Friday photo challenge (week 18) Keyhole & April roundup

I do like an old door, especially when they still have their old bits attached. You don’t have to look too far when you are out and about in Gibraltar to see some old fashioned key holes. I love the fact that in quite a few cases, the later generations of owners have kept the old locks intact and just added their own modern equivalent alongside. Old and new sit so well together and hint at years gone by, as well as all the people who lived inside these doors and came and went over the years.

Looking around for keyholes to photograph reminded me of my post from a couple of years ago; A stroll around Gibraltar No 5: Doors

I spied the lock below just over the border in La Linea one day when I was visiting the market there. What kind of key must have been used to fit in that lock shaped like a seven?

This door has the most ancient key hole I’ve ever seen though…

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It was on the door of one of the ancient buildings in the Forum in Rome, which we visited last summer. The upside down ‘L’ shaped hole on the left hand door is, according to our tour guide, a genuine keyhole created by the ancient Romans and with the right shape of key, will still work today.

‘Keyhole’ has been the theme for this week’s photo challenge. Next week, we’re aiming for the stars with ‘sky high’.

Monthly roundup for April:

It would appear that the Postcard from Gibraltar Friday Photo Challenge hit a bit of a milestone at the end of April as it reached 200 posts on Instagram. Thank you so much for everyone who has joined in so far, it’s great to have you along for company. It’s not too late to tag along, just tag your photo with #postcardfromgibfridayphoto to join the gang!

Here’s the monthly round up for April, I haven’t included all the Instagram entries as that would just end up as a boring list, but please check out the tag yourself to see more:

Sweet:

Wild Daffodil took us on a trip to Japan for her take on sweet.

Over on Instagram Randall Peck joined in with the photo challenge – welcome Randall! He took a fab photo of a shop window filled with all sorts of sweet treats and featuring a reflection of himself taking the photo! For Sandra Capano, one of her entries for sweet was of a rather cute Gibraltar ape posing for a photo! Hookstitchsew featured some ‘sweet’ crocheted strawberries.

Clock:

Amazingly, two Instagrammers featured photos of the same clock for this challenge. The clock in question is the astronomical clock in the Old Town Square in Prague and both Alison in Andalucia and bluejake235 used it as their entries. Mrscjohnson4 offered a vast array of timepieces for her entry, including a rather cute clock with four kittens above it.

Transport:

Again Wild Daffodil took us back to Japan for this weekly photo, for a trip on a bullet train and also to her photo challenge from last year along with Nana Cathy, which featured a rather handsome rusty pick-up truck (which is rather Mater-esque for those of you who have watched Disney’s Cars). Jacqueline the yellow submarine was the transport of choice for bluejake235. Apparently her trip abord which took her 60 metres underneath the Red Sea in Israel was unforgettable.

Blue:

On Instagram, Susan B of bluejake235 included the most striking photograph of an Icelandic boat sculpture agains a stunning blue sky for her entry. Blue skies were the predominant theme on Instagram for this challenge. Isisjem featured a great shot of the wide blue yonder taken from an aeroplane window high above the clouds.

A beautiful blue iris features in Sandra at Wild Daffodil’s post.

Blue skies and beautiful blue embroideries are the stars of the show for Crafty Creek.

I wonder what interesting pictures will appear in May…..?

A stroll around Gibraltar No. 22 : Douglas Path (Upper Rock Nature Reserve)

On Monday morning, before we were hit with the bad weather we’d been warned about, I took one last chance to go for a walk in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. It’s been a month since I have been able to do the Med Steps, so thought I would break myself in gently with a walk up the western side of the Rock using the roads to reach the summit. After reaching the top of the Med Steps (above) I decided that rather than to rush back down, as I usually do, I would go for a wander.

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of investment in the Upper Rock and certain parts have been cleared and new paths and attractions created for tourists and locals alike (one notable addition in recent times has been the Windsor Suspension Bridge). As you come down from the summit of the Med Steps, there is a ramp up to the right, which for months has been barricaded off with screens as work was being carried out. On Monday, I noticed that these screens had gone and went for an explore.

The path led upwards and in a northerly direction back towards the top of the Rock. As the gaps between the trees and bushes grew larger, I was given a great view down to the town area and harbour ahead.

As I turned a slight bend in the path, there in front of me (admittedly shrouded in cloud) was the northern summit of the Rock.

The path lead down some steps amongst a number of old disused military buildings (you can see inside the one above later on). How tempting does it look to go down down these steps and find out what lies beyond?

The first building I came to afforded great views across the Western side of the Rock, along with some rather intriguing looking hooks cemented into the ceiling! I’m assuming that they were for holding cabling or equipment at some point in the past…

Opposite this small building lay a network of other rooms and corridors, which were sunk into the ground and set into the Rock itself.

This room below is in the building you first see as you arrive at this place, there are two seagulls sitting on the roof of it in the photos earlier on.

