What I Was Doing on a Naval Base in Rota

Posted by Tni Newhoff on Friday, August 10th, 2007 at 7:07 am
Position: 36.6291 by -6.3544 map

Our first stop in Spain was Ayamonte. We stayed there only a few days before heading on to Rota which is just across the bay from Cadiz in the heart of Andalucia.

Ten miles offshore, I tune into a radio station. It’s playing American tunes. This comes as no surprise, throughout the Azores, Portugal, and Spain, we’ve been listening to radio stations that mix local music with popular American music. What did come as a surprise was when the announcers came on and they were American. We’d forgotten that we had read that there was an American naval base in Rota. Our guidebook for Spain is a little outdated but it did warn that Rota was a bit overrun with “unpicturesque Americans from the largest naval base in the region” (ugghh, that did not paint a pretty picture). This was actually not our experience at all in Rota and strangely, we did not run into any Americans while we were there.

I later got the full low down on the base first hand. Joan (from Moonstruck) and I both needed to have prescriptions refilled. Of course we could probably find them somewhere in Europe but would first have to see a doctor – time, hassle, money. We came up with the harebrained scheme to see if we couldn’t get them from the pharmacy on the base. American base, American doctors, American meds. The guys were dubious. We were optimistic. We were out in search of a flea market that I had bumped into the week prior. We were in the neighborhood so we figured we’d drop in. Getting in was not easy, as I imagine it should not be. It turns out, as explained by our escort Zachary (yes, we were escorted every step that we took on the base), that the base is actually not an American base but a Spanish base that they grant us use of per an agreement that Franco made with Eisenhower in 1953. Apparently, this is the last jumping off point for all military, not just naval, headed to Iraq. Something having to do with refueling needs. It also turns out that as long as the Spanish gave us permission, we were free to enter the base. It took some time, but finally we were allowed entry, not as I said though, without a full time escort. I don’t intend to use this blog as a political platform, but what I can say is that everyone was really nice to us and the doctors were great and perfectly willing to help us out. In the end, we weren’t even charged a cent. I’d never been on a military base before and I think we were both in a bit of disbelief that we actually got on. We couldn’t get the full tour though (not that we didn’t try). On our way towards the exit of the base what should there be but a Baskin & Robbins. Our very gracious escort, a kid not more than 21, took us for a cone.

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