Our final stop for the day is the three square miles of British Overseas Territory known as Gibraltar. Next year it celebrates 300 years as a non-Spanish 6.8 square km with the anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht. I’m guessing the amount of treaty paperwork used to discuss the territory over that time would be more than enough to wallpaper the monkey-covered limestone rock in its back yard.
While it is part of the EU and votes with the Cornish constituency in the European Parliament, it’s not part of the Schengen area. As such it shares Britain’s fortress mentality and has bloody long queues to get in and out of the place. After crawling through the long vehicle queue for an age, it split into a declare or not lanes. The line for declarations was much much shorter so I decided to go and declare Munson. The guard took our passports, and when I asked if I had to do anything special for the dog, he laughed – no, it’s just the Aussies we worry about! I should have appealed to my Gibraltarian ancestry.
With that out of the way, we drove across the Gibraltar airport runway and into a downtown carpark. From there we spilled out onto “Main Street” which rather alarmingly looks like a regular English high street in an inauspicious market town.
The only thing that convinced me that this wasn’t some ersatz computer simulation was the appalling spelling on the signage which signalled that these folk owed fealty to the birthplace of English.
The actual spoken dialect on the streets is almost as weird as some of the Lancastrian I’ve encountered except this is a mixture of English, Spanish, Arabic and more. The primary form of this is the Anglo-Hispanic Llanito, but some etymologies suggest that the word gibberish comes from this speech.
We walked pretty much the length of the street, past Marks & Spencer and a raft of other high street names, with all the familiar livery of British street signs and mailboxes, often towing a gaggle of kids who wanted to engage with Munson. When Munson placed his paw in my hand in exchange for a treat, one schoolboy yelled out “High five! ¡Olé!”
There wasn’t much else to catch our attention. I wasn’t interested in ascending the rock, and it wouldn’t have been practical to go looking for Barbary apes with Munson in hand.
There was a bit of a rort with the pay machine for the cark-park. It didn’t accept credit cards (another sign that we were on British territory) but it did accept both Euros and British currency. However it only gives change in Gibraltarian pounds. So as you prepare to depart the territory, you have nowhere to spend it.
We then got into one of the four departure lanes (not counting the separate one for two-wheeled vehicles) and slowly edged out way past border control. Our time in Gibraltar had been about 1/3 queuing, which made me all misty-eyed for France. More than any conglomeration of languages, Gibraltar’s bicultural heritage demonstrates how you can combine the rigidity of British queuing with the pointlessness of the southern European file.
Only an hour back to Medina-Sidonia, where Peter had made us a fresh and très merveilleuse ratatouille for dinner.