Saturday, October 29, 2011

We Have A Plane Coming In for a Landing...Could All Pedestrians Please Clear the Runway!

One of the more crazy things we noted while we were in Gibraltar was the completely OPEN airport complex.  Coming from the United States where we had the September 11th terrorist attacks, airport security has gotten extremely tight, so it was really strange to drive and walk right across the Gib's only runway.  The airport is right at the Gibraltar-Spain border, so when you cross from Spain, if you want to go anywhere in Gibraltar, you have to cross the runway.  The first time we crossed it was on the public bus.  Out the window, you can see two pedestrians heading the other way towards Spain.
My husband read somewhere that planes land on Gibraltar about four times a day.  Here is an EasyJet plane coming in for a landing.  We watch from the Ape's Den up on the Rock...
 Here's my oldest as he sets out to cross the runway... 
 Here's a view straight down the was surreal!  Hasta luego!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday #74

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Mountain Is Steaming...Oh, Wait A Minute...

As we are driving towards Gibraltar, my husband spots this huge mountain, and says, "I think that's it.  I think that might be Gibraltar."  Hmmm....All I noticed was that there was a big cloud over it...probably raining and windy too...and all of us were in shorts and none of us had a jacket or sweatshirt...great...this should be fun!  Whining kids on a once in a lifetime trip...Where had I experienced that before...Monteserrat in Barcelona...but that is for another blog post...I'll blog about all my adventures eventually...Anyway, back to Gibraltar.  As we walked around Gibraltar, I noticed the cloud was always there at the top of the mountain.  It was like a cartoon character who has a rain cloud that follows him where ever he goes. 

Then, as we were riding around on the bus, it looked like the Rock was steaming.  I called my husband's attention to it, saying I couldn't believe how fast the clouds were moving.  He said he thought what we were seeing were clouds just as they were forming...In the video below, you can see how the wind off the ocean is slamming up against that steep slope and some how seems to be turning into clouds...

I sure wish I knew this guy's name, but his video is from and he confirms my husband's suspicions... 

I mean, seriously, how cool it that???  To see clouds actually being formed out of thin air...or as the guys says, out of rising and cooling air and humidity??  It's like Mother Nature was conducting a science experiment.  Here is a still shot...
I don't know how often this happens, as I had never heard of such a thing or read about this phenomenon in the guide book, but apparently it happened often enough to cause the movement of the original signal station to a different location.  This may have been the highest point on Gibraltar, but not the clearest...It was awesome...Hasta luego...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Guest Blogger Will Peach: Getting to Grips with Spanish-Speak Like A Pro In A Matter of Months!

What a treat it is to have a great guest blogger like the UK's Will Peach provide a post for my blog.  I've been looking at what he's doing over at and  I am amazed at the progress he's made with his Spanish in such a short time using free internet resources and a whole lot of gumption!  Enjoy this piece from Will and follow his blog!  Thanks, Will!--Ashleigh

Getting to Grips with Spanish: Speak like a Pro in a Matter of Months

Whether you’re planning a short trip, long holiday or even thinking of moving to Spain (lucky you!), the benefits of learning Spanish are huge. Not only does a little go a long way, but even with the most basic of commands you’ll find yourself getting under the skin of this fantastic country in no time.

Getting to grips with “la lengua”, in fact, is probably a whole lot easier than you think. Take my story here in Caceres, Extremadura, as a case in point. I used to think I was the worlds-worst language learner - with a memory like a sieve, until I arrived here with zero-Spanish and spent each day experimenting feverishly with learning strategies to see what would stick.
The result? I’m now speaking better, faster and clearer than ever before (check out my progress videos for proof) while moving closer to fluency each week. I’m not doing anything particularly special, nor have I spent a single penny on going to a class! That’s why I want to take the time to show you that you can do the same. Why not get started? Let’s make Spain our happy place! And one where we can speak the language too!

Can-Do Attitude

First and foremost, in order to learn the language at speed, we have to pay close attention to mentality and attitude. Going in with little confidence is unlikely to yield great results. The good news is the fact that you’re reading this blog. Taking an active interest in Ashleigh’s amazing experiences means that you’re probably more motivated than the next person about exploring Spain, its culture and its lifestyle.

Leverage this enthusiasm toward your language-learning attitude. Think of every hour of study as a way of enriching Spain, of bringing yourself closer to it. In breaking down the whole study process into small steps, and placing a level of importance on each one, you’ll find your motivation much easier to come by.
Don’t forget that nothing happens over night either. Especially not fluency!

