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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.

A sea of lavender: Guadalajara province's aromatic landscape and festival
21 July 2019

IT'S NOT Provence. It's not even Norfolk. But the heady, uplifting and refreshing scent of lavender and the blanket of mauve across acres and acres of countryside, as far as you can see and beyond, might make everyone think that's where you are when you post your photos on social media. Tell them, instead, that it's actually deepest Castilla-La Mancha – the bit of Spain everyone escapes from in summer because it doesn't have a beach; the central plains rarely remarked upon for their natural beauty – flat, earthy fields that remind you of East Anglia during a drought but without the trees, a region too often overlooked for being anything other than the hinterland you cross to get to Madrid.

July in Castilla-La Mancha and Castilla y León, and specifically the former's province of Guadalajara and, within it, the rural Alcarria district, is a time and a place you need to experience together at least once in a lifetime. It's an area where 80% of cultivated land is used to grow lavender, a crop that has multiplied fivefold in the last decade in both regions and which, it is hoped, will help halt the rural exodus suffered by many inland regions a long way from the nearest large town or city. The village of Almadrones, just over an hour from Madrid, has a population of just 30, but is home to 300 hectares (741 acres) of lavender fields – literally a hectare, or two-and-a-half acres, for every inhabitant. In fact, between Almadrones, Cogollor and Brihuega in the Alcarria district, over 2,000 hectares (4,942 acres) of land is coated with this powerfully-aromatic purple flowering cereal.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com



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'Flying taxi' prototype developed in Spain
21 July 2019

THE first-ever driverless flying taxi prototype developed in Spain has been unveiled and could be 'on the road' within five years.

With a capsule cabin measuring 1.8 by two metres (5'11” by 6'7”) that includes a back door and upper window, the Aerotaxi is powered by four drones – two above and two below – each of which has four engines.

It is designed for short trips across towns and cities, flies at a low altitude, and could be in use once all the necessary testing phases are complete and the necessary legislation put in place – a process which may feasibly be successfully concluded by around mid-2024.

Presented at the Tecnalia centre for technology in San Sebastián in the Basque Country, the Aerotaxi is one of six prototypes of its kind in the world and is the third in Europe to be developed, with Germany and France having done so first.

The first test flights with people inside are expected to be carried out in the USA and Japan, pioneered in major cities such as Los Angeles and Tokyo.

Two members of the 25-strong project team, Joseba Lasa and Iñaki Iglesias, say the Aerotaxi is designed to carry up to 150 kilos (23st 8lb, or 330lb) – a weight that can be either human or in the shape of goods delivery, or both...

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Air passenger caught with cocaine under his toupée
17 July 2019

A MAN whose hairstyle aroused suspicion when he landed at Barcelona airport turned out to be carrying half a kilo of cocaine underneath his toupée.

The Colombian national, who had arrived on a flight from Bogotá, was thought to be acting nervously when he passed through immigration – but it was the unfeasible height and shape of his hair that made customs officers decide to search him.

He was wearing a toupée on top of his bald patch with a plastic-wrapped package containing 503 grams of the drug glued to his head.

As it was obvious he was wearing a wig, officers ordered him to remove it and seized his illicit haul.

This poor attempt at concealment is one of the many creative ways smugglers have attempted to get drugs into Spain, mainly from Colombia but also from other parts of Latin America.

A decade ago, a man arrived from Chile at Barcelona airport in a wheelchair, with a broken leg, and it turned out his  plaster cast was made of cocaine.

In December 2012, a 20-year-old woman from Panamá arriving in Barcelona on a flight from Bogotá was operated on urgently after officials found she had bags of cocaine sewn inside her breasts as 'implants', seeing that the recent surgical wounds, still bleeding, were leaking white powder.

An identical case was reported two years later at Madrid airport when a 43-year-old Venezuelan woman arrived via a connecting flight from Bogotá with breast implants made of cocaine.

A year before, a Colombian passenger with packages strapped to his stomach admitted he had swallowed 35 condoms containing cocaine.

