Gibraltar, United Kingdom (in Southern Spain)

Monkey – ing around in Gibraltar!

"I love these little monkeys!"

A cable car gets you to the top of this strange Rock that I have been living amongst for the past week.  The vistas from the top of the rock are breathtaking and a hike on the Mediterranean steps is highly recommended. (Bring good hiking shoes or sneakers and bring water.)  At the top of the cable car you are greeted by your first monkey. This one is chilling out with its child picking insects out of its hair and eating it. Quite sweet. Others are hanging around the observation deck, almost listless. “Here are all these pitiful tourists, now which one is stupid enough to carry a plastic bag so I can grab it and eat what’s inside!”.  But I found this one chilling on the fence and he was just acting – well “cool!”

The monkeys are sweet, but then we came across an area where the rock tours come and drive people to the top and throw them carrots. There were dried up carrots on the ground and it was kind of stinky?! Just an observation and I was not too impressed. Still watching them was awesome… Sorry the truth sometimes hurts. Rock tours – should clean up after throwing carrots at the locals (in this case monkeys).

The island has about 150 monkeys and they all have names… There are many stories on how the monkeys even got here. You only find species of these tail-less wonders in Morocco and Algeria and on the Rock. Rumors speak of an underground tunnel that they crawled through; other stories are of monkeys carried across by ships for entertainment for the English or as companions to the Arab invaiders… One way or the other they are here to stay somehow protected and somehow exploited, at least there is no fence around them!

From every spot you are enticed by views of the Costa del Sol – the Mediterranean  – the cargo ships and the continent of Africa. The rock is taller than the empire state building!

The Rock from the top of the Rock.

We also saw a couple “just married” taking pictures. The wedding mystery is resolved, it is a short flight from Great Britain and the weather is nice and there are plenty of hotels that will accommodate you here. Hence: a wedding outpost for the English!

While hiking we ran into Gibraltarians. 3 Women that hike the rock all the time. One is married to an Englishman, one was a daughter of a mixed marriage meaning 1/2 Gibraltarian – 1/2 English and the other was a purebred. All of them promise that living in Gibraltar is the best place to raise a family. The rock was a military outpost for the English. There are caves and canons and hospitals and paths all in the rock that are now abandoned. you can take tours through them…

Earlier today I had to also return my rent – car in La Linea, Spain, which is the border town here. As I wrote before 50,000 Spaniards work in Gibraltar that is big in banking and hiding money from the TAX MAN. There is an enormous amount of money here but it is pretty understated in this scruffy town. You see some nice cars but  mostly people travel by scooter. As I sit amongst multimillion-dollar condos in the harbor that also feel understated, this transient bank haven community seems oddly down to earth. There are no real high-end shops, clothing or jewelry stores – I guess they can find a Gucci in near by Marbella.  In addition the houses are understated and behind walls. The rich keep to themselves it seems and the locals that work the ports and the tourist industry are modest. I can’t say that they are uber friendly and out going –  actually I am finding the locals quite reserved…  the tax-free folk are in and out of here with not too much Glitz and Glam.

Back to La Linea! Another scruffy town! Lots of energy, markets, people crossing into Gibraltar and ugly – which is often times beautiful too… Returning my rent a car, they did not even give me a receipt and it was in some sketchy parking lot,  so I called the rent a car place and had them speak with the parking  guy to confirm I dropped it! – ALWAYS BE CAREFUL – rent a cars are always a place to screw tourists!

With the car return, I was able to walk around the markets in La Linea  and see some locals. Lots of North Africans and Lots of Spanish. Beautiful Black hair and tanned bodies. There was a ton of cheap clothing to buy but in between food vendors. One with delectable pickled vegetables and olives. The olives here are green and MUCH better than the jarred version we get in the  USA. I can’t stop eating these dam OLIVES!

See yummy Veggies!

Walking back over the border you get a real feel for the rock and its visitors. Tons of people stay in nearby La Linea – and walk to Gibraltar for the day.

The best part is the airport here. It stops traffice for take off’s and landings… due to lack of land. A new airport terminal and tunnel is being built. Frankly, I think they should stop the tunnel and continue to stop traffic. For just a few moments, the world around the area stops and waits for these jets… people get out of their cars and take pictures… it is actually really cool!

Walking on the Runway after Immigration

Back to Gibraltar – If you are looking for good food, there is one place to go and it is called El Patio. Located in the Piazza you will be greeted by the lovely Manolo. He is Spanish and has been here for a while. The back dining room is filled with bankers for lunch and locals only. The best part is you can still smoke here. (Even thought I don’t smoke anymore, there was something demure about it.) It is funny how the smell of smoke in a restaurant now “reminds you of a time” since living in smoke free New York. So I reminisced for a moment.

The cooks are all women and over 70 years old so you know you are getting something good and home made. We dined on baked white asparagus with cheese, olives, manchego cheese, chips, grilled calamari and cod croquettes. The Sangria had a delicious hum to it and we were stuffed in the end.  All the fish is local, and all the food is cooked to order. Even the French fries, which were, hand cut. El Patio has all kinds of food but Great for a vegetarian/pescatarian especially if you are stuck with a Carnivore – who will undoubtedly be satisfies with the Spanish style arrangement there.

Manolo and Me

If you go say hello to Manolo! He is such a sweetheart and took great care of us.