My husband and I spent this last December in a rented house in the south of Spain. Over the holidays we also had some family members visit us. So we rented a car and did some really fun day trips. One of these was to Gibraltar. Let me tell you all about it. Gibraltar’s unique history makes it a very special spot that shouldn’t be missed. Gibraltar has been British since 1830, and according to legend, will remain such as long as the monkeys remain on the rock. Apparently at some point during WW 2 due to an illness there were only 7 monkeys left. So Winston Churchill with everything else he had going on just then ordered in some more monkeys. Well, it worked, I guess, there are still monkeys and the Rock is still British.
Arriving by car you cross the border and then you have to drive across the runway of the airport. This will soon change, I think, later this year there will be a tunnel available. I enjoyed hearing about the procedure of what needs to happen when a plane comes in. 25 mins before the landing they block traffic first to pedestrians, shortly after to cars. Then the runway has to be cleaned. It’s very short and only pilots with a special license are allowed to land there. If conditions are such that they can’t land on the second attempt they get diverted to Malaga. Anyway, no planes the day we were there, so it’s all hearsay.
Of course we have been living on lovely Spanish food and wine for quite a while now so we decided we were ready for a dietary change. Here in Gibraltar you can get all the traditional English foods like fish and chips and steak and kidney pie along with British brown ale. We arrived midmorning and our earlier continental breakfast had quite worn off so we felt up to the full English breakfast.
To get to the top of the Rock you can take the cable car and then walk around up there to explore the sights on your own. A great alternative to this is Gibraltar Sightseeing which is operated by the cab drivers of Gibraltar. We went in a minibus with another family. The driver spoke fluent English and Spanish and who knows how many other languages and told us all kinds of entertaining stories as he showed us around. The cost is €35 per person which includes tickets to all the sights as well as trasportation. These cab drivers all have a special relationship with the monkeys, so you are guaranteed great pictures!
All about the monkeys: They are berber monkeys that were brought over from Africa by the Moors and are the only wild monkeys in Europe. They are looked after by a team of 20 professionals who ensure that they have a healthy diet (no bananas by the way, their high sugar content can cause diabetes, who knew?) The monkeys also get vaccinated and the population is kept around 300 individuals. No monkeys are killed in this though. If there are too many some adults are sterilized.
First stop on the sightseeing tour is the Pillars of Hercules viewpoint at the southern tip of the Rock. From here you can see across the Strait of Gibraltar to Marocco. The day we were there you couldn’t see it very clearly and the Strait was rough so it was closed to ships. The water is beautiful here, due to the different depths of the water and different sea floors. There are so many colors from purple to green. On the tour you have about 20 minutes at each stop, then it’s back into the minibus again.
The second point of interest is St Michael’s Grotto, a limestone cave with stalagmite and stalactite formations, these are lit up in changing colored floodlights. It’s also used for events.
The third stop was our absolute favorite, Monkey Rock. There is a feeding station for the monkeys here, so they are always hanging around this area. These little guys are quite well behaved for monkeys, though our driver was concerned about them getting into the van. They are definitely little pros when it comes to posing for photos. They know the routine; if they behave they get a vet approved snack and everybody is happy. We didn’t want to leave but of course the next group of tourists is not far behind us.
Last stop on the tour is a viewpoint on the northend of the Rock. From here you can see the Bay of Gibraltar (Atlantic Ocean) on the left and the Mediterranean Sea on the right with the narrow strip of land which is Gibraltar in the middle. There are also some old military installations here. These days there are only a few hundred military personnel remaining here. Gibraltar’s economy is based mostly on tourism and online gambling.
After our tour, we strolled through the historic town center for a while and found ourselves a delicious hot chocolate. The town is not big. There are only about 35 000 residents as well as about 15 000 workers thst cross the border every day from Spain. The old town reflects the history of the place. You can see Moorish and Spanish influences as well as uniquely British touches, an intriguing mixture of styles.
Our visit comes to its end too soon. Hopefully you will enjoy Gibraltar as much as we did.