GIBRALTAR -  received April 28

The British colony of Gibraltar occupies a lump of limestone, almost 5km long and over 1km wide, near the mouth of the Med. Gibraltar was the bridgehead for the Muslim invasion of Spain in AD 711and was held until 1462. In 1704 an Anglo-Dutch fleet captured Gibraltar. Now after 300 years of being British, there is talk of a joint Spain and Britain Anglo Spanish partnership. This does not sit too well with Gibraltarians. When you walk around Gibraltar it feels just like it would be back in Britain in the 1960’s, not that I was around. Getting into the rock is a bit of a pain as coach loads of day trippers from the Costa del Sol create lineups and queues that take over an hour to get through. The really funny thing is that this little place is just long enough to support a runway and they just happen to have one in a very unusual place. As we are waiting in this huge line-up to get into this funky little place, a plane decides to land and that was a site! The border must close because the runway goes right across the main street into Gibraltar.  You sit an extra 20 minutes and watch a British Airways jet slowly taxi down in front of the border crossing; really bizarre.

We were told the things to see are: Gibraltar Museum, Upper Rock Nature Reserve, Barbary macaques, Apes den, St. Michael’s Cave and the great siege tunnels.





A shot of Gibraltar from high up on the rock



A Day on the Rock of Gibraltar

(Written by Helen)


We all had to get up pretty early again as we were supposed to catch our bus to Gibraltar at 9am.  Since my sister and her kids have been here we’ve had some late nights so this was considered an early morning.  The weather is kind of brisk at that time of the day but we can’t really dress too warmly because the day will be hot by noon. 

Steve was getting a little nervous because our bus was about 45 minutes late.  We were just about to go home when the coach arrived and they apologized for being late due to an accident on the way, they had a huge detour.


We always thought that the Rock of Gibraltar was just a huge piece of rock in the middle of the Sea.  We had no idea that it was actually connected to Spain and has a city on it with many inhabitants, and British to boot.  The line-up to the border took about half an hour and it is obviously an extremely touristy place because the majority of the vehicles in line were tour buses. The bus stop where all the tour buses park is a huge parking lot that was actually once all water.  They needed more space so they created more land. 


We were going to just walk around without a tour because we were still disappointed with the tour to Morocco but the lady told us that the tour was very worth while and it meant that we didn’t have to go up their gondola.  So we decided to take it and in hindsight we are so glad we did. 

We were in a type of van/bus that held about 20 people and the driver was our tour guide and he was born and raised in Gibraltar so he was extremely knowledgeable and very funny.  He drove us up some extremely narrow and winding roads and we went through some ancient tunnels that fit only one car, one way.  I kept looking back at my sister and we both had our nervous faces on.  She’s a little uncomfortable with heights so she wouldn’t look out the windows.  It was such an amazing view.  He took us up to the top of the rock to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve and the view was spectacular.  The kid’s were in awe of the rock’s most famous inhabitants:  its colony of Barbary macaques, the only wild primates in Europe.  It is so bizarre to see them.  They just sit there and stare at you as you approach them and take pictures.  You are advised not to touch them and our tour guide told me that he had a tour once and he had made his usual speech about not touching them.  Well, he said a lady from America wanted a picture with one while she had her arm around it and sure enough it bit her right on the arm.  He said the funniest part was that she complained to him later and he just shook his head and said, “I told you so!”  They are so cute and they come in many sizes.  The baby monkeys are the cutest and when you look down the rock you see them in trees, on buildings, on wires, hanging off the buses as they make their way up the hills.  They just take over.  This one gentleman had his bags sitting on the ground and one of the monkeys grabbed a small bag and ran off.  The guy went running after it, yelling and screaming and luckily the monkey dropped the bag before climbing up to safety.  The bag contained the guy’s camera.

Next, we went to St. Michael’s Cave which is a large natural grotto renowned for its stalagmites and stalactites, which are huge deposits of calcium carbonate that stand like pillars and hang like icicles.  The cave is massive and very dark and damp.  They have placed lots of lights in it to make it safe but it stills maintains its natural aura.  One section of it has been turned into a type of open theatre and apparently they have concerts inside of it.  That would truly be a memorable experience. 


As we made our way down the rock we stopped at various locations to take pictures of the spectacular views and every time we stopped the monkeys were there.  We had to keep guard of the door to our bus because the monkeys sit right in front of the doors and make a run for it when the doors open.  One of the monkeys sat on the rear view mirror of our bus and was using his feet to try and slide the window open.  It actually got a little freaky.  That would be a Nikolas word.  Another little baby one was sitting on the back of the car in front of us and was chewing on the car’s antennae.  Steve shooed him away and he ran off but not without giving Steve a very dirty look. 



