Last weekend was incredible! This is the first time I have really traveled here in Spain and it was so wonderful. Although some of the trip wasn't really spent in Spain. Last Friday, 12 May, my roommate Victoria, one of our friends, Jo, and I set out for the train station to begin our journey. We were very excited as all three of us would be experiencing a sleeper train for the first time. We decided it was worth the 10 extra euros to have a bed rather than spend the whole night trying to sleep in a train or bus seat. It was worth it. In my mind the idea of sleeper train was much more romantic than real life. I think I had romanticised it because of "White Christmas" (my favorite Christmas movie ever). In reality the beds, and room for that matter, are very small and every time the train stops there is the danger of being flung out of your bed. I must say though that I did sleep better than I would have sitting up. We arrived in Algeciras, a small town near Gibraltar Saturday morning moderately refreshed and ready to explore. We found a cheap and pretty nice hostal and set off for "Little England."
Gibraltar is so interesting. It is on the southern coast of Spain, but is owned by England. When you cross the border, everything instantly changes to English. It was great haveing Jo with us as well, as she is from England. Every corner we turned revealed another shop or phone booth or post box that is reminiscent of Jo's homeland. She was so excited, and I was learning so much. Some day I'll have to travel to England to see how accurate this "Rock" is.
After just walking around a bit, we found a typical English pub to fill our growling stomachs with a typical English breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, baked beans, and tea. It was delicious! Once we were sufficiently full, we headed out for more exploring. We visited a glass blowing studio and shop, window shopped in some posh stores and then meandered through the botanical garden. By this point we realised it was too late to head to the top of the rock to explore so we set off on a quest to see Euorpa Point, the southern tip of Gibraltar, and the light house there. It was a long walk that took us past numerous huge Navy ships, the 100 ton gun (weird huh?), through two tunnels, a pit stop by the Mediterranean for oranges and English chocolate bars (we also saw a dolphin), a small cafe' where we learned the Spanish word for Lighthouse, Farola, and finally to Europa point. Unfortunately it was pretty hazy so we couldn't see Africa, which is possible on a clear day, but it was a fun adventure. By this point our feet were killing us so we caught a bus back to the main square for a dinner of fish and chips. Once again our stomachs were full so we headed back to our hostal to rest up for our next adventure.
Sunday morning it was back to Gibraltar to conquer the top of the rock and see some apes. That's right, there are apes that are native to the Rock of Gibraltar. Victoria, Jo, and I dished out the money to take the cable car to the top and so started a day of firsts. Once we reached the top, it was amazing, there were apes everywhere. You are encouraged to not take any food with you and not touch the apes as they may bite. We treaded softly but apparently not softly enough as one of the smaller apes decided that Jo's back looked like a fun place to climb and that her blond hair looked like some sort of delicacy that it should try to eat. While this is quite possibly one of the funniest things I have seen in a really long time, Jo I am pretty sure would disagree. She managed to thrash violently enough to throw the ape off her back without being scarred, unless you count emotionally. We proceded to explore the top a bit but couldn't see much as clouds tend to cling to the top of the rock. As you can see by the picture, there wasn't much to be seen. With the fear of being attacked again we began the descent back down the rock. We decided to walk half way down and then catch the cable car at the mid-point back down to the bottom. It was a beautiful walk, which we thoroughly enjoyed. As we waited for the cable car to pick us up, we struck up a conversation with an older local gentleman who shared many interesting facts and tid-bits about Gibraltar. One tid-bit for you, there are more roads inside the rock than there are outside of the rock on Gibraltar. When we finally made it back down to the bottom we set off for the bus station and city number two, Malaga.
Two and a half hours later we arrived in Malaga. We found another hostal, put our things down and set out to explore this tourist trap of a city. It actually was pretty nice. We visited the Alcazaba, not sure what exactly it was, but it was old and beautiful. It was even better because admission was free on Sundays. It was very peaceful as we wound our way through various courtyards and gardens. From the higher spots in the Alcazaba, you could see pretty much the whole city, the cathedral, the castle, the bull ring, ruins of an ancient Roman theater being dug up, and the coast line. The water began to call to us so we left the Alcazaba in pursuit of the Mediterranean and seafood for dinner. We were successful in finding both. Dinner was amazing and then another first for me, putting my feet in the Mediterranean! The water was actually pretty warm. It was so much fun to just walk along the shore, pick up shells, skip rocks, and enjoy the company of friends. The last time I got to do that was in August with my family at the Atlantic near Ocean City, Maryland.
Monday morning we made our way to the last bus station for the trip to Cordoba and eventually Madrid. Monday was hot. When we arrived in Cordoba we saw signs showing the temperature to be 37 degrees celcius which is somewhere close to 98 degrees F. We found a nice little restaurant with a decently priced menu and a terrace to sit outside and enjoyed a leisurely lunch while shooing pigeons away from our good food. After lunch we eventually found the main attraction of Cordoba, the Mesquita, a former Mosque turned Cathedral. The Mesquita is claimed to be one of the most beautiful sites to see in Europe. I would now agree. It was amazing. The mix of Muslim arcitecture and Catholic statues and such was bizarre and awe inspiring at the same time. The enormity of the Mesquita simply added to its brillance. This made the trip well worth it.I think I will leave you with this because I really don't want to relive the 5 and a half hour bus ride back to Madrid with the obnoxious teenagers, the man next to me who sneezed and had snot all over himself, the German movie in Spanish that we couldn't hear, the woman in front of me who kept leaning into the aisle so I couldn't see out the window, and the fact that I couldn't sleep at all. It would just bring up things I don't want to think about. All in all, this was an incredible trip and I had so much fun visiting new places with good friends. By the way, Jo is my guest writer in the next blog entry. Check it out. Also I have posted more pictures from the trip in my webshots albums. Just click on the link on the side. Until later...God bless!