11 March 2011

Gibraltar 2: "Probably nice in the summer"

It was that time again when myself (one of the LEYTR Editors) and two Associates (one who whom is currently a non-believer!) took a long weekend in one of the UK's colonies - one to which we did venture precisely last year. Read that account here.

We covered many aspects of Gibraltar last year, though their novelty value had not been lost at all, since for two of us it was only our second visit here and the other's first. Last year, I would have been tempted to write that Gibraltar is a little bit of Britain by the Mediterranean. Following our second visit and exploring areas we'd not touched last year, it became clear that this isn't necessarily the case. True Gibraltarians have a natural allegiance to Her Majesty and permit the UK Government to oversee their foreign affairs and because of the history and the political and physical obstructions Spain made by closing its border, the manner in which modern-day Gibraltar has developed has striking similarities to the UK, but their culture and way of life is simply not like that of any British town or city.

Their police force - the oldest in Europe outside London - dress in a uniform that the casual observer would say is identical to that in the UK; the Royal Mail's familiar red pillar boxes are littered throughout; their currency maybe named the Gibraltan Pound but its worth is identical to that of the UK and they accept Sterling on a like-for-like basis; and all the major shops found in the UK are in evidence in Gibraltar. Other smaller similarities include the vehicle registration plate font, the pedestrian crossing 'push' button consoles, road signs and the TV channels offered.

One striking difference is that the colony has its own nationalised bus company, providing an extensive and inexpensive service. Not many of those left in Great Britain!

The Gibraltar Bus Company

This year, with our Saturday easyJet departure being at 0910 it was virtually impossible to travel to Gatwick North by public transport for the time the gate supposedly closed at 0840, so - and with there being a threesome comprising this year's Big Boys' Beano - we made the journey by car. The cost, when split three ways and including parking at the airport, was worryingly cheap when compared to the cost of an advance-purchase ticket by train: £18 compared to just over £40 each by train.

I have a theory about gate closure times that demonstrates why the low-cost airlines in particular receive such bad publicity when someone turns up just 1 minute late and yet they are not permitted access to their flight. Clearly 'rules is rules', but in the countless times I've flown with easyJet, there has never, ever been a case when the gate has physically closed when it is stated to do so, let alone people actually be boarded by then. Human nature being what it is, frequent flyers will know this all too well and so will choose to chance it on many occasions - perhaps with success - but when they come a cropper and that one-in-100 departure actaully conforms, there is a film crew present and Tony Robinson will later narrate the plight of the hard-done-to customer.

I'm not suggesting easyJet change their policy. Delays due to the intensity with which the company schedule their planes is a likely contributor to these incidents and while offering more slack in turnaround times would perhaps remedy a number problems, the company will no doubt say that more planes would then be needed to meet their schedules, the cost of which would be passed onto the customer.

Back to the jaunt and it was at 0500 that we left the LEYTR area and headed south along the A1, A14, M11 and the London Orbital M25. We crossed over the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at Dartford just after the free toll ended(!) and continued clockwise along the M25 until the M23 junction, then south for a junction to the Airport. We were booked in at NCP's Flightpath long-stay car park within the Airport perimeter, for the sum of £30.30 inclusive for three days. Directions here from the M23 Junction 9 were straightforward and we found ample parking, though the automatic number plate recognition did not work and so I would have to visit their customer services office before departing.

The Flightpath's website claims that their complimentary coach transfers operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and that there will be a bus every 10 minutes with a journey time of 3 minutes to the main North Terminal building. We knew there was no chance a coach would be deployed and the journey time was 100% greater than that advertised, but it was free and our Mercedes-Benz O530/Mercedes-Benz Citaro arrived within seconds of us walking to one of the nearby bus stops.

BP08 WND stands here at the North Terminal at 0755 after travelling the mile or so from the Flightpath car park. It offered a smooth ride and was equipped with the usual luggage racks for the suitcases its passengers are likely to be bringing.

