Friday, May 31, 2013

Away again

Having only been a few weeks back from Madrid, Pam and I are on our travels once more.

This time we are in Wolverhampton for a wedding. It is the brother of our son-in-law who is getting married and he asked me to be the photographer. Of course that meant bringing my camera gear, cameras, lenses etc etc. Apart from my roller camera case, half of my hold case was filled with lighting stuff,  tripod etc. and three of my lenses along with my flashgun travelled in Pam's cabin case.

The important thing is the weather which promises to be decent for the big day.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Advance notice

Bigastro Alzheimer inform us that there will be a Feria de Sevillanas on Sunday, 9th June at 10:00am in the park Huerto del Cura.

Suspected outbreak of scarlet fever

A school in the city of Alicante has given notice to the Department of Health after confirming three cases of scarlet fever among their students and suspect it might be an outbreak. The advice to other parents is to take preventative measures to stop the spread. All tissues and cloths that someone with scarlet fever has coughed or sneezed into should be washed or disposed of immediately. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water if you have touched any of these. Avoid sharing contaminated eating utensils, cups and glasses, clothes, baths, bed linen or towels. Affected children should be kept at home until the treatment has taken effect.

Scarlet fever was one of those childhood illnesses that you did not want your son or daughter to catch because if left untreated, it can cause serious problems. Fortunately, those are rare these days because most cases are usually mild and can be treated with antibiotics.  Scarlet fever is thought by most people to be a disease of the past.

Got that wrong

I misread part of the article about the bullring in Orihuela. The cost of demolition is estimated at between 200,000 and 150,000 euros - not the 7,420,000 that I quoted.

The solution, which has been agreed by the government team, includes the construction of a car park for 115 vehicles and a park. They also plan to maintain and restore a small part of the arena (600 square meters out of over 7,500 meters) saying that it could be used as outdoor amphitheatre.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

On top of the world


After many attempts by others, Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay finally conquered Mount Everest at 11:30 am local time on 29 May 1953. The event coincided with the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth and was a source of national pride.

Sixty years on and things are very different as you can see from this National Geographic photo taken at the summit on May 19, 2012.

In order to reach the top these days, you join a queue of climbers and wait your turn. The main danger now is running out of oxygen before getting there.

Climbers with large wallets and little experience enjoy the luxury of huge tents at the lower camps. For £50,000 you can have a group of Sherpas lay out rope to make the climb easy.

Last month a fight broke out between a group of British climbers and their sherpas. It is doubtful that the climbers even knew the names of their guides, a far cry from the time when Hilary and Norgay worked together to achieve their goal  and neither would not say which one reached the summit first.

Conquering Everest may be on some people’s list of things to do before they die, it is definitely not on mine.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Letting the paint dry

I remember reading that Cezanne was a slow painter who considered each brush stroke before he made it. However, he could not compete with Antonio Lopez, the Spanish hyper realistic painter.

Eighteen years ago, Lopez was given the commission to paint King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia along with their three children and was paid 43 million pesetas for the work. Since then, the artist says that he has struggled to find a composition that he is happy with and has repainted the 11ft by 10 ft canvas several times.

In the meantime, the King and Queen have aged, the children have grown up, married and even, in the case of Elena, divorced. There are also eight grandchildren in the family.

Lopez was told to finish the work in time for the King’s birthday in January but failed to meet the deadline. Now, he has been given until the end of the year and has been moved into the royal palace to avoid distractions.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A word of advice

I’ve been informed that a well dressed man was seen rummaging through the bins at the entrance to the estate. When he’d finished, the man was seen clutching paperwork that he took to his car which I understand was an expensive model.

In these times of crisis, we are used to seeing people going through the bins to find anything of use but this sounds like something entirely different. This man did not have the appearance of a cash strapped individual looking to earn a few euros from what he could find.

The best advice is to shred any important documents before you take them to the bins.

Pam and I have done this for years using a strip shredder we brought with us from the UK. We then jumble the shredded paper up and put it in a bin bag. Only the experts from CSI could hope to retrieve the information from our documents.

From my research, the finer the strips that come out from a strip shredder the better and a cross cut shredder is even more secure because it cuts the documents into diamond shape pieces which are virtually impossible to piece back together. Cheap models though will overheat quickly and switch off. Best to pay a bit more for something reliable and don’t forget the all important shredder oil to keep it lubricated.

