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. 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.

Thoughts of spring

 I’m afraid I haven’t had the time for a stroll this week. Family commitments and the production of World Book Day costumes have eaten into my time somewhat. Nevertheless I thought I’d share a few bright sunshiny photos with you as it’s been feeling rather springlike here of late.
  Commonwealth Park

Next weekend we are looking forward to welcoming some very special family visitors to Gibraltar and I do so hope this lovely spell of weather lasts for their arrival.   Commonwealth Park

It’s still long sleeve weather here in spite of the gorgeous blue skies, layers of clothing are the key – so you add or take them off depending on the time of day and the strength of the sun! 

    Main Street

That said, there are plenty of tourists ambling up and down Main Street in T-shirts and shorts but perhaps they are more used to colder temperatures than we are these days. I’ve clearly been here long enough to go soft and I head out in the morning with a vest, jumper and thick coat. You’d never think I’d grown up Up North.  

View of part of the harbour  

Thanks for stopping by, hopefully the normal service will have resumed next week and we can go for another stroll – there are so any interesting things here in Gibraltar to share with you all! Until next time, bye for now.

A stroll around Gibraltar: No. 1 Balconies

Gibraltar’s a pretty special place, unique in so many ways. A slice of Britishness on the Med, within sight of two continents. One of the mythical Pillars of Hercules which stood either side of the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a melting pot of cultures, religions and styles with a rich history dating from the Neanderthals to the Phoenecians, the Battle of Trafalgar to World War II and beyond. As many of you lovely visitors to my blog aren’t from Gibraltar and perhaps have never visited, I thought I’d share a few aspects of the Gibraltar I love with you. Today I’m looking at balconies:

  South District

For a place where the vast majority of people live in apartments, outside space is incredibly precious here in Gibraltar. Balconies for the lucky few who have them, are a very precious bit of the outdoors attached to their homes. Our family is lucky enough to have a balcony, which is effectively our ‘front garden’ (British readers will get what I mean – I’m sure), it also works as a space to dry laundry and a place to just ‘be’ especially on a warm evening with a cool glass of vino in your hand. 

  Irish Town

Of course, balconies can take many forms including late twentieth century concrete ones and the glass and chrome of the last few years, but by far my favourite are the Colonial style wrought iron balconies which can be found around the Rock.

   Governors Street

If you walk around town with your head down or just look around at eye level, you are sure to miss some absolutely stunning architectural beauties. They have such charm and grace, almost reminiscent of New Orleans. 

These green beauties can be found on Main Street where thousands of shoppers, commuters and tourists pass daily, how many of them have actually looked up and noticed they’re there?

 Main Street
  Main Street

These days a lot of this style of balcony are no longer ‘outdoor spaces’ being enclosed by glass and absorbed into the internal buildings. I still think they look beautiful though.

  Market Lane

How about this for some ornate glazing?!

  Main Street

Look a whole street of them!    Georges Lane

Check out that stained glass…

 Main Street

What a façade!
  Main Street

And another…

  Main Street
  Main Street (again)

These beautiful examples are just a small selection of what you can find here. Some are in a better state of repair than others. I just hope they are preserved for many more generations to enjoy. I just can’t get enough of them! 

This balcony is perhaps the most photographed in Gibraltar. Most days as you pass, you find tourists standing across the road taking pictures. It truly IS a front garden!
  Main Street (next door to Kings Chapel)

So you’ve probably guessed I am a huge fan of balconies, perhaps because I am a huge fan of gardens and this is as close as many people get here. They are so beautiful and romantic and so unlike anything you would get back at home in Blighty. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short jaunt around the place where I live. I’ll have another stroll around Gibraltar for you soon. Thank you for stopping by :-).


Sunday sevens #8 29.11.15

 1 Europa Point

 

On Monday morning it was such a crisp clear day, that I took a rather scenic detour home from the school run to see the sea off Europa Point. The Trinity Lighthouse is the only lighthouse outside the UK which is controlled by Trinity House in England and looks out over the Straits of Gibraltar towards Morocco in the distance. It was so clear that you could actually make out buildings and cranes in the port across the water in North Africa.

2 Festive Watercolour 

  

I quite fancy having a go at printing my own Christmas cards this year for a change and have been experimenting with designs, I’m liking this holly but this photo was taken after the first layer of paint – it’s not finished yet. I’ll share the finished article with you when I’m happy with it.

3 Dressmaking class



  
Uninspiring photo I’m afraid, but this week’s dressmaking class was all about gathers and pockets.

4 November sunshine  

 
Wednesday was another glorious day, Main Street was chockablock with shoppers at lunchtime. There was a big cruise ship in and the place was bustling, there was a really positive atmosphere no doubt brought on by the beautiful weather.

5 Christmas purchases 

 
A couple of absolutely essential pre-Christmas purchases. I feel a granny square hot water bottle cover and some snowflake gift tags coming on!

6 Christmas makery has begun…  

  

My present production line has begun, a little later than I’d hoped for, but I’m on my way. You’ve got to love granny squares 🙂 well, I do!

7 Thursday flashback 

 

I’m sorry to be repeating a photo from a previous post, but I REALLY enjoyed the Convent Christmas Fair this year. What’s more, my blog post about it got SO MANY views. Far more than I’ve ever experienced before. Thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to have a look at my little blog and for your comments here, on Twitter and Instagram. It’s so nice to hear from you and hear that you’ve enjoyed what I’ve written – it gives me a warm glow just thinking about it 🙂
Sunday Sevens is a weekly blog series featuring seven photos from the last seven days. It was created by Natalie at Threads & Bobbins. Take a look at her blog for more information on the series. Have a great week!