12 September 2018 Malaga – La Linea – Gibraltar
After spending 7 days in Malaga we drove to La Linea de la Concepion which lies on the eastern isthmus of the Bay of Gibraltar, north of the British overseas territory of Gibraltar.
Gibraltar is the southernmost point of Europe and is also strategically positioned at the western end of the Mediterranean. It shares a border with Spain to the north and Morocco is 24 kilometres away in North Africa. It contains a huge Jurassic (some 200 million years old) limestone rock known as The Rock which is 426m high. It has an area of 6.5sq km and has been a strategic stronghold for centuries.
Throughout its history, Gibraltar has been inhabited by a range of immigrants from differing cultural backgrounds including Spanish, Genoese, Maltese, Moroccan, Jewish, Indian, Portuguese and British. Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht. During the Franco era, Spain attempted to revive her claim for the reversion of The Rock to Spanish sovereignty, which culminated in the closure of the border for thirteen years in 1969 until it was reopened as a condition of Spain joining the European Union.
Gibraltar’s population is around 30,000. Each day an additional 15,000 people cross the border from Spain to augment Gibraltar’s workforce.
We camped in an Aires on the marina in La Linea overlooking the yachts tied up.
The border crossing is a 10-minute walk. You can tell it is the border because there are a huge number of cars lined up waiting to go in. We walked to the border and after producing our passports twice we caught a bus into the centre of Gibraltar. The town was full of tourists from two ships in the harbour looking for duty free bargains for alcohol and cigarettes. After walking around the centre and the square which is surrounded by very tired old buildings and rubbish we decided to head back across the border to our campsite for the night.
We reached the Frontier and entered the border control area and showed our passports again. The border control officers take a cursory glance as you walk through. Tonight, there are about twenty or more motorhomes parked on the marina.
There are two interesting things we noticed about Gibraltar. First, near the end of our bus ride along the busy main street, the road runs through the runway for the international airport where planes taxi and take off. When a plane either lands or takes off, the lights turn red and a red and white stripped gate closes the road and the traffic stops. Sometimes when it is busy the traffic can be stopped for 30 minutes and this is the only road into and out of Gibraltar.
The second is, despite being an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, traffic in Gibraltar is on the right side of the road and the steering wheel is on the left, the same with the rest of continental Europe.
13 September 2018 Gibraltar
- Rock of Gibraltar
With an early start to the day we headed back to Gibraltar to visit The Rock of Gibraltar. We purchased our tickets from the Gibraltarinfo kiosk at the frontier before we entered Gibraltar which entitled us to a free return shuttle bus, return cable car trip and entry to the Nature Reserve which includes entry to the Skywalk, St Michael’s Cave, the Moorish Castle, the suspension bridge, City Under Siege Museum and the Great Siege Tunnels.
With passports in hand we followed the same procedure as yesterday then caught the shuttle, bordered the cable car and in 6 minutes we were at the top of The Rock.
We obtained an audio guide from the café and went outside and listened to information about the history of The Rock including the sites, fauna and flora. When you stand here you feel like you are on top of the world with the African coastline, unable to be seen today as the mist hung low in the distance, the gates to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic on either side, Spain’s Costa del Sol and a beautiful panoramic view of the city far below, the quays, marinas and bays. It is truly a breathtaking view. Most of The Rock’s upper area is covered by a nature reserve.
After downloading the app of the trails, we had just begun to walk to our first destination when two Barbary macaques (monkeys), appeared looking for food from unsuspecting tourists. The monkeys are permanent residents of The Rock and how they appeared here is still unknown. There are warning signs everywhere about not feeding them and making sure that no plastic bags are visible or food and to keep backpacks zipped at all times. One of them chased a guy with a backpack.
The macaques are so fast and nibble and their ability in the air is amazing. After the excitement we began our walk along the trails to our first destination, but on the way a toddler in a pram was eating a muffin and from out of nowhere a monkey appeared and grabbed the boy’s muffin. It happened so quickly, no one saw it coming.
We then continued walking to the Skywalk which is 340 metres directly above sea level. The floor and balustrade panels, built on the foundations of an existing WWII base structure, are made up of 4 layers of laminated glass and from here there are breath taking 360° views. It is quite daunting walking along the glass floors with only the sea below, but definitely worth the effort.
There are male, female and baby macaques everywhere as you make your way along the trails eating food provided by staff and chasing visitors who appear to have food in prams, backpacks or plastic bags. As we were walking along the trail a large male whom we passed suddenly jump onto Ian’s backpack looking for food. Ian yelled and elbowed the macaque hard in the stomach and it fell to the ground, unharmed. It happened so quickly and from then on, we were always alert.
We continued further down the trail to St Michael’s Cave. The main hall of the cave is enormous and from here there are stairs and pathways which allow you to explore other parts of the cave complex. The cavern is absolutely stunning with glimmering white, grey and red stalactite columns, resembling a cathedral with organ pipes. The size of the main chambers is monstrous, and the profusion and variety of calcite formations is startling. A light display continually changes the colours in the main hall area and is accompanied by relaxing, peaceful music.
