Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Gibraltar, 1994

Me, in front of the Royal Calpe

On March 22, 1994, while I was traveling through Spain with my friend Arthur, we spent a day in Gibraltar, a British colony surrounding the big rock overlooking the straits between Spain and Africa. Just for the heck of it, here's my journal account of that day, with a couple of my photos.


"A bit of Olde England," we said as we sat in the Royal Calpe on Main Street, eating our fish & chips and drinking a big glass of dark Guinness. Surrounded by wood and red upholstery, leather and beer lamps, we had all we could want from a British pub. (What is a Calpe*, anyway? That name was everywhere in Gibraltar...)

Gibraltar itself was really sort of a tawdry place. At first glance it looked quaint, with its streets jammed wall-to-wall with little shops and eateries. But if you examined the merchandise you realized it was really a bunch of cheap Chinese junk -- little plastic figurines and such. It was like Stuckey's. It was neat to hear all the proper English, as well as a melange of other languages like oddly stilted Spanish (spoken with a British accent, I suppose) and Arabic. But both of us decided we didn't like the town at all.

The upper parts of the rock were quite different. Upper Gibraltar is a nature reserve, since I suppose there's not much more that could be done with it! It's a land of sheer, high, white cliffs and thousands of huge seagulls -- and very tame Barbary apes. They're so used to being fed by tourists they don't do much more than loll around and get fat! We didn't feed them, but we watched everyone else do so.

A Barbary ape

We took a cable car to the top of the rock, where there's an observation platform. It was a hazy day, so we couldn't really get a good view of Africa, but you could just make out the dark outline of hills near Tangier. We climbed around some old ruined buildings up there -- maybe old military installations? Then we descended on a paved road that cut switchbacks along the west side of the rock. We walked, but laughed at all the tourists who were destroying their brakes, or paying an arm and a leg for taxis.

The beauty of the nature was nice to see -- there were tons of wildflowers, yellow daisies and white iris, lavender and lots of others I didn't know. I was glad to be able to crush up some lavender and give it to Arthur to smell.

We also walked around St. Michael's Cave, which was no doubt once very grand. It too seemed a little tacky now, with colored lights and piped-in music -- the "Moonlight Sonata" and "Also Sprach Zarathustra." (That 2001 theme -- isn't that what it's called?) But it was full of neat stalactites and stalagmites, rising like stacks of mushrooms and hanging like folds of draperies. There was a funny plaque in there that said QEII visited in 1954.

Some of my Gibraltar stamps, which I still have

It was an expensive day. I ate lunch plus apple pie, rode the cable car, bought a set of stamps and wrote and mailed Mom and JM a postcard. That alone cost me 3,000 pesetas. God!

But it was fun, and I like being able to say now that I visited Gibraltar. How many people can say that?

*Calpe is an ancient name for the Rock of Gibraltar, one of the Pillars of Hercules.


David said...

Never been to Gibraltar but thanks for the interesting account of your day there with the photos.

crafty cat corner said...

Well at least they had pretty stamps. lol

Yorkshire Pudding said...

A nice bit of travel history from twenty six years back. I have been there myself. We drove in from the Costa del Sol. I recall that the road went right across the runway of Gibraltar's airport. The apes had clearly not heard of the seventh commandment - Thou shalt not steal. You cannot argue with an ape.

Unknown said...

Not too many would have visited. It's an interesting account and I am surprised it was so expensive. I suppose the nastiness of a couple of years ago between Spain and British Gibraltar has been sorted out now.

Moving with Mitchell said...

The Rock is greatly improved since you were there in 1994. But the town, although a bit more has some charm, is still pretty ugly all around the edges. And the stuff in most of the shops is absolute trash. I do however love going just to wander the Rock. Last time, I thought I would take the cable car up and walk all the way down (I was meeting up again with friends at the bottom). However, the cable car was down for repair and i instead walked up. Invigorating. Amazing views. Conveniently I bumped into my friends who had taken a mini-van tour and I hitched a ride down with them.

Edna B said...

Awesome, I've never been to Gibraltar. Those stamps are beautiful. The photo of the little ape made me afraid it might fall off that perch and get hurt. It's such a beautiful animal. Such wonderful memories you have. Thank you for sharing this trip with us. Enjoy your day, hugs, Edna B.

Michael said...

I've always wanted to go to Gibraltar. Your account of your visit will have to be my experience as I don't think I'll ever get there!

Ms. Moon said...

And Gibraltar is where John and Yoko got married in 1969.

Sharon said...

That sounds like a full day spent in Gibraltar even if it was expensive. Of course, I have no idea what 3000 pesetas amounts to, so I'm not sure if you were kidding or if it really was expensive. I also enjoyed the mention of "Stuckey's". When I was a kid traveling with Mom & Dad, it was always a treat for us kids to stop at a Stuckey's. I think that's where I first saw scorpions preserved in a resin bolo ties and paper weights. True southwestern souvenirs.
I love the photo and those stamps are beautiful.

robin andrea said...

Interesting memory of a day at Gibraltar. It never ever occurred to me to go there, off my radar entirely. I like reading of your experience there.

Catalyst said...

An interesting journal entry. And, yes, those stamps are lovely.

ellen abbott said...

you are so well traveled.

Red said...

1994 is 26 years ago...a different age. Your journal entries describe a different time.