Hello there and a very happy Sunday to you. I hope you’ve had a good week. We are edging closer to the school Easter holidays here in Gibraltar – just one week of school left to get jobs done before I have days full of boys! Here’s this week’s look back at the last seven days… (and, incidentally it’s my 500th Postcard from Gibraltar post! That sounds like rather a lot doesn’t it?!)
Mother’s Day lunch
We went out for a lovely lunch on Mother’s Day. A glass of Prosecco, rose and a beautiful view across the Strait to Morocco came with the meal.
Med Steps on a Monday
It’s been a long time since I’ve been up the Med Steps on a Monday morning, but I managed it this week. It was lovely up there, grey skies but some sunshine, and cool breezes. Perfect conditions.
And Spring has sprung…. the native Gibraltar Candytuft is blooming.
As I finished my jacket at last week’s lesson, it was time to draft another pattern for a new project at this week’s lesson. I bought this lacy fabric (below) from my teacher Dorcas a while ago because I loved it and really fancied making a top with it. That process has begun now.
I have been working on a filet patterned crochet jumper for a while and decided to pick it back up again this week. Unfortunately I paid the price of not rereading the pattern properly as I just carried on with a 4mm hook I found in the bag with the partially made jumper. Having done 2/3 of the front I got the measuring tape out to check if it was time to shape the shoulders. It was long enough, but, and it’s a big but, the pattern didn’t match the back. I was two pattern repeats short – I should’ve used a 3.75mm hook! It’s been unraveled, and I’m now playing catch-up!
We decided to do something we don’t normally do on Thursday – we went over to Spain while the Little Postcards were at school. It was a rather long drawn out process. We left home, got stuck in a queue to cross the runway as a plane was landing… then I realised I’d left my phone at home so we had to turn around and go home again to pick up the phone in case school called with a problem. Then I took this photo as we were stuck for a second time with another plane landing… instead of taking 15-20 minutes to get from our home to the border, it took 50!! Whoops.
We had to forfeit our lunch, instead of leisurely tapas we had a service station sandwhich in the car to make sure we were home in time to pick the Little Postcards up! Maybe we’ll get the tapas another time…
The weather on Friday was rather grim, wet, very grey and with gale force gusts. This was the rather uninspiring view of the Bay of Gibraltar around morning school run time. There were rumbles of thunder as I walked home – fortunately I made it back indoors before the horizontal rain started!! (The big grey ship may be a Spanish aircraft carrier coming into port in Algeciras across the Bay from Gibraltar.)
We’ve not had a Sunday Sevens sunset picture for a while. I caught the last rays of sunshine disappearing behind the hills opposite our home yesterday.
That’s it for this week’s Sunday Sevens, I hope the coming seven days are kind to you.
Hello there, welcome to the latest Sunday Sevens, a week which began in bright sunshine and ended with grey cloudy skies….
Don’t go into the water!
There were reports in the media last week that lots of Portuguese Man-o-war were being washed up on Gibrataltar’s beaches. Not wishing to miss out on seeing them, I headed down to Camp Bay with the Little Postcards last Sunday to see if we could see any. We weren’t disappointed. I had never seen them before and found them rather mesmerising with their bright blue colour and tentacles drifting below the waves.
We kept our distance though, as they can be very dangerous, even lethal in some cases. I thought it best to show the children what they looked like in case they should ever encounter them again. Now they will know to avoid them in future.
I’ve got a beach!
This week I managed to keep up with the Coastal Crochet CAL (Crochet along) and now have the beginnings of a beach on my Seaside Stash-busting Blanket. It was very nautical for a while there, but now I have wet sand, seaweed and pebbles.
3 times round
I can’t quite believe I am writing this, but although I didn’t plan it, I managed three times round the Med Steps this week. I had intended to do twice round but something Mr Postcard said as he went to work (along the lines of “two not three?”) planted the seed and once I’d completed number 2, thought, why not? I went for it. It was very difficult. This photo was taken at the bottom of the final set of steps. I was sitting on the bottom step at the time! I’ve got less than a month to go now before the Med Steps 5 Challenge, so there’s no time to waste!