Building the Foundations

That said a positive mind-set isn’t all you’re going to need. You won’t get very far if it’s not fed any juicy nuggets of information. What you put in to your study, just as the old philosophy goes, is exactly what you’ll get out. 

I’ve found the best base to start is by setting yourself the task of learning 20 new pieces of Spanish vocabulary a day. Whereas most people take the easy road with learning just one, some others around five, with 20 you’ll find yourself progressing at a much faster rate and with only having to put in a few more minutes of time too! It might sound like a bit of a tall order yet with free SRS software it’s actually very easy. Not only will these programmes have you up, running and learning 140 new words a week with no trouble, but they’ll also help you nail the pronunciation and spelling too.

The free flashcard app Anki is my weapon of choice. I simply can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s that revolutionary! All you have to do is let it sit on your desktop, download the 1000 most common Spanish words deck (do this within the programme), fire it up for ten minutes every morning and memorise all the new vocabulary that comes your way. Its spaced-repetition system means that you don’t forget things you learned way back when either!

It’s another good idea to top up your vocabulary base with a 10-minute daily scan of a Spanish text also. The news (and sites like El Pais and BBC Mundo) is a good starting point. Don’t worry about not understanding everything; these initial steps are all about recognising patterns and structures in the language!

Expanding the Base

As your vocabulary begins to build undoubtedly you’ll begin to notice small improvements each day. Time to take it to the next level by padding out the rest of your studies.

Don’t know where to start? I’ll tell you. Speaking! The number one most important thing to remain motivated, to get a sense of your own progress and actually enjoy learning Spanish is to start speaking it from the get-go. Yes, your vocabulary may be incredibly limited at first, but by building on it each day (and by reading) you’ll find yourself carrying conversations that little bit further. Practice with anyone and everyone. Spanish speaking children are a good start (or waiters or shop assistants) and remember: they don’t care if you make mistakes or stumble!

Combine speaking with starting to read aloud in Spanish during your studies (and increasing the amount of time you do so by slight increments each week). Not only will this help with pronunciation but you’ll also find yourself being able to incorporate phrases you read into your speech a lot more easily too.

Another great tip (and particularly important for listening) is to submerge yourself in Spanish radio and TV (you can stream Spanish TV for free here). Even while your passively listening to the language you’ll pick things up that will push you that little bit further.
Make it Fun

The last piece of the jigsaw is to simply make learning Spanish fun. This means pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and starting-out on that rapid route to fluency. How to do this? Mini-challenges. By setting yourself weekly goals, for example, holding two 5-minute conversations a day with random strangers, you’ll become much more motivated to learn and you’ll likely make many more friends in the process. Try this by heading to a public park or café. 

Don’t live in Spain? There’s no reason why you can’t start using Skype to connect with new people either. The best way to tie-this up is to make yourself accountable. That’s the idea behind Starting a blog will help push your learning all that little bit further!

Final Words

So even if you’re just starting out with your studies or haven’t yet begun, I hope you’ll find plenty here to help you get started. And remember: the only way to learn is to make mistakes. Each small failure? One step closer to giant success!
Will Peach is one of the site editors over at Gap Daemon, the gap year community website for backpackers and gap year travellers. You can see his Spanish progress over at his blog  You'll be amazed at how fluent he's become in such a short time and watching his videos are extremely inspirational for for anyone who's struggling to learn a foreign language.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More Monkeying Around on the Rock of Gibraltar!

Looking around from the top of the Rock, it's obvious the monkeys came here for the fabulous view!  But seriously folks, the official name for these monkeys is the Barbary Macaques, and sings say that it is most likely that these little cuties are NOT native to Gibraltar.  In fact, according to the signage, "[i]t is likely that they were brought to the Rock by the Moors, who may have brought these animals as pets with them from the Barbary.  The population of the Macaques on Gibraltar suffered a severe decline during the Second World War, when it has to be supplemented with individuals from North Africa." 

