We started the day with a full English Breakfast. Yesssss
We first had this when we visited London, but what sets it apart? Eggs bacon and sausage are pretty standard for any breakfast. But a British breakfast has beans, and tea. Also, most important in my opinion, is the black pudding. This is basically blood, fat and oats fried together.
We haven’t properly had this since Hong Kong, though we did try to order it in Berlin after I proposed to K but it was terrible (it only had some bacon, and came with navy beans, fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, and a side of salad).
After that, we just marched up the rock.
Let’s pause now, and talk about Gibraltar a bit. It is such a fascinating and important place, that it needs explaining.
First, what is Gibraltar?
The point where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean come together is in the strait of Gibraltar. There are only 8 miles of water separating Africa and Europe here. All shipping coming to or from Eastern Europe, Northern Africa, Southern Europe, and much of the Middle East needs to pass through this strait to enter the Atlantic. The rock of Gibraltar juts out into the strait, and provides one of the greatest natural fortifications on the planet. So if you hold Gibraltar, you can control all shipping in or out of the Mediterranean while remaining near untouchable on the rock.
The peninsula has always been important. Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Moors, Spaniards, the French and the British have all fought over it.
Second, why is it British?
A very long story short, there was a war called the War of the Spanish Succession in 1704. This could be described as WW1, without the machine guns or poisonous gas. The Spanish king died, and his successor was his grandnephew who was also the grandson of the French king. So basically France stood to control all of France and Spain, and this made everyone else nervous. So France and Spain fought against England, Austria, Germany, the Dutch, and Portugal. Spain/France lost, and at the end of the war they were forced to give Gibraltar to the English.
But wait! Spain didn’t like that. So they started another war, and besieged Gibraltar for three years. THREE years! One of the longest continuous sieges in human history. During the siege, some British guy had the brilliant idea to mine into the rock, and dig out holes for cannon. So when the French and Spanish came along, they were getting shot at by cannon placed so high in the rock that they couldn’t really return fire.
Then in WW2, the defenses were beefed up and an additional 32 miles of tunnels (probably more) were added. It was never directly attacked, but bombed regularly.
Well, enough history, and on to our day!
First we visited the old Moorish castle.
When talking about Gibraltar, there is no such thing as a gradual slope. There is steep, and less steep. This tower was on the side that is “less steep”, and is about half way up the rock. Those holes in the wall are actually impact craters from a catapult firing on the tower back in the 1300’s. This tower would have been part of a wall that encircled the entire city, but has been long since torn down.
After this tower, we found an exhibit explaining what the siege would have been like, and the tunnels dug during the siege.
The inside of these tunnels is is full of great information, and many cannons have been placed here so you get a really great feel for how it would have looked.
Another fun fact, a British artillery officer who was stationed here during the siege came up with an idea for a new cannon carriage that could angle the cannon almost straight down. Before this invention, the French and Spanish would get as close to the cliff face as possible. It was the safest place to be, until the aforementioned officer guy invented this-
Moving along, we walked for what seemed like forever. On and on, up the steepest hills we’ve yet encountered. Mind you, we’d been walking 14 miles a day on this trip, we’d forded rivers, climbed Peñas, all while facing the mighty winds of Tarifa. If it hadn’t been for that mega breakfast, we might have died.
Luckily for us, we had monkeys to keep us distracted from our aching “everything”.
The picture above was our first real encounter. Earlier we had seen them in the trees, but only shadows and screeches. Then suddenly, boom. Monkeys. The two guys in front of the truck are workmen, not tourists. And this is their truck being mobbed by monkeys.
After this, they were a pretty regular sight.
First, yes, they are monkeys, not apes. They don’t have tails, probably because of an adaptation to cold(er) weather.
Second, their origin is a bit of a mystery. There are, native monkeys on the North African coast, so these ones aren’t too far from home. The best theory is that they were brought here in medieval times by Moorish sailors as pets, and some escaped and here we are.
We marched on, sometimes up, sometimes down (but usually up), getting more exhausted every step we took. We went as far as St. Michael’s cave, which is basically a less impressive Carlsbad Cavern. Interestingly enough, the cavern has been converted into a concert venue.
It felt pretty artificial, probably because of the bleachers and the neon lights, and it was super crowded. Plus, we were officially too worn out to continue. We’d walked up from the north, and we were about to decent in the south. Down and down and down we went. We kept getting asked for directions by Spanish tourists, who had finally woken up. Eventually we found ourselves in a curry house, eating a well deserved feast of Indian food for lunch (we are getting closer and closer to eating on Spanish time, so this was around 3).
The rest of the day was pretty standard. I got some presents from my wife, I drank beer in an overly decorated pub, and had a great time.
We didn’t eat dinner, since we had feasted on curry late in the day. So, K being the awesome wife she is, took it upon herself to make the most delicious meal of all time after we returned to Martos a few days later.
What you are looking at is a real life taco bar. Good Mexican food is hard to come by in Europe, Spain is no exception. However, after searching upwards of 7 different grocery stores in our area, we managed to piece together the necessary ingredients. Above you can see homemade corn tortillas, shredded chicken with a chipotle sauce, two kinds of slow cooked beef, queso fresco, Valentina hot sauce, a home made taco sauce a la K, REAL LIMES (not as common in Spain as you’d think) and a neat slaw flavored with chili powder we brought from the US.
When asked what I wanted my birthday cake to be, I said either peach pie or something with turrón. K choose the more difficult option, the “something with turrón option”.
Turrón is a traditional Spanish winter time treat made with almonds, and some varieties are similar to marzipan, which I love. So K made this lovely turrón/cheesecake/fudge thing with a turrón/blondie crust garnished with walnuts.
Thus ends our adventure to Tarifa and Gibraltar! We have another adventure coming up for the Christmas season. We won’t announce where we are going yet, but we are really looking forward to it.