Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2015
Mediterranean Cruise - Part 2
We were on board for two cruises but they were booked separately and in different staterooms. The early morning was spent packing everything which was not hanging in the wardrobe and then Housekeeping staff came and moved everything from our stateroom on 5 Deck to the new stateroom on 4 Deck. It was very efficient. We disembarked "in transit" from the City Cruise Terminal by 1000 and it was only a short walk to the shops. We only needed Asda for Cholesterol reducing yogurts and some more decaff expresso ground coffee so were back on board in time for lunch. Our table in the restaurant was confirmed to be with our friends Dennie and Sue. Dennie is the Madrina (Godmother) of the Queen Elizabeth and also had a major birthday during the cruise so we were delighted to be invited to join her table.
The Rock of Gibraltar is one of the two Pillars of Hercules; the other is in Morocco, just opposite. Peaking at 425 metres, Gibraltar measures less than 3 square miles and is home to about 30,000 people.The strategic strait it controls links the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and is only 8 miles wide at its narrowest point. The territory has always been disputed. The British seized it from the Spanish in 1704 and there was a famous siege by a French-Spanish expedition from 1779 to 1783. During this time an extensive network of defensive galleries were hewn by hand, and these are open for visits.
This was our fourth visit to Gibraltar and again we only had a short visit. We arrived outside the port on time. On our previous visit, on the Queen Victoria, the Queen Elizabeth had been in Gibraltar in the morning and the Queen Victoria took her berth for the afternoon as she left. That gives us the oportunity to show the Queen Elizabeth in Gibraltar, as seen from the Queen Victoria in 2014 and our only daytime pictures of the Queen Elizabeth under way.
There is not a lot to see in Gibraltar - the main attraction is normally the trip up the 'Rock' by cablecar or minibus. We did the trip by minibus the first time we came because the cablecar had long lines from the ship tours. It was very interesting and we visited the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, took photos across the straits and continued to St Michael's Cave which is 300 metres above sea level with an excellent display of stalagmites and stalactites as well as an enormous natural auditorium which is used for concerts. The highlight is meeting the famous monkeys, there are two colonies of this tail-less Barbary Macaques on Gibraltar. One group lives on the rock face - the other group live at the Apes Den near the top of the cable car. We also walked through the Great Siege Tunnels which were excavated during the Great Siege of 1779-1783 and form a most impressive defensive system. Leaving the tunnels there are spectacular views. We have added some pictures from our Visit on the QE2 in 2005 for completeness.
It is quite a long walk from the ships mooring to the edge of town so there are shuttle buses available at a price. We walked towards town, passing a useful supermarket we had looked into on the previous visit. We found the Morrison's, which has replaced the old Safeway. The traditional Market was quiet and there were only a few craft stalls in Casemates Square which is just inside the walls. The Tourist Information explained how to walk up to the Moorish castle, but it was too late to visit all the sites, and too far to climb just for the view. We strolled down the main shopping street, passing lots of shops selling duty free cigarettes, drinks, and souvenirs. There were camera and electronics shops, and some clothes shops including BhS and M&S.
Main Street has the important public and religious buildings, most open to visit – John Mackintosh Hall, the Catholic Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned, the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, the King's Chapel, the Supreme Court, the Garrison Library and the Convent which is the official residence of the Governor. The pictures following are mostly from our Visit in October 2014 on the Queen Victoria when we had better weather and more time.
As we stood outside the Catholic cathedral there was the sound of music and a band approached leading a small group dressed as old-fashioned soldiers with red jackets and carrying muskets, and with an enormous union flag. Behind them came another group pulling a small field artillery piece. This procession marched down towards Casemates Square.
We had seen a similar procession for the re-enactment of the ceremony of the keys when visiting on the Queen Victoria in December 2013.
We finally reached the Trafalgar Cemetery, named after the casualties of the Battle of Trafalgar who were buried there; it is just outside the Southport Gates. Last time a family of the famous Barbary Macaques had escaped from the Rock and were running over the Gates, pursued by two local environmental police with what appeared to be firecrackers who were trying to move them away from the city - this time all was peaceful. It is only a short distance to the Cable Car station and we tossed up whether to go up but the time constraints meant we would not be able to walk round the top from the cable car or have the time for a minibus trip so we retraced our steps visiting the remaining churches we had missed and taking a few diversions into the squares.
With time to spare we paid £2 to visit the Gibraltar Museum. The visit began with a video about the history of Gibraltar which gave a useful context. A highlight was the large and detailed model of the Rock which was the centrepiece in a gallery of old photographs. There are rooms dedicated to natural history, marine biodiversity and the Great Seige. In the basement were the remains of a Moorish bathhouse which used to be part of the Governor's Palace. It was an interesting visit and we could spend more time there. Unfortunately cameras were not welcome.
|Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Content revised: 24th October, 2015