Christmas Base of Ops

Christmas Base of Ops

Rota, Spain – December 23, 2011


I call this blog “Christmas Base of Ops” because we will stay in Rota, Spain and head out from there for several day trips during our Christmas vacation.

The four of us departed from our home this morning at about 05:20. We ultimately arrived at the Rota Naval Base at about 11:30. The drive was a little taxing, much as it was 25 months ago when we spent Thanksgiving here. On the trip two years ago, we drove the entire distance in the rain. On this trip, we were in and out of fog until we were about 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of Rota. We were thankful when we finally drove out of the mist. We were able to enjoy the scenery as we dropped out of the higher ground to the city of Seville. Seville’s average elevation is 25 feet.

We drove through Seville and headed on south via the AP-4 (toll road). When we were about 50 kilometers north of Rota, we drove back into the fog. It remained foggy all the way to the Navy Gateway Lodge on Rota Naval Base.

At the main gate to the base, we stopped to obtain a pass for our vehicle. This time, because of our license plates and our diplomatic passports, the guards told us we could pass through.

The staff at the lodge were amiable. While we were checking in, one of the men printed the weather forecast for our stay. We have two rooms here, both nicely appointed with a bedroom, bathroom, and a living room. There are large, flat-screen televisions in the living room and bedroom. In the living room, there is also a coffee maker, microwave, and small refrigerator-freezer.

During our drive, at about the halfway mark, we stopped to get gas. While we were there for our “pit stop,” we bought some of those small chocolate donuts. Tyler and I ate those because the women did not want any. They were not great, but they did take the edge off. By the time we arrived in Rota, both ladies were ravenously hungry.

When we got to our rooms, we tossed our luggage in and went back to the car. We drove a couple of blocks to the base Navy Exchange (NEX) complex. We went inside and immediately had Subway sandwiches. They were outstanding since we have not had one in a long, long time.

When we finished our lunch, we walked into the NEX (the portion that sort of reminds me of a Walgreen’s store). Leslie and I bought several things, including some wine and snacks for later. After leaving that part of the NEX, we walked into the part of the NEX that reminds me of a Wal-Mart. Of course, we bought several things there too. Lastly, we walked into the commissary. That is the grocery store. We bought a few American grocery items that are hard to find in Madrid.

After all of that, it was back to the room for a well-deserved nap!

We woke up and headed into the town of Rota. The waterfront is only about two kilometers from the lodge. We parked at the port and began our walk. We walked to the plaza in front of the Our Lady of the O Church. There was a life-size nativity scene in front of the church.

The marina at Rota, Spain.
The Honey Don’t Cry restaurant and bar.
The archway under the old lighthouse.
Barely visible on the horizon is the city of Cádiz, Spain.
Sunset over the Rota jetty.
The current Rota lighthouse.
In the distance, through the archway, is the Our Lady of the O Church.
The old and the new lighthouses.
The Our Lady of the O Church.
A portion of the life-size nativity scene in front of the church.

On the side of the Our Lady of the O Church are two artworks in ceramic tile.  The first shows Jesus carrying his cross.  The tiles read, “In the persistent drought of 1917, the town of Rota, suffering at the prospect of tremendous misery, fervently implored Jesus Nazareth and the triduum; and on the night of the last day, December 21, His venerated image was taken out in procession of penance, the sky suddenly darkening, providentially falling copious amounts of rain during the course of that and successive days until remedying the prevailing calamity. In perpetual memory, the children of this village dedicate this memorial of gratitude to their most loving Father.”

The second set of tiles depict Mary.  The tiles, honoring the 100th anniversary of the Immaculate Conception dogma, read, “The illustrious, city council, brotherhoods, pious associations and confraternities to the most Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the first centenary of the dogmatic proclamation of the mystery of Her Immaculate Conception. Rota – Marian year 1954.”

