Travel

Flying Standby: Between a Rock and a fun place at Gibraltar

The famed Rock of Gibraltar dominates the landscape – and offers great views from its summit. Gibraltar, near the southern tip of Spain, is still a British territory.
The famed Rock of Gibraltar dominates the landscape – and offers great views from its summit. Gibraltar, near the southern tip of Spain, is still a British territory. Mark Vanek

The Rock of Gibraltar stands as an indomitable sentinel guarding the entryway between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. The British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar is lined with vibrant city streets, and numerous historic landmarks. It’s like an English dream vacation... without the inclement weather. You will find plenty of tax-free shopping, Barbary apes and numerous beaches.

Getting there: Gibraltar International serves the entire Iberian coastline – from such Spanish destinations as Seville and Malaga as well as the Rock. The North Front Airport, as it is also known, takes up a major portion of the entire British territory. So to drive from Gibraltar into Spain, vehicles must literally cross the airport’s runway... much like you would at a school-bus crossing. A tunnel should be completed soon but foot traffic into Spain will still be able to be continued. Lease an auto (in advance) from Avis and you get to drive across the runway.

Staying there: In the heart of Old Town Gibraltar is the storied O’Callaghan Eliott Hotel (www.eliotthotel.com) – a perfect base for exploring: You’re never far from popular restaurants and romantic destinations along the coast. Rooms feature warm and contemporary Irish styling; most are outfitted with all the comforts of home as well as spectacular views of the Mediterranean.

The Eliott has a health club, a sauna and a bistro with views over the Strait, the Rock of Gibraltar and city views. Don't forget your swimsuit for the rooftop swimming pool.

Things to do: No trip to Gibraltar would be complete without hopping on a cable car to the top of the Rock. The ride up the summit provides sweeping views; children will delight in the 15-minute journey. If you are scared of heights – you may want to pass on this: The ride (www.gibraltarinfo.gi/gibraltar-cable-car.aspx) can be mind-numbingly scary. Suspended only by two cables, the cars creak and lurch without warning – as the crowd, packed like sardines, swings in the high winds.

At the summit, it will all be worth it as you are greeted by the overly friendly – yet somewhat aggressive Barbary macaques (the famous Barbary apes).

Considering Spain’s economic downturn, not all the bargains can be found in the tax haven of Gibraltar. Across the border in La Línea, values abound and they are everywhere. So be sure to take a day trip to explore the Spanish countryside.

Main Street in Gibraltar is lined with typical English shops, hard-to-find items and exquisite jewelry. The scenic cobblestone pathway runs several blocks, almost to the border and La Linea. You may want to consider avoiding Main Street when the cruise ships are in port: The daily bargains may already have been scooped up. Also: Even considering the tax-free offerings, prices are still over-inflated – so ask for discounts and haggle in the jewelry shops.

Step back in history with a to visit the great siege tunnels. You will discover many nooks and crannies to duck into, each filled with tales. The mouths of the tunnels provides unique vantage points of the surrounding topography and fantastic photo vistas from high up the Rock. Look through the canon turrets to know what Gibraltar did to save itself from the Nazis in World War II. The climb back is steep so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water.

Experience beautiful sea life on the Dolphin Safari Tour (www.dolphinsafari.gi). Views of the coast and the Rock are unparalleled. And the company offers a 99 percent guarantee you will see dolphins.

Dining there: Roy’s Cod Place gets fish and chips right every time: light, crispy, flaky cod that melts in your mouth. The chips (fries) are amazing as well, and the full order is so large you may only need just two servings to feed a family of four. Be sure to sample an order of the mushy peas with curry sauce. Their shrimp scampi is another crowd favoritelocals highly recommend.

You won't break the bank by dropping in for a bite at Bruno’s (www.brunosgib.com), a raucous and high-energy eatery. Enjoy a juicy burger. Teriyaki chicken noodles are another outstanding option that should top your list here. Don’t miss their two-for-one cocktail special – it’s like a nonstop happy hour. This joint can get rockin’, so expect to pay as you go. Euros are gladly accepted.

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