New to the Airport Parking Company of Amercia (APCOA) of Uxbridge, the vehicle carried legal lettering for Tellings Golden Miller, who presumably operate Service 74 linking the Flightpath car park with the terminal. It's worth pointing out that APCOA make no obvious reference to their American roots on their UK website, nor do they make reference to what their name actually stands for. Nothing sinister here, it is because the company is also Europe's longest-established parking service provider, whose European base is in Stuttgart, Germany.

Our journey was swift (even 6 minutes is very reasonable!) and we headed straight into the North Terminal and then to security as we had no baggage to check-in and we'd used easyJet's website to check-in many weeks beforehand. Unlike many you see passing through airport security, I fully understand the need for the laborious and tedious process of scanning all items to be taken on board. It doesn't bother me in the slightest. The majority of those on board the London Underground trains during the suicide bomb attacks of 7 July 2005 survived and a number of board the Stagecoach Service 30 bus also walked away; no such comfort is afforded those aboard an aircraft at 38,000 feet!

We boarded our Airbus 319 at gate 57J and although the plane was visible when we got to the gate at 0830, we weren't allowed to board until 0900, though the captain later told us there was an error with one of his sensors and that he believed it to be a computer glitch rather than anything more serious, but an engineer was currently giving it the once over and we would hopefully be on our way very soon.

As it was we departed 30 minutes late at 0940. Taxiing to the main runway took almost 10 minutes. For the first time in many years, I didn't film the take-off. I was situated in an aisle seat and for those a little nervous of flying, I felt this position offered as comfortable ride as possible, with no distractions such as an awkwardly-positioned horizon that can usually be seen from the window when banking at low level.

And then we were all bored to tears for the next two-and-a-half hours (in fact a little longer as we didn't arrive at the airport terminal in Gibraltar until 1332 local time). The descent into Gibraltar was identical to that of last year: we travelled west along the Mediterranean coast until the Rock came into view and then circled it in a clockwise direction before coming in from the west. Quite a strong south-easterly was in evidence and it was a little bumpy on the final approach, but nothing to give nightmares. Once again, the surreal spectacle of passing cars waiting to cross our path was seen as the plane crossed Winston Churchill Avenue before taxiing to the terminal.

Our Cobus 3000 transported us all of 200 feet into the terminal building. Our captain even hitched a lift 'up front' with the driver, though he alighted after just 50 feet. Apparently he wasn't allowed to walk across the runway like the rest of us.

Talking of which, the new terminal building is well underway and looks immense. Dare I suggest a little too large for the likely traffic Gibraltar Airport sees? Not that this is necessarily a bad thing - better build something too large than too small! Its planned opening is for later this year and will herald a new name for the airport: Gibraltar International.

We waited for our delayed flight to leave at 1400. The video below is of the Airbus taxiing west along the runway, crossing Winston Churchill Avenue.

It performs a U-turn at the end of the runway before the captain gives it the beans, heading east for take-off. This is illustrated in the video below. It's worth noting that I was using a new camera, so apologies for the poor focus at the end and the sudden movement immediately afterwards. Despite this, it is a very unusual procedure for an aircraft to undertake in such a populated area.

Once again we crossed the live runway, seconds after a plane had used it, in order to get to the city itself. The congestion created by a take-off is spectacular, with queues to rival the stresses felt by a London driver. Unlike London though, there is no alternative here whatsoever. A number of online sources claim an underpass has often been mooted, though there appears to be very little firm detail if one is ever likely to happen, let alone how feasible it would be.

Apart from the imposing rock casting a shadow, the first thing any motorist notices is the cost of fuel - somewhere that does not charge VAT. Less than £1 per litre of diesel brought a wry smile to my face. I filled up the day before we left and it cost £1.32 per litre.

On this occasion we were booked in at the Bristol Hotel, the city's oldest hotel, according to its website. This wasn't a million miles from where we stayed last year (O' Callaghan Eliott) and while looking a little more tired in places, was about on par with last year.

