Gibraltar – SEVEN things for free, THREE for next to nothing

Is there more to the Rock than its tax free benefits?

Yes. Gibraltar is one of those places that is all about multicultural diversity. There are roughly thirty thousand inhabitants, and they are a mix of Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews and Hindus. Together they live side my side, most of the time actually on top of eachother… (remember, Gibraltar is only seven square kilometers, or 5.8 square miles for those of you think like that) Yet, religious tensions are unheard of.

The Union Jack steps date back to 1967, and are a constant reminder of Gibraltar's British identity.

So. Don’t frown upon the commercialized Main Street where most tourists end up. If you manage to see beyond the tax free tobacco and spirits, the toy monkeys and other tacky souvenirs, chances are Gibraltar will teach you a valuable lesson about tolerance and integration. The best news is that this lesson is for free, NO hidden costs.

 

SEVEN THINGS FOR FREE


1 – Shalom Gibraltar

Catch an authentic glimpse of Gibraltar’s Jewish community on a Saturday afternoon. The Jews are not allowed to do ANY kind of work during Sabbath, so you’ll catch them simply strolling about with their families. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you were in Jerusalem rather than in this tiny, British peninsula clinging on to the southern tip of mainland Spain.

Most Saturday afternoons there is also a traditional, Catholic wedding in the Cathedral in Main Street, so you can soak up two religions at once.

2 – Monkey business

Gibraltar was once connected geographically to the African continent. This explains why the tail-less ape known as the Barbary Macaque is still thriving on the Rock. They are Europe’s only wild apes, and a face to face encounter is naturally free of charge.

There are five packs of apes on the Rock, two of them interact with tourists on a daily basis.

You may choose to go on an organized taxi tour where you’ll be sure to see the taxi driver handle the apes as if they were family members dear to him. However, the apes are happy to interact with anybody that shows them a bit of interest. Make your way up the Rock, and you’ll be sure to be rewarded with close contact.

3- Street party

If partying all night long is your cup of tea, then make sure to be in Gibraltar on the 10th of September. It’s Gibraltar’s National Day, when the local population – all thirty thousand of them – dress up in red and white. Gibraltarians are fierce nationalists, and they will go out of their way to state that they wish to remain British.

Party with the Gibraltarians on the 10th September.

Gibraltar used to be part of Spain until it was taken by the Brits in 1704. Three hundred years on, the Spanish are still trying very hard to get it back. Their methods are sometimes diplomatic, but most of the time they are of a less democratic nature like constructing huge queues at the border between Spain and Gibraltar. Thus preventing the free movement of people. This is a complex issue which you will definitely hear more about if you hit Main Street on the 10th September. Let yourself be swept away with the patriots and indulge in feeling like a red and white Gibraltarian for a day!

4 – Dive into mythology

According to ancient Greek mythology the Pillars of Hercules are the two mountains that mark the entrance to the Mediterranean. The Rock of Gibraltar is the northern pillar, and Djebel Musa in Morocco is the southern pillar. The pillars were referred to as ‘NON PLUS ULTRA’ or ‘nothing further beyond’ in the times of the Greek and the Romans.

This once indicated the end of the world as the Greek knew it.

It was considered dangerous for sailors to continue through the straits of Gibraltar, and today the impressive view of the Atlantic ocean gushing into the Med is still breathtaking. Get down to Europa Point for an undisturbed and completely free of charge view. Unless of course, you decide to slot a coin into the fixed binoculars available.

5 – The British touch

Gibraltar is full of evidence of its British identity and military history. Bobbies patrol the streets, double deckers take tourists from the border to the town centre and you’ll be served a top notch fish n’chips in Casemates square.

Fish n'chips for lunch. If it wasn't for the sunshine, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in the UK.

Keep your eyes open for more subtle signs of Britishness such as the red letter boxes, the way the locals will refer to you as ‘darling’ and the authentic cream tea served up at the English tea room. There’s even a Marks & Sparks, a Top Shop and a BhS for some authentic, British retail therapy.

British bobbies patrol the streets with a smile.

6 – Authentic yoga

Forget overpriced yoga classes and tune into the real deal Hindu style hatha yoga. The Integral Yoga Center in Gibraltar is the place where Gibraltar’s Hindu community gather to do their yoga routines, and there are regular classes where it’s free to participate. It’s a pay what you can/feel like arrangement, exactly the way the yogi philosophy intended it. For more information check out Yoga Gibraltar.

Gibraltar has a big and very dedicated yogi community.

7 – Beach bumming

Gibraltarians have perfected the art of beach bumming! The Rock is surrounded by an exciting coast line where you can find six beaches of very different character. Forget everything you’ve ever learnt about Mediterranean beaches, because in Gibraltar there are no rental umbrellas or deck chair service in sight. Very few tourists spend time on the beaches, so you are guaranteed to be surrounded by locals.

