¡Buenos dias, amigos!
¿You know what I love about Spanish?
¡The upside down question marks & exclamation marks!
I only wish I knew a bit more Spanish than that. ;) Thanks to the lovely Susana, the multi-lingual Canadian from our Moroccan tour, I know a few expressions, such as:
¿Cuante valle habitacion para dos por favor?
How much for a room for two please?
¿Donde esta lavabo?
Where is the toilet?
...but apart from that, I´ve been getting a lot of blank stares. Worst is when I ask how much a room is, and they give me the numbers in speedy Spanish (gosh, but they speak quickly, the Spainards. I thought I had a motor mouth!). I can count to about ten, and that´s it. So I then have to reply with "Errr...no ablo Espanol", and see if they take pity on me.
Anyhoos, we´ve seen some lovely parts of the country since arriving in the charming surfers´ paradise of Tarifa on Monday. We spent Tuesday getting to the port city of Algeciras, then across to the weird and wonderful place that is Her Majesty´s Dominion of Gibraltar, home of the famous rock. Honestly, it´s like some sort of multi-lingual theme park. You still have to show your passport to cross into the settlement, and exchanging some euros for pounds isn´t a bad idea either.
Some wacky facts about Gibraltar (as I really knew nothing about the place when I arrive):
--It has been a British dominion since 1704. Before that it was Spanish-controlled, before that Arabic, before that Visigothic (that´s going back). But the people are now firmly British in their outlook (they just conveniently like the sexy sunny Iberian weather), and don´t want to be returned to Spain. Ever.
--The famous apes that live on top of the rock are Barbary Macaques, originally from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Legend has it that if the apes ever leave Gibraltar, so will the British. When Winston Churchill visited in 1940, he had the population topped up, so this could never happen!
--The apes live in a semi-wild state, and you´re forbidden from touching or feeding them. It´s hard to avoid them when you´re up the top in their habitat - they like to clamber around the "Top of the Rock" restaurant and viewing platform and pose for photos. One of them even grabbed at my leg as I walked past. "Eeek!" I screeched. I was more worried about being fine for inciting ape assault or something as opposed to my own safety!
--There are 53km of tunnels in the rock itself. Some go back to the sieges of the late 1700s, when the Spanish tried to get the British out. Others were dug in during the early 40s, when Gibraltar seemed like all that stood between Hitler and all of North Africa. Operation Torch was launched from the rock, and Eisenhower himself lived there for about a year. Over 17 000 troops lived in the rock - many going without sunlight for six months - during the war.
BUGGER! My net time has run out. Briefly, we grabbed our hire car in Algeciras, and have since been to Cadiz, Sevilla, Cordoba and Antequera (for neolithic monuments!!!). We are now in Granada. I will do another update tomorrow once we have visited the fabulous Alhambra Palace!