Saturday, November 25, 2017
Day 36, Gibraltar
Today we visited Gibraltar, but didn’t arrive until 1:00. Val’s trivia was scheduled for 10:00 today so she went to that while I read in the Neptune Lounge while our room was being cleaned. As we approached the Straits of Gibraltar, the Mediterranean narrows so a lot of ships were going across the straits, moving beside us and coming towards us throughout the morning.
Here is a quote from Google Maps giving a brief history of Gibraltar. "Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory and headland, on Spain's south coast. It’s dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar, a 426m-high limestone ridge. First settled by the Moors in the Middle Ages and later ruled by Spain, the outpost was ceded to the British in 1713. Layers of fortifications include the remains of a 14th-century Moorish Castle and the 18th century Great Siege Tunnels, which were expanded in WWII."
After Val finished trivia we decided to go up on the top deck and watch our approach to Gibraltar. When we got up there we could see the famous rock ahead of us, but it wasn’t quite what we expected. It was huge, but it wasn’t as distinctive as we thought it would be. You could certainly see its strategic value though as the Straits of Gibraltar are only 13 miles across and we could see both Morocco and Gibraltar as we approached.
Even though the air temperature was mild, it was pretty cold up on the deck and it was getting very windy as the ship moved forward. We stayed up there until we docked at 1:00. The harbor was actually on the other side of the rock so we had to sail around it. There were a lot of ships in the harbor area and many of them were refueling so this must be a supply stop for a lot freighters and tankers. When we docked we saw four or five pilot boats docked so they must be kept pretty busy getting ships in and out of the harbor.
|That's Morocco in the distance across the Straits of Gibraltar.|
|A lighthouse and Mosque, we would visit this spot on our tour of Gibraltar.|
|We enter the harbor ...|
|and tuck ourselves in.|
|Another view of Morocco from between our ship and the P&O ship.|
We booked a two hour ship excursion for today, but it doesn’t leave until 3:00 so we have some time to kill. We planned to eat in Gibraltar and didn’t want to eat a very heavy lunch so we went to the Neptune Lounge and had some snacks. There was a P&O Cruise ship docked beside us and when we returned to our room, they were getting ready to leave so we watched that for a while.
By 2:30 we were getting pretty antsy so we decided to just go ashore and wait around for our tour to start. Our tour was a minivan tour with a maximum of six people and it turned out there were plenty of minivans so as soon as everyone showed up they loaded us and we were on our way.
The first thing we did was drive out to the airport, which was almost to the Spanish border. It’s claim to fame is that the road to Spain runs right across the runway and when a plane lands or takes off, a traffic signal stops all traffic. It was pretty strange to drive along and look out the van windows and see the runway in either direction.
After crossing back over the runway, we did a circle of The Rock and made a stop at a point where we had a good view of Morocco in the distance. From there we started our drive up to the top of The Rock of Gibraltar. On the way up we stopped at Michael’s Cave, which was interesting, but nothing real special. The Rock of Gibraltar is famous for its Barbary monkeys and this was our first sighting of them, which proved to be more interesting than the cave. There are about 300 Barbary monkeys in Gibraltar and they are the only wild monkeys in Europe. They are sometimes referred to as Barbary apes locally, but they are monkeys.
We continued our drive to the top of The Rock to a viewpoint where you have a good view of the harbor and city below. The real attraction though, was again the monkeys as this is where they hang out. You have to very careful as they are very aggressive, not in a dangerous way, but if they think you have food, they will grab whatever you have including earrings, sunglasses, bags you are carrying, etc. When we got out of the van they were running everywhere. Our guide, who was familiar with them, got one to sit on Val’s shoulder while I took her picture. There were a lot of people up there and a lot of vans on a very narrow road so along with monkeys running everywhere, it was very chaotic. We had to be careful to keep the van windows closed as our guide said they would jump inside and one has even learned how to open car doors.
|Val found a new friend.|
|Let me in.|
|The Veendam docked below|
It was finally time to leave and as we slowly drove through the crowd we heard a couple of loud thumps on the roof and two monkeys leaped off the top. We drove back down into the city and Val and I asked to be let out in the town center as we wanted to look around and have something to eat before making our way back to the ship. Roy from our trivia team had recommended Roy’s Fish and Chips in Gibraltar as being very good (I don’t know whether the name had anything to do with it) so we thought we would try that for our dinner. Also, Gibraltar is still very British so fish and chips would be appropriate. When our guide dropped us off in the square, we asked him where Roy’s Fish and Chips was and he pointed it out; he also told us it was the best in town.
We got out of the van and started walking around the square. Cafes and pubs lined the square with most of them having outdoor seating where you can sit and watch the world go by. Gibraltar is a duty free city, so there were also many shops selling alcohol and tobacco. We easily found Roy’s Fish and Chips and sat down outside as it was a very nice evening. We ordered cod fish and chips and when we were served we realized maybe we should have gotten the small size as the fish was the whole fish. We hadn’t eaten much today and it was after 5:00 so it tasted especially delicious and we ate it all. Roy’s Fish and Chips certainly lived up to its reputation. By coincidence, Roy himself walked by (Roy from the ship, not the owner) so we chatted with him and Gabriella for a while before they strolled on.
After we ate, we decided to walk up the main street and look at all the shops as the area had a very good reputation for shopping. We were disappointed though as it turns out most of the stores close at 5:00 on Saturday night. The ship doesn’t sail until 11:00 tonight, but we had nothing left we wanted to do in Gibraltar so we walked back to the square, caught a shuttle back to the ship and were back in our room before 6:30.
We decided to go to trivia tonight and it was a good thing we did as we finally won. We had already eaten dinner so we chatted a while with our team members before heading to our room. I updated the blog for the day and then downloaded all of our pictures and called it a night.