The 2013 spat between Spain and the UK over Gibraltar reminded this writer of a day trip she took to The Rock, while she was enjoying a two-week vacation in the Algarve. At that time, even without a disagreement between the two countries, entering Gib took a little time. Nothing I imagine compared to the hold ups experienced by visitors during the 2013 dispute.
The location of Gibraltar, one of the UK's last bastions of our colonial past, means that any peace is always uneasy.
With the United Kingdom set to leave the European Union in the near future who really knows what will happen to Gibraltar?
Gibraltar may still appeal to you as a travel destination, be it for a day, a long weekend or a full blown vacation and with BRexit in mind now may be a good time to visit.
Here is a review of our visit.
Location of Gibraltar
Gibraltar is to be found at the entrance to the Mediterranean sea. It is a headland overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar. On a clear day you can see the coast of Africa with Tangiers in the distance.
Over the years there has been some dispute over who Gibraltar belongs to. As it is on mainland Spain you may think that ownership would be a simple matter. However you would be wrong. Currently Gibraltar is British and is very much so.
This means that when you enter the tiny province you have to go through passport control. However this is by no means the only strange thing that you will find if you visit Gibraltar.
We visited Gibraltar from The Algarve, on Portugal's Southern Coast. It was a long tiring journey but ultimately worth the effort. However visiting for only a day just gives you a taster of Gibraltar and that is what I will try to offer here.
For all that travelling we only had four or five hours in Gibraltar but it was enough to get a feel for the place. There were other brief visitors, such as passengers from cruises, that had docked at Gibraltar to take advantage of the duty free purchases available.
We arrived by coach and had to disembark and walk across the frontier and through passport control. As our guide told us, we could wait and drive across but it would take ages. This was obviously so, and there was a huge line of traffic attempting to cross the frontier.
We had booked our excursion in Albufeira and our travel rep had also booked tickets for a tour of the Rock for those keen to see this wonder. We walked through passport control and headed for our parked mini van, which would take us up the Rock. Not everyone had chosen to take part and so there were about a dozen of us on board.
As we set off we were curious to see that we had crossed over the airport's runway. If a plane is due to land or take off gates, similar to those at railway crossings, close and the traffic has to wait before it can move again. No wonder there are such long traffic queues.
Our driver headed toward the base of the Rock and started to wind his way upward. The roads are in good order but there are times when they are a little narrow.
As you head upwards you pass the old British Naval bases which are no longer in operation. There are many optional sights to see. Our rep had booked a tour of St Michael's Caves for us. These caves have stalactites and stalagmites which are all lit for great viewing. The tour ends in a huge part of the caves that has been made into an auditorium. There were rows of seats stacked high and a concert had been held here the night before. I imagine the acoustics are phenomenal but the setting must be strangely eerie. As you leave the caves there is the regulation tourist shop.
This tour was interesting but may not be suitable for those with mobility issues.
We continued our upward journey which soon brought us to the main viewing point of the Barbary Macaques. These are often referred to as Apes but apparently are wild monkeys. There are different stories about how this colony of monkeys ended up on Gibraltar as they are native to Africa. However no-one could give us a conclusive reason for their presence. There is an old British saying that goes along the lines of, if and when the Apes leave Gibraltar Britain will no longer rule the Rock.
For many including me these monkeys were one of the main reasons to visit Gibraltar. I wanted to see the Rock and its views, but was looking forward to seeing these monkeys. I was not disappointed.
The tour guide advised everyone not to touch the monkeys. Overall they are wild animals and can bite and infect you. However there were many tourists and guides who did not obey these rules. We did. My Hubby was a little unsure of the monkeys and did not want to get too close, anyway. I got close but in an observational sort of way.
There were older monkeys, tiny babies and whole families. They dart about and swing precariously from walls that overhang steep drops to the town below. All too soon we were to move on and we walked along the road to the mini van.
From here we could see the cable car which also takes visitors up the Rock. I quite fancied this but others did not. The guide didn't. Probably because it could make him unemployed but as he quite rightly said there was only the "huge cable supporting it and, if it were to snap, a terrifying drop down".
The views from here were terrific, and still we climbed a little further.
Our final stop was near the Mosque where there are spectacular views over the water toward Africa and Tangier. On the whole Gibraltar is a Christian community but it does have such a multicultural population that many religions are practised here.
There were many ships anchored out in the bay, which they use as a tax dodge. The day we visited the sky was clear and we could make out Africa clearly.
Our trip did not take us to the highest tip of the Rock but far enough to enjoy the scenery and the fresh clean air.
The rest of our visit was spent in the town lunching and shopping. The main street was strange as it was full of bunting made up of Union Jacks. At first glance it was as if you were in a market town in England. After all there are traditional English red telephone boxes scattered around. However we do not have these in England anymore. The flags it seemed were from the previous days celebrations.
We purchased some cigarettes for hubby and some whiskey for a relative at home, and that was about it. However others shopped until they dropped.
Here are a few hints and tips, learned from our visit:
Just a few Gibraltar facts
Gibraltar is definitely worth seeing. I would not like to spend a whole vacation here but a long weekend would be lovely. There is plenty to see and do for a short break.
Gibraltar has a fascinating history but this blog is about my brief visit and whether or not such a visit would interest you. I would have to say that it probably would as Gibraltar is such a unique place, it is definitely worth seeing, at least once.
(Information correct at time of visit)
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