Gibraltar, a home away from home? Britain in Spain? Or most famous for the rock and the apes. As a family we wanted to go there so the boys could see the apes. There was a lot of excitement in our car as we crossed the border into British Gibraltar, our eldest boy, Chaos, loves Lego police and the Spanish Guardia, this was the highlight of the day for him. To suddenly see border control and ‘Bobbies’ ‘panda cars’ and soldiers on parade was truly amazing. As we have now been away from the UK for a while, we were fantasising about going to a chippy for fish and chips! Oh the joys of Gibraltar!
What initially strikes you about Gibraltar is that the rock is huge, awesome, domineering and massive! Then you realise the rest of the colony is tiny, hardly any space for houses, the airport and cars. So after crossing the border our first thoughts were concerns about parking. After traversing the island we settled for a rather expensive multi-storey close to Irish Town.
We arrived early and knew that there would be tempting breakfasts in this part of Gibraltar. Forget café con leche and pan com tomate for a day. We headed for the Clipper pub, a bastion of British pub grub and fry-ups. We ordered and quickly consumed two fry ups, one veggie and a typical meaty feast with tea and toast. The staff were really friendly and soon dished up our pub grub.
We headed along the high street and walked all the way to the cable car station. Along the way we were informed several times by mini bus tour drivers and touts that we would have to walk a long way if used the cable car and then wanted to see all the sights within the nature reserve. The touts were pretty negative, but we chose to ignore them as we were excited to ride the cable car. Before we boarded the car we we popped into a newsagents to marvel at the range of crisps and chocolate bars. It had to be Monster Munch, Hula Hoops, Wispa bar for us and Milky bar for the boys to share.
At the cable car station, which takes you up to the Upper rock nature reserve, you are presented with various ticket options, including cable car only or a combination of cable car and nature reserve, which also includes entry to the most popular attractions. Our young boys entered for free, yay! The adult ticket is a whopping £22 each, ouch! However on reflection at the end of the day, there are lots of fun sights included in the ticket and the size of the nature reserve makes for a full day, plus seeing our youngest boy, Mayhem, laughing at the apes was priceless.
The cable car gives incredible views over Gibraltar town and as soon as we arrived at the station, the infamous ‘Apes’ (Tailless Barbary Macaques), could be seen playing, grooming and pondering. Heading along a scenic path to St Michaels Cave, we spotted so many apes! Entry to the cave was included in our ticket price. The incredible stalegtites and stalagmites have been highlighted with coloured lights to spectacular effect. The cave is also used for concerts. It really is a spectacular space, the boys thought it was hilarious, a real ‘rave in a cave’. Although there were a lot of tourists at the cave you are free to wander around at your own speed. A very different experience to the ultra polished guided tours at the Nerja caves, and I must say, much more enjoyable. If you want to go deeper into St Michaels cave you can also arrange this by guided tour.
Continue from the cave downhill for more Ape antics, you are reminded not to feed them, but they are opportunistic Apes and will appear from the trees if you stop to open your rucksack. There was no way he was getting our Wispa bar, but we spotted one man having his bottle of water taken out of his bag by one ‘cheeky monkey’!
The military heritage centre of the awesome rock was the next attraction, the road then split and we headed for the dizzyingly high suspension bridge and then re-joined the road for the Great Siege tunnels. Mind your head in here as you head deep into the rock to see the cannons pointing out to sea. You are rewarded with great views here, as you are still pretty high up inside the ‘rock’. For more tunnel fun we then went to the World War II tunnels, a 45 min guided tour through a sample of some fifty kms of tunnels into Gibraltar. The highlight being the balcony with views over the Airport and Eastern beach. The WWII are not included in the nature reserve ticket price but we thought they were and somehow ended up tagging along with a tour party and got in for free!
At this point we had probably walked further as a family than ever before, the doom-sayer touts were right, it is a long walk if you go on foot but it was down hill again and it’s a wonderful way to see the rock in all of it’s awesome glory. The last stop was the Moorish castle. We climbed it’s steps onto the castle roof. Just a ten minute walk down lots and lots of steps led back into the Irish Town end of the Main Street.
There had been some reports of long waits to cross the border, even though there was no wait to enter Gibraltar. As we had missed the turn off for Morrisons and ended up in the exit queue (Gibraltar really is that small), there was some tension in the car as we waited over an hour and a half to exit and had to just imagine all those isles full of ‘the tastes of home’. We resisted the ice cream van and were soon heading back along the Spanish coastal road. What a great day out, there is a fun day out to be had in Gibraltar. We just need to find somewhere to spend those Gibraltar fivers now!
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