Spain

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SPAIN

One of Europe most favourite holiday destinations, sun sea party great food lots of entertainment. This has made Spain’s internationally one of the largest in the world. Located in the South West of Europe its climate also brings many tourists in the winter season to escape the cold and rainy weather in the northern parts of Europe. But it is not just European tourist it also receives lots of tourist from South America, Asia and the USA. It is estimated 50 billion Euros are being spend by tourist every year making it the second largest tourist industry in the world. But it is more than sun sand and entertainment. It also has stone castles, snow capped mountains, great cities, skiing in the morning (winter) while in the afternoon you could be sunbaking on the beach. The Canary Islands off the African Coast and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea are part of Spain and attracting millions of Tourists from all around the world.

ARRIVING IN SPAIN FROM MOROCCO

The Tangier Med port is strategically located at a point where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic and the distance between Europe and the African continent is at its shortest (just 14km). Once completed, the Tangier Med port will offer all the latest and modern facilities with respect to port infrastructure and passenger facilities. (let’s hope they maintain it). So, most ferry companies moving their operations to the Tangier Med Port. We arrived at 8.45 AM, hoping to catch the 10AM boat. (Fast Ferry) First we had to get our tickets organized and get rid of the many helpers, next police, next customs, next police again and off to the boat, it was now 9.35AM we were the last on after the semitrailers and even before we got out of the truck the boat was moving already. The boat left 30 minutes early…… Lucky, otherwise it would have been a 4 hour wait.  1 hour later we arrived in Europe, last one on the ferry means first one off. YES 30 minutes later we cleared customs (Computers here) and we were in Europe. (Spain) Until we leave Holland for our return to Australia no more passports, no more changing money YAHOO! The weather was cloudy with a little rain, but we were assured it would clear. Too late for Gibraltar, as we never saw the rock as we enter the harbor of Algeciras. We took the coast road and entered the Costa de La Luz. The Costa de la Luz (Coast of Light) is aptly named for as it experiences dazzling year-round weather and gorgeous evening sunsets. Tarifa is an incredibly welcoming resort with a buzzing social scene which singles, and couples are sure to enjoy. As well as having a fascinating landscape punctuated by castles built during medieval times, Tarifa is full of bars, restaurants and clubs that cater to all kinds of visitors. In addition, Tarifa experiences strong winds which get blown in through the straits and it is a great place to practise water sports such as windsurfing and kite surfing. Being so close to Morocco it also gives the European/American/Japanese Tourist the ability to book a tour from Spain across to the North African country of Morocco. Other area’s we visited while in this area where Cadiz north west along the E5 coastal road. Cadiz is thought to be the oldest continually inhabited city on the Iberian Peninsula, which might even make it the oldest continually inhabited city in the whole of South Western Europe. The Bay of Cadiz is a stunningly beautiful area to drive through and you are sure to get incredible views out over the Atlantic Ocean. Huelva is another historic town with a fascinating history and was where Christopher Columbus sought support for his voyage to the New World. Jerez not that far away is world renowned for its sherry and when entering the town you can smell the sherry. Back to the Costa Del Sol a nice walk over the 7km long promenade along the beach with restaurants, bars, hotels, beach-clubs and the like.

This part of Europe is called the Costa del Sol and attracts a large variety of people, particularly those with interests in culture, excursions to Gibraltar, Morocco, Sevilla and Granada the area offers the tourists sunbathing, wining and dining, sports such as water skiing, swimming, surfing, windsurfing, sailing and fishing etc. The Costa del Sol consists of a series of large beaches, coves hidden amongst cliffs and some of the best marinas in the world are located here. We had a fabulous lunch at the beach and it was time to leave and head for Gibraltar and find a bush camp overlooking the world-famous rock of Gibraltar. The road to Gibraltar runs through typical Spanish villages. Oranges, lemons and olives grow in abundance and many are just along the roadside or in the middle of the villages. The Costa Del Sol. 2 mil. visitors per year can’t be wrong.

