Some months ago I had my first visit to Gibraltar, flying there as a guest of ESBA (the European Small Business Alliance) who were in turn guests of GFSB (the Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses) and at that time I went the easy way, into Gibraltar’s own airport – which doesn’t sound much until you realise how small the place really is and the troubles they are now having at the Spanish border.
I enjoyed that first trip (during which I stayed at the Elliot Hotel) so much that when Maureen and I were planning our summer holidays we factored in a return drive.
On Monday morning we set off from Galera first thing armed with enough water and supplies to handle the 4-hour drive through key places such as Granada, Malaga and Marbella – and then the up to 6-hour wait as the Spanish authorities continue (apparently) to divert people’s attention from their government’s corruption issues by hammering the Brits on some pretence over some concrete blocks in the water – or at least – that’s what we’ve been told. I could see the point if it were the Spanish PEOPLE wanting this place back – after all, having Britain own a piece of land in your own back yard must be a bit annoying – see the picture above – the sunbathers are in Spain – land and ships in the background are British!! On the other hand of course they can freely move back and forth on foot, by bike or by car and pricing of fuel there is CHEAP. However, it seems it is not so much the Spanish people who are the driving force here as the politicians – must be pretty awkward for the border crossing police who have to keep changing tactic on demand.
Well, despite the fears and warnings, there was virtually no queue and the customs people were as nice as nine pence!! For those trying to mentally picture the customs – here’s a picture as we waited just a few minutes for the cars in front to go through customs with British soil only feet ahead.
This was certainly no worse than boarding a ferry anywhere else in the world and the weather was nice, to boot.
We arrived at the hotel mid-afternoon and promptly checked out the hotel pool which was very nice (the hotel itself was average with only poor-man’s air conditioning – the type that adds moisture to the air – the last thing you need when you’re hot). We spent the afternoon checking out the high street and the hotel pool – which was very nice.
Tuesday morning breakfast was “average to poor”.
First thing after breakfast Tuesday we headed off to the waterfront for our Dolphin adventure amid fears we’d never make it as there was a pea-souper of a mist out there. The trip was delayed and so we had a walk about and popped into O’Reilly’s bar for coffee (where we had a really nice chat with the waitress about her experiences on Facebook and life in general) as well as sitting at the square watching someone in an “Alien” outfit scare the hell out of kids, which was, I hate to say it, quite amusing though usually it didn’t take them long to figure it out.
Thankfully by lunchtime the fog had lifted and travelling back to the Marina, we took off in a small boat with very few people in it and enjoyed a fabulous time watching dolphins chasing the boat and performing completely for their own enjoyment out at sea in front of us, not to mention a close-up of the Queen Victoria and witnessing some very big nearby tankers and overflying aircraft. First class entertainment and the owners were more than helpful providing me with Factor 30 as we’d left ours in the car.
We had lunch and then back to the hotel pool to cool off before taking the lift up the Rock to the top. My normal photo frenzy came to a halt there as the mist was still in full swing up there and after enjoying the Macaques (there are around 250 of them) for a while, one young fellow had formed an attachment with someone’s hat and provided some great laughs as he fought off his mates to keep it to himself. See him below taking in the very distant view below – no health and safety concerns for him.
Maureen and I then started the long walk down the steep road including the “Devil’s “Walk” trail back down to the bottom which took about 90 minutes or so. The walk was exhausting, made all the worse by the knowledge, acquired in the pool earlier that a bunch of squaddies (the ones who are there on “routine business” would be “jogging up the Rock” the next day!! I think I’d get about 5ft up jogging. The Rock sits 1,350 ft above sea level at the top – and sea level at the bottom. We then stopped for dinner in the square and had an early night. I have to say if there are two things that detract from this marvelous place – firstly it tends to be dirty – I can’t say I am impressed by the street cleaners! Secondly the food – it’s aimed at the lowest level Brit – most of it comes with chips – this is NOT the side of Gibraltar I saw the first time around – but most countries that cater heavily for Brits tend to sell the same old unimaginative “safe” crap that some of us seem to like so much.
This morning before leaving (and having avoided breakfast at the hotel) we headed off to Morrisons – which is pretty much like any other Morrisons except a tad more expensive. Again – you would think that people might like to take advantage of more continental offerings but there you go. We bought a few essentials, filled the car up at an incredibly £1.10p per litre (Gibraltans deal in Pounds Sterling as well as Euros) and heading off to the border to await the predicted queues – the only queues we actually came across occurred when we got stuck at a roundabout for several minutes – thanks to the airport road (the only way out) being closed to let a plane in! I wonder who’d bright idea it was to put a roundabout right near the point where the road closes hence ensuring that those leaving the country get to hold up all the traffic! Once past that we sailed through customs – the Spanish officer took a quick look at our passports and cheerily sent us on our way. So if there were long queues and I’m sure there were – we never saw them.
Next stop Ikea in Malaga – then onto Brico-Depot in Granada before heading back home to Galera – as I’m writing this we’re pondering where to go for dinner – most likely a small bar in a nearby village like Orce.
Meanwhile, here are some more pictures of our trip – remember you can click on any picture for a larger version.