March 1, 2007

M&M Visit Gibraltar

Outdoor sports are very popular here in southern Spain. Paddle is the most popular; people of all ages play. It is similar to raquetball, but different in that you play outside with a bigger raquet and you use what looks like a tennis ball instead of the smaller rubber one used in raquetball.

Tennis is popular in its own right. In fact, we have plenty of tennis courts in the area, both hard surface and clay. M&M had never played on clay courts, so they brought along their tennis gear and during the morning on October 9th, they played. I took tons of pictures with my camera, including the impression their shoes made on the court (cheezy, I know), but here is the best one I took that shows them both playing:

I drove them around the port so that they could see the yachts and restaurant area as well as the pebbly beach. We then stopped by the house so that they could clean up. La Línea was our next destination. We parked there and I walked them through the pedestrian streets to the mercado in the center of town. Here you can purchase anything you might need for the day's meals. There are pork, poultry, beef, seafood, olive, flower, fruit and vegetable, spice, and cured ham and specialty vendors in the mercado. After our walk-through we headed back towards the car and stopped at a tiny tapas bar for lunch. The weather was nice, so we ate outside. We ordered a few things that we recognized and a couple that we didn't. It was the best calamari I've had here yet - mmmm...calamari.

We walked across the border into Gibraltar. Just as we passed through the passport control we came upon one of the sales desks for the Rock Tours. These tours are pricey, but they give you a decent introduction to the country and what it has to offer. The best part is that your tour guide takes you in a van to the top of the rock and through the Upper Rock Nature Preserve. I would never want to have to drive up there; the streets are smaller than some I've seen in Spain and everything is one way. I am quite certain that I would get us lost and heading in the wrong direction. To me, it is well worth it to not have to drive up there myself. Plus, your entry to the attractions is included.

The first place we stopped on our tour was at the Pillars of Hercules. There are two pillars, one in Gibraltar and one in Africa. They mark the entrance to the straight of Gibraltar, which was at one time the border between the known and the unknown. The rock of Gibraltar was at one time under Spanish control, and for this reason the Pillars of Hercules appear on the Spanish coat of arms.

There are two sides of the monument, one for the "Ancient World" and one for the "Modern World". The plaque on the "Ancient World" side reads: "To the ancient world Gibraltar was known as Mons Calpe, one of the legendary pillars created by Hercules as a religious shrine - and as an entrance to hades. To many, it signified the "non plus ultra," the end of the then known world."

Our next stop was Saint Michael's Cave. This cave is one of many within the rock. It is dramatically lit with colorful lights and there are plaques with information on them throughout the tour area. Within the cave is a stalagmite that at some point broke off and fell to the floor. A piece was cut off of the end of it resulting in a cross-section that shows its growth over the years.

One of the most interesting things about the cave is that at this time one of its main uses is that of a performance theatre. The acoustics in the cave are said to be perfect and a stage has been built and seating placed. Over one hundred people can attend a performance in the cave at a time. It would certainly make for a performance with some interesting atmosphere.

There is a shop and a restaurant at the cave's exit. We opted to not purchase anything to eat since the apes on the rock are very aggresive when it comes to food. We were told not to have any food out because they will come over to you and take it. I have heard of them jumping onto people and sitting on your shoulders and head until they get what they want. We did not experience anything like that, but the apes had no problem being close to people.

The next stop on the tour was at the top of the rock about halfway along its length. We were able to look to either side and see the Atlantic on one and the Mediterranean on the other. This picture is looking back towards the cave and pillars. The water is the Mediterranean Sea.

While at this vantage point, we ran into another family of apes who were very busy doing what apes do best: grooming. They are very cute, but definitely wild animals.

The Seige Tunnels are one of the main attractions on the rock. They were created during the Great Seige when France and Spain made an attempt to take the rock back from the British. The attackers were so close to the rock that the defenders were no longer able to fire on them; they needed a way to protect the rock from the north face, called the Notch.

A tunnel was suggested and begun. While constructing it, the fumes were so great that small openings were cut into the side of the rock for ventilation. Immediately they realized that these vents would be great for placing cannons. Once mounted, these cannons allowed the British to maintain their control and the French and Spanish were unsuccessful once again.

Cannons were carried to the top of the rock and into the tunnels by using rings mounted into the rock. All along our tour, we could see rings sticking out on the side of the road. These rings, along with some sort of rope and the manpower to pull the weight, are what allowed the British to mount cannons so far up on the rock.

There are only a few cannons still in place in the Seige Tunnel. As we walked down the path, we were able to look out of the ventilation holes and see Spain. Gibraltar and Spain are currently connected by reclaimed land on which the airport is located. Through some of the openings we could see the runway very well.

Ignighting the gun powder was something they could not afford to do. In order to protect everyone cloth was hung from rods over each cannon. In some areas there is nothing left, but in others we could still see the strips of cloth.

Señor CC was at work while M&M and I were enjoying tennis, La Línea and Gibraltar. His workplace is directly across the water from the rock and we were able to take some pictures of the site from the top when we exited the tunnels. This is the best I could do from such a distance; it is quite large in reality.

Once our Rock Tour was complete, M&M and I were dropped off in Casmates Square. Connected to the square are the many pedestrian streets of Gibraltar with shops galore. We traversed them a bit and M&M purchased a couple of shirts for their remaining days. When we tired of the shopping we headed back towards the airport and the Spanish border. There is a stoplight at the runway for those times when a plane is either taking off or landing. Luckily we had a green light and were able to walk across the runway and through passport control to Spain. From La Línea we drove back to Sotogrande and ordered comida para llevar from one of our favorite restaurants, Little Buddha. It was a full day.


Cybernest said...

My compliments on your blog Señora... and for a great tour of Gibraltar!

I hope you enjoyed it... looks like you did! :D

Come back and visit us again... and if you can't physically... well do it virtually... in our Gibraltar News Online website pages or in our forum!

Hope to see you soon!


Gibraltar News Online:

Gibraltar News Online Forums:


Pam said...

What beautiful photographs! I especially liked seeing and reading about St. Michael's Cave. That stalagmite -- wow! You live in a beautiful part of the world --it is nice you can share the sights through your blog. I shall return!