Gibraltar is one of the most interesting places I have been to because it is a British Overseas Territory, on Spain's southern coast. You can drive to Gibraltar from Spain. To give you an idea, it is roughly an hour drive from Marbella.
To cross the border from Spain to Gibraltar, you can drive a car or motorcycle, ride a bike, or walk. After doing research we learned that walking would be the quickest way. Driving, especially during rush hour can be backed up a few miles.
If you decide to walk in, you can find parking in La Linea, Spain; which is the town that borders Gibraltar on the Spanish side. From there, you walk across. The walk took us about 10 minutes to get to the Bay of Gibraltar. To get to the rock from La Linea, it would take a little longer.
Since it is British territory, you must bring your passport to cross over into Gibraltar. I found it really cool that on one side of the border there was a Spanish flag, and on the other is the British Flag.
I have a picture here, but since I took it from the Spanish side, the British flag is a bit harder to see.
Once you get past security, you actually walk across the Airport runway, which is pretty cool.
Of course once we entered British territory, we had to do all things British. First stop was a phone booth for an obligatory photo, then to a traditional English breakfast, and later in the day we treated ourselves to the best Fish and Chips in Gibraltar, Roy's! And as you will notice, we have plenty of pictures of the British flag.
After breakfast we went on a Dolphin sightseeing adventure. There are two big companies that do these tours. Dolphin Safari (blue boat) and Dolphin Adventures (yellow boat). Both have very positive reviews on Trip Advisor. Both leave from the same vicinity and go to the same parts of the ocean. We chose the Dolphin Safari for our tour and it was excellent. I would strongly recommend doing a Dolphin excursion and I don't think you could go wrong with either company.
When you first leave the port, it is very scenic. The Rock of Gibraltar sits behind the Bay, and the Airport is to the right. It is really cool if you are able to witness an airplane taking off or landing.
(I thought I took a picture of a plane landing but I can't find it, it was cool- trust me.)
The straight of Gibraltar connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain in Europe from Morocco in Africa. Gibraltar is in the middle. The environment in these water make it the best place to see whales and dolphins in all of Europe. You generally will only see one or the other. Not both. The straight of Gibraltar has 3 species of dolphins (common; which is endangered, Striped, and Bottlenose; which is the most popular) and 4 species of whales (Long-Finned, Orca, Sperm, and Fin). When we were there we only saw dolphins, but we saw a lot. They were everywhere. We didn't see them right away, however one of the crew members had binoculars to spot movement. Once we found them, there were plenty of Dolphins, and at some points they were right beside our boat. Incredible.
In case you are wondering if this is family friendly or if it was fun, here you go...
Before you the leave the bay, walk around for a bit. There is a very cool hotel that used to be a cruise ship called the Sanborn. You can go into the hotel and go to the top floor for a view of the bay. The entrance is on the left side of the ship. There are also some restaurants and bars you can enjoy, and scenic boats. My daughter enjoyed taking pictures as well.
After the dolphin excursion it was time to go up the "Rock of Gibraltar". The rock is without doubt what you think of when Gibraltar is mentioned. There are a few ways to go up the rock. You can hike, drive, take the cable car, or take a tour. We booked a tour that included both the dolphin excursion and visiting the rock. Each can be purchased on their own as well, since they are with different companies. The reason we chose the bus tour up the rock was because we only had a day in Gibraltar, and we were with our parents, including my father in law who has mobility issues. Hiking was not an option, and he wanted to see the sights. In future, I would chose to hike up and see the rock on my own, or take the cable car, which is incredible. The tour was very rushed and I would have liked more time at each stop. However, we were able to see most of the sights and our guide was full of great information. Would I do the bus tour again? No. Was it good for what we needed while we were there? Yes.
The tour we went on included:
The monkeys on the rock are called Barbary macaques. They are the only wild monkey population in Europe and originated in North Africa. These wild monkeys are now a huge part of Gibraltars tourism. They are used to being around humans and will occasionally climb or jump on people. It is strongly discouraged to try to touch them and never feed them. In fact, try not to keep snacks in your backpack as they are skillful at opening zippers and will rummage through bags looking for food. This can also cause aggressive behavior.
Gibraltar has plenty of activities to keep you busy for a day or even over night. There is plenty of shopping and it is duty free so you can get cigarettes and alcohol a bit cheaper if that is your thing.
Also, the World War II tunnels are amazing. We did not tour them but we plan to next time we visit Gibraltar. The WWII tunnels are not the same as the Great Siege Tunnels. Entrance is by tour only. The tunnels were an underground city during the war. The entire 16,000-strong troops could be housed there, along with enough food to last them for 16 months. The tunnels also contained a telephone exchange, a power generating station, a water distillation plant, a hospital, a bakery, ammunition magazines and a vehicle maintenance workshop. The total length of the entire tunnel inside the Rock is approximately 34 miles.
If you plan to visit and explore without a scheduled tour, purchase your tickets prior to going up the rock for any attractions you might want to visit. They require tickets and you cannot get them on the rock.