If anyone sees this man again, can I suggest that they take down the number of the car and report the matter to the police who I am sure will be interested to know what his motives are.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


José Joaquín Moya, former mayor of Bigastro, has been given an 8 year ban from public office and a fine of 2,600 euros for granting Eurener permission to build a solar farm at La Pedrera. Eurener happens to be owned by a member of Moya’s family.

This ban follows a previous one of 7 years for auctioning 35,000 square metres of protected land off to build an aparthotel and golf course without permission from the Consell.

This is the third case to be brought against the ex mayor, the first one was dismissed. There are others to follow

It is going to be pulled down

SVB003VB001191140.jpg First built in 1907, the Plaza de Toros in  Orihuela has been closed since 1986. It did not meet the rules at that time and was no longer deemed to be a viable proposition. Since then it has fallen into a state of disrepair. 

The council took over the site in the mid nineties. In 2009 the ruling PP party at that time wanted to demolish the building but there was opposition from the Socialists and the Greens.

In 2010, there was a draft proposal to turn the bullring into a multi-purpose venue to be financed as a private initiative. However, no company was interested in the idea. The Greens and Liberals then put forward a proposal to build a multipurpose venue with a hotel and shopping centre but that was far too ambitious.

Ironically, it is now the Socialists and Greens turn to propose that it should be demolished at a cost of 4,720,000 euros. The work is scheduled to be done this summer.

Quite what will happen with the site once the building has gone is not known. Certainly it is land in a prime position which means it will be more valuable to the city than a ruined bullring. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Spend money to save

Buy any of these items of photographic equipment before the 15th July and enjoy the following cash back savings from Canon Professional Services in Spain.

  1. EOS 7D camera 100€
  2. EOS 60D camera 80€
  3. EOS 700D camera 50€
  4. EF 24-70mm f/2,8L USM II lens300€
  5. EF 70-200mm f/2,8L IS USM II lens 300€
  6. EF 16-35mm f/2,8L USM II lens 200€
  7. EF 8-15mm f/4 L USM FISHEYE lens 200€
  8. EF-S 10-22mm f/3,5-4,5 USM lens 100€
  9. EF-S 17-55mm f/2,8 IS USM lens 100€
  10. EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens 100€
  11. EF100mm f/2,8 Macro L IS USM lens 100€
  12. EF-S 18-200mm f/3,5-5,6 IS lens 70€
  13. EF 70-300mm f/4-5,6 IS USM lens 70€
  14. EF-S 60mm f/2,8 Macro USM lens 70€
  15. EF40mm f/2,8 STM lens 50€
  16. Flash Speedlite 600EX-RT 100€
  17. Flash Speedlite 430EX II 50€

Unfortunately, you do have to spend money to save. For example, item 5 (EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II lens) would cost you 2,203.21euros from Amazon Spain.

NB Items 4, 5 and 6 are aptly described as the “holy trinity” of lenses covering all focal lengths from 16mm to 200mm at a maximum aperture of f2.8. To buy those three from Amazon would set you back 6,142.84 euros before the Canon cashback. That is more than most would want to pay for a second hand car!

Item 11 on the agenda

Look at the agenda for the next council meeting and you will see item 11; resolution of the contract of administration for Camping La Pedrera.

There have been rumours flying around about this issue for well over a year. At last it seems the council will resolve the matter and I assume appropriate action will follow.

Ooops, that was a costly mistake!

The Spanish navy commissioned four new conventional submarines at a cost of 2.2 billion euros. The first of these, built in Cartagena by Navantia was due to be delivered in March 2015. However, due to miscalculations at the engineering stage, the sub will be at least 75 tons overweight and will not be able to surface after submerging.

The company are seeking help from abroad to redesign the vessel. The estimated cost of the necessary extension, which will take two year to complete, is 7.5 million euros per metre.

In the meantime, the navy will have to continue using its ageing submarine fleet at a cost of 15 million euros per year. That must make a large dent in the Ministry of Defence budget which has been slashed by 30% since the start of the economic crisis.  

Manchester United v Manchester United in the Champions League

As mad as this sounds, this could become possible if Gibraltar wins its bid to be the 54th member of Uefa.

The Rock first applied for membership in 1999 but was opposed with intense opposition from Spain. They applied again in 2007 but only three countries supported the application and again it was opposed by Spain who threatened to withdraw all of its teams from Uefa competitions. We must remember that Spain believes that Gibraltar is part its country in spite of the fact that the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht says otherwise.

