hercules heralding the Atlantic into the Mediterranean that you get from the large French windows of the Hotel El Muniria’s Jack Kerouac Suite.
It isn’t even much of a suite, just a single room with a queen bed and a private bathroom (its second luxury). The bed of the Jack Kerouac suite is positioned in such a way so that when you awake to Tangier’s early morning calls to prayer, your feet will point towards the large French windows, inviting you to open them wide to admire the expanse of Tangier’s bay, its palm lined beach boulevard and the dry hills of southern Spain on the opposite shore of the Mediterranean.
A room with a view at the El Muniria
The Beat poets put the hotel El Muniria on the map; a framed black and white picture above the tiny bar of the “Tangier Inn” downstairs captures them in all their Beat Generation Glory: Alan Ginsberg, William Burroughs, smiling in the Hotel’s garden with its British expat proprietor. Nowadays you can enjoy lunch in Tangier with your clothes on, don’t miss the fabulous Cus Cus au legumes, its labyrinthine Medina, chock full of spices, camel leather cushions and colorful textiles. Do as the locals do and spend a lazy afternoon sipping sweet Moroccan tea outdoors in one of Tangier’s many French era cafe’s. Save your energy for Tangier’s wild nightlife of belly dancer bars and, of course, lively conversation and cold Moroccan beers at the bar of the Tangier Inn, where you might meet an interesting ex-pat or two.
You can fly nonstop to Morocco and avoid the occasional volcanic interruptions that have closed airports in the U.K. & Ireland. Vayama.com is offering discounted airfares from New York to Casablanca on Royal Air Maroc , you can also fly into Madrid and take the train south to Algeciras where they run a daily ferry to Tangier. I found great fares on Vayama.com from the East coast to Madrid, with the added bonus that Madrid has remained open trough all the volcano crisis, making it a great base for your southwestern Mediterranean off the “beat”-en path explorations.
The Tangier inn: Lunch is dressed nowadays
Mexico City Blues
You can still trace the Beats without booking a transatlantic flight; I just saw that vayama’com has discounted airfares on Aeromexico, nonstop from San Francisco to Mexico City , a city that has retained most of the charms that made it a hot bed of the Beat generation. Great world-class museums, cozy cantinas, and leafy plazas selling colorful arts and crafts or as William Burroughs puts it in his introduction to his novel Queer: “I liked Mexico City from the first day of my first visit there; it was a cheap place to live, with a large foreign colony… cockfights and bullfights, and every conceivable diversion. A single man could live well there for two dollars a day.”
Prices have gone up a bit since Burroughs’s day, but you can still stay in a cheap and clean backpacker’s hostel right on the Zocaco (Mexico City’s large downtown Plaza) from $16 per night and sip a nice cup of coffee for two bucks while been serenaded by a Mexican Guitar trio at Café Tacuba, a 100-year-old coffee shop and Restaurant tucked away on one of the many cobblestoned streets that emanate from the Zocalo.
Perhaps the best guidebook of Beat Generation Mexico city is Jack Kerouac’s poem “Tristessa”, where he describes the Mariachis on Plaza Garibaldi (they are still there) and the large Diego Rivera Murals that are a Mexico City staple.
El Mariachi on Plaza Garibaldi
Take the Turibus (Mexico City’s Big Red open top Tourist Bus), and hop on and on along all the wonderful sights and sounds of this greatly underappreciated city, including stops in the Downtown Zocalo, the amazing National Museum of Anthropology, the bohemian enclave of Coyoacán, home of Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul and Troski’s house and Mexico City’s wonderfully large Chapultepec Park, where Jack Kerouac suggested to Burroughs that the name for his upcoming book should be; Naked Lunch. A book that was not to be completed until a few years later in a hotel room next to the “Tangier Inn” in Tangier’s El Muniria hotel.
Beat it to Morroco & Mexico with vayama’s cheap international airfares.
Next Week: Lisbon Escapade