The ideal location of the Costa Del Sol (sunshine coast) in the south of Spain overlooking the Mediterranean Sea has always made it a desirable place to live in. And towns such as Malaga and Marbella annually attract tourists from all over Europe, USA, Japan. Because the Costa Del Sol is a great getaway for people who are looking for sand, sea, sun and fun, the tourist industry and infrastructure has become incredibly advanced and efficient. 3 hours later we drove into the camping of our choice, 550 spaces, huge supermarket, 2 restaurants, bars, huge swimming pool, paved roads, clean toilets, and a perfect beach with beach bar, 3 restaurants, and sun lounges to laze around on. It is here that we will enjoy the beach life style. We are really settling into the European way of living again, Late rise, Late lunch, Siesta, Late dinner, in fact all restaurants are open till midnight and before 8.30pm most are empty. They make the most of the warm weather, we are enjoying the local nightlife. And we just can’t believe how Europe has progressed in the last 10 to 15 years. Caravan parks were really for those low budget people however this has changed. Not only are the caravans and motorhomes well over 100.000AUD, the caravan parks now offer 2 or 3 restaurants, large swimming pools, Live entertainment every night. Kid’s entertainment every day, Spotless beaches and free lounges, Bar, Nightclub and Blue light disco for those under 16. Immaculate sites all with water, WIFI, power and the most expensive offer even an ensuite.  Yes, it does come with a price tag, but it offers you the same as resort for a fraction of the price. Prices are from around 35 Euro (50AUD) per night up to 85Euro (110AUD) for the En-suite sites. The next 2 days were a mix of R&R drinking, eating and laze in the sun. And listen to all the real Dutch Sing alongs. Leo had another surprise for us, but he kept his secret very well. John and Ingrid walked into the Bar on Wednesday evening. We were completely surprised, and it was so nice to see them fly to Spain for a few days. We visited Malaga (more than 12 million visitors per year). Direct flights from the USA, all of Europe, Russia, and dozens of discount airlines. The port city of Malaga is the capital of Andalusia. Malaga is surrounded by mountains, has two rivers running through it, and is culturally very rich. It is a great place to enjoy a live Flamenco show while eating Spanish tapas and drinking the local wine. (I prefer the local beer San Michael) After our Perfect Beach Bush Camp last night around 20km from Motrill we were hoping to get a site on a very nice camping located around 300 km drive away in La Manga between the Mediterranean and a lagoon, next to a national Park.

We loved the drive from our bush camp passing many small villages, and small holiday resorts on the way. We needed to stock up on groceries and some more beer and wine for our Happy Hours. Once all this was done it was Murcia and Cartagena next before arriving at La Manga, a huge tourist area and the caravan park was no different. Swimming Pools, Beach, 3 restaurants, Live entertainment every night, beach volley ball, Tennis courts, Jeu de Boules, a supermarket the size of Woolworths or Albert Hein. All European News Papers and 2 USA papers, wireless internet and an internet café. I look forward to the next 3 days of R&R before our drive to the French Alps, Swiss Alps and the Overlander show in Germany.

We spent a few more days in La Manga southern Spain enjoying luke warm water and blue sunny skies. Once we left La Manga we followed the Spanish Costa’s North. The Spanish Coast and all its Costa’s have it all. Every type of low budget, self-catering and luxury accommodation, 18-hole golf courses, theme and water parks and thousands of bars, Discotheques, Nightclubs, restaurants, 1 to 5-star resorts, Hotels, Apartments and caravan parks, hence this is the secret of the tourism success story in Spain. We travelled North first crossing the Costa Almeria which has some of Andalusia’s most un-spoilt coastline including nature parks and deserts. This is a good place to go if you want to avoid the crowds. Next the Costa Calida which lies in Murcia and covers 250 kilometres of coastline and beautiful beaches. The Costa Calida benefits from a special micro climate which keeps it especially warm in winter and gives it its name. It also has the biggest salt water lagoon in Europe (spent 3 days here) Next came the Costa Blanca hugely popular with tourists from all over Europe English, and Dutch who are contributing to Benidorm and Alicante being two of the most visited parts of the country. Both English and Dutch not only operate many Bars, Restaurants in Benidorm but also their own radio stations and all Dutch and English TV channels are available here.  Next the Costa Del Azahar. It is known in English as Orange Blossom Coast because of the verdant orchards of orange tree groves which provide the backdrop to some stunning beaches. Next the Costa Dorada with its calm warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The incredible city of Barcelona, Barcelona is characterized by the fabulous architecture of Gaudi and is one of the sexiest cities in Europe with incredible, art, sport, and music, fashion and culture wherever you look.
After Barcelona we entered the Costa Brava which starts just north of Barcelona, up to the French border. The Costa Brava, or rugged coast, is in the north eastern Catalonia region of Spain.
The Costa Brava has combined perfect beaches with distinctive countryside to lure tourists back time and time again for their summer holidays. Lloret de Mar is the largest of the Costa Brava resorts. Girona’s and its narrow winding streets and the old town are extremely atmospheric and so are the Arab Baths in the centre of the city. Other places worth seeing on the Costa Brava are the quaint fishing town of Calella de Palafrugal and the seaside resort of Tossa del Mar.

Reluctantly we left our very comfortable camp spot (Although expensive at $85 AUD per night) it really offered everything from squeaky clean toilets, entertainment, beach bars, restaurants, ice-cream, parlours, kite surfing, windsurfing, 4 swimming pools etc. But it was time to move as our next destination the French Alp is waiting.

