Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sunday July 17th

Mission Gibraltar

Gibraltar has been on my short list of Places To See for quite a while and this year I got the opportunity to go!

Seems you need to transfer at London to get to Gibraltar (I didn't want to take route via Spain - I wanted to land on the small landing strip in Gibraltar!) so I headed west and got myself a day in London as well.

There is one flight per day from Heathrow so I stayed close by at Radisson Edwardian Heathrow:

and this is my hotel room (3082):

After leaving my luggage in the room I headed for London City.

Unfortunate there was some work on the Piccadilly line this weekend, which meant I had to take the bus, change to the Underground, take a shuttle bus and then take the Underground again to get to London. Which took about two hours. :-/

Anyway; straight to Camden, found some baby boots I bought plus a few records (at my favourite Camden stores; British Boot Co and Resurrection Records).
Then, of course, Camden is an exit only at this certain time so I walked to the next station and went to another favourite; Forbidden Planet. Didn't buy anything, but always nice to be there.
Time for food! I ate some delicious meat at Angus Steak House and then for dessert at the M&M Store at Leicester Square - picking only black & silver candy of course.
To further relax I went to see a movie; "Green Lantern" at one of the smallest cinemas I've been to. I must remember never to go to Odeon Mezzanine again (sadly I think I have told myself this before, but I had forgot about it). The movie was OK, but not an ounce more.

Now the time was about 8pm and time to head back, the same tube-bus-tube-bus route again.

Tomorrow it's time to see the Rock! (The real Rock that is, not the San Francisco prison)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Monday July 18th

So my computer - or the hotel web server - doesn't want to play ball in Gibraltar. But now finally I have internet again. Let's just see for how long...

Up early to catch the air plane to Gibraltar at 8am.
The flight took about three hours and I continued read the book I started yesterday; "Metro 2033" by Dmitrij Gluchovskij (pretty good so far!).
After landing on this landing strip which is party built out over the water, we went outside and was greeting with hot air and nice weather. And just beside the landing strip, there stod the mighty Rock:

We entered the small airport terminal
and the first thing that greeted you when you had passed customs was this poster (although this photo is taken elsewhere):
She looks cute and all, but it felt kinda strange that this is what they want to promote first for visitors to Gibraltar.

To get to the city of Gibraltar, you have to pass the runway.
Yes, the mainroad between the airport (and Spain for that matter) and the city goes right over the landing strip. Apparently they close the road about 3-4 times a day to allow air planes to land and take off. How long varies but I would guess 20-30 minutes. They don't like it when planes are delayed...

I took a taxi to get to my hotel; the O'Callaghan Elliot Hotel,
where I got to stay in room 101:

I put my bags in the room and went out to have a look around.
Gibraltar is very much like I imagined it; small and old.

Apparently Dophin tours are common here so I figured I better try one.
I went with the "Dolphin Safari" (there were a few to choose from) and it was OK. We saw about 10 common dolphins all in all (some was very tiny and had been born just days ago) so I can not be disappointed - but I was hoping to see other kinds of dolphins as well plus things like whales and fly fish (as was mentioned in the brochure!)

After about 90 minutes we were back on land.

Worth mentioning from the harbour was this big yatch called "Quantum of Solace" with the name written exactly like the Bond film with the same name:

I went back to the city centre again and went to the Gibraltar Museum, which was OK (larger than it looked from the outside!). After this I ate Fish & Chips at The Angry Friar.

I continued walking across the city to look at "The 100 Ton Gun". It's a large gun that was built about 130 years ago to protect Gibraltar from invading ships. It was pretty big:

Then I walked back to the Hotel again and even went for a short swin in the Hotel's pool on the roof. It was nice.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tuesday July 19th

Today the Rock almost killed me.
It might also have something to do with my stubbornness, vanity and James Bond fanatics. But naaah; must have been the Rock. And his cruel partner, the Sun.

Anyhow; I got up at 8:30am to get some breakfast and then headed off take one of the first Cable Car of the day to the top of the Rock.

My plan was to walk around the Rock to see the view, sights on the Rock, monkeys and of course as many James Bond places as possible. He was here you know, about 25 years ago to shoot The Living Daylights. All this before the Sun would become too hot (I gravely miscalculated the time this trip would take...)
This is because I wear sunscreen, but no hat or similar. I have my hairdo to think about. *vanity warning*

So I got up there and the view was fantastic. Gibraltar with Spain in the background on one side

and lots of ships waiting to pass the Strait towards the Atlantic with Morocco as backdrop on the other.

Plus some monkeys running around! :)

Ships waiting to pass the Strait and head out to the Atlantic:

I headed south and after a few more apes I found almost by luck a site where a Bond scene was shot 25 years earlier!
Compare these two pictures (one from today and the other from "The Living Daylights"):

After this I went to the top of the southern tip; to the O'Hara's Battery. A magnificent gun on top of the hill. And what a view; here we have the gun with Morocco in the background:

And here the northern part of the Rock:

By the way; the roads and walks here don't really have that much of railings:
A little bit scary, since it's easy to slip.

More monkeys!

Then I headed down for St Michael's Cave; a natural cave with a lot of stalactites and stalagmites. The cave was huge! A fantastic sight!

They had made part of it as a auditorium where concerts were held from time to time. Just think of listening to live music in this environment!

