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Live News From Spain As It Happens

Keep up to date with all the latest news from Spain as it happens. The blog will be updated constantly throughout the day bringing you all the latest stories as they break.

World's top hospitals include 15 from Spain
Thursday, September 29, 2022

A RANKING of the world's best hospitals released by Newsweek includes 15 from Spain in the top 250.

Published annually, the complete list includes 2,200 hospitals in 27 countries, with three new nations entering for the first time – Colombia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

La Paz in Madrid - Spain's top-ranked hospital according to Newsweek (photo: Luis García/Wikimedia Commons)

Spain's best medical centres, according to the classification, are found throughout the mainland, from north to south.

Six of them are in the top 100, and a total of seven in the top 150 – a section led by the USA with 33.

All the top three are in the United States – Mayo Clinic-Rochester, Cleveland Clinic, and Massachusetts General Hospital – and the top-ranked in Spain is Madrid's Hospital La Paz, at 52.

Eight in total are in the capital, including the third-best in the country, the 12 de Octubre University Hospital, at number 66.

Another three are in Catalunya, one in Pamplona (Navarra), and one each in Valencia and Sevilla.

Barcelona's Hospital Clínic is second in Spain and number 63 in the world, then Madrid's Gregorio Marañón General University Hospital is at 75.

The Vall d'Hebron hospital in Barcelona is ranked 81st in the world, and the Clínica Universidad de Navarra – which also has a branch in Madrid – comes in at 86.

Madrid's Ramón y Cajal Hospital is 141st in the world.

After number 150 – which is, again, in the USA, being the University of California-Davis Medical Center – the ranking combines the next 100 into a single block, listed as 151-250.

In this, Madrid's Hospital Clínico San Carlos and Barcelona's La Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Madrid's Ruber International, Jiménez Díaz Foundation University Hospital, and Puerta de Hierro, appear along with Sevilla's Virgen del Rocío and Valencia's La Fe.

Some of the hospitals ranked much higher on certain specialist areas, however.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Foreign home fever on the Med: Buyers from abroad outstrip 2019 numbers
Thursday, September 29, 2022

NON-SPANISH buyers are snapping up 133 homes a day in the Comunidad Valenciana, and sales shot up by 50% of pre-pandemic figures this spring.

According to data from the Valencia College of Notaries, the property market in the three east-coast provinces of Alicante, Castellón and Valencia not only bounced back in the second quarter of 2022, but far surpassed the number of homes sold during the same three months of 2019, in terms of foreign nationals.

A villa complex on the Comunidad Valenciana coast (photo: iStock)

Househunters with citizenship of countries other than Spain now account for well over a third of all transactions in the Mediterranean region – 37.25% of the total.

And in the province of Alicante, the coast of which is known in the tourism trade as the Costa Blanca, over half of all homebuyers are originally from abroad.

The vast majority of buyers not from Spain are from the Americas and other parts of Europe, and they account for 40% in Valencia city and 51.88% in the province of Alicante.

 

Investors, home-workers and 'to spend two or three months of the year in'

Spokesman for the College of Estate Agents (API) in Valencia, Vicente Díez, says foreign buyer growth is 'very significant indeed'.

Not all of them are retirees seeking a place in the sun – a high number are of working age, with jobs that are not location-specific.

Sometimes referred to as 'digital nomads', the number of remote workers across Europe has soared since the pandemic, when lockdowns meant that, other than those in emergency or essential services, the only people who could work at all were those whose jobs could be done from home.

Valencia city, where 40% of buyers this spring were from abroad (photo: Bankinter)

Not having to worry about where they live in relation to their place of employment means workers are tending to relocate to where they actually want to live, Díez says.

“Just like what happened with Spanish nationals and existing Spanish residents who, after lockdown, started looking for larger homes with more land and outside space, foreigners see Spain and the Comunidad Valenciana as an idyllic destination,” he explains.”

“As soon as restrictions on movement were dropped and the pandemic had passed, they threw themselves into buying over here.

“I've had foreign clients who've bought three apartments in the Valencia area purely as an investment, because their prices were much lower than in their home countries.”

Díez says non-Spanish buyers are tending to 'move to the region to live' if they are able to work remotely, to spend two or three months a year there – 'especially the Italians and the French' – and 'as an investment to rent the property out'.

 

Remote working boosts east-coast Spain's property market

His colleague, Fernando Muro de Zaro, says the recent homebuying fever among non-Spanish nationals is 'partly due to pent-up demand' among Europeans who were unable to travel during the pandemic, and 'partly due to the rise in remote working'.

