A stroll around Gibraltar No. 20 : Catalan Bay beach

Last Sunday was such a beautiful day we just had to get out and soak up a few rays. We aren’t huge beach-goers during the summertime but we do like a nice walk along the sand off season. One of the benefits of beach visits in winter is that it’s usually very quiet!

Unlike my other ‘strolls’ this one doesn’t have much text, I shall let the photos speak for themselves…





We spotted the large waves were crashing onto the rocks at the far end of the beach so we went to have a closer look…



We got a bit close…

Quick! Get out of the way!

I think we gave the folk watching from the road a laugh as we jumped out of the way. I almost went backwards over a rock but I managed to right myself and I think I carried it off with panache 😉

We do know how lucky we are to have this on our doorstep… very lucky indeed.

A stroll around Gibraltar No.19 : Whithams Cemetery

I may be had up for trade descriptions on this one, it’s more of a dig around Whithams Cemetery than a walk… (and no, it’s not what you think!).

If you have followed Postcard from Gibraltar for a while, you may remember that last year I took you for a stroll along Rosia Road and down to the sea; A stroll around Gibraltar No. 12. During that walk I went slightly off piste and showed you the fascinating place that is Whithams Cenetery.

I’ve become rather bewitched by this atmospheric place since the first time I happened to look over the wall which stands above it. The large abandoned graveyard is boxed in on all sides by buildings and looked so unloved and sad yet mesmerizing to me.

Since that first time I laid eyes on it a year or two ago, I have pressed my nose up to the cemetery gates many times craning to see more of what lay inside. Over the months, it became obvious that it hadn’t been completely forgotten about as the trees were pruned back and there was evidence that some work was underway to clear the area and attempt to restore it to its former glory.

A chance conversation with a friend of mine back in November revealed that she was one of the team of volunteers who are currently trying their best to wrestle the graveyard back from the brink of ruin. I went along one morning to lend a hand and join in.

I arrived dressed for the job, in old clothes and boots, brought my own spade and gardening gloves – which are necessary as there are lots of nettles and prickly weeds (the Heritage Trust did have a supply of gloves and tools for volunteers too).


We worked for just over 2 hours in the cool morning light. Thankfully, because of it’s position, it was only starting to get really sunny as we packed up. My grave digging (joke) pal and I made great progress clearing a stretch of about 3 metres across to about 6 rows of graves deep.

The team of volunteers bagged up a large pile of sacks containing weeds and unwanted shrubs to be taken away off site. A lot of progress was made, but as it’s such a large plot and the weeds keep coming back, it’s going to take quite a few more mornings like this one.

Sadly, a lot of the graves are in a very poor state of repair and some have been vandalised in the years that the cemetery was left abandoned. The Trust is planning to use a grant to repair some of them once the clearance work has been completed.

It really is a beautiful, atmospheric place, and not at all eery.

If you are in Gibraltar, are free on Monday mornings and fancy joining in with the rescue work going on at Whithams Cemetery, please get in touch with Gibraltar Heritage. You can get hold of them on: (+350) 20042844 or at their headquarters at the Main Guard in John Mackintosh Square – they would love to hear from you. 

 

 

 

A stroll around Gibraltar No. 18 : Moorish Castle

After a long school holiday at home with the Little Postcards, I escaped for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon and headed out for a walk. Main Street was busy with bargain hunters hitting the sales so I decided to climb up out of the bustling town centre of Gibraltar and visit Moorish Castle.

The Tower of Homage, which can clearly be seen by visitors to Gibraltar as they approach from the airport is one of the last remaining buildings left by the Moors from when they controlled Gibraltar back in the 11th Century.

It’s a much visited destination on the usual Gibraltar tourist trail but, believe it or not, despite living here for so long, I haven’t been inside since our first ever visit to the Rock when we came for a look round and to find somewhere to live almost 8 years ago.

I climbed up higher and higher into the Upper Town leaving the shops and crowds enjoying the post Christmas sales on Main Street and found parts of Upper Town I’d never visited before. The street names refer to the Rock’s military past.

Wandering around the Moorish Castle Estate, I discovered great examples of community painting  projects from National Days gone-by.

I have to admit that I got lost a couple of times taking alleyways and paths assuming they would lead up to the castle and discovering dead ends! I have a feeling I will be visiting again soon as there are so many lovely examples of architecture which are crying out to be photographed… there are even headless men and children crossing the roads (see the sign below).

