Living in a tiny place which is surrounded on sides by sea makes this week’s photo challenge a cinch. That said though, my first photos feature a rather choppy North Sea taken at one of our favourite places; Southwold in Suffolk.
Although most of my childhood holidays were spent on the west coast of the British Isles, the temperature and colour of the sea in Southwold are the same as what I was used to as a child. Rarely was it a pleasureable experience to go paddling in the sea, but you still do it when you’re a child!
Now for some waves a little closer to our current home…
Just look at that turquoise water!
Quick! Out of the way!!
Aah that’s better!
I’m linking with Nana Cathy and Wild Daffodil for this weekly photo challenge throughout 2017.
Calentita This is a baked pancake-like dish, the Italian farinata, also known in Genoa as fainá. It is made with chickpea flour, water, olive oil, salt and pepper. The word calentita is the informal diminutive of the Spanish word caliente which means “nice and warm (or hot)”. Wikipedia
Visitors to Casemates Square early on last weekend couldn’t fail to spot the signs that something interesting was about to happen. The Calentita food festival is now in it’s 11th year and after a hiatus of six years, we decided to pay it a visit this time. On our return to Casemates on Saturday evening it was clear that many others had decided to come too.
Back when we had our first Calentita experience, seven years ago, it was a much smaller event to the one we visited this weekend. It featured a number of food stalls selling a wide variety of foreign food choices and was centered around a stage in Casemates Square.
On the night, we joined some friends on a large table at one of the nearby restaurants and made an odd foray towards the food tents. With two small children (one in a buggy) the whole thing was an assault on the senses, loud, crowded and really not the best or easiest environment to steer little people through, and the long queues at the food tents put us off waiting to try the various delicacies on offer.
That said, many of our fellow festival goers had a thoroughly good night. Those with older children (who revelled in being trusted to head off to the stalls without parental supervision and buy their own dinner) and those who came without children had a great time.
We tried one more time, the following year, and gave it up as a bad job. Fast forward to 2017 and we had three children to bring with us and they were all a good deal older. The venue itself had changed as much as our family in the intervening years – it had grown bigger.
Now the event not only covers Casemates Square (albeit in a less crowded way and with a less densely populated tent arrangement) and spills over into the area beyond the Grand Casemates Gates and into the Market Place, Bus Station and beyond. My word, what a difference that means for overcrowding – a huge improvement for us to start with.
This next photo isn’t very clear but you should be able to make out the large stage at the far end (complete with performers) and a very long table in the foreground. It was busy with people but there was room to move – what a huge improvement.
Now down to the nitty gritty – food! (Well it is a food festival after all.) There were over 40 different food tents to choose from catering for all tastes from hot dogs to hog roasts, Pad Thai to popcorn and Calentita to craft beers.
We decided that the best way to deal with the queues and three hungry boys was to split up, I queued for Margarita pizza slices (we have one Little Postcard who isn’t overly adventurous in the food stakes) while Mr Postcard headed to an Asian stall and returned with a lovely samosa for me (below) and quite possibly the best onion bhaji ever to have tickled my tastebuds.
We headed out of the Square and into the Bus Station area beyond, which now had craft stalls standing where the buses usually wait. All along the road were many more stalls on both sides.
I was on a mission; one Little Postcard was adamant he wanted noodles. I joined the queue at the Phillipino food stall and waited for my turn only to discover they had run out! I got a couple of pork kebabs though and they were delicious. One kept the wolf from the door for our noodle lover as we continued on our quest.
They were even cooked in front of us…
They got a big thumbs up, as did this rather tasty spring roll!
For the grown ups there was plenty of choice in the beverage department, with any amount of drinks to wet your whistle.
There was even a cocktail bar sited atop the old sea walls which encircle this part of town (below). Needless to say we didn’t visit and made do with a rather nice lager in a plastic cup.
Heading back into Casemates Square, and the crowds were growing. A number of local bands took to the stage to entertain the Calentita-ites and the atmosphere was buzzing. We did sample other culinary delights but I can’t for the life of me remember what they were – suffice to say, we didn’t go home hungry.
As the sun began to set, we took our leave of Calentita for 2017. Little legs were wilting and it was time for our exit.
Calentita 2017 was by far our best Calentita to date as a family. As an event it was barely recognisable from our previous encounters and overwhelmingly for the better. Hats off to the organisers who clearly have honed the festival over time.
