P1160134Welcome to Gibraltar. Yes, we are back again. Yesterday we discussed the effect of canceling Tunis from our itinerary. There is a second change in that we cannot get to Corsica from Cartagena overnight, so instead they returned to Gibraltar. We are very disappointed about losing this second port, but this is the last adjustment due to North Africa unrest. So today we get to take the excursion we really had wanted instead of the dolphins. We got up and discovered it was raining this morning. We went up to the Horizon Court for breakfast and then headed off to our meeting point. Our tour was called a little later than scheduled, but we didn’t have anything else planned today so a few minutes late wasn’t a problem. When we got outside about 9:45, it was still raining lightly but steadily. We walked from the covered cruise terminal to the bus, and it wasn’t quite as bad as we originally expected. The roads are very narrow in Gibraltar so only mini-sized buses with a capacity of about 22 people can drive around the town. We got aboard and headed off to our first
Monkeys on top of a tour bus - Gibraltar
destination. This was a gondola ride to the top of the mountain (about 412 meters above sea-level). Unfortunately that was higher than the layer of clouds so our scenic view was completely obscured and the Upper Station was in steady drizzle. However the other attractions on this mountain were the wild monkeys (
Barbary Apes)which live up there. They had been introduced long ago for the soldiers to use as target practice and to add to the dinner pots, but that practice was abandoned. The population had been reduced to only 6 before another 24 were brought over from Africa and released. Today the population is around 220. We had been warned several times not to bring any food with us, or the monkeys will smell it and will actively dig in your bag or packet trying to find the food. We were afraid that the monkeys would be as invisible as the dolphins had been last week, but we did see a few after all. At the top of the hill we could not see anything so we went out to await the gondola going back down when a monkey scampered over the roof
More monkeys in Gibraltar
and along the handrail, eventually jumping on the back of the first guy in line. He climbed up on the fellow’s head and posed for pictures while everyone took their snapshots (everyone except the guy he was sitting on). We rode back down in the
cable car to the Middle Station, which is an area known as the Apes' Den. Indeed there were a few some more monkeys at the platform and near where our bus was to come. So we did get to see and photograph some of them. While we waited for our bus to pull forward the drizzle also stopped for a few minutes and we got a partial view around the area. We next had a tour through part of town, following the narrow streets up and down hills. Our guide (Sue) kept pointing out that these were really 2-way streets while our bus nearly scraped the building on each side. But we got to the next location which is
area known as the Upper Galleries and which features the Great Siege Tunnels inside the mountain. From where the bus had to drop us off, it was a steep walk up to the
One of the cannon rooms in the Great Siege Tunnel - Gibraltar
tunnel entrance, so Janet and a couple of others stayed in the coach. At the top we were guided through
the tunnels carved by hand by the British out of solid limestone. This defensive system was begun on May 25, 1782. David took lots of pictures inside a mountain, so we’ll have to see if anything develops. We were told stories about the hardships endured during the Great Siege. For instance the tunnels had to be dug by hand because they could not afford to waste gun powder by blowing up rocks when it was needed for the cannons. They needed to perfect the amount of packing to put in the cannon before tilting it downward to fire on the Spanish, or the cannon ball would just roll out of the barrel. There was a great deal of rationing and many ingenious solutions to problems of living inside a mountain for an extended period of time. The tour actually went down a steep series of tunnels inside the mountain which we then had to climb back up to leave the tunnels, before we could go back down the steep grade to the bus. So Janet missed a very interesting part of
Looking down the length of a portion of the tunnel
the tour but she made the right decision.
Just after he came out of the tunnels there is a good view looking down on the boarder (they call frontier) with Spain. Just inside the border is the single runway of their airport. There is a main road to Spain which crosses the middle of the runway, and the traffic has to be stopped bother directions when a plane takes off or lands. David saw one of these from outside the tunnel entrance.