What is Spain Famous For?

  1. Bull Fights Along with eating Tapas, drinking sangria and watching flamenco, Running of the bulls, watching a bullfight is in most people’s ‘must do’ list when they visit Spain. Is it fair? Should you go? You must be your own judge, but most people say when in Rome do as the Romans do? Spain has always been famous for its bull-fights. Bullfighting is also popular in Portugal, as well as the Latin American countries of Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. I am not writing this to try and glorify the sport of bullfighting, but it is a fact that many thousands of people go and watch this national sport.

How does it work, 6 bulls are selected and allocated in pairs to 3 individual bull fighters?

The bull fight starts late in the afternoon, each matador and his team walk into the arena

The first bull is engaged by the first bullfighter’s assistant to see how it moves in the ring

The judge then signals the entree of the 2 picadores (lancers on horseback) one of whom is to pierce the bull’s neck in a limited way to weaken its strong neck. The first of 3 banderilleros normally older bullfighters individually run towards the bull, making him charge. Their job is to insert to decorated wooden sticks with spiked ends over the horns into the bull’s neck muscle. The matador engages the bull with his cape in a series of passes. When the bull is weak and unable to charge much longer, he pulls out a curved sword, with which he kills the bull by inserting the sword between the cervical vertebra and into the bull’s heart. He might dedicate the bull to an individual or the audience. If he performs well and the bull is killed cleanly, the audience will wave white handkerchiefs, encouraging the judge to award an ear, or two ears and tail. It does go not always go the Matador’s way and if the matador is injured, the remaining matadors must kill the bull then the bull’s carcass is quickly removed, pulled out of the arena by horses, and then distributed for sale in butchers’ shops or the local market. When the sixth and last bull is dead, the matadors and their teams cross the arena. Occasionally a matador may be carried out of the arena through the main gates on the shoulders of his fans. The newspapers report the fight, with photos in the sports pages of the next day’s edition. League tables of matadors are maintained each season, based on the number of bulls fought, ears awarded, and tails awarded. If the matador has performed particularly well, the crowd may petition the president to award the matador an ear of the bull by waving white handkerchiefs. If his performance was exceptional, he will award two, and in certain more rural rings a tail can still be awarded. Very rarely, if the public or the matador believe that the bull has fought extremely bravely, they may petition the president of the event to grant the bull a pardon (indulto) and if granted the bull’s life is spared and it is allowed to leave the ring alive and return to the ranch where it came from. Then the bull becomes a stud bull for the rest of its life. In Spain the bullfight is called the Fiesta National. There are few places in Spain where a bull-ring can’t be found within a short drive. Every week, all over the country, many thousands of Spaniards flock to the nearest bullring; it is reported that each year, within Spain, 24,000 bulls are killed in front of an audience of 30 million people. As entertainment. It has been stated that many tourist bullfight attendees (up to 90%) will never see another fight, after witnessing the cruelty that takes place in the ring. The issue here is not entirely the cruel treatment of the bulls. After all, animals are slaughtered for food everywhere, and many times just as painfully as these bulls are put to death in the ring. Rather more important is the idea that people consider the killing of an animal in this way ‘sport’ and will pay money to watch it. This brings into question the entire notion of killing animals for ‘sport’ at all. It could be argued that killing animals for ‘sport’ is hardly a sport at all, if the animal has no chance to survive. In the event of bullfighting if the Bull gets lucky give him the change to finish it off??? Would that not be fair?

Would I like to see it again? No.

My Opinion:
where is the ‘sport’? Why is killing a living creature considered by many to be a sport … and why is it so popular? Even people living in more ‘civilized’ countries like Germany, Canada, Australia still manage to maintain the ‘sport’ of killing animals for fun.
This isn’t about killing animals, in the wild, for food or other products. Killing animals could be a sport, if the animal had a chance. But any half-wit with a big gun and a pocket-full of bullets can kill, without any danger to himself. A true sport would be hunting, say, a female grizzly with a large knife and a stick! Then the hunter could demonstrate all sorts of skills, and be justified in bragging about his kill.
Why does a hunter take pleasure in destroying the life of a living thing with a high-powered rifle, and why is he proud of the fact, and his skill? Why does he call himself a ‘sportsman’, and hang the head on his wall? Take some lessons from the Misaim in Kenya and kill a lion with a knife and become a man. Don’t be a coward and shoot from 200 meters? Instead you could use moving targets to demonstrate his prowess with a high-powered weapon. Or let others kill the bull when you are hurt.

Supporters of bullfighting argue that it is a culturally important tradition and a fully developed art form on par with painting, dancing and music, while animal rights advocates hold that it is a blood sport resulting in the suffering of bulls and horses.

