Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rockin With the Apes

I continue to be amazed at the number of things I don't know. For example, I didn't know that there were apes running wild on the top of the Rock of Gibraltar and that I can't tell the difference between a monkey and an ape, nor that you could take a fairly scary cable car to the top of said rock, nor finally that I would get suckered into another mediocre meal at another mediocre tourist trap. The view from the top, however was worth it. Live and learn.

Friday - September 12th 2008 - Gibraltar, United Kingdom (shouldn't it be Queendom?)

A good night's sleep does wonders for the disposition, and we got a fine one at the Rocamar. I take back everything bad I've said, but I sure wish the natives would lighten up a bit and smile. There is Internet access (for a fee, which is OK, but would have been perfect if they had taken pound sterling) and lots of emails from the rest of the Silveiras. A summary follows:

Rich and Lu got out of Rota aboard the cancelled/uncancelled, hazmat aboard (therefore no passengers allowed)/no hazmat aboard, delayed/very delayed original Las Vegas flight after spending 6 hours in the terminal. They had indeed "thumbed" a free ride from the gate and arrived a full five minutes before a "showtime" that was as imaginary as the Spain/Britain line in 1704. Good thing we broke the sound barrier getting them there.

They spent a mostly boring (it sounds) 13 hours flying nonstop from Rota to Las Vegas. I imagine the time that was not boring was the mid-air refueling part, somewhere over the Atlantic. And who says military flying doesn't have it's perks. They hitched a ride from Nellis AFB to Las Vegas and flew a commercial jet back to San Diego arriving home safe and sound. Wow.

Alexandra (of Luz fame) has been getting hourly/daily updates from her parents and/or the caretakers (I knew the old people were trouble from the start) about the hoards of people in and out of her house, and the extravagant, wild, energy wasting Americans who have taken over the compound throwing parties and cavorting in the pool. Rich returned a nice email to her, explaining the logistics and identifying the occupants, and all seems OK on that front for the moment.

The cavorters report that the old people are spying on them and skulking around. I know that Zach, Maria, Matt and the Princess are treating the house with kid gloves. You are not going to meet four nicer and responsible people no matter how long you look. They did report having a problem with the washer/dryer flimsy plastic handle (so did we) and we could help settle it upon our return later this week.

Back to Gibraltar - It was sparkling and cool, and clear as a bell on our second visit. We knew the routine, parking garage, disinterested border guards, fast walk across the runway (past the spike-stripped barrier and heeding the tri-languaged warning sign), and the very crowded bus around the peninsula (it feels more like an island). This time we got off the bus at the lower terminus of the tram line. The tickets are expensive, but beats the climb. We swayed our way to the top (not for the faint hearted, this ride, especially when it proceeds almost vertically at one point), listening to the operator tell us that the apes were wild, and they won't bother you if you don't touch them. He said that about 10 times or once a minute. There is an intermediate stop (you can walk part way down, and catch the return car), and were greeted at this stop by the news that a woman had been bitten a few minutes before, because she had (all together now) touched one of the apes. I had the feeling this was for effect, but we got the message. No touching.

We disembarked at the top station and sure enough there was an ape sitting right outside the door of the car, looking a little lazy in fact. We gave it a wide berth. It certainly was small, and I thought I could beat it in a fair fight if I had to. I thought apes were King Kong sized, but maybe that's gorillas, and I'm not interested enough to look it up. The little apes run around like they have no plan at all, doing what little apes do (I guess) and lounging in the sun making the tourist look a little stupid. They are kind of cute and to be admired for the making us look stupid part.

The little restaurant at the top served lousy coffee but apparently great tea, which is what most of our fellow cable car passengers had. There was stuff on the menu which sounded awful and looked worse as it grew old on the grill. I guess I am not a fan of British morning food.

The view, Oh, the view was spectacular. It is really misleading when you look toward the rock from Spain. I figured it was plopped there with shear sides coming down to the water. In fact there is a good sized land mass around most of it, and the northern part is crammed with high rise buildings (condominiums and hotels I imagine), and most of them look new. Also at the base is the town itself with warrens of small streets, squares and buildings.

To the south are the straits of Gibraltar and they were alive with ships. The port city of Algeciras clearly visible to the northwest was bustling. The planes landing and taking off from the single runway below us looked like toys. Really, really cool if you like that sort of thing.

We walked along the upper road, skirted the ape den (although I knew I could take them, why look for trouble), and checked out the various caves and fortifications. It was a few hours very well spent, and I would recommend it. The ride down was less scary than the ascent, and off we went to search out lunch prior to our departure for Sevilla. Crossing the streets takes a little getting used to. We found a pleasant looking outdoor cafe and had our second lousy meal of our short visit. Sorry to any Gibraltans who read this; you have a lovely unique place here, and I'm sure you are proud of it, and I bet if I had asked you for a good place to eat, you would have pointed me to one of the great culinary experiences of my life.

We made our way back out through the town, and it looks like it could be a great swinging place, all decorated with banners and British flags hanging beside laundry from windows of the high rise buildings (I think Gibraltar National day was this past week). We spent most of our pounds on souvenirs; like I said you've got to love the Brits. It was a good experience and we are glad we came, but the future beckons and we've never been to Sevilla. I'm hoping the food is better.

No comments: