In 2005 I spent 4 hours in Gibraltar, waiting for a flight back to Luton.
During that time, I could have had a look around, but I was so tired after a week living in the desert that I just found a nice table in the shade and had a couple of pints.
But it had always nagged at me, and I’d always wanted to go back and really explore it.
Two of our friends are lucky enough to own a villa in Marbella.
They invited us to celebrate Derek’s birthday and since they had various business to do during the 4 days Nikki and I would be able to pop over to Gibraltar.
I’m more of a rucksack sort of adventurer normally, but I’ve spent enough uncomfortable nights to not shy away from comfort (and luxury) when its offered.
We stayed at the amazing spot in a place called Duchesa. Three bedrooms with a beautiful veranda looking out across the pool out across the ocean. As it was very early in the season, the pool was closed.
I hadn’t realised, but one problem is the electricity sometimes goes off in the area, so every time the villa is left, the fridge and freezer are completely emptied and the stuff thrown away.
We headed to a supermarket across the road to stock up on supplies. They had bottles of wine for 1 Euro !.
The small town nearby featured a nice Marina so we went out for the evening and had dinner.
I never found out the name of the place where we had dinner, but you can see how nice it is.
Our first evening out, a fantastic start to the trip.
The following morning, we get up and Nikki and I head off in search of adventure.
I’d been advised of the unreliability of the Spanish bus network.
That wasn’t the half of it !.
After we missed a bus that was “early”, one drove right past us, and we missed another because it was “late”, I just gave up.
We decide an alternative adventure strategy. Nikki’s sister Lyn, and husband Vic both live in Gibraltar.
A place called Sotogrande is roughly at the halfway point between both, so we decided to meet up there.
Just outside the complex is a nice path along the sea front and off we go.
After several miles, we can see the Rock of Gibraltar in the distance.
As we wander across deserted beaches, I see this sort of run down shack/bar.
Apparently, lots of these are abandoned during winter and sometimes when people come back to them in the summer they’ve been destroyed by the weather (it’s on the coast after all).
The last mile of the walk, were right on the coast, and clambering across cliffs and stuff like that.
We arrive at Sotogrande and have lunch with Lyn and Vic in a place called Ke Bar.
A classy place, it has a train running around the ceiling and I get to try Wagyu beef for the first time.
Lyn (Nikki’s sister) and her husband Vic have rather usefully brought along a car.
They recommend that we go exploring up into the hills and we get to see a mountain village called Castellar.
Unfortunately, the weather is appaling and we take shelter in a souvenir shop.
Back in Duchesa, we have drinks in this Alpine style bar.
That evening we all have dinner in Duchessa and stay over.
The following Morning its back in the car and John and Nikki’s visit to Gibraltar 2.0 begins.
We arrive at Gibraltar and show our passports through the car window to get through the checkpoint in Spain.
I hadn’t realised, but for a number of years, Spain had closed the border and people had to farcically take a boat from La Linea.
Not only that, but the boat couldn’t travel direct to Gibraltar. It had to stop of at Morocco on each leg of the journey.
The port has been open now for a number of years, but low taxation in Gibraltar has led to smuggling which has upset the Spanish government.
I didn’t do any smuggling, and I liked the board above, which showed a map of Gibraltar.
The entrance to Casemates square, the main meet up point in Gibraltar.
All the land up to this gate has been reclaimed from the sea (40,000 people live in Gibraltar, so resources have to be conserved. Every toilet flushes with salt water for example).
I remembered from my brief time there previously, that it’s a bit like an alter ego Great Britain with sunshine.
There are roads called Winston Churchill way, and above, traditional British phone boxes.
Lyn has taken some time out from her work to give us a tour of the area (which I kept incorrectly referring too as an Island).
We begin our tour with a visit to the Botanical gardens. The thing in the middle of a castle with 3 towers is the symbol of Gibraltar.
We wander along the path up to the top of the rock and the nature reserve.
One of the Pillars of Hercules on the way up.
From here, we left the road and headed up the mountain on a rough track called the Mediterranean steps.
It’s a favourite walk of Lyn’s and I really enjoyed it.
Nikki and Lyn next to a tunnel we explored in the rock.
The view from the top of the rock.
While I was wandering around, I remembered the opening scene from The James Bond film – The Living Daylights, filmed in 1988.
One scene where bond runs along and jumps onto the top of a Landrover, I believe was taken from this spot.
We have some nice lunch, served by a highly offensive “man” who frankly wasnt big enough to be handing out the kind of attitude he was.
However I’m here on an adventure trip with Nikki, not a weekend away with old friends from Newton Heath, so bite my tongue and thank him kindly.
Nearby we explore St Michael’s cave. There are a lot of things to see on the rock and if you buy a sort of combined ticket it works out quite reasonable.
Inside the caves are lit up which looks really spectacular.
There are 2 sets of tunnels to sea on the rock.
The early one’s are called the Great Siege tunnels and in the north face of the rock.
They were tunnelling through the rock to a specific spot on the rock where they wanted to position a cannon facing the harbour.
At some point they occidentally blew a hole in the rock and realised the tunnel itself would make an excellent gun emplacement.
The Moorish castle which we got to explore in perfect sunshine.
The other set of tunnels were from WW2.
There are 34 miles of tunnels under here. Its said that Ian Fleming spent time working down here, and it may have inspired the massive “secret base’s” in the James Bond films.
Outside it was baking, but inside it was really cold.
They have generators and old kinds of stuff like that in here.
We go back to Lyn & Vic’s flat.
In an absolutely perfect spot, this is the view from the window, and you can see plane’s arriving and leaving along the runway.
The end of another fab day, I’d seen all the things I wanted to see and lots more.
Back across the border to Duchesa.
2nd to last day, we decided to do the coastal walk from outside the villa, near Casares.
After a few miles we can see our goal, the Torre de la Sal in the distance which we’d found on google earth.
A pretty mellow experience, about 7 miles but we had loads of time so stopped a few times for drinks and lunch.
We reach our destination.
Known local as Torre del Salto del Salto de la mora (Tower of the Moor’s leap).
We wander back along the beach this time rather than the path.
The colour of the ocean and the sun in the sky makes for a fantastic experience.
Disappointingly as I we walk back, I see some of the run down and abandoned villa’s on the front.
It’s such a shame to seem that derelict and abandoned.
A final evening in Duchesa with food and drink flowing.
In the morning we take it easy and while we drink coffee and pack.
On the way back I get to visit Port Banus and have lunch at Piucaro.