1) It is small
Very small. You can walk from one end to the other and back home in a few hours (I know, I’ve done it on a geocaching exped). It is approx three miles by 3/4 of a mile and around two and a half miles square (I know those figures don’t add up, but there are different statistics for it! Maybe it depends on whether or not you include the runway?)
You can walk from one end of Main Street to the other in 10 minutes. In less time outside shopping hours, although more if a cruise ship has discharged its quota of slow walkers clogging up the streets.
Banks, the tax office, the water office, the rates office are all within spitting distance. Well spitting distance of my flat anyway.
2) Friendly people and sense of community
I find people friendly. They like to show off their bilingual skills though, so if you want to practise your Spanish you will have a hard time. People will chat at bus stops, on the buses, out in the street, approach Pippa and hug him – occasionally they even ask first. Our neighbour rang us up when a traffic warden seemed to think we had overstayed our welcome on a loading bay, so we (ie he) grovelled and quickly moved the vehicle.
Not only are people friendly, we have lots of nationalities, cultures, religions all packed within our tiny bit of space who co-exist harmoniously. Gibraltar’s rich heritage means that the cultural mix includes British, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian (Genoa), Maltese, North African, and in terms of religion, we have a Catholic Cathedral, a Protestant one, a handful of synagogues, mosques, Church of Scotland, a Buddhist temple and goodness knows what else, all within a stone’s throw of each other.
Gib oozes history. Military history, maritime history, influxes of different waves of immigrants, a Moorish castle, city walls, defensive ramparts, big guns, little guns, historical guns, the Trafalgar cemetery, colonial buildings, Mediterranean buildings, old winding back streets dating back to Moorish times – it’s easy to get lost in Gib’s history.
Its history goes much further back though as the first neanderthal skull was found here by British soldiers as I recall. Had someone had the presence of mind to register it, we would be talking about Gibraltarian skulls and not neanderthal ones. Gib is also believed to be the last place neanderthals were in existence before they died out.
5) Environmental beauty
For want of a better name. The Rock is truly spectacular, made out of Jurassic limestone and 1400 foot high. OK it’s actually 1,398 feet high. You can walk up, take an expensive taxi, or take the cable car. On my very first trip we took the cable car half way (because I had to say I had taken the cable car) and then walked the rest of the way. Back then I’m not sure there was a charge for entering the Upper Rock – because it is a nature reserve – but there is now. Free for residents though.
Botanical gardens. We have the Alameda Gardens, right next to the cable car, so a pretty easy stop off for tourists, and a pleasant place to wander for residents. Free.
Sea caves. This one probably links with history, but before Gib was actually inhabited, sailors would stop at the sea caves to give thanks to the gods for safe journeys – and pray for continued safe passage. Gorham’s Cave is locally and internationally known as a significant archaeological site. No visits though.
We have a high ratio of police officers per head of population. They also walk the beat. There are always officers up and down Main Street, and also on the side streets. For the Three Kings cavalcade, I passed three officers in around a hundred yards or so. Plus they are friendly and helpful.
It’s not just that though, by and large Gib is a safe community with very little serious crime. Yes, there are drugs, yes, there is vandalism, yes there is theft/burglary. You can walk around quite cheerfully in the middle of the night without fear. When I take the dog out at 6am in the pitch dark, there are few people about, usually dog walkers and runners plus streetsweepers and a few early birds going to work.
7) The buses are free to residents
Need I say more?
I’ve lived here for years and still can’t resist them. Many locals are frightened of them, but the novelty of seeing wild monkeys wandering around the high street or sitting outside my house still hasn’t worn off. Love it, or rather them. The only wild free-ranging macaques in Europe.
I took this pic of a baby macaque yesterday outside the tax office on Main Street. A couple of Spanish-speaking tourists were talking to each other, ‘It’s a monkey who must have escaped,’ said the woman. I said, interrupting nosily as you do, ‘No they live here. Their home is up the Rock, but they come down here from time to time.’ ‘Ah, said the man, ‘So this is normal’. ‘Yes,’ was the short answer. It is normal for monkeys to wander up and down Main Street.
9) The nearest airport in the world to its city
OK, so I try and avoid flying, but if I ever want to jump on a ‘plane to the UK, I don’t have far to walk. And I do enjoy walking and driving across the runway. It’s surreal. But then maybe Gib is surreal.
10) National Day
I’ll have to end with National Day. It is a fantastic display of Gibraltarian identity on 10 Sept, and a day of happiness when we all dress up in our Gib colours of red and white. You need to buy your red and white clothes early, as they are usually sold out by September. There is lots of drinking but – to my knowledge – none of the violence that you might get at a similar event in say, the UK. Of course you wouldn’t have a similar event in the UK, because Brits aren’t allowed to be patriotic. Or so I read.
National Day was originally started after the first referendum in Gib about sovereignty. This was back in 1967, on 10 September, when Franco was in power. More than 99% of the vote was to retain British links.
The Cavalcade on the eve of the Three Kings, ie Sunday night
Umm. Not a patch on what it was before. I was chatting with a police officer around half seven, and she said it would be at least an hour before it arrived at our end of Main Street. In fact it was only 40 minutes or so. Less people, less floats.
‘It gets less every year,’ she said sadly.
And the sweets? They were all over the pavement when I wandered out. A couple of police officers were busy scurrying for Murray Mints. I had to laugh. Damn nuisance when out dog-walking though with all those sweets cluttering up the streets.
The band was good.
So was the pipe band at the end but they stood at ease before I got chance to snap them. Floats? well, there were some. That’s all I can say. But when people are short of money it can’t be cheap to put together a flash display.
Sandra has given me an award, A Dragon Loyalty thing. Thank you Sandra. She has two blogs, one about writing, and one about living in Spain, in Andalucía. Even better, she comes from Yorkshire!! With which, I have managed one out of five rules which is enough for me. So if you like books and writing check out the first site, if you like Spain, check out the second.
I really must introduce a pesky new feature to this blog.
Many of you follow not just roughseas but one or more of my others. Or flit in and out as and when.
So here is a link to recent posts on my other blogs. Is this blatant self-promotion you hussy roughseas? (Um, is hussy a sexist word? perhaps I shouldn’t use that one).
The answer is, no it’s not. If a) reader doesn’t work, you will know what is new on here b) if you have missed something on reader, you can catch up on here c) if you are wondering whether I have written anything recently or not, it will also be on here d) if you are utterly bored it may give you something else to read.
OK, first up, Clouds
About blogging tips, WP crazy zero to hero ‘challenge’ (if you can read Janet and John, this challenge is not for you) and Parmesan cheese.
And the one before that was about middle aged men and their large-sized egos. Egos note, nothing else large-sized.
A harness and lead review and Snowy gets a dirty face.
Childrens’ books, specifically Little Black Sambo and The Lonely Doll.
Just Land Rovers
Ooops, guilty, need to update this one.