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Ronda is a mountain top city in the province of Malaga Spain with the Sierra Nevada mountains. Ronda had been described by Ernest Hemingway as the most romantic place in the world. He loved Ronda so much that he used it as a setting for many of his books.
“Ronda is the place where to gso, if you are planning to travel to Spain for a honeymoon or for being with a girlfriend. The whole city and its surroundings are a romantic set.
… Nice promenades, good wine, excellent food, nothing to do…” - Hemingway
The beauty surrounding Ronda with literally take your breath away.
Ronda (Acinipo) was first declared a city by Julius Caesar in the late 4C AD. When the Moorish troops under the command of Tarik-ibn-Zeyad invaded the region, one of the first routes they followed was the old Roman one, linking Gibraltar with the Roman settlement of Acinipo.
They renamed the town to Izna-Rand-Onda - Ronda. The ruins of Acinipo actually sit about 20km outside of Ronda. If you would like to visit them take the A-376 towards Sevilla, and after 7km turn right onto MA-7402 Acinipo and Ronda la Vieja.
Without a doubt the most famous of all sites in Ronda, and one of the first things you will see when you arrive is the Puento Nuevo, "New Bridge." This bridge joins the old Moorish town and the new town.
Looking out from the bridge offers the most stunning views of the El Tajo Gorge.
In the photograph of the bridge above, you will notice a building. That building is the Parador Hotel. If you are going to spend night in Ronda, this is the place to stay. The parador offer the best views in all of Ronda. Each room has a balcony, and breakfast is included. If you can, stay in room 119, 219, 0r 319. These are the corner rooms and you will have two balconies. Trust me, when it is time for the sunset you will not regret your decision.
If you would like to capture your own photograph like the ones below, you must put on some good shoes and do a little hiking. It is not too bad, and can be done in about an hour, depending on how much you want to explore. There are some ruins you will see as well.
Arab baths in Ronda are located in old town Ronda. In Moorish times the main entrance to the Medina of Ronda was located next to the Baños Arabes. In those times the baths were outside the walls of the city, and set to the side of the main entrance gate, with a small doorway built into the city walls that connected to a passageway leading to the entrance of the baths.
The baths were used as a daily social gathering by Muslim men. A Mosque was located next to the baths. Visitors would purify and cleanse their bodies and souls. Locals and visitors alike would stop in the baths before going to the Mosque to pray. Visitors would spend several hours here; cleansing the body several times over. It was medieval Ronda’s equivalent of our nightly unwinding ritual of watching television.
As you approach the baths, you will first notice the roof of Arab Baths. The glass circles on top are the skylights, and the glass protects the chambers below from rain damage.
The first section of the baths has no roof anymore. This section used to be the reception area and changing room. In the reception there were benches for socializing and bathrooms as well.
Beside the first ruined chamber is a doorway which leads into a small room with pools at each end. This was the cold room where people could relax and cool down before entering the warm and hot rooms again.
The next room the largest of the covered chambers, the warm room where people could relax and enjoy a massage, be pampered with perfumes, or sit in a pool of slightly warm water. This room was warm but not steamy. Mats and cushions were available to use, as well as wooden benches around the walls, and several tables for massage and therapeutic treatments by trained slaves were situated next to some of the columns.
Then there is the hot room, which currently has a presentation on screen for visitors to watch and learn about the baths. This room has a pool at one end where water from the aqueduct was splashed over the hot floor creating a very humid and steamy atmosphere in the room. Kind of like a modern day sauna.
The fire room was next- this is where all the heat for the baths was generated and tunnels built into the structure allowed for the heat to move and warm the different chambers to different levels.
You can visit the baths in about 30 minutes. It really is a quick in and out but you shouldn't miss this.
Secret water mine under Casa Del Rey Moro
The mine was built in the 14th century and was hidden in the House of the Morrish King. The mine was built to protect water supplies. With the mine, it was not necessary to leave the palace to collect water. They used a water wheel with buckets and slaves would form a human chain to pass water from below, up to the palace.
The entrance to the mine is through the garden where you will start a trek down 231 steps and 60 meters below, that lead to the river.
Because it is a mine, the stairs are a bit wet in some places. Wear shoes that you don't mind getting wet, but are also supportive and not too slippery. Along the way down there are cut outs that offer cool view points.
The real treat is when you get to the bottom. You step out of the mine and are in the middle of the gorge. The only way to see this viewpoint is through the mine. The mine was also considered a secret escape because the location of the fortress cannot be seen from the Arab Bridge, which at one time was the entrance to the city.
Directly above the fortress, is the Terrace of the Conquest, where Moorish and then Christian conquerers could watch the river for signs of attack. It is below the hermit’s grotto, and is so well hidden it cannot be seen from any direction.
Ronda has a feeling of quiet exhilaration. If you like adventure there is plenty here. You can spend hours hiking and exploring ruins. If that doesn't sound like fun, Ronda is kind of a sleep town where you can walk at a slow pace and enjoy the brilliant scenery which surrounds Ronda.
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Seville is the largest city in Andalucia and one of the most visited cities in all of Spain. It is full of culture, beauty and energy. Be prepared with water and sunscreen because Seville is one of the hottest cities as well.
