Last summer we spent a few months in Spain. One week we decided to leave our beautiful beach town, Isla Canela , and drive the coast to see as much of Spain as we could! You know me – I want to see everything while I can! One of our stops on this trip was Gibraltar. Here is how we spent a day in Gibraltar with the monkeys!
I thought, “Hey! We are so close! We have to go see the rock! The boys said, “Ughhh, Mom! What is so great about a rock?!”
My kids love the stories of the ancient gods, so I just had to tell them that the Rock of Gibraltar was considered by the ancient Romans as one of the pillars of Hercules! The story says that he passed through Gibraltar on his tenth labor stealing the cattle of Geryon. During his journey, he had to cross the sea from Africa to Europe. He smashed his way across the sea, erupting two giant mountains in the process. Now those two mountains are called The Pillars of Hercules, one pillar being… the Rock of Gibraltar!
How cool is that? To be able to see where Hercules was?! So, the kids took a moment, trying to decide if they one, believed me, and two, if it would/wouldn’t be cool. They decided the rock might be cool. Now that we have the cool factor, there will be no whining – so off we went!
We drove into Gibraltar, leaving Spain, and crossing the border. The first thing you see is the Rock and the gorgeous blue water, a truly beautiful place (as you can see from the photo above). Here was our plan for the day:
- Drive the Island, full circle
- Europa Point – Harding’s Battery, Trinity Lighthouse, Ibrahim-alIbrahim Mosque, The Shrine of our Lady of Europe
- Cable car to the top of the Rock
- St. Michael’s Cave
- Great Siege Tunnels
- Moorish Castle
- Mediterranean Steps
Whew, so we had a full day ahead of us and off we went to drive the Island, heading down the west side of the Island following the signs for Europa Point. If you do not have a car, jump bus #2; it will take you from the town center to Europa Point. We had to stop at a cool, little bay called Camp Bay. If you have extra time, this is a beautiful place to swim and relax by the sea! The kids begged to stay and hang out, but we had a schedule, and two wet, sandy kids were not on my agenda! So, off to Europa Point! Europa Point is only 15 1/2 miles from Africa, and on a clear day you can actually see to
Africa and… Oh, yes! The other Pillar of Hercules, Mount Jebel Sidi Musa! We were lucky it was a clear day! My husband (who knows
everything, don’t they all) tried to tell me, about 25 times, that we were not looking at Africa until we found this wonderful map that read, “You are looking at Africa!” There is a lot to see here besides the most amazing view, so let’s keep it moving, people! We stopped and saw the lighthouse – this is the southern most point of Gibraltar and is an
actual working lighthouse. It was completed in 1841 and is still used to guide ships through the straight! Today, it is fully automated and stands 20 meters (approx 66 feet) high and is sitting 49 meters ( approx 161 feet) above the sea below!
We enjoyed the view, and as I explained the history of the lighthouse, my sweet boys had a fight over who could lean over the railing the farthest to take pictures of the little tiny fish 160 feet down – proud moment for me.
We stopped at the WWII memorials; the Memorial is called the Sikorski Memorial.
It commemorates General Wladyslaw Sikorski, the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Army and Prime Minister of Poland, who was killed in a crash while in exiled in 1943. Here, my youngest had a special moment and wanted to know what is exile, why was he exiled, how can you get exiled, why did he crash, where is he buried, can he get exiled, what is exile again? Why, why, why … why was I not drinking a bottle of wine at that moment?!
To your right, when looking at the sea, is Harding’s Battery where you will see a massive cannon that was originally put there to protect the city. The cannon has had a lot of controversy over its placement and size. Although it says it’s a combat cannon, there is no proof it was ever even used in battle. Today it sits on display, used as a viewing platform and a place of remembrance.
The Mosque and Shrine of our Lady are both only a few meters away from each other – which both stand for peace between the Moors and the Christians today. The original Church is Catholic and inside has a shrine of Our Lady (another name for the Virgin Mother). In the beginning of the 14th century, the Moors ruled Gibraltar, building a small mosque for worship. When the Spaniards took the town, they converted the Mosque to a Christian Shrine.
