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Musings on my life in Spain

Russ has lived in Spain for just over three years and has explored the area around Pamplona, Catalunya to the north of Barcelona, and is now living in Guardamar del Segura from where he blogs about his Spanish life.

Rugby in Spain
10 March 2015

As this year's RBS Six Nations tournament gets to its meaty stage, it's time to have a look at the state of rugby here in Spain. Ask anyone what sports are played in Spain and the first answer will surely be football. Basketball may well get a mention too, and maybe even handball. Few, if any people would come up with rugby as an answer though. Rugby Union in Spain may well be a minority sport, but with 221 clubs playing the sport in various divisions, it is more popular than you may have thought, especially in certain parts of the country. 

Rugby in Spain

The game has actually been played in Spain for over a hundred years. The Spanish Rugby Federation was founded in 1923 and became a member of the International Rugby Board in 1988. In 1999 they even qualified for the World Cup but lost all three games. They may have sustained heavy defeats against South Africa and Scotland, but I bet they were smirking as Italy were trounced 67-7 by England and then 101-3 by New Zealand! Sadly, they haven’t managed to qualify again and are currently 21st in the International rankings but a recent win against Russia in the second tier of European rugby, the European Nations Cup, will have given them hope of climbing up a place or two

Rugby in Spain

On a club level, the top flight is known as the Division of Honour. The league began in 1953 but after 2 years it stopped, starting again in 1970 and it has been operating ever since. There are no clubs south of Madrid competing at this level, and a heavy concentration of top flight rugby is played in the Basque region. Below that, the Division of Honour B is split into three regional divisions with the top two from each participating in a round-robin mini-league to decide who will be promoted and who will play off against the 11th placed side in the top flight.

Rugby La Vila

It is into this league that I ventured last month. A few kilometres south of Benidorm is the town of Villajoyosa. The town is the home of La Vila Rugby Club. Their stadium is a little out of town on the mountains side of the A7 motorway. It’s a lovely ground in a picturesque location and it was a very friendly atmosphere as the team took the field to take on bottom-of-the-table BUC Barcelona. In reality, it wasn’t much of a competition as the hosts ran out 57-13 winners and scored some very good tries in doing so. It was a good game to watch though, and we will be back. It’s tight at the top of their league with the top three clubs virtually neck-and-neck(-and-neck!) with two games to play. It’s a shame that one of the three will miss out on the play-off round. Let’s hope it’s not La Vila. Their two rivals will play each other on the final weekend of the regular season at the end of March so there’s every chance the season will be extended. Promotion back to the top would be nice as they were actually Spanish champions as recently as 2011.

Rugby in Spain

After the game at La Vila you can enjoy a portion of a huge paella cooked just inside the entrance to the ground. It looked delicious but a menu del dia on the seafront was calling me so I didn't get to try it.

PaellaIt’s not just men’s 15-a-side rugby which is making headway in Spain though. There is a small women’s league in progress too. There is even a Rugby 7s tournament hosted by La Vila at the end of May. It’s called the Benidorm Sevens and this year will be their 29th year with teams from around the world competing.

If you have enjoyed this blog, take a look at www.anythingbutpaella.com for some more unusual things to see in Spain.



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The vultures are circling - quite literally!!
08 March 2015

To some they are vermin. To others they are a thing of beauty. Perhaps, like me, you can't see them without thinking of scenes from The Jungle Book! These vultures are easy to find. Just 50km to the Southeast of Pamplona is the small town of Lumbier. It’s nothing special in itself but nearby hides a special secret, and that was the sole purpose of this visit.

VulturesFoz de Lumbier is a small canyon in which hundreds, maybe thousands, of Egyptian Vultures have made their home. It was amazing walking along the footpath, a disused railway line, and getting close to them was quite straight forward. The path is easy to negotiate and this was evident by the number of families out for a stroll and cyclists riding their bikes. At times you have to go through dark tunnels but you always emerge into spectacular scenery with a multitude of carrion circling above waiting for you to drop dead!!

VulturesA few kilometres along the path there is a trail leading up into the hills. This was a fabulous way to return to the car park, but be prepared for your shoes to get rather dirty!! It wasn’t too difficult an ascent but it was quite muddy in places – just energetic enough.

TunnelsAt the top you can’t miss the trail leading back to the car park because of the danger signs warning us away from other routes. It was a great day for getting up close and personal with the vultures and it is highly recommend as a day out if you get the chance.

Wonderful Scenery

If you have enjoyed this blog, you can read more about Russ and his travels in Spain at www.anythingbutpaella.com



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Greek Mythology in Catalonia
03 March 2015

Whoever would have thought that some knowledge of Greek mythology would be required for a trip to a quiet seaside town in Catalonia. Hopefully this blog will help you understand what you will see if you go to Vilanova i la Geltru, just a few kilometres South of Sitges. It’s quite a complicated name but don’t let it put you off trying to get there.

Vilanova Beach

The town is, without a doubt, a lovely beach resort where you may be able to escape from the crowds a little farther up the coast. Take a pleasant stroll along the promenade, sunbathe on its beautiful beaches, but whatever you do, don’t miss the statue of Pasifae at the southern end. If you are lucky, you’ll get there before every man and his dog decide to sit at its base to soak up the sun.

Pasifae

The statue by renowned sculptor Òscar Estruga was created from three tons of copper and is a visual representation of the intriguing story of Pasiphaë. In Greek mythology she was the daughter of Helios and the wife of King Minos of Crete. Poseidon sent Minos a bull as a gift to be sacrificed but he refused, and Poseidon cursed his wife, forcing her to fall in love with the bull. The story gets quite graphic as she had a wooden cow built which she could hide inside and mate with the bull! The resulting offspring was the Minotaur.

Pasifae

 

Just imagine how the behaviour of the Greek Gods would have been reported in the trashy newspapers of the day!

PasifaeWhile you are in town, you really should visit the Catalonia Railway Museum too. Look out for a future blog about this piece of Spanish locomotive history.

If you have enjoyed this blog, you can find many more of Russ's adventures at www.anythingbutpaella.com.



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