Chips on The Rock: Gibraltar

We’d heard the stories, read the legends and seen other people’s holiday photos, but nothing could possibly have prepared us for what we’d find in the weird British exclave that is Gibraltar. I consider myself a staunch anti-colonialist so I feel we should hand it back to Spain immediately, but I couldn’t resist having a peek at this weird version of ‘Weston-super-Mare on the Med’. Just once, before post-apocalyptic Brexit hell forbids me from travelling entirely.

We parked up on the Spanish side of the border, and walked across, the guards barely glancing at our passports. Soon, we were greeted with this casual reminder that Britain had a eugenicist for PM. What a great nation we are.

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This guy literally thought colonialism was good for indigenous people? What gives, Gibraltar?

Then, the day-tripper has the novelty of physically crossing the airport runway (why? To get to the other side, of course…) to proceed into town. In contrast to the highly-guarded airport landing strips back home, Gibraltar seems worryingly lax. I understand there’s literally no other way in, but it surprises me nobody has thought to open up a new route, or go around, or something.

IMG_20170614_130332428The imposing Pillar of Hercules, as seen by me, who definitely shouldn’t be loitering on the runway.

If you’re not really into military history, like me, then you won’t find the history of Gibraltar particularly interesting. Architecturally, the place is a total mismatch, and it’s all very warlike. Admittedly I only spent about 4 hours there but it’s a very small place, so you get a good sense of what its essence is.

Something that really struck me was the plethora of UK shops, all existing in this boiling hot and distinctly Spanish climate. We came across an F+F (that’s Tesco clothing WITHOUT a Tesco shop adjoining it), a Peacocks, and even an H. Samuel.

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This is weirder than Marks and Sparks in Malaysia, but I was very glad to pick up some Colin the Caterpillar veggie sweets.

Also, people in Gibraltar have a funny accent. Sounds like basic xenophobia, but it’s true. It’s sort of weird Cockney infused with the odd Spanish word. I don’t know. As a mainland Brit, the whole place was a bit discomforting, but still we were glad to have seen it.

Gibraltar’s also famous for its steep rock, and the ravenous monkeys that inhabit it. My parents had never seen monkeys in the wild, so from my experiences in South East Asia I warned them that they will 100% steal anything you have, if you give the buggers a chance. Up we went in the dodgy 1970s cable car with this in mind.

As soon as we reached the top, a monkey jumped into the cable car, recognising that we tourists were likely to be carrying tasty snacks. I ran out, paranoid about rabies from last year’s bout of injections and travel clinic visits. Dad thought it was funny though. This, from the man who was scared of cows.

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Thankfully, they had their eyes and hands on someone else’s lunch.

We walked around a bit and admired the views, straining our eyes to see Morocco through the sea mist. There’s not a lot to see at the top, but you can watch the hundreds of ships on the horizon, and get brilliant views of the area.

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The Strait of Gibraltar is one of the world’s busiest shipping channels.

The cafeteria at the top was a mix between Swiss mountain diners and a mediocre British cafe. It was showing BBC news as we ate our ice creams, and we watched the horrors of the burning Grenfell Tower unfold. Such a tragedy that could so easily have been prevented, if the evil forces of government cuts and capitalism hadn’t combined to put the lives of working class people of colour at risk. The gap between the rich and the poor is wider than ever before, and people of colour are the hardest hit, paying for poverty with their lives. How some can just gloss over this and do nothing is a travesty.

Going back down on the rickety cable car, my mum began craving the chippy, as we were starting to miss the taste of home. Even though it was Portuguese Jews who invented fish and chips, nothing quite beats the soggy, fried potatoes you can find in Poole. We stumbled across Tina’s Takeaway on Main Street. This was an awesome takeaway run by a Filipina lady, serving ‘British and Filipino cuisine’. I suppose because she spoke English and Spanish well, Gibraltar seemed like a good place to settle. It was full of locals, suggesting that it was quality. It turned out she made the chips totally fresh, chopping the potatoes right in front of us and frying them there and then. Absolutely incredible, and better than anything you could find at home!

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The ultimate chip shop experience. She does it better than any surly, bald white bloke you’ll find in the UK.

Bellies full of junk food, we took the bus back to the border, stocked up on Dairy Milk in the supermarket, and crossed back into Spain. I’ll never forget my exceedingly strange day in Gibraltar, and I loved the food, but boy was I glad to escape the ultra-nationalistic jingoism.

I still think we should give it back to Spain, though.


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