Monday, 25 March 2013

More from Stanley

I'm going to take a break from talking about the wildlife of the Falklands to return to Stanley (note, the 'Port' only applies to the actual harbour). As I mentioned in a previous post, it has the air of a small town on the west coast of Scotland, although the presence of huge cruise ships in the harbour, or just outside, can dispel that illusion.

We stayed at the Waterfront Hotel, a smart, modern establishment that wouldn't be out of place in most cities, although it is pretty small. It boasted a warm welcome, though, and a nice coffee shop that's clearly popular with locals, residents and cruise ship visitors alike.

We also ate at the Malvina House Hotel*, along at the other end of the main waterfront road. This is the top hotel in town, and the restaurant was really excellent. It seems to be the main meeting place for the town, or certainly for its business community.

Of course, we also wanted to see what the town's pubs were like, so on the last night we went along to The Globe, very close to our hotel. Inside it's not too different from what you'd expect in any smalltown British pub, although the odd assault rifle and rocket launcher on the wall is a giveaway as to location. Inside, the beer was all British brands (just as the West Store, the town's main shop, stocks M&S, Tesco and Sainsbury food items), and the atmosphere thoroughly relaxed. And don't think that the War dominates wall space - as in most of the houses, hotels and other establishments we went in during our stay, the islands' maritime history and wildlife riches also loomed large.

A single squaddie was defeating all-comers on the pool table - the locals told us that the following night, a Saturday, was the big one for servicemen coming from the Mount Pleasant base, 30-odd miles away. You can't imagine there's much trouble, though - both the military and local police wouldn't have too much of a job tracking down trouble-makers.

In fact, throughout our stay, we saw precious little trace of the military presence, except when we flew in and out of Mount Pleasant. A couple of Land Rovers, perhaps, but that was it. No low-flying jets or helicopters. There are still a number of minefields, but they're all well mapped and fenced off, and experts from Zimbabwe were actually present on Stanley Common (itself scarred by peat-digging) removing some of them.

* The founder named it after his young daughter, Malvina being a Scottish name that was popular in the islands. It seems to be something of an ironic coincidence that it's almost the same as the Argentinian name for the islands, Las Malvinas.

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