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Archive for the ‘Holiday’ Category


It’s inexcusable really, and I can’t use “I was busy” as an excuse for every hour of every day, can I?
I guess it’s been a combination of not having chance and not wanting to actually blog at all.

It is so very much harder to continue this blog here in England.
It feels almost fraudulent and so I may let it slide in its current form.
But while I make that decision (which may happen during the course of creating this post), I’ll catch you all up.
I’m aiming for brief catch up, but I make no promises!

As you know, we – Nik, Eliot and I – went to Portugal for a 9-day holiday at the beginning of October.

Eliot and Nik were super-excited about it and they loved the whole trip. The accommodation was booked in the area we’d lived in so it was like being home… except when it wasn’t.

We did plenty to keep occupied as much as we could afford (holidays are EXPENSIVE, aren’t they?!)

We played minigolf. Twice actually. It’s great fun and reasonable value if you do the full 18-hole course (honestly, DON’T bother with the 9-hole unless you have toddlers)

We – well, Eliot – played in the pool. Not bad for October, eh?

He even took his skateboard (we’d had to check a suitcase in especially to take it!)

He met with school friends (I don’t think WordPress.org allows me to embed the video but Eliot has it posted  here )

We met with most of our friends we had made while out there: a shout out to Dave and Aly; Phil, Julie, Luke and Jasmine; Peter and Lesley; Matt; Antonio and Rita; everyone at The Lighthouse and apologies if I missed anyone.

“Did you eat at The Lighthouse?” I hear you ask.

Well, dur!

We ate at all the places we knew we liked to eat and went to all the places we knew we liked to go and Eliot and Nik had a fabulous time.
I know you’ve noticed by now so I’ll go ahead and answer that question in your heads: not really, no.

I think if it had been anywhere else, it would have been a holiday and it would have been fine and great, but being on holiday in somewhere that was home.
Not so much.
It felt awkward and every time they were loving “being home” I was feeling worse and worse about the decision to move back to the UK. The more they had fun, the worse I felt.

I’ve told them that next time they can go without me, and I mean it. I actually don’t want to go back to visit again.

Maybe when the campervan is done.

The van is progressing slowly. Naff weather has hampered progress a bit and, even thought we have, for the time being, moved on to internal works (we’re currently installing electrics and final fixing ceiling panels with their vinyl coverings and lights) it’s still so cold in the garage that it’s not much fun out there. We’ve resigned ourselves to being a bit out of action until after the snowy weather for now. No point making it a chore! It’s supposed to be fun!

So we’ve done some van bits and been working and schooling and oh yes, let’s have a school update then!

Eliot is coming on well. We had been concentrating quite heavily on his maths but we’ve scaled it back to 2-3 times a week now and it’s keeping the interest up.

He’s been home edding since the start of May now so that’s 8 months although 2-3 months of that has been summer/Christmas vacations, I guess, but in the 6 months we’ve been learning, his maths age has gone up from about 9yrs 10m to about 11yrs and 8m. That’s nearly a 2 year leap in 6 months which is phenomenal. I wish he could see just how far he’s come!

I’m taking a gently, gently approach with English. We’ve learned some interesting stuff, the usual yawns about nouns, verbs, adverbs etc, but more fun was trying to remember the WORD onomatopoeia (I’m going to thank my computer for its spellcheck at this point!) from one lesson to the other, and I’m currently tackling something specific that he has trouble with: comprehension.

He’s frequently said that adult conversations (and movie dialogue etc) is completely alien to him and I think he just needs to read/hear more, so I’ve started reading to him.

Yep, at 12-years-old, I’ve started reading to him! I’ve chosen a book he likes to begin with – A Minecraft storybook – but I’ve encouraged him to ask about words he doesn’t know and phrases he doesn’t understand and I think it’ll definitely help.

So that’s Eliot!

Jake – who turned 16 this December gone! –  is studying hard (!) for his Maths and English GCSEs which he is taking this summer. He’s had decent grades in his English assessments so far and we’re hopeful he’ll pass both easily enough (he’s brainy; he should!).

It should be enough to get him into Lincoln college in September to study…well, here’s news actually… not plumbing!

