Thanks to a Prudential Insurance commercial on TV many years ago “The Rock” was familiar looking to me as we had glided past in on the ferry to Morocco. Now we were going to explore this geological marvel that lies at the intersection of two continents and the meeting point of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
Everyone on the bus was visibly more relaxed today after being in Tangier the day before. Once we reached Gibralter we immediately clambered aboard a mini bus for a tour of the upper elevation of the rock. Much to my delight the bus driver selected me to sit beside him in the front so I had an unobstructed view. The experienced driver (he did later wipe out his side mirror in town) casually negotiated the steep narrow road that snaked to the top. The road ran dangerously close to the edge of the rock and I imagined the bus missing a curve, plunging all of us to our deaths. I shook off my wild imaginings and took in the fantastic view.
To the west I could see the mighty Atlantic ocean shimmering in the sunlight and the coastline of Spain curving against the blue water. To the south we could see the continent of Africa on the other side of the Strait. I was so excited and thrilled by the amazing view. We saw many Barbary monkeys, actually called Barbary Macaques and we had been warned by our driver to hang on to our glasses as they love to grab them off your face and toss them from the precipice.
Another big thrill was wandering through the magnificent St. Michael’s Caves. The stalacites and stalamites were beautifully illuminated with hidden lights. The caves have wonderful acoustics and we were told that symphony orchestra concerts are held here. I stood for some time in reverence and awe, wishing I could attend one of the concerts. I had read that many pre-historic relics have been found here, including the first Neandrathal-type skull,
Gibralter’s Main Street is pedestrianized, quite charming and has quite a variety of retail shops and restaurants featuring Indian, Chinese, Italian, Spanish foods, though British pubs outnumbered the others. We had a leisurely pint of beer and some lunch in a pub and then had some free time to wander around by ourselves. There were an amazing variety of shops selling all sorts of goods, jewellery, perfume, porcelain figures, clothing etc.
All too soon we had to board the bus for our return to Portugal. At the Spanish border we were relieved that the Customs Officers weren’t too tough on us as our bus driver had warned us they might. The Spaniards still held a grudge against the British for “reclaiming” Gibralter and at one time had closed the border but re-opened it in the 80s. I was certainly grateful that they had.