Monday, 2 February 2015

Gibraltar (Nathanial)

We have been looking forward to getting to Gibraltar, to the point that we have hot tailed it here and done more miles than we normally would.  We are hoping to replace our stolen goods here as it will sell British laptops, and its tax free, which is a bonus.

Alfie is also looking forward to being in a small part of Britain again, where everyone speaks English and we can find a ‘Pizza Hut’.

Strangely though, as we get to Gibraltar, British weather greets us, it is overcast and even starts raining! The first rain we’ve seen for weeks.
Next stop, Gibraltar, look at those clouds!
To add to it, the aire we were supposed to be staying in is closed, which we aren’t happy about, fortunately as we drive along the beach front we see loads of campers in the local football stadium car park. This looks friendly enough so we pull in to be greeted by an attendant who tells us it is 3 euros a night, and he is on shift until the evening.  This is good news as we need to start trying to recoup some money to replace our stolen stuff. It’s not the nicest of grounds; it’s quite muddy since it rained but it will do, and its right next to McD’s for Wi-Fi, and only a five minute bike ride into Gib.

The following day we cycle in to Gibraltar, which turns out is quite a palaver with two kids and being on bikes. The border is manic with dozens of dodgy looking people waiting outside just hanging around; it seems there is a lot of money to be made taking tobacco out of Gib, around 200 euros per day we are told. When you consider that a local would only make around 600 euros in a month working in an unskilled job and that unemployment is over 30% you can see the appeal. Unfortunately, from a visitor’s point of view it looks very anarchic and gives the place a sense of deprivation.

Once we do navigate our way through, over the border and get to the center, it’s great. It has a feel of old Britain, with cobbled streets and the old fashioned telephone boxes scattered around. None of the police have guns (which we have come accustomed to seeing) and even looked friendly with their ‘Bobby’ hats on. Never thought I would ever say that.
What's so special about a red box Dad!
Today is a shopping day to try and find a lap top etc. This is pretty easy and relatively cheap, thankfully. Alfie is happy again, now he can play Mine craft to his heart’s content. Unfortunately though, finding a 12v TV for the van has turned out fruitless; there are none in Gib anywhere it seems. I also need a new coat as the theivin’ dogs took mine and the boys. We managed to find one for Tom, but not for me or Alf, not a decent rain coat to be found anywhere. I guess the demand for a good raincoat just isn’t here, we can’t even find a camping shop, does no-one from Gibraltar even camp?

The mouse was very insulted that Alf wouldn't stand on the other side next to him.
The next day Beth has come down with some kind of bug but ,bless her she is still game for walking up Gib rock. We put our walking shoes on, make a picnic, and tackle the border again. We spend all day walking around the rock, seeing some of the tunnels, ‘Jews Gate’, The Pillars of Hercules, and of course, spend lots of time with the monkeys.

Off the beaten track walking to 'Jews Gate'

The Pillars of Hercules
These are very entertaining creatures and the boys loved them. After a full on day walking for miles we decide to treat ourselves to dinner in Gib and eat some good old fashioned British pub food. Jobs a good un.

The boys couldn't believe there was so many monkeys

This monkey felt very offended by Alf's offering

Monkeys taking pictures of monkeys, taking pictures of monkeys..........just kiddin' love
It’s now been a few days in the car park and Beth in particular is missing the shower and we are too low on water to have one in the van. For some reason I am quite happy to ‘skank it’ for a few days, and if we didn’t force the boys to shower, they would go without for weeks!

So off we go to find a camp site, driving through some very rough areas of Spain. The sat-nav just doesn’t understand these things sometimes and brings us through the most tiniest of streets and narrowest of allies, which in the van, can be pretty tricky, but we find our destination and book in. We are at Sur Europa camp site.

The site is completely empty, we are the only van here, and I do mean the only one. This is slightly unnerving, but after booking in and settling down, it turns out it is actually one of the nicest ones we have come across, being on par with Orange Grove in Beth’s eyes (Orange grove being the benchmark for all Aires/campsite). The showers are clean and spacious, but what’s more, they are hot and powerful. Wi-Fi is free, Alf’s happy, and we hook up to recharge the batteries, although funnily enough since not having electrical gadgets, the batteries have actually been ok.

