Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Málaga (and Gibraltar)

This past weekend we had a puente, a longer weekend, since there were no classes on Monday (Oct. 31st) or Tuesday (Nov. 1st) due to All Saint's Day.

I wanted to take advantage of the extra days off and travel somewhere I hadn't yet been, but didn't have any travel companions to go with.  There is a facebook group for auxiliares in Madrid, and someone had posted the same thing: that they wanted to go somewhere but was looking for people to go with.

I ended up going to Málaga, Spain with Emily, another auxiliar I met through the facebook group.  Málaga is on the southern coast of Spain, along the Mediterranean.

We took a bus from Madrid at 11am Friday morning and arrived in Málaga around 5pm.  The ride went by surprisingly fast, and I was able to nap some as well.  

My name was creepily invitingly written on a chalkboard outside the hostel's front door when we arrived (The Melting Pot).

When we checked in, the guy working said that Emily and I got the best beds in the room.  When we asked why, he just said "You'll see".  Here's why: the two beds were in their own little nook, separated from the other eight beds.

Our corner of the room
We dropped off our bags then walked around for a bit.  Here are some things we saw:

Plaza de toros

Hungry, we returned to the hostel where every night they cook a dinner you can purchase for 6 euros.  It was a great deal - real  food.  So much real food.  Our plate included cous cous and vegetables, chicken kebob, a piece of steak, some other meat -- maybe chicken, tortilla española, and some bread.  It was all so delicious and I was completely stuffed after eating.  

We took a short nap, then wandered back out to the hostel's terrace where we met and chatted with other hostel guests until a bit past midnight.  We were both exhausted from the day's travel and decided to go to bed.

After a night of sound sleep, I could only smile when I woke up to this view from my bunk bed:

I spy... something that starts with the letter "b"
What's that a reflection of on the balcony door?  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, our hostel was 30 seconds from the beach.

The view from our room's balcony
After free breakfast at the hostel, we walked down to the center of town and met up with two other auxiliares that were in Málaga that day: Lily and Jamie.  The four of us walked down to the beach to hang out for a while, enjoying the sun's rays and some tinto de verano.

When the hottest part of the day was over, we decided to walk up the tall hill downtown to see the Gibralfaro Palace, and great views of the city.  Here are some of the views:

After walking back down the hills, Emily and I headed back to the Melting Pot hostel, while Lily and Jamie went back to their hostel.  We showered, changed, and ate again on the hostel's patio - this time ordering Argentinian empañadas for 2.50 instead of a whole plate of food, as I wouldn't have been able to eat that much again.

Then we went back downtown to meet Lily and Jamie for some cañas in the older part of town.  We sat outside at a bar, and saw a decent number of costumed people walk by (it was a Saturday night two days before Halloween, after all).

We didn't stay out too late (got back to the hostel sometime after 1am) because on Sunday we were planning to go with Lily and Jamie to Gibraltar.  Lily had reserved a rental car through the airport, so the plan was to meet them at the airport around 9am, then spend the day in the British territory of Gibraltar.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the territory, here's some wikipedia knowledge for you:
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of 6.843 square kilometres (2.642 sq mi), it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region.  
An Anglo-Dutch force captured Gibraltar from Spain in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession. The territory was subsequently ceded to Britain "in perpetuity" under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. It was an important base for the British Royal Navy; today its economy is based largely on tourism, financial services, and shipping.
The rental car plans fell through when at the airport we found out you need to rent it for a minimum of three days from one company, and the other company required you have a ticket for a return flight from Málaga (to prove you'll come back).

That didn't stop us though, as there was a bus that went from the Málaga airport to Marbella, and from Marbella we could catch a bus to La Línea de la Concepción (right outside of Gibraltar) for a total of about 11 euros.

Here's our first view of "the rock," still on the Spanish side.

We walked across the border to enter Gibraltar, only needing to show our passports to a British man at Passport Control.

Once we walked through passport control and crossed to the other side, BAM there's a British telephone booth, reminding you that we are no longer in Spain.

We're not in Spain anymore
Gibraltar was a strange place, clearly touristy, with overpriced food and souvenirs listed in pounds (though most places accepted pounds, euros, and U.S. dollars).

There were many different van companies that offered to drive you up the rock and take you to the main sites and lookout points for 25 euro/person.  Due to the fact that we didn't have unlimited time (nor energy) to climb up and walk around the rock for hours ourselves, we took one of the vans up the hill.

Our first stop was a lookout point where you could see Africa.

That's Morocco
Our second stop was at St. Michael's Cave.  Here's what two signs inside of the caves said:
In 1704, five hundred Spanish soldiers concealed themselves in this cave overnight before an unsuccessful surprise attack upon the British.  The cave may have had earlier military uses dating back to Gibel Tarik's invasion of Spain in 711 A.D.  During WWII the cave was prepared for use as an emergency hospital.  Fortunately it was never needed, but this provided the base for its conversion into a unique auditorium for events such as concerts, ballet, and drama. 
Inside St. Michael's Cave

The cave's auditorium
Next was a stop to see the monkeys.  Wiki tells us "Most of the Rock's upper area is covered by a nature reserve, which is home to around 230 Barbary Macaques (commonly confused with apes), the only wild monkeys found in Europe.

Our driver had told us before we headed up the hill that we could take pictures with the monkeys on the rock.  When we were nearing this stop, he warned us that the fine is 500 pounds for feeding the monkeys, and also that we shouldn't touch them -- they'll bite.

When he stopped the van, I saw him slip a bag of peanut M&M's into his pocket as he exited the van with an umbrella.  Then he asked who wanted pictures with the monkeys.

He would point above your head with the umbrella, and a monkey would jump on your head to receive an M&M from the man.  About five seconds later, after you took a picture, he'd shoo the monkey off with the umbrella.

I was the last of us four to let a monkey climb on my head.  He bumped my glasses upon landing, but I eventually straightened them out.  What an experience!

There were some nice views from this stopping point as well.

We walked down the hill after our last stop, as we were told it was a pleasant 15-minute walk to the older part of town.  And that it was.

As it got closer to our bus's departure, we crossed the border and returned to Spain.  Saturday night had been daylight saving's time here in Spain (as our hostel so helpfully reminded us), but some of the clocks we saw when we returned to La Linea were still an hour ahead.  We were confused about the time, and walked to the bus station to make sure we were following the right clock, so as not to miss our bus. 

On Monday I wanted to spend every moment on the beach until we left, as summer has ended in Madrid, and these kind of beaches are nowhere to be found in Wisconsin.

I had fun dozing off under the sun and later playing in the water.  Emily and I got some kebap (yumm) on the walk back to the bus station, where we caught a 5:15pm bus back to Madrid, returning around 11:20pm.

It was a nice, relaxing weekend; I love how close Spain's coastlines are to its center.  As always, all photos can be seen here.

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