Day Trip

January 31, 2008

Mom and I are taking a day trip to another country. A run of just under 45 minutes on the local city bus took us from Algeciras, on the southern coast of Spain, to La Linea: the border with the British territory of Gibraltar. We're spending only the afternoon here. The area is so compact that I feel that our few short hours here have been sufficient to say that we've "seen and done" Gibraltar.

About the only thing I knew about Gibraltar before coming here was that it had a big rock. I vaguely knew that it was still controlled as a British colony but wasn't certain about anything else. For some reason I thought Gibraltar was an island, but have found that's not the case. It's as much a part of the Iberian peninsula as anywhere else on mainland Spain--it's just a tiny enclave that is yet in British hands.

In every country I visit I find something new, something which I haven't seen or experienced elsewhere. Tiny as it is, Gibraltar has been no exception. I've traveled through many remote areas, I've visited many small territories. However, I've never been anywhere else in the world where the airport runway intersects Main Street. The territory which Gibraltar covers is so small that the short walk from the border into town crosses the airport: runway and all. That was a new one to me.

I've found it unexpectedly soothing to be walking around in an environment where the default language is English. It's not a conscious thing, but walking about town I've realized that it's been over a year since I've been in such a land. Spanish often does accompany the English as well, but I believe that finding that I can read every sign I see is somehow subliminally comforting. Or maybe I'm just sensing that it's a beautiful day and I'm in a good mood.

As we're now in a British territory, we've gone for the traditions: fish 'n' chips and a pint (imperial, no less) of Guinness at a local pub. While at the pub, Mom and I got to talking about some of the records we listened to while my siblings and I were growing up. One of those was an LP of songs soldiers sang during World War I. We found that we both could remember the lyrics to a fair few, including, "It's a Long Way to Tipperary", "Over There", "K-K-K-Katy", and "Mademoiselle from Armentieres". I found that to be the ultimately appropriate behavior for a visit to a colony: belting out old war songs together in an English pub.

Savoring Chocolate in
Casemates Square
We topped the pub fare off and concluded our Gibraltar visit with dessert in the central plaza: Casemates Square. Over our cups of hot chocolate and brownies a la mode, dusk fell, upon which we strolled back to the border.

I've been concerned that I might be pushing Mom too hard with all the places we've been visiting on this journey. This is her first time traveling outside North America; she's not been running around the globe for the past five months as I have. In some ways I think it's good to push her a little: we only have about ten days to spend touring together. On the other hand, I hope that all this walking around doesn't fatigue her so much that she'll need to take a day off to rest, missing out on other sights she's specifically wanted to visit.

Tomorrow we'll make another day trip to another country: Morocco.