He’s now decided he’d prefer to be an electrician and we’re behind him 100%. Plumbing would be excellent and he’d do well for work, I’m sure, but being an electrician could be so much more flexible. He could end up employed doing something off on a tangent from electrical work or he could ultimately become the self-employed electrician that he hopes to be, but I do think it’ll offer him many more opportunities.

Either choice is good, but electrician is the one we’ve applied to college for.

I love that he has goals!
Jake has life goals!

Sheesh, after they year we’ve had, I never thought I’d say that!

What else happened?

Jake drove his first car: a Lamborghini Gallardo at a local track day. That was fun!

And we went to the motorcycle show where Eliot could sit on any bike he wanted which was ALL of them…TWICE. He LOVED that!

We (well, in fairness, mostly Nik) removed our open log fire and replaced it with a wood burner.

We went to a gaming convention which was something of an anticlimax but Eliot enjoyed meeting Jacksepticeye (he’s a YouTuber!)

What does 2016 hold in store for the Hands then?

Well, the van is on course to be finished by the summer (of 2016, I hope!) so we’ll be using that a bit to make sure we iron out any snags before we head out into the wider Europe.

There’s school, of course. Jake has exams in May and June and we’re hoping he’ll get some work experience in over the summer before he has to go to college (we’re also hoping college accepts him!)

There’s work. There’s always work. This isn’t a bad thing when you run your own business!

Oh, and I’ve signed up for a beginners Sign Language course at a local training centre. There’s an advanced course later in the year too so I’m hoping I’ll enjoy it enough to follow-up with that one and then, who knows?!

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It’s certainly safe to say that this year’s “end of school year” update differs significantly from previous ones.

You’d think that measuring “success” would be harder without tests and grading but actually, I think that it’s much easier. Instead of relying on a school book, a test, or a teacher to tell me, I can SEE the progress first-hand and that’s FAR better. I can watch Eliot get the answer to a sum quicker than I can (it’s happened once or twice this week, but I blame my brain having more to do than his!) and I can SEE Jake smile when he sees something he likes or watch him laugh when he plays with the dog or see the resolve in his face when he assures me things are going to get better.

That, to me, is better than a report card full of A’s any day of the week.

Eliot is stunning me with his progress. Clearly he’s ready to learn this stuff. Some of it is definitely below his age group but it’s stuff he didn’t have a clue how to do 2 months ago. According to the site stats on the website we use, his maths age has progressed 9 months in the 2 months we’ve been educating him at home and I can see the progress every single day. The mental stuff gets quicker; the times table sheet gets referred to less often; he’s learning stuff.

Praise be!

The English is coming on slowly. I’m trying not to sit and do it as one long session each day but we grab a worksheet and do “underline the nouns/verbs” or “their/there/they’re” or “It’s/its” practice. It’s the little and often approach but it is sinking in. It’s all alien to him and definitely a full lesson would just switch him right off.
It’s baby steps.

And while we have extra time to spare, we can investigate how a 3D printer works…

The newly-acquired 3D printer

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Or practise shapes and space, in the tent, with Blokus.

Or make a Lego holiday home!

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Or sneak off on the motorbike while the sun shines!

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Or to Blyton Raceway to watch Supercars (there were Lambos, Porches, Audis and even a Maclaren on track but the boys have photos of those!)

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Or study the friction of the different tyre types on Playmobile vehicles!
(Yes, I lost!)

So yeah. What with kids and school and work (and an impending VAT return due), it’s been pretty busy.

On the non-work side, we did get the garden pretty much finished. Gravel is all done, shed is built and in position, greenhouse is moved etc. We need to sort the decking out really but that’ll probably wait until next Spring now, I think. It’s “possible” the oil tank may be leaving us so that’ll free up another area of the garden which we can use somehow. We’re just waiting to see how that all pans out before doing anything much else.

Meantime though, I think it’s looking pretty good 🙂

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What else have we done?

Well, we’ve booked a trip back to visit Portugal in October. It’s just Nik, Eliot and I (Jake is being juggled amongst family members back here) but it’ll be great to get back for a trip. Eliot is super-excited about re-connecting with his school friends and Nik is just glad to be making a(nother) trip back.
Me? Yeh, it’ll be nice. But I’m OK anyway. Hopefully the weather will hold out. It’s before half term (when it usually rains) so fingers crossed.