At around the same time, a Senegalese passenger on a flight to Madrid was arrested and given emergency medical attention after he started vomiting up what looked like whole hard-boiled eggs whilst on the plane, and which turned out to be cocaine he had swallowed and which had burst inside him.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Chicken with a twist
17 July 2019

Horchata de Chufa is a wonderful drink made from pressed tiger nuts. Although this drink is normally associated with refreshments or desserts I thought I would show you a rather unusual recipe which uses horchata in a savoury dish with chicken.

For those who are not so familiar with this summer refreshment, It is made from chufa, which in English would be the tiger nut and as a drink it goes back thousands of years. Old civilizations such as the Egyptians left samples of this healthy product in their tombs and sarcophagi. Also, diverse Persian and Arab authors already mentioned in their writings the digestive benefits of the chufa. But it was in the 13th century when the Arabs introduced their crop into the Mediterranean area. 

Valencia was and continues to be the only area in Europe where chufa is grown. Currently it is farmed in 16 towns around the area known as L'Horta Nord (or the Northern fertile land), which surrounds Valencia. About 5.3 million kilograms of tiger nut are produced in this area, of which 90% are covered by the Denomination of Origin.

This recipe is quite different from anything else and I doubt very much that any guests you may have in the future have tried it before, so if you are looking to surprise someone this may be the dish. These are the ingredients you will need for 2 people:

 

½ Chicken.
4 Mushrooms.
3 Sun dried tomatoes.
50g of Pine nut kernels.
2 Spoonfuls of white rice (basmati) with freshly chopped dill.
500 ml of Horchata.
1 Teaspoonful of refined cornflour.
Olive oil.
Salt.
Pepper.

 

 

 

 

First you will need to season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper, put it in a small non stick baking tray and smear it with olive oil. Roast it in pre-heated oven at 180C degrees for one hour and a half approximately. Baste the chicken every ten minutes with a little horchata. When the chicken is golden, remove it from the oven and cut it up into pieces.

Pour the juice from the chicken and the horchata into a frying pan to reduce it and then thicken it slightly with a little refined corn flour that needs to be previously diluted in water. Once the sauce is ready place to one side.

Now cut the mushrooms in julienne and cook them on a low heat in a frying pan with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste. Lower the heat, add the pine nut kernels and toast them slightly. Once golden in colour add the chopped-up sun dried tomatoes and toss them all together in the pan for a minute

Serve the chicken and place the mushrooms, tomatoes and pine nut kernels garnish on top, next pour over the horchata sauce. Accompany the dish with basmati rice mixed with finely chopped fresh dill. Finally decorate with a sprig of parsley.

Enjoy!



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Lewis Hamilton's dad: “We need Alonso back in Formula 1”
17 July 2019

FATHER of five-times Formula 1 world Champion Lewis Hamilton says he wants to see Spain's Fernando Alonso back on the Grand Prix circuit since the sport 'needs someone like him'.

Anthony Hamilton, interviewed during the British Grand Prix at Silverstone after his son's epic win – described as 'probably the best performance in years' – said Alonso's comeback would be 'great news' for the sharp end of motorsport.

“Personally, I think Fernando retired very early, but I understand why he did it,” says Hamilton Senior.

“If he came back it would be fantastic, because we need someone like him in the sport again.”

Dad of the British prodigy spoke to Spanish reporters live on Movístar+ just before Lewis set off from the grid.

His appeal for Alonso to return to Formula 1 contrasts sharply with the controversy between the two racing drivers in 2007 when they were competing together for team McLaren.

Hamilton's treatment by team boss Ron Dennis and his management, Anthony Hamilton's close involvement with team decisions and complaints of favouritism of the British driver led Alonso to leave the scuderia that same year, not returning to McLaren until 2015.

McLaren's, and earlier, Ferrari's failure to provide Alonso with a competitive car, leading to his constantly finishing near the back of the line or having to retire mid-race, were largely the cause of his decision to leave at the end of the 2018 season and focus on the World Endurance Championships (WEC), which he was previously dovetailing with Formula 1 with McLaren's blessing.

