As mentioned earlier Catalan Bay was (and still is) my favourite beach in Gibraltar and whenever I think about why that is I suppose it’s partly to do with the mystique of the place. The first time I ever went there I walked the beach and then wandered around the little village with its coloured houses and church but didn’t see a soul. Looking back there was probably a perfect explanation for that (for example it may have been ‘siesta’) – I don’t know – but the whole place was very enigmatic to me. If you ever walk around a place and don’t meet anyone it can be a very surreal experience; in the absence of people or knowledge your mind fill the gaps and make things up.
(With my daughter Tracey. Catalan Bay 1976)
Looking up at the water catchment on the Rock behind Catalan village my creative mind would go into overdrive. Had there been a landslide that had sent all the people into the sea but left the buildings empty but intact? Pompeii or what? No, of course not but I guess some places just capture your imagination and Catalan Bay did for me and still does. I don’t think I ever did meet a real live Gibraltarian ‘Catlander’ until 40 years later in 2016.
Something that added to the mystique of Catalan Bay (particularly for Tracey) was when we would walk through the tunnel to get there. I don’t remember the name of the tunnel but it was quite a trek and literally went through the Rock from somewhere near Rosia (?) or the cable car to Sandy Bay. I must try to find it again when I return. For Tracey, as a little 3 year old, it was almost like something out of the ‘Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe’ walking through a very, very long tunnel to come out to a ‘Palace’ at the other end – Caleta Palace of course, now more mundanely named Caleta Hotel.
Catalan Bay has naturally been developed since 1976 and today has several more eating places than in those early days – very good eating places I have to add. But regardless of progress there is still (very much) a captivating air about this little place that gets my whole hearted approval. For those brave enough (or daft enough like me) to take a dip – the water is a bit choppy to say the least. Once a year (I can’t remember if it’s Christmas Day or New Years Day) a load of locals charge into the water for a little self flagellation although I’m not sure why; but then why not? For those with good knees there’s a set of steps that go up from the beach between a few of the little houses to the top road where Caleta Hotel sits. I did go up the steps to check out the view but my endearing memories are of spending times there having picnics with my young family.
READER UPDATE FROM NIKKY DANINO (Many thanks): Dudley Ward tunnel takes you from La Caleta to Europa Point. I don’t think they allow pedestrians nowadays.
(Photos I took at Catalan Bay May 2016)