Of course, Gibraltar is not a sovereign state but that does not matter because the first application was made before the sovereign state rule was introduced.

You might suppose that the 6.8 sq km territory has little to offer in terms of football but you would be wrong. There are two divisions of 17 clubs playing there including their own Manchester United; Matt Busby gave the club permission to use the name in 1957.

What would happen if Gibraltar came up against Spain in the Europa or World cup competitions, would be support La Roca or La Roja?

Thursday, May 23, 2013


One of our neighbours has just rung me to ask about PayPal. He is looking to order some goods from a company that only accept PayPal as a means of payment.

Anyone who has bought or sold through Ebay will already know that PayPal is a subsidiary of the auction site and is used for most transactions by buyers and sellers.

As I explained to my neighbour, I had used PayPal for a number of years in the UK to buy and sell via Ebay. When we moved to Spain, I continued to use PayPal which was still linked to my bank account in England.

A few years ago though, PayPal changed its rules and required verification of the address our bank account was linked to as part of their security measures. Unfortunately, their system would not accept a Spanish address for this process. My PayPal account was therefore temporarily frozen for transactions from it. Eventually, they agreed to unfreeze the account for a short period to allow me to close it and release funds.

I then set up a PayPal account which was linked to my Spanish Spanish account. The process took a couple of days to complete during which time they took two small payments from my account which were subsequently refunded.

Now I can use PayPal again but of course payments from and to the account are made in euros and not sterling. When it is necessary, a conversion rate is applied to the transaction. 

There are advantages to using PayPal. In the case of a dispute, PayPal will handle this for you and refund your account in cases where the goods simply did not arrive or where they were defective. For the buyer, there is no fee involved, it is the seller who pays the fees to PayPal.

World Premiere


I said that the concert for Corpus will be special and here is why:

It will feature the premiere of the Marcha Mora “Carlos el Yusuf” by the Valencian  composer, FERRÁN FERRER who will be there to direct the piece.

Carlos will be the Yusuf Infantil for the Comparsa - Moros Almorávides of Orihuela at the Moors and Christians celebrations this year. 

Logan in concert

20130522_logan This Sunday at the Auditorium we have Logan in concert.

You may be wondering who Logan are:

There is a Scottish rock band formed in Glasgow 2003 by that name but their logo is different to this and I can’t find any reference to a concert in Bigastro on their web site.

From the poster, I am guessing that this could be a country and western band by the same name. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Programme for Corpus


This calendar, which I found on the church’s Facebook page, details the programme for Corpus Christi in Bigastro.

I draw your attention to the concert, which this year will be in the main town square at 10pm on Saturday, 1st June. It promises to be a special occasion well worth going to.

Unfortunately, we will be away and so will miss it – damn!!


Monday, May 20, 2013

The port celebrates its 50th birthday

When you visit Torrevieja, it is hard to believe that the town is any different to how it was in the past and yet there has been so much change even in the short time we have lived here. When you see photographs of the town before the earthquake and even those from the 60s, things look very different. 

Take the port, for example – a part of the town that we take for granted. This was only completed 50 years ago.

For over a hundred years, the town wanted a port to transport salt and produce from the Vega Baja. In 1862 work began on the construction but then had to be suspended because there was not enough stone available. There was also the rivalry of the ports at Alicante and Cartagena to contend with and the lack of funding from both private and public sources. All that Torrrevieja could offer at that time was a small jetty.

It wasn’t until 1915 that work began on the East dock. From then until 1963, the work progressed slowly in fits and starts. During the period between 1924 and the start of the Civil War, 1.2 million tons of stone were offloaded to construct the 1,400 metre long Levante dock. However, disaster struck when a severe storm in the 40s destroyed much of the work.

It wasn’t until the formation of the new salt company in 1951 that the state made a firm commitment to the work of completing the dock. Between 1952 and 1963, the Levante Dam was repaired and the 800m west pier was constructed creating the port as we see it today.

Apart from the salt dock, there are three marinas and the fishing port at Torrevieja. 


Sunday, May 19, 2013


I can’t remember many years when we did not watch the Eurovision song contest. The mix of good songs and bizarre ones makes it almost compelling viewing. This year was no different to any other. Instead of Russian grannies, we had Greeks in skirts singing about free alcohol. They actually came 6th with 152 points – WOW!

