|One of the many interesting shops in Gibraltar.|
To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.
Our weeks in Gibraltar turned into months. On February 5, 1985, the border between Gibraltar and Spain reopened after sixteen years. That was a Tuesday. On Friday, Julie (a friend from another boat), and I walked across into Spain. The town on the other side of the border is La Linea de la Concepcion. We wandered around looking in shop windows, and stopped for an ice cream cone. It turned out to be Julie’s treat because I hadn’t thought to change any money into pesetas! We walked for three hours, and were pretty tired when we got back to the marina.
|I watched many movies at this theater. The cost was one dollar.|
The movie changed at least once a week. They never knew
what movie they would be showing until the film arrived in the mail!
One day in early March, we were surprised to be hailed from the dock with a loud call, "Can't believe you're still here in Gibraltar." It was Tony and Marjorie, a couple who had been friends while we were in Portugal, and who had stayed in Vilamoura for the winter. Their boat, Marjorie II, was still in Vilamoura, but they had driven to Gibraltar in a rental car. Their intention was to check out the marinas along the southern Spanish coast, and select a nice one to moor in when friends, who were expected in mid-April, came to visit. They had decided to stop in Gibraltar to see if we were still around.
|The Rock of Gibraltar, rising behind buildings at the marina.|
We were really pleased to see them, and talked them into staying overnight. That evening we took them for curry at our favorite Indian restaurant, the Maharaja. I was fairly new to curries, and always ordered my lamb with "very mild" flavor, done in a delicious cream and coconut sauce. Ed that night braved "medium," but Marjorie and Tony, old hands at curry, went straight to "very hot." The waiter asked them if they meant VERY hot and they said, yes, very, VERY hot. Without even seeming to sweat, they thoroughly enjoyed a meal that would have sent me straight to the hospital.
|Gibraltar street scene|
Tony and Marjorie invited us to go for a ride with them the next day to see the marinas along the first section of the southern coast of Spain. We visited four marinas by lunchtime. The marinas were fine, but everything was very tourist-oriented, with high-rise apartment buildings. There was lots of new construction, all part of Spain's tourist industry. Tony and Marjorie selected Duquesa because it was clean and quiet and far from any town. We decided to give that one a miss - for the same reason - because it was far from any town.
|Internet Photo. The 18th century bridge at Ronda.|
The four of us had a pleasant lunch in Marbella at an outdoor cafe alongside the marina. After lunch, Tony got out the map and suggested we return to Gibraltar by a different route, taking a drive through the nearby mountains. Making what turned out to be a good choice, we decided to pass through the city of Ronda. The only information Marjorie's Michelin guide had on Ronda was that it contained the oldest bullring in Spain. After a couple hours of climbing over 3000 feet on a new, winding, well-built road, we reached Ronda. In the center of a mountain range that bears its name, Ronda is set on a plateau on the edge of a gorge, overlooking a plunging ravine. Peering straight down 650 feet from the 18th century bridge that spans the ravine was enough to give anyone a case of the dizzies.
While we didn't have much time to spend in Ronda, we particularly didn't want to miss Spain's oldest bullring. We bought tickets to go inside. A guide led us through the bullring and told us some of its history. Built in 1784, it was still in use, with bullfights held at the time of the local fiestas. King Juan Carlos attended the September bullfights. Our guide pointed out the royal box to us, as well as the area where the band sat to perform. We squeezed ourselves behind the boards where the matadors go to escape the bull's horns, and then our guide took us to the center of the ring. There he clapped his hands, and the sound reverberated around the walls of the bullring. Marjorie and I tried some foot stomping and a few "Oles!" while Tony and Ed pretended not to know us, and the guide smiled indulgently.
|Postcard I purchased. Not the bullring we visited. We were up in the|
mountains. This bullring was in Malaga, down by the sea.
The guide then pointed us on to the museum, and told us that we would see "toro" inside. The museum was an experience - there were several bulls' heads attached to the walls, a pictorial history of bullfighting at Ronda, and cases containing retired-matadors' hand-embroidered costumes (called a "suit of lights"), several of which had dark stains which our new guide explained to us were "bwud" from the bulls. (It took us awhile to catch on to his highly accented English.) Bullfighting was often a family tradition. Portraits of successive generations of bullfighters, grouped by family, also adorned the walls. There was even an old photograph of Ernest Hemingway attending a Ronda bullfight. In Ronda's long history, only one matador had ever been killed in its bullring -- illustrated in another graphic pictorial display.
The drive home to Gibraltar was breathtaking. An older road, full of impossible curves and switchbacks, meandered through orange groves of colorful fruit, passed shepherds tending their sheep, and zipped through small hamlets of whitewashed, red-roofed homes, suspended precariously on the slopes of the mountains. It was the time of the full moon. We watched it rise like a pale, colorless orange from the mountains to the east. As we descended from the heights, we would get the occasional glimpse of "the Rock" far below us, with the Atlas Mountains of Morocco ranged behind it like protective parents, across the narrow Strait of Gibraltar.