Beach bumming is the best thing to do on a hot summers day. These guys are enjoying Camp Bay.

Parking is always an issue in Gibraltar, but the local bus system criss crosses the whole of the Rock. Bus number 4 serves all the beaches below apart from Wester Beach.

Eastern Beach – is Gib’s biggest beach. A mass of sand a sea where the sun doesn’t go down until late. Beach bars and people watching are key words.

Catalan Bay – (see picture below) is nestled below a quaint little fishing village on the Eastern side of the Rock. This area is also called La Caleta, and its inhabitants claim that they are of different origin than the rest of Gibraltar. The beach is a cove of soft sands, and the sun dips behind the top of the Rock at around 5 pm. One English pub (the Seawave) serves up a decent lunch and a cooling pint of whatever you like in your glass.

Sandy Bay, also known as Both Worlds – is still on the Eastern side of the Rock, and is another stretch of soft sand. Very picturesque because you can spot both Africa and Spain, thus the name Both Worlds.

Little Bay – is a rocky bay on the Western side of the Rock. This place is more sheltered than the Eastern side, so expect comfortable conditions even if it’s rough and wavy on the other side. Don’t forget your swim shoes though, because it’s full of little pebbles.

Camp Bay – (see picture above) is a man made place on the Western side of the Rock where cement terraces form the basis of where people sit. Many Gibraltarians insist on coming here, simply because they are sick and tired of the sand, and because there is a small salt water pool for kids to play in.

Western Beach – is Gibraltar’s funniest beach. It is located right next to the runway, so you can combine plane spotting with a dip in the sea. Not my cup of tea, but is does somehow sum up how everything in Gibraltar seems to be located on top of each other.

Catalan Bay is one of Gibraltar's most charming spots.

THREE NEXT TO NOTHINGS

1 – Neanderthal or not?

There’s no better place to learn about Gibraltar’s unique history than its cute, little museum at number 18, Bombhouse Lane. Admission is only £2 for adults, and you’ll see a film about how the peninsula moved from being attached to the African continent to becoming part of the European continent.

You’ll also see a copy of a Neanderthal skull which was actually discovered in Gibraltar’s Gorham cave eight years prior to the skull found in the Neander Valley near Dusseldorf. In other words, what might have been the Gibraltar man became what the world knows as the Neanderthal man.

2 – Take away

Due to Gibraltar’s ethnic diversity, you’ll be able to pick up anything from a kosher shawarma to a crunchy, Moroccan pastilla. Check out the take away kitchens along Watergardens and don’t miss ‘Solly’s’ at number 8, Cannon Lane. It’s a favourite amongst the locals!

This is Moroccan pastilla, originally made with pigeon meat, but modified to contain chicken.

3- Reach for the sky

The Cable Car is a great way to reach the top of the Rock. It runs every day between 9.30 and 17.15, providing the winds are modest.

It’ll take you from the car park at the end of Main Street to the top of the Rock. The cost is £8 return per person for the cable car ride alone. This will simply drop you off at the top of the Rock and there you will be left to your own devices. There will be apes to see, but the museums and caves are not included in the price.

If you fork up £16 return, you’ll get the cable car ride as well as admission to the St Michael’s Cave, the Great Siege Tunnels, the Moorish Castle, our City Under Siege Exhibition and the 100-ton Gun. Consider it money well spent to get to know Gibraltar inside out.

Breathtaking views of Africa on the horizon

Fancy reading about the world’s most beautiful woman? She’s Gibraltarian, and she’s neither blond nor stupid. Her name is Kaiane Aldorino, and we have written about her here.

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Eyes on Gibraltar

It’s Gibraltar week here at the blog. We’ve already covered the world’s most beautiful woman who just happens to be Gibraltarian. Read more here https://photito.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/miss-world-gibs-gem/

We’ve decided that a small nation like Gibraltar deserves a bit of limelight once in a while, and we are ashamed to admit that because Gibraltar is literally on our doorstep, we tend to ignore it as far as travelling is concerned. Travelling always means moving as far away from Gibraltar as possible…  now it’s time to shed some light on a place called home.

Been there, got the t-shirt

Every year, thousands upon thousands of tourists go to Gibraltar to experience the essence of this piece of Britain under the sun. There are double deckers, Union Jacks (more than I’ve ever seen in England!), bobbies –  and there are of course apes.

They're for real

Sir Winston Churchill, the former British Prime Minister, was particularly fond of Gibraltar and its status as a British Overseas Territory. (Colony sounds so old fashioned…) He went as far as to say that as long as there are apes on the Rock, Gibraltar will remain British. So what did he do? During the Second World War, when the ape population was dwindling, he simply imported more animals from neighbouring Morocco.

