ADVERTORIAL • September 2019
When BOAC lost French and Italian routes during WWII, flight paths switched to Gibraltar – and BA has been flying travellers there ever since to see the Rock’s iconic Barbary macaques, tunnels and caves. Author, journalist and radio producer Horatio Clare gives us his views on one of the airline’s longest-served destinations
Arriving in Gibraltar is tremendous. From the sea, with the magnificent Rock rising ahead (defiant and enticing in equal measure), the Strait busy with ships, Africa and Gibraltar’s twin peak, Jebel Musa, just there – as if two continents have swum dizzyingly close together. The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge noted in 1804 when he came this way: ‘When I first sat down, with Europe on my left and Africa on my right, both distinctly visible, I felt a quickening of the movements in the blood...’
Gibraltar really does have red telephone boxes, and British bobbies in pointed hats, and Royal Mail post-boxes and English pubs and hotels. It has the ready British sense of humour, but its eyes are sharp and unsleeping. You can make the journey from the airport runway via Winston Churchill Avenue to your hotel on foot. Above all else, Gibraltar is the queen of frontiers, between Africa and Europe, between sky and sea, between land and air and, most famously, between Great Britain and Spain.
Despite its air of something slightly out of sight always going on (which makes reading the Gibraltar Chronicle, one of the world’s oldest continuously published newspapers, a complete treat and one of the first things a traveller should do), there are beautifully peaceful places here. At the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens (or Alameda Gardens) bougainvillea, wild olives, pines and Canary Islands dragon trees intertwine in a mosaic of shades and scents. The Trafalgar Cemetery is a moving and engrossing graveyard, just outside the old city walls.
As night falls, choose from Moroccan, Spanish, Italian, Jewish, or (almost comically) British restaurants, all shot through with the melting-pot Gibraltarian twist: rosto dollops some of the elements of a Sunday roast on top of penne and tomato sauce; calentita is a chickpea-based pancake thought to have been brought from the Barbary coast by Sephardi Jews.
Should you decide to take a sundowner at The Rock Hotel – a Gibraltar institution – you’ll find yourself overlooking a crossroads of humanity and nature (the Rock is one of the great places to watch migrating birds in spring and autumn), where identity is a patchwork of pasts and futures, where no one’s history is simple and everyone’s story is in flux. Gibraltar is a place to be explored for what it is and admired for what it has been.
Horatio Clare’s award-winning first book, Running for the Hills (£9.99, John Murray), is available now.