Something else Eliot is super-excited about: it’s his birthday tomorrow!

My baby will be 12.

My baby who gives me this…

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and this…

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and this…

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He’s smart and opinionated, passionate and enthusiastic, utterly, utterly bonkers and drives me totally crazy, but we love him anyway!

So I’ll just finished with a Happy 12th Birthday to my boy.

 

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Boy, these summer holidays seem to be lasting forEVER! It seems like Christmas was more recent than my boys breaking up this year. My two have been off for 11 weeks already and they still have 4 left!

On the plus side, even El seems to be ready to get back to school, and anybody who knows him will know that this really is quite something! He’s missing his friends and, quite honestly, just missing something to do with his days. He’s a social kid and he needs school so much, especially the change of school. It’ll be great for him and he’s really excited about it. I honestly never thought I’d use the words “Eliot, Excited and School” in the same phrase. There ya go!

On the subject of school, I’ve just added a bit of information about school reports when moving from UK to Portugal. It’s neither gospel or exhaustive (different schools have different interpretations and levels of jobsworths, unfortunately) but it’s a very definite guide based on our and others’ experiences. If it helps someone, it’ll be worth the type up.

We’ve had a fairly uneventful summer really. Not too many visitors and pretty much just sunny weekends and working weekdays (with the occasional** obligatory trip to the Marina for a “business meeting”, of course).

Tapas at The Lighthouse on the Marina

A quick trip to Meia Praia beach

Lazing around by the local pool

 

Apart from back-to-school (can I get a “woohoo!”?), we do have a few other things to look forwards to too. At the beginning of October, I’m visiting my little sister in England for her birthday so that’s nice for us both! When I return from the UK, my Mum and Rod are flying back out here to Portugal for 8 days, so we’re all looking forwards to that also. Oh, and before I go, we have friends coming to the Algarve for a few weeks, so we’ll hopefully get to see them once or twice, which is always lovely.

By the time Mum and Rod go back, it’ll be mid-October! How the heck does it get to be two months until Christmas so soon? Good thing I’ve started Christmas shopping or it’d be homemade ginger cookies all round!

** in the loosest sense of the word.

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One of the awesome things about living here in the Algarve is not having to look too far away for some amazing places to visit. (I appreciate that the UK has some amazing places too. I’m talking about amazing places with guaranteed sun!)

One place which we had been repeatedly advised to visit was Seville, and with the existence of Isla Magica, this made it even more appealing to us as a family, so we decided to do the trip for a long weekend (Thursday to Sunday) to celebrate El’s 11th birthday (and hopefully quash our yearning for Orlando, which, until we moved, we were used to visiting every 2-3 years!)

It’s always a bonus when the place is driving distance too.

We booked a 2 bedroom apartment through AirBnb and arrived there about 5pm. The apartment manager met us, when we eventually sorted the car and parking. The apartment had its own parking but the direct route to it was blocked by road works and a lot of one-way streets had been reversed to accommodate this. Now, just imagine us, with our sat nav, trying to find the apartment and parking in a maze of backwards one-ways and streets barely wide enough for our 7 seater Sharan!
Yeah, that!

Anyway, the manager met us, and she had a nice little surprise for Eliot. I had mentioned that it was his birthday on the Friday and so she had obtained 4 tickets for Isla Magica from a friend who works there.

4 FREE tickets!

Awesome!!

Saved us over €100 which meant that we could eat out a little more and not have to worry about packed lunches. Yay!

She also advised us that, because of our fairly central location, it was as easy (actually a whole lot EASIER) to walk to Isla Magica than to drive, so on Friday morning we did that. It took about 20-25 minutes, which wasn’t bad at all, and we actually ended up spending almost the entire day there. We arrived about 11.30am and left about 9.30pm, I think!

When we first arrived, it wasn’t very busy at all, which meant the boys (and by “boys”, I mean all 3 of them!) didn’t have to queue very long for anything really. They did multiple rides on various wet things, including goodness-knows-how-many on the Anaconda log flume ride. Dozens, at least!

This about summed it up!