However as of Jan 1 2012 the regional parliament in Barcelona has passed into law a resolution to ban bullfighting in the province of  Catalonia from this date. So, if you are in Barcelona before Jan 1, 2012, is it right to see a bullfight?

 

  1. FLAMENCO DANCES

Flamenco is a genre of music and dance which has its foundation in Andalusian music and dance and in whose evolution Andalusian Gypsies played an important part. The term flamenco was first recorded in the late 18th century but many aficionados believe the art form is much older. The singing, guitar playing, dance and handclaps are the principal facets of flamenco Traditional flamenco artists never received any formal training: they learned by listening and watching relatives, friends and neighbors. But nowadays, it is more usual for dancers and guitarists (and sometimes even singers) to be professionally trained. Some guitarists can even read music and study other styles like classical -guitar or jazz, and many dancers take courses in contemporary dance or ballet as well as flamenco. While we were in Spain we saw many juerga’s spontaneous gitano gathering more like a jam session. This can include dancing, singing, hand clapping, or simply pounding in rhythm on an old orange crate or a table. One tradition remains firmly in place: the cantaores (singers) are the heart and soul of the performance. A must when in Spain Flamenco has never been more popular in Spain and abroad than it is today with a new generation of new flamenco performers.

 

 

  1. Running of the bulls

The Bull Run is the most well-known act of the Sanfermines and the reason why so many strangers make their way to Pamplona on the 6th of July. Basically, it consists of running along certain stretches of the streets which have been previously walled off, and the aim of which is to take the bulls from the Santo Domingo corrals to the Bull Ring where, later that afternoon, they will be fought. A total of six bulls are “run” as well as two herds of tame bulls and the route, which runs through different streets of the old city center, measures 825 meters This dangerous race, which is run every morning between the 7th and 14th of July, begins at 8.00 a.m., although the runners will have entered the run at 7.30. It is a dangerous race, because in earlier years there were less people than there are today. (including foreigners) At eight o’clock exactly the first rocket is launched announcing the opening of the gates of the small corrals of Santo Domingo, while the firing of the second indicates that all the bulls have left. From then on, the animals run along the following course: they go up the Santo Domingo rise and cross the Town Hall Square to run in line down the Calle Mercaderes. A closed curve leads into the Calle Estafeta, the longest part of the route, which is followed by a small part of the Calle Duque de Ahumada, also known as the Telefónica (telephone exchange) stretch, which gives access to the dead-end street, which leads to the Bull Ring. Once all the bulls have entered the ring enclosure, a third rocket goes up while the fourth indicates that the beasts have gone into the bullpens and the Bull Run is over. The run lasts for three minutes on average, which are prolonged if any of the bulls should get separated from the rest of the herd. Although all the stretches are dangerous, the curve of the Calle Mercaderes and the stretch between the Calle Estafeta and the Bull Ring are the most treacherous. The Bull Run consists of running along fenced off stretches of streets, in front of bulls. The purpose is to transfer the bulls from the Santo Domingo enclosure to the Bullring, which is where the bulls will fight that afternoon. Six bulls run, as do two herds of tame bulls. The route, which runs through various streets in the Old Part, which is 2750 feet long. The last section is the Callejon this acts as a funnel and goes down into the Bull Ring. It is very scary, as there is a risk of people stumbling and falling, forming a pile up. Once all the brave bulls have entered the bullring, a third rocket is fired, then a fourth one is fired to announce that the bulls are now in the pen and the run is finished. Every year, between 200 and 300 people are injured during the run although most injuries are minor due to falls and are not serious. I am told around 18 people have been killed during the event.

 

  1. ETA

ETA stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna translated into Basque Homeland and Freedam. It was founded in 1959 and is an armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization. The group is proscribed as a terrorist organization by the Spanish and French authorities, as well as the Europian Union as a whole, and the United States. Since 1968, ETA has been blamed for killing 829 individuals, injured thousands and undertaken dozens of kidnappings. More than 700 members of the organization are incarcerated in prisons in Spain, France, and other countries on 5 September 2010, ETA declared a new ceasefire, its third, after two previous ceasefires were ended by the group. A spokesperson speaking on a video announcing the ceasefire said the organization wished to use “peaceful, democratic means” to achieve its aims, though it was not specified whether the ceasefire was considered permanent by the group. On 10 January 2011, ETA declared that their September 2010 ceasefire would be permanent and verifiable by international observers.[ Observers urged caution, pointing out that ETA had broken permanent ceasefires in the past while Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero demanded that ETA declare that it had given up violence for once and for all. After the declaration, Spanish press started speculating of a possible type split within ETA, with hardliners forming a new more violent offshoot led by “Dienteputo for the record ETA declared ceasefires in 1989, 1996, 1998 and 2006, but subsequently restarted killing.