Spain Discovery: Update #3

Dear Friends and Families,

After a fun time at the Crocodile Park and Water Park in Torremolinos, we made our way further down Spain to Gibraltar- a small but historically rich country part of the United Kingdom. During our journey to the the southern tip of Europe, we sang the Star Spangled Banner passionately and answered American history questions to test our patriotism on this special 4th of July abroad.  Finally, we had reached the Spain-Gibraltar border, where we would cross like the approximately 12,000 individuals who migrate from Spain to Gibraltar for work daily. For many, this was our first time in the U.K., allowing us to cross it off our bucket list of travel destinations!

It must have been then when us tourists first laid eyes on the Rock of Gibraltar, which some of our counselors already had anticipated would be the highlight of our two weeks. With a quick glance at the enormous rock, we came to realize that this attraction would be hard to beat. Soon thereafter, we checked into the Elliott Hotel, where we would be spending the next two nights. After getting settled in, our group joined together for dinner at a kosher restaurant, where Gibraltar’s only Jewish member of Parliament (out of 17) would be speaking to us about the history of Gibraltar and the role of the Jewish people in the narrative. She explained the formation of their democracy, the population makeup, adverse effects of “Brexit” on Gibraltar, etc. Following a delicious dinner, we split up into three groups for our nightly activity, reflecting on our trip thus far, playing more games to bond, and looking forward to how many more adventures were ahead of us. We were all happy to retire to our hotel rooms to get some sleep after a long day of traveling from Granada in the morning, with a stop in Torremolinos, and ultimately reaching our highly anticipated destination, Gibraltar.

The following morning, we arose to be reminded that we were in the U.K., where we could easily speak to the locals in English and not Spain, where our shaky attempts to convert academic instruction to actual conversations exposed us as foreigners! During breakfast and the walk to the Rock, we were warned to beware of the wild monkeys on Gibraltar’s immense hiking excursion. It was like Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s most famous street for shopping, except this time the pickpocketers were monkeys. Despite the fact that most of us shrugged off the cautious words of our counselors, after a few hours of hiking the Rock, we learned that we never should have doubted them. The famous Gibraltar monkeys knew how to unzip pouches, snatch hats off the top of people’s heads, and even play tug of war with backpacks!

Our hike finally brought us to St. Michael’s Cave, where we stood enamored at nature’s formation of stalagmites dangling from the ceiling and stalactites snaking up from the ground, an extraordinary phenomenon, which takes place over the course of thousands of years. The cave, which was converted into a nursery during World War II, is now used as a concert hall for special performances. Later on, we enjoyed a scenic view of the African coast from Point Europa. Unlike our relaxed cable car ride up the mountain, this time we would be hiking the remainder of the mountain down, racking up the miles on our pedometers. In fact, the walking became sort of like a competition to see who could record the most steps. We enjoyed our lunch in the streets of Gibraltar, after which we would split into two groups, one heading back to the hotel and the other touring an exhibition on Gibraltar’s 1967 referendum, which ended in an overwhelming decision for Gibraltar to stay a part of the U.K.

We had earned a refreshing dip in the rooftop pool at our hotel, which had incredible panoramic views of the city. Dinner would be a real British treat: Fish and Chips. Alas, there was not much time left in Gibraltar but we could rest well knowing that we had taken advantage of such a short amount of time in such an interesting country!

— Joseph and Benjamin Taied

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