Two Weeks in Spain: Gibraltar and Seville

After spending an afternoon in Tangier and a second night in Tarifa, we spent the next day in Gibraltar.  I’ll admit that I was originally somewhat skeptical about going there, convinced that it was little more than a giant rock that overlooked the Mediterranean–albeit a much-contested one–but it proved to be one of the most memorable places we saw.  Entering Gibraltar can be a rather tedious process.  If I visited again, I’d consider parking in Spain and walking across, in part because passing through the border, but driving up does provide a number of impressive views of the limestone rock.  And on an amusing note, the peninsula is so small that its only runway actually crosses the main highway into the city.  If I’m not mistaken, we were held up briefly while a small plane landed on the runway in front of us.

After a little investigation, The Best Girlfriend Ever and I decided to join a tour–it was almost as cheap as taking the cable car and seemed to offer a little more leisure time to visit some of the location’s other attractions.  There were stops to visit some of the macaques that live on the peninsula (go to Facebook for pictures of us posing with them), where the guide explained some of the territorial behavior of the different packs.  And while we weren’t taken quite to the pinnacle of the rock (where the cable cars would have gone), we did get some impressive views close enough to the top for our purposes.  More impressive were the St. Michael’s Caves, a network of caves inside the rock.  Perhaps the most striking element of the cave was the small natural amphitheater located inside where concerts are held for as many as 100 people.  Also worth checking out were the Siege Tunnels, nearly 40 km of tunnel built into Gibraltar beginning in the 18th century during the War of American Independence.  There is a good history of the tunnels here, underscoring the military importance of Gibraltar, as well as the impressive achievement of building a makeshift hospital and installing cannons inside the mountain.

After our time in Gibraltar, the rest of our trip moved quickly.  We drove from there to Seville, where we dropped off our rental car and were guided into the city center by a kind elderly gentleman who politely directed us to the correct bus and then to the light rail system in the center of the city (I think we gave him two euros for what would have been a five or six euro trip).  We found our hotel, which was just a couple of blocks from the Cathedral in the center of the city, and which we visited on our last full day in Spain.  After arriving at our hotel and resting briefly, we explored the city for a few hours, wandering through the dimly-lit alleyways where restaurants, still open late into the evening, provided scents of grilled seafood and sounds of clanging dishes and idle chatter.  Eventually we had a lovely meal at the Restaurante Bar el Atun, thanks to the suggestion of our concierge, where we had an incredibly satisfying dinner.

Because it was one of our last nights in Spain, we decided to use the occasion to have a quiet commitment ceremony on one of the bridges overlooking the river.  The ceremony itself involved the exchange of a few promises, spontaneously composed vows, many of which we’d already said a dozen times before.  But it was also the moment when we exchanged rings–they’d spent the last two days buried in my pocket–providing us with a physical symbol of what we already feel and know: that we are happy to be committed to each other for the rest of our lives.

Our last day in Seville consisted of more touring: cathedrals, gardens, the Jewish Quarter with its narrow “kissing lanes.”  We also did a little bit of souvenir hunting before finishing the evening by watching a flamenco performance at the Casa de la Memoria, where a group of talented students performed some traditional flamenco in an open-air 19th-century patio.  It’s a great introduction to flamenco for those who are unfamiliar with it–cheaper than some of the professional shows but impressive nonetheless.  After that, we returned–mildly exhausted at this point–to our hotel where we prepared for our journey home, our return from the intoxicating sensory excitement of travel.

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