As in recent years, there were also some very clever presentations. For me, the lady from Moldova rising from the stage with her dress seeming to be on fire was one of the best – just a pity that the song was not as memorable. 


Voting was as usual. Look how well Ukraine did to start with, 4 full marks and three 10s from the first 11 juries.

Singing first or last must be difficult, it made me wonder if the first or last song has ever won. This year it was the turn of France and Ireland to prop up each end of the show. I thought their performances were good and deserved higher points than they got.

As for Britain, at least Bonny Tyler did better than Engelbert Humperdinck. Poor Spain, without the first 6 marks they would have been bottom with a lowly 2 points. 

Two seasons in one day

When the party of people came up from the town to take San Isidro to the hermitage at la Pedrera, the sun shone bright.

By late afternoon it clouded over and then poured with rain for a good twenty minutes. Within an hour, the sky had cleared and there was bright sunshine for the return to the church.

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Our neighbours got married

The young couple who bought the house next door, got married yesterday. Just by chance, I was going out to take pictures of the Romeria for San Isidro and happened to catch the bride leaving for the church.


Direct sunlight is just awful for pictures like this but at least I captured the moment. Don’t you think she looks just beautiful in that dress?

Many congratulations to them both, we hope they have a long and happy life together.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

OK, I am a fan

I make no secret of the fact that I am a convert to Skoda cars.

When we lived in the UK, I had a succession of Vauxhalls followed by Nissans but then when it came to buying a car here, I headed straight for the Skoda garage in Torrevieja. There I was greeted by Hugo who was the manager at the time. The range of cars was basically limited to an Octavia or a Fabia with just a handful of variants of each line. I wanted a Fabia and so chose a 1.4 diesel hatchback which offered great fuel economy, was easy to drive and utterly reliable.

Then when my father died, I had the opportunity to change the Fabia for something more spacious and so I chose the Roomster and opted for the more powerful 1.9 litre diesel engine that was currently being used in the VW Golf TDi.

I really liked that car and so kept it for 6 years, a lot longer than I would have kept a car in the UK. Apart from a couple of tyres that ruptured and a battery that died after 4 years, that car served me well.

When the Yeti was first introduced, I was impressed by the styling and the high driving position. Later reports in car magazines and an endorsement by none less that Jeremy Clarkson confirmed me that I should buy one when the time was right.

Hugo has now left Rubio Mar to be replaced by Victor, an equally enthusiastic dealer, who “sells” you the car. I warmed to him immediately and knew that he would not try to sell me something beyond my requirements. He could have up sold the 2.0l diesel, the frugal “Greenline” or even a 4x4 version of the Yeti but no, he recognised what I needed and offered me a 1.2l turbo charged petrol version. In fact, it was a special edition Yeti Urban that he recommended.

Victor explained that the Urban is a mid range vehicle at the bottom of the range price with a design pack included free of charge. The design pack includes distinctive Matterhorn wheels, silver roof rails and silver trim on the body protection strips none of which make the car drive or perform better but which do make it stand out from other Yetis. The icing on the cake was the current discount of nearly 2.500 euros on the whole of the Yeti range.

In the few weeks that I have owned the Yeti, I have come to love it both for its looks and the way it drives. I have also come to appreciate more my relationship with the dealer, Victor. Yesterday he phoned to say that the car’s documents had arrived ready for me to collect. He was keen for me to have them as soon as possible and so agreed to drop them off at my house on his way home from work. It was 9:30 when he arrived and bear in mind that he had not stopped off on the way for a meal. Victor tells me that some nights it can be 10pm before he leaves the garage.

It is not rare to find salespeople who are keen to make a sale but it less common to find one who is so passionate about their product and so focussed on customer satisfaction. If you are interested in buying a new car (or even a second hand one), I can highly recommend giving Rubio Mar a visit. They do have a good range of cars on sale at prices which compete well with other makes. Tell Victor that you read about him on Keith Williamson from Bigasto’s blog and I am sure he will treat you well.

More EU nonsense.

Order any meal in a restaurant here in Spain and you are immediately brought olive oil and vinegar in plain glass bottles to dress your food. In some posh restaurants the oil will come in a glass jug or a dipping bowl but not any more.

From 1 January 2014, olive oil must come in pre-packaged, factory bottles with a tamper proof dispensing nozzle according to a directive from the EU. They say this is to protect the consumer from being offered an inferior product.

