Monday, 4 December 2017

Gibraltar – Days 45 to 47

British Redcoat re-enactment in Grand Casements Square
After 4 days of seeing most of the sights of Gibraltar we have walked nearly 50km with over 1500m of ascent, our legs are aching, but we’ve still managed to spend lots of time with Kuki cat who has been out with us most of the time we have been in, mainly resting her head in Jackie’s lap.

Looking round Trafalgar Cemetery
Main Street Gibraltar
So here are some facts about Gibraltar:
It has a population of just over 34,000; it’s a British Overseas Territory, which means it is a self-governing territory, but Britain is responsible for its defence and external affairs and has the Queen as constitutional head of state; all its fresh water comes from desalination of seawater by the process of reverse osmosis; the official language is English, but most Gibraltarians (79% of the population) converse in Llanito, which is a mix of Spanish and English with a bit of Maltese, Portuguese, Italian and others thrown in, with locals switching easily between a very nicely spoken English to something very difficult to understand save the odd English and Spanish words.
Also in Main Street Gibraltar. All prices in £'s too
After the Romans left the territory has been ruled by the Moors (711 to 1502), nearly 800 years, the Spanish (1502 to 1704), 202 years and, since then the British (1704 on), to date 313 years. Nelson’s body, preserved in rum, was brought back here on HMS Victory after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805; the rock has over 200 natural caves, St Michael’s being the largest known and there are also 34 miles of tunnels dug between the years 1779 to 83 and again in 1940 to 68.

Its not often you can walk across the main runway of an international airport
The roads now closed and a road sweeper cleans the runway
After our first day of walking up the Rock in our last entry we’ve had a day out around town, seen Trafalgar cemetery (only two who died in the battle are buried there however), seen Marks and Spencer  & Morrison’s – very strange, including filling the car with fuel at 92p/litre, seen a re-enactment of British Redcoats receiving the keys of the city, accompanied with several rounds of gunfire and a cannon fire, all in the centre of Grand Casements Square on a busy Saturday afternoon full of people shopping and enjoying lunch in the outdoor cafes, and walked across the main runway of Gibraltar International Airport and five minutes later, after closing the road, watched a jet land.

Then the plane lands
The Rock from the runway with its many tunnels and lookouts
On Sunday We drove right round the Rock and saw Catalan Bay on the eastern side with its narrow maze-like walkways between houses crammed into a narrow strip between the Mediterranean and the Rock, saw the lighthouse and Muslim temple at Europa Point and, later took a walk round the Botanical gardens and into the animal sanctuary, full of animals and birds confiscated from ships attempting to smuggle them through the Strait.

Catalan Bay on the eastern side of the Rock
The lighthouse at Europa Point
Today (Monday) we’ve been up the Rock again, this time to see the Moorish castle, the Great Siege tunnels, constructed between 1779 and 83 when the Spanish, joined by the French in 1782 tried without success to drive the British from the Rock, and St Michael’s cave, which we were both bowled over by. Although they have been modified by man quite extensively the natural limestone formations and the sheer size of it is really amazing. Finally we visited the 100 ton gun, a Victorian supergun, at the Rosia Harbour, the very place the Victory carrying Nelsons body docked after the Battle of Trafalgar.

From the lighthouse at Europa Point, the Islamic temple and the Rock from the south
The Botanic Gardens and suspension bridge beyond
All in all, a busy few days, but it has been fabulous, particularly with Kuki cat to look after!

Tomorrow morning we pack up and leave Gibraltar, heading back into Spain and on to Malaga to catch up with Jean and Jimmy, a couple we shared our dining table with on each night of our cruise back from Central America in May, so we’re looking forward to that.

Lemurs in the animal sanctuary
The cannon fire in the Square
The Moorish fort on the Rock. Badly damaged from numerous sieges and much modified
View from the Moorish fort. Cruise liner in dock on the left, airport runway and Spain beyond
Ship etchings on the wall, engraved during the Great Siege of 1779-83
From one of the gun batteries on the northern part of the Rock
In a WWII extension to one of the Great Siege tunnels. It was windy and cold - as you can see!
The war cemetery and runway from one of the Great Siege tunnels observation holes
A huge man made chamber in the Rock containing 7 cannon
Inside St Michaels Cave with auditorium and stage
Some of the amazing limestone formations inside the cave
Walking down the Rock and looking at Rosia (Nelsons) harbour and the 100 ton gun
The 100 ton gun, never actually fired in anger
Just to show the size of the barrel. It is 17.2" diameter
 A dry dock in the naval shipyard
I know a photo of a plane taking off at an airport is pretty uninteresting, but Gibratar airport is pretty special. This is taken from near the top of the Rock, the Spanish border is parallel to the runway, just beyond and the cars are queueing up to and beyond the border. It is considered to be one of the most dangerous airports in the world due to both the road going across the runway and the air currents that swirl around the Rock catching pilots unaware. It was really quite windy on this day, but the Easyjet pilot took it in his stride

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