The best thing about choosing to travel with the train is that it will take you into the centre of the city. You won’t be dumped in some stainless steel and marble airport half an hour or more – by taxi - from the downtown.
Living in Almería – one of the cities that has waited patiently for about twenty years for a high-speed train to take us somewhere, indeed anywhere… we have either had to get in the car, or on a very uncomfortable and slow bus, or take the trouble to buy an air-ticket, or climb aboard the one existing slow train – there’s practically only one train station in the whole province, and that’s in Almería City: with a line which meanders peacefully across the landscape before eventually hooking up with civilization in Linares (Jaén) and so on northwards or alternatively west to Seville.
The problem with arriving by car at your city destination increasingly is – where to leave it?
There never was much in the way of railways in Almería, beyond a few mining routes built with foreign investment in around 1900 – all since lost beyond the elevated rail-head in Almería City (now restored and turned into a tourist attraction) known as el Cable Inglés.
Trains are the best, because one can wander around in them – pop into the bar for a coffee and a brandy and to read the paper. Even seated, one can stretch one’s legs. There’s no baggage issues either. Bring along a full suitcase, why don’t you.
Many years ago, taking the Sleeper to Madrid was, if you’ll forgive the pun, just the ticket. The carriage, built in Birmingham in 1948, was sturdy and comfortable, and one was delivered on Platform One in Madrid’s Atocha railway station at seven in the morning – the perfect time for a coffee and a bun before taking a taxi to one’s appointments.
Trains are better than airplanes, and if they are fast, then there’s little more to be said. Downtown to downtown without taxi rides to and from the airport – plus one is doing one’s bit for the struggle against Global Warming and one’s Carbon Footprint production.
(A pop singer called Taylor Swift who leads the pack in air-rides with almost 8,300 tons of CO2 emissions in 2022 might want to take note. Take the train, Child, we’ll wait).
Trains then, will deliver one feeling refreshed while other forms of transport lean towards leaving one nervous, washed-out and irritable.
They say that Almería – poor forgotten province in the south East of Spain – should finally have its AVE (tren de alta velocidad española) by 2026.
Until then, By Jove, I shall be staying home on the couch and reading some inviting travelers’ guides.
Barcelona is an expensive place to live ‘even for expats’, says El País here. Anyone with an income of under 50,000€ will be considering moving out, it says. In another article about the price of city-life, at Infobae here, Barcelona again appears as the most expensive (the cost of living including rent versus salary), followed not by Madrid, oddly, but by Málaga. The cheapest cities to work and live are Ávila (the cheapest of all), Huesca, Ciudad Real, Cáceres, Pontevedra and Jaén.
Idealista provides ‘Ten advantages for living in a small town’ here.
Confidencial Autonómico considers the case of Genalguacil in La Rioja, a town that has converted itself into a museum to fight against depopulation.
The Scottish multimillionaire Irvine, Baron Laidlaw (a major benefactor to the British Conservative party) is building ‘hundreds’ of apartments and houses in the periphery of Madrid – in Boadilla, Villaviciosa de Odón, Getafe and Colmenar Viejo – with funds from his offshore holdings in the secretive island of Nevis says elDiario.es here.
‘Foreigners account for one in every five homes sold in Spain. Non-Spanish buyers were responsible for 21.4% of total sales and purchases, the highest figure on record, according to the latest data’. The story comes from Sur in English here.
‘Spain’s high-speed trains aren’t just efficient, they have transformed people’s lives’ writes María Ramírez at The Guardian here. ‘…A fiasco like HS2 (wiki) could never happen here – our fast train network is so popular that no Spanish government would dare give up on it’. She says ‘…I am writing this piece, for example, on board a high-speed train from Madrid to Barcelona. The journey takes two and a half hours and covers almost 620km, similar to the distance between London and Edinburgh. I paid €19, significantly less than the cost of a taxi ride from Madrid city centre to the airport, or the train fare for the four-and-a-half-hour rail journey between London and Edinburgh…’ (Thanks to Mica)
The Mayor of Madrid says he will tighten up the rules on tourist apartments in his city in a few months from now says Antena3 here.
Seville locals are outraged at an article in the lowbrow Daily Mail putting the city on a short list of ‘tacky’ destinations for Brits to avoid – thanks in part, it says, to ‘boozed up Brits’. Benidorm being the other place cited by the newspaper. The Olive Press has the story here.
‘An ageing population means beds in residential homes for the elderly must triple by 2037. With only 2.4 places per 100 retirees - half the WHO recommendation - Málaga province is one of the worst areas of Spain for bed provision’ says Sur in English here.
The Corner is cautiously optimistic here: ‘…the Spanish economy weathered better than expected during the first half of the year. It maintained growth that was by no means negligible and, above all, it surprised by accelerating the pace of job creation. The latest revision by the INE (National Statistics Institute) of its historical series has reaffirmed this positive assessment, with figures that are somewhat better than initially estimated. This leads us to revise the growth forecast for the year as a whole slightly upwards to 2.4%...’