What nonsense, nobody would be fooled by being offered a different product – we all know what decent olive oil looks, smells and tastes like. This spells the death of local producers of artisan oil that supply discerning restaurants with their products. 

Back to their roots

norwegian-flag Yesterday we went to our dentist for an annual clean up. On the desk at reception there was a Norwegian flag which immediately told us that it was Norway’s national day and that Tor would be celebrating along with the rest of the Norwegian population in Torrevieja.

Festivities began in the Park of Nations at 10:30am with a parade down to the Monument to the Men of the Sea. Then, throughout the day there were many activities to enjoy including traditional dancing and of course Scandinavian food dishes.

Norwegians respect their heritage in a way that many English people have long forgotten.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Just half an hours difference

Construction of the high speed train line from Valencia to Madrid cost 9,000 million euros.

When the project was first announced in 1999, the promise was that the journey from Alicante to Madrid would take 100 minutes. In fact, the time to cover the 500km journey will be 2 hours and 30 minutes which is just half an hour less than the present non stop train journey. The goal is to cut the time down to 2 hours 15 minutes once all the safety checks have been made. However, that is still a lot longer than the 1 hour 40 minute goal. 

As for the cost of the journey, that has not been settled yet but could be between 70 and 90 euros.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Preparations are afoot

If you’d forgotten that Saturday will be the day that they carry the statue of San Isidro from the church to the chapel at La Predrera, then the sight of people cleaning the roadside up from Avenida Europa to Villas Andrea will remind you.

I know there are some who complain that the only time the roadside is cleaned in this way, is for the Romeria but then if it only happens once is year, that is better than never. 

Yesterday’s storm

The hailstorm yesterday took everyone by surprise. Hailstones in May – never!

923120_552063451512793_1002120480_n Apparently, the freak weather was caused by a cold front passing over the Iberian Peninsula meeting the warm air mass over the eastern flank. As the two collided, the strong thermal contrast created a storm that fortunately lasted for only a brief period. During that short time though, winds picked up to near 42 km per hour and in San Bartoleme, 26.4 litres per square metre of water was deposited.

In Torrevieja, the storm caused power outages and traffic was disrupted on the Avenida de Delfina Viudes, Rosa Mazón and  roads around the Polígono, Casa Grande.

Photo by Johan Rodríguez in Bigastro.




And this is the weather map which shows the expected storm as supplied by MeteOrihuela.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pay back time

We are paying for that period of hot weather today with a thunderstorm rolling around overhead and hailstones (never seen those here before).  The downside is - we were supposed to be having the pool cleaned ready for re-grouting today. Sensibly. that has been postponed. Not much point in having new grout applied just to be washed off by heavy rain.

On the plus side, it looks like it should be dry for San Isidro on Saturday.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

New regulation

It is hard enough to try and sell your home in Spain even if you offer it at a “bargain basement” price. The glut of houses for sale and the inability for young people to find work let alone obtain a mortgage have created a stalemate in the housing market. From the 1st of June, it will become even more difficult because by then the law will require buildings for sale or for long term rent to have an “energy efficiency certificate”.

The Ministry of Industry is finalising the regulations that will make it obligatory for all homes that are sold or rented in Spain to have an "energy efficiency certificate". This is a document that describes how efficient your home's energy consumption is and will cost around 250 euros for the average home. The measure is a European initiative, and is coming into force on the 1st of June, 2013.

The European directive aims to increase energy efficiency in buildings and homes in order to protect the environment, and makes it compulsory for all new and existing homes which come onto the market, whether for sale or for rent, to have this certificate.

The promotion of energy efficiency in buildings and homes has formed part of European priorities since 2002, when Directive 2002/91/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council was approved. This directive was implemented in Spain in 2007 through Royal Decree 4 7/2007, although at that time it was only applicable to developers. The surprise is that it now has to be complied with by private individuals, and it is likely to stir up strong feelings, judging by what has happened in other European countries where it has already been implemented.

Let us be clear, this is not something that Spain has dreamed up on its own. The 2002 Directive and the 2010 amendment of the Directive made it obligatory to promote energy efficiency in existing buildings and homes. Consequently, all homes that come onto the market in any country in the European Union, whether for sale or for rent, have to have this energy efficiency certificate, which is valid for a maximum of 10 years.

