We return once again to ‘The most beautiful towns in Spain’. Some of these towns are special, but one must be in no doubt: the attention-grabbing label has been firmly stuck on the postcard by the local tourist authority.
They will be glad to see you, hope you have time to take a photo or two (post it on Instagram, because any publicity is good publicity), and then for Goodness Sake, why not stroll around and spend some money?
Friends, our souvenir shops don’t run on air!
The problem for the discerning tourist, who reads about these ‘best kept secret’ destinations, or sees the carefully angled photographs put out to attract his attention (Google will do the rest), is that thousands of other equally choosy people will have seen the same promotion. By the time you get there, it’s full to the gunnels of people all ready to get in the way of your photo.
You have seen the massed crowds at Machu Picchu (and that ain’t even easy to get to), the hordes of visitors in Venice, the queues of people near the summit of Mount Everest (!), the wall-to-wall trippers in Barcelona, the apologetic oriental mob in Ronda, the gaggle of Brits in Nerja and the multicultural throng visiting the Alhambra.
There’s nothing less relaxing than appreciating the magnificence of the mosque in Cordoba as the thousand raised camera-phones and their owners noisily and irreverently record the scene.
Personally, I think we have left it too late.
In the past, I have sometimes laughed at the restored fortress in some dingy town, where ‘over fifty people visited daily’ during the summer months. I may have chuckled at the rusted sign indicating the walls of a mosque in some Alpujarra village (the roof fell in over 400 years ago) or the iron cowboy erected near a bar where ‘Clint Eastwood once tried the garlic mushrooms’ (they were good, too).
But now I have changed my mind, and I shall diligently search for these treasures, content in knowing that the press of souvenir shop-keepers, tourist councillors coach attendants or travel-article hacks will be light to non-existent.
The food will be good (it always is in Spain), the tinto de verano will be cheaper and the bar-owners will close up and be in bed by, at the latest, ten in the evening.
See, they never made a list of ‘the Ugliest Villages in Spain’, because – well, now that’s a properly well-kept secret.
A warning from the courts regarding those wooden houses that can be put up in an afternoon… from elDiario.es here: ‘Erecting a prefabricated house on land without a planning license – be it an orchard, a plot in the countryside or in the mountains – can lead to possible prison sentences. That is the notice that the Prosecutor's Office has given to companies that sell these homes, as well as to those who want to buy them. The Public Ministry points out that there is no "legal vacuum" in terms of permits to place them, as some companies claim, and argues that the regulations are clear: in the eyes of Justice, they are houses like those made of brick and cement…’
From Spanish Property Insight here, ‘The number of second-homes has declined significantly in the last 20 years, especially on the costas and islands’. As regards luxury homes on the market – at least, those priced above a million euros – Idealista says that there are over 40,000 of them on their books…
A positive Express article about moving to Spain (hiding behind a warning): ‘The British expat who moved to Spain exposes the biggest challenge - ‘mid-life crisis’’.
The Imserso prices have now been published for this coming winter season. Hosteltur has the details here. (Imserso is a subsidised holiday program for seniors).
From Cinco Días here. ‘Tax fraud in Spain, focusing solely on income that manages to escape personal income tax (IRPF), increases exponentially as taxpayers' wealth grows. Consequently, the collection gap in this tax figure is around 7,000 million euros per year…’ The headline says: ‘Tax fraud increases as income grows: the richest 0.1% hide 23% of their income’.
From Sur in English here: ‘Inflation is still high at 10.4% in Spain year on year, but it has dropped slightly in August. The main causes of high inflation are still energy and fresh food prices, together with hospitality and package holidays’.
InfoLibre brings us ‘A list of the Government’s anti-crisis measures (Feijóo’s PP voted against each and every one of them)’.
The ‘Only Yes means Yes’ sexual freedom law has now been passed in the Cortes (with the PP and Vox voting against). The Guardian here: ‘Spain passes ‘only yes means yes’ sexual consent law. Legislation that says consent cannot be assumed by default or silence was drawn up after the ‘wolf pack’ case’. El Huff Post removes the bulos and myths here (no, you don’t need a signed contract…). The conservative Spanish News Today says ‘Spain finally votes on sexual equality bill two months late’.