Silly little monkey, you are wrecking my tunes dude!


The bus dropped us off at the city centre and there was a big square there with all these café’s and souvenir shops around it.  We were all starving so we sat down at a café and ordered mussels, pasta, salad, pizza, soup, and lots of bread, olives and sangria.  It was pretty good.  By that time it was time to head back to the big coach for the hour ride back to San Pedro (where we are staying). 

I wasn’t that keen on seeing Gibraltar but I am so glad we did!  It is beautiful and very interesting, especially if you take a tour and you hear about the history of this ancient site.  And those amazing monkeys are totally worth the price of admission!!!






The Rock of Gibraltar is composed of limestone. It arises abruptly from the sea in the east; its slope is more gradual on the west. The maximum elevation is 426 m (1,398 ft). Aloes, cacti, capers, and asparagus grow in the crevices. Certain parts contain grassy glens, in which pigeons, partridges, woodcocks, and the Barbary ape (the only wild monkey of Europe) are found. Among the natural caves of the promontory, Saint Michael's, with an entrance 335 m (1,100 ft) above the sea, is the largest. Climate is temperate, with temperatures averaging 15.6° C (60° F) in winter and 21.1° C (70° F) in summer. Average annual rainfall is 889 mm (35 in).


The population of Gibraltar in 2003 was 27,776. The overall population density was 4,273 persons per sq km (11,068 per sq mi). Most of the civilian inhabitants are of Portuguese, Italian, Maltese, English, or Spanish descent.


The official language is English, although Spanish is widely spoken. About 75% of the population is Roman Catholic, 8% is Anglican, and 9% Muslim. Education is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 14. In 2000 some 2,377 students attended 12 primary schools in Gibraltar.


Because few natural resources are found, the major factors of the economy are the processing of food products, tourism, and shipping. A free port and gambling concessions attract tourists. The Admiralty harbor is an important fortress and strategic naval base. The Gibraltar pound is at par with the pound sterling.


Gibraltar is administered by a governor, who is the representative of the Crown. The governor is advised by the Gibraltar Council, which consists of five elected and four ex officio members. The Council of Ministers makes recommendations to the Gibraltar Council. Legislative powers are vested in the House of Assembly, which consists of a speaker (appointed by the governor), 15 elected members, and 2 ex officio members. About 1,800 British troops were maintained in Gibraltar in the late 1980s, but by 1999 that number had been reduced to about 700.


During the European phase of the American War of Independence, the Spanish, who had entered the conflict against the British, imposed a stringent blockade against Gibraltar as part of an unsuccessful siege that lasted for more than three years (1779-83). On September 14, 1782, the British destroyed the floating batteries of the French and Spanish besiegers. In February 1783 the signing of peace preliminaries ended the siege. In 1830, Gibraltar was named a crown colony.


In World War I, the Rock served as a strategic base for Allied naval units and was used as a coaling station for transports en route to theaters of war in the eastern Mediterranean. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), the town of Gibraltar served as a haven for large numbers of Spanish refugees.


When Britain gave almost complete control over internal affairs to the dependency in 1964, Spain contended that under terms of the Peace of Utrecht it should acquire sovereignty over Gibraltar. The British step led to strained relations between the two countries and economic isolation of the dependency by Spain. In a referendum held on September 10, 1967, the people of Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly to remain under British rule and to reject ties with Spain. Spain, however, pursued its claim and in 1969 closed its border to the 5000 Spanish workers who crossed it daily on their way to work in Gibraltar. The dependency consequently adapted its economy, which benefited from a general diversification, increased tourism, and military spending by the British.


Toward the end of the 1970s Spain began to show more flexibility on the question of Gibraltar. In 1980 an agreement in principle was reached on the reopening of the border, but it was not implemented because of labor problems. It was further delayed in 1981, when the prince and princess of Wales selected the Rock as the first stop on their honeymoon, a choice that Spain regarded as an affront. In 1982, however, both countries again committed themselves to resolving their differences, and in February 1985, for the first time in 16 years, the border with the Spanish mainland was fully reopened.

I know it sounds like I wrote all that, but I stole it from the Encyclopedia, just thought you might want to know.


We are going to try and head over to Morocco in the next couple of days, I will let you know how it goes.