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Max Abroad : The Best of Spain

Quite simply writing about the best things Spain has to offer and anything that might crop up along the way. Spain is a lot more than just sun, sand and sea...

Barcelona's concert hall - "Palau de la Musica" -
29 May 2020

The Palau de la Música Catalana was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The concert hall is an architectural jewel. Its exterior is as surprising and unique as its interior, with one of the most beautiful auditoriums in the world.

Built between 1905 and 1908 for the Orfeó Català (a Catalan choral society), it is currently one of the most representative Catalan Modernist buildings in Barcelona.  

Its impressive acoustics is the reason for which many famous artists wish to sing in the Palace of Catalan Music and why it is held in such high esteem.

If you happen to be in Barcelona and have enough time, I recommend booking the guided tour. If you don’t have time you must at least walk past the Palau to see this magnificent building.

 

The building’s guided tour begins with a presentation of its history, its current programme how it plays an essential role in the society of Barcelona.


 

Once the presentation finishes, visitors are taken to the concert hall. This auditorium is naturally lit during the day with a bright and colourful light thanks to its stained-glass panes and its enormous stained glass skylight. The hall is beautifully decorated to immerse the spectators into a magical world, almost fantasy.

 

 

The hall and the stage contain sculptures, busts, reliefs that fill the room with magic and create an ideal atmosphere for the various artists that perform in the Palau.

 


The tour of the Palace continues in the Lluís Millet hall which is a gathering place for concert-goers a striking Modernist hall with a small terrace with peculiar columns covered in mosaics.



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Fishing is back! Time to catch a beast!
20 May 2020

 

We are now into Phase 1 across the country and fishing is back! If you fancy a challenge, the mighty River Ebro has without a doubt become one of Europe's premier catfish fishing destination. It's quickly becoming one of the places to rival anywhere in the world for the sheer volume and size of its catfish, known as 'Siluro' in Spain, these river monsters are regularly being caught weighing over 100lbs and specimens over 200  lbs are starting to show at a surprising rate.

 

 

The River Ebro is one of the largest river systems in Spain and is a significant source of hydroelectric power and irrigation, home to a huge head of monster catfish; it is also responsible for making fishermen's dreams come true. 

The Ebro runs 565 miles from the Cantabria Mountains in the North, through the Pyrenees and Iberian Mountains and into the Balearic Sea of the Mediterranean between Valencia and Barcelona. It was once a modest rive until a series of dams were built which led to parts of the Ebro valley being flooded to form one of Europe's finest fisheries.

 

 

The Wels Catfish, also known as the "European Maneater," is one of the ugliest fish you will ever meet. Although they will not likely swallow you whole, they have the appearance of being able to do so, with wide, bulbous heads and horrible, gaping mouths. The Wels is the only catfish in Spain and grows so large due to having an endless food source of smaller fish and no natural predators. This is what the anglers seek in the River Ebro.

 

 

Also called the sheatfish, is a large catfish native to wide areas of central, southern, and eastern Europe, and near the Baltic and Caspian Seas. It has been introduced to Western Europe and is now found from the United Kingdom all the way east to Kazakhstan and south to Greece. It is a scaleless fresh and brackish water fish recognizable by its broad, flat head and wide mouth. Wels catfish can live for at least thirty years and have very good hearing.

This catfish lives on annelid worms, gastropods, insects, crustaceans, and fish including other catfishes; the larger ones also eat frogs, mice, rats, and aquatic birds such as ducks. Recently, individuals of this species in environments that are not their native habitats have been observed lunging out of the water to grab pigeons on land.

The wels lives in large, warm lakes and deep, slow-flowing rivers. It prefers to remain in sheltered locations such as holes in the riverbed, sunken trees, etc. It consumes its food in the open water or in the deep, where it can be recognised by its large mouth which

contains lines of numerous small teeth, two long barbels on the upper jaw and four shorter barbels on the lower jaw. It has a long anal fin that extends to the caudal fin, and a small sharp dorsal fin positioned relatively far forward. It uses its sharp pectoral fins to capture prey. With these fins, it creates an eddy to disorient its victim, which it then simply engulfs in its enormous throat. It has very slippery green-brown skin. Its belly is pale yellow or white. Colour varies with environment. Clear water will give the fish a black colouration while muddy water will often tend to produce brownish specimens. Weight and length are not correlated linearly and also depend on the season.

The female produces up to 30,000 eggs per kilogram of body weight. The male guards the nest until the brood hatches, which, depending on water temperature, can take from three to ten days. If the water level decreases too much or too fast the male has been observed to splash the eggs with its muscular tail in order to keep them wet.

With a possible total length up to 4 m (13 ft) and a maximum weight of over 180 kg (400 lb), it is the second-largest freshwater fish in its region after the beluga sturgeon. However, such lengths are extremely rare and could not be proved during the last century, but there is a somewhat credible report from the 19th century of a wels catfish of this size. 

