Visit Gibraltar: One day at the rock

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Gibraltar is a tiny peninsula, a British Territory with partial autonomy. The peninsula is located off southern Spain, the Iberian Peninsula. Gibraltar covers 6.8 km². The northern border of 1.2 km to Spain is the town of La Linea de la Conceptión.
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If you are in the area, a (day) trip here is recommended. A while ago my husband, my nephew and I took the trip; drove in a rental car from Portugal via Seville, Spain, to Gibraltar.

You drive or enter through Gibraltar’s border area, where passports are checked. All visitors to Gibraltar must show passports, except EU citizens who have a valid national identity card. Personally, I recommend that EU citizens bring passports (on all journeys).
The border crossing resembles a small ferry harbor with ticket office, but you are on the right track. It is the border and you drive straight through by car.  Alternatively you can sail or fly to the peninsula. The airport is in the same place as the border crossing and the harbor close by.Gibraltar_Airport_Marina_Aagaard_blog
The airport up close and seen from a distance (runway to the right).Gibraltar_View_Marina_Aagaard_blog

The peninsula is dominated by a distinct profile, the 426 m high rock, Rock of Gibraltar, as seen in the 15th Jamens Bond Film The Living Daylights (1987). The initial sequence was filmed on the rock and shows a Land Rover at full speed down for many minutes before it drives through a rock wall. However, most of the scenes were shot in the same place near the top, but from several angles.

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Gibraltar for beginners

Gibraltar has been inhabited and occupied by many nationalities. The name comes from the Arabic Jabal Ṭāriq, Tariq Mountain, after General Tariq Ibn-Ziyad, who led an 711 invasion.

For the past 300 years, the peninsula has been under British flag, with London as its capital, although Spain has repeatedly attempted to reclaim the peninsula. The Spanish Foreign Minister suggests, that in connection with Brexit, the British farewell to the EU, “that the Spanish flag on the cliff is closer than before”. So far, everything is the same:

The main language is English and the currency is Gibraltar Pound or English Pound. Contrary to other British territories, however, you drive on the right hand side of the road like in most parts of Europe.

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Gibraltar’s economy is mainly based on tourism. The peninsula is a popular holiday resort especially for visitors from Britain or Spain. Other revenue sources are shipping, casino, online games, financial services (…). And shopping; There is a small town area with shops and a department store.

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The rest of the peninsula consists of flat lowland with a 12 km coastline with sandy beach or rock. You drive through several tunnels on your short drive around the peninsula; there is an east coast and a west coast, Westside, where the majority of the approximately 32,000 Gibraltar citizens and other nationalities live.

At the southernmost tip, Great Europe Point , you will find a mosque, a lighthouse, a cannon and a lookout point with impressive views of the Gibraltar Strait. On the other side, onlyand, 13 km away, is Morocco. Unfortunately, we had no time for a ferry trip over there … this time.

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The southernmost part of Gibraltar (above), seen from the coastal road just in front of the lighthouse.

Gibraltar seen from above

What do you do in Gibraltar, if you only visit for a single day? Some go shopping, but you can also buy a ticket and take the  Gibraltar Cable Car to the viewpoint at the top of the cliff, 412 vertical meters in less than 6 minutes. There is a departure every 10 minutes.

You can choose to just buy a ticket to the cable trip and viewing platform at the top. Or you can buy a ticket for more of the island’s attractions, including a large cave, St. Michaels Cave.

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At the top of the rock there is a cafe with relatively high tourist prices and a limited selection, a souvenir shop, two viewing platforms, a monkey reserve, ancient fortress ruins and a closed military area. One can easily spend a long time enjoying the views and taking photographs of sights and monkeys.

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Above: South, military and sea views. Below: View to the north, Spain.

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I am taking photos, when someone suddenly is grabbing hard at my backpack. I think it’s Henrik, my husband, who makes fun. But no. A big monkey has jumped up onto my back and has begun to open the bag’s zipper, while people around me shout warnings. I turn around, the monkey jumps down and I rescue the contents of my bag.

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I should have known (and looked out). On the rock, there are between 50-70 wild ‘macaque’ monkeys and they feel at home running around among the tourists, but you are not allowed to feed them: Feeding prohibitedMy husband later sees a monkey nursing its baby monkey just after birth .

After a while on the terrace, we go back down. Down by the parking lot there is a botanical garden , The Alameda Gibraltar Botanic Gardens, and although I am no gardener myself, I’m very fond of greenhouses and gardens. This atmospheric oasis is special, petite and showing sign of the times.

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There are a lot of cannons on the island. Even in the botanical garden there are a couple of those.

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A garden view: A red, old English phone booth in the background.

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Over here a special section of the garden with a bee hotel and two well-dressed scarecrows.

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Without food and drink …

Just opposite the garden and the cable car station is a small Italian pizzaria, Mamma Mia .
We need something to eat in a hurry before we have a long drive back to Portugal. So it has to be dinner at Mamma Mia. A small, from the outside simple looking place; The expectations are not too high (there are three pizzerias in  Gibraltar, but Mamma Mia is the only – according to the sign – with a wood-burning stove).

Fortunately, we are pleasantly surprised. Everything is freshly prepared and very hot: First, bruschetta, toasted bread with tomatoes, oil and spices, respectively pizza (nephew), spinach ravioli (man) and spaghetti bolognese (blogger). A very nice and tasty dinner – not very paleo-like  (too much white flour to be healthy), but it’s holiday time …

You can do a lot on a day in Gibraltar, but it would be better with a long weekend or longer. Then I would spend more time everywhere, visit the cave and maybe the shopping area. And perhaps a day trip to Morocco to see Tangier: The sailing trip takes 1½ hours each way and then there are 40 km of bus ride each way.

I later got a tip, that you can take an 8-person guided taxi ride. Approx. 30 euros including tunnel, cave and monkeys. It takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes. The taxis are in the city center (268 Main St).

More about Gibraltar:

Gibraltar Holiday Guide

Visit Gibraltar

Wikipedia: Gibraltar 

 

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