Thursday, January 31, 2013

Back in business

I am delighted to say that the Bigastro Web Site is alive and well and that the email service has been restored.

There is also a new gallery for this year’s  pictures which I am sure will be announced soon.

Those who use the email service via an email client e.g. Outlook or Thunderbird will need to change the settings though. You need to add '@' to your user name in the profile and then reintroduce your password which hopefully you have kept! Those who use the web client instead should find it works without alteration.

A chance to take part

Bigastro City Council informs us that the Association of Persons with Disabilities La Pedrera and the departments of Sport and Social Welfare in collaboration with the Company Jucamar Esport, Bigastro Tennis Association and El Tío del Maso - Peña Deportiva San Joaquín  have organized the Second Conference of Adapted Sports,  Bigastro 2013 for Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th February.

This year, as a novelty, there will be a non competitive cycle run on Saturday February 9th at 4pm starting from the Parque Huerto del Cura open to all who wishe to  participate Approved helmet must be worn.

Pre registration for the events on Sunday the 10th is essential because numbers are limited. The deadline for registration is Wednesday, 6th February. The games in include; Badminton, Boccia, Basketball and Volleyball.

In case you were wondering like I was about Boccia - it is a Paralympic sport for athletes with disabilities that have a major impact on their motor skills. Boccia is a target ball sport belonging to the same family as petanque and bowls.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A sad waste of money

One of the other topics for discussion yesterday in our Spanish class was about the way the country has wasted money. The list included the famous airport at Castellón which cost 150 million euros to build and has never opened. Closer to home though, we talked of the magnificent auditorium at Torrevieja ( next to the private hospital) which also stands closed for much of the year.

The socialist government of Zapatero, saw fit to grant money to each town in Spain over a two year period. The idea was that this would enable towns to effect improvements that they could not afford otherwise. It was also aimed at providing much needed work at the time when the crisis was starting to bite hard.

There were several projects in Bigastro that were paid for in this way. The main one that springs to mind was the relaying of pavement on Calle Purisima. Sadly, everyone seems to agree that the previous cobbles were much better because the new ones are uneven and difficult to walk on. A lot of the sand grouting has now washed away making the cobbles even more dangerous.

The socialists also chose to improve the road that comes into the town from the Jacarilla roundabout. If they had completed the work right from the roundabout into the town it might have made sense but the work only stretched to the site where the last houses were scheduled to be built. Alongside the new road, they built a cycle path which goes to nowhere. I can honestly say, I have never seen a cyclist on the path nor have I seen many walking along the newly laid footpath with its fancy street lighting, trees and stone benches.

Then there is the viewpoint at the top of the town where children were supposedly going to gather and listen to stories. I haven’t been there recently but I’d like to bet that it is now littered with rubbish and the walls are covered in graffiti.

These examples from Bigastro can be replicated throughout Spain. Each town will have similar tales to tell of money wasted on projects that nobody actually wanted.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The medical centre

We were chatting today in Spanish about health matters. We had explained to our teacher that the three of us did not have private medical insurance. Instead we relied upon the services of the state system which we found to be generally very good.

Antonio then asked if we had attended the medical centre in Bigastro - “many times” was our reply. He went on to ask our opinion of the place and I explained that it was essential to know your place in the queue otherwise someone (usually a lady of mature years) would try and jump ahead of you.

Our teacher went on to explain that the medical centre was actually a meeting place as much as it was a place where sick people went to see the doctor and that you would find the same people in there every day. In fact, if anyone was missing on a particular day it was usually because they were not well! Also, the signs around the waiting room which asked you to be quiet were of course not obligatory. Antonio told us if you were really not feeling well, then the best time to go was after about 1:30pm when most had gone home to prepare lunch or on Thursday when the same  ladies would meet at the market instead.  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Medieval Market in Orihuela

Here is the programme for the Medieval Market next weekend.

They always spoil it for others

Bike hire in cities is such a great idea, It means that you can get around without having to struggle to park and travelling by bike is often quicker than by car. Pam and I were very impressed by the system in Barcelona which seemed to be very popular. In Alicante bike hire is run by a company called Alabici.

The problem they are facing in Alicante though is vandalism which have cost the company 24,000 euros in two years. People try to steal the bikes by breaking the locks that hold them in place. In doing so they damage the bikes, the anchors and the electronics that operate the system.

The only answer is to withdraw the bikes at night in those areas most vulnerable which seem to be near parks and other green zones. Such a shame because the honest people who use the service will be the ones to suffer.

Isn’t that counter productive?

The tolls on the AP-7 go up and the number of users goes down. In 2012 14% fewer vehicles used the motorway between Alicante and Valencia; that represents a loss of 3,000 vehicles per day. At the same time the tolls went up by 11% and then a further 2.4% in January. Surprise, surprise, traffic on the N-332 coast road increased during the same period.

The good news for those who can afford the tolls is that the toll section of the motorway is barely used – 14,818 vehicles per day – hardly worth having a road for so few. By my reckoning it is likely that the road actually generates less income than it did before the toll increases.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Was it any good?

Let me tell you, the dance show last night was bloody brilliant. Students from the Estafania Selfa School of Dance in Bigasto excelled themselves – pupils from 3 years of age to those in their 20s delighted the audience with a spectacular show.

I do wonder just how much more talent this town is going to reveal; musicians, sportsmen and women, dancers, chefs etc etc – Bigastro has got the lot.

I will let my album of photos in the left hand sidebar speak for itself .

Friday, January 25, 2013

All lined up for a photo

Objects of envy (1 of 10) Objects of envy (2 of 10)
Objects of envy (3 of 10) Objects of envy (4 of 10)
Objects of envy (5 of 10) Objects of envy (6 of 10)
Objects of envy (9 of 10) Objects of envy (10 of 10)
Objects of envy (7 of 10) Objects of envy (8 of 10)
Today, bigastrense had the opportunity to see and hold these three coveted trophies from the world of football.

On the right was the 2008 UEFA European Championship Cup, in the middle was the 2010 World Cup and on the left the 2012 UEFA European Championship Cup. I was assured by my neighbour that these were in fact the actual trophies and not just replicas.

PS The World Cup has some weight to it. 

