We left the curtains slightly open last night hoping that a little bit of day light would wake us up at a decent time! The blackout on the curtains is excellent should you want to sleep during the day.
We spent the morning in our cabin waiting for 12.45pm when we had to meet for our Sail-in party. There were quite a few people waiting but once we got outside it didn’t appear to be so many and we were all offered a drink - prosecco please! As we had left our cabin our attendant had said that if we saw dolphins we must tell him. Well we did see dolphins and lots of them. It started off with just a few dorsal fins and the odd body but then they seemed to get braver and come alongside - leaping and diving down mainly in pairs. It was magic but they were so quick that it was impossible to get a photo! It was great to have the dolphins as, sadly, the Rock of Gibraltar was in cloud. We had a long chat with the Hospitality Director who hails from Finland - she was very interesting and we learnt quite a lot about the ship and Celebrity. Don’t you love Penny’s hair do? It was so windy up there!
It was fancinating watching the ship come gently alongside and the midgets on the dock taking the huge mooring lines - the men reminded me of Le Petit Chef we had seen on Sunday evening! It was certainly a privilege to be on the helipad and to be included in the first Sail-in or Sail-away.
After mooring up we disembarked and went to find our taxi driver. I had booked a taxi through the Gibraltar Taxi Association and was a bit worried about what we would get. As we got out of the terminal we saw our name and met our driver for the afternoon, Luigi. We had an 8 seater minibus so we had plenty of room. Luigi took us across the famous airport runway (it is the 5th most difficult in the Workd!) to see the border crossing. Luigi is a Gibraltarian and was born in 1969 when Spain shut the border and he spent the first 16 years of his life locked in Gibraltar. He speaks the native language and has an interesting English accent, he says that today the youngsters don’t want to learn their native language but all speak English and Spanish. He is very anti-Spanish and very pro of the U.K. leaving the EU. Our Prime Minister is also their Prime Minister and he said that all Gibraltarians are very proud of their British heritage and the Queen. They had a referendum about whether to leave the U.K. or not and 98.9% voted to stay!
Anyway I digress! Our second port of call was Europa Point which is home to the southernmost lighthouse managed by Trinity House. It is also home to a mosque built by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and a memorial to Wladyslaw Sikorsky, the commander-in-chief of the Polish Army and the Polish Prime Minister (in exile) whose B-24 plane crashed in July 1943 killing 16 people. They are also building an University there.
From there we climbed up the rock to St. Michaels Cave and had our first encounter with an ape, well two really as they were Mother and baby - I love the faces on these two! What on earth is going through their minds??
St. Michaels Cave is amazing. It is 203 feet deep, 980 feet above sea level and is visited by over 1 million people every year! The cave was long believed to be bottomless. This probably gave birth to the story that the Rock of Gibraltar was linked to the Africa by a subterranean passage under the Strait of Gibraltar. The famous macaques were said to have come to Gibraltar through this subterranean passage. During WWII the cave was prepared as an emergency hospital, but was never used as such. It has been in use as a theatre since the early sixties with capacity for 600 people.
From the cave we drove up and up and stopped at the new Skywalk. Richard and I were the only ones brave enough to try it but sadly it was so foggy on the east side of the rock that we couldn’t see much below us. The structure was only opened this year by Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker). It stands 340 metres above sea level and is higher than the Shard in London. The views should be wonderful and I was very sad not to have seen them. It is built to withstand wind speeds of over 150km/hour and can carry the weight of 5 Asian Elephants - fortunately we didn’t see a single elephant!
Here we encountered our first real apes, who aren’t really apes at all but monkeys! Luigi goes up most days with tourists and seems to know them. He introduced us to Elizabeth who has a broken nose. They were climbing on the minibus and one of them jumped on my back and head and gave me such a shock! Apparently they are flealess as the clean each other but they do smell a bit!
Next stop was the Great Siege Tunnels. They were started in 1782 and in 5 weeks 18 men had made a tunnel 8 feet square by 82 feet long just with manpower and some gunpowder. By 1790 around 400 feet of tunnels had been constructed. World War II led to another great wave of tunnelling as work was undertaken to enable The Rock to house a garrison of 16000 men with water, ammunition and fuel supplies sufficient to last a year under siege. There are over 30 miles of tunnels not all of which are open to the public. These photos were taken from the tunnels and show the Rock’s cemetery and the runway.
Oh and a monkey!
It was then time to return to the ship. We had paid for a 2 hour trip but had very nearly 3 hours plus an excellent guide - well worth it and we can recommend the Gibraltar Taxi Assoication but make sure you ask for Luigi!
I’m going to stop this post here. It is already quite long and we had a lovely dinner in the evening which I will tell you about tomorrow when there is only a sea day to blog about.