“In Europe, working from home has continued beyond the pandemic – more so than in Spain – and many people are considering moving to the Comunidad Valenciana,” Muro de Zaro reveals.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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San Sebastián Film Festival: Shell-seekers, street gangs and blockbusters-to-be
Tuesday, September 27, 2022

IT'S THE Cannes of Spain, a shop window on what's to come in the world of entertainment, and its awards are named after the venue city's favourite beach – San Sebastián Film Festival has wrapped up for another year and the latest batch of Conchas, or shells, have found new homes.

‘Golden Shell’ winner for 2022, the cast and crew of Los Reyes del Mundo ('Kings of the World') join producer Laura Mora as she collects the top award. This and all other photos from the Film Festival's official website, Sansebastianfestival.com

Liam Neeson, Florence Pugh and Juliette Binoche were nominated for the 'golden' versions, and you'll soon be able to pop to the cinema to find out why. 

Social critique, the underprivileged in their battles for happiness and self-discovery, and the dynamics of family life – blood relations as well as family of choice – are common themes among those productions which made the cut in 2022, offering thought-provoking insights into difficult personal, but shared, journeys.

And the Emerald Isle was very much in the limelight.

 

English-language films in the 2022 spotlight...

This year has seen a much higher number of films not originally in Spanish being nominated for the Holy Grail of the festival – the Concha de Oro, or 'Golden Shell', for Best Film. 

Three of these were English-language productions, one of the latter – from Ireland – being premièred at the Basque event.

Liam Neeson as detective Philip Marlowe

This had all the ingredients for a European blockbuster: A crime thriller starring Liam Neeson as private detective Philip Marlowe – created back in the day by 1940s' pulp-fiction author Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye) – in an adaptation of John Banville's 2014 novel The Black-Eyed Blonde, alongside the legendary Jessica Lange, the highly-versatile Diane Kruger, the silver-screen regular Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Scottish theatre household name Alan Cumming, chip-off-the-old-block Danny Huston (son of John and brother of Anjelica), up-and-coming Portuguese star Daniela Melchior, and Irish Star Trek familiar Colm Meaney.

And it still might be a blockbuster – even though it didn't win the 'Golden Shell' – since it's due for release in mainstream cinema in December.

Another Concha de Oro nominee which didn't win, but which is due to hit our cinema screens and then Netflix in November, is The Wonder, based upon the novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue – whose now-prolific literary career kicked off in 1994 with the little-known, light-hearted coming-of-age novel Stir Fry.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Golden sands and silver screen: Spain's Star Wars and superheroes beach
Monday, September 26, 2022

SOMETIMES the breathtaking beauty of Spain's landscape and beaches makes you feel as though you must have stepped onto another world. And sometimes, you'd be right to think so.

Alden Ehrenreich as a young Hans Solo on his home planet, Corellia - aka Fuerteventura's Cofete beach - with his legendary furry friend Chewbacca (all film scene pictures from IMDb unless otherwise stated)

If you're on Almería's Mónsul beach, for example, you're actually on the planet Fantasia from The Neverending Story, and several parts of the country witnessed scenes out of Game of Thrones.

Or if you're on Fuerteventura's Cofete beach, you're really on planet Corellia, where Hans Solo was born.

Star Wars fans will instantly recognise this 12-kilometre stretch of golden sand with its volcanic landscape backdrop, not a high-rise in sight, since it's where life started out for the character played by Harrison Ford in the 1970s trilogy A New Hope, Return of the Jedi and The Emperor Strikes Back.

 

Solo scenes of Harrison Ford's native planet

In Solo: A Star Wars Story, the young Hans is played by Alden Ehrenreich in a 2018 flashback episode that sees him and his childhood friend Qi'ra – played by Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke – orphaned, escape a local gang, bribe an Imperial officer with starship fuel they stole in a bid to get out of there, and separated as Qi'ra is captured and Hans joins the craft as a cadet.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Mar Menor now a 'legal person': How the public saved a heavenly sea
Monday, September 26, 2022

ONE of south-eastern Spain's most unusual and popular coastal enclaves is the first to be given 'legal personality' in history – meaning it automatically has 'rights' at law.

Aerial view of the Mar Menor, a mostly-inland sea and Europe's largest salt lake (photo: Wikimurcia)

Normally, humans and corporations or other organisations, profit- or non-profit-making, hold 'legal personality', which means they are responsible for their actions at law as an individual or collective, and that they have specific rights as well as duties – but a body of water in the public domain has never before been recognised in this way.

The aim is to ensure the Mar Menor enjoys the 'fundamental right' to conservation and protection, and its status has been approved by the Senate following a petition started two years ago that has gathered over 600,000 signatures.

