What more could a girl wish for – our planned morning activities were to visit a heritage library and a gin distillery both of which I love dearly! After a hearty breakfast at the Rock Hotel we headed into town to explore the Gibraltar Garrison Library.
Founded in 1793 as a military library, it became a reference library and research centre in 2011. More recently, the Gibraltar International Literary Festival selected the library as its base and has hosted world class writers and speakers to events there.
The colonial building has been beautifully preserved and is filled with rare books and manuscripts stored in antique glass fronted cabinets. Each room is furnished in colonial style with high ceilings, comfortable armchairs and large fireplaces. It felt just like stepping back in time to the days when officers of HM. Forces relaxed beside the fire with one of the leather bound books.
The rear room contains archives of newspapers dating back to the Battle of Trafalgar and a copy of every edition of the Gibraltar Chronicle which was first published in 1801. Its actually the second oldest English language newspaper in the world.
Staff are very welcoming and attentive to visitors needs, informing us about the lecture hall/ ballroom on the upper floor which wasn’t open to view at the time of our visit but that small group tours can normally be arranged for those interested. Another reason, for us to return to lovely Gibraltar!
The library is surrounded by an attractive walled garden, a blissful place to sit with a book under the shade of the trees on a summer’s day yet just steps away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
Although we could have happily lingered longer in the library, it was time to move on from the world of books to that of gin, my favourite tipple. The Spirit of the Rock located on George’s Lane is Gibraltar’s only gin distillery and we’d come along to join one of their hour long tours and tastings (£20).
We were met by the owner, Peter Millhouse who introduced us to Athena, a gleaming 100 litre copper still which looked very appealing. However, Peter explained that the reason for copper is that it plays an essential role in the gin distilling process with its exceptional heat conducting qualities. When heat is dispersed evenly over the surface of the still, the result is a more efficient distilling process resulting in a superior gin.
We learnt that the Spirit of the Rock produces a unique hand crafted gin called Campion named after the iconic flower growing wild on the Upper Rock Nature Reserve but nowhere else on earth. Next, we inhaled each of the botanicals used in the production of Campion gin before tasting several variations of gin made through the years. Whilst sampling gin we heard about their historical significance, viewed how bottle styles had changed and the ways in which marketing techniques had developed.
Our tasting tour ended with a generous glass of the Spirit of the Rock’s award winning London Dry Campion Gin which tasted smooth and sophisticated. Our visit to the Spirit of the Rock had been splendid as not only did we have an opportunity to learn about gin, we also got to drink some too! Tour participants receive a generous 25% discount on purchases so we stocked up, enabling us to toast our lovely week in Gibraltar when we returned home.
A walk to Marina Bay located close to the cruise terminal followed. It’s a pleasant place for a stroll as the marina is home to over 300 yachts of varying shapes and sizes, numerous bars and restaurants. We’d reserved a table for lunch at Bianca’s, a bar/ restaurant located directly on the quayside with a large sunny terrace. The restaurant was already bustling when we arrived at 1.00 p.m. and after being shown to our table we perused the extensive menu whilst soaking up the convivial atmosphere. I couldn’t resist the Moroccan lamb tagine whilst Simon opted for brochettes of beef, both of which were delicious.
It was then time for some exercise to walk off our lunchtime excesses so we decided to head to Catalan Bay on the eastern side of the Rock. This was an easy 25 minute level walk leading to the small fishing village.
The small bay is characterised by its picturesque colourful buildings, hotel and seafood restaurants. We walked along the fine golden sand glancing out into the clear blue sea thinking how blissful it was to be there.
Back along the promenade, we spotted the pretty Our Lady of Sorrows church which is set back slightly from the seafront but shouldn’t be missed as it’s an absolute delight. Near there, we called into SeaWave, a waterfront bar where we sipped mugs of hot chocolate on their covered terrace whilst watching the waves gentling lapping the beach just in front of us.
After a nice little rest, we set off once again this time for the airport, not to return home but rather to take a walk along its runway! Its usually an offence to walk across runways but in Gibraltar its actively encouraged. It took us around 30 minutes to reach Winston Churchill Avenue, one of the territory’s busiest roads as it is the only one connecting Gibraltar to mainland Spain.
This four lane thoroughfare is famous as 600m of the road cuts directly across the Gibraltar Airport runway, used by both passenger and military aircraft. Each time an aircraft is due to land or take off warning lights flash and a level crossing type barrier closes the road to traffic and pedestrians for a few minutes.
It would have been fun to have timed our runway arrival just as the barrier was due to be closed but as there were no imminent arrivals or departures, we simply walked across the runway towards the border with Spain, in itself an exciting and unique experience.
After returning back uphill to our hotel we relaxed on our balcony watching the glorious sunset before heading out again this time to the Little Bay Indian Tapas Restaurant at Ocean Village. As soon as we walked through the door I knew we were going to have a lovely evening as the stylish décor had such a relaxed, welcoming feel.
A circular cocktail bar takes centre stage with tables surrounding it. It’s an Indian restaurant unlike any other I’ve dined in as it specialises in sharing plates which are such a great idea. We ordered the generously sized signature sizzling meat and fish platter comprising seekh kebab, chicken tikka, ajwani prawns and salmon tikka.
It was also suggested that we sample the aloo tikki chana masala vegetarian dish topped with chickpeas, yoghurt and pomegranate seeds which looked absolutely amazing and tasted delectable too. Our mains were delicately spiced with aromatic spices and we followed these up with a rich mango dessert and a slice of vegan apple pie, both irresistible and beautifully presented. I can’t imagine returning to Gibraltar without dining at Little Bay as I loved everything about the restaurant. The end of another perfect day.
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