The owner of the home, building, or business premises will be responsible for obtaining and paying for the certificate, which they will need in order to sell or lease their home. In addition to the certificate, each home will also receive a series of recommendations to improve the energy performance of the home and enable it to go up at least one level in the energy efficiency scale.

Cost of the certificate is as follows:

Up to 100m2 - 250€ + IVA

Between 100m2-200m2 - 375€ + IVA

Between 200m2 - 300m2 - 500€ + IVA

Over 300m2 - 630€ + IVA

Monday, May 13, 2013

Help needed

Our neighbour, Aurelio tells me that a lady aged between 35 and 40 is looking for some practice with her English. From our experience, this sort of arrangement can be mutually beneficial because whilst you are helping with English, you also pick up a lot of Spanish at the same time.

As I have pointed out to Aurelio, Pamela already helps four children in the village with their language so we are pretty much fully committed as far as helping with English is concerned.

I have told Aurelio that I will ask around via this blog in case there is someone who is willing to spare a little time for this lady.

You can either contact me at or of course Aurelio directly. 

A red letter day all round

fergie-pa_2560745k Manchester United beat Swansea 2-1 at Old Trafford – the final home game with Sir Alex Ferguson as manager.

In spite of the rain, it was a fitting celebration of 26 years at the helm and 20 League Championships for the club.
Ferraris-Spanish-driver-F-010 Fernando Alonso won yesterday’s Grand Prix in front of his home crowd at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona.

This was his second win this season.

Friday, May 10, 2013

I say let him go

There is no doubting the talent of Wayne Rooney. His record of goal scoring from the age of nine exemplifies his unique footballing ability and yet he is a player that I find difficult to warm to.

I find it hard to forgive Rooney’s  behaviour on and off the pitch and I find it even more difficult to condone his petulance. In 2010 he wanted to leave United for rival City and was persuaded to stay with a £250,000 per week salary. There are only two other players in the world that command a higher salary than Rooney; Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo.

Disgruntled because he was dropped from several key games and was chosen to  play in centre midfield rather than a forward position, Rooney again says he want to leave Old Trafford but Ferguson said he was not available for transfer. 

Of course that may all change now that David Moyes is in charge. He may want to resume his former relationship with the young star he signed to Everton. On the other hand, he may decide that enough is enough and allow Rooney to go if the money is right. Rumour has it the club would accept £20 million which is a lot less than the £25.6 the club paid for him in 2004 and a mere fraction of the amount they sold Ronaldo for to Real Madrid.

I know my son-in-law will probably disagree but I think that United would be better off without Rooney in the circumstances. In the end, the club is more important than any individual.

UPDATE I spoke to my son-in-law last night and he agrees with me. Rooney, at his best, was apparently brilliant but sadly those days seem to have gone.

Warming up for summer

It is not just the weather that is hotting up, we are also moving quickly into the fiesta season.

Following the celebrations at the Holy Cross, the Romeria for San Isidro will take place on Saturday 18th May.

For those who cannot wait until then, there is the May Fair in Torrevieja taking place this week. This Saturday, they will hold the traditional mass in the church by the square followed by a parade of horses and carriages through the town to the fair ground on the seafront. 

The horses will be out on display again on Sunday for those that missed them on Saturday.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

A change of procedure

From May 13th, passport renewals for those of us living in Spain (and elsewhere) will be handled by the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) in Belfast instead of the regional hub in Madrid. Click here for the link.

At the site you will find the downloadable application form, guidelines for filling it in along with guidelines for acceptable photographs.

What you will find is that the service takes 4 weeks to complete and the cost of a renewal (including courier fee) is £147.86 for a 32 page ten year passport.

The advice is not to wait until your current passport expires because you can apply up to 9 months before and have the time added on.

Even if you do not intend to travel, it is important to have a passport as a form of identity especially since the new cards issued in Spain for foreigners do not include a photograph. If you do intend to travel by plane, even if it is within the country, you will of course need a valid passport.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

It suddenly got hot

Those of you who live here will know that the temperatures in the daytime have quickly risen this week. This has caught many caught unaware. Relief will come though towards the end of the week when the thermometer will return to the mid twenties rather than the low thirties.


From now on, Scout John (aka John Thorpe – near neighbour) will be known as the Scarlet Pimpernel.

