Our first evening ended with night caps in the hotel bar by the pool which was accessed by a sort of flyover walkway; you went through a door from the lounge, up some stairs and then across the street via a glass walkway before descending some more stairs into the bar which was situated in the Bristol’s own private walled garden. That routine would become a regular one throughout the week as a sort of last stop oasis whenever we got back from wherever we’d been. Eventually by the time I ‘hit the sack’ on that first night I was totally cream-crackered. Next thing I knew it was morning!
I’m not especially good first thing in the morning; my eyes have a tendency of waking up long before my body which always needs a really hot shower to get the old muscles and bones moving. Some of that is about age and arthritis but some of it is also about being someone who totally loves bed, particularly when I wake up in the mornings. Sometimes it can take me a while to drift off at night (because of discomfort/pain in my shoulder) but then (what I find criminal) when I wake up in the morning is that I’m at my absolute most comfortable as though I’ve mounded into the mattress and (although I have a great reluctance to move) I have to get out.
“Alan! Wake up! You’re doing the Med Steps Challenge today. Alan!!”.
After being unceremoniously evicted from my nice warm bed onto the floor it crossed my mind that for a slim woman, thirteen days older than me, she still packed a clout though looking up at the ceiling the penny slowly began to drop – ‘YES!’. After months of looking at that poster above my desk at work – (that one taken from up the Rock with loads of sunshine beaming down) – I was FINALLY going to climb the MedStepsChallenge TODAY!
“Don’t think you’re going anywhere without a good breakfast in your belly first and don’t forget to take your water” Carol continued.
Breakfast at the Bristol was a simple help-yourself affair with toast, cereal, fruit and yogurts which suited me really well because traditionally I don’t eat much till lunchtime. However to keep the peace I managed to rammed down a couple of slices of toast followed by a tea and a coffee and just as I was digesting it all the reception lady called over to me that my taxi had arrived. Carol, Sheila and Joe had decided to spend the morning relaxing and sun-bathing by the pool and so as I departed they all bid me farewell and good luck with the kind of look on their faces that suggested I was as mad as a box of frogs; relatively speaking I think they would all rather have stuck pins in their eyes than climb Gibraltar although by the same token they all knew how much it meant to me.
Sitting in the taxi as it wound its way up to Jews Gate was about as good as it could get for me; even a lottery win would have faded into boring compared to that. Passing so many familiar places was such a reassuring experience and seeing new developments was so exciting too – particularly because I thought the ‘modern’ blended in so well with the ‘old’. Seeing so many new high rises reminded me of Hong Kong which (like Gibraltar) only had one development choice and that too was upwards. My initial feeling was a sort of positive fascination with the hope that most of the Old Town hadn’t been touched.
Ten minutes after leaving the Bristol we arrived at Jews Gate where the crowds were a-gathering and some discerning climbers had already set off on their first lap. As I got out of the taxi and morphed into one of the crowd I felt a total sense of belonging.