Princess line seams
This week’s dressmaking class was all about the princess line seams. Boring photo I’m afraid.
I went crazy and splashed out £2 on a bunch of daffodils for myself this week. They had beautiful double heads and made me smile.
The beautiful sunny weather we had at the start of the week had disappeared by Friday. I headed back up the steps. It was very blustery up there and just a little bit scary as I turned the corner onto the east side. It was blowing me backwards as if I wasn’t allowed to go up. Once I was properly round onto the eastern side, it was much more sheltered and not a problem at all.
Seeing as I can’t show you blue skies on this one, I took a few pictures of the beautiful wild flowers up there, including the Gibraltar national flower (the Gibraltar Candytuft: bottom right) which is in flower in a few sheltered spots now.
There is a phenomenon sweeping Gibraltar at the moment, especially for families with young children, called Gib Rocks. It started just a few short weeks ago, and the idea is to paint rocks and stones with bright colours, a message or a picture, then hide them somewhere in Gibraltar for someone else to find. It was sparked by one Gibraltar-based family’s trip to Battle in the South of England at Easter, where a similar scheme is in operation. On their return, they set up a Facebook page called Gib Rocks and at the last count it had over 3,600 members. It’s kind of mushroomed!
Anyway, we decided to join in too. I shan’t show you what the Little Postcards painted, as they wanted to keep it a secret, but I’m rather partial to rainbows so I could only paint one thing couldn’t I? It’s drying off nicely now ready for it’s final touches, I’ll keep you posted on where it ends up…. watch this space!
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!
This week’s Sunday Sevens begins with a look back at our Commonwealth weekend trip up the coast…
A Sunday morning walk
Making the most of our bank holiday weekend last weekend we headed out for a lovely walk on Sunday morning. It was so lovely and bright and we walked a loop from where we were staying (near Marbella), along the beach and then back inland.
Breakfast with a view of home
On Monday morning we enjoyed this gorgeous view from our breakfast table. Never before have I seen so much on the horizon from this part of the world.
The bumps on the right hand side of the horizon are the hills and mountains between Marbella and Gibraltar. The bump on it’s own above the street lamp is Gibraltar and the one to the left of the boat mast is Morocco across the Straits of Gibraltar.
You could also see a lot more of Morocco’s mountains but sadly they could only be seen by the naked eye and didn’t show up on my phone camera.
It was a fab end to our last minute getaway.
My word it’s been stormy – at the beginning of the week (back in Gibraltar) we had gale force winds. Our plant pots got blown over and there were chunks of trees and debris in the road. The authorities had a big cleanup operation on Wednesday morning.
It certainly wasn’t the kind of weather when I’d like to be out in a boat. One day I parked on the edge of the new small boat marina and it effectively takes you out into the harbour. I got an up close and personal view of some of the boats without leaving dry land. The pilots and tugs which work in Gibraltar’s waters have a heck of a job to do.
Franks for the post
I got this locally posted envelope in our mailbox this week. I have never seen a postmark like this before. We share our home with “wild Barbary Macaque Monkeys” in case you didn’t know that…
The Navy’s largest warship called into the port of Gibraltar this week. HMS Ocean is the flagship of the Royal Navy.
I’ve been too busy this week to make a trip up the Med Steps while the Little Postcards were at school, but I managed to fit a trip in yesterday afternoon. It was glorious. I even managed to spot my first sighting of Gibraltar Candytuft (one of Gibraltar’s National flowers) for this year.
Unfortunately we have lost our rescue bunny, Snowflake. She hadn’t been well for a few weeks and seemed to be making improvements but she went downhill again and she was put to sleep by the vet. We only had her with us since autumn last year, when we found her abandoned at the Alameda Gardens, but she soon became part of our family.
If you missed the tale of how she came to live with us, you can read all about it here.
We still have little Diamond, who we got just before Christmas. He is missing his pal but is getting lots of attention and cuddles.