We continued on the trail down the rock to the Windsor Suspension Bridge where we walked across the swaying bridge and then to the Apes’ Den but there were no monkeys running around this area because they were out and about at the top of the Rock, the Skywalk and St Michael’s Caves having their pictures taken by tourists like us and attacking unsuspecting visitors.
Further along the trail is the only Lime Kiln remaining which was used extensively in the 18th and 19th centuries to produce white lime for agriculture, slaked lime for building material and quick lime for construction work by heating crushed rock.
Next stop was the Moorish Castle which was built in 1333 AD by the Moors who controlled much of the Iberian Peninsula at this point in history. The principal building that remains is the Tower of Homage, a massive building of brick and very hard concrete. We went inside and climbed to the top. It has great views across the city.
We then headed back up the hill to our next stop which was the World War II tunnels which can be visited by a guided tour. We each donned a hard hat and with a guide and an audio device we walked through the tunnels listening to the very detailed commentary. The tunnels were created during the Second World War using hand tools. In the early stages of the war, the British were worried that Germany would attack this strategic territory and the plan was to accommodate tens of thousands of troops on the tunnels in preparation. Although this never came to pass, the tunnels were used for other purposes like a hospital. It is hard to imagine when you look at it from the outside, but the Rock of Gibraltar actually has more than 50 kilometres of tunnels inside of it. We only saw some of the highlights, but it was quite an incredible sight to see where people lived deep in the rocks for months on end.
Following this we visited a unique system of underground passages, known as the Galleries or the Great Siege Tunnels. The Great Siege lasted from 1779 to 1783 as French and Spanish troops blockaded Gibraltar in an attempt to claim it for themselves. The tunnels were built into the rock so that holes could be made into the cliffs to mount guns but in the end, it was a decisive element in the victory for the British. The length of the main tunnel has small exhibitions and displays explaining the history and different features.
From here there are great views of the Bay of Gibraltar, the isthmus and Spain. Whilst we were here, through one of the windows, we witnessed the closing of the road for an airplane to take off. An amazing sight!
We had spent an entire day exploring The Rock but still didn’t have time to see the City Under Siege Museum which is a small museum and one of the first buildings the British constructed in Gibraltar at the start of the 18th century. We had walked down to the middle of the rock and because the cable car does not stop at the middle station from April – October, we had to choose either to walk back up the hill or continue down the hill and miss out on a cable car ride back down the mountain. We chose to walk up the hill and have a cable car ride down as our last experience of being on The Rock.
It was an exhausting but amazing day investigating the various parts of The Rock of Gibraltar and seeing the cheeky and even aggressive Barbary macaques and the cable car ride to the top and back again. We had to walk into to Casemate Square because we missed the last shuttle bus of the day back to the Frontier. We had dinner, caught a bus back to the border and then walked another 10 minutes to our motorhome campsite.
14 September 2018 Gibraltar – Seville
For the remainder of our trip we are stopping at places in Spain and Portugal to obtain an idea of what it is like travelling in a motorhome and understanding parts of countries we have never ventured before. When we return next year, we will be travelling Spain and Portugal in greater detail.
After gathering groceries and fuel we headed to Autocaravanas Puerto Gelves on the outskirts of Seville. It is a services Aires where we camped with 15 other motorhomes overlooking on one side the Marina and the other River Guadalquivir. Tonight, after another hot day, we had a huge storm with thunder, lightning, wind and rain.
15 September 2018 Seville
- Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballeria de Sevilla (bullring)
This morning we caught a bus from the Aires into Seville centre which took about 20 minutes. We went to what we thought was a tourist office but the person we spoke to was not very helpful and gave us a map of the Hop On- Hop Off City Sightseeing Sevilla. We walked around the streets and found the Seville Cathedral which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the adjoining Alcazar palace complex which is one of the oldest palaces still in use in the world. The lines to go into each of these were incredibly long. In the square behind the cathedral we found a free guided walking tour but as it had already started we decided we would come back another time. The architecture of the buildings in the centre are incredible and colourful.
We walked to the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballeria de Sevilla which is the bullring with a seating capacity of 12,000. As a stage for bullfighting, it is considered one of the world’s most challenging environments because of its history, characteristics, and viewing public, which is considered one of the most unforgiving in all of bullfighting folklore. The bullfighting season is from April to October each year.
We went on a guided walking audio tour of the site. We visited the museum where there were paintings by Goya and other famous artists depicting bullfighting history and exhibitions of suits worn by bullfighters.
After this we visited the stables where the bulls are housed before the event and the chapel where the matadors pray before they enter the ring.
Following this we walked out into the arena. It must be a daunting feeling to have 12,000 people looking at you to see how you perform.
At the end of the tour we went to lunch at La Brunilda where we had the most amazing tapas.
We decided to head back to the motorhome as the weather was very stifling and the lines for the other attractions were too long to wait in the hot sun. On our way to the bus we passed Torre del Oro a dodecagonal military watchtower built in the first third of the 13th century in order to control access to Seville via the Guadalquivir river.
Tonight, we had another storm, but it was not as bad as yesterday.