The boys even went on this on their own, each time aiming for a different photographic experience!

I love this one!! Jake actually ENJOYING himself!

There were a few like this too!

I know, right?

They did go on other rides too though! Nik wanted to go on, and Eliot eventually decided to go with him, the tall 68m free fall tower thing called El Desafio. No way either Jake or I were going on it though!


The Rapids

A bucking bronco thing!

Eliot also got himself a temporary spray tattoo.

5-7 days it was supposed to last. Well, obviously that quote didn’t take into account a) my son’s desire to keep his tattoo and b) the frequency and inadequacy of boys’ showering!
He loves it though, and he spent much time walking around Seville with his t-shirt sleeves rolled up so he could show it off! (That’s my boy!)

All in all, we had an excellent day at Isla Magica, but we did decide that it was the only thing about Seville that really blew us away. We really weren’t that bothered about the city itself.
I think there are two reasons for that.  Firstly, we live in an amazing place! The bar is set high right there. Secondly, Florence. Florence was such a jaw-droppingly beautiful place that it will take a lot to beat it.

Actually, I can think of a third reason. The fact that we were holidaying with kids! Ever tried the whole “aimlessly wandering” thing with a teenager and an 11-year-old?
No?
Well don’t! Leave ’em at home and go do it alone!

The boys were, on the whole, very good though. Particularly Jake who, being a “teen” and all that comes with that, didn’t much moan at all really. Except when his feet were hurting from walking all day on the second day but, given that I then bought him new trainers (which he needed anyway) a size and a half bigger than the ones he had been wearing, I think I have to bear some of the responsibility for that!

They both enjoyed the trip though, and I’m 100% sure that they would both do Isla Magica again. We all would. Not that I go on many of the rides. I “mind bags” and take photos. It’s my job!
I did go on a couple of things. A spinning barrels ride (and no, you’re NOT seeing the pics of video of that!), a smaller coaster (nobody braved the big one!) and an interactive 4D shooting-aliens thing which was kinda like “Men in Black” (at Universal, Orlando)’s poor cousin but it was fun enough that we went on three times, I think! Anything that gets us all squealing can’t be bad, eh?

We didn’t even get to the newly-opened water park section. Two reasons. Firstly, our free tickets didn’t cover it, and secondly, by the time we got there, it was late afternoon and we just didn’t see that we’d get our money’s worth for a few hours. This was confirmed by the fact that everybody wanted to do at least one more lap of the main park before we went in anyway, and it was decided that we could have more (and cheaper) fun by just going back on the rides they enjoyed most.

Like the Anaconda!

Just before I finish, a quick note about food. As is always the way with a new place, food was hit and miss depending on where we ate. Mostly, it was good though. I had an amazing “Salada Sevilla” in one place and a decent “5 tapas for €9.95” deal at another. The kids didn’t complain about their choices at all, so I guess we did ok.


Theme park food wasn’t bad either. €6.75 for a jumbo hot dog and fries. It really WAS jumbo too: a foot-long french stick with a giant sausage! I think only Nik ate all of his. We saved some of the leftovers for munchies time later on.

One other thing about the theme park was how much bottled water we got though! We took a frozen 2 lt bottle of our own to begin with and, when that was gone, must have bought another dozen bottles from the very-frequently-placed vending machines. At €1 a half-litre bottle, we didn’t mind too much. As it was well over 40C, we needed it!

We’d do Seville again, but I think next time we’ll just skip the city and do Isla Magica. Maybe we are just big kids really.

There’s one thing I will say though, even though it is only a 3 hour drive between Lagos and Seville, it’s always nice to be back on “home turf” halfway when we see this and everything becomes Portuguese and “normal” again!

welcometoalgarve

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In some ways, it feels like we have been here forEVER, but in other ways, it’s hard to believe that four whole years have gone by already!

I suppose I should do a bit of a general update really. It has been a while and, while much of the past months have been “same old, same old”, stuff has happened as well.

For example, school finished for summer – over a MONTH ago!

Jake’s last day was 3rd June, I think, and El finished classes on 30th May, only going in on the Monday and Tuesday after that for half-day events and school trips. That already feels like YEARS ago!

