Monday, May 23, 2011

Entry 65 5.13.11

Entry 65, May 13, 2011, 1:07pm (ship time GMT +2)

British soil! This is a first. We're docked in Gibraltar today, our last port before returning to Palma and finishing the Spanish itinerary for the first time. Nicky (our thorny British T&D manager) was extremely excited to go ashore and get a “proper English breakfast” for the first time in many months.

Gibraltar is very much a small piece of the United Kingdom, transplanted to the Mediterranean. It isn't like some colonies I've seen (looking at you, Cayman) that are nominally part of a certain country but have a culture that is totally different. Gibraltar is an extension of the UK, to the extent that they have red telephone boxes and police officers in funny hats. The peninsula even uses pounds sterling, although most places will accept Euro.

Gibraltar is not very large. It is not an island, despite what some would have you think, but is instead a peninsula protruding South and parallel to a segment of the Spanish coast. It is not in the narrowest part of the strait linking the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, either; it is slightly to the East. Whenever a plane takes off, it becomes an island, though, as the runway bisects the main road to Spain (they actually have traffic lights that turn red whenever a plane is taking off or landing!).

I'm eating in a restaurant called “The Clipper,” one narrow, cobblestoned side street off of the main tourist drag (the “free wifi” sign will get me in every time). The waitress asked me if I wanted “white coffee,” (“cuppa white coffee, love?” (I feel that she was overdoing it a bit)) and because I had no idea what she was talking about I said yes. It turns out that this means coffee with milk, which makes a certain amount of sense as we already say “black coffee” to mean coffee without (black coffee in Spanish speaking countries is “cafe americano,” meaning that you get a large cup of weaker black coffee instead of the small cup of espresso that seems to be the norm). I have decided that milk is acceptable in coffee but sugar is not.

I also just polished off a plate of tikka masala. It turns out that tikka masala was actually invented in England . . . and it tastes like it was. If I had to describe it, I would say that it tastes like Indian food made only with ingredients that are native to Britain. Not bad, exactly, but I'd rather have chicken korma any day of the week. The British seem opposed to anything that could involve spice or seasoning.

Perhaps I sound highly critical of Britain in this blog. This is not the case – it is only because their culture is so similar to ours that I feel comfortable in making fun of it. It certainly isn't a one-sided discussion – the Brits are constantly making fun of our (mis)use of the English language (the more indignant they get, the more I lapse into my old West Virginia speech patterns) aboard ship, and so it becomes a friendly give and take. How's that lease in Hong Kong working out for you guys, eh? What was the phrase, “the sun never sets on the British Empire?”

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