A tile scene on the side of the church depicting Jesus.
A tile scene on the side of the church depicting Mary.
A water fountain at Plaza del Padre Eugenio.
Flags in front of the municipal building.
Orange trees lining the Plaza Barroso.
The Sabor Restaurant.
View along Calle Pedro la O. Note the three kings at the upper windows.


Just about 100 meters (328 feet) from the church we stopped at a small souvenir shop. Leslie bought a magnet for her collection. I bought a sticker for my journal.

We continued walking, heading in the general direction of the pedestrian mall we had stumbled upon the last trip. On the way, we found the Plaza de Espana. Just around the corner from there, we found our way back to La Plaza bar. We had stopped here the last time we were in Rota. The bar takes its name from the Plaza de Andalucía. We had two vino tintos, one cerveza, one Coca Light, and a small bag of potato chips. All of that came to a whopping 7.30€ (US$8.90). I love small town prices in Spain!

The flags at city hall.
Signs outside the Chapel of Charity.
Detail of the tile depiction of Our Lady of Sorrows on the wall of the Chapel of Charity.
The La Plaza Cafeteria y Cerveceria.
The Christmas tree in the Plaza de Andalucía.
Mojitos, Sangría, and Caipirinha are available.
The Christmas tree in Plaza de Andalucía.

There were several Christmas lights in the plazas and the pedestrian mall. There was also a group of three young women dressed up in white clothing and wearing fake carrots over their noses. They were pushing a shopping cart decorated as a small float. They had a CD player with them, playing Christmas carols. They were also making balloon animals. At one point, Leslie approached them and asked if they had any Christmas carols in English. They did not. So, she asked if they knew the song Feliz Navidad. Of course, they did. Thus, the three of them and Leslie sang for a while for all passers-by to enjoy.

I understand the concept of singing Christmas carols. However, I never wholly followed the reason for the costumes and the fake carrot noses…

Christmas revelers.

Christmas revelers II.
Ships for sale. According to the sign, one may inquire at the Italian ice cream shop.
Pedestrians on Calle Charco.
A storefront on Calle Charco.
Christmas at number 17.
We met up with the Christmas revelers on Calle Charco.
Leslie singing with the Christmas revelers.

From there we made our way to Plaza San Roque. There, the Holy Christ of the True Cross Church was open. We went inside and bought a rosary for a friend in the U.S. The church was lovely on the inside. I took a few photos.

A different nativity scene in one of the storefronts on Calle Charco.
Decorated for the season.
The Christmas tree in front of the Holy Christ of the True Cross Church.
Tile art on the wall of the Holy Christ of the True Cross Church.  The phrase at the bottom reads, “Holy Christ of the true cross, have mercy on us.”
In the Holy Christ of the True Cross Church, we found Jesus on a donkey.
Detail of Jesus on a donkey.
A woman kneeling before the altar.
Detail of the altar.
San Roque Plaza.
La Regadera (the shower) flower shop.
The arrow seems to be pointing to Santa.
The life-size nativity scene at night.


We began our march back to the car. In doing so, we went back by the Our Lady of O Church. It was open this time. Tyler and I went inside. It was quite a beautiful church. I took several photos of the interior.

The Our Lady of O Church dates from the 16th century, around 1537. Try as I might, I am unable to determine the meaning of the name of the church.

I went to get the car, came back near the church, picked everyone up, and drove back to the lodge. Once there, we opened a bottle of wine and ordered a pizza.

Interior of Our Lady of O Church.
A side chapel in Our Lady of O Church.
Detail of Mary and Jesus in Our Lady of O Church.
Ceramic tiles in the Our Lady of O Church.
A depiction of Mary and Jesus in the Our Lady of O Church.  It seems this figure dates from the 1500s.
Another depiction of Mary and Jesus.
Mary over the body of Jesus.
Detail of the depiction of Mary.
Detail of the depiction of Jesus.
The lighthouse at night.
Another view of the lighthouse.

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