Monday, April 20, 2015

Gibraltar, Gibraltar

We woke up from a good night sleep semi-early (we're on vacation after all) and packed up our things to head down to Gibraltar. 

Costa De Sol
We packed up the car plugged in "Gibraltar" in to the GPS and we were off. We drove along the Costa De Sol, catching glimpses of the ocean. We stopped for gas up on a hill and could see the coast. I, of course, wanted to take a picture. Drew humors me a lot and drove up the hill to get a clear view of the top. But as luck would have it, it was windy and cloudy. Weather wise it was cloudy and raining, just plain dreary.  A rain storm had passed through the night and according to my weather app it was supposed to clear up by then. No such luck, I took a picture anyway.

The drive was cloudy and rainy and I was bummed that we couldn't see anything along the coast. But what really got me was the tolls! I did research on driving on your own from Malaga to Gibraltar, everything I read said that it was worth it to drive on your own and that there were tolls, but it wasn't too bad. What they don't tell you is how expensive the tolls are. I went to High School and College in Florida near Orlando, or toll central as my parents called it. We've driven through Austria and Italy and yes their tolls were crazy, but for the distance it is understandable. 
The first toll we went through was 7.45€! No big deal. I figured that it might the only toll. About 30 minutes later, here comes toll #2, 5.30€, we were only an hour drive in and were already up to 12.75€! I hoped it was the last toll, we would be off the high way in 30 minutes, I was wrong again. Right before our exit we hit the final toll. Toll #3, the cheapest toll was 3.25€. (I figured the tolls would all be around that price.) For a 2 hour drive we had paid 16€ in tolls! Luckily we've gotten into the habit of having Euro on us at all times. Although I did see that the toll booths did take Visa and Mastercard. But not everywhere in Europe does. We learned that the hard way.

We finally made it to La Linea, the Spanish town that borders Gibraltar. In La Linea we ran into traffic. Being the impatient person that I am, we drove past it, but that right lane full of traffic, that was the line to go through Border control. Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. Since Gibraltar is a British territory, a lot of British head down south for a change of scenery, but not a change in culture. Gibraltar is little London. English is the native language, tea is served, and a Chipper (Fish and Chip restaurants) on every corner.

The runway starts off right from the ocean.
Gibraltar is not very big. It has an area of 6.0 km², but what they don't tell you is that 2 km is the massive Rock of Gibraltar. When researching things to do, majority of the interesting things to do was on the Rock it self. So up the rock we went. Cost of admission is 10 pounds (the currency is pounds) or 10 euros per person and a 3 euro surcharge for having our own car. We gladly paid in Euros since the conversion rate is better to the U.S. Dollar.

Our first stop in the Upper Rock was to the Great Siege Tunnels. For anyone who knows Drew, you know that he LOVES history and anything that has to do with Artillery (I guess that's why he chose to become an Artilleryman).

During the war of American Independence, when France and Spain made an all out attempt to recapture the Rock from the British in Gibraltar’s 14th Siege, always called The Great Siege, which lasted from July 1779 to February 1783, that the then Governor General Eliott is said to have offered a reward to any one who could tell him how to get guns on to a projection from the precipitous northern face of the Rock known as the Notch. Sergeant Major Ince, a member of the Company of Military Artificers, forerunners of the Royal Engineers suggested that this could be done by tunnelling. The tunnellers relied on the strength of their arms, on their skills with a sledgehammer and a crowbar, and were also aided by gunpowder for blasting.  In five weeks 18 men had driven a tunnel 8 square feet (2.40sq.m) by 82 feet long (25m) into the Rock. It gave us some great views of Gibraltar. Gibraltar has it's own airport, but because it is only 6km wide they have to stop traffic when airplanes take off and land. We got to see a plane take off, it didn't need the whole runway. But it was still funny to see the lineup of cars just waiting.

The tunnels were expanded in WWII, this is where an observation post was set up.
Our next stop was to The City Under Siege, unfortunately is was under construction. :( I guess that's what happens when you go to a place when it's not tourist season.
But we moved on to the Moorish Castle.
It's more like a tower if you ask me.  This tower is the only Tower of Homage of the ancient Moorish Castle, which at one time dominated the surrounding area.

They sure do love their Queen.

Thats the castle/ tower!

View from the top of the Moorish Castle

Our 3rd stop was to St. Michael's Cave. This was the stop I was the most excited about. When researching the pictures were breathtaking.The Cave was long believed to be bottomless. This probably gave birth to the story that the Rock of Gibraltar was linked to the Continent of Africa by a subterranean passage over 15 miles long under the Strait of Gibraltar. The famous Rock Apes were said to have come to Gibraltar through this under-sea passage. St. Michael's 
Cave is open to visitors and makes a unique auditorium for concerts, ballet and drama. It has been in use as a theatre since the early sixties and there is a seating capacity of 400.

It's a stadium
Accent Lights continuously change color to set the mood

He didn't even wait for me to get the shot
before taking off towards us.
Mr. Monkey giving us the stink eye.
By the time we were finished hiking back up to the car, we were exhausted and hungry. So we decided to call it a day on the Upper Rock. Instead of taking the same route to the exit we decided to take the route that leads us through the Ape's Den. The Ape's Den is home to Gibraltar's famous Barbarymacaques, they are the only free-to-roam primates in Europe. According to legend, if the Apes leave Gibraltar it will cease to be British. We got stuck behind 2 tour buses and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity. I saw a lone Monkey in the perfect spot and rolled down the car window to get a picture of it. It noticed that I was paying attention to it and started heading towards the car. The Monkeys are sneaky little things and I knew it. I quickly rolled up my window and told Drew to roll his up as well. As soon as he finished rolling up his window, Mr. Monkey landed on the driver side mirror. Since we were stuck behind 2 stopped tour buses I pulled out the snacks. Drew started snacking and the Monkey stared him down, waiting for Drew to roll down the window and give him some. He didn't. To show us he wasn't happy with us not sharing with him he pooped on the mirror all while staring us down! Rude.

100 ton Gun

There was one more stop we had to make before calling it a day. We wanted to head to Europa Point, the southernmost point of Gibraltar. There are five notable buildings located in Europa Point, Harding's Battery, the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque, the Roman Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Europe, the Europa Point Lighthouse and the Nun's Well. On the way down to Europa Point, we stopped off to see the 100 ton gun. 
Manufactured in 1870, four were originally in existence, two went to Gibraltar and the others were sent to Malta. This is only the only one remaining on the Rock. Ceremonially, the gun is still in use today, though not literally, and in 2002, a reenactment of the gun firing was held for the Gibraltar Malta conference.

When we finally made it to Europa Point, the wind had picked up and waves were crashing up against the point which made it seem like it was raining. Combine that with the lack of sun. We got out of the car for less than 5 minutes before I realized it wasn't even worth it. Sad because on a good day you could see right across the Straight of Gibraltar into Africa!

Clouds and Winds are not a good combination!
Can you see the waves crashing against the point?
By this time it was 4pm and I was starving! We searched for food (Fish and Chips, of course) in the GPS and followed it to the down town area to grab some grub and souvenir shop. Then it was off to our Hotel in Tarifa (35km away) for the next 2 nights!

Up next: Tangier, Morocco, Africa