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  1. #1
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    Default Spain & Gibraltar

    March 10th, 2008



    Well we arrived at Malaga Airport earlier today. The weather in the UK at the moment is ‘exciteable’ to say the least - well it certainly was when I left home at 4am this morning. We left Heathrow pretty much on time, which is a wonder in itself, but the ride got interesting the moment we left the runway. We caught a huge side gust and took off at a 30 degree angle to the runway and with me looking out my window directly onto tarmac People were screaming and everything… very cool hehe! I’ve just been watching Sky News and the view from outside the plane (don’t think it was our plane but nonetheless…) was pretty bloody terrifying. I’m glad I was on the inside looking out!


    Picked the car up after a bit of farting around - the company didnt have a desk at the airport - we had to look for a man with a sign bearing my name as we came into the arrivals hall. We thought we’d cracked it when we found him but then he directed us to the wrong bus stop. That or I misunderstood his directions. I’m sticking with the story of him getting i wrong! The car turned out to be some nasty Chevvy (or should I say Daewoo) but so far it’s got us around okay, if a little slowly.


    We’d been told to meet the site agent at the customers property at 12.30 but didn’t even get the car until 1pm so, when we finally reached the premises 90 minutes later, we were somewhat surprised to be greeted with the news that we were 24 hours (well, 22 hours) early. Oh joy… we looked so professional.


    So we went for a little explore and a little practice in the car. I have no problem driving on the right, or in a left hand drive, but driving on the right, in a left hand drive and with a manual gearbox proved somewhat tricky. I’ve only done that once before and the traffic between Oslo and Lillehammer was all but nonexistent so it was somewhat less tricky.



    We managed to make our way up into the hills overlooking Marbella and it was quite a view. Once we’d done up there - we were getting some strange looks from a guy in a police car so I’m not so sure we were actually supposed to be up there - we decided to head into central Marbella. I have to say it reminded me a little of Miami in as much as the beach was over rated, the buildings very shiny and bold yet somehow unwelcoming but, mostly, the fact that everyone spoke the ‘wrong’ language. In Miami the first language spoken is often Spanish whereas, here in Spain, the first language spokn seems generally to be English. Very very odd.

    Eventually, after being unable to find the marina at Puerto Banus (go figure - will try again) we find our way to our hotel. The Crowne Plaza. And what a nice place it is. Very very nice. A far cry from the Super 8 and Motel 6 that I usually end up stopping at when I’m on the road. I’m currently sat on the balcony logged on to the (very expensive) wifi typing this. It’s hardly warm - in fact it’s actually quite cold - but I’m English and I’m not gonna waste the fact that I’ve left behind the storms and hurricaine force winds behind in the UK.

    I think I’m gonna enjoy Spain. Dunno why I didn’t head down here sooner.


    March 11th, 2008



    The plan had been for the truck to leave our warehouse early on Saturday morning, cross the Channel on Eurotunnel, and head as far south into France as possible before the Sunday truck movement ban kicked in. After sitting out Sunday it’d continue on and cross into Spain; arriving in the Mediterranean town of Marbella on Tuesday morning. Meanwhile we’d fly in and everyone would be reunited. Everyone’s a winner.

    Of course, it goes without saying; plans never pan out as they should. Doubly so when it comes to shipping freight from one side of Europe to the other. We’d heard on Friday that Sea France had gone on strike leading Kent to the implementation of Operation Stack on the approaches into Dover. Whilst they argued it out in France our truck sat motionless on the M20. It looked like a mighty spanner had been thrown in the works and plans were afoot to turn him around and reroute him on the Portsmouth-Bilbao crossing but thankfully, by midday on Saturday they’d struck a deal in France and the queues started to disperse on this side of the Channel. Reports suggest that they were clearing reasonably swiftly - anyone would think they were used to the French going on strike and had planned for the possibility! - but, as he neared the Eurotunnel, the weather turned serious leading all sailings to be cancelled and the Port of Dover was closed to cross channel traffic.

    Beneath the ground, the trains were still busily shuttling back and forth, doing their best to clear the now growing backlog. Eventually, around 7pm, our truck finally made it to the front of the queue and onto the train bound for France. The crossing is very quick but, by the time our driver finally made it onto the open road, the midnight driving ban was looming fast. He headed south as fast as possible but finally had to concede defeat and parked up at Le Mans. There are worse places to be holed up, believe me, but when you have so many miles ahead, and an appointment to keep, it’s not where you wanna be. It’s certainly not where we wanted him to be!



