In the brief aftermath of the stunning British vote to depart the European Union, UK google searches have surged on — among other topics — “getting an Irish passport” and “move to Gibraltar.”
Getting an Irish passport makes a certain amount of sense, since Ireland is part of the EU and if you want to stay in it, you could move to Ireland.
Moving to Gibraltar — the famous Rock and one of the original “Pillars of Hercules” that guards the entrance to the Mediterranean like a sentinel — is a little puzzling, though, since it’s a British Overseas Territory and will presumably have to exit the EU as well.
Still, 96 percent of the voting population among Gibraltar’s 30,000 residents marked their ballots for “Remain” (in the EU), so those moving to Gibraltar would presumably find lots of sympathetic ears.
But then there’s the alternate reality: Gibraltar’s residents have consistently indicated a desire to remain a self-governing British territory rather than be incorporated into Spain, the country that lies just outside its borders — and, not incidentally, is a member of the EU.
Spain has long laid a claim to Gibraltar and, at times, made it as inconvenient as possible to visit the Rock by land (it’s a peninsula, joined to Spain by a narrow strip). So Brits moving to Gibraltar might easily be torn in two directions.
My wife, Catharine, and I spent a pleasant day in Gibraltar on a cruise a few years ago and found it to be very outwardly British: lots of British flags flying, fish and chips featured in some of the restaurants, English language spoken everywhere (although many residents also speak a dialect that’s a combination of English and Spanish) — yet with a mostly sunny Mediterranean climate and an eclectic group of natives and expats inhabiting it.
You could definitely stay in shape taking hikes up to the Upper Rock, leaving behind the immensely crowded areas near the port, which are filled with souvenir shops, liquor stores (cheaper here than in Spain), and a variety of ethnic eateries.
Because we had only a certain amount of time before our ship sailed, we opted to ride the funicular to the top. Once there, we had spectacular views overseeing the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain), toward North Africa, and looking down on a panorama of Gibraltar itself.
Gibraltar, of course, is famous for its “Barbary apes,” which are actually Barbary macaques, a species of monkey originally brought here from Morocco across the narrow mouth of the Mediterranean. They now hang around mostly at the top of the Upper Rock, because that’s where the tourists are.
Everyone wants to see the “apes” and snap photos, and the macaques are happy to oblige. The only problem is that if you’re carrying a plastic bag — filled with anything — the macaques assume it’s loaded with food and will snatch it from your grasp in a lightning-fast maneuver that will leave you gasping –and bagless — as they scurry off into the underbrush.
We ended up walking down from the top, which provided plenty of exercise and more splendid views along the way, along with fantasies of what it might be like to live in such a truly unusual place. It’s possible that a number of British citizens will now find out for themselves.
Oh yes, there’s also this item, for the “too little, too late” file: another big google search in the UK after the Brexit vote was “What is the EU?”
Can anyone discount the impact of low-information voters on world affairs — including travel? We’ll have more on this subject as events unfold over the months ahead.