Banco de Tabal beach in San Javier, one of at least five on La Manga that earned a blue flag for 2022. Water quality has to be excellent to gain or keep this kitemark, which proves that the Mar Menor's ‘oxygen crisis’ is episodic, not a continuous state (photo: Murcia regional tourism board)

Organisers of this petition filed what is known as a People's Legislative Initiative (ILP) calling for the Mar Menor to be granted legal rights and be considered an 'entity' at law.

 

Curious geography of Europe's largest salt lake

The Mar Menor, in the single-province region of Murcia, is generally thought of as a sea coast, but in practice, it is the largest salt lake in Europe.

It is land-bordered on three-and-a-half sides, so it is fed by the Mediterranean but almost entirely enclosed.

This narrow strip of inhabited land, known as La Manga, separates what is essentially a salt lake from the Mediterranean sea (photo by the public sector workers' and pensioners' protection association, AESFAS - Aesfas.org)

The thin strip or istmus that 'closes' the Mar Menor off from the Mediterranean is 21 kilometres (13 miles) long, but only between 100 metres (109.3 yards, or 328 feet) and 1.2 kilometres (three-quarters of a mile) wide.

Centuries ago, it was wider still – remains of Roman settlements have been found submerged either side.

It is often referred to as a miniature Baja California, except that its tip rejoins the land.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Electric car charging stations multiply: Over 150,000 by 2025
Wednesday, September 21, 2022

ELECTRIC car charging points across Spain have increased by around two-thirds in the last year, with over 100 new ones set up somewhere in the country every month.

And State utility board Iberdrola has no plans to take its foot off the accelerator – the roll-out will continue at the same pace, or faster.

Being able to find one of these when you need it is a key concern for motorists when considering switching to electrical mobility, but Iberdrola hopes to allay these fears (both pictures by electricity board Iberdrola)

Numerous studies nationwide have concluded that two main barriers exist when it comes to switching from petrol or diesel engines to electric: The higher price of these emissions-free vehicles, and the insecurity of not being able to guarantee they will find a charging point on every journey if they need one.

Other factors that act as a drawback include the time taken to recharge a battery – especially compared with the speed and ease of filling up at a petrol station – the still-limited availability of electric models, which might force buyers to opt for what they can find, rather than the style and size of vehicle they want – and concerns that production of extra electricity for charging could produce just as many harmful emissions as exhaust fumes from traditionally-fuelled cars.

Iberdrola seeks to reduce at least three of these concerns: So far, around 2,500 charging stations are now in operation, and of these, about 1,000 are express chargers.

The faster versions can have a battery refuelled enough to cover several hundred kilometres within around five minutes, making the process not much slower than filling up with petrol.

Also, the majority are powered by electricity from renewable sources, typically sun and wind.

To date, about 500 locations in Spain have charging stations – almost 10 for every province, according to recent figures released by the company.

Since the start of 2022, Iberdrola has supplied around 9.5 gigawatts per hour (gWh) of electrical energy for recharging vehicle batteries which, if these cars had been powered by petrol or diesel instead, would have meant they used up 3.55 million litres of traditional fuel.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Ouigo Valencia-Madrid express rail to open in October: Tickets start at €9 each way
Wednesday, September 21, 2022

HIGH-SPEED rail operator Ouigo is just weeks away from launching its Valencia-Madrid connection, with around 35,600 slots a week for passengers.

Run by the French transport authority SNCF, the low-cost express between the capital and Spain's third-largest city has just increased its number of seats by 14,252 after negotiations with rail infrastructure body ADIF.

Ouigo had asked the State-run board to give it more routes, and research conducted showed it would be possible for an extra two return trips a day on the same line.

In total, this means the no-frills fast link will operate five return journeys a day between Madrid's Chamartín-Clara Campoamor station and Valencia's AVE terminus, the Joaquín Sorolla station.

The latter is reached from Valencia's main Estació Nord via free shuttle-bus.

Tickets on the Ouigo between Valencia and Madrid will start at €9 a head, and the journey takes less than two hours.

The same trip by road – which is nearly 100% motorway – takes approximately four hours, assuming no service-station stops or traffic jams, and costs an average of at least €100 in petrol.

Unsurprisingly, managing director of Ouigo Spain, Hélène Valenzuela, predicts 'very high demand' for the service.

Trains are two-storey, each with capacity for 509 passengers – more than double that of a standard-sized short-haul international airline and five times that of a small regional aircraft running internal flights – and its emissions are much lower.

According to Mme Valenzuela's calculations, a Ouigo train is 80 times less polluting than a standard aeroplane, and 50 times less than a car.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Vinyl record sales surpass CDs bought for first time in 30 years
Monday, September 19, 2022

MORE vinyl records than CDs are sold in Spain nowadays – something not seen since 1991 when the former was falling out of fashion and the latter still a luxury to many.