Actually, I should start with school updates, shouldn’t I?

Eliot passed his year 4 exams – BARELY! Like, by 2%. God knows how he is going to cope with year 5, but I think he is ready for the change of school. The big school (which now does years 5 through 8 – more about that in a minute!) is right around the corner from us, and I think even he is ready to move onwards and upwards, although how he will do with a year 5 curriculum is anybody’s guess.
At least he is starting in year 5 with a decent knowledge of spoken and aural Portuguese, which is more than Jake had when he plunged in at year 6!

So yeah, that’s good anyway. Eliot moving school is definitely a big step.
He’s a big boy now. Hardly my baby any more (although I still call him that, and he’s fine with it!)

My big boy! Now, who put that beer there??!!

My big boy! Now, who put that beer there??!!

Jake is repeating year 9. He actually could have taken exams and probably passed all of his failing year 9 subjects, but we (Jake and I) both decided that it was better that he repeated the year. At 14, he is quite young to be moving into what is the equivalent of doing 3 year A-levels/college, so I’m pleased to have him in year 9 for a bit longer.

That news would have been even better if it wasn’t for the fact that they are stopping teaching year 9 (academic subjects anyway) at Das Naus (the school next to us).
We were quite looking forwards to having both boys in the same place, with no worries about transport, but now Jake will have to go elsewhere for year 9.

He’s chosen Gil Eanes (there was more than one choice in town) and we’re fine with that. Hopefully, we’ll get him signed up in a few weeks without any problems (hahahahahahahahahahaha – no, seriously!) and he’ll just have to use a bus for school. He’s quite old enough to do so, and the whole experience of having to actually “commute” to school will do him good.

Fortunately, he isn’t bothered about it all. He’s quite content to repeat year 9, not at all bothered that he’ll be repeating it in an entirely different school (a lot of his friends are going to the other one) and isn’t bothered about using the bus.
Oh well, I suppose indifference is better than him hating the idea!

My "mature" teen on a rare sighting outside the bedroom!

My “mature” teen on a rare sighting outside the bedroom!

What else has happened?

Wendy (my sister) came to visit for my birthday, which was nice. We spent a few days eating, drinking and generally lounging about, all of which was great fun! She then flew home and signed for her first ever house! Having lived in rented accommodation since she left home, finally putting down roots and buying a home is a HUGE step for her!

Way to go, sis!

My new skinny sis on her visit (well, she’s not a new sister, obviously, but she IS newly super-skinny!)

We’re super-busy with work (always good) and we have very few visitor bookings this year. None who need to stay with us anyway, which is even better, because it means that the boys get to keep their own space. Recently purchased bunk beds for El’s room make it slightly less disruptive if we have to move Jake into there, but it’s much nicer not to, obviously, and for Jake to keep his own room.

Not that Jake is much bothered really, because, well, he’s an indifferent teen and doesn’t much bother about anything (except chores. Boy, does he mither about those!)

Oh yes, we went to Jerez for the MotoGP at the beginning of May (I really HAVE been slack about updating this blog!).
We left Jake at home (with plenty of food supplies) and drove over from Friday to Sunday.

We had a completely awesome weekend. Drive took us about 4 hours, we stayed in a decent enough apartment (rock hard and creaky beds aside!) in Jerez and watched fabulous racing, including a race from the unstoppable Marc Marquez!
We took soooooooooo many photos, I don’t even know where to start, but here’s a few.

It’s weird to think that Marquez is now 8 wins for 8 races! It’s quite mind-blowing really. Am looking forwards, as always, to the race this weekend to see if he can make it 9 for 9!

And speaking of this weekend, we are off to Seville for a long weekend (we go tomorrow: Thursday) for Eliot’s 11th birthday.

Having driven past it twice now, first en route to Gibraltar and then on the way to Jerez, we’ve realised it’s actually quite close, and there’s an apparently very good theme park and water park, called Isla Magica, there which should a) make a great day out for El’s birthday and b) quench our long-deprived need to a return to Orlando!