As a family with young-ish children, this year’s event doesn’t compare to our previous failed attempts at gastronomic family unity. I would recommend anyone who hasn’t tried it before to give it a go next year.
PS I have one shameful admission… almost eight years living in Gibraltar and I have yet to sample actual Calentita (hangs her head in shame). I promise I will put that right.
It’s been a long time since I last took you on a stroll around Gibraltar, so here’s a new jaunt around this place we have made our home; it’s less of a walk and more is a drive though! It’s been inspired by a tongue in cheek gift Mr Postcard received for Christmas a few years ago… traffic islands or roundabouts are the subject matter today.
Apparently there is such a thing as a ‘Roundabout spotter’ so if there are any of you out there in cyberspace this one’s for you!
Gibraltar has a good few roundabouts considering it is a pretty small place. This is not a comprehensive catalogue of them all, but here are a few …
… beginning with the Sundial Roundabout.
This is the first Roundabout you will encounter if you arrive in Gibraltar by road. There is a mini (painted on the road) roundabout next to the airport, but this is the most northerly proper roundabout.
The sculpture in the centre forms a sundial and the points of the compass are marked out on the grass verge running around it (you can see N for North in the photo above). Also around the base are images of the symbols of the zodiac.
When Gibraltar enjoyed it’s most recent royal visit from the Earl & Countess of Wessex, back in 2012, planters were put on top of the compass letters and it looked beautifully colourful.
Our most southerly roundabout of note is this one next to to mosque at Europa Point.
From afar it looks like a natural planting arrangement with rocks and pebbles and a few plants. Up close though, you can see a flock of metal birds.
I have tried to find out what they are, but failed. They do look to me rather like Gibraltar’s native Barbary Partridges though.
It’s not just Gibraltar’s wildlife which is celebrated in traffic island form – it’s nautical history is too. An anchor takes centre stage at this roundabout on the junction with Queensway and Ragged Staff Road.
Some of our roundabouts are planted with tropical plants, there are a couple close to Morrisons supermarket- this is one of them.
The story of what happened to the civilian population of Gibraltar is marked by this beautiful statue of Evacuees returning home to the Rock after many years separated from their friends, families and their homes.
Gibraltar’s newest roundabout is this one on Queensway. Decorated with a sculpture in the shape of the Rock of Gibraltar with the shapes of figures cut out of it, it’s a monument to the women of Gibraltar.
As the sun moves around the Rock during the day, the figures cast by the sunlight move around and appear to be supporting the structure. It was unveiled officially on 6th December last year by the Chief Minister’s wife, Justine Picardo. The two women behind the work are architect; Ruth Massias Greenberg and artist & sculptor; Ermelinda Duarte.
How about a roundabout where you have a good chance of getting wet on a stormy day?
Built on top of the breakwater surrounding the new small boat marina, this road and its little roundabout offer a great vantage point for spotting cruise ships, and rather impressive yachts, like this one!
My absolute favourite traffic island has to be the one at the Trafalgar Interchange. When we first arrived in Gibraltar to live, it wasn’t particularly remarkable, but during our first few years here, a lot of work was done to smarten this area up and it’s just beautiful now.
The flower beds nearby are lush and well maintained and the shrubs on the island are neatly clipped. It makes me smile when I see it planted up with new bedding several times a year.
The whole area is a real green oasis, I love this lush corner of Gibraltar.
Look it’s even home for a special visitor at Christmas time!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this lighthearted look at what many people may consider to be mundane traffic islands, I fear I may have turned into a bit of a roundabout spotter myself!
Last Saturday morning, my alarm went off at 7 so that I could get up the hill to the start of the Med Steps 5 Challenge. After a couple of days with rain showers I was relieved to see that the forecast of cloudy but dry skies was correct.
It wasn’t long before the crowds of walkers and their supporters began to arrive. Just after 9am, the safety briefing began in readiness for the start of the event.
And at approximately 9:30, we were off and underway on lap one! It wasn’t too bad as we were carried along with the momentum of the crowd, although by the summit, the crowd had thinned out a bit.
There were a lot of tourists on the Upper Rock and the apes had come out to greet them, and us!
48 minutes for the first lap, not too bad.
The wildflowers are at their peak in the nature reserve at the moment, these poppies were my favourite.
2 laps done…
And here’s the proof!
Onwards and upwards…
Three laps in two and a half hours…
Time for a breather and a great view south towards the lighthouse.