The Mosque and Church have been through many renovations representing the long time battles between the Christians and the Moors. Today, both are open for public viewing. The Shrine has even received the Golden Rose (a sign of affection from the Catholic Church) from Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.
Now, off to the top of the Rock! We drove north from Europa Point to the center of town. This is where we could take the cable cars to the top of The Rock of Gibraltar. Standing at the base of the mountain is overwhelming, to say the least. One of my boys was not so sure he wanted to go up. Luckily, his sweet brother said, “What if I tell everyone on Facebook you’re a cry baby and afraid of a ski lift?” So, after a few ugly words, we were all getting in the cable car.
I mean, you are in a glass box, whisked 412 meters/1352 feet above sea level, to the top of a mountain in under six minutes! Below us we could see two different continents, two bodies of water, and three separate countries. Impressive! The rock itself is 426 meters high/1398 feet and is made of Jurassic period limestone. The rock erupted from the sea around 200 million years ago! You can buy the cable car tickets at the base of the mountain – no need for reservations. You can also buy your tickets for all the other sites and the top of the mountain as well.
Monkeys interaction is included for free with your tickets, and they really want to hang out with you! We seemed to get there around monkey napping time, but some of little guys woke up and wanted to make friends. One little guy jumped on our shoulders, then jumped from shoulder, to shoulder, to shoulder.
He stopped to rest on my oldest son’s head, and then eventually peed down his back! He started to SCREAM and hop around as if someone had just stabbed him. All of this while the little one giggles and thinks it is the funniest thing that has ever happened in his life.
Now that we have seen the monkeys, and smelled their pee, we took a deep breath and looked around! It is truly spectacular! Pictures do not do it justice. There are three decks you can wander around and just take in the wonderful scenery! Although the monkeys are cute and friendly, it’s best to steer clear – they are wild animals. There is a big fine if you are caught feeding or handling them. Look from afar.
There are a lot of other things to see on the “Upper Rock.” There are the Caves of St. Michael. These are beautiful, stalagmite caves, and in the largest cave they hold concerts because the sound is amplified due to the rock formations.
For a long time, people thought the caves were bottomless and that somehow the macaque monkeys came through some secret underground passage way under the sea!
You can purchase your tickets for the cave and nature reserve when you buy your cable car tickets. Also note – there is a lot of walking involved if you choose to not return on the cable car.
From here you can walk down and see the Apes Den, the home of the apes.
It is said, by the locals, that if the Apes ever leave Gibraltar, it will no longer be a British Colony.
The Great Siege Tunnels are 52 km/32 miles of underground tunnels dug through the rock. These were used in WWII; the Moorish Castle with only its tower is still standing. This was built back in the 11th century and used for military protection and battles. In 1540, 100’s of people fled to the castle for protections against the Turkish pirates attacking Gibraltar.
Lastly, the Mediterranean Steps. This is not for those afraid of heights, have difficulty walking, or for people with small children! It is a 1400 meter drop, straight down to the sea. You can climb up or down the mountain via the steps. While it is beautiful, it is also a very difficult walk. We opted out and took the cable car down. I had pushed the kids about far as they could go today, and honestly, I needed a glass of wine.
The prices for the cable car:
|Adult Single: €11.90||Child Single: €6.30|
|Adult Return: €14.70||Child Return: €7.00|
Tickets can be bought at the base of the cable car. Children are 12 and under. For tickets for the cable car, the caves, and nature reserve, the tickets are priced:
|Adult Single: €25.90||Child Single: €16.80|
|Adult Return: €28.70||Child Return: €17.50|
Well, that is it for our day in Gibraltar. I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as we enjoyed seeing it! It is a beautiful place, and if you are ever just driving by, like we were, you should stop and spend the day! This is also a great place to take a weekend trip if you are expat in Germany or surrounding countries.
We did stop to eat before we got back on the road. We ate at Mama Mia Pizzeria at the base of the Rock. The food was good, and so was the red wine; everyone was happy.
We had averted disaster from the peeing monkey, not dropped the camera down the cliff, and the cable car did not break down! In my book, if no one is bleeding or crying it was a very successful day!