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Europe » Gibraltar
January 22nd 2009
Published: October 1st 2017
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Geo: 36.14, -5.35

I slept very well and woke at 8am. Spent the next couple of hours doing email, writing a report for work, and listening to the surf of the Mediterranean ... waiting for my parents to wake up so we could go to breakfast. Finally, at 10.30h, I gave up and called them. They were asleep, but, really, coffee awaits.

The breakfast buffet was very good ... lots of fresh fruit, plus they cook a full English breakfast. We ate, had lots of coffee, and planned the day.

While my parents rested and went to the spa, I decided to drive to Gibraltar ... it's less than 40km away, and I've never been there.

The drive to Gibraltar along the coast was easy; easy to find it, too. I was wondering if they would have signs from the highway to Gibraltar, but détente between England and Spain have made relations much easier. (Paint had still been splattered on the more local sign, but, otherwise, the Spanish seem to enjoy the duty free shopping on the Rock). Had no trouble crossing the border: just needed to wave my passport, and in I went.

I drove around a bit, trying to orient myself, then decided to park at the main shopping car park in town. It was a perfect location for a walking tour of the central district. Which, I suppose, really wasn't that interesting. I guess, in this era of globalization, the charm has faded from crossing from Spain to England in a matter of metres. Besides, apart from the red post boxes and the off-track betting shops, it would be hard to tell you were in England. The Burger King was more popular than the fish and chips shop.

But I still enjoyed my walk, around the pedestrian streets, up the hills, through the neighborhoods, with a brief pause in a church courtyard - and got lost, which reminded me of being Lost in Monaco. Eventually wended my way back to the main square, where I visited the tourist office, to learn the best way to visit the Upper Rock. Turns out, the cable car was closed due to high winds, so they recommended taxi or private car. So, private car it is.

I drove first to Point Europa, the southernmost point in Europe. It was VERY windy down on the point, and I was the only one about. Braced against the wind, I photographed the lighthouse and the mosque. As I departed, the mosque began to broadcast the call for prayers ... one of my favourite sounds ...

It was easy to pay my entrance fee then enter the Nature Reserve. Driving around the Upper Rock was also easy this time of year ... so was parking ... but I can imagine it must be a nightmare in summer.

The first stop was St. Michael's cave ... a natural cavern which has been in use since Neolithic times ... a skull was discovered there in the 1970s. Archaeological evidence also suggests it was used by the Romans. The draperies are beautiful, and it is lit in colours for your enjoyment. The New World Symphony played in the background. One large room has been converted into a concert hall; apparently this was done during WWII but concerts and ballets are still given there.

Next, I visited the monkeys, which were obnoxious as always. Someone had given one monkey a packet of crisps. Idiots. (Both the tourists and the monkeys, really). Didn't stay long, especially as the monkeys were not being cooperative for photos.

The highlight of the drive are the Siege Tunnels, built in the early 1780s. I wandered around the part of the tunnels that are open to visitation (the tunnels apparently extend about 50km, but, thank goodness, only a small part is open). The rooms have mannequins of soldiers, mostly dressed from the period of construction but a few from WWII. As you approach one room, a sensor detects you, and a voice cries, "Halt! Who goes there?" I confess it made me jump, then smile. I can imagine children spending hours making the guard cry out. One also gets a good view of the city - and of the road crossing the airport runway - from the tunnels. I suppose it's very impressive that they carved all of this out of the Rock ... quite a feat of engineering and implementation. It would have been nice to have had better display signs - some were so dark, they could not be read. Still, an interesting visit.

My final stop was the Moorish castle or keep, built in the 8th Century (although archaeologists suspect it was built around an even older keep). The gardens as you approach are nice, though rather sparse this time of year. The interior of the castle consists of a central stairwell (not the original) with a few rooms off to the side, including what was probably an old prayer room and a room for bathing. From the top, one gets a decent view of the harbour ... but it was so windy, my scarf kept blowing off, so I did not remain long.

As it was getting towards late afternoon, and I didn't want to leave my parents high and dry, I decided to head back to the hotel. It took a while to navigate customs leaving Gibraltar ... just a long line of cars weaving their way through the baffles while the Guarda Civil ignored us. Easy drive back to the hotel; a bit of rain began, but very on and off.

I discovered, upon my return, that my parents were just going to leave for the spa (at least, once my mother woke up). I needed to do some work, anyway, so waved them off. Spent the next few hours on the computer: some work, some play.

Mum and Pas spent hours in the spa: the heated rock divans, the whirling whirl pool, the sauna, the bucket showers, the ice room (really?) ... enjoying themselves and relaxing. They only emerged when it closed, about 8pm.

We went out tonight for a wonderful dinner at the Porto Deportivo. A bistro, serving fresh fish. The service was delightful, the food was good, the wine was the perfect selection (thank you to the hostess) - we really enjoyed ourselves and didn't emerge until after 11pm.

Looked at photos, then to bed.

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