72 hours in Gibraltar – Sunshine, Rock Stars and Monkeys

We booked our 72 hours in Gibraltar without any expectations. If I’m entirely honest, I didn’t know very much about Gibraltar other than the history as a disputed territory, that there are a lot of monkeys, it has a huge rock and it’s a perfect place to catch some winter sun.

Gibraltar Short Break Adventures of a London Kiwi

I’m becoming more of a spontaneous traveller – my friend and I booked the destination on a whim, and that ended up being the theme of the trip.

It was a lovely break with very little pressure – Spanish levels of sunshine, the ease of travelling through the UK and a distinct flavour of exoticism afar on the Moroccan horizon. 

Gibraltar Short Break Adventures of a London Kiwi

Our landing was, well, interesting – the winds come down off the Rock in uneven patterns so we almost were turned away to Malaga, though luckily we had a fantastic pilot who got us down after a couple of circles – and once we arrived, it was little more than a 10-minute drive to our hotel half way along the peninsula.

This was the view from our hotel room balcony and one that we thoroughly indulged in. Those far mountains to the left of the below image is Morocco, to the right is mainland Spain.

Gibraltar Short Break Adventures of a London Kiwi

Gibraltar Short Break Adventures of a London Kiwi

We didn’t just lounge about on our 72 hours in Gibraltar – though the temptation was very real as we managed to sneak in a whole morning on the restaurant terrace reading and writing blog posts – and we had to explore the Rock itself.

Gibraltar Short Break Adventures of a London Kiwi

Gibraltar Short Break Adventures of a London Kiwi

The Rock of Gibraltar is a monolithic limestone promontory 426 m high, located in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, near the southwestern tip of Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Bet you didn’t know that!

Gibraltar Short Break Adventures of a London Kiwi

This fellow definitely didn’t.

Gibraltar Short Break Adventures of a London Kiwi

We hopped on the cable car in true tourist style, but simply followed our noses around. 

Intriguingly, at a referendum in 2002, whether Spain and the UK should share sovereignty of Gibraltar, more than 98% of Gibraltarians said it should remain British.

Gibraltar Short Break Adventures of a London Kiwi

You may well know that Gibraltar is home to a troop of mischievous Barbary macaques, but did you realise that it is the only wild monkey population on the whole continent? Around 300 of the furry troublemakers, descendants of North African populations and introduced to the area by the Moors, roam the Gibraltar Nature Reserve – and occasionally pinch food from tourists’ rucksacks. Don’t take plastic bags up the Rock – the monkeys associate them with food and get a more than a little aggressive…

Gibraltar may have been the place where the Neanderthals died out. A study published in Nature in 2006 suggested they were living in a cave site on the south-east of Gibraltar up to 24,000 years ago (later than the 30,000 years previously thought). 

Gibraltar Short Break Adventures of a London Kiwi

It (excuse the very tenuous link) has quite the rock n roll history – in March 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono flew to Gibraltar, where they were married in a 10-minute ceremony at the British consulate by registrar Cecil Wheeler. It was the only place that could marry them at such short notice.

Within an hour they headed for Amsterdam, and the Hilton hotel (been there!), where they spent their honeymoon in bed, accompanied by the world’s press, to call for world peace. Gibraltar, which commemorated 30 years since the marriage with a special edition of stamps in 1999, doesn’t appear to have been offended.

Gibraltar Short Break Adventures of a London Kiwi

Two years earlier, In the Rolling Stones’ guitarist Brian Jones, accompanied by Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithfull – all on LSD – visited the colony in Gibraltar en route to meet the rest of the band in Morocco. According to Faithfull’s autobiography, Jones decided he wanted to play a tape of music he had made for a film starring Pallenberg to the monkeys. “We approached the troop of monkeys very ceremoniously,” she writes, “and told them we were going to play them some wonderful sounds. They listened to all this very attentively, but when Brian turned on the tape recorder, they didn’t seem to care for it. They seemed alarmed by it and scampered away shrieking. Brian got very upset. He took it personally. He became hysterical and started sobbing.”

Gibraltar Short Break Adventures of a London Kiwi

You can’t quite beat a bevy of random facts and sunshine, can you?

These photos don’t quite do the magnificence of The Rock justice – it’s certainly a long way down when you’re up there.

Gibraltar Short Break Adventures of a London Kiwi

The township is full of British brands & quite an interesting assortment of restaurants mostly catering to a British palette with nods to Mediterranean cuisine.

Gibraltar Short Break Adventures of a London Kiwi

We spent a fair amount of time on the marina, partially because of our aching legs thanks to the hills and partially just because we wanted to indulge in a sunset or two.

Gibraltar Short Break Adventures of a London Kiwi

I mean it would have been rude not to, right?

Gibraltar Short Break Adventures of a London Kiwi

72 hours in Gibraltar was near on perfect for a relaxing break with a friend – there are plenty of day trips if you want to do them, but we just kept everything very low-key. Which we both very much needed.

Have you ever booked and not planned a holiday? If so, where?

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Gibraltar Short Break Adventures of a London Kiwi

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