GIBRALTAR’s interest is essentially its novelty: the genuine appeal of the strange, looming physical presence of its rock, and the dubious one of its preservation as one of Britain’s last remaining colonies. For most of its history it has existed in a limbo between two worlds without being fully part of either. It’s a curious place to visit, not least to witness the bizarre process of its opening to mass tourism from the Costa del Sol. Ironically, this threatens both to destroy Gibraltar’s highly individual hybrid society and at the same time to make it much more British, after the fashion of the expat communities and huge resorts of the Costa. In recent years, the economic boom Gibraltar enjoyed throughout the 1980s, following the reopening of the border with Spain, has started to wane, and the future of the colony – whether its population agrees to it or not – is almost certain to involve closer ties with Spain.
The town has a necessarily simple layout, as it’s shoehorned into the narrow stretch of land on the peninsula’s western edge in the shadow of the towering Rock. Main Street (La Calle Real) runs for most of the town’s length, a couple of blocks back from the port. On and around Main Street are most of the shops, together with many of the British-style pubs and hotels.