Friday night, I rolled into Tarifa about 7pm. Tarifa is a mellow hippie beach town at the very tip of Spain, where the Atlantic and Mediterranean meet: It is just across the Straights of Gibraltar from Africa and the influence can be felt. You can see Morocco on a clear day, but it was hazy both days I was there and I barely made out the continent. Tarifa is blissfully high-rise free, which cannot be said of Malaga, etc (avoid avoid avoid). It is **very** windy and lots of wind and kite surfers go there. There are wind turbines everywhere. I had to pay for a double room because everything was very booked up (the next night I was able to move to a single in the same hotel). That night, around the corner from my hotel, there was a free festival put on by a local ecological and sustainable living coalition. They had free food (like couscous and other veggie options, which I jumped on after all that jamon!), local musicians and cheap sangria. It was quite nice.
Saturday, I went to the beach and also drove to some nearby towns. There are some very well preserved Roman ruins right on the beach (Bologna) where a town grew around the important fish salting industry. I could totally imagine living there. I stopped for the sunset at a shack on the beach where the ancient, mostly toothless owner (Jose Antonio – El Capitan – picture coming) befriended me. He sold me the hugest plate of tuna, which I really enjoyed (I forgot to ask for a half portion and the full portions are ridiculously sized). Later I gave him a ride to the town (5 miles away) and he tried valiantly to convince me to have a drink with him…but, uh, I insisted no. He was harmless but a bit persistant!
I decided to skip Gibralter since it sounded like lots of hassle for little payoff. Plus I hear they wont even stamp your passport, ha! I also skipped Morocco this time because I want to go to the interior, not just Tangiers (like Tijuana), and I really dont want to deal with it alone.
So Sunday, I slept late then returned to Sevilla with the car, stopping at yet another of the White Towns called Vejer de la Fontera. I also intended to stop in Jerez de la Fontera, where they make Sherry and were having a festival, but I hit a wall. I had seen too towns and just wanted to get back to Sevilla. Through some miracle of the Universe, I successfully found the rental car place again and took a cab to the same hostal I had stayed at earlier in the week. I told the driver my destination with a convincing enough accent that he began spewing Spanish at me. Yay but also a bit embarrassing when I had no clue what he said!
That night, I shared a paseo and tasty Italian meal with my new friend Pedro, the geologist. His English is very good so he was able to answer my laundry list of questions on the geography and culture of Andalusia. After our evening, I am about convinced I should do a tour in Turkey (versus tackle it solo). When I travel, I tend to have so many questions and it is almost impossible to get in-depth answers from someone who doesn’t speak good English. I think Turkey has enough history and unique geography and culture that I will get more out of it with some kind of expert guide.
As for me and Peter, except for technical discussions, we actually spoke in Spanish the whole night (albeit entirely in the present tense)! He is very patient and also able to understand the random english words I dropped, so the conversation flowed smoothly. Honestly, this was a relief after days of “stop and think” chatting. At the end of the night, he pronounced that I do indeed speak Spanish (¡Gracias Pedro!) and prescribed a two-tiered program of studying my verb conjugations (hmmmm, still need that workbook…) and reading novellas for vocabulary. I think these are very good suggestions and I will get right on them!
This morning (Monday), I took an rowdy 3 hour bus ride to Granada (lots of old deaf Spanish women…seriously, it sounded like a freaking nightclub on the bus). I found my hostal (Funky Backpackers), had a shower and a drink and am about to explore the paseo scene here. I love the paseo (evening stroll) and think we should import it, along with siesta. But more on that later.