Cartagena, Spain, a city I always enjoy.
The Mercado de Santa Florentina, local market and usually good for a shot or two. An impressive number of men seem to be doing the weekend shopping ...
… or perhaps they want to patronize the lottery seller in peace.
Late denizen of Spanish waters.
Locals bustle about on their Saturday morning tasks …
… and I find a way to work off far too much eating on the ship.
Whatever my conflicted feelings about Christmas, this year I’m fortunate to see the municipal nativity in the Plaza de San Francisco. Staged since 1975, more than four hundred figures fill a vast, covered space.
This is a delightful mixture of Spanish touches, such as a traditional windmill …
… combined with scenes from the time of Christ.
Many of the figures, for instance, a man putting bread in an oven, move.
Mary and Joseph find themselves at the inn …
… kings arrive …
… and parents and child depart for Egypt.
Finding myself a little too nostalgic for my own good, I depart for a stiff restorative drink.
Gibraltar’s population is less than thirty thousand, so perhaps they don’t make their own manhole covers.
I’ve been in Gibraltar a number of times, but this is first I’ve seen a Royal Navy warship. As we arrive, HMS Ocean, an amphibious assault vessel, departs.
Other than the Romans, the one country to dominate the Mediterranean - from here to Suez - was imperial Britain, hardly a Mediterranean country. By domination I mean mastery of the waves, not - as in Rome’s case - mastery of all the shores. Even within my lifetime, Britain still held, not only Gibraltar, but also Malta, Cyprus and, effectively, Egypt.
And it is here that I must eat humble pie … grovel! grovel! Last year, I confidently told a fellow passenger that Prudential’s Rock of Gibraltar depiction is from the seaward side, that is, the side facing south towards Africa. It is not. I was wrong.
It is, as you can see above, the landward side facing the Spanish frontier. The Spanish were always more of a threat than anything that might come from the sea. Having made my confession, I can now walk towards Spain …
… past an airport built during the Second World War …
… and not just past the terminal, but across the runway. With so little level land, the British were forced put the airport a few feet from the border.
Fortunately for pedestrians, it’s not busy … unfortunately for me, there are no arrivals or departures while I’m here. Note RAF fighter, possibly a Tornado, in the distance.
Here’s the frontier and, knowing the Spanish habit of occasionally venting their frustrations and slowing entry into Gibraltar to a crawl, I decide to stay on the British side. Mind you, it’s Sunday and most businesses are closed; the place reminds me of Toronto sabbath in the 1950s.
Cartagena and Gibraltar 2014: