December 8, 2009

Gibraltar: Much more than an Ape Haven

Gibraltar was ceded by Spain to Great Britain in perpetuity, under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. Spain wants it back but a majority of Gibraltarians strongly oppose this and Britain will support whatever the Gibraltarians want. In 2002 the government put it to a vote and this unusual relationship continues. During our recent visit, it was clear that everyone looked pretty happy the way things were. We saw loads of people enjoying pubs and shopping along the downtown streets.

When you visit Gibraltar your itinerary must include the Great Siege Tunnels and a tour of the Rock itself. There is a tram that will take you most of the way up the Rock, but to get the true birds-eye view at the very top, you should book a taxi. Depending on the number of people in your group, the taxi will cost the same or less than the tickets for the tram.

Only taxi cabs have permits that allow them to carry you to the very top, the tour buses all stop mid-way, as does the tram. Part of the reason is the steep grade and narrow width of the road, portions of which fit only a single car or van at a time.

On your tour of the upper portion of the Rock, you will be able to see the Apes. They call them the Barbary Apes or Macaque. They caution you around the monkeys because they might bite if you get too close. Look at what happened this summer to American Pie Actor Jason Biggs! The monkeys can "act" friendly (and who doesn't think it is cute to watch a mama carry her baby around) but even the smallest will likely try to grab any food or interesting looking objects if you get too close.

The next time "The Rock" is mentioned on television or in text, my first thought won't be the former wrestler turned actor anymore. Realistically my first thoughts will be tied between Alcatraz Island and now Gibraltar. Since San Francisco is my home it is natural to immediately think of this famous prison that held the likes of Al Capone. However what is even cooler for a traveler, is that now my memory will include this amazing land off the coast of southern Spain.

Next: Great Siege Tunnels

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