Saturday, March 31, 2012

food trip

during our short vacation, we made sure to eat only the best that Marbella has to offer.  Spanish cuisine is one of the tastiest in the world and so we decided to look for little known cafes mostly frequented by the locals. however, we were so hungry when we arrived that we just sat down in the first one we saw!  we ordered clams in garlic and wine sauce, calamares and boquerones (lightly battered and lightly fried anchovies) after we consumed the olives and bread. 

i tell you, they were the best i have ever had!  the sauce in the clams was to-die-for!  we licked our plates clean!
next stop was to find good old reliable chinese food :)  there was one along the Paseo Maritimo so we headed for that.  we basically just ordered the more familiar ones but my eye was caught by something unusual :)
bunny-shaped Yu Tou Gao!  it is steamed yam/taro cake individually wrapped in a rabbit-shaped flour wrapper.  it was an early Easter treat for me :)
the mister has always had this hankering for really good, really tasty American burgers for a long time now so we drove to Puerto Banus (a marina southwest of Marbella) and looked for the one and the only Hard Rock Cafe
we weren't disappointed!  i ordered the pulled pork sandwich with baked beans, coleslaw and fries and they were soooo good!
the mister had the hickory BBQ bacon cheeseburger (i know! its overload!) and he loved it!  
just for the record, we don't plan on doing this everyday :)  we can't wait to do a food trip in America however... we've seen and heard so much of the gastronomic delights of Uncle Sam :)

we were sooo stuffed on our trip but we were also looking forward to our healthy home-cooked meals :)  nothing can ever beat the comforts of home :)

Friday, March 30, 2012

like attracts like

do you ever believe in the Law of Attraction?  do you ever believe that you attract into your life whatever it is that you are constantly thinking about?  i do!

we were admiring Salvador Dali's bronze sculptures in the Alameda Park along Playa la Venus in Marbella when out of the corner of my eye i saw something green and something familiar.  it was a charity shop!

before we drove to Marbella, i made a mental note to look for a charity shop there.  i even researched online and wrote down the address.

and serendipity led me to the CUDECA! founded in 1991, CUDECA is one of the leading Cancer Hospices in Southern Spain and has shops all over the Andalucia region.
it was a spacious shop and most of the stuff are organized and labelled.  they sell mostly clothes and accessories.  i was looking for kitchen stuff but when i asked where they are they told me they were at a different shop.  so i am guessing there are other shops in and around Marbella.
i found this Charles Tyrwhitt Classic Linen top in pink, magenta and blue stripes for €8. not bad really for a high end blouse  but way above my thrift shop budget :)  but i can never resist classic linen tops so i indulged myself ;)

*linking to Selena's Thrift Share Monday @ Apron Thrift Girl :)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

la primavera en Marbella, España

spring has sprung!  the mister and i went on a little getaway in Marbella, Spain to properly welcome warmer weather.  Marbella is sometimes known as the Miami of Spain and is only about an hour and a half away from Gib.
the beach is still empty but "chiringuitos" or snack bars by the beach are already prepping up for the feasts of grilled/fried fish al fresco
huts are coming up like 'shrooms!
this baby's trunk doubles as a shower when you tweak the knob behind its ear 
Puerto Banus is the playground of the rich and famous, where Rolls Royces and Ferraris meet yachts
Salvador Dali is featured most in the streets of Marbella with his bronze sculptures all over town
i am so surprised that Marbella has a bonsai museum :)  
and the species that they house are pretty impressive too :)
on the way to the Casco Antiguo (Old Quarters), we passed by beautiful colored tiles depicting stories of the Spanish culture
the Plaza de los Naranjos or Orange Square is the heart of the Old Town of Marbella
tiny side streets in the Old Town; guess what caught my eye ;)
in one of our after dinner walks, by the beach, in the Paseo Maritimo
the police are on horseback along the coast...
and even in the main square!
he was nowhere to be seen but he has a house here with his wife Melanie Griffith
lots of cafes and designer shops!
Marbella is a celebrity magnet and Mr. Iglesias (who is originally from Madrid) got married to his second wife here.  he was first married to Spanish-Filipina Isabel Preysler and has three kids with her, including the hottie Enrique Iglesias
the pool in the hotel we stayed in was so inviting... but it was still a bit nippy for me... a glorious, relaxing bubble bath instead to end the day :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

animal magnetism

as i've said earlier, i've been here almost three years but in all those years i've never seen a real, live rooster in Gib.  let alone witness a real, live rooster cross the road in Gib!

