We have left Gibraltar behind, traveling back through that gateway that brought us into the Med a year and a half ago. Timing is everything it seems, calculating slack time against the strong currents that carried us into the Med and favorable winds that will fill our sails for the 4 day crossing to the Canary Islands before we pushed off from the dock. We can't help but look back on a few things we've observed during our time sailing these waters and exploring on land.
Grocery stores have stairs and multi levels and sometimes are located in the middle of department stores, making it necessary to walk through clothing to reach the check out.
Everyone is so interested when we say we're from NY, assuming we mean NYC, they all seem to have a friend there, have visited or want to visit, and it seems easier to let them think that, there is zero interest in Buffalo, NY.
You have a very good life if you're born a European stray cat.
Grocery shopping is done daily, buying in bulk seems to be an American obsession, you can only fit so much in that small European cart.
Eating in Europe brings you so much closer to the food source, when you order fish you get the whole fish, head, tail, bones and all, when purchasing meat they will take out their hack saw and cut off the leg of the animal in front of you, and they eat animal and fish parts that we've never heard of.
Sometimes the language difference makes menu translations hard to understand, what exactly is castrated eggplant?
When you run into a confused man coming out of the women's room you realize that we aren't the only ones that sometimes struggle with the language.
Saying hi to every stranger you pass on the street is decidedly an American pastime, people are friendly here but not like that.
There are too many national holidays and religious parades to keep track of during the summer, it seems weekly, giving everyone a vacation day and closing stores, but leaving restaurants and bars always open.
You see a lot of NY sport team logos on shirts and hats but that doesn't necessarily mean they're fans, and most people wearing Boston Red Sox hats are not from Boston (trust me, Tony has asked).
Walking is the most common form of transportation in towns and yet parked cars are always blocking the sidewalks.
If they drive a car it will be tiny, scooter pick up trucks being among my favorites.
Rest area stops on highways have full bars serving alcohol, and often you need coins to use the bathroom.
The little ports that are never mentioned in travel books are often the most interesting.
Pizza has crossed all borders, every country has it's share of pizzerias, but Italy still has the best.
People do not travel lightly to go to the beach, they always bring umbrellas, picnic lunches, big coolers, blow up floats, soccer balls and tables and chairs.
Vendors at the beach sell everything imaginable and go to great lengths to bring it to you, pushing loaded down carts through waves and over rocks.
All boys of every age play soccer, I would like to say girls too, but honestly we've only seen the boys playing at the beach, piazzas and any 2'x2' space available.
Women love to congregate and talk, you can always catch a group standing in shallow water at the beach or yelling out from neighboring windows.
Men like to gather to smoke or watch someone work.
A bucket and pulley system is a great way to get your garbage down to the street and to bring your groceries up to higher floors, and is often used by workmen when remodeling.
There is always laundry hanging outside windows, rain or shine.
We can't help but wonder, are tourists the only ones eating at the authentic, local restaurants? Any place advertising a tourist menu is not somewhere you want to eat.
Graffiti artists are plentiful all over Europe.
Vending machines dispense everything imaginable, including marijuana and beer.
Gathering at cafes and restaurants is a social event, to-go service is generally frowned upon or nonexistent, and lingering over a meal is an art form.
They will never bring the bill until you ask for it (due to that lingering over a meal mind set), and are so happy with a 10% tip.
Nationalities seem to congregate in different countries to sail, rash generalizations maybe, but we have noticed a lot of Brits in Greece and Spain, Russians in Montenegro, Germans in Croatia, and mostly Italians in Italy.
It is much easier to rent a car, especially in small towns, with minimal paperwork, no credit card and cash. However they may give you a hard time renting a scooter with our recently renewed licenses, it's hard to explain that we have been driving longer than the six months stated.
They are very trusting, no payment in advance, even when staying in a hotel room payment isn't expected until you check out and no credit card is kept on file. The idea of dine and dash must have been invented on the other side of the Atlantic.
Post offices are mostly used to pay your bills not actually mail things, three different postal workers in Italy had to be consulted to see if they were able to mail post cards.
There is usually too much or not enough wind and it is either blowing right at your nose or dead down, giving us a new appreciation of those few and far between perfect sailing days.
The old boating rhyme, "red right return", when talking about the buoy system entering harbors in the US does not apply, "red left return" isn't quite as catchy but will keep you off the rocks.
Our time across the Atlantic has gone by so fast, well except when we're sailing in rough seas, gusty winds and pouring rain, then the clock seems to stand still. But for the most part our days have been sunny and short. We would always like more time, there are just so many places to visit, but we're so appreciative of the experiences we've had while we were here. Some Americans we met while still in the Caribbean had told us that they had been lonely while sailing in the Med, we were worried about that, but thankfully that wasn't the case. The language has at times been a challenge, you can't always have the conversations you really want, but we are so thankful for the friends we've made and the people that have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome. Sailing the long distances makes the world feel so large at times, but it does shrink in size when we realize just how much we have in common with people we've been fortunate enough to meet along the way.