|Date:||September 11, 2000|
Breakfast at Hotel Alborada is a nice change. True, it is ham and cheese and bread and coffee and juice. But -- the cheese is delicious, and has been sliced from a real block of local cheese - not the spanish equivalent of that disgusting concoction we call "american cheese". The roll has been split and freshly toasted. The juice has been squeezed before our eyes -- and it's COLD! The coffee has been individually prepared. Ah.
We pile on the bus to Gibraltar (a bastardization of the Arabic for "Tarik's rock".) From the road, the rock appears to be crowned with imported London weather clouds (of course, it's just moist air being lifted above its dew point by the wind against the Rock. The line getting in takes about 1/2 hour. Show your passport to the Spanish official as he goes through the bus; move the bus forward a few feet; show the passport to the UK official, who pays just as little attention. Drive up to the traffic light -- it's usually green. If not, don't take any chances. Your cross-traffic could be a 737 to London. Yes, when Franco got pissed off about this "in-perpetuity" cession to the U.K. (back in 1704 -- the treaty, that is), a lot of supplies and personnel had to be moved by sea and air. Gibraltar is only 3 miles by one mile, and much of that is (obviously) rock. So, a runway was built crosswise to the isthmus. The runway, and much of the living space in Gibraltar, are built on top of material excavated from the Rock over the years. The Rock is apparently riddled with tunnels (and some caves, such as St. Michael's Cave, which was outfitted as a hospital in WW II but never used as such -- it has since been turned into a tourist attraction and concert theater!) Our tour of the Rock is given by a "taxi" driver, who is originally from London, but has lived here 18 years. Like most of the Gibraltarians (?), he speaks both English and the local spanish dialect (which sounds distinctly different from what we have been hearing. He insists that it's just Spanish, though -- and seems slightly incensed at my suggestion that it sounds different.
He mentions two ongoing situations. First is that of a British nuclear sub that was damaged during exercises near Italy. It was towed here to be repaired. Apparently, Spain is not pleased to have a nuclear sub so nearby. And I get the impression that many Gibraltarese (?) don't much care for it either. (As a San Diegan, living in close proximity to several nuclear aircraft carriers and submarines, and probably some nuke weapons, this just isn't much of an issue...) The other issue is tourism. Tourism is Gibraltar's primary industry. Unfortunately, Spain won't let Gibraltar advertise, nor can they even put up signs in Spain to assist tourists to their destination. And the really problematic situation regards the exit line on weekends. It can take as long as three hours to get back to Spain! Spain wants Gibraltar back, and promises democratic self-rule, but Gibraltaran (?) sentiment is supposedly widely on the side of remaining in the U.K. Sounds a lot like the Falklands!
The apes are cute. They seem to watch the crowds almost as much as the crowds watch them. Back in the 50's the Gibraltar apes were starting to dwindle, so Churchill imported some from Morocco (legend has it that the British will hold the rock as long as the Gibraltar apes continue to reside there). The apes have prospered since, and have begun to show up in town (there's nothing preventing them from leaving the rock, other than the fresh food that is brought to them, and the comfortable accommodations.
We walk up to the top of the cable-tram station. The view from the top is spectacular. On one side, the Med and the Costa del Sol. On the other side, the Atlantic, and the Costa del Luce. Fog forms at the top of the lesser peak, as we watch.
We run back down to the taxi, since we are AWOL (at least, Marie is our partner in crime). Our taxi meets us, and we hop in.
On the way down, I ask about a good Indian restaurant. Our driver says he loves Indian food (though his sentiment, he says, is unrequited). He recommends a restaurant named Maharajah. It's 1/4 mi north of the main square on Main Street, "Just turn where you see a Barclay's Bank, and you'll see it." Eleven of us venture forth in search of Maharajah, which we find right where our driver/guide said it would be. Six of us agree to share the meal family style:
Now I come to the single point of contention: we ordered rice AND a biryani. Only one rice dish showed up, and while it was colored, it was not really a biryani. I think we might have been charged for something we never got. Oh, well. The total bill was sterling £32.80. With a 500 pts tip, this worked out to just over 3,000 pts ($17) per couple. Not bad at all!
Back at Tarifa, Brig and I go walking, straight off the bus. The beach near the hotel (we sneak through a business' yard -- it's not open today) is windy, but beautiful. As advertised, it's a windsurfer's paradise. A couple of them are out there, moving incredibly fast. Past the port, we sit on a bench, and view the mountains of Morocco, and the traffic through the Straights of Gibraltar. All kinds and sizes of ships are moving in both directions. It's windy, but a balmy wind that cools us from the sun's warmth. On the way back, we meet Jack & Kathleen, relaxing in the shade of the "castle". They point us the way home.
Shower, siesta, and a brief "happy hour" at the hotel. More delicious olives (some green ones stuffed with anchovy, and some tasty black ones), and perhaps a little too much vino tinto from La Mancha and Andalusia. Damn, Spanish red wines seem to be pretty good. No good whites yet, though.
Susan mentions that she plans to swim before dinner. We ask if we can join her, and she happily accommodates us. I put on my swim suit, and meet Susan, Tooraj, and Santos for the walk to the beach. As we approach the beach on the east side of the causeway, a girl in her late teens is washing herself off at the shower. Yes, sans upper encumbrance. Perhaps this IS smething you see everyday -- in Spain! Today, the water is colder than at Torremolino, but not bad. I dive in, and the water is wonderful. Clear and fresh. Susan and I swim around for awhle, but she soon gets out -- admitting to a fear of sharks. It seems that the hotel has a photo of Rick Steves and another fellow, displaying a shark. Sheesh.
We have dinner at El Rincon del Guzman El Bueno: Mixed salad with tomatoes, onions, some kind of bland cheese, hard boiled egg, lettuce, and a vinegrette dressing (wonderful); a hot dish with small, peeled shrimp in a spicy garlic sauce (Brig eats the shrimp, Jack H. and I sop up the sauce wiith our bread); Fish soup (good, but not great); bread and mineral water. about $18, and well worth it.
Walking back to the hotel, we have to dodge motor scooters shooting through town. Brig, for some reason, is tickled by my comment about El Grande Prix de Tarifa...
Second shower of the day, to wash off the salt and sand.