"Barbary Macaques are native to North Africa.  They once ranged from the Atlantic coast of Morocco to Tunisia and Libya. However, due to habitat loss and human persecution, their distribution has contracted sharply.  Nowadays, wild Barbary Macaques are only found in the more mountainous regions of Morocco and Algeria, and of course, Gibraltar.  The Barbary Macaque is classified as 'vulnerable' by World Conservation Union (IUCN).  It has unfavorable conservation status and action is required to ensure the survival of this unique animal in its natural habitats."
I always thought that the Rock of Gibraltar was a little barren island or large rock in the straight of Gibraltar.  Imagine my surprise when I out that the "Rock" is Gibraltar itself.  Everybody there lives ON the rock of Gibraltar which is actual connect to Spain, though it is a British Territory!  It was so cool!
Clouds forming over the tip top of the Rock!  So cool...blogging about that also later this week!
A look at this warning sign may help you understand why no one but my oldest wanted to try to pose with one of the monkeys.  He is famous for saying that you only need to worry about doing such things if you are afraid you are going to die...Ah, youth!  Our youngest, on the other hand, has always been a very old soul!
We were discussing whether or not we were going to walk down to the actual "Ape's Den" as they call, when one of the workers heard our discussion and encouraged us to go down.  He had heard us (my youngest and me) expressing our trepidation about going down to where there were even more monkeys.  We had already seen two young ones jump on some guys back.  He told us that the monkeys are very well taken care of by veterinarians, and are vaccinated against rabies and on flea and tick medication.  So I asked him, "I mean, really, how often is someone bitten by one of these monkeys?"  To which, he replied very matter-of-factly, "Everyday."  "Everyday????" I cried.  "Someone is bitten everyday?"  "Well, bitten or scratched," he said. "In fact, someone's already been bitten today."  When I asked him why people were being bitten, he said it's because they are trying to pet or feed them, which as you can see from the sign is strictly forbidden...Yeah, that's's cool to be a rule follower now, huh?
Here he is with his not-so-shy lady friend!

Think monkey makes me think of the fictional character Curious George!
The man told us they are not picking fleas or bugs off of eachother, they are picking off the dead skin...Exfoliating...okay, for the sake of my fear, I decided to believe this...
Watch this little monkey as he climbs up to a balcony at least 20 feet above him through a series of jumps.
Guess he wanted to see if this lady had anything in purse.
These monkeys have a nice life.  You can't be the weather.  They have medical care and their food is brought into them.  They enjoy the company of their family and entertain guests everyday!
...And don't forget that view!
This one is considering taking a ride down on the cable car...
This little baby is having a blast!
Totally oblivious to passersby...grooming takes precedence above decorum   in the Monkey World, apparently!
I love seeing all these monkey families!
Could motto be...Eat, Sleep and Be Merry!
This pic makes me want to hum the tune....Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay...
Of course, they like to perch on everything, including trees, rocks, stair, cars...and your head!
Another Warning Sign!!!  They much more docile with their mouths closed. Don't you think??  It is a £100 for touching the monkeys and £500 for feeding them...We saw people doing both...Apparently, these signs are enough of a deterrent...
When they look like this...nobody thinks they will bite...Someone gets bitten everyday, people...I'm just sayin'
This one wants to look at the view through the binoculars...
This is the sweet shot I posted previously of a mother and baby together.  It is just so sweet how this mother is kissing her little baby.  It is surely one of the sweetest things I have ever seen!  Again, this is why people want to reach out and touch them...

After getting some encouragement from the man who worked there, we took the VERY steep walk down to the Ape's Den.  The good news is that my knee held!  Way to go, Dr Ferrer!  The Ape's Den is about halfway down and since you'd never want to climb back up, you can walk out on that big arm and catch the cable car at the half-way point.  That was pretty scary, but better than walking...
This is what I'm talking about!!!  Are these people insane???  Who in the world would want one of these monkeys on their head exfoliating their scalp????  Brave or stupid? I guess it depends on whether or not you get bitten...
This German lady pulled out an orange for one of the monkeys and almost started a riot.  She gave it to one monkey, but then another came down and swiped it away, so the crawled back on top of the car.  I think her plan was to sit there until the lady gave her another one...And I thought the Germans were supposed to be rule followers, for the most part.  In their defense, the signs were only in English and Spanish...but seriously, we all know it goes without saying!
So we climbed the stairs to walk out on the arm where we could catch the cable car.  My youngest was nervous, so was I.  The whole thing would shake as the cable car got closer.  You find yourself praying that it's really secured to the side of that Rock!  these monkeys were running up and down the supports.  I was so nervous that would fall to their deaths!
And there's Africa...across the Strait of Gibraltar...not really too far of a trip for the original monkeys and their owners...
This guys came all the way out to the gate with us.  I turned to face him, so he wouldn't jump on my back.  These monkeys are certainly sure-footed, but also crazy...there is no net and it's a loooong way down!
My youngest was very happy to be safe inside the cable car and going down.  He had enough of those crazy monkeys for one day!  What an experience!  Hasta luego...


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