(be kind rewind: i love animals and am a country girl at heart.  i grew up with farm animals almost all my life back home.  therefore, a rooster is an everyday sight... but not here in Gib... so IMHO, this is a funk phenomenon and therefore worthy of a post!)  
(why did the rooster cross the road in Gib?  the rooster crossed the road because it was time for a change!  the rooster wanted change!)
some people say that aside from the Barbary Macaques (or Barbary Apes as they are locally known because they are missing their tails) numbering about 200 residing up in the Rock, there are also wild goats, different species of birds, wild squirrels, etc.  some old folks even said there were horses up there too at one time. 
(ohhh yes! scratch it right there wilma!  scratch it good!)
legend has it that the Apes are a symbol of British sovereignty and should they disappear from the Rock, Gib will no longer be British.

meanwhile, in another part of town, these adorable Shih Tzus with their lazy bums are downsizing :)
and on the opposite side, these Guinea Pigs have just collectively decided to change their names to Guini Pigs, thereby saving on vowels :)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

featured place in Gib: the no. 1 restaurant in Gib

going out and eating out is de rigeur here in Gib.  however, i have noticed that the locals stick to the familiar and tend to eat the same tried and tested dishes over and over again.  i don't blame them, after all, we are creatures of habit.

i, however, tend to be the non-conformist.  i need constant new stimuli from my surroundings to be able to survive.  i gotta have new experiences and challenges or else i will wilt and die a slow, painful and horrible death.  

and so it came to pass that the curiosity bug bit me hard again one day and out of the blue i just randomly wanted to find out what the no. 1 best restaurant in Gib is and if i had already been there.  and the first thing that popped out of my screen is a link to TripAdvisor ranking this tucked away, quaint, little restaurant/bar as Gibraltar's finest among 70 local restaurants reviewed!  this, i gotta find out for myself :)
so i dragged the mister up Bishop Rapallo's Ramp to the The Theatre Royal Restaurant and Bar and ordered their specialty:  the BBQ spare ribs!  and indeed, it was beyond expectations!  it was the tastiest spare ribs i have ever had here in Gib.  the meat just fell off the bone and the meat melts in your mouth!  i requested for rice instead of chips and the lovely owners, Jules and Albert said, "no problemo!"
they were very accommodating and attentive and everything is home-made and freshly prepared.  most of their menu is South African fare (i think the couple are Afrikaans). their burgers are custom-made too :)  you can choose from a variety of ingredients and the patty comes in three flavors!  the Chicago burger (with garlic patty) is what the mister ordered :)
this is definitely Gib's best kept secret :)  if ever you pass by Gib and have a hankering for spare ribs, the Theatre Royal is definitely guaranteed to satisfy your taste buds :)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

10 Things I Love About Gibraltar

These days, what I now call home is a mile wide, nearly three mile long isthmus with a total land area of only two and a quarter square miles.  Slightly bigger than an average farm and definitely smaller than a typical sleepy town from where I came from, this makes Gibraltar one of the most densely populated territories in the world.
(The Rock as seen from the Paseo Maritimo in Estepona, Spain)
Most of the 30,000 population living on the lower western side of the Rock are a mix of Genovese, Maltese, Portuguese, British, Spanish and Jewish.  Although, when I walk down Main Street, I see a sprinkling of Indians, Moroccans, Eastern Europeans, Asians, as well as countless other nationalities from all over the world. Gibraltar is an eclectic mixture of people.

As I approach my third year of living here, I have grown to love this tiny nation.  But what is it really that made Gibraltar grow on me?  Being a “list-a-holic”, here are my top ten reasons, in descending order, why I love Gib:

10. the caves -  the Rock is a formidable fortress made of Jurassic
limestone and inside its bowels are caves that are impressively formed by rainwater turned carbonic acid.  The most popular of these is the St. Michael’s Cave, named after a similar cave or grotto in Monte Gargano, Apulia, Italy where the Archangel Gabriel was said to have shown himself.

Inside St. Michael’s Cave is an even more impressive cave called Cathedral Cave, so called because of the mineral formations around the walls resembling the pipes of a cathedral organ. 
Whenever I go and visit, the only sound I would hear is the melodic drip of water from the ceiling.  Last year I attended a Christmas concert in this cave and the acoustics were incomparable.  Definitely something worth experiencing.
(a christmas charity concert in St. Michael's Cave featuring the Band and Corps of Drums of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment, the Gibraltar National Choir with guests)
9. the tunnels – Inside the Rock is a labyrinth of man-made tunnels first used in the war against Spain and France when they tried to recapture Gibraltar from the British in the early 1700’s.  The passageways were then extended during World War II to house 5,000 military personnel!  
When I descended into the depths of this marvel, it was dark and damp and I was told that the passageways were unchanged since WWII. And to my surprise after walking through the seemingly endless paths, we came to a secret balcony named Jock’s balcony cut into the Rock itself looking outside into the runway and to brilliant sunshine!
I haven’t explored the whole 30-mile tunnel system yet but I’ve been told its even longer than all the streets in Gib combined!

