Since I have spent some time in the UK, I was really surprised to find it in Spain again. By crossing the border from mainland Spain to Gibraltar, I entered England – and was surprised how British it was.
When I travelled to the South of Spain, people shared very different opinions about where to go and what parts of the country or cities to visit. One very controversial place was Gibraltar – British Overseas Territory on the Iberian Peninsula. Some said, go there, visit the rock, the monkeys and take a look at the African coast from there. Others said, don’t go, it’s not worth a visit. Well, I went there to create my own opinion. And what I experienced there surprised me!
When you live in the UK for a while, you start to love the British accent, the way people talk to you, sometimes overly friendly, you start to smile about eating habits and recipes that seem strange to a central European like me (just think of the various kinds of sausages in brown sauces … well, yes … er … no ;-)). And when you finally leave a bit of your heart in England behind, you’re definitely going to miss it. So do I. Until I went to Gibraltar. It really sounds strange and people at home did not really understand my point when I told them about Gibraltar … but honestly, I felt like being transformed to Great Britain in the South of Spain.
Very British – Look right? No!
When crossing the border from La Línea de la Concepción in the province of Cádiz, you just keep continuing your journey through Spain. Spanish language, Spanish signs and Spanish people checking your ID. That impression changes immediately after your passport has been approved. The style of the buildings changes from the typical white Spanish houses to British colonial architecture. The signs start to tell you where to go in English, red double decker buses wish you a good day via their screens and you see pubs everywhere. Golden letters are inviting you to lager and carrot cake and sausages in brown sauces .
White marble stones are engraved where Queen Elizabeth II was standing during her visit in 1954 (!) – where she enjoyed the view over the bay, where she stood gazing at the stalactites of St. Michael’s Cave, etc., red phone and mail boxes can be seen on literally ever corner and policemen with bobby helmets are patrolling the streets. Looking downwards on the road, you can see white letters telling you to look left. One of the few differences between Gibraltar and the “real” England – there is no driving on the left side of the street. Therefore, keep looking to your left when crossing the street.
Forget Paella – Gibraltar’s food
“Hello, my dear! Are you hungry? Let me show you what I have got today … wonderful bangers and mash with mushy peas!” The lovely lady behind the counter of the café on the Upper Rock of Gibraltar presents the menu of the day. She opens a plastic box and shows me bangers and mash, British sausage and mashed potatoes sprinkled with green mushy peas. I opted for the hot dog, which is neither Spanish nor British, to be fair. Still, I enjoyed the little chat with this very British lady as she reminded me of my favourite ladies in the UK
Carrot cake – yes! I missed that too! There was no way to leave Gibraltar without having carrot cake. The huge portions with the sugary icing on top fill the stomach for the rest of the day.
The Upper Rock – And the British weather
When visiting Gibraltar you just have to go up the Rock to visit the nature reserve and to get to know some of the “charming” monkey in the Apes Den. Going up by cable car you can see the harbour with a lot of sail boats and yachts of various sizes. The further up I went, the worse the weather became. Starting with about 23 Degrees Celsius, I was soon surrounded by grey clouds that were accompanied by a chilly breeze. That’s okay, we’re in Britain, aren’t we?
On top of the Rock, there was no chance to see the harbour. However, I immediately got to know Margarita, one of the monkeys living on the Rock. She happens to be the eldest of the Cable Car Troop macáques. The monkeys living on the rock are used to the tourists, but you must not feed them. They are getting very attached and might want to get inside every single pocket of yours.
While walking down the Rock, you can enter St. Michael’s Cave with its colourfully lit stalagtites, the Apes Den, where a great number of monkey live, the tunnels used in the wars, the battery and the Morish castle – if the roads are not closed, that is.
British vibes in Spain
Gibraltar might not be the most beautiful spot in the world. But I really enjoyed my visit there. It was fascinating to dive into England while being in Spain. Yes, it belongs to Britain, but I did not expect it to be that British at all. Apologies for my ignorance, I had no idea that I would be catapulted to Great Britain while I was travelling through Andalusia. If you are into Britain and happen to be in the area, definitely go there. If you are just looking for a break from Spanish language and Seafood, go for it. If you are searching for a bit of shadow from the Spanish sun, just give it a try…