On our first trip to Gibraltar, we toured the fortifications. Over the years, the British carved many tunnels and gun emplacements into “the Rock” to protect it first from the French (1779-1783) and then as recently as World War II. This maze of siege tunnels is what Gibraltar is all about and should not be missed. The entire independent British colony is less than two square miles.
On a second visit, we took the cable car to the top, which is surprisingly narrow. The views can be fantastic clear to Africa. We planned to do so again but were thwarted by circumstances. To save Alie’s feet, we had her wheelchair and, unlike our previous visit, the young lady selling tickets would not allow us to leave it with her. In any case, the top of the Rock was hidden in clouds most of the day.
Ours was the only cruise ship, but the streets were full of shoppers. Although they seemed of every nationality, we guessed most were Spanish coming to take advantage of duty-free wares. Alie and Michelle contributed to local economy in a favorite shop while I watched the passing crowd. A group of teenage girls, like girls everywhere, stopped to have their picture taken and then all huddled around to look at the result.
We stopped to watch the glass blowers, always a favorite pastime, and walked along back streets through the “Irish district” away from the tourists. Here we found shops, taverns and even a “gent’s barber shop” catering to local residents, not tourists.
After lunch in the Pub Bonafee, definitely not a tourist attraction, we visited the Trafalgar Cemetery just outside the 1552 gate in the Charles V city wall. It holds the remains of many sailors who died from wounds received at the Battle of Trafalgar. There were also many of the famous Barbary Apes (tailless Barbary Macques), formerly only seen up on the Rock. Legend has it that Great Britain will lose control of Gibraltar if the apes leave the Rock. I don’t know if the government believes the legend, but they do insist you not feed the apes – they have their own veterinarian and a special diet.
Gibraltar is an independent part of the Commonwealth. As we walked back to the ship, we saw a large banner celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. As you can see by the package-laden chair, we did our part to make Gibraltarians happy.