    We put in an early morning call to the driver to find out how he was getting on - we’d hoped that some form of miracle had happened and that he would be with us this morning as planned - but we were to be disappointed. He was in Spain at least but, after consulting a map, we were somewhat disappointed to discover that Madrid (where he’d spent the night) was still a full days driving away. In fact, with the driving hours limits, we’d be lucky to see him at all today.

    We thought about popping down to Gibraltar to see the monkeys but we had to meet the site agent at 1pm so we settled for a late start, breakfast, and a drive around the local area. In fact it was almost like being on holiday! After sitting around on the beach for a bit we made our way to site and met with the site agent. Afterwards we were in limbo for the rest of the day - we couldn’t head off just in case the lorry showed up - so it was simply a case of exploring again.

    The houses in the area were, it has to be said, absolutely stunning and we did start to wonder how the people who lived there were able to afford them. Far be it from me to mention the reputation for British that the Costa del Sol has for harbouring British criminals but, well, there were an awful lot of Brits down there. I will say no more…

    We headed off to find a place to eat. We found a lovely little restaurant by the beach but, as unfortunately seems to be the case in Spain, the kitchen was closed at dinner time. Genius! So we settled on a couple of cold drinks and then drove into Marbella again. Where we settled for a Burger King. How’s that for adventurous?



    Finally, around 5pm, we took a call. The truck was just an hour away. Phew! We raced back to site and were somewhat relieved to see the truck finally swing into the road where we were to meet it just after 6.30pm. So that was that for our little holiday - it was time to work.

    A couple of hours later we’d unloaded the contents and were heading back to our hotel. We’d earlier seen three or four signs in Marbella suggesting that the temperature was anywhere between 26 and 30 degrees. We’d quickly dismissed them as being faulty but, after a couple of hours hard work, we soon realised that they were pretty damn accurate and we started to realise what lay ahead over the next couple of days. Right now I’m just sitting on my balcony enjoying a cold beer. I’ll worry about the rest tomorrow. At the moment it’s not such a bad life!

    March 12th, 2008



    Not much to say about today really. We were up early. Very early. So early, in fact, that the hotel hadn’t started serving breakfast - much to the disappointment of Paul who I was working with. We had to make do with some food that we’d picked up at petrol station on the way which proved interesting. My creamy cheese in a tube turned out to be white chocolate which made an unusual sandwich filling when added to the cheddar and ham that I’d bought. Surprisingly good actually. Though I’m not sure that I’d bother again!

    The rest of the day was just hard work. It was hard to be too stressed working in the environment that we were working in - a beautifully manicured garden way up in the hills overlooking the Mediterranean Sea with the sun beating down on us - but, my god, I’m shattered now. I guess I can see why the locals insist on a siesta midway through the day!





    March 13th, 2008



    Another early start and another day full of work. What more is there to say? Bar a quick visit to a local outlet centre to pick Paul up a cap - his baldy head was burning! - we spent the first six hours finishing off the big build and then headed off to a second site around the corner to do an install there.

    It was a pleasure, when we’d finally finished work, to return to the hotel to relax. On our way back we stopped and picked up some beers and snacks and then went our separate ways. My plan was to stay in my room for the evening, chill out, watch some TV and get an early night. As it turned out the TV signal packed up so I had a very early night - asleep by 9.30pm -which was lucky as sometime around 4am there was a god-awful noise emanating from the neighbouring room.

    Perhaps not unreasonably, given I had been woken by loud banging and screaming, I’d initially presumed that there was a murder occurring and, as I wondered if I should perhaps do something, it slowly dawned on me that they were, erm, enjoying themselves. Very loudly and energetically. Now that is absolutely fine, of course, unless it’s 4 o’clock in the morning and they’re disturbing the children.

    As it always will do, the noise died down very shortly, and I was able to resume my (very well earned) sleep. But twenty minutes later they were at it again - on the balcony this time - just give it a rest, damnit!

    Originally published on - and Copyright retained by - Boogity, Boogity, Boogity

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    Last edited by UKCraig; 02-09-2010 at 06:47 AM.

