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Friday, October 15, 2010

Not So Solid As a Rock

Day three (our second full day) was the day we had to drop Ang at the airport in Gibraltar, since she had to go out of town.  Since we were in Gibraltar already, Mike suggested we visit the country – the whole country.  It only takes a day.  This also gave Mike some time off from hosting, because he left us in the hands of Bobby, an ex-police officer, lifetime resident of Gibraltar and the best damn tour guide in the country.

Bobby gave us a complete history lesson in Gibraltar, which has a very rich history indeed.  As a crossroad between Europe, Africa, the Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean sea, it has strategic value.  It was originally controlled by the Mores, an Arabic group, but has been fought over an briefly controlled by the French and Spanish until the Brits finally got hold of it permanently.  As a result, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are all practiced side by side in peace in this small country.

We started the tour with a trip up the rock.  I will never look at a Prudential commercial the same way again.  It turns out the rock, is essentially hollow.  We saw some beautiful natural caves in the rock, which is made of limestone.  Then, we saw the siege tunnels, which were used to defend Gibraltar from a Spanish assault.  There are forty-six miles of tunnels in the rock and only three square miles throughout the remainder of the country.  It’s a miracle that the thing is still standing.

Near the top of the rock, a large band of macaques are living out their lives amongst the tourists.  There are lots of eucalyptus trees up there, but something tells me they eat more than leaves.  If you don’t know, a macaque is a small primate.  They have light colored fur and get about as big as a three year old chimp.  The rule is, you can’t touch them, but they can touch you.  Bobby, being the best and also knowing where the rules can be tweaked, brought a few peanuts.  One of the oldest macaques was waiting for us with Bobby when we emerged from our tour of the cave area.  Bobby gave him a peanut.  He tugged on Bobby’s pants for more, but Bobby gave the “I don’t have any more” gesture.  The macaque wasn’t buying it.  He was right.  Bobby gave me a peanut.  I gave it to the macaque.  He tugged on my pants.  I pointed to Bobby.  He looked at Bobby, who gave me another peanut, telling me he will take it right in his mouth.  He reached for it with his hand, but I pulled it back.  He knew immediately what was expected and took it with his mouth.  Susan had a go, too.  Then, more tugging, more pocket patting and gesturing and our encounter with a primate was over.  It makes you think – why couldn’t I have been born a Gibraltarian macaque?

It was raining a bit that day.  Due to an errant weather forecast by our friend, Mike, we had neither raincoat nor umbrella.  Fortunately the shops are pretty close together, so we didn’t stay in the rain long.  We had a pretty average lunch, especially compared to the great food we had in Spain and looked around at the stores.  After Tangier, the prices seemed awfully high.  We mostly looked.  Besides some very interesting architecture, the shops reminded me of 47th street in New York – camera shops, liquor stores, leather shops, jewelry shops and clothing stores.

After a quick stop at an Internet cafĂ© to catch up on some email, we made our way across the airport runway back towards Spain to meet Mike.  Gibraltar was not as exciting as Morocco, but it’s definitely a different country.  They speak “Spanglish,” but can switch to straight English when called upon, which we called upon them to do repeatedly.

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