I hope it isn’t serious

If like me, you visit the Bigastro web site on a daily basis and rely on an email account, then you will have noticed that the town’s servers are down and have been since the weekend. If it was a simple case that the servers had shut down, then they would have been restored by now.

I know, from my friend German, that the Ayuntamiento were looking to install new servers because the old ones were getting creaky. Perhaps that is the reason.

Flamenco at La Herradura

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Pam and I like La Herradura Restaurant - just outside Los Montesinos. It is one of a few restaurants in the area that we have visited many times. In fact were there on Christmas Day for lunch and we were there last night for dinner.

The restaurant caters well for British and Spanish alike. Last night there was a large party of Spaniards dining in the courtyard. At the same time there was a flamenco show going on in the main building and that is where we were. 

These four men treated us to a variety of singing styles which included opera and popular music along with more traditional flamenco pieces.They were very good entertainment.
Determined not to use flash, I had to cope with the ordinary lighting in the room which was not bright to say the least. Still, I got some pictures which I believe convey the atmosphere of the event. 

PS Is it just me or does that singer look a bit like Tony Blair?

The effects of the wind

With a wind that was gusting at 60kmph, the local fire crews and police were kept busy yesterday morning.

  • Police had to cordon off the area around the Colegio Santo Domingo in Orihuela so that council workers could remove two palm trees that had collapsed.
  • Elsewhere the services were kept busy attending to cornices, roofs, lights and power lines that had blown down.
  • In Molins, the wind tore off the tin roof of a house and deposited in the yard of a house 50 metres away -nobody was injured.
  • Fallen trees also blocked roads and caused delays including the road from Bigastro to Molins, the N-340 and the N-332.

By the afternoon, the wind had started to calm down and today there is just a light breeze blowing.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The graph says it all


The graph shows the growth of unemployment in Spain with its seasonal dips. The trend though has been generally upwards since 2008. The question is, where and when will it end. Historically we know that there is a cycle of such events and that eventually Spain and other countries in the same situation will recover. Let us hope that the recovery is sooner rather than later.

NB What the graph does not show is that youth unemployment stands at 55.13% and that there are 1.8 million homes with nobody in work. 

An end in sight

For those of you like us who are fed up with this wild weather, there is an end in sight. The strong winds that have blown on and off for the last week should come to an end today.

Last night was calm but then this morning the wind has picked up again and seems to be blowing stronger than ever. Aemet say the velocity is about 35kmph and have the area on yellow alert, WeatherBug report winds of up to 60kmph. I’d say that WeatherBug are probably nearer the mark.

Both Aemet and WeatherBug say it should start to calm by midday and that the next few days at least we should only have light winds. I hope so because things are starting to move about out there added to which the noise it makes gives you a headache after awhile.

It’s hard to be original


Each day, I take a look through the Explore section of Flickr where they feature pictures that have been uploaded from the previous day. Inevitably you find the same recurring themes – at the moment there are lots of snowy wastelands, robins and frost on twigs.

With millions of photos being taken each day, it is hard to be original especially when you are shooting something like a wedding. However, as I looked at Explore today, this photo jumped out at me. The description tells you how the shot was carefully set up with lighting behind and in front to get the detail required.

Whether a couple would choose to have a picture like this included in their album or not, the photographer has produced something both unusual and amusing. It made me smile!

The Medieval Market in Orihuela promises to be even better this year.

The company that will be organising the event have set the theme as the Teodomiro Pact i.e. the struggle between the Moors and Christians to control the city.

They say the shows will be more frequent this year, there will be more workshops and stalls showing crafts from the Middle Ages and more thematic exhibitions. There will be four tournaments each day and and equestrian exhibition in the place where the tournaments are to be held.

As per usual, there will be plenty of places to grab a bite to eat with a Taberna de Pollo Espatattao in the Plaza de Santa Lucia providing ribs in barbecue sauce, kebabs, sausages, paella, pasta, burgers, pizzas, waffles and of course hot chocolate.

Oh yes, the dates are the 1st to the 3rd February. As per usual, Friday will be the quietest day and Sunday the most packed.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The potential for savings

According to the auditors, Torrevieja saved 46,194 euros by introducing energy saving measures for the lighting in Los Altos and Los Balcones. Based on this evidence, the mayor says that they could save 500,000 euros per year if the same measures were applied to the whole town.

Unlike some towns in the area, these savings have not been achieved by turning lights off but rather by installing energy saving bulbs, by eliminating duplication, by adjusting the timing of lights and reducing lighting in parks and gardens that are closed at night.

In the areas of San Roque and New Torrevieja, the installation of LED lights has brought about a saving of 60% in electricity consumption. In time the town therefore  intends to replace all of the existing bulbs with this modern style of lighting.

NB Although expensive to buy for the home, LED lights promise both a saving in consumption and a much longer life that even the so called low energy bulbs.

Will they be real

There is a poster in the entrance of the Auditorium that tells us that three of the most prestigious cups from the world of football will be on display there on Friday. As we all know Spain won the European Cup in 2008 and again in 2012 and in between they won the World Cup in 2010. Those are the cups that the poster refers to.

Now I am finding it hard to imagine that these invaluable items will be brought to a little town like Bigastro so I am wondering if I have misread the poster. At best I would assume that these are replicas of the priceless objects. However my curiosity will drive me to go down there to find out for myself and of course take along my camera for a quick snapshot or two.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Traditions die hard

Some readers of this blog may be wondering why on earth did they raffle pigs in Bigastro last Sunday. You have to remember that the town’s roots are in agriculture and farming. Before the construction boom, the fields would have formed the main source of employment for bigastrense.

Many of the streets in the older parts of the town have houses that face directly onto the road. There is no reason for people to have a front garden so the outdoor space is normally at the rear. That is where they would grow vegetables and where they kept livestock – still do.

Hens are the most popular because they provide a supply of eggs but other animals can be found as well. Many of the townsfolk still harbour the myth that you need a cockrel to ensure continuous laying but in fact that is not true. Still, a cockrel performs the function of an alarm clock so I suppose they serve a purpose.

The other popular birds that people keep are canaries which you often find in cages on balconies and of course pigeons which are bred for racing but that is another story.

An ambitious plan

I found this article in the Coast Rider. It outlines an ambitious plan to create a link between existing pathways and cycle routes in the area to provide a healthy alternative to a day out in the car.