True to the notion that, if you keep anything for long enough, it becomes all the rage again, a report by Promusicae reveals that the old-time 12” and 7” turntable discs are now at their most popular in over 30 years.

In fact, they make up well over half – about 54% - of the market for non-digital music, or sounds with a physical 'support'.

Sales of vinyl totalled €13.6 million, increasing by 25.6%, in the first half of 2022 – and, nowadays, they carry a very high price tag in recognition of their 'vintage' nature.

Overall, sales of recorded music – physical supports such as CDs, records and cassettes, and also digital supports, such as downloads or subscriptions to platforms – totalled €191.5m between January and June 2022 inclusive, rising by 12.4% on the previous six months. 

Digital, or intangible formats are still the most common among consumers, but vinyl is seeing a massive comeback: Around 1.6 million old-style records were bought in Spain in 2021, a market worth around €25m.

CDs are still sold in mainstream stores - in fact, they're the only ‘physical’ music support you're likely to find outside of a specialist record shop (photo: Recordhead.biz)

Back then, sales of these earliest music supports had already risen by 32% on the previous year's figures.

Rewinding barely a decade, fewer than 140,000 vinyls were sold in Spain in the year 2013 – but they were still making the transition from 'out of date' to 'retro gems', as the end of their heyday was still too recent for them to be sought-after goods among anyone but serious collectors.

By the early 1990s, singles released were beginning to be retailed in cassette format rather than 7” vinyl, with these already having gradually overtaken 12” albums in the previous 20 years or so; common practice in the late 1980s and early 1990s was to buy 7” singles where these were cheaper, and then record them onto blank tapes.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Keanu Reeves spotted in Jerez...and poses for fan selfies
Monday, September 19, 2022

HOLLYWOOD legend Keanu Reeves managed to remain almost undetected during a trip to southern Spain's 'cradle of sherry' with some friends – although the Canadian actor happily posed for some selfies when a small handful of locals recognised him.

Keanu poses with fans in Jerez (this photo and the next from Twitter)

The Point Break and The Matrix star, 58, was spotted at a restaurant in Jerez de la Frontera and, although the reason for his choice of holiday destination was not revealed, Reeves is known to be a huge fan of motorsport, particularly bikes, and of the race track in the Cádiz-province town.

Named after the late MotoGP '12-plus-one'-times world champion Ángel Nieto – who never referred to his title total as '13' for superstitious reasons – the Jerez circuit is widely known as 'the cathedral of motorsport'.

It's also the birthplace of sherry – and, in Spanish, this liqueur is simply known as jerez, or as fino.

One local resident who spotted the Bill and Ted star and spoke to him said he 'shook hands' with the actor and took a selfie with him, but that 'he told me not to mention it'.

“He wanted to drink his drink and smoke his cigarette without loads of people turning up, and like a fangirl of 15, I went to bed without saying a work so he could chill out,” Manuel wrote on social media.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Valencia to pilot four-day working week
Thursday, September 15, 2022

VALENCIA'S mayor plans to 'pilot' a four-day working week for one month next year, to see whether productivity and staff morale improves, worsens or stays the same.

Joan Ribó, from the centre-left regional party Compromís, is keen to study the impact of reducing the working week from the standard 40 hours to 32, with a three-day weekend.

It will not involve shutting the city hall for an extra day, since the experiment will be in April 2023, meaning two of the weeks are only four days long anyway due to Easter.

The local bank holiday on January 22, in honour of San Vicente Mártir ('Saint Vincent the Martyr'), falls on a Sunday, meaning it would normally be lost, so Ribó intends to move it to a Monday in April.

Effectively, this will mean staff working four days a week from Tuesday, April 11 to Tuesday, May 2, since May 1 is a national holiday.

In total, four weeks at a total of 16 days rather than 20.

“It's a study we want to carry out in the city council,” explains Ribó.

“The regional government´has held a number of conferences over whether it would be feasible to move towards a 32-hour week.

“We want to see what happens, without getting involved in any type of collective bargaining between employees and companies – that falls outside our jurisdiction – and what would be the effect for, say, tourism, the hospitality sector, the public transport network, and how families would react.

“We're aware that there are major industries where people either work remotely, where their work is about achieving objectives, jobs or projects, and where the actual number of hours at your desk is not a determining factor.

“So we think it is important to investigate this.”

Ribó says it would be a positive move in terms of the work-life balance if it proved successful.

“For any member of the workforce, reducing working hours is a step forward for them and their families, and what we want to see is how our city responds, since we believe it's a positive move,” he explains.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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