We’re doing Isla Magica on Friday and have Saturday free to either go for a second day or mooch around Seville a bit. Even Jake is coming with us this time. It wasn’t optional (being a birthday celebration weekend ‘n’ all) but he doesn’t seem to mind. A few days in the “real world” will be good for him. Even if he doesn’t own and refuses to wear a pair of shorts. So he’ll be baking and melting in the 40C which is forecast in Seville this weekend!

Teenagers, eh?!

I think that’s our news really.

I know I’m behind with my Gibraltar A to Z, but quite honestly, at this point, it probably won’t get done. Don’t hold your breath anyway. It’s not THAT good LOL

I’ll try to do a Seville post sometime after we’re back. Maybe one for the trip and a separate one for Isla Magica. Depends what we get up to and whether it warrants more than one post. Might just do a picture post. We’ll see.

And speaking of pictures, let’s have some sunny, blue sky posts. I know the UK has been enjoying some (can I say “unseasonably”?) summer weather lately, and our summer pretty much here to stay until about October now, so I’ll try to keep sharing the sunny pics for when the “real” British summer arrives (you know, the one where it rains for days on end.)

Just so y’all know what you could be visiting if you popped over to see us!

It’s always nice when people come here on holiday and we get chance to meet up. A school friend of mine recently came to the Algarve with her family and it was fantastic to see her again, after 20+ years, and meet her brood!

So yeah, if you ever visit the Algarve on holiday, give us a yell and we’ll show you this lot!

View from the pool table at our local – The Lighthouse on Lagos Marina

Across Praia de Batata, Lagos

Our beautiful “green tiled shop”, complete with the Jacaranda tree in bloom.

View from the Science Centre and roof of the market building on the Avenida

Nik’s bike when he took it up to the Autodromo race track for the World Superbikes last weekend

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Continuing the A to Z of Gibraltar, here’s F to I.

F is for Food.

If we’d actually stayed in a hotel in Gibraltar, rather than on the Spanish side of the border, this post might have been a bit different but, as it was, we ate in Spain as often as Gib itself.

Even in Spain, we weren’t in an area that had anything typically Spanish (that might come when we visit Jerez this weekend for the MotoGP) The hotel we stayed at had a pretty good menu though at a fairly reasonable price. We ate there once, I think, and in surrounding restaurants/diners for the other 2 evenings.

One particularly good American Diners (whose name I have forgotten) served the most amazing food! Huge portions, great for the glutton!) It’s probably a good job we only found it on our last evening or we might have come back rather heavier than we went.

In Gibraltar itself, food was pretty much your standard cafe/fast food or restaurant fare. Nothing special. We didn’t find a proper fish and chip shop, which was very disappointing, and we ate, for the most part, fairly average, run of the mill stuff.

The meal we remember, is the diner!

Starter for two!!

Eliot’s meal – we called it “Boy VS Food”. He does look ever so slightly daunted by it (but he DID win!)

 


G is for Gibraltar (obviously!)

There’s lots and nothing much to say about Gib specifically. I mean, you could just look it up on Wikipedia and getting better information, quite honestly.

So, I’ll just share a few photos with you instead.

Queueing at the border on day two (Monday)

Looking back towards Spain from The Rock

The built-up side is really not all that pretty from up top!

The other side, however, is breathtaking.

Did we like Gibraltar? Yes and no.

Would we visit again? Hmmmm, probably. Maybe. Not sure!


 H is for Hercules – The Pillars Of

The Pillars of Hercules (Latin: Columnae Herculis, Greek: Ἡράκλειοι Στῆλαι, Arabic: أعمدة هرقل‎, Spanish: Columnas de Hércules) was the phrase that was applied in Antiquity to the promontories that flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. The northern Pillar is the Rock of Gibraltar (now part of the British overseas territory of Gibraltar). A corresponding North African peak not being predominant, the identity of the southern Pillar has been disputed through history,[1] with the two most likely candidates being Monte Hacho in Ceuta and Jebel Musa in Morocco.” Courtesy of Wikipedia

This is of interest for two reasons.
One, obviously, because the northern Pillar is The Rock.


Secondly, because next to our hotel in Spain, there is a new commercial building called “Torres de Hercules” which is quite something!
Click on the link – The architect’s photos are far more impressive than ours!
Or, if you want to see more, check out this page.

(and one with the hotel alongside – apologies for photo quality.  Phone cameras don’t like fading light much.)

