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We had a very calm passage to Gibraltar from Spain. We had no wind so we motored the entire way, and the sea was entirely calm. It was an overnight sail and we entered the Straits of Gibraltar as the sun was rising. To our right was Africa and to our left was Europe. The Straits of Gibraltar can be notoriously windy and sometimes treacherous, but we timed our arrival during a calm period and got our marina safely. Gibraltar is owned by the British, but used to be owned by Spain and they’d like it back. In fact, during the American Revolution, Spain agreed to join France in helping us but part of the condition was that France would help Spain get Gibraltar back from Britain.

As we docked “med moor” style in the marina (no finger piers on either side of us); the marina employee told us that if we had been flying a Spanish courtesy flag (instead of the Gibraltar courtesy flag we had hoisted), that we wouldn’t have received assistance. I guess there are still tensions.

Nevertheless, while Gibraltar is part of the U.K., because it is a border town it has an interesting mix of Spanish and English. You can dine on tapas, walk across the street to have fish & chips and a pint (Guinness on draught!) and then have dessert at the Indian restaurant next door. Like Puerto Rico, everyone is bilingual and you can have a conversation going back and forth between Spanish and English. The only difference from Puerto Rico is that the English accent is with a British accent and the Spanish accent is with a Castilian accent. Gibraltar is a duty free location so there are loads of shops selling jewelry, liquor, electronics and clothes. The main street is cobblestone and mostly car-free, and at the time of year we’re visiting, strewn with Christmas lights. Lovely.

An inordinate amount of our time in any location seems to be spent working on the boat and other duties. Repairs, laundry, cleaning, shopping for boat supplies, provisioning, homeschooling, catching up on work (Darold) and email. Gibraltar was no exception.

What is fun about shopping in another country for groceries is what kinds of foods you’ll encounter. For example, in Mexico the variety of refried beans is like the cereal aisle in the United States. So many choices! In Morrison’s supermarket in Gibraltar you can get good English cheeses, shortbread, great jams, Cadbury chocolate, loads of Indian foods as well as Spanish olives, ham and cheese.

We walked to the top of the rock via the Mediterranean Steps and took in the view to Africa and the Mediterranean. We also took a trip up in the cable car to see the famous Gibraltar monkeys. Legend says if the Apes disappear from Gibraltar so will the British, which is why during the Second World War with the numbers dwindling Winston Churchill sent to North Africa for replacements. Now there are about 300 free roaming Barbary Macaque tailless monkeys roaming about the nature preserve atop the rock. They’re pretty cute. You can see tell that they are intelligent by looking at them.

Dante had done some reading about the monkeys before we saw them, and had learned that if they make their mouths in the shape of an “o” it means that they want you to leave them alone. They use this expression when they feel threatened. We were taking pictures of one monkey who suddenly made this expression. Dante said, “Quick! Move away!” We hurried off down the hill, wondering why he was so worried, when he explained to us what happened. Thanks for the research, Dante!

To see the pictures of Gibraltar go to our Flickr site here: