Not the most thrilling place...
My research on the web led me to believe that Gibraltar was bigger than it actually is. Two streets have been “pedestrianized” and are outdoor shopping malls. The mall portion of Main Street is 11 blocks long, going from Casemates Square on the north and concluding at John Mackintosh Hall on the south. Irish Town which is one block to the west of Main Street is only four blocks long. The web suggested that Irish Town is teeming with night spots and restaurants. There are a bare half dozen.
The mall streets are one small store after another (though there is a small Marx & Spencer that outsizes every thing else). The most common carry alcohol and tobacco, watches, electronic goods, ladies’ clothing and jewelry. Again and again and again. Casemates Square to the north is about 50 yards square and is lined with restaurants. On its south side, there is a three story indoor mall. Casemates Squares’ restaurants includes a Pizza Hut, a Burger King and a Subway Sandwiches.
There is the ubiquitous Rock itself, always towering to the east. And that is an object of tour, either with the cable car (the station is below the south end of Main Street by three blocks on Red Sands Road. There also tours available in SUV taxis for £35. There are beach areas on the lower end of Gibraltar and on the east coast.
We flew to Madrid and then took the Renfe high speed train from Atocha Station. It was a nice trip; the countryside is fascinating. At Algeciras the train ends. A taxi is best, though that is peculiar. Spanish taxis may not enter Gibraltar and Gibraltar taxis may not enter Spain. So, you walk from the taxi stand in La Linea, pass through Passport Control, and go to the taxi stand just south and proceed on. It costs €25-€30 to get to La Linea. Gibraltar Passport Control is so lax it is amazing. You flash your passport’s picture page and a bored Gibraltar officer waves you on. Going back into Spain, they look briefly at your passport, but do run all your luggage, packs and purses through a scanning machine. They also scan these items before you get on a train. Even the smallest train station has a machine.
We stayed at the Bristol Hotel, mid-priced, and facing Cathedral Square, just around the corner from Main Street. The reviews were mixed; some folks hated it. It was clean but not fancy. There is wifi in the lobby, but you must sit within about 6 feet of it because the signal is weak. There was a cockroach resident in our room, but we have both been in the tropics and were not shocked. The weather, even in October, is really warm. The air conditioning in the room is a stand alone machine that is not terribly effective. A couple nights, we slept with no covers or clothes. The staff was friendly and pleasant. The place charged £87 a night, a good bit cheaper than some of the other hotels which were more in the £150 range.
After the first day, I found Gibraltar a bore. The place stays British because they are a duty free zone (no taxes) so goods are fairly cheap. I had the sense that I could do better on the Internet back home, and actually purchased nothing. There is some history here, but nothing of vast interest. The geography and the monkeys are items of interest. Otherwise, it is a good place to walk (and there are tons of benches when you weary). It is a tiny place. The residents are NOT really British. They speak a local variant of Spanish — with a lot of English mixed in, along with some Italian (Buena sera!). Most are fluent in English, though some are limited. And it is not unusual for some wait staff in the restaurants to be Spanish and know no English. It is a definite plus to have at least some basic Spanish, enough to talk to a waiter or store clerk.
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