It has been a magical time here in Andalusia, Spain reminding me why I have settled here. Snow is beginning to form on a few distant mountain tops but not in the sea-side towns that hug the Mediterranean coastline in southern Spain. Oranges are ripe on the trees that line the streets in a unique display of orange spheres hung to celebrate Christmas!
The air yesterday was warm in the middle 60’s when I visited nearby Gibraltar and today as I blog with my terrace door open. Yesterday I shed my jacket to enjoy the warm air. And last evening from my terrace I could see the mountains in northern Africa seeming to spring from nowhere across the Mediterranean Sea as the sun dropped in the western sky in a beautiful blaze of red, orange and yellow!
I enjoy traveling and have gone to several of the southern Spain communities. But recently I read a blog about Gibraltar and found a day tour for only 38 Euros. On clear days (like today) I can see Gibraltar on the distant horizon from my terrace, so yesterday I went exploring.
Although located on the Iberian Peninsula, Gibraltar isn’t Spanish but, by treaty, it is British! The language is English (and almost all of the 30,000 residents are bi-lingual) and everything is imported. They have their own currency equivalent to the English pound sterling. It is but 6 square kilometers big! The day was like being instantly teleported from one culture to another!
Gibraltar is famous for its iconic “Rock of Gibraltar” where the vast Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. Through the Straits of Gibraltar international shipping commerce has taken place through southern Europe, northern Africa and western Asia for centuries. With a warm sea breeze atop the rock and a clear sky, I was in awe of the strategic rock looking out at places that have been and continue to be of major importance to our civilization.
Gibraltar is the town at the base of the Rock. To get to it our tour bus passed through Spanish and British passport control. Gibraltar has a one-of-a-kind airport (on reclaimed land) where the road from La Linea, Spain crosses the runway! Yes, when an airplane lands or takes off, the road is closed similar to when a bridge opens to permit a boat to pass under a highway!
To the north and west of the Rock is the town of Gibraltar (pictured with La Linea and the airport runway) and to the south is Europa Point with its lighthouse, mosque, World War II tribute memorial to Sikorsky, and a memorial to Harding’s Battery originally constructed in 1869.
Gibraltar has numerous statues to honor its place in military history and the heritage from Spain, the Moors, Romans, and British. Monuments include a cemetery for those that died in Gibraltar from the 1803 Battle of Trafalgar in the Napoleonic Wars as well as monuments to the Corps of Royal Engineers (the Royal Engineers were formed as a military entity at Gibraltar in 1772) and to those who fought in World War I.
The town streets have a definite British feel with stores like Marks and Spenser and pubs with names like The Angry Friar. This is definitely not Spain!
The Rock is over 400 meters high which is taller that the Empire State Building or the Eifel Tower. Inside are more that 50 km of tunnels large enough for trucks! A highlight of the day came at Saint Michael’s Cave (also known as the Entrance to Hades). The cave has beautiful formations BUT for me, the presence of numerous monkeys is particularly interesting. In all, it was a wonderful, splendid day!