Stuart from Ireland is being de-flead by the locals

However, Gibraltar is much more than old legends and odd traces of the motherland. Gibraltar is a place where five religions live side by side, pretty much squeezed into seven square kilometers. Catholics, Protestants, Hindus, Jews and Muslims manage to co-exist beautifully, each with their own place of worship. This is, in my eyes, the most interesting feature in Gibraltar today.

Visually Gibraltar is not particularly pleasing to the eye. The population of roughly thirty thousand is rising, and as a small peninsula with a very large Rock in the middle, land is scarce. They reclaim land from the sea – almost continuously – in order to construct tall tower blocks, and in spite of short distances, the Gibraltarians are fond of their vehicles. Too much traffic and a lot of ugly high risers are not my favourite two things in the world, but if you manage to see beyond this, Gibraltar actually has a lot going for it.

All the buildings on the right hand side are constructed on reclaimed land, the fortress on the left is the old Moorish castle.

FIVE THINGS I ALWAYS DO IN GIBRALTAR

When I take people to Gibraltar who’ve never been before we always start by driving around the whole Rock so that they can get their bearings. It takes fifteen minutes, depending on the traffic on Line Wall Road that stretches through the town centre. We also allow time to stretch our legs at Europa Point where a beautiful mosque sits on solid foundations only meters from the furious Straits of Gibraltar.

With Africa on the horizon, Europa Point is a must

Taking in the majestic views of Africa on the horizon always send my thoughts back in time to when the vessels of the Ancient World believed that the two pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar and the Djebel Musa in northern Morocco) indicated the end of the world.

Then we get cracking with our sightseeing itinery:

1 – Take the cable car to the top of the Rock. Not for the faint at heart, the seven minute ride will challenge your vertigo nerve, but it’s fun for the kids and a great way of reaching the top of the Rock without getting stuck in time consuming traffic jams. The cable car ticket also includes the entrance fee to St Michael’s Cave where you can see stunning stalagmites and stalactites.

Up, up and away

2 – Monkey business. When in Gibraltar, you have to experience the apes (not monkeys because they have no tails). There are five packs of apes currently residing on the Rock, one of them hang out near the cable car station where they are happy to share some time with you. The apes are wild, and choose to interact with us.  Some tourists (I didn’t say Americans) tend to think that the apes are some sort of theme park attraction and deal with them as if they were tamed. This is not the case, and although the apes are properly cared for with vaccines and daily feedings, one should always remember that these are wild animals that need to be handled with a lot of respect. I, for one, am an absolute chicken shit around the apes, because I have seen the damage they have done when they have made it into people’s cars. I have also been the unfortunate (and very silly) owner of a banana which the pack of apes caught sight of collectively… I wouldn’t be surprised if that banana ended up in Africa judging by the force with which I threw it as far into the Straits as I possibly could…

You don't mess with these guys

3 Catalan Bay is a small fishing village on the Eastern side of the Rock. Few tourists venture here, so what you find is as genuinely Gibraltarian as it gets. The people here originated mostly from Genoa in Italy, and speak a slightly different dialect to the rest of Gib. It’s a brilliant little place for a lunch time pint and a seafood salad in the typically British pub “The Seawave”.

Catalan Bay is a quaint fishing village worth a visit

4 – Main Street and beyond. EVERY single tourist that comes to Gibraltar ends up in Main Street it seems. This is the shopping artery which is a pedestrianized area full of tax free shops, pubs and people. I don’t consider it a must, but I do understand that people end up here. It’s a condensed and very handy place to shop, and I must admit that it’s quite cute to see British brands like Topshop, Bhs, Marks and Spencer’s, Next, Early Learning Center and Mothercare all lined up as if we were in Bournemouth. However, as soon as you’ve had your fix, venture in to the old part of town which stretches from Main street and up towards the Rock. I like to start out by Casemates square (where they used to hang people in the olden days) and head for the old Moorish Castle upon which the Union Jack dances proudly in the Mediterranean breeze.

Spanish girls cross the border to shop knickers in Topshop

5 – Depending on what kind of people I am with, I will either show them Rosia Bay where admiral Nelson was brought in after the Battle of Trafalgar. If I am with male company this is usually a big hit, as we can also go and see the nearby hundred ton gun. If I am with girlfriends we will head to the beach instead. Eastern Beach to be precise where the traces of latino blood are sizzling with a spectacular display of sixpacks and bikiniwear. Baywatch eat your heart out! There are cars with blasting stereos, there are dolled up girls and pumped up boys. There are beach bars selling bucket loads of slush puppy and tinto de verano. This is the Mediterranean summer in its purest form. No tourists, only locals doing what they do best.

Eastern Beach is by far the hottest beach in Gib

The 100 ton gun is still pointing symbolically towards Spain