We’d decided to drive down to Gibraltar for a few days break, and these were the directions for crossing over to the Rock from Spain. We certainly weren’t going to argue with a 747. Caught in a traffic jam it took us an hour before we reached customs and they just waved us through. Where all the cars went after that I’ve no idea as it really is a quiet little town with narrow streets, and very much one foot in the past.
The name Gibraltar comes from the Arabs who invaded Spain in the VIII century. As Tarik was the leader of the invading army, the rock has been known as Gibel Tarik - the mountain of Tarik, ever since. Over the years the name has changed to become Gibraltar. It became a British garrison in 1830 during the War of the Spanish Succession. Spain made two attempts during the 18th century to recapture it, without success. The first was in 1727. Another attempt was made during the American Revolution when Spain joined forces with France in the war to take the Rock. The Great Siege lasted nearly 4 years from 1779 to 1783, defended by a force of 7,000 commanded by the Governor, General Sir George Eliott. Maybe there's an idea for a novel in there somewhere.
As Gibraltar remains in British hands to this day, it is very much a place with an identity crisis: Spanish houses with their pretty iron balconies abutting Palladian architecture. A Victorian police station, red telephone boxes, the Royal Mail, and policemen in English uniforms speaking Spanish.
Irish pubs, Macdonalds and Pizza Hut, tapas bars and smart marina restaurants. M & S, Next and Dorothy Perkins opposite Moroccan silk shops and expensive Spanish jewellers. It’s all here, just take your pick. And whatever you buy can be paid for in euros or sterling.
On New Year’s Eve we ate at 14 On the Quay, a smart restaurant on Queensway Quay. I had melon followed by rib eye steak while David had prawns then beef strogonoff. The food was excellent and reasonably priced. We might have stayed on for desert and cava but an unnecessarily loud disco started up next door, so we bailed out. We returned to our hotel in time to watch a selection of magnificent firework display from our balcony, all going on at once from different roof tops as well as the waterfront, as if vying with each other for excellence. Most impressive.
There are siege tunnels, and underground shelters which were used during the war, guns, a cave and various other tourist sites to be seen, when open.
And the views are panoramic over southern Spain. Absolutely magnificent.