I realize its been a while since I updated my travel Website. However, during my travels through Europe, I suffered a major technical difficulty. And, while I did try to resolve it, I was unsuccessful, even after trying in three different countries. So I gave up and decided to just travel and enjoy. Now I am back, free of technical difficulties and eager to re-live some of the happier moments of my summer in Europe.
I begin with an unassuming trip to Gibraltar (a common wealth of the United Kingdom along the Mediterranean Sea). After spending weeks in rural Spain, where if you ask anyone if they can speak English, the answer is always, “Yes, a little” (said in Spanish). But the only words they can actually speak a little of in English are typically: yes, no, and okay. I was truly drained speaking my basic Spanish. I wanted to hear English again. So I decided to cross the boarder in southern Spain to Gibraltar. After all, Gibraltar is part of the United Kingdom, so its supposed to be an English speaking country, right?
Shop owners, restauranteurs, and random people on the streets mostly spoke Spanish. But who can blame them since the country itself is mostly surrounded by Spain? English was basically visible only on the street and shop signs. And of course, on the money.
The best thing about Gibraltar is that its a tax-free state. A lot of Spanish nationals cross the boarder to buy gasoline (petroleum), alcohol, and tobacco; all of which are dirt cheap in Gibraltar since there are no taxes imposed on these items.
But if you shop for other things in the town center, I strongly feel its just not worth it. For one thing, the money used in Gibraltar is in pounds, which is higher than the euro. Secondly, the quality and selection of items are not very good. Ultimately, I’d sooner go to Spain for better and cheaper items and I’d also be paying in euros (cheaper than the pounds). Even with the taxes, Spanish shopping is far better.
So without English and shopping to keep me occupied, the only thing left to do in this 3 square miles (7 square kilometers) country is The Rock. Its hard to miss it as it is the most prominent feature in Gibraltar; a Jurassic limestone outcrop that sticks out 1,398 feet (426 meters) from sea level. And there no better way to explore this than by climbing up the Mediterranean Steps.
Though the views and surprises you find along the way up are well worth it. If you take it slow, take lots of rests, bring lots of water, and some snacks, then I think you’ll be okay. For me, I even brought an umbrella. Of course, I always bring my umbrella everywhere in Europe. And no, its not for the rain, but rather for the sun. I know it may look weird, but I think I was the only one on this rock when I went up who wasn’t fashioning a sunburn. Enough said.
To get up to the bottom of the steps, you must take the number two bus from the main part of town. Tell the bus driver, if (s)he can speak English, that you want to stop at the “Upper Rock.” Once you get off at this bus stop, you’ll see the sign headed to “Upper Rock” which is along a residential neighborhood. Follow it up the hill for about fifteen-twenty minutes. On the way up, you’ll see another sign with admission fees to the rock. The current price for foot traffic at the time of this posting was at 50 pence. When you reach the guard shack you’ll need to pay (in either euros or pounds, but no credit/debit cards accepted). Then you’ll have to continue to climb even more steep hills. At this point, you’ll have lots of options as to where you can go. This walk beings with a climb at the bus stop and continues until you reach the steps, which is another climb. Its very difficult, especially for those not prepared. And the blazing heat of the sun only adds to the difficulty, particularly in the summer. Don’t forget to take lots of rest and bring lots of water. Ultimately, the steps will be near, the Ape’s Den.
Near the foot of the steps, you’ll have many opportunities to interact with the rock’s primary residents – “the macaque apes.” They’re mostly lazy. And they don’t like to be touched. One even attempted to push me as I got too close to his family. But it was a weakling and I barely even felt it. Though I knew enough not to antagonize them as I didn’t want to use my traveler’s insurance on an ape bite. But they don’t mind you taking photos of them, like these:
Gibraltar is not known as a tourist destination. There really isn’t much to do here and I found the people are not as pleasant as they are in Spain. But if you want to spend time at a place where they combine Spanish, English, and Arabic culture into one, then this is your place. Don’t forget to bring your energy and climb the Mediterranean Steps. On top of the Rock, you can see three countries (Gibraltar, Spain, and Morocco), two continents (Europe and Africa), separated by one (Mediterranean) sea. A truly unique and beautiful place.On the Mediterranean Steps"If you like this post, you might like these, too:"