The Mayor of Torrevieja Eduardo Dolón accompanied by the councillor for town planning and the environment Francisco Moreno and the city architect Victor Costa presented the outline plans for what will be an ambitious and innovative environmental project in Torrevieja which when completed will provide almost 85 km of footpaths and cycle ways. The idea of the project is to provide increased access around the natural parks of the Torrevieja and La Mata lakes, improved and complete access along the shoreline from the south of Torrevieja to La Mata and better access for pedestrians and cyclists through the town itself to current and future planned green areas such as the sports facilities, the Albentosa Park and eventually la Hoya. Currently there are a few elements of this plan in place but none of them are interconnected, for example along the shoreline which when this section of the green corridor is complete will consist of a continuously accessible 17 km. The same is true of the natural lakes. At the moment there is part access around the lake of La Mata but the intention of the plan is to provide routes around both lakes and join these together. This will provide an unbroken circuit of around 23 km accessible to pedestrians and cyclists.

The overall project will be broken down into a number of separate phases involving appropriate construction and the opening and improvement of existing access lanes where necessary. The Mayor said that the project is open to further ideas and participation from the public before the details are completely finalised. When completed the Mayor said the project will give a boost to the resources to attract tourists to the town and at the same time give a clear message about Torrevieja’s commitment to sustainability and the environment.

The Mayor announced that the first part of these plans is for immediate action. This will be the creation of a paseo from the playa de los Naufragos to La Valeta urbanisation and cycle lanes connecting the city centre via calle Bazán and Avenida Delfina Viudes to the planned new market area and the city of sport. Lastly there will be improvements made to the coastal zone at playa del Acequión and also linking playa de los Locos with playa del Cura via Punta Margalla.

When we went to Portico Mar restaurant, I noticed there is now a path for cyclists and pedestrians from that urbanisation which I presume carries on to Guardamar. I also recall that Bigastro had plans to establish paths in the area of La Pedrera but that was before the Socialists decided to sell off the land instead. Maybe, at some time in the future, the plan will be reinstated and we will have proper walking routes in the area close to my house.

Monday, January 21, 2013


KW5D1579 We’ve known this lady for a few years now.

When Ana took our Spanish class, we often met up with the classes of ladies who were improving their basic skills and became friends with many of them.

When we put on our last performance for the children, this lady played along with Pamela – she was a dog and Pamela a cat.

She also took part in the Belen VIviente relating the story along with her granddaughter.

Yesterday, she took her faithful dog along to be blessed by the parish priest.
KW5D1580 This is the granddaughter with her dog – another ball of fluff! You can see the clear resemblance in the faces of grandma and granddaughter. Not only do they look alike, they spend a lot of time together.

Calm returns

The strong wind at the weekend has subsided bringing calm back to the Vega Baja. Unfortunately, according to the forecasts, this is to be a temporary lull because the wind will pick up again on Wednesday and could blow even stronger.

Bottoms out girls


The girls from the Comparsa La Sal de Torrevieja - "las Guapas" prepare for the big day at the Cultural Centre "Virgen del Carmen".

Girls from this troupe have been performing in parades around the world for 25 years and now they are to take part in the celebrations for Chinese New Year in Hong Kong.

Apart from being very pretty, the girls need to be very fit to parade with costumes that can weigh up to twenty kilograms and measure up to 3 metres in height. They also need to be coordinated and expressive in their body language. 

Conchita Mercader Valdés, along with her atelier at La Mata, have made ​​creativity their profession. In their workshop are thousands of the most amazing carnival costumes.

Valdés works alongside Cavazzonia Massimo, the technical director to create the magic that characterises the troupes performances and Cristina Romero, the captain helps to make it all happen on the day. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunny Hertfordshire

DSCF0605 (2)This picture was sent to be by one of our neighbours, Gordon. He and his wife Ann are staying with her sister in Hertford. Gordon says it is great to see the snow again. Although it is causing some transport problems, the roads are clear and they can still get about.

Snow is very picturesque but still, I can live without it!

Do they do this in England anymore?

One of the traditions in Spain is to bless the animals on or near to the day of San Anton.

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Father Aurelio Ferrandiz gives his blessing. One of the two pigs, clearly nonplussed by it all
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This man brought his goat. There were also a couple of horses ready to be blessed.

As part of the proceedings they held a raffle for a couple of pigs. We were careful not to buy tickets, the last thing we need is a pig!

An alternative route

imageAs my friend, scout John points out there is an alternative route into Orihuela which does not involve you in going through Huchillo and Arneva. He says- 

For some weeks now I have been using that new section of bypass
from the big roundabout (coming from Eroski) just before the underpass - go straight across there and
you come out by the bridge on the road into the town from Arneva - no problem at all!  In fact I have a
feeling the whole reason for that new section of road was because of the AVE work.

Nice one John!

Dance spectacular

Students from the Estefanía Selfa school of dance in Bigastro will be performing in a Winter Festival on Saturday January 26 at the Municipal Auditorium Francisco Grau. Since this is likely to be very popular, they will be giving two performances at 5 and at  7pm Admission is free.

We were warned


This bulletin from the State Agency warned us of strong wind and rain at the weekend.

The strong winds have caused debris landslides, damage to containers, tarpaulins and posters, and fallen trees in the cities of Alicante, Denia, Torrevieja, Elche and San Isidro, as reported by the Emergency Coordination Centre of the Generalitat.

Thankfully, the rain here lasted for just a brief period but it was intense. The wind was strange, blowing hard in short bursts and then calm with not even a breeze to disturb us. First thing this morning it was back to a strong gale and the forecast was upgraded to orange alert from yellow. It is now 9:30am and I am pleased to say the wind has calmed*.

DSCN1341 Spare a thought though for those in Britain who are caught up in some very wintery weather.

This photo was taken by my son-in-law’s father from the bedroom window of his house near Kidderminster, Worcestershire.

Yes, this was taken during daylight hours and the snow was still falling.

* I hope my friend Sheila waited before taking her two dogs out for a walk this morning!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A slight change

imageAccording to the State Agency, the strong winds that they were forecasting for tomorrow will actually effect us from today. Bigastro is right in the middle of that orange area that signifies an important risk.

