Our 1,000-mile sail from Horta in the Azores to mainland Portugal had been a mixed bag of motoring in windless, rolly seas, to beam-reaching across shimmering black water. My three boys were happy to step ashore after we made landfall in Lagos, a week after setting sail from the mid-Atlantic archipelago. While it wasn’t a terrible passage, it was the most uncomfortable, confused seas we had ever encountered and we were more than happy to pay the marina fees for a few nights of rest. As an Australian family, we had already used up almost two months of our 90-day visas, so shortly after arriving, we continued our journey east.
As Morocco’s borders were closed, we decided to head to Gibraltar and make our way up the southern Spanish coast to the Balearic Islands, where a jump to Tunisia, the closest non-Schengen country, could be made. An overnight sail from Albufeira, a lovely little Portuguese town, saw us arrive in Gibraltar during daylight hours, some 150 miles away.
Separating North Africa and Southern Europe, the Strait of Gibraltar is notoriously busy with boat traffic, so we proceeded carefully, happy to motor west to east through the highway of ships without incident. As The Rock appeared in front of us, the real challenge began. It seemed that it wasn’t the Strait that would cause us concern, but the Bay of Gibraltar itself. With the AIS and radar keeping an eye on ships, pleasure vessels, fast ferries, and even people in canoes, it was all hands on deck keeping watch for the oncoming traffic weaving its way through the anchored ships. We all breathed a sigh of relief when we arrived safely at La Linea, dropping the hook in a beautifully sandy spot on the Spanish side of the bay. From La Linea, it was a short walk to the ‘soft border’ between Spain and Gibraltar, where Spanish and British border control personnel check passports or ID cards. Once on the British side, the amazing town of Gibraltar, complete with red phone booths, British pubs, cannons, and the ever-towering rock, can be enjoyed.
Seville had always been on my must-see list, and from La Linea, it was only a two-hour drive inland. Hiring a car for the weekend, we set off for this iconic Spanish city. Seville is famous worldwide for its monuments, culture, food and flamenco dancing. Its maze of streets are barely wide enough to fit a small car, making driving around the old town a challenge. The shopping, restaurants, cafés, parks, and streets were filled with people enjoying the summer, flamenco ringing out in the streets as performers danced their traditional dances to the rhythm of the guitar. But it is the architecture that really sets the scene in this 2,000-year-old city. As darkness fell, the Seville Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lit up the night sky and towered above those below it. Built in the 15th century, it is the fourth-largest church in the world. We lingered for a few days, staying in a traditional city apartment, complete with internal courtyard. We witnessed a traditional Spanish wedding in front of the cathedral and soaked in the city’s atmosphere while eating tapas and drinking sangria and cerveza.
Our appetite whetted by Seville, we decided to apply for a visa extension. We also didn’t fancy making the 1,000-mile sail direct to Tunisia, having just so recently spent a week at sea. While the process wasn’t exactly easy, we were eventually granted a 90-day extension that allowed us to continue our journey to the Balearics in a more leisurely fashion.
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