Gibraltar. Not Britain. Not Spain. Just Gibraltar. A large lump of rock stuck on the end of the Iberian peninsula. It’s almost 20 years since we last visited so we were drawn back to see the changes. Our plans were scuppered on the first day we were supposed to visit because the weather was, shall we say, inclement. That’s being polite! Still, it was a harsh reminder of how unpredictable the weather there can be. It’s not all blue skies and sandy beaches!
Crossing into Gibraltar was pain free. The road system in La Linea, on the Spanish side of the border, has certainly been sorted out to make it easier than it used to be. The problem is that finding somewhere to park once you have crossed over can be something of a nightmare. After crossing the runway (don’t stop to take photos!) we turned left at the first roundabout and headed towards Caleta Bay. There is a lot of construction work going on and there has been significant land reclamation over the past 20 years. Everywhere that we could have parked was for resident permit holders only and so we only got a glimpse of the coast.
We continued along the road to Europa Point, Gibraltar’s most southerly point. The road took us through the Dudley Ward Tunnel, which had been closed from 2002 until 2010 after a fatal rockfall. The other roads must have been chaotic! Europa Point is another part of The Rock which has changed beyond recognition. Of particular note is the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque, the most southerly mosque in mainland Europe and a gift from the king of Saudi Arabia a short time after we were last there. The lighthouse and the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe have certainly been spruced up. Don’t miss Harding’s Battery though. The gun placings have been completely restored and are quite impressive. The artillery store underneath has been turned into a very interesting visitors centre. Nearby is the moving tribute to Poland’s General Sikorsky whose plane crashed here in 1943.
Our next stop was Ocean Village where we had to wait for a parking space to become available. Once parked we wandered up into the main part of town where a few old haunts awaited. Lunch in The Clipper was good, but it has been transformed from a dingy, characterful place into a modern, anonymous gastropub. Speckled Hen by the pint was a nice taste of British life on The Rock! The duty free shops are still numerous but most sell the same range as each other so there isn’t much point visiting too many of them before maxing out on your allowance. Some places had disappeared, others had undergone drastic change, but in general it felt like very little had changed. A coffee on Casemates Square saw us fending off pigeons looking for scraps. Later on we explored Ocean Village with its ridiculous cruise ship hotel and ultra-modern restaurants on every quayside. Dinner in Bianca’s was superb and they have certainly not let their standards slip in two decades.
One day was enough. We had seen the monkeys, climbed The Rock and been down the tunnels before, so we saw no need to do that again. Crossing back into Spain took getting on for an hour and when it was our turn to leave, there seemed to be no reason for the delay other than the sheer weight of traffic. It’s very well managed though so just keep cool and you’ll be fine.