  For Sunday the risk level drops to yellow which means a lesser risk.

To add to the misery, rain is also forecast for today. Rain and wind -what a wonderful combination! Still it could be worse, we could be back in England trapped in our houses by a few inches of snow on the road.


Those who might have been worried that Pam was going to be deprived of all means of communication following the failure of both her mobile phone and iPad need not concern themselves any more.

A quick trip to the Vodafone shop in the Habaneras brought her phone back to life with a new SIM card (cost a very reasonable 5 euros). Then later in the day, TNT delivered her iPad back and I am pleased to say (fingers crossed here) that it seems to be working OK. Maybe the tablet just needed a wave of the technicians magic wand after all.

PS As it happened the return of the iPad depended on the mobile phone because Apple had neglected to put the name of our street and the house number on the packet. So, the courier had to phone Pam’s mobile to find out where we lived. That was a stroke of luck – no working mobile would have meant no iPad.

Route to the city will close

Construction of the high speed train line through Orihuela continues to cause a great deal of disruption. Next Wednesday, the route from Bigastro via the underpass will be closed meaning that traffic into the city from the south will then have to enter from Arneva.

The Councillor for Infrastructure, Pedro Mancebo claims that they knew nothing about this until yesterday. He says that suggestions that have been made to the company who are constructing the new rail track have been ignored and that there was no prior agreement about alternative traffic routes.

The road into Orihuela from Correntias carries over 6,000 vehicles a day and so its closure will cause a lot of inconvenience to say the least.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Is she jinxed?

Pam’s new iPad went on the blink four weeks after she’d bought it. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, it would cycle on and off going back to the Apple screen whenever she tried to do anything with it. Eventually the iPad gave up and told me to reinstall the software and hardware which I did.

That made no difference, once I had reinstated all the settings etc from iCloud, the iPad went back into the same cycle of switching on and off. There was nothing else for it, the iPad went back to Apple for investigation and now we have the result. Apple say that, after exhaustive testing, they cannot reproduce the problem. They do go on to say that they have installed the latest software and firmware (something I had already done) so who knows. The iPad is currently on its way back to Spain.

Last night, Pam’s phone decided it had no SIM card installed. Switching the phone off and back on did nothing, removing the card and reseating it made no difference. I tried my SIM card in Pam’s phone and that worked. I then tried her SIM card in my phone and got the same reply, “insert SIM card”.

I know that these little pieces of plastic with their multitude of gold connectors can go faulty but after all the years she has had it why?

The only conclusion I can come to is that Pam is emitting some weird electro magnetic  forces via her fingers that magically corrupt electronic devices. For the moment, I am keeping the TV remote under my control just in case and as for my cameras – don’t even go there!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The duck’s revenge

In Bigastro they will be raffling a couple of pigs on Sunday, in San Fulgencio they raffle cockerels.

Two strong men are elected to go round the streets and collect the birds which were then strung by their feet from a long cane. Originally the birds were awarded to the winners of horse races that took place in the town. The horse races no longer happen but the tradition of collecting the birds carries on.

This year, someone offered a duck which obviously objected to its treatment and pecked the donor.

Blowing away the cobwebs

Make the most of the sun this morning because it looks like we won’t be seeing it again for a few days. To make matters worse, the wind will be a predominant factor in the weather for the next week with  a 49kmph gale blowing on Sunday.

After the fist couple of years here when the fencing blew down several times, Pam and I have come to realise that strong winds are a feature of winters on the Vega Baja. We replaced the fencing with a substantial steel version that lets the wind through, had the feet of the gazebo strengthened and batten everything down that could blow about in late autumn.

Cost of living rises

This report from the Coast Rider highlights the main rises in costs that we face already

Electricity has risen by 3 percent for millions of domestic customers, although for some - those whose contracted supply is lower than 3 kilowatts, families where all members are out of work, pensioners on the lowest income - the price has been frozen. The government is also going to penalise increases in consumption by charging more and has therefore had to eradicate the estimated monthly meter readings. There will be further increases during the year, because the tax of 7 percent which has to be paid by the suppliers will end up being passed on to the public.

Petrol and diesel will be going up immediately if the oil companies and petrol stations decide to include in the final prices the tax on biofuels which form part of the products' composition. The exemption from this tax ended on 1st January. At the pumps, this new tax could mean an extra charge of between 3 and 5 cents per litre.

There is some relief for home owners with a mortgage. The average one-year Euribor rate, which is the main reference for mortgages with variable interest, dropped in December to around 0.55 per cent, which is the lowest in its ten year history. On an average loan of 150,000 euros over 25 years, the annual review will mean a saving of some 1,200 euros over the next twelve months.

Altadis is applying an increase of 4.8 percent on the price of all its brands of cigarettes, which includes the best-selling Spanish brand Fortuna, 9 percent on all pipe tobacco* and 8.3 per cent on the main brands of cigar.

The crisis has caused a flight of customers to virtual operators and created huge competition among the big companies such as Telefónica, Vodafone and Orange. The most expensive monthly charge for landlines is that of Telefónica, and it has been frozen at 13.974 euros plus IVA for the past five years. This could go up by the same rate as the Retail Price Index, not only in 2013 but also every year until 2016.

Postal charges
On 1st January the cost of sending normal letters and postcards up to 20 grams in weight went up by 2.7 percent to 37 cents.


The price of suburban, medium distance and regional rail services is going up by an average of 3 to 3.5 percent. The discount on return tickets will be increased from 10 to 20 percent on conventional regional services and those that use the high speed lines. Companies which run the inter-urban bus services have been authorised to charge 6 percent more to compensate for the rise in fuel costs. Airport taxes will include a surcharge of 85 cents per person, and tolls on state-run motorways have gone up by an average of 2.4 percent.

* That is harsh!

Carnival time

The Torrevieja carnival starts on Friday with the presentation of the Carnival Queens in the Teatro Municipal. Friday 1st February marks the fifth edition of the drag queen competition with a 1,000 euro prize for the winner. then on the Sunday, the 30 groups involved (including the British group – the Rascals) will take part in the afternoon parade. The night parade will take place on Saturday 9th starting at 10pm from Patricio Pérez street.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How to give help

I asked Aurelio how we could make donations to help the most needy here in Bigastro and this is his reply-

“You have to contact with the priest at the church. His name is Aurelio Ferrandiz and I am sure you will be welcome.
He is normally there between 18,30 and 19,30 either at his house or the church.
Gracias for your help.”