The Oviedo-born twice-world champion is also rumoured to have been taken on as test-driver for McLaren, and is striving hard to become only the second racing driver in history, after the UK's Graham Hill, to net the so-called motorsport 'triple crown' – the Le Mans 24-Hour, the Monaco Grand Prix, and the Indianapolis 500, of which he only now has the latter to win.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Best places to buy fruit and veg, according to OCU
16 July 2019

A LEADING consumer organisation in Spain has revealed the top outlets for buying fruit and vegetables nationwide, based upon a study of 35 supermarkets, 10 fruit shops, 10 local markets and 12 hypermarkets in the provinces of Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona and Sevilla.

Each of the 67 retailers reviewed was given a mark out of 100, with points awarded for appearance and flavour, information provided about the item on sale, variety, level of customer service, and price.

The OCU focused mostly upon the most-purchased year-round greengrocery items in Spain – salad tomatoes, nationally-grown bananas (from the Canary Islands), Conference pears, Golden Delicious apples, and large strawberries.

Weekly markets and municipal indoor markets scored highest for flavour and appearance, but their wares were found to be the most expensive and, despite legal requirements, not all of them displayed full information about the produce offered.

Except in Barcelona, fruit shops or straight-from-the-farm fruit and vegetables were the cheapest, although there was 'nothing exceptional' about them in terms of flavour and appearance, the OCU said.

The cheapest fruit and vegetables in supermarkets were found in Lidl, Eroski, Alcampo, Día and Vidal, in that order, coming in at less than €10 for a typical weekly shopping basket, whilst Hípercor, Bonpreu and Condis were the most expensive, at €12 and €11.50 respectively.

Alcampo, Hípercor and Carrefour were the supermarkets with the widest variety on offer.

According to the OCU's supermarket ranking, the highest-scoring store was Ahorramás, gaining 84% of available marks, followed by Aldi and MÁS in joint second with 82%.

Municipal indoor markets and El Corte Inglés department store were joint fourth with 76%, and Condis and Mercadona joint sixth with 70%.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Comunidad Valenciana property market recovers: 93% growth in past year
16 July 2019

HOLIDAY-HOME buying has become buoyant again in mainland Spain's Mediterranean provinces after years of lagging behind the rest of the country in pulling itself out of the financial crisis.

Nationwide property surveyors and valuers Tinsa say the second-home industry has grown by 93% in the Comunidad Valenciana – made up of the provinces of AlicanteValencia and Castellón – within the last year, both in terms of sales numbers and prices.

The southern part of the province of Alicante is described as the 'most dynamic' and with the greatest demand from foreign buyers, although Tinsa has ruled out any risk of another 'housing bubble' – the last of which burst spectacularly in 2009 after property reached its highest-ever prices in history in 2007.

Back at the time of the previous 'boom and bust', the mortgage lending system was different and mass building rife, leading to negative equity, owners who could not meet their loan repayments and a massive stock of empty properties, often which were new and had never been owned.

Recovery was delayed in the region because of the high number of empty properties outstripping demand.

But Spain and the Comunidad Valenciana have learnt a lot since then, and the panorama is very different, Tinsa says.

The recovery in the eastern region is likely to continue for 'a good two or three years', since it is not only reflected in prices but also in a recent awakening of construction of new apartments and houses, according to Tinsa.

Given that tourism is the mainstay of the Comunidad Valenciana's economy, it has been the main driver behind the recovery in the housing market, although that recovery has come three years after it started in other coastal areas in Spain – which started to improve in 2016 – and varies vastly according to 'how touristy' different towns in the three provinces are, as Tinsa explains in its report Vivienda en Costa 2019 ('Homes on the Coast 2019').

Around three in 10 holiday homes are bought by foreigners, the largest number of whom are British, although with a slight reduction seen in non-Spanish buyers in the last few years because of uncertainty over Brexit.

Benicàssim, on the Castellón coast – the site of the famous FIB International Festival – saw a typical price hike of 16.9% year on year by the end of the first quarter of 2019, Tinsa's figures show, followed by El Campello, about halfway down the province of Alicante, the southernmost of the three, with a rise in values of 15%.

The greatest price rise in the province of Valencia has been seen in its southernmost town, Oliva, at 11.9%, after many years of being in freefall, followed by Valencia city itself, about halfway up the province.

For Castellón, the most northerly province of the three, the second-highest rise after Benicàssim was seen in Burriana, at 10.9%.

