Tag Archives: monkeys

Costa Del Sol, Spain

19 May

To celebrate my parent’s 30th wedding anniversary, my parents, sister, and I all went to the South of Spain. I had traveled to Spain back in 2007, spending a couple of days in Barcelona and a couple in Madrid. This was a very different piece of Spain. The Costa Del Sol is used by Northern Europeans much the same way Florida is used by New Englanders here in the US. Pasty white people trying to escape their own brutal climate and get a bit of sun far away from home. I don’t think I’ve ever gone on a “sun holiday” before, and I found it to be almost a challenging experience. What do you mean relax? Like I’m just supposed to lay in this beach chair, sip Piña Coladas, and enjoy my book? Somehow I managed to adapt. We did try to get out of our resort life though at least once a day and explore Southern Spain. These are some of the highlights.


View of Málaga from the top of the Castillo de Gibralfaro.

View of Málaga from the top of the Castillo de Gibralfaro.

Málaga is the main port of the Costa Del Sol. We spent the day in the Old Town area which boasts the remains of the Castillo de Gibralfaro which was an Islamic castle built in the 8th century. We walked up the Paseo Don Juan de Temboury which is a steep, winding path up the hill to the remains. It was something of a hike, but the views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea became more and more impressive as we ascended. The path itself is lined with beautiful flowers and trees. As we walked down the footpath to the other half of the ruins, the Alcazaba, I could hear Spanish music drifting up from the city center. About an hour later, we found the source. A small festival called Semana de Mayor celebrating the elderly. I sat and watched little old ladies perform flamenco routines and sing old Flamenco songs.


Riders on Andalusian horses showing off the high school riding.

Riders on Andalusian horses showing off the high school riding.

We signed up for a package deal at this little horse stable/restaurant in Mijas. Before the meal, we sat in an arena while they brought out gorgeous Andalusian-bred horses who are trained in Spanish equestrian style to prance a certain way and to buck on their hind legs on command. It was strange and beautiful. My favorite were the four white horses that came out with bells around their necks, roped together and galloping in circles in complete synchronicity. Afterwards we headed inside to a dinner and Flamenco show.

IMG_2689Oh Flamenco is just the best. The passion of the music, the rapid fire of the dancers feet on the floor, the graceful arching of their hands and backs. So beautiful, so emotional.


View of Ronda from the bottom of the Gorge.

View of Ronda from the bottom of the Gorge.

Easily my favorite part of the entire Spain trip. We drove high up into the mountains to visit this little town which was unreasonably picturesque. Even the roads surrounding the town were dotted with a rainbow of wildflowers. Ronda is perched atop a gorge with two sections of town connected by an ancient bridge that offers stunning views of the gorge below and the rolling hills in the distance.

View from the Bridge

View from the Bridge

Even though Ronda is a popular tourist destination, it was the place where I felt the least like a tourist. It was also the only place I got to really use my semi-decent Spanish as I chatted with shop-keepers and ice cream vendors. I always find that when I travel I’m assessing the place I’m visiting as a place where I could move and become an ex-pat. Ronda fit the bill, especially when I took into  account that it was the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.”

Always have love for Papa.

Always have love for Papa.


A poorly-lit picture of the caves.

A poorly-lit picture of the caves.

We didn’t spend time in the actual town. We just went straight for the caves. Walking out of the sunny Spanish day and into the cold, damp caves was refreshing. The caves are millions of years old and sheltered some of the earliest humans during the Stone Age. The stalactites and stalagmites that jut from the ceiling and the floor cast eerie shadows and put creationists to shame.


The Rock

The Rock

I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about the history of Gibraltar before we went. I knew it was an important naval post, but I didn’t know that it was still owned by the British and functions as a British city with pounds as the currency and fish and chips stands. We hired a taxi driver to take us around for the day and drive us up the Rock to see the tunnels where the British installed cannons. Gibraltar also has caves similar to the ones we saw in Nerja, except the British light theirs with purple, blue, and pink lights while playing a variety of disco music. It was a sharp contrast to the solemnity of the day before.



