We have a new Governor of Gibraltar. As is the customary tradition, he arrived by ship – HMS Bulwark – earlier this month and disembarked at the naval dockyard to a 17 gun salute.
No, I wasn’t there, I was on dog/puppy-sitting duty. He succeeds Sir Adrian Johns (vice-admiral, RN), who was governor for four years. Our new governor is Sir James Dutton. He is a former Royal Marines officer, (he was Commandant General of the Royal Marines)
retiring with the rank of Lieutenant General and has seen service in the Falklands, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Still on the maritime link, here is a pic of the new floating hotel due to be moored in Ocean Village.
The Sunborn Gibraltar is the world’s first five star luxury yacht hotel, with 182 rooms, of which 22 are suites, two restaurants, five bars, pool, spa, and salon. Due to open at the end of this year – hoping to get in for the lucrative Christmas New Year season no doubt – it now looks as if the doors won’t be opening until early 2014. Approx cost currently sitting – or lying – at £200 a night.
Accommodation in Gib is an interesting one. We have, starting at the economy end of the scale, a youth hostel – £20 a night last time I asked – The Queens, The Bristol, The Caleta Palace, The Eliott, and The Rock. Apart from The Caleta Palace, which is on the east side at Catalan Bay, the others are all in or near the town. Some friends came to see us a few years ago and I managed to get them a room for £80 a night at the Bristol with breakfast thrown in as a Christmas gesture of goodwill!
All of them look slightly run-down, although The Queens has had an external face-lift. The Rock is the one you would want to stay in, if only it was better kept up to. On our first and only visit three years ago for a drink for our silver wedding, the main lounge area was full of flaking and peeling paint due to damp and humidity. And as you had to walk through there to get to the bar it wasn’t a very good advertisement for the quality and standards of the hotel.
Cheapest prices at the moment look like around £70+ for The Queens going up to £100 for The Rock/Caleta Palace – for what is just average accommodation.
But if you use a hotel search gizmo for prices, they also show you hotels in Spain just a hop and a skip across the border. Far cheaper and looking much smarter.
On a GBC video on youtube about the Sunborn, one of the company head persons was wittering on about how many people flew into Gib and didn’t stay here. So they figured that by offering a £200 luxury experience it will improve the numbers of tourists staying in Gib. Possibly. Or possibly not.
One of the reasons people may not stay in Gib is that they can get better and cheaper accommodation in Spain. I’m not sure everyone wants to fork out £200 a night for a luxury experience unless it’s for a special occasion. Or maybe I’ve just lost touch with prices?
If anyone asks me for a recommend I usually say get an apartment in Ocean Heights, through Herald Travel, based there. I used them seven years ago when I was house-hunting and they were very helpful and flexible. It was only £40 for a studio apartment back then but I see it has gone up to £60 a night. If you like doing your own cooking some or all of the time though, it’s a good spec. Washing machines usually included too. The people in the block are pretty friendly.
Originally built as a hotel, it was made into apartments, many are lived in permanently, but some are rented out. It’s the cheaper end of the Gib property market, but it’s central and in summer there is a pool. It looks pretty soulless, with the usual late 60s/70s vile architecture/design, but I found it clean and convenient. One odd quirk for people buying there though is that as it was built as a hotel, there are no individual water or electricity meters so the annual service charges run into thousands. Evil.
Of course, if you are on hols, you can always pay £170 a night for an apartment at the Caleta.
But back to the luxury yacht, and the sting in the tail, or the sting in the stern perhaps – for Spain. It was originally planned to be moored in Barcelona. The deal was signed some seven years ago and the floating hotel would spend ten months of the year there. No idea where it would float for the other two.
However, the naughty Gibbos snuck in and somehow managed to talk Sunborn into bringing it down to Gib to be permanently moored here. Apparently Gib helped to repair the ship’s interiors. Repairs? When it hasn’t opened? Anyway, one story said it had undergone a £130M refit. Do hope my taxpayers’ money didn’t fund it.
My taxes are clearly funding this new park though. A new central park was proposed as part of the manifesto by the Gib Socialist Alliance. It’s being developed on the site of the former car park in Commonwealth Parade. The original proposal was to have an underground park on the site too, but that’s been dropped.