For those Voxers who miss Macarena Olona, the candidate who quit politics ‘for health reasons’ after her bath in the Andalusian elections, the news is that she is hinting at returning to the fray: ‘"I am looking forward to getting down and dirty once again. I am certain that I want to serve the Spanish people and I will be found where I can be most useful to them" she says’. The story is at EuropaPress here.
From Catalan News here: ‘The United Nations' Human Rights Committee has stated that Spain "violated" the political rights of four formerly jailed leaders, convicted for their roles in organizing the 2017 referendum on independence despite Spain's ban. The opinion was released on Wednesday morning and refers to the fact that former vice president Oriol Junqueras, together with former ministers Raül Romeva, Josep Rull, and Jordi Turull were stripped of their status as MPs before having been convicted in October 2019…’
‘Better late than never: Gibraltar ‘becomes’ city after 180-year delay. Research to update record of cities in UK and overseas territories reveals Gibraltar was awarded status in 1842 but omitted from list’. The Guardian reports here. (They made Stanley in the Falkland Islands – pop. 2,108 – a city as well).
El Confidencial brings the tale of Britain’s beaches, washed in filth. Their headline: ‘The latest unexpected victim of Brexit: UK beaches fill with sewage. Following the divorce, water companies found it had become more difficult to obtain treatment chemicals due to the disruption of supply chains at ports, while the authorities have relaxed restrictions’.
The complete lowdown on the ex-commissar José Manuel Villarejo with La Marea here. How many tapes are there? (80 have been published so far). Who is providing these tapes? (Villarejo, maybe, although he denies this). The timeline? (2009 to 2017). Are there more to come? (Villarejo claims a terabyte of unreleased material).
So, why did they defenestrate Mónica Oltra from her post in the Valencian government? Something to do with her ex-husband’s improper relationship with an under-age girl (who now admits that she received money from some far-right lawyers who have now dropped her)? Or perhaps because she was instrumental in returning the Valencian hospitals, privatised under Francisco Camps, to public ownership. The story, ‘a classic case of lawfare’, is examined in detail here. Even El Mundo appears to come out in her favour: ‘The letter from five former wards in support of Mónica Oltra's ex-husband convicted of abusing a minor says: "It is a great injustice"’ (not that the comentarios forgive Mónica Oltra for the presumed sins of her ex-husband).
Should José Antonio Griñán be ‘let off’? The disgraced ex-president of the Junta de Andalucía is facing six years in jail for his part in the multimillion euro ERE scandal. The debate (on the left) runs around whether he should be pardoned or how might such a thing be taken by the voting public. Susana Díaz (his immediate successor) has signed a petition to pardon him but the current leader of the PSOE-A is defiant: ‘Juan Espadas has announced that he will not sign the request for a measure of grace for the former president of the Junta de Andalucía’, says El Mundo here. It would go against the Party code of ethics, says Espadas, which expressly prohibits public officials from requesting amnesty for those convicted of corruption. A pretty problem for Pedro Sánchez to unravel.
Those who manage to steal items of small value (under 400€), known as un hurto, can expect to be cautioned and let off, even when they make a habit of it. But, no longer. Recidivists can now receive up to 18 months of jail-time says Catalunya Press here.
Always seen as the amiable champion of the left, the senior newscaster and chat-show host Antonio García Ferreras on LaSexta (a TV channel owned by Atresmedia / Grupo Planeta) was outed recently when some recordings of a meeting between him and the PP hatchet-man and jailed ex-policeman Villarejos were unearthed where the two agreed to publish some fake information on the newly-arrived Podemos party (much feared by the Establishment back in the early day of 2014). Pablo Iglesias says of him here: "Ferreras is so powerful and so important... More important than any minister. The presidents pass and the heads of television and the owners of the media continue. But I think that Ferreras has lost a lot of legitimacy. The leading reason why he was so useful is that he seemed to be on the side of the left. He was a progressive guy and he's a charming guy. I've worked with him a lot and, frankly, he's majestic. However, I think that the fact that these conversations with Villarejo coming to light means that he can no longer fulfil the same function that he has done in the past…".