A handful of towns which had already seen homes increasing in value earlier than the rest have shown a slight fall, including in Alboraia (Valencia province), down by 4.2%; Altea (Alicante province), reducing by 2.6%; Vinaròs and Almassora (Castellón province), shrinking by 2.3% and 0.9% respectively, and Cullera (Valencia province), down by 0.1%.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Dogs on tour: Where you can take your pets on holiday, according to Pipper the pup
14 July 2019

INFLUENCERS – or prolific social media users paid to advertise with their posts – tend to be human, but not exclusively; in fact, one of Spain's most famous is a Parson Russell Terrier who earns his living hiking around the country and reporting on his experiences.

Pîpper has just spent the last year travelling 22,000 kilometres and has now taken a well-earned summer break, but will be back on the road again in September, says his owner, journalist Pablo Muñoz Gabilondo.

With 60,000 followers on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, three-year-old Pipper is becoming something of an oracle for those who want to find out where in Spain they can take their dogs.

Hotels, shops, bars, restaurants, and even museums, monuments popular with tourists and golf courses, plus beaches, are gradually being opened up to pets; on average, 18% of holiday accommodation in Spain welcomes dogs, although the average in Europe is 40%, largely because of animal-friendly France, Italy and Germany where it is rare for anywhere to bar entry to customers' non-human family members.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Spanish Armed Forces promotes its first female General
14 July 2019

OVER 30 years since Spain first allowed women to join its Armed Forces, a female soldier has been promoted to General for the first time in the country's history.

Patricia Ortega, 56, from Madrid, was due to have her promotion confirmed today (Friday) when defence leader Margarita Robles proposed it in the scheduled Council of Ministers.

The Madrid Polytechnic agricultural engineering graduate completed her training and exams in March to become a General, but this never guarantees the position, since only about one in three who pass go on to achieve the promotion.

Patricia started at Zaragoza General Military Academy in 1988, a year after finishing university and the first year when women were allowed to enlist.

She continued her training at the Armed Forces High Polytechnic School, specialising in electrical and construction engineering, after passing out from Zaragoza.

The General-to-be is currently based at the National Technical Aerospace Institute, having risen through the ranks as Lieutenant Colonel and then Colonel.

Daughter, granddaughter and sister of soldiers, married with three children, Ortega says she had always wanted to follow in her family's footsteps and pursue a 'public service vocation'.

But she says she has never found her career path any more difficult because of being a woman.

“I'm a soldier, independently of my sex and, therefore, I have left behind, sacrificed and given up the same as all my other colleagues, male and female,” she says.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Mercadona's 'top' moisturiser wins patent suit against blue-chip brand
11 July 2019

THE FIRM which makes one of the top-rated moisturising creams in Spain – a €5 supermarket own-brand variety – has won a legal battle with an élite cosmetics company over 'plagiarism'.

Mercadona's Sisbela range of day and night face creams, which is exactly the same product as an €85 version retailing under a different name in independent shops, includes a variety called the Diamond Revitalizante ('Diamond Revitalising').

The national patents office refused to allow the cream to be retailed under this name, in case of 'confusion' with the Catalunya-based Natura Bissé's Diamond Extreme.

Natura Bissé, a blue-chip cosmetics firm on a par with many international leaders, described its moisturiser on Twitter: “What makes Diamond Extreme an icon? This revolutionary, intelligent formula gives your skin what it needs, when it needs it, even in extreme conditions. A pioneer in the skincare industry for being the first 360º anti-ageing treatment based on cellular energy.”

Sisbela, by contrast, has not had to advertise since it was found to be identical to the vastly more expensive brand Alain – except the scent – when it caused a similar furore to Lidl's €2.99 Cien Q10 formula, found by a consumer association to be more effective than leading brands retailing at up to €225 a pot.

In both cases, as soon as the reports were released, the respective supermarkets ran out of stock within the day and customers began to queue in the street to get their hands on the last remaining jars.

Star Healthcare, the manufacturer behind Mercadona's highly-rated, low-priced own-brand cosmetics, appealed against the patents office's decision to stop them using the 'Diamond' name.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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