Never before have I seen such a festive washing line. I hope whoever the clean laundry belongs to doesn’t mind me sharing this, but wow what a lovely collection of Christmas table cloths, tea towels and aprons! Obviously being laundered to put away until next year!

As you walk up these roads and paths, you don’t realise how high you are climbing until you turn to look back at where you came from!

Nestled in amongst the post war government housing estate is an ancient structure which has a sign detailing it’s past. This building with battlements is probably the oldest building in Gibraltar. It was the original gatehouse for Moorish Castle and was occupied successively by Moorish, Spanish and British troops for over eight hundred years.

Just a little further up hill and there was the Castle.

You can completely understand why it was built in this position, what a great vantage point to observe our neighbours to the north. And just check out that cannon with it’s sight firmly set.

It was time to go inside..

The sign above the door reads:

When the Moors recaptured Gibraltar from the Spaniards in 1333 they rebuilt an earlier tower, ruined in the fighting, into this solid Tower of Homage, which has since withstood ten sieges.

After making your way through a steel gate, you reach the inner stairwell. Modern stairs lead the way up and down the tower now, but it’s clear to see what’s left of the original Moorish stairwell with arched sections left on some of the walls. The tower you see today was built at the same time as the Alhambra in Granada.

The first part you come to is an original Moorish bath house. The interlinking rooms are cleaned back to the stone and the subtle lighting means you can see the lovely brick work and arches which feature so heavily in the design.

A much larger example of a Moorish bath house can be found in the basement of the Gibraltar Museum. That is a truly atmospheric place and well worth a visit if you are over here.

Back into the stair well and this tiny window gave a great view of the town below. I wonder how many soldiers have stood with their weapons pointed out of there over the centuries?

These walls have stood the test of time and many attacks, in addition to the many sieges, in 1540, hundreds of people headed to the castle to shelter safely while Turkish pirates attacked the Rock.

Don’t look down!

I headed on up the stair well and up out of a little door at the top…

…to the roof and the most amazing panoramic view.

The Union Jack flapped in the breeze as gusts blew the clouds across the moody sky. In 1704 Admiral Rooke hoisted the British flag at this spot when he captured Gibraltar, one has flown here ever since.

Here’s Gibraltar’s famous runway which is bisected by the only road off the Rock, the Spanish town of La Linea lies on the other side of the border. Despite the fact many people mistakenly think Gibraltar is an island, you can clearly see we are well and truly attached to the rest of mainland Europe!

Down below the castle you get a good view of Casemates Square (bottom centre of the photo). In it’s heyday the Moorish Castle complex stretched all the way down to where Casemates is today.

Immediately below the tower is the remains of the former Gibraltar Prison. The Prison was still in use here when we arrived to live on the Rock, but it has now relocated to a purpose-built facility above Europa Point.

It wasn’t just me and a handful of tourists who were taking a moment to appreciate the view up there.

Can you can see the old building with scaffolding around in the centre of the picture? That is the orginal gatehouse which I mentioned before – it’s hard to imagine now, but the castle must have covered a really large area.

In addition to the town below, you get a brilliant view of the sea and the coast further north. It was looking a bit blustery on the Mediterranean coast up towards Santa Margarita.

In the Bay of Gibraltar, it was more sheltered, but this small group of yachts was making the most of the breeze off the western end of the runway.

I enjoyed my visit to Moorish Castle, I’m so glad I decided to forgo the joys of Saturday afternoon sales shopping in town in favour of this.

Goodbye for now Moorish Castle, I promise I won’t leave it so long before visiting you again!

 

A stroll around Gibraltar No 17 : Europa Point

 

Over the years we have lived in Gibraltar, and particularly since the park was opened there a few years ago, Europa Point has been a frequently visited destination for our family. During those visits I have taken many photos around the place and thought it high time that I share with you some of the pictures I have taken there. You will notice from this post that they were taken at different times of year and you can see the changes in the weather throughout.

Europa Point and it’s Trinity Lighthouse are at the southernmost tip of Gibraltar. It’s not quite the most southerly tip of Europe, Tarifa (which is a bit further West along the coast) can claim that title, but it is an amazing vantage point and stands at the gate of the Mediterranean Sea. Just a few miles across the Straits of Gibraltar you can see the coast of Morocco.

The Trinity Lighthouse is the only lighthouse operated remotely by Trinity House in London which is outside of the British Isles. It has stood on the site since 1841.

