Tuesday, March 4

Morocco-Andalucia, Day Seven: Burning Boats

After a well deserved late start, I went to investigate ferries to Spain. The intention was to follow in Tariq ibn Ziyad's footsteps and land at Gibraltar (but without the boat burning). Bizarrely, it turns out that ferries to Gib only leave once a week, and that on Fridays, so I decided to get the quickest and cheapest crossing instead, the one to Algeciras via Tarifa.

I met an Iraqi Mancunian on the ferry; he had a holiday home in Tanger and was heading back to the UK via Malaga. The crossing was made much better with the new company, although we had to part ways when we got off the bus at Algerciras.

Still miffed that I hadn't landed at Gib, I went through my options. There was an hourly bus to La Linea on the Gib-Spain border which would have provided me a tight 90 minutes or so on the Rock before having to return to Algeciras in order to set off for Seville. Luckily however I got my rental car early and drove straight there instead.

Forty minutes later and I was back in British territory. Gibraltar is a very strange place. It's like you're in Britain but not quite; all the road signs, buildings and people are clearly British and yet there are small things like having to drive on the right that makes it Not Quite Right. It really is surreal.

All in all I spent a couple of hours in Gib. I offered prayers at the relatively impressive mosque at Europa Point adding yet more feelings of being in some kind of alternate reality, but spent most of my time driving up and down Upper Rock taking in the views, people and monkeys so tame that they approach and play with you.

I quite liked Gib, and being able to spend a good few hours there vindicated the decision to rent a car. More and more, travelling to Europe for me means to rent a car as well, especially when sharing. European roads are so good that there's no hassle learning them and having access to your own transport makes things so much more easy and flexible. My top tip for travelling is to consider renting a car.

The vehicle itself was just a Fiat Punto, but it was better than what I had actually paid for - I've almost always got free upgrades when renting and I never pay for more than the minimum class knowing this. The Punto even had Bluetooth and a USB socket into which I could plug my iPod. On the other hand it was a diesel which didn't help while navigating Gibraltar. I also had a bit of an altercation: between driving on the wrong side of the road and Gibraltar's narrow roads I managed to crack the passenger wing mirror. I'd better get that fixed before I return the car; I'm sure the rental company will make me pay dearly if I don't.

Just as I was hitting the border back into Spain my friend rang to tell me he was about to depart from Stansted. The race was on: I now had to make it to Seville a couple of hours away in order to pick him up. An hour spent crossing the border itself as well as the police check that followed weren't really encouraging, but somehow I managed to make it just in time. It felt like I had been on my own for weeks rather than days so I was really glad for the company.

After a bit of trouble finding the hotel (it's non-central but only a bus ride away) we checked in. The four star was certainly the most impressive place I had stayed in over the past few weeks' travelling and I was glad that I wouldn't be roughing it for once.

Dinner was surprisingly difficult to find - Seville goes to be pretty early it seems. Once again we were saved by the rental car and a after a while driving around we managed to find a pizza place that was still open. I realised that for the first time on my recent travel I had to consider whether my food was halal or not and how I had gotten used to not having to worry about what went into my mouth.

With Morocco a fading memory, I was at last in Spain.