Saturday, December 8, 2012: Gibraltar
Shortly after 8am, we docked in Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory that sits on a small 5 square mile patch of land carved out of Spain’s southern coastline. Just a stone’s throw from the coast of Africa, if the weather permits, you can see the coast of Africa from Europa Point or from the top of “The Rock.” We had the wonderful privilege to return to this small slice of the United Kingdom after our first visit in 2007. That visit introduced us to a Cable Gondola trip up “The Rock,” as well as the Apes, St. Michael’s cave, and a wonderful walk through the Siege tunnels. This time around, we elected to take a more leisurely visit and walk from the ship to Casemates Square, through the thriving shopping district, Trafalgar Cemetery, the Alameda Botanic Garden, and enjoy a local lunch in town.
The walk from the ship to Casemates Square took about 20 minutes on a partly cloudy morning, and given it was a Saturday, traffic was still light for the 9 o’clock hour. Arriving into Casemates Square, a large commercial pedestrian area with tons of shops, restaurants, and patio tables for outdoor dining, we watched as the shopkeepers were setting up for weekend coffee and breakfast service. Darin stopped into the local Tourist information center to get some recommendations for a Gluten-free restaurant that might offer some Wi-Fi to upload pictures from the trip thus far. We were directed to the Bean & Gone Cafe on Engineers Lane, just a short walk from Casemates, so we headed East on Main street and into the shopping district and towards our first destination.
Though it was still early, the shopping district was slowly coming alive with a number of Duty-Free shops offering electronics, cigarettes, liquor, and UK department stores, amongst others. As our previous visit to Gibraltar had been on a Saturday, we knew that soon flocks of visitors from La Linea and points northward in Spain would be making their way to Gibraltar to pick up Duty-Free items and gifts for the upcoming Christmas season.
In addition, as we watched the activity on the street (and did a little window shopping ourselves!), we also noticed a large number of finely dressed families walking along the street headed to Synagogue for services as it was the first day of Hanukkah.
From here, we took a small side alley and found the Bean & Gone Cafe, but quickly found the small shop deserted and most certainly closed for the day. No concern, we headed back down to Main Street and continued east, just meandering our way down the street. We were taking a very leisurely pace, but in less than 30 minutes, we had already reached the eastern end of the shopping district and had arrived at the small Trafalgar Cemetery. This small cemetery sits right along Main Street and just across the street from a major hotel! Most of the buried here are from the mid-1800s and a small index at the front gate identified location of family plots. We spent a few minutes walking through here and admiring the care and ongoing upkeep that locals provided for the long departed and headed back out.
A few minutes later, we were back at the Cable Gondola starting point for “The Rock.” Five years previous we took the ride to the top and walked the entire length back down to sea level. It was a great day and a lot of good exercise, but we were excited about the more leisurely pace of the day and whatever was still to come. Just next to the car park for the cable gondola was the entrance to the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens, also known as The Alameda. We walked through here, enjoying a small variety of local and gifted plants to the territory and walked along the paths to see small waterfalls, bridges, and rest areas throughout the facility. As it was winter, many of the venues were not in operation, but we did come across a fun little playground that had been recently refurbished and we spent a few minutes enjoying the different swings, see-saws, and jungle gyms as “big kids”.
From here, we headed back West into the main shopping area and to a side street to locate the Theatre Royal Bar and Restaurant, a highly recommended place for a great lunch. As our luck would have it, they were closed as well! I guess weekends in winter are a “we’re open if we want to be” time of year. Again, nothing to worry about, we headed back down to Main Street and located a little restaurant that advertised “Free Wi-Fi” and “Sangria Specials”. (One of these made Darin happy, the other, Natalie — bet you can’t guess which?) We arrived at the Gibraltar Arms, grabbed a table and ordered some Sangria and “Over the Top” Nachos and started the upload of our pictures and travel log entries to date.
The nachos were excellent and the Sangria was a great way to cool off from what was turning into the warmest day thus far on the trip. We spent nearly 2 hours here enjoying the great music, watching the locals and visitors alike, and enjoying our lunchtime meal. The nachos were so “Over the Top” good, that we actually ordered a second round of them! About 2:30pm, we were ready to finish our meal and asked our server for the bill. When we pulled out a 20 Pound British note to pay, the barkeep, a 24 year old guy named Kevin, announced that they couldn’t accept the note as it was “older than he was!” We checked and sure enough, it was from the early 1990s and was used on the last trip Natalie had made to Europe! As the banks were closed on Saturday, we couldn’t swap it out for a “current note,” so we just paid for lunch with the credit card and enjoyed a good chuckle with the staff.
We headed back to the ship, tummies full, relaxed, and ready for our next port of call, Casablanca!