After this I pushed on and by taking a longer route I got to The Pillars of Hercules; a monument over the legend that the Greeks thought that Gibraltar was one of the pillars that held up the heaven.
Nothing really to see, but still it was OK.

Going back up to the higher layers of The Rock, I realized the time was ticking and sun was turning hotter and hotter - and I wasn't even halfway. But what can I do? (not give up that's for sure!)

After quite a while I reached the southern parts of The Rock and found the Moorish Castle:
Nothing much to see I would say. If have you seen one broken down castle you've seen them all...

After this I was going further up the northern tip to The Great Siege Tunnels.
During The Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779-1783) the Gibraltians dug out a big part of the north cliff to house cannons so that the Spaniards couldn't gather in force with the shelter of The Rock.
Later they continued to dig out more caves for defence. It was really an amazing seeing the rooms and tunnels inside The Rock.

And from this part of The Rock you could really see the interesting landing strip and the main road:

Now it was time to go back to the cable car station in the middle of The Rock.
I was really tired and burned by the sun before, but this last walk (took about 1-1½ hour?) did it for me. I almost didn't make it. Not even the adrenalin of one final Bond scene site lasted very long:
and the Bond scene:

I had now been walking constantly from 9am to 3pm up & down, up & down, back & forth, back & forth all across This Damned Rock with the sun burning down on me. I had used sunblock, but it wears off and I could feel the heat, especially on my head.

If I wasn't burned from yesterday's boat trip, I was definitely it from today - my head is burned to a crisp.

Most people take taxis or other cars to go around The Rock, but not me - Nooooo, I might miss a Bond site. *Bond fanatic*

This last part I went from shade to shade, panting like a mad dog. I don't think I have ever been this exhausted.

Once at the station (finally!) I drank a litre of water then headed down the cable car to eat something (I had looked for food & water during the last hours without finding any place that sold it). I found a pizza restaurant nearby - good enough!

Then to the hotel to rest a few hours.

I only went out later to eat something (found The Star Bar - oldest bar in Gibraltar and ate there). Then back again.

Tomorrow awaits Morocco. Exciting times. And hot.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wednesday July 20th

Today it was time to go over the Strait and visit Morocco.
I had already understood that the boat from Gibraltar only went once a week so I had to go to Spain to get to Tanger.

So I took a taxi to the Spanish border and the taxi driver told me that I couldn't take a boat from the closest Spanish port, I had to go to Algeciras - so that's what I told my Spanish taxi driver once I passed the border and found myself a new taxi (the border is no problem at all by the way, despite the things I had read online before going here).

Then I got to the port at Algeciras and went to the ticket booth.
And there they told me that the ships departing from this harbour only went to Tangier Med - not actually Tangier.

I had my doubts (and still have), but I played along and it seems I had to go to yet another city; Tarifa, about 30 minutes with bus from Algeciras. But there was a bus leaving any minute and I would get to the 12:00 ferry with that.
So I waited.
Not long after this, they realized that the bus was nowhere to be found! (or had left early, not sure - not many of the Spaniards spoked English). So what now? First they suggested that I could either take the next ferry (at 14:00 which I thought was too late for me) or take a taxi to Tarifa (something I did not like since I was not about to pay even more for this trip).
But eventually they decided to put me and two others (older Mexican women) on a taxi and they would pay for it.
Good enough for me!

And then they couldn't find a taxi! Time was running out and it took them 15 minutes to get hold of one. We got to Tarifa just in time.

And after running around the terminal at Tarifa, I was finally on board the boat (catamaran) - and on my way to Tangier for more adventures!

My plan was simple. Ignore all the group tours and pre-determined routes to "see all the sights". I was there for some Bond sightings! (and just generally see Tangier).
But this was also a big risk that I wouldn't see anything; all I really had was a few photos of houses taken on my TV screen while watching The Living Daylights. How would I ever find these places?

The solution came to me even better than I had imagined. And come over to me, he did. In tangier they have several private tour guide that does not work for companies or have tour groups.
And this guy recognized all of my photos!

So we set out in a taxi and he would tell me a lot of things about Tangier, showing me some interesting(?) places and views of Tangier

and then went to the places I really wanted to see; like the Grand Cafe de Paris

and this house which belongs to the Moroccan king (but is where Whitaker lives in The Living Daylight):

Then we went to the Medina (the big market district) where people tried to sell me things (and I bought only a few things, probably to a very high price, despite my successful bargaining).

One thing I bought was a present for my girlfriend; a herb that will supposedly will cure snoring. :)
But here is how it looks:
How will I ever get that through customs?? I can hear it now... "Mr Carlsson, could you be so kind and bend over?"

We also ate at a very small, but genuine restaurant. We shared both chicken and fish (I really hope the food was properly prepared and I don't get sick because of this).
But it was good - and really interesting to eat in this place. And of course there were not forks or knives, you ate with your hands.

Then it was time to go back (stayed in Tangier for about 4 hours in total). I thought before coming here I would stay longer to see it all, but my guide was very good - and I didn't want to get home too late.

My guide after me having worn him out after a hectic day:

Then all the way back, using the same transportation as going to Tangier, except this time I really got on the bus Tarifa-Algeciras.

Came back to Gibraltar at about 21:30 and after looking around found a pub stilled served food; I found The Clipper and ate a nice burger.

Then back to my hotel. Last night in Gibraltar!