It’s guiding light can be seen up to 18 miles away and is much needed to guide sailors safely through the Straits of Gibraltar.

The original Lighthouse keepers cottages are still occupied and I believe they have the claim to fame of being the most southerly houses in Europe as the southern most tip of Tarifa doesn’t currently have houses on it.

What an amazing place to live though… especially on a sunny day. I’m not sure whether I’d fancy it so much during a storm when the spray from the waves is hitting the windows!

The lighthouse isn’t the only tall building to dominate Europa Point, it’s also the site of the largest of Gibraltar’s mosques; Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque. It’s relatively new, being inaugurated in 1997 and is the most southerly mosque in continental Europe.

In the photo above you can see Gibraltar’s trademark levanter cloud forming on the top of the Rock in the background. Unless it’s very overcast or foggy, you are pretty much assured of sunshine at Europa Point because the cloud (if there is one) stays over the town area.

When we first arrived in Gibraltar back in 2009, the area around Europa Point was pretty much wasteland. There was the mosque and lighthouse of course plus a cricket pitch but the rest of the land was pretty rough. The promenade was originally laid out by the military many years ago and had decayed to a very sorry state but in recent years the whole area has had a massive facelift. It was sorely needed as it’s a popular stop off point for the dozens of tourist buses which visit every day.

One of the best viewing points across the Straits of Gibraltar is Harding’s Battery. The Battery is the site of a huge cannon and in the weapon storeroom beneath there is a small museum area with displays telling visitors about the history of Gibraltar, it’s wildlife and it’s relationship to the sea.

The wide open flat space behind Harding’s Battery is perfect for scooters, bikes and anything with wheels. We are pretty frequent visitors there with the Little Postcards. On a dry sunny Sunday afternoon though, you can take your life in your hands trying to navigate across it through the learner cyclists, confident scooter riders flying down the slope from the cannon and chuck in a few remote control cars zooming madly about!

Close by is the Sikorski memorial. It’s a fairly recent addition, having been moved here from the Eastside of the Rock. It’s to commemorate a plane crash in 1943 which killed General Władysław Sikorski, the commander-in-chief of the Polish Army and Prime Minister of the Polish government in exile. The crash also claimed fifteen other lives. The stone which forms the base of the monument was specially shipped to Gibraltar from Poland to build it.

By far and away the best addition for us and countless other families when the whole Europa Point area was renovated several years ago, was the addition of a large and fantastically maintained park. Known in our house as the ‘Lighthouse Park’ for obvious reasons, it has been the scene of many a picnic, play and sibling dispute.

We really are lucky to have such a lovely place right on our doorsteps. It’s lovely whatever time of day you visit.

View from Europa Point to Algeciras

It was the perfect vantage point to catch a good view of the super moon which appeared late last year.

But there’s more to Europa Point that the bit the tourists see…. there’s the coastlline too.

On a rainy afternoon late last year on a walk past the University of Gibraltar, I went for an explore and discovered a path which took me down to the sea.

To the Europa Foreshore…

The area of land directly beneath the Europa Point complex feels like a world away. In parts it’s shabby and unloved, but it’s really special even on a grey damp day like the one when I visited.

As I approached the foreshore I spotted an elderly man standing very still and looking out to sea. I stood back and tried to spot what he was looking at but couldn’t see. He suddenly turned on his heel and walked towards me saying ‘What a magnificent pod of dolphins… they’ve been coming past a lot these past few days.’ Oh how I wish I’d seen them myself!

This area of rock and rough scrub land is a nature reserve, as I was visiting in winter time there wasn’t a great deal for me to see plant wise. I will definitely need to make another trip down there in spring.

Like much of the rest of Gibraltar, the foreshore is dotted with military buildings from years gone by. This was the outer wall of the Rock’s military defences.

It must be very exposed to be down here on a stormy day!

I love the sliver of sunshine breaking the clouds on this photo, but can you see the rain coming down? Within a few minutes that rain was falling on me. Time to run back to the bus stop!

Europa Foreshore, I will be back again on a brighter, sunnier day with my camera. I feel like I have just unearthed a secret world no one else knows about!

 

 

A stroll around Gibraltar No. 16 : Christmas lights 2016


Gibraltar does do Christmas lights well, so I thought I’d take you on a little nocturnal stroll with me to show you some of them. 

Back in November there was the now annual event of the Festival of Lights, when school choirs and dance groups put on a large extravaganza before the big Christmas light switch on. You can read all about 2015’s Festival of Light here.

