Let me take you somewhere you have never been before. Up on a rock which stands next to the sea, green and magnificent. No, we are not alone here and we’re just uninvited guests. That’s their home and we’re intruding, so be kind and quiet. But beware, for they like to harass you when you least expect it, jump on your back, pull your hair and steal your jacket or your camera. This is the rock of Gibraltar, their rock, and they’ll do what they want.
Driving to Gibraltar: a wide street right next to a huge sandy beach, palm trees planted along the pavement, blue concrete benches and people jogging. Passing the borders took some time, passports in and out the car window, suspicious glances, please open the trunk. British accent with a slight tone of Spanish. Right after the border control, the street passes though the small airport’s runway. I’ve never driven on a runway before, not without being arrested anyhow. The signs are all different colours, miles instead of kilometers. The Queen’s figure appears occasionally. Colourful touristy banners advertising fish and chips, afternoon tea and bargain pints. We park the car and pay in pounds. We’re in the UK alright.
It’s impossible to resist the temptation: we head directly for the rock. We reach the cable car, there is a long line already. Some men trying to sell car drives up the rock, loud voices, rude manners. The sun is shining bright, there is no shade above us. British, Russians, Japanese, Germans, Dutch and us. Families with kids, school groups, one or two retired couples. Holding maps and putting on sun cream, looking for wifi signal. The cable car is Swiss, we are standing packed, trying to get a glimpse of the view as we move to the top. The port on the other side of the bay, some courageous tourists climbing the rock on foot despite the heat. It’s 2 pm.
Right outside the cable car, this guy is waiting for us. Almost still, yet posing for pictures. Seemingly calm. Some minutes after, he loses interest, turns his back at us and stares at the sea. The tourists move on to see the rest of the view. So do we.
The sea breeze in our faces. The smell of wildflowers. Seagulls floating below at the beach. The horizon ample and blue, curving slightly at the edges, following the curves of the earth. The endless views of the sea. We seat down on the concrete bench and gaze, not speaking. Sure we’ve been on higher mountains, but never next to the sea level. It feels like being on a static plane, frozen at the take-off.
Laughs around us, in all languages. Directions to pose. Lift up your hand, smile a bit for me, that’s not the right angle, the light isn’t right. The monkeys jump out of the bushes or lazily lie in the sun. The gift shop sells souvenirs: coffee mugs, T-shirts, small stuffed monkeys for the kids. One small Russian is crying in her buggy: a real monkey just stole her fake one, and won’t let go. The dad tries to recover the toy in vain; she won’t give it back, she shrieks and shows her teeth. She walks away and disappears in the trees, dragging the stuffed toy behind her. Surreal, yet funny. Later on, I spot the kid with a new toy. Order restored.
A last round to have a last good look at the rock. The clouds make us feel even higher up, running past us in pretty shapes. An industrial overpriced ice-cream. Small-talk with the shop girl. It’s time to go down.
A tour at the small, rather flat city. Some beautiful buildings. English names in the streets, shops, tourists, currency exchange. Walking in the small alleys. Fish and chips, next to the sea. Two ladies next to us seem to be locals and speak in English, mixing in Spanish words. It’s time to go, the storm is coming.
Some minutes after the border, we stop and gaze at the kite surfers, the rock on the fond. Gibraltar seems rougher and hostile all of the sudden; still charming in the weirdest of ways.