Some more details are appearing on the (eventual) new rule for the self-employed to no longer have to charge IVA to their clients – at least for those who make under 80,000€ a year. The ‘modulo’ system – which estimates one’s IVA bill (for bars and the like) will also be abolished in the next couple of years. ECD has the story.
One needs to have paid into the Social Security a minimum of fifteen years to later collect a pension. But what happens if you arrive at the age of retirement without having paid in enough, or maybe not paid in anything? You will likely be eligible for una pension no contributiva – which currently stands at 484.61€ in 14 payments annually. To earn this right, you need to receive no other pension, have been a resident in Spain for the last ten years and to be over 65 years old. More at La Razón here.
From VozPópuli here: ‘More than 12.3 million people are at risk of poverty and social exclusion. This is one of the conclusions reached by the study "The State of Poverty 2022" by the European Network to Fight Poverty and Social Exclusion in the Spanish State (EAPN-ES), which analyses the relationship between poverty and social exclusion rates with elements such as housing, gender, age or the influence of habitat…’ The article notes that ‘…The expenditure dedicated to housing among the population with few resources is equivalent to almost 40% of household income, an effort more than three times greater than that made by wealthier people (12.5%). The study highlights that people in this situation have less access to property and, therefore, rent more. At the same time, renting, in addition to generating insecurity, is much more expensive than a mortgage and consumes a significant part of the available resources’.
From Idealista (in English) here: ‘The Canary Islands put an end to inheritance and gift tax and forfeited €18 million in tax revenue’. This region joins the Valencian Community and the Balearic Islands in annulling this unpopular tax. In the Canaries, says Europa Press, by contrast, ‘Almost 800,000 people are at risk of poverty, which is 36.2% of the population’.
As Pedro Sánchez looks for support for his candidature for president…
The general coordinator of the Partido Popular, Elías Bendodo, said this Sunday at a party event that Bildu has managed to "bring Pedro Sánchez to his knees", which – he said – was the equivalent of "bringing our country to its knees." The story is at 20Minutos here. ‘Showing a photo of last Friday’s meeting between Pedro Sánchez and Mertxe Aizpurua, Bildu's spokesperson in Congress, Bendodo said that "this is not just any photo, it is the photo of Friday the 13th, the photo of shame, the photo that "offends thousands of victims, including many supporters of the PSOE who saw how ETA murdered members of the Socialist Party"’. The Basque party EH Bildu is often used by the right to inflame passions over the bad times of Spanish terrorism: now, thankfully, consigned to the history books.
The potential backlash to the ‘amnesty’ backed by Pedro Sánchez (to obtain the support of the Catalonian secessionist parties) will be countered, we read at 20Minutos here, by an ample social contract with the coalition parties together with the unions and other agencies. These include rises in pensions and the minimum wage; strengthening the public services, including health; and combating climate change.
El Español says that Podemos (it has five seats within the Sumar coalition) insists that it won’t support the investiture unless Irene Montero (she of the messy ‘Only Yes Means Yes’ law) continues as the Minister for Equality. Irene is not well-seen by other leftist politicians.
The CIS – the leading pollster in Spain – gives its October survey on how the parties would fare today in an election. The PSOE and PP are now almost neck and neck at 32.6% and 32.2%, with Sumar at 12.7% and Vox in fourth place at 10.1%.
Núñez Feijóo is planning a motion of censure against Pedro Sánchez (assuming he can put together a government) to fall after the regional Basque elections in June 2024. It’s doomed to fail says a survey at ECD here.
The conservative El Debate reveals that ‘The Vox parliamentary group in the Community of Madrid will take an initiative to the Madrid Assembly this Thursday to demand that the regional government review textbooks and educational curricula to eliminate "indoctrination." In addition, it calls for respect for the right of parents to choose the type of education their children receive "based on their own convictions"’. Some interesting comments accompany the article too (e.g. ‘This is thinking about people, families, voters, in short. This is why the lackeys of totalitarian globalism, those who ally themselves with traitors and terrorists, want to ban Vox’).
How a referendum might work within the Spanish Constitution, with Catalan News here. As far as I understand it, a vote in favour of independence for the Catalonian region would probably fail at this time (as well as doing heavy damage to any national government who authorised it). Certainly, Madrid could ease tensions in the region, possibly by making Barcelona more parcipitative in national affairs (such as installing a government ministry there). El Periodico in January claimed that just 40% of Catalans were in favour of independence from Spain.
The GSLP/Liberal coalition clinch a sensational fourth straight term after the closest ever election-race says The Olive Press here. ‘…Re-elected Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Liberal leader Joseph García hugged their cheering supporters as they greeted the result…’
The Middle East Crisis:
Somebody says here that, if you take a side, then you will only be obliged to lament the death of some of those who are being killed in this terrible slaughter in the Middle East. While the Spanish news is naturally full of reports (some found to be false) about the ongoing tragedy there (plus articles about the obscene bellicosity of many foreign governments and politicians), BoT will attempt to avoid the subject unless it involves Spain.