Walking through the streets you will pass orange trees, lively tapas bars, horse drawn carriages and flamenco dancers. Seville is a hotspot in Spain for both Flamenco and Tapas.
In addition to the fun and nightlife, Seville also boasts an incredible Cathedral, Palace, and other worthy sites.
You can see the main sites in Seville in one day but a few nights are recommended to immerse yourself in the culture.
Seville is a very large city with 4 main neighborhoods.
Centro Historic: This is the central part of town, the heart of Sevilla, and host to most of the must see attractions. This is where you will spend most of your time and a great place to stay. There are many great restaurants in this area, but there are also many tourists traps that will be more expensive.
Barrio Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz is an easy walk from the center of town, and is one of the most charming neighborhoods in Sevilla. It is a walking neighborhood with narrow winding streets, covered walkways, and plenty of charm. This neighborhood is worth exploring to see the Andalusian tiles fountains, wrought-iron gates and plenty of cafes and restaurants. However, it is best explored during the day (muggings sometimes happen at night)
La Macarena: This neighborhood covers the north--eastern old city with Moorish city walls. It was once a slum, but now has many interesting Plaza's, churches , art galleries, and artisan food shops.
Triana: Triana is located on the left side of the Guadalquivir River. It is connected to the city by the famous bridge, Isabel II. This Bridge once was filled with locks representing love, but they have been removed. Triana is filled with culture and character. It was one known for it's Gypsies but is now famous for it's Flamenco culture.
Sevilla is an easy city to walk around. Many of the main attractions are within walking distance of Sevilla Centro.
Cathedral and Geralda Tower
Seville's Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The cathedral took over 100 years to build, has 80 chapels and is 124,000 square feet. The cathedral used to be Seville's main Mosque but most of it was destroyed in an earthquake. In 1248 the new construction as the cathedral started, but two parts of the mosque were preserved: the Moorish entrance, and the Geralda Bell Tower.
Admission includes entrance to the cathedral, where you can visit the tomb of Christopher Columbus, as well as admission to the Geralda Tower. The tower is 36 floors high and you can climb the ramps to get a beautiful view of Sevilla.
THE ALCAZAR REAL - ROYAL PALACE
This is one of the most impressive sites in all of Spain and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The upper levels of the Alcázar are still used by the royal family as the official Seville residence, making it the oldest palace in Spain, still in use. You may recognize the palace from the 5th series of Game of Thrones.
Boasting amazing architecture and stunning gardens. you could easily spend a whole afternoon here.
The most mesmerizing part of the palace is the history, and the building itself tells the dramatic tale of the Moorish Dynasty to the Christian rule. Each chapter of this story is represented throughout the rounds.
Plaza de Espana
Plaza de Espana is about a 15 minute walk from Sevilla Centro inside Maria Luisa park. If you would rather not walk, there are bike rental stations all over the city, as well has plenty of horse drawn carriages that will take you to the plaza. It is a Renaissance Neo-Moorish building with decorative foot bridges and a canal which allows boat rides.
The complex is decorated with azulejos, painted ceramic tiles that are popular in Seville and can be found all across the city. Colorful tiles are found throughout the building.
Decorative benches are found along the front of the building. Each depicts a different province in Spain. There are 58 benches in total.
Otherwise known as the "mushrooms", boasts the world's largest wooden structure. Locals are not too pleased with this new structure, as they consider it an eye sore. But for tourists, it is a great value and a unique way to see the city from a different perspective.
The structure was built where a market was previously located in La Encarnacion square when the area was being modernized. The market was torn down, and the area was unused until 1990, when Seville chose to construct an underground parking space. During this time, the ancient Roman and Moorish ruins were discovered, and construction was frozen. You are free to visit the ruins when purchasing tickets for the Metropol Parasol.
This is one of the best values in Seville. It is open most of the day, and is very inexpensive considering admission comes with a choice of beverage. Water, beer, or wine.
Triana is located on the left side of the Guadalquivir River. It is connected to the city by the famous bridge, Isabel II. This Bridge once was filled with locks representing love, but they have been removed. Triana is filled with culture and character. It was one known for it's Gypsies but is know famous for it's Flamenco culture.
In my opinion, Triana is one of the best places to enjoy Sevilla like the locals do. You can find great food at Los Golandrinas. It gets very busy on weekends and seating is limited. It is recommended to eat standing at the bar. Los Golndrinas became so popular they opened a second location. Los Golandrinas 2.
An excellent place to catch a free flamenco show is at Casa Anselma. The music is more folkloric than flamenco, but you
will be right in the middle of the action with spontaneous outburst of dancing, big crowds, and passionate singing. Casa Anselma is a very busy spot, but a bit tricky.
In Spain, dinner is around 8:30 pm. If you time it right, you will be just in time for Casa Anselma.
Admission is free, but Anselma will watch the crowds to make
sure you are purchasing drinks from the bar.
Seville is a vibrant and expressive city that should not be missed. It hosts some of the best food, sites, and entertainment in all of Spain.
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Amara Lucci McShain
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