Most wels catfish are only about 1.3–1.6 m (4 ft 3 in–5 ft 3 in) long; fish longer than 2 m (6 ft 7 in) are normally extremely rare. At 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) they can weigh 15–20 kg (33–44 lb) and at 2.2 m (7 ft 3 in) they can weigh 65 kg (143 lb).

Only under exceptionally good living circumstances can the wels catfish reach lengths of more than 2 m (6 ft 7 in) which is becoming a regular catch on the River Ebro nowadays. However, on average, a catfish in the River Ebro weighs in at around 100 lbs. People fishing on the river for carp are quite surprised when their rod suddenly doubles over and they discover they have hooked a Wels. These fish are very powerful and difficult to land. They fight hard while in the water, and because they are so slippery, they are not easy to handle. 

You need a fishing license to fish anywhere in Spain even if you are on a charter boat, and it is only valid for a specific region. If you intend to fish in various regions, you will need a license for each region. You can obtain the license from the regional office of the Ministry of the Environment (Ministerio de Medio Ambiente). Wels catfish are in fact considered an invasive species and thus you are not supposed to return them to the river, however this is very controversial among anglers and the vast majority are returned. But be aware it is against the law. That said, if you landed a 6ft specimen I don't think the local police would insist on you taking it home!

The Chiprana section of the River Ebro is noted for producing some of the best Wels catfish in the world. It is the location for the World Catfish Classic tournament, a catch and release event (contrary to what the law stipulates). It is a showcase for the best international catfish anglers to demonstrate their best practices. The safety and welfare of the monster fish are taken into consideration during this type of sports event. Winners receive cash prizes for daily and overall records during the four-day event. If you are interested in fishing for Wels catfish there are many guided fishing trips available along the Ebro river run by British and Spanish anglers, in fact, several British anglers hold records for landing the largest specimens.



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La Palma - The Greenest Island
05 May 2020

The volcanic island of La Palma seems to be painted green due to a deep shroud of a prehistoric forest. Connect with nature under some of the world's clearest skies, relax on its welcoming beaches or hike through deep gorges and past volcanoes. 

La Palma is the Canary island that was a finalist in the EDEN programme (European Destinations of Excellence) of the European Commission, in recognition of its sustainable tourism offer. This destination has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO for its numerous protected natural spaces considered ecological treasures. These are places that you cannot miss if you decide to visit the area.

 


Also known as the “Isla Bonita’’, La Palma is the greenest spot in the whole of the Canary archipelago. If you are a nature lover and you have a bit of an adventurous spirit, you will really feel at home here. You will be able to enjoy a genuine natural museum, whether you are with your partner, family or friends. 

La Palma's trails take you past waterfalls and up to the island's peaks. Once you reach the top, look up. The night sky is unforgettable. Clear skies and strict light pollution laws mean that La Palma is such a fantastic place for star gazing and astronomy that is has earned a Starlight award.

 


The advantage of visiting this little piece of the Atlantic is that it offers an attractive balance, both on the coast and in the mountains. Here you will be able to lose yourself in the lush forests and appreciate the steep surfaces, which will take you to beaches of gleaming, black sand where you can walk and relax.

A good way to start is to enter into the heart of La Palma where you will find the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, an underwater crater created by eruptions and erosion, a real visual spectacle that is well worth your attention.

 

       [Photographs by Saul Santos @  www.santossaul.com   http://www.santossaul.com]

 

If what you want is to reach the clouds you can travel along high mountain ranges, including Roque de los Muchachos, which boasts one of the most modern astrophysical observatories in the world. A great idea for looking at the stars from a height.

When you have finished exploring inside, you can go to the coast to enjoy the shoreline, whose entire shape has been moulded at the whim of the volcanic lava coming from the great volcanic chain of Cumbre Vieja. Once there you only need to worry about inhaling the sea breeze and admiring the precipitous landscape dotted with small coves and cliffs.

 

 

 

The art of this island not only resides in nature, but you can also find it in the numerous places of archaeological interest, hermitages, churches and museums. In particular, you must not to miss the historical site of Santa Cruz de La Palma.


Once you have arrived, you can learn about its island culture and the traditions such as “The Indianos in Carnival’’ and the Fiestas Lustrales festival, also known as the Bajada de la Virgen de las Nieves, which is celebrated every five years.

If you plan your visit during the first fortnight in July, you will be able to live the Semana Grande (Big Week) and the Semana Chica (Small Week), full of events and festivities. Worth a special mention is the Danza de Los Enanos (The Dance of the Dwarves), a deeply rooted tradition which will be repeated with a new edition in 2015.

You must not forget about the textile crafts, the cigar-making and the island's cuisine. The homemade desserts and cheeses play a special role in the island's extensive offer. In this way, you will be able to experience the richness of the island’s traditions for yourself.

All this with an average yearly temperature of between 16 and 21 degrees centigrade, which enables you to make the trip and enjoy the activities at any time of the year.

 



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