Winter Holiday in Spain: Gibraltar and Benalmadena

On our last day in the Marbella area, we drove south to Gibraltar for the day to see the iconic Rock of Gibraltar.   Gibraltar is not actually a country but a British Overseas Territory.   The nearby countries are Spain to the north and Morocco (North Africa) to the south.  The Strait of Gibraltar (24 kilometres) is the only natural link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea and is one of the busiest waterways in the world. 

In order to be allowed through the border into Gibraltar you will be required to be in possession of a valid passport.

Under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 Gibraltar was ceded to Britain.  But of course that hasn’t stopped other countries trying to seize Gibraltar over the centuries. As Spain waited for an opportunity to retake the Rock, sieges became a common occurrence for Gibraltar.

In 1968 a Referendum was taken on whether the people of Gibraltar wanted to remain with Britain or with Spain.   12,762 voted to stay with Britain and only 44 voted for Spanish sovereignty.     In the more recent referendum of November 2002, the people of Gibraltar again showed their desire to remain British by an overwhelming margin.

The official language is English and all residents follow the British education curriculum.  The first bank notes issued in Gibraltar date back to 1914 and the legal tender is Gibraltar Pound Sterling.

The Rock of Gibraltar is Jurassic Limestone some 200 million years old and stands at 426 metres high.   It is also known as one of the Pillars of Hercules.

We left early on Friday morning and drove down to Gibraltar.  It took us about an hour to get there.   We parked at the airport and walked through the Border Control.   We then picked up a taxi and we actually had to drive across the runway into the town centre!!!!   We had coffee and morning tea and then decided to book a guided bus tour to the Gibraltar Nature Reserve, Upper Rock.

We visited St. Michael’s Caves.   Approximately two hundred caves have been found in the limestone Rock, this geological feature is one of Gibraltar’s legendary tourist attractions.   St Michael’s Cave houses an auditorium, (in the largest chamber, called Cathedral Cave) which has wonderful acoustics, and is now set up with a concrete stage and seating for about 400 people.

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The iconic Barbary Macaques, are actually a tail-less monkey, have become Gibraltar’s recognisable international symbol.   The 300 or so monkeys roam freely in the Apes’ Den, their natural habitat within the grounds of the Nature Reserve.    Even though they are constantly around humans, they are still wild animals and we were told not to feed them.    It is believed that the monkeys originally came from North Africa.

 

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The bus tour ended back in town, so we walked through Commonwealth Park and then had lunch by the water.   Afterwards we wandered back through the town centre, to do some shopping.

That evening we went out for our last dinner in Marbella with everyone before we checked out of our apartment on Saturday morning and drove up to Benalmadena and checked in to the Sahara Sunset Resort for 5 nights.

Sahara Sunset Resort, Benalmadena

Here we enjoyed more sightseeing with visits to the city of Malaga, Puerto Marina Benalmadena, SEA LIFE Aquarium, Benalmadena Cable Car Ride up to Mt. Calamorro where we saw a “Birds of Prey” Exhibition, wandered through the Benalmadena markets, souvenir shopping and we also had a great evening out to watch some authentic Flamenco Dancing!!

On Sunday we drove to the Marina in Benalmadena and had a walk around stopping for lunch by the water and then visited the SEA LIFE Aquarium.

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Puerto Banus – Benalmadena (Marina)

SEA LIFE Aquarium

Monday 6th January was a public holiday in Spain.  They call it The Three Kings’ Day, also known as Epiphany.    It is dedicated to the three wise men, or kings, who brought baby Jesus various gifts.  The Kings names are Gaspar, Balthazar and Melchor.   This day is celebrated like a second Christmas, with feasting and the giving of presents.

Breakfast is a special occasion on January 6th with the Three Kings’ Cake (Roscón de Reyes) the centre of attention.    This is a sweet bread that is adorned with dried fruits and sugar.   Inside, bakers hide a small prize wrapped in paper.   The one who finds the lucky prize is supposed to be King or Queen for the day (a gold paper crown is often provided with the cake).   The Sahara Resort provided a Kings Cake for the guests and Mitchell was lucky enough to find the small prize and was given a crown to wear as King for the day.  After having coffee and cake, we then drove up to the Benalmadena Cable Car.

Once in our cable car, it was a 15 minute journey to the top of Mt. Calamorro and the distance is about 3 kilometres with an altitude of 769 metres above sea level.   There were beautiful views of Benalmadena and the Malaga coastline.

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When we arrived up the top, there was a “Birds of Prey” Exhibition.     This was in the peak’s arena, located in a natural setting with unique views of the Bay of Malaga and the Costa del Sol.    Some of the birds in the demonstrations were the The Bald Eagle, the Eurasian Eagle-owl, the Caracara, Griffon Vulture and Ferruginous Hawk.

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Mitchell with eagle 2

Mitchell with eagle

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On Tuesday we drove up to Malaga and then spent the day exploring this city and we stopped at the Picasso Museum.   Artist, Pablo Ruiz Picasso, was born here in Malaga.   The Museo Picasso Malaga was opened in 2003 in the Buenavista Palace, and has 285 works donated by members of Picasso’s family.   Pablo Picasso, is one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century.     He was born on 25 October 1881 and passed away on 8 April 1973.    Picasso had his first exhibit at age 13 and later quit art school so he could experiment full time with modern art styles.

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After dinner in town, we walked to Tablao Flamenco Los Amaya for an evening of authentic flamenco dancing!!  Flamenco is a Spanish art form made up of three parts: guitar playing (“guitarra”), song (“cante”), and dance (“baile”).    The dancers were so passionate with their story telling in dance and music.   It was great to experience such a wonderful Spanish tradition.

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On Wednesday we had a relaxing day, visiting the Benalmadena markets, souvenir shopping and packing our bags to get ready for our morning flight on Thursday.

We were up early on Thursday morning and drove to Malaga Airport where we dropped off the hire car and then checked in for our Finnair flight to Helsinki.   We arrived at Helsinki at 4.00 pm in the afternoon.   We didn’t have much time as we hustled to our connecting Finnair flight at 4.55 pm to Hong Kong.    After a few hours stop over in Hong Kong we boarded our Cathay Pacific flight home to Brisbane landing at 11.30 pm on Friday night.

Olé!!     What a wonderful winter holiday we had in Spain!    Olé!!

 

(3/1/2020 – 10/1/2020)

 

 

 

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