Gibraltar really is an odd place. It’s a collision of two lifestyles, two European countries, that are so inherently different, it just doesn’t seem to blend that well. I felt like I was constantly on an all-inclusive holiday for Brits abroad, but over a whole country. It was bizarre seeing numerous pubs serving up British grub and signs in English stating that Lord what’s his name lives here and there, it felt wrong. It felt like I was cheating, where was all the rain? Where was all the doom and gloom of British weather that England is most commonly known for?
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate the country, I was just perplexed. Perplexed about the British culture that encapsulates this tiny area of the world which rubs shoulders with Spain, both in language and weather, even flirtatiously eyes up Morocco’s mountainous ranges, but is also still so, British. Being a fan of sunshine, Spain and people that smile, needless to say I did enjoy my time here- despite my confusion and feelings of misplacement.
The first thing you’ll spot when you land off your flight and when the warm wind blows on your face is the massive rock that stands encompassing such sheer size and volume, it is as if it looms in the distance, reminding those that surround it of the impassive power of nature. Admittedly before I arrived in Gibraltar, I shared my wishes of climbing the rock with my parents “depending on my knee” (an injury I sustained training for the Midnight Sun Marathon), however, when I finally did arrive and my eyes glanced up to the rock, I realised it wasn’t a measly hill with a rock on top, but a colossal mountain, a wall of solid rock- something not to be sniffed at. Vowing to climb it another day once my knee is fully recovered, I left the monkeys behind.
Mainly coming here for a holiday to catch up with my parents and eating and drinking ourselves merry, (as well as taking some time out to soothe the soul) meant that unfortunately I didn’t see as many tourist attractions as you might have expected. I didn’t swim with the dolphins as many tour companies advertise; or go down into the depths of St. Michael’s cave or through the Great Siege Tunnels, or ponder over history at Moorish Castle, or sip coffee and watch the world go by at Casemates Square.
Instead of spending days browsing in the Art Galleries or the Museums in Gibraltar, or exploring the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, I did in fact spend most mornings doing lengths in the swimming pool and afternoons lounging around in the sun soaking some much needed vitamin D. I did however, pop over to Europa Point, which stands at the most southern point of Gibraltar and is seeped with memories of battles and dramatic events.
Although my trip lacked in cultural and touristic attractions and excursions, I can recommend places to eat and drink within the Ocean Village area, which is adjacent to the Gibraltar border and nestles right next to the airport. Grill 53 is a good restaurant if you are looking for a hearty meal that nails traditional dishes of steak and burgers, whilst El Pulpero has wonderful fresh seafood. A popular destination to be seen at is La Sala on the Sunborn Yacht, but just come here for an overpriced drink if you like, the food is inedible. The Caleta Hotel is a fantastic place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Ocean Village and eat in an upmarket atmosphere soaking in views of a quiet coastline on the east coast, whilst The Rock Hotel is an iconic part of Gibraltar’s history and is a fantastic spot for quintessentially British afternoon tea cropped on the hill top over looking Casemates Square. The Bridge is heaving on its live music nights and is a place to go if you want to soak up the Gibraltar sunset amongst the bright lights of the Ocean village below.
Gibraltar is a place I could live in because to me there are aspects of a routine which you could easily adapt from countries like neighbouring Spain; swimming in the morning, a siesta after work in the evening, but I wouldn’t choose to visit Gibraltar out of sheer interest; there are many more places in the world for that.
I have managed to conquer the mountain. Alright, conquer might be a bit of a stretch, but I definitely made it to the top alright. In December 2019, I felt the urge to climb to the top of the rock (as it had been staring at me for a number of years urging me to do so). 2019 had been a rocky year (silly pun) and so I wanted to end on a high, metaphorically and also physically.
Locals begun to tell me that winter was a bad time to hike the rock, that the weather would be too windy, that the monkeys could attack me, that I shouldn’t hike the mountain alone. Any reason not to climb it, they gave it to me. I ignored every single one and woke up in darkness and headed to the Mediterranean steps by taxi. I guess it shows how strong grim determination and will can be, as I ignored concerns for my safety and well being and begun to ascend the steps.
The steps are not so difficult to climb early in the morning whilst there is a cool breeze and if you are left alone with the solitude of your thoughts (or Beyonce through your headphones). The steps are carved into the rock, hazardous at times and not for the faint hearted at some points, as you need to cling onto the rope support to raise yourself up. Passing through tunnels and empty look out points, you can reach the top from the steps in an hour, greeted by the sight of over friendly monkeys at the top and the sweeping views of Spain that circle you.
If you decide to hike the rock from sea level, say for example from the cable car or Botanical Gardens, the journey will take longer as you will slowly hike up a gradual steep slant heading up to the Med Steps. After my morning hike, I vowed to do it once again but from sea level so I could challenge myself just that little bit more.