Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A birthday in Spain, trip up The Rock, and wayward travelers.

So here we are again,

Life so far has been just carrying me along.  Its hard to believe that I haven't written a post in almost two weeks.  I have a lot of stuff to catch you guys up on, so here we go!

The first thing was my 22nd birthday in Spain.  When I woke up this is what I found in the kitchen:

And yes, as you might have guessed, this is in fact a shoulder of jamón. My roommates are very sweet and this was an unexpected gift from two vegetarians.  Jamón is a type of cured ham that can come from the shoulder or the leg of an Iberian hog.  It is a staple of Spanish cuisine, and they are obsessed with it.   There are schools where one can learn how to cut and serve jamón.  Needless to say I was incredibly excited at the prospect of carving up my own ham and spent the next three or four hours experimenting. 

Here I am, posed and all, in front of the shoulder with a jamón-specific fillet knife. 

Once the outer skin and fat has been removed, the jamón is served as thin almost transparent slices called lonchas.  Here's my first attempt at slicing.  They came out a little thicker than I had hoped, but oh well.  Practice, practice, practice.

The rest of my birthday was very nice and very relaxing.  We went over to a friend's apartment for tapas and drinks, then out to a few bars.  I don't have too much to tell from the night.  Just an easy night in Spain with great wine and great people.  The jamón was truly the highlight and made the day.

After my birthday celebrations, we decided to finally head over to Gibraltar and make a Sunday trip up the old rock.

The Rock of Gibraltar is a little different from what you would expect.  Part of the city is built around the base of the rock.  The upper, steeper parts are reserved for tourism.  When you walk up towards the top, you walk on streets and pass by houses that run right up to the gates of reserve. It was a little surprising, but we did get some nice pictures out of it.

This first one is overlooking the lower part of the town.

This is a glimpse of the Dark Continent and several ships coming into port.

Once you reach the gates of the reserve you have to pay a fee depending on what you want to do.  The cheapest was a walking pass for 50 pence.  After that it costs more for a car, guided tour, or a pass for the war tunnels and St. Michael's cave.  The tunnels and caves pass was pretty expensive, so we just opted for the walking pass.

Here's some touristy stuff that you see right as you walk into the reserve.  I couldn't get a good picture of it so the bottom part is a little cut off.  Perdóname. 

Once you pass by the main tourist candy, the footpath up the rock becomes much more wild and wonderful.
I felt like I was walking into the jungle.

The way up was a bit rocky and in the spirit of Europe; at your own risk.  

The path eventually turned into some steep steps.  Here is Rose on such steps, the first of our wayward travelers.  

 The path up the back side of the rocks ends in the Mediterranean Steps, which pass through to the other side of the mountain.  The guy here is Nate- a fellow English teacher.  

Gibraltar is home to many plants that are unique to the rock's environment.  Here are some wild olives, which aren't unique, just a rare sight in other places.  

Following the Steps ever higher leads to the rock's summit and some truly breathtaking, and windy, views.

The clouds over La Línea and Algeciras. 

We kept looking out over the bay and eventually the clouds started to break.

The clouds broke over the ocean, but stayed over Spain.  From where we were it looked like the peaks of the Rock had split them in two.

 Oh and yeah, the apes.  They didn't interest me that much so I only got one good shot of them. They would climb on people if you put your arm down, but you couldn't touch them or they would bite you.  Like nature pacified.  It was a weird thing.  The whole situation felt really odd to me, so I just preferred to stick to the views and the trees. 


And that's really about all I can say for Gibraltar.  It has certain special moments but, in general, its just a weird place.  The cultural mix of British, Spanish, and African is something that you just have to see for yourself. 

The other breaking news I have for you is that our apartment is slowing turning into a traveler's hostel.  We have had a friend of the family, Rose, stay with us for the past two weeks.  She has been hitch-hiking across Europe for almost two years and is planning to head into Africa before returning home to Arkansas.  Two other travelers, Dominic and Amylin, came in last night and are staying with us until tomorrow.  And on top of all this, we have plans to host three Polish girls in December via  It sounds a little crazy, but it has and continues to be a fantastic learning experience.  Rose, Dominic, and Amylin all travel virtually exclusively by hitch-hiking.  Hearing their stories and how they live has enlightened me to a whole new possibility of travel.  I mean, who wouldn't want to travel across Europe for little to no money?  Not only that, but the opportunities to meet interesting people are endless.  Amylin and Rose have both hitched as lone women, so its not incredibly dangerous.  They have had a few rough encounters, but most of them have been in poor countries.  

It is such a revolutionary thing to hear all these stories from people only a few years older than I am.  Every time we talk, the world gets larger and larger, and I want to see more and more of it.  

What to do?  What to do?  Too many possibilities.  

Until next time,



  1. Did the stand and knife come w/ the jamon or was that standard kitchen equipment in the apartment. How big is the rock? How long was the hike up the mountain?

  2. It is pretty standard for a Spanish kitchen, but I had to buy it separately. The rock is around 1400 feet tall. I think going up the rock and back down took between five and six hours. We spent some time looking around so you could probably climb it quicker.