Gibraltarians are celebrating the fact that even though the British have been there for 300 years, Gibraltar has developed from a British colony with a military enclave into a financial center with luxury thrown in.
As you approach the Rock, the views from the airplane are fantastic. Ground level views can be equally exciting with the Mediterranean on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other and the familiar lines of the limestone Rock dominating the skyline.
Just two and a half hours from London’s Gatwick Airport, with the British Pound as the currency and VAT and duty-free shopping, Gibraltar is a great location for a weekend get-away. If you’ve been there in the past and thought “It’s just tired old pubs and lots of nasty fish and chip shops”, think again. Gib has gone all cocktails and cappuccinos.
Gibraltar has the world’s smallest airport and I love the story of one plane load of visitors, on their approach to landing, being told by their pilot, “Not to worry, but we seem to have a ship in the way of our approach to the runway! I have asked the Gibraltar police to get it out of our way so we’ll be landing shortly.”
Although most people there speak both English and Spanish and English is the official language, you will hear a mixture of Spanish and English called “Llanito” spoken all over the Rock. The population of the Rock, roughly 29,000, is a unique mixture of Portuguese, Indians, Brits, Genoans, Jews, Maltese, Moroccans and of course, Spanish. They have combined a quick wit with the British dry sense of humour and the zest for life of Andalusia, which is only a few miles away.
Book yourself into one of several good hotels, such as the Hotel Caleta, located at Catalan Bay which was once a small fishing village. Once there you can enjoy its location on the Mediterranean side to watch the waves or catch a stunning sunrise if you manage to wake up early enough. The beach is lined with small bars and some restaurants including La Mamela, at the southern end, which serves excellent seafood along with Andalusian paella, fish stews and peppercorn steaks.
After a very civilised lunch, prise yourself out of your chair and head for the pedestrianised town centre to pick up some of the bargains Gib is famous for. While in the town, wander away from the shops and climb into the narrow lanes that will remind you of the charming towns and villages in Spain just a few miles to the north. If you’re lucky you might just catch, wafting in the air, the wonderful scent of Moroccan, Indian or Chinese spices combined with the fried garlic used in so many recipes.