Wednesday, June 17, 2009


June 17, 2004 Costa Del Sol, Castles and Picasso

We’re staying in the same hotel tonight so it’s a more leisurely pace this morning. We leave at 9 am for our morning optional tour. One thing of note is that the tour director has told us and there is a sign on the table at every meal that says:

You may eat all you like but it is not permitted to take food from the Dining room. If you do, the waiter will charge you for the food.

So, if you’re planning to save time at lunch…forget about it! Saw a boy stopped at the door this morning because he was carrying, in plain sight, an apple. Many of us save some of our breakfast to take with us so that we may eat it at noon while we walk as oppossed to sitting down at a restaurant for a meal. Not happening today!

Soccer is the main sport in Europe and the television is full of the International Soccer Tournament going on it Portugal right now. The games are being played in Lisbon and will still be happening when we are staying there in a few days. That will be an exciting place to be. They had some exuberant fans that did some damage last night; but hopefully that will all be under control by the time we arrive. As most of you know, in Europe they call it “football” (Jim thinks it “futbol” but I think he’s wrong) and it is probably the most popular sport because they only need a ball and their foot to play the game. The weather has been great…sunshine but a cool breeze that makes it very comfortable. Parts of Spain have rain but we haven’t seen any so far.

Some of you may ask how I remember so much information for my journal? I’m always looking for “journal entries” during the day. I jot them done in a small notebook that I carry with me and then enjoy the evening on my computer while Jim is surfing the foreign language television channels. There’s just so much CNN and it gets repetitive. Since we don’t do the “nightlife” this gives me a channel for my evening energy. Sorry if the story of the bullfights upset some of you….we probably will never go again, but felt that it was part of “coming to Spain”….the people on our tour will not get an opportunity to see one unless they stay over in Madrid. Most feel that they’re missing an important part of Spain’s history. The talk here is that the government may soon elect to ban the sport so it may not even be around in a few years. If you are a Hemingway fan it will be a missed experience. We never found his bar that he spoke about….it probably didn’t open until after the final fights; so it didn’t really matter.

It was interesting yesterday during the Spain verses Greece soccer match…everything stopped….even, according to the television; the government. They showed the Parliament and nearly all of the chairs were empty and the female Speaker was talking to an empty room. We were in town and the noise level (screaming, horns blaring, etc) when they scored was deafening! The stores were empty of male clerks…they were all in the bars or anywhere they could find a television or radio. They were rather downcast when they only tied with Greece. Then Portugal beat Russia….another very exciting game for this area. If Portugal had lost they would have been eliminated…they lost their first two games. Portugal plays Spain on Sunday.

We took the optional bus tour this morning back into Malaga driving as close to the coast as possible. Reached the seaport and had a photo opportunity before heading up the hill to the old fortress. It was in use until about forty years ago. Originally built in the fourteenth century by the Arabs, it is an extensive structure and reminded us of Carcassonne in France except that there is not a city within the walls. The structure is known as the Moorish castle of Gibralfaro. We walked the wall first and enjoyed splendid views over the city and harbor from the parapets.

Then we drove down into the center of the old city and toured the birthplace of Picasso in the center of the old city. We continued our walking tour into the old Jewish quarter to a two thousand year old Roman Amphitheatre that was discovered about 1951 when they were excavating to build a new library. The library was never built but they now have another tourist item to view. From there we continued our walk to the Cathedral for a walk about on our own inside the church.

After church we nearly missed the bus…we were sitting in the shade and the bus was around the corner! Luckily someone with us had listened and suggested we check around the corner where most of the group were already on the bus! After a short stop at a local winery for a taste of their wines we headed back to Torremolinos and an afternoon on our own. Most Malaga wines are not sold internationally. They are sweet and more of an after dinner drinks. The ones we had tastes of were all blended with about thirty percent alcohol. Our little winery was called Quitapenas Dorado…a place to drown your sorrows. We were a happy group for the short ride home!