‘Pedro Sánchez insists that the solution to the conflict between Israel and Hamas involves recognizing Palestine as a State. The socialist leader has expressed that Israel “of course has the right to defend itself, but always within International Humanitarian Law, which does not materially endorse the evacuation of Palestinians from Gaza”’. elDiario.es reporting here.
Thirty thousand people took to the streets of Madrid to support Palestine on Sunday says Público here.
From La Razón here: ‘The conflict in the Middle East has a full impact on Spanish politics and once again highlights the Government's difficulty in expressing itself with a single voice when international affairs demand a unified position in the Council of Ministers. The conflict has ended up unleashing a diplomatic crisis between Spain and Israel. This past weekend, the Minister of Social Rights and leader of Podemos Ione Belarra called on Pedro Sánchez that Spain take Israel to the International Criminal Court for "war crimes."…’. Ione Belarra was joined by Yolanda Díaz in harsh criticism of Israel’s leaders following events on Tuesday says La Cope here. The PP reacted by saying that Spain – with its presidency of the EU – should be acting with the appropriate responsibility (20Minutos here).
El Faro de Vigo says that the regional government of Galicia is banning ‘energy drinks’ (Red Bull, etc) for minors from next year due to their high content of stimulants.
Much is being made of the threats of bedbugs, which appear to be making their way to Spain from France. 20Minutos says that the creatures (chinches in Spanish) are becoming resistant to insecticides.
Spain's National Court has sent the former Spanish interior minister, Jorge Fernández Díaz, to trial over 'Operation Kitchen'. This refers to the police operation allegedly launched to retrieve corruption evidence from the former treasurer of the conservative People's Party, Luis Bárcenas, in relation to the 'Gürtel case', and to hide information from anti-corruption authorities. Bárcenas and the ringleader Francisco Correa were both convicted of corruption in 2018. The case revealed corruption and vast irregularities in the financing of the right-wing PP which ultimately led to the downfall of the former Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy with a vote of no confidence in 2018. Jorge Fernández Díaz will now go to trial over charges of bribery, influence peddling, embezzlement, cover-up, against privacy, obstruction, and criminal organization… More at Catalan News here. The story is also covered by EuropaPress here (with a short video).
The Conversation takes a look at those credulous folk who will believe anything: ‘I saw it on YouTube. Why do people believe in anti-science?’
From Sur in English here: ‘Costa del Sol towns to discuss joint measures to tackle extreme drought situation. The Junta de Andalucía regional government has raised the water-saving requirements for local town halls from 10 to 20 per cent’. If it doesn’t rain enough over the winter months, says the ABC here, then the cities of Seville, Córdoba and Málaga ‘will run out of water within the next year’.
The traffic czar and his mighty organisation at the DGT are unceasing in their efforts to make the roads safer. In 2022, the traffic police handed out 5,542,005 fines (El País here).
Thus, noise-radars are arriving on the roads to control our output, with fines of up to 280€ (Autopista here); while wearing the wrong kind of sunglasses can cost us 200€ (ECD here). A fine of 200€ may be issued to drivers leaving the shopping on the back seat (La Opinión here) and of course for entering a ZBE (low emission zone) with the wrong sort of car or sticker (Autofácil here). Running out of petrol on the highway is a no-no (OKDiario here) and finally, ThinkSpain has a list of other ‘driver distractions’ here.
As electric vehicles makes headway in Spain, there will one day be less petrol stations around says an article at La Vanguardia here. Obvious, maybe, but there we go…
Sur in English looks at the history of Las Alpujarras with the sub-title ‘The area is made up of a series of 25 picturesque white villages in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada’ here.
The Basques have some strange graphic fonts of their own (Wiki) – said to come from the Middle Ages. An example is here. I’ve not tried it, but you can download your own Basque font(s) at Domestica here.
While it takes all sorts, and frankly I prefer something a little more homely, but the Best Bar in the World, according to The World’s Fifty Best Bars here, is Sips in Barcelona.
The world is always divided into the two camps – those on one side and those on the other. Thus, Spain is troubled about its Tortilla Española: should it have onion in it or not? Here’s the late – and excitable – Carlos Pumares fulminating on this very subject on YouTube.
NatGeo takes us to Frías (Burgos) the smallest city in Spain, with a population of 275.
That link in last week's BoT - "Madrid's hospital La Paz is dying... ", had me spluttering into my tea. I am no fan whatsoever of Ayuso but that was absurd propaganda. The brief video shots showed no such thing. The place is 50 years old and used by thousands and thousands of people and is bound to be a bit creaky.
It's been my hospital of reference for over 30 years and I've got nothing but praise for it and its staff. Recently I had to accompany someone to Urgencias and we could not have had better treatment.
And during Covid I lost the vision in one eye and went to La Paz. I was dealt with with M.A.S.H-like efficiency in what seemed a war zone and was operated on there and then. Thanks to La Paz I can see perfectly....and some old friends are still alive.
Porretas with Soy un Truhan, Soy un Señor (nice video, shame about the song!) on YouTube here.
Business over Tapas has a modest presence on Facebook here. Please ‘follow’.