Have you ever felt like life is one boring yet totally overwhelming routine? I was. Work was pressurising, housework was piling up, my free time was shrinking to below zero – I was desperate for a break. We started to save some money towards a relaxing trip, but when I suddenly burst into tears at something small, my husband decided that we weren’t waiting anymore – we were off next week.
We found cheap tickets to Gibraltar, a place that sounds ridiculously romantic to me and so I’ve always wanted to visit. There was also the advantage of a friend of my husband’s grandmother who lives there, and was happy to host us for a few days. We took out a payday loan to cover the costs beyond that which we’d saved, and to allow us some spending money. And so, our Gibraltar experience begins.
Flying to Gibraltar includes one of the scariest landings you’ll ever experience. The runway is very short, so the plane descends over the sea. It honestly looks like you’re about to land in the water, before the runway finally comes into view. Touchdown is a second later, followed by severe braking in order to get the plane to a standstill before reaching the other end of the runway.
Once we’d pulled our wits together, we glanced out of the window and saw the famous Gibraltar Rock, standing tall and proud against the bright blue sky. It was huge, yet welcoming. With the help of the friendly natives, we were soon on a bus heading through the palm tree-lined streets of the beautiful town. Our hostess was warm and friendly, and apologised for the lack of the view from our rooms. You used to be able to see the sea, she explained, but they’ve built right into the sea and now the only view is tall apartment buildings.
That evening, we went for a stroll along the high street. It seemed like every other shop was either a jewellery shop or sold cute monkeys that made noises when you pressed their tummies. There were plenty of pubs and quaint little shops mingling with typical English high street shops, and the atmosphere was friendly and serene.
The next day, we took a cable car up the rock. The view was stunning, with the town of Gibraltar laid out between us and the sea. We arrived at the apes’ area, and they were every bit as cheeky as we’d heard. They snatched food from tourists, and didn’t think twice about climbing up me to avoid a fellow ape. It was quite nerve-wracking to pose for pictures next to them!
Later on, we visited Alameda gardens, a large and beautiful botanical garden with secrets to find behind every corner. We found the cannons surprising, but a native informed us that there were plenty of cannons all over Gibraltar, signifying the important role it played in previous battles.
We took another stroll that evening, this time heading towards Queensway Quay. It was stunning to see rows and rows of boats bobbing peacefully in the water, and we stopped for a drink at one of the cafes lining the quay.
The next day was once again sunny. It made such a nice change from the gloomy London weather we’d left behind! We headed to a beach – Both Worlds – and relaxed in the warm sand. It wasn’t too crowded, although it did start filling out more later on. The sea was pleasant, the Sun wasn’t too hot – it was the perfect morning. After lunch, we took a boat ride to see the dolphins. It was unbelievable to see these happy dolphins playing around, jumping in and out of the water, with not a care in the world.
Our flight was early Wednesday afternoon, so we got up early to head into Spain. Our hostess had explained about Miercoles loco, or ‘crazy Wednesday’, a Spanish market where you can find great bargains. Forget the bargains – the atmosphere there was incredible. Vendors loudly advertising their wares, arrays of colourful clothing, shoes, food – anything under the Sun, really! We had fun browsing the stalls, and were persuaded to try some fresh olives by one of the vendors. We immediately bought more, the flavour was incredible.
Before long, we had to join the queue to get back into Gibraltar. The queue on both sides was long, as officials carefully inspected any suspicious looking vehicle. We spotted one car that had the back part of it removed – and there were stacks of cigarette boxes hidden inside! I’m not sure how they found it, but this fellow sure was in trouble.
We headed back to the house, collected out bags and thanked the hostess. The flight back was uneventful, and I was ready for work the next day, feeling refreshed and revitalised. This was a holiday I’d been desperate for, and it had done everything I’d needed it to.
Copyright © 2017 Elizabeth Redfern