One of the biggest problems we faced last year was the weather. Day 2 was a monsoon (literally) combined with gale-force winds. This year we hoped for a little better, though the weather forecast for Day 2 was virtually identical to that of the year before, so we made sure we crammed in as much as was possible at the end of today. This involved a trip to the top of the Rock as well as a tour of some of the marinas, that we didn't have time to do last year.

The cable car attendants all seem very jolly and are very much 'up' for some banter. If this isn't forthcoming they get on their two-way radios and have some of their own. The cost for a return trip to the Rock's summit was £9, which had increased since last year. Other options exist, including one-way tickets and combinations to visit the nature reserve in which the famous Gibraltan Apes can be seen in their natural habitat.

As it happened, there appeared to be a free-for-all today and the gate to the nature reserve had been left open, so we wandered in for a look. Despite the constant warnings and notices, tourists do not heed that the apes will take anything they assume to be food from your person and will bite you if you resist. This was demonstrated beautifully by a foreign family into whose open bag an ape delved to take a large chocolate bar and a packet of crisps. We were told last year that the apes aren't thieves, but simply believe that you have brought them food and so relieve you of it.

Top of the Rock. The most northern summit is only used by the British military.

It was blowing an absolute gale at the summit and the weather conditions changed very quickly indeed. At one point you were engulfed in cloud; the next, the sun was out.

From our superior vantage point we could see the terminus of Service 4 at Both Worlds. This was taken using full zoom. We would visit Both Worlds tomorrow and a shot in the opposite direction would be taken.

The Rock's effect on its hinterland was very evident here, too. While the prevailing wind is from the west, the Mediterranean Ocean allows warm, moist air to hit the rock's south-east face, which forces it upwards where is quickly condenses into dark cloud which then hangs over the city and bay for days on end. Today, a depression was sat out to the west and the anti-cyclone ensured that the wind was coming from the south-east, mixing with the local Levanter.

A Rock-shaped cloud hangs over the city and bay. Clear to the south (left) and to the north (right, though out of shot).

This prompted one of our party to come up with the oft-used phrase of the weekend: "This is probably nice in the summer".

Despite the BBC Weather forecast saying otherwise, no rain fell during out first day in Gibraltar and we were able to visit the top of the Rock and meander around one of the marinas that has undergone considerable investment over the last year. No need for an umbrella or to take shelter under a shop canopy. The following day was forecast for heavy showers though.

Indeed, the Beeb got it spot on now and the pitter-patter of rainfall could be heard as we all met for breakfast. It had been a particularly heavy night though, not down to the alcohol consumed (although perhaps this was partially to blame) but because of the food we ate at the very much improved Charlie's Steak House in the Ocean Village complex. Prices are comparable to those charged at a similar UK establishment but the quality seems to be very high as standard. We visited here last year and were suitably impressed and even more so this time. I've never had Death By Chocolate quite like the one served here!

Death By Chocolate at Charley's Steak House. It's not often I photograph my food!

In many ways, an all-you-can-eat Continental Breakfast was most welcome. This is the only breakfast type offered at the Bristol Hotel, whereas last year's breakfasts at the O' Callaghan Eliott comprised Full English. Still, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, ham, toast and juice was just enough on this occasion though you were ready for something to eat by noon! With the rain falling steadily, the prospect of getting out of the hotel was becoming less and less likely. Last year, the rain fell so fast that even using a sturdy umbrella offered little protection as splash back ensured your feet and trouser legs got saturated within minutes.

Whether it was psychological or not, come 1100 we reckoned the rain was getting lighter so headed off into town, with the plan to catch a number of bus services to cover more of the city than we managed to do last time. We'd not made a trip to Rosia Bay and visited the 100 Ton Gun before, so waited at the American War Memorial stop in the city centre for a Service 4 bus headed in that direction.