Starting to slow up a bit… Almost a whole hour for lap number 4.
On the final lap and I was starting to flag, I couldn’t even focus the picture! Thank you Soreen for giving me the energy to finish (you can take the girl out of Manchester…).
The floor in parts of the walk was carpeted in a confetti of olive blossom. I was looking down a lot at this point, just trying to get one foot in front of the other…
I did it! I even managed 15 minutes faster than last year (I have no idea how I managed that with less training, unless the extra weight brought me down quicker 😉).
Look, five stamps, one for each lap of the challenge. Phew, I’m glad that’s over, anyone fancy joining me next year?
Time to collapse…
If you would like to hear some of the atmosphere of the day, why not give my latest podcast a listen here?
So, the time has almost come, it’s nearly time to lace up those trainers, slap on the suncream and hope for the best… it’s Med Steps 5 Challenge time!
The beautiful rugged pathway which leads walkers (and very fit runners) from Jews Gate to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar will become purgatory for those of us who, for some strange reason, thought it would be a good idea to do it 5 times!
Last year I completed the climb 5 times with a couple of friends (after agreeing it would be fun) over a slightly boozy Christmas meal. Well, I’m not sure ‘fun’ is the word I’d use. It was flipping hard work, it was hot too, but the atmosphere of the event was amazing and the sense of achievement was something else.
It was by far toughest physical challenge I’ve ever faced (aside from childbirth). I am not a sporty or athletic person by any shade of the imagination, but after 4 and a half months of training I was thrilled to be able to cross the finish line in 4 hours and 40 minutes along side my training buddies.
We managed to raise a considerable amount of money too for the wonderful Cancer Relief Centre here in Gibraltar. The Centre supports people undergoing cancer treatment with all sorts of complimentary care and services, it has a children’s playground and a new after school club for children affected by cancer, as well as advice for patients and listening ear.
I think I remember saying after it was all over that I was pleased I’d done it, but never again… so why am I preparing to turn up at the starting line again this time? I’m not sure to be honest! We did begin our training in January as a trio again but other commitments and life got in the way for my training partners from last year, so they will be cheering me on from the sidelines.
In fact, life has kind of got in the way for me too this year, I have only achieved 3 times round in my training schedule this year a couple of times and we managed 4 times in preparation for the last one. So I’m now going into this year’s event feeling a little bit of trepidation knowing exactly what’s in store for me.
I know I can do 5 times round with the right training behind me, but I’m a little underprepared this time. I also know that if it takes me over 5 hours it doesn’t matter, the most important thing is to try my best and show support to this incredibly worthy cause. Wish me luck!
If you would like to hear about the Med Steps 5 Challenge from one of the organisers, why not give my latest podcast a listen?
In the last month, one of Gibraltar’s historical buildings has had a colourful makeover. The British artist Ben Eine was brought over to repaint the northern facade of the Inces Hall as part of a new Government programme of urban renewal.
The previously shabby white exterior is now painted with the words ‘THATS ENTERTAINMENT’ in vibrant colours on a purple and blue striped background. Both the choice of venue for the art work the missing apostrophe from the statement have caused much heated debate on local social media.
Critics of the work disapproved of using a historically important building as a canvas for the art, while supporters welcomed a bright and cheerful talking point at the southern end of Main Street.
Whatever your views are on the Inces Hall painting, street art is nothing new in Gibraltar. One of the Rock’s most iconic streets is famed for it’s paint job.
Devil’s Gap Road was painted by the local community when Gibraltarians went to the polls in 1967 to vote on remaining British.
The 50th anniversary of the referendum result, which was overwhelmingly in favour of Gibraltar remaining British, will be celebrated this September. Among the events lined up will be a repainting of the steps.
Not far from the red, white and blue steps, one home owner leaves no doubt as to their national pride…
At the northern edge of Upper Town, there’s plenty more street art to be found.
The residents of Moorish Castle Estate got out their paint brushes to celebrate Gibraltar National Day back in 2012:
The area is currently undergoing renovations but there’s plenty community artwork still there for all to see.
Gibraltar seems to be dominating the news a lot these days, so for those of you who don’t know much about this Rock which we call our home, here’s a little ABC…
A is for Apes
Our furry friends who live (most of the time) at the top of the Rock are perhaps Gibraltar’s most famous inhabitants. They’re the only wild apes in mainland Europe and rumoured to be the reason why Gibraltar remains British – legend has it that if the apes were to leave, the UK would lose Gibraltar. (Winston Churchill reputedly imported some extra ones during World War II to make sure the Rock remained under the British flag). Legend also has it that they first arrived on the Rock via tunnels which link Gibraltar to northern Africa… not too sure about that one!
