I think I last wrote from Gibraltar and meant to send off another short letter from there but was too pooped. Honest! George asked me one day if I'd like to walk up to a Moorish Castle a short way up on the rock. From the Moorish Castle he assured me (with the connivance of the ticket seller there) that it was only a little further up to the Upper Galleries (tunnels the Brits made through the rock to position their guns on the Spanish attackers at the foot). From the Upper Galleries he assured me that if I could crawl up just a little higher on the rock, there was a lovely cafe where I could have a cool drink and rest for the walk back down. And we'd pass the den of the Rock Apes on the way and could feed them some of the raisins he just happened to have in his pocket. We made it to the cafe, and St. Michael's Cave was just up a tiny bit further, certainly worth one more sore muscle or two. Well, from St. Michael's Cave it was just a hop, skip, and jump to the TOP OF THE ROCK!!! (Surprise, surprise.) So, as a result of all this we can say we've been around the rock, through the rock, and over the rock. The next day I felt rather like a piece of the rock. (Ah, the joys of life with an experienced mountain climber. Remember Pico in the Azores?)
After threatening never to walk again, I was very pleased to be taken on a ferry and guided bus tour to Tangier and Tetuan in Morocco. The tour was a present to ourselves - a very exotic and fun experience complete with Kasbah, Medina, couscous and mint tea while reclining on the sofas of the restaurant in spite of it being Ramadan, camels, snake charmers, women in veil and kaftan, men in djellaba, Berber tribesmen and women down from the Rif mountains for market day, a will power session with a rug merchant, and sensory overload with the sights, sounds, and SMELLS! of everyday Moroccan life. I was thrilled with my first visit to the continent of Africa.
Our plan from Gibraltar was to stop in Motril for a short bus trip inland to see Granada. We saw all the usual tourist things there, Alhambra, etc., but honestly weren't impressed after our winter in Sevilla. We'd still recommend Sevilla over Granada any day. From Motril we had hoped to coast hop around the coast of Southern Spain (the Costa del Sol) to Alicante, a convenient jumping off spot for the Balearic Islands. Well, it's nothing but huge marina/condo complexes, prompting George to rename it the Costa del Concrete. Every place we tried to anchor we were told it was not allowed and we would have to go to the very fancy, expensive marina or the town wall for which they charged fancy marina prices. After being chased out of three harbors in 25 miles, we decided to just keep going to the Balearics and headed back out to sea. Sixty hours later we were anchored in Espalmador in the Balearics.
Espalmador was a pleasant shock to the system after the Costa del Concrete. It's a small island of white sand beaches, beautiful clear water, no town, and not an inch of concrete in sight from the anchorage. What was always in sight, however, were nude bodies all over the beach and on all the other boats. Our guide book describes the Espalmador/Ibiza area as "...a summer camp for Europe's yuppies. Except for a few wide-eyed Brits who'll never use the same travel agent again, visitors to the island are young, and when wearing clothes at all, parade their expensive duds about town." Almost as bad as the wide-eyed Brits was the crew of Promise (mostly the first mate), but after a few days even I felt out of place in a swim suit and tried sunning on the foredeck without it until a tour boat of young German sailors came into the anchorage, circling Promise while singing the Star Spangled Banner. (Oh, the joys of being a patriotic American, if you know what I mean.)
We spent some time in the cockpit people watching. One day I heard George muttering, "look at all those mudders." My curiosity aroused, I looked up to see several people sail- boarding by not only naked but covered with gray mud from head to toe all inclusive. It's supposedly good for your skin to roll in the mud hole just behind the beach, bake in the sun till you crack all over, and then splash in the sea to rinse.
From Espalmador and Ibiza to the island of Mallorca, city of Palma. Palma is fun, but just another Spanish city. One highlight of our stay here was a tour of the USS Eisenhower. We made friends with a young sailor on the dock, and he gave us a tour. The ship carries 6,000 men, at least 60 airplanes and related armaments, two TV stations, their own newspaper, three ice cream shops, a Seven-11, and so on endlessly. It's a floating city. Neither of us had ever been aboard a nuclear powered ship before, much less an aircraft carrier, so we were thrilled. The day after our tour we invited our sailor friend onto Promise for a reciprocal tour (we added lunch since our tour was a bit less impressive), and George wrote a letter to Captain Beck of the Eisenhower thanking him and our young sailor for the tour. George now has an official "USS DWIGHT D EISENHOWER CVN 69" hat and wears it with just the slightest excuse. (I didn't get a hat but...ah, the joys of being given a tour of a ship with no women and 6,000 men!)
Another treat on Mallorca was a rented car trip for the day in and over the mountains to the sea on the other side at Sa Calobra. The scenery was breathtaking - literally. To quote our guide book about the route we took, "If your mother saw the road to Sa Calobra, she'd never let you go. This terror drops 1000 meters to the sea over 10 hair-pinned kilometers, twisting back underneath itself in the process. The delicate of stomach should take the ferry instead." And it was all of that, especially in a rented car with unknown brakes, no guardrails, and road surface that ends abruptly in sheer drop-offs of hundreds of feet. Perhaps breath-holding would have been a better word to use.
So, now we're off to the Balearic Island of Menorca for a brief visit and then on to Turkey.