Gibraltar (United Kingdom) – Part 5
By Nancy Hartman of What’s Cooking America
Destino – Gibraltar, United Kingdom:
Today we visit the U.K. Amazingly enough, Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula strategically placed at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. It is only 2.3 square miles in size and boasts the legendary Rock of Gibraltar.
Throughout its history, the Strait of Gibraltar (the narrow strip of water between it and Morocco) has been an important “chokepoint.” This is because the narrow channel is easy to cut off from other areas thereby having the ability to stop all transit in times of conflict. Because of this, there have often been disagreements about who controls Gibraltar. The United Kingdom has controlled the area since 1713, but Spain also claims sovereignty over the area. The tension between Spain and Gibraltar started with the Treaty of Utrecht, signed in 1713 is still is very real today. This treaty brought to an end the War of Spanish Succession between England and France. Constant power struggles still take place, which includes border control (see below).
The Rock: Our two main goals when visiting Gibraltar were to visit the “Rock” and enjoy high tea in the U.K. It was a relatively short drive to Gibraltar, and after much study of the best way to get there, we opted to drive in and locate parking at the base of the tram. The border crossing took about 5 minutes, where the driver flashed his passport and we all held ours in our hands and were waved passed the two brief check points. From there we drove across the airport runway which crosses the main road Winston Churchill Avenue – if a plane is landing the traffic has to wait.
We continued on the main street aiming toward the Rock in search of the tram cars that carry passengers up the side of the rock to the observatory at the top. It was there, at the base of the tram car, that we found free parking which was a welcome sight. We bought our tram tickets and while walking to the tram found many signs warning about the apes (the Barbary macaques – the only wild population of the monkeys in Europe who live on the rock). Warnings indicated that you should not carry food, or plastic bags as the crinkling of the bags causes the apes to associate the sound with food and the apes could attack.
Our family group on the observation deck.
Hey, Hey – We Are The Monkeys: We rode the cable car up the side of the rock, a short trip where you land at an observatory with a spectacular 360 view of Gibraltar, Africa, and the Straits.
And then there were the apes! They seemed to not really be bothered by us as we walked about. They were on the stairs, the landings, and everywhere just casually eyeing tourists for food.
Unbelievably, a woman pulled out an apple on the landing above us, as we were walking up, and two apes went past us moving in on her. One lunged onto her back and ripped the apple from her hand and jumped back off. Now I know that I saw the signs – I wonder what she missed with all the warnings.
No one is actually sure how the Apes got to Gibraltar. Speculation has it they were brought either by the Arabs sometime after 711CE or the British after 1704. The Macaque is listed as ‘endangered’ in its homelands in Algeria and Morocco, but here in Gibraltar they thrive. Legend says if the Apes disappear from Gibraltar, so will the British! Supposedly this is why, during the Second World War with the numbers dwindling, Winston Churchill sent to ‘North Africa for replacements. Almost 300 apes are littered around the Upper Rock.
Our Hike: My husband, daughter, and I walked down from the top of the observatory to the halfway point of the cable car. If we had more time in Gibraltar, it would have been nice to hike the entire rock which is a total of 3 hours. The hike includes additional sites such as the unique system of underground passages (known as the Galleries or the Great Siege Tunnels), Pillars of Hercules, Apes Den, and St Michaels Cave.
Although our hike down was likely much easier than a hike up, unless you have really good knees, I would not recommend the hike down! We started on the stairs, which was a non-stop descent directly down the rock, past lounging Apes and their feeding area, where 1 to 2 dozen apes were congregating. After several sets of these stairs, and stepping over cuddling apes on the stairway, we decided to take the switchback road the rest of the way, which really was not any better on the knees. Once down to the half-way point we rode the cable car the rest of the way down the Rock.
One Lump or Two – High Tea: We then turned our sites to The Rock Hotel, just at the base of the Rock and walked up to enjoy an afternoon British Tea of Tea Sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, and tea cakes. Recipes for your Afternoon Tea or High Tea.
The Rock Hotel, also known as Rock Hotel, is a historic hotel in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar. It has been described as “one of the Mediterranean’s most famous hotels,” and as “an institution in Gibraltar and the Mediterranean.”
Our British Tea:
A Run For The Border: It was after 5:00 p.m. and we needed to head out for our drive to Jerez de la Frontera, our next destinati on. We soon discovered the downfall to visiting Gibraltar – the border crossing back to Spain! This is where politics come into play.
We drove down Winston Churchill Avenue and came to an abrupt stop after the runway. Here there were 6 serpentine lines of cars waiting to cross the border back to Spain. The process appeared to be: line number one would move forward by five cars then stop. About 10 minutes later, line number two would move forward by five cars and then stop, and so on this continued. Needless to say the process was quite slow! After an hour and only moving about 10 car lengths, we reconciled the fact that we would be going nowhere soon.
A concession car was serving ice cream, scooters where lined up, pedestrians were lined up, and the sun was slowly setting. We wandered over to grab a drink and that is where I learned that this type of delay is common. Sometimes the line can be 7 hours long.
In an attempt to control illegal quantities of tobacco entering Spain from Gibraltar, and to irritate the British “Christie” style, the Spanish boarder control will search each and every car before letting it pass, usually with more diligence during the rush hour commute. Fortunately for us, we only had to wait for 2 1/2 hours, when finally after the second long protest of horn blaring, the border was miraculously opened and we were allowed to drive through without stopping to even show our passports.
Check out our videos of our adventures at the Border Crossing:
We are now on our way to Jerez de la Frontera. After our very long border crossing ordeal, we had another 2 hours to drive in the dark. Thank goodness for “The Queen” GPS in our car that dutifully guided us through the Autovia to the western frontier of Spain.
Categories:Travels in Spain