On The Borderline... Gibraltar, British Overseas Territory!

Keeping it within the Crown, I choose the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar for my short January 2015 holiday. Endorsing the Gibraltar Rock, I craved the taste of British food as I stood on Spain's doorstep! There was a Morrisons in Gib? British since 1704, Gibraltar has some typically British sights but retains a certain something that keeps its individuality. On the what?

Standing on 'La Frontera' on the Spanish side of the borderline, I had to take a moment or two to take in the magnificent view I had of the Rock of Gibraltar! Standing before me with the flags of two nations fluttering in the morning's sky, that was some international situation. I had wanted to visit this Mediterranean 'British Overseas Territory' for a while, so I bit that bullet! I woke early with a mission to see what Gib had to show me, I wanted nothing less than Overseas British Realness! Showing my British passport secured me entrance into somewhere closer to home compared to Spain, thankfully the runway was shut because that was the road that would took me closer to the Rock! How bizarre it felt to be crossing a live runway, other people walked across that tarmac with their everyday commute to work in mind. Many people who were walking the same route as me were making their way from the Spanish Mainland over to their jobs in Gibraltar. I knew that I was no longer in Spain when I saw a British Red Telephone Box!

From the winding calles of La Línea, I was faced with a barrage of council flats that made me feel right at home! I felt very much at home minus the Rock and the temperate climbs, I could have been in the West Midlands! Winston Churchill Avenue told me that this slice of Blighty was going to serve pure quintessential British characteristics. Quoting what I had previously seen on Channel 5's documentary that featured Gibraltar, I recognised several things as I made my first impressions of Gib. Would I be going to the top of the Rock? No, I like to keep my feet on the ground providing I'm not on-board an aircraft. With the Rock looking down over me and the rest of Gibraltar I knew I had to see as much of this endearing territory! Those council flats baffled me, I could live in a residence like the Gibraltarian's do. My Monarch Airlines flight had only landed the other morning but I wanted to build the hype, thinking about it was almost like I hadn't boarded that flight! Gibraltar, how I wanted to know your secret! Llanito, what? Alright! 

Straight up, I didn't have a plan for my time in Gibraltar! After making my way over the borderline, I unknowingly headed towards Grand Casemates Square to piece together another reference from that Channel 5 documentary series. Formerly known as 'La Esplanada' before the Treaty of Utrecht was signed. Given that it was before 9 a.m the bars and restaurants were just opening but I could only imagine the excitement and energy the walled square would usually serve. The British vibe of Gibraltar could be felt everywhere as I made my way closer to Main Street. Honestly, it was completely bizarre to think that I was practically in an overseas slice of Britain. I would be lying to say that I was expecting to see something else but it was such a mash of contrasts, I was speechless. Spain had recently celebrated the Epiphany so I drank my body weight in beer so I wasn't feeling alive, that wasn't going to stop me seeing Casemates Square. Where was that much needed Full English Breakfast at? I needed to know, I was hungry! Dios!

I didn't look for a 'Desayuno Completo' over the border in Spain, I was looking for a familiar British plate for breakfast! Choosing the Gibraltar Arms for my breakfast worked like a treat, trusting the 'Early Starter' with a cup of English tea, I was laughing! The Great British brands surfaced as I walked along Main Street from Grand Casemates Square. That continuous bizarre notion carried on furthermore and more. Marks & Spencer served Royal Britannia with its quintessential range of UK based products, was I in some state of UK euphoria? If I was in any need of a herbal remedy, I could have relied on Holland and Barrett to cure me better. I had been clever to take half Pound Sterling and half Euros so I had a hassle free trip, lets just say my British currency came in handy when I needed it the most! I won't lie I did see some Moorish and Spanish influence in the architecture but the colonial British vibe stayed stronger! Gibraltar, was representing its mixed past in the present tense in a Royal fashion! It was almost like home?

I had an idea that a certain British supermarket could be found in Gibraltar, would be a TESCO or a Morrisons? It was the latter of those two, I made two trips to Gibraltar's main supermarket. Sure, I managed to get some familiar things like toothpaste and shower gel that had the same logos and packaging that would be present in my UK Mainland Morrisons, it was the pure novelty of the situation. The blend between my hometown Morrisons and Gib's had me feeling like I was already back home, it was warm outside so I wasn't in England for sure! Serving Gibraltar since 1994, that British superstore stood surrounded by a sizeable housing estate that resembled council flats I could see at home, it was like a home away from home? I forgot to mention that I didn't go near the Upper Rock for two reasons, I don't have a head for heights and the cable car was closed for maintenance. Really it was the monkeys, I really didn't fancy my chances because I wanted to keep things in order. Yes, Gibraltar impressed me much either way. 

I must confess that the Gibraltarian people had a crazy chat going on, was it Spanish or English that was being spoken? It all became clear that a dialect known as 'Llanito' sets the conversation on the streets with a mix of many influences due to Gib's colourful past. I listened in my amazement because their 'Llanito' cut mid-sentence from Spanish with their unique Anglo-influenced language. Gibraltar gave me a sense of Britain but it had elements of its past that stretched as far as Italy and Morocco, many influences had played its part but Gib stood proud of its Britishness! I enjoyed experiencing the differences, crossing the border from Spain and back again into Gib allowed me to hear the opinions each Spaniard and Gibraltarian had of each others homes. I marvelled at the mixed colonial architecture with the comforts of home in the local Morrisons for good measure. Of course, I would love to visit more British Overseas Territories and those who stand as 'former' to see what remanent of Empire still exists. Done, G!

Gibraltar Is British!

Joseph Harrison 


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