Day 6: Andalucia and Monkey Business at Gibraltar

We were up an at’em very early, too early for the breakfast at the hotel to be open.  We hopped the 7:45 bus from Gran Via de Colon to the airport (€3 ish each), and while Jim waited in line at GoldCar to get our rental car I foraged for food.  You know, croissants, chocolate croissants, and coffee.  After a little dustup at the car agency rental counter (lots of hidden charges, such as a €25 fee to drop the car off in Sevilla, which they don’t tell you outright), we got into the car, still swearing under our breath at GoldCar and the man at the counter (who kept telling Jim he should have read the Ts and Cs.  Ok, why did he have to fight with sensibility at that moment?).

Gibraltar as we’re coming into town

No matter, we were on our way.  And our next stop was going to be Gibraltar, baby!  The ride there was fairly uneventful, it only took a couple hours and we didn’t get lost.  Well, not until we got to La Linea, the border town with Gibraltar.  According to Rick Steves, you are supposed to take the first left at the roundabout.  Well, there are about a dozen roundabouts on your way so after taking the first left and winding up in some town that may or may not have been La Linea (you know those Spaniards and their signs), we got back onto the main road and smartly followed the signs to Gibraltar.

Monkey enjoying the literal fruits of his thievery

At last, we found the correct roundabout at which to take the left, found the parking lot underground, and walked across the border, where Jim asked for a passport stamp and the border guard told him to get it on the way out.  After a brief stop in the airport to try to get some British money (unsuccessfully), we hopped the bus to the cable car to ride up to the top of the Rock to see some monkeys and vistas.  We paid our way to the top (about €24), and headed up.  The ride only took a few minutes, and we saw a few monkeys along the way, just as advertised.  At the top, we were immediately greeted by a monkey, along with all kinds of signage telling you not to touch or feed them.  Suddenly I didn’-a-speaka-the-English, wink wink.

The top is undergoing a lot of construction, and it seems the English caught a bit of Spanishitis because there were absolutely no signs telling you where you could (or couldn’t) go.  And a lot of random workmen were, well, working, and looked very annoyed every time you tried getting up and down the stairs.  We left them alone and, instead, we found a gift shop, overspent on a Gibraltar magnet, then found the girl with the audio guides.  After a bit of confusion as to how they work (we didn’t seem to be hitting all cylinders today), we went out onto the terrace where there were a few more monkeys.  They are little kleptomaniacs, as you can’t leave your bag on the ground otherwise they will snatch it.  At one point, a monkey grabbed a lady’s entire lunch sack, which had some jellies, fruit, and sandwiches in it.  They monkey troop all had a nice meal.

The Offending Monkey getting rebuked

Jim and I decided to walk out a bit farther on the Rock because he genuinely wanted to take in the views (where the Straight of Gibraltar connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Sea, and where you can see north Africa) and I wanted to see more monkeys.  We found ourselves alone in a little spot with a monkey.  Jim, un-enamored with him, walked about 20 feet away and was out of sight around a corner to take in the beautiful vista.  This left me alone with the monkey, where I tried and tried and tried to get him to look at me so I could take his picture.  He just wouldn’t listen so I decided to sweeten the pot and said the magic words:  I have a banana.  All of a sudden the monkey’s head swiveled around toward me with a newfound interest in my presence, but I had to come clean and explain that I didn’t have it, the man in red (Jim) around the corner did.  Unbeknownst to me, at that exact moment Jim was actually getting the banana out of his bag to let me feed the monkey.  The monkey took off like a shot, went around the corner (this is before he could even SEE the banana – it was like he understood what I had said), saw Jim with the banana, took a running leap and velcroed himself to the front of Jim.  There was a brief scuffle before Jim hurled the banana about 7 feet away from him and the monkey dutifully followed it.  Jim was a little shaken, the monkey was unnerved, and I was laughing hysterically.  By this point, Jim was ready to get off the Rock and away from all these shifty little furry thieves, so we high-tailed it before there were any more incidents.  But not before I gave the monkey a stern talking to about manners.

Down safely on the ground, we opted to walk down the main drag to find something to eat., which we were quickly able to do.  I had a steak pie with fries, Jim had fish and chips.  And we were both happy to be eating a meal that had no ham in sight.

After lunch we wandered around the concrete streets of Gibraltar (the Brits have covered over every possible space with concrete), strolled the main streets, looking at all the rosy-colored sun-loving Brits, found Jim a hat to cover his head, then took the bus back to the border and across.  By the way, they don’t stamp passports – the guy at the beginning seemed to have lied to us.

We loaded up back into the car, got back out of La Linea with only one or two mis-turns, and onto the road to Ronda.  We took the scenic route and it was a beautiful drive.  Random stark white hill towns, narrow, tree-lined roads, and cañada (cows with horns) and other assorted animals.  It was truly lovely and the air was fragrant with spring flowers.

We arrived in Ronda, found the hotel (Hotel San Francisco), dropped off our gear, and went to park the car in the underground lot (only €8 with our hotel stay).  It was officially beer time.  We did a quick once-around of town, stopped to look at the big gorge, chatted with some people from Kentucky, and tried to go into a place called Don Miguel, which was a restaurant/bar that had the absolute best outdoor space and views of the gorge, but they didn’t open until 20:00.  Sure, makes perfect sense not to take advantage of that pesky view – who needs that?  We ended up in a square for our beer, this time on the Plaza Nuevo.  After dinner we headed to our hotel’s sister property, the Hotel Polo, in search of free internet.  We found it, but at a cost:  it was situated in what could have been the smokiest room on earth.  After braving that for a while, we left gasping for air and headed back to our hotel and to bed without dinner.  We’d stuffed our selves so much on a ham-less meal Gibraltar that we didn’t need any.

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