Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Off to Rota!

The morning of Wednesday, January 22nd, Bill and I finally ventured to the tapas bar directly next to our hotel, Las Columnas.  We had noticed the place was often packed with locals.  That shouldn't have turned us off, since any place where there are a lot of locals is usually going to be decent.  But I don't like crowds and the place looked like it was one of those establishments where you sort of stand at the bar.  Nevertheless, we didn't feel like spending 20 euros for a hotel breakfast, so we went to this place a stone's throw from our hotel.

We weren't disappointed.  Granted, all we had was bread, butter, orange juice, and cafe con leche, all of which tasted fine.  What made this place a winner for both Bill and me is that it has a lot of character.  The guys running the bar had a lot of personality.  I'm sure they get a lot of tourists during the high season, but the guy who helped us seemed genuinely surprised to see us.

I got a kick out of watching the barman flirt with the ladies.  Two middle aged women sat near us and he said, "Hola, ninas!"  Granted, my Spanish sucks, but I understood that he was calling them young ladies.  They giggled at the joke, as did I.  When another table opened up that gave them more room, they moved and said to the barkeep, "Nos cambiamos."  It was at that point that I realized that the few days we'd spent in Seville had been good for me.  Not as much English is spoken there, so I was forced to use my crappy Spanish skills.  I told Bill that he would get some brownie points at his job, since he works with people who speak fluent Spanish and Portuguese, since they work with militaries in Central and South America.  It's nice to know that neither of us sucks at Spanish as much as we thought we did.

After breakfast, we checked out of our hotel.  The lady who checked us out told us that her family had a home and a boat in Rota, which made me think it must be a nice town.  We then got a taxi to the bus station.  There, we would buy tickets to Rota, since the little town near Cadiz is not serviced by a train.  I went to Cadiz in 1997.  It's very close to Rota, though you'd kind of have to go over water to get there efficiently.  Anyway, we went to the wrong building first.  A lady working there said, "La proxima edificio…" and I understood that to mean "The next building."  Yea me!

We spent about 22 euros for our tickets to Rota, which would make a stop in Jerez de la Frontera.  I knew that as the place where Harvey's Bristol Cream sherry is made.  I remember seeing the vineyards for the sherry in 1997 as the train passed.  Since we were on a bus, we went through a different part of the city.  It took a little over an hour to get there… Bill and I were one of maybe a half dozen people who were on the full sized bus.  He sat next to me, which he didn't have to do… but it's nice to know he doesn't mind sitting next to me and my substantial ass.




No, that's not an actual bull on the hill…  It's a big billboard looking thing.  Only in Spain!

When we stopped in Jerez, the bus rounded a corner where a guy in a leather jacket was unloading his car.  The bus almost hit him and the driver honked.  I happened to catch the disgusted look on the guy's face.  Wish I could have seen the driver's face.  I'm sure it said a lot.


Jerez has a lot of weird "art" on the road… like this disturbing sculpture in the middle of a roundabout, and the horses and waving Michelin Man below...





The rest of the ride to Rota was easy enough.  In fact, it kind of reminded me of Texas.  I saw lots of cactus and crappy little shanties on the side of the road.  We pulled into the bus station, which is tiny and very close to Rota's main gate.  Bill had planned on us taking a taxi to the gate, but it was so close we just walked there.  We got our passes and, since we already got stamped into Europe when we arrived in Lajes, all we had to do was get passes so we could get on and off the base.

After that little detail, we approached the gate guard, who asked if I had my ID.  I did, but it was in my purse.  The guy shrugged and said never mind, which kind of surprised me.  We started walking to what we thought was the Navy Lodge, where Bill had made reservations for two nights.  I must say, hauling the bags wasn't so easy, though I'm fitter than I appear.  We stopped at the first lodging we came to, which was right across the street from the Naval hospital.  It turned out we were at "Navy Gateway", which is not the Lodge but offers rooms.  The ladies running Navy Gateway said they had rooms available; they were slightly cheaper; and the Gateway was a tiny bit closer to the PAX terminal than the Lodge was.  She said the Lodge was really more suited to families anyway.  So with our approval, she called the Lodge and switched our reservation.

The Navy Gateway in Rota offered accommodations very similar to the Mid Atlantic Lodge in Lajes.  We had a bedroom, a bathroom, and a sitting room.  There were two TVs, a microwave, a fridge, and the free laundry room (except for the soap).  Better yet, the toilet flushed better and there was a tub/shower instead of a tiny shower.  Even the toiletries were better.

I commented to Bill, "Looks like it's true that the Navy offers better shit than the other services do."  I was kidding, of course, but this lodging was slightly better.

We dropped off our bags and started walking back toward the gate so we could get a better look at Rota, which happens to be a cute town.  I was pretty hungry, since we had a light breakfast with no protein.  When I do that, I usually end up ravenous after a couple of hours.  We had to walk a ways before we finally found a bar that had food.  Once again, we ate meat on a stick accompanied by large Spanish beers.  The barman didn't speak much English, but he did bring out some delicious carrots marinated in some kind of brine.  We had a beef skewer and a chicken skewer.  I felt much better after we ate.  I find as I get older, my tolerance for hunger and dropping blood sugar is not so good anymore.


Waiting for food and beer...



The view from where I was sitting…

After lunch, we walked down toward the beach and discovered that Rota has a big castle and a lighthouse.  There's also a ferry, an Irish pub, and an American bar called "Honey Don't Cry".


Honey Don't Cry!


Rootbeer signs on the wall near the pub...


Irish pub.  Would have liked to have tried this place.


























  

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