Many thanks Aurelio.

Caritas in Bigastro

imageYesterday, we asked our teacher where the office for Caritas was located in Bigastro because there are a number of British residents who would like to make contributions to help those less fortunate than themselves.

Although the charity receives deliveries of food from Alicante to distribute to the needy in Bigastro, I am sure they would not turn down donations of more. The number of people who have no income of any sort and cannot afford to feed themselves is growing.

I will investigate this issue further and report back.

Give them a squeeze

DSC00067I’ve started picking the lemons from our trees and this trug full is less than half the crop.

Pam and I use only a few lemons so, as you can see, we have a surplus.

If anyone who lives nearby would like some lemons, you are very welcome to call and collect as many as you want. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Not my recommendation you understand

I found this article in the Leader newspaper about La Herradura restaurant – their words not mine.

The Leader Newspaper is delighted to invite you to a number of outstanding shows that are being held later this month at the renowned La Herradura Restaurant in Los Montesinos. The restaurant is nominated by the Trip Adviser holiday website as one of the very best restaurants on the Costa Blanca.

La Herradura is a restaurant that is swamped in history dating back over 130 years to the early 1880’s. Today it is a tourist attraction as well as an excellent restaurant because it is considered the oldest and best preserved building in the town of Los Montesinos.

What makes this restaurant unique and extremely popular are a number of features that, over the years, have attracted well know personalities such as Arthur Millar, Sheila O'Flanagan, Jo Creswell, Duarte Pinto Coelho and the bullfighter Jesulín Ubrique, El Juli, at the time that he was at the peak of his fame. The restaurant has also prepared meals for footballer Fernando Torres and the former National Football team manager Camacho. All have been drawn by the fantastic food, ambience and history.

La Herradura is a typical Spanish restaurant offering the very best in Spanish cuisine using only fresh products in the province of Alicante.

Besides its good food and excellent service, The Leader has chosen La Herrudura because of the unique and fabulous live shows that it regularly provides. The ambience of the restaurant creates an  the atmosphere  that makes you  feel as if you have been transferred back to 1880 as you immerse yourself in a building that comes to life with a history of it’s own.

See the many different rooms in the restaurant which are all now open to the public, each of which provides an insight into how Spanish families lived over 100 years ago.  There is a bodega cellar where you can smell the wood, grapes, wine and times gone by. Private rooms which are perfect for family, There is an Andalusian patio that speaks of the influence of Andalusia culture in our area in 1880 where Canovas Del Castillo, President of the First Republic in Spain, stayed. It is for this reason that The Leader would like to invite you to become a part of the history of this wonderful country, which has captivated us all.

The days that are especially organised to reflect on the various cultures’.

January 24 (Thursday)
Experience a Flamenco night, different from anything you’ve ever seen. We will have a flamenco group featuring two guitarists, two singers and two dancers.

January 25 (Friday)
Latin night with the Cuban band "Chocolate Son". We will bring the hot rhythms of: Salsa, Merengue, etc that will make us awaken in our chairs with the rhythm in our bodies.

January 26 (Saturday)
Flamenco Night with a special surprise performance that will make you feel the real Andalusian flamenco running through your veins.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Are you sure?

According to the weather reports, it is going to get windy tomorrow lasting into Wednesday. Whilst I don’t like to argue with the experts in this field, in my book it is quite windy out there today. Does that mean it is going to get even windier?

Light relief

Anyone who has had to endure the long wait for your number to come up at any of the government offices in Spain will know just how tedious it can be. Pam and I had to wait over two hours at Trafico in Alicante to get her driving license, I can just imagine how long the wait is these days in the local employment offices. 

Help to relieve the boredom at one such office in Madrid came when a flashmob of musicians started playing, “Here comes the sun”. The impromptu sing-a-long brought business to a standstill as people joined by singing in English.

The stunt was organised by the Carne Cruda 2.0 programme on the Cadena SER network.

Might give that a try next year

Reading this report in the Coast Rider makes me think we should visit Torrevieja for next year’s parade of the Three Kings.

In Torrevieja the Royal Pages had been hard at work gathering in letters and messages from children throughout the town who visited the specially erected tent in the main square. On Saturday afternoon a huge crowd began to arrive in the port area and all along the boardwalk for this most magical night of the year. As the afternoon sun dipped towards the horizon, eyes strained across the harbour looking for the boat that would bring the three Kings to Torrevieja. At around 5.45 pm the wishes of the waiting thousands were answered as the cruiser appropriately called ‘Espejo de Torrevieja’ in honour of the well-known Habaneras, came into sight making its way towards the jetty. As the boat eventually drew alongside the quay the Three Kings and their attendants waved to the waiting crowds who cheered madly at three of their most favourite characters. The red carpet had been laid in honour of the royal guests and there to greet them were several representatives of the Town Hall led by the Mayor Eduardo Dolón, the councillor for fiestas María Dolores Sánchez Roca and the deputy mayor Joaquin Albaladejo. King Melchor led the way followed by King Gaspar and then King Baltazar. It was King Melchor as is customary who made the speech of thanks to the Mayor and councillors then it was time for them to make their way past the waiting crowds to the floats made ready and lined up along the road leading out of the port towards the Hombre del Mar. As they made their way along the lines of waiting people there was plenty of opportunity for the Three Kings to shake hands with many of the smiling excited children. The enthusiasm of the crowd was palpable and they would have been quite happy for the Kings to have remained there all evening. That was not to be though because they had many more people to see, waiting patiently stood several deep along the main streets of the town. So the Kings and their itinerary set off in the procession around the streets of the town which would end at the nativity scene made ready in front of the Inmaculada church.