It’s been a whole 12 months since my first blog post on Postcard from Gibraltar and what a fun and busy year it has been. I started out publishing my first post and wondering if anyone out there in cyberspace would actually read it but I soon discovered a lovely community who share my interest in craft and want to hear about this lovely Rock I live on.
Thank you very much for all the lovely comments and likes over the past year, I appreciate you taking the time to leave them. I read them all although sometimes it can take me a while to reply.
I know that an important part of being in this community is that it’s not just a one way street and we should all take the time to read each others posts and sometimes I’m not too great at that as life tends to get in the way a bit. Please know that I always mean to, and I usually get around to taking a look at my fellow bloggers posts eventually!
I’m afraid I’m being very lazy this week with my midweek post and I’m just going to share a few of my highlights from the last year with you. I hope you enjoy this trip down Memory Lane 🙂
Moving countries with two small children and leaving all our family and friends behind was no small feat. I have to admit that when I was faced with the prospect of moving here (due to Mr Postcard’s work relocating) I wasn’t impressed. I had my life sorted and was happy where I was, the prospect of having to start all over again didn’t fill me with joy.
Back in September last year the annual cardboard boat race in Ocean Village reminded me of what life was like back when we first arrived and that the warm welcome we received as a family helped us on the road to settling in: Cardboard boats and memories of moving
Apart from arriving here and making a fresh start, one of the hardest things about being an ‘expat’ is that many of our community are transient. For those who come with work or their partner’s job, rather than just making the choice to move here for good, their tenure in Gibraltar can be short.
However short that stay may be, friendships can develop fast. In the absence of family nearby friends very soon become each other’s support network and that makes saying goodbye all the harder: Saying goodbye…
I love, love, love making things. If you’ve caught any of my Sunday Sevens posts you’ll know that most of my weeks are dominated by crafty things including watercolour lessons, dressmaking lessons and of course, my love of crochet. In May, I was inspired to make a wreath celebrating the wild flowers I’d seen this Spring while I trained for the Med Steps 5 Challenge : Wild flowers of the Med Steps
Along with the Med Steps I have become very fond of the Alameda Botanical gardens during our almost seven years here in Gibraltar. International Yarnbombing Day 2016 proved too much of an opportunity to miss paying homage to the Alameda Gardens bicentennial celebrations.
Last Saturday was the Convent Garden Party, an annual event which the Postcard family usually attends. It’s the one chance in the year for ‘normal’ folk to have a wander around the beautiful back garden which belongs to the Governor of Gibraltar. My post about last year’s event ended up being my first ever blog post based on a walk (a theme which has featured heavily in the last few months): A stroll up the garden path…
As I mentioned earlier, I am a bit of a fan of the Med Steps. So much so that I climbed them five times in the one day last month as part of the Med Steps 5 Challenge. If you have never had the pleasure of climbing them yourself, here’s what you’re missing! The Med Steps: a few facts & figures
On 9th June, Gibraltar woke to find itself wrapped up with a blanket of fog. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to climb the Med Steps again (as it had been getting a bit warm to do it in recent weeks). On that walk I experienced the most amazing view (the one you can see above). I had been misguided in thinking that the fog would help me with its cool damp air, as I climbed the steps I soon realised that I had, in fact, climbed up out of the fog and was viewing it from above.
At one of my many rest points on that morning, I witnessed this stunning view of the Rock swathed in fog. It was otherworldly and truly mesmerising. I was also only one of a handful of people who had braved the Med Steps that morning, we were incredibly lucky to see this weather phenomenon from such an elevated vantage point.
As soon as I got home I posted this photo online and got the most amazing response. So far, more than 12,000 people have viewed it on Facebook! I also wrote a post about my foggy walk and featured a lot more photos: A mini stroll in the mist
A year on the Rock
One of the great things about living in Gibraltar is that despite it’s size (which is really quite tiny) there is so much to do. The social calendar includes the Three Kings Cavalcade, the Calentita food festival, the Gibraltar Fair, National Day, the Gibraltar Music Festival, the Gibraltar Literary Festival, and the Christmas Light switch on to name just a few.
Looking back at all that makes me realize we’ve packed a lot into our last year on the Rock. I know we are very lucky to live in such a great place and to have the opportunity to experience all we have.
