Going back to work doesn’t exactly do wonders for my revisited and evolving blog. After staring at a computer screen all day, the last thing I want to do when I get home is open the computer back up. Though I may call myself a writer, I go a bit cross-eyed by the end of the day! I cannot let that deter me, though. Starting with Gibraltar, I think it’s about time I show you what life is like in my neck of the woods.
I feel like most people have heard of, or know a little bit about, the straight of Gibraltar or the rock of Gibraltar. Yet, it is impossible to know what life is like “on the rock” unless you’ve been there. Gibraltar is the oddest little place. Only about 2.6 square miles in size, it is a British colony at the southeastern point of Spain. It is not Spanish, much to their neighboring country’s dismay. Years of struggle, conflict, and threats have not influenced the Gibraltarians to become Spanish. They are under the Queen’s rule, and that is how they intend to stay. Because of this, a person wanting to enter Gibraltar from the neighboring Spanish town of La Linea must cross the border, show identification, and go through customs – just like an American would traveling to a European country, for example.
Life on the rock is like nothing I’ve experienced since moving abroad. It’s cramped, it’s noisy, and it’s a mix of old world and the new. Mopeds scream by in rapid succession; their preferred mode of transportation I’ll have to cover in more depth at a later time. A passerby that overhears a native’s conversation will notice that within a single sentence, they’ve switched back and forth between English and Spanish a few times. Confusing? I’d say so! For a tourist, the most interesting sights to see would be the apes at the top of the rock or main street, but those aren’t necessarily my favorite things about Gibraltar.
Main street is the most popular area, because it functions as a huge duty-free tax haven. Every other shop either sells tobacco or alcohol, because the duty and tax break make these desirable items extremely cheap. Many Spanish natives travel over to Gibraltar each day simply to purchase items, like cigarettes, at a highly discounted price. I, however, like to go to Main Street to hit up the clothing shops and shoe stores. Casemates Square is a huge, well, square at the end of Main Street where British-style restaurants attract tourists. The entire area has an old world feel, because it’s set behind the old garrison wall. Tall trees line Main Street, apartments above have floral balconies and old Moorish facades, and always the ominous rock hovers overhead.
Yet, one of my favorite areas of Gibraltar is a newer addition called Ocean Village. Located across the way from Casemate’s Square, Ocean Village houses a port filled with sailboats and yachts, a bevy of restaurants that could satisfy almost any craving, and of all things, a casino. On a Friday night, it serves as a location for the younger crowd to party, but during the day and the rest of the week, it’s an ideal place to go for a break from the noise and confusion of the rest of the rock. When Matt and I are craving a Guinness, we head over to O’Reilly’s where they oftentimes have live music outside in the warmer months. We also love to play bingo at the casino. 🙂
Gibraltar has only one large and proper grocery store called Morrison’s. Because of this, it is ALWAYS packed. I tried to stop in during the holidays to purchase some sour cream (not available in Spain) and immediately walked right out empty handed. The lines to checkout extended back halfway into each aisle. No, thank you! However, it’s refreshing to shop there when it’s not as crazy, because everything is written in English. Though my Spanish has improved ten-fold, I take for granted how much faster the shopping gets done when I don’t have to translate each and every purchase.
All in all, life in this little area is so different than what I became accustomed to in Dallas and Dublin. I miss things like public transportation, the American Women’s Club, and big city living. But I’m learning so much more about other cultures, I’ve made new and wonderful friends, and best of all, I can see Africa in the distance. That is something that amazes me every time. Gibraltar is small, but interesting, and the more time I spend here, the more I will begin to appreciate it’s little quirks.