New bus shelters are being erected throughout the city in time for the summer season, though none carry any timetable information whatsoever. This information was also found lacking in the old shelters when we travelled last time. A helpful lady in the Tourist Information Centre gave me a photocopied selection of timetables and a route diagram that comprised the Gibraltar Bus Company's network and timetables. As with last year, all services have just one timing point - the first one. There are no intermediate timings, nor an arrival time at the ultimate point. I remembered thinking the people at ATOC and Network Rail would have a field day if they were able to instigate something similar on our tracks (some would argue they're already half-way there with their punctuality recording techniques).

Gibraltar Bus Company Routes

Service 2: City Centre (Referendum House) to Upper Town & Moorish Castle
Service 3: Airport & Spanish Border to Europa Point
Service 4: Both Worlds to Rosia Bay
Service 9: Airport & Spanish Border to City Centre (Bus Station)

All services pass through the city centre and weekday frequencies typically range from every 15 minutes (Services 3 & 9), every 20 (Service 9) and 25 (Service 2) with Saturdays and Sundays being slightly less though no worse than 30 mins on any service other than Service 2 which runs a 1-vehicle working to a 40-minute frequency on Sundays.

The only criticism I have with the network bus map is that it is too simplistic and becomes confusing; for example the terminus for Service 2 at Referendum House looks separate from the other routes, but nearer to Service 4, when in actual fact it is on the same road as that used by Services 3, 4 and 9.

The fares had not increased since last year and remain nothing short of astonishing: 60p Adult Single/90p Return; 40p Child Single/60p Return; 30p Pensioner Single/50p Return. Day tickets are available for all three classes, priced at £1.50, £1.00 and 80p respectively. Absolutely excellent value. The fleet of vehicles employed on these nationalised bus services carry the City Buses fleet name and consist of 18 Caetano Nimbus-bodied Dennis Darts, which entered service during April 2004, at a stroke offering 100% low-floor operation to the city, save the Toyota Hiace people carriers deployed on Service 2 to Moorish Castle. Two double-deckers and a coach were spotted parked up at the company's depot opposite the airport, all three vehicles being impossible for us to identify.

G8183A arrived and we purchased our £1.50 day tickets from the driver, who issued them using his Wayfarer ticket machine. The rain had suddenly got heavier and as we meandered our way down to Rosia Bay via some ridiculously narrow and circuitous roads, we opted to remain on the bus and head back to the city centre. Maybe it was because today was Sunday, or perhaps parking is always absolutely dire, but the roads were incredibly narrow and our driver expertly guided his bus through what looked like impossible gaps. We didn't spot any body damage to any of the Darts, so either the company's workforce is very skillful indeed or the engineers are fast to repair any body damage!

Not a great view but at least the condensated windows allowed us to brush up on our naughts and crosses skills

Rosia Bay is as near as you can get to the Royal Navy's base at Gibraltar, though the misted-up windows meant we saw very little indeed. Rather unimaginatively, when we returned to the city centre we alighted at the city's only major supermarket - Morrisons. This is located in what I refer to as the Europort area of the city, which will be quite a shock to anyone who's not visited in the past 15 years or so as everything's either very modern or just been built. While I will now concede that Gibraltar isn't like a bit of Britain by the Med, the Morrisons is identical to the one in Grimsby! And I do mean identical. You would be mistaken for thinking that VAT is charged on items in Gibraltar, too!

The weather is another similarity with the UK in this photo, not just the supermarket.

Our first bus of the day. We'd been from the city centre to Rosia Bay and back, alighting outside Morrisons.

Next, we headed back to the bus stop outside the supermarket and awaited the following Service 4 bus to Both Worlds. Our plan was to get to the east of the Rock to see whether or not the prevailing conditions were any better. The timetable had an error in it and the 30-minute frequency offered by this route on a Sunday was actually a bus every 40 minutes, which we spotted when we alighted at Both Worlds after having stood in the pouring rain at Morrisons for a considerable length of time. Our driver showed us his hand-written duty sheet which clearly showed a 40-minute frequency. The bus shelter for the stop at Morrisons had yet to be erected, with only the roof in evidence, lying on the floor!

