Jigsaw and Gibraltar do ‘England’

Writing this blog from a very wet and windy Tarifa, it was tempting to be really childish…. The Germans who called us ‘The English Mutants’ back in the days of the Covid, are here for their annual 5 month stint, and I was tempted to name this one ‘The German Losers’ having not done so well in the footy. As it is, I have remained adult and not done anything silly, as for Jigsaw, she was having none of it (see below) Anyhow, enough of that, what have we been up to?

We headed down to Seville en route to warmer zones via a small town called Plasencia with it’s ubiquitous name sign. Not much going on but we did spot an unusually dressed fella up the bell tower on the square while having a spot of lunch. The other place of interest was their Cathedral which is known for being a mash up of numerous styles, so much so, it could be best described as like a Blue Peter glued together Cathedral, of left overs from other ones. All very unfinished and odd, no wonder the architect had his head in the sand! In a shop window, the ants were also supporting England….

Anyhow, Seville, one of our favourite cities of the Covid Tour was back to life, yes we had such a luxury then but it was actually really lovely seeing the life back in it and wandering without purpose this time. We are trying to look and see different aspects and not retrace steps but get into the off beaten track barrios. We’ve seen some great street art, fun shops and other quirks. Some of the old fashioned bars and cafes are just wonderful. It’s always insightful seeing how other countries do things, from school kids on a cycle tour, Christmas markets that are not just about trade in ‘stuff’ but instead trade in ready made nativity scenes or ‘build your own nativity scene’ elements, which was fascinating. Lots of figurines and Baby Jesus’s but also miniature pots, pans, breads, straw… anything you could want for your own scene. We assume these are dioramas that are added to over the generations within families. Lovely to see a focus in this way. Not sure about whether the football nativity was quite in the spirit but each to their own!

Elsewhere, there seemed to be girls and women in white dresses all over the place but one of them looked a bit on the young side. The one in red was obviously unhappy, the way she stamped her feet… In the quiet backstreets, with their under tiled balconies, it was deserted and atmospheric, save for the tiny cake shop we had to endure! The evening light brought the buildings out in their splendour, including The Columbus Monument.

An overnight spot near Cadiz, slight across the bay and Jigsaw had a fine time. Not sure what was going on but she changed colour at one point. Right by the beach she had a good old scamper before we headed for the bus into town, (the usual ferry was in the dock) We wandered Cadiz trying to avoid tourist haunts. Again, great to see it alive again, the three cruise ships moored up probably had something to do with it! Thankfully they left and a fabulous Danish Tall Ship remained, it’s used to introduce interested young Danes to real life on the ocean, although we spotted quite a few in uniform around the cafes and bars, guess that’s real life too! The sunset in the bay was stunning, pink skies and rolling waves crashing at high tide, not a sight we’d ever tire of.

Thankfully we’d booked at Tarifa, it was so much busier than Covid times, busier than ever in fact, according to the managers. It’s the same everywhere they said. Small World, we bumped into Olaf and Kerstin who we’d previously met in Zahora in Feb 2020. A great couple in a small overlander that we really liked, who’ve been all over the place since we saw them but are yet to do The Pan America Highway, that’s next year so we may bump into them there! They hopped over to Morocco for better weather and are now somewhere in the dunes!

There’s lots of good cycling around here so in my endeavour to get my ‘Victoria Pendleton’ thighs back, we have been out and about. The challenge around here is that almost everything involves climbs, but that’s what electric is for eh? Electric doesn’t help though when you get bogged down in deep sand and mud but we live to cycle another day and laugh about it afterwards, yeah right!! Either way, we love being out, seeing the birds (swathes of egrets especially) and landscape and who’d have thought we’d ever get a photo of with egrets, cows, donkeys, horses and pigs in the one shot! Nor, tennis playing horses. The kite surfers/wind surfers/hydrofoilers are always out, I guess a bit of rain and wind is no big deal for them, and watching them is always fascinating and thrilling. I’m tempted to have a go as it looks exhilarating, but suggest there may be an age limit for beginners and anyhow, not sure my body could take it!

Anyway, I’ve got a problem with earworms, I’m going to bed with Annie singing “The Sun’ll Come out Tomorrow” and waking up to Bing “Singin’ in the Rain”….. so we took ourselves off to the ‘most definitely give it a wide berth’ Algeciras on the bus, and rented a Fiat 500. Yes, Nick sits in the back seat to drive it. Indeed, the weather has been horrendous, thunderstorms, high winds and lashing rain, flooding widespread. We know its so cold at home and we’d never have been able to endure that in Fred the Frankia but it also has its challenges here. Having the car has meant we’ve been able to do other stuff when we can’t bike.

Gibraltar, what could we say about it? Well given the weather it was a day out, we didn’t have it high up on the list of places to tick off and we realised why, when we arrived. Yes it seemed really odd having to have our passports stamped before walking across the runway and over into the ‘Old Town’ but my word, its grim. Walking though the old gateway we knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore, being presented with a Costa Coffee and Rays Famous Fish n Chips, the square being surrounded with pubs readying themselves for the England game that night. We worked hard to find a Spanish style cafe and yes I was confused, ordering in Spanish and being responded to in Cockney. We avoided M&S and Next and headed through the concrete jungle to the cable car to go up to The Rock. There were some architectural redeeming features if you looked hard enough.

Squished into the cable car we zipped up the side of The Rock and were greeted at the top by the famous Barbary Macaque’s. I don’t know which part of “Don’t get too close to them as they bite” people don’t get, but of course it’s not their fault when…. Anyhow, the views are worth the trip up there across the straight and the coastline and the numerous boats waiting to load/unload their wares. Also visible is the bulk carrier, deliberately run aground after hitting another, a couple of months ago. To be honest, we thought the fee to do The Rock was a rip off at £36 each, until we went into St Michaels Cave. These were ‘M&S Caves’ for sure, stunningly beautiful stalactite and stalagmite forms, sweeping calcified curtains all lit in a way that, combined with the music, made for a dramatic and haunting scene to wander. It’s cathedral like scale was mesmerising and ‘The Angel’ was spectacular. The booming aspects of the music at times made it feel like Dante’s Inferno.

The second reason we ate our words regarding value was The Siege Tunnels, dating back to 1782. An incredible feat of engineering, tunnels hewn from the rock during The Great Siege with small slits for canons to fire from the rock. These unique defences were used up to and during WW2 and there’s now 41 miles of tunnelling. There’s obviously lots of folklore and mystery over their use over the years but it was well worth the hunched over, being dripped on, slog up and down them!

So anyhow, that’s it for now. We’re dodging the weather with the car and we did venture out, only to turn back when it was so misty it wasn’t right to continue and the tracks were semi washed away. But hey, I just checked BBC weather and the suns out tomorrow!

Below, for the felines around, a series of humorous T Shirts that made us laugh, no we didn’t buy!

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