A total of 400 people took part in the procession, all dressed in colourful costumes including Arabs from the deserts of the East and Egyptians from the Nile Valley. There were mounted soldiers in shining armour and many dancers swirling through the streets of Torrevieja. But perhaps the stars of the procession as far as the children are concerned, were the many characters from Disney films including Cinderella, the Lion King and Aladdin and a number of live animals. The bands of the Unión Musical Torrevejense and la Sociedad Musical Ciudad de Torrevieja provided the music and those taking part in the procession gave out handfuls of sweets to the waiting children along the route of the procession, always a very popular aspect of all local parades. The procession ended at the Inmaculada church where the Three Kings brought the gifts to the baby Jesus in a tableau presented by members of the Municipal Theatre School and the theatre group of the Amas de Casa Association. The Kings were then formally received by the Mayor of Torrevieja Eduardo Dolón in the Town Hall. The Kings had a busy weekend also visiting local residences to bring gifts to the older residents of the town and the Torrevieja hospital where they give presents to those children unfortunate enough to be in hospital at this time of year.

The question is, “where should I go to get the best photos?” The arrival at the port would be good but then I might get better close ups as the parade moves down the streets and of course the presentation at the front of the church would be most symbolic.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Making a claw back

After a year during which the percentage of Spaniards with a good opinion of the King dropped from 72% to 50%, it was time for Juan Carlos to try and reconnect with the people.

In a televised interview late on Friday night, he spoke about the economic crisis. "The lack of work, which means millions of families cannot live with dignity and that young people have to leave Spain to find whatever they can working abroad, that hurts us a lot, and it hurts me especially."

Fine words, however few will forget that last year he was injured whilst taking part in an expensive safari to hunt elephants in Botswana nor that the husband of his youngest daughter was accused of embezzling funds in the same year.

During the interview, the King took the opportunity to remind his people of his role in the transition to democracy following the death of General Francisco Franco. He also made it clear that he has no intention of abdicating to hand over the throne to Crown Prince Felipe.

It is interesting that, whilst Queen Elizabeth seems to be gaining popularity in England, Juan Carlos is losing ground here in Spain. I suppose some of it may be down to the difference  in the views people hold about the two potential heirs to the throne.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A sad tale

Before the days of the Internet, those of us who were keen photographers bought our equipment from high street shops. Most, if not all, offered great service and more important - useful advice. They were largely manned (not PC I know but who cares) by honest people who knew what they were talking about.

There were several shops that I would regularly visit to see what was on offer. These included; London Camera Exchange, Jacobs and Jessops. There were other smaller shops I would frequent but those three were the largest with the most extensive stock.

Like many though, once I had the resources of the Internet at my disposal, my visits to the high street shops would be followed up by a trawl of the online sites to find the best price. If the difference was marginal, I would return to the high street to make my purchases – better the camera in the hand than one in the post! Unfortunately though, the price difference was often too high for me to ignore and I would make my purchases online. That has increasingly become the case over the last few years.

Jacobs closed last year and now Jessops have gone into receivership meaning that their 187 stores will close, many at the end of today. I can’t help but sorry for all those employees who will now be out of work and for a firm that was started in 1935 by Frank Jessop. It is also a sad day for people like me who enjoyed browsing their shelves.

The situation here in Spain is somewhat different. Online trading is not as widespread as it is in the UK and people do still rely on the high street shops for most of their purchases. I have bought a number of items from Amazon in Spain and can’t help but notice that their sales are nowhere near the levels of the UK site. Maybe in time things will change and shops in Spain will start to close as they too find the competition harsh. 

Before that happens though, give Media Markt at La Zenia Boulevard a visit if you are interested in buying a new camera or other items of photographic equipment.

Musicians in the making

20130110_concierto The local phase of the Regional Competition of Musical Interpretation will take place this Sunday, 13 January at 18:30 in the Municipal Auditorium Francisco Grau.

Competing will be the young musicians who will form the core of the town’s band in years to come.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mind your heads!

Scientists located an asteroid with a similar orbit to Earth in 2004. Since then, they have been monitoring it  to try and work out its precise size which is estimated to be between 270 and 325 meters in diameter. Thankfully, the Russians are planning to send a robotic mission to the asteroid to plant a radio transmitter on it. That will give us more precise information about its path. It won’t prevent its collision  with our planet though which I imagine will be pretty dramatic.

The latest prediction is that Aphophis (named after the Egyptian god of destruction) will hit our planet in 2036. I’ll be 89 by then so maybe it won’t matter much to me!

The growth of the internet in Spain

You would think that the economic crisis and the high price of handsets would have slowed down the growth of the smartphone market in Spain but no. It seems that Spain is the country in the EU with the largest number of these technological marvels; 63.2% of phone users in Spain have a smartphone with the Apple iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy leading the field. Compare those numberswith the United Kingdom (62.3%), France (51.4%), Italy (51.2%) and Germany ( 48.4%).

More than 6 million Spaniards, a quarter of all Internet users, are permanently connected to the world wide web via their phone. It is why you see so many tapping away at their screens as they enjoy a coffee and a croissant in local bars.

Lower prices for voice data packages and reduced prices for the phones have been the driving forces for this change. In 2011 the number of users grew by 59% and rose again by 68% in 2012; in total it is said there are more than 20 million people connected by their mobile phones in Spain. Add to that the fact that 67% of households now have a fixed broadband connection and you get the picture of a net savvy country.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A wasteful world

A report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in Britain estimates that between 30 and 50 per cent of food produced around the globe, or 1.2 to two billion tonnes each year, never reaches a human mouth.

  • Vast quantities of produce from developing countries is lost due to poor storage or inefficient farming, while wasteful behaviour by consumers and supermarkets means half of all food bought in the west is thrown away.
  • As many as 30 per cent of UK vegetable crops are not even harvested because they do not meet retailers’ stringent demands on appearance, which are based on what customers will accept.
  • Supermarkets often reject entire crops of “perfectly edible” fruit and vegetables at farms because they have the wrong size or appearance, and are guilty of encouraging consumers to buy more than they can eat with promotions on perishable items, the report said.
  • Use-by dates can also cause more waste because retailers use conservative estimates to avoid the threat of legal action, thereby encouraging customers to throw perfectly good food away before it has gone bad, it was claimed.

Why it is the Institution of Mechanical Engineers  making this report is a mystery but nether-the-less there does seem to be a lot of truth in what they say.

In my younger days, fruit and vegetables were all sold loose so you bought what you needed. Today, much of this produce is pre-packed and you have to take the whole pack or nothing. Getting extra on a “BUY ONE GET ONE FREE” promotion only makes this situation worse.

