Casemates Square, March 2017. I can honestly say that Gibraltar is one of the strangest places I’ve ever been to. But in a good way! Red telephone boxes, colonial style pubs and bobbies on the beat. Authentic Indian food, fish and chips, tea and scones… newsagents selling Ripples, Double Deckers and sticks of rock. It really is Britain (!), but with year-round sunshine and a stunning location perched on the edge of the Alboran Sea. Walking over the border from the Spanish town of La Línea de la Concepción, it took me about twenty minutes down Winston Churchill Avenue before I arrived at this main square. It takes its name from the series of bombproof barracks at the square’s northern end. Built in 1817, today they are home to cafés, shops, restaurants and Gibraltar’s Crystal Workshop. Anyone looking for breakfast should look no further than the wonderful Lord Nelson Pub.
Main Street, March 2017. For someone who’s been stationed in mainland Spain for the past year, a walk down Gibraltar’s Main Street came as a bit of a head f****! After all, it’s got Marks and Spencer, Next, Mothercare and a BHS. There are a number of traditional pubs too, such as The Horseshoe and The Angry Friar. The buildings themselves are an odd mix of British, Spanish, Portuguese and Moorish. And Main Street is not only about shopping; you can also pop your head into Gibraltar Methodist Church and check out the statue tributes to Lord Nelson and the Royal Engineers.
Trafalgar Cemetery, March 2017. This lovely little cemetery, located beyond Main Street just to the south of the city walls, offers up a welcome break from the town’s hustle and bustle. Dating back to 1798, the graveyard only actually includes two victims from The Battle of Trafalgar. The rest is made up of fatalities in and around Gibraltar between 1802 and 1814. Although no longer used for burials, it is remains the site of an annual ceremony on October the 21st to mark Trafalgar Day.
Devil’s Gap Road, March 2017. There are numerous ways to get up onto Gibraltar Rock for a hike around the amazing nature reserve. You can work your way up the steep gravel drive at the top end of Alameda Botanic Gardens, or take a more direct route up via Castle Steps, just off Main Street. Another option is the unashamedly patriotic Devil’s Gap Road. Also referred to as the Union Jack Steps or Referendum Steps, they were originally painted in 1967 to mark Gibraltar’s first sovereignty referendum.
Governor’s Street Chambers, March 2017. I was on my way back down into town with a French guy called Loic when it happened. We’d just finished an exhilarating three-hour hike around the rock’s stupendous Mediterranean Steps nature trail and were eagerly anticipating a celebratory beer at Lord Nelson Pub. But neither of us had spotted the drunk, pint-sized silver-haired man’s advances until he was upon us. “Where are you from and where are you going?” he slurred with a cheerful grin. “I’m from London and he’s from France” I replied, as two merry accomplices arrived. One of them, a bald bulldog of a man, wore a face-spanning smile that oozed genuine warmth. The other was a slimmer gentleman with a receding hairline and perhaps a touch of aristocracy. “Come with us… we’re celebrating… have a drink… do you like jazz?” asked silver-hair. So Loic and I followed them into a handsome townhouse on Governor’s Street. “I’m Tom Hillman!” garbled silver-hair, shaking my hand with much excitement. “I’m the worst fucking lawyer in the world!” There followed a booming round of laughter, after which Mr. Hillman turned to his lofty friend. “This is Stephen Ffrench Davis, he’s the BEST fucking lawyer in the world!!!” More laughter. The remaining man, who seemed to be the least drunk of the three, introduced himself as Stephen Bullock. Pouring everyone a glass of champagne, Mr. Ffrench Davis announced that his sister had just delivered a child, so we all toasted the occasion with a round of glass clinking. And then we all shot the shit for a bit while the worst fucking lawyer in the world disappeared off to find a piano that no longer existed. It was a warm, wonderful and highly amusing experience and one that will always give Gibraltar a special place in the old memory box.