Carol writes: For several days Al and I debated whether it would be worth the hassle to attempt to visit Gibraltar, a British possession which therefore would require an international border crossing. We had read that the border between Spain and Gibraltar could have unwanted traffic congestion, something we try to avoid, if possible, since we are 23 feet long. Nonetheless, we had another gorgeous sunny day and so we decided to drive as close as we could to the Rock of Gibraltar so we could at least take a look. In Cordoba, a fellow camper had told us about a large parking area near the border crossing, and he also said that camping overnight was allowed there. Was this too good to be true?
Sometimes the stars align perfectly and the solution to a question falls right into your lap, and that is what happened to us. We easily found the large parking area within walking distance of the border. The parking lot was part of a marina area and was huge, clean, safe, relatively deserted, and had a knockout view of the Rock!
We were told it was permissible to spend the night there in our RV. The border was only a 10-minute stroll, and so we set off. Passing through customs control was a breeze. We even had to ask British customs to stamp our passports, and they courteously obliged us. We like to have a stamp every now and then to document our travels dates to prove our compliance with Schengen rules. More about that later…
The walk into Gibraltar was a strange one at the start. Both the auto route and the pedestrian walking path bisected the airport runway into Gibraltar’s air terminal! I’m not quite sure what the procedure would be to clear the runway of people and cars if a plane was approaching for a landing.
One of Gibraltar’s more interesting sights, besides its impressive ‘Rock’, is the fact that the area is home to a Barbary monkey population. The monkeys have free reign of ‘The Rock’ and the town and serve to either delight or pester the tourists, depending on whether they are posing for an adorable camera shot or, alternatively, biting you and/or stealing the bag you are carrying in hopes it contains some goodies to eat. It wasn’t long before we encountered a “monkey jam.”
But…more monkey shots later.
By the time we arrived at the foot of the cable cars that serve as transportation to the Top of the Rock (the REAL ROCK, not NBC’s home on Rockefeller Square), we knew we had to spring for the pricey ride to the top. Took all of 6 minutes to get to the top. We were astounded at the 360-degree views,
looking down on Gibraltar and the harbor area,
back at the tip of the Rock itself,
and across the Strait of Gibraltar for a view into Morocco’s mountains on the dark African continent.
Of course, the monkeys at the top provided great photo opportunities, especially this incredibly photogenic mother and baby.
Everyone gets their own monkey shot…
We wanted to linger as long as possible at the top because we just couldn’t get enough of the views. We lingered over coffee/beer at the café up top, gazing through the floor-length windows into the calm blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea and watching the monkeys play. We both agreed that the Top of the Rock at Gibraltar ranked near the very top of our European RV adventure, and to think that we almost didn’t make the Gibraltar side trip…
Our evening back in the RV at our premier camping spot at the marina was quite spectacular at sunset.
Then, at daybreak the next morning, we looked out the window and saw a dazzling full moon about to set. Doesn’t get any better than that!
NAVAL AIR STATION IN ROTA, SPAIN: The next step in our game plan was to head to the Naval Air Station at Rota, Spain, about a 2-hour drive from Gibraltar. We were anxious to take advantage of the spacious room (with a small kitchen) that we had booked for a few days of rest, relaxation, catching up on household chores, and planning for the next two months. A real bed and a Broncos game on Armed Forces Network TV tend to go a long way toward refreshing our minds and bodies.
Our dilemma on how to proceed with the next few months of travels in Europe boils down to a calendar issue. Winter is approaching, even in sunny Spain. In addition, in order to remain compliant with Schengen rules, we are allowed to stay in the Schengen countries, which include most of the 26 countries in Western Europe, only 90 days out of every 180 days. We spent our first 90 days in Western Europe in the Schengen countries during the first three months of our European adventure (mid-April to mid-July). Then, we left the Schengen area for 90 days in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland (mid-July to mid-October). We have been back in Schengen for the past 5 weeks (since mid-October) and are faced with leaving for another 90 days by January 11th. Where to go? Morocco and Turkey are our only viable options, and Turkey is a long, long drive from Spain. Neither country would seem to have enough to keep us occupied for 90 days, not to mention safety issues. This is the dilemma we have been facing for the past 8 months, but we have now reached decision time because winter is fast approaching and we must leave the Schengen area in 7 weeks.
So…we have decided for many, many reasons that it is time to think about shipping the RV home and catching a Space-Available flight back to the States with the US Air Force in Ramstein, Germany. With use of all the handy technology on the naval base here in Rota (i.e., Internet, faxing, and library facilities), we have booked a December 13th sailing date for our RV out of…Amsterdam…same place where we picked it up last April. We are satisfied with our game plan. We have admitted to each other that we are getting tired after the nonstop pace we have been keeping since we left Colorado in March. We have experienced the thrill of many lifetimes with our travel adventures, and it is time to start closing out this European chapter.
By the time we get back to our home in Colorado, we will have been gone for almost a year. Many practical and mundane issues that have no easy solutions cannot be ignored beyond a year--healthcare, dental care, prescriptions, taxes, mail, vehicle license renewals, RV servicing issues. You get the idea…
After a few more days of rest here in Rota, we will head over to check out the Algarve in southern Portugal and then head north by a long route to Amsterdam to drop off the RV for shipping. In the meantime, we have a lot to see, countless unknown adventures ahead, and many miles to travel back to Colorado. Stay tuned for more blog posts…
“Neither the incursions of Moor, the Spaniards nor the English, nor cannon nor bomb of either have been able to dislodge them.” Ignacio López de Ayala, writing about the monkeys of Gibraltar in his “History of Gibraltar” (1782)