Friday, March 4, 2016

Danger Island, INDEED

This week, I've been working on nailing down the dates and locations of our summer road trip...which actually means: this week I've been busy working (for my paying jobs) but have found a few minutes here and there to think about how I should really nail down the dates and locations of our summer road trip. Maybe this weekend? It will happen!

In the meantime, I have a funny honeymoon travel story to share. Chris and I went to Spain - specifically the Costa del Sol. Look - aren't we all young and cute and free of child-induced wrinkles?

That picture was taken with a pre-iPhone, Year 2000 DISPOSABLE CAMERA. We brought several left over from our wedding tables and used up the rest of the "film." No digital images were generated from that honeymoon...I think there were a total of 50.

Anyway... As a city person, I could only take so much of the pool and the beach before I demanded a day trip. This story is about that day. It was originally posted on my blog, The Big Piece of Cake in 2009 (though I've edited it for this site because OH MY GOD SO MANY WORDS I USED AAAAAALLLLLL THE WORDS).


Sunny Spain, Danger Island and International Abductions

In September of 2000, Chris and I got married and then flew to Spain for a two week honeymoon in Andalusia. We stayed in Malaga, Marbella/Puerto Banus and Seville. And while we were in Puerto Banus, we decided to make a quick trip to Great Britain.

Yes – you read that right – we left the sunny beaches of the Costa del Sol so that we could enjoy a cool, overcast day in the city of Gibraltar. This British territory shares a border with Spain, and was just an hour drive from our hotel.

Our hotel was beautiful, but after a few days relaxing by the pool with a book, I got at little bored. So that morning at breakfast, I pulled out our trusty Andalusia book and said, “I’m tired of looking at topless German supermodels at the pool – I have to have an activity today.” And while Chris probably didn’t quite agree about the topless German girls, he was happy enough to leave the hotel to have a little adventure.
One of the reasons that we selected Gibraltar was that we would get to enjoy a drive along the coast. It was a beautiful day and the hour long cab ride felt more like minutes as we took in breathtaking views of sun sparking on sea.

Then we saw “the rock.” It’s almost shocking to see Gibraltar looming on the horizon. It is literally a giant rock under an ominous looking cloud. We immediately dubbed it, “Danger Island.”

While it’s not technically an island, it does kind of look like one as you’re driving down the coast.
I won’t go into detail about our arrival at Danger Island (where we brushed elbows with armed soldiers), or the time we spent there (purchasing hand stitched lace pillow cases and hearing jokes about Monica Lewinsky from the locals). This particularly story is about our drive back.

When departed Gibraltar later that afternoon, I was very ready to put my shopping bags at my feet and close my eyes. Between the walking and the overcast sky I was feeling rather sleepy, and within minutes of entering the cab, I had dozed off.

At some point I felt sun on my face, and peered out from under my sunglasses to see that we were in fact, back in Spain proper. But the expected view of sun sparkling on sea had inexplicably been replaced by green hillside vistas.

While groggily trying to make sense of this new scenery, I realized that my husband was engaged in an animated conversation with our cab driver. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Spanish – so if I wanted details on where exactly we were going, I was going to have to ask Chris to translate.

Right before I sat up and announced my confusion though, the city girl in me held out a cautionary hand. Something wasn’t right. I mean, we were being chauffeured by the Spanish equivalent of a gypsy cab driver, and we were obviously not taking the familiar route back.

My first thought was that it might be a short cut. But in researching our day trip, we did look at a map which clearly showed the coastal road was the most direct route. I may be map-challenged, but Chris is practically a human GPS system. So he would know that we were taking the long way.

I had to conclude that we weren’t going back to the hotel – or at least not directly. And the fact that Chris and the cab driver were now BFFs indicated that they had made a decision to…well, I wouldn’t know would I? Because I was asleep when that decision was made.

At this point City Girl started fuming. What the hell was Chris thinking? This stranger could be a criminal for all we knew. To let him drive us into the hills of Spanish no man’s land and to not even consult with me about it was inexcusable. I would NEVER agree to this. What if he planned to take our credit cards and passports and then leave us miles from civilization. He could be a serial killer. He could be planning to sell me into white slavery. We didn’t know anything about this guy! City Girl was irate. I was a little frightened.