As is the tradition, the area of John MacIntosh Square (also know locally as the Piazza) is the scene of the Festival of Light, and after the event, the square is given over to a small Christmas Fair complete with fairground rides for smaller children. This year, the area has been illuminated with these arches of fairy lights which are really quite stunning as you round the corner and see it.

The square is flanked on three sides by brightly lit buildings too: Gibtelecom

The City Hall:

And opposite the City Hall, is the Gibraltar Parliament Building.

Main Street, the main shopping area is of course lit up too. The lights extend from beyond Southport Gates and past the Governor’s residence, the Convent (which you can see with the Christmas tree above the porch).

The lights continue along past the shops.


Even the smaller streets off Main Street have Christmas lights too.

Away from the pedestrianised shopping areas, the traffic islands haven’t been immune to the Christmas light treatment too.

This one, even features a luminous Santa Claus, who just hours before this photo was taken was face down in the plants. It looked like he’d had a heavy night at a Christmas party! He’d been restored to his former position by the time I returned with my camera, so his blushes were spared.

Aside from the municipal illuminations, the residential estates have put on a fair show this year too. Here’s the offering at Beach View Terrace near Eastern Beach…

…the residents of South District have put on a show too…

…as have the Alameda Estate.

I think the collective prize for best effort has got to go to the residents of Catalan Bay. Several houses have made a big effort, both those facing the road …

…and facing the sea.

Even the gardeners at the Alameda Gardens have jazzed up their main entrance gates.

To my mind though, there is one stand out winner this year and that is the City Fire Station. They get an A* for effort and win this year’s Postcard from Gibraltar prize for Best Christmas Lights by a mile.

A stroll around Gibraltar No. 15: Alameda Gardens Part 3 (The Green Men)

 

Regular readers of Postcard from Gibraltar will know that one of my favourite places in Gibraltar is the Alameda Botanical Gardens. So far I have published two posts dedicated solely to this beautiful green space we are lucky enough to have on our doorstep. No matter what the season, there is always something of beauty there. You can find my previous posts them here and here.


Anyone who’s visited the gardens in the past few months will have noticed the arrival of several wooden sculptures, from an ape to plants and now some mythical characters are lurking amongst the trees. They have all been created to mark the bi-centenary of the botanical gardens, and were created by environmental artist Paul Sivell.


The first I heard of the new arrivals was on Instagram, where photos have been appearing recently. As we are enjoying such gorgeous sunny autumnal weather at the moment, I took myself off for a lovely walk earlier this week to investigate.

The sun was shining and although it’s well into autumn, the place is still as green and lush as ever. On my way to find the Green Men I passed a few of the other large wooden sculptures.

Pine cones
South African Protea
 

This ape sits above carvings of two of the Rock’s national plant species the Gibraltar Campion and Gibraltar Candytuft.


I found myself in one of the most beautiful spots in the gardens, the Lions Pond. Here is where the Green Men are hiding.


But where are they? 


Can you spot any of them?


There are four of them in total and they are all stunning.


I don’t know whether they have names. I think they should do – don’t you?




How wonderful to have these wise faces looking out at you from the trunks of these beautiful mature trees.


They are such a wonderful addition to the Lions Pond area.


If you should find yourself in the Alameda Gardens, I really would recommend you seeking out the Green Men and paying them a visit.


 

A stroll around Gibraltar No 14 : The beaches

As we are already more than halfway through July, I figured it was high time to take you a walk along the seashore. If you’re ready to take off your shoes and dip your toes into the surf, come and see the beaches we are privileged to enjoy on our doorstep.

Being an isthmus, Gibraltar is surrounded on three sides by water. The Mediterranean to the East, the Strait of Gibraltar to the south and the Bay of Gibraltar to the West.

If you arrive in Gibraltar by plane, no matter which way you come in to land you will be able to see a beach (assuming you are sitting by the window on the left hand side of the plane). There’s a beach on each side of the runway; Eastern beach (funnily enough on the Eastern side) and Western beach (guess where….).

I’ll start at the top and work round clockwise beginning with the biggest beach in Gibraltar.

Eastern beach

Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and (on a clear day) along the Spanish coast towards the Costa del Sol, Eastern Beach reaches almost up to the edge of the runway of Gibraltar airport. Apologies for the photos of the beach – they were, believe it or not taken last night (19th July). You would normally expect to see the beach still packed with families enjoying the last few rays of sun before sunset at this time in the summer but we are experiencing rather strange overcast weather at the moment – hence the empty evening beach.

A new community of beachside dwellers have arrived at Eastern Beach in the last twelve months with the opening of several large apartment blocks adjacent to the beach. Prior to this, the area nearby was rather industrial and just offered a small chiringuito (beach café) where we enjoyed a fantastic evening wedding reception a couple of years ago. The recent investment in the area can only be good for the beach and its surroundings.

Believe it or not the next photo was taken in January on Eastern Beach – that blue sky is more like it! Because of it’s proximity to the airport, aviation fans can get a really good view of the planes coming and going!

Catalan Bay

Catalan Bay has to be my favourite beach destination here in Gibraltar, we have enjoyed many happy hours here. The beach seems to be one of the few places where sibling cooperation thrives and arguments are kept to a minimum, until that is, someone knocks someone’s sandcastle down or breaks a deeply excavated tunnel in the wet sand!

As you can see from this picture, Catalan Bay is more than just a beach. There is a real community here with housing, restaurants and a few shops. It’s a year round destination for the Postcard family, we like to visit out of season when we can have the beach to ourselves and scavenge for shells and sea glass along the shoreline. In summertime, it’s a much more densely populated location!

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It’s a really great spot to while away a few hours, either on the beach or eating tapas in one of the cafés or restaurants. Just watch out for the seagulls in case they grab your bread roll!

Year round the community of fishermen who live here head out into the Med to catch their fish. Their routines continue regardless of whether the place is full of sun seekers or not. At the southern end of Catalan Bay beach lies the Caleta Hotel. Catalan Bay is such an interesting part of Gibraltar it calls out for a future post dedicated to it alone…


Sandy Bay

Sandy Bay these days is a manmade beach. When we first arrived in Gibraltar seven years ago, there was very little beach here to speak of as storms had washed the beach away into the sea. However in recent years there has been a lot of investment here with the building of a large groyne to shelter the bay from the worst of the pounding waves. Many truckloads of sand were imported to create the beach we can enjoy today. The large stone sea walls not only protect the beach, but also the bathers, meaning that when it is unsafe to swim at neighbouring Catalan Bay due to rough seas, it is much calmer at Sandy Bay.


We have spent several great days at Sandy Bay since it was reopened in its improved state – yesterday being one of them. It is so safe for the Little Postcards to mess about in the sea here. Just on the other side of the southern part of the groyne is a very interesting spot for military historians and rock pool appreciators. The cliff face here is littered with military look out spots from years gone by and the stones and rocks down by the sea edge have loads of nooks and crannies worth checking out too.

Little Bay

As you can see from this picture, Little Bay suits its name – it’s really quite small. The beach is more stony than the three sandy beaches on the Mediterranean side of the Rock. Little Bay, along with it’s larger cousin, Camp Bay which lies nearby, are on the western side. Little Bay is the most southerly of Gibraltar’s Beaches lying a short drive from Europa Point.


Behind the beach and in the shadow of the waterfall, lies a larger leisure area, with tables and seating, a toddler paddling pool, a park and basketball court and a small kiosk offering refreshments.

Camp Bay


Lying beneath the imposing Parsons Lodge bastion at Rosia is Camp Bay. Once the site of a quarry it is now one of the largest leisure areas on the Rock offering a café and kiosk, swimming and paddling pools, play areas, seating and access to the sea it is a hugely popular spot for families.

Similar to Little Bay, the beach here is somewhat rocky underfoot, but the lack of sand does make it appealing for those who have an aversion to tramping sand back home!

Western Beach 

Western beach brings us to the end of this tour of Gibraltar’s beaches. It is the most northerly one here as it is accessed by crossing over the runway. It is very close to the frontier with Spain, the blue apartment block in this picture is across the border in La Linea.

Sadly, the photos for this beach were (like Eastern beach) taken last night when the weather was rather cloudy and there had been a bit of a seaweed invasion! You will just have to imagine how nice it is on a clear summer’s day.

This beach also affords you a great view of the planes coming and going from the Rock’s airport as the runway lies just next door. There is a chiringuito here as well, the Little Postcards have attended several birthday parties here over the years and it’s a lovely spot in the evening to watch the sun set over the hills across the bay.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this whistle-stop tour of Gibraltar’s beaches, thanks for stopping by! 🙂