Wednesday 14 October: The ship that was loading sardines took all the Dutchmen (and some Poles) on board, and took them to Gibraltar – a 21-hour voyage. How were we to make the journey? Ian investigated a sea crossing, but it was prohibitively expensive (and not being great sailors, we were not disappointed). We considered flying, but that was also very expensive (and meant going via London!!!). So the only feasible option was to go by road, and that meant going through southern Spain.
We stayed last night in Huelva, and arrived in time to look round the city centre. There were some interesting buildings, and the main square was lively. This morning we visited the cathedral, and another church nearby, then it was off to Seville. Huelva was new to us, but we’d visited Seville several times. However, it is one of our favourite cities, and since it was on our direct route, we could not pass by without stopping.
We wandered around the old town, and decided to visit the Alcazar again, as entry was very cheap for pensioners! We had lunch in their café, and got talking to a Scottish couple who asked us what we thought of the giant mushrooms in the Plaza Mayor. We were baffled by this, so they showed us some photos. We had never seen a Plaza Mayor in Seville, could not find it on our map and the receptionist at our hotel confirmed that there was no Plaza Mayor in the city. But we’d seen those photos…
Thanks to the Internet, we discovered that the giant mushrooms were actually in the Plaza del Encarnación, and when we got there we found that the installation is called ‘Plaza Mayor’. Mystery solved! The giant mushrooms give shade to the square as well as something to look at (which you may love or hate); you can also take a lift up and follow a fascinating walkway with great views.
Thursday 15 October: Off to Gibraltar, our final destination. The plan was to drop our rental car in Algeciras and get a bus to La Linea (Spanish town opposite Gibraltar). But while checking the address on the Net, we found that (contrary to what we’d been told) Europcar has an office in La Linea; a phone call established that we could leave the car there. This made it easier for us; the only problem was finding the Europcar office – who would expect to find a car rental office in a pedestrian street? Before crossing the border, we had coffee at a café on the waterfront, with a great view of the Rock. It took Pa seven months to get from Zaandam to Gibraltar; it took us two, including a ten-day break back at home. We did not have to work on a French farm, or be interned in Spain. We did not have to face the difficulties and dangers he encountered, but for us it had been a real adventure nevertheless.
This afternoon we walked along the western coast of Gibraltar to the southern tip. On the way we planned to visit the South Mole, where the troopship moored that took the Dutchmen to England, but unauthorised people are not allowed. We did visit the ‘Hundred ton gun’, and at what is now called Europa Point we saw the lighthouse and the mosque, as well as the great views of Spain and Africa.
Friday 16 October: Our first stop this morning was to find the site of the school where Pa had been billeted during his stay on Gibraltar. We’d asked at the tourist information office if there was still a St Mary’s School in the city. The answer was yes, but the location did not match Pa’s description. When we explained, we were told he must have stayed in Sacred Heart School, which was closer to the position indicated in Pa’s book. Of course he could make mistakes, but he’d stayed there for over a month – would he not remember the name? The young lady at the tourist office then said that her mother had been at St Mary’s, and phoned her to ask if it had always been in its current location. No said Mum, it used to be in Johnstone’s Passage. What we assume used to be the school is now a block of flats, but the location was just right. Pa was vindicated again!
While in Gibraltar Pa had some free time for sightseeing, and we went to the places he mentions. He talks about the ‘innards of the Rock’ being ‘honeycombed’, and we visited two sets of tunnels: the World War II tunnels and the Great Siege Tunnels. We also visited the Moorish Castle, where (Pa reports) the Polish escapers were billeted in the casemates. In the afternoon we walked to Catalan Bay, on the east side of Gibraltar. Pa swam there, even though it was February. We dipped our toes in the water, but found it too cold for us, even in October!
Saturday 17 October: This morning we did the real ‘tourist thing’: we took the cable car to the top of the Rock and took photos of the monkeys. We also visited St Michael’s Cave, which has very impressive stalactites and stalagmites, although in our opinion the lighting (continually changing colours) rather spoiled the effect.
This afternoon it was time to go home! Pa went by ship to Liverpool, and then train to London; we were to fly from Gibraltar to Heathrow, a much quicker journey. But not quite as quick as we expected, because the incoming plane could not land at Gibraltar (the Rock was covered in fog) so we were diverted to Malaga, and reached London four hours behind schedule.