8. the runway – the first thing that I saw when I first came here and when the plane was just descending into Gibraltar was actually not the Rock but the runway!  Ranked as the fifth most dangerous airport in the world, you know you have arrived when they stop the traffic for you.

7. the harbours – Gibraltar has a very strategic position and holds one of the most important ports in Europe.  Over the last 3,000 years, the ports have been used by merchant ships trading in this area.

Gib is about almost surrounded by water so the harbours offer a  magnificent view of everything.  In the height of summer, one of my favorite pastimes would be sitting at a nearby café in Ocean Village (the new, hip place to-be) or Queensway Quay (quiet and even more laid-back), sipping cafe con leche and basically just watching the ships sail by.
(view of the harbour from Marina Bay at sunset)
(view of the Strait of Gibraltar as seen from Little Beach)
(view of the Strait of Gibraltar as seen from up the Rock)
6. the lighthouse – Europa Point is the last point in Europe and is only 15 and a half miles from Africa.  Here you can see the only lighthouse maintained by the Trinity House Lighthouses outside the UK.
(the Lighthouse as seen from the Strait of Gibraltar, photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Whenever boredom strikes, I head out to Europa Point and eat soft ice cream on a cone and contemplate how insignificant I and my problems are compared to how vast the Universe is.  I love how windy it is there and that I can actually see the Rif Mountains in Africa and the bright villages in sunny Spain

Now, it has a big playground for kids and an open space for rollerblading, kite-flying and every other activity you can think of.

5. the square – the warmest, sunniest part of the Rock!  Casemates Square is also the people-watching heart of Gibraltar.  In the warmer days, just sitting in one of the cafes here sipping your strawberry milkshake and watching all the tourists pour into the square is an event in itself (IMO).
(Casemates Square, photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Probably the liveliest place in all of Gibraltar, this is the perfect place to sit and watch the world go by.

4. the people – The Gibraltarians are a proud, patriotic and resilient people.  As Spain lay claim to the territory, the people unanimously rejected the proposal TWICE!  They are only few but they are united in their stand.  I admire their steadfastness to be true to who they are and what they represent. 

I am luckily married to a “Gibbo” as a local is fondly called here and by the looks of things, I will probably be living here for the rest of my life, but I would never fit in and be considered one of them for they are closely-knit and with an incredible passion about their country.

Just swing by on National Day, September 10th, and you will know what I mean.
3. the weatherGibraltar enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate.  Which means it doesn’t snow here!  Although the winters can be very rainy and gusty, it is manageable by my standards.  There are two weather extremes here though that is a phenomenon unique to the Rock; one is the Levanter, a warm breeze full of moisture that strikes the eastern face of the Rock, condenses in the sky above it and causes a coldness hanging over the whole western side.  The other is the Poniente, local winds that blow through the strait from the east or west and bring hot and mostly dry weather.
(summer in the Alameda Gardens)
I love spring, summer and autumn here.  It is warm but not too warm and there’s a nice cool-ish breeze all around.  Sunshine last about 10.5 hours a day, perfect for a barbecue on the beach!

2. the history and heritage – everywhere you look in Gib there is a reminder of a war or a siege.  Everywhere there is a piece of its rich military history.  Be it a cannon, a memorial erected in the memory of fallen soldiers, a name of an influential general in one of the buildings, a ruin that used to hold ammunitions, etc.

But Gib is not just about military history.  If you look at the old buildings, you will discover a rich heritage of architecture from Spanish-style buildings, to Moorish-style churches, and even Mid-Century Modern houses.
A little known fact about Gib: the first Neanderthal skull was actually discovered in one of the caves here before the published “original” discovery was made in the Neander Valley in Germany!
Also, the Gibraltar Food Festival, Calentita! is not to be missed! This street party/food fest every summer is where everyone comes together to celebrate the Rock’s cultural diversity through the most simple, most effective bridge-builder and ice-breaker known to man: FOOD!
(photo courtesy of My Mediterranean Diet)
1. the Rock – of course my no. 1 is the Rock itself.  It is very imposing and dominates this whole country.  I often, often, often wonder; if the Rock could talk, what secrets does it hold?  How many conversations and plots and whispers did it listen to?  How many ghosts does it have?  How many souls does it offer solace to?

(photo courtesy of the mister on night shift)
How many wars did it witness?  How many people did it protect?  How many storms did it survive?  How many generations of Gibraltarians did it outlive?

My questions are never-ending.  And that I believe is part of its charm.  It is multi-faceted, bewitching and unconquerable… just like its people.