Although I did a lot of solo traveling during my semester abroad, I also got to experience some of the group trips sponsored by my program. With my trusty backpack, my two program coordinators ,and about 20 other American students, I started out to discover a unique destination I had never even heard of before: Gibraltar
Walking With The Planes
After a long drive, our bus parked on the outskirts of Gibraltar’s boundaries leaving us to walk the rest of the way on foot. The city’s center is a short walk away from the airport but to get there we had to cross the same runway where planes were taking off and landing. Gibraltar is one of the only places in the world that allows pedestrians to use the runways as personal walkways. Therefore, it was a very unique, albeit noisy, experience. Plus , it’s the best place to get a picture of the giant rock itself.
Legend of the Apes
Although located in Southern Spain, Gibraltar is technically a British colony and has been since 1713. Spain, however, still likes to claim the area and every few decades , major and aggressive discussions about the true owner occurs. Despite this animosity, the citizens are fluent in both Spanish and English and multiple cultures , including it’s Moorish roots, are heavily represented.
As our tour bus made its way up the steep and narrow path to the top of the rock, our guide had no choice but to mention the furry creatures running down the road and poking their faces through open windows at stop signs.
They were monkeys.
Technically known as Barbary Macaques, these monkeys are almost as populous as the people and are a major tourist attraction. They walk through the streets of the town and hitch rides on the top of cars. They are fed regularly to prevent them from behaving aggressively but are still known to be mischief makers. Just in the twenty minutes my group spent with the monkeys at the top of the rock , they searched pockets and made off with bags, jumped from our heads and shoulders like they were playing leapfrog, and even pulled hair.
Legend has it that when these monkeys completely disappear from the rock , Spain will once again have control of the land. For that reason, I’m told , the people of Gibraltar work very hard to keep them happy, comfortable, and breeding.
They were cuties though, as most small furry mammals are, but unless you have an unlimited supply of treats I would suggest viewing from a distance. Or at least guarding your head in their vicinity.
Strait of Gibraltar
In addition to monkeys, the tiny territory’s coasts also overlook the official meeting point of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. The strait also separates Europe from Africa’s Morocco. They say that on a clear day you can see the cost of Africa from this spot but as we visited on foggy morning I, unfortunately, did not get to witness this.
St. Michael’s Cave
I did get to see St. Michael’s Cave. What I remember most was walking through what seemed like miles and miles of slippery stone and massive crystal-looking cylinders. There was a wooden bridge that we had to cross to get from an entrance to the main part of the cave. From this bridge, you can look down and get a real sense of the depth of cave. There’s even a performance space inside the cave with seating that looks like it was carved right out of the cave itself.
As we started making our way back to the airport and our bus back to Granada, our tour guide told us more about Gibraltar. He proclaimed it to be one of the best places to live and it’s very easy to see how it got its reputation. Beautiful views, friendly people, a wealth of ancient history, and tax free shopping. Definitely my type of place.