So I decided to feign sleep while I worked out what could possibly be going on. And soon enough, we seemed to have reached our destination. The cab pulled up to a small group of buildings and parked in what could only be described as a rural ally.

I sat up an started to ask Chris, “exactly what the hell is going on?” But I never had a chance. Within seconds, my companions were out of the car and too busy talking and laughing to give me any explanation. Chris barely glanced over his shoulder as he said something about coming in with them and that we would “only be a minute.” Whatever that meant.

City girl and I huffed as we picked up every bag in the cab and dragged them over to the big wooden gate through which the two men had disappeared. There was no way I was leaving all of my beautiful lace napkins and pillowcases in an unlocked cab with open windows.

I’m not sure what I was expecting to see when I followed them in, but we seemed to have entered a courtyard. To my right were rows of kennels and cages. Dogs barked and birds squawked at our intrusion, and flies buzzed around my head. The general effect was something like a barnyard pet store. Directly in front of me was a paddock with a huge brown horse – apparently, the source of all the flies. On the left was what looked to be the side wall of a house.

Our host had opened a door to the house and gestured for us to stay where we were, saying something that seemed to indicate that he’d be right back. Again, there wasn’t time to interrogate Chris about where we were, let alone why we were there. Before I could open my my mouth (which was already agape), the man was back, now holding a box.

He looked at me and asked Chris something in rapid fire Spanish. Chris looked in my direction, then laughingly shook his head and held up his hands, saying something that involved the words “no” and “gracias.” I couldn’t imagine what he thought I didn’t want – but I was happy to finally hear Chris say “no.”

Then it suddenly came to me. It was so obvious what was going on, I couldn’t believe that I didn’t figure it out earlier. Oh my god – he’s trying to sell us drugs.

But before I could begin to puzzle out why Chris would have even agreed to this detour trip, I was being ushered back to the cab. In a cloud of unintelligible banter and every fly previously stationed on the horse’s butt, I followed.

Safely back in the car and surrounded by my shopping bags, my anxiety began to fade. City Girl was back and mapping out the tirade the Chris would hear as soon as we were alone. At this point, I was certain that we were in fact, on our way back to the hotel. And I let out the last vestige of the breath that I was holding when that sparking sea came back into view.

We finally arrived back in Puerto Banus, and the minute the cab pulled away I rounded on a happily waving Chris. “What on earth were you thinking? WHY did you let him take us to that, that…whatever that place was? Did he try to sell us drugs?“

Chris just stared at me in utter bafflement and said, “What?"

Exasperated, I ranted, “that weird farm-like place! What were we doing there? He came out with a box and asked you something. Then you said, ‘no.’ Was he asking you if we wanted to buy drugs?!“

Still dazed, Chris said. “He asked if you wanted a ride on his horse. And we stopped there because his radio had died and he needed to pick up another one. That’s what was in the box. I figured that you were sleeping and we weren’t in a big rush to get back, so it wasn’t a big deal. He didn’t charge us for the extra time or anything.“


Well – that didn’t sound quite so bad, the way he explained it. I may have overreacted just a little bit. But I’m still a city girl at heart, and don’t assume that I’m safe with a stranger – no matter how nice they may seem.

I doubt we would encounter a situation like this again – and now that we have kids, Chris would be far more likely to take a conservative view of friendly strangers with cars. But either way, I like to think that he would remember my feelings on the subject, and at least give me a vote the next time.

We were newlyweds – and with every year of marriage, you get to know each other better. I now know that Chris is a good judge of character, and would never have put us in a situation that seemed like it could be dangerous. And Chris now knows that I prefer to be be informed of what’s going on – AND to be asked for my opinion before it is assumed.

But Chris did get one thing right all those years ago… You couldn’t have paid me enough money to sit on that fly-covered horse. Especially if it meant that I’d have to abandon my shopping bags.

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