While I can’t say it would have been one of my priorities (a dog park would though) I suspect it will get some usage when it’s finished. Office and shop workers may go there for lunch, plus it’s near to prestigious blocks of flats on Queensway and the council estate at Mid Harbour. And if nothing else, it’s always job creation.
What about the usual two on-going stories? The fishing dispute and the border queues?
British MP Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) said during a debate on fishing in the House of Commons that:
“Spain will hoover up fish not only off of our shores but off the shores of Africa, anywhere she can find it and she is a menace and I am quite happy to say that in this House.”
Quite right too. I reported last year that even some Spanish workmates of Partner were saying that. Maurice from Newfoundland added at the time that they were a pain in his part of the world too. It seems no continent is safe from Spain’s urge to deplete the waters of sustainable fish.
And on the border queues, a great story from GBC. A disgruntled Guardia Civil officer leaked a timetable of planned frontier checks which was promptly blasted across social media sites. The GC, of course, have denied the existence of any such incident and say that border checks are always sporadic. Really?
I’ll end with a not-so-festive news report. Being a multi-cultural, multi-religious sort of place, Gib celebrates Epiphany on 6 January. Or to be more accurate, like Spain, the evening before is when the Three Kings visit and bring presents. In Spain this was the traditional present-giving occasion rather than Christmas, but time and commercialism have made their mark and it seems Spanish kids now expect presents on both dates!
So the evening of the fifth is an occasion for a procession, known as the Cavalcade. In my village it is usually three kings on three horses and a load of hangers-on and everyone throws sweets which I end up picking out of the garden for weeks and months afterwards. In Gib it is rather more of a flash event, and I have posted photos before of some of the floats. Here and here. If you are a musicky person do scroll down the first link (2012) for the youtube vid link of Three Kings. Beautiful.
But no more sweeties will be thrown in Gib. This is a dangerous practice apparently. Sweets were being used as missiles (um, remember catapults anyone?), and kids were being hit by the sweets. Get out of the way kids. Easy. I actually thought the Gib ban was going to be on grounds of dental health/obesity which I could at least have understood. And some little monsters run up and around the moving trucks. The trucks move very slowly – although they are big – and spend more time stopped than moving as they progress up Main Street. Hey parents! How about you supervise your monsters and tell them not to run in the road and go near the trucks when they are moving?
Why not just ban the trucks? Why not ban the parade? This links in well with a post over at Jenny’s where she has mentioned a proposal that all contact sports should be banned for children under the age of 14. As that includes hockey I don’t have a problem with that as I hated hockey, nasty vicious game. The sticks were hard and so were the balls. But shouldn’t it involve all ball games? Travelling at velocity makes them lethal weapons like sweets. Tennis rackets, squash rackets, cricket bats, you name it, sport is bad news for fragile kiddies.
Wrap them in cotton wool I say. Not for today’s kids to stand in the snow for up to an hour on a schoolday watching all the buses sail gaily past because they were full, until one finally arrived with a little standing capacity. Hmm, should kids be allowed to stand on buses? They might fall over. Best for old people, pregnant women, disabled people, roughseas with all her shopping bags, to stand up and offer their seats to these little glass-blown characters. Not for today’s kids to get up before dawn either and do their paper round before they walk to school (Partner, not me, I was never lucky enough to get a paper round – not allowed!). Wait, kids don’t walk or bus to school though do they? They are all chauffeur-driven as life is far too dangerous.
Accidents happen. Kids get whacked by vicious hockey sticks, or the vicious player wielding it. They may well get hit by a sweet. Perhaps they should learn to be alert and duck.
Like many people of my intolerant age I totally depair at this molly-coddling and paranoia that epitomises today’s society. While I might have loathed standing around in the freezing cold not playing hockey very well, I don’t think it did me any lasting damage, nor did netball, nor tennis, nor volleyball (have you ever been whacked by a volleyball, or horrors! twisted your thumb or fingers trying to return it?). Playing squash and trying to retrieve one of those nasty shots that fall against the wall, I fell and ripped a ligament in my ankle (that’s why I’m an expert on ankles). It was no-one’s fault and there was no hugely lasting damage apart from a large scar, but so what?
Throwing sweets is traditional at the Cavalcade. If they aren’t going to throw sweets, why not throw something else? Or find some soft sweets to throw instead of the nasty hard-boiled ones. Chocolate truffles anyone?
Last pic taken at lunchtime today just to remind you that we have monkeys here! They were playing on the scaffolding up the street.