The roof of the new bus shelter outside Morrisons can be seen here, awaiting legs on which to rest.

Remember this shot from yesterday? Well this was taken from the bus terminus at Sandy Bay looking up.

Hopefully you can make out the overhanging viewing platform. If not, the photo below may assist you.

The rain here wasn't as bad as that felt leeward of the Rock, though matters still weren't what you'd call pleasant. A driver change took place here, too, with a relief arriving in a company Toyota pick-up truck. Our new driver departed at 1440 I seem to remember and we alighted at the American War Memorial in the city centre. Our bus since Morrisons was G8181A. I'd worked out that if we hung on here for about 10 minutes, we'd be able to catch a Service 3 bus to Europa Point, the southernmost tip of Gibraltar, where we wouldn't be able to see Africa!

A driver changeover taking place at the Both Worlds terminus.

G8169A arrived punctually (if that is possible when there is no timing point) and off we went. Last year I remember Europa Point being very breezy but the visibility was OK. This year, the wind was blowing with such force that it was potentially umbrella damaging! Our driver didn't disappear for his 15-minute lay-over like last year, and parked at the temporary terminus, allowing his vehicle to be used as a waiting room for intending passengers. Construction work is taking place here, specifically to the viewing area, so we were unable and unwilling to cross the mud and cones to see waves crashing onto the foreshore. A quick photo of the bus and it was back on board!

We travelled the full length of Service 3 to the Spanish Border, known as the Frontier. This is the stop at which passengers for the airport would alight, such is the proximity of everything in Gibraltar. I was a little alarmed to see that the colony had not received a single flight today, with the two flights due to have both arrived and taken-off by now being diverted to Malaga. A security guard told us that the weather was so bad and the strong, eddying wind so volatile that planes were diverted on safety grounds. You may recall this video from last year's write up!

The 1900 arrival of a Monarch Airlines service was shown as taking place though and the wind appeared no worse than yesterday when we landed. We were heading back the following day and ideally none of us wanted to have to go to Malaga first, though I've never travelled on a Spanish coach before, so perhaps there would be a silver lining.

Next, we chose to pay the princely sum of 60 new pence to travel on a Calypso Transport service from the Airport to the Coach Terminal. G1782B was our vehicle, a Neoplan convertible open-top double decker, one of the largest buses in the city.

The plastic seats first raised our suspicians that this ex-German Neoplan 'decker's roof would detatch, when the season dictates. We spotted the joins around the edges afterwards.

Calypso Transport is the face of entrepreneurialism in Gibraltar, and operates Service 10 from the Airport to Morrisons and then the city centre via the Coach Terminal. They are not to be confused with Calypso Tours and Calypso Travel, both being part of the MH Bland Travel Group, founded in 1810. Calypso Transport was once part of the same group, but not anymore.

En route to the city centre, Calypso Transport's Euro Hoppa drops off at Morrisons. Note the destination is many years old, claiming the bus calls at Safeway.

Calypso Transport name their Service 10 the Euro Hoppa. Today it was operating to a 30-minute frequency with two buses, but at busier times up to 4 buses an hour can operate a 15-minute frequency. The company operates double deckers in a red livery, synonymous to many tourists of those seen on the streets of London. The similarity ends there, though. Most of the vehicles operated by Calypso Transport are ex BVG of Berlin, one was seen in that company's yellow livery, presumably awaiting re-paint before entering service. Their fleet is parked in the Coach Terminal and it was possible to have a meander through.

The only bus route none of us had done (as we'd not had chance last year) was a trip to Moorish Castle using Gibraltar Bus Service's route 2. Last year, Toyota Hiace people carriers were used, though this year a couple of new-looking Unvi-bodied Mercedes-Benz minibuses were deployed. They carry 15 passengers and the rear section is for a wheelchair user, with its own dedicated door.