For example, unlike most Spaniards, Pam and I only want one onion at a time but we end up having to buy three because that is the way the shop packages them. It is the same with peppers and many other vegetables. By the time we need another onion or a pepper, the spares have gone off and need to be thrown away.

I remember that market traders used to put the best looking produce at the front of the stall but then served you with the rubbish at the back. However, it really does not matter whether a carrot is perfectly straight or not, they are still edible and oranges that have blotches on the skin are just the same inside as the perfect ones. For goodness sake, these things are not meant to be works or art, they are food!

Buy a ticket - win a pig

On Sunday, 20th January, Bigastro will be celebrating the day of San Anton, the patron saint of animals.

Some would argue that the title properly belongs to Saint Francis of Assisi but no matter we will stick with Saint Anthony the Abbot: born in 251 at Heracleus, Egypt, died in 365 and whose feast day is actually the 17th January.



Those who are awake at 8:30 am can go along to the town square to see the prizes for the raffle and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and churros. At that time of day, you’ll probably need something warm inside you!

At 11:00 am there will be a blessing for the horses followed by mass at 12am. At 1pm there will be a further blessing for the other animals.

Finally the raffle for the two pigs will take place.

Bear in mind these will be live pigs that you need to house, feed and look after. They say that there is no waste with a pig which means that they will generally eat anything you give them but they will need some form of shelter and they will grow to be large animals.

I think I’ll pass on the raffle.     

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Time for a change

Yesterday, our Spanish teacher alluded to the quirkiness of the British. Initially, he was talking about the way that Britain cannot decide whether it wants to be part of Europe or not. As he pointed out, successive governments seem to change their minds about this important issue.

It is not just belonging or not to Europe though that sets Britain apart from the rest of the continent. In many other ways, Britain stands on its own; Brits drive on the wrong side of the road, the electricity plugs and light bulbs are different to the rest of Europe and most important, the country still uses a strange mixture of imperial and metric units. Oh yes and let’s not forget the currency! Stubborn refusal to adopt the Euro costs British business a fortune.

Having both systems of measurement in use has caused a lot of problems for schools who moved to teaching metric units a good few years ago. Now they are told that they must improve children’s understanding of the old imperial units because they are still used widely on roads, to measure height and for basic goods like milk. That means that children will have the daunting task of learning complicated conversions between e.g. miles and kilometres. Why - just to be different for difference sake?

Pecuniary interests

Any change in the status of land to allow housing to be built is a huge benefit to the owners because it means the value of their holdings increases dramatically.

The changes to sectors D6, D8 and D12 made at a recent council meeting will greatly affect those who own land there including local councillors. The socialists in Bigastro recognised this could have influenced voting in the council regarding these matters and said that the parties involved should have abstained from the vote. They cited Charo Bañuls, Aurelio Murcia and Fernando Moya as possible beneficiaries of the changes in land status and requested a declaration of their financial interest in this matter.

That request has now been denied by Charo Bañuls - a move which the socialists say cast doubt on the integrity of those who voted to convert Sector D8 to land which could be built upon.

PS I well remember that the PP accused the socialists of something similar when they were in power. If I recall correctly, one of the owners of Eurener was said to be related to the then deputy mayor when the company was sold land to build premises the other side of the by=pass.

Signs of improvement

House sales are rising in the Vega Baja in spite of a decrease last year for the country as a whole. Unfortunately for the builders it is the resale market that is benefitting most. The demand for houses by the beach is being led by the British with the Russians a close second followed by Norwegians, Belgians and the French. 

The fastest growing market for houses on the Costa Blanca is in Russia where the cold winters are driving people to wanting somewhere warmer in the sun. This will not help those desperate to sell on our estate though because the Russians demand houses in the 200,000 euro plus bracket located near to a beach. Although some residents will have paid more than that for their houses, the current values are far lower and Bigastro is a good twenty minutes from the nearest beach.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


There are some who are extremely vain about their appearance and will go to extraordinary lengths to retain a youthful look. In particular, when you see so many pop stars of my age (a youthful 66 since the 3rd of this month) with a full head of black hair it does raise your suspicions. After all my hair has been disappearing for years; I reckon that is why Juan charges me so little to keep it in trim. Not only that but my hair is now white when once it was a dark lustrous brown.

The person who amuses me most in the this respect is the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi. I just can’t look at him without wondering about his hair because it doesn’t look at all real to me.

We know that the media tycoon had a hair transplant in 2004 because he has admitted to it but it still looks odd. To make matters worse, it seems to change from day to day which surely is not normal.

Experts have shed light on this situation by explaining that Berlusconi uses a collection of sprays, powders and make-up pencils to fill in the gaps that the transplant left and certainly a pencil to give definition to the hairline. Apparently, if he’d had a better transplant none of this would be necessary. 

Imagine having a morning routine where you had to spend so much time trying to make your hair look real. Brushing my teeth and giving my face a once over with soap and water is as much as I can cope with but then I am not an Italian and I am not in the media eye, nor do I have intentions to try and charm young ladies fifty years younger than me. 

Sunday, January 06, 2013

A night of illusion

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Visiting Orihuela for the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos was an eye opener for us.

We’d read that the parade was due to start at 6pm(ish). Clearly that was not going to be the case. However, as the clock neared 7pm, the streets were becoming filled with people vying for the best positions.

Since the event is supposed to be for children, you would expect most of the folk to be families but that was not the case; there were as many adults without children there to watch. I say watch but in fact the main attraction turned out to be the float at the end of the parade where all the presents were stored. The helpers on that float were throwing the gifts out to the crowd who then fought to catch them. As it happens, Pamela did manage to get one but only because the people in front missed it.

On our way back, we caught the parade again and this time it was clear that there was a gang of children and adults who were tagging alongside the last float to try and get as many presents as they could - we saw some with arms full. It did occur to us though that there may well be families where these free gifts are the only ones that the children receive this year.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Restored at a price

542e9299b3f9813319214068f05877a3_L It may not look like much but this is part of the ancient wall at Orihuela of which some sections date back to the 12th century.

