Weekends in Spain are wonderful because not only do they provide time for relaxation and extra sleep but they also present many opportunities for exploration and adventure. My first weekend in Seville was merely two days after I had arrived from the States. Therefore I didn’t have any huge adventures, but rather spent the days exploring and situating myself in my own barrio, or neighborhood. Since I live a hike from the center of city, it’s vital for me to know how to navigate around Nervion and how to return home from various parts of the city, whether it’s by bike, foot or metro.
The second weekend I was in Seville I took the opportunity to go to Gibraltar for a day trip. Gibraltar is located about three hours south of Seville by bus. When I mentioned to my mom that I was going to Gibraltar, she asked what Gibraltar is all about since all she’s every heard of is the Rock of Gibraltar. And that’s the very matter that I was out to explore and discover. Gibraltar is known by many as a huge rock, being the most southern tip of Spain. It’s almost like a little island since it’s only connected to Spain by a small isthmus. Thirty thousand people inhabit Gibraltar which spans less than six square kilometers in size.
Representing a melting pot of cultures, Gibraltar brings together British, Moroccan and Spanish influences. Gibraltar is British territory and therefore the official language is English and the official currency is the Pound. Nonetheless Spanish is spoken widely among locals and the Euro is accepted in shops and restaurants.
Through a travel company called Discover Seville, four friends and I journeyed to Gibraltar for an adventure. When the bus came to a halt at our destination, the tour guides told us that the buses couldn’t cross through immigration, so we were going to walk through together. With our passports in hand, we walked across a border, something I had never done before. I have crossed the border from California to Mexico by bus, have driven across the US and Canada border and have flown across borders many times, but this experience was quite different. In fact it was so insignificant that my friends and I couldn’t help but laugh. The immigration agent barely gave our passports a glance and they received no stamps or recognition of entering a different country’s territory.
Once in Gibraltar, British symbols greeted us right away as a typical red telephone booth was the first thing we saw. With the large tour group divided into smaller buses, we were driven around Gibraltar and stopped at various landmarks and points of interest. The first place we stopped was Europa Point which is the southernmost tip of Gibraltar and therefore of Europe. Strong winds swayed me from one direction to another as I observed the gorgeous view of Africa and the expansive waters of the Strait of Gibraltar.
To my surprise Gibraltar is a huge mountain with rapidly increasing elevations. Our next stop was halfway up the mountain to a place called St. Michael’s Cave. On our way there the tour guide told us that we were now entering monkey country and that if we had any food to make sure it was put away and secure somewhere. A particular species of tailless monkeys called Barbary Macaques are semi-wild in Gibraltar. All of a sudden a monkey leaped onto our bus and started climbing in the driver’s window. Honk, honk! Apparently the monkey wanted the car in front of us to move out of the way. When we got out of the bus, some people were eager to interact with the monkeys whereas others were about to pee in their pants from fear. I was nervous about a monkey climbing on me, especially one of the larger males, so I situated myself behind people and view from a comfortable distance. Monkeys climbed on people’s shoulders, latched onto the sides of buses and stole sandwiches and water bottles that were flaunted by tourists.
After having some fun with the monkeys, we entered St. Michael’s cave. People believe that the cave is bottomless and therefore that Gibraltar is linked to Africa beneath the Strait of Gibraltar. Stalactites and stalagmites covered the ceiling and ground of the caves in beautiful, unique formations.
The intriguing landmarks sparked my curiosity about Gibraltar and how the residents view Spain and Britain since they are a fusion of both territories. After exploring the key sites, we wandered around the cute town, starting in a place called Casemates’ Square. We found an Irish restaurant for lunch, where I had a delicious spinach quiche accompanied by three vegetable salads.
The beauty of Gibraltar was absolutely striking. You can see pictures of places and imagine what it would be like to visit, but not until you are there yourself can you truly grasp the amazing character of nature and the diversity of life.
A student at Lehigh University, I studied abroad in Seville, Spain, during the spring semester of 2012. I posted about my adventures and cultural experiences at SenseSeville.
Next time, I'll discuss my experience with Carnaval in Cadiz.