  2. #2
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    Default

    March 14th, 2008



    I know absolutely sod all about Gibraltar apart from it not being a fantastic place to holiday if you’re Irish. So, seeing we were less than an hour down the road and we had half a day to kill before our flight back to the UK, I thought that we should go and find out so, after breakfast, we set off for ‘The Rock.’

    Electing to keep off the Autopista (the Spanish toll road system) we followed a seemingly never-ending line of roundabouts through a seemingly never-ending sprawl of timeshare apartments and package holiday hotels. This really was more like what I’d been expecting of Spain and it was truly horrible! Thankfully it is the exception rather than the rule and the majority of the coast hasn’t been completely trashed just yet.

    Finally we reached the Spanish border town of Linea de la Conception and, with The Rock of Gibraltar clearly visible, we parked the car and headed off towards the frontier on foot. We’d heard that the traffic across the border could be an issue - mainly on the way back as the Spanish are still sore about Gibraltar and tend to drag their heels as some form of latin protest - and, if the queue on the way in was anything to go on, it wasn’t worth the risk.

    I had hoped to get a passport stamp as I crossed the into Gibraltar - I had been told that you could get one if you asked nicely - but my request was denied by the fact there was no one on duty to so much as check my passport but my disappointment was abated as we entered Gibraltar by way of a live runway! Being a rock - a fairly impressive one, at that - there is precious little land suitable to house an airport. No land at all, in fact. The only solution was to build the runway on land reclaimed from the water previously dividing it from Spain but this left them with a problem - this would mean losing the only road onto The Rock. The solution? Ingeniously simple and, as far as I know, completely unique: a simple set of level-crossing type gates which drop each time a plane takes off or lands. Genius! Future expansion plans will see a tunnel being constructed under the runway and I think that’s a great shame - the current setup works just fine and is uniquely charming.



    Initial impression of The Rock weren’t great - the dirty streets and run-down buildings were a million miles away from where we’d just come - but things improved when I took a look in the window of an off-licence and realised that Jack Daniels was on sale for £10 for a litre bottle - less than half price - I was starting to warm to Gibraltar!

    We had planned to take the cable car to the top of the rock and see the apes but we’d neglected to pick up a good city map as we’d crossed the border and we had soon found ourselves lost in the maze of old streets so instead we came up with the idea of hiking to the top. We really should have known that was a ludicrous idea but we set off blissfully unappreciative of the scale of the place. We climbed and climbed and, keeping a keen eye on the time that we had to be back at the car, we climbed some more. We passed some old fortifications and some huge old guns - still trained at the Spanish mainland - whilst we in turn were passed by numerous tour buses but, eventually, we had to admit defeat. We had taken over an hour to reach this point and, at that rate, it’d be dark and our car would have been towed before we reached the top on foot.



    As we stood and looked over the airport back towards Spain I finally spotted what we’d been climbing for in the first place - a wild ape. And then another. And then a baby ape - which was very cute but pretty bloody scary at the same time - and I suddenly cheered up. I wasn’t at all sure how well behaved they were so, in the knowledge that they could very probably kill me if they so chose (!), I tentatively edged closer to take a few photos.

    Having seen what we’d hiked up to see we took another look at the time and decided to head back into the main town to check out the old buildings down there - and to pick up a couple of bottles of Jack - before heading back across the border to be reunited with the car. Once again, on the way out, no-one was interested in who we were and our passports remained in our pockets. It was definitely good advice to walk across as the queue to cross by road was huge and seemingly growing by the minute.

    Still with a couple of hours to kill we made our way back towards Malaga Airport by way of the town of Estepona which we had yet to visit. We’d heard that it was a pretty little old fishing port so were really quite surprised to discover that it was a fair sized beach resort. Not the sort of place that you’d find in your package holiday brochure but the sort of place that you could imagine the Spanish going themselves. The well kept beach was lined with numerous bars and restaurants of all types. After a bite to eat we headed into the backstreets to explore the town and were delighted to find that the old Mediterranean was still alive and well and had not been completely built upon. A small area, at least, has remained untouched. As the British sit in their huge villas in the hills or their ugly concrete hotels down by the waterfront, we should be eternally grateful for that.

    Originally published on - and Copyright retained by - Boogity, Boogity, Boogity

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