Friday, March 6, 2009

Rota! It's where I'm at! PART 1

I get asked a lot, “What is there to do in Rota?”

It may seem it would be obvious what is going on, but it isn’t. The base is a small one and, unless you have a job, quite sleepy. Off-base, Rota can be difficult to navigate (see driving video at bottom of blog), so you may end up in the same places. The locals are friendly enough to Americans, but unless you know Spanish, you won’t get many suggestions from them. Also, the locals and long-timer Americans seem to have the yearly calendar memorized, so there is no need to advertise the big, fun things happening right outside your door. Many times, I have fallen asleep to fireworks, thinking, “Dang it! And I was so bored earlier!” Or I went out one day to find the streets in shambles from the huge town fiesta the night before.

I will explain some starting points, but this is in no way a definitive guide. I am still figuring things out, and the best way to explore Spain, is simply to go outside and, well, explore!

Part 1 - On Base:
The first thing you need to do when you get to Rota is go to the
Traveler Section of the MWR website. ITT is the section of MWR that organizes trips close and far. They are very affordable, and John loves them, because he does not have to do the driving, which can be quite boring through all the farmland outside of Rota.

Next, pick up the monthly schedule from Fleet and Family Support. They have 2 fantastic Spanish people working there who organize smaller trips FULL of interesting tidbits about the culture and area, and most of their stuff is free. It is with Rosa and Clemente that I learned
how to make Spanish food, learned about jamon and olive oil at the grocery store, and toured the Sherry Bodega. They love what they do, and it shows in their willingness to demystify traditions and ease culture shock.

Because I work there, I must mention the gym. I love it! It is way better than the barn in Patuxent River, and we always have tons of programs always going on. Sports, tournaments, classes (aerobic, spin, water aerobics, yoga, dance, bootcamp, circuit training, etc), races, and more! This weekend is a half marathon, there will be a triathlon in June, and soccer starts next week again for John. We also have a

Eating on base is not good and gives you every reason to leave base and try new things. We have Taco Bell (for the 2 of us, it comes to $30 and I always think, “This is the last time.” Oh, and the beans taste like cardboard), Subway (yawn), KFC (do people still eat that crap???), a hamburger place at the airport (plate of grease and a coffee anyone?), and Champions (a sportsbar and café that is dark and depressing, but DO try the Monolo Special, a breakfast sandwich). The Spanish people loooove to come on base for 2 reasons: Baskin Robbins and Pizza Villa, which means these places are usually really crowded. Pizza Villa is boring but decent, and their gigantic calzones are quite good. The only reason we eat so much of it? They deliver.
Update Nov 2009: this is soon to change! We are so excited!! The grill once at Champions is now at the Bowling Alley. They still have the Manolo Special (Thank Heaven!) Champions will soon host an Asian food place that may or may not be run by a local favorite. Update later!

Also on base, we have a small library and small movie theater. They are not exciting but serve their purpose. We have an indoor pool, outdoor pool open in Summer, bowling alley, and small stretch of beach. Go to Expeditions (right by ITT, across the street from the gym) to rent bikes, kayaks, camping gear, or try the rock climbing wall.
The beauty salon is hit and miss.
The commissary (grocery store to the unmilitary) is surpisingly well stocked. I can get most of my favorites, but I do have to import real taco sauce and cayenne pepper. Sugar-free seems to be a bad word here. Thankfully, they have started carrying whole wheat pasta and bison meat (I am on the Clean Eating lifestyle).
The Navy Exchange (department store) is OK. The electronics and kitchen sections are complete and great. Clothes, bathroom decor, make-up, and pet food sections are not. This is my 1st overseas NEX, so I hesitate to judge too harshly. Ijust thank God for the great malls off-base.

Off-base is where the real fun is, so in the next post I will go over what Rota, Puerto, and a couple other close towns have to offer.

Part 3 will be about longer trips to other Spanish cities and beyond Spain-- what is popular and some tips.

I hope this is beginning to answer to some questions. If not, just give me a


Pamela said...

Loved this, Jenn! Although there are only two billets for my husband's job in Rota and only one of them ever lines up with when we're supposed to PCS, we like to think that one day we'll end up in Rota! My husband was stationed there as a single E-3 out of A school and loved it!

Jenn: said...

It is gorgeous and it is chill.
We love it and honestly, 3 years is not enough.
I hope you make it here soon, Pamela!

sandye hardy said...

HI! we are new here at the base in rota. I love your post! it's true about the cayenne pepper.. my mom has already had to mail me some! lol. anyway, great blog! I plan on going to the gym soon, i really need to so i'll have to remember to look for a redhead so i can say hi! :)

Anonymous said...

Jenn, i just found your blog. it's good to know that you're enjoying your time here in Rota. i worked on the Base for many years and am now retired and living in Rota. there's a web site - - where you can find a schedule (Boletin) of what's going on in Rota. it covers either the first two weeks or the last two weeks of each month and it's in english. joanna

Jenn: said...

Sandye, I found the cayenne! It is under red pepper then in small letters "cayenne pepper". I never would have looked there. I swear it is a different bottle than it was last time I bought it. I still have Del Scorcho sauce from Del Taco snet to me though. ;0)

Joanna, thanks so much for the site. I will check it out!

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