The afternoon was free, some went swimming, but our toe dip the first night was sufficient for us; we rested and then used the Ascender for a quick trip to the top of the hill. Once there we walked half way down to a little restaurant for a great chicken dinner while we people watched the tourists when we tired of the view of the Mediterranean. We went home to the hotel for an early evening of TV, Internet and relaxation. Shades of evenings at home! He has bicycle races, soccer and auto races…who cares about language. On Sunday he’ll see the Formula One race from Indianapolis. That is, if I don’t drag him off for sightseeing!

Friday, June 18th Rock of Gibraltar

An early start this morning found us on the road to Gibraltar. We were anxious to be one of the first tour buses across the border as the wait can be extensive due to double customs; first Spanish and then British. Going in is easier than the return, we discovered later in the day! The Rock of Gibraltar is much bigger than we’d expected. Also they have been increasing the size of land surrounding the rock for new hotels and apartments…the government has hired the Danes to use their expertise to reclaim land under the water. To reach the town we had to drive across the airport runway. The airport was their lifeline until the European Union required Spain to open up the border. Now there is a stoplight to stop the traffic when planes land or takeoff.

We grouped into six people and boarded little taxi buses for the trip up the mountain to the top on a very steep road. Half way up we stopped at St. Michael’s and explored the underground caverns with stalagmites…deep inside was an area that is used for musical performance because the acoustics are so good and also it is very cool. Back in the van we continued up and ended at the very crest…you could look straight down on both sides of the vehicle. A stop at the top gave us wonderful views of the Mediterranean, the Straits of Gibraltar, the African Coastline, Spain and the Atlantic Ocean. There are also wild monkeys who live here at the top. Very friendly creatures, they wanted to climb into the car. For being wild they were very good about letting us take photos. There was a tiny baby only a few weeks old. In all, a great experience.

We drove back down the hill very rapidly, they dropped us in the shopping area and we walked back to the bus parking area. The only thing that caught my eye was in a jewelry store. We asked the price….only $2800. And, that was with a ten percent discount, a bit pricey for someone who rarely wears jewelry. The journey back across the boarder was a bit more tenuous as the Spanish Custom put us through the paces. We were all required to walk across with our passports and all hand luggage. They picked two large suitcases out of the hold of the bus for x-ray inspection. We passed and were happy to board the bus for the rest of our journey to Seville.

Our route today was the high western side of the Costa del Sol. We passed by Marbella and many other villages and towns. They are building a toll road as rapidly as possible and we were on and off of it all day. We were in the Ronda Mountains. I’ve noticed that in the gullies there are almost always wild oleander bushes with vibrant colors. Tourism is now the number one industry of the Costa del Sol and I think much of Spain, replacing the fishing industry. In one area there was a power plant and the power was coming from a series of large windmills just like the ones near San Francisco for those that have driven up Highway 5.

Some sidelights: We heard that cows kill more farmers than bulls. A cow charges with their eyes open…a bull closes his eyes when he charges. Seems to be a lot of golf courses, but most are very hilly. Only a few level courses per the guide.

After leaving Gibraltar we headed north along the river towards Seville. As we leveled out there were more farms with fields of produce. Also ranches with cattle and the Andalusia horses. The road is called Ruta Del Toro…road of the bulls…as the best fighting bulls come from this area. Our tour director gave us a history of the bullfight and basically said it is a part of the Spanish Culture. Should they stop the bullfights; they would no longer breed the fighting bull. Its only purpose is for the bull ring. He also pointed that the meat from the bulls killed in the bullring is given to charitable organizations and not sold for profit.

We arrived in Seville about 5 pm…giving us time to get our rooms before heading out for an evening on the town. They’d arranged for a delicious dinner at a local restaurant followed by an evening of entertainment with Flamenco Dancing. Everyone enjoyed the performance. Their feet literally fly about the stage to the beat of the castanets in their hands. Some singing involved but it was the expressions on their faces that told the story as they danced. There was one male dancer with Irish features; Jim said he was an Irishman with a Spanish soul. He did the modern Flamenco as opposed to the traditional and was extremely good. The night ended for us about the time that the local people were starting their evening meal: midnight. The Spanish are night people especially on the weekends. They party the night away ending at dawn. The town was crowded with people on the streets, young, old, families; they were all out! We were ready for bed!

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