In late June I flew to Spain to visit my sister for a few days. She’s currently living in La Línea de la Concepción, a small town right at the bottom of the country, just across the border from the British territory of Gibraltar.
Becka is working as a conversation assistant for an English language programme aimed at Spanish students aged 18-24. Her and her friends found the placement through a website called Think Spain. The job is based at a hotel on the seafront in La Línea and assistants work for a few hours per day, four days a week – which leaves lots of time to explore.
I flew into Gibraltar airport and was surprised to find that the runway seems to appear out of the sea at the very last minute… Thankfully we landed safely.
During my visit, Bec and I (and her friends) went to Gibraltar a few times; you can just walk across the border from one country to another – but you have to show your passport of course! Then you walk across the runway before reaching the city.
Before my visit, I had no idea what Gibraltar was like. I knew it was the home of the British Armed Forces overseas because a few old school friends had been based there, but apart from that, I didn’t know anything about the country – I didn’t even know about the Rock!
Gibraltar is very similar to England – except it’s much more sunny.
I thought it would be tiny. However, considering it has an area of just 6.8km², over 30,000 people live there. I’m interested to know how many people were born in Gibraltar; in 2012 almost 80% of the population made up this figure, though it seems an attractive place for UK-born people to move to or retire. The population is also made up of a number of Spanish, Moroccan and other EU people – and many people cross the border into Gibraltar every day to go to work or go shopping.
I found it strange to be using my home currency, the pound sterling, because I felt like I was abroad. The pound is used everywhere but the prices are a tad more expensive than back home. The only real difference is that the coins have difference markings on them. You can also pay in Euros in most places, but the exchange rate is DIRE.
In Gibraltar people drive on the right, not the left like we do in the UK – but changing lanes would cause all sorts of issues at the border! This is probably one of the only major differences I noticed. There are lots of typically British things, like red telephone boxes, hanging flower baskets, and there is even a road called “Winston Churchill Avenue”. There’s a Morrison’s supermarket, and the Spanish supermarket Eroski sells Waitrose products. The spoken language is English, though most people speak a bit of Spanish too. So it feels kind of like Spain and kind of like Britain… a strange in-between…
I think it’s this strange in-between feeling that made me like Gibraltar. The historical town centre is ever so quaint, with shutter-clad buildings and alfresco dining with cuisine from around the world as well as the typical British Fish n Chips. Casemates Square is a must for anyone looking for alfresco dining and evening entertainment. On the other end of the spectrum is the Ocean Village – this is an upmarket area full of hotels and bars. I couldn’t quite place why, but it feels strangely touristy, like an all-inclusive resort.
Exploring the Rock
The Rock is the main attraction of Gibraltar and there’s lots to explore. The upper area is covered by a nature reserve which costs a couple of euros to enter as a pedestrian. You can visit the Moorish Castle, which was built in around 711AD. Part of this medieval fortification was used as a prison until 2010. The Moorish occupation lasted over 700 years in total – way back before Gibraltar became a British colony in 1704.
Towards the end of the 1700s, a labyrinth of tunnels were dug out by the British during the Great Siege, which was France and Spain’s attempt to capture Gibraltar during the American Revolutionary War. These tunnels were used again in World War Two and the Rock was strengthened as a fortress. You can visit these tunnels today, and a tour will cost £8.
How to get there:
- Taxi: A taxi from the main town centre costs over £20 per person. This includes transport up and down the Rock, plus the £10 entry fee (in a vehicle) to the park. All of the taxis are government-regulated and run by the same company, which guarantees you won’t get scammed but also means you can’t haggle. We struggled to find a taxi who would take us up to the top so that we could walk down.
- Cable Car: This costs £12.50 return and you can take it from Red Sands Road.
- Walk: It takes around an hour from the city centre to climb the Rock. It costs £2 to enter the park as a pedestrian. Remember to take lots of water and wear sun cream.
Visiting the Ape’s Den
Around 300 Barbary Macaques live in the nature reserve on the Rock, and have become somewhat of a tourist attraction. You can visit the Ape’s Den but you’ll probably see them elsewhere on the Rock too.
Top Tip: Please don’t feed them, aggravate them, or wave your Go Pro in their faces!
I’m quite a hesitant person when it comes to tourism related to animals – I wholeheartedly disagree with elephant riding and selfies with drugged-up tigers – but I really enjoyed this safari.
We chose to take a Dolphin Safari with the Blue Boat, which offer three tours a day and a 99% chance of seeing the dolphins. There’s a live commentary to tell you about the different species and other interesting facts about the wildlife in the Bay of Gibraltar.
You don’t get to feed the dolphins or swim with them or touch them. You get to watch them and take photos of them from the boat. The dolphins are left to do as they please – some won’t come near the boats, others will come right up to it, and might even jump out of the water. This is why a 99% rate is disclosed: dolphins are wild animals and you just might not be lucky enough to see them!
Our tour cost £20 each – a bit pricey but well worth it.
La Línea de la Concepción
La Línea is a pleasant town that would make a good day trip from Gibraltar. There is the typical European cafe culture and the town centre has a good few shopping options. Like any Spanish town, the buildings are pretty, the streets picturesque, plus it’s by the beach. We spent our time eating tapas, laying on the beach and on my final night in La Línea it was the festival of San Juan – a fiesta at the church with a huge bonfire on the beach, and music until dawn.
I went with Bec to work, met the teachers and other conversation assistants, and spoke to some of the students (in English of course – and French, strangely.) It was a bit frustrating not being able to speak any Spanish, although I understood a few words from my Italian. La Línea isn’t a particularly touristy town though, so knowing a few phrases definitely helps!
That’s about all I got up to when I visited Becka – it was great to see her after over a year apart! We caught up on each other’s travels and everything else that’s gone on over the past year. Not long until we’ll see each other again.
Have you visited Gibraltar? What did you think of it?
Thanks for reading and happy travels!
Note: All of the photos used in this post are my own, and none of the links are affiliate links – just honest opinions and advice. See the official Gibraltar tourism website for more info. You can follow Becka on Instagram here.