We left Spain this past weekend, driving 1.5 hours to Gibraltar. We were all looking forward to a different side of this very tiny British Territory. I am a bit of an Anglophile; Dennis loves all things naval history; and the kids are (and love) wild monkeys. So that they weren’t too comfortable with Gibraltar’s most famous residents, we showed them a clip of the apes robbing Rick Steves of an apple. This did, in fact, scare them, but also was all they talked about for about 12 hours. Non-stop talk about “bad guy” monkeys.
After going through customs, we quickly parked in a near empty parking garage on Devil’s Tower Road. Given the season, we could have potentially found a more prime location, but the lot was very easy to manage and cost us 9 Euros for about 7 hours. From there, Gibraltar is an easy, straight shot with a large pedestrian zone. There were more people than I expected, but it was a gorgeous day, and I loved the energy of all of the people popping in and out of stores and restaurants. The clowns handing out balloons. Street musicians filling the air.
Eat: Charlotte got to bed late, and then slept in, so we got a later start than planned. So, we headed straight to The Clipper for a proper pub lunch. Henry asks for chocolate milk everywhere we go. It was his special treat at restaurants back home, but he strikes out every time in Spain. Our waitress at The Clipper said they had chocolate milkshakes. Because we are super cool parents (and wanted to occupy them for a while) we ordered two milkshakes, and a beer for dad. And fish and chips. Everything was very good, though given that it was the recommended pub by both Rick Steves and Lonely Planet, I expected a bit more.
See: To make it to the top of the Rock, we took the cable car, which was my worst nightmare. First, I’m terrified of heights. Second, Cora decided to scream her head off the entire ascent. Nothing like trying to calm an angry baby while confined in a very small space with a bunch of strangers. She just wanted down. Maybe it was a blessing, keeping me from looking out the window (which Henry was trying to open).
The views at the top are all they are cracked up to be, as were the apes. You are surrounded on all sides by gorgeous, gorgeous blue water, dotted by colorful container ships and tiny white sail boats. The coast of Africa broke the expanse on one side. And everywhere you look, there are apes. Big ones sitting alone. Cute little babies with their mamas. They weren’t aggressive when we were there, thank goodness. There was enough stress with the cliffs, old military battery remnants, and our kids. We quickly started on our way back down.
We decided not to take the cable car down, but walked the whole way back down the Rock. We were crazy enough to take the longest path too, hoping to hit up St. Michael’s Cave, the Apes’ Den, the Great Siege Tunnels, and the Moorish Castle. We were successful at that, but it was a long, hot hike. If we go back with friends or family, I’m going to push that we take one of the minivan taxi tours to see the sites.
Charlotte loved St. Michael’s Cave. This limestone cave is a natural wonder, filled with stalagmites and stalactites formed during prehistoric times. But, what made it really pop for Charlotte was the light and song show that framed the tunnel in pop sounds and technicolor lights. Charlotte deserved a special show, because she really was a trooper. She hiked the whole way down, complaining only about as much as the adults in our group. It’s two days later, and I’m still sore. I can only imagine how her little legs managed.
Sweet: The milkshakes kept them going on the hike, but we all needed a sweet treat after a few hours of marching down the Rock. Fortunately, we found Gelateria Dolce Vita on Main Street. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful though taxing day.
Kid-friendly score: B. The kids absolutely loved the apes and the sites were right down their alley (tunnels and caves are always a big hit). But, it’s stressful to have a handful of toddlers on the side of a cliff. Also, while there are no private vehicles allowed on the majority of the Rock, there are a lot of tour bus / taxi tour vehicles, pinning us into tight shoulders. And, while I wouldn’t change the memories, I wouldn’t take the “History Buff” trail with toddlers again. They did great, but it took a toll on mom and dad.
For the parking tip and other advice on visiting Gibraltar with kids, I read this great blog post from Mum on the Rock: http://www.mumontherock.com/travelling-to-gibraltar-with-the-kids-ten-things-you-need-to-know/