After a while setting up the laptop and downloading software, me and Tom hit the showers. Now after a few days ‘skanking it’ a good hot shower is truly appreciated, to the point that Tom spends forty minutes just standing under it. Bless him, after such a long shower, hair wash and ear clean, he’s a new boy. To top it off, there are loads of cats that live on the camp site and the lads are soaking them up, happy days.
Feeling very clean after an hour in the shower
In the morning, after filling up with water, we head back to the car park for a few more cheap nights. It’s due to rain again so we know we have a day not doing much before we head back for another day in Gib. This is where Beth drops the bombshell on me; she’s feeling very homesick and wants to go home!!! Argggh, I had a sense this was coming. This lifestyle is not for her, and I know Alfie has struggled a bit too, but he's enjoying it and has become less homesick as the weeks have gone on. For me and Tom, we have just took it in our strides, in fact, I haven’t been this content with life for years and years, I could do this for ever. I get to spend all day with the boys and everything is an adventure with them, we see new things constantly, I love just watching them play, and fight, and not having anything else in my head. Seeing how they deal with being in new situations regularly is truly amazing, they are now just accepting that change is normal, and together they are confident enough to tackle anything. As much as they can wind each other up, they draw great strength from each other too. Alf is missing the cats, but I believe this will be an experience that will follow him to the grave. I’m hoping this feeling will pass with Beth.

The next day we pull into a park area which Tom has had his eye on for days and kept asking to play in. Beth is still feeing under the weather and falls asleep on Alf’s bed whilst Alf plays his DS, and I just sit looking at Tom through the widow.

The park is close to the fence separating Gib from Spain and on the beach next to a board walk. All in all, a very picturesque park. Suddenly, there is a large gathering of lads in their teens – twenties. I decide to stay in the van and observe as Tom has been playing very nicely with another child, and I want to see how he will react to a large group of older lads embarking on the park. Tom is completely un-phased by this or the language barrier and interjects himself with the older lads who have decided to sit at the top of the slide area smoking fags. Tom decides he still wants to use the slide and keeps walking through the middle of them to get to where he needs to be.

After a short while, some scooters ride over the board walk towards the fence and some of the lads follow them. By now I’m just getting a feeling that something really dodgy is happening which involves more than a few lads smoking fags at the local park, so I walk over and decide it’s time for Tom to come in for a nice hot chocolate.  No sooner had I picked him up and got in the van when two coppers on bikes raced over the board walk to where the scooters went and grabbed two of the lads, then two border patrol cars pulled up and started questioning some of them. This went on for about 20 minutes before the lads were allowed to leave.

 I asked Tom if he had seen anything or knew why the police had turned up, he said he only saw a group of lads come from the Gib side of the fence and throw loads of suitcases over, and then another load of lads went to pick them up. But, more importantly, “Where’s my hot chocolate you made me come in for Dad?!!”

 As soon as the border patrol drive off, about six lads appear from the undergrowth and run off across the street, leaving some others still hanging around the park. Two minutes later these lads start to run off and about five Guarda Civil cars screech up and grab the lot, man handling them against the cars for what looks like a grilling. This is my signal to leave. Sorry Tom, the hot chocolate will have to wait.

Beth and Alfie fancy a quiet day the flowing morning so me and Tom head into Gib on our own. There has been a glass blowing exhibition whist we have been here, we’ve already been in once but Tom is fascinated by it and wants to go in again to see how they do ‘glass blowing’. We spend about half an hour just watching two very skilled men make the most amazing vases and glasses. Next door is the shop where the finished items are sold; you can pick up a nice glass vase for around £300, the shop is jammed with loads of very delicate pieces which Tom insists on looking at. Tom being Tom can’t just look with his eyes, and his hands start to get dangerously close to picking things up, that’s our cue to leave.  We treat ourselves to a nice pub lunch and head back. At this point it is hammering it down and we are completely soaked, no excuse to tell Tom not to ride through puddles, so I let him go for it, bless him, he loves it.
It really is an art
After spending one more day in Gib relaxing in the botanic garden and having lunch, we decide it’s time to head towards Portugal, but not before spending some time with my cousin and her fella (Alison & Steve) in Marbella. Alison can speak Spanish so I am hoping she can help with sourcing a 12v TV over here. Fingers crossed.
Tom getting a bit too relaxed in the gardens

1 comment:

  1. I have loved reading this, better than any best seller. xxxx mum


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