One of the ports visited during my recent three-month ocean voyage was Gibraltar, a small but wonderful territory (4 square miles) of United Kingdom right next to Spain, and across the strait of Gibraltar from Africa. We visited Gibraltar at the beginning of July. The weather was absolutely perfect, with sunny skies, breezy air, and temperatures in the low 80s. Even walking around all day in the sun was comfortable. It remained light until about 10pm or so, so there was plenty of time to explore and enjoy.
This blog will cover Gibraltar’s shipping industry, things to do and see, and food choices.
To start with, Gibraltar is a lively shipping port. After a week or so crossing the Atlantic, where we saw no other ships, Gibraltar was a welcome change. There were vessels of all sizes and shapes in the Bay of Gibraltar. They included small motor boats and sailboats to huge tankers. Gibraltar is basically a gas station of the sea, with many small fuel vessels fueling the large ships. They come in, anchor for a short while, obtain fuel, and depart. At any given time, there are approximately 20-30 anchored ships in the area. I found all the ships tied up to be quite a romantic site bringing images of “ships passing in the night.”
As with many European locations, the Gibraltar town center was a busy place during the day, but quieter in the evening. During the week, shops closed around 7. On Saturdays, most shops closed in early afternoon, with the exception of larger stores and of course the cafes and restaurants. There is a nice selection of jewelry and clothing, as well as a wonderful hand-blown crystal shop complete with demonstrations. The small stone streets were filled with café tables, with locals and visitors alike sitting in the sun or under umbrellas, sipping cappuccinos or drinking beer, while chatting and enjoying life.
While the food in Gibraltar is very English (fish and chips, steak and ale pie, etc), there were various cuisines that could be located if desired. To name a few locations, we ate in the Star Pub, the oldest pub in Gibraltar which is located at 12 Parliament Lane. We also tried The Landing’s Restaurant at 15 Queensbay Cay, a wonderful seafood restaurant at the marina, where I had a scrumptious sea bass dinner. With the exception of the latter meal, most food that we had was adequate but not awesome. However, that being said, we did not venture far from the main streets of Gibraltar for dinner, so may have missed some tasty treats.
Gibraltar is also a wonderful place to learn about some European history, and to meet up with Europe’s only wild animals.
We took a six-minute cable car ride up to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar and took in the gorgeous views. You can see the Mediterranean on one side, the straits of Gibraltar on the other. Another fun thing is that you can see three countries at once – Spain, Morocco and Gibraltar. We were lucky enough to have a beautiful day, so we could clearly see all the way to Africa from our spot on top of the Rock. Anyone visiting the country should definitely experience “The Rock.”
Once we explored the top of the rock, we walked back down the hill, which is a relatively long walk that criss-crosses the rock. We stopped at the St. Michaels Caves, which were huge caves full of stalagmites and stalactites and were used as shelter and for exploration throughout the centuries.
We then walked to the Tunnels. There are 32 miles of tunnels in Gibraltar, of which only about ½ mile or so can be toured. The tunnel system in the Rock was built originally as a place to defend the country. It was expanded during World War II to include a hospital and plenty of room for housing soldiers and residents. In addition, it provided space for all living activities (local Gibraltarians shared that there is also a fresh water lake in the tunnels that comes from rainwater and empties under the channel.) We also toured the Moorish castle, which has been in place since the early 8th century, an awesome part of history.
Finally, we explored the museum in Gibraltar, which is located just off Main Street at 18-20 Bomb House Lane. Your tour of the museum can start with a 15 minute movie. By the time we saw the movie, we had already done quite a bit exploring and there wasn’t much new that we gleaned. There are actual Roman baths that can be toured, as well as many artifacts, paintings, models and various historical tidbits. Entrance only costs 2 pounds, so if you have time and are interested in learning about Gibraltar, I’d recommend it.
Also, you could tour Spain or Morocco (Africa) from Gibraltar, with either a formal tour from a travel agent, or by making your own arrangements. We didn’t take advantage of either, but many people did, and they came back with African rugs, and wonderful memories.
So two thumbs up from this traveler on things to do in Gibraltar and one thumb up on the food.
Stay tuned! My next blog will cover my experiences with the people and animals of Gibraltar.