Friday, October 23, 2009
We left from Neptuno mall around 9:00am. Luckily no one was late because Paula was insistent on leaving right at 9…and not waiting for the stragglers like we did last time! We had about a 2 hour drive to Gibraltar, during which I read New Moon (to refresh my memory before the movie comes out November 20th!) and the People Magazine: Country Edition that Mom sent me (she knows me so well). The bus dropped us off outside of customs at the Gibraltar border…for those of you who don’t know, Gibraltar is part of Great Britain, much to the dislike of Spaniards. Almost everyone remembered their passports, only one kid forgot. Chris had to stay in La Linea, the small town right next to Gibraltar…he asked what there was to do and Paula responded, “Well, you can either sit in the McDonalds or the Pizza Hut…for 6 hours. Oh, and there’s a beach.” Unfortunately, Yuri was also stopped at customs and not let through because of his Russian passport. I guess it was a good and bad thing, because then Chris had someone to hang out with! The rest of us breezed through customs by merely showing the security guards that we had passports. Easiest customs ever! I guess visitors need passports, but Spain citizens only need to show an ID. There were many people who just seemed to have been shopping on one side or the other of the border and were passing through like it was not a big deal at all that they were passing over a country border…which really, I guess it wasn’t.
We walked all the way to this big plaza area in the center of the city, and along the way, there were some great views of “The Rock”. Once we got to the plaza, Paula explained that we were on Main Street and that there were tons of shops to go look around in. We had about 2 and a half hours to explore before our actual tour was to begin. A large group of the AIFS kids wandered into the Burger King, hoping to find something more…homey than the normal bocadillo for lunch. And that’s exactly what they found—plus most of the workers spoke English! It was a very weird situation wandering around Girbraltar. There were SO many different languages being spoken. At one point I was just sitting on a bench and was listening to the different people walk past and realized I was sitting in the middle of a giant…language stew. I heard German, French, Spanish, English (both American English and England English!), Portuguese, Berber (recognized from Mostapha speaking it at circus to Anwar!), a dialect from India, something that sounded like Dutch, and quite a few others! It was ridiculous.
Anyway, during the 2 and a half hours we had to explore, we walked up and down Main Street and made our way to Little Ireland (like China town, except Irish). We made our way into some of the arts and crafts shops where they had some wonderful watercolor paintings of The Rock and other nearby landscapes. With all of his artistic creativity, I thought that Will’s dad really would have enjoyed those! Then some of us went and saw a glass blowing demonstration where Will thought the statues outside were real. He had to poke on just to convince himself once I told him otherwise, haha. The blown glass was beautiful, and reminded me a lot of being in Italy. It was difficult to get a good photo, but once I get them up on Flickr (hopefully soon…) maybe something will be visible! I considered getting a small vase, but realized we still had the whole tour to go through and didn’t want to risk it breaking while carrying it with me! I guess some other people didn’t think that far ahead, because there were numerous people with shopping bags full of stuff that they had to carry along with them…whoops.
We had to wait quite a bit for our two mini tour buses to show up. Apparently they were moving the NATO helicopters and that required closing the road the mini tour buses use through the airport. Paula decided that was why Yuri wasn’t let in that day…they thought he was there to sabotage the NATO-copters, haha. Jusssssst kidding. We finally got our bus, and our driver, Paul, was hilarious. His first words once he got off the bus were “alright, only the good looking ladies on my bus”. Throughout the tour up through the many switchbacks and TINY tunnels of The Rock, he was making joke after joke (“I just got my license half an hour ago, and during practice I just close my eyes at this turn and my instructor tells me when it’s over”). We made our way to a beautiful lookout point where we could see other coasts of Spain as well as the Northern tip of Africa! It was a very, very clear day, but it was extremely windy, so in all of the pictures we’re all trying to hold our hair out of our faces to no success. Then we went to go see the stalactites inside part of The Rock. It was a huge cave, and they had made it into an auditorium. It was difficult to take photos inside the cave because with and without flash didn’t work very well! On our way back to our mini tour bus, Paul called us over to take photos with this monkey that was hanging out on a railing. There were tons of monkeys that live on the rock, but the ones up by the caves were the ones who were the most powerful out of the pack. It’s very illegal to feed the monkeys (and not a good idea to look them in the eyes) but Paul had some snacks in the pocket of his shirt that all of the monkeys seemed to know existed. He knew each of them by name and explained about their different lives, etc. I got my picture taken with the monkey (and Paul)! After visiting with that monkey, we hopped back on the bus and headed over to a more heavily populated monkey area. There were some mother monkeys with their babies which were super cute. I got some good pictures of these guys! My favorite photo is of Paul and another mini tour bus driver leaning against the cement fence that overlooked Gibraltar. Next to them is a big monkey, and they all have the same daydreaming look. It was pretty funny. We made our way back down the winding streets in our mini tour bus with Paul telling us more jokes and stories (“Here’s where John Lennon and Sean Connery got married. But not to each other.”). After being dropped off near the airport, we walked back to our bus to meet Yuri and Chris…who had spent the whole day on the beach in jeans and t-shirts. We hopped back on our BIG bus and headed toward Sevilla.
Once at the hotel, we got to eat in the hotel restaurant. I gave up on my band diet, because I honestly hadn’t eaten anything that day. It was pork chops, sautéed vegetables and fries. I wasn’t about to pass that up! After dinner Will and I wandered around a bit, trying to find where some things were that we could do the next day after our tour of Sevilla. Surprisingly a lot of things were closed at 10pm, and it was very dark (not many street lights) so it was difficult to see things. Regardless, it was fun wandering the streets of the city!