Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Me Gusta Espana 2011 - Part One: Gibraltar

     While it might seem odd to kick off a blog series on our Fall Break in Spain with a territory claimed by the United Kingdom, you're absolutely correct.  In order to keep our trip together, however, I have no choice but to lead off with it.  So without further adieu.......
     Marisa and I loved our time in Portugal last Fall so much that we vowed to return to a similar latitude this year.  She had studied abroad up in Salamanca back in 2005, during which she was able to take an excursion down to the Andalucia region that sweeps across the southern portion of Spain and visit great places such as Sevilla and Granada.  Since I'd been to Madrid and Barcelona, but never down south, we decided to spend our time there.  In hindsight we made an excellent decision, as Andalucia had much to offer in October.
     We flew into Malaga and drove to Marbella to stay in a nice little apartment that we rented for the week.  I would liken Marbella to the Florida of Spain, in that it's a very developed beach-front location in the Costa del Sol region along the Mediterranean with a very high tourist-to-local ratio.  It also appeared to be a hot spot for retirees from the U.K. and Germany.  Exchange those people with Canadians and Michiganites and you have the wonderful State of Florida!
     We planned out our time with a few beach days in Marbella, separated by a couple of day-trips to surrounding cities of interest.  Our first goal was to visit Gibraltar, about one hour to the West, at the southern tip of Spain.  All we knew was that there would be a big rock there with monkeys and a spot where you could look across to Africa.  That was reason enough for me.
     Gibraltar is an overseas territory of the U.K. that has been fought over historically because of its strategic military location - at the Strait of Gibralter where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea.  It also has a massive rock that provides some protection from the rest of the continent.  So it's a funny little piece of land approximately 3 miles by 1 mile and nearly 30,000 inhabitants - mostly British expats that love the weather - who have no intention of rejoining Spain (much to Spain's disappointment).  The city is a bit worn down and not a place to stay overnight, but perfect for a day trip.
View of the Rock of Gibraltar from the Spanish side.

the Gibraltar Pound - the currency in Gibraltar, which seems a little unnecessary with only 30,000 people around.  While they do accept the Euro, you get jacked on the rate.   

Europa Point - We trekked out to the southernmost tip of the peninsula where you can literally see Africa (Morocco) across the strait, a mere 15 miles away. 

I couldn't resist the opportunity to be the "King of the World" at this playground at Europa Point.

the crest of Gibraltar - featuring a lion and a unicorn, which I personally feel is a bit of an exaggeration. While they do have a nice collection of Macaques on the Rock of Gibraltar, the lions and unicorns have recently become extinct.

Upon entering Gibraltar the first thing that you pass, after the tax-free cigarette and booze stand and the line of Spaniards getting the hook-up, is this air strip that extends past the width of the peninsula.  They have to shut the road down a few times per day while planes land and take-off.  The British ex-pats are crazy about their Cadbury's and P.G. Tips, so they keep it coming.

We took a cable car up to the top of "the Rock", which overlooks Spain in the background.  While it was no Stone Mountain, it did offer some spectacular wildlife....

Barbary Macaques are characteristic of the Rock and are believed to have been brought over from North Africa years ago.  Now they're free to roam, but are fed and taken care of by the locals.  They are tons of fun to watch - mainly doing normal stuff like taking turns picking through each other's fur and eating bugs out of it.  This joker kept slapping the other one in the head and neck trying to knock the bugs loose or something. 

Of course with a tight-nit population of around 200 apes, you're bound to find that special someone.  We were lucky to catch this view of a baby nursing with the dad waiting on deck. 

Profile of the mother and baby. 

Of course the adolescents were also entertaining, running around playing grab-ass in the trees. 

Chillin'.  This species has a heavy brow that makes them all look pissed off all the time. 

Marisa likes this one the best because she's sure that the mom is kissing the dad on the cheek.  I think there's a strong chance that she was swooping in for a bug in his neckline, but who knows? 

This joker dreams of running off to Spain to pursue an acting career, but it all seems so far away. 

One last family portrait.

The ol' fort and key are found on the flag and seem to be the preferred symbol of Gibraltar. 

While my Latin is a bit rusty, this cannon has the motto of Gibraltar which translates to "Conquerable by no enemy".  

     And that's pretty much all I had to say about that.  Gibraltar was an interesting place to visit for a day if you find yourself in southern Spain with an extra day on your hands.  

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