B is for border
Gibraltar has only one land border to the north of the territory and shares it with Spain. It is across this border (or Frontier as it’s also known) that thousands of Spanish residents travel to work in Gibraltar each day and also which Gibraltar residents cross to access Spain and rest of the European mainland.
Under the Franco regime the border was closed between 1969 and 1985. Gibraltarians found themselves with lots of vacant jobs to be filled as the cross-border workers were no longer able to work here and resources like food and fuel had to be sourced via alternative means. During this period, the Rock’s relationship with Morocco flourished and resulted in the diverse community we now enjoy today.
C is for cable car
Gibraltar’s main tourist attraction is the Rock itself and there are a number of different ways of getting to the top, on foot and by car or taxi, but perhaps the most dramatic way (and certainly the fastest) is by cable car. It has been a feature on the Rock for decades and takes just six minutes from the base station to the summit.
D is for defence
Due to it’s strategic position geographically at the gateway to the Mediterranean, it’s no surprise that Gibraltar has been a key British military base. Though fewer service personnel are based here now than in it’s heyday, there is still a considerable Army, Navy and RAF presence on the Rock.
E is for Europa Point
At Gibraltar’s southern most tip, you can find Europa Point lighthouse, the only lighthouse to be operated by Trinity House which is outside of the British Isles. It’s been keeping watch over the Strait of Gibraltar for over 175 years. On a clear day, you can see across the Strait to north Africa and the Rif mountains of Morocco.
Europa Point is also home to Gibraltar’s largest mosque (the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque) as well as the Roman Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Europe.
F is for Festivals
In recent years Gibraltar’s cultural life has flourished with the creation of a number of festivals, the biggest of which is the Gibraltar Music Festival or GMF as it’s become known locally. 2017 will see the festival run for the first time by MTV. Other musical festivals include the Festival of Colours and the World Music Festival. In addition to music another large annual event is the Gibraltar Literary Festival.
G is for Governor & Government
Although key defence and strategic decisions about Gibraltar are made in Westminster, day to day affairs on the Rock are looked after by Government of Gibraltar.
We also have a Governor, who is the Queen’s representative here. Our current Governor, Lieutenant General Ed Davies, like all his predecessors lives in the official residence known as The Convent.
H is for history
Gibraltar is steeped in history, from cave men to the Phoenecians, Moorish invasions and the Great Siege. Gibraltar is filled with historic buildings and sites. There’s even a weekly historical reenactment.
I is for isthmus not an island
Despite popular misconception, Gibraltar is not an island. It is an isthmus of 5.8 square kilometres. If you are looking for a diverse and challenging 10k route to run, Gibraltar is the place for you, it’s exactly 10km all the way round on the main roads.
J is for Jebel Tariq
Gibraltar is regarded as one of the Pillars of Hercules, Jebel Musa across the Strait in Morocco being the other one. The name Gibraltar is believed to have come from it’s Moorish name of Jebel Tariq, meaning Tariq’s Mountain or Tariq’s Path. Tariq lead the Moorish Invasion of Andalusia.
K is for Kaiane
Irrespective of your views on beauty pageants, Kaiane Lopez (née Aldorino) achieved something remarkable for Gibraltar. In 2009, was crowned Miss World. She was a great ambassador for Gibraltar during her year-long reign and has continued to fly the flag for the Rock ever since. Yesterday she became the youngest ever Mayor of Gibraltar as well as being the first ever Miss World to take mayoral office.
L is for lifestyle
Gibraltar boasts a great climate, healthcare modeled on the NHS, schools which follow the UK system and a thriving community. Plus everything is within a short distance so activities/entertainment especially for children are more achievable than our experience in the UK. As an ‘incomer’ I’ve had a really positive experience living here and was welcomed by locals and expats alike.
M is for Mediterranean
The Eastern side of the Rock is lapped by the tides of the Mediterranean Sea and the three Mediterranean beaches we have on the Rock are hugely popular in summer (Gibraltar has other beaches on the Western side too).
N is for Neanderthal
The first Neaderthal skull ever to be found was discovered at Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar in 1848. The find, which is celebrated on Gibraltarian pound coins, has led to Gibraltar recently being granted UNESCO World Heritage status.
