Saturday, 24 May 2014

Gibraltar, a confused country

Sad to have returned to the ship for a final evening, but happy to be sitting on the sundeck, albeit in the shadow cast by the monumental Holland-America cruise ship beside the Thomson Majesty, now resembling something a little less majestic, and instead something a little more like a rubber dingy. While other guests are still convinced it is hot because we are abroad, I am donning my scarf as a shawl and wishing I had something to cover my legs. Quite the contrast to the shiny pink mass of bodies surrounding us.

Not too keen, but not too lazy, we set off at about 10 into Gibraltar, aiming to beat everyone else up the mountain (if that's what one calls it?)! Yet again, a slightly longer walk than expected, we eventually reached the 'lower station' where we fou d the cable car to take us up to see a view of the island and to meet the monkeys. The warm, welcoming, kind and friendly tour guide who accompanied us in the cable car did an excellent job of being sufficiently intense enough for none of us to fancy alighting when we reached the top for we were told;

'One simple rule: monkeys very smart, humans very stupid'

... well thanks a lot Mr tour guide! So we emerged with these images of red-eyed, sabre-toothed, grabby, scratchy, screamy beasts, not at all keen to go beyond the viewing platform which was, at this point, totally monkey free. Nevertheless, bravely we ventured on, and were greeted by macaques that, on appearance, were really very cute and fluffy indeed! We did fall witness to the side of them more akin to my imagined monkeys, but fortunately we were obviously too busy playing the part of smart human to become a target.

The view from the top was quite something. Hypnotic, and definitely the best way to experience Gibraltar, we spent most of our morning wandering up and down the top and gazing out to sea (whilst avoiding monkeys from above).

When our tummies started to rumble, signifying it was time for lunch, we headed back down accompanied by a far more amiable cable car attendant, to whom we chatted about life in Gibraltar and expressed how confused we found it. Here was a prime example of this, as here was a man who looked exceptionally Spanish, yet spoke with the clearest Cockney accent, despite having lived in the country for several years!

On our way down, we were reminded that the Botanical Gardens stood at the foot of the mountain, and it was suggested that we ought to have a look, so we were convinced to take a detour en route to food. Set on quite the steep slope when one comes from the flatlands of Norfolk, we were glad to find a well-positioned bench half way up, upon which we rested a while (perhaps a while longer than intended following a rather unfortunate nose stud incident), content in the afternoon sun, overlooking a bed of succulents from Africa, with views of the sea still in the distance.

Upon our initial walk to the cable car we had passed along the main street where souvenir shops stocking monkeys of all shapes, sizes and colours stood between British banks, M&S, Next and Topshop (a very surreal sight, it has to be said)! In true British style, we decided that the climate was just right for an M&S picnic, so when we finally found the energy, we lifted ourselves from the bench to go and locate food.

To our horror, while there was a small food selection in this particular M&S, there was nothing particularly suitable for a picnic, so our search continued. From our original civilised picnic plan, we then sort of fell into a 'traditional English pub', which again in true British style was perhaps rather dodgy, but it did the job and was another surreal experience.

From the pub, we continued our fall into Topshop, McDonalds (for the facilities) and even Morrisons (for flight food)!? I really cannot express how bizarre a day we had!

Back on the ship, we braved the sun deck for a short while before retreating inside where I promptly fell asleep on the window seat (the perfect length for a proper lie-down). I awoke in time for a pre-dinner drink and to be utterly confused by Ahmed's (belly-dancing waiter from the Crew Talent Show) lack of ability to speak fluent English (he was North African, this was a terrible misjudgement on our parts) when he provided us with our drinks and we 'discussed' his rather unique talents.

Once back in the cabin to get ready for dinner, I managed to fall asleep again while I waited to shower! Dinner this evening looked a little like this:

Starter - pineapple mojito
Soup - minestrone with pesto
Main - linguine with dried ham and sage
Dessert - New York cheesecake

For the final time, we went to hear the sombre sounds of the Boras Duo before retiring to pack and sleep properly (I was SO TIRED). Sadness swept through us all while that 'end of holiday feeling' took over. Cruise holidays are certainly the type that you never want to end!