Skip to Content

Apes, Dolphins, Live Runways, and Cuban Cigars

August 7, 2007

Spent a week being a total tourist on the southern coast of Spain. Very relaxing – went swimming in the Mediterranean, read Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, and ate. Spent some time thinking about my next piece, for the New York All-State Symphonic Band – more on that later.

On Tuesday, we took a side-trip to Gibraltar, which is a mere 70 km away from where we stayed. Gibraltar is still the property of the UK, so it’s like walking into a tiny British town on the southern tip of a Spanish peninsula. It’s famous for the Rock of Gibraltar, also known as the Pillar of Hercules, and dominates the town:

Bizarrely, you have to cross the airport runway to actually enter Gibraltar – the runway spans the entire width of the peninsula on the border with Spain. They must close the road whenever a plane is arriving or departing. It’s like a railway crossing, except with airplanes. Here’s a panoramic shot:

They’re serious about keeping litter off the runway, as you can see here:

There was another sign I neglected to get a picture of, which essentially said “You are entering a live runway. Please cross quickly.”

Here’s a shot from the runway as we crossed it:

The accent is interesting here – being British, they all learn British English in school, but use Spanish in the streets, so everyone speaks both languages, with a bizarre Spanish/British English hybrid accent.

Anyway, we took a taxi tour up on the Rock. The sights include St. Michael’s cave and the Galleries (now called the Siege Tunnels), but really, the main attraction: wild Barbary macaques. They are the only wild apes on the European continent. About 250 or so live here. As the composer of Monkey (and one whose publishing company is named Gorilla Salad Productions), it was somehow appropriate.

This one had some sort of magical king-fu balance trick on the railing:

This one appears to be up to something nefarious:

Perhaps stealing ice cream from passing tourists (our tour guide said these guys eat a lot of ice cream):

picture courtesy of Wolfgang Auinger

What’s cuter than apes? Baby apes! Nothing like a cool swim on a hot day in the Mediterranean:

picture courtesy of Wolfgang Auinger

Cuddle-time. The ape is considerably more comfortable with the situation than Verena:

This one was more interested in the food in my front pocket than posing for pictures:

After apes, what next? Dolphins, of course. We headed out into the bay and tried to capture the dolphins on camera, which is kind of tricky, I discovered. They’re fast. Here’s one just before breaking the surface:

Coming up very briefly for a breath:

picture courtesy of Wolfgang Auinger

Dolphin family:

After apes, dolphins, and crossing live runways in the Mediterranean summer sun, all I wanted was my Cuban cigar (purchased legally in Gibraltar) and Cuba Libre (with Havana Club 7 Cuban rum) to wind down.

Here’s Wolfgang and I enjoying the fine pleasure of a smoke together. The lovely thing about a cigar is that you get to savor even a small one for well into the next day, no matter how many times you brush your teeth…