Last year someone decided it was to his or her canvas for a piece of graffiti. Now it has been cleaned off at a cost of 1,647 euros and the hope is that it will stay that way. The hope also is to catch the person(s) responsible.

Graffiti is a serious problem in Spain as it is in other countries. The “artists” show no respect for property and will spray whatever surface they see fit.

Admittedly, some items of graffiti have artistic merit but most are just hideous looking scrawlings, presumably a version of someone’s name. It is a bit like animals marking their territory with urine. The other items of graffiti you commonly see take the form of messages; “Pedro loves Maria” or “Louisa is a prostitute” – information that we could well live without knowing.

Maybe, like all things fashionable, daubing public places with paint will become a thing of the past but sadly the scars created will last a lot longer. 

Who gives the most?

sam_5451 copiarLike in every year past, the Three Kings arrived at Orihuela in preparation for the big night on the 5th when they will be distributing presents to the children and maybe the odd adult as well.

The problem these days is that Santa Claus has gained in popularity here in Spain so children expect presents from him as well. Who can blame them? They watch programmes on the television and know that children all over the world get presents from Santa on the 25th December. Why should they have to wait until the 6th January?

Some children are lucky because they get presents from both but who gives the most?

Friday, January 04, 2013

That is some bill

Having a works mobile phone can be both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that you don’t pay the bills, the curse is that you are always available whilst  the mobile is switched on.

There has been a lot of controversy about the misuse of mobile phones in Torrevieja  e.g. the mayor apparently spent 500 euros in one month on roaming charges. Worse than that, between 2007 and March 2012 it was found that council officials had used their phones to make hundreds of calls to game shows and calls to football, even porn channels.

Taking top honours though is Graham Knight, advisor for foreign affairs. He  managed to rack up a bill for 1,120 euros worth of data connection in one weekend during November 2009. Knight, a retired British police officer,  was in England at the time and used his phone to download 90 megabytes of data on a roaming connection.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

A lesson for us all

There was a moment of panic when Pam’s iPad started cycling on and off yesterday. I thought at first it was because the battery was low but then the iPad gives you a warning when it needs recharging and with 18% still remaining that wasn’t going to be the case.

After powering on and off a few times, the screen eventually tunrned blue and so nearly did the air in the room! On a PC, a blue screen is called “the screen of death” because it signals a catastrophic failure of the operating system. I suspected that this was something similar with iOS. On the bright side, at least it wasn’t a hardware failure which would have meant returning the tablet to Apple for a warranty claim.

A quick search on the Apple forums revealed that the solution might be to reset the machine by holding down the “home” and “power” keys at the same time. That did bring the tablet back to life but after a few tries it showed that it needed to be tethered to a computer running iTunes because it had now gone into recovery mode. Once the tablet was connected to my laptop, iTunes started to download a fresh copy of the operating system and the firmware for the tablet which it then proceeded to install.

Now we had the tablet back to life it was time to see what remained of all the information stored on it. All the bookmarks seemed to be there but email settings etc had gone and so had all the aps. that Pam uses. A fair result but far from ideal.

Luckily, I back up Pam’s tablet to Apple’s iCloud and the latest copy was dated 28th December*. It was a relatively simple task to return the iPad to the state when she first bought it and download all the settings etc from the Cloud. Voila, a fully functioning iPad fully restored. The only thing that seemed to be missing were some emails which I had sent from my own computer so this morning I have resent them. Hopefully now, Pam’s iPad is now back almost to the point when the crash occurred.

There is a lesson here for all of us all. As good as computers, tablets and smart phones are, they are not invulnerable. As the manufacturers seek to add more features, so they increase the possibility of things going wrong. It therefore pays to ensure that you have regular backups of at least the important stuff stored on some other media because you never know when something will go wrong and you will lose the lot. 

* NB I could have backed it up to iTunes on my computer instead with the same result.

UPDATE Spoke too soon, within minutes of using the iPad this morning, it crashed again so it looks like it will have to be returned under warranty for a replacement.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

I’d like to help but….

It seems that some Spanish ladies will go to any length to fight against the cuts that have been made in the country. The latest gimmick is to strip off for a calendar shoot to raise money. A group of mothers from the Evaristo Calatayud school in Montserrat in the eastern Valencia region did just that and have already raised enough to keep the school bus running for another 3 months.

Last year though, a group of young Roman Catholics upset the church when they stripped off for a calendar depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ to raise money for their youth group. Oh dear!

Now, much as I’d like to help out any groups of young ladies in Bigastro keen to produce their own version of one of these calendars, I am afraid my wife might not approve!

A bleak outlook for Spain

We are told that the only way out for Spain is to accept more austerity in the form of lower wages, lower pensions and more cuts in public services. Last year 800,000 people lost their jobs and this year it looks like another half million will join them. Those that are still employed face the continued threat of wage cuts, sackings or both. To make the misery even worse, Spaniards are seeing a dwindling return on their savings and the value of their homes plummet.

Sure, the country was not competitive at the start of the crisis in 2008. The austerity measures were intended to regain the edge but at the same time they have drawn too many into the poverty trap. By 2022, it is estimated that 38% of the population could be in poverty. Only Bulgaria and Romania have higher numbers of people deemed at risk.

A country that fought hard to progress from its third world status in the 50s looks set to return 60 years later.  

Salty girls on tour

The "La Sal de Torrevieja" troupe, who perform each year in the local carnival, are going to tour several countries as representatives for Spain. The 21 strong troupe, led by Conchita Valdés and technical director, Maximum Cavazzoni will start off in Hong Kong where they will take part in the celebrations for Chinese New Year. Then they will move on to Nice to take part in a carnival there and finally will be in Monte Carlo for the annual Battle of Flowers.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

For those who missed it

Canal Vega Televisión are showing the Living Belen show that Pam and I saw on Sunday, 23rd December at 2:30pm today. Well worth watching if you have TDT and an aerial.

New Year around the world

There is an unofficial competition to see which city can provide the best firework display at New Year. Sidney usually kicks things off and never disappoints us. There was a time when London was trailing the field but things seem to have improved a lot over the last few years. Cash strapped Spain can hardly afford to compete these days, however that artificial tree in Madrid does look splendid. 

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London, England Big Ben, London
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Sidney, Australia Sidney, Australia
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Hong Kong Madrid, Spain