O is for ornithology
A hot spot for twitchers, Gibraltar is a haven for wildlife and, in particular, migratory birds. Volunteers from the British Trust for Ornithology travel to Gibraltar to study the migration of birds from the southern hemisphere where they have over wintered, up to northern Europe and Russia. Vultures, and eagles can often be spotted along with other smaller birds.
P is for port
Gibraltar has long been a stop off for seagoing travellers, from the Phoenicians who dropped anchor here before setting off into the Atlantic and up as far north as Cornwall. These days Gibraltar’s marine trade includes dry docks for maintenance, as well as bunkering services for ships which are mid voyage.
Q is for queues
We do spend quite a while in queues here in Gibraltar at times, especially if you choose the wrong moment to cross the runway – you can get stuck waiting for planes to land or take off.
We also have to queue to enter and leave Gibraltar at the border with Spain, which can at times be problematic. Thorough checks by the authorities across the border can mean long waits in rather uncomfortable conditions (like the height of summer) at it’s worst it can take several hours to cross.
R is for runway
Gibraltar Airport is famous for it’s stunning backdrop and for the fact that the main road to and from the Rock runs straight across it. It makes for an interesting commute to work for those who live over in Spain!
S is for St Michael’s Cave
The Rock of Gibraltar itself is full of holes, with natural caves and manmade tunnels carved through it. The largest and perhaps most dramatic of which is St Michael’s Cave which as well as being a popular tourist destination is also a venue for shows and concerts.
T is for tunnels
In order to get around the Rock we need to travel through a few tunnels. The World War II Tunnels (which include a war time hospital ward) and the Great Siege Tunnels are popular tourist attractions.
There are miles and miles of military tunnels excavated through the Rock most of which are out of bounds to the public. They are used for military exercises and there was even a plan during World War II for some military personnel to be bricked into a tunnel so they could spy on the enemy in case of an invasion.
U is for Upper Rock
The Upper Rock is a Nature Reserve, home to the Barbary Macaques and other native species like the Barbary partridge and national flowers like the Gibraltar Candytuft and Gibraltar Campion.
The Med Steps or Mediterranean Steps to give them their proper name, is a footpath and several sets of steps which lead from the southern tip of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, at the Pillar of Hercules monument and round the Eastern side of the Upper Rock before emerging at the summit.
It’s a place of outstanding natural beauty and affords walkers stunning views across the Strait to Morocco, along the Mediterranean coast to Spain and onto the Costa del Sol on a clear day, and across the Bay of Gibraltar to Algeciras.
V is for visitors
Gibraltar is a very popular destination for cruise liners and coach tours. At peak times in the summer, the population of the Rock can almost be doubled for a day, when several large cruise ships arrive all at once. Those are the times when it’s wise to give Main Street a wide berth, especially if you have small children and pushhairs to steer through the crowds.
W is for weather
We are blessed with pretty mild winters (although there was some snow a few miles up the coast this winter) and long hot sunny summers. Thankfully because of our location surrounded on three sides by sea we don’t get such high temperatures as they do further up the coast or inland in Spain.
We can get a rather large cloud developing on the top of the Rock called the Levanter. It’s formed by the easterly wind and just sits above us creating humid conditions below. Some people refuse to have their hair done on Levanter days and it’s been blamed for meringues failing to rise and paint from drying properly.
X is for BreXit (sorry couldn’t think of anything beginning with X)
Well this is the main reason why everyone’s talking about Gibraltar at the moment isn’t it? 96% of the Gibraltar electorate voted to remain in Europe and no one knows what Brexit will mean for us all here on the Rock (or the UK for that matter).
Y is for Yanito or Llanito
Yanito or Llanito is the dialect which is spoken by Gibraltarians. Anyone wandering along Main Street will hear locals speaking a mixture of English and Spanish with a few Genoese or Maltese words thrown in too.
Z is for zebra crossings (post boxes and red telephone boxes)
We may live at the very south of Iberian Peninsular and we can see Africa from our windows but there are a lot of familiar British sights around Gibraltar. There are often tourists posing for photos by the phone boxes and and post boxes trying to catch a little of Britain in the Med.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Gibraltar A to Z, if you only take one thing from it, can it please be that Gibraltar’s NOT an island? (I have read two articles today which described it as one) Thank you!