I first started this blog after being encouraged to do so by friends and family and I’m really glad I did. Postcard from Gibraltar has opened doors for me both virtually and in real life, it’s been a great adventure so far, here’s hoping the next 12 months are as good if not better!
You will have noticed that of late, the Med Steps have featured very heavily in my blog posts, mainly because I’ve spent quite a lot of time climbing them recently. The one thing which has really left an impression on me, apart from the aching muscles, is just how beautiful it looks at the moment with all the wild flowers in bloom. I believe in these last few weeks I have been lucky enough to see them at their absolute peak. The poppies, candytufts, and countless other flowers which have fleetingly made their presence known and brightened up my walks.
I have been taking lots of photos of them to share with those of you who haven’t seen them for real, and I had intended to do a blog post all about them, so here it is.
The only problem is, I don’t know much about wild flowers and the idea of researching their names etc left me cold (it would most probably make the most boring blog post anyway), so that would just leave along stream of photos of random flowers (also boring). I thought long and hard about how I could bring them to life and capture their magic both for you and for me.
Then I came up with an idea, (a slightly strange idea perhaps) to try to recreate the flowers in yarn. I have a book of flower patterns 100 Flowers to Knit & Crochet by Lesley Stanfield and the internet is full of ideas and patterns for crocheting all sorts of wierd and wonderful things so I started investigating. Wow, the world was my oyster, there was so much potential out there that I thought I could really do this.
But what would I make? A blanket? No, the last one took over a year to make – I’d lose interest. A bag? No, it would soon get battered and spoiled as I used it, plus, it may look a bit odd for everyday use. Then inspiration hit…Remember I made a wreath at Christmas?
Last summer, when I was in England and blessed with lots of fantastic craft supply shops to frequent, I bought two polystyrene wreaths but so far I’d only used one. Inspired by the beautiful wreaths made by Lucy of Attic 24, I thought what if I covered it in crochet to represent the Rock of Gibraltar? There’s the greenery of the steps, the sky and sea and then add the crocheted wildflowers to that? Oh my, that’s it! I have got loads of creative ideas fizz popping in my head now, I need to get cracking.
So first things first, how on earth do I chose which flowers to include? Well Gibraltar’s National Flower, the candytuft is an obvious choice.
Then we have the poppies, with their papery thin petals nodding gently in the sea breeze. They are so delicate and yet stunning against the other greenery of the Upper Rock.
There’s a fair amount of lavender too, and that’s one of my all time favourite plants. The fragrance is so calming and comforting.
So it’s time to get started. I began with crocheting the cover for the polystyrene wreath in shades of green, grey and blue.
And here it is…
It looks a little bare don’t you think? Time to decorate… first a daisy?
Next a thistle…
I made a couple of sprigs of lavender using this pattern.
There are some really dainty wild sweet pea kind of plants up there at the moment:
We can’t forget the poppies (this one I had to knit):
So to one of Gibraltar’s national flowers… The Candytuft. Could I find a pattern for one anywhere? Could I heck. I had to ‘invent’ one. Based on a pattern in my flower book but with a candytuft twist:
And of course, I can’t forget the little critters who enjoy the wild flowers too…
The butterfly came from the flower book and the bumble bee was made using this pattern from Attic 24. One of my favourite critters in this part of the world though is the lizards, I used this free Ellie Skene Ravelry pattern to make Gordon the gecko:
Next it was time to assemble the wreath…
I played about with the arrangement for a while and added a dandelion, a buttercup and various different shaped leaves before sewing them into place. Are you ready? Here goes :
Time for a few gratuitous close ups ;-)… The wildlife:
Perhaps the world’s first ever crocheted Gibraltar Candytuft!:
I’m pleased with how it turned out, it’s currently hanging on the back of my front door. It brightens up my hall and reminds me of the many hours I’ve spent walking past the gorgeous wild flowers of the Med Steps and the fun I had making it. I now promise I’ll stop banging on about the Med Steps for a little while, I know I’m getting boring ;-).