It was time to move on, most of the repairs had been made and parts replaced, we were done waiting. As much as we enjoyed our time in Lagos we were ready to explore new ports. The long preparation to make the passage across the Atlantic had consumed all our time, we had been taking care of the boat and crew for the past two months. Now it was time to change gears and get back into the routine of daily life, sailing from port to port and experiencing new people, places and of course, food.
It didn't take long to get used to being on board a moving ship again, in fact it felt great to no longer be sedentary. Our sights were set on Gibraltar, the gateway to the Mediterranean, with a few stops along the way. There was the small Portuguese fishing village of Culatra with it's sidewalks for main streets, tractors for transportation, boardwalks through marshes to the beach, calm harbor anchorages and the freshest grilled seafood. We visited San Antonio on the river dividing Portugal and Spain, catching a ferry between the two countries and getting confused over which language we should be speaking, our pronunciation being so bad with either we're not sure it really mattered. Then onto the Spanish city of Cadiz with Phoenician ruins, cathedrals, beaches among roman ruins, and religious parades through the streets. Everywhere we rode bikes on the paved bike paths through city centers and along the beach, with rugby tournaments and family picnics being enjoyed along the way.
Arriving in Gibraltar was cause for celebration, we had finally reached the med after months of preparation and travel. Fish and chips were on the menu and Guinness on tap, it was a bit of the UK transplanted, and most people understood our English. We made a trip up the rock, met the kleptomaniac monkeys, visited the caves and cheered for England in the semifinal match of the World Cup, which was sadly lost in overtime. And since we were so close to Africa, we had to visit Morocco while it was at our finger tips. After a bus ride across the airport tarmac, a walk back through the Spanish border and a ferry ride across the Strait of Gibraltar we arrived in Tangier. Nothing we had read prepared us for the beauty of the place. The local guide took such pride in showing us around and telling us the history and lore of the city, the pillars of Hercules, roman caves, tours of the Kasbah behind the old city walls, camel rides along the beach and the local market in the medina. There is just so much history per square foot, we tried hard to absorb it all, and it helped to be nourished with a tasty moroccon lunch of shish kabob and tagine while being serenaded by local musicians.
After sailing on from Gibraltar we returned to life in Spain, hopping along the coast from port to port. There is something new to experience in each place we visit and so much to learn. Duolingo is helping us brush up on the language enough to find the bano, order pescado or carne, cerveza or vino, say por favor and gracias, and ask donde? Hard to have meaningful conversations with our limited language skills, but we keep trying, aware of the fact that by the time we start to feel more comfortable with Spanish it will be time to learn Italian. The cataplana dish in Portugal has been replaced with paella, Portuguese port with Spanish sherry and we left the tiled sidewalks behind to enjoy relaxing on the tiled benches of Spain. Hard to keep up with all the changes as we go, but fun to try.
And our education continues. We have learned that locals seem to have a six sense that Tony is incapable of saying no. The merchants on the streets of Morocco were relentless and anyone needing a euro for their next meal makes a beeline for Tony. For some reason even those selling drugs seem to gravitate towards him, to those he has thankfully mastered the art of saying no, but for everyone else he always seems to find some loose change. He is helping out the local economy one person at a time. We have learned that time in Europe has a whole new meaning. Working early hours in the construction field in no way prepared us for the late European hours, nothing opens before 9:00 am, lunch is at 2:00 and dinner never before 9:00 pm. We wonder how kids seem to be able to stay up later than we can, suddenly we understand the usefulness of the Spanish siesta. We have learned that catching a fish is bittersweet. After finally reeling one in we were not prepared for the guilt we felt when he was flopping around the deck. Frantically we tried to get the hook out of it's mouth so we could throw him back, when we failed at that we decided that his life would not be in vain and totally enjoyed every meal that he provided. We have easily learned to love the tapas bars in Spain, where we order one drink and it includes one free tapas, pay 3 euros and dinner is included (small dinner for sure, but a great deal). And we have learned the answer to that age old question, "how many Spaniards does it take to successfully run down a greased log hanging over the water to capture the Spanish flag waving at the end?" Quite a few it seems, someone finally did make it to the end of that log though to grab the flag with a raucous crowd cheering him on.
And while we're learning we can't help but wonder, did we always enjoy furthering our education quite this much?