The first port of call on our Canaries adventure was Gibraltar. This British enclave at the bottom of Spain is a city and a country in its own right. With a population of only about 35,000 it is the size of many British market towns. Yet it is more vibrant, and has a mix of cultures.
Gibraltar is primarily British, the High Street shops include Debenham’s, Marks and Spencer’s, and Costa Coffee. But there is more. There is the Spanish influence as well. Thousands of day workers cross the border every day. There is also a large Maltese and North African influence. It is a very cosmopolitan place but with a Mediterranean feel.
The focal point of Gibraltar is “The Rock.” This huge feature commands the city and the Strait. It is an icon of stability. I found it interesting that the Rock itself is made of the same minerals as the African side of the strait, rather than of that of Spain. During the various sieges and wars (especially WW2) the Rock was tunneled into for defences, access, and shelter. There are now miles of tunnels many of which are “unfinished”, and the roads run through at various points. According to our guide, when it rains on the Rock, the tunnels get “rain” two days later.
The journey up the Rock to St Michael’s Cave and the nature reserve beyond is through narrow roads or cable car. The views from the Rock are as impressive as the views of it. There is a fair amount of greenery near St Michael’s Cave, and the monkeys make the most of it. We arrived on a misty day on the straits, so Africa was just a vague outline, but views of Gibraltar, the harbour, and of Spain were good
We stopped at St Michael’s Cave as part of our tour in Gibraltar. The cave site is as far up the rock as motor traffic can go, and it is a good vantage point on the Rock to view the world below.
The monkeys congregate in this area, and for those interested in them it is a great photo opportunity. There are toilets and a cafe/gift shop at the site near the cave entrance. The cave itself is impressive, and I found it interesting that it is used as an entertainment venue as well as natural attraction. The down side of the cafe/shop is that the monkeys do come in. And as we had a rest for a drink, we had to dodge some monkey-poo.
The “Rock Apes.” The monkeys (rather than apes) spend most of their time on the Upper Rock, and the authorities feed them twice a day to keep them up on the Rock rather than in the city.
The monkeys are actually from North Africa, and the first were probably brought by the British. Tradition has it that if the “apes” leave Gibraltar then it will fall. In World War Two their were only a handful left so Churchill hedging his bets ordered more to be collected from Morocco. In all the number rose to a couple of dozen. The colony is now about 250, which is more than can be sustained naturally; thus the feeding programme.
We also stopped at Europa Point and found it beautiful. The backdrop of the Rock in one direction and the Sea in the other was impressive. There is a light house and the Mosque gives an interesting perspective, and the newly built university shows the growth of the city’s opportunities. This is a great spot for photos, and to chill.
Catalan Bay is scenic and offers views not only of shipping awaiting orders, but of Italian styled housing in warm colours and beautiful waters. It is not a very large area, but good for photo opportunities as it gives a feel for the diversity of Gibraltar’s population. It is well worth the stop.
After our tour we made our way to Grand Casemates Square, near the Water Gate to have a bite, and to enjoy the experience of our visit. The cafes, food stalls, and flow of life were wonderful to behold. We could see the Moorish Castle, the glass-blowers, and the culture of the city. The Rock ever above us. We had drinks, and my wife had a kebab in a tortilla wrap rather than a pita. It was tasty and a nice change. We found several nice shops nearby as well, and for the experience this area is a must visit.
Then it was back to the ship for dinner, and a day of cruising to follow. Next stop – Lanzarote.