When I first introduced you to Gibraltar, I mentioned that traveling back and forth from Spain is not the easiest thing to do. Because Gibraltar is a British Colony and Spain is, well, Spanish, you must cross a border each time you want to go from one place to the other. Many people who work down in Gibraltar choose to live in Spain, because the housing market is highly in favor of the renter/buyer. For example, the monthly rent you would be asked to pay for a four bedroom home in Spain could be the equivalent to the asking price for a two or three bedroom apartment in Gibraltar. However, by choosing to live in Spain, but work in Gibraltar, you must cross the border and go through customs every single day.
Now, walking across the border is the ideal form of transportation. Driving across is easy enough, but the border queue can be quite unpredictable. Some days you can drive right in, no problem at all. Other days, the queue can extend so long that you are in for an hour or two delay. We’ve been stuck in such a delay before, creeping and crawling with the masses as one car after another passes through.
And then you have the runway. Gibraltar is a very small place, but it does have its own airport. Currently, they only fly to a couple destinations, London being their main one. The runway for incoming and outgoing planes stretches itself perpendicular to the road leading into the city, just after you cross the border into Gibraltar. If you are in a car, you drive across the runway; if you are on foot, you walk across the runway. You read that correctly. The runway, which active planes depart and land on, is crawling with pedestrians all day long. How do they manage this?
As a plane prepares to take-off or descend, the police come to either end of the runway crossing and close a barrier to both traffic and pedestrians. They roll out a spiked sheath to pierce tires in case any crazy car decides to plow through the barrier. And then you wait. A minute or two after the plane has taken-off or landed, they open it back up and cars, mopeds, and pedestrians go flying across the runway once more.
Yesterday, I left the office a bit before Matt to head over to Spain and retrieve our car; we park in a dirt parking lot just next to the border on the Spanish side and walk across to come to work. We had laundry in the trunk and zero groceries at home, so I decided to drive across and park closer to our cleaners and the grocery store. Sure, we can grocery shop in Spain, but if I was going to have my car, I figured I’d knock it out before Matt got done with his work.
I departed the office by taxi, paid about £4.60 for the ride to the border, pulled my passport out of my pocket, and crossed into Spain. Seconds after making it across, I made the most irritating realization – Matt had driven that morning and I’d failed to remember to get the car key from him.
So, I pulled my passport BACK out and crossed BACK into Gibraltar. And thus I learned the danger of forgetting the car key or your passport before taking off for the border. It was also my luck that I was plum out of cash, couldn’t pay for another taxi, and would be walking all the way back to the office, about 20 minutes. On the plus side, I was wearing a warm jacket and comfortable walking shoes.
When I stepped out onto the runway tarmac, I realized I had my camera in my bag. Therefore, I decided to turn what could have been a true pain in the butt into a blog post. I’d bring the laundry in the next day, grocery shop some other time, and take my time walking back to the office.
It is a truly interesting little world that the people live in down here and I forget sometimes that I’m now part of it. Remind me sometime to tell you the terrifying and hilarious story of how the police closed the barrier to the runway while I was the lone person still walking across… 😉