After the tunnels, we threaded our way through town (sure glad we don’t have to drive here) to the Gibraltar Museum, which is in the center of the old part of town. There is a lot of reclaimed land outside the city walls, partially created by the materials which were dug from inside the mountain. Anyway, the museum was built in 1930 and contains pictures, displays, and artifacts from the area's turbulent history. Absolutely no photography was allowed inside the museum! There is a huge replica model of all of Gibraltar as it was in 1865. The museum was actually built on the site of Turkish Baths, which date back to
Gibraltar Airport with main road to Spain running across the runway
the 14th century and we were able to see their remains. Everything on this hillside seems to go up and down instead of sideways – we went up a flight of stairs to get to the first displays and then down another set to get to the baths. Then it was a reverse process (back up and back down) in this tiny building to reach the exit. Both here in the museum and through the siege tunnels, there were other excursion groups having their own guides all trying to talk loud so their people could here, and each group needing to squeeze path another to get to the next location. We are certainly lucky that only our cruise ship was in port today. But the museum was quite interesting.
When we came out of the museum the sun had actually popped out for a little while. We were driven to the most southern spot in Europe, called Europa Point. There is a prominent red & white striped lighthouse that can be seen from across the Straits of Gibraltar to highlight this location. Directly across the way is Africa and for a time we were able to
The Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque at Point Europa
see it today. These two spots mark the points which the Phoenicians called the Pillars of Hercules – anyone sailing beyond this spot would sail off the side of the world. From this point you can see two continents, Europe and Africa and three countries, Gibraltar, Spain and Morocco. Sharing these grounds is the Shrine of Our Lady of Europa, another important monument for the sailors. Before the lighthouse was built, it was the glow from within the little chapel which would guide the ships. Also on the site is the most southerly mosque in Europe, Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque, which was given by the King of Saudi Arabia. It looks quite impressive, but we did not go near it.
A couple of interesting tidbits are that (1) gas is cheaper here than just about anywhere else in Europe (about a dollar per liter) although our guide did not explain why; (2) even though they are claimed by Great Britain, they drive on the right hand side of the road dating back to a decision by Napoleon; (3) there are more miles of road inside the mountain than outside of it; and (4) the people here are seriously concerned
Europa Lighthouse - Gibraltar
about what will happen if the UK votes to leave the EU, because 30,000 people cross the border from Spain to work in Gibraltar each day. Anyway, those are a few factoids we learned during the day.
We got back on the bus and were driven back to our ship. It started raining again shortly after we came back on board, and then the sun came out in the afternoon again. It was not windy except out on Europa Point and the temperature was comfortable, but we could have used less rain/drizzle. Aside from missing the view from the top of the cable car, we really did not suffer too much from the intermittent rain today.
Back on the ship we went directly to the hot dog stand and got a light lunch. Then we went to the “sweets shop” and got bowls of hot apple crumble, which David took out the Swirl Girls to make it a la mode. It was a good lunch and then we went back to our cabin to look at our mail on the internet. At 4:00 the Internet Café opened and David found out how to get our next allotment of free minutes. So now we have more time to do blogs and such.
We went to the Club-6 for the afternoon canapés and cocktails before going to dinner. This evening Janet had Shrimp Cocktail as an appetizer and Diver Scallops for her entrée. David had a quail & venison pate, a small bowl of fettuccini, and a medley of veal, pork, & lamb for his entrée. We both got the strawberry sorbet as an intermezzo before the entries. For dessert Janet had ice cream with chocolate sauce and David had the chocolate lover’s delight. We each had our free glass of wine during dinner and the after dinner drink. So it was another very tasty meal. We had dinner with Jerry & Joyce, and they had been on our same tour bus today - we all agreed that today's guide had done a very good job.
We went to the Princess Theater and watched one of the production shows with the company singers and dancers – a show we had skipped during the first cruise. It was a collection of music from different parts of the world. We are not very impressed with the quality of the singers in this group – “just fair” seems like the correct rating. But now we are back in the cabin and ready to turn in for the night. We hope you have/had a good day too.
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