RTVE’s most famous news-caster is Ana Blanco, who has held the trust of the nation in her hands for 30 years. As La Vanguardia reports here, Ana is to retire next week, and the question rises – who will take her place?
The 12foot Ladder, which got one successfully past the paywall feature on many news-sites, has been disabled. Sadly.
Regularly, articles appear to show that having trees in the city will help – to a smaller of greater degree – to keep the heat down. Shade and, one imagines – a pleasant leafy breeze. Also, they look nice. City planners, on the other hand, don’t like them at all (as we can see in the new Puerta del Sol in Madrid, among others). Thus, a famous and much belovéd 100 year old ficus, cut down outside the Parroquia de San Jacinto in Seville last week, has become the rallying cry in Andalucía: Stop the Arboricide! Certainly, the Spanish version of pruning (podando) a tree is a lot more conclusive than the English word suggests. As often as not, they don’t survive the attention. In Málaga, we read, they want to cut down the trees on the Monte Gibralfaro, to improve the view of the castle. Where’s my camera? In Almería, the city planners are removing the trees in the town hall square – much to the disapproval of local residents. El Salto Diario has the story of the policy behind the heavy clipping. Apparently, it’s to improve tourism!
From ECD here: ‘The Air Force refuses to reveal the files on alleged UFO sightings in Spain, maintaining that reports of strange aerial phenomena are confidential’. So, they are not saying they is, and that are not saying they ain’t. In the old days in Mojácar, I remember many people reported seeing flying saucers. Mind you, it could have been something to do with that bathtub gin we used to drink…
The DGT are spending some of that hard-earned money taken in speeding fines in acquiring ever more cameras. Xataka reports that another 300 new radars have just been installed on the roads to keep us safe. Last year, Tráfico collected almost 445 million euros in traffic fines – mainly from speeding.
The Spanish equivalent to Pathe News, a short news-reel showed in the cinema before the feature-film, was the No-Do. Here is a fleet of electric Barcelona taxis from 1943. It those days, they would switch out the battery for another. Found on YouTube. SP, by the way, means Servicio Público (taxis, buses and so on).
A cheesy article from Idealista here: ‘What to eat in Spain: the best Spanish cheese. Here are our recommendations of the top five Spanish cheeses and where to try them’. There are lots more to choose from and the old days of eating ‘bola’ (the tasteless Dutch cheese with a red rind on it), or El Caserio cheese segments, have long gone… Our favourite queso – not mentioned in the article – is the ubiquitous ‘Manchego’.
The BBC has a video here called ‘The reason why the Spanish Armada failed’ (Thanks to Andy for the link).
I once went with a small group of Japanese physiotherapists (!) to see some flamenco dancing in a cave in the Sacromonte in Granada. One of my companions spent the whole time filming the dancers’ feet. Strange people the Japanese physios… From Molly at Piccavey here, a useful article on the history and background to flamenco, plus how to get tickets to the best shows in Granada.
The Blues Comes for Brexit
I’m in Britain and it’s incredibly worrying what’s happening to the UK. Like you say, we have a zombie government, waiting for whichever imbecile gets the leadership next. There’s been a massive lurch to the right and it is clear the government no longer cares about the people or even how that might look. There are going to be food and fuel riots this winter if they don’t change course and then we’ll see if we still live in a democracy. If anyone’s interested, a new movement called Enough is Enough has launched to fight back. You don’t need to be a leftie to join. Just worried about the state of our society.
It was a close run thing nearly 49% voted to stay in the EU. Myself included. Sadly we have been forgotten about. People write as if the whole country voted to leave which is far from the truth. The right wing have run the country since then and what a mess we find ourselves in. This government will bring the UK to its knees or even its ankles. They only care for themselves and their cronies, they don't give a care or a damn about the general population. The vast majority voted to leave due to immigration and that is the truth, however the immigration they wanted to stop has not, it is the EU nationals that have gone back to their native countries. People we actually needed. Now we are faced with a PM taking office that has been voted for by the Conservative party members, not the country, many are older, can remember the Raj and want the UK to go back to Empire days.
Flamenco guitarist Manolo Sanlucar died this past week-end. There is understandably plenty of him on YouTube, and here is a little-heard piece of his called Oración.