The Daily Diary of a Wandering Restaurateur
Between a Rock and a Soft Place
Another day, another road trip. This time we are heading to Nerja, up along the Costa del Sol and close to Granada. The routing will take us via Gibraltar, a rather lengthy detour but necessitated by yesterday's last-minute reshuffling of plans. After days of record-breaking heat, it seems like now the area is getting record-breaking cold. Of course, wind and a light rain only make it seem cooler. But we have more options when it gets too cool than when it gets too hot, so we'll just smile and enjoy it.
The trip was pretty routine until the car in front of us suddenly braked to a stop. In a moment it became apparent why ... and that why kept getting bigger and more spread out until both our cars and the car behind me were small islands in a sea of sheep (led by a couple of goats, I might add). It probably took five minutes before the last of the herd was across the road and headed up the hill. I wonder if my auto insurance covers dents from sheep ...
Next stop, Gibraltar. The photos we usually see are just the front half of the rock so it was interesting to see what the whole thing looked like. Rather strange, actually, to just be a lump like that. Seems like it should be the leading edge of a string of mountains or something. Bryan hadn't received my text message that we would be coming in today so while he was scrambling to get cleaned up and dressed (it WAS a lazy Sunday after all), Margene and I took the cable car to the top of the rock to look around. The weather had been really strange -- rain then sun then wind then rain again. So we left the rain at the bottom and were carried up into sunshine and wind. We were actually cold.
The top of the rock is home to the legendary Barbary Apes. They are wild critters with a well-developed ability to snatch what they fancy from unsuspecting tourists. We were advised not to leave bags unzipped or EVER pull out food or a plastic bag. The apes associate plastic bags with goodies and they will wrestle them away from you in the blink of an eye. We saw it happen twice and in both cases the tourists were caught off guard. The only safe thing to do is drop the goodies and step away.
The views were spectacular from the top, though. A little hazy looking across to Africa but clear enough to see how the town of Gibraltar (actually an independent country owned by Britain) is tucked into this tiny peninsula. Across the center of the last photo you can make out the airport runway. That crosses the only road into and out of Gibraltar and traffic flow stops completely for 10-15 minutes every time a plane is landing or taking off ... but more on that in a minute.
Fortunately, Bryan's restaurant shared a massive free parking lot at the base of the cable car terminal, so the logistics were quite easy. Bryan is a serial entrepreneur with the restaurant, a magazine and several other ventures in operation ... plus he just signed the lease on the site for a second restaurant in Gibraltar, expected to open this fall. Don't let the outward appearance of the building fool you. This is a serious Italian restaurant with a full menu, a wood-fired pizza oven and ingredients imported from Italy. It is the real deal. I was impressed ... all the more so because the GM of the place is Bryan's 22-year old son, Bryan Jr.
We said our goodbyes around 3:00 and anticipated a fairly quick trip up the Spanish coast to Nerja where we will kick back for the next four days. Three and a half hours later we finally crossed the border into Spain. I have never seen traffic like that, two lines of cars winding back and forth on themselves like an airport security line just before Christmas.
Part of the delay could be attributed to the periodic closing of the road across the runway to allow another plane to land or take off, but apparently there is no real reason for the delay other than a political one. Spain has a new extreme right-wing government whose stated position is to make it as difficult as possible for the 6,000 or so Spaniards who work in Gibraltar (because there are no jobs for them in Spain). So the slowdown at the border (known as the frontier) is a matter of policy not of necessity. It makes you wonder ...
We finally pulled into Nerja around 8:30 and after getting seriously disoriented in the maze of one-way streets, finally found a place to park within a short walk of our hotel ... which is right in the middle of the action. More on that tomorrow. For tonight, all we wanted were some tapas, an adult beverage and a horizontal padded surface ... in about that order. Thanks to long time subscriber John Zesbaugh for recommending Cafe Lizarran for great tapas. I don't know that we would have searched it out without your suggestion, John.
We are here until Thursday with nothing on the agenda other than to kick back, people watch, poke around a bit and generally wind down. This is a terrific place to do just that. I'll fill you in over the next couple of days.
© 2012 Restaurant Doctor