The highlight, of course, were the Barbary apes that are native to the island and wander around, grabbing food out of tourists hand and jumping on cars as they drive by.


Overlooking the Costa del Sol.

Overlooking the Costa del Sol on my horse, Universal.

Spain is now the third country other than my own in which I’ve ridden a horse. As soon as I heard about the famous Andalusian riding, I had to find a way. I found a place called Rancho La Paz which interestingly enough is run by German people and full of German tourists. It was nose to tail riding, but the views at the top of the hills were spectacular. We also got to do a fair amount of galloping which is the whole reason to get on a horse in the first place. Spanish riding was a bit different than what I’m used to with longer stirrups and loose reins held in one hand. Galloping was a bit more difficult this way as I think I was supposed to be standing in the saddle as opposed to “riding like an American cowgirl” which is what the German leader of the group kept warning me against. I am what I am, lady.

I wasn’t able to bring my camera along, but I made a German friend, Reiner, who spoke enough English to offer to take my picture and email it to me when he returned to Germany. Nothing better than making new friends abroad.


Tourist Tuesday: Bronx Zoo

26 Feb

2013-02-26 11.49.27 I’ve become close friends with one of my co-workers, Adriana. We both have Tuesdays off, and since it is rare to have other friends who likewise have that weekday off, we often spend it together.

Tragically, there is a Tuesday shift that needs to be covered until June. Adriana and I have decided to take turns covering the shifts so that neither of us get overwhelmed with overtime. So this Tuesday was to be our last Tuesday together for a while. So we felt it was only fitting to spend it together at the Bronx zoo.

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I got so close to this little guy! Arm’s length away. Then I was frozen with fear, because birds are tiny dinosaurs.

The Bronx zoo is the largest metropolitan zoo in the world! Also, compared to other zoos I have visited, they are active in conservation education. A little bit too active some might say. There were some signs that were a bit harsh for a kid friendly place. Like the photo of a gorilla’s head bloodily on a plate. Whoa! Or the Vietnam War Memorial-esque tribute to extinct species. A little depressing, but the argument can be made that the ecological state of our world is likewise depressing, and perhaps children should be made aware of that as soon as possible. A good dose of reality never hurt anyone. Except when you tell a young child that Santa isn’t real. That’s just not nice. Isn’t it similarly cruel to show them gorilla decapitation?

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But the zoo is so beautiful. The exhibits are spacious, and the animals seem genuinely happy. I’ve never had a zoo experience where so many animals come close to the glass to say hello. Maybe it was because it was a quiet Tuesday, but I’d like to think that they somewhat enjoy their life in captivity. I mean plenty of their favorite foods available, no worries about predators, free healthcare, adoring crowds that squeal with delight whenever they move. Can I live in captivity?

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There was so much to see. I could have spent hours watching the gorillas. I wish I could have attended each and every sea lion feeding. So. Many. BIRDS! We walked into a beautiful building in the center of the zoo. As we entered, the smell of manure quickly hit us in the face. As we looked to our right, a rhino! Man, oh man, zoos are fun.

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But my favorites will always be the primates. They’re so human-like, so entertaining. By watching primates, there’s some sort of knowledge to be gathered about our own nature, our own instincts. At the exhibit with the above monkeys, we saw one of them start nodding her head up and down and run to a window at the side of the exhibit. When we went to the window, there was a man standing there, a zoo employee from Admissions. The monkey was gazing up at him.

“She seems to like you,” I said.
“I come here every day on my lunchbreak, and she always comes up to me…and does that.” The monkey turns around with her butt in the air, waving it back and forth.
“Aw,” Adriana says. “She’s presenting to you. She wants to mate with you!”
The monkey turns back around and gazes up to him, lifting her little monkey hand to the glass, black glassy eyes staring up at the mysterious man who visits her everyday. She turns back around, once again showing him her butt. I felt for her. I mean haven’t we all stuck our metaphorical butts in the air for someone who is simply, biologically not interested?

“Well, we’ll let you two have some privacy,” I said as we walked away. The man blushed, laughed, and returned his attention to his monkey friend.