And what a route this vehicle took! Moorish Castle is clearly visible from the city centre so we knew we'd be heading uphill, but the journey was hair-raising to say the least. The clearances on both sides were down to inches in many places, yet the plucky driver continued apace. Just when you thought a turn couldn't get any sharper, the bus came across one even worse; when you thought the gap between the house on the left and the parked cars on the right couldn't get any narrower, it did. There are a good deal of one-way streets in this area, for very good reason indeed! The terminus is on Willis's Road, just down from the castle, and we congratulated the driver before heading off to see what the view was like from part-way up the Rock.

I tried my panorama setting out on my camera to good effect here. The rain had stopped, too. Umbrellas were no longer needed. We had a 40-minute window to take pictures from this excellent vantage point and reflect on the journey up here.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The journey back, while having gravity on our side, was no less surprising. At one point, the road was so narrow that the window shutters of residential properties had to be negotiated very carefully to prevent them from being ripped off their hinges. The return route is slightly different to that of the outward as the Flat Bastion area is served. When we joined the main Europa Road, which was like the M1 Motorway in comparison, the turn was so tight and the camber so adverse that the rear of the minibus actually grounded. This was of no surprise to our driver who slowed down immediately before the metal-on-concrete sound was heard.

We alighted in the city centre at the route's terminus and headed back into town for an evening meal of local cuisine in Pizza Hut (where unlimited refills on soft drinks does not apply!). Throughout both our visits to Gibraltar, no mention of a service charge has been made on our bills - be our meal in a traditional restaurant or one of the larger chains. Not even a suggestion is made at the foot of the bill, nor are 'tips' jars left visible. I know us Brits aren't known for our generosity in this way when holidaying abroad (though arguably with good reason) so it is something that I've always noticed.

Casemates Square - the social hub of Gibraltar's tourism. It has been kitted out for much warmer climes than those to which we were subjected this weekend!

There'd been a Premiership football match on this afternoon and the two main pubs in Casemates Square (the focal point for tourists) were full of very drunken Englishmen. In one establishment vomit was clearly visible on the floor. Yes, it felt like home now, yet door staff were not in evidence at all. No blood was shed either. Smoking is still permitted within pubs in Gibraltar, in stark contrast to Spanish law as well as that here in Blighty. I always view a law as being worthwhile when you become completely unaware that it is in force until you go elsewhere and realise how much you've unwittingly benefited. The UK's strict no smoking legislation is one such beneficial law (for me, anyway).

Plenty of familiar sights in Gibraltar

Sunday night in Gibraltar was like the flip side of Nottingham, where men strongly outnumbered women by at least 3:1. Both pubs had either a disco or a singer on and the drunken lads seemed to be lapping it up. We, on the other hand, had to fly back in the morning so had a wander around the Old Town area. Although the temperature was a measly 14C, it felt far warmer than the same value back home. We didn't see any further bus services operate, as last departures are disappointingly early: 2100, 7 days a week.

Taken from Moorish Castle, the Unvi-bodied Merc used on Service 2 all day can be seen crossing Corral Road using the bridge on Smith Dorrien Avenue

Monday dawned and we headed straight for the airport after our breakfast. Again, no public transport required as the walk took all of 15 minutes. Gibraltar's airport was heaving, though. Not only was our 1110 departure to Gatwick due, but two Monarch Airlines flights to Luton and Manchester were due within the space of 5 minutes of each other, 50 minutes after ours had departed.

The wind had subsided and our flight was shown as punctual. We initially joined a ridiculously long queue for security, but a local worker called easyJet passengers forward into a dedicated queue, away from those queuing for both Monarch flights. The departure lounge, which most definitely will benefit from becoming larger when the new terminal opens, was full and the queue for the departure gate snaked half-way round the room!