It was such an atmospheric place to be. It almost felt forbidden to be there, or like I was the first person to go into these buildings for years and years (that’s clearly not the case but it felt like it!). I believe that these rooms were used for charts and telephone communication. The ones with lookout positions were clearly used to keep an eye on what was going on outside. If these walls could talk….

It was only when I entered the room above that I realised I had passed under the top of the Rock and was peering through these openings to the other side – towards the Mediterranean Sea! This place is one of the few positions in the Upper Rock which affords spectacular views out to both the east and the west.

It reminded me a lot of when I visited the Devil’s Gap Battery on a similarly accidental basis a while ago. We go about our daily business in the streets and buildings below and forget about the rich military heritage Gibraltar has up above our heads.

I was unable to continue any further north along this path, as it was gated off, but it gave a great vantage point to look northwards.

What an interesting place. I shall have to do a bit of investigating to find out more about it. I have been in Gibraltar now for about eight and half years, and it never ceases to amaze me when I stumble across something new.

As I headed back down the Douglas Path (below) to pick up the road back down to my home, I passed a tourist notice board with some information about this area: the path runs along the top ridge of the Rock and connects a series of military installations. To the south are O’Hara’s, Lord Airey’s and Breakneck Batteries (what a name!), as well as Douglas Cave.

I couldn’t do a post about the Upper Rock without featuring one of furry neighbours could I? Cue obligatory ape shot:

I’ve saved the most interesting fact until last (well it’s interesting if you like James Bond films). Douglas Path featured in the opening sequence of the 1987 James Bond film ‘The Living Daylights’. In his first role as 007, Timothy Dalton parachuted onto the Rock before zooming down the nature reserve’s rather vertiginous roads on the roof of a hijacked Land Rover and crashing through a wall towards the sea – Douglas Path was one of those roads!

That little nugget of information may help you in a pub quiz one day – you never know!! You’re very welcome. 😉

A stroll around Gibraltar No.21: roundabouts 

It’s been a long time since I last took you on a stroll around Gibraltar, so here’s a new jaunt around this place we have made our home; it’s less of a walk and more is a drive though! It’s been inspired by a tongue in cheek gift Mr Postcard received for Christmas a few years ago… traffic islands or roundabouts are the subject matter today.

Apparently there is such a thing as a ‘Roundabout spotter’ so if there are any of you out there in cyberspace this one’s for you!

Gibraltar has a good few roundabouts considering it is a pretty small place. This is not a comprehensive catalogue of them all, but here are a few …

… beginning with the Sundial Roundabout.

This is the first Roundabout you will encounter if you arrive in Gibraltar by road. There is a mini (painted on the road) roundabout next to the airport, but this is the most northerly proper roundabout. 

The sculpture in the centre forms a sundial and the points of the compass are marked out on the grass verge running around it (you can see N for North in the photo above). Also around the base are images of the symbols of the zodiac. 

When Gibraltar enjoyed it’s most recent royal visit from the Earl & Countess of Wessex, back in 2012, planters were put on top of the compass letters and it looked beautifully colourful.

Our most southerly roundabout of note is this one next to to mosque at Europa Point. 

From afar it looks like a natural planting arrangement with rocks and pebbles and a few plants. Up close though, you can see a flock of metal birds.

I have tried to find out what they are, but failed. They do look to me rather like Gibraltar’s native Barbary Partridges though.

It’s not just Gibraltar’s wildlife which is celebrated in traffic island form – it’s nautical history is too. An anchor takes centre stage at this roundabout on the junction with Queensway and Ragged Staff Road.

Some of our roundabouts are planted with tropical plants, there are a couple close to Morrisons supermarket- this is one of them.

The story of what happened to the civilian population of Gibraltar is marked by this beautiful statue of Evacuees returning home to the Rock after many years separated from their friends, families and their homes.

Gibraltar’s newest roundabout is this one on Queensway. Decorated with a sculpture in the shape of the Rock of Gibraltar with the shapes of figures cut out of it, it’s a monument to the women of Gibraltar.

As the sun moves around the Rock during the day, the figures cast by the sunlight move around and appear to be supporting the structure. It was unveiled officially on 6th December last year by the Chief Minister’s wife, Justine Picardo. The two women behind the work are architect; Ruth Massias Greenberg and artist & sculptor; Ermelinda Duarte.

How about a roundabout where you have a good chance of getting wet on a stormy day?


Built on top of the breakwater surrounding the new small boat marina, this road and its little roundabout offer a great vantage point for spotting cruise ships, and rather impressive yachts, like this one!

My absolute favourite traffic island has to be the one at the Trafalgar Interchange. When we first arrived in Gibraltar to live, it wasn’t particularly remarkable, but during our first few years here, a lot of work was done to smarten this area up and it’s just beautiful now. 


The flower beds nearby are lush and well maintained and the shrubs on the island are neatly clipped. It makes me smile when I see it planted up with new bedding several times a year.


The whole area is a real green oasis, I love this lush corner of Gibraltar.

Look it’s even home for a special visitor at Christmas time!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this lighthearted look at what many people may consider to be mundane traffic islands, I fear I may have turned into a bit of a roundabout spotter myself!

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!