Monday, 11 January 2010

A Trip to Gibralter

Gibraltar is only a short drive south from Malaga and although the highway is good there are no road signs to identify the State until you actually get there! The immigration routines were friendly informal and quick! As we drove into Gibralter we were required to drive across the State runway! Fortunately this road closes whenever a plane is about to land!

Gibraltar has a number of beaches where sun worshippers may enjoy themselves when not availing of the very attractive prices in local bars and restaurants.
We decided to drive up the rock as high as possible given the wonderful views one has from there both of Spain and Morocco! The monkeys are of course a big attraction in their own right. They are clever little thieves as I witnessed when one fellow made a quick entry through a rear car window, snatched a 10 pack of twix from a little girl and make his escape all under 5 seconds! He then proceeded to eat each twix in turn without sharing any with his own family!

The rock is very well organised for tourists with various stop off points to visit once you have paid your entry fee to the park/rock (£42 for a family of 3).

Our first stop was the old gun battery where we parked our vehicle now the gun was gone. From here one can look right across the mouth of the Mediterranean and one sees immediately why this was (and remains) such a strategic site for UK security purposes. Only 14 miles of sea separates Africa from Europe at this point and I understand it is possible to swim across if you are fit enough! The British and Spanish navies are kept busy keeping their respective bits of sea territory sacrosanct. Our next point of interest was the tunnels which played such an important role in the numerous sieges of the Rock but this was a little unpleasant as the rain kept dripping down the back of my neck owing to the previous 4 days of monsoon now seeping deep into the tunnels!

What was amazing despite the flooding was the cave which has an auditorium bigger than the Cottesloe Theatre London. With amazing formations of stalagmites and stalactites all lit up with colourful lighting, it must be a spectacular background for any performance. The cave was critically important to the local citizens during various sieges as a place to store reserves as well as withstand bombardment from land and sea.

Gibraltar has been a military base for the greater part of its history. This has given a military air to the town but there are major changes evident. There has been a significant increase in capital investment over the past ten years which has seen new luxury holiday apartments being developed in the dockland area with new shops and additional facilities for tourists. The old military barracks have been turned into an enormous Italian plaza where one can sit outside amid many restaurants and bars under the palm trees and enjoy the sunshine.

There is a new marine and restaurant area with delightful walks along seafront decking which reminded me of Sydney. The glorious warm sunshine enticed us out for a midwinter evening stroll. We soon came across an Irish Bar called very appropriately O'Reilly's where the staff were exceedingly friendly and courteous. We eat well there and I can recommend the Beef & Guinness ale pie (£7) On learning that I was one of the Clan, the Manager immediately offered me a free pint of Guinness! A nice personal gesture and one which surely bodes well for Gibraltar and its developing tourist industry.

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