 


 

I is for In The Sun

I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but there is a Channel 5 series called Gibraltar – Britain in the Sun.

It was this program that convinced us that we wanted to visit Gibraltar. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. Depending on how you feel about British patriotism, you’ll probably either love or hate it.

Whatever your feelings about it, Gibraltar IS Britain in the Sun. That can’t be all bad, can it?

 

 

 

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As some of you may know, we recently had a short family break to Gibraltar.
Having watched the Channel 5 series “Gibraltar: Britain in the Sun”, we googled to find out just where Gib actually IS. Turns out it’s positively next door!

gibmap

OK, so four hours drive is possibly not quite “next door”, but in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t far and it would certainly be a change of scenery. Basically, we were curious and decided to go for it.

So, we booked ourselves into a family room at the Holiday Inn Express in Algeciras/Campo de Gibraltar, about 15 minutes Spain-side of Gib, and took a 4 day break while the boys were off school for Carnival.

I figured that an A to Z might be a fun way to blog about it!

Personal A to Z of Gibraltar.

A is for Airport

Unless you’re lucky enough to be close enough to drive to Gibraltar, chances are you’ll arrive by plane. Gibraltar’s airport is a bit of a thing. Its runway actually serves as the border between Spain and Gibraltar and you have to either walk or drive across it to enter the country.


 

B is for Border Control

That was handy, huh?

In our (albeit short) experience, border control between Spain and Gibraltar is both sporadic and erratic! The first day we drove in (on a Sunday), we drove pretty much straight up to the border and, on production of our passports, went straight in. Likewise when we came back out again.

On the Monday, however, we did queue for nearly 30 minutes to get into Gib. Apparently this is normal. We were also warned about the likelihood of long queues to get out too, as customs check what you are taking away with you (with Gib being VAT-free, there are limits, but I’ll come to that later), but we didn’t really have to wait long to get out again either.

I know there have been times when border controls between Spain and Gibraltar have made international news, but fortunately we didn’t really experience any issues on either side.

Lots of people choose to park on the Spanish side of the border and walk in. Probably it wouldn’t have taken any longer on the days we got delayed, but the thought of a 30-40 minute walk back to the car at the end of the day certainly didn’t appeal so we chose to take our chances and drive in.


 

C is for Caves

Fascinating fact. Did you know that within Gibraltar’s 2.6sq miles of   “Rock”, there are around 34 miles of tunnels. 34 miles!! That’s twice as much tunnel on the inside as it has roads outside!

During the time when these tunnels were being dug out, many pre-existing caves were discovered. Huge caves. Apparently, about 200 of them above ground. That Rock must be like a piece of Swiss cheese!

The cave we visited had been kitted out with its own auditorium and colour-changing mood lighting which enabled you to see just how vast the cave was. It looked beautiful and had numerous steps and stairs along which you could visit other caves and marvel at the many stalactites and stalagmites that had formed over the years.


 

D is for Density.

Quick fact. Did you know that Gibraltar is one of the most densely populated countries in the world?

In its 2.6sq miles (and that includes The Rock, don’t forget!), there were, in 2011, nearly 30,000 inhabitants, making nearly 5,000 per square kilometre.

From up above, you can see just how they accommodate all those people: high-rise and land reclamation.

Yeh, I think I’ll give that a miss, thanks!


 

E is for English

This was going to come up sooner or later, wasn’t it? I’m sure you know that Gibraltar’s first language is actually English. To be honest, we weren’t too sure what to expect, but, knowing this, we did kinda presume it’d be all we saw and heard.

That actually turned out not to be the case, or less so than we thought anyway.

Sure, street signs and shops were in English. Tourist leaflets were English and even the shops themselves were English (think Morrisons, M&S, Mothercare, BHS, WH Smiths etc), but what we were surprised to note was that the majority of shop staff themselves seemed to be Spanish. That was unexpected. What all the English inhabitants are doing with themselves, I’ve no idea. Maybe they’re just sunning themselves on the beach or running the tourist bars and attractions, leaving the less desirable jobs for the Spanish. I don’t know, but it did surprise me.

I think that’s enough for now. More to come later!

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