08 March 2011

Gibraltar 2

Part 2

For the second consecutive year, the LEYTR headed to Gibraltar. Read last year's full account here and Part 1 of this year's trip here.

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.

To be continued....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fascinating, as ever. Many thanks for the write-up and the videos.