Sunday, January 9, 2011

Gilbraltar

I never knew Gilbraltar ever existed until I came to Spain.  It is located at the southern tip of Spain, at the entrance of the Mediterranean, but is not owned by Spain.  It sits next to a Spanish town called La Linea, and once you cross the border, you are in what they call "the little UK".
An Anglo-Dutch force captured Gibraltar in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession. The territory was subsequently ceded to Britain by Spain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. It became an important base for the British Royal Navy, which drove the local economy and provided employment for a large portion of the local population. Today its economy is based largely on tourism, financial services and shipping. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibraltar
Despite the fact that it was raining buckets on our heads, and that a dark cloud covered the famous Rock, we had a great time.  Walking with soaked shoes with soaked socks *squish squish squish, we crossed the border by foot.  They barely even looked at our passports.  As we walked out of customs, we immediately see signs of the UK, from the phone booths, to the cute British benches and "rubbish bins".  We were now in English speaking territory.  Or so I thought.  The first shop we stopped in Marcos told me I could speak for a change in English.  I asked the lady if their meat pies needed to be heated at home or if they were ready to eat here.  She couldn't understand me.  She spoke Spanish.  So apparently not everyone speaks English here.  I found out later that there official language is in fact English, but that they speak a dialect called llanito.  It's a mix between English, Spanish and Genoese (and some local words). The people of Gilbratlar can switch from fluent English to fluent Spanish at the snap of a finger.  I was so jealous.  What a great area to raise kids for language skills!
On our walk into Gilbraltar, you have to cross the airport runway.  Yes, you heard me right, you literally walk across the jet way.  There are two traffic lights, one for cars and one for people.  If it's red, it means a plane is either taking off or landing.  It's a small airport with very little air traffic, so we never saw any action on the runway.

By the time we got to the main part of town, we were so wet, you could wring out our clothes.  I felt almost this guilty pull in my stomach for not hiking up the rock, or going up to the rock, but it seemed absolutely pointless because you couldn't see anything up there.  We decided to wait it out and see what happened with the weather, and instead looked at the shops.

After walking the entire street, it finally stopped raining.  We visited a small grave yard, where we discovered a grave stone that had f's instead of s's.  Read the tomb below.
Apparently in the 18th century, their s's looked exactly like f's.
After walking around the touristy areas, we decided to just get lost in the city and walk wherever the roads took us. We walked and walked.  In a lot of ways, Gilbraltar reminded me of Ketchikan because of the way it was built.  It's a town right on the coast, built up on a mountain side.  Little stair cases give you short cuts down to the main road (just like Water Street).  We went through gorgeous parks with tons of Aloe Vera plants, and exotic fish.  The town is a very quiet town.  Nothing like loud Spain.  It almost felt like a ghost town in some areas, not a person in site or a sound to be heard.  Here are a few pictures, you can see more at the web album.
The Famous Rock that is clouded over.
My favorite house that I saw there.  How cute!
Gilbraltar Police Department
After walking for hours, and still feeling that guilty pull in my stomach for not experiencing the best part of Gilbralatar (the rock), we decided to look into going up to the top.  Who knows, maybe you could see something up there after all?  At the top they have caves, monkeys, natural reserves, and more.  Tour guides wanted us to pay around 60 euro each to have them do a guided tour for 2 hours and told us that the cable car was even more expensive because once you get to the top there is an entrance fee.  Since I had already seen cenote caves, we decided to go talk to the cable car people ourselves.  We found out that there is no entrance fee to enter the rock and we would be able to walk around as much as we like up there and see the monkeys for 9 pounds each! (They do euros and pounds here.)  I am so glad we ignored the tour guys.  We decided to go up!
Remnants of castles and war buildings

The fog did eventually clear up and we saw some great city views!

 I hope you enjoyed all these pictures!  School starts tomorrow and I have only 3 more weeks til I come home!   Miss you all! xo

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