Sunday, 18 August 2013

Reflections and Reminisces

With Gibraltar in the News lately, I thought I would write a topical post and reminisce a little about our time living there.

For those of you who don't know, Gibraltar is an Isthmus - and very large outcropping of Rock - off the coast of southern Spain.  (See http://www.gibraltar.gov.uk/ for all the information!)  It is approximately 3 miles long by 1 mile across and has a population of about 30,000 people.

Looking towards the Rock from the Isthmus


 At the top of the Rock - with a Barbary Ape!



We lived there from April 2007 to January 2009 and I wish it had been longer.  My eldest son was born there not long after we arrived and it's a lovely place to raise children.


The stories about seven hour long queues at the border have brought back many memories.  We were fortunate to live just next to the border - and usually walked across to go to McDonalds in Spain rather than crossing the runway towards the Rock.  My husband worked at the other end of the Rock and on Friday afternoons (when the border queues were always particularly bad - even without 'extra' checks) he would frequently decide to leave the car behind and walk home, sometimes getting back a good hour before his boss who always tried to drive it.  In the end he mostly rode a bicycle - though not a moped like many of the locals, helmet hung on the handle bars rather than worn.

Gibraltar is, I think, the only place in the world where you can walk and drive across a commercial runway.  I always used to love watching the planes landing as we waited to cross.  Once I was caught in the middle of the runway, pushing the pram against strong winds (one of the few disadvantages of living there), while a rescue helicopter was trying to land unexpectedly.  The tanoy was telling those of us still crossing to hurry, but I could barely move a step forward at a time.  In the end the helicopter landed just behind me!

The climate in Gibraltar is unusual.  Obviously you have the Mediterranean style sunshine and temperatures, but it is exceptionally windy due to its position on a peninsular.  There is also the Levanter wind  (Easterly) that causes the massive Rock Top cloud.  This is a fascinating phenomenon which can change the weather from one end of the Rock to the other.  I remember one day leaving our house near the border in bright hot sunshine then stepping onto the runway in a cold dense fog and shivering in my t-shirt and shorts.  A half mile along the Rock - through the Tunnel to Casemates Square - the sun was back out again.

I would love to go back one day, and take the older children to see where they lived.  If you get the chance, I would recommend a visit - but don't go to Spain first!  I suggest you fly direct or go by boat.  You'll find many UK High Street stores there - including Mothercare, M&S and Monsoon (where I was a regular!) - as well as the typically Gibraltarian "Jack-of-All" shops, where you can buy a surprising array of different and unconnected items.  Plus, of course, there's all the Duty Free!  Don't be conned by the 'Tourist prices' however - prices go up when a Cruise Ship comes in, despite the 'special offers'.  Try to pretend you're a local and you'll get a much better deal!

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