When we met up with John and Carol at Barajas Airport in Madrid, John went off to get a bottle of water and was still gone when we were called to board the plane. Carol would have got on the plane without him except for the fact that he had the tickets in his shirt pocket.

At Alicante, John and Carol went to a different area to collect their international luggage. As they were waiting, John apparently went off again leaving Carol to sort out their heavy cases. Carol says that he does this all the time – in supermarkets she will be talking to him only to turn round and find him gone.

Their good news

John tells me that the President of the Pensioners Club came to visit them yesterday to say that they had been voted “third age” king and queen for this year’s annual fiesta in August. All I can say is, I hope that when they are called to go onto the stage at the coronation, John has not disappeared off to a local bar for one of his favourite belmontes.

Normally, Carol is a little camera shy – that will have to change come the fiesta because I will be pointing my lens at her many times over! I am quite happy to go round to their house for a practice session if she wishes.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Pictures at an exhibition

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From Canaletto to Rothko, taking in Rembrandt, Picasso and Cezanne, Pam and I did see the whole spectrum of art during our visit.

So which were the highlights, well of course Picasso’s Guernica but then I loved that Cezanne portrait and I am also a fan of the abstract expressionism of Mark Rothko.    

Back to base

We returned yesterday afternoon to Bigastro from our trip to Madrid tired but invigorated by the experience.

After punishing ourselves by trying to walk to places, the last few days we did the sensible thing and took taxis. When Pam and I were younger we’d walk everywhere, not just to save money but because on foot you do see a lot more. Now though, we have to admit that our bodies are no longer fit for that sort of punishment. So it is taxis from now on when we go on our sightseeing trips. 

The other thing we have learnt is that dining out cheap is not our style. We made the mistake one night of trying an “All you can eat” buffet” which was dreadful. Certainly, the place was clean but the food was cold and unappetizing. On our other nights we opted for something much more upmarket and boy could you tell the difference. So that is a lesson learnt, if you can afford it, go for it.

You can see my album of pictures here. Hopefully, I have captured some of the sprit of the fascinating capital of Spain.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Best of the lot

Today, we visited the Reina Sofia gallery to see the exhibition of Dali's work and the permanent collection of contemporary art - including Picasso's Guernica.

One advantage of age is that you mostly get discounts on entrance tickets at museums and other attractions. At the Reina Sofia, the price for pensioners is 0 euros - you just can't beat that! All we needed was some form of proof - our driving licenses sufficed.

Tomorrow we return home and as luck will have it, we are booked on the same flight as our neighbours, Scout John and his wife Carol, who will be returning from America.

Considering that last week it rained almost non stop in Madrid and was cold,  we have done well to see so much sunshine.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

A day for art

Two art galleries done and one to go.

The Prado was first followed by a light lunch and then we visited the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza which is just round the corner.

The Prado is a complete collection covering Spanish, German, French, Flemish, Italian, British and Dutch art. As you might expect the emphasis is on Spanish art and Goya in particular.

The collection of the Thyssen-Bornemisza's is perhaps more fascinating partly because it was private and partly because it extends into the 20th Century. Husband and wife had their own very different tastes which shows in their choices.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Ageing bones

I am thinking we should maybe have done these city trips when we were younger and could walk around all day and still have enough energy to party at night.

Pamela's knees don't like the downhill bits and my weight makes the uphill bits exhausting!

A different climate

You know the weather is better on the Costa Blanca than it is here in Madrid. Yesterday, most of the locals here had winter clothes on whilst in Torrevieja and along the Orihuela coast, folks were on the beach sunbathing.

In the height of summer though,  Madrid can be scortching hot. Still the sun is shining so we must not complain.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

In the big smoke

Following a flight which managed to arrive half  an  hour early (not sure how the pilot managed that on such a short journey) we had a taxi ride with Fernando Alonso. Still, we got to our hotel in one piece.

After a light lunch, we set out to explore Madrid. It is a very interesting city - very different to e.g. to Barcelona.

Perhaps because it was a public holiday, the streets around the Puerta de Sol were very crowded with young people most of whom did not seem to be suffering much from the economic woes of the country.

From our trip to Barcelona, we have learned to pace ourselves and set achievable goals for each day. Less walking and more people watching from the comfort of a seat will be the order of the day.

In case you are wondering

I won’t be able to post many items for the next few days because Pamela a I are off to the capital for a short cultural visit. We’ve never visited Madrid before so are looking forward to being there.