Click to enlarge.
Panorama shot from my new camera. easyJet's airbuses aren't the most luxurious of planes, but for a 2.5-hour trip they're more than adequate.

On my easyJet boarding pass, no mention of a passport is made. That is, only photo ID is required for the flight I was about to make. As my boarding pass and passport were being checked, I asked the security man whether or not my UK driving licence - endorsed with the EU flag - would be acceptable as it bares my image. He said not and that only "authorised" photo ID is accepted, but didn't go on to state what exactly that is. As one of our party later said: "If your UK driving licence isn't authorised, what is?"

Unusually, we were one of the last to board the plane and I assumed that we would not be able to sit together, though fortunately this was not the case and a central row of three seats presented themselves. I videoed us taxi across Winston Churchill Avenue, though haven't uploaded that to YouTube since the shot from the road itself far better demonstrates this, though have uploaded the U-turn our Airbus A319 made at the western end of the runway, with the bay on all three sides.

And of course the take-off itself.

The captain gave us plenty of information throughout the flight and one of the most interesting was to be able to catch a glimpse of Jersey around 35,000 feet below. I know its not exactly Australia, but I always imagined Jersey to be larger than it appeared from this height.

We touched down in Gatwick a few minutes ahead of time, though at the South Terminal, so it was down to National Express-owned Airlinks to transfer us to the North Terminal. The bus of choice was in evidence again - the Cobus 2700 was used and it was in much better condition than those used in Gibraltar, where masking tape holds bumpers and body parts together!

We didn't travel on a Merc to the North Terminal. Airlinks has a very impressive fleet of nearly-new Citaros.

We were waiting only 2-3 minutes for our 'bus' at the courtesy 'coach' pick-up point and headed back to the Flightpath car park.

I headed to the customer service building at the car park and witnessed a queue longer than that for check-in!! Luckily, my problem was easily remedied. We'd discussed this problem at a recent LEYTR committee meeting, would you believe. The automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) equipment used by these parking companies struggles to differentiate a '4' from an 'A' when it is the last digit. My car registration ends in '4', yet the ANPR believed this to be an 'A'. Next time I may consider deliberately changing it to end in 'A' when booking online....


Yet another excellent long weekend in one of the UK's most high-profile colonies. Colonialism is clearly in evidence to a massive extent, though not so much to drown Gibraltar of its individualism. Seeing a palm tree outside the Norwich & Peterborough Building Society is one such facet that always brings a smile to my face. Our plan is, should we visit again, to fly there during late-summer as Gibraltar most certainly has much more to offer when the sun comes out. Many summer months see no precipitation at all, making for quite an arid climate.

The colony's public transport network is absolutely superb, with all populated areas served in all terrain! The Gibraltar Bus Company's fleet of Dennis Dart/Caetano Nimbus low-floor midi buses and their new Mercedes-Benz/Unvi accessible minibuses look resplendent and are immaculately turned out, both inside and out. For value, the fares charged rival those on offer in any town or city here in the UK.

We mustn't forget easyJet, either. Our flights cost just £44 return each - the return leg was just £14.99. We had no hold luggage so only incurred the debit card payment fee (none of us possess a Visa Electron, the only card not to incur the fee). Personally, flights to/from Stansted Airport would be more convenient than Gatwick, though Monarch fly from Luton and Manchester airports and there's always BA to consider, too. None offer flights as low as easyJet - no matter what your opinion of them.

They're a bit like Marmite: you either love them or loathe them.

The entire three days - petrol to the airport, parking, flights, accommodation and breakfast - totalled £125.05. It costs more for a First Class single on East Coast's London-Leeds train service when purchasing your ticket on the day of travel. There is no need to convert any money so, importantly, travel agents make no commission and sudden financial downturns do not